Disclaimer: I don't own anything, 'cause if I did B/A would be together!!!
Some of the characters' occupations were inspired by the book 'Smoke Jumpers' by Nicholas Evans, so even though this fic isn't even remotely similar, I'm disclaiming any resemblance to that book as well!!! So DON'T sue me!!!
Songs, or song titles used have been disclaimed in their particular chapter.
Spoilers: None. This is completely AU - a response to a challenge by Bafanangelbuffy0. I'll post the challenge at the end of the fic.
Pairings: B/A, F/Gunn, C/S, T/L, Darla/R, W/D, Fr/X, A/O, Kate/W, L/Giles and Dawn/C (Female listed first)
Rating: R, NC-17 some chapters
Feedback: Please, Please, Please let me know what you think!
A/N: Believe me, this is a B/A story, I just have to get there first, and to get there, you need some background! What can I say, I like detail!
A/N2: Some details regarding graduation and/or the nurses, doctors and hospital may not be true to form, but are used for storytelling purposes only.
A/N3: Thanks Bunches to everyone who has given me feedback on this story. You have no idea how much I appreciate it!!!
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Chapter 1 ~ The Beginning of the End
Growing up in the tiny town of Sunnydale, California had been almost a dream for both Cordelia and Faith Chase. Fraternal twins that shared not only the same beautiful brunette hair, but the same deep brown eyes. Many a young man had been hypnotized by their beauty and their wealth. Their father had made millions from his advertising business, and had connections all over the world. That was, until the IRS decided to become best friends with him. Then suddenly their world came crashing down around their feet. Gone were the expensive clothes, the cars, and most importantly, their father. The government not only took all of their material possessions away, they had carted their father off to prison for embezzlement. All they were left with was a hypochondriac of a mother and each other. That was pretty much it.
Cordelia had insisted that none of their friends find out about their new predicament. They swore words of secrecy to each other on that lonely April evening, and from that moment on the sisters were inseparable. If hurt came to one, it came to both. If happiness came to one, the other would rejoice with her.
After graduation, the girls had given themselves a graduation present. They had been working part time jobs unbeknownst to their friends ever since their daddy went to the pen and had saved enough money to put gas in their now way outdated Mercedes which by luck had actually been paid off before the Government came knocking, and enough money to buy them one night of happiness taking in the LA scene. Once in town, they had decided to drop in on Cordelia's boyfriend of sorts who now owned 'Eternally Yours', a trendy nightclub in LA.
William Laverty, "Spike" as he was known to his inner circle, had been Cordelia's center of attention during her senior year of high school. She had drug Faith with her on every opportunity she had to run to LA when daddy had been out of town. Faith never understood Cordelia's choice in men, and "Spike" had been her least favorite. He was several years older than Cordelia, and nothing but trouble as far as Faith was concerned, but she never complained or tried to dissuade her sister from seeing him, though the thought had crossed her mind on several occasions. That was both the beginning and the end to Faith and Cordelia's lives as they had known it.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* Chapter 2 ~ The Start of Something New
Fate. Faith had used the word a lot while in high school. She had tossed it around like a beach ball. No thought to it. It was just a word that seemed to work into her daily conversations with friends. She once looked it up in Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary and found it to mean, the principal determining cause or will by which things in general are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do; Destiny; an inevitable and often adverse outcome, condition or end.
After she and Cordelia left Spike's nightclub that Friday night in May, she vowed never to use the word carelessly again. She had found out what Fate was, and knew it wasn't something to be taken lightly.
The evening had started off uneventful. The girls had driven the two hours from Sunnydale to Los Angeles. They had agreed during the trip to stop in to see Spike. Faith had initially refused the idea, but quickly relented knowing that it was a waste of her time to argue with her sister. Cordelia was headstrong and had not lost an argument between them since the age of four when Faith had bit her on the finger so she could get the last piece of Christmas candy.
The girls parked their car in the above ground garage across the street from the club. Making last minute adjustments to their outfits, the two eighteen year olds sauntered in past the bouncer. They had secured fake ids just in case, but had never in the past actually had to use them to get into a place like this, and that night was no different. Cordelia spotted Spike immediately, tending bar. She never understood why he would continue to do that job if he owned the place. Why not hire someone to pour people's drinks for them? He had always argued that that was where you met the chicks, an argument that never seemed to be a hit with Cordelia.
Faith left her sister to tend to her boyfriend while she decided to check out the fresh meat on the dance floor. Dancing had always been the reason she would agree to come to this place with her sister. The loud thumping of the music, hot bodies rubbing against each other. It had always made her body sizzle like it was on fire. The house DJ at 'EY' had always been Faith's favorite of any of the nightclubs she had been to. He wasn't really her type of guy. Short in stature, strawberry blonde hair, but God did he know his music. She always preferred the tall, dark and handsome type, but after about an hour of hard core dancing, she decided to ask him for his number.
The young man behind all the great beats told her his name was Oz. When she asked "Oz what?", he looked at her with his typical 'I'm so incredibly cool, but I don't realize it' look and replied, "Just Oz." He then told her that this was his last night Djaying at 'EY'. He was starting his own production company called WW Records. Fascinated as she always was with initials, Faith prodded him for more information. He admitted to her that he had always been intrigued by the legend of the werewolf and so had decided to name his record company after the creature of the night. She told him she'd miss him and good luck with his new venture and trotted back down the steps to the dance floor. That was when Faith got her first up close look at how Fate worked.
On most days, Faith's years of gymnastics and ballet would have kept her from making a total fool of herself, but that night was a different story. After hitting the last step wrong on her way back from the DJ booth, Faith lost her balance and began what seemed to her to be one very long slow motion scene from some movie. You know the one where the nerd of the school gets tripped by one of the cool kids and in slow motion you see them falling to the floor, usually in the cafeteria with a tray full of food hitting the ground just before they fall face first into it. Yes, that was exactly what was happening to her, minus the cafeteria and the food.
In the middle of a very trendy and extremely crowded nightclub, Faith hit the floor, face first. There was no getting out of it, no 'I meant to do that' could be forged out of this scene and she knew it. So she slowly picked herself up off the dance floor amidst the roaring laughter of everyone in near proximity and made her way to the bar where she was sure she would be able to find her sister. There would be no pleading or arguing, they were going to leave. Faith wasn't taking any bullshit from Queen C tonight.
"Time to go!" Faith yelled at Cordelia when she had finally reached the corner booth located near the end of the bar where her sister was perched on the lap of that Billy Idol wannabe boyfriend of hers.
"Excuse me?" Cordelia shot back, knowing full well what had happened to her sister and why she was ready to leave. Not that Cordelia really cared much, she was enjoying her night out, especially her night out with her sexy boyfriend.
"It's time to go! Now say goodbye to Spike and let's go!" Faith said with clenched teeth. She now realized by the look that Cordelia's boyfriend was giving her that they had witnessed the whole ordeal. Apparently this wasn't going to be as easy as she had hoped. Faith hadn't used bodily harm with her sister since they were four years old to win an argument, but she sure wasn't in the mood to stick around this place for one more second.
Cordelia realized by the look on her sister's face that she wasn't in the mood to be fucked around with. The night had been a disaster for her and she was ready to leave. Now. But no matter how bad she hurt for her sister, Cordelia was being driven by other desires tonight. She wasn't about to let anything interrupt her plans for the evening, not even her sister's embarrassment and pain, so she did the only thing that she could in that moment, she handed Faith the keys to their car and told her to leave.
Shock wasn't even close to what Faith was feeling when she felt the keys hit her hand. They had always been close, always shared everything. They swore to protect and comfort each other and now she was being cast away for some blonde-headed freak? Apparently so. Spike put his arm around Cordelia, ushering her out of the booth they had been occupying with a couple of Spike's friends and led her past Faith and through a door behind the bar. Cordelia flashed Faith a quick smile and mouthed the words 'I'll catch you at home' over her shoulder as she followed Spike through the door.
Faith stood in the same spot forever. Disbelief coursing through her body. She felt lost, like a little girl who had been separated from her mother in a crowded store. She continued to stare at the closed door for a few more minutes and then decided that Cordelia had made her decision, her choice, it was time she did the same. Turning quickly on her heels, Faith flashed the greasy haired forty something guy standing beside her an angry smile and marched towards the door. If Cordelia wanted to play this game, then Faith was anteing up.
On her way through the club, Faith wasn't paying much attention to anything. She had her eyes firmly transfixed on the door. She was leaving and nothing was getting in her way. That is except Fate. Faith's Fate was in the form of a very tall, very dark, and very handsome young man by the name of Charles Gunn. Gunn, as his friends preferred to call him had just paid for his first beer of the night and was turning to join his buddies at the table in the corner that they had just secured. Faith unknowingly drenched those plans in more ways than one.
In her total pissed off, screw the world attitude that Faith had been better known for when the sisters were middle school age, was oblivious to anyone other than herself. That's when it happened. That's when Fate made its move.
"Oh God! I am so sorry! I didn't see you!" Faith was apologizing profusely as tears began to well in her eyes. She grabbed some napkins that were lying on the bar and tried as best she could to dab up the wetness from this guy's shirt and pants. How could this night get any worse. She'd fallen on her face in front of everyone, her sister dumped her, and now she steam rolls over the most amazing guy she'd ever laid eyes on, and drenched him with his own beer in the process. Why didn't she just stay at home?
"It's not your fault. I wasn't payin' any attention to where I was goin' either." Gunn replied, trying not to stare too much at the young girl in front of him. It wasn't easy though, every time she flashed those deep chocolate eyes, tears brimming on the edge, he felt his heart speed up. It didn't help that she was dabbing napkins all over his body trying to seep up some of the beer she had helped spill.
"I'm really sorry. I… sorry." Faith said sounding defeated. There was no way she could take anymore of this. She dropped the napkins, turned and ran for the door. She had to get out of that place. When she reached the sidewalk, she had to stop. There was traffic traveling in both directions and her car was across the street. She stood there, tears now falling freely down both cheeks watching for her opportunity to play a real life game of Frogger and dodge the vehicles to get to the other side of this pond. She had been concentrating so hard on finding a lull in the traffic that she didn't hear him approach.
"Now my friends tell me I'm not the smoothest with the ladies, but I really didn't think I'd send ya off runnin' like that." Gunn said with a half-cocked grin crossing his handsome features. He was pleasantly surprised to see a shy grin emerge on her beautiful face as she turned to look at him.
Wiping a runaway tear from her cheek, Faith's small grin turned into a wide smile as she stared into the trusting eyes of the hottest looking guy she'd ever seen. "Sorry." She said, "I didn't mean to freak out on you like that. It'd kind of been a lousing evening." She continued.
"We all have those. Don't worry about it. How 'bout you come back inside, and I'll buy you a drink. I promise not to spill it down the front of you." He joked, trying to lighten the mood. Whatever had happened to the girl earlier, he wasn't sure, but he was planning on trying to make her evening better.
"Sure, I'd like that." Faith said, smiling up at him. Maybe she could salvage this night after all. It was certainly worth a shot anyway. And as he held out his arm, Faith got a warm feeling that he was no ordinary guy. He was a gentleman, one that she planned on getting to know, very well.
Chapter 3 ~ "You do what?"
Faith gladly followed her new knight in shining armor back to his table. She wasn't all that thrilled to see three other men sitting there, but she mentally debated that this would be better than driving back to Sunnydale, alone.
"Uh, you know, I didn't get your name." Gunn mumbled, embarrassed that he had to ask her in front of his friends.
"Faith. Faith Chase." She answered him, putting out her hand for a good 'ol fashioned shake.
"I'm Gunn. Charles Gunn actually, but everyone just calls me Gunn. And these guys are some buddies from work. This is Lindsey MacDonald, Riley Finn, and Angel McBride." Gunn introduced his friends. "And they were just leaving to go dance, or something." He continued, giving them a pointed look.
"Yep, or something." Lindsey said smiling as he and the other two men rose, nodded to Faith, and then walked across the club to be lost in the crowd.
They sat in silence for a long moment. Each waiting on the other to start the conversation. Faith had thought this to be her big chance and now she was sitting there like an idiot just staring at the guy. Finally after an excruciating long silence Faith blurted out, "So what do you do?"
"Well, September through May I'm the Recreational Supervisor for the Division 6 School Corp here in LA." He paused, trying to figure out a good way to explain what he did with the rest of his free time. When he glanced over at Faith, she was just staring at him, seemingly hanging on his every word. "Then during the summer I work for Region Five Redding Smokejumpers." There, he had said it. Now, what would she think? He waited patiently, studying her closely to try and gage her reaction.
She sat quietly for a moment, thinking to herself. Finally she gave her reply, "Well, I think I get the whole Recreational Supervisor part, but what the hell is a Smokejumper?" She was fearful he would think she was a total loser for not knowing.
"It's basically what it sounds like. We jump into smoke, sort of. Me and the other guys work for the Forestry Service during the summer months, and whenever there is a forest fire, we go up in planes and parachute down into it and try to fight the fire that way. We dig fire lines that will hopefully prevent the fire from spreading." Gunn tried to explain as simply as possible.
There was just too much shit that went into what they actually did during a jump, that he always ended up being a real big bore when he would explain it to someone, especially someone as beautiful as Faith. Gunn had determined after last summer that the ladies found smokejumping a rather insane way to spend your summer vacation and wasn't nearly as impressed with it as their male counterparts. He guessed it was just a guy thing and so had reluctantly told Faith.
"You do what?" She gasped. It wasn't that she was frightened at the thought of parachuting down into a ring of fire from thousands of feet in the air, it was actually the total opposite. She was suddenly more drawn to this man than she had been only a few seconds before. How incredibly amazing he was, and brave. She had never known a guy before who would risk his life like that to save forests…animals…people that he didn't even know. God he was wonderful.
"Uh…" He stumbled for the right words. He knew he shouldn't have brought up that part of his life, at least not until he knew her better. He continued to mentally berate himself for being such a moron, until he heard the next words slip slowly from those big, full, sexy red lips of hers.
"You are the most amazing man I've ever met." Had she really said that? The words that she was thinking in her head had somehow escaped her lips. Now she was feeling really stupid. He was going to figure out that she wasn't really as old as she looked and dump her on her ass right there in front of everyone. That's all she needed. Fall on her face twice in one night. Was she ever surprised by what Gunn did next.
From across the club Lindsey MacDonald leaned against the bar and watched as one of his best friends leaned in for the big one. That first kiss, the one in which you will just know if this is the right person for you. He had felt it before. The night he met his future wife in a quiet little diner on the outskirts of LA. He and the guys had taken their night off and traveled down the coast to do some major partying. They had spent the previous six days in a fire that had been making its way down a mountainside and was threatening some houses in the Valley. It seemed like just yesterday, but it had already been two years.
Tara McCray had been waitressing the graveyard shift that night at Fred's Café, an all night diner. There had only been a couple of stray customers in and out that evening, until Lindsey and his friends had shown up at 3 a.m. They were a burly group of handsome guys, all laughing and having a good time. She hated to interrupt their conversation to even ask for their orders. Besides, it was much more entertaining to sit and watch them from behind the counter. Lost in her little daydream, or night dream, whichever one preferred at 3 o'clock in the morning she was rather startled when someone tapped her on her shoulder.
"Ma'am." It wasn't really a question or a statement, Lindsey wasn't sure what it was exactly. The last thing he'd remembered he was setting at the table with Gunn, Angel and Riley trying to decide on what to order and the next thing he knows he's at the counter practically pawing the poor waitress to death. He couldn't help himself though she was just so damn beautiful. Not in the drop dead gorgeous way, more in the innocent, sweet, I want to snuggle next to a fire with you all night kind of beautiful. He was totally smitten by her innocent beauty, and he would be damned not to let her know. In his line of work, you never knew when your number was going to be called, so you learned real quick to act on impulse. Holding back was no longer in Lindsey MacDonald's cards.
There was no beating around the bush for Lindsey, he'd asked her out right then and there. The only thing he'd said before 'Can I take you out to dinner?' was 'Hi, my name is Lindsey.' Direct and to the point. Tara had always figured that was what she loved most about him. There wasn't ever any guess work to be done. Lindsey always told you exactly how he felt and when he felt it. And his kind and loving words to her always made her stomach flutter, even two years later. Now, Lindsey was staring like a voyeur as Gunn leaned in to kiss the beautiful brunette. 'If only he is as lucky as I was' Lindsey thought to himself as he watched his friend, and by the look on Gunn's face when he'd finally come up for air, he apparently was. Now, if they could only get Angel hooked up with someone….
Chapter 4 ~ Shaggin' In The Back
Cordelia knew that her man walked a little on the wild side, but she never would've imagined he'd walk this far left. He wasn't at all like he seemed. She'd just allowed him to drag her away from the only friend she had in this world, and after looking around at his furnishings he kept in his bedroom in the back of his club, she decided she'd do it again in a heart beat. This was going to be a very good night.
After leading her back through his apartment to his bedroom, Spike had made some sort of excuse about talking to his bartender about an order and left Cordelia alone in his room. She began looking around at the magnificent furnishings he had. The floor was carpeted in plush red, which matched the elegant spread on the enormous four poster bed. There was even a fireplace, which Cordelia determined was gas. Not that she cared, fireplaces always made everything more romantic. She continued wondering around his room taking in all of the antiques, paintings, and even books. Lots and lots of books. She would have never thought Spike of all people to be cultured. 'Some people can surprise you' she thought to herself. Then, as if by magic, Spike reappeared.
Cordelia had been so lost in her thoughts that she hadn't heard him come back in. But it didn't take her long to feel his presence as he pushed her long black mane to the side and began slowly caressing her neck with gentle kisses. Hearing her sigh of satisfaction, Spike slid his hands around to her front, gently messaging her breasts, one in each hand. Spike was fairly certain that Cordelia was relatively inexperienced, if she'd ever even been with a man at all, so he was doing the best he could to restrain himself. He was trying to be a gentleman with her, and not the sex starved animal that he usually was with the women he brought to his bed.
His strong hands gently kneading each breast was beginning to get the best of her. He had only been at for a couple of minutes, but to the untouched senses of Cordelia Chase, it seemed like an eternity. She slowly spun around in his arms to face the man that was sending her hormones into overdrive. The look in her eyes was all the invitation Spike was waiting for as he swept her off her feet and carried her to his bed.
She had always dreamt of this night with Spike, but somehow the imagery that always appeared in her head now seemed to pale in comparison to what she was feeling at this moment. Her gentle man had laid her upon his bed, like a porcelain doll he was afraid of breaking, and was now, with the same care, sliding her yellow flowered sundress down her shoulders, all the while trailing a river of kisses from her mouth on down as he went. A quiet moan escaped her parted lips, and Spike looked up at her and smiled as a look of pure ecstasy crossed her face. "That is only the beginning my love." He crooned to her as she shivered from his touch.
He was teasing her with tiny kisses across her bare shoulders and down her arms, brushing over each pert nipple only briefly. Cordelia was beginning to get frustrated, she knew there was more to come, better things, and impatience was starting to creep up on her. Try as she might, the pang that she was feeling deep within her body forced her to take action. Without a second thought, Cordelia grabbed Spike by the shoulders and pulled him back up until they were face to face once again. She leaned up off the bed and passionately kissed her blonde lover, frantically trying to undo the buttons on his black silk shirt at the same time.
The intense desire that was radiating off of Cordelia's body in tidal waves had finally overwhelmed Spike. He ripped his shirt off, not taking the time to undo those few remaining buttons that Cordelia was still struggling with. Shocked at first by his animal like action, Cordelia soon gave him an evil grin and quickly shimmied out of her sundress, leaving her body nude but for the tiny silk g- string that covered her sex. It took Spike only seconds to rip that little piece of cloth away from her as well, leaving her now completely nude on a bed of red silk. Her golden tanned body shimmering in the flickering light of the fire.
She stretched her arms over her head, enjoying her new freedom. Spike leaned back on the bed, watching his beauty stretching like a cat. How he marveled at the beautifully sculpted body of the golden goddess that lay before him.
She lie there, her eyes begging him to take her, to make love to her, hell to just fuck her. She was aching in every inch of her body, she no longer cared if this time, her first time, was slow and romantic, all she knew now was that she was so wet with want she could barely contain herself. Spike held back for only a moment longer, savoring the picture that was painted before him.
With only seconds of restraint left in his body, Spike leaned forward hovering over his waiting princess and slowly began showering her with kisses. His trail began at her forehead and didn't stop until he had reached her wet center. Cordelia moaned with anticipation as she felt his cool lips brush back and forth across her sex, teasing her with his tongue occasionally. Finally, he allowed himself to dive into her sweetness. She almost squealed at the first touch of his cool tongue on her swollen nub. The sensations flowing throughout her body were almost too much and as he continued his assault on her sex she felt her entire body shudder with delight. When her body finally finished its uncontrollable convulsions, Spike began kissing his way back up her body until his eyes rested on her closed lids.
"How was that pet?" he asked with a grin on his face. His answer was a big smile and a nod of the head. Cordelia was too speechless to communicate the fulfillment that her body was conveying to her. Spike mentally debated whether he wanted to go back down and pleasure her body again or whether acquiring a little pleasure for himself was what he wanted more. It took only one glance down her sleek frame for his mind to be made up for him. The sight of her nakedness made all of his senses roar in agony, and the bulge in his pants screamed even louder. He needed her. No, he didn't just need her, he needed to be inside her.
Spike slithered off the end of the bed, making quick work of his black jeans and boxers. Like a wild animal stalking his prey, Spike slowly began his decent on Cordelia. She was quivering in anticipation of what was about to happen. Now fully aligned with her body, he began to kiss her deeply. As their tongues dueled with one another, Spike sought out her sex yet again, this time with his skillful hand. He began by rubbing her still swollen nub slowly in a circular motion, then when satisfied that she was wet yet again, he slowly dipped down further and slid first one, then two of his long fingers into her heat. This was always the trick that did the ladies in with Spike. He knew just the right spot to hit and with the expertise of a skilled musician, he began the agonizing process of driving Cordelia over the edge once more, preparing her for the real show that was to come.
As Spike's fingers flowed easily in and out of Cordelia's wet center, she found it much more difficult to concentrate on the poetic words her lover was whispering in her ear. Her world was becoming darker and she was having trouble seeing through the foggy haze that was now clouding her vision. Sensing his princess was near her second climax of the evening, Spike slowly withdrew his fingers against the whimpers of protest coming from a very aroused young woman. Cordelia's whimpers were on the verge of becoming harsh words of demand, but Spike had other ideas in mind so he hushed his flowering beauty by raining kisses over her parted lush lips and sliding every so gently between her parted legs.
Cordelia wrapped her long arms around Spike's muscular neck and tried her best to give kisses with as much passion as she was receiving them. It was only a moment after Spike had moved between her legs that she felt the first twinge of pain as he carefully entered her tightness. She gasp, and he dutifully stopped, waiting for her to signal that she was ready for more. He was surprised and please when Cordelia slid both hands down his well sculpted body meeting his hips and then both cheeks of his ass pulling his body closer to hers with all the strength she had in her tiny arms.
"Are you sure you're ready for more pet?" Spike asked with concern, looking deep into her chocolate brown orbs.
"I've been dreaming of this moment since the first day I met you. I need you. I need all of you." She replied, punctuating her declaration with a kiss.
So like a soldier, Spike began carrying out the orders that were just handed him from the best looking girlfriend he'd ever had. Slowly at first, Spike began to pull in and out of Cordelia's hot core. As the pain eased, and she became accustomed to his length, Cordelia began rocking in rhythm, urging him in deeper with every move. Base animal instincts seem to be overpowering both bodies as they bumped and ground their way through this archaic ritual. Seemingly endless grunts and moans poured freely from both participants and with each thrust Spike came closer and closer to his breaking point. Before he had a chance to slow his rhythm, Spike was sent hurtling over the edge of ecstasy. Cordelia had finally found her release and with it came mind numbing muscle contractions around Spikes hard member that sent him tumbling over the edge with her.
"Oh…. Oh fuck pet!" Spike howled as his release sent his sensory system into overload.
"Oh god Spike, oh my g..o..ddd! Cordelia yelled as she dug her finely manicured nails deep into Spike's back.
Spike quietly slipped out of bed and quickly dressed. He knew that they had been at it for a couple of hours, and he wasn't real fond of leaving his new dumb ass bar hand in charge for very long, especially on a weekend. Things got busy real fast, and the boy wasn't real bright. Glancing once more at his sleeping beauty, he gently eased out of the room, closing the bedroom door behind him.
Chapter 5 ~ Goodbye Sunnydale, Hello LA
It had been three months since graduation. Three months to pack everything she needed for her new life at college, and yet Buffy Summers still waited until the last minute. She had used the previous summer months to work on her tan and catch up on some much needed rest.
Her senior year in high school had been a nightmare. One of those where your deepest fears are brought to reality. Well, for her the nightmare had, literally, been reality. She'd let her best friend talk her into taking Chemistry, Physics, Calculus and a couple of other subjects that occupied so much of her time she was never sure if her school day ever actually ended.
But it was well worth it. She and Willow had had a plan, one that would take them out of this one horse town right into the heart of their dreams. A one way ticket to the City of Angels.
"Are you about done? We needed to leave, like five minutes ago!" Willow chided from the doorway of Buffy's bedroom.
"Yeah. Just making sure Mr. Gordo is all secure in his luxurious cardboard traveling box." Buffy replied, giving her best Vanna White impersonation as she displayed the neatly packed box for her friend's inspection.
"Well, as long as Mr. Gordo's safe. Being on time for freshman orientation is certainly second on the 'What's Important List'."
"Okay. Okay. All done. You can now mark off Mr. Gordo's safety from the 'W.I.L.' Now, on to number two."
"The W.I.L?" Willow asked, her forehead scrunched in confusion.
Buffy smiled. "The What's Important List. Now, number two. Good Bye Sunnydale, Hello LA!"
Two hours, two Diet Cokes and a couple of Twinkies later the girls pulled up in front of their freshman dormitory. Luckily, they still had an hour before the scheduled orientation began, leaving plenty of time to drag all of Buffy's possessions up to their room. Willow had been unable to wait any longer than necessary and had driven up the previous weekend with her belongings.
Three trips up and down two flights of stairs to their room and the car was empty. Ever the prompt one, Willow suggested that they go ahead to the Student Union where the orientation was taking place. Buffy agreed, and the two best friends set out across campus, taking the first steps in their new lives as college students.
~ ~ ~ ~
'Pomp and Circumstance' was playing as they marched to their seats. Flashbacks to that first day at freshman orientation went whizzing through Buffy's mind. She was happy and sad, smiling and crying all at the same time. It seemed like only yesterday to her, and now it was all over. In another couple of hours she and Willow would have their degrees.
She sat quietly, listening to the Dean of Student, then the President of the University and a couple of other people that she couldn't figure out why they were there giving speeches.
'The first step in the rest of your life,' one had said. She heard others mumble words of wisdom from their own life's journey, but she wasn't paying much attention. Instead her thoughts were focused on other things. Remembering medical terms, and how much of what you can give someone was the only thing on her mind at the moment.
In less than an hour, Buffy Summers would have a degree. A degree that wouldn't mean shit unless she passed her Boards. So instead of enjoying her final day as a UCLA student, she continued to mentally review anything and everything she could think of that she'd learned in the past four years.
"Uh… Sorry, what?"
"Our row is next. I thought I better bring you out of 'La La Land' before it was time to stand up." Willow whispered.
"Oh… God…. Sorry Will. I was… I was just thinking." Buffy apologized in a hushed voice.
"Hey, no big. Just thought you might want to personally receive your diploma."
"Thanks. Didn't work my ass off for four years just to daydream through the good part!" She whispered back to her friend, squeezing her hand as she did.
~ ~ ~ ~
"There it is!" Willow shouted through the blaring music of the car stereo.
"Gotcha!" Buffy shouted back as she slowed her black VW Bug to a crawl, making a sharp right turn into the parking garage.
"I'm so excited! Aren't you excited?" Willow rambled as they released their seat belts and climbed from Buffy's new car. A graduation present, from her ever so not present father.
"Yeah, I guess…" Buffy let her words trail. She knew she should be excited. God who wouldn't be excited about graduating from college. She'd worked so hard during her four years at UCLA, she knew she deserved a little fun. But in the back of her mind were still those little whispers of insecurity.
The voices that had dogged her all the way through high school and still hadn't relented even after four years of college. Willow was naturally gifted. School was fun and easy for her, but for Buffy it had always been a challenge. Her friend had always been helpful, offering to be her study buddy. She knew that she'd never have passed Calculus without Willow's help, but the Board exams were coming up, and she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt she should be back at their apartment studying and not partying at some stupid club. Besides, who the hell names a club 'Eternally Yours' anyway? What's up with that?
The place was packed and the line outside the door was longer than either of them had expected. Apparently every college graduate in the state of California had the same idea as they had. They were about to turn to leave and try some other club, when Fate struck once more.
Chapter 6 ~ Old Friends and New Acquaintances
"It's been forever since I've seen you. You look good B." Faith said as she put her arm around the waist of the tall, handsome man she was obviously with.
"Graduation. I don't think I've seen you since graduation." Buffy replied curtly. Faith always did know what buttons to push, and using B was always the one that did the job quickest.
"So…. How have you been?" Willow tried to interject and hopefully break up some of the tension that she could tell was hovering around them.
"Oh, uh… hey Will. Sorry, didn't mean to ignore you. Um, been doing good… Hey listen, Cordy's boyfriend or whatever the hell he is owns this place, you wanna come in with us?"
"That'd be great! I've heard it's wicked cool!" Willow grabbed Buffy's arm and pulled her in to follow Faith before she had a chance to protest.
Neither Willow nor Buffy was ever very fond of Faith during high school. Until the last couple of months of those tortuous years, Faith and her sister hadn't been anything but rude to either of them, but she wanted in that club, and if being friendly with Faith was gonna get them in, then they'd just have to swallow a little pride and do it. 'Who knows, maybe she's really changed.' Willow mused to herself.
Faith made a line straight for her usual table, at the back and close to the dance floor. She always wanted to be away from everyone and right in the middle of the action, all at the same time. She'd called Spike a couple of hours earlier informing him that she and Gunn would be there around nine and that Gunn's friends were meeting them there.
As was usual for Spike, he bitched about losing business by reserving that table night after night for her. Then Faith would precede to explain to him that he owed her one, a big one, and if he refused her request she'd just have to let the cat out of the bag where Cordelia was concerned. This was the usual song and dance and neither ever understood why they went through it time after time, but they did, and so it was again agreed that the table would be waiting for them.
When the group took their seats, Faith finally introduced her boyfriend. "This is Charles Gunn. Gunn this is Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenburg. We went to high school together."
"Nice to meet you ladies"
"I like this song! Give me smoochies baby!" Faith demanded as she spun out of her seat. Leaning into Gunn she received a couple of quick pecks to her lips. Satisfied with his efforts, Faith darted away from the table to join the crowd massed on the large dance floor in front of them.
"So you're dating Faith?" Buffy asked, eyebrow raised in suspicion. She couldn't figure out how someone that good looking could put up with Faith's crap for more than a couple of hours.
"Yeah. Been about four years now." Gunn replied absently. His attention no longer on Buffy and Willow but centered solely on Faith who was gyrating mindlessly with anyone near her. 'Damn she's hot.' He thought to himself.
Buffy and Willow looked at each other and shrugged. Both still clueless as to the attraction that was obviously there between their old high school 'friend' and the man sitting across the table from them. Their silent conversation was soon interrupted by a deep voice from behind them.
"You work fast."
Both girls turn to look over their shoulder to find three incredibly sexy men staring back at them. Buffy felt her heart skip a beat as she glanced up. Instantly lost in the stare of two dark brown eyes looking down at her. The tall dark haired man gave her a slight smile and moved around the table and took a seat next to Gunn.
"Oh… Hey. Didn't hear you guys." Gunn said as he motioned for the other two men to take a seat.
"I said….. You work fast!" Riley shouted over the loud thump of the music, nodding to the two young women setting across the table.
"These are friends of Faith's. Um, Buffy…right? And… Willow?" Gunn was trying desperately to sound confident when remembering their names. He didn't want to look like an idiot in front of the ladies, even if he didn't have a snowball's chance in Hell at ever dating one of them, not that he wanted to of course.
"And this is Riley Finn, Lindsey MacDonald and Liam McBride." Gunn continued, introducing his friends to the two young women.
"Nice to meet you." The three men chimed in unison.
"Uh huh.." Buffy stuttered, mouth hanging open. She was a total mess. What was wrong with her? She'd never acted so childish in front of a guy before. But, she'd never met a guy like this before either. And he just kept grinning at her. God, she was going to melt right there in her seat. The greater Powers That Be in the Heavens could strike her down right this second, for she had met the man of her dreams, and he was an angel!
"Would either of you ladies like to dance?" Riley asked, hoping he might get lucky with one of the two hotties tonight. It'd been almost a month since his divorce from his wife of five years, Darla Chamberlin-Finn, and he was ready to move on. Life with Darla had been wonderful at first, tumultuous in the middle and a down right bitch by the end. Such a bitch in fact that his only reprieve from her was his summers as a smokejumper. At least then he only had to deal with her when she came to town to visit him on her weekends off.
"Oooo, I would! Been a long day. Need to shake that groove thang!" The redhead replied with a goofy smile as she slid off her stool. "Buffy? Come with?"
"Huh? Oh, nah. Not really into 'shaking my groove thang' right now."
"You sure?" Willow asked again. She really wanted Buffy to have a good time tonight too. After all she was the one that had insisted on them celebrating tonight. The thought of her best friend sitting alone at a table with three strange men was disconcerting, but only until she hit the dance floor.
"You're Buffy right?" Angel asked casually, hoping his tone didn't give away the intense desire for her that was slowly coursing through his entire body.
"That's me." She said with a giant smile.
Oh my god! He'd spoken to her, even remembered her name! But what kind of a moron says, 'that's me'? What the fuck kind of response was that? She sounded like a freaking teenager again! Her eyes dropped suddenly to the table, studying the design on the napkin laying in front of her. She had completely humiliated herself. Nothing unusual there.
"Angel." She smiled, glancing up from the table to look at him. God, he really was an Angel! Oh god… OhGod... What was she going to do? He was smiling at her again. 'Get a grip Buffy Summers. Get a fucking grip! He's just a guy… a really great looking guy, with the most kissable lips…. God! What is wrong with me?'
"So… you and your friend come here often? I don't think I've seen you before."
'Now that was by far the best line he'd ever used on a girl. That's right, run her the hell away before you even get her number. That sounded like one of the lines those stupid college guys use. The ones that think all the women are just dying to get in the sack with them.'
"No. This is the first time I've been here. Willow wanted to come. She said she'd heard that this was the 'it' place to be, and well, we graduated today and she was in the mood to party. I'm not much of a partier, not that Will is either, but she needed to blow off a little steam. And my God, I sound like such an idiot. Open mouth, exit stupid ramblings, then insert foot to shut me up."
He laughed. She smiled back.
"You graduated today?" Oh god please let her say from college. She didn't look like a teenager fresh out of high school, but now days you never could really tell. And she was a friend of Faith's, and he knew that she was 22. She had to be in her twenties, Jesus, she just HAD to be.
"Uh, yeah. Will and I graduated from UCLA. Went through the whole long and boring ceremony this afternoon. Nothing like setting outside in the heat for three hours to walk on stage and have them hand you a neatly rolled piece of parchment that says your real diploma will be mailed out to you in four to six weeks."
She laughed just thinking of it. Willow had been mortified when she had looked at the paper after the ceremony was finished. The ranting about the diplomas had only stopped when she spotted the club half a block away.
Relieved that she was a college graduate he decided it was safe to keep the conversation going. "So what was your major?"
"Nursing." Buffy replied with a shy smile. She couldn't believe this great guy was actually interested in her.
"That's a really demanding job. You must really enjoy helping people."
"Yeah. It's great. The satisfaction of knowing that you've helped someone. You know, made their life better somehow…" her words trailed.
"I understand what you mean." He paused, trying to decide what to say next. "So, where you working?"
"Well, as soon as we pass our Boards, Will and I have jobs lined up at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. A childhood friend of Will's is a resident doctor there and was kind enough to put in a good word for both of us." She replied enthusiastically. It seemed like second nature to share all of this personal stuff with this man. He was so easy to talk to.
The evening seemed to fly by. The early morning hours arrived much quicker than either Buffy or Angel would have liked. The time had come for 'Eternally Yours' to close for the night and both were more than a little disappointed that their chance meeting had come to an end so soon. And although he knew that he'd take a ribbing all the way back to base for doing so, Angel politely asked if he could walk Buffy, and her friend, to their car.
"I had a really nice time tonight." She said, looking up catching his gaze.
"So did I." He answered. Pausing for a brief second to gather his courage, he continued, "I would like to take you out to dinner sometime. If you want to…"
"That would be great."
"I'll call you when I'm off duty again."
"Okay." She replied in an almost whisper.
Angel was staring straight into those emerald green pools that were Buffy's eyes. He had almost missed her say that she'd go to dinner with him because of the sight he was lost in. His heart was pounding so hard he figured she could surely hear it. He finally had to dig his hands into the pocket of his leather jacket just to keep them from shaking.
Buffy was completely lost in his gaze. She just couldn't seem to look away. She felt as if she could see his soul just by looking into his eyes. And maybe, just maybe if she looked at him long enough she could will him to kiss her. She usually wasn't the kind of girl who wanted to be kissed on the first date, and this hadn't really even been a date at all, but she wanted to touch his soft lips with hers so much it hurt.
He wanted to kiss her, but wasn't sure he should. He'd been raised to be respectful of women, to treat them as a treasure. And to kiss someone whom you'd just met only hours prior was certainly against everything he'd ever known. But for some reason this night and this woman were different. There didn't seem to be anything wrong with the desire. On the contrary, it seemed wrong not to kiss her. Like half of his being would be empty if he left with out letting her know exactly how much he cared about her.
Angel's conscience finally won the battle with his heart. Fearing he might overstep his bounds if he tried to kiss her, he instead dislodged his hands from his jacket pockets and reached down and scooped up one of her tiny ones in his. Caressing her hand as if he'd found a rare jewel, he slowly brought it to his lips and placed a sweet kiss upon her golden skin.
A low sigh escaped Buffy's mouth as she felt his soft lips touching the back of her hand. She felt her knees weaken. It was as if with that one kiss he had sucked all the air right out of her lungs. She had never in all of her years of dating never once experienced anything quite so powerful. She glanced from her hand to where her eyes met his and she knew. She knew beyond anything else that this man had her heart. Forever.
Buffy slowly climbed in her car and Angel closed the door for her, saying his final goodbye as he did. Stepping away from car, Angel watched as she pulled away. When her taillights made the left turn out of the garage and he could no longer see her car, he turned and began walking towards Lindsey's truck where his friends and the jokes would be waiting for him.
He was almost there. The old dusty pick up of Lindsey's was only a few yards away when it hit him. And suddenly the emotional high that he'd been on for the past few hours made a direct 180 and went straight to a nauseating nose dive into the pit of his stomach.
He never got her number.
Chapter 7 ~ Frustrating Circumstances
It'd been over a week since he'd talked to her. Actually it had been exactly eight days, eleven hours, thirty-four minutes and approximately sixteen seconds since Angel McBride had kissed the hand of the most beautiful sun- drenched goddess he'd ever had the privilege of meeting. With hair of silk and eyes that shown like emeralds, she was the closest thing to Heaven he was sure he'd ever get to see. That was precisely the reason why it was killing him.
He'd asked her out to dinner and told her he would call on his next day off, but he hadn't. He hadn't followed through because he didn't have her number. She'd pulled off and was down the street and out of sight before he remembered that he hadn't asked her for it yet. How utterly stupid can one grown male possibly be?
He'd tried everything he could think of to get her telephone number. He'd called information. They didn't have a Buffy Summers or Willow Rosenburg listed in LA or any of the surrounding cities that he could think to ask about. The operator had suggested that maybe they could be unlisted or unpublished or whatever the hell its called when the goddamn operator can't find your number.
Angel had practically fallen to both knees begging Gunn to call his girlfriend. He knew that they had been friends. Gunn had introduced them as Faith's friends, so maybe Faith would know how to reach her. Unfortunately, that avenue was a dead end as well. Faith's acting career had just taken off. She had just been hired for an independent film and was now on location in New York City shooting. Gunn called even though he knew she wasn't going to be very happy with him. And although she'd actually been delighted to hear her lover's voice, she hadn't been any help either, saying that they'd never actually been what you'd call friends.
In a last ditch effort to find the girl of his dreams Angel had called Cedars Sinai Hospital. He had remembered her mentioning that she and her friend were going to work there, but that call had resulted in nothing more than another expensive long distance charge to his already mounting telephone bill.
The obnoxious lady in the Personnel Department at the Hospital had never heard of either woman and had flat out refused to look through her records to see if they might be on some kind of list, maybe as potential employees.
Slamming the phone back on the receiver Angel was met by an understanding stare. Riley had been sitting across the room watching Angel for the past two hours try his damnedest to reach this woman. He knew exactly how he felt. Riley had almost found himself in the very same predicament when he had met Darla.
The two had met in a club in San Francisco and being the oaf that he could occasionally be Riley hadn't gotten her number before she bid him farewell and headed out the door. But at least in Riley's case she hadn't made it all the way to her car before he caught up with her.
Riley had always contributed his initial dumb ass-ness to being young and stupid with a little bit of hormonal rage mixed in for good measure, but the young and stupid part didn't really fit Angel's profile. And surely to God his hormones had been somewhat in check for a couple of years now. Must be a guy thing.
"What?" Angel asked with a little more hostility in his voice than he had intended.
"Nothing man. Just know how you feel." Riley replied calmly. He wasn't really sure how to broach the subject, and he certainly was in no mood to explain himself, but he felt the strong urge to help his friend. If an interrogation followed he'd get through it somehow, he just needed to say something.
"I have a telephone number that might help you." Riley said, speaking evenly.
"Don't fucking tell me you've had her friend's number all this time and not said a fucking word!" Angel growled.
"No. I don't have her friend's number. But I do have the number of a private investigation firm in Los Angeles. I'm sure they would be able to find her for you." Riley answered. Suddenly he wished he had asked the redhead for her number. It would have been much less embarrassing than explaining why he had the number of a private investigator.
Angel immediately felt bad for cursing at his friend. His subconscious knew that Riley would have never withheld her number from him just for amusement purposes. Lindsey maybe, but not Riley.
Unfortunately, the raging animal instinct seemed to be controlling his emotions far too often lately, so instead of being polite and respectful he'd become some sort of out of control demon. Full fledged insanity was what he was teetering on the edge of, and he knew that if he didn't get himself back to his normal emotional state soon he was going to drive himself and everyone around him insane.
"Sorry man. I didn't mean to yell at ya like that. It's just that lady from the hospital really pissed me off." Angel tried to apologize.
"Forgotten. Now, do you want the number or not?" Riley asked.
Riley rose from his chair and pulled his wallet out of his back pocket. He dug through it for a moment until he found the tattered card and handed it to his friend. Angel studied it closely.
D & W Investigations Alan Frances Doyle Wesley Wyndom-Price ~ Licensed Private Investigators Hyperion Hotel, Suite 236 (707) 555-4357
Angel started to ask why Riley had the card of a private investigation firm, but decided it wasn't really any of his business. If Riley wanted him to know, then he'd tell him. Instead he thanked his friend and set back down at the table. Taking the phone in his hand once more Angel began dialing the number on the business card.
"..'ello, D&W Investigations."
"Hi, uh… my name is Angel McBride, and I was looking for a private investigator to help me with a small problem. A woman actually." He stuttered.
"Is the lass cheatin' on ya?" the man with the Irish brogue on the other end of the line asked.
"No… no…. nothing like that." Angel replied with a chuckle. The thought of Buffy cheating on him was ridiculous. She wasn't that kind of girl. Was she?
"Stalkin' then? Bet she just can't leave ya 'lone, huh?" Angel was beginning to get upset with this man's line of questioning when suddenly he heard someone else come on the line.
"Excuse me, my name is Wesley Wyndom-Price. I'm co-owner of D&W Investigations and unfortunately my 'partner' is a little under the weather today. Really should be in bed instead of answering the telephone. So if you would be so kind as to tell me your troubles, I'm sure we will be able to help you."
Angel wasn't sure what to do. He'd been ready to hang the telephone up and tell Riley to get a new private investigator for what ever he needed him for because the guy he was talking to sounded three sheets to the wind. Now suddenly there was a voice of reason. Someone who sounded genuinely concerned about whatever problem he might have.
"Uh…. It's….it's kind of embarrassing really." Angel began to blush. Now that he was actually talking to someone about what he had been so upset about it all seemed kind of silly. But he was determined to find this woman, and no matter what embarrassment he had to go through to get to her, he would.
"Sir, I assure you that we are strictly professional here. Anything that you tell us will be held in the strictest of confidence." Wesley replied. Trying to sound as professional as possible. With their new business just getting up off the ground, they needed all of the clientele they could get.
Angel hesitated, trying to decide the best way of relaying his story.
"I'm looking for a girl." He began.
"Yes, well… is she a relative… or…" Wesley let his words trial. He didn't want to bring up the ex if that wasn't the case. He'd learned the hard way with that one.
"No. She's not a relative. This is really going to sound lame, but I met her at a club… and I asked her out to diner but forgot to get her number. I know her name, but not much else. I've tried calling information and a couple of other leads I had, but nothing has panned out. My friend gave me your card and said that you would be able to help. Do you think you could find her?" Angel asked, his voice beginning to sound desperate.
"Well, Mr. McBride. I'm not sure it is my place to say, but are you positive she wants you to find her?" As soon as he said it Wesley wanted to take it back. Not because he didn't find truth to it, but because it wasn't his place to judge such matters.
Angel was stunned. He'd never even considered that she didn't want to be found. The wheels began turning in Angel's mind. Had he imagined the look of want and desire in her eyes? Had she just lied to him to pacify his attention?
No. No, no, no. It wasn't possible. He knew deep within his soul that she was meant for him. He hadn't imagined any of it. He just knew he hadn't. Okay, so maybe he just really hoped he hadn't. All the same, he had to find her and ask her himself. He wasn't about to take the opinion of an ill-informed PI as gospel.
"No sir. I don't believe that to be the case. If you are too busy to help with this job, please just be up front with me. I'll gladly look elsewhere for assistance." Angel said with confidence. He knew. His heart knew. She was the one, and he had to find her.
"I'm sorry Mr. McBride. That came out wrong. I didn't mean to insinuate that she…." Wesley paused and cleared his throat, deciding to take an alternate route of apology.
"Myself and my partner would be happy to help you in anyway possible. If you could give me any details that you have of this woman, I'm sure we will be able to help you." Wesley finished and held his breath. Hopefully it was a good enough turnabout and the nice gentleman on the other end wouldn't hang up on him.
"Her name is Buffy Summers."
Chapter 8 ~ Code Blue
It had been a month and a half since the night she met her soul mate. Exactly 46 days, twenty-two hours, nine minutes and six seconds by her general estimate since he'd kissed her hand and told her good night. He had asked her out and promised to call, but he never did. Buffy Summers was heartbroken for a man she had only met once.
But wasn't that how true love was supposed to feel? Wasn't it supposed to be like a fairy tale? You're prince charming rides in on his white horse and sweeps you off your feet. That was how she felt that night, and she had been positive that she'd read the same in his eyes.
Buffy had been positive of her feelings, and his, until two weeks went by and she'd heard nothing from him. She had thought about trying to reach him. Maybe he'd been busy doing his fire-fighting thing he'd told her about. But every time she picked up the phone to call, to call anywhere to find him, she'd talked herself out of it. He'd probably only talked to her that night to please his friend. Never actually been interested in anything she had said and certainly had no intention of taking her out.
Six weeks after that chance meeting in the club, she and Willow started their new jobs at Cedars. They had been ill prepared for the demand on their time, and the physical and emotional energy that they were drained of during that first week. Buffy decided that this was a plus for her. Less time to sit around her apartment and brood over a guy she barely knew.
Actually there had been less time for anything other than complete exhaustion for the two women. The long shifts were beginning to takes its toll physically, but the switch in departments was what had taken the biggest toll on their short lives as nurses. Although it was unusual for two nurses straight out of school to be transferred to one of the toughest units in the hospital, it had happened. After only two weeks on the job, both women were moved from the ICU Unit to the Burn Unit.
At first both girls had been relatively receptive to the news. Willow's childhood friend and resident doctor Xander Harris was working on that floor so they had initially accepted the switch with enthusiasm. Their tune changed in a matter of days. Even with Xander's uncanny humor, especially considering the circumstances, they were still having some difficulty adjusting to their new environment.
"Hey! How's my two best girls today?" Xander asked, putting an arm around each of them as they walked down the hall.
"Just peachy." Willow answered with a frown.
"That wouldn't have been my guess by the look on your face." He replied.
Willow gave him a cross look and continued walking.
"Well, since we're all smiles and happy faces today…" he let his words trail.
"Sorry Xan. I guess we just weren't expecting all this doom and gloom so soon." Buffy replied with a half-hearted smile.
"It'll get better." Xander replied with a squeeze to both women's shoulders.
"Like when?" Willow asked, her tone demanding and her features still marred by the frown she continued to wear like a permanent accessory.
"Paging Doctor Harris. Paging Doctor Harris. Code Blue arriving in Station One. Code Blue arriving in Station One." Came a voice over the loud speaker in the hallway.
"I guess after I take care of this patient. Dinner's on me when our shift ends." He replied.
"Okay." Both ladies chimed in unison. Comfort food. That was definitely what they needed.
Buffy and Willow watched as Xander turned on his heels and jogged back down the hallway in his green scrubs towards the Station One Emergency Room. Another patient Buffy could deal with. She had to, it was her job. What she never did deal with well was the unexpected in her own life, and she could have never imagined the unexpected that was about to come her way.
Willow had stopped at Room 243 to check on her latest patient. He was some big-time producer guy by the name of Mr. Joss. He'd been burned on both hands in a freak accident involving his computer and what his assistant, Ms. Marti, described as a new age paper weight. After about five minutes of Ms. Marti's non-stop ramblings Willow decided she really didn't want to know the gory details and politely excused herself from Mr. Joss' room.
Buffy had went on ahead to the nurse's station to grab the chart of a patient she'd been taking care of for the past week. She needed to take his vitals before her shift ended, and now was as good a time as any to check on him. As she approached, she had heard her name mentioned and then saw the nurse behind the desk nod in her direction. A short man with dark hair turned to face her. He smiled and extended his hand.
"'ello doll. You know you're a mighty difficult lass to track down." The man with the distinct Irish accent said.
Chapter 9 ~ Smoke Rings in the Sky
It had been a good month. Well, a good month by a smokejumper's standards anyway. The rain had been scarce but the winds had been fierce. Those two elements, and a couple of idiot campers combined for one of the largest and most out of control wild fires Riley Finn had ever seen. So it was a given that his group would get to jump again soon.
Jumping was one of the few things that consoled him anymore. And right now there were too many 'things' going on in his life that the thought of jumping into the middle of a raging fire seemed like a blessing to him.
All the men in Riley's group had checked their chutes and jumping gear and were ready to go as soon as the call came in. Since they all knew that wouldn't happen until the next morning, Angel, Lindsey and Gunn had already went to bed.
Riley had stayed up, mending the hole in his chute that he'd gotten from his last jump. An unfortunate run-in with a fir tree had torn a dime size hole in his chute, and since each man or woman was responsible for mending their own gear, Riley was painstakingly putting the finishing touches to his. When he finally decided that he'd done a good enough job, he began carefully packing it into his jump pack. He might not be Martha Stewart, but he could hold his own with any man on this base he thought to himself.
The chute was now loaded and ready for action when he heard the door creak. He stood. Turned toward the noise, and was somewhat surprised by the sight that greeted him. Well, maybe surprised wasn't exactly his feeling, it was more like raging annoyance.
"What do you want?" Riley asked with a sneer.
"I think you know exactly 'what I want'. Things haven't changed Riley."
"You know, I'm pretty sure things changed the night you started fucking that intern in your office." He spat at the intruder.
"Details, details. You always were one to get hung up on such petty things."
"I'm not signing the papers Darla. So you can just take you're papers and you're bullshit right back out that door." Riley paused, "Besides, shouldn't you be at home tucking your little boy toy into bed? Past his bedtime isn't it?" he continued, sarcastically giving a mock glance at his watch.
"His 'name' is Parker, and he may be young, but he's certainly more mature than you Riley Finn!" Darla spat back. She wasn't just going to stand there and take his crap. Just let Riley condemn her and her lover like that. He was the one that chose to end things, not fucking her.
"Yeah Darla, whatever you say." He turned his back to her and walked back toward his equipment. He grabbed his gear, and made his way toward the locker room, leaving Darla standing speechless behind him. She'd found her way in, she could find her way out.
"I'm going to make another pass, so you guys can take a look at the clearing you're going to be jumping in. Make sure and get a good look at the streamer when Daniels lets it fly. We don't want any accidents." Instructed Quinten Travers over the loud roar of the plane's engine. He was the pilot on this run, and as big of a jackass as he could be at times, all the men on base trusted his experience.
On the third flyby, Lorne Daniels dropped the third and last weight with the bright pink streamer on it. Travers made sure he turned just the right way so all of the men in his plane would have a chance to catch sight of it.
Lorne was the 'watcher' on this mission. The one who scanned the scenery for any possible obstacles or problems. Then when he was sure things were a 'go' to jump, he'd call out the jumpers' names and send them on their way.
"Walker, Petronzi you boys are up first." Lorne sing sung. He liked his job way too much.
Cameron Walker and Gage Petronzi were the first two of the team out of the plane. Cameron first and at Lorne's direction, Gage followed. Travers turned the plan and began to make his next pass over the site.
Lorne paused as Lyle took his place in the open cargo door of the plane. When he finally received the thumbs up, Lyle jumped with his usual ear to ear smile, counting his one thousands as he soared effortlessly towards the ground below. Just as he mentally counted 'five-one thousand' and reached for his ripcord, Lyle could see his twin brother Tector starting his decent on the earth below as well.
It was highly unusual for the FS (Forestry Service) to allow two relatives, especially two brothers, to jump together. Of course after awhile everyone considered everyone else just like family, so none of the jumpers really understood what all the fuss was about.
Someone jokingly said that the FS never had a rule like that until the movie 'Saving Private Ryan' came out. Apparently someone in the higher ranks had been reminded by the movie of what a tragedy it could be to let family members serve in the same unit.
So, periodically the FS would try to convince the Gorches to consider being placed in separate units. They always refused. It was the same speech every time, 'We were born together, and if Fate wants to take us together, we'll happily oblige.'
Lorne eyed his next 'victims' as he would sometimes refer to the jumpers and shouted over the noise of the plane's engine. "Finn, MacDonald, you're up."
Both men stood and moved to their spots, waiting for Lorne to give them the go ahead.
Finally it was time for the last two jumpers to make their way through the smoke rings in the sky. Nothing ever gave Angel McBride a rush like the few seconds he was allowed to free fall towards the hard ground below. He got the thumbs up and out the door he went.
As Angel reached five, he caught just a glimpse of Gunn as he jumped from the plane. After he pulled his ripcord, his parachute blocked any further view of his friend. He was now alone, soaring like a bird.
The wind kept shifting so he was trying hard to control his path to the clear strip of earth with the toggles on his chute. He was so consumed with trying not to end up like Riley had on their last jump that he hadn't noticed the missing presence of his partner.
The minute Angel McBride landed on the ground he was rushed by the six other jumpers.
"Fuck man! Did you get a glimpse of Gunn's position?" Lindsey asked breathlessly.
"What? He was right behind me. I saw him." Angel answered, concern mounting in the pit of his stomach.
"His fucking main chute didn't open." Lindsey said, "I'm pretty sure he got his emergency one out, but we lost visual on him in the smoke. I can't fucking reach him on his radio either."
Angel searched desperately for his walkie-talkie, knowing deep down, that he wasn't going to get an answer either.
"Gunn! Gunn! Come in man!" Angel shouted into the little black radio.
"Answer me Goddammit!!!"
Chapter 10 ~ Surprises
"I'm sorry, Do I know you?" Buffy asked the dark haired stranger standing before her.
"Sorry doll, forget my manners sometimes. Wes'll have my head for that one." The man replied with a warm smile.
"The name is Alan Frances Doyle, Private Investigator." He continued, handing Buffy one of his business cards.
She studied it closely. It certainly had his name on it and that of one Wesley Wyndom-Price. That guy sounded kind of stuffy she thought to herself. Still confused, she motioned for the man to follow her as she went to set in one of the waiting room chairs. She really needed to sit down. Whatever the man had to tell her, it just couldn't be good.
"Am I…. in some kind of trouble?" she asked cautiously.
"Oh no ma'am. Nothin' like that I'm afraid." He answered, then paused. He really wasn't sure what to say to her. He'd been trying so desperately for the last month to track her down, that he'd forgotten what he was going to say to her when he finally found her.
"Why… Why were you looking for me then?"
"Listen miss. I know this is probably going to sound kind of corny, 'specially to a nice lookin' lass like yourself. But…" Doyle began.
"But what? Did someone die?" She was beginning to get worried. Real worried. The guy was taking way too long in telling her what was the what.
"No. Nothin' like that." He stammered.
"Then what?" She practically screamed it.
"I was hired by a man. He said he'd met you in a club." Doyle began slowly.
"Angel?" The name had involuntarily floated off of her lips. She didn't know how she knew. She just did. Buffy Summers knew, without a doubt that Angel, her angel, had tracked her down.
She concentrated her eyes on those of the man sitting next to her. She was looking for any signs of denial. Something that would burst the bubble that she was now in, but it wasn't there. The sweet and caring eyes of her Irish messenger only confirmed what she'd already known. Her Angel had been looking for her after all.
When Willow had returned Mr. Joss' chart to the nurse's station, she had noticed that Buffy was having a deep conversation with a strange man. She had immediately figured him to be a family member of one of Buffy's patients. But then Rose, the head nurse, had whispered that the guy was some sort of PI and was asking questions about Buffy. The two women had always looked out for one another, so Willow instantly moved to be by Buffy's side. Whatever was going on, she'd be there to support her friend.
"What's up?" Willow asked seriously as she approached her friend.
"Oh Will!" Buffy exclaimed as she rose from her seat, immediately wrapping both arms around her best friend.
"Buffy? What's wrong?" She asked, returning the embrace while looking quizzically at the stranger.
Buffy released her grip and took a step back from her friend.
"Angel hired him to find me! Can you believe it?" she replied with joyful tears flowing down both cheeks.
Willow wasn't sure whether she wanted to be shouting from the roof tops with her friend or scared shitless that this guy, neither of them knew well, had hired a private investigator to find her. Stalking much?
Her emotions kept bouncing back and forth like a tennis ball. Happy, scared, happy, scared… really cute guy smiling at me…. happy for Buffy, scared for Buffy.
Doyle wasn't lost on the obvious unsurity that the redhead was feeling. He'd felt the same way at the beginning too. Once he'd gotten sober anyway. And although Wesley had communicated his assurance that Mr. McBride meant no harm to this young woman, Doyle still hadn't been keen on the idea of finding her. That was, until he saw her. And her friend.
The beauty that radiated from Buffy Summers was something that no man could miss. Even if the man was blind, he'd still be able to see her! No wonder the guy was going insane trying to find this lass. She was something all right.
And her friend… she held the same sobering quality. She may not hold the obvious physical beauty that her friend held, but the redhead certainly had an aura of beauty all her own. An inner beauty like none that he'd seen before. One that he was sure he wanted to get to know better.
"Umm… Buffy. That's great." Willow smiled hesitantly, still glancing at the man standing next to them.
"Ladies…. I'm going to have to interrupt this little powwow of yours. You're both needed down in Emergency Station Two. A second smokejumper was just brought in." Rose, the head nurse said stoically.
The feeling was nothing short of a gut wrenching panic. Without a word said between them, Buffy and Willow took off in the direction of the Emergency Stations in an all out sprint. Mr. Doyle and Nurse Rose were left watching their retreating forms disappear down the hallway.
After rounding the last corner, Buffy and Willow stopped suddenly. They could see through the glass panes of the doors leading into Emergency Station One. They could see their friend, Dr. Harris, working franticly on the man lying unconscious on the table in front of him. This was obviously the call that Xander had gotten only twenty minutes earlier, and he was still working furiously on the man.
Both women were ushered into Station Two. Their help was needed there. Hurriedly dressing in their emergency attire they quickly stepped into the room. Getting for the first time a view of the badly burned man.
"Oh my God!" Buffy whispered. The words barely audible to anyone's ears but her own.
Chapter 11 ~ Death of a Hero
***Character Death Warning***
Since Buffy Summers was transferred to the Burn Unit of Cedars Sinai Medical Center, she had seen some pretty horrible things. Patients burned so badly that she wasn't sure whether she would be physically able to tend to them, but nothing she had seen prior had prepared her for what was lying there waiting for her on the table in Emergency Station Two.
"God Buffy! Oh God!" Willow gasped as she finally got a full view of the man lying in front of her.
"Yeah Will, I know." Buffy replied solemnly.
After the two nurses' immediate shock wore off, they both went into their 'nurse mode'. The one thing that would allow them to take appropriate care of this man, and not break down into blubbering idiots.
Two hours and twenty-six minutes later, Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenburg had finished assisting Dr. Winifred Burkle on their patient. Dr. Burkle was giving instructions to the orderly as to where the patient should be taken as Buffy and Willow left the Emergency Room Station. They were both exhausted and still in shock as they began their long march down the hall toward their locker room. Their shift was finally over.
Both women turned around as if on cue.
"Oh God! Oh thank God its you!"
"Faith?" the women chimed in unison.
"You were in there with him right? You saw Gunn didn't you?" Faith asked, choking back the tears that were streaming in rivers down both cheeks.
"Why don't you sit down. I'll get Dr. Burkle, she can explain Gunn's condition to you." Buffy replied.
She just didn't have the strength to talk to Faith. All she could do was berate herself for being thankful it hadn't been Angel lying there. It was a horrible thought, she knew that. And she knew that it wasn't fair for anyone to be lying there, but she was feeling the relief just the same. And staring into Faith's red rimmed eyes was doing nothing but making her feel worse.
"No, don't leave. I have to know. Is…. is Gunn going to die?" she asked hesitantly, not really sure whether she wanted the answer to that question or not.
"I don't know the answer to that. You really should talk to Dr. Burkle. She's one of the best doctors we have on this unit, and she'll explain everything."
"I'll go find her." Willow interrupted, putting a supportive hand on Faith's shoulder before she turned and headed back into the Emergency Station.
"Thanks." Faith answered, lowering her head into her hands. She thought the tears would have dried up by now, but they weren't. She just couldn't stop them.
"I'm sure he'll be fine. This is one of the top burn units in the country." Buffy said, pulling Faith's trembling body into her own. She couldn't think of anything else to say, so she just sat there and held Faith.
Buffy and Willow later found out that the first jumper who had arrived hadn't been as lucky as Gunn. From the bits of information that they were able to gather from those closest to both men, Cameron Walker had risked his own life to save Gunn, and in the end had paid the ultimate price.
From the brief comments the other jumpers made to the paramedics, Gunn's main chute had malfunctioned. It was evident that he was able to release his backup emergency chute in time, but had unfortunately landed in the middle of the blazing inferno.
The seven other jumpers in his group spread out to try and find their friend. After spotting Gunn tangled in some tree branches, Cameron Walker, against his better judgment and directly against his smokejumper training went to help his friend. After radioing his location to his fellow jumpers, Cameron began cutting the lines to Gunn's chute. When it finally gave way, Cameron hauled the unconscious man over his shoulders and carried him through the burning brush towards the clearing.
It was because of this one heroic deed that Charles Gunn was alive. His burns would heal eventually. Unfortunately for Cameron Walker his heroism was also his downfall. The burns on his body, covering 80% of his lower extremities, had been third degree. This caused his body to go into shock, and worse yet, resulted in his internal organs shutting down. There was nothing that Dr. Harris or anyone on his team could do to save the man.
He was a true hero in every sense of the word. No man deserved the title more than one who would willingly give up his own life trying to save another's.
Chapter 12 ~ The Truth
In the week that passed after Cameron's death, and Gunn's near fatal accident, the base at Redding had been a sea of solemn faces. The one thing that could bring these strong men and women to tears was the loss of one of their own.
The truly unfortunate aspect of this particular accident was the nonexistent amount of time Cameron's fellow smokejumpers were allowed to grieve. Those who could attended his local memorial service, and those who were still out fighting the flames held their own private one at the camp.
The wildfire that the Redding group was sent to fight was still raging on even after a week. The FS had finally called in some reinforcements from Oregon to help battle the blaze and give the Redding crew a much-needed rest.
With all of the emotional strain Angel McBride had been under during this past week, it was no wonder that he'd forgotten about his little princess wondering around out there somewhere.
It wasn't until he received a telephone call late in the evening on his second night back at the base that he was reminded how beautiful life could actually be.
"Yes. Who's speaking?"
"This is Wesley Wyndom-Price. I believe that Mr. Doyle has found the young woman you have been searching for."
"Mr. McBride? Are you there?"
"You have no idea how badly I needed to hear that." Angel replied. His gratitude echoed in his tone.
"Ms. Summers is presently employed at Cedars Sinai Medical Center." Wesley paused.
"Are you certain? I contacted them before I called you. They said she wasn't an employee." Angel asked confused.
"Yes Mr. McBride, we are quite certain she is employed there." Wesley answered.
"Do you have her phone number?"
"I'm sorry Mr. McBride. Due to an emergency, Mr. Doyle was only able to verify that she was employed there. He did speak directly with Ms. Summers though, and she appeared to be quite happy that you were looking for her." Wesley continued.
"Is that all of the information that you have?"
"At this time, yes. I'm afraid it is. The Hospital is very strict on the confidentiality of their staff and therefore was not willing to give out personal information about any employee, including Ms. Summers."
"That explains why I didn't get anywhere when I called." Angel said, mostly to himself.
"Mr. Doyle was only able to speak with Ms. Summers for a brief moment as she was called away for an emergency. He has been checking back periodically in the unit Ms. Summers works, hoping to catch her there again." Wesley paused.
"Mr. Price, I can't thank you enough for finding Buffy for me. I know it may sound ridiculous to you, but I love her." Angel replied.
"Mr. McBride, I'm not here to judge the validity of someone's affections."
"If Mr. Doyle meets with her again, ask him to please get her telephone number, and…." Angel paused, not sure whether he wanted to finish.
"…. and have Mr. Doyle tell her that I'll call her as soon as I get back in again. My unit is scheduled to jump again the day after tomorrow."
"Your request will be taken care of. I'll call and let you know as soon as we've made contact with Ms. Summers again."
"Thank you Mr. Price."
"Its been a pleasure Mr. McBride."
Angel hung the telephone back on the receiver and headed to the room he shared with Riley Finn. He would have to thank his friend for giving him that PI's number.
He would have done it right then too had Riley been in their room and not standing in the hallway arguing with his ex-wife who had mysteriously shown up 'again'.
As soon as Angel heard the familiar voices arguing in a hushed tone he started to head back down the stairwell. He had never been one for eavesdropping on conversations, but after hearing Riley get in a couple of good digs about the old bat's new fuck toy, he was having a hard time pulling himself away.
Unfortunately, the war of words didn't get much better. Darla just kept clambering on and on about some papers and Riley would, at every turn, call her a blood-sucking vampire. Angel had to bite his lip to keep from laughing.
He'd heard Riley refer to his ex this way before in conversation with 'the guys', but somehow it was 'so much better' hearing the good 'ol boy stand up for himself and tell the bag what he really thought of her, face to face.
"I told you Darla, I. Will. Not. Sign. Those. Goddamn. Papers!" Riley growled through gritted teeth.
"That money is mine Riley. I earned every red cent of it. You have no right to it, and I demand that you sign over any rights this instant." Darla hissed at her ex.
"We all know its 'your' money Darla. I certainly wasn't the one whoring myself out to earn a couple extra bucks."
Riley sighed heavily. He was getting really tired of playing this game with her.
"Darla, this is the last time I'm going to say this to you. I'm not going to sign anything. You're the one who has been screwing around here, not me. If you want all the money, fine, take it, it's yours. But you're not going to get me to sign a paper that says if I'm asked I'll lie about what you did to get it. No fucking way!" Riley swore with his voice louder than he had intended.
"No. Don't even start. I'm not going to sign that fucking thing now or any other time you show up. You fucked up your own life Darla, now you will have to pay the consequences if someone finds out." He paused before continuing.
"I'm certainly not going to volunteer the fact that my ex-wife was fucking every superior at that magazine to get to where she is, but I will NOT lie about it if I'm asked. You better hope I'm six fucking feet under ground when the shit hits the fan with Mr. Nest, because if he asks, I'll tell him every sorted detail I know!" Riley paused, his breathing rapid after the long-winded declaration.
"Oh, I so fucking would! Now get the Hell out of here!"
Darla turned on her red stiletto heels and stormed down the hall.
"And don't fucking show up here again!"
Angel raced down the steps. He wanted to avoid the 'blood-sucking vampire' at all costs. They'd been introduced once when Riley first joined the jumpers, and he'd been shocked when she'd made some very unsubtle advances on him at a party the three of them had attended.
Down the last step and out the stairwell door, Angel raced to hide behind a fake tree that stood in the empty lobby. It was late and everyone who wasn't on call at the fire line camp was now in bed. Everyone except him. He stood quietly, holding his breath, watching for Darla to make her way through the lobby and out the front door.
He waited, and waited. Finally figuring she took the alternate stairs, Angel came out from his hiding place. Instead of an empty lobby, he was face to face with a young man, early twenties, with dark hair, holding a gun.
"What the hell?"
That was the last thing Angel McBride would remember saying.
As that last word slipped from his lips his world went dark.
Chapter 13 ~ The Lost and Found
"What? God Finn, it's like 6:30. What the hell is so important?" Lindsey asked with squinted eyes. He wasn't a morning person, only when he 'had' to be, and he knew that he didn't 'have' to be today.
"Have you seen McBride?"
"I'm not his fucking keeper Finn." Lindsey replied crossly.
"I didn't ask if you were his keeper or not, I asked if you had seen him."
"I haven't seen him since last night. We were talking in the Rec. room when he got a call. It was late so I went ahead to bed. What's so goddamn important?"
"He didn't come back to the room last night." Riley replied, panic beginning to control his usually steady demeanor.
Lindsey raised an eyebrow.
"Okay. That didn't sound right."
Lindsey gave Riley a cheesy smile and sluggishly sat up in bed. He was still waiting for a damn good explanation for being woken up so early.
"What I mean is…. He wasn't in the room when I went to bed last night, and when I woke up this morning his bed didn't even look like it was ever slept in. That just isn't like him. Especially since he knows we're scheduled to jump again tomorrow." Riley explained
"Maybe that call had something to do with that girl he's been driving us all nuts talking about. Maybe he went to meet her." Lindsey replied trying to sound hopeful. Riley now had him feeling a little uneasy. Angel had never left base before without first letting one of the group know where he was going. None of them did.
That was a rule they had all agreed upon early on in their jumping careers together. Regardless of whether they were in the middle of a fire or out in the civilized world, they stayed in pairs and if they decided to separate, then they had to let one of the other members of their unit know. This way there would be no guesswork. They were either together, or something was wrong.
Now it would appear that something was wrong.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Ma'am, could you spare a moment?" The gentlemen asked.
"Oh… hi! Uh, sure. I've got a couple of minutes" Willow replied, somewhat startled.
"Is… is Ms. Summers working today? Last time I was here, I didn't get her number. Mr. McBride was quite adamant 'bout me gettin' her number."
"Yeah, Buffy's here, somewhere. Uh… I can give you her number though, if you want. We share an apartment." Willow said shyly.
"Ya do?" Mr. Doyle asked with interest. That was an exciting tid bit of information he thought to himself. He could kill two birds with one stone here.
Willow reached into the pocket of her maroon scrubs and pulled out a small notepad. She carefully wrote down her and Buffy's shared address and telephone number and handed it to the handsome Irishman who was smiling brightly back at her.
"Did I tell you we share an apartment?"
"Yes me lady ya did, and I'll be keepin' that bit of information in mind too." Mr. Doyle paused before continuing.
"Before I forget, tell Ms. Summers that Mr. McBride will contact her soon. His unit is scheduled to jump again tomorrow, but I'm guessin' he'll be callin' soon as he gets back to base." He added as he tipped his hat. He then did something he'd never in his life imagined he'd have the nerve to do, he leaned over and gave the cute lass a kiss on the cheek.
It took only a second for Willow's face to turn thirteen different shades of red from blushing. She couldn't believe his boldness. Thinking he was all that or something. That he could just say a couple of suave words to her and she'd be all googly over him.
"My shift ends at seven and…. I'll be home by seven thirty. Barring any emergencies." She blurted out.
He simply smiled graciously, tipped his hat once again, and left. Willow stood in the hallway dumbfounded, watching his somewhat sloppily dressed form disappear down the long corridor.
"Hey Will! What's shakin'?" Buffy asked as she approached her best friend.
"Buffy… Oh God Buffy!" Willow's eyes widened as the recognition of what had just transpired between her and the private investigator hit her.
"Mr. Doyle… he… he… came back to get your number… you know, to give to Angel. And… and I…. I…." Willow stuttered, trying to explain.
"You what Will? You 'did' give it to him? Didn't you?" Buffy asked, somewhat afraid that her best friend might have somehow forgotten to give the man their number.
She didn't even want to think of that. It'd been well over a month and a half since she'd spent the night talking to Angel, and now that he'd found her. Or rather he hired someone to find her, the thought of this chance slipping by was just too…. too….
It was totally unfathomable. No way had Will messed this up.
"I uh…. I ….."
"You gave him our number didn't you?" Buffy asked again.
"Yeah." Willow finally squeaked out.
"Then what's the problem?" Buffy asked confused.
"He kissed me on the cheek and then I told him my shift ended at seven and that I'd be home at seven thirty. God Buffy, I practically offered to sleep with him right here! He's going to think I'm stupid… or slutty… or something!" Willow rambled frantically.
"Nah. Don't overreact. Besides, he's kind of cute, and who knows maybe when Angel and I 'finally' get together we could all go out on a date or something!"
"Don't you think you're jumping the gun a little?"
"Gun? What gun? There's guns involved in this dating thing?" Buffy asked, grinning widely.
"Oh, I almost forgot. Mr. Doyle said to tell you that Angel would be calling you soon. His unit is scheduled to jump again tomorrow, but he'd call as soon as they got back in, now that he's got your number." Willow decided to add the little bit at the end herself. She knew how much her friend had been disappointed after the last promised phone call never happened.
"I won't hold my breath." Buffy teased. She then looped her arm through Willow's and led her best friend down the hall. It was time for their afternoon break, and for a short pit stop to see how Faith was holding up.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Mr. Alan Frances Doyle strutted into the suite of the Hyperion Hotel that was occupied by his private investigative firm. He had a swing in his step and a song in his heart. He didn't believe he'd ever met a finer lass in all his days.
"It appears that you were able to speak with Ms. Summers' friend again I see." Wesley chided from behind his desk.
"Ahh, come come dear Price. It was a very productive meetin' I had." Doyle replied as he slung his jacket over the back of his chair.
"Did you get the telephone number that Mr. McBride requested?"
"Good. If you would please hand it over. I promised Mr. McBride I'd get in touch with him as soon as I had the information." Wesley stated evenly.
Doyle pulled the tiny piece of paper from under the lining of the inside of his hat. He'd learned a long time ago that the crooks and thieves would tear your clothes to shreds looking for money and such, but they never checked a man's hat.
Wesley took the piece of paper and studied it carefully. He then looked quizzically at Mr. Doyle before asking,
"Ms. Summers lives at one large strawberry shake and her telephone number is two loaded burgers?"
"Damn. Wrong piece of paper." Doyle replied. He hurriedly grabbed his hat up once more and ran his fingers inside the lining a second time. When he had finally fished out the right one, he handed it to Wesley, snatching his daily lunch order away for his friend as he did.
Wesley smiled. This would make Mr. McBride very pleased. Picking up the phone, Wesley carefully dialed the number to the base at Redding.
Chapter 14 ~ The Games People Play
"Wakey, wakey, lover boy."
A groggy Angel McBride slowly began to open his eyes. As he did the sharp pain at the base of his skull hit like a lightning bolt. Everything was a blur to him at first, but when his eyes finally adjusted to the dim light he was able to get his first glimpse at his apparent captor.
Angel started to struggle with the ropes that was binding his arms together behind his back but to no avail. It only served to humor his captor, and the seductive laugh she gave seemed to echo loudly in his pounding head.
"What do you want?" Angel asked finally, reluctantly giving up his attempt at escape.
"Nothing from you." She replied frankly.
"Then why am I tied up, with a headache no amount of aspirin in this world is going to cure?"
"Because..." She didn't finish.
"I know playing games is what your best at, but I've never been one for them myself. So why don't we just cut the crap and you tell me what it is you want Darla." Angel demanded coolly.
"Well, well, well. Being a little cross today are we? Not a smart move for a man in your position." Darla replied as she trailed her small, pale hand over Angel's furrowed brow.
"Don't fucking touch me!" He spat at her, trying to duck out of her reach.
"Oh now, don't get your boxers all in a bunch. I just need you to stay with me until Riley understands that I'm not going to take 'no' for an answer." She purred in his ear as she moved behind him.
"From what I hear Darla, 'no' isn't a word in your vocabulary."
"You seem to have the same lame ideals as Riley. Too bad! You could've had me, and we would've been great together." She whispered.
"Yeah well, I tend to lean towards the sane variety myself."
"Like that little blonde that works at the Hospital?" Darla asked as she sauntered across the room, taking a seat on the edge of the large bed, crossing her legs seductively as she did.
It didn't take Angel long to start putting the pieces together in his head. The psycho bitch staring back at him was trying to take out all of Riley's friends and anyone close to them in order to get what she wanted. As the pieces of this bizarre puzzle started falling into place, the images of what was to come slammed into his brain. His eyes widened in fear.
"That's right lover boy. For your all your sakes," at this Darla tossed her head to one side, revealing for the first time a young blonde woman bound and gagged in the corner, "you better hope that Riley can catch on quickly."
"You let her go. She has nothing to do with this, with Riley." Angel pleaded.
"Oh, but she does. She's part of Lindsey. That makes her part of Riley, just like you and Gunn, and…." She paused.
"There's Lindsey himself of course, a little blonde nurse we both know, and her redheaded friend. There are just too many left to pick from."
"I don't get it Darla, I thought Riley already said that you could have all the money, why all of this?" He asked, trying to keep his captor in conversation for as long as possible. At least then she wouldn't be hurting anyone else, especially Buffy.
It would have been a great plan too if Angel hadn't forgotten about the dark haired young man that had been waving the gun in his face before he was knocked unconscious. Darla's co-conspirator was, at that very moment, gathering the next piece to this twisted game. Had Angel known what was happening, there wouldn't have been ropes strong enough to restrain him.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
across town 7:56 p.m.
The loud rapping on the door startled Buffy out of her thoughts. She really didn't feel like talking to anyone right now. It had been a long day at the Hospital, and she was enjoying just sitting and staring out her bedroom window, dreaming of what her first conversation with Angel in over a month was going to be like.
To her great disappointment, the knocking didn't stop. She suddenly remembered that Willow had told her she was going to take a shower. That apparently left her on door duty. Raising her tired body from her rocking chair, Buffy went to the door. Pulling it open as far as the safety chain would allow she saw a young dark haired man in a suit.
"My name is Detective Parker Abrames. I'm with the Los Angeles Police Department." Parker said as he flashed her a shiny badge.
"Am I in some kind of trouble?" She asked, still peering cautiously from behind the door.
"Do you know a gentleman by the name of Liam Angel McBride?"
She paused. Fear starting to twist her stomach into thousands of tiny knots, she unchained the door and stepped out onto the concrete steps.
"Y…yes. Is he okay?"
"I'm sorry Ms. Summers. There has been an accident."
"No! No!" Buffy screamed, but it came out only as a whisper.
Not now. Not when they were so close to seeing each other again. The tears began streaming down her cheeks in uncontrollable rivers. Her knees felt like Jell-O. Buffy leaned back against the doorframe. She was in shock.
"Here Miss Summers." Parker said as he handed her his white handkerchief.
Buffy took it into her shaking hand. The thought of Angel hurt, or worse yet, dead slammed into her consciousness again causing her to slump to the ground below her. As she buried her face in the borrowed handkerchief crying out her grief, the world around her began to spin.
"Four… three… two… one…" Parker began counting down.
"Okay beautiful, time to go for a little ride." He said as he gathered Buffy's now sleeping form in his arms.
"Buffy? Buffy?" Willow called through the empty house.
She thought she'd heard some voices, but couldn't seem to find anyone. As she made her way down the hall and into the living room, she saw the front door standing ajar. Figuring Buffy was talking to someone, hopefully Angel, she went to investigate. To her utter shock and confusion, she watched as the lifeless body of her best friend was shoved into the backseat of a car.
"Stop! Help, somebody HELP!!!" Willow screamed as she ran toward the car containing her friend. As Willow's bare feet hit the sidewalk, the black car with darkly tinted windows sped off into the night.
As she gave out one final cry in desperation, Willow collapsed to her knees shaking violently. She didn't notice when another car, older and obviously more abused, pulled up behind her. Suddenly she felt a hand on her shoulder. Sheer terror coursed through her body, 'Oh God! They'd come back to get her too!'.
Willow's fight or flight instinct took over and she turned suddenly to get a look at her would be captor.
"Oh God, it's you!" She cried.
Chapter 15 ~ The Ties That Bind
When consciousness was again within her grasp, Buffy Summers could tell something wasn't right. She felt as though she was traveling through a dense fog while weighted down. It was that same feeling of being one step out of reality while weighing a thousand pounds that one feels when rousing from anesthesia. As the fog began to lift and her vision began to refocus, she began comprehending what had happened to her.
The memories of answering her door. The supposed police detective giving her some sort of bad news about Angel. The overwhelming sadness and tears that quickly followed. The detective offering his handkerchief.
'It was the handkerchief' she reasoned with herself.
Buffy had known almost immediately that it contained ether. It was a smell like no other. She had learned very early on in her medical studies what the scent of ether smelled like, and now that she was reliving those last moments, she remembered realizing what was happening to her at the very moment she breathed it in.
As the reality of what had happened slowly invaded her thoughts, she began surveying her surroundings. The room she was being held in was dimly lit, and making out any objects except the bed she was lying on was virtually impossible. Realizing for the first time that both her hands and feet were bound together with rope seemed to register an even greater fear within her body.
That situation in itself would have been enough to terrify even the bravest, but for Buffy Summers it was something different. She was scared, she'd be the first to admit that, but it wasn't until she began hearing loud grunting noises from somewhere across the darkened room that panic began overtaking her emotions.
Figuring out how to escape from the confinement enforced upon her by a young man posing as a police officer was one thing, but escaping from whatever kind of animal that was chained up across the room from her was something totally different.
She immediately began mentally scrolling through the different escape scenarios that she and Willow had learned when they had taken that self- defense class during their junior year in college. Unfortunately for her, most of what she could recall involved being conscious when you were attacked.
'Lot of good the damn class did. They forgot to mention what to do when a nice looking guy posing as a police officer tells you that your would be, if you could only talk to him, boyfriend was hurt in some kind of accident, and then drugs you with a handkerchief that he offers to you while you're bawling your eyes out and then carts you off to who the hell knows where and ties you up! Where the hell was the 'how to escape' plan at for that one?' she thought to herself.
Buffy shrugged. She guessed she was just gonna have to 'wing it'.
The grunting noises from across the room continued, along with the banging of what sounded to her like chair legs. Maybe her friend on the other side of the room wasn't an animal after all. May someone else had been kidnapped too. Buffy finally got the courage to push her self up to a sitting position.
Lucky for her, Detective 'Can't Get a Date Without The Use of Drugs and Ropes,' had tied her hands together in front of her body instead of behind like a normal abductor/potential rapist would have. 'Dumb-ass' she mused as she reached down to free her legs. The thought of her abductor being a rapist ran though her mind a second time, quickly sending chills down her spine. She dismissed the thought as quickly as it came. She didn't really have time to ponder such ideas, instead she immediately turned her attention to the ropes at her ankles.
Fortunately, the 'dumb-ass' could tie a knot about as well as a three-year-old, so she was easily able to untangle her legs. Squinting through the darkness at her bound wrists, she could tell freeing her hands was going to be a little more difficult. As positive as she was that the 'Eagle Scout' had tied her hands together too, there just wasn't going to be an easy way to free them.
The noises from across the room continued as she sat pondering her hand situation. Buffy only became more frustrated as the noises became louder the more she moved around. If curiosity killed the cat, then she just hoped that maybe, just maybe, she still had a couple of her nine lives left, because now the noises were just too much for her to ignore.
Buffy eased herself off of the edge of the bed, trying to make as little noise as possible. Feeling around on the table, next to her for a possible weapon, she picked up the first thing that her tiny hands came across.
"He left his gun? God, he is stupid!" She was so amazed at the moron that was trying to be her captor that she let this declaration slip from her lips none to silently.
With gun in hand, she tiptoed quietly across the room. Buffy was nothing less than horrified by what she found waiting for her there. Bound to a chair, gagged and from what little she could make out through the darkness, obviously beaten was Angel McBride.
The first wave of emotion to wash over her was relief. Relief that he hadn't really been hurt, at least not the kind of hurt that that jerk-off had insinuated and relief that she had finally, after all this time, found him. But those feelings where short lived as the next, and stronger tidal wave of emotion capsized her tiny body. Staring into his dark brown eyes she could see nothing but fear staring back at her. Not fear for him, but for her. Whoever had done this to him would eventually come back. Come back for her. She couldn't allow that to happen.
With trembling hands, Buffy carefully laid the loaded gun on the floor. The ropes that bound her hands together didn't allow for much range of motion, and removing the gag from over Angel's mouth proved to be a more difficult task than she had originally thought. 'Someone apparently has a thing for duct tape' she mused to herself as she painstakingly unwound it from around Angel's head.
"This is probably gonna hurt." She whispered before ripping the last piece of tape from across his mouth.
"Sonofa…" Angel wasn't able to finish his curse at the pain.
Before he had time to think about what was happening, Buffy Summers was on his lap. Without a second thought she slid her arms over his head and around his neck and began smothering his delicious lips with kisses. She had waiting over a month and a half to see his handsome face again, and she wasn't about to let the fact that they were both tied up and held against their will stop her from kissing him senseless.
As Buffy ran her tongue over his lips Angel flinched at the sting that it ignited in his body. The last blow that he had received from that louse Parker had split his upper lip. And as much as he was enjoying having Buffy's tongue in and over his mouth, the initial burning sensation it produced caused an immediate shudder in his body.
Buffy felt his painful reaction to her ministrations. She immediately withdrew from his mouth and moved her loving attention to other parts of his body. With a tender kiss to each closed eyelid, Buffy laid a trail of her love across Angel's badly bruised face. Halfway though her desperate but passionate act, the thought of how fun this situation might actually be if the circumstances were a little different struck her and she let out a tiny giggle.
"What?" Angel asked seriously, momentarily confused as to what could possibly be so funny.
"Wait… we can't do this. You have to get out of here!" He demanded. The desperation of the situation slamming back into his consciousness once again.
Buffy sat still on his lap as she stared into his dark chocolate pools. Feeling his hard arousal press against her bottom she smiled at him. It might be a desperate situation, but he was fucking hot! A smile crossed her perfectly sculpted face and for a brief second, Angel McBride was again lifted from reality as he lost himself in her beauty.
Buffy seductively leaned in for a second kiss. She just couldn't help herself. He looked so sexy tied up in that chair, bruises and all. If the circumstances hadn't been so dire, he would have gladly sat tied to that chair for eternity with his golden goddess straddled across his lap, kissing her full lips until his body breathed in its last bit of air. But unfortunately for him, and his throbbing member, the circumstances where dire, and they did need to get out of there now.
Angel leaned away from Buffy's advancing lips, staring at her with pleading eyes he begged her once more.
"I'm serious Buffy. You have to get out of here before they come back."
As much as he wanted her that very second. He wanted her safe even more, and the longer she stayed there, the more danger she would be in.
"I'm not leaving without you! I've been waiting for like…. EVER for you to call, and I'm so NOT leaving you tied up for some nut job to… to…. to do whatever nut jobs do when they kidnap people!" She huffed in her Buffy Summers school queen attitude, her arms still circling his strong neck.
'God she's beautiful! Her body is so small and perfect and….
Angel's musings were interrupted, and not by his own train of thought. Buffy's tiny body was up, off his lap and behind him in a matter of seconds. She began saying her thanks to the Powers That Be that the 'dumb-ass Eagle Scout' as she was now resolved to calling Parker, had apparently also been the one to tie Angel's hands to the back of his chair because she was easily able to release the two knots that bound him.
The minute he felt the tension in the ropes loosen, Angel McBride pulled his hands free and immediately began work on the bindings at his ankles. He knew there was little time to waste, and they still had Tara to worry about. It was no wonder Buffy was able to free him so quickly he thought, that lackey Darla has couldn't tie a knot to hang himself with.
When Angel was finally free of his bindings, he feverishly began untying his sweet's hands. As the last knot gave way and Buffy's hands were free to move once more, she made no haste at wrapping her tiny arms around the waist of her savior. Angel desperately wanted to keep her in this embrace but knew that their reunion would have to wait just a little longer. He promised himself in that moment though, that no matter what, he would never leave her side again.
"Yes my love."
"Did you know there's a girl tied up over there?" Buffy asked as she pointed her finger towards Tara's cowering form in the corner.
Chapter 16 ~ Helping The Hopeless
The last thing that Alan Frances Doyle had expected to see when he pulled up to the front of Willow Rosenburg's apartment was her tiny framed body shivering from fear in the street. When he drove down the dimly lit road to the apartment, his headlights had illuminated the final scene of this mystery. As he inched his dilapidated hunk of metal forward, he watched as Willow fell to her knees, screaming out her best friend's name as a shiny black car sped away into the night.
It took the young private investigator seconds to put his car in park and rush to the aid of his damsel in distress. He had been touched by the arrow of Cupid since the second his eyes locked with the stunning redhead's, so it seemed only natural for him to scoop her shaking body up, holding her close to his own.
Whispering words of comfort in her ear, Doyle hoped that with every step he took toward the open apartment door the sobbing lass in his arms would be a tad more comforted by his presence. With ease, he stepped over the threshold and quickly spotted the appropriate resting place. He may as well have laid her trembling form upon a bed of nails as she flinched violently when his warm embrace retreated from her body.
Instinctively Doyle reached in his waist length leather jacket for his cell phone. He dialed the number to his office, praying with each ring that his partner and best friend hadn't yet left for the evening.
Ring… ring…. ring…
"Come on Wes, where ar' ya?" he said aloud in his deep Irish brogue.
"Wes man, good to hear your voice!" Doyle gave a sigh of relief when he heard the voice on the other end.
"Doyle? You haven't been arrested again have you? I mean really, I don't think I can talk Kate into…." Wesley's chastising was interrupted as Doyle quickly took control of the conversation.
"Not now Wes. We're havin' ourselves a bit of an emergency at the moment. Ya need to call Kate, and the two of ya need to meet me at that address I gave ya for Ms. Summers."
"Doyle, what's happened?" Wesley asked. He could hear the deep concern radiating in his friend's tone.
"Not now mate. Just hurry." Doyle ended the call abruptly after those last words. He didn't have time to mess with long-winded explanations. There was a magnificent looking young lass who was on the verge of a mental breakdown and he needed to put his full attention on trying to calm her. He eased his body down onto the overstuffed couch next to Willow's, pulling her body into a comforting embrace as he did.
"Shhh darlin', it's all gonna be okay." Doyle said as he continued to rub a reassuring hand up and down Willow's shaking arm.
Tears were flowing like rivers down the young woman's face, the wetness soaking the Irishman's white cotton shirt. The feeling not lost on him, Doyle reasoned that he really needed to ask this doll the details of what had happened, but the man in him was overpowering the PI and he just couldn't bring himself to broach the subject just yet.
"No, it's not going to be okay." Willow started hysterically. Withdrawing from Doyle's embrace she jumped off the couch and began pacing the floor in front of him. Hands flying frantically in the air she began crying out the details of what had happened to her friend. Most of what Willow was saying was rambling nonsense as she really didn't know much.
After a couple of long minutes of watching her pace back and forth, it finally occurred to the startled Irishman that he knew almost as much as Willow, and this frantic babbling wasn't doing either of them any good. He rose slowly from his seat and carefully gathered the upset redhead in his arms, moving both their bodies back toward the comfortable couch.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"We have a situation."
"I'm aware. There are problems on my end as well."
"You need to meet me at the address."
"What is your approximate arrival time?"
"Thirty-nine minutes sir."
"McBride is missing, along with MacDonald's wife."
"Mr. Finn, you cannot let your personal feelings for these people corrupt this mission."
"Yes Mr. Finn."
"My personal feelings have nothing to do with my duty to protect civilians. Their involvement was an unforeseen liability, and I will not risk harm to any of them."
"Mr. Finn, I understand your concern, and your loyalty to protect the innocent is highly commendable, but your government has entrusted you with the responsibility of taking down a highly notorious drug smugglers. Ms. Chamberlin has been on our top ten most wanted list for well over five years now and you can in no way risk this operation by allowing your personal feelings to cloud your responsibility, again."
"Darla is endangering the lives of several innocent people just to get at me. Their blood will be on my hands if harm comes to any of them."
"Ms. Chamberlin needs her hostages alive in order to strike a deal with you Riley. She's smart enough to know that you would never agree to anything she proposes if she has harmed those you care about, so please Riley, remember what is at stake here."
"I understand Mr. Price. I'll meet you at the rendezvous point shortly."
Wesley picked up the phone for one final call before he left for Ms. Summers' residence.
"Kate Lockley speaking."
"Rendezvous point in exactly twenty-nine minutes."
Wesley rose from his chair and headed straight for the storage room. If everything was to go down tonight, they all needed to be prepared. He glanced as his wristwatch, noting that he had approximately twelve minutes to gather his equipment and head out.
Although he would never have let on to Riley, Wesley was as concerned for those who had been caught in the crossfire as Riley himself. This mission was supposed to have been free of civilians, and it would have been too had Riley not gone all 'morality man' on them.
Riley had always been the prime candidate for this task. His handsome good looks and corn fed Iowa upbringing made him the obvious choice. There had been nothing in his background, unlike some of his comrades, that would have stirred the suspicions of Ms. Chamberlin. Unfortunately for the Initiative, Riley's moral upbringing proved to be his biggest fault.
"Damn you Riley. Why couldn't you have just stayed married to the horrid wench until this was finished?" Wesley said out loud as he packed all of the state of the art weaponry and surveillance equipment his small bag would allow.
Chapter 17 ~ The Secrets We Keep
Three vehicles came to a screeching halt, one behind the other. As if they had rehearsed this scene a thousand times, Wesley exited his sleek black car first, handing Kate Lockley and Riley Finn their needed weaponry as they filed in line behind him. Walking towards the small white apartment building there wasn't a sound made between the three except the loading of ammunition into the chambers of their guns.
Doyle had instantly heard his friends' vehicles stopping outside of Willow's apartment. As he eased out of her tight embrace, Doyle made his way to the front door, opening it as Wesley, Kate and Riley approached. He had called Wesley and instructed him to bring Kate along, but he was having a difficult time figuring out what on earth one of their clients was doing tagging along.
"Um… Wes, what is Mr. Finn doing here and carryin' a gun I might add."
"Mr. Doyle, I'm afraid I'm going to need for you to sit down. There are a few details I need to share with you in strictest of confidence. Whatever we discuss here, must never leave this room. Do you understand?" Wesley asked.
"Doyle…who…who are these people? I mean… who are those two people? I know Riley. Wait. Riley? What are you doing here?" Willow asked, now not only distraught about Buffy's kidnapping, but totally confused as to why one of Angel's friends was at her apartment, with a gun and accompanied by two strangers.
"You know Riley?"
"Sort of. I mean I met him at a club. He's a friend of Angel's."
Willow continued to look expectantly at Doyle, waiting for an explanation as to the other two strangers.
"This here's my partner, well I think he's my partner anyway, Wesley Wyndom- Price. And that there is Kate Lockley, she's a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. I thought that they would be some help in findin' your friend."
Wesley stretched out his hand to greet Willow. He could tell how upset she was.
"Nice to meet you Ms. Rosenburg."
"Yeah." Willow replied quietly as she shook Wes' hand.
"Wes… You think you could explain what's goin' on?"
Wesley cleared his throat and tried to put his mind around just the right words. This was a very delicate situation, and he knew if he didn't phrase everything just right, he'd send his longtime friend into a fit that no grown man or woman should ever have to witness.
"Doyle, I'm afraid, that there have been a few things within my private life which I have been unable to share with you. My true association with both Ms. Lockley and Mr. Finn is one of those things." Wesley started.
"I'm thinkin' I better have that seat for the rest of this one." Doyle answered as he took a seat next to his darlin' redhead.
"Ms. Lockley, Mr. Finn and I are all members of an elite government operation nicknamed the Initiative. Mr. Finn has been undercover for the past five years as the boyfriend, spouse, and now ex-spouse of a Ms. Darla Chamberlin-Finn. She has been wanted by our government on allegations of drug smuggling." Wesley paused.
"I thought you just wanted us to catch her screwin' her little intern?" Doyle looked at Riley, shock the obvious mask of his face.
"And you! You I thought was my best mate, and… and you've just been usin' me?" Doyle turned his shocked and accusing features towards Wesley. He'd always thought Wes was a little too uptight, but he'd never imagined this would be the reason.
"Doyle, I am your friend. I always have been. Unfortunately for your own safety, I've had to keep some information from you. I never intended for you to find out this way." Wesley pleaded for his friend's understanding.
"I'm sorry, but I somehow thought you were all here to help me find my FRIEND!" Willow screamed as she stood up and marched her slender body to the center of the room. She glared evenly at each person occupying her small living room.
"Ms. Rosenburg, I'm sorry. We are here to help you…." Kate's words were interrupted.
"You better fucking be here to help me! It seems to me that Buffy's disappearance comes back to you!" Willow spun around, pointing a threatening finger at Riley. She was a pretty smart girl and it hadn't taken her long to figure out what was going on.
"Willow, I'm…" Riley tried to apologize, but Willow would have nothing of it. Her best friend had been kidnapped, and she was all but 100 % positive that it was all because of Riley.
"I don't fucking want to hear the word sorry cross your lips Riley Finn. You just better pray to God that nothing happens to Buffy, because if it does, the last thing your going to be thinking is 'sorry'. I'll fucking kill you!" she spat at him, still glaring him straight in the eyes.
"I promise you, we'll get Buffy back." Riley tried to reassure the young woman.
"So, what's your plan?" Doyle asked as he stood and crossed the room to stand near his redheaded beauty.
"Riley, you make contact with Darla. Tell her you need to speak with her, you've had a change of heart and you're now willing to sign those documents." Wesley instructed.
"What about the evidence?" Kate asked, her police instincts taking over her thoughts as usual.
"We can't possibly risk the lives of three civilians. Hopefully we'll have enough evidence to put Ms. Chamberlin away for quite some time." Wesley answered.
"At the very least, kidnapping should put her away for awhile." Riley added.
"Who else does she have?" Willow asked.
"What?" The three Initiative members chimed in unison.
"You said that you couldn't risk the lives of three civilians. Who else does this psycho bitch have?" Willow's voice growing louder with every word.
"Angel McBride and Tara MacDonald." Riley confessed reluctantly.
"Angel?" His name was almost a whisper from her lips. Then she paused before asking, "Who's Tara?"
"She's Lindsey's wife. You met him at the club that night too." Riley replied solemnly. The room was quiet, then Riley's cell phone began ringing. He took it out of his jacket pocket.
"Finn." Riley answered.
"That bloke has been past Gunn's room three times in the past half hour. How long you waitin'?
"Do you have the subjects with you?"
"Yeah mate, all three of 'em. But it's becomin' kind of difficult to keep 'em all here pet. You need to do somethin' soon."
"I'm sending Kate. She'll be there in about twenty minutes. Hold fast William. We can't afford anymore civilians being abducted." Riley replied sternly. He then clicked off his phone and placed it back inside his pocket.
Riley nodded in Kate's direction. The blonde took one last look around the room then spun on her heels and headed out the door, not saying a word to anyone. She didn't have to. She knew what her orders were.
"What do you want us to do?" Doyle asked as he gestured to himself and Willow.
"The two of you will stay put. Lock all the doors and windows after we leave. These people are extremely dangerous and won't hesitate in harming anyone that gets in their way. Don't leave this apartment until you've heard from one of us." Wesley directed.
"Oh I so don't think…" Willow began but was cut short.
"You don't have a choice. You are both to remain here until you hear from one of us. That's an order." Riley replied.
"We'll call you as soon as we know anything." Wesley added as he followed Riley's retreating form out the door.
"Well doll, I guess all we can do now is lock 'er up tight and wait." Doyle said as he put his arm around Willow's shoulders.
Chapter 18 ~ The Escape
Angel McBride had no idea where he was going, all he could hope for was that he was leading these two young women to safety. After freeing themselves, the three prisoners had dared to do the impossible.
None of them had been conscious when they were drug into that dark and dank room, so not a one had any idea where they were or how to get out, but that wasn't about to stop them. Angel couldn't wait to get to freedom to be with Buffy and Buffy couldn't wait to be with Angel.
Tara had her own plans for freedom. It had been a long two months since she had last seen her husband, and she was determined to get out of this pit and drag his hot looking butt back home. She planned on spending the rest of the summer curled up with him in bed. They'd just have to find another jumper for this summer, 'cause she was takin' his sweet little ass home with her.
Around two corners and down a horribly long corridor, the trio finally spotted a window. They quietly scurried towards their light of hope. When they finally reached the window, Angel was as stealthy as possible as he careened his neck forward to check things out, hopefully without being seen.
"What do you see?" Buffy whispered.
"Yeah, what do you see?" came a familiar voice.
The three escapees all gasped as they saw Darla sauntering towards them out of the dark, gun in hand. It never ceased to amaze Angel how much Darla thought of herself. She reeked of ego and confidence. What could Riley have been thinking?
Angel had tried to shield the two women by taking a step in front of them. He wanted to protect them, both of them. Buffy, he would lay his life down for because he was madly in love with her, and Tara because she was one of his best friend's wives. He knew that Lindsey would have done the same thing. It was all for not though, Buffy was stepping out of his shadow.
"Well, if you're asking me, I see a psycho bitch with a bad dye job and an outfit that is just screaming 'burn me'." Buffy replied sarcastically.
"Buffy!" Angel whispered over his shoulder. He didn't know what Darla had in mind for them, but he was sure it wasn't going to get any better if Buffy kept slinging insults at her.
"Aren't you sweet. Little girl sticking up for her boyfriend. Well darling, I think you better get back in your place." Darla sneered.
"And why is that?" Buffy asked confidently.
"Because I'm the one with the gun sweetheart." Darla replied as she waved her shiny pistol in Buffy's direction.
"If you're gonna brag like that, you better have the stones to back it up." Buffy shot back, daring Darla to make a move.
"Buffy!" this time the warning was coming from both in front of and behind the petite blonde. Tara had been amused at Buffy's first insult, but now she was beginning to think that Buffy was just as insane as the nut case standing in front of them.
"I really thought you were a little more interested in living. But…. if you'd like to end this right here, I could oblige." Darla replied with a cocky grin.
"You know, I guess I am pretty much into ending this right here." Buffy said, a smile proudly crossing her face.
Angel didn't have time to think about what was going on. Buffy suddenly grabbed the loaded gun from the back of his jeans. He had stuffed it there before they left the room, and Buffy had been anything but ignorant to the fact. She spun away from her two companions and fired on their captor.
Buffy's actions had been so quick that Darla hadn't had time to register what was going on. It wasn't until she felt the scalding metal enter the flesh of her left thigh that she understood. By then, the searing pain was too much and Darla dropped to her knees. The gun fell from her right hand with a loud clank on the cement floor below her.
Buffy rushed toward the fallen woman. As she reached the pistol lying on the floor, she carefully kicked it toward her love who was standing as still as the Statue of David. He was shocked at what his little blonde goddess had just done. She had saved his life. She had saved her life and Tara's as well. In his eyes, that just made her that much more desirable.
"You little bitch! You fucking shot me!" Darla screamed in pain.
"Yeah, well, you'll live. It might hurt like hell, but it won't kill ya." Buffy replied, feeling no sympathy for the injured woman.
"Bite me!" Darla spat back, grabbing her wounded leg and moaning in pain as she did.
"I need your shirt."
"Are you hurt?" He asked as he rushed to her side fearing the worst. He hadn't heard a second shot, but everything else had happened so quickly he now wasn't so sure.
"No, but I need something to make a gag out of." Buffy replied deadpanned.
Angel laughed as he stripped the white cotton tee shirt off his well-chiseled body. Tara stepped up to help Buffy tear the shirt into strips. When they were finished Darla was bound with her hands behind her back, a gag over her mouth to keep her quiet, and Buffy had even bandaged her wound. She knew the old bag wouldn't bleed to death if it wasn't bandaged, but all the same, she just couldn't stand not to fulfill her oath to help others.
Tara and Buffy held Darla by the arms as they forced her to walk as Angel led them out of the building. As they climbed the last flight of stairs and made their way through two large metal doors, the three former prisoners and one now wounded ex-abductor were met by the flashing lights and loud sirens of four unmarked police cars.
Wesley and Riley came rushing around the backend of their police car, rifles pointed.
"Is everyone okay?" Wesley asked as he surveyed the four individuals standing before him.
"We're all fine, but the Wicked Witch of the West here needs some medical attention." Buffy answered.
"Angel man…. I'm sorry about all of this." Riley apologized. The next thing he knew he was lying on the ground. Angel hadn't been quite as forgiving as Riley had hoped. Instead of an understanding reply, Riley Finn received a right hook that laid him out on to the hard pavement below.
"I hope you got whatever you were after Finn. Because I don't take kindly to being lied to, used, and having my girlfriend and the wife of one of my best friends lives being put in danger like that. Not to mention my own."
Angel was now down in Riley's face. He had considered this man his friend. He had trusted him with his own life out there in the field of fire, and now…. now he realized it was nothing but some kind of game.
"Angel, it wasn't supposed to go down this way. None of you were supposed to be involved. You were just my cover." Riley replied, wiping the blood away from his lip as he did.
Angel grabbed Riley by his jacket lapels. He was only inches away from his face. Looking directly in his eyes, Angel gave his final warning.
"I will only say this to you once Finn. You stay away from me and everyone that I hold dear. I will not tolerate another member of my family hurt because of you."
"I once considered you part of my family. Now, you're nothing but vermin in my eyes." Angel released his grip on Riley and took a step away.
"I gave you a warning Finn." Angel replied over his shoulder as he retreated, making his way towards the ambulance that Buffy and Tara were sitting in.
Chapter 19 ~ And Another One Down
"Mr. Laverty, may I have a word with you." Kate Lockley asked as she peered in the hospital room of Charles Gunn.
"Sure ducks, be right there." Spike answered.
"Ducks? Who the hell is Ducks?" Cordelia asked with arms crossed and one foot tapping loudly on the floor. She was angered that her boyfriend would even look in the direction of another woman, let alone actually speak to one.
"Don't worry pet, this is purely business. Just stay put with your sis, and I'll be back in a sec." Spike answered sincerely as he stroked Cordelia's cheek with the back of his hand.
William left his doe-eyed beauty standing in the doorway of Gunn's room and casually walked down the hallway to join his partner.
"I received a call from Wesley a couple of minutes ago. He said that Ms. Chamberlin has been taken down." Kate replied in a hushed voice.
"Well, wonders never cease. Guess the wanker came though after all." Spike mused out loud.
"Not exactly. It apparently was Mr. McBride, Ms. Summers and Mrs. MacDonald who overpowered our dear magazine editor. I don't have all of the details, but I'm pretty sure Finn didn't have much to do with the take down." Kate answered with a smile. She knew that her dislike of Riley Finn was a shared one with her partner.
"Wesley's team did a sweep of the building she was using, and arrested all of her remaining entourage. Our orders are to arrest Mr. Abrames and take him to headquarters." Kate continued quietly.
"Well the bloke ought to be back any minute now. He's been hoverin' 'round here like some sort of weather balloon, just waitin' for the girls to be in there 'lone." Spike replied.
"Bingo." Kate said as she looked past her partner and down the hallway at the young man standing in the doorway of Charles Gunn's room, talking to Cordelia.
"Oh, the bloody chit's gone and done it now." Spike snorted. The protectiveness that he felt towards his girlfriend was becoming animalistic. He could almost smell the blood of that inept twit.
"Pull in the reigns there tiger. We don't want a blood bath in the middle of a hospital." Kate replied as she rolled her eyes. She just didn't understand what a sexy, blonde, hunk of a man like William was doing with some little girl half his age.
"Yeah, well, where is it you propose the blood bath take place? I'm thinkin' here's as good a place as any. It is a hospital you know." Spike shot back.
He really could care less where it happened, all he knew was that he was gonna teach that 'boy' a lesson. You don't touch other people's property, their mate, and Cordelia was most certainly 'his' property, 'his' mate. Okay, so maybe she wasn't exactly 'his' property. In fact, Cordelia would totally bitch- slap him if she ever found out he thought of her in that way. But still, it was the point of the matter.
"Let's just arrest the bastard before this gets out of hand. You can have your fun with him down at headquarters." Kate replied flatly.
There was no telling Spike twice. He was down the hallway and had that nancy boy pinned up against the wall reading him his rights before Kate had time to think. Shrugging her shoulders she joined her partner as he slapped on the handcuffs.
"Spike, what are you doing? You can't just go around slamming guys into walls and telling them that you are arresting them just because they are talking to me." Cordelia huffed.
"Sorry love, got orders."
"Spike, you own a club. You're not a police officer, so let him go." Cordelia demanded.
"Listen pet, when I get back, you and I are gonna have a nice long talk. There are some things I need to explain to ya, but right now just isn't the time." Spike tried to explain in his most sincere tone as he continued to wrestle with Parker.
"Told ya bondie's been liein' to ya." Faith shot from across Gunn's hospital room.
"Shut up!" Cordelia and Spike yelled at Faith in unison.
"Fine! But when you get back, you better have a damn good explanation for all of this!" Cordelia demanded.
"Don't worry love, I'll explain everything." Spike replied as he placed a kiss on Cordelia's forehead.
"Well, you better."
Spike grabbed Parker by the collar of his shirt and started to drag him down the hallway. He paused then turned back toward his lover who was still standing in the doorway watching after him.
"Just to be on the safe side pet, don't leave that room and no talkin' to strangers until I get back. Understood?"
"Spike, what's going on?" Cordelia asked, concern radiating in her tone.
"Don't worry 'bout it pet, just do as I say. I'll be back as soon as I can." Spike nodded in Cordelia's direction, then turned and continued to drag Parker down the hallway with Kate nipping at his heels.
Chapter 20 ~ Beginning Again
~Three months later~
It had taken everyone involved in the traumatic events of three months ago every bit of that time to heal from their wounds. Charles Gunn, who had been the most seriously injured as a result of Darla's actions was finally up and moving again. Although he was still in for several more surgeries and months of physical therapy, he was at least beginning to heal.
The emotional trauma Faith suffered as a result of Gunn's problems were much less obvious to the casual observer, but were certainly much deeper and longer lasting than even she was willing to admit. Faith was forced to put her acting career on hold while she worked on dealing with the vast array of emotions that had overtaken her during Gunn's stay in the hospital. All the while, she continued to be his rock to lean on. She never left his side.
Faith's sister and her boyfriend went through their own personal trauma. After finding out that Spike had been an undercover agent for the United States Government for the past six years, Cordelia was a little more than hurt. The betrayal that she felt had almost ended their relationship.
It had taken Spike a lot of late night confessions, more flowers than all the florists in Los Angeles carried on any given day, and a three carat diamond ring to prove his love and devotion to her. In the end, William "Spike" Laverty had won Cordelia's heart. It also turned out that he really did own 'Eternally Yours', and with the profit that it had been clearing over the past few years, he had become quite wealthy. Thus allowing him to quit his government job, which pleased Cordelia immensely.
Lindsey and Tara MacDonald had also taken their own private time to heal. Tara had made good on her promise to herself that once freed, she was taking Lindsey home for the rest of the summer and not letting him out of her sight, or their bed. After the safe return of his wife, Lindsey MacDonald happily turned in his jumping gear and headed back to his Montana Ranch with his lovely wife tucked safely in his arms.
Both Buffy and Willow returned to their regular jobs at Cedars, and were glad to be there. Getting back to a regular routine had been great for both of them. Though their return to the real world had been a blessing, it hadn't been as easy for their boyfriends.
Angel McBride had, for the past six years been the history teacher at PS 17 in New York City, it was only during his summer months spent as a smokejumper that he would be in California. His choice had been an obvious one after his reunion with Buffy, but even that hadn't made the situation any easier.
He had come to adore the City, and especially the children he worked with, but those things just didn't compare to being near his love. Although it was one of the most difficult things he had done to date in his life, Angel McBride submitted his resignation to the NYC School System. He promptly packed his bags and headed straight for LA.
Alan Francis Doyle's life seemed to do a complete three hundred and sixty- degree turnaround. Doyle went from being a drunken-Irishman who posed as a two-bit detective, to a totally sober but jobless-Irishman with a girlfriend sent from the gods, in his eyes anyway.
After the sting went down on Darla Chamberlin, Wesley, Kate and Riley's job in LA was over. Soon after, they were all transferred to another part of the country to begin a new operation. This meant that Doyle's best friend, and partner was gone. After several long talks, with Willow doing most of the talking, Doyle had been persuaded to reopen the PI firm with the help of another unemployed boyfriend.
It wasn't long before Angel Investigations took flight. Angel himself wasn't all that cracked up about using his name as the name of the agency, but Doyle had convinced him that it would be good for business. An 'angel' coming to the rescue, 'we are helping the hopeless' Doyle had said. What better way to give the hopeless some hope than with an angel. Angel guessed it made sense. It did to Buffy anyway, and if she liked it, then he liked it too.
The best blessing for all involved was how, with amazing speed, the Los Angeles County Justice Department, headed by Lead Prosecutor Lila Morgan had brought Darla Chamberlin and her cohorts to trial so quickly. Everyone involved had received the maximum sentence allowable by law. None would see the light of day as a free person, for the better part of the next fifty to seventy-five years.
With that good news, Spike had declared a celebration was in order. He closed the club for the evening, and had instead invited everyone to 'Eternally Yours' for a grand celebration. He and Cordelia spared no expense in throwing one outlandishly grand party.
As the music began thumping, Faith almost jumped out of her seat when she saw her favorite DJ back behind the spin-table. Knowing that Oz was Faith's favorite, Cordelia had called in a favor to an old friend of hers named Anya Jenkins who was currently working for the guy at WW Records. Anya persuaded her boss to play the party as a special favor, and though he didn't know why, Oz just couldn't resist her plea.
"Go ahead." Gunn said with a smile.
"Huh?" Faith asked confused.
"I know you wanna, so go ahead. I'm a big boy, can take care of myself for a while." Gunn answered.
"But… I don't want to…"
"I said I'll be fine. Besides, you keep babyin' me like this and the guys are gonna start thinkin' I'm getting' soft or somethin'." Gunn replied with a wink. He knew how much his baby liked to dance, and there was no reason for her to just sit there next to him all night. He was sure she'd had enough of that when he'd been in the hospital.
"Don't have to yell!" Faith joked as she carefully leaned in to kiss her boyfriend before heading out to the dance floor.
"She's a real catch ya know." Spike said, sizing up his future sister-in-law as he took a seat next to Gunn.
"Yeah man, I know. Not sure how I got so lucky." Gunn answered as he continued to watch Faith's beautiful body glide around the dance floor.
"Me either mate…. me either." Spike mused aloud before taking another sip of his beer.
It was straight up eight o'clock when Buffy, Angel, Willow and Doyle made their first appearance at Spike's party. It had taken Buffy an extra twenty minutes to convince her best friend that she looked hot in the new outfit Doyle had bought for her, and another fifteen to talk herself and Angel into walking out the door. One stolen kiss had lead to another, and before either of them knew what had happened, both were half dressed in the middle of the living room floor.
After Doyle had practically raised the dead with his horn honking, Buffy and Angel finally dislodged their lips from one another, made themselves presentable, and stumbled out the front door to join their friends. It seemed like the one constant in both of their lives for the past three months was that neither could get enough of the other.
"Well, look who finally decided to grace us with their presence." Called Gunn from his seat behind the table.
"Hey man, how ya been?" Angel asked as he reached over the table to shake Gunn's outreached hand.
"Doin' better. But honestly man, I'm just thankful to be alive." Gunn answered.
"Where's Faith?" Buffy chimed in.
"Where else." Gunn replied as he nodded toward the dance floor.
"Cool." Buffy said as she grabbed Willow's arm and the two headed out to join their friend.
"So…." Gunn let his single word ask the question.
"So what?" Angel asked smugly. He knew exactly what Gunn wanted to know, but couldn't help playing with his old friend.
Chapter 21 ~ A Family Affair (The Song 'Wild Horses' is by The Sundays, and is my favorite from the BTVS Soundtrack!)
It was now nine o'clock, and Angel was starting to fidget. The extra guests that he had invited were nowhere to be seen and it was starting to make him nervous. He had wanted this night to be special. The idea had come to him the moment he received the call from Spike about the party. What better way to propose, than with all of her family and friends around.
"What the hell?" Buffy mused aloud as she watched her Uncle Giles enter the club with…. with Lila Morgan? The prosecutor?
Angel smiled. Maybe this night would go off without a hitch after all.
"Mr. Giles, Ms. Morgan, glad you could make it." Angel smiled as he greeted his guests. He was even happier to see that the rest of his invitees were trailing close behind.
"Angel." Joyce replied happily.
"Giles… Mom… Dawn? What are you doing here?" Buffy asked. Confusion marring her beautiful features.
"I invited them." Angel answered.
"Angel?" came a male voice from behind Dawn.
"Connor? I thought you had a date and couldn't come." Angel asked suspiciously.
"This 'is' my date." Angel's younger brother Connor McBride replied as he nodded to Dawn.
"You know him?" Dawn asked her date.
"He's my brother." Connor and Angel answered in unison as they stared at each other.
"Oh… Oh!" Dawn shrieked, her eyes as wide as silver dollars. The realization of what that meant was starting to sink in.
"What? Wait a minute…." Buffy began, turning to look at her love.
"He's your brother? And he's with 'my' sister? And why did you invite my Mom and Uncle Giles?"
"Why don't we all have a seat. I'll explain in just a second." Angel said as he turned and motioned for the new guests to follow him.
"Are you sure it's okay for me to be here?" Lila whispered to Giles as they followed Angel to a table.
"Angel invited me and said to bring a guest. You are my guest. Besides, everyone here is quite fond of you after the brilliant job you did in prosecuting Buffy and Angel's captors." Giles replied in an equally hushed but much more enthusiastic tone.
Lila answered with a grin. She was continually amazed at what an intelligent, amazing and gentle man Rupert Giles was. He had made her feel like Cinderella since the moment he had introduced himself. 'How childish' she thought. It was childish to feel like Cinderella on the arm of the handsome prince, wasn't it?
As the group reached the line of tables, Angel motioned for Oz to cut the music.
"Hey! I was listening to that. I was very much enjoying gyrating my body to the loud thumping sound." Anya hissed to her boss.
"Give it a rest Anya, Angel has something to say." Cordelia chided from across the room.
"But why would you pay Oz lots and lots of money to play music for you, then make him turn it off? That is not good business sense." Anya scolded.
"An, hun, just let Angel talk. I'll play more music after he's finished." Oz said, trying to console his less than tactful employee.
"But…" Anya's complaints were cut off as the last members of the party made their entrance.
"Hey! No party startin' without me! I'm not late am I?" Xander Harris asked as he and his beautiful doctor date flew through the door and joined the rest of the partygoers.
"Xander! I'm so glad that you and Fred could make it. I was beginning to wonder." Willow said as she hugged her other best friend and his new girlfriend. It had been Willow's suggestion to invite Xander, and Angel only had at her insistence.
In the three months that Angel McBride had known the dark haired doctor, he had formed nothing less that a great dislike for the man. But he was one of Buffy's best friends, so Angel had reluctantly agreed to include him.
"Is it really okay for me to be here? I mean Xander said that you had invited me, but I don't want to intrude on a family thing. That is just really rude, and I'm not a rude person you know. I'm sorry, I'm rambling again." Fred said as she blushed.
"Of course it's okay. Besides, if you're with Xander, then you're with us too and vice versa. It's just how us scoobies work, ask Angel." Willow replied with a mischievous smile.
"Huh?" Fred questioned.
"I'll explain it to you later. It's this whole… thing." Xander answered, waiving his hands wildly in the air as he did.
"Are we playing 'This is Your Life' tonight or what?" Buffy asked, now annoyed. It seemed like everyone there was in on the joke but her and that was making her very uncomfortable.
Angel took Buffy by the hand and led her to a special seat that had been conspicuously placed all alone out in front of the others. Buffy took the seat that Angel offered and continued to watch him closely as he made his way across the room to pick something up. She was beginning to get nervous. 'What is he doing?' she asked silently.
Returning to his love, Angel placed a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers into Buffy's arms. They were tied together with the most delicate of pink ribbon, and tied to the pink ribbon was a cream colored napkin embossed with the 'Eternally Yours' logo. It was rolled carefully in a scroll like form. Buffy looked quizzically at Angel and then began opening it. She was even more confused to see there was neither anything inside the napkin, nor was there a thing wrote on it.
"Am I missing something here?" She asked with a pained expression.
"Where you expecting there to be something inside?" Angel asked coyly.
"Um…. No? I mean… yes? I mean… couldn't you make this like a multiple choice question instead?" Buffy asked, her brow wrinkled in confusion. Everyone else in the room seemed be enjoying this little display of dramatics.
Instead of multiple choice, Angel handed Buffy another bouquet of wildflowers. This time the strong scent of honeysuckle caught her attention and she studied the flowers more closely. Buffy was reminded that Angel had been playing twenty questions with her for the past couple of days and that her favorite flower had been one of those questions.
She searched through the colorful bouquet before she found her prize. Placed carefully in the center of the flowers were two beautiful stems of honeysuckle, tied carefully together by a thin red ribbon. Buffy's eyes widened as she noticed what was then tied to the honeysuckle. With shaking hands, she carefully pulled the two stems out of the bunch and handed them to Angel.
With ease, Angel untied the red ribbon and let the diamond ring fall into his hand. Buffy's eyes were overflowing with tears as she held her breath, waiting for Angel to propose.
Angel took her left hand in his and carefully slid the petite diamond ring onto her finger. As he looked deep into her exquisite green eyes he asked,
"Buffy Anne Summers, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
Buffy could barely speak, her body was over taken by a river of emotion. She flung her tiny arms around the only man that she had ever loved and shook her head violently up and down.
"Is that a yes?" Angel whispered in her ear.
Buffy eased her embraced and leant away from Angel.
"Yes." She choked out, as loudly as possible. Her adamant response garnered several 'woo hoos' and 'hoorays' from their family and friends behind them.
Angel bowed before her and extended his hand, then led her like a princess to the center of the dance floor. He had chosen a special song for this moment. One that he hoped she would love just as much as he did. As the music started, Angel tightened his embrace on his beloved.
Childhood living Is easy to do The things you wanted, I brought them for you
"I love you Buffy."
Graceless lady, You know who I am, You know I can't let you, Slide through my hands
"I love you too Angel. More than you'll ever know."
Wild Horses, Couldn't drag me away, Wild, wild horses, Couldn't drag me away...
As the spotlight shown down on the two lovers, Buffy inched her way closer to her prince. She nuzzled into him, resting her head on his muscular chest as the couple gently swayed to the music. Angel in turn placed his cheek atop Buffy's golden tresses, inhaling the enticing aroma of vanilla as he did.
I watched you suffer A dull, aching pain Now you decided To show me the same
The two continued to dance in silence as their friends and family slowly shuffled onto the floor to join them.
No sweeping exits Or off-stage lines, Can make me feel bitter, Or treat you unkind Wild Horses, Couldn't drag me away, Wild, wild horses, Couldn't drag me away...
"They couldn't you know." Angel said softly.
Buffy tilted her head up to look at Angel. She wasn't quite sure what he meant.
"Not wild horses or anything else will ever drag me away from you. Ever." Angel answered her unasked question before placing a soft kiss on her lips.
"I know." She whispered up at him with a smile before she rested her head back on his chest. She wanted this moment to last forever. She'd never felt so safe, so loved, so… happy, and she wanted to savor it.
I know I dreamed you A sin and a lie, I have my freedom, But I don't have much time Faith has been broken, Tears must be cried, Let's do some living, After we die...
When the song finally ended, the congratulations began. Everyone who had been invited to the party was now surrounding the couple, hugging and kissing and giving their most sincere well wishes.
Chapter 22 ~ A Night To Remember
(Chapter title is inspired by the Joe Diffie song of the same name)
It was well after midnight when the two lovebirds were finally dropped off at Angel's place. The entire apartment was pitch black except for a small ray of moonlight that was sneaking in through the drapes.
Buffy reached for the light switch, but was stopped by her new fiancée. He instead led the petite blonde to the oversized black leather chair in the corner of the room. When he was as sure as he could be that his beautiful bride-to-be was seated, he hurried off to the bedroom.
When her knight in shining armor returned, Buffy felt his enormous hand envelop hers, pulling her to her feet and scooping her tiny form into his arms. Saying silent prayers that he didn't run into anything in the dark, Angel made his way down the hallway and into his bedroom.
Buffy's eyes widened as she saw a sea of candlelight which set Angel's already amazing bedroom aglow. His huge mahogany bed was made up in maroon silk sheets with overstuffed pillows everywhere. There were at least a half dozen vases with bouquets of wildflowers, just like the ones he had given her at the party, scattered around the room. It looked like a picture from a magazine, or better yet, a fairy tale book.
"I wanted tonight to be a night you would never forget, a night to remember. I hope it has been so far." Angel said as he laid Buffy down on the bed.
"Oh Angel. Oh my god, this is so beautiful." She cried. Tears of joy and happiness pouring from both eyes.
Suddenly embarrassed by her tears, Buffy began frantically wiping at her cheeks.
"Don't." Angel whispered as he began to pepper Buffy's still wet cheeks with soft kisses.
A soft moan escaped as Buffy felt Angel's lips trailing kisses on her forehead, then to both eyelids back to her cheeks, down to the tip of her nose, finally pausing on her own lips. She returned Angels delicate kisses with passionate ones of her own, wanting him to feel as loved as she was at that very moment.
Angel gently inched Buffy up further on the bed so that her head would be resting comfortably on the ocean of pillows. As she nestled into her new spot, Buffy felt her heart begin to race. Angel was now hovering above her and she could feel his warm breath on her already hot skin, causing her entire body to tingle.
As the candlelight flickered, Angel could do nothing but stare at the beautiful woman lying below him. The intoxicating combination of flowers and Buffy's own special scent was sending Angel's senses into overdrive. Just the sight of her was causing his entire body to scream in desire.
Buffy slid her tiny arms up from her side and draped them around Angel's strong neck, pulling him down toward her body. She wanted to feel him close to her. When he was finally within reach, Buffy raised her head off of the pillows and began assaulting her love's lips. As her kisses grew more passionate, Angel's lips parted allowing Buffy's tongue to move inside. With slow succulent moves, she slid her cool tongue over Angel's, allowing it to then glide easily over his perfect white teeth.
With each returned ministration from Angel, Buffy could feel her body grow warmer. The tingling sensation that every movement of her lover's hands brought carried her one step closer to oblivion. Her head was spinning and she was barely able to control her moaning as Angel began traveling down her body.
It was a tedious task, and one that was beginning to cause him pain, especially in his already tight jeans, but Angel was committed, committed to making this night special. He knew the slower he took things, the better it would be in the end for both he and his love. So even with his throbbing member urging him to hurry, Angel took his time unbuttoning his princess' shirt. With each button came exposed skin, and with each bit of exposed skin came a kiss to that delicious area.
When he had finally reached the last button, Buffy was practically panting. Her breath had quickened to a frantic rate and her control was almost gone. She was dizzy with the feelings that Angel's touch had ignited in her body.
Angel gently lifted Buffy's petite frame off the bed enough to allow him to remove her shirt and bra. When both articles of clothing were dismissed to the side, Angel carefully laid his sweet back down on the bed and moved back up her body to taste her succulent mouth once more.
"Oh Angel… God, I love you so much…." Buffy panted in between kisses.
"I love you too my princess." Angel answered as he began his attention to Buffy's already hardened nipples.
A loud moan escaped Buffy's parted lips as she felt Angel's cool tongue tracing circles around her right nipple as his free hand was gently messaging her other. The feeling was like no other. Angel had an attention to detail that would drive most women insane in a matter of seconds. He took his time, slowly and painstakingly circling the outer edges of her breast, then in intricate detail he moved closer and closer to her hardened bud. When he finally made it to his prize, Angel slowly suckled. It was a love making all its own.
Buffy's center was becoming slick with wetness and her body hot with want and desire. She knew what Angel was trying to do, but this night would never be complete if she was the only one on the receiving end.
She lowered one hand from around Angel's neck, tracing a path down his hardened stomach that she could feel all to well through his shirt, finally making her way to the button on his jeans. With a couple months worth of practice behind her, Buffy undid his fly easily and slowly inched her tiny hand inside.
Angel's body shuddered as he felt his hardened sex released from its prior captivity and with his beloved's delicate hand stroking him from base to tip, he could no longer suppress the growl from deep inside his chest.
"Angel, I need you. I need all of you." Buffy whispered breathlessly as she continued her attentions on her lover's hard length.
Angel leaned back on his haunches, pulling his princess with him. They both sat upright on the bed, staring deep into each other's eyes. Buffy began to trace the chiseled features of her lover's face with her tiny fingers. Angel closed his eyes, savoring the feel of his beloved's touch. His body shivered as he felt both of her hands making their way under his shirt and across his tight stomach. She made quick work of the material that was separating their bodies, tossing it to the side.
Slowly and seductively she leaned in to her love, carefully pushing his body back onto the bed as she did. It was her turn to be in control, to make him feel… want… crave… her the way she did him. Buffy removed Angel's remaining clothes, then slowly began attending to his swollen sex.
After a few quick licks from base to tip, Buffy moved over the top of Angel's huge member. She slowly lowered herself to take his entire length in her mouth. Angel dug both hands into the rumpled bed sheets trying to gain control. His princess was bringing him to his breaking point already.
Buffy raised her head and smiled at her pleased lover, she could tell that her attentions were appreciated. She began circling her tongue around the tip of his sex before lowering herself once more to take him whole.
Angel knew that if he allowed his beautiful goddess to perform that trick one more time he would lose it for sure, so he gently persuaded her up, meeting her gladly at her satiable lips. With a desperate kiss, Angel flipped his beauty to her back, and hovered over her delicious body once again.
"You are the most beautiful woman to ever walk this earth." Angel whispered into Buffy's ear, before tracing the edges of it with his tongue.
She giggled. That particular move always garnered the same response, and he knew it. Buffy would have said something about it too if it he hadn't already began his assault on the rest of her body. Kissing, sucking, nibbling his way down to her flat stomach, Angel smiled as he reached the last article of clothing left that separated their bodies.
With slow and precise moves, Angel carefully undid Buffy's pants, removing them along with her tiny lace panties all in one swift motion. He was pleased to finally have full access to her amazing body.
Buffy's small frame shivered in anticipation. She could feel the wetness seeping from her inner core as she felt Angel's tongue glide gently over her swollen sex. As her lover continued his ministrations, Buffy let out a moan.
"Oh….. Angel…. you…. God you…. are…. so amazing…."
As he listened to his beloved's praise, Angel continued his attack on her sex.
Knowing his lover was close to her climax, Angel eagerly lapped up her wetness, continuing as he did to message her swollen nub with his thumb. With each second that passed, it became more difficult for Buffy to focus. As her control was finally relinquished, and Buffy's climax hit, she let out a roar of delight.
"Yes…. Oh…. Angel…. Yes…"
When the quaking in her tiny body finally subsided, and Angel was sure that his princess had been satisfied, he pulled his body back to meet hers face to face. He met her eyes, and then lowered to kiss her. Angel knew that his beloved would be able to taste herself within him, and that thought brought his already throbbing member to its breaking point.
Angel could hold out no longer. He shifted his body, placing himself between his beauty's legs. Buffy adjusted, allowing her lover better access to her body.
"I'll love you forever." Angel whispered as he moved himself inside her.
Buffy let out a moan at the sensation of Angel's large member sliding within her body.
"You better. Or I'll kick your ass." She panted with a grin.
Angel responded with a passionate kiss, then began moving more furiously within his mate. With every thrust that Angel offered, he was met with one in return. Buffy's wants and desires weren't lacking, thereby pushing Angel to his limits.
As the two lover's reached their final destination together, they cried out their love and devotion.
"Angel… Angel, God I love you…."
"I love you…. I love you forever…. I promise you Buffy."
Both spent from their lovemaking, Angel nestled Buffy into his chest to rest. As she lie there admiring her ring for the first time that evening she asked,
"Yes love?" Angel answered as he placed a kiss to her forehead.
"Why do you want to marry me?" She asked as she looked up into his eyes.
"Is something wrong?"
"No, I was just wondering…" Buffy replied. She could hear the concern in his voice, and if the lighting hadn't been so dim she would have been able to see it written across his face as well.
"Why you would pick me over all those other women."
"What other women?"
"Any other women."
"Because I fell in love with you. Because the moment I saw your face I knew that I would never find anyone else as beautiful as you." He answered as he turned to face his love.
"How did you know?" Buffy asked.
"Are you sure you're okay?" He asked again.
"I'm sure. Don't worry about me. I love you Angel. More than I will ever be able to express to you."
"So why with the worries?"
"I'm not worried really. I just can't figure out why such an amazing man like you would even be interested in plain Jane me." She answered honestly.
"I love you because you are beautiful. On the inside and out. I love you because you make me a better person when I'm with you. I love you because you make me complete." Angel answered with a kiss to her lips after each finished sentence.
"Mmmhmm.." Angel answered as he snuggled closer to his beloved.
"Does it scare you at all? The getting married part I mean."
"Why do you think it would scare me?"
"Well, with my parents, and your parents and that fiasco with Riley…." Buffy let her words trail and her eyes fall to Angel's chest.
Angel cupped Buffy's face with his free hand, bringing her line of sight back to meet his. He looked deep into her eyes, "I love you, more than anything else in this world. If I haven't done enough to prove that to you then tell me and I'll do better. Whatever you want me to do, I'll do it."
Buffy frowned. This wasn't the direction she wanted this conversation to go.
"It's not that Angel. I know you love me, but what if that isn't enough? I mean look at our par…" Angel didn't let her finish.
"Shhh…" He pleaded as he began kissing her. He rolled over, covering her body with his.
In between kisses Angel spoke his final words of wisdom for the night.
"Love and marriage are sacred to me…"
"But I also see them both as a leap of faith…"
"You have to have faith…"
"And if you have faith…."
"The leap isn't scary at all…"
"So, I guess the big question is, do you have faith?"
Buffy smiled as she looked into her lover's eyes and replied, "You are my faith."
"Hmm…." He mumbled while sucking gently on Buffy's once again hardened nipples.
"Make love to me again." She whispered in his ear before tracing the outer edges with her tongue as he had done to her earlier.
"That doesn't tickle me love, it just turns me on!" Angel said as he smiled at his princess.
"Why do you think I did it!" She answered with a seductive smile.
A/N: There will be an epilogue to follow at a later time.
CHALLENGE: Alternate Universe. All human. No Slayers, No Vampires, No Demons, No Witches. Buffy and Angel will not know each other before the story begins. He will be in some sort of danger or risk and she will be the one that helps or saves him. It does not have to be a physical danger but it can be. Other than Buffy and Angel, you must use ten other characters from Buffy and ten from Angel. Five males and five females per show. Any character that has appeared on the shows can be used. Now for the big challenge. All other romantic pairings other than B/A can not be from cannon. Neither actual or implied. No couples that occurred or no couples where one hoped it would occur. Meaning no Xander/Willow, Cordy/Wes, Cordy/Doyle. I think you know what I mean. Now I do want NC-17 content. The big challenge will be if you can include activity between other couples but I will not make that part of the challenge although I thought about it.
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