Going Down with the Ship
By Jeannine Trevizo
Angel had barely gotten through the last few hours, shuffling through paperwork and reading the proposed agreements that Gunn had asked he look over last week. Concentrating on a normal day, cooped up in the office was hard enough. Today it was harder, knowing his future might be decided in just a few hours, and then he’d know if he and Buffy could try and have a life together.
He sighed and looked up again at the clock on the far wall in the conference room. It read four o’clock, and he felt himself perk up a little. Just a few more hours until dark, and until then, he had his weekly meeting with the team: Fred, Gunn, Lorne and Wes all came in to give their department reports.
As soon as he started to get up and move towards the conference room, the doors to his office opened, admitting the group of heroes that had been by his side for years now.
“What do you mean she’s back?” Gunn asked loudly as he questioned Lorne on whatever he’d said before they’d entered the room.
“Just that…” Lorne replied, turning to see their boss watching them.
Fred and Wes had been trailing behind their counterparts, talking in low voices before coming to a halt when they found Lorne and Gunn pinned under Angel’s gaze.
“Are you all ready for the meeting?” Angel asked, his arms crossing his chest in an unconscious gesture of protection.
“Uh, sure!” said Lorne brightly, as he tore his eyes to sweep the room.
“Is Buffy joining us?” Gunn asked brashly, his posture showing that he really didn’t like being kept out of the loop.
“No… this is business as usual. And while my personal life is just that, I guess that I do have to explain a few things to all of you.”
“Buffy? Isn’t she in Europe?” Fred asked, confused.
“No longer sweetheart,” said Lorne, sneaking a glance at their boss as he spilled the proverbial beans. “Seems that little miss slayerkins heard about our recent problem with Andrew and the Council and came to set things with her vamp back on track.”
“You guys are together?” Fred squeaked, surprised.
“You could say that,” remarked Wes, studiously avoiding Angel’s gaze
“So, Angel’s former flame and the slayer,” Gunn reminded her, and then added, “well, one slayer out of a whole bunch of ‘em that is… is really here?”
“She is. And I’ll remind you that while there are other slayers now, she is the first of this line of slayers. They exist because she does,” Wes informed Gunn helpfully, with a touch of reproach. While he and Buffy had never really gotten on, the young woman who had successfully beaten back The First evil and an army of ancient Turok-han. She deserved their respect, if not loyalty since their two groups never really had crossed paths.
Their leaders however seemed destined to continue to revolve around one another until fate provided them a chance to finally be together as they both seemed to always desire.
“That’s all fine and good, but she’s here in good ol’ Wolfram and Hart. And according to Lorne she’s here to get things started with Angel again. Last time I heard the story, it seemed that anytime she and Angel were within a few country miles of one another, it usually was bad news,” Gunn stated matter of factly.
The whole group then focused on Angel, looking to see how Buffy’s arrival was affecting him. Yet he seemed to be calm and actually a combination of nervous and happy. It was a look that all of them weren’t used to seeing on him.
“Not this time. She’s not here to cause any problems. We’re trying to work out our issues…”
“And speaking of issues, Trinka said she’d open up early, around 7pm so we can come in and out before her early evening crowd,” Lorne stated, trying to diffuse the escalating situation.
“Great,” Angel stated, enthused at getting this over with.
“Who’s Trinka? Gunn asked, feeling left out of the loop again.
“A friend of Lorne’s who owns a demon ‘entertainment’ establishment. Angel is going there tonight to have Lorne read his soul to see if the curse still applies,” said Wes.
“But wouldn’t you have to be Angelus to have your curse be gone?” Fred asked, moving in closer to the vampire in question, prompting the others to move further into the room and settle into the area around Angel’s office.
Without answering, Angel headed for the conference room, taking his regular seat. Confused, the group followed him, each of them grabbing a leather chair and sitting around the oval table.
“You sure you’re not all evil man? You’re acting all strange…” Gunn questioned.
“He’s not ripping our heads off or drinking our blood, so I’d say no,” Lorne reminded Gunn, and the African American man shrugged.
“So you’re not Angelus, but you think your curse is gone?” Fred questioned again, fiddling with her glasses.
Wes leaned over and placed a hand on hers, stilling her motion. She turned to see the half smile on his face, and she gave him one in return. Where their hands met, the warmth multiplied exponentially until Wesley pulled back quickly.
“We’ll explain later.”
She nodded, looking across the table at Gunn, expecting some kind of argument, but there was none. Instead, in its place was a smug satisfied look.
“Good. You can explain it all when we all go listen to the boss man’s song stylin’. ‘cause if something is going down, we *all* should be there.”
“How about we focus on the matter at hand? I believe you all have reports,” Angel reminded them all, leaning forward on the table, his hands clasped tightly as he ignored Gunn’s comment.
Gunn, Wes and Lorne all reported on the status of their current projects, and their department’s progress on this matter or that. It was a standard part of the week, and probably the best thing he got to do, since they really weren’t out in the field much anymore, the situation with Dana not withstanding.
“That’s good to hear,” Angel stated finally, after being silent during most of the reports.
His sudden disinterest had not gone unnoticed, and Gunn, Fred, Wes and Lorne were all looking at him. Of course, the latter two were staring at him with knowing looks. Wes knew what Buffy could do to him, and while Lorne had just met her, he had no doubts that her aura and his screamed each other.
“Fred, your report please?” Angel asked, fighting a sigh.
“Oh, okay, well…”
As Fred babbled on about the labs newest discoveries, with technical explanations that had Angel’s mind warping as she spoke, he fought to pay attention.
“Great. Well, Lorne, Wes, I’ll see you both here in about an hour?” Angel said as he got up and moved away from the table, unilaterally wrapping up the meeting.
“We’ll all be here,” Gunn pointed out again, standing to follow as did everyone else.
“There’s no need for a security team,” commented Angel, feeling a bit frustrated and by more than just Gunn’s concern over his soul. “If anyone could handle Angelus, it would be Buffy, but Angelus *isn’t* a problem.”
“Even so, shouldn’t we all be there, I mean if nothing else to provide like moral support?” Fred asked, giving first Angel and then Wes a tentative half smile.
“Come on big A, we can’t really leave half the team at the ranch for such a big occasion, can we?” questioned Lorne, his purple silk covered elbow jabbing at the vampire’s side.
Realizing he was outnumbered, Angel sighed and threw up his hands. He’d never get them to leave him alone, so he figured he might as well give up.
“Fine. We’ll all meet back here in an hour, and then make our way to Trinka’s.”
Gunn nodded and strode out, adjusting his tie. Wes escorted Fred out as Lorne reached into his pocket for something. Drawing his green-skinned hand out, he produced a slip of folded paper and handed it to Angel.
“In case after we meet up, that you want to make your own way there and all,” Lorne stated, winking at Angel, and then turning towards the door, letting it close behind him.
Once everyone was gone, Angel didn’t know what to do with himself. Half of him wanted to be a good corporate manager and check the financials, yet the rest of him wanted nothing more than to cross the lobby and check on Buffy.
The inner war was broken when the intercom buzzed, and he moved swiftly to his desk and pushed the button.
“Sorry boss, but you have an urgent call… from London actually,” the blonde vampire’s voice announced over the tinny speaker.
“Who is it?”
“It’s Mr. Giles.”
Intrigued and concerned, he hurriedly picked up the line.
“Giles… yes, it’s me. How can I help you?” Angel asked hurriedly, worried at why Buffy’s watcher would be calling.
“No, no… it’s nothing like that. Angel, I received Buffy’s call from your offices I presume, and she made some statements that I and the others wanted to confirm,” stated Giles from his end of the trans-Atlantic call.
“Uh, perhaps you should be speaking with Buffy… I’m not sure…”
“Angel… I understand your reluctance to speak of such… personal matters. However, it is *your* soul.”
“Of course,” Angel stated, finally relenting, “whatever I can explain for you.”
“I spoke with Willow and she corroborated your sequence of events for your soul being lifted and returned. What she didn’t know was why the shaman hadn’t mentioned this to anyone previously.”
“I really can’t say. Maybe it was due to the fact that we were dealing with the sky being blacked out or the ongoing rampage of the beast…”
“I thought as much,” said Giles with his best reflective voice.
“Giles, with all due respect, I know you too well. You could have checked these facts with not only Willow, but Faith and even the shaman who re-cursed me. You called about something else, didn’t you?”
Angel listened to the older man sigh, and imagined him taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes. Just the thought of that unconscious habit that Angel remembered from better times in Sunnydale was enough to lighten his heart a bit more than it had been before the call began.
“You’re right. I… I wanted you to know that no matter our differences in the past, that I always respected the decision that you made to leave Sunnydale. However, I think that you and Buffy both have suffered immensely from that decision. I know that you both have grown stronger individually, and I will always be proud of Buffy’s abilities and the choices she made in regards to battling The First. But you both have always seemed so much… more when you’re together,” Giles said in a rush, as if he was afraid to say it or that Angel wouldn’t believe him if he took his time.
“I…Giles, I don’t know what to say,” demurred Angel, taken aback.
“You don’t have to say a thing, except that if you are correct, and you are truly permanently ensouled that you don’t let your chance at happiness with Buffy slip away again. I think we both know that it’s something that you both need and want.”
“It is Giles… I thought I could live without her, but it’s like being only half alive, you know?”
On his end, Giles smiled, and glanced over at the assembled group of people in his London home: Faith, Willow and Xander. The three of them had arrived not long after he’d hung up from his call with Buffy and he’d contacted them, asking them to meet him to discuss the situation in L.A. After a long talk, it was decided that if everything worked out, that Angel’s branch of Wolfram and Hart could be the new U.S. branch of the Council, with Buffy running things from there, as Giles and the rest managed things from London.
It was just something that he hadn’t had the opportunity to discuss with Buffy.
“I do. And we do have a suggestion.”
“Which is?” Angel asked, curious.
“That if everything with you and Buffy works out, which I see no reason why it wouldn’t, that you’d allow Buffy to manage Council activities from your offices.”
“Wait… you want us to be a part of the Council?”
“Well, Buffy is of course one of the leaders of the Council, so she would be the one conducting official Council business there. But we would hope to rely on you and your organization for support. So, yes… you would be a part of the Council, in that sense.”
“But I thought that you didn’t trust…” Angel began, and then stopped suddenly, remembering Buffy’s words.
“Ah yes… Andrew has had his reservations, no doubt based on not only Buffy’s… concerns about how you perceived her situation but Spike’s behavior before his untimely… demise. Suffice it to say that we bear you no ill will and believe that you have been a great supporter of the fight against evil. You have been our ally for many years Angel, and we will continue to rely on you to continue to be so.”
“Thank you… that means… I can’t begin to tell you how much that means to me. And I can say that we’d be happy to offer the Council any aid, including an office for Buffy… if things to work that way.”
“Well then,” Giles began, coughing slightly as the comfort level seemed to shift. “Perhaps you can have Buffy call us after you have your answers there?”
“Certainly. And thank you again Giles.”
There was a click and Angel hung up his end of the line as well.
If he’d ever wanted a validation that he and Buffy could be together, the effective blessing that he’d just gotten from Giles was it. He could only hope that his belief in his soul being anchored was as correct as he thought it was.
With a sigh, Angel looked up and noticed the time. It was fifteen minutes before everyone was to gather to leave for Trinka’s. Grabbing his black suit jacket, he got up and left his office, heading across the lobby to where he’d escorted Buffy only five hours earlier.
Not sure if he should knock, since he was a gentleman vampire after all, but it was his building, he tapped lightly on the door as he pushed it open. Inside, he found the desk chair turned towards the desk, and Buffy’s head lying on her folded arms.
She’d fallen asleep.
He thought it was adorable.
The truth was she probably hadn’t slept on the plane. And with the quiet that the office provided, she more than likely had planned to just rest her eyes, and then…
“Hey Peaches, are you in here?” came a voice from the lobby headed towards the office and Angel whirled around as Buffy’s head came up from the desk.
“Huh? Spike?” Buffy said as she opened her eyes and tried to wake up as the sound of a voice that shouldn’t exist broke through her fuzzy brain.
“You woke her up,” Angel hissed as Spike appeared behind him and then moved to look around his grandsire, his eyes widening.
“Bloody hell? Buffy?!”
By that point, Buffy had pushed herself up from her chair, and moved slowly to where both vampires stood, her eyes wide with shock and confusion.
“Spike… you’re…” she stammered, surprised beyond all comprehension.
“Yup, back from the land of crispy champions and stuck working for the wanker. I think hell was nicer,” Spike smirked, and then reached over and threw his arms around Buffy, hugging her tightly. “It’s good to see you Slayer. I assumed that you and the rest of the goody-goods survived Sunnyhell since his royal poofiness wasn’t brooding or dust when I came back all immaterial.”
“Wait, how, I’m lost again? You’re working for Angel? And how did you come back?” she asked as she pulled away from Spike’s arms and stood looking at both her vampire lovers.
Buffy and Spike both turned to Angel, the only one of the three of them with the knowledge to answer some of her questions. While he was reluctant to do so, Angel sighed and ran a hand through his spiked hair before speaking.
“We got a delivery about five months back,” Angel explained, his face frozen in a mask of jealousy from Spike touching Buffy in front of him. “Inside was the amulet I brought you in Sunnydale before you went against The First. Seems that someone brought Spike back from wherever he was through the amulet.”
“So, I walked around all ‘Ghost’ for a few months until *poof*, I’m all solid again.”
“And neither of you let me, let Giles and the Council know about this?” she asked angrily.
Crossing her arms over her chest, Buffy leaned to one side, pinning them both with her stare.
“I figured the poofter would tell you…” Spike demurred.
“And I really had no desire to tell you and have you come running from Rome to see him…” Angel stated in a flat tone.
Buffy realized that neither of them had wanted to face losing her to the other. Spike had seen her and Angel in Sunnydale before he died, and Angel had smelled Spike on her in the cemetery before he left. But no matter what she’d said to either of them, she knew what she wanted now, and she was going to fix things.
“Angel, can I have a minute to talk to Spike?” she asked sweetly, moving to place a hand on his arm, her skin yearning to feel his flesh just beneath the layers of fabric. “We have some unfinished business before you and I go have your soul read.”
“Buffy…” Angel started, his anger at Spike’s place in her heart still fighting for dominance, but the way she had said she wanted to deal with his grandchilde before *they* found out about his soul seemed as if she was still committed to them.
“Oh please!” Spike broke in, watching the two of them just like they’d been for nearly all of the seven years they’d been ‘together’. “Look, it was fun Slayer, but we both know that it would never work. Gotta love someone, right?”
Looking stricken, Buffy swung her gaze from Spike back to Angel. What she saw there was what she had always needed. All the time that Spike had looked at her, it had always been as a possession. Angel looked at her like a goddess.
“I’m sorry Spike,” Buffy stated with a frown.
“No big. I’m a big boy. I knew what I was doing.”
With that, he turned and started to stalk out of the room. Hurriedly Buffy called out to him, “call Willow and let her know you’re okay, will you?”
“I’ll call Red.”
With a final stiff wave, he strode through the lobby and headed to the elevators, pausing only as long as it took before he could enter and escape the sight of Buffy and his bloody grandsire.
Angel watched him go, realizing that his jealousy over Spike had just evaporated as Buffy had sent him packing. She’d been true to her word… she was his, and he had the real opportunity to keep her this time if his soul was intact.
In the doorway, Buffy turned to look at Angel again, slightly concerned how he’d taken things. The last thing she’d wanted or expected to do when she came here was have a confrontation with Spike in front of Angel, but fate seemed to have other ideas. As soon as her eyes met his, his lips had swooped down to claim hers. With a little moan, she arched into him, opening her mouth to invite his tongue to play with hers.
Before either of them could think, Angel wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her up, walking blindly for where he was sure the desk was. Only after bumping her into the wooden surface, he eased her onto it, allowing him to free up his hands to tunnel through her hair and hold her to him.
She had missed this. The intensity, the passion yet at the same time the tenderness and reverence. She couldn’t believe that she had thought for one moment that she could live without this.
Her hands roamed to clutch at his shoulders, wanting nothing more than to feel his weight on her. His chest pressed tighter to hers, and she felt the tips of her breasts tingle at the contact. One of his hands had finally given up sifting through her golden locks and was brushing along her cheek, then her throat, moving closer to her barely covered breast when a loud cough stopped them in their tracks.
Angel pulled his mouth reluctantly away from Buffy’s and whipped his head around to see who was interrupting them. At the door, Wesley, Lorne, Gunn and Fred all stood staring at their boss and his paramour.
“Can I die now?” Buffy mumbled into his shoulder.
“Not that we don’t hate to interrupt,” Lorne commented with a slight grin, “but we are expected, and it probably would be good to wait on *that* until we’ve confirmed the big guy’s theory.”
If he could have blushed, Angel feared he would have been. As it was, Buffy was colored a bright scarlet from her chest to the roots of her hair. He had to sympathize with her. It wasn’t the kind of first impression that you wanted to make… being caught by your lover’s employees and friends making out.
Still, if they wanted to get the confirmation about his soul that they wanted, they had to face the gauntlet to get there. Easing back, Angel held out his hand, letting Buffy take it and pulled her to her feet. With her other hand, she quickly brushed at her hair, messed a bit by Angel’s hands running through it, and they turned to meet the team at the doorway of the office.
“Hi!” said Fred, he smile tempered by her embarrassment at walking in on Angel with Buffy.
“Oh, sorry… I forgot. Buffy, this is Winefred Burkle and Charles Gunn.”
Angel made the introductions, and Buffy smiled with a nearly matching embarrassed grin as she shook Fred and then Gunn’s hand.
“Nice to meet you. Though I would have preferred it to be more of a heroic or at least normal setting,” Buddy remarked humorously.
“No problem. I can see now why Angel’s trying to make sure his soul is all super glued in place,” Gunn noted, giving Buffy a once over before turning to meet Angel’s glare.
“I’m simply following up on my instincts about my soul. Buffy being here was just the catalyst I needed to get around to it,” Remarked Angel in a dark tone.
“Speaking of which, we should head off. Shall we take one of the big honking Suburbans in the car pool? The Belvedere won’t fit all of us anymore,” Lorne remarked smugly, noting the way that Angel and Buffy gravitated back to one another’s side.
“How about you guys go ahead and we’ll follow?”
“Are you sure that’s a wise decision?” Wes asked from where he stood by Fred.
“We’re fine. Lorne gave me the directions earlier, and we can get there without any problems.”
“But… shouldn’t you know, not be alone and all until…” Fred stammered, and Wes put an arm around the woman’s shoulder, leaning in to whisper something in her ear, causing her to blush.
“I think we can do without a chaperone. I promise I’ll be on my best behavior. Slayer’s honor,” Buffy said with a smile. “Just don’t ask me to do the whole ‘cross my heart, hope to die’ thing. It never seems to work out.”
Everyone looked away, realizing Buffy’s half hearted attempt at a joke had caused Angel to frown. Her prior deaths were something that were not something that was brought up, and her mortality and his lack thereof was something Angel still had hope he could change someday.
“Well, I guess we need to get moving. I can take everyone else in my car, with Lorne giving me directions. You should head down to the garage and head out as well,” Wes stated, turning Fred towards the elevators, leaving Gunn and Lorne to follow them.
As they watched the others enter the elevator, Buffy felt Angel’s arms wrap around her waist. Without thought, she leaned back into his embrace and let her eyes close. They were so close… and part of her was afraid of what would happen if he was wrong; if his soul wasn’t his.
The rest of her was nervous about his being right.
“We’d better get moving before Wes thinks I broke my promise and seduced you right here in the lobby,” Buffy remarked, easing forward out of his arms.
Moving to the elevator, Angel chose the down button, leading to the garage. They climbed in, and he pressed the lower garage indicator, with Buffy choosing to lean against the farthest wall from him. They stared at one another as the car moved downwards, and then finally came to a stop. The doors slid open, and Angel held his hand out to her. Taking it quickly, Buffy let him lead her out into the cement underground parking area.
In enclosed basement, Angel walked with Buffy’s hand in his, passing the cars that lined the garage. She noted there were no windows, providing during the day easy access to the vehicles for those with an allergy to the sun like her love.
“So, you know where we’re going?” Buffy asked as they walked along, her eyes taking in the high end vehicles.
“Yeah. I think Lorne had an idea that we’d rather not have to deal with everyone before… and after the reading.”
“These are a lot of cars. I guess the firm feels their lawyers need a high end image?” she questioned as they passed a silver Maserati and then a red Lamborghini.
“Actually, they’re mine… part of the CEO of the branch’s perks.”
“Really? Any other perks you forgot to mention?”
“Uh… the helicopter I guess. And the charter plane and the penthouse apartment…” he rattled off, and finally stopped when he noticed her gaping mouth. “What?”
“How do… I mean, how does Wolfram and Hart pay for it all? I mean all this stuff? Does evil really pay that well?”
“I guess. But we’re trying to fix that… one client at a time. I’m not in the business of helping the bad guys win Buffy. You know that. But if they want to throw all these toys at me while I’m changing things, so be it.”
As he finished speaking, they stopped in front of a black boat of a car that Buffy recognized immediately.
“Your… this is the car you had in Sunnydale,” she stammered. “We’re taking this? But you have all these other cars…”
“And they’re all fast or shiny or tricked out beyond belief. But this car means more to me than they ever could. Some of the best times of my unlife I lived with this car. I met you when I had this car.”
Gulping down the lump in her throat, Buffy smiled a crooked grin at him, trying to not break down into tears. Just thinking about when they were together led her to think about the years they weren’t together and now to how she didn’t know what they’d do if Angel was wrong and his soul was bound into place. Could they be able to stay in the same place for any length of time without doing something that could cost him his soul?
Angel watched the emotions wash over Buffy, and caught the fear laced in the final glance she gave him.
“Hey, don’t,” he said suddenly, reaching up to catch her cheek in his hand. ”Let’s not get all worried and weepy over this. If we get what we deserve finally, we won’t have to think about any of that anymore.”
Nodding, Buffy moved to the passenger side and climbed in. Angel followed suit, buckling up if not for preserving his own life, then for setting a good example and not giving the police a reason to pull them over. Quickly he turned the engine over and pulled the black vehicle out into the lot, driving for the exit on the upper floor.
The two drove in silence, letting the L.A. scenery fly past them as they headed towards their future. Without conscious thought, Buffy reached her hand towards Angel’s thing, and then promptly yanked her hand back. She’d promised Wes that she’d be good and keep her hands to herself. Only at this rate she was hoping that Lorne had some good news soon, or she might just spontaneously combust.
Finally the car came to a stop at the opening to a dead end. Angel recognized Wesley’s car, and looked a little farther down the alley, seeing the sign for the club in the darkness. Shutting down the engine, he quickly got himself out of the car, hurrying to Buffy’s side to help her out.
“This is it?” Buffy said quietly, feeling as if at any moment a horde of vampires or demons might descend and disrupt their plans.
“Well, if I didn’t have the address, Wes’ car would be a dead giveaway. You ready?”
She couldn’t help the slight shiver that ran through her, but she nodded anyway. Angel felt the tremor through her skin and clasped her hand tighter. He knew exactly how she felt. His stomach felt like a flock of dragons was circling in it. Whatever happened next would determine their current fate, even if in the long run, he’d have Wes and the magics team working on binding his soul if it wasn’t his already. But the tension that would be there until they could come through might be more than they could handle…
“Let’s go,” Angel said, sounding more confident than he felt.
Hand in hand, slayer and vampire walked through the alley headed towards the light at the end of the tunnel, as it was. The sign, actually only Trinka’s name glowed in red neon above the non-descript doorway. Angel smiled, remembering days of Lorne’s place before its final destruction before they took over Wolfram and Hart’s L.A. office.
His hand paused slightly over the handle to the door, and Buffy felt his hesitation. She placed hers over his, the warmth of her skin seeping through his flesh in an instant. Flashing her his lopsided grin, he pulled the door open and they moved forward into the light.
Through the door, they found themselves in a thirties style dinner club with a huge dance floor surrounded by the tables in a horseshoe. Facing the dance floor a large band stand was set up, yet without the standard musical items in place. Instead a series of video screens and the requisite karaoke machine and microphones stood.
They walked along the cream colored carpet, passing the long oak bar. Buffy steadfastly looked ahead, refusing to acknowledge the reflection of only her in the mirrored wall behind the bar as she and Angel headed towards the rest of the group, sitting at two tables near the front of the dance floor.
“Glad you could both make it,” Gunn quipped, and was treated to another Buffy blush, even if it wasn’t as intense as before.
“We got here as soon as we could. And no, we didn’t stop anywhere along the way,” remarked Angel with a defensive tone.
“Well, now that you’re here, we can start. Trinka should be out in a minute…” Lorne said, his red lips smiling at Buffy and Angel as he waved at the two empty seats at the table.
Finally settled in their cabaret chairs, Angel, Buffy and the A.I. team waited for the owner of the bar. When she finally arrived, she brought everyone except Lorne up short.
The woman looked like a dragon. Her skin scaled with iridescent reddish scales, her eyes almond shaped and the yellow pupils slit with a cat-like iris. Yet the rest of her was fully female, curves covered with a stunning white formal dress and a fall of black hair down to her waist.
“Trinka!” Lorne gushed, getting up to give the woman a European style kiss to the air on either side of her cheeks.
“Lorne honey, you look marvelous! I would have thought corporate life would disagree with you, but I was wrong.”
“You’re a dear. And I think rubbing elbows with the top tier stars must agree with me. But I digress. We have some need of your musical equipment.”
At that, Trinka dropped her eyes on Buffy and Angel and blinked her eyes a few times, her pale colored lips dropping open slightly.
“You… they… oh my,” she stammered.
“Yeah, I know. It’s weird. But they’re harmless, really. They just are crazy kids in love, and I need to see if they’re good to go.”
“Oh, sorry,” Trina said in Buffy and Angel’s general direction, and then turned back to Lorne. “I don’t have the band in till midnight, so I have the karaoke machine up for the early crowd. Will that do?”
“Perfectly. Alright sugarlips, time to wow us all with your non-existent singing talent,” Lorne said, pinning the vampire under his gaze.
Everyone watched intently as Buffy gave Angel a slight squeeze to his hand as he pushed himself up. This *had* been his idea…
As Lorne sat back down again, Trinka came up and took Angel’s arm in hers, escorting him up to the bandstand. They stepped up and she let him loose as she flipped on the machine and started to cycle through the options available. She noticed him staring over her shoulder, and turned to regard him.
“Any Manalow?” he asked her quietly and she gave a little laugh.
“Sorry, all my Barry Manlow got eaten when I upgraded the karaoke catalog. But if what Lorne says is true, I bet I have just the song for you,” Trinka said, her golden eyes twinkling as she smiled a row of impressive teeth. “Here it is! Just let the music run once, and you’ll be fine.”
Angel listened to the thrumming pop tune, and signed. Why was it they always pegged him with the damn girly music? Hurriedly Trinka stepped down and took a seat on the far side, waiting to hear the infamously bad souled vampire’s singing. She didn’t have to wait long.
“I know you think that I shouldn’t still love you or tell you that. But if I didn’t say it, then I’d still have felt it, where’s the sense in that? I promise I’m not trying to make your life harder or return to where we were,” Angel sang in his off key tenor, leading most of the audience to cringe slightly.
“I will go down with this ship, and I won’t put my hands in surrender. There will be no white flag above my door. I’m in love and always will be.”
“Okay Angelcakes, I got it,” Lorne said, smiling.
“Well?” Buffy asked, leaning in to where the green demon sat, anxious to hear the news.
“Hold on, let’s wait for our songbird to join us first.”
Angel hurriedly jumped off the stage and moved to sit at Buffy’s side, taking her hand without thinking. There the two of them faced Lorne as Wes, Fred and Gunn sat at the next table, watching the proceedings with apprehension and hope for their friend.
“What did you see?” Angel asked point blank.
“You were right. I guess with all the craziness that was going on, we never thought about the fact that your curse got short-circuited by the shaman. No more curse my friend. Your soul is yours.”
“You’re sure?” Buffy questioned, hope finally starting to overtake fear.
“Yup, totally sure. Now then, what are you two going to do now?”
Buffy and Angel felt the weight that had been on them both since her seventeenth birthday lift suddenly. Their eyes met, and Angel read the answer to his unspoken question there, and stood up, nearly knocking over his chair. Buffy reached up a hand that was caught up in an instant, and he guided her up as well.
“You’ll excuse us, but we have some plans to make” Angel stated, and hurriedly led Buffy out of the building and to the car.
Before she could open the door Buffy felt Angel turn her around and his lips descend. The spark that they’d kept in check for years flared instantly to life, and they were engulfed. Angel found his hands wandering to lift her slight form up and he pinned her body to the side of the car.
As his hands roamed under the thin fabric of her top, caressing the skin of her back, Buffy held his mouth in place with her hands, clutching him to her in need and fear. They never thought…
It was only the loud honking of a horn that brought them back to their senses, as Angel realized that they could be seen by anyone passing this particular street. As well, the team could decide to leave the nightclub at any time. It was enough that he’d had his love life spread out for all to see; he really didn’t want to show them any more.
Of course, his love seemed to know exactly what he was thinking, and she pulled away from his lips and caught his gaze.
“Maybe we should continue this… *planning* elsewhere?” Buffy said through kiss-swollen lips. “Like your apartment?”
Unable to trust his own voice, he nodded and let her slide back down the car. In record time, he shoved her in the car and climbed in after her, turning over the engine and heading back to his apartment at the Wolfram and Hart office building.
He only hoped that they could get there before they did something that they could get arrested for…
-end chapter 2-
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