Smooth Criminal

Part 1

indie and tango

Buffy stared down at the little, blinking light. "Check Oil" flashed off and on, as if mocking her. It had only been on for a few days. Okay, weeks maybe. What was she, a mechanic? How was she supposed to know that it meant the car would stop working? And it just figured that her cell phone was dead. Maybe she shouldn’t have given Cordelia a play by play commentary of every single purchase she made.

With a growl, she smacked the steering wheel. At least she was close to town. She’d spent all day shopping in L.A. and had almost made it home to Sunnydale. Almost. Now she was broke down on the side of the road on the outskirts of town, right in the middle of the slums. She could see two separate trailer parks and a bar from where she was. None of them looked even remotely appealing this late at night. Though honestly, they wouldn’t look much better at high noon. Maybe she could just walk back to town.

Walking was easier said than done. The shoes were certain to turn Cordelia green with envy, but they weren’t much good for walking in the loose gravel next to the highway. She cursed, stumbling for what felt like the thousandth time. Her skirt was fashionably short and the last thing she needed was to take a spill and end up with skinned knees, especially with the Halloween dance only a couple weeks away. She forced herself to go slower and watch her footing. The walk into Sunnydale was looking longer by the minute.

She heard a low rumbling noise and turned around to look behind her. With a scream, she managed to skitter down into the ditch in time to avoid being hit by the obnoxiously loud pickup truck. She heard catcalls and whistles as it zoomed by. Picking herself up out of the mucky ditch, she saw the truck’s brake lights. They were coming back. She screamed again, running as fast as she could towards the sketchy little bar down the road.

As soon as she pushed through the door, she knew she made a mistake. The bar’s occupants looked every bit as undesirable as the animals chasing her in that truck. Self-consciously, she tried to smooth out her appearance. One of the heels had broken off her shoe and she had lost at least two buttons off her shirt. There were twigs and gravel in her hair and she was certain she looked filthy. Both knees were skinned and aching, along with her palms from where she caught herself.

Slowly, Buffy limped over to the pay phone in the corner, all too aware that every set of eyes in the room was riveted on her. She reached for her purse and almost burst into tears. She had left it in the car. She didn’t even have change to call her dad. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to be calm. Falling apart wouldn’t solve anything. She held her head up as she turned around. Addressing the room, she asked, "Can any of you spare some change?"

One guy stood up and sauntered over to her. Buffy couldn’t tell if he thought he was being sexy or if one leg was significantly shorter than the other. Either way, it was a bad deal. His face looked like those fruit rollup things she used to eat as a kid and he had about three teeth.

"How’re you plannin’ ta pay me back?" he asked, chewing on a wad of tobacco.

Buffy cringed, plastering her back against the wall in an attempt to get away from him.

"Murray, leave her alone."

Buffy glanced over and saw the bartender watching them, but immediately turned her gaze back to Murray. She wasn’t about to let him out of her sight. He stepped closer.

"Murray!" the bartender bellowed. Murray turned to look. Buffy watched as the bartender pulled out a baseball bat and set it conspicuously on the bar. "I said, leave her alone."

Murray scowled, but retreated slowly. Buffy took a deep breath, all too aware of how badly she was shaking. She turned to face the bartender once again and realized he looked vaguely familiar. She watched as he put the bat away and pulled out a telephone, motioning for her to come up to the bar. She did so, very hesitantly, her gaze skittering around the room.

She levered herself onto one of the grimy, duct tape covered barstools, wincing as she put pressure on her hands. Picking up the receiver, she dialed home. Biting down on her lip, she waited. The phone rang and rang, with no answer. Reluctantly, she hung up and tried Cordelia’s number. It too rang endlessly.

Tears were welling in her eyes as she finally put the receiver down. She didn’t know what to do. She had no one else to call.

"Buffy, right?"

Buffy lifted her gaze and looked at the bartender. He was tall and lean with spiky black hair. He was wearing the standard wrong-side-of-the-tracks uniform of a white wifebeater and stained jeans. The tank top emphasized his deeply muscled shoulders, along with the myriad of tattoos covering most of his arms. He had a chain-link dog collar around his neck.

Her brow furrowed as she tried to remember his name. Oh gods, it was something really strange and kinda girlie. "Uh ... Butterfly?" she said lamely.

He cocked an eyebrow, obviously unimpressed. He pointed to his left shoulder, to the intricate tattoo. "Angel," he said firmly.

She winced. "Yeah, right. Sorry, Angel." She tried to think of something to say. Anything. "You’re in my chemistry class, right?"

"English," he corrected.

She smiled tightly. Dammit. She really didn’t want to be making chitchat with some thug. She was glad that he chased off the mouth-breather, but she really wasn’t into giving out favors. Besides, he looked like the kind of guy who thought a romantic date was a carton of Generic Ultra-Lights, some Slim Jims and a twelve pack of Pabst. Just because they had a class together didn’t mean they were friends.

Oh gods. What if he didn’t want to be friends? What if he was going to try and corner her and attack her? She wasn’t certain, but she had vague recollections that he was in trouble a lot. She was pretty sure he was the kid who beat Riley Finn unconscious freshman year. What had she gotten herself into?

"She drinkin’?"

Buffy turned and saw a big guy step behind the bar. He was staring at her with undisguised animosity. Buffy paled. He was huge. His neck had to be as big around as her waist. His hair was clipped short, graying at the temples and he was wearing a Harley-Davidson t-shirt that showed off his enormous arms. "I’m just using the telephone," she squeaked.

"This ain’t a goddamn shelter," he snapped. "You want to use the phone, there’s a payphone in the corner."

"She’s fine," Angel said smoothly, turning his gaze to the big guy.

"Don’t you try and fuckin’ tell me how to run my own goddamn bar, you little shit," the guy snapped.

"She’s fine," Angel repeated firmly. "She’s just leaving."

The big guy didn’t look convinced, but he snorted and turned away. Buffy watched as he made his way over to a table where a bunch of bikers were playing poker.

"That your boss?" she asked.

"Nah," Angel replied, absently drying a beer mug.

"Thank gods," she said, "he seems like a real jerk."

"He’s my dad."

Buffy stared blankly at Angel. "I’m sorry," she said. "I didn’t mean ..."

Angel held up his hand. "Don’t worry about it," he said. "Your first impression was right on. He’s a total asshole."

She smiled pathetically and then looked down at her hands folded in her lap.

"Nobody home, I guess," Angel offered.

Buffy shook her head, trying not to cry.

"I get off in twenty minutes," he said. "I can drop you by your house."

Looking up, Buffy bit down on her bottom lip. "I’m not sure ... " she trailed off.

"What?" he asked. "You don’t want to get in a car with a strange, tattooed guy who may or may not go to school with you?"

Buffy swallowed thickly. "I’ve seen The Accused," she said.

Angel looked around the bar and then leaned in conspiratorially. "We don’t have any pinball machines," he said seriously. "I could try and rape you on the fooze ball table, but I’m not sure about the logistics."

Buffy frowned at him, but he smiled unrepentantly.

He slapped the dishtowel over his shoulder as he picked up the phone and dialed. "Oz. Yeah, man, is Willow still over there? Cool. Can you guys swing by the bar? Yeah. See ya in a few."

He hung up the phone. "The chaperones are on their way," he said. "I could still go ahead and rape you in Oz’s van with an audience, but every now and then I get performance anxiety, so you’re probably safe."

"Funny," she said, dead pan.

"I’m a funny guy," he replied, just as serious.

Angel took a glass off one of the shelves behind the bar and filled it with soda. He set it in front of Buffy. "It’s diet," he said when she frowned.

With a sigh, Buffy took the glass, wincing when she picked it up. Absently, Angel touched her hand, looking at the scrapes with detachment. He bent down behind the bar and came back up with a little first-aid kit.

Buffy almost had her first band-aid on her knuckle when the thug…er…Angel took it out of her hands and finished the job. He shook his head at her as he peeled off the crooked bandage and put it on again neatly. She started to protest but closed her mouth again as she watched him work with the items in the first aid kit with deft, yet gentle efficiency. While he worked, she looked up at his face. For the first time, she really saw him.

He had generous mouth with full lips that seemed decadent and sensual all of a sudden. Sharp features accentuated a sort of male beauty she really couldn’t believe existed before she got a closer look at him. He was eighteen and miraculously still in school; obviously a loser by the way he dressed and where he lived, but the touch of his hands on her skin made her forget what it was about him she thought unattractive before.

She was shocked when he came around the bar and cleaned her knees out with antiseptic too. He seemed to take the catcalls and whoops from the male audience in stride, nearly pretending they weren’t there.

"He-ey," a chipper female voice said lightly from behind her. Buffy jumped, turning away from Angel quickly. She swiveled on the crooked stool to see two teenagers walk into the bar. She recognized the redheaded girl as being one of the nerd herd. She always seemed pleasant in a softer-side-of-Sears sort of way, but harmless. The guy, who she knew to be Oz, was expressionless. She smiled weakly in recognition. Oz was a musician, but forgiving that, he was fairly popular and rarely in trouble. For the first time since she left her car, she thought she might just make it home safely.

"Angel, you ready?" Oz said, tightening his grip on Willow’s hand and looking around. "Will hates this place." Willow nodded nervously, darting her eyes around.

"Fuck, I hate this place," Angel said under his breath. "Hey Pop," Angel said, shouting across the bar, "I’m gone."

Without waiting for an answer, Angel tossed his towel under the counter, grabbed a black shirt from behind the bar and slipped it on. He waited patiently for Buffy to painfully limp to the door.

***

The next morning, Buffy took a cab out to her car in broad daylight to assess the damage. She was sure that her father would somehow make this her fault, as if she were irresponsible because she ignored that irritating little light. Wasn’t it like a warning anyway? Shouldn’t there be another really serious light to let her know the car was going to stop moving?

She hopped out of the cab and asked him to wait when she saw that someone had his head stuck under her car. Someone with an extremely firm ass and a muscular tanned back. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that it was Angel. What she couldn’t figure out was why he was going to the trouble of trying to fix it.

"Your spark plugs are shot and it looks like you haven’t had an oil change since 1953, Buffy," Angel said without looking up or turning around. He continued to dig around under the hood for a few minutes and then grabbed his white wifebeater to wipe his hands on. He looked at her sternly.

"The car is a 2000, Angel," she said dryly. "And I’ve had an oil change."

"Oh yeah?" he taunted. "When?"

"When I ruined my Todd Oldham original," she explained patiently as if he knew what that meant. He stared blankly at her. With a huff, she added, "Oldham went out freshman year. Do the math."

He shook his head, crossing his arms over his chest. Buffy couldn't help but notice just how nice his arms looked. And his chest. She really loved the way his shoulders were so cut that you could see every bit of muscle definition down his entire arm. And his hands. Damn, he even had nice hands. Sure, they were a little dirty at the moment, but the hands - definitely of the good. It was half a minute before she realized he had said something. "Huh?"

"I said it's not going to start," he repeated. "You're going to have to have it towed into a shop."

Buffy bit down on her bottom lip. Her dad was going to freak so hard when he found out she killed her car. "Is it going to be expensive?" she asked.

"For a new engine when you've clearly voided the warranty, nah," Angel said. "Ten or fifteen bucks?"

Buffy perked up instantly. "Really?"

"No," he said dryly. "It'll probably cost you about five grand to have it replaced."

She looked at him like someone had just run over her puppy and Angel muttered under his breath, looking back at the car for a moment. "If you could find someone to rebuild the engine, it would be cheaper."

"Are there people that do that?" she asked, tentatively hopeful.

"Yes."

"Like who?"

"Me."

Buffy looked at him warily. His humor was so dry that she had no idea if he was telling the truth or not. "I thought you worked in the bar."

"My dad owns the bar," he said. "I help out sometimes. My real job is at Sunnydale Autobody."

"So you really could fix it?"

"Maybe."

"What's the catch?"

Angel smiled. "You have to help me."

Buffy stared at him for a moment. Thoughts of Ghost popped unbidden into her mind. Only instead of Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze with the pottery, she had visions of Angel and herself putting in a car part. It really didn't matter what part. What mattered was that she was leaning over the hood of the car and he was behind her, wrapped around her, with no shirt on. You could see his muscles flexing as he reached for - Buffy shook her head. "S-s-sure I could help," she said.

***

On Monday, Buffy told all of her friends about the scary event, including every single detail, but stopped with the parts about Angel, who she referred to as "the bartender." She left out the parts about Willow and Oz, her visit to the car the next day and Angel’s offer to help. She had no intention of telling them that she was going to spend her evening under the hood of a car with a grease monkey. She could already see Cordelia’s nose in the air and her look of disdain.

She hoped it wouldn’t take long. She wanted to give herself a manicure tonight. Thankfully, her father hadn’t said anything about the absence of her car yet, but she had to tell him eventually. Maybe the rebuilding of an engine would take just long enough for her to get home after he was already in bed.

She walked to Sunnydale Autobody, wishing she had told Cordy. At least then she could’ve gotten a ride. Her shoes, brand new Prada, were too precious to waste on a long walk and damned uncomfortable. But they went well with the new Gucci outfit she’d picked up in Los Angeles.

When she arrived, a large man covered in grease and reeking of cigarettes blocked her path. He wore a shirt that boasted his name was "Bud." "Can I help you, miss?" he asked, chomping on a wad of gum.

"I’m here to see Angel," she said, peeking around the man into the dark garage.

"Angel!" he shouted over his shoulder, "got a purty lil thing out here waiting for ya." Angel came out in a gray uniform shirt that was much cleaner than the other guy’s, but still streaked with grease. He had a smear of oil or something on his cheek. He was so damn sexy, she thought her legs were going to give out from under her.

"Thanks, Bud," Angel said, nodding at the man who stood before her, but Bud didn’t look like he had any intention of leaving them alone. Instead, the man’s blue eyes were focused on the low cut Gucci top she wore. "Hey Buffy," Angel nodded. "You’re late."

"Well, I had to walk in heels," she answered. "Besides, Cordy and I were talking."

"You can’t have a date here," Bud said, tearing his eyes off her breasts to look at Angel. "You have to work."

"She’s my new assistant," Angel answered grinning at his friend. "Come on, Buffy. You need to get changed."

"Changed?" she asked. She trotted after him in her high heels when he turned into the garage, stepping over the tools that stood in her path.

"Unless you want to get oil on your expensive clothes, I’d say it’s a good idea."

"But…" she said, biting her lip. "When said you wanted me to help, I thought you really meant that I would be watching you work and like, handing you tools and stuff."

"Um, no," he laughed. "But thanks for playing. You’re going to get dirt under your nails today." He ignored her gasp of disgust and went to the back office where there were a couple of lockers, a desk and a cot. She followed him in and watched as he dug around in a bag and pulled out a black wifebeater and a pair of sweatpants. He tossed them to her. "I was going to go lift weights after school but decided to take the engine out of your car instead. Put those on."

"Are they clean?" she asked, sniffing them delicately.

Angel turned back to her before he walked out of the office. Smirking, he said, "Nope."

***

Buffy couldn’t believe she was doing this as she carefully folded her shirt and looked at the tanktop. One day, she kept telling herself. One day of this. Tomorrow, she would bring her own clothes. Actually, she was hoping that by tomorrow he would realize how bad she was at this and change his mind about her helping. Yep. That was the ticket.

Scrunching up her nose, she pulled the tanktop over her head.

***

Angel had his head buried under the hood when she finally exited the office. He heard her walk up behind him and said over his shoulder, "Hand me that nine-sixteenths."

"The what?"

Angel scrunched his eyes shut in exasperation. Why was he doing this? Did his life not suck enough that he had to go out of his way to find new and exciting methods of torturing himself? Buffy was a princess. She would always be a princess. Yes, she had potential, but it was buried under so many layers of designer clothes and "I’m a blonde" giggles that he had no real hope of ever reaching it.

He knew when he spoke to her that there was more to her than the rest of the snooty airheads she called friends. Buffy had substance, hidden though it might be. For some reason, he felt compelled to try and bring it out of her. For whatever misguided reason, he felt like if he could expose her to different ways of life, show her that she was capable of being more than just a trophy wife, that it would somehow make them both better people. Sighing, he pushed himself out from under the hood and turned to face her.

His jaw didn’t actually drop open. And really, he deserved credit for that.

This also called to mind the other reason why Angel had been so amenable to helping Buffy – she was without a doubt the most beautiful female he had ever seen. He stood there, staring at her like a moron whose brain had short-circuited. Actually that wasn’t so much of a simile. It was quite possible his brain had stopped functioning. Now if other parts of his body would just get the memo.

He coughed dropping his hands in front of his crotch, hoping she wouldn’t notice the ever-increasing bulge. "Buffy ... I ... uh ... " he sighed again. "Where ... exactly ... is the rest of the outfit?"

She looked down at herself and shrugged. She was wearing nothing but the black wifebeater, which hit her just above the knee, and her new Prada heels. "The pants were too big," she said matter-of-factly. "They wouldn’t stay on."

Actually, if she kept this up, the odds of his pants staying on were looking worse and worse. He forced himself away from those thoughts. He bent over and picked up the wrench in question and turned around quickly to face the exposed engine rather that let her see his arousal. He waved it in the air for a second before using it. "This is a nine-sixteenths."

***

Hours later, Buffy was certain every single part of her body was covered in grime. Thank goodness Angel had made her wear his tank top or her outfit would have been completely destroyed. All she wanted was a long shower, followed by a long bath and food.

Angel, despite his looks, was nerdy and smart when it came to cars. He also was making them put every single thing away before they could leave. She whined for a few minutes and then went about helping him clean up. She was proud of herself for actually doing something. Besides, it was kinda fun. Especially since Angel found every excuse he could to be close to her and touch her.

She dropped to her knees to pick up a tool lying near the front tire, still caught up in thoughts of why Angel sent shivers down her spine. He was just a boy, after all, and she had lots of experience dealing with them. They were like slobbering puppies that just needed the right brush off – or sometimes insult – to keep them from humping your leg. But Angel wasn’t like that at all. Angel was something else entirely.

Buffy snuck a peek over her shoulder and blushed when she realized he was staring at her ass. She turned back around quickly and scrambled to her feet, knowing her face was burning red. What the hell had she been thinking? He had a perfect view of her bare ass only covered by her little white thong.

Her face scrunched up in irritation with herself and Angel as she marched over to the toolbox and dropped the tool in it with a loud clang. She started to turn around to scan the garage for the rest of the tools, when she was spun against a hard, muscular chest. Without speaking, he dipped down and nibbled at her lips. He licked the seam of her mouth, begging entrance and with a little sigh, she threaded her fingers through his hair and tentatively touched her tongue against his.

Excitement scorched through her body as her tongue tangled wetly with Angel's. She'd had a few guys try and kiss her like this, Percy and Riley being the two most memorable. Both of those kisses had been enough to almost make her swear off men. They were disgusting, wet slobbery affairs that tasted like leftover cafeteria food. And those kisses had absolutely nothing in common with what she was currently sharing with Angel.

She let out a little moan, pressing herself tighter against him. Angel took full advantage of the situation. He cupped his hands around her ass and lifted her off the ground. He took a few steps, setting her on top of a waist-high tool chest. Buffy wrapped her legs around his waist as their kisses grew more frantic. One of Angel's hands cupped a breast and she made a tiny, helpless sound, arching into his touch. With a groan, he broke off the kiss. He was breathing hard, his body inflamed to a near fever pitch. Damn he wanted her. He wanted to slip off her lacy little thong and take her right here on top of this tool chest. It was one thing to do something like that with the loose women that frequented his father's bar. It was quite another to try it with the prom queen.

Finally under control, he looked down at her. Her lips were wet and swollen, her face flushed and she was trembling. "You're cold," he said absently. Carefully he extricated himself from her embrace. Impatiently, he grabbed his jacket off one of the hooks mounted to the wall and wrapped it around her shoulders. She was swimming in the black leather, but it looked damn good.

She swallowed thickly. "Thanks," she said, still somewhat breathless.

"Get your stuff," he said. "I'll drive you home."

*****

Buffy pressed her face to the center of Angel's back, holding on tightly as they roared through town on his motorcycle. If anyone saw them, her social life would be ruined. Of course, who would believe it? Buffy Giles riding around on the back of Angel the loser's bike. She probably wouldn't have much trouble playing it off.

He roared into her driveway and cut off the engine before reaching down and pulling the plastic bag with her clothes out of the black leather saddlebag. She was thankful that none of her friends lived on the same street as she. Carefully, she swung her leg over and stood on her two own feet. She was wobbly and not entirely certain if it had to do with the motorcycle or just Angel. She was pretty sure it was the latter.

Angel gripped her bag of clothes and entwined his fingers with his other hand. Then, much to her utter shock, he walked her to her front door. Half of her dates didn’t even do that. She was already learning there was more to Angel that met the eye. She turned to face him on the front porch and licked her lips nervously, unsure of what to expect.

"I’ll return your jacket and shirt tomorrow," she said, gesturing at her odd attire. His lips curved up slowly, in the sexiest little half smile and shook his head. "They look better on you." He leaned in and brushed his lips against hers, just barely giving her a taste of him.

"See you tomorrow, Buffy." His voice was husky and soft. Bedroom soft. Hot, sweaty lover soft. And her knees trembled.

"Oh boy," she whispered as she watched him stroll back to his bike.

***

The following day when she got up for school, she was slightly afraid that her friends would see on her face that she was not at all the same as she was yesterday. She was a woman who had been completely and thoroughly kissed – while half naked – by the high school loser and bad boy. She was also worried that Angel would actually come up to her and try to speak to her in front of one of her friends. Groping in the garage was one thing, but the hallowed halls of Sunnydale High were another matter entirely.

She held her breath the first time she saw him, in second period English and was shocked, thankful and a little hurt that he didn’t even glance in her direction. In fact, it was as if he hadn’t been making out with her the night before. She certainly didn’t want him to openly acknowledge her, especially since Harmony was also in that class, but a sly glance, maybe a wink would have been something.

For someone she never noticed before, now she saw him everywhere. It seemed like their paths crossed constantly and every time she even thought she saw a tall, broad shouldered guy, her stomach did a little flip flop.

After lunch, she was leaving the restroom alone when a strong arm wrapped around her waist and a hand went over her mouth. She kicked and tried to scream, but no one noticed her disappearing into the supply closet right across the hall. Once inside the closet, she bucked and kicked more, and found she was overpowered.

"Shhh. It’s Angel."

"Angel," she whispered harshly. "What the hell are you doing?"

"This," he whispered back and covered her lips with his own. She opened for him immediately, exploring his mouth with her tongue. Her passion, along with her pressing her body so closely against his, caused him to moan. He slithered his hand under her designer shirt and cupped one of her breasts over the lacy bra she wore. Just feeling how little there was of it made his body heat up. He had no doubt that feeling up the prom queen in a supply closet was every boy’s dream in their school. As his other hand squeezed her firm ass, he felt her arms tightened around him even more.

When the kiss finally ended and they were both breathless, neither knew how much time had passed or even what class they were missing. Angel knew he was on the brink of making her miss the rest of her classes. He wanted more than anything to wrap her legs around him like they had been last night and plunge into her hot, silky depths.

"You should get to class," he whispered, kissing her mouth again lightly and sifting his fingers through her silky hair.

"Class?" she echoed dazedly. "Right. Class. Yeah, I should…go there."

***

"Miss Giles, how nice of you to join us," Mr. Norton intoned dryly as Buffy tried to slip into her math class.

She winced, blushing as she took a seat next to Cordelia. "Girl problems," she said quickly.

In pure typical male fashion, Mr. Norton quickly dropped the subject, pretending Buffy didn’t exist. She sighed in relief. Perhaps she’d manage to get through this without her math teacher mentioning her absence to her father. It was one of many pitfalls of having a parent employed at her school.

"Where were you?" Cordy asked.

"Bathroom," Buffy said truthfully. It had taken her a good twenty minutes to make herself presentable again after her mutual molestations with Angel. As it was, her lips were still swollen and she looked flushed despite expert application of Chanel’s newest line of blusher. "Some mouth-breather bumped into me at lunch and spilled nacho cheese on my sandals."

"How horrible," Harmony said seriously, leaning in closer.

"I think they’ll be fine," Buffy said self-consciously, tucking her feet under her chair.

Cordelia frowned at both of them. "We have to meet at the Bronze tonight," she said. "We need a serious game plan for the dance."

Buffy winced. She was supposed to help Angel again. "I can’t," she said.

Cordelia’s expression could have frozen ice. "You have more important plans?"

"The new Vogue came out today," she said plainly.

"Oh," Cordy and Harmony said in unison, as if it made perfect sense. And sadly, it did.

"Well, maybe we should postpone," Cordy said, trying to sound offhand. Truth was Cordy wouldn’t run the risk of Buffy showing up at school tomorrow having received the newest missive from the fashion gods a day ahead of her.

"Sounds like a plan," Buffy said, now realizing she’d have to stay up half the night reading that damn magazine.

"But we need to discuss dates," Harmony whined.

Buffy looked at her sadly. Harmony had always been infinitely more interested in boys than fashion, something both she and Cordelia viewed as a fault. "You’re going with Daryl, right? What’s to discuss?"

"Well .. " Harmony trailed off. "What about you two? Cordy, are you still going with Devon? And Buffy, I saw you talking to that guitarist, Oz, at lunch. You two aren’t an item, are you?"

"As if," Cordelia replied for Buffy. "Buffy was so picky she turned down Percy, who has the three B’s : bod, bank and beamer. Do you seriously think Choosey gal is going to go for a musician?"

Buffy shook her head. Her pickiness when it came to guys was legendary. "Oz is just ... " She couldn’t say ‘a friend’. "Helping me with my computer project. Besides, I’m fairly sure he’s dating Willow Rosenberg."

"Ugh," Cordy derided. "Why would anybody ruin their cool factor by being seen with that loser?"

Buffy was saved by the bell. She really didn’t want to say anything bad about Willow. She seemed like such a nice girl. But Buffy doubted that Cordelia would allow her to remain neutral on the subject.

***

"Uh, thanks again for the ride," Buffy said, hopping out of Oz’s van. She was quite relieved that she didn’t have to walk to the shop today, but if anybody saw her with Oz, she wasn’t sure how far the homework fib would stretch.

Buffy hurried inside the garage to ensure she wouldn’t be seen. She sent a curt nod in Bud’s direction before heading to the back office. As she reached the door, she heard voices. Naturally, she stopped to eavesdrop before she bothered to knock. The sound of Angel’s voice in concert with a feminine drawl made her skin crawl.

"Angel," the blonde purred, "You can play hooky tonight. Come and play."

"Look, I told you I can’t take off work whenever you want to hook up," Angel said, brushing her hand away from his crotch. "I’ve got work to do."

When she didn’t recognize the woman’s voice, she turned the doorknob ever so slowly and peeked inside. Angel was practically pressed against the wall and some skanky blonde was rubbing her tits all over him! She didn’t look familiar. She was older than them by at least five years. She probably had an old shoe full of neglected children. A feminine snarl escaped Buffy’s mouth.

Before she even really made a decision, she was opening the door and strolling inside. Angel’s mouth dropped at her approach and he shifted away from the girl guiltily. "Hi, baby," Buffy crooned. She was so glad she had worn her "skinny" outfit that day. She was feeling fresh, chic and beautiful. She was sure it emanated from her as she approached Angel and kissed him full on the lips before smiling coldly at the girl.

"I’m Buffy," she announced brightly, taking Angel’s hand in hers. She fought the urge to frown when she saw his visitor’s face. She was actually beautiful, much more beautiful than should be allowed.

"Darla," she answered in a sultry voice. Buffy wanted to hit her but after close scrutiny, she saw that Darla’s slutty red dress was a DKNY knock off, her sexy come fuck me heels were totally last season and she obviously hadn’t had a proper manicure in months.

"I thought you had to work, Angel." Her voice was cold as ice. She crossed her arms over her chest and glared.

"We do have to work," Buffy said, trying to keep the sharpness out of her voice.

Darla tossed back her head and laughed out loud. "That’s priceless. You working here? What use could you possibly be to this garage? Do you cheer on the mechanics?"

"No," Buffy answered. She lowered her lip in her cutest mock pout. "Angel lets me give him blow jobs. He says it makes him more productive." Losing the act with a very unladylike snort, she headed for the door.

***

Bud poked his head around the corner. "Looks like she’s gone, darlin’," he said with a wink.

Buffy smiled. She actually liked Bud. It helped that Bud really didn’t like Darla. "Thanks," she replied, giving him her cutest smile. "Does, she, uh, stop by here much?" she asked coyly.

"Darla?" Bud snorted. "She’s like a cat in heat. She comes sniffin’ around whenever her old man’s outta town."

Buffy frowned. "Is that often?"

Bud seemed to consider this for a moment. "Coupla times a month," he said. He leaned in closer, "But Angel doesn’t have a brain in his head if he’d choose that harpy over a sweet little thing like you."

When Buffy exited the office fifteen minutes later, Angel’s expression was one of barely contained amusement. He looked her outfit up and down approvingly before crossing his arms over his chest and leaning one hip against her car. "Kitten has some claws," he said with a smirk.

Buffy shrugged, tossing her hair over one shoulder. The outfit she had chosen for working on the car wasn’t terribly functional, but it looked damn good. The see-through black microfiber tanktop was from the soon to be released Sean John women’s spring couture collection. She’d had to lean hard on her Macy’s connection to get it. The Segio Valente low rise jeans she had been intending to save for the mandatory trick-or-treating supervision Snyder signed her up for, but drastic times called for drastic measures.

Buffy sauntered over to the tool chest, putting a hefty swing in her hips. The tanktop and jeans didn’t meet, leaving an expanse of taut, sun-kissed skin bare to his eyes. Just as she had planned, Angel’s attention was riveted on her. Very conspicuously, she picked up a wrench, idly stroking it with her perfectly manicured nails before gently returning it to its place. More sauntering and she was standing right in front of him.

He was trying hard to look unaffected, but she could hear him breathing far too hard. Looking up at him from beneath her lashes she said, "I really don’t know exactly what is going on between us, but I do know that I don’t share."

He took a deep breath, licking his lips before he spoke. "That makes two of us, I guess." He pushed away from the car, circling around her. She turned as he moved, following his motion with her body. He situated himself so that she was between him and the car. Leaning forward, he braced both of his hands against the car, trapping her.

Rather than being intimidated, Buffy smiled wickedly at him. He was wearing his standard work clothing, a pair of stained grey coveralls. Reaching out, Buffy grasped the coverall’s zipper between her fingers and pulled it all the way down. Her knuckles barely grazed against his crotch and she heard his sharp intake of breath. She spread the halves of the coverall wide and raked her fingernails over his wifebeater.

He leaned in closer, pressing his lips against her temple. He rumbled her name against her hair. She boldly pulled up the front of his shirt. When his muscled chest and stomach were bared to her eyes she gave a tiny mewl of delight before sliding her hands over his skin. Angel threaded his fingers through her hair and captured her mouth in a possessive kiss. He wanted to take his time, but found he had no patience whatsoever and she, responding in kind, immediately parted her lips to tangle her tongue with his.

Unlike her usual encounters with the male species, Buffy didn’t think about her makeup being smudged, her hair rumpled or even his mechanic hands roaming her body – which were becoming more adventurous by the second. It didn’t occur to her to be the incredibly picky girl she had always been, choosing a man that matched her shoes and handbag like an accessory. Angel didn’t glide smoothly into her world. In fact, he didn’t fit in it at all, but when he touched her, she forgot who she was supposed to be.

A liquid swirling started in her belly. She clenched with desire, gasping his named against his mouth when he lifted her onto the hood of her car. She wrapped her legs around him and her eyes widened in surprise when felt his arousal jutting against her through both of their clothing.

Her previous sloppy and otherwise forgettable kisses with other boys hadn’t included anything like this. They wouldn’t have dared touch her like this. Buffy would have not allowed some meaty paw ruining her well-planned outfit or rumpling her carefully arranged hair. She would have turned in disgust from some other raging hormonal ball of trouble pressing himself against her.

"Oh Gods," she gasped in pleasure when he abandoned her mouth to nip and lick her neck. Instead of backing off, he pressed closer, grinding against her as he peeled her tank top up and feasted his eyes on her breasts. A warning flashed in his head but he didn’t stop, couldn’t. He did, however, force himself to slow down. Gently, he cupped her breasts in his hands and trailed his thumbs around her nipples lightly as he nipped at her mouth again.

"Angel," she whined, wanting something, but not entirely sure what. He caressed her nipples lightly until they were so erect and tight, they hurt. She squeezed her legs around him and gripped his shoulders. As he lowered his head to her breast, he glanced up at her and met her eyes. He smiled at her broadly with pure, carnal male satisfaction before capturing one erect point between his teeth.

She hissed, her fingers threading through his hair, holding him to her. He suckled her, his tongue swirling around her nipple until she made these high, keening noises. His cock jumped in response. Damn, he wanted her. He’d had plenty of women, but none of them had ever come close to turning him on the way Buffy did. His hand abandoned her breast, tickling down her stomach to the fly of her jeans.

He popped the button and her breath caught as her entire body stilled. He looked up at her, his mouth still wrapped around her nipple.

She bit down on her bottom lip, looking at him with impossibly large eyes. "I, uh," she stuttered. "I’ve never done ... uh, it before."

Angel stared up at her for a long moment. Thoughts ricocheted through his mind. He hadn’t really thought about Buffy having sex with anyone else, but he sort of assumed she had. She was one of the beautiful people, after all. He’d heard stories about the drunken parties. He’d seen the steamed up windows of beamers and Porsches.

He released her nipple from his mouth and slowly retreated, crawling off her body. He backed up several paces until his back hit the garage wall. Slowly, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, never taking his eyes off her.

Self-consciously, Buffy tugged her tanktop down, pushing herself into a sitting position. She looked around the room, not meeting his gaze. "I didn’t mean to freak you out," she huffed, but it didn’t hide the undercurrent of pain in her voice.

"No, Buffy," he said, chastising himself for his insensitivity. He closed the distance between them, gently cupping her cheek. "I didn’t mean anything ... I just ... " He growled, raking a hand through his hair.

She squared her shoulders, looking slightly mollified. "I assume you’ve ... "

"Uh ... yeah," he admitted, not particularly proud of the fact. He was really hoping she didn’t want details. His first time had been when he was fourteen, with one of his dad’s girlfriends. He wasn’t going to share that information with Buffy, however, if he could possibly avoid it.

***

The next day at school, Buffy was trapped between being grumpy and floating on air. Angel was so sexy, confident and intelligent. How someone could be those things and still be so unpopular was beyond her. Judging from Darla, Buffy assumed Angel had made it a habit of sleeping with whoever crossed his path. He was a sexy package deal - fix your car and get your brains fucked out.

She went through the day in a frustrated daze. She didn’t even bother to read the latest issue of Vogue to defend herself from Cordelia’s monthly fashion grilling. At lunchtime, while trying to avoid her friends, she wandered into the library to look for her father and found him drowning in his card catalog. The school had tried to get him to trade in his antiquated card catalog system for a computer generated one, but they stepped back when he threatened to quit.

"Hi, Daddy," she grumbled and slumped in one of the chairs.

"Be right with you," he said, absently, not even noticing it was his daughter that had walked in. Buffy almost smiled at that. No one but her father could concentrate so intently on something so dreadfully boring. She smiled at his nerdy appearance, shaking her blonde head. Unlike some kids would be, she wasn’t embarrassed at all that her father was the school librarian. Besides, half the teachers and some of the students had a crush on him.

"Giles, here’s another one."

Buffy looked over her shoulder in utter disbelief to see Angel strolling from out of the stacks with a book in his hand. He nearly dropped his book in shock to see her there but recovered quickly. He set the book on the counter on top of a short stack.

"Thank you, Angel." Giles said, making a notation of the book on the list he was working on. He glanced up and smiled. "Buffy, do stop gaping," he said, biting back the grin that was threatening to slip over his lips.

"What are you doing in here with my father?" Buffy demanded, placing her hands on her hips.

"It’s not like I broke into your house, Buffy," Angel chuckled. "This is a school library. Any student can just walk right in whenever they want."

"Since when?"

"Since always, my dear," Giles said, cracking that grin after all. "Angel helps me three times a week over his lunch hour. Has for this whole semester and half of last."

"Why?" Buffy demanded of Angel. He looked annoyingly sexy in a pair of worn jeans, his ever present wifebeater showing off those sexy arms and black leather dog collar. She should have been scandalized by what he was wearing or that she was having a conversation with this tattooed, future convict in front of her father of all people. Instead, she wanted to grab his hand and find the nearest closet. "Don’t you have enough jobs?"

"Detention originally," Angel shrugged. He leaned casually against the table and crossed his arms.

"For a semester and half?" Buffy sputtered.

"Well, it has its pros and cons," Angel laughed. "Your dad’s cool. He lets me work in here instead of sitting in a room. I can usually get my homework done in here. And," he leaned in and whispered, "he trusts me."

"Trusts you?" She narrowed his eyes at him. "What did you tell him?"

"Surely, you didn’t think I wouldn’t notice the absence of your car and you after school every night until late, did you, Buffy?" Giles asked. Casually, he pulled out a handkerchief and cleaned off his glasses. Holding them, up he looked for spots and began wiping them off again. "I understand Angel is rebuilding your engine since you neglected to have your oil changed."

Buffy’s lips pursed together. "Oh, you heard about that?"

"Buffy," Giles chastised, "I expect you to be more responsible in the future. We’re well off, but we most certainly cannot afford to be purchasing new cars. I don’t know what we’d do without Angel’s generosity."

Her bottom lip stuck out in a pout. "Da- ad," she whined. He couldn’t really hold her responsible for this, could he? The possessive part of her was tempted to tell her father about her and Angel. She doubted that he would think Angel was so, well, angelic if he had any idea what he’d tried to do to her on the hood of said car.

The doors to the library swept open, cutting Buffy short. She turned around in time to see Cordelia and Riley enter. Her posture immediately stiffened, even though she knew there was no way they could have heard her talking to Angel.

"There you are," Cordelia said, a grin plastered on her face. She ran over to Buffy and then turned to glare at Angel. "Don’t you have a parole hearing to attend or something?"

"I don’t know what everybody meant this morning in study hall," Angel said, leaning in towards Cordelia. "I don’t think that dress makes you look like a hooker. Trash, yes, but a hooker? No. Whores have better taste in shoes."

Buffy could barely restrain her laughter as she watched Angel finish shelving the stack of books. Cordelia fumed the whole time, but Angel pointedly ignored her. "See you later, Giles," Angel called, exiting the library.

Buffy didn’t miss the fact that he and Riley were openly glaring at each other. Angel smirked and took a half stutter-step toward Riley. Riley immediately jumped backward and then flushed, angry at himself for letting Angel know he was afraid of him. Angel just smiled.

"Cretin," Cordelia hissed as the doors swung shut.

***

Angel was already working on the car by the time Giles dropped Buffy at the shop. She walked around the car, seeing that he was on his back underneath it. She said his name, but only received a grunt in acknowledgement. Disheartened, Buffy went to the office to change.

He was still under the car when she returned. Today’s outfit was significantly more subdued. She wore one of her dad’s old undershirts that she knotted to reveal a hint of midriff, and a pair of old grey sweats.

Buffy braced her hands against the engine block and leaned forward until she found a space where she could see Angel’s eyes. He looked at her for several moments before sighing and pushing himself out from under the car. He looked up at her for a second, letting his eyes rake over her body. Even in rags, she was breathtakingly fucking gorgeous.

Without warning she straddled and kissed him deeply. She laid her head on his chest and sighed. "I don’t wanna fight, Angel," she started, her words muffled.

"I don’t see how this is going to work," Angel said, sitting up. Both of them climbed to their feet. Angel stared into her eyes for a second. He wanted her so badly he’d sell his soul for it. It was frightening. He knew the best thing for both of them would be to stay away. He should fix her car, pat her on the ass and let her go. Looking at her now, he knew he wouldn’t. "This is a disaster waiting to happen," he grumbled, "but I can’t walk away."

"Me either," she said, stepped back into his arms with relief.

"We can keep this a secret if you want," he said, "but if you think you’re going to the Halloween dance with Finn you’re sadly mistaken."

"Angel," Buffy whined, "I’m not going to do anything with him. It’s just for appearances. I wouldn’t let him drool on my shoe."

"No fucking way," Angel growled, clutching her more tightly to him. "If you go down the hallway with him, let alone a dance, I’ll beat him within an inch of his sorry life."

"What am I supposed to do?" she exclaimed. "Go to the dance with you?"

"Why the hell not?" he shot back. "You afraid the Cordettes will kick you out of their club?"

"I’m not afraid of them," she said boasted and then bit her lip. "You’d go?"

"To keep you away from going with another guy? Oh yeah," he growled, capturing her lips and pulling her closer.

She kissed back, biting down gently on his bottom lip as she pressed her breasts against his chest. He made this delicious little growly noise in the back of his throat that made her insides go all wiggly.

Quite a while later, he finally pulled back, looking down at her. "Besides," he said, resuming their earlier conversation, "I might have possibly already sort of been planning to go."

Her brow furrowed. Then it hit her and she smacked him on the chest. "Dingoes are playing the dance."

He shrugged. "What can I say? We’re cheap."

Buffy shot him an exasperated look. "Well, then how are we supposed to go together? You’re going to be kind of busy."

Frowning, Angel had to concede she had a point. "Fine," he said, "we don’t have to go together. But you’re still not going with Finn and if I see him lay so much as a finger on you, I’ll jump off the stage and break his fucking neck."

She smiled up at him goofily. "You like me," she taunted.

Not in the least bit amused, he grabbed her hips, pulling her against him. His erection poked her in the stomach. "I’m a little past like," he said.

***

"Oh, gods, not there. No! Wait. Lower. Lower. LOWER!" She smacked him on the shoulder. "Dammit, Angel!"

He grinned up at her unrepentantly. Before she could say anything more, he was off his knees and had her pinned against the wall between two large bookcases. His hand slid between her legs and he massaged her through the silky material of her panties. She moaned, arching against his hand as her fingernails bit into his shoulders.

"Is that low enough?" he whispered against her ear.

She shook her head frantically. All the concern she’d had earlier for her father possibly walking in on them was completely gone. Nothing existed save Angel and his infinitely talented lips and fingers. Taking a chance, he slipped his hand inside of her panties and pushed a finger inside her tight, wet heat. She was so luscious and slippery wet, that he groaned the same time she did.

"Gods, I want you," he moaned, pulling one of her legs up his hip while he slid a second finger inside her and rubbed her clit slowly. She moaned in disbelief and pleasure when her legs went so wobbly and fire seemed to fill her veins. She dug her teeth into his shoulder, grinding her hips against his hand.

"Angel, please," she muffled against his shoulder. She wasn’t quite sure what she was asking him to do, but she was begging for it before she exploded.

"Fuck," he hissed, dropping back to the floor, pulling her with him. She ended up on her back in the thankfully neglected stacks. Angel wasted no time levering his body over hers. Her legs automatically parted, wrapping around his hips as he ground against her, his mouth mauling hers. He abandoned her lips, kissing across her jaw and down her throat while one of his hands kneaded her breast.

He scooted down further, until his face was even with her waist. She moved restlessly, but didn't protest when he flipped her skirt up and hooked his thumbs under the waistband of her panties. Dutifully, she lifted her hips so he could skim the material down her thighs. Angel wasted no time once she was bare. He hooked her legs over his shoulders and lowered his mouth to her glistening curls.

Buffy let out a silent scream, her back arching wildly as he parted her with his tongue, licking her languidly. Her heels bit into his back and one of her hands was fisted in his hair. She was mindless, whimpering and panting as he licked her slowly. He took his time, languorously stabbing his tongue inside her liquid body before circling back up and suckling her clit. With a cry, she came, bucking against him like a thing possessed.

When she finally returned to herself, Angel was lying on his side next to her, his hands playing lightly over her body. She looked up at him, dazed. His eyes still smoldered with passion and Buffy knew he hadn't found the same release as she. Propping herself up on one elbow, she reached for his studded leather belt. He complied immediately, rolling over onto his back as her fingers freed his belt and made short work of his fly. He hissed, arching into her touch as her hand wrapped around his aching, stiff cock.

She licked her lips nervously and met his eyes, silently conveying the message that she wasn’t sure exactly what to do. She had never seen a real one, much less touched one. A nervous flutter filled her belly as she brought her lips to the glistening head of his cock and licked softly at the pre-ejaculate there. Encouraged that he didn’t seem to think it was the wrong thing to do, she took him into her mouth and swirled her tongue around the tip.

His eyes were intense dark pools. She couldn’t help but blush as their eyes met. His hand gently sifted through her hair, encouraging, but not guiding her movements. She returned her attention to his pleasure, taking him farther into her mouth, suckling gently. He growled and his hips shifted on the floor. Obviously, she was doing something right. Emboldened by her apparent success, she took more of him. He almost purred. She began a slow, bobbing pattern, taking him as far as she could into her mouth and then retreating until he was almost free from her mouth. Her hand followed her lips, stroking him. Before long, he was making these adorable little helpless noises.

"Buffy," he whimpered, "Buffy ... " Trying to pull her away from him. "I’m going to – " He sucked in his breath sharply, his body trembling as his seed spilled over her tongue.

***

Angel was standing, arms crossed over his chest, drum sticks clasped firmly in hand, with one hip cocked out slightly. His face could have been chiseled out of granite for all the warmth in his expression. "No," he said darkly.

Devon was clearly unhappy, but it was also equally obvious that he wasn’t about to argue with Angel. Buffy waited until the Dingoes lead singer left and finally moved from her hiding spot near the back of the Bronze. Oz was sitting on one of the amps, restringing his guitar and some other guy with bleached blonde hair and a cigarette dangling from his lips that played bass was tinkering with the soundboard.

As Buffy approached, Angel turned toward her. All the coldness melted away and a wicked, lopsided grin lit his face. He stood where he was, waiting for her and when she got close enough, he tucked one finger through her belt loop and pulled her against his body. Eagerly, she lifted her face, kissing him enthusiastically. It was minutes before they pulled apart and Buffy couldn’t help but blush, knowing both Oz and the Billy Idol clone were getting a free show.

Angel seemed to be highly amused by her embarrassment. Buffy rolled her eyes at his smile, but snuggled closer against his chest. "I saw you talking to Devon," she said. "I can see why everybody’s afraid of you."

"Devon’s being a jackass," Angel said sourly, "he’s damn smart to be afraid."

"You’re a marshmallow," she countered with an impish smile.

He nuzzled against her ear. "To you," he admitted.

"Awww. Isn’t that sweet?" The voice was cold enough to freeze ice and it was coming from Cordelia Chase. Buffy jerked out of Angel’s embrace to face her best friend and social executioner. Cordelia put her hands on her hips and approached the couple with a superior sneer on her face.

"Figures that picky little Buffy would find the biggest social reject in the entire school," she said, shaking her head. She looked stunning as usual and had frowned at Buffy’s blue jeans ensemble for the evening. Now her frown had turned into a mask of disgust. "I was wondering why you wore blue jeans tonight like a member of the common people. It’s so clear to me now."

***

On Monday morning, Buffy walked into school and joined her friends in front of school like always. Since she had barely slept the night before, she had plenty of time to make sure her appearance was perfect and synch with Vogue’s latest trends.

Cordelia, Harmony, Azure and Blue stood near the wall in front of school, catching up on the latest gossip before the bell rang. Buffy approached her friends warily and just as she was steps away, they all gathered up their bags and sauntered toward the front doors of the school. She groaned. Of course, they had to make this harder than it already was. Determined to not be ignored, she hurried over to them.

"Wait up!" she shouted, double timing it toward them. "Excuse me? Where’s the fire sale?"

"Oh sorry," Cordelia chirped, turning around to face her. She had the most condescending, not to mention fake, smile on her face. "We didn’t see you."

Cordy smiled sweetly and pivoted toward the front door again. Buffy sighed. She followed them as they began walking again. "Anyway," Cordy continued, "I can’t believe you wore black, Harm. It’s my signature color."

"At least I didn’t wear blue jeans," Harmony snorted delicately. "That’s Buffy’s new signature color."

"Hey Buff," Cordelia sneered, narrowing her hazel eyes at the blonde. "Maybe if you got a dog collar, you and Angel could be twins. Wouldn’t that be fun?"

***

"What the hell are you doing in here?" Angel demanded as Buffy sat down at one of the barstools.

She opened her mouth and then snapped it shut. "You weren’t at the shop after school," she said lamely.

He grunted, turning his attention back to the glasses he was washing.

Buffy fidgeted nervously. "So where were you?" she asked.

"Busy," he said shortly.

"Angel," she pled in a near whisper.

He braced his hands on the sink and shook his head. Brusquely, he wiped his hands on the dishtowel and threw it on the bar. "Pop, I’m takin’ a break," he yelled in the general direction of his father.

Buffy followed him into a dingy back room. Cases of alcohol were stacked against the walls. He was careful to keep a good deal of distance between them. "Do you have any idea how stupid it was for you to come here alone at this time of night?" he demanded.

"I needed to talk to you," she said pathetically.

"How did you get here?"

"I borrowed my dad’s car," she said, willing herself not to cry. After the horrible day she had, she needed someone to be nice to her. Angel’s anger was almost more than she could take.

He raked a hand through his hair. "Okay, so you’re here. What do you want?"

To her own horror, tears did trickle down her cheeks. "Why are you so mad?" she asked.

"We’ve been subtle in public," he bit out. "I was fine with that. We’re different. I know that. I tried to break things off ... " He trailed off. "I should have broken it off," he said firmly.

"I don’t want to break up," she countered.

His head shot up and he glared at her with such loathing that Buffy thought she was going to die. "You’re ashamed of me," he snapped. "You’re ashamed of everything we have."

"I’m not – "

"I give you room, Buffy," he nearly snarled. "I don’t push things in front of your nasty, fake little friends. I don’t go out of my way to talk to you in the halls or class. But today ... Today you wouldn’t even look in my general direction. You didn’t once come back to your locker for fear of running into me. You were so busy chasing after Cordelia and all those other bitches that I couldn’t get so much as a smile. I think I deserve some common fucking decency from you."

"I didn’t mean to – "

"To what?" he yelled. "Be a bitch?"

"They’re my friends," she said almost hysterically. "What do you want me to do?"

He was shaking with barely contained emotion as he walked toward her. He stopped just short of touching her. "I want you to love me half as much as I love you," he whispered.

She started crying in earnest and leaned into him. With a strangled sound, he wrapped his arms around her, holding her gently. He buried his face in her hair. "I do love you, Buffy," he whispered hoarsely.

"I love you," she sniffled.

***

Buffy hadn’t realized until Angel stood her up at the garage just how much she did love him and how terrified she was of losing him. Suddenly what Cordelia and her band of bitches thought didn’t matter so much, or not nearly as much as Angel thought. The next morning, she breezed past the girls, who were huddled in their usual gossip circle, without saying a word. She strolled over to the side of the building near the benches where Angel and his friends hung out.

She casually strolled over, wearing his leather jacket. He looked up in shock to see her sauntering towards him. His mouth dropped open when she slid into his lap and stole a kiss from him.

"Morning Angel," she purred against his mouth.

"Uh…hi," he managed, swallowing harshly. Angel didn’t need to glance at his friends to know they all wore the same shit eating grins. It wasn’t the every day that a beautiful, popular girl crawled into the lap of a Dingo.

"Hey Willow," Buffy said, drawing the attention of the redhead. Each second of the morning was getting better and better. Buffy flashed her a bright smile.

"Why?" Willow blurted. Oz squeezed her hand to comfort her, which only made her whirl her head to look at him. She struggled not to squirm. Buffy was of the popular crowd and legally couldn’t even talk to her without a specific reason. "I mean, hi," Willow amended, raising her hand in a half-hearted wave.

"I was just wondering if you wanted to Bronze it on Wednesday night when the boys play," she asked intertwining her fingers with Angel’s.

"S-sure, I guess," Willow agreed, bewildered.

"Good," she said, grinning. "I’ve missed too many concerts already." When the bell rang, she hopped up and smiled down at Angel. "Walk me to class?"

"Fucking strange day in the ‘Dale," Devon said, stalking by and eyeing Buffy. "Dude, I think I’ll ask Cordy out again."

***

Angel was trying to get his Calculus homework finished, but he couldn’t muster any enthusiasm. It was already late. Going to sleep had never sounded quite so tempting. He’d worked on the car for a while with Buffy, but had to cut it short to make band practice. As usual his father was on his case about not pulling his own weight and to top it off, he had an English paper to write after the math.

There was a knock on his door and Angel’s expression turned murderous. He pushed himself out of the chair in front of his small desk. He was yelling by the time he was on his feet. "I already said I’m not helping out at the bar to-" He went stone still as he opened the door. " ... nite," he finished.

He stuck his head out in the hall and looked down the length of the small trailer he shared with his father. Nope, the old man was nowhere to be seen. He grabbed her hand and pulled her in his room, shutting and locking the door. "Buffy, what are you doing here?" he asked, trying to sound chastising, but failing miserably. Damn, she looked good. She’d obviously showered and changed after working on the car. She was dressed in a pair of low slung jeans. She still wore his jacket, but it was unzipped and he could see the tiny, skin-tight red tanktop she was wearing underneath.

"I wanted to see you," she said with a smile. She wrapped her arms around his neck and squealed when he lifted her just an inch off the ground, enough to carry her across the tiny room to his bed. He climbed on the bed over her and settled in the natural cradle between her thighs. He kissed her gently, allowing himself just a small taste. He wanted to spend the whole night in her arms. He groaned into her neck in irritation.

"You can’t stay long, baby," he said, kissing her neck. Even if his mountain of homework wasn’t beckoning, he knew he would be screwed if his father caught her there. He would never keep the woman he loved within fifty feet of his father if could avoid it.

"Then leave with me," she suggested, wrapping her legs around his waist. "I wanna be with you."

He leaned down and cupped her breast, biting her nipple through the clinging cotton. She keened, arching against his mouth. "Yes," she sighed and smiled.

Angel gave up in defeat and peeled the tank up to reveal her flesh. "You’re so beautiful," he whispered against her skin, "so perfect."

"Angel!" a banging sounded on his door along with his father’s gruff shout.

Angel hastily pulled Buffy’s tank top down and shouted back. "One second!"

"Shit, shit, shit," Angel whispered, pulling to her feet. There weren’t many places to hide. He opened the closet door as his father started shouting again.

"Stop jacking off and open the fucking door, Angel!"

"Yeah, Pop! One more second," he shouted. He got Buffy into the closet when his father kicked in the hollow wooden door.

"So this little slut is what all that homework was about?" he demanded. "What’s her name? Calculus?"

"Sorry Mr. Roarke, I just stopped by and interrupted-" Buffy was more terrified now than she was the first time she saw him. This time he was swaying drunkenly and Angel carefully tucked her behind him protectively.

"Shut up!" Roarke shouted. "Get the fuck out. You can spread your skinny little thighs for my son later."

"Don’t talk to her like that," Angel said in a low voice. Buffy thought she had seen Angel angry before, but he wasn’t. This was angry. His eyes were narrowed and his mouth set in a scowl.

"Protecting her?" Roarke laughed drunkenly. "Get her out and go tend bar. Now."

Coming to blows with his father was nothing new, but Angel wasn’t about to go a couple rounds with Buffy present. She might be spoiled, but at her core, she was innocent and gentle. Her father was one of the most doting parents Angel had ever seen. He didn’t want her to see the ugliness of his life.

Angel nodded curtly and his father seemed placated for the moment. They listened as his footsteps retreated down the hall. When the door to his room slammed shut, Angel grabbed Buffy’s hand and pulled her out the door.

***

Buffy unlocked the car door and looked up at Angel. He was staring out into the night, his jaw clenched so tightly she could see the muscles jump. Cautiously, she reached out, splaying her hand across his stomach.

He looked down at her hand and slowly reached up to twine his fingers through hers.

"Come home with me," she said softly.

Angel looked at her for a split second with naked longing, but it was gone so quickly she wasn’t sure she’d seen it at all. He snorted, gently disentangling their fingers. "I have to work," he said, trying to sound offhand. "Go home and get some sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow. And we’ll have tomorrow night at the Bronze."

She wasn’t going to let him do this. He wasn’t going to push her away, even if he thought he was doing it for her own good. She moved, wrapping her arms around his waist, pressing her ear over his heart. "Come home with me. Please, Angel."

He hugged her back, holding her tightly. "Sweetheart, your dad’s home." He laughed mirthlessly. "Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but I actually like your dad. Quite a bit. I doubt he’d appreciate me sneaking in your room."

She looked up at him. "Please." She could see his resolve waver and quickly continued. "He sleeps like the dead, Angel. And his room is on the other side of the house. He’ll never know."

Reluctantly, Angel smiled down at her. "I still have Calculus to do."

"I’ll do it," she chirped.

He rolled his eyes. "I would like to actually graduate."

"Hey!" she smacked him playfully on the chest. "Okay, so I’m not going to do it. But I bet I could talk Willow into it."

"Fine," he said, giving her a playful squeeze.

She laughed, bouncing up on the balls of her feet. Her excitement, however, was cut short. "Are you going to be in trouble?" she asked quietly.

Angel snorted. "I’m always in trouble."

Buffy gently placed her hand on his cheek and made him look at her. "Will your dad ... do anything?"

"Like beat the shit out of me?" Angel asked ruefully. He saw the hurt on Buffy’s face and immediately regretted his coarse words. He shrugged. "It depends on his mood," he admitted. "He doesn’t have any problem with knocking me around, but he doesn’t do it so much now that I hit back."

Buffy was quiet for a moment and then hugged him tighter. "I love you."

***

Angel was scowling as he crawled in her bedroom window. "I still think this is a dumb idea," he said in a harsh whisper.

"Really?" she asked unrepentantly, grinning as she watched the way his muscles flexed. "Because I was just thinking this is the best idea I’ve ever had."

Angel snorted in dismissal and looked around. Her bedroom was almost the size of his whole trailer. Her full size bed with its ivory pillows and comforter looked like heaven when he compared it to his own narrow twin. Everywhere he looked Buffy’s personality seemed to blossom out in vibrant colors and exquisite taste. He smiled at a little stuffed pig that was perched on the pillows.

Heaving a burdened sigh, he turned around to face her. "Buffy, I should-"

This time, his jaw did drop open and his stomach clenched violently in arousal. He was fairly certain he stopped breathing. Her body was only barely covered in a white silk negligee that cupped her breasts teasingly and slinked over her body in a way that made his mouth go dry. She had let her hair loose from the clip she had it in and it fell over her shoulders and back in delicate waves.

She crossed the room in the sexiest saunter she could muster and pressed her barely covered body against his. Her hands smoothed over his chest as she placed hot, open-mouthed kisses down his neck.

"Stay," she whispered, caressing the rigid outline of his cock through his pants. He captured her lips hungrily and sucked her tongue greedily into his mouth. He pulled her tighter against him and kissed her for a long time, trying to slow down, to calm the hormones that spiked when he saw her in that meager bit of silk.

He made his way down her neck and then kissed the tops of her breasts, caressing them and then suckling her nipples until they could be seen through the light material. He looped his fingers through the spaghetti straps and took his time baring her body. She, on the other hand, was not so patient. She pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it in the middle of her room and immediately began tugging at the buttons on his Levi’s.

He caught her shaking hands and kissed her palms, then her fingertips. "I’ll stay," he whispered. "Let’s just go slow, okay?"

She nodded, her eyes huge and trusting. The fact that she loved him so much was like a blow to the stomach, like a dream that he was afraid to wake up from. He leaned in and kissed her slowly and scooped her naked body into his arms. He laid her on gently on the bed and crouched over her, giving her warm, toe curling kisses.

"Are you sure you want this, Buffy?" he asked, cupping her cheek. "I love you. I’m not going anywhere if you want to wait."

"I’m ready," she answered softly. "I trust you, Angel. I love you."

He couldn’t help but groan at her words. Damn, he loved this woman. Why exactly someone as perfect, beautiful and truly wonderful as Buffy Giles would bother wasting her time on him was a mystery. But it was a mystery he could live with.

He settled on his side next to her, his denim-clad leg insinuated between her silky smooth thighs. He’d seen beautiful women before, but none of them were like this. Buffy’s skin was so soft, so perfect. She didn’t smell like booze and cheap perfume. She smelled clean and flowery, with an undertone of her musky arousal that was just for him. His hands were rough and calloused, there was grime embedded so deep under his nails it would never scrub free ... yet she arched into his touch like she was made for him.

He kissed her for a long time, content to brush his lips against her, to feel her softness beneath his fingertips. But eventually, it wasn’t enough. She rolled him over onto his back and he complied without protest. He was so hard he was in physical pain. The front of his jeans was tented with the weight of his arousal. Carefully, Buffy inched the zipper downward. Together they managed to get his jeans down his legs so he could finally kick them off.

He gasped as her hand wrapped around his cock. She touched him lightly, her thumb playing over the head, which was slick with pre-ejaculate. He shuddered, his fingers tunneling through her hair as he pulled her close for a soul-searing kiss.

He rolled her back in the wealth of pillows and she went with perfect trust. Her hips cradled his naturally. He looked down at her, one of his large, calloused hands cupping her cheek.

"I love you," she said with complete conviction, knowing that he was thinking he wasn’t good enough for her.

He kissed her again with such love and gratitude that it almost broke her heart. There was such a capacity for love within him, but it had been buried beneath a hard exterior for years. He positioned himself at her entrance and hissed in pleasure when he was barely inside her. She was just as hot and tight and deliriously silky as he dreamed she would be. Carefully, he stroked shallowly, moving in a bit further every time to allow her time to get used to the intrusion.

He rubbed her swollen nub in time with his movements, waiting for the pleasure before he gave her pain, but Buffy naturally fell into the rhythm and arched against him, moving up while he came down and together they breached the thin wall of her virginity, just shy of her orgasm. She gasped in pain and her fingers bit into his shoulder blades.

"I’m sorry," he whispered, stilling his movements as he encouraged her climax to return. He kissed her long and hard, pouring his soul into her. "I won’t ever hurt you again."

"You never hurt me," she whispered back.

He moved inside her once more and minutes later she toppled over the edge, orgasming with moans so loud he had to kiss her to quiet. Her tight sheath clenched around him in throes of ecstasy and he released, spilling his seed inside her body.

***

"Are you certain Buffy is ready?"

Angel's head shot up and he stared at Giles, slack-jawed. Oh my god. How did Giles find out? He had carefully snuck out of Buffy's house an hour before dawn. No one saw. "Huh?"

"Her car," Giles said absently, thumbing through one of his old books. He looked up at Angel. "Are you certain that she understands the weight of the responsibility of ownership now?" He cocked his head as he looked at his young assistant. "I dare say, are you feeling well?"

"The car," Angel said nodding. "Uh, yeah. I think after having to get her hands that dirty she understands."

Giles didn't look convinced but he shrugged. "I suppose I'll defer to your opinion."

***

As soon as the final bell rang, Buffy located Angel in the parking lot, leaning against the side of Oz's van as the two chatted. As she approached, Oz tactfully disappeared and Buffy wrapped her arms around Angel's waist. While his arms came up to embrace her, he didn't look at her, staring off into nothing, a frown on his face.

"What's up?" Buffy asked cautiously.

Angel looked down at his girlfriend, his frown intensifying. "Your dad," he said tightly.

Buffy shook her head. "What about my dad?"

Sighing, Angel carefully extricated himself from her embrace and started pacing the narrow space between Oz's van and a late model Ford. "Buffy, your dad has been great to me."

She crossed her arms over her chest, cocking one hip as she looked at him. "He's been pretty good to me too," she said dryly. "What does this have to do with us?"

"I respect him," Angel explained. "And I don't think that it's very forthright of me to play all nice with him to his face and then sneak into his house and nail his only daughter while he's sleeping down the hall."

Buffy rolled her eyes. Oh yes, her boyfriend was such a bad boy. "He knows there's something going on with us," she said blandly.

"That's not the same."

Buffy threw up her arms in exasperation. "So tell him we're dating," she said. "It's not like he's going to have a coronary or anything."

"I don't think you're being very reasonable about this," Angels said sharply.

"No," Buffy continued, advancing on him predatorily. "You're the one who's not being reasonable." She resumed her place in his arms once again, pushing herself up on her tippy toes to place a hard kiss against his jaw. "My dad likes you. A lot. He's not going to be upset that we're dating."

Angel shook his head. "If I was in his shoes, I wouldn't let me anywhere near you."

***

Buffy swayed in time with the band, sitting next to Willow at the Bronze that evening. She was beginning to like Willow more and more. She wasn’t anything like Cordelia and the rest of her airhead friends. She was sweet and ridiculously smart. Her brain, however, wasn’t nearly as big as her heart.

"I think I’m a groupie," Willow said, beaming at Oz while he played guitar along with the rest of Dingoes Ate My Baby.

"Me too," Buffy grinned. The guys ended their song and Devon announced a set break. Buffy’s smile widened and her stomach twisted in anticipation. She was still amazed that just seeing him walk in her direction could make her heart pound. Buffy’s grin faded as she saw Cordelia and Harmony sidling over to their table with very familiar snotty looks on their faces. She steeled her resolve and met their eyes defiantly.

They arrived at the table the same time as Angel and Oz, and Cordelia snorted in disgust. "Guess we’re just in time to meet the trash. Shouldn’t you be under a car hood somewhere?"

"Cordelia, shut up!" Buffy snarled. She rose to her feet despite Willow’s death grip on her arm. "You know what? You are a sheep, Cordy."

Cordelia stuck her chin out. "I’m not a sheep."

"You’re a sheep," she repeated. "All you ever do is what everyone else does just so you can say you did it first and here I am, scrambling for your approval, when I’m way cooler than you are cause I’m not a sheep."

Buffy stepped in closer, oblivious to her audience and the people stepping in to listen. "I’ll date whoever I want to date," Buffy growled. "You’re just jealous because you underestimated Angel. I got the best guy in the whole damn school and you’re still picking through the scraps."

Buffy turned toward Angel and grabbed his hand before stomping away. They were halfway through the Bronze when she started to hyperventilate. "Oh gods," she cried in panic.

"You’re going to be okay, baby," he said soothingly. "Just keep walking."

"They’re never going to speak to me again," she wailed. She turned to face him, eyes wide.

"I’m so proud of you," he murmured kissing her lips. "And the sheep’ll talk to you again. I wouldn’t be so lucky for them not to."

***

Friday afternoon, Buffy barely had gotten out of her last class, when Angel met her and lead her to the nearest supply closet. She grinned at his anxiousness, but all thoughts quickly disappeared when he slid his hands up her skirt and delved between her thighs. Two minutes later, she was wrapped around his waist.

"Yes," Buffy gasped, her fingernails digging into the nape of his neck, pressing his forehead against her collarbone. She shifted her legs around his waist as he drove inside her again and again. She tightened around him intentionally, rolling her hips as best she could. He choked her name, his rhythm faltering as he thrust one final time.

It was quiet and dark, the only noise their harsh breathing. He groaned, nuzzling against her jaw before setting her gently on her feet. He took a step back, leaning against one of the industrial shelving units that lined the interior of the supply closet. With what looked like an inordinate amount of effort, he tucked himself away and re-buttoned his jeans.

Buffy smiled as she stepped into her panties and smoothed down her skirt. She loved that she had the ability to tire him out. Pushing off from the wall, she pressed herself against his chest, rubbing her cheek against him like a cat. "What's the plan for tonight?" she asked.

He groaned, easily reading the teasing lilt in her voice. He'd chickened out about talking to her father and while Buffy was fine with it, she thought it was inordinately amusing that he was worrying about it so much. But the fact that he hadn't formally spoken with Giles also affected their plans for the dance. Angel couldn't very well make out in public with Buffy at a function her father was chaperoning.

"Oz can drop us by the shop tonight," he said. "Your car's finished. You can give me a ride home after the dance."

"Oh really?" she asked, and then giggled. "I thought I just gave you a ride."

He smiled carnally, wrapping his arms around her. "Trust me, baby," he whispered, "I'm good for multiple outings in a day."

Buffy smacked a kiss against his lips playfully. "You get Oz & Will, so I can make myself pretty in case we run into my Dad?"

She shivered as his eyes swept over her, making out her disheveled clothes, her swollen, warm lips and her mussed hair. He thought she never looked more beautiful. He nodded in agreement and they eased out of the closet, heading their separate ways.

He made it four steps from their rendezvous point when a thought hit him that made him stagger back against the wall. He ran a hand through his wild spiked hair and fought to breathe. It never, not even once, occurred to him that he should use protection with Buffy. He swore, squeezing his eyes shut. Mostly because of the women he’d been with, condoms were used to protect him, not them. His concerned for this talk with Giles just bumped up from nailing his daughter to knocking her up.

*****

(AN: The lyrics contained in the text in this part are by Tori Amos from her album, Little Earthquakes. )


*****

Buffy didn't know what was going on, but something was definitely up with Angel. Plans changed when she ran into her father in the parking lot and he offered to give her and Angel a ride to the shop. They accepted, but Angel was twitchy as Cordelia had been that day she ran out of her custom formulated mascara and had to use - gasp - Cover Girl.

Her dad had waited in the car, intending to follow her home in case her car still had issues. Consequently, she and Angel didn't have an opportunity for anything more meaningful than a peck on the lips. For the life of her, Buffy couldn’t figure out what his problem was, but there would be time enough after the dance to figure it out.

She looked at herself in the mirror one last time. She looked good. There had been a good deal of debate about whether or not she should wear a costume to the Halloween dance. The three previous years, she'd always gone as part of an ensemble. But this year, being on the outs with the Cordettes and the fact that Angel was actually working the dance, she was on her own. She'd almost talked herself into not wearing a costume, but then a quick stop by one of the downtown shops changed her mind.

The dress was gorgeous. In it, she felt like a fairy princess. She wasn't really sure about the long, dark wig, but when she tried it all on together, it gave her an exotic appeal that she couldn't wait to test on Angel. He still didn't know she was dressing up. One last wiggle to increase the amount of visible cleavage and she grabbed Angel's jacket from the foot of her bed, heading out the door.

***

Angel sat in the Espresso Pump and hid in the corner with a cup of black coffee. He told himself he was there to avoid his father before the dance, but he knew that wasn’t the real reason he was there. He was brooding and he had to be somewhere where he wouldn’t run into people he knew to do it. He felt strange sitting there, surrounded by people who he never would have associated with before he became involved with Buffy.

Buffy.

He groaned and closed his eyes, inhaling the steam wafting from his cup. He knew it would only be a matter of time before she asked him why he was so shifty. He couldn’t even think about her without his heart pounding, let alone look at her.

A pretty female voice crooned through the speaker behind him and as much as he tried to ignore the alternative girly lyrics, he found himself listening. So you found a girl who thinks really deep thoughts, the woman sang lightly. What’s so amazing about really deep thoughts. Angel took a sip of his coffee and enjoyed the bitter taste of the superior brew. The song really wasn’t half bad. Boy, you best pray that I bleed real soon. How’s that thought for ya?

Angel jerked and response to the last two lines and cursed when the coffee splattered all over the table in front of him. Boy, you best pray that I bleed real soon. How’s that thought for ya? echoed in his mind. On second thought, he hated the song.

And coffee was a horrible, horrible idea. What he needed was a much stronger, more intense drink. If he wasn’t due at the Bronze in ten minutes, he’d already be drowning in something pilfered from his dad’s supply in the back of the bar. He groaned, wiped off the table with a wad of napkins and cursed again.

***

It took Buffy a while to find Willow. She almost jumped out of her skin when the chipper little ghost said hello. They fell in step, chatting as they headed to the table Willow claimed earlier. Buffy perched on the edge of her seat. She couldn't help but grin as she watched the guys on stage. Angel wasn't wearing a shirt, which was just fine by her. His arms, god she loved his arms.

Willow waving to someone caught Buffy's attention and she followed her friend's line of sight. Buffy smiled at her father, who was dressed like a magician, and waved happily. She loved him. He was the bestest dad in the whole wide world. But right now, she was really wishing that he had some job that required him to travel. A lot. To foreign countries.

As usual, the turnout at the dance was really good. There simply wasn't anything else for the students of Sunnydale High to do. It being Halloween, a lot of people were in costumes. Personally, Buffy felt that Cordy would have been more subtle just screaming "look at my tits", than she was wearing that catsuit. But even Cordy's amply displayed cleavage wasn't enough to ruin Buffy's night.

When Devon announced a set break and Angel didn't immediately seek her out, she realized he hadn't seen her yet. With a coy grin on her face, she followed Willow to the corner where Angel and Oz were talking. They were debating about what sort of amps would clear up their sound and although Oz was nearly expressionless as usual, Buffy got the idea that it was a really serious musician discussion.

"Hey," Willow announced, scooting close to Oz’s side. She was very nervous about the costume Buffy had talked her into but the amorous stares the redhead was getting Buffy decided it was a good thing. Oz looked like he was about to swallow his tongue when he looked in Will’s direction. It had taken her quite a while to reveal her real and somewhat daring little costume underneath the boo-ware.

Buffy waited for Angel’s assessment nervously. "Hello, kind sir," Buffy said, sweeping into a graceful curtsey she knew gave Angel a juicy display of cleavage.

"Wow," Angel said, raking his eyes over her. He searched the club to find that Giles was occupied in talking to another chaperone, so he kissed her quickly. "You look beautiful," he whispered against her lips. He intended to pull back right away but she pressed close to him and pressed her lips against his harder, snaking her tongue between his lips. He pulled away as soon as he could break the kiss and stepped back.

"What’s wrong?" she asked, searching his eyes.

"You’re father’s here," he answered, nodding in Giles’ direction. "I don’t want him to see us making out, alright?"

"I’ll just tell him we’re dating then," Buffy said. She pivoted in her dress, secretly loving the way it billowed out around her, and headed toward her father.

"No!" Angel nearly shouted. He pulled her back against him. "No. Don’t tell him. Don’t tell him anything."

"Okay, you’re power freaked here," she said. He had the look of crazed animal in his eyes and she was pretty sure it didn’t have to do with telling her father they were dating. "What’s really going on, Angel?"

"Nothing," he said, swallowing harshly. "I’m fine. I just don’t want to tell Giles tonight, alright? Let’s save it for a different day."

***

Angel was acting so weird that it partially soured Buffy's good mood. But she perked up when her father agreed to let her spend the night at Willow's house. Several minutes later, Willow was barely able to contain her grin as she whispered to Buffy that her mother had agreed to let her stay at Buffy's house.

"This is so scandalous," Willow whispered. "I never would have dared this."

"What?" Buffy scoffed. "A round robin? That's in the high school manual somewhere. Rule number fifteen I think. When in need of all night party, round robin. It hasn't failed me yet."

Willow grinned. "It's so exciting," she said giddily. "I've never been able to go to one of the after hours parties before. And Oz is always so tight lipped about them. I mean, I don't worry about him going without me, but I am interested."

***

Angel cursed as he dropped the symbol, but Oz managed to catch it before it clattered to the ground. "Thanks, man," he said, relieved to have some help.

"No problem," Oz countered, opening the back doors of the van so they could load the drum kit inside. "Hey," he said, "Willow just caught me. I guess the after party has been moved. Something about Rudy's parents showing up unexpectedly."

"Damn," Angel cursed, setting the drum down. "That's our standard venue. Where are we supposed to go?"

Oz shrugged. "I guess Buffy knew of some place. She says that it's where the rich kids used to party before Cordelia's parents moved her out to their pool house. Apparently it doesn't get used anymore."

Angel's brow furrowed. Buffy had never mentioned this place to him. "Where?"

"That old mansion out on Crawford Street. Buffy and Will already took off to make sure it was still useable. Everyone's supposed to meet there later."

***

Angel let out a low whistle as he followed Oz inside the mansion. Since they had to break down all the equipment after the dance, they were late to the party. There were already at least fifty cars on the lawn out front. Angel had seen this place before, but never up close. It was damn impressive. There was no electricity, but necessity is ever the mother of invention. There were torches and candles everywhere, giving the space an oddly gothic feel. Someone had brought in a stereo with a really long extension cord that ran god only knew where. Music was blaring and there were people everywhere, dancing, drinking, kissing, all of the above. Angel looked around, but Buffy was nowhere to be seen.

Oz let out a grunt as Willow launched herself into his arms giggling. Angel turned away in a vain attempt to give the couple a little privacy. Devon walked by and handed him a beer that Angel immediately opened and half-drained. He turned as Willow tapped him on the shoulder. She cocked a finger at him and Angel looked to Oz for information. Oz merely shrugged. Curious, Angel followed Willow through the cavernous living room and around a corner to a back staircase.

"Third floor," she whispered. "Second door on the left."

Willow bounded off and Angel finished his beer before climbing the steps. It was really dark and he took out his Zippo to offer some light. He found the appointed doorway and gave a terse knock before pushing it open.

He stood in the doorway, unable to move. Unfortunately, the Zippo burned his finger and he dropped it. Sheepishly, he picked it up and returned it to his pocket. He stepped into the room, closing and locking the door behind himself.

Innumerable candles burned in the room, filling it with a soft, flickering light. The bedroom was enormous, but that wasn't half as impressive as the bed. It looked like you could fit a dozen people on it. Of course, there weren't a dozen people on it. There was just one, Buffy.

"Rudy’s parents didn’t come home, did they?" he asked. He was surprised at how hoarsely his voice came out even though all the blood in his body was rushing toward his groin. Buffy lounged across the giant bed in a red silk teddy that framed her curves gorgeously. He found himself gulping for air.

"No," she answered coyly, running a hand over her body as she stalked him with her eyes. "I wanted to surprise you."

"Worked," he grunted. He still hadn’t bothered to put on a shirt and she enjoyed watching his approach. The candlelight played beautifully across his naked upper body and she greedily took in every detail.

"I wanted to have you to myself without worrying that we’d get caught," she said, wrapping her arms around him as he crouched over her. "I wanted to hold you and know that whatever’s bothering you…I wanted to be sure that…." She tapered off and looked up at him. Her face showed absolute trust and love, a look that would break any man. "You’re not all wiggy just because of my Dad, are you, Angel?"

Much to her surprise, he let out a groan and buried his face in her neck. His voice was muffled when he spoke again. "I fucked up." He was silent for a moment, focusing on her arms around him, the feel of her fingertips brushing against his skin, then he looked up at her face. "I realize when I was taking advantage of our supply closet time the other day that we hadn’t used any, you know, protection. For all we know, you could be pregnant with my child right now, Buffy."

"What if I was?" she asked, trying to keep the nervousness from her voice. She had thought of it recently as well, but she trusted Angel. She knew that if they were doing something wrong, he would make sure she was okay. She was certain of it when the fleeting thought passed through her mind. Now, with the desperation filling the air, she was worried. She didn’t want to doubt his feelings for her. The last thing she wanted to do what doubt him.

"I will always take care of you," he whispered, keeping his gaze locked directly with hers. He caressed her cheek with a shaky hand. Despite his nervousness, she saw truth and devotion there. "I’ll never let anything bad happen to you if I can avoid it, Buffy. You know that I love you."

"I love you too," she whispered, nuzzling her cheek against his. "If I am late this month, I’ll get a test, okay?"

"Okay," he answered, taking a deep trembling breath. Much to his surprise, she nudged him to roll over on his back and straddled him, rubbing her groin against his seductively.

"In the meantime," she said throatily, "I was hopin’ you could help me out of this little outfit. These things are so complicated." She smiled deviously at him, idly touching the lacey edge of the teddy, and he growled in response. He pulled her down for a long, lingering kiss and moaned as his hands moved over her body. Moments later, she realized in the middle of their heated kiss that his hands were on her bare breasts. So much for complicated. Of course, he also had a lot of training. You couldn’t take as many shop classes as he did without figuring out how to reverse engineer a good number of items. The fact that she could even think the phrase "reverse engineer" while his fingers were tweaking her nipples should have earned her a place in the Smart Blondes Hall of Fame.

He rolled them over again, pulling the teddy down her body. She wriggled free of the material, wrapping her bare legs around his waist. He kissed her while digging in his back pocket for his wallet. He finally wrapped his fingers around it and slapped it down on the pillow next to Buffy’s head. She couldn’t help but giggle at the look of absolute concentration on his face while he used one hand to try and root through the wallet. The other, of course, was busy tweaking her breast.

After far too long, he finally found the condom. He grasped it between his teeth as he rolled onto one hip, kicking off his shoes and hurriedly shimmying out of his jeans. Buffy laughed again and plucked the condom from his bite. He looked at her and she motioned for her now naked Angel to roll onto his back. If there was ever an instance where he was inclined to humor her, this was it. "You think I need help with this?" he asked, trying not to smile.

She frowned down at him. "I need the practice," she said coyly. Carefully, she tore the tin wrapper and extracted the condom. He groaned, arching into her touch as she grasped him, stroking him several times before positioning the latex over the head of his cock. Just like she remembered, she pinched the reservoir tip as she rolled the condom down his shaft. It was a tight fit. He was considerably larger than her last practice subject. She smiled with satisfaction of a job well done. "It’s been a while," she said.

His smile disappeared in an instant. "A while?" he asked darkly.

She giggled. "Sex ed class last year," she explained. She looked at him, smiling in undiluted appreciation. "May I just say that you’re much more interesting than a banana."

"Thank you," he said wryly.

"Besides," she said, "I noticed you weren’t in class, as usual."

He snorted. "Baby, I’m a loser, not a moron. Trust me when I tell you that a sex ed class junior year would have been remedial education."

Her outraged smack never connected with his chest. Angel flipped them over again, pinning her under his body as he kissed her breathless. Whatever lingering irritation she felt at his cheeky comment quickly melted away. The way he kissed her, the way he touched her ... everything about his movements told her that she was the most precious thing in his world.

He hooked his hand under her knee, notching it around his waist as he carefully slid inside her. With the condom, the sensations weren’t as sharp, but being inside Buffy was still the most glorious feeling he’d ever experienced. She moaned, her fingernails biting into the small of his back, urging him to drive into her harder. He obliged, planting his palms on either side of her head as he pushed himself up as far as he could. Bracing his knees and feet on the mattress, he thrust into her, his pelvis smacking sharply against hers.

Buffy’s back arched, her eyes fluttering shut as she made a series of high trilling noises deep in her throat. Buffy beneath him, with her hair in a wild disarray, her nipples pebbled, perspiration glistening on her skin – Angel thought he might die from the sight alone. But then her internal muscles clenched around him and he knew he was wrong. Now he was going to die. With a groan, he dropped down over her again, capturing her lips against his own. She kissed him wildly, her arms wrapping around his neck as she rubbed her breasts against his chest.

"Love you," she panted out, raising her hips to meet his thrusts. Angel moved inside her, building her up again, wanting nothing more than to spend the whole night seeing her face in ecstasy. For some strange reason, before he came up here, he had actually been afraid she was pregnant, that he had ruined something between them – or possibly could. That was outside of her arms. Now, inside her embrace, he wondered how it ever seemed possible to be worried about some distant future. There was only the two of them forever. Wasn’t that the whole point?

***

Buffy turned around when Willow walked through the French doors to join her in the sunken courtyard. The sun was just up and you could hear birds chirping madly in all the trees. Most of the house was eerily quiet, despite the large number of bodies. There had to be two dozen people passed out inside the mansion.

"Morning," Willow said, yawning loudly.

"Mrn’n," Buffy tried to reply around a mouthful of toothpaste. She spit into the dilapidated fountain and then took another mouthful from her bottle of Evian before spitting again. Willow looked longingly at her toothbrush, toothpaste and bottled water. Buffy smiled, holding up her backpack. "Shack bag," she said.

"Sha wha?"

"Shack bag," Buffy repeated. "If you’re going to shack somewhere, you need supplies." She handed Willow the tube of toothpaste and bottle of water. Willow quickly squirted a dollop of Colgate onto her finger as Buffy brushed out her hair. By the time Willow moved onto the hairbrush, Buffy was using her Olay Daily Facial cloths to wash her face. Eventually, they moved over to one of the stone benches so Buffy could re-apply her makeup in natural light. Willow watched the beauty ritual with fascination but declined Buffy’s offer to share.

"I didn’t realize there was so much involved in staying out all night," Willow explained.

Buffy shrugged. "I’ve been doing this about once or twice a month since freshman year, you pick up some habits."

Willow’s lips pursed together like she was trying to decide if she wanted to ask something or not. "So, uh, you do ... this ... a lot?"

Buffy looked at her seriously. "By this you mean ...?"

"Nothing," Willow chirped, obviously embarrassed.

Buffy shrugged nervously. "No. I mean, yes, I’ve stayed out all night lots of times, but never ... Uh. I’ve never stayed in one of the upstairs rooms before. Angel is my, uh, he’s my ... "

Willow sighed in relief. "Oz is my ... "

They both laughed.

***

"Why exactly is he here?" Angel demanded, glaring at Oz.

Oz merely shrugged, glancing over at Devon who was seriously hung over and kept moaning. Normally it wouldn’t have mattered, but they were all crammed into a booth at Denny’s and Angel was getting sick of listening to him. He and Buffy had gotten the short straw, so Devon was in their side of the booth. His face was pressed against the fogged up window. Every few seconds, he moaned like a dying man.

"He’s okay, Angel," Buffy said, giggling when he pulled her closer to his side. She had been stuck sitting in the middle of them and Angel growled every time Devon started to sway in her direction. Twice Devon had let out an embarrassing expletive loud enough to turn heads because Angel thumped his head on the window.

"This is so cool," Willow announced grinning happily. "We have morning together and afterglow…"

"And hung over people," Buffy added. She grinned and snuggled closer to Angel. "And Moons Over My Hammy." Angel gave her a look of disgust, but snagged a fry from her plate.

"Need a drink," Devon groaned. He started to slide across the bench seat and didn’t stop when he reached Buffy. He just kept scooting until he was pressing against her. "It’s the only way to make this all go away. Far, far away."

"Get off my girl, fucker," Angel growled, shoving him against the window for the third time.

"FUCK!" Devon groaned as his head beaned against the heavy plate glass.

"My hero," Buffy mock sighed dreamily. Willow burst into giggles.

***

Buffy sighed, looking up from her book in exasperation. She quickly glanced around the library. Thankfully, it was deserted. If there was any luck, her dad would be chatting with the computer teacher for a while. She turned, glaring at Angel. "I love you," she said firmly. "But if you don’t stop hovering, I’m going to kill you."

He frowned at her. "I’m just ... "

"Paranoid," she finished for him. "Angel, look, you sitting here worrying about this isn’t going to make it happen any faster. Okay for the next five minutes I’m going to ignore the major squick factor of discussing my girl problems with my boyfriend, but Aunt Flo isn’t scheduled to show up until next week. There is no way for us to find out before then if we even have anything to be worried about. Okay?"

He leaned back in his chair glowering. Patience had never been one of his strong points and where Buffy was concerned, it was nearly non-existent. He was so worried he wasn’t sleeping, barely eating and he was making Buffy crazy.

To keep himself from hovering over her every second, he picked up as many hours as possible at both the shop and the bar, hoping to keep his thoughts elsewhere. He begged off from band practice after he accidentally put a hole in his snare drum. He told them he had to buy another one but the truth was the only rhythm he wanted to know about was Buffy’s menstruation.

***

The week dragged by with the sort of agonizing slowness one only reserved for extremely painful and embarrassing moments. His three lunches a week helping Giles out used to be a welcome time to get his homework done and have some peace and quiet. Now he jumped three feet if her father even said his name.

The following week, he met her at the stairs first thing Monday morning. If she had known he had been there since dawn streaked across the sky, she would have had a fit. He felt it unnecessary to share that little tidbit.

"How are you doing?" he asked, clutching her shoulders nervously. "Are you feeling okay?"

"Gods, Angel, I don’t have cancer," she spat. "And I don’t have my period either. Just calm down, alright? No one is dying here. You’re making me insane."

He raked his hand through his hair, pacing in a rough circle. Sighing in exasperation, she grabbed his hand, dragging him toward the supply closet. Reluctantly, he let her pull him inside as she locked the door. She pinned him against the wall and attempted to press a kiss against his jaw.

Gently, but firmly, he caught her wrists and forced her to take a step backward. "Buffy, this isn't the time," he huffed.

Okay, that was it. She'd had all she could take. She yanked her wrists out of his grasp. Taking a step back, she cocked out one hip and crossed her arms over her chest, glaring at him. "We talked about this more than a week ago at the mansion," she said angrily. "I know you were worried, but we discussed things and I really thought we were okay. What gives? Why are you being all psycho about this again?"

He growled in frustration, banging his head back against the wall. "That was a week and a half ago," he replied sharply.

"And what exactly has happened in the last week and a half?" she demanded.

"You haven't bled, that's what's happened," he yelled.

Her head snapped back like he'd hit her and her eyes glimmered with unshed tears. "I see," she said thickly. "It's that terrifying is it?" He reached for her and she twisted away, her body language screaming for him to not touch her. "It's one thing for you to be all calm and loving about it when you're about to get laid, but in the harsh light of day I'm just another burden is that it?"

"Buffy," he groaned, balling his hands into fists to keep from reaching for her.

"No," she spat. "Fine. Have a nice life, Angel. I'll be fine. You don't have to worry about anything ever again."

He listened to the door slam, unable to move. Slowly, he leaned back against the wall and slid down it until he was a useless heap on the floor. He fucked up. He fucked up bad. Yes, he was terrified beyond belief at the thought of possibly getting Buffy pregnant. There were a million reasons for his terror: he knew he'd be a terrible father, Buffy deserved to have a life without being burdened with a child so young, Giles would kill him. It went on and on into infinity. But nowhere on that list was he terrified because he didn't love her or because he couldn't love their child.

Stiffly, he pushed himself to his feet. He couldn't believe how bad he messed things up. Right now, Buffy needed his support. She had to be just as terrified as him, probably more, but she wasn't letting it make her bitter. She needed him and he wasn't there for her. With a growl, he punched his hand against the wall with as much strength as he could muster.

***

"Buffy, are you okay?" Willow asked gently. Buffy had asked her to meet her at her car in the parking lot right after school, but Willow had no idea why.

Buffy shrugged, trying not to start crying again. "I need your help," she said quietly.

"Anything," Willow said vehemently. She bit down on her bottom lip, looking at her friend. "Buffy, what happened?"

Buffy shrugged again and a tear slipped down her cheek. "Angel," she said, feeling idiotic. "I think maybe … " She swallowed thickly, willing herself not to start crying. "I think maybe we broke up this morning."

"Oh, Buffy," Willow gasped, pulling her friend into a tight hug.

Buffy clung to her friend, letting the tears she'd been holding back all day fall. It was several long minutes before she could compose herself. She sniffled, wiping at her eyes with a tissue. Taking a deep breath, she said, "I think he must be really mad. I haven't seen him all day, which means he's probably avoiding me."

Willow shook her head. "He wasn't here today, Buffy."

"No, he was," Buffy assured her.

"He was," Willow amended quickly, "but he left early. He was gone all day."

"Great," Buffy said, her face crumbling into a frown. "Now I've scared him completely off school."

"No, no, no," Willow said, patting her on the shoulder. "He was at the hospital."

Buffy's tears dried instantly. "Hospital?"

"Oz had to go get him at lunch and take him home. He broke his hand. I guess Angel wouldn’t say how it happened, but Oz said it looked like he punched something hard. Like a wall."

***

Buffy sat in her car a long time after she sent Willow to find Oz. She wanted to know what had happened to Angel, but she couldn’t stand the thought of being pushed away again. It crushed her when he did it in the supply closet that morning.

She dried her tears and restored her makeup before going to the convenience store for a pregnancy test. She hurried through the doors and down the aisles, causally picking up random things like cosmetics, toothpaste and shampoo. The reason for the trip was inevitable and she soon found herself standing in front of a small row of pregnancy tests. She looked around her suspiciously before tucking one into her arm full of items. Tears welled in her eyes before she even made it to the checkout counter.

As much as she wanted to ignore the truth, as much as she wished that her body would announce with her monthly cycle that they were worried for no reason, she knew in her heart that Angel was right. There was reason to worry. She was late and she was never ever late. The phrase "like clock work" was coined for Buffy Giles.

***

"Ah, Buffy, can I speak with you for a moment?"

Buffy stopped dead in her tracks, immediately putting her shopping bag behind her back. The last thing she needed was her father finding out she bought a pregnancy test. What was he doing home anyway? Okay, that was a bit harsh. He did live here, after all. But dammit, she needed some privacy. "Sure," she said, "just let me go change."

Fifteen minutes later, she joined her father in the living room where he was flipping through the mail. "What’s the what?" she asked, sitting down in the large armchair.

He set down the mail, rearranging his glasses as he looked at her. "Well, Thanksgiving break is coming up and I had been thinking perhaps it would be a good opportunity for us to visit England."

Buffy stared at him blankly for a moment. "England?"

"Well, I know it’s a bit sudden," he said, "but next year you’ll be away at college and I thought this would be a nice time for us to go together. Plus, I found a discount on airline tickets."

She shrugged. It had been five or six years since they’d been back to visit her father’s family. No doubt they were indeed due for another visit. Plus, right now things were so up in the air with Angel. It might be nice to get out of Sunnydale for a week. "Sounds good," she said.

*****

Buffy was vainly trying to concentrate on her Chemistry homework when something hit her bedroom window. She looked up and saw another rock ping against the glass. Frowning, she walked over to the window, raising the blinds. She stared down at Angel.

She was caught between finding something to throw at him and letting him in. Much to his relief, she opened the window and walked away leaving him to his own devices. Seconds later, he made it through the window, broken hand and all, and headed directly over to her bed. He lowered himself to his knees before her. She caressed his injured hand.

"I heard about this," she said, caressing the cast lightly with her fingertips.

"Just one thing in a long line of personal fuck ups," he said bitterly. He took a deep breath and looked into her eyes. He hated what he saw there – uncertainty, fear, nervousness, the beginnings of tears not yet shed. "The worst thing I ever did was push you away," he said quietly. "You’re not a burden, Buffy. I meant everything I said that night in the mansion. I love you and I will take care of you."

"You’ll take care of me," she echoed. Tears made their way down her cheeks despite her attempts to keep them at bay. She swiped at them angrily. "What are you going to do send me child support checks, Angel?" Buffy choked out. "Take our kid to the ballgame every other month?"

"No," Angel said firmly, "I love you. Do you hear me? I love you with everything I have in me. Every penny I make and every minute of my time is for you for now until I’m dust. Is that clear enough?" He cupped her face in his hands. "If you’re pregnant, if you’re not pregnant – whatever – I will still love you just as much. I’m not going anywhere, Buffy, I promise."

Buffy threw her arms around his neck and sobbed. "I thought I lost you. I thought it was over."

"You can’t lose me," he murmured gently. He held her so tightly against him that it was almost painful, but Buffy didn’t say a word. Instead, she just clung to him and cried harder.

"I’m sorry, Angel," Buffy said, after both of them had calmed down. She held his broken hand in both of hers.

"It’s my fault," he whispered, kissing her lips gently. Soberly, he added, "But, baby, if we don’t take a pregnancy test soon, I think I’m going to have a nervous breakdown. I have to know before we can deal, okay?"

***

Buffy returned to her bedroom where Angel was pacing like a caged tiger. He looked at her expectantly, but her expression betrayed nothing. She handed him the little plastic stick and went to sit on her bed.

Angel looked at the stick in his hand. He read the directions on the package, so he knew what the result meant. He set the stick down on her dresser and once again dropped to his knees in front of her. With his good hand, he tugged on her wrist until she slid off the bed and into his lap.

"It could be wrong," she said, her voice muffled by the fact that her face was burrowed against his chest.

He held her tighter, taking a deep breath. "Do you think it’s wrong?" he asked.

"No," she said.

"Neither do I," he told her.

She looked up at him and he bent his head down, kissing her slowly. "I love you, Buffy," he said. "And our baby." She buried her face against his chest again.

"Oh, I’m going to England over Thanksgiving," she mumbled into his shirt.

"What?" he said. "It sounded like you said you were going to England."

She pulled away and looked up him. "I am. Dad already bought the tickets."

"Oh no. No way," he said, pulling them both to their feet. "You are not getting on a plane. It’s not good for the baby. Forget it. Tell him you can’t go."

"Just say no," she said dryly. "Just like that."

"Well…" he said in exasperation, "make something up."

She stared up at him, her brow furrowed. "Why are you upset about this?" she asked. "It’s not like we’re moving there. We leave on Wednesday and get back on Saturday."

He glowered.

"Angel?" she pled.

"I don’t want you that far away," he groused. "Especially not now."

She smiled sappily at him. "You’re worried about me," she said.

"Yeah, well, it’s my prerogative," he grouched.

She shrugged, snuggling up against him again. "We could always just tell my dad I’m pregnant. He might let me stay home."

Angel groaned, burying his face in her hair. "Your dad is going to murder me."

Buffy sobered. "Actually, I don’t have any idea what he’s going to do. I mean, we haven’t even told him that we’re dating yet. That’ll be a fun conversation. Hey, Dad, yeah, Angel and I are going out, and by the way you’re going to be a grandfather. I don’t think he’ll take it well."

"I’m a dead man."

***

Buffy’s brow furrowed as she approached the lunch table where Oz, Willow and Angel were sitting. It was the Monday before Thanksgiving and almost everyone was in a foul mood. They all just wanted a break from school for a while. But even that didn’t explain Devon’s angry form stomping away from the table.

She took a seat, setting down her tray carefully. "What’s his problem?" she asked, nodding toward Devon.

"Josh didn’t work out," Oz offered.

Buffy frowned. The Dingoes had been searching for a fill in drummer since Angel broke his hand. They still had another three weeks before his cast came off and they’d already had to cancel four gigs. If they didn’t find a filler, they’d have to cancel another three. "I’m sorry," she said.

Angel looked at Buffy’s lunch tray and then glared at her.

"What?" she asked self-consciously. Noticing that all she had was jello, she said, "My stomach didn’t feel like hard food today. But hey, there’s fruit in it."

Angel leaned in closer. "Those are marshmallows," he bit out. "And maybe a ... french fry?"

Buffy made a face, pushing the tray away from herself. "On second thought ... "

***

Giles had a bit more of a bounce to his step as he walked out of the teacher’s lounge toward sixth period study hall where he would be substituting for the afternoon. Ms. Calendar, the school’s new computer teacher was winsome and bright – something normally lacking Sunnydale High. He was thinking about asking her on a date when he returned from his trip to England with Buffy.

It seemed like everything was working out well. Buffy seemed more exuberant about life and school in general lately. She was a pleasure to be around. She seemed to have outgrown her more catty friends, which was something he was pleased with. He would much prefer she spend her time with Willow Rosenberg.

He was also delighted with his decision to spend the holiday in England. It was amusing and ironic that they would be going back across the sea for Thanksgiving. He dearly missed home and was looking forward to seeing the family he had left behind. They hadn’t been back since Joyce passed away. It should make for a nice trip.

Lost in his own thoughts, he rounded the corner where Cordelia and Harmony, Buffy’s friends, were chatting about something or other. Normally, he would have just passed by and paid them no mind, as they usually did to him, but he overheard his daughter’s name. Casually, he slowed down his gait and cocked an ear in their direction.

"No way!" Harmony nearly shouted.

"Oh yeah," Cordelia said, nodding her dark head gravely, "You heard me right. Angel ‘The Loser’ Roarke knocked up Buffy."

"Oh. My. God." Harmony said, leaning against the locker she was standing in front of. "Who would have ever thought she’d actually sink that low?"

"I know," Cordelia agreed. She opened her purse, found a small flip cell phone and immediately began dialing. "I have to call everyone I have ever met right now."

***

Angel leaned against the kitchen sink, staring down the trailer at the door to his dad’s room. The place was a total wreck as usual. Dishes from the last three weeks were piled in the sink. There were beer cans and empty pizza boxes everywhere. Damn, he hated this place. He’d always hated this place, even though it had been home for almost as long as he could remember. The big house with the lawn and the swing set was nothing more than the most distant memory now.

He took a deep breath. This was his life. This was what he had to offer Buffy. He hung his head in shame. Even now, he was cutting school to do this. What kind of a father would he make? What kind of a husband? If he loved Buffy, he’d walk away from her. He’d spare her and their child the embarrassment of having him in their lives. But even as he thought it, he knew he could never do it. He loved Buffy more than he ever thought possible. And despite everything, he wanted this baby. He wanted to have a life with her.

Steeling his resolve, he headed for his Dad’s room. It was a pigsty. The bed was unmade as usual. The sheets probably hadn’t been changed in a year. Closet doors were missing and he could still see clothes hanging in there from his dad’s previous four live-in girlfriends. None of them had stayed long. Why would they? His dad was nothing more than a washed up shell of a man, dead inside.

Angel made his way over to the closet, rummaging around on the top shelf. With one hand still in a cast, it took him far longer than necessary to accomplish such a simple task. Eventually he found what he was looking for.

He sat down on the corner of his dad’s bed, holding the antique jewelry box in his lap. It was without a doubt the nicest thing in the entire trailer. It had belonged to his mother, passed down from her mother for generations. Angel ran his fingers lightly over the clasp. It was old and beautiful. Taking a deep breath, he allowed his mind to wander. He barely remembered her anymore. He had only the most fleeting impression, a memory of her voice, her smell. She had been so beautiful and gentle. They had been a family then. He remembered his parents being happy together. And then one day everything changed. Angel pushed the memory away.

He flipped open the box. There, nestled in the aging velvet was the silver Claddagh. It was tarnished with age, but still beautiful. His mother would have liked Buffy, Angel knew that in his heart. Very carefully, he removed the ring. Tonight he would ask Buffy to be his wife.

"What the fuck do you think you’re doing?"

Angel’s head snapped up and he looked at his father’s enraged features. The larger man barreled into the room, grabbing Angel by his shirt and hauling him off the bed before he had time to react. "I said what the fuck do you think you’re doing with her ring!" he bellowed.

***

Giles was far angrier than he ever remembered being since Buffy was born. He couldn’t believe the gall of Angel, that miscreant touching his little girl! Did he think to get on his good side by shelving books and helping in the library? A fury raged over him and he found himself sitting stock still in study hall until the class was up.

At the end of the day, he drove home going exactly the speed limit and pulled into his driveway. He had decided he would sit down and calmly speak to his daughter like a civilized adult before he lost his temper. That, of course, was before he saw Angel’s motorcycle in his driveway.

All his careful calming and reason flew out the window. He opened his car door and hurried into the house, leaving his beloved ancient leather briefcase on the seat. He had visions of Angel taking advantage of his daughter flashing before his eyes as he ran up the stairs, taking them two at time. Reaching the top of the stairs, he ran to the end of the hall and burst through the door without bothering to knock. He opened his mouth and a gasp came out.

"Oh dear Lord," Giles groaned, stepping inside.

Angel was beaten so badly Giles almost couldn’t believe he had ridden his bike over. His injured hand was mangled and splashed with what appeared to be his own blood. His face was bruised and swollen, his lip split. His clothes were torn – more than normal – and he was bleeding freely from his temple and right arm.

Giles watched his daughter for a moment. She had looked up at him frantically when he came in but hadn’t said a word. She was currently trying to tend to Angel’s wounds but her hands were shaking so badly she wasn’t get very much accomplished. After a few moments, she stopped and burst into tears.

"Shhh," Angel whispered, pulling her against him. "C’mere baby. It’s alright."

Giles watched Angel gently comfort Buffy, mindless of his own wounds, intent only upon the emotional distress his condition was causing her. Quietly, Giles cleared his throat. Buffy managed to pull away from Angel and gave her father a questioning gaze.

"Buffy, please go get the first aid kit as well as a basin of water and a washcloth," Giles said quietly.

Nodding, Buffy pushed herself off the bed to comply. She was hugging herself tightly as she left the room, her clothes smeared with Angel's blood.

Carefully, Giles perched on the bed next to Angel. The young man slowly met his gaze, before his eyes flicked away shamefully. His voice was startlingly strong when he spoke, though his enunciation was significantly hindered by his split lip. "I'm sorry, sir," he said. "I'll leave, I just didn't know where else to go."

Giles frowned down at the young man he'd mentored for the last year and a half. "Angel, I know your home life isn't stellar, but certainly your father would - "

"My father did this to me," Angel said, cutting him off.

Giles didn't even know how to react to that. He had known that Angel's father was a mess. It was common knowledge among both students and staff at the school. But Giles had never dreamed that the man was so far gone. For him to brutalize his own son to this extent … Giles couldn’t even finish the thought.

Buffy returned and together the two of them managed to remove Angel's shirt entirely. The bruising to his torso was extensive. Giles could clearly make out fist marks in several places. Angel sucked in his breath sharply when his ribs were touched, but never cried out. After they'd wiped away most of the blood, Giles discovered there were only two open wounds, one at Angel's temple and the one on his right arm. Neither was deep and thankfully, they would probably heal without scarring.

Giles shook his head as he took in the young man's sad condition. "Angel, you need to go to the hospital. Your hand needs to be re-cast and these ribs should be x-rayed at the very least."

"Please," Angel pled, "I'll be fine. Just give me a few more minutes and I'll be out of your hair."

"You most certainly will not," Giles said sharply. "You are not leaving this house under any condition unless it is to go to a hospital."

Angel and Buffy both stared at him blankly. With a huff, Giles rose to his feet and paced a tight circle in the small room. He stopped abruptly, pinning both of them with his gaze. "I heard a nasty bit of gossip today in the hall," he said. "It seems that the rumor mill believes Buffy to be pregnant with your child. I would like to know if this is true."

Buffy's cheeks flamed in embarrassment and she found herself unable to look at her father. Angel carefully grasped her hand, twining his fingers through hers before squeezing gently. He looked at Giles. "It's true," he said firmly. "We've been trying to find the right time to tell you."

Giles groaned, sitting down heavily in Buffy's desk chair.

"I love her," Angel continued. "I will do everything in my power to support her and the baby in any way I can."

Removing his glasses, Giles polished them feverishly. "I suspected something was transpiring between the two of you," he said. "But I never dreamed it had gone this far." With brisk movements, he replaced the glasses on his face. "Well, this changes things significantly," he said. He stood again, heading for the door. "I'll be back. You are still not permitted to go anywhere."

Buffy watched, dumbfounded, as her father left her room, pulling the door shut behind himself. She had no idea what was going on. Shaking off her confusion, she turned back to Angel. Tears pricked her eyes again. He looked so terrible, all swollen and bruised. She touched his face lightly with the tips of her fingers. "Angel, you have to call the cops," she said. "He can't get away with this."

Angel shrugged, looking away.

"Are you listening to me?" Buffy pressed. "Angel, something has to be done about him."

"Baby, just leave it alone," he said wearily. "I'm not going to call the cops."

"How can you say that?" she demanded. "Do you want to look in the mirror? How can you just let him do that to you?"

"He has his own punishment," Angel said quietly.

"Nothing makes up for what he did - "

"He's miserable," Angel said shortly, cutting her off. "There's nothing left inside him. Nothing but rage and pain. I can't do anything to him that will be worse that what he's already in."

Buffy shook her head, clearly not understanding. Gently, Angel reached up and wiped away her tears. He took a deep breath. "My dad was always a loser. Wrong side of the tracks, police record, you name it, he'd done it. My mom was … She was great. Pretty, smart, from a really nice family. For whatever impossible reason, she loved my dad. He turned his life around for her, made something out of himself. He went to college, got a degree. He was working in a bank somewhere, saving up money for his own motorcycle shop some day. We all lived in this really nice house. And then … "

Buffy sniffled, listening intently. Angel had always brushed off her questions about his family.

"She died," Angel said flatly. "I don't really remember it. I was only four or five at the time. I just remember her being gone. And then nothing was ever the same. My dad just broke. And he never healed. He loved her so much. And when she died, he died with her."

Buffy cupped his cheek, tears streaming down her face. Angel smiled tightly at her. "He lost everything, the job, the house. We moved to Sunnydale. It was years before my mom's parents finally tracked us down. They took me away from him, took me home to their house. But by then, I was a lost cause too. I didn't have any idea how to behave in a real family. I got in tons of trouble, stole from them, disrespected them. They tried for a really long time, but I wasn't worth saving. They finally shipped me back to my dad. We've been like this ever since."

"Angel, you're worth saving," she said softly, her bottom lip quivering.

He smiled up at her again, this time softer. "I never believed that before I met you."

She was sobbing, torn between wanting to throw herself into his arms and not wanting to cause him further physical pain.

"What happened today - "Angel started to explain. "I went through some of my mom's old things. I found a ring she used to have because I wanted to give it to you. He caught me with her things and he just came unhinged."

"Angel," Buffy sobbed, horrified that this all happened because he wanted to give her something of his mother's.

"I can't hate him," Angel said. "I used to. I used to hate him more than anything. But now … " He gently rubbed Buffy's fingers between his own. "I can't hate him, Buffy, because if something ever happened to you, I'd end up exactly the same way."

Giles cleared his throat from the doorway and stepped in. He looked back and forth between the two of them for a long moment and then took off his glasses. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and polished them furiously.

"Right then," Giles began awkwardly. "I moved Buffy’s old twin bed into the basement and you should be fairly comfortable down there, Angel. I put linens on it and an extra blanket. The basement tends to be on the chilly side."

Both Buffy and Angel opened their mouths to speak, but neither allowed a syllable out when Giles glared in their direction. This was not a time to argue or question.

"Now," Giles continued, "Angel, we will take you to the hospital and have x-rays taken. You most certainly have a broken rib. You are welcome to stay in this house for here on out. Although you and Buffy have undoubtedly already had…er, relations, I will not find you in her bedroom at any time. Is that clear?"

"Yes sir," Angel managed to choke out. He swallowed harshly and risked a glance at Buffy. She was just as stunned as he. "Thank you," Angel added gratefully.

"I’ve contacted an associate to gather your belongings," Giles added. "He will be coming by later this evening to deliver them."

"Mr. Giles, I really appreciate all you’re doing for me, but I don’t think it would be a good idea to send anyone to see my father-"

"It’s taken care of, Angel," Giles repeated firmly. "I trust you will take care of my daughter with the same respect. She is the most precious thing in my life."

"I love her," Angel said clearly, clasping Buffy’s hand in his.

***

Angel did in fact have three broken ribs, a concussion and several minor contusions. Considering the beating he took from his father and the fact that his hand was already broken, he thought he came out of the situation in pretty good form. Especially since Giles didn’t try to kill him. He had expected nothing less.

He was strangely surprised that after his initial coolness, Buffy’s father seemed to accept the situation with as much ease as humanly possible. He didn’t appear angry or put out, even though he did, on occasion, have the tendency to glare.

When they got home again, it was after one in the morning, but a man was waiting inside the house. He stood in the dark with his hands clasped in front of him and on the floor at his feet was almost everything Angel owned. The man was tall and thin with a deep mesmerizing voice. Although he was pretty spooky, he didn’t seem to be much of a threat to a man like Angel’s father.

Giles stepped forward and shook the man’s hand. "Thank you for your help."

"The balance between us is restored, Rupert Giles. Do not call upon me again," the man said in his hypnotic, deep tone.

"I shan’t." Giles answered gravely. "Peace with you."

"And with you." The man smoothly made his way to the door and barely made a sound with each step. Yeah, "spooky" was definitely the way to describe him.

"The balance is restored?" Buffy echoed. "What did you do for him?"

"I introduced him to his wife." Giles said with a cocky smile. Unwilling to answer any of the questions about the strange man, he headed off to bed.

***

Jenny Calendar lounged against the library’s front desk, watching Rupert Giles scurry around his office with sharp, hurried movements. In body language, it practically bellowed ‘Go Away!’. But Jenny had never been one to be deterred by something as mundane as a frazzled librarian. "I’m not leaving, Rupert," she called, "so you might as well come out here."

He stopped and she could see his shoulders slump in a sigh. Several moments later, his head poked out of the office. "Thank gods, it’s you," he said wearily. "I was afraid it was Mrs. Mernickey again. I swear that woman would have had an enterprising career with the Soviet Secret Police."

"Well, what do you expect?" Jenny asked. She frowned. "Is it really true that Angel Roarke is living with your daughter?"

Giles bristled. "He is living in my basement. He is not living with my daughter."

"But your basement is part of your house and your daughter does live there, so technically, Angel Roarke is living with your daughter," Jenny pressed.

"Fine," Giles bit out. "He lives with my daughter. But I’m afraid it’s not the sordid love den of adolescent passion that most of the office staff wants to make it out to be."

Jenny motioned him over to the table and took a seat across from him. She was quiet as he removed his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose. "So what did happen?" she asked quietly.

Giles sighed, replacing his glasses. "This can go no further," he said in warning. He took a deep breath. "Angel was badly beaten by his father."

Jenny sucked in a breath sharply. "I guess that explains why he’s not here today."

Giles nodded. "He should be well enough to resume classes after the holiday, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the attack was vicious."

"So you took him in?" she asked cautiously.

"What else would you have me do, Jenny?" he demanded in exasperation.

She put her hands up in surrender. "You’re right," she said. "Please continue."

"I’m afraid for once, the rumor mill is actually lagging." He took another weary breath. "Not only was Angel attacked by his own father and now living in my basement, but I’m afraid he’s the father of my soon-to-be grandchild."

Jenny gaped at him for a moment. "Wow. Uh, congratulations I guess."

Giles stared at her, nonplussed. "I am not thrilled about the news, but there’s little I can do about it now. Angel and Buffy are both eighteen and regardless of the fact that they’re still in high school, they are both adults. While they’re living under my roof, there are stringent guidelines I expect to be followed."

"But ... " Jenny prompted.

Giles expression softened. "But I do think that Angel is a good man. He can’t be held responsible for the circumstances of his upbringing and I do honestly believe that he is trying. He wants to do right by Buffy. And having him living with his abusive father or in the back of a car or on some friend’s couch is not going to put him on track to be a responsible father. He had enough obstacles as it is, I don’t feel the need to add to them unnecessarily."

Jenny nodded. "So on a different note, I guess your holiday plans are shot."

Shrugging, Giles said, "Buffy is urging me to go without her, but I haven’t decided yet."

***

The pain medication that was given would have kept Angel sleeping on the narrow bed in the basement for most of the day if Buffy hadn’t woken him up. When he inhaled her sweet scent, he thought it was a dream until he opened his eyes. She sat perched on the end of the bed looking dazzlingly gorgeous as she always did. The first thought after that was to wince in pain. So he did.

"Are you okay?" she demanded. "Don’t move. Do you want me to get you anything? Are you hungry? Angel?"

"Baby, calm down," he urged in a grunted whisper. "I’m fine. I just need a shower."

"Just need a shower?" Buffy huffed irritably. "Angel, you have a broken hand and three broken ribs. You need a nurse!"

Angel groaned as he dragged himself out of bed and headed for the door, bare foot and in black silk boxers. Despite his current physical condition, Buffy couldn’t help but drool. He was just so yummy.

He turned and smirked at the door. "You can be the nurse if you find the right uniform," he said huskily and barely missed the pillow that she launched at him.

He trudged upstairs slowly and dug through the bags and boxes of his things for clothes to wear before making his way to the bathroom. He was overwhelmed by the idea of living with Buffy, being able to kiss her goodnight and see her in the morning. Even though he was living in the basement of their house, his living quarters were far more spacious and neat than his home with his father.

He couldn’t help grinning as he stepped into the shower. Giles had one little corner with his solitary bottle of shampoo with leave in conditioner and bar of soap. The rest of the shower was overflowing with female things like colorful loofas and razors that suction cupped to the wall. He counted four different kinds of soap and a veritable cornucopia of shampoos, conditioners and various hair treatments. It was like being in a store.

He took his time, not overtaxing his sore muscles. The pain pill was great, but Angel knew if he wasn’t cautious, he could do more harm than good. He’d cracked ribs before and they weren’t fun.

He toweled off as best he could and dressed in an old t-shirt and a pair of sweats. By the time he made his way downstairs, Buffy had fixed him a sandwich. He smiled at her. "You never told me you can cook," he said with a wink.

"Hey, if you think that’s impressive, you should see me microwave a burrito," Buffy countered.

Angel feigned shock, taking a seat at the table. Buffy was picking at her own sandwich, leafing through a copy of Vogue. When he’d eaten as much as he could, Buffy cleared that table. "So," she asked, "what do you want to do this afternoon where we’re home all alone while I’m on vacation and my father is stuck with an afternoon of teacher inservice?"

Angel chuckled at her, but sighed. "Honestly," he said, "I would like nothing more than to ravish you all afternoon, but I don’t think I’m quite up to it yet."

Buffy was slightly disappointed, but she knew he needed his rest. She followed him back down to the basement, making sure he was comfortable. "You sleep," she said. "I’m going to go upstairs and sort through your boxes."

"Okay," he murmured sleepily, drifting off.

***

Buffy wouldn’t have admitted it to her friends, but she liked the idea of taking care of Angel. Sure, she couldn’t really cook, but making that sandwich for him was sort of fun in a Susy Homemaker kinda way.

She looked at the big pile of boxes and bags in the living room and frowned. There wasn’t much there considering it was all of his earthly possessions. It would take a rental truck just to haul her stuff away, not counting her father’s things. She was glad they had taken Angel away from that bastard he called a father. She smiled to herself. Angel would be a thousand times better at being a parent.

She began making piles of things and soon was surrounded by various stacks. Twenty minutes into unpacking and she already had a load of his laundry going. An hour into the event, she had called her father twice and had talked him into stopping to get a dresser on the way home and a list of various other odds and ends that she said, "Angel could not live without."

"Buffy," her father had said dryly, "I certainly think that Angel can live without an area rug."

"Are you going to make him live like an barbarian in the basement with cold feet in the morning?" she demanded in outrage. "Daddy, he could die of pneumonia!"

"Buffy, I seriously doubt-"

His disagreements launched Buffy into a ten minute tirade that made Giles feel guilty enough to buy every item she insisted upon. It wasn’t until he loaded up the car that he realized he just spent a hefty sum of money for the lecher who impregnated his only daughter. The thought had him scowling at the way home.

Buffy, on the other hand, was not scowling. She was thrilled with the arrangements and hummed as she continued to sort through Angel’s clothes and belongings, carting them down the stairs to where he slept. It wasn’t until she ran through the pockets of the clothes she was going to throw away, which consisted of what he wore the previous night when battling with his father, that she noticed something in his pocket. She eased her hand in and sucked in a breath when she found an ornate silver ring.

Buffy bit down on her lip. This was the ring he had been going to give her, the ring that got him beaten to a bloody pulp. Tears trickled down her cheeks.

That’s how she was when Giles entered the house several minutes later. She was sobbing in earnest and when he asked her what was wrong, she merely handed him the ring. Giles sobered as he looked down at the ring. It was a Claddagh. Giles had heard Angel tell Buffy that he and his father had ostensibly been fighting over the ring, but he hadn’t elaborated beyond that point. And aside from pledging that he wouldn’t desert Buffy or their child, Angel hadn’t mentioned any sort of permanent situation. But this ring, this was permanent. This was an Irish wedding ring.

Giles looked down at his daughter who was still sobbing on the sofa. No doubt, her emotional outburst was intensified by hormones. Pregnancy hormones. Despite everything that had happened, it was in that moment that the gravity of the situation fully hit Rupert Giles.

"There, there," he said, absently patting his daughter on the head. He sighed. "I think I need a drink."

***

TBC

Part 2

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