Conspiracy

Author: nikitangel
Pairing: Buffy/Angel
Rating: PG
Words: 2,357
Written for: The B/A Fluffython
Dedicated to: chrisleeoctaves, who wanted Post-Chosen fluff with the sky as the limit
Thanks to: theantijoss for beta help, overcoming Joss issues to assist her grateful twin, and most especially erinalbion, for not only beta help, but the spark of inspiration that started it all.

-

"Well, when did she leave? Hmm." Wesley hunched a shoulder to hold the phone to his ear as he shuffled through a stack of papers. "As far as I know, he's still waiting. He's growing impatient, however. I don't know how much longer I keep him there ... I'll do my best. Right. I'll speak to you soon."

Returning the phone to its cradle, Wesley felt a moment of unease. Nonsense. It would work out. Of course it would work out.

------------------------------------------

"Wes, I still don't know why I'm sitting here. It's -" Angel pulled the cell phone away from his ear and checked its screen. "It's a quarter to eight and this girl still hasn't shown up. I've been sitting in this ... Piazza del Something for almost an hour."

"Angel, I'm sure she's on her way. She's just been delayed a bit."

"Yes, but why am I the one waiting for her? Don't we have - people, for this kind of thing? Non-evil employees? Aren't these the kinds of changes we've been making?"

The voice on the other end of the line was patient. "Angel, we've made a lot of progress, but the company still needs you as a leader. At any rate, it's vital that you be the one to take this meet. We went over all this before you left."

Angel frowned. "I know. And you still didn't give me any real information."

"Well, you'll just have to trust me. And didn't Lorne confirm this? Do you want to go against his advice?"

"No." Angel picked at a thread on his sleeve. "I'm not so sure how reliable that reading was anyway. I think he just wanted to hear me sing Ricky Martin. And since when does he get to pick the songs?"

Wesley hid a smile, forgetting Angel couldn't see him. "There, even Lorne agrees. You are supposed to meet with this girl, Angel. She's a Slayer. She needs you."

"But why me? Tracking down new Slayers is not really our area. Why aren't - I mean, there are other people who could help her."

"Well,-"

"Angel? Is that you?"

"Harmony?"

"Harmony, what are you doing on the line?" Wesley asked anxiously.

"Angel, why are you talking to Wesley? Aren't you meeting with -"

"Harmony," Wesley smoothly cut in. "I believe I've asked you repeatedly not to pick up my phone line. Is there something you need?"

"Well, there's this Kavoir demon waiting to see you, but Angel, I thought today was-"

"Thank you, Harmony, that will be all. I'll be out of my office in a moment."

"Okay, but-"

"Angel, best of luck, I'll see when you return."

And suddenly both voices were gone and Angel was left staring at the phone, slightly disoriented. Shaking his head, he noted the time again and heaved another sigh.

-----------------------------------------------------

"I'm totally late, Will. He's gonna be gone."

"He's not gonna be gone."

"I'm, like -" Buffy checked her watch as the motorbike skidded around another corner. "I'm an hour late! And why doesn't this guy have a cell phone so I can let him know I'm coming?"

Several thousand miles away, Willow scratched her head, grateful that her friend couldn't see her face. "He just doesn't. Anyway," she hurried on. "He's still there."

"How do you know?"

"Um, I just do."

"This whole thing is weird, Willow. Some random evil-fighting guy calls you up and wants to meet with me, but won't tell say why or what or anything? And who doesn't have a cell phone these days?"

"Well, he didn't call the Council, Buffy. It was his employee."

Buffy took the phone from her ear and stared at it, barely avoiding sideswiping two cars and a bicycle. "What does that have to do anything?"

The sound of honking horns blared through the tiny speakers on Willow's phone. "Buffy-" She winced, trying not to picture her friend's insane flight through Rome's traffic. "Look, Xander says he talked with him, and everything's on the up and up.
This guy just needs to discuss something with you."

"I know." Buffy squinted at a street sign. "Xander called me again this morning to make sure I was coming. And Andrew kept bugging me about it all through lunch. How long is he staying in Italy again?"

"Well, Dawn looked him up, didn't she? She didn't find anything weird about him."

"No. At least she's back at Oxford for the semester. She'd probably be begging to come with or something." Buffy ignored the part of her that was still surprised and disappointed not to find her kid sister tagging along behind her anymore. It wasn't that she was lonely now that Dawn was away. In fact, she was glad of the extra room in her flat. Now it was just her stuff strewn everywhere, no more tripping over other people's junk. She'd be fine, she was always fine. It had been two years since Dawn left, and she was still fine.

"Look, I have to go," said Willow abruptly.

As she made the final turn, Buffy heard a new voice on the other end of the line and a faint, "Is she there yet?", followed by a muffled conversation and what sounded like a quickly silenced squeal. "Is everything okay?"

"Yep, everything's fine!" Willow answered brightly. "Have fun!"

"What?"

"I mean, good luck! Bye!"

The dial tone hummed loudly as Buffy lowered the phone and snapped it shut. She wondered briefly if Willow had been drinking coffee again and then she had no more time to wonder. Magnificent architecture and dazzling fountains soared around her, and she could see nothing but the man standing before her.

"Buffy?" His mouth was hanging open almost comically.

Buffy cut the engine and sat in shock. "Angel?"

"What are you doing here?"

"Me? I live here. What are you doing here?" She managed to climb off of the bike and approach him without tripping over herself.

"Working. I mean, I'm supposed to be meeting a Slayer."

Buffy raised an eyebrow.

"A new one. To help her. Our shamans detected - look, I know you think we're all evil and everything -" He stopped at the quick shake of her head.

"I don't think you're evil."

"You don't."

"Nope." After a moment of silence, she pursed her lips and shrugged her shoulders. "Look, I know what Andrew told you, back when we took Dana. It was ... a confusing time. And he was still hoping for something between me and Spike back then, so I don't know, I guess he thought he was helping."

Angel nodded as he processed the information. "So you did trust me."

"You? Always." She did that half-smile thing and Angel could swear he felt his non-beating heart quicken. "Wolfram & Hart? Not so much. Angel, you have to admit, the whole thing was weird. We were still trying to figure out what was going on back then. It didn't help that you never called."

"Phone lines go both ways, Buffy," he said quietly. "You didn't even tell me you were in Italy."

"I know," she sighed. "I don't know why not. It was all so ... fresh. I just wanted to get away, to try to figure myself out. And that kept getting pushed aside every time I had to help a new Slayer figure herself out, and it just kept getting later and later...and then it was too late."

He shook his head. "Not too late."

"Yeah," she said, a smile spreading slowly over her face. "I'm getting that."

They stood there, smiling goofily at each other, heedless of the tourists bustling around them.

"Wait a sec." Buffy shook her head, thinking over their conversation. "You're supposed to meet a new Slayer here?"

"Yeah. They didn't really give me a name, so I was hoping I'd just be able to pick her out."

"But that's impossible." She wrinkled her nose. "There aren't any new Slayers left in Rome. We would have known about them."

"Well, Wesley said she was here. Come to think of it, Gunn was pushing for me to go, too. Something about clauses and loopholes and - anyway, what were you doing here? Just out for a drive?"

"No," Buffy said slowly. "I'm supposed to meet someone, too. A good guy, something about joining forces. Willow and Giles set it up."

The two frowned at each other, considering the situation. Angel tried harder to recall his earlier conversation with Gunn. A loophole...

A sudden movement behind the fountain caught Buffy's attention. She narrowed her eyes and marched past Angel, disappearing behind the curtain of water.

"She finally got here. Geez, took her forever. They are so adorable together, too! You should see the coat he's wearing, very Duncan MacLeod." The sentence ended in a squeal of pain as Andrew felt his ear being twisted half off.

Buffy lifted until the boy had turned and was standing sheepishly in front of her.

"Um, hi. Fancy meeting you here." He tried to slip the mobile into his pocket, but wasn't quick enough. Buffy shot her hand forward and snatched it out of his grasp. With a warning lift of her eyebrow, she ordered him into silence. He smiled nervously as she held the phone to her ear.

"-did I say about this, Andrew? I told you to keep out of it. I gave you your little reminder job, so back the hell off and leave them alone. I don't want you getting caught."

"It's a little late for that."

Silence. "B?"

"Faith?"

"B...what's up?" Faith asked with forced casualness.

"What's up? What do you mean, what's up? What is this?"

Faith bit her lip and mentally cursed herself for even involving the boy. "Buffy, don't get bent out of shape," she began.

"Is this some twisted game? Are you enjoying herself, messing with my life again?"

"No!" Faith answered quickly. "No, it's not a game. And I'm not - messing with your life. Well, kinda, but it's not what you think."

"Oh really? And what do I think?"

Faith took a breath and sidestepped the question. "Look. Just - calm down, all right? I was just trying to ... I was trying to help." She rushed on when she didn't hear a reply. "I know you and Angel haven't been talking. It's a whole big thing, and it's complicated and whatever, and no one wants to bring it up around you guys. You've got this whole star-crossed lovers thing going on and everyone seems okay with just letting it stay that way."

"It's not anyone's business but ours, Faith."

"See, that's not true, though. I gotta deal with both of you, and watch you mope around all lonely and shit and nobody wants to open their mouth about it. That star-crossed thing is just stupid."

Buffy raised a brow. "Stupid?"

"That's what I said, stupid. You got issues? Fine, talk about 'em. Build a bridge and get over it."

Buffy's jaw dropped. "You're telling me to get over my issues, Faith?" she huffed.

"This ain't about me, it's about you two." Her voice grew softer. "B, you're supposed to be together. You know it. Everyone knows it. I knew it back then, even if I didn't want to, and I know it now."

Buffy kept her eyes on the wall of water, catching glimpses of Angel between the drops.

Faith sighed. "Angel's one of the most important people in my life, and you're not so far down on the list yourself." She squirmed at the admission. "So if you know what's good for you, you'll take advantage of this little adventure and work things out."

Buffy set her chin. "So you set this whole thing up? Everyone was in on it?"

"Pretty much. That chick, Harmony, was a little on the slow side, so I ended up just trying to keep her from spilling it. And I'm about to come over there and pound Andrew into the ground. You hear that, Andrew?" She raised her voice.

Lifting her eyes to the uneasy boy in front of her, Buffy was satisfied to see him jump as Faith's voice barked out of the phone.

"He hears you." Buffy chewed the inside of her lip. "Faith, I don't know what-"

"Then don't. Just hand the phone back to Andrew, knock him upside the head, and go talk to Angel. And let me know how breakfast goes." Faith grinned.

"Faith!" Buffy was still trying to think of a response when the connection was cut off. Lowering the phone, she stared thoughtfully into the water.

"Um, Buffy?" Andrew twisted his fingers together in front of him. "Buffy?" He tried again. "Can I have my phone back? And sorry about the whole sneaking around thing."

Buffy blinked, suddenly noticing him again. With a shake of her head, she tossed the phone back to Andrew and he scrambled to catch it before it flew into the fountain. By the time he'd tucked it in his pocket and turned around again, she was gone. Resolving to be more stealthy, he peeked carefully around the water.

They were just standing around talking again. He observed them for another moment or two, watching the distance between them narrow as they casually moved closer to each other. He saw Buffy shiver and, to his surprise, accept Angel's offer of his coat.

That reminded Andrew of his own chilly hands and he wished he had brought something warmer, as he didn't know how long the conversation would last and he didn't want to miss a thing. It was such a romantic story that it had to have a perfect ending, and he intended to witness it.

His cold hands soon became a moot point as he saw Buffy gesture to her motorbike and Angel nod his assent. Andrew had to giggle when he saw Angel grimace at riding on the back, but Buffy just laughed and held tighter to the handlebars. He was still trying to remember the last time he'd heard her laugh like that when they took off, disappearing into the bright lights and magnificent architecture, Angel's arms wrapped tightly around his girl.


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