BA Pulitizer Prize Award Winner for Runner Up AU BA

His Girl Award Winner for Best NC-17 fic, 1st Place



DISCLAIMER: Nope. I still don't own them.
DISTRIBUTION: Of course you can have it! Please let me know though.

SPOILERS: Completely AU. My first one with no vamps or Slayers. Everyone's just plain ‘ole human. (I can't even believe I'm writing this, so please let me know what you think.)

PAIRING: B/A, of course!

FEEDBACK: I'd like to know what you think of this one.

LYRICS: All lyrics are from Barenaked Ladies

RATING: PG-13 (for now anyway)


one day i'll construct a satellite and i'll name it after you

Angel strolled through the gallery showing. It was all his art and he puffed up with pride. He had worked all of his life to get here, to have a showing of his work and his work alone. Now here he was, milling through a large crowd of people who were admiring his work. Two pieces had already sold for enough money to keep him in canvases and paint for the six months. He was sure this was the best day of his life until he saw her and stood there struck dumb for a moment.

His mouth went dry and he picked up a glass of wine from a passing waiter, surprising the man when his hand sprung out to rescue the drink. He slammed back the dry wine and wished it was whiskey or water - hell, never mind because she was turning around and walking, pointing at various works with her friends in tow. He searched her hands for rings and found one. As she turned the corner, he tried to remember which hand she pointed with, the one with the ring. Was that the right or the left?

He hurried to follow her, setting his glass on a stand next to a nude statue he had done and received a dirty look from someone who didn't realize he was the artist. He stopped at the door to take her in once more. She was staring at a rather detailed nude he had done of Darla two years ago. He flushed with embarrassment as he looked over his own art. Nearly all of it was erotic and sensual in some way. If not blatantly sexual, it all had the slope of desire. It never seemed to matter before but he saw her looking at it with a flush to her innocent looking face, he wanted to cover it all up. He wasn't ashamed of his art, but that she now knew that he had seen a great many women naked, most of them ending up in his bed, which he was sure she realized.

He wanted to go over there and tell her that he would burn them all if she would forget she saw them. In the next breath, he wanted to ask her to be his next model. He stood in confusion, lost in her beauty. Her hair was so golden with an interesting contrast of light and dark. He wondered if he had the paint that would capture it correctly. The profile of her face was soft, yet defined and he was sure even his most delicate shading pencil would not get it right.

He edged over, preparing to eavesdrop when her dark haired friend, turned and flashed him a brilliant smile, "You must be Angel!"

"Yes," he flustered, nodding, sneaking another glance at the blonde. What color were her eyes, for the love of God? Were they hazel? Green? Jesus, he could spend hours mixing paint to create that hue.

"You don't have a last name?" the red headed girl asked, smiling nervously.

"Not really," he answered. Growing up as an orphan, he never knew his last name. He didn't even have an official first name. The lady at the orphanage always called him "her angel" and it kinda stuck. He had been adopted several times and passed along from foster home to foster home, but it never worked out. He was too much of a wild child to remain in one place for long. His driver's license had a last name on it, as did his birth certificate and social security card. They were all different.

"How very Madonna of you," the dark haired girl said, still smiling. He thought her face might crack if she didn't rest soon.

"You're very talented," the blonde said. The goddess finally spoke and it was like melting caramel. Her voice changed everything. The picture went askew from the moving of her lips, the lightness in her eyes.

"Thank you, um..." he said, fishing for a name.

"Buffy," she answered, "Buffy Summers, cause, I...uh...I do have a last name."

"Cordelia," the dark haired girl threw in, touching his arm.

"This is Willow," Buffy said, gesturing to her friend and smiling warmly at her.

"So, what do you ladies do for a living?" Angel said, unsure of how to act. Should he put on the usual charm and reel her in? It always worked before, but he didn't want to come on too strong. She seemed like the type who would never give a guy like him the time of day. Too smart. He knew he could have the brunette in his bed by the end of the night if he wanted to but that's not what he wanted.

"I actually run a gallery," Buffy answered smiling sheepishly.

"Really?" he said, smiling broadly. It was fate. He knew it. "Which one?"

"It's small," she said, speaking over her friend's huff of irritation. The brunette obviously did not like competition.

"You probably get tired of being around artsy people all the time, Angel. I, on the other hand, am a model. Whole different ball of wax."

"Yes, you're right," he said, nodding graciously. He knew there was a reason he didn't like her even though she was striking. She was a model. He hated those whiny bitches, always interested in themselves.

"What do you do?" he asked Willow, the shy one. He didn't want Buffy to think he was leaving her friend out of the conversation, especially since she seemed partial to the redhead. They must be closer friends.

"I work at the hospital," Willow answered.

"She's a surgeon," Buffy beamed proudly, "She's the best on the staff."

"Yeah, we're all so very proud of her," Cordelia moaned. She hated it when Willow stole her thunder by being cute and smart.

"We are!" Buffy announced and leaned in to Angel with a twinkle in her eye, "You should know you have a genius in your midst."

"I'm honored," Angel answered, sweeping in an exaggerated bow that made the blonde goddess giggle lightly. He tried not to look at her body, tried to keep his eyes on her face, but the little black cocktail dress she was wearing was like an invitation to drool. He forced himself not to notice the curve of her hips, the shapely legs appearing beneath the hem, the tiny bit of cleavage showing...for very long, anyway.

"Of course, you're a genius too," Buffy said, looking up at the picture in front of her. It was a landscape. One of the only ones he had done but it seemed to sing of love and had a touching air to it that she couldn't place, "This one is fantastic."

"Thank you," Angel said, blushing slightly, "It's Ireland. That's where I was born but was shipped to America shortly after."

"Shipped?" Cordy asked quizzically, "What were you? Cargo?"

"Pretty much," he said, shrugging, "My mother boarded the ship with me to America and got off without me. I was sent to an orphanage. I never found out who she was, only where she was from."

"I'm sorry, that's horrible," Buffy said, feeling the urge to give him a hug and keep holding on to his broad frame until he had to call the police to pry her off. He was beautiful and his deep brown eyes were more vivid than his paintings.

"Well, anyway, I hope you enjoy the show," Angel said, wanting to pay someone to beat him senseless for telling her his sob childhood story. What a fucking idiot.

"Angel," Cordelia said, touching his arm again, her blood red claws contrasting nicely with his black silk shirt. She handed him a card with her home address and phone number written on the back. She always had one prepared just in case, "We're having a party next Friday. I hope you can make it."

"We?" Angel asked, glancing at Buffy again.

"House warming," Buffy added, "Cordy just bought a new house to celebrate her modeling career."

"Oh," he said nodding, "Will you be there?"

"Y-yes," Buffy answered.

"Then so will I," he said, turning again and hurrying away. He grabbed another glass of wine and leaned against the wall next to one of his paintings, drinking the cool liquid slowly.

Will you be there?
Then so will I.

Well, he couldn't feel more like a dolt if he tried on purpose. That little conversation was the equivalent of Jennifer Gray's famous line, "I carried a watermelon," in Dirty Dancing.

"They were cute," Spike said, leaning next to him against the wall.

"I thought you weren't coming," Angel said to his friend, feeling jealousy rear up in him. As long as Spike didn't go after the blonde he wouldn't have to kill him.

"Yeah, well," he said, "I decided to stop by and scan the girls that showed up to fawn over your blobs of paint."

"Thanks for your support," Angel said dryly, trying not too look at Spike because he was trying to savor the picture of her in his mind. If he memorized her face, he could paint her tonight...and tomorrow...and the next day.

"The blonde is-"

"Not your type," Angel added, breaking into his friend's sentence.

"Ah, Peaches," Spike said, with a knowing smile, "I think you're smitten with the chit."

"Don't be stupid," Angel said, breathing evenly, "She's just...too innocent for your...for you."

"If you don't like her then it's okay if I try her out," Spike said, pulling away from the wall he was leaning on, "You know, take her for a little test drive."

"We're friends this year," Angel asked, referring to their rocky past, "Don't ruin it now."

"I thought you didn't like her."

"I lied," Angel said, moving away to mingle with his guests, "Stay away from her."

"Don't worry," Spike said, cocking his head to the side as the three moved away. A trio of tight asses to choose from on those three, he didn't need the blonde. Not yet, anyway.


i feel fine enough, i guess considering everything's a mess

"He's mine," Cordelia noted as she watched him walk away, "With an body like that, he needs to be with me."

"You have a boyfriend," Buffy protested. She didn't know how she spent all of her life kissing other men when the man of her dreams was across the room, talking to an attractive blonde man. She wanted go over there and give him her card. Of course she wasn't a man hunter like Cordy, so she didn't bring any in her tiny "going out" purse. Even if she had, they wouldn't have her home telephone number on the back of them.

"So do you," Cordy countered.

"I don't," Willow complained.

"Well, you certainly can't have him!" Cordelia announced.

"Shut up, Cordy," Buffy said, quieting her friend and then looking at Willow with pleading in her eyes. Please don't say you want him. Willow smiled back. She didn't want him. Only because she had never seen that look of longing in her friend's eyes before. She certainly never looked at Riley like that.

"Ready to go?" Will asked with a yawn.

"Yes," Buffy said, glancing over at the picture of Ireland one last time. She would love to take that one home but she knew better than to ask what it cost. She had run her late mother's gallery for too long to be naive about art prices.


it's so strange, i can't believe it

"Dru," Angel panted, running through the gallery to find the owner when he saw that Buffy and her friends had left. One minute he had been talking to some people, selling a piece and the next thing he knew they were gone. He couldn't believe he let her out of there before asking the name of her gallery. If that brunette hadn't interrupted then he would have and then...

...and then he would be in the same state of disarray he was right now - lusting after a little blonde girl he had talked to for three minutes.

"Darling, the show is an absolute success," she answered, sauntering over in her tasteful maroon dress with a smile, "You're famous."

"I need you to take that painting of Ireland off the wall. I'm not selling it," Angel said.

"Of course, honey," Drusilla answered, "But you realize that there have been several people asking about it. It might sell any minute."

"Tell them they're too late," Angel said quickly, "I need it now."

"Of course," she said, waving one of her gallery stoodges over and giving him instructions. Angel didn't breathe until he saw the small "Sold" sign placed there. That was the one that she liked. He couldn't sell it someone else.

"By the way," Angel asked, suddenly trying to revert to his normal cool demeanor, "You didn't happen to have a guest book did you? A mailing list? Anything?"

"We don't do that here," she said, raising her chin snottily.

"Okay then," Angel said, looking at the floor for a second, "What about gallery owners? You sent invitations, right?"

"Of course."

"I need to see it, please," Angel asked.

"Now?" she asked in surprise, "During your showing?"

"It'll only take a minute," he said, following her shapely form to the office. He knew it was stupid to leave his own showing to look up the address of a woman he had just met, but he had to know how to find her.

In the back office, he scanned the list once, twice, three times and each time it proved useless. What the hell kind of invitation didn't have the owners names on them? All they had were the names of the galleries and the addresses. He headed back out and began to mingle again. He stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out the business card. Whatever happened between now and Friday, one thing was for certain - he was going to be at that party.


Part Two - "The Party Life"


it's like a dream you try to remember but it's gone

Angel went home that night by himself for the first time in…

…well, it should suffice to say that he normally did not sleep alone. When he woke up the previous morning, his mind was filled with visions of beautiful women decorating his arm and flashes of dollar signs from his inevitable success. Upon entering the art gallery that evening, he had already spotted two or three prospective women to take home, one of them being the gallery owner, Drusilla. Although, she was slightly on the eccentric side (as all crazy, rich people were often called), she was rumored to have certain "talents." Just looking at her sashaying around in that tight maroon dress made her rise to the top of his list.

That was all before he saw Buffy, of course. Because of one small conversation with the petite blonde, he ended up going to his apartment alone. He spent the evening trying to recreate her in pencil sketches, charcoal and pastels before he settled in front of the easel and began to paint.

When the sun rose the following morning, he was still trying to capture her and failing. His small living room/art studio was scattered with botched attempts to make her look radiant and true to life. He leaned back and yawned into the sunrise. Standing, he crossed the room and poured himself another cup of coffee and then stood at the wall of windows and stared out the pink and orange streaked sky.

Deciding to distract himself, he started a new painting of the sunrise outside of his window. He flourished in the change of subject matter and found inspiration in the whirls of colors, challenging himself to make it as authentic as he could. Soon he found himself painting in the bare windows themselves, giving the viewer the same thing he was seeing - the harsh reality of being trapped inside a room when all of the beauty was outside.

Later he leaned back in his chair and surveyed what he had done. So deep in concentration, he hadn't even noticed that in the very corner of the painting, near the edge of the window he had painted the perfect reflection of Buffy Summers.

He gasped, dropping the brush onto the drop cloth at his feet and stared at her. All night he had tried to make her come to life and now there she was, her pink lips curled in a tiny smile as she looked at the spectacular show before her.


it's the perfect time of year somewhere far away from here

It was raining and that was the perfect weather to sit at a desk and pretend to go over inventory while dreaming of a six-foot-ish godlike artist. Buffy stared at the stack of pages in front of her, comforted by the monotonous beat of rain on the window panes, trying to remind herself that she was dating Riley Finn, a man who loved her. Instead, she found herself thinking of Angel's large hands with the long slender fingers of an artist, of his broad shoulders and muscular arms. She found herself wondering what it would be like to be held in those arms...all night...naked...

"Buffy!" Anya shouted, coming to the office door and standing there with her hands on her narrow hips, eyes flashing in irritation.

"Huh?" Buffy said, jerking her eyes up to look at her employee.

"I've been calling you for ten minutes? You can't be that interested in inventory, besides I already went over it this morning," Anya complained.

"I know," Buffy said, standing up and straightening her shirt, "I always go over the inventory too. You know that. What do you need?"

"Do you realize that one of your stupid carrying-things boys hung a cubist painting next to an impressionist work?"


"So? You can't do that! It ruins the ambiance of the gallery, not to mention the emotions being portrayed on the canvas. It's WRONG!"

"Okay. I'll have it moved," Buffy sighed, smiling at the girl. Anya had been a life saver since she started at the gallery. When her mother died, Buffy decided to carry on in her mother's honor, but she knew very little about art when she started. What she did have was a flair for knowing what people liked and a dead on intuition about what should be categorized as "art" and what was "crap." Her talent in those areas was what had kept the gallery alive. Now that she had Anya she was able to increase the in house knowledge.

"Thank you," Anya huffed and turned back to the gallery to peer at the balance of the hanging works. There just couldn't be another mishap like this one.


if you're flummoxed and flushed and your heartbeat is rushed

Angel was incredibly nervous about going to the party, which is why he was standing in front of his closet wondering why he had so many damn black clothes. Shouldn't an artist be more colorful than this? The last thing he wanted was to walk into the party looking like his normal broody and morose self.

He pulled one of few pairs of blue jeans he owned out of the closet and stared at them. Tossing them aside, he looked again, thinking how ridiculous this was. She was a girl. One. He had slept with dozens of women, more. He knew how to treat them and knew how to get what he wanted. The problem was with this girl, he didn't know what he wanted. He didn't want to sleep with her. Well, of course he did, but he wanted to take her out to dinner, buy her flowers, ask her about her day and rub her feet -

- for fuck's sake, this was absurd! He cut off his train of thought and dressed quickly, choosing what he would normally wear to one of these events: a pair of black pants and a maroon silk shirt. He looked in the mirror and cursed silently at his reflection as the phone rang.


"Hi baby," a female voice drawled.

"Darla," he answered, icing his voice over immediately at the sound of hers.

"Do you have plans tonight, lover?" she asked huskily.

"Yes," he answered, "And we're not lovers anymore."

"But we could be," she said, "Are you sure you can't back out of whatever you're doing? I need an escort."

"Call Spike," Angel spat, "I'm sure he'd be glad to service you."

"Angel," she said sweetly, "There's no need to be rude."

"Yes, there is," he said, not bothering to say goodbye as he hung up the phone. He stared down at the phone and took a deep breath. Then he took several more.


feels just like i'm falling for the first time

Buffy had been dodging Riley all week. They had long ago reached the point in their relationship where they should have had sex, but she just couldn't imagine losing her virginity to him. He was getting that look in his eyes lately and she knew what it meant, even though she acted like she didn't. She might be a spinster for the rest of her life but she didn't care. Whenever he touched her, she didn't feel the kind of warmth she had read about. She felt like running far, far away.

"Will?" Buffy called out, peaking into Cordelia's kitchen to find Willow mixing various punches as if they were chemistry experiments.

"Hey Buff, you're here," Willow said, "Wanna help make punch? I have 4 different kinds."

"Shouldn't we start on the food?" Buffy asked, bewildered by the amount of fruity beverages in front of her.

"You're in charge of the food," Willow said over Buffy's groan, "I'm in charge of the colorful drink concoctions."

"No fair," Buffy complained, "It's a good thing that Cordy doesn't expect any cooking to be done with the food part. Casualties could ensue. People have died from my cooking before, you know."

"It's okay," Willow said, picking up the first bowl of punch to carry it to the dining room, "I won't tell Angel."




with some gratuitous sex

Buffy had spent the night wandering from room to room, occasionally talking to people but mostly looking for a certain hauntingly gorgeous artist. The party was in full swing with no sign of Angel when Buffy walked into the living room and saw a painting sitting on the couch in deep discussion with Cordelia. Well, she wasn't a painting, but she was in one of Angel's paintings - one of the very naked ones.

She crept over to better overhear their conversation, feeling slightly guilty for trying to eavesdrop...but not too much.

"I have to know everything," Cordy demanded of the blonde.

"Well," she said, her voice dripping with an acidic sweetness that made Buffy's stomach turn, "He's a wonderful lover. If he wants to get between your thighs, I highly suggest it. The man made me feel things I didn't think were possible. But never trust him."

"He's one of those?" Cordelia asked, nearly snarling with the news.

"He's incapable of being with just one woman. ‘Monogamy' is not a word that he understands."

"Hey love," said a male voice and Buffy turned to see the blonde man Angel had been speaking to at the gallery. He walked up and sat down next to the woman, curling an arm around her waist, "Bad mouthing Peaches again?"

"As a rule, yes," she answered. All Buffy could see in her eyes was a cold bitterness. She felt her heart sink as she realized how much Angel have hurt her to make her that bracing. She never would have thought that about him. Suddenly, she wasn't so excited about him coming and reluctantly went to see if her boyfriend had noticed how much she had ignored him already.

"Finally something that's true," Angel said, appearing at the doorway and causing Buffy to stop in her tracks and turn around to look at him.

"Angel!" the blonde woman said, lighting up. Buffy noticed immediately that her whole demeanor had changed when she spotted him.

"Darla," he said coldly."Hello Cordelia. Thank you for inviting me to your party. I can see that my ex here has once again sullied my name."

"That's not true," Cordy said, rising eagerly to her feet and taking Angel's arm in hers, "Let me show you where the refreshments are."

Buffy watched in disbelief as her shameless friend led Angel into the dining room to show him the vast array of beverages and edible treats. It was so typical that she would not care if he was a piece of shit, only that he was famous and good looking...and apparently the fact that he was good in bed didn't dissuade her at all.


i could be good, and i would - if i knew i was understood

Spike followed Angel out to the back patio of Cordelia's new home, where he stood looking out at the trees and grass.

"I heard a little rumor about you," Spike said, lighting a cigarette and blowing the smoke at his friend's back.

"Of that I have no doubt," Angel snapped, knowing that every tiny thought he had of seeing Buffy was ruined now that Darla had been filling her friend's ears with information about him.

"This one didn't come from Darla," Spike added, "Tell me if you've heard this one before."

"Here we go," Angel sighed, turning to face him.

"Nancy boy prances about town for the past ten years, give or take, shagging every chit that wanders in his path. He finally gets a taste of his own medicine and is crushed by a certain blonde bitch, we both know."


"Let me finish. He double times his efforts after the break up, rutting women left and right. Then the Poof meets a different blonde girl at his very first and mighty successful, might I add, art show. He goes home by himself that night for the first time in longer than I can bloody remember. Then he breaks up with all the little bints he's been screwing for the past couple of months. He refuses to see any of them and sits in his apartment doodling his new obsession."

"Do you have a point?" Angel asked, trying to keep from punching his long time friend for telling the truth.

"Yeah, I think you're in love with her," Spike said, "I think you've jumped off the bloody deep end."

"And I think you should mind your own fucking business," Angel ordered furiously.

"Really? Then I guess you don't want to know what Darla said about you and how much of that your sweet and innocent girl heard of it."

"What did she say?" he demanded, his voice nearly a growl.

"Are you in love with her?" Spike asked, his eyes glittering.

"What did she say, Spike?"

"I want to hear you admit you're in love. I want to be the first to witness the crumbling of the great womanizer. Admit it and I'll tell you. You love her?"

"I DON'T KNOW!" Angel shouted, grabbing Spike by the lapels of his leather duster and shaking him roughly. He pushed him away and watched as his friend stumbled back, laughing. He heaved breaths and continued, "I can't stop thinking about her. I don't even know her. The only thing I do know is that I don't want anyone else. Not anymore."

"Wow," Spike said, flicking his butt out into the lawn and watched it smolder on the grass for a moment, "I'll have to mark this down as the best conversation we've ever had."

"Screw you," Angel said, "Tell me what she said."

"Oh that," Spike said, "You already know. Same bloody thing she's told every woman she's come across for a long time. Good in bed. Can't be trusted."

"You're a jackass."

"Stating the obvious for fun?" Spike said with a grin as he went inside, "By the way, since you're little ex has efficiently set you back in the race, I don't suppose you'd mind a little healthy competition would you?"

"This isn't a race," Angel said, turning deadly eyes on his longtime friend-enemy, "This is a beautiful young woman who does not need any pain in her life. If I find out you've hurt her in any way, if you shake her hand too hard, if you look at her too harshly, I'm going to kill you with my bare hands."

"Aw Peaches," Spike said as he strolled back into the house.


Part Three - "The Next Show"


then you try to scream but it only comes out as a yawn

Angel stood on the patio and looked through the windows at the party going on inside. He felt as if he shouldn't go back in, that he should stay out in the dark as the outcast. It would be so simple, though, to walk back in and find the beautiful blonde who had turned his world upside down and seduce her. As much as he wanted to change, he couldn't help thinking about seducing her. Almost constantly, in fact. The only difference was that usually he was thinking about screwing some random girl and now, he only thought about making love to one.

He caught sight of her moving toward the door and he backed into the shadows automatically. She was followed by her boyfriend, who was tall and blonde as well. They both looked so decent, honest and wholesome together. The boyfriend was wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt, as if he had just gotten home from a day in the fields. She was wearing a cotton dress that hung loosely over her body but couldn't manage to disguise the graceful curve of her hips or the rise of her breasts. Her skin was so smooth and flawless that Angel dreamed of touching it. He wondered how soft it would feel beneath his fingertips.

"This isn't the time, Riley," Buffy said, as she stepped out in the cool evening air and crossed her arms over her chest. Angel watched in fascination as little goosebumps rose on her arms, raising the tiny golden hairs there.

"I don't understand why you're getting so upset," he answered, touching her bare shoulder with his hand. Angel prickled in the darkness as he watched him touch her. The touch was familiar. She was used to his hands on her and Angel couldn't help feeling jealous. It was almost as if his emotions didn't understand that he had no claim whatsoever on the girl.

"I'm not ready for this kind of commitment," she said, stepping away and turning around to face Riley. Angel suspected she only turned around to face him so that he wasn't touching her any longer. He couldn't be certain, he just wished he was.

"We've been dating for six months," Riley said, "Isn't that a commitment?"

"Yes," Buffy said, "I guess so. I don't know."

"I know you don't love me," Riley said and the shamed look in his girlfriend's eyes confirmed the truth. She didn't answer right away, but she shifted her weight from one foot to another, looking off in the distance instead. She didn't need to answer. Riley knew and so did Angel. Even from far away he could see that she didn't love him. Or maybe it was wishful thinking, "But I do love you, Buffy."

"It's not that I don't love you, Riley," she answered.

"But you don't love me," Riley protested, "I've done everything I can to make you happy and nothing works. I don't understand why this is so difficult."

"I'm sorry I'm so difficult," Buffy snapped, narrowing her eyes in anger, "If I'm that much of a pain in the ass, why don't you just forget about me?"

"I'm sorry," Riley said, sounding as though he were nearly gushing to Angel. Although Angel thought he would be doing much the same thing in the boy's situation, "That's not what I meant. I want to be with you. I just don't understand why you don't want to be with me."

"I don't know," Buffy said, biting her lower lip, "I'm just not ready for this."

"Are you breaking up with me?" he asked. He sounded wounded. For such a large man, she made him look awfully small.

"I don't know," she repeated, "I just need some time."


she's burning for you

"How are things with Riley?" Willow asked a month later over lunch. The pair were sitting in a restaurant on the outside patio. It was a bit too windy to be comfortable but they both decided to deal with it anyway. It just seemed like a waste of sunshine to sit inside.

"The same," she said, pushing her food around her plate with her fork, as if she thought the rearrangement would convince Willow she had eaten something.

"And you still haven't broken up with him?" Willow asked, leaning in confidentially, "Or slept with him?"

"That's the problem," Buffy said, "Kissing him is like I imagine kissing Xander would be like, like kissing a good friend or a brother. There's no there there, if you know what I mean."

"That's not what I thought about kissing Xander," Willow said, smiling brightly in spite of herself.

"Speaking of Xander," Buffy said, grateful for the change in subject, "When does he come to town next?"

"Thirteen days," Willow answered, inspecting her plate closely to hide the look of excitement from her friend.

"I see," Buffy said, nodding wisely, "We're counting again. Should I get out the chart so we can compare his blood pressure from last time?"

"Very funny," Willow said wryly.

"Seriously though," Buffy said, "Will there be sparkage?"

"I hope so," Willow sighed, "I've only waited approximately my whole life. He seems to be...eager to see me."

"That's a good."

"Oh yeah," Willow answered, "Speaking of sparkage, guess who already has another art show?"

Buffy groaned and fought the urge to pound her head on the table. She had gone almost a whole day without thinking about Angel. It was really absurd at this point to be thinking about a man whom she had met once and seen twice. And yet, the chemistry that had been missing with Riley came back in spades with Angel.

"When?" Buffy asked weakly.

"Next month," Willow said, "Guess where?"

"Where?" Buffy asked.

"Your gallery."


"Anya set up it," Willow said, "She said she told you."

"She said she wanted to use the gallery for a showing of her friend's work next month and I said that was fine. And you knew damn well I had no idea or you wouldn't be so smug over there."

"Yeah," Willow said, grinning ear to ear, "The friend is Angel. Or actually a friend of a friend. Apparently, our little Anya has been dating his friend, Spike, for the last couple of weeks."

"The blonde English guy?"

"The same."

"Oh God."


i'm so sane, it's driving me crazy

It was Friday night and Angel decided he was going to the bar to have a drink. He had been celibate and liquor free for so damn long, he was going to join seminary school if he wasn't careful. He strolled into the bar that Spike owned and sat down at the bar, perching on a vacant barstool.

"Angel!" the bartender said with a smile, "Long time, no see, buddy. Want the usual?"

"Hey Doyle," he said, "Yeah, the usual would be great."

"I heard you have another art show coming up," he said, sliding a tall chilled glass of Irish stout down the bar, which Angel caught, lifted and took a swig of in one smooth movement.

"Yes he does," Spike said, taking over the stool next to Angel, "Doyle, I'd like one of the same."

"Sure thing," Doyle said, sliding another down the bar at his boss a second or two later, "Hey, did you break the happy news to him yet?"

"What happy news?" Angel asked, looking over at Spike's evil grin suspiciously.

"Well, remember when I told you that I'd set up the location of your new showing?"

"Yeah," Angel said hesitantly.

"I made all nice like with your little chit's employee, Anya."

"What are you saying exactly?"

"The little gallery hosting your work is Fluffy's."


"Whatever mate."

"Wait a second," Angel said, swiveling in his stool to look directly at his friend, "Are you telling me that it's at her gallery. The one she owns? As in, she's going to be there?"

"Yep," Spike said nodding, "Now tell me what a great friend I am. I mean, I sacrificed all this energy for your love life."

"Are you out of your fucking mind?" Angel shouted, gaining the attention of most of the room in the process, "Most of the goddamn paintings have her in them!"

"I know."

"If it's her gallery, then she'll see them and think I'm a fucking psychopath."

"I know," Spike said, adding a laugh to his maniacal grin before taking another sip of the bitter stout in front of him, "Great, isn't it?"

"What the hell am I going to do?" Angel asked, leaning over the bar with his head in his hands, "She'll see the paintings and she'll hate me. She'll...oh God."

"Yeah," Spike said, obviously enjoying the hell out of himself, "Guess you'd better paint something else in the next couple of weeks. Maybe if you have another bint on the canvas here and there she won't notice so much."

"You are such a shit."

"For what? Enjoying life? Get a grip, Nancy boy. The fun's just beginning," Spike said. He swallowed the rest of his beer and slammed the glass on the bar, top down, splashing a bit of the dark liquid on the glossy surface.


now i've landed in this awkward situation

"Anya," Buffy said, the next morning as she stormed into the little gallery. Thankfully there were no patrons present to overhear the briskness of her tone.

"What's the matter?" Anya said, looking up from the photos in front of her.

"Why didn't you tell me who the artist was for the art showing next month?"

"It's Angel," Anya said matter of factly, "I didn't tell you because you didn't ask. You said you trusted my judgment. What's wrong? You don't like his work? I know it's a bit sensual now and then, but he really has wonderful technique."

"I know that," Buffy said, trying to cover the harshness of her tone, "He does wonderful work."

"Then why are you angry about it?"

"I'm not angry," she shouted, almost hysterically, "Why would I be angry?"

"Are you nervous then?" Anya asked, "There's no need to be. He's only just become famous. He won't be any bother. From what I understand he's very nice."

"I thought you said he was your friend."

"A friend of a friend," Anya said, "Actually, I've been copulating with his best friend. He said he's met you. His name is Spike."

"I've met them both," Buffy said. She had walked into the gallery and was hoping to find some reason to make this not happen. She just couldn't have that heart-breaking, knee melting, soul crunching devil in her gallery. It was too much to handle. And now she couldn't think of one excuse to say no.

"So you've met Angel?" Anya said, "He was supposed to be at Cordelia's party. Actually that's where I met Spike, but I never saw Angel there. Is he as gorgeous as they say he is?"

"More," Buffy groaned, resting her head on the counter, "Much, much more...dammit."

"Oh, I see," Anya said, smiling knowingly at her boss.

"See? See what?"

"You've got a crush on him."

"Don't be silly, Anya," Buffy chided, "We aren't in high school anymore, you know."

"What's that have to do with crushes?" Anya asked seriously, "You can have a crush if you're 16 or 160 and I know you have a crush on that man."

"Why would I possibly have a crush on a horrible womanizer like him?" Buffy demanded.

"There's a reason he's so good at being a womanizer you know."


there's an overwhelming stench of alibi...
come on now, now, come on now, now
enjoy the humor of the situation

Angel laid all of his most recent paintings out, displaying them around his apartment. He looked from painting to painting, from image to image, thinking how beautiful they looked yesterday. Today they looked pathetic and crazy and stalker-like. There were a couple that were so abstract that they could be passed off as not being inspired by Buffy, but they were few and far between.

He wasn't even sure how it happened exactly, how so many of them came to be. He just was trying to get it right, to capture not only her outer beauty but her inner light as well. Even as he thought about it, he realized it was stupid. Inner light. What the hell was that anyway? But she had it. She had a lightness about her, a breezy air in her voice and in her step that made his other lovers seem static, flat and stale. He had been with all those women who were beautiful, of course, but they all seemed fake. Buffy didn't have that falseness about her. She seemed more real somehow, more...everything.

Now he had to figure out how to go back to painting things that were less than everything. He had to reinvent himself yet again. He wandered around the apartment and looked at each dab of paint and each stroke of his brush. There had to be a way to make this right, even though it didn't really seem all that wrong to begin with.


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