Just Across the Hall

by indie & tango

EMAIL: indiefic@hotmail.com & tangofic@hotmail.com
FEEDBACK: please


She curled her hands around the key ring, debating the merit of swinging her elbow backwards into the face of the man standing behind her. It probably wouldn’t be the smartest move, but her instincts were telling her not to go inside with this guy. Of course, she noted wryly, her instincts picked a wonderful time to show up. Perhaps they should have tipped her off not to pick him up in the first place. Her hands shook a bit as she lifted them to unlock the myriad deadbolts. She needed the money. Really needed the money. From the cut of the guy’s clothes, she knew he could pay ... and from the vaguely ill feeling he gave her in the pit of her stomach, she was almost certain she would be able to charge him extra for some of his special requests. That thought alone was enough to give her pause.

She was a whore, but she wasn’t a stupid whore. She still had trouble with her left wrist from where one of her customers got upset with her almost a year earlier. This guy was giving her that same nasty vibe. Oh hell, she could pawn her television if it came to that. Anything was better than being at the mercy of some sick fuck she couldn’t hope to take in a fair fight. Not that she intended to fight fair. She kept weapons hidden all over her apartment and wasn’t afraid to use them, but still, if you could avoid a situation, it was always best to do so. She’d find some way to make rent this month. She took a deep breath and lowered the keys. Slowly, she turned around to face him. "Maybe a date isn’t such a good idea," she said, trying to keep her voice steady.

He stared at her blankly for a moment. "What?" he snapped acridly.

She straightened up, staring him in the eyes. "I changed my mind," she said firmly. "You’re going to have to leave."

He snarled, slamming her back against the door. She didn’t yelp. She had been expecting this. She managed to stare up at him without betraying the fear screaming through her veins. "Marco said you were good," he growled, "he said you did kinky shit and didn’t ask too many questions. He didn’t mention that you liked to back out of business arrangements."

"I don’t," she countered, "but tonight feels off. I think we should both just go our separate ways."

He grabbed her chin and she could already feel bruises forming. "Listen you stupid fucking whore, I’m not leaving here until I get what I came for – "

"And what exactly would that be?"

Buffy didn’t need to look down the hall to see whose voice it was, but she did anyway, as did her potential John. His grip on her chin loosened as he stared at the interloper. "Fuck off," the John spat. "This isn’t your business."

Buffy groaned, closing her eyes. She could hear his heavy footfalls as he approached. She looked up in time to see Angel pull open his leather duster and tuck it behind the pistol holstered at his right hip. The John tensed at the sight of the weapon and let his hand fall from Buffy’s face slowly. Angel flipped open his badge and smiled malevolently. The John backed up several steps, moving away from Buffy. "Officer, I don’t want any trouble – "

"Detective," Angel corrected curtly. "And I’d like to see some identification."

"I just – we were just talking – I, uh ... " the John sputtered. He backed up another step and fought the urge to snarl at the hooker leaning against her door, flaunting those sweet tits in her low cut top.

"We can do this here, or I can take you down to the station," Angel bit out with a snarl. The John’s beady eyes widened as he fumbled to get his wallet out of his pocket.

Buffy sighed and looked at her shoes. As far as next door neighbors went, Angel was wonderful. He was quiet, he minded his own business and he was occasionally handy. One time two years ago, he helped her change a light bulb she couldn’t reach. But for the most part, she avoided him. He was a cop and a rather anti-social one at that. She had never seen him with anybody else. As far as she knew, he didn’t have any friends or family, but that really wasn’t her problem. She gave him his distance and he gave her hers. Buffy knew from the looks the other tenants gave her that most of them either knew or heavily suspected what she did to pay rent. Angel could have made her life very unpleasant, but he seemed rather content to look the other way – until now. Maybe if she sold her television, her stereo and her car she’d be able to afford all the court costs for this little visit.

Angel looked at the John’s wallet. He flipped it around, flashing a picture. "Nice family," he said dryly, "do they know where you are tonight?"

"I, uh ... " the John said lamely.

Angel snorted in disgust, taking out a notepad and writing down all of her potential client’s identification information. As Angel removed the stack of crisp bills from the wallet, the John made a strangled noise. Angel glared at him. "Trust me," he said, "going to jail for this will be a whole lot more expensive," he looked at the family photo again, "in all kinds of ways."

The John bit back his protests and mutely took the wallet.

Angel stared at him with undisguised loathing. "If I see you in this building or near her again, I will take you in," he said.

The John nodded and left as quickly as he could without actually running.

Buffy was still staring at her shoes. She didn’t know what the hell was going on. She just assumed Angel would be escorting her to the police station. As his hand, wrapped around the wad of money, came into her line of sight, she snapped her head up and looked at him. He shook his hand again, motioning for her to take the money. Her brow furrowed, looking from the money to Angel and back again with obvious confusion. He sighed in exasperation and grabbed her hand, slapping the money into her palm. "You need to be more careful," he said tightly, "he would have hurt you."

He was already turned away and walking down the hall by the time she found her voice. "I, uh, thank you," she called, just as his door slammed.


"You can all go home now," the woman called loudly, "the role has been filled."

Along with the thirty other women in the cramped waiting area, Buffy groaned. She had been sitting in this damn chair for hours waiting her turn, only to be kicked out before she even had a chance to read for the part. It was always like this. She couldn’t seem to catch a break. Grumbling, she threw her backpack over her shoulder and headed out the door. Three years of acting classes and auditions and the best she could do was bit roles in the local community theatre.

Hours later, on the roof of her apartment building, Buffy’s face was bright red as she screamed her line. As the sound died, she heard a chuckle and quickly spun around. Angel was standing there, leaning against the door as he clapped. "Personally, I wouldn’t have cast you as Stanley, but you did a hell of a job."

Buffy blushed brightly, mortified that anyone, much less Angel, had heard her doing the scene from A Streetcar Named Desire. "My acting teacher says we need to branch out," she offered by way of explanation for her ridiculous behavior. Truth was, she merely wanted to burn off some steam after her crushing rejection earlier. Screaming at the top of her lungs was a very good way to do that.

Angel smirked at her excuse. You couldn’t take two steps without tripping over an aspiring actress in this neighborhood. Of course, he found Buffy infinitely more amusing than most. "And here I thought when acting teachers talked about branching they meant in the sense of being trees."

She rolled her eyes. "I’m a little past the tree stage," she said, bending over to scoop up her backpack before heading for the door which he was blocking.

He stepped aside and followed her down the narrow stairs that led to their fourth floor apartments. Angel couldn’t keep his gaze from wondering over her lithe form, deliciously evident in her little sundress. With some effort, he forced his brain to work. "I didn’t know you were an actress," he said blandly.

"What, you thought it was my lifelong dream to be a hooker?" she asked cheekily. As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she wished she could take them back. She really didn’t want to remind the nice police officer that she made money by selling her body – both because she liked him and because she didn’t particularly want to go to jail. But as she turned around and looked at him, trying to gauge his reaction, he didn’t seem bothered.

He shrugged noncommittally, his expression free of condemnation. "I’ve seen people do a lot of things to get by in this town. You seem to be taking care of yourself better than most." He omitted the details about the homicide he worked two months ago where they found several prostitutes cut into little pieces by some wacko or the coked out hooker they dug out of a dumpster on the east side six months before that. He knew that Buffy tended to cater to a higher class of clientele than the runaways, but money didn’t necessarily mean anything. A rich man could be a sadist just as easily as a poor one – more easily sometimes because their victims were less willing to come forward.

She stared at him incredulously, her brow furrowing. "Are you sure you’re a cop?" she asked.

"Yes," he answered dryly. "I’m a cop." A cop with a big ol’ yen for the cute young woman that lived across the hall- regardless of how she made her money. But he wasn’t going to share that bit of information just yet. He was tempted to, however, when she shifted her backpack on her shoulder and the narrow strap of her dress on her opposing shoulder slipped down her arm. She replaced it immediately in a smooth, sliding motion.

She rolled her eyes. "You’re awful progressive thinking for a pig," she said in a teasing voice.

"And you’re a damn good actress for a working girl," he countered easily.

"Touché," she said wryly, smiling. "And since when are you such a connoisseur of dramatic skills anyway?"

"Since I had to spend most of my teen years helping my sister read lines," he answered.

"Oh and is your sister a hooker too?" Buffy asked sardonically.

"No," he answered, dead pan, "my sister’s just an actress. Though there were a couple of months where Cordy worked at a gentlemen’s club." Angel wasn’t about to condemn Buffy for doing what she had to do to make ends meet. Buffy was a quality person. She always had a smile for everyone and she respected people. He knew that those were the things that really mattered. The way he got hot just looking at her perky breasts in that sundress didn’t hurt either. It really bothered him that she chose to sell her body to pay the bills, but he sure as hell wasn’t in any position to complain. He did what he could, keeping an eye and an ear out for her safety, making sure she knew she could come to him for help, but he couldn’t push. Not yet.

Buffy gaped at him. He couldn’t honestly be this hard to rattle. "Are you for real?" she asked dubiously.

"Of course," he answered blandly. "Are you?"

She just laughed at him. "Good night, detective," she said, putting her key in the dead bolt of her apartment.

He smiled crookedly, tipping his head. "Good night, Ms. Summers," he said.


"A cop? Are you out of your fucking skull?"

Buffy shifted uncomfortably in the richly upholstered booth. "It’s not like that," she said, stirring her olives around in the martini, "he’s a friend."

Faith glared at her best friend, rearranging her red pleather shirt so that her breasts were plainly visible. "Hookers and cops are not friends, B."

"I prefer to think of it as neighbors, not hookers and cops," Buffy countered wryly. She knew she was being absurd, but she couldn’t help it. Angel was just so damn cute. And he knew what she was and didn’t freak – or arrest her. That was always a perk.

Rolling her eyes, Faith groaned, "Oh gods, you like him." She took a healthy swallow of her drink watching her friend with obvious irritation.

"I don’t," Buffy protested, but her voice was a squeak that completely betrayed her lie.

"What do you think is gonna happen here?" Faith demanded in a harsh whisper, leaning forward across the table so none of the upscale bar’s other patrons would hear. "This isn’t Pretty Woman, you’re not Julia Roberts and some L.A. cop sure as hell isn’t as loaded as Richard Gere. What’s he going to do, swoop in and take you away to his apartment – across the hall?"

"I know this isn’t Pretty Woman," Buffy said with a frown that looked an awful lot like a pout. If anyone ever looked like they belonged riding in to save the day on their white steed, it was Angel. Why couldn’t she play the fairy princess just this once?

Faith snorted derisively. "And what if you do hook up with him?" she asked. "He lives next door, B. It’s not like he won’t know when you’re turning a trick. Is he just gonna lay in his bed and listen to you go at it with some John?" Faith laughed. "Or maybe he’s into that," she mused, ignoring the annoyed look on Buffy’s face. "Your boy’s wicked creepy, B."

"He’s not into that," Buffy said with a conviction she absolutely didn’t feel. What if Angel was into that? Oh hell she didn’t even know if Angel was interested. And even if he was, there were so many complications, the least of which being that she made money by fucking other men. Buffy had learned very early on that boyfriends and hooking didn’t mix. At least not after the boyfriend found out about the hooking. Some of them would say they were okay with it, but inevitably when she had to cut a date short to meet a paying customer, the guy would break it off.

Faith frowned at her friend, obviously pitying her situation. She glanced at the door and smirked. "Looks like your date’s here," she said.

Forgetting that Faith didn’t know what he looked like and half expecting Angel, Buffy looked at the door and sighed. Lindsey. She smiled at Faith and pushed herself out of the booth. She smoothed down her simple black sheath dress, making sure everything was just right before she sauntered over to him. Buffy really did like Lindsey. He was one of her regular customers. He was fun and wealthy and a couple of times he had offered to make her his mistress. Buffy had turned him down. She liked Lindsey, but she liked her freedom more.

He wrapped his arm around her waist, kissing her deeply before saying, "Evenin’, darlin’."


It was seven o’clock in the morning on a Saturday and common courtesy dictated that she wait another several hours before banging on any doors. But Buffy couldn’t wait, nor could she spare the rest of the building’s early morning peace. She pounded on Angel’s door relentlessly.

The door opened slowly and Buffy sucked in a deep breath and nearly ended up choking. Angel was standing there in nothing but a pair of low slung black pajama bottoms. His hair was rumpled and he looked sleepy and grouchy. She had never seen anything quite so carnally delicious. She had this nearly overwhelming desire to scale him like Mount Everest and show him exactly why she could make three hundred bucks an hour.

"Buffy," he grumbled, his voice still scratchy from sleep. He stepped aside so she could enter his apartment. Being across the hall, the layout was the mirror image of her place, but it managed to look completely different. He obviously had an eye for art and had done a hell of a job decorating his place. He motioned her over to the small breakfast table and she took a seat, watching him rub his eyes. "Something wrong?" he asked.

Suddenly her entire reason for waking him came crashing back and she screeched, "You didn’t tell me Cordelia Chase was your sister!"

He jumped at the high pitch of her outburst, wincing as he looked at her. "You didn’t ask," he said.

"Oh no," she hounded, "you just offhandedly mention that you used to read lines with your sister Cordy. How could you not tell me that your little sister is one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood?"

He frowned. "Once again, you didn’t ask," he said. "Call me crazy, but I generally don’t go around advertising the fact." It was true. He found it to be overly annoying when people found out who his sister was. Generally, it was a well-kept secret, but in this situation, he had no option but to let Buffy know.

Buffy’s face softened and she said, "Her agent called me, I’m supposed to go in on Monday for a meeting."

A small smile tugged at Angel’s lips. "Okay, so I mentioned you to my sister," he admitted. "I know how hard it is to try and break into the business. I figured it couldn’t hurt to have some connections." Connections that could possibly lead to a new line of work and let him stop wondering what she was doing with her nights – and start knowing because she was spending them with him.

She toyed with the hem of her shirt, looking at him demurely. "Thank you," she said seriously. "It really means a lot."

"You are very welcome."


Buffy shifted nervously on the balls of her feet as Cordelia Chase looked her over from head to toe. Narrowing her gaze, Cordelia turned her attention to Buffy’s resume. "Well, at least you’ve studied," she noted wryly. Buffy bristled, but held her tongue. Cordelia walked across the room, standing toe to toe with her. "Let’s just get this straight right now," Cordelia said, "I don’t like you. I don’t trust you. I’m doing this strictly as a favor to my brother. Odds are that you’ll crash and burn and I’ll be done with you in a couple of weeks."

"Thank you," Buffy said tightly.

"Oh, don’t mention it."

Despite her serious loathing for Cordelia, Buffy had to admit that her agent had some pull. She had ten auditions scheduled for the week, something absolutely unheard of while she was working by herself.


Friday night, Buffy slid into the regular booth across from Faith. "Do me a favor," she said with a wicked grin. She was practically glowing from excitement.

Faith narrowed her gaze, but asked, "What’s up?"

"Take my date with Lindsey tonight."

Frowning, Faith lit a cigarette and took a long drag. Buffy was always really protective of her regular clients, especially Lindsey. "Cop guy’s snotty sister manage to help you out or you just giving the pig a freebie?" she asked skeptically.

"I have a job!" Buffy squeaked.

"No shit?"

"Seriously!" Buffy squeed. "I got the call today. It’s a regular gig, shoots Monday through Friday and I get paid eight hundred bucks a week. If things go according to plan, you can keep Lindsey permanently." Buffy knocked superstitiously on the scarred wooden table and beamed another bright smile at her friend.

"All right, B. Way to go," Faith said with a huge smile. "So what’s the show?"

Buffy blushed and fidgeted with the stem of her martini glass. "It’s a ... home improvement show," she mumbled.

Faith stared at her friend blankly. "Home improvement? B, you’re the girl that can’t make microwave popcorn, you’re going to be on a home improvement show? Please tell me it’s a sitcom."

Biting down on her bottom lip, Buffy shook her head. "Nope, it’s a how-to show. But it’s not just me. There’s other people, I’m just one of many."

"So are you going to be the how-not-to gal?" Faith offered.

Buffy sighed. "I don’t think so. But to be honest, they didn’t actually see if I could make anything. They just asked and maybe I fibbed a little."

"You lied, you mean." Faith was already grinning at the image of Buffy Summers, ex-hooker trying to hammer in a nail. Girls like them were only good at nailing one thing – and it was an entirely different sort of wood.

"This whole town is about marketing yourself," Buffy said, straightening her back and raising her chin, "I just have to figure out how to do these things before they figure out I don’t know how to do these things."

"Good luck, girlfriend," Faith said, shaking her head. Raising her long neck bottle of beer, she toasted, "Here’s hoping they don’t find out you can’t do shit."


"Detective Angelus." Angel said dryly into the phone, taking a sip of his coffee as he stared at the apartment complex’s front door. Damn, he hated stakeouts. He hated shitty gas station coffee in styrofoam cups almost more than sitting in the same spot for hours on end.

"Uh, it’s Buffy. Are you busy?"

Angel smiled, switching the phone to the other ear. From the passenger’s seat, Kate stared at him like he’d grown two heads. Angel turned his body away from his partner, lowering his voice. "No, I’m not busy. What’s up? You in trouble?"

"Not exactly," she said carefully. "I’m just taking a poll. I wanted to know if you had ever replaced a faucet before."

Angel’s brow furrowed. "Did you break something in your apartment?"

"No, this is strictly hypothetical," she asked mysteriously. "Have you ever replaced one?"

Angel shook his head, snorting in amusement. This girl definitely wasn’t boring or predictable. "Yeah. I worked as a handyman through high school. Why?"

"Do you think, maybe, you could show me?" she asked quietly. "Sometime. Like maybe later tonight?"

Angel looked at his watch. It was already after eight. "I don’t get off until midnight," he said. Warmth shot through his body at the idea of going to her apartment in the middle of the night. He hoped for now on he’d be the only male passing through her door.

"Midnight works for me, see you then."

Angel stared blankly at the phone and its dead air. "Strange girl," he said with a smile. He relaxed in his seat and shook his head, unable to keep the corners of his mouth from turning up. Before he knew it, a full grin had broken its way across his face. Even the taste of the rotten coffee he sipped couldn’t ruin it.

"Don’t do that," Kate snapped.

Angel put the phone back in his pocket and looked at his partner. "Do what?" he demanded.

"Smile," she said, "it makes me nervous."


Buffy unlocked the door when he knocked, pulling it open as she wandered back to the couch with her nose buried in Home Improvement for Dummies. Angel entered, pizza box in hand, looking from her to the various hardware scattered over her floor. "What are you doing?" he asked.

Chewing on her bottom lip, she looked up at him. "Homework," she said with a frown.

"You’re going to school to become a plumber?" he asked.

She rolled her eyes. "I got a job on one of those home improvement how-to shows," she said. "I have to replace a faucet tomorrow and I’m trying to figure out how to do it."

"A new job," he said brightly. He set down the pizza on the table and lowered himself onto the couch next to her. He took the book gently out of her hands and laid it on a piece of the table that wasn’t covered in her "homework."

"Yeah," she answered, "thanks again for the whole agent hook up thing."

He smiled genuinely. "No problem. I’m glad to help out." He couldn’t possibly convey how glad he was to help out in this situation. He’d do anything to get Buffy out of the business and after living in the same building with her over the last couple of years, he had never seen her happier. Sure, she was worried about her job, but it was a different, healthier sort of stress.

Buffy smiled back at him. "Just so you know," she said, "your sister is an overprotective bitch. I’m still really grateful to her."

Angel let out a sharp bark of laughter. "Cordy can be a little prickly at first."

Buffy laughed sarcastically in return, "Prickly is really an understatement."

"Oh, I figured you could handle her," he said, flipping open the pizza box to peer in at the neglected treat. "She’s all bark, no bite."

"Still, a warning would have been nice," Buffy huffed.

"So tell me more about this job," he said.

With a huge grin, Buffy told him everything from the original reading, to the call back, to the little dressing room she used. Angel listened to everything with a smile and when she finished he asked, "So is this your only job now?"

Buffy looked at him coyly. "Detective Angelus, are you asking if I still work nights?"

He gave her a look full of carnal interest. "Yeah," he said, his voice a low, rumbling purr, "that’s what I mean."

She swallowed thickly, finding herself blushing. "I’m strictly an actress now."

He took a deep breath and slowly released it. "Good," he said with a self-satisfied smile, "then you’re free to go out with me on Saturday night. Now let’s get this faucet figured out."


Angel walked Buffy to her door and she seriously wondered whether he was going to kiss her or not. He had been a complete gentleman the entire night and the closest he came to putting a move on her was holding her hand or offering his elbow. It was like Ward Cleaver on a date with a hooker, which is why she was stunned when he threaded his fingers through her hair and kissed her. The kiss was long and slow - something entirely too rare for a girl like her. He nipped at her lips until she opened for him and took his time pressing their bodies together as if they had until the end of time. He held her gently in his arms and she melted into him. When he snaked his tongue into her mouth and tasted her, exploring, she moaned.

"Come in," she whispered against his lips. She tucked a finger into his belt to hold him there while she dug in her purse for her keys and then fumbled to get them into the lock with an urgency she couldn’t remember feeling before. She just knew she had to get him inside before he remembered he was a respectable guy and she, a whore turned actress.

"There’ll be other nights," he said softly. Gathering every bit of strength, he stepped away from her, preparing to cross the hall and take the coldest shower in the history of ever. He was surprised when her voice, flat and emotionless, followed his retreat, "If you’re all weirded out about what I used to do, then why did you ask me out to begin with?"

"You think that’s what’s going on?" he asked, turning to face her again and raising an eyebrow.

"That’s what it looks like," she answered.

"Well, that’s not what’s happening," he answered harshly, crossing the hall once more. "Just because you used to…uh…you used to frequently have sex does not mean I should expect you to sleep with me. I wouldn’t expect more from you than I would from-"

"I see," she interrupted, "you’re not really attracted to me, are you? This is just a pity date for the poor little ex-pmmm-"

Angel growled in frustration against her mouth as he pressed her against the door and pulled her legs around his hips. She gasped as he pulled her against him, rubbing his erect cock against the sopping piece of silk and lace between her thighs. Since her keys were balled in her hand, nearly crushing into the back of his head from when she couldn’t get them into the lock, he hoisted her up his body enough to dig in his pocket for his keys. Their lips never left each other’s as he opened the door, trying not to think about how strong the leg muscles wrapped around him were.

They managed to make it to his bedroom, barely, and immediately began pulling at their clothes, stripping each other like lust struck fools. They struggled to keep their hands and lips on each other while they tore at the clothes that hid heated flesh. Buffy’s feet were off the ground as Angel’s lips first covered her achingly erect nipple. He walked her to the bed and placed her on it, while he licked and suckled.

"Angel," she groaned, so slippery wet and empty she thought she was going to die. She needed friction. She needed him inside her and she was prepared to beg for it, but when he slid down her body and buried his face between her golden thighs, her hips came off the bed and every thought in her head disappeared.

Buffy pulled a pillow over her face and screamed into it as her heels bit into Angel’s muscled back and one of her hands fisted in his hair. She arched her hips against his mouth, her eyes rolling back in her head. It was nearly a minute before she was once again in full possession of her faculties. Angel kissed his way up her naked body, stopping to suckle at her breasts before kissing her deeply. Buffy twined her arms around his neck as she wrapped her legs around his narrow hips.

He paused, propping himself up on one elbow while he reached for the night stand and quickly rolled on a condom. He slid inside her with little preamble and Buffy groaned at the sensation of his rigid sex stretching her. She whined his name, her fingernails biting into his back as he buried his face against her neck and began a pattern of hard, shallow thrusts. She came apart almost immediately, shaking in his embrace as he continued to stroke in and out of her welcoming body.

An hour later, they were dozing, their sweat slicked bodies twined together in his large bed and Buffy breathed a long, breathy sigh. Between the impressive nature of his physical dimensions and his obvious hunger for her, it was the most mind-blowing sex she'd ever had. Buffy couldn’t believe she had ever thought of Angel as even mildly boring. That man could fuck like a freight train. She had indeed had a lot of sex, but none of it compared to him.

She tried to roll over and his arm tightened around her hips. "I need to go to the bathroom," she whispered. With a discomfited grunt, he released her. His face was buried in the pillow when she returned, but one of his eyes popped open, watching her like a hawk as she crawled back under the covers. He pulled her close, sighing as her body melted back against his own.


" They're revamping the show," Buffy said, toying with the straw in her milkshake.

"How so?" Angel asked tightly. He was still on duty, taking a break to grab a bite with Buffy in a small diner. They had been dating for about six weeks. Six fabulous weeks. It wasn't always easy between his late nights and her early mornings, but they managed to make things work. They exchanged keys and if Buffy wasn't in his bed when Angel finally got home at night, he would simply let himself into her apartment. Of course, if they were doing something to the show, it might mean that Buffy was out of a job. Angel could accept her former profession only because it was former. If Buffy went back to her old ways, Angel knew he wouldn't be able to deal with it.

"It's not official yet," Buffy said with a huge grin, "but they're losing the ensemble. I'm going to have my own show!"

Angel's smile was absolutely genuine. "That's wonderful, Buffy," he said, vastly relieved. Without the ensemble, she would be making even more money, possibly enough to prevent herself from ever having to sell her body to make the rent again.

"Yeah," she said, "Spike told me this afternoon."

Angel's smile died. Spike was a producer on Buffy's show and Angel didn't trust him any farther than Buffy could throw him. Spike was bad news and he wanted Buffy. That much was obvious. "So he’s still with the show."

Buffy nodded with a bright smile. She liked Spike a lot. He was fun and flirtatious, but she could handle him. Plus, she liked how Angel got all growly about the situation. "There’s a final meeting tomorrow afternoon. Spike has to take me up to see the network bigwigs. He says it’s just a formality and it’s all a done deal."

"What time is the meeting?" Angel asked idly.

"Two, I think," Buffy answered. "Why?"


"Oh, my," Buffy panted, breathing harshly. "Oh Jesus! Ang-"

Angel clamped his hand over Buffy’s mouth. He slowed his thrusts, sealing his chest to her back. His lips brushing against the shell of her ear. "Shhh," he whispered. "You don’t want to get caught."

Angel had shown up ostensibly for a quick visit over the lunch hour. Never mind that he’d only gotten off shift at eight that morning. It was definitely worth dragging himself out of bed to show up at Buffy’s tiny dressing room, push her face first against a wall and fuck her like there was no tomorrow.

Not that she minded. She arched back against him, encouraging him to get moving again and he could do nothing but comply. He reached up and pulled down the front of her blouse, freeing her nipples from their silk encasement. He loved the sound she made when he cupped them in his hands and twisted her nipples. The sound he treasured escaped her lips and he grinned as he pounded into her, not at all sorry to hear it, despite the fact he had hushed her moments before.

"Angeldon’tstop," she panted, groaning even louder when he reached between her thighs and twisted her sensitive, swollen nub between his fingers. The movement was all it took and he pumped harder into her as she spasmed around his cock, her inner muscles clamping down. Seconds later, he spilled into her.

He slipped out of her and tucked himself back in his pants before pulling her into his arms and sitting back into her dressing room chair. She cuddled in his lap and grinned at him, not bothering to hide her amusement. He raised an eyebrow at her questioningly, "Something funny?"

"You’re jealous," she answered in a singsong voice.

"No, I’m horny," he bit out, scowling at the temerity of his girlfriend.

"Uh huh," she said, nodding. "That’s why you came in here and fucked me into a wall on less than 4 hours of sleep. Whatever, Angel."

"Certain parts of the male anatomy have minds of their own," Angel said defensively, pulling her more closely against his chest.

"Yeah and certain male parts also have territory issues," she shot back. "That’s so sweet."

"It’s *not* sweet!" he growled. "There’s nothing sweet about it!"

"So you admit that you’re jealous," Buffy quipped, smiling happily. She leaned in and kissed him deeply, letting the voracity of her kiss give him an inkling of how wonderful it was to be cared enough about by a guy that he would ever be jealous.

"Godammit," he grumbled against her lips.

There was a very perfunctory knock on the door before Spike barged in. "Hey Buf-" He fell silent the second he saw them curled together in the chair. Angel's hand automatically went to her skirt, ensuring that it was covering all her intimate parts.

Buffy grinned unrepentantly, pressing a loud, smacking kiss against Angel's jaw before wiggling out of his embrace. Spike's expression was hard as he watched her settle her clothes and smooth down her hair. There was absolutely no way Spike didn't know exactly what had happened. Buffy didn't care and she wasn't in the least bit embarrassed. She'd had lots of mechanical, empty sex and yet she had learned to hold her head high and look at herself in the mirror. Something as sacred as sharing physical ecstasy with the man she loved most certainly wasn't going to make her cower in shame.

"You ready to go?" Spike asked tightly.

Buffy nodded cheerily. "I am," she chirped. Turning, she grabbed Angel's hand and urged him to stand. He did so, scowling madly at Spike. She pressed herself against his chest and grabbed his head between her hands, forcing him to look down so she could give him a long, lingering kiss.

He looked slightly mollified when she finally pulled back. "I'll see you this evening," she said in the silky, sultry voice, reserved only for him.

He licked his lips, unable to do anything more than nod. He looked at Spike with a smirk before preceding them out the door.


Buffy giggled as Angel's hand clamped around her ankle, easily pulling her and the comforter back to his side of the bed. She kicked playfully at him. "I just want to go get the Champaign," she said in a petulant voice.

"I don't need any damn fizzy wine," he growled, pulling her closer, reaching for the clasp on her skirt.

Buffy sighed with mock exasperation, lying still so he could undress her. "But we need to celebrate," she pointed out.

"Oh, we're going to celebrate," he assured her. He carefully pulled her skirt over her hips and licked his lips unconsciously. Every time he saw her golden skin revealed he felt an overflowing of lust along with a measure of masculine pride. He still couldn’t believe she was his and his alone. He nibbled on her hipbone as she wiggled out of the skirt, giggling at the growl he muffled against her flesh.

"I still want Champaign," she said huskily as he kissed his way up her inner thigh. She rubbed her leg seductively over his beautifully muscled back. "Later," he answered. He moved slowly toward the apex of her thighs, taking his time at exploring her. After their rampant fuck in her dressing room earlier that day, he felt he should make this time the polar opposite of that jealous tumble.

"Much later," Angel groaned as his cell phone rang. He stalked across the room and fumbled through his discarded jacket to answer it. Snarling, he flipped it open. "Angelus…Now? Fuck. Alright, I’m on my way."

"Dammit," he said, tossing his phone on his jacket. He turned to face Buffy whose lower lip was already stuck out petulantly. "Sorry baby," he whispered, kissing her lightly. He moaned in frustration when she pulled him down on top of her half naked body and wrapped her legs tightly around him, deepening the kiss.

"Don’t go," she said. Her eyes twinkled with mischief. "We’re celebrating."

"I love you. I’ll be back later and we’ll celebrate. Promise." Angel pushed himself up, turned from her and went for his jacket, but stiffened in mid-reach as he realized what he just said. He slowly turned around and faced her. Instead of mortification or shock, her face shown with pure love and adoration. Tears glittered in her eyes as she slid off the bed and stood up.

"I love you too," she whispered quietly. She crossed the room quickly, wrapped her arms around him and shrieked when he picked her off the floor, kissing her.


After waiting the better part of three hours for Angel to come home from his bust or whatever the hell detectives did in the middle of the night, she decided to go home, shower and wait for him in her own bed. She stuffed her panties in her purse, along with the nylons she had on earlier and carried her shoes in her hand. She locked his door carefully and then turned around towards her own, digging in her bag for the keys she hadn’t bothered to get out ahead of time.

"Well, well," a voice said from down the hall. Buffy looked up and recognized the John she had turned away all those months ago before she got her job and started seeing Angel. Fear trickled along her spine and she edged closer to her apartment door. The John kept walking toward her in an almost casual stroll. "Now I know why the pig was so anxious to help you out before. Let me guess? You let him bend you over the patrol car, maybe suck him off every couple of days and he turns the other way, huh?"

"L-look, all I have to do is call him," Buffy said, digging more frantically for her keys. "He’ll come out-"

"Nice try, whore," he sneered. "I watched him leave. Been waiting for you. Too bad he’s a cop. Has to be away during the night, leaving you here all alone."


"Fuck," Angel muttered under his breath as he tried to scrape his shoes clean. It was no use. He was going to have to burn everything he was wearing. Thank gods he’d thought to leave his duster in the car.

The crime scene had been in the middle of a landfill. It was quite possibly the most disgusting thing he had ever had the displeasure of experiencing, and working as a detective for the last four years, that was saying something. But even the foul setting wasn’t enough to overshadow the horror of the crime scene itself. They’d found another prostitute cut into pieces. They still hadn’t found all of her yet. Damn, she was just a kid, sixteen, maybe seventeen.

Angel knew he should feel guilty, but he didn’t. When he looked at that poor little girl’s violated body, all he could think was how grateful he was that Buffy was out of the business, that she was home safe in his bed where she belonged.

"Uh, Angelus?"

Angel turned around and looked at his partner. She was holding her cell phone, pressed against her chest. Her face was pale. "What, Kate?"

"It’s just ..." she grimaced. "Dammit. Dispatch just called. Some girl got beat up really bad."

Angel shook his head. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because they found her collapsed against the door to your apartment. Her I.D. said Buffy Summers."


When they finally allowed Angel to go into Buffy’s room, he was thankful he was a cop. Of all the conveniences he had because of his job, this was the moment when it meant the most. He was certain he would still be pacing the shiny floors in the hallway if he weren’t a police detective.

He entered the room quickly but ground to a halt when he saw her in the hospital bed. He struggled with his emotions as he looked over her. Her face was covered in bruises and was swollen from the beating she took. Her left eye looked as if she wasn’t going to be able to open it when she woke and a line of stitches trailed along the side of her throat. He knew she was very lucky to have lived through such a beating and he knew that someone else was going to get a similar beating in the near future.

Angel clenched his jaw and finished walking across the room. Lowering himself into the chair by the bed, he took her hand in his. Her right wrist was broken in several places and her knuckles were scraped and bruised. Defensive wounds, he thought, kissing each place on her delicate hand. She wasn’t just beaten down. She had tried to defend herself.

It was hours before she woke and when she finally did, the moment her gaze met his, her eyes welled with tears. "I’m sorry," she sniffled pathetically. "I ruined everything."

"This isn’t your fault, Buffy," Angel said, trembling with rage for the creature who had done this to her.

She sobbed, but readily accepted his affections, kissing him back with bruised lips and curling her swollen hand into his for comfort.


Angel was lying in bed with Buffy, his face buried in her hair when Kate arrived. She looked away, embarrassed at having interrupted such an intimate moment. Angelus was always so closed off, so stoic that seeing him falling apart over this wounded woman pulled at her heart. "Two plain clothes officers picked him up. He’s down at the station," she said softly. "Bastard wasn’t even trying to hide. He went into work like it was a normal day."

Angel nodded, his possessive grip on Buffy’s waist tightening. Buffy had easily identified her attacker as the same guy Angel had chased off months earlier. Given that Angel had taken note of the guy’s information before booting him to the curb, it was a trivial matter to find him. "I’ll be down within the hour," he said.

"I don’t think that will be such a great idea," Kate said.

"I’ll be down," Angel repeated darkly. Kate hovered in the doorway for another couple of seconds and watched as her partner nuzzled the poor beaten girl to wake her. He whispered in her ear and lightly traced his fingers over her jaw. Blushing, Kate stepped out into the hallway quickly and closed the door behind her.


Angel stormed in the room all the police officers affectionately called "the hole." He didn’t bother checking in with anyone to see if progress was being made. He flew past Kate and pulled the John from his chair, without breaking his stride, and slammed a fist into his jaw. Angelus knew his fellow officers would be pulling him off the perp any second, so he pummeled into him as fast as he could, using every bit of energy he possessed to turn the little weasel into a grease spot.

"Angelus!" Kate called out but made no move to stop her partner. She had seen the look in his eyes when he came in and way he wrapped himself around that little beaten blonde, holding on to her body for dear life. If anyone was going to stop him, it wasn’t going to be her.

The door opened and three officers came running in. Angel didn’t even hear them, so focused on his task. He snarled when they pulled him back and he lunged forward even as the John crumpled to the floor, nearly unconscious and bleeding.

"I’ll fucking kill you!" Angel raged, pulling against his fellow officers.


Buffy woke to find Angel once again in bed with her. He was watching her carefully. She reached up and gently ran her fingertips across his cheekbone. Catching her hand in his, he gently brought her fingertips to his lips for a gentle kiss.

Buffy sighed, smiling despite the pain it caused her. "Shouldn’t you be at work?" she asked.

He shook his head. "The only thing I have to do is take care of you," he replied.

Two days later, when Buffy was finally released from the hospital, she found out how perfectly true Angel’s words had been. He didn’t have anything else to do. The reason he didn’t have anything else to do was because he was suspended from the police department pending a full investigation into his merciless pummeling of her attacker.

Part of Buffy wanted to rail at him for being so stupid. The other half, however, wanted to use a can of whipped cream, chocolate syrup and a set of rubber sheets to show him exactly how adorable she found her over-protective lover.

Buffy wasn’t a fan of Angel’s heavy-handed tendencies, but she wasn’t shocked when he took her home to his apartment, rather than her own. She also wasn’t shocked to find his living room piled with all of her possessions. She looked at her television, sitting on top of his coffee table. Slowly, she turned to look at him. Given that he was carrying her, their faces were scant inches apart. "I guess I’m moving in," she said dryly.

"Sounds like a plan to me," he said flatly before continuing into the bedroom. He tucked her carefully into bed and closed the blinds and curtains, darkening the room so she could rest. With a final, gentle kiss to her forehead, he left her alone so he could finish unpacking her things.


Buffy knew she had been asleep for hours when she heard raised voices. She blinked quickly, trying to make her mind focus on the sound. Two men were obviously arguing in the living room, one of them was most certainly Angel. As carefully as she could, she got out of bed and walked to the door, opening it a crack.

Angel and Spike were glaring at each other and Buffy knew that they were going to come to blows any second. "Angel," she said softly.

He abruptly stopped, turning to face her. He abandoned his argument, quickly making his way across the room to her. "Do you need something, baby?" he asked. "Are you okay?"

"I’m fine," she assured him. Curiously, she peeked her head around Angel. "Spike?"

Cautiously, Spike approached the couple, careful to stay out of Angel’s reach. "My god, pet," he gasped.

Buffy frowned, inching closer to Angel, who tucked her protectively under his arm, glaring at Spike. She knew she looked awful. The bruises were actually getting worse, not better, turning disgusting shades of yellow, green and purple. Her lips were scabbed from where they had split against her teeth. All in all, it wasn’t a pretty picture.

Spike seemed to realize the affect his careless words made and he smiled repentantly. "I’m sorry, pet, I don’t mean ... It’s just I knew you were hurt, but I hadn’t realized how badly. Good Christ, please tell me they caught the bastard."

"The situation has been taken care of," Angel informed him shortly.

Spike’s gaze dropped to Angel’s hands, to his scabbed-over knuckles and he nodded in perfect agreement. "Good to know," he said seriously.

"Is there something you needed, Spike?" Buffy asked.

He shook himself out of his mental wanderings. "Yeah, there is," he said tautly. "Dammit. I didn’t want to be the one to do this, but I didn’t want to risk you finding out second hand."


"The show is dead, Buffy. The network bigwigs found out ... Well, they found out how you knew your attacker and they axed the show. They said they didn’t want to deal with the press when word got out about ... uh, about the fact ... "

"That I used to be a whore," Buffy finished coldly.


For the first time Buffy could remember, Spike couldn’t wait to get away from her. After dropping his bomb, he made a beeline for the door, anxious to not see the tears that were threatening to spill from her eyes and roll down her bruised and beaten face. He, of course, made his apologies and promised to keep in touch, but the one thing he hadn’t said hung in the air – she would never be an actress now.

"I can’t believe this!" Buffy shouted, limping angrily around the living room in a sort of uneven, crawling pace. She ran her fingers through her tangled hair and was caught between the urge to scream or cry. Angel hovered, standing near the doorway, watching her manic trek around the room.

"We’ll think of something," Angel said quietly.

"Yeah, we’ll think of the good ol’ days when Buffy was fit to be an actress," she fumed turning toward him. "Don’t you see? It’s over! I hooked so I could survive while I paid for my own acting classes and went to auditions and now I can’t act because of what I did while I was trying to get my foot in the door!"

"Buffy …" Angel said, slowly approaching her. "There are other networks. I’ll call Cordy and-"

"You’ll call your sister and tell her to that your whore needs another shot?" Buffy shouted. Her voice cracked and tears started springing from her eyes even though she willed them not to. "You should get out while you’re ahead, Angel. I’ve lost my job and it’s my fault you’re going to lose yours."

Buffy was sobbing so hard she didn’t even know Angel crossed the room until he pulled her into his arms. She pressed her face into his shirt and let the shudders wrack violently through her body. Just one day and all of her dreams were gone. The only thing she had left was Angel.

"I’ll move back out," Buffy sniffled finally, stepping out of his embrace. "When the Chief decides whether or not to give you your job back, it’ll help if you aren’t associated with a hooker."

"No," Angel said, pulling her back against him. She protested for a moment but then settled back into his arms, letting him hold her a bit too tightly. "I’m not letting you go," he said against her hair. "You’re more important than a fucking job, Buffy."

She turned up her tear-streaked face to look at him. "It’s not a job, it’s your life."

"No," he said solemnly. "You’re my life."

Another tear slid down her cheek, but this time it was from happiness. "I love you," she whispered.

"I love you," he said vehemently before placing a gentle kiss against her lips. She calmed, allowing him to carry her back to bed, though she agreed to stay only with the understanding that he would stay too. He was only too happy to oblige, spooning his large frame around hers, holding her while she slept.


Buffy walked into the apartment, holding the mail in her hand. She reached for the letter opener, but before she could succeed in opening the bill, Angel walked up behind her and plucked it out of her hand. "Hey!" she shouted, hopping up, trying to grab the letter out of his grasp.

"Shoo," Angel admonished, smacking her on the butt.

"Angel," she said seriously. He looked at her. This was an old argument. For the last month and a half, she had been living with him. Or more appropriately, off him. She had yet to find another job. Initially, she felt bad enough about that, but last week, Angel’s suspension was overturned and he was fired outright. She had gone from feeling bad to feeling like Buffy Summers, Queen of All Deadbeat Leechy Girlfriends.

Angel was oh so helpful. He offered for her to work off her debt by going back to her former profession. Of course, the only client she was allowed to have was him. Ha! She informed him very summarily that if that were the case, he would actually owe her quite a bit of money. She had tons more sex as his girlfriend than she’d ever had as a prostitute.

A knock on the door sounded and Buffy gave him one more mock pleading look before going to answer it. "Hi Lily," she said quietly, looking anxiously over her shoulder to see her overprotective boyfriend already standing behind her. She scooted so that the door was just open enough to frame her body. It was one thing for Angel to know that she was previously a prostitute, but it was entirely another to have her ex-acquaintances just dropping by.

"Buffy, can I talk to you for a second?" Lily asked. "Look, I know you started a new life and all but this is really important."

"Alright," Buffy said, stepping back and letting the girl in. She liked Lily. She was quiet and sweet. She turned a bit lower of a class trick than Buffy used to, but she was a good girl for a hooker – and not likely to offer Angel a blowjob while she was there, which was even better.

"Since you left, Faith’s been helping to train me to be like you were," Lily said quietly, looking over at Angel nervously every few seconds. "We were meeting almost every day, but I haven’t seen her in two days now and I don’t know what to do."

"Are you sure she didn’t just run away with some rich idiot?" Buffy looked over at Angel worriedly, then back to Lily who had started wringing her hands nervously. "I mean, she’s done that before. She was in Texas for two weeks once with a guy who wanted to set up a brothel on his ranch, until she realized that they were a bunch of sweaty handed cowboys who thought they were going to pay twenty-five bucks a fuck."

"I don’t think that’s it," Lily replied. "I was sick, so she took one of my regular clients Wednesday night. That was the last time anybody saw her. She missed a date with Lindsey. She never misses with him. Never."

"Uh, oh," Buffy said. Indeed, this was a bad sign if Faith stood up Lindsey. "I'm pretty sure I still have a key to her place," Buffy said. "How about if we go over there and look around?"

Lily nodded. Buffy looked to Angel. "I'll get my coat," he said.


Faith's apartment was a mess, but Buffy didn't necessarily think that meant it had been ransacked. Unless, of course, the perpetrators decided to order two pizzas and some Chinese takeout. Faith was a slob.

"See anything?" Angel asked, carefully leafing through some mail on the table with the tip of a pen.

Buffy shook her head. "I'll keep looking." She walked into Faith's tiny bedroom. Her heart fell. She stuck her head back in the other room. "Her purse is still here. All her money, her credit cards. Everything."


Buffy and Lily were both anxiously waiting in the living room of Angel's apartment when he returned, hours later. Their coffees, long forgotten, were cold in their hands. Buffy jumped to her feet. "Well?"

Angel's expression was hard. "Kate can't give me any specifics," he said. "Not anymore."

"Angel," Buffy pled, knowing he was hedging.

"Okay," Angel said, "it doesn't look good. This looks like the M.O. of the killer that's been preying on prostitutes for months."

"No," Lily cried. She buried her hands in her hair and sobbed openly. Buffy sat back down next to her and wrapped a comforting arm around the girl. She tried to concentrate on the fact that Faith was a tough girl. She had been in messes before that other girls would not have escaped. She was more street smart than anyone Buffy knew, except for maybe Angel. She just wished she could get the chill spreading through her body to go away.

Angel took a deep breath and met Buffy’s eyes. "The killer," Angel said quietly, "generally keeps them for four days before he kills them. If she hasn’t been gone more than a day or two, we still have a chance to find her."

"Where?" Buffy asked desperately. Her lower lip trembled and every attempt to be brave disappeared. "How can we find her? You’ve been chasing this freak for months!"

"It’s a long shot, but it isn’t impossible. Usually we don’t know about the missing pro … girls until it’s too late. With Faith we have a description and something to work with." He cleared his throat nervously. "I’m going to check around some of her old places and see what I can find."

"Be careful," Buffy said, carefully moving away from Lily to throw herself into Angel’s arms. "I can’t lose you too."


"Okay," Buffy said softly, willing herself not to cry. She clutched the phone so tightly her hand ached. Angel was still out, tracking down informants, talking to cops. He had yet to find out anything. Officially, Kate still couldn't say anything, but she had been Angel's partner for years. Angel knew that Kate wasn't optimistic and he had told Buffy as much.

Hanging up the phone, Buffy walked to the kitchen counter and proceeded to write a letter. Lily was asleep on the couch, tossing fitfully. Angel had made the young woman swear she wouldn't leave the apartment until he returned to escort her home. He hadn't elaborated on why, but Buffy knew the truth. She'd been privy to enough of his conversations with Kate to know that Faith wasn't the killer's normal victim.

The killer wasn't random. He was meticulous, a stalker. He planned and waited for his prey. And his prey of choice wasn't a hotheaded, hard-bodied brunette from a rough South Boston neighborhood who wouldn't hesitate to hand you your lunch. No. His victim of choice was a young, slightly built, down on her luck, fresh to the big city blonde. His victim of choice was Lily.

The guy had probably watched Lily for weeks, maybe even months. He'd learned her schedules and decided to pick her up after a session with one of her regulars. It was Faith's bad luck for doing Lily a favor.

Quietly, Buffy crept to the couch where Lily was sleeping. Carefully, she took the girl's keys out of her purse. Lily shifted in her sleep, but did not wake. Buffy took a deep breath and looked at the counter, making sure that the letter to Angel was still plainly visible. He would be so angry when he realized what she did, but Buffy didn't have a choice. Faith was her best friend and right now, she was her only hope.

As soundlessly as possible, Buffy slipped out of her apartment. Hopefully she could make it to Lily's before Angel caught wind of what she was doing. Otherwise, Buffy would never be able to trick the killer into thinking she was Lily.


It wasn’t hard to track down Lindsey. He usually went to the bar where they met for their "dates" when he wanted to unwind after work. Being a successful lawyer, he always said, tended to give him a reason for a lot of unwinding. Which was why he kept her so busy. She found him holding down a bar stool, chatting with an attractive brunette and sipping on imported beer. A twinge filled her belly when she thought about how much things had changed in her life – and how much she didn’t want to go back to it.

She tapped him on the shoulder and he glanced over his shoulder. When he recognized her, a smile lit up his face and he swiveled around to face her, putting his back to the girl he had been talking to. "Well, hello darlin’," he said, grinning. "Long time. Thought you ran off with some cop."

"Do you have a minute?" she asked quietly, "I need to talk to you."

"Nice meeting you," he said to the girl beside him. Her face twisted into a scowl, which flung itself at Buffy. Lindsey either didn’t notice or didn’t care. Either was typical for him. He flung his arm over her shoulders and swaggered with her to a booth. "Guess you decided to change your mind and be my mistress," he said huskily. "I’ll keep you busy, darlin’. And drenched in silk."

"I’m not working anymore, Linds," Buffy said, casting him a look of regret. "I need your help."

Lindsey looked her up and down. He took another sip of his drink. "So I guess the rumors 'bout your settlin' down are true."

"Yeah," she said firmly.

Nodding, Lindsey asked, "He really a cop?"

"Used to be," Buffy said.

Lindsey chuckled. "I saw Marco a few weeks back," he said. "Looked pretty down on his luck. Said he'd been busted after one of his referrals got picked up. Guess the guy was messed up pretty good by some over-eager cop. Wouldn't be your new lover's handiwork, would it?"

"The asshole beat me unconscious," Buffy said tightly. "I was in the hospital for a week."

Lindsey's expression sobered instantly. "I didn't know that," he said seriously. "Guess maybe he's not such a bad guy after all, even for a cop."

Buffy looked around the bar, fruitlessly searching for anyone who might be paying them more attention than usual. "I'm not here to talk about me, Lindsey," she said. "This is about Faith."

Lindsey's expression soured. "She stood me up last night."

"She's missing, Linds," Buffy said vehemently. "She didn't skip town with one of her other customers. She was taken. The cops think that sicko that's been cutting up girls and leaving them in the trash has her."

"Fuck," Lindsey hissed, his eyes darting around the bar. He scooted closer to her in the booth, lowering his voice. "Your new boytoy working on this?"

"As much as he can," Buffy said. "He’s not a detective anymore. The cops can't tell him much, but he has a lot of friends on the force. They take care of their own. But time is running out and they don't have any leads."

"How do I play into this?"

Buffy took a deep breath. "The guy was after Lily," she said. "Faith was covering for her. Faith isn't his regular victim. He likes girls who look like Lily. Girls who look like me."

"You want to use yourself as bait," Lindsey said with a tight smile.

Buffy nodded.

"I take it your lover doesn't know about this."

"He would never … " Buffy steeled her resolve. "He would never let me do something like this. It's just … I can't let Faith die. Not if there's anything I can do to stop it."

"Just let me know what you need me to do."


Angel had just killed the engine and was getting ready to collapse in bed next to Buffy when the phone rang. With a heavy sigh, he reached for it. "Angelus."

"We got him," Kate said brusquely. "Pryce and Gunn brought him down at a stakeout at a motel over on Washington."

"Faith?" Angel asked tightly

"The guy owns a compound, we have officers en route now."

"That's great," Angel said, rubbing his eyes wearily.

"There's more," Kate continued. "You need to come down to the precinct."

"It's late," he said, "I need to let Buffy know what happened."

"It's about Buffy," Kate explained. "She was the girl he was after. We have both her and her … customer in holding."


Angel stormed into the police precinct exhausted and worried and pissed off. He was certain she wasn’t on a date, as Kate had implied. With her worry about Faith and her love for him, he knew that she wouldn’t have gone out like that unless she was setting herself up as bait. She, after all, fit the killer’s MO. He tried to shake off his temper, but he knew he wouldn’t until he knew she was safe – and he could yell at her.

As he made his way to find Kate, Gunn walked up and blocked his path. "Chief wants to speak with you," Gunn said, jerking his thumb toward the office. The blinds were already lowered for privacy, which was never a good sign.

"I don’t work for him anymore," Angel said irritably, "I just want to get Buffy and get the fuck out of here."

"There are prostitution charges," Gunn said quietly, "and Holtz wants to talk to you before you see her." Angel ran a hand through his hair and made a frustrated sound. "It’s been a long night," he growled, "so he better make this quick."

"It’s about to get longer." Gunn slapped him on the shoulder sympathetically. "Good luck, buddy."

Angel didn’t answer, but headed to Holtz’s office, knocked on the door and entered when he heard his ex-boss’ voice snap out. "Come in."

"Holtz," Angel said, nodding in greeting. Holtz was sitting behind his desk, flipping through a file, looking as he always did, crabby and disagreeable. Angel steeled his resolve. He had no intention of being lectured. His goal was to get Buffy and get out of there.

"Angelus." Holtz greeted in return. "I’m sure you’re anxious to be on your way, so I’ll get straight to the point."

"I’d appreciate it," Angel said. He sat down in one of the two chairs in front of Holtz’s desk and fought to keep from scowling. There was never any lost love between the two of them and despite Angel being one of his top detectives, Holtz didn’t seem to have any problem whatsoever in firing him.

"The reason I asked to meet with you is to discuss a few matters that have been brought to my attention," Holtz said, folding his hands over his desk and meeting Angel’s gaze head on.

"Which matters?" Angel snorted, far past cowering under Holtz’ authoritative stare. "The fact that my girlfriend used to be a prostitute, the fact that I didn’t bust her or that I was involved in the investigation?"

"All three," Holtz growled back. "You skulked around my team and leached information out of them, which you then fed back to civilians who should not have been privy to such information, which caused one of them to put her life in jeopardy. Did I miss anything?"

"Yes," Angel said, his voice terse, "I also helped them map out the best way to track out the killer and gave vital additional information on the latest victim’s habits and haunts."

"Which, no doubt, were invaluable in his capture," Holtz added.

"Exactly," Angel snapped. "If it hadn’t been for me - What?"

"You used the kind of clearheaded, methodical thinking that we needed for this case," Holtz said carefully. "Lockley informed me just how much research you did on this case and how prized your partnership is to your cases."

"You fired me," Angel growled.

"Now I’m hiring you again," Holtz said, "but in order to cover our asses you have to go to therapy." He slid a business card across his desk to Angel and then folded his hands again. "The costs will be covered by the department. You will cooperate until they can assure me your rage issues have been dealt with. You’re back on the payroll as of Monday."

"Thank you," Angel said, astounded. He stared at the business card for a second and then back at Holtz. "Buffy wasn’t-"

"I know she was acting as bait," Holtz answered. "The charges have been dropped."


"Now," he barked, pulling her towards the bedroom.

"An-gel," Buffy whined, grabbing onto the doorframe.

With a growl, he very gently pried her fingers off the frame. Taking the last few steps, he deposited her on the bed. Buffy stared up at the ceiling, sighing in exasperation as he pulled her jeans off.

"You’re supposed to be learning how to be more sensitive to other people’s wishes," she groused.

"Trust me, you’ll like it," he promised, taking a moment to shed his own clothing.

Truth be told, Buffy would have been a lot more irritated if he wasn’t absolutely right. Her frown twisted into a smile as she watched him, now nude, climb onto the bed, stalking up her body. He kissed her and Buffy didn’t even think of rejecting him as she wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him closer. He settled his body against her, nipping along her jaw. "You make me crazy," she informed him before biting his shoulder playfully.

"Trust me," he said seriously, "it’s entirely mutual."

"Angel," she sighed, flipping him over onto his back as she straddled him, "it’s just a meeting."

"I know it’s just a meeting," he replied. "Just a meeting that you’re not going to."

She smacked him on the chest. "Jerk."

He grabbed her hips, grinding them against his own. His heart beat faster watching her bite down on her bottom lip as her eyes fluttered shut. When she moaned deep in her throat, he flipped them both over again, pinning her underneath him. Notching one of her legs around his waist, he slid inside her body.

Nearly an hour later, Buffy lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling. Angel was collapsed next to her on his stomach, his arm thrown possessively around her waist. "I know you don’t like Lindsey and Spike," she said quietly, "but I need this job."

He grunted into the pillow.

She propped herself up on her elbows, looking down at him. "Don’t you trust me?"

He lifted his head, looking at her. "You, I trust implicitly," he said. "Lindsey and Spike I wouldn’t trust any further than you could throw them."

She frowned tightly. "Angel, I need a job," she said forcefully. "I really think this investigative reporter thing could be a good fit."

He snorted, burying his head in the pillow again. Sitting completely up in bed, Buffy crossed her arms over her chest. "What, exactly, is that supposed to mean?" she demanded. "You don’t think I’m smart enough be a reporter?"

"Buffy," Angel groaned, "this is not the job for you. There are plenty of other jobs."

"As long as you approve of when and where and how, is that it?" She stood up and marched into the bathroom, slamming the door angrily behind her. Angel kept his face in the pillow and listened to the water running as she showered. Most other times he might have gotten up and gone in to join her, but he knew he wasn’t welcome. Even though he was aware of just how frustrated she was, it never occurred to him that she would actually leave, until she slipped into her new sleek black suit. She turned toward him and scowled at the angry glare he was shooting at her from the bed.

"You’re not going," he growled, crossing his arms across his chest.

"Keep telling yourself that," she blurted. Turning on her heel, she headed for the bedroom door and hurried her steps as she heard him following.

"Goddamn it, Buffy!" he shouted. "You can’t take this job!"

"It’s either this or hooking," she glared back. Angel watched in shock as she opened the front door and slammed it behind her.


Buffy sat nervously on the couch. "So what do you guys think?"

Spike shrugged. Lindsey wouldn’t meet her gaze.

"I don’t know," Spike finally told her. "They seemed pretty worried about your arrest record."

"The charges were dropped," Buffy said tightly. She wasn’t going to cry. She wasn’t. Yes, she understood that this was a very important investigative news program on a major network, but she could do this. She knew she could.

But what she couldn’t do was spend the rest of her life being persecuted for the fact that she used to be a prostitute. She wouldn’t do it. She knew she wouldn’t be able to sit through another meeting where the facts of her life were sifted through like she wasn’t even human. A room full of rich, white men hemming and hawing over what she used to do to make ends meet. She may have been a whore, but she was never cheap and she never let anybody use her to that extent. She did have her pride.

If they didn’t like what she used to do, they could just find somebody else. She wasn’t ashamed of the life she had led. And she wasn’t about to pretend that she was. Not for the network honchos and not for Angel.

Buffy had to blink back tears. She wasn’t going to think about Angel right now. Or about how much she loved him. Or about how much he hurt her by not trusting her. She most definitely wasn’t going to think about the fact that she didn’t even know if they were still together or not.


Three Months Later


Buffy saw Faith and Lindsey in their regular booth and couldn’t help but smile. Faith was still officially working. She had too much pride to admit how shaken up she was by the kidnapping. The fact that she was going to have to testify at the psycho’s trial next month wasn’t helping matters. Of course, Lindsey was still officially paying for sex because of his aversion to any type of commitment.

They were both full of it. Buffy caught them grocery shopping together a week ago. If it had been chocolate sauce and whipped cream, they might have been able to lie their way out of it. However, if you were buying toilet paper, milk and vegetarian chili with someone it was a relationship.

Buffy sighed, taking a seat at the bar rather than intrude on her friends’ intimate time. The bartender smiled and placed a diet soda in front of her. She was busy stirring around the ice cubes with the little plastic swizzle stick when someone took the barstool next to her. Buffy didn’t look up.

"You lookin’ for a date?" he asked. He ran his finger down her bare arm.

Five months. It had been five months since she last did this. It felt like a lifetime. She put on her most professional smile and slid off her stool. "Sure," she said.

The alley behind the bar was deserted. She led him to a space between a pile of empty cardboard boxes and a stack of palettes. He didn’t talk and neither did she. Her skirt was short and she simply hiked it up. He dropped into a crouch in front of her, pressing her back against the wall as he skimmed her panties down her legs. She watched him put the flimsy scrap of material in the pocket of his jacket. He stood again and she reached out, pulling him closer so she could unbutton his jeans.


"We need cereal," Buffy said, frowning as she looked at the seemingly endless row of breakfast options. At this time of night, the store was practically deserted and the tinny drone of the Muzak was the only noise save the squeaky wheel on the shopping cart.

"We’re out of milk too," Angel noted.

"I just looked in the fridge," Buffy said. "There’s a carton in there."

"Yeah, but it’s empty."

Buffy frowned. "You drank all the milk and then put the empty carton back in the fridge?"

He looked at her unrepentantly. "Yes," he said seriously. "Obviously, I didn’t understand that it was a threat to national security."

She rolled her eyes, grabbing a box of Rice Krispies and smacking it against his chest. Dutifully, he put the cereal in the cart. They were silent for several more minutes as they browsed the isles.

"Angel...?" Buffy started tentatively. She shot a sidelong glace at him while he pretended to be overly interested in a second kind of cereal.


She growled, stamping her foot. "Why not?" she demanded.

"No," he said firmly. He forced back a smile by biting his inner jaw and tossed a box of in the cart. She fumed angrily behind him. She reached for him and he skittered out of the way.

"Dammit, Angel, just give me my panties back!"

He turned and eyed her up and down. Putting on a fake scowl, he leaned in, "Quit that job and I’ll give them back."

She groaned in frustration and he laughed.


Buffy had a horrible day. She woke up late staying up for Angel to come home the night before. When he finally did come home, he turned over in bed and didn’t speak to her. She recognized the signs. When a case was so grisly it made him sick, he either clung to her or refused to touch her. She always preferred the former.

In the morning, she overslept and was late to work. She chased leads for half the day that didn’t pan out and Angel called to tell her he would not be home again tonight for dinner. She trudged home, made a sandwich and put in a DVD while she waited for Angel to come home. She woke up at dawn when he came in and scooped her into his arms. She thought he was heading for the bedroom but when he went back out the front door, she blinked awake.

"Where’re we goin’?" she murmured, keeping her cheek against his shoulder.

"I have to show you something," he said, kissing the top of her head. "Won’t take long."

"Aren’t you tired?" she asked. She mumbled something against his shoulder before falling asleep again. He smiled down at her as he stepped into the elevator. She was in yoga pants and a tank top, braless and without shoes, yet she completely trusted him to carry her out of the building at dawn. He held her closer to his chest and couldn’t help the grin that covered his face.

Buffy woke up twenty minutes later when his car door slammed. She jerked awake and looked around her in confusion. They were in some little suburban neighborhood with tree lined streets and neatly manicured lawns. When he opened her door, her brow was wrinkled in confusion, but she stepped out barefoot and squished her toes in lush green grass.

"Where are we?" she asked, but he shook his head and took her hand.

"Come on," he answered. She padded with him to the front door of an adorable little house with white seamless siding that looked brand new and primary blue shutters around all the windows. There were daffodils, iris and tulips blooming in neat little flowerbeds nestling a lovely wrap around porch.

Wordlessly, Angel handed her a key. She glanced at him dubiously but he just opened the screen door and waited like a valet. The smile on his face made her heart skip a beat. She unlocked the door and opened it, only to find that the house was completely empty.

"Welcome home, love," he whispered and nodded at her when she met his eyes.

"A house?" she shouted in barely contained joy. "A real house that’s ours?"

"I’d like it to be ours," he admitted. "I bought it for you. Your name’s on the deed, but I’d really like to live here with you."

She turned around, grinning madly. "You can live here," she said. "I’ll need someone to get the things down from the top shelves."

With a mock growl, he reached for her. She yelped, skittering out of the way and taking off down a hall. Angel caught her, pulling her back against his chest as she laughed. He wrapped his arms around her tightly. "There’s more," he said.

From the serious note in his voice, she sobered. "What?" she asked.

"I didn’t buy any furniture for the rest of the house because I figured you’d want to pick it out. But I did one room."

She looked up at him quizzically. He released her and held his hand out to her. Placing her hand in his, she allowed him to lead her to the end of the hall. He pushed the door open into what was obviously the master bedroom.

He waited as Buffy investigated. The room was bare save an enormous bed. It was beautiful, like something out of a fairytale. It was a king size, wrought iron with a canopy. The bedspread and curtains were done in deep, rich jewel tones. Sitting in the middle of the ruby red chenille bedspread was a silver platter.

Buffy ventured closer. On the platter were a tiny jewelry box and a card with her name. She looked back at Angel, but he was leaning against the doorjamb, his expression unreadable. Nervously, she reached out and picked up the box.

She was breathing hard as she flipped it open. Tears pricked her eyes as she gazed upon the perfect diamond ring inside.

"Do you like it?" Angel asked.

Buffy hadn’t heard him move, but she turned into him instinctively, hugging him as tears streamed down her cheeks.

"Baby?" he rumbled, wiping at her tears.

"Of course, I’ll marry you," she answering, crying so hard her voice kept hitching.

"I didn't mean to upset you," he said, real fear tinging his voice.

"I'm n-n-not ups-s-set," she sniffled. "I'm so h-h-happy."


"How’re you doing?" Buffy asked Faith seriously after showing her engagement ring to her best friend and going on about the house for over an hour.

"You know me," Faith shrugged, "I’m five by five, B."

"You really scared me," Buffy said, not letting her get away with her dismissive shrug. "I thought I lost you."

"Yeah, well, Linds freaked pretty hard about it too," Faith admitted. "Guy was pretty fuckin’ creepy."

"I noticed Lindsey is more of a regular these days," Buffy prodded with a knowing smile on her face. The closest thing to a blush she had ever seen on Faith’s face appeared and Buffy’s jaw dropped open in shock. "You’re falling for him, aren’t you?"

"Don’t be stupid," Faith scowled. "First rule of hookin’ is not to fall for the trick. I’m just doing him more lately, that’s all."

"Or you’re just doing him," Buffy hinted, grinning broad. "Has he asked you to be his mistress?" Buffy waggled her eyebrows at her friend.

"Fuck off."

The End!


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