Tangled Web

Author: Maren

Rating: PG-13
Pairings: Lots, but primarily B/A
Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit
Summary: Buffy POV fic in which she behaves immaturely, considers the lessons she’s learned from therapy, and figures out that being tipsy feels good but the big decisions shouldn’t be made when one is drunk.
Genre: Pure, unadulterated fluff. And silliness. I should probably mention that I myself was tipsy when writing this. The lesson I’ve learned is that one should not write when one is drunk.

Author Note: Special thanks to stephanierb for the very helpful beta.


******


Drunkenness is of the good.

Except for the excessive urination part.

And the puking.

And the doing things that you wouldn’t do if you hadn’t had all those shots of tequila.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?

*****

It all started when I met Xander, Willow, Giles, and Dawn for a Scoobies reunion in Las Vegas four years, thirty-three days, and about 7 hours after we created a very large crater where Sunnydale used to be. The “official” explanation is that a meteor the size of a bowling ball hit Sunnydale really fast and hard and caved in the town. The truth is that we kicked some evil ass and closed the bane of my existence—the Hellmouth. But whatever, I don’t need the props, so meteor it is.

Anyway, I was pretty excited to get here. Everyone was off in different parts of the world, doing their own thing (which unfortunately, usually involved assisting in the killing and maiming of demons—not a glamorous job) and we hadn’t seen each other since the Christmas before.

I’m not sure how we decided on Las Vegas. I mean, seeing the look of horror on Giles’ face when we shared a cab to the hotel was priceless. I don’t think he gets the “lights pretty” concept. With all the places in the world that we could have gone, I think Las Vegas was the winner because it was close to what used to be home. Plus, Dawn was getting ready to start her junior year at Berkeley and she was broke, so the flight to Las Vegas fit her lack-of-budget.

Oh, and because Xander has watched “Ocean’s 11” about a zillion times and I think he had some kind of man-fantasy going on.

Ewww. Not that kind of man-fantasy.

So we get to Las Vegas, check into our rooms, and head out to have some fun. I was actually feeling a little left out at the time, ‘cause Willow and Dawnie wanted to share a room and they insisted I get my own because they said I snore. Let me assure you that I do not snore. I have it on very good authority. Well, semi-good authority.

O.k., so my boyfriends tend to sleep like the dead (and again, o.k., that’s because mostly they are dead), but still, no snoring complaints from them.

At least our rooms were all connected and I was grateful that Giles and Xander’s room was on the other side of Willow and Dawn’s room instead of mine. Now I understand the arrangement on a whole ‘nother level that I’d rather not, but I’ll get to that later.

Anyway, after we all arrived and prettied up, we went to some orchestra thing that Giles bought us tickets for and insisted we all attend. Yes, I said orchestra. Yes, in Las Vegas. No, I am not kidding. The upside is that drinks were on Xander.

It was an innocent enough beginning.

Then I got up to go to the bathroom (have I mentioned the excessive urination associated with drinking?) and when I came back, our table was empty. Instead of finding the four people I traveled thousands of miles to spend some quality time with sitting and waiting for me, I found a little note scribbled on the back of a program.

Hey Buff. We all decided that we’re tired so we’re headed back to the rooms. Hope you don’t mind—we’ll see you in the morning! ~ Dawn

Hrumph. Let me just tell you that I did mind. They couldn’t even wait for me to get back from the restroom? I mean, it wasn’t my fault there was a line. So there I was, all dressed up—and I know this is going to sound egotistical, but I looked pretty hot—and my friends dumped me to go to bed. It wasn’t even 10:00 p.m.!

I wasn’t tired, despite the long flight, and I really didn’t want to go back to my single, lonely room so I decided to head up to the dance club. There’s this thing where I was pretty depressed for kinda a long time and I don’t ever want to go to that place again. So when I feel down, or lonely, or abandoned (which if I’m honest, is not that infrequent—my therapist says I have "abandonment issues") I have to stop from folding into myself and forgetting to live. Instead, I do other things to keep my mind and emotions occupied and on that first night in Vegas, I planned to dance.

What I ended up doing was drink. But I guess I’ve mentioned that.

The club was dark and very posh, filled with beautiful people. When I walked in the door, I was glad I was wearing my new, somewhat slutty pink dress. I made my way to the bar and ordered an apple martini as I scanned the interior, taking in all of the potential exits. Old habits die hard, I guess. Plus, something in the room felt . . . off. Odd.

That’s when I saw him. Him. The Him. Angel. Watching a beautiful, dark-haired woman in a red dress (sluttier than mine, I might add) dance for him, her movements deliberate and enticing, sexy. Hell, I kind of wanted her. I just stood there, staring for what seemed like an eternity, and then his head turned in my direction and his eyes raked over me, coolly, impersonally, before he turned back to her and pulled her into his arms to whisper in her ear.

I turned my back on them then. Have you ever felt as though some incredibly powerful invisible person had punched you really hard right in the gut and that you couldn’t move an inch or you might throw up right then? Well, I’ve actually had that happen to me before and I can tell you that *this was worse*.

The second martini was sliding its way down my throat as I stood there facing the bar, trying hard to compose myself and pretend that it didn’t matter that the guy I kind of thought of as my own was with a gorgeous woman who was curvier in the curvy places than I could ever hope to be, when I felt someone slide into the space next to me. He leaned in to speak to me and I got ready to respond to whatever lame pick-up line he planned to use, when the warm timbre of his voice washed over me and I found myself meeting one of Angel’s friends for the first time.

“Hi. Buffy, right? Name’s Gunn,” he said, and I have to admit that I melted a little at the velvet smoothness of his voice. Then I turned to look at him and if my heart hadn’t been lying in tiny bruised pieces from its most recent shattering-Angel-experience, I think I could have fallen in love with his gorgeous smile.

I couldn’t help smiling back.

“Yep, that’s me,” I chirped. Pathetic, friendless loser but I promise I’m not stalking your boss, I thought. “Nice to meet you Gunn.”

He leaned in even closer and his lips actually brushed my hair as he spoke in my ear as quietly as he could in the loud club. “Look, Angel’s working on a case and he asked me to ask you not to blow his cover. He suggested I buy you a drink at the bar on the 10th floor—whaddya say?” he asked, and I could hear the hint of annoyance that tinged his voice.

Oh, so now Angel is forcing his friends to buy me drinks so I don’t ruin his fun, I thought and I have to admit that I was pretty pissed. I’m fairly sure I’ve never caused a huge scene where he’s concerned—well, at least since what I call the “Faith incident”—so I was wondering what his deal was. Mostly, though, I was looking for any reason to turn the ‘can’t breathe through the pain’ feeling I was having into anything else.

I should probably mention at this point that my therapist also says I have a problem with “avoidance and suppressed emotion”.

I turned to Gunn and gave him what I’ve been told is the tight-lipped-bitchy-Buffy smile. Also, the you’re-going-to-wish-you-could-melt-into-the-floor look. I’m told it’s a deadly combination.

“He’s working on a ‘case’? Is that what the kids are calling it these days? You can tell Angel that I don’t need anyone to buy me pity drinks,” I spit out and turned toward the entrance, intending to leave with whatever dignity I could salvage. I was stopped by the feeling of a hand on my arm.

“Buffy, stop. Believe me when I say that when I look at you, pity isn’t on my radar,” he said with a smile, the sincerity shining out of his pretty brown eyes. Then he looked over at Angel and Slutty McWhore and I could see his eyes narrow before he turned back to me. “’Sides, I would love to get outta here and get a drink. How ‘bout it?”

I may not be a rocket-scientist, but it only took that single look for me to understand that he didn’t want to watch that particular couple dance anymore than I did. Nodding, I wove my way out of the club and led him to the piano bar on the 10th floor in an awkward silence.

When we sat down I ordered a tequila shot. I don’t know what possessed me to do it—I had sworn off shots after one unfortunate night with Spike several years ago. I guess I just wanted to be able to completely forget the sight of Angel with someone else in his arms and I guess Gunn felt the same way because he did two shots for every one of mine. Awkward silence soon turned into diarrhea of the mouth as my vision started to blur and the slurring started.

I’d give a blow-by-blow account of our conversation, but I have to admit that my memories are of the vague variety. We did the avoidy thing for a little while and then he caught me up on what had been going on with the newly reformed Angel Investigations, which was just he, Angel, and the hussy. Oh, and I found out that the hussy’s name was Gwen and that Gunn had a thing for her. Apparently he didn’t like watching her with Angel anymore than I did. I’m also pretty sure I embarrassed myself with some teary declarations of love for my ex which may or may not have been followed by Gunn brushing away said tears with his thumb and leaning in to kiss me.

Like I said, very hazy, so let’s just skip the details. Bottom line—we got very, very drunk and we, umm . . . bonded.

***
The next thing I remember is waking up to the sound of my head splitting open. Or at least that’s what I thought it was at first.

Actually, it turned out to be a very pissed off vampire breaking through the bedroom door of the suite in which I had apparently passed out.

I groaned and cracked open one eye, and then groaned again and closed it. My head was pounding, my stomach was rolling, and right there in the doorway was the couple that was directly responsible. Well, maybe not directly responsible but I think they share in the culpability.

“What the hell are you doing, man?” I heard Gunn shout very close to my ear, and then the bed was jostled as he leapt up, making my stomach give a leap and lurch of its own. I groaned again and pulled the sheets up over my head.

Angel’s response can only be described as a hiss—I mean honestly, if I had any kind of snake phobia I would have run screaming from the room. In fact, I kind of did want to run screaming from the room for the split second before I remembered I could kick his ass if I weren’t so sick.

“What am *I* doing? What the hell do you think *you’re* doing?”

“I know you’re not busting into my room to give me shit about the little blonde over there. As long as you’re knockin’ around with Gwen, you don’t have any right,” I heard Gunn bite back.

At that point I could imagine that they were standing face to face, ready to come to blows. I figured I better suck it up and open my eyes so I could at least defend myself against any flying objects that might come my way. I pulled the sheet off of my head just in time to see Angel standing pretty much as I had figured—right in Gunn’s face, his Greek God countenance scrunched up in anger, his body tense and ready for the fight that looked highly imminent.

And then I saw what he held in his hand.

My new pink dress.

He waved it at Gunn. “I want to know what the hell Buffy’s dress was doing on the floor in the living room!” he roared, his large hands wringing the delicate fabric.

Suddenly I was very afraid he’d be pulling my matching pink bra and panties out of his pockets at any moment, at which point in time I would have to cease breathing. I peeked under the sheets and sighed in relief when I saw both pieces of fabric more or less in place. I honestly couldn’t remember anything that had happened once we left the bar and seeing Gunn facing Angel down dressed only in his boxers wasn’t giving me warm fuzzy feelings about what might have happened. Not that Gunn didn’t look hot just in his boxers, because he definitely did. It’s just that I hadn’t been . . . umm . . . active . . . in quite a while and I’m kind of past the drunken sex stage of my life.

Or so I thought. Honestly, though, I couldn’t be sure and things weren’t looking too good in that area.

Unfortunately, Gunn didn’t seem to remember much more than me. He glanced at me and I could see the question in his brown eyes. I tried to shrug and shake my head but that wasn’t a good idea. I must have made some kind of pathetic whimpering noise, because Angel’s burning gaze-o-rage turned to me.

He took a step toward me and I could see the pain flickering behind the anger. I can’t stand to see him in pain, so I moved again to reach out to him. Bad idea. That time I know I made a pathetic whimpering noise as I struggled to hold in the contents of my stomach.

“Did you hurt her?” Angel growled, turning back to Gunn and fixing him with what I’ll bet was a murderous stare.

At that point the room erupted with shouts and barely suppressed testosterone. You know, I wasn’t ever sure about the vampires having hormones thing until that moment—now I’m sure. I swear I could practically smell the testosterone and it wasn’t good for my rolling stomach. Through the pounding in my head I could hear Gunn tell Angel in no uncertain words that he was an asshole for even thinking that Gunn would hurt a woman, and Angel said that Gunn was an asshole for taking advantage of me, and then Gunn said something about him not being able to take advantage of a Slayer even if he wanted to and then I thought I might pass out from the throbbing in my brain.

“Could everyone please stop with the lung Olympics here?” I whispered, just managing to force the words through the dry sahara of my mouth and around my amazingly large tongue. I’m still not sure how they heard me through the shouting but the room immediately quieted down, the only sounds the harsh panting breaths of two pissed off guys, one of whom didn’t even need to breathe.

The rigid line of Angel’s mouth relaxed a tiny fraction and he looked at me with worried eyes. I could actually see the moment he realized I had a monster hangover. He stalked out of my line of vision and then I could hear the sound of the bathroom faucet. Seconds later he was back, kneeling next to me and handing me a cup of water.

“Are you o.k.?” he murmured, his voice low and soothing.

I took the cup of water from him and took a tiny sip before I answered. “No,” I croaked and closed my eyes again.

I could feel the disruption in the air beside me as he leapt up, but he was blissfully silent.

It didn’t last.

“Couldn’t take advantage of a Slayer, huh Gunn? I’d say if you got her drunk enough you could and I’d say she was plenty drunk last night. I will kill you if you hurt her,” Angel said, his voice low and dangerous and it was obvious to me he was talking through clenched teeth.

Gunn snorted in disgust and I decided that the situation was already way too out of hand for me to keep lying in the bed like some kind of invalid.

“Whoa, Angel, apply firm pressure to the brakes. Gunn didn’t hurt me,” I said before taking a deep breath and sitting up in the bed. The sheet fell to my waist but I didn’t pay any attention until I saw three pairs of eyes on me and only the female pair made it back to my face from lower regions. I looked down and saw my breasts saying hello to the whole room from where they were pushing out the top of my aforementioned push-up bra.

O.k., so I didn’t mention the “push-up” part of my pretty pink bra before. Sue me. Some of us aren’t Pamela Anderson—or Pamela Anderson Lee—or whatever name she’s going by these days. Anyway, the important thing to mention at this point is that the naughty bits were still covered (barely) so I wasn’t flashing anything that I couldn’t show on a non-cable television show but it was a little embarrassing that I had forgotten my state of undress. I quickly pulled the sheet back up and clutched it to my chest, temporarily able to forget the nausea. It’s amazing how much attention extreme embarrassment requires.

Gunn and Angel finally stopped staring at my chest and returned to glaring at one another. Gwen was still glaring at me in undisguised hatred.

“How could you touch her?” Angel asked and I was struck by the hurt I heard in his voice. I was also pissed. He had no right, what with Miss Private Dancer nipping at his heels!

“He didn’t hurt me, and he didn’t take advantage of me,” I repeated. “And not that it’s any of your business, but nothing happened between us,” I continued, before glancing down at myself again and then over at Gunn, who had managed to slide into a pair of jeans at some point during this fiasco. “At least I don’t think anything happened between us,” I finished weakly.

“I’m sorry, all I heard was ‘blah blah blah, I’m a dirty tramp’,” the Gwen woman snapped, speaking for the first time since she’d followed Angel into the room.

Now, I’m not normally into the whole catfight thing (for obvious reasons), but she had been treading on thin ice just by being in the room and standing close to Angel. Opening her mouth was a very bad idea. The infusion of jealous fury pushed away the headache and nausea again and I leapt to my feet, this time being careful to take the sheet with me. I was ready to knock the bitch out when Gunn stepped between us and Angel actually picked me up and held me tightly against his chest, ignoring my struggles like I was some kind of non-Slayer-girl.

Then he was leaning close to me and I could have sworn he was sniffing me like an overgrown dog. A second later I found out I was right.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I yelped, and immediately regretted it as the headache flared back to retake attention spot numero uno. I stopped struggling for a second and let myself go limp in his arms.

“Preventing you from hurting Gwen,” he answered and I rolled my eyes.

“Yeah, I caught that part Einstein. I mean the creepy sniffing action,” I snapped.

If I hadn’t been held so tightly against him and super sensitive to every minute sound made anywhere near me, I might have missed his answer.

“I was checking to see if Gunn violated you,” he mumbled, equal parts sulkiness and anger coloring his voice.

I finally found the strength to push myself out of Angel’s arms to stand on my own two feet.

“You were smelling me to see if he violated me?” I shrieked. “And for the record, ewwww!” Then I realized he hadn’t given me the verdict and I *really* wanted to know so I stopped shrieking and shot him a plaintive look.

“So . . . we didn’t . . . right?” I asked and watched the muscle in his jaw jump under his skin.

He glared at me for a second while I held my breath. I could see Gunn and Gwen behind Angel with similar looks of trepidation and curiosity (and Gwen was glaring at me even harder than Angel was).

“No, his scent is all over you but it’s not an . . . intimate smell,” he answered.

“Have I ever told you how gross that is, man?” Gunn asked, but I caught the look of relief that washed over his face before he looked at Gwen again. They were having their own little round of silent communication in the background.

It would be an understatement to say that I was relieved too. Not that I didn’t find Gunn attractive, and not that I was otherwise attached, but seeing Angel’s hurt and anger over the entire situation made a very immature part of me sing in happiness. I was just glad that I hadn’t done anything to damage whatever chance we might have someday.

Then I remembered the dancing and the looking and the pawning-off of ex-girlfriends on another friend that occurred last night and my relief turned back into anger. If he was with Gwen then there wouldn’t be a someday for us. I glared at Angel and ran a hand through my messy hair, trying to gain some semblance of dignity and composure.

Yeah, I know-- impossible.

“Look Angel, I’m not really sure I understand where this possessive macho crap is coming from. I’m an adult, Gunn’s an adult, and if we would have decided to be . . . adults . . . together, you don’t get a say. If I remember correctly, you and . . . . ,” I struggled for a moment against my desire to call her a name, “. . . Gwen were pretty hot and heavy last night yourselves. People in glass houses shouldn’t look them in the mouth—or something like that,” I finished.

He shot me an incredulous, and slightly confused, look. “Buffy, Gwen and I were working last night—nothing more, nothing less.”

“Working? I knew she was a whore!” I said, losing the battle for dignity and giving into my inner bitch with a snide grin. This time it was Gwen who was rushing me and Gunn who was physically holding her back.

“Stop it, Buffy,” Angel commanded forcefully, and I actually stopped short, confused by his reaction. It had been so long since we’d been together and let’s just say that I was used to being the dominant one (i.e. unrestrained brat) in our relationship. Then again, the last time we spent any real time together I was 18-years-old. Still, I was a lot surprised and a little turned on by his take-chargy-ness. The smile melted off my lips and I just stood there, staring at him.

“Gwen and I were working on a case. We are not involved. We had to pretend to be a couple to get access to a group of demon couples who were kidnapping young women and using them as sacrifices-- after using them in other ways. I thought Gunn would explain that to you, but I guess he didn’t get around to it before all of the drinking and . . . . snuggling that went on,” he growled, taking hold of my shoulders and staring into my eyes.

His voice softened as he continued. “Buffy, when I told you I wasn’t getting any older in Sunnydale, I wanted you to know that I would wait for you until you decided you were ready to be with me. If that time is never going to come, please, just tell me and I’ll figure out how to deal,” he said and the yearning look he gave me made my already weak knees buckle.

Luckily, he had a strong grip on my shoulders and he held me until I was steady again.

“Angel,” I breathed, ready to tell him that I was brownies or cake or cookies or whatever dumb baked-good that I had claimed I wasn’t before (and by the way, who lets me make analogies anyway?). Unfortunately, my declaration was violently interrupted by a scream
and Angel and I both looked over to see Gwen waving a piece of paper in Gunn’s shocked face.

“You married her?” she said a little hysterically, and once I processed her words I seconded that emotion.

“You WHAT?” Angel roared, letting go of my shoulders and spinning toward Gunn.

What happened next is a blur to me, but it went something like this: Gwen burst into tears and ran out of the bedroom into the living room of the suite; Angel grabbed Gunn, who was trying to follow Gwen, and punched him in the face; Gunn, his nose gushing blood, punched Angel right back, then turned and ran after Gwen.

I did what my body had been threatening to do since I’d first heard Angel pounding on the door that morning.

I threw up.

Oh, and there was some crying involved.

It was all very lovely.

Then Angel was picking me up and taking me into the bathroom, where he cleaned me up as I cried and mumbled incoherently about how I got married and none of my friends were there and I didn’t even remember it and I didn’t even know my husband, etc., etc. I know it was incoherent because Angel told me later that he didn’t understand a word I was saying through the tears and the snot. Still he kept rubbing his hand on my back and making low, soothing noises as I cried and it would have been sweet except for the utter grossness of the situation.

******
I spent the rest of that day in my own hotel room, in bed, with the curtains drawn and the lights turned out. After cleaning me up (twice, because apparently crying doesn’t mix with hang-overs), Angel put me in one of his t-shirts and made me tell him where to find my room.

When we got there we were greeted by four very confused and worried people. The gang had tried to come get me for breakfast and when they saw my empty room with the bed still made they kind of freaked. Willow had been getting ready to perform a locator spell when Angel appeared with his Buffy-bundle and deposited me under the covers of my bed.

I winced at Dawn’s high-pitched demands for information and Angel quickly ushered everyone out of my room into Willow and Dawn’s room.

I eventually fell asleep. When I woke up again I felt a little better, at least physically, and I got up to brush my teeth and try to work the tangles out of my hair. Dawn and Willow must have been just waiting to hear some kind of movement from my room because when I came back out of the bathroom, they were both sitting on the edge of my bed with sympathetic looks on their faces.

Stopping short, the brush still tangled in my hair, I shook my head in the negative.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said stubbornly.

Dawn leapt up and reached out to me. “But Buffy, we love you and we just want you to know everything’s going to be o.k.,” she said, her voice laced with that little-girl-optimism that I had tried so hard to preserve in her over the years.

“We were so worried when we couldn’t find you this morning,” Willow started, but she was stopped short by an unladylike snort that burst out from my nose.

“You guys weren’t so worried about leaving me all alone last night,” I accused. My sister and my friend exchanged a guilty look before Dawn closed the distance between us and took the hairbrush out of my hand.

“Here, let me,” she said quietly before leading me over to sit next to Willow. Will grabbed one of my hands in hers while Dawn gently brushed my hair and for a brief moment, all was o.k. in my world again.

It never lasts, does it?

“Umm, Buffy, about last night. We’re so sorry that we ditched you and then you were all alone to get drunk and married. . .” Willow stopped at the sound of my breath hitching in my throat and I felt Dawn pat my head. Then Willow was speaking again and I was having a nervous breakdown about something else entirely.

“Anyway, we’ve been meaning to talk to you about this for a while, but it never seemed to be the right time and we were scared about what you would think and we didn’t want you to be mad. . .”

“Willow!” Dawn exclaimed, stopping the words that were tumbling out of Willow’s mouth as her voice rose in distress.

I groaned. “If you’re about to tell me that you and Dawn are lovers I am going to seriously freak out!” I exclaimed, fixing Willow with a hard stare. It’s not that I care that Willow is a lesbian and I wouldn’t care if Dawn were a lesbian but I did not want to hear that Dawn and Willow were lesbians together. Call me selfish. You wouldn’t be the first.

Willow blushed and Dawn laughed before plopping down on the bed on the other side of me.

“Willow and I are not together. I’m with Xander,” Dawn stated without hesitation, and she didn’t look away when she said it either (and let me just say, as an aside, that I’m so proud of the confident, self-assured woman that she has become).

My mouth opened in what I’m sure was a fish-out-of-water way and I was about to splutter something when Willow spoke up from my other side.

“And, well, Giles and I have been seeing each other for almost a year now,” she blurted out nervously.

I whipped my head to look at her. I’m sure the bug eyes and fish mouth were highly attractive and looking back, I’m just glad that Willow and Dawn were the only ones subjected to it. I just whipped my head back and forth a few times, staring dumbly at them while my mind tried to process this information.

Instead of responding, I ended up bursting into tears.

Again.

I swear I’m not a crying kind of girl but it was just too much.

“Buffy, we’re sorry we didn’t tell you but we thought you might be upset and it looks like we were right. . .” Willow started. She was interrupted by Dawn.

“It doesn’t mean we don’t love you or that we didn’t want you to be a part of our lives,” she said, hugging me to her.

I just cried harder. “Nu. . .noooooo,” I wailed. “It. . .it’s not that! It’s just that. . . you guys are all. . . together and couply and . . . happy and. . . and . . . I’m married to a virtual strangerrrrrrr . . . and Angel must . . . haaate me,” I sobbed, burying my face in my hands.

Willow rubbed my back while Dawn tried to talk some sense into me.

“Buffy, everything’s going to be o.k. I promise that Angel does not hate you.”

“Then why did he bring me back here and then disappear?” I asked.

Dawn was a little exasperated when she answered. “He and Gwen had some clean up to do on their case and then he said he was going to go make sure that Gunn didn’t, and I quote, ‘forget that he used to be the best lawyer in the country’. Buff, he’s helping Gunn arrange an annulment. Everything will be fine.”

I stopped crying. An annulment. Of course. And while they were all out there doing something to get me out of this mess that I got myself into, I was lying in bed, crying, and generally feeling sorry for myself.

I didn’t know what had happened to me, but I decided to kick myself in the ass and find out what I could do. I mean, there had to be papers for me to sign or something.

Willow and Dawn left me alone after I promised them that I wasn’t mad and that I’d meet them for breakfast the next day. I was a tad wigged at the prospect of seeing Dawn and Xander, or worse, Willow and Giles, engaged in any kind of PDA, but I figured I had to make good on my assertion to Angel that I was an adult and just deal.

So I got dressed in a pair of cream pants and a black silk tank, finished brushing my hair, put on some makeup, and went out to find my new husband, his quasi-girlfriend, and my ex.

*****
I found Gunn at the bar, nursing a beer.

Sliding into the seat next to him, I shook my head at the bartender to let him know I wasn't going to touch alcohol with a 10-foot pole and turned so that I was facing Gunn's profile.

“You just don’t learn, do you?” I teased, gesturing toward the drink in front of him.

“Hair of the dog that bit ya,” he replied without looking back at me. He slid a folder toward me. “Sign on the dotted line and you’ll be free and clear,” he said.

I pulled a pen out of my cute little designer handbag (perk of living in Rome) and signed my name a few times. Then I slid the folder back to him. The bartender noticed and gave me a little smile, and a nod. I could tell this wasn’t the first time he’d witnessed this kind of transaction.

When the folder was back in front of him, Gunn finally turned to look at me and I could see the regret shining in his eyes. “Look, I’m sorry if I kissed you or touched you or. . .” he trailed off, and it made me sad to see how guilty and just generally unhappy he looked.

I placed a hand on his arm and squeezed. “I’m sorry too. We were stupid together. There’s no reason for you to feel bad,” I assured him.

He shook his head. “Oh, there’s a whole lotta reasons for me to feel bad,” he said, and I knew then that he was talking about Gwen.

Now, I’m really not very good at pep talks. They have a tendency to turn into long speeches and then people tune me out and it’s not pretty. But I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut this time.

“You know, I’ve spent years running from what I really want most in life because I was afraid of what I might have to say or do to get it. I’ve been so scared that I might never get the dream that I haven’t even given myself a chance at it. And you know what? It’s a vicious cycle. My therapist calls it a “self-fulfilling prophecy” and I have to tell you, I really hate prophecies,” I told him. “Gunn, if you love her, if you wish it were her that you’d woken up with this morning, then you have to tell her. Right now,” I urge.

I’m reminded again why I was attracted to him when I first saw his eyes in the dance club last night (was it only last night?!?). They are deep and expressive and I could actually see the hope blooming there, along with the steely resolve that I now know defines his very existence.

“You’re all right Blondie. Now why don’t you go follow your own advice,” he said before he gave me a kiss on the cheek and hopped off the barstool to go find Gwen.

I was pretty proud of that motivational speech.

Maybe I’ll start giving more pep-talks after all.

Hmmmmmm.

Nah.

*******

An hour later, as I stood there in front of Angel’s door preparing to take my own advice, I have to admit that the same old feelings of panic and fear of rejection bubbled up.

In fact, I was starting to turn away when the door opened and . . . . there He was.

The one. The only.

“Angel,” I breathed, and then I could feel the blood rushing to my face as I blushed. I went there to say so much, and all I could manage was his name.

It was enough.

His arms were around me in an instant and then his lips were on mine, tentative at first, and then hard and demanding when I leaned in and wrapped my arms around his neck. Soon, my world was spinning again, but this time it was very, very good.

He wrapped his arms around my waist and picked me up to carry me across the threshold, kicking the door closed behind us. My full attention was on his lips, his tongue, his hands, and the hard planes of his body under my own hands. It took me several minutes to realize that we had somehow wound up on the bed and we were both more than half-undressed.

I was reminded of why I had been with my one and only only once and I pulled back, breathless and fighting against the feeling of hopelessness that was threatening to overwhelm me.

“Angel, we can’t,” I panted, pushing his wandering hands away from me and trying very hard not to burst into tears for the third time in one day.

He must have seen the tears that were threatening to spill because he pulled me into his arms again, but this time it was gentle and non-demanding. He touched his forehead to mine and then pulled back, capturing my chin in one of his large hands and tipping my face so that I was staring into the deep recesses of his soulful eyes.

“Buffy, I need to tell you something really important and I need for you to listen before you react,” he began and my stomach sank as I prepared myself for yet another shocking revelation.

Nothing could have prepared me for what he said next.

“After we defeated the armies of the Senior Partners, the Powers sent me a little reward. Buffy, they gave me the gift of happiness,” he paused, looking at me to see if I understood and I have to admit that my brain was moving very slowly. I shook my head and he moved his hand away from my chin to brush a strand of hair behind my ear.

“They took away the happiness clause,” he finally said, simply.

It still took me a moment to understand.

When it finally hit me I gasped and jumped back a little. “How long . . .” I began and he moved closer to me again.

“Two years ago,” he answered.

My mind was filled with a jumble of thoughts and I couldn’t figure out what I was feeling. I was so overjoyed and I was pissed and I wondered why he had waited so long to tell me and I wondered how long I would have to wait before putting it to the test and I might have sat there, rock-like, frozen by indecision if he hadn’t pulled me into his lap and buried his face in my hair.

Then he cried.

He would kill me if he knew I told, but he did, and his tears washed away all of my confusion and doubt and left me with just the joy.

Cheesy, but true.

Oh, we talked about stuff, don’t get me wrong, but that was just about ironing out the details, like that I was ready and he was ready and we weren’t going to keep secrets from each other anymore. The commitment came with the tears and you wanna know what?

I did cry for that third time in one day, right along with him, but they were the good kind of tears.

******

So now here I am in Las Vegas again, 6 months after the 24 hours in question and I remember it like it was yesterday.

Were those some wacky hijinks or what? "Oh what a tangled web we weave" said . . . somebody. Truer words were probably never spoken (or written, or expressed through interpretive dance—I really can’t remember which).

What’d you just say? Well, yeah, I guess I’ve had a few drinks but what’d you expect?

It’s my honeymoon and the champagne is on the house.

And this time I remember my perfect wedding and the groom was the love of my life.

~~End

*******


| Fiction Index | Home Page | Back |