(Sequel to "Images of Us.")

By Tango

E-MAIL: Tangofic@hotmail.com
DISCLAIMER: Nope. I still don't own them.
SPOILERS: This takes place three years after "Images of Us." Completely AU. Everyone's just plain ‘ole human.

PAIRING: B/A, of course!

DISTRIBUTION: Anyone else who houses my fic is welcome to it. All others, please ask me first. Thanks!

AN: For the back chapters, please visit my site, (www.sunflower.com/~tango).

FEEDBACK: Please let me know if you want more!

LYRICS: All lyrics are from Poe.

RATING: You know it's NC-17. *G*


no one should brave the underworld alone

Charles Gunn was exhausted. He had been running rampant with cases lately and had been taking on more work than he really could handle. His men were overworked as well and to the point that the overtime they were being paid wasn't compensating the time they were losing away from their friends and families. Every time he even thought about trying to hire some new people for his staff, he found that he couldn't spare the time to even interview.

A few good things had dropped into his lap, however, that set his mind at ease. One of them was his new gem of an employee, Faith Summers. After all that had happened with Buffy three years ago, she had tried to go back to her old way of life and found that despite her need for excitement, she couldn't murder people on a regular basis and then face her sister later. Angel brought up the idea of Faith joining Gunn's crew and she had proven to be the greatest asset that Gunn Investigations had.

He chuckled as he walked up to the New Hope Shelter for teens for his next case, remembering how he had suggested that Faith wouldn't mind taking on some of the clerical duties as well, being that she was a woman. Just the look that crossed her beautiful face and the contempt that filled her dark eyes would have been enough to stop him in his tracks before she even uttered her flippant, "Fuck off." Faith was undoubtedly a woman, but he soon learned that he could not even pretend to lump her into some overly feminine stereotype. His men would find out too, that again and again, she would prove them all wrong.

Gunn took on a more serious demeanor as he walked into the shelter. He looked around him, taking in his surroundings carefully. The building, although fairly sturdy, was in desperate need of repairs. The furniture was worn and falling apart, paint was chipping off the walls and the ceiling had a crack in it that certainly was a welcome reservoir for rain. It was a shelter, after all, but Gunn still felt surprised by the utter disrepair.

He poked around until someone walked into the room and he was face to face with a startlingly attractive blonde girl. She looked to be in her early twenties. Probably a good ten years his junior but in her eyes, she looked old, as if life had been sucked from her not once but again and again. Gunn held his breath and thought about the first thing he was supposed to say to her, how he could save her from whatever was making her look so lost and how he could bring a sparkling youth to those pretty eyes again.

"Hello," he said, finding his words, nodding and smiling politely, "I'm Charles Gunn with Gunn Investigations. I'm here to meet with Anne Steele."

"I'm Anne," she said, flipped her long dark blonde hair casually over her shoulder as she extended her hand. Gunn accepted the offered hand and shook it, surprised that this young woman, despite her battle scars, was the person in charge of this place.

"Please come in, Charles," she said, walking toward her office and then stopped, looking at him over her shoulder, "May I call you, Charles?"

"You can call me whatever you want," he mumbled and then realized just what he had said. Clearing his throat, he added, "Uh, I mean, sure. ‘Charles' is fine."


dear world, i'm pleased to meet you

Winifred Burkle, called ‘Fred' by her friends, fellow co-workers and the children she cared for, looked around the room at the napping children. Yawning, she sipped her tea and glanced at her watch. It was 2:00 PM and naptime would soon be over. She wished she could take a nap as well before she woke the children, but she wasn't allowed that. Watching them reminded her of why she always wanted to be one again. Things were so unbelievably simple for them.

For all of them, that is, except for Hannah Summers. While the rest of the children slept, she was sitting close to the window with a copy of Alice in Wonderland in her tiny three year old hands. Fred had to admit that she was the most brilliant child in the day care center and probably the most beautiful as well. With dark hair that fell to her small shoulders in soft waves and inquisitive bright green eyes, she was adorable. After watching her progress for the last few weeks, since she had joined the group, Fred was still surprised when she opened her mouth and a full adult sentence came out.

Her parents had explained that much her time was spent around adults and so she had matured more quickly than other children, but Fred disagreed. No three year old child could speak as she did, read as much and knew as much just from being around a few adults. No, Fred was certain the child was a genius.

Looking away from the children, Fred refocused on the problem at hand. She was currently working her way through the Aerospace Engineering PhD program at UCLA and was sneaking homework that day while the children slept. Little Hannah Summers walked over to Fred and peered over the arm of her chair to see what she was working on. Exasperated by the difficult problem on the Finite Elemental Method, Fred had taken a deep breath before looking down at her little pupil.

"Do you need something, Hannah?" Fred asked.

"Homework?" Hannah asked, slipping her hand over the page and almost caressed Fred's messy scribbling.

"Yes, it's a math class," Fred answered simply. Mechanical Engineering math classes were so much more than just "math." She liked it so much better when math actually contained numbers rather than letters. Even so, it made so much more sense to her in previous courses.

"It's an elliptic boundary value problem," Hannah said, pulling a chair over and kneeling on it. She set her orange bound copy of Alice in Wonderland aside as she looked over the page. Fred stared at the little girl, whose face was scrunched in concentration.

"H-how did you know that?" Fred asked incredulously.

"Don't know," she said, shrugging, "I just know. I think I see your mistake though."

"Really?" Fred said, refocusing on her page. She had been over the problem three times and it should be right, but she knew it wasn't.

"It's the ‘L,'" Hannah said, pointing to the page, "It's the Galerkin form. See? You don't need to add it cause it's a stationary point. The ‘L' doesn't need to be there for the positive definite. See?"

Fred didn't answer. She just stared at the child dumbfounded. Hannah reached across to get a pencil from the Kermit the frog mug at the end of the desk and had to stand up to reach it. Sliding the page over to her, she wrote in large, childlike letters: (Lu, v) = (f,v)

"See?" she repeated, looking at her daycare teacher with an adult sort of concern.

"How could I have missed that?" Fred asked, scooting the page back over to her, "Thank you, Hannah!"

"Welcome," she said, "I'm gonna finish reading my book now."

"I like that one," Fred said, smiling at the girl, still astonished by the child's grasp of matrix algebra.

"Me too," Hannah said, smiling shyly.

"Have you read it before?"

"Yeah," Hannah said, twisting her body back and forth as if gathering her book in a hug, "Daddy says it's okay to read it again if I want."

"Course it is," Fred answered. She looked up as the door opened quietly and the father in question was standing there smiling broadly. Hannah squealed and ran across the room to him, her ebony curls bouncing over her shoulders as she ran.

"Daddy!" Hannah shouted, as she jumped into his arms.

"Hi sweetheart," He said, kissing her and then perched her on his hip as he strolled to the front of the room towards Fred, careful to skirt the children who were awakening on the floor, all lying on multicolored mats.

Fred felt that same lump form in her throat as it did whenever she laid eyes on Angel Summers. She always felt guilty being so attracted to a happily married man, but he was just so beautiful, she couldn't help herself. She stood on her suddenly wobbly legs and waited for him to reach her.

"Hi Fred," Angel greeted her with an easy smile.

"H-hello Mr. Summers," she stuttered wistfully.

"Angel," he said with a wink, "It's really okay if you call me by my first name. If you don't mind, I'm going to sweep this little one out a little early today."

"Sure," Fred said, looking into his deep brown eyes, which always looked so blissfully happy, as if there was nothing in the world better than where he was, than what he was doing. Every time she saw him, she wished she could someday find the sort of happiness that he had found, "Mr. Su...um...Angel, I would like to meet with you and your wife sometime this week, if it's okay."

"Is something wrong?" he asked as the happiness was quickly removed from his eyes and replaced by worry. He looked over his daughter suspiciously for a second and then back to Fred, "Did something happen?"

"I helped her with her math problem and now she thinks I'm weird," Hannah whispered into his ear, just barely loud enough for Fred to overhear.

"Oh," he said chuckling, inflating with thankfulness, "Is that it?"

"Yes," Fred said, "Although, I don't think she's weird. I would just like to talk to you about the possibilities for her education."

"Alright," Angel said, nodding, "But don't get your hopes up. My wife and I believe that our daughter should experience childhood before she's forced into an early education. Besides, she learns things everyday. Don't cha, pumpkin?"

"Yep," Hannah said, smiling at her father and nodding in gleeful agreement.


don't you mess with a little girl's dream
cause she liable to grow up mean

"Found her," Lilah said, tossing a thick file on Quinton Travers' desk. She smiled proudly and sat down across from his desk. She didn't bother to glance at her associate and long time lover, Wesley Wyndom-Pryce. She knew what the expression on his face would be and she delighted in the fact that he thought she looked like a snarling tigress when she smiled like that.

"Excellent," Travers answered, looking over the newest insertion in the file and then back up at his employee, "Daniel and I have decided to change your position on this case and place Wesley on it for now on, Lilah."

"Wait a minute," Lilah sneered, "Although I respect your opinion as well as Mr. Holtz', I discovered Hannah and I will bring her in."

"You did well in finding the girl," Travers answered, "But we feel as if a different face is needed for this one and perhaps a bit more...finesse. I'm sure you understand."

"No, I certainly don't," she said, keeping her voice cold and even, although she did feel as if she should be shouting. She had worked for the Holtz-Travers School for Gifted Children much longer than Wesley. She had the seniority and this was the most gifted child she had ever found. She wasn't about to relinquish this conquest to anyone, even if he was her lover.

"Her parents have rejected us again and again," Travers explained calmly, "They have moved their daughter to six different day cares over the last year and a half since you found her. We need someone else on this one."

"Do you really think I'm going to stay out of this case?" she demanded, "I know everything about Angel, Buffy and Hannah Summers. Wesley doesn't know anything about them or how to approach them."

"I'm sure I'll be able to muddle through," Wesley said, smiling smoothly at her. She scowled at him and stalked out of the office. Damn him, he was even sexier when he was winning.


this is beginning to feel good
watching you squirm in your shoes
a small bead of sweat on your brow
and a growl in your belly that you're scared to let through

Angel dropped his daughter off at "Uncle Spike's," reminding him severely that if anything happened to Hannah during the evening, he would kill him with his bare hands, he headed over to the office to surprise Buffy.

He always made a concerted effort to remember their anniversary and make it into a special occasion, because that's exactly what it was. Every day he rejoiced in his good fortune. When he thought about all the things he used to do and how his life was before he found her, he shuddered. He knew he was the luckiest man on the planet and he wanted to make sure his wife and daughter knew it.

Tonight, however was just for Buffy. He had orchestrated the whole event without her knowledge, which got harder every year. He made sure that Buffy made no appointments by speaking with Anya. He informed her that he was coming by at three to pick her up and there shouldn't be any reason why she couldn't leave. He had arranged for Spike to watch Hannah until Willow got off her shift at 9, then she would take Hannah for a slumber party at her house. Hannah adored Aunt Willow and Uncle Xander.

Angel strolled into the gallery and went directly to the office where he knew Buffy would be going over the new inventory, from Anya, of course. She was on the phone when he walked in, speaking to someone in her business-like phone voice. Glancing up at him, she smiled and waved him in while she finished her conversation. He entered and shut the door behind him, locking it with a smile.

Angel looked over her appreciatively. He wasn't sure at what point she would start to look like she was aging at all but it seemed like it was far from starting. She was so damn beautiful sitting there in her crisp business suit behind her massive desk. He circled her desk as she tried to end the conversation, arguing about some piece of art. Pivoting her chair to the side, he knelt before her and smoothed his hands over her legs, which were crossed, and over her slim hips.

He barely listened as she spoke, but was lulled by her voice. He remembered when he first heard it that day at his art showing. It still sounded like melted caramel to him. Grinning carnally at her, her slipped his hands over her breasts, caressing them and she gasped.

"Excuse me," she said into the phone, "Could you hold for just one moment, please?"

He watched as she punched the hold button and looked down at him. Ignoring her look of protest, he deliberately uncrossed her legs and pulled her closer to him. He kissed her lightly, then more aggressively, nipping at her red lips.

"Angel, what are you doing?" she whispered, holding her hand over the phone as if she feared the hold button wasn't working.

"Seducing you," he whispered, nudging her skirt up.

"I have to finish this call," she said, "It's an important dealer...oh...you have to stop that..."

"Finish your call," Angel said wickedly, as he caressed her increasingly wet sex through her silk panties, "Don't mind me."

"You can't do this while I'm on the phone," she whispered, already breathing heavily.

"Think you can't take it," he murmured, kissing her thighs, which he was spreading open to admit him.

"You're going to pay for this," she hissed as she reached to the retrieve her call once more.

"Oh, I certainly hope so," he crooned, pulling her further down her chair so he would have better access to her sweet core. He listened to her struggling to speak professionally as he pulled her panties down and pushed her skirt up to her waist. He moaned as he kissed her bare sex, certain that he would never grow tired of the taste, smell and feel of her. She was his wife and the mother of his child, but foremost in his mind, she was always his lover.

She clenched her teeth and bit in a gasp as he flipped her legs over the sides of her chair, opening her to him daringly. Glancing at the windows, she was thankful that the blinds were closed as her husband's tongue slithered inside her. Hurriedly, she finished her call and knew that later she would be irritated that she had just agreed to pay much more than she should have for the piece they were arguing about. Course that was much better than having her business associate hear her as she came against Angel's face.

Just as she managed to hang up the phone she jerked in orgasm, fighting not to call out his name loudly in her release. Lifting her hips and leaning her head back against her chair, she rolled in the waves of lust moving through her body.

"What's gotten into you?" she asked breathlessly as he picked her up and sat down in her chair, urging her to straddle him.

"I missed you today," he said, between kisses as he quickly freed himself from his pants. Guiding her hips, he pulled her down on him and groaned in pleasure once immersed in her slick heat.

"Sweetheart, we had lunch together," she whispered, moving over him as he pulled her hair free from the bun it was wrapped in so that he could feel it slipping through his fingers.

"I know," he answered. He pulled her shirt from where it was tucked into her bunched up skirt and pushed it up, attacking her hard nipples through her bra, "Needed you."

"Sex crazed beast," she whispered, finding purchase on his broad shoulders as she rode him harder, not bothering to wonder what the weight capacity was for her office chair.

"Mmmhmmm," he moaned against her chest, "Stuck with me."

Buffy was always amazed at how, after all this time, he was still able to so easily arouse her and how much he still wanted her, almost relentlessly. She thought that couples had sex less once they had children, but Angel was always able to devise ways for them to be together no matter what happened or how busy things were. Even when she was pregnant with Hannah, he made love to her every chance he got. He said that sex was integral in releasing the stress that every day life caused. As much as he sought her out, they should be completely stress free.

Lost in the feeling of his hands and mouth on her, in the feel of him moving inside her, she rode him harder, moaning freely as she reeled in the sensations her soulmate was causing inside her.

"Shhhh, baby," he whispered. He always loved that she lost all her inhibitions, no matter where they were, when she was close to coming, "Anya will hear you."

"Your fault," she moaned back and felt herself teetering on the edge. Heat streaked through her entire body as her orgasm came on, hard and fast, white hot through her veins. Panting, she plunged down on him and came pressing her lips against his to keep from screaming. Seconds later, he followed, jerking up harder inside her as he came.

"Don't know how you do that to me," she said, pressing her face into his chest with him still trapped inside her.

"I love you," he answered with a sated smile, "Happy Anniversary, baby."

"Three years," she said brightly, raising her face from his chest to kiss him.

"And counting," he added, "Now, let's get dressed, I have surprises planned."

"Me too," she said, grinning broadly, "You're not the only one who has something up his sleeve around here."

"Can't wait," he said. She stood and straightened her clothes, looking around for her panties and he watched her, half dressed, her skin glowing with pleasure, her hair rumpled around her shoulders. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever set eyes on...still.


AN2: The math sample problem was borrowed from the Scientific Applications and Visualization Group and the course study information was taken from the UCLA Aerospace Engineering Course Study list. Thanks.

AN3: Alice in Wonderland was written by Lewis Carroll. None of his text was used in this section, just the title.


Portraits, Part 2


hello, hello

Buffy and Angel were half way through their anniversary celebration, when the phone rang. They were making love on the floor in Angel's art studio, which was a renovated bedroom down the hall from Hannah's room.

"Don't answer it," Angel whispered urgently, moving inside her harder and then froze, realizing that something could be wrong with their daughter. Rising to his feet swiftly, he hurried across the room to answer it.

"Angel, it's Willow."

"Is something wrong?" he asked, glancing up at the clock. At 11:00 PM, Willow should have long ago rescued their child from Spike's bad influence.

"I have an emergency operation," she said quickly, "I just wanted to let you know, that I won't be able to watch Hannah tonight. Xander said that he'll go pick her up and take her to our apartment, but Zach's been sick all day and he's worried that-"

"I'll go get her. Thanks Will," Angel answered, as he felt Buffy standing urgently at his side. He knew without looking that she was beginning to worry as he listened to Willow's explanation. Reaching out, he grabbed her hand and smiled at her to let her know that everything was fine and saw the tension begin to ease it's way off of her face.

"Sorry. I know you wanted to spend your anniversary together and you had surprises and stuff," Willow gushed apologetically.

"It's okay," he answered, "Not a big deal."

After soothing the stressed out redheaded physician, he hung up and faced his wife, kissing her gently.

"Something wrong?" Buffy asked, still needing an explanation.

"Will has an emergency operation and their son is sick," he said, moving toward the bedroom to get dressed as he answered. She followed behind him and moved to dress as well, "So, she's still with Spike. A couple hours with him is fine, but all night is a little much."

"He's probably already taught her how to gamble," Buffy said, laughing lightly at Spike's known attempts to teach their daughter how to be street smart. Strangely, Spike had a sort of affection for her that no one had anticipated. The first couple of times he watched her, they were wary, but now they knew she was safe in his care. Probably safer there than most places, since he knew how to kill people with his bare hands.

Between Angel's overprotectiveness of their child and Spike's, not to mention the rest of their friends and Aunt Faith, she knew her daughter was well loved and safe. It was nice feeling to have. Willow and Xander's son, Zach, was smitten with her as well. At two years old, he toddled after Hannah wherever she went. The contrast between them was startling with his shock of bright red hair and bright green eyes, like Willow's.


come here, pretty please

"Angel's gonna be pissed, ya know," Doyle said from behind the bar, glancing down at Hannah, who was peering intently at the rows of bottles of liquor and watching the customers in the bar. They were not the sort of people she was used to seeing and her eyes widened as she touched the large, meaty limb of the bruiser next to her, petting the snarling tiger tattoo on his bicep.

Without answering, Spike hurried over to her. The man attached to the arm was a convicted felon and a bit of a hothead. He hadn't noticed the man sit down next to her and order a shot of whiskey. The bar was overcrowded and they were short staffed. As much as he enjoyed spending time with his best friend's daughter, there wasn't a worse night he could've been Hannah sitting.

"Hey Nibblet," Spike said disapprovingly, "No touching the customers."

"It's alright," the guy said, as Spike pulled her from her barstool. The guy was a comical sight, looking from the tiny child to the bar owner and back again with confusion.

"Well, what are you gaping at?" Spike barked irritably. He wasn't worried in the slightest that his scrapper image was diminishing somewhat at the way he treated the little girl, but he didn't like the expression on his customer's face.

"He has a tattoo," Hannah announced brightly, "Like Daddy's."

"Yeah, Little Bit," Spike answered, seeing the delightful recognition in her eyes. It was almost as if she thought he was a good person like the Poof since they both had body art, "He does."

"So, I was asking him about the dynamics of putting it someplace where everyone can see it all the time, rather than having it in a more discreet place," she explained, leaning in confidentially, "You know, like Daddy's."

"Kid always talk like that?" Tattoo guy grunted.

"The kid," Spike answered, as he began to turn away, "Is smarter than the whole bloody room put together."

"I do something wrong?" Hannah asked, looking up at Spike from where she was perched on his hip, "Cause I was just talkin' to him, Uncle Spike."

"Course not," he answered, "We just need to find something for you to do."


i wanna walk to the beat of my own drum

Buffy and Angel headed back to the car after knocking on Spike's front door and receiving no answer. Actually, Angel stormed and Buffy walked in hurried, concerned steps.

"Where the hell are they?" he growled as he started the car, "If he took Hannah to the bar-"

"Calm down, honey," Buffy said, rubbing his arm lightly as he peeled away from the curb, "I'm sure she's fine. Maybe he took her out someplace."

"In the middle of the night?" he roared, "And if you're so sure she's fine, why do you look worried?"

Buffy didn't answer, but looked out the window instead, refusing to give into the feelings that were rising inside her. She trusted Spike. Sometimes he had a hard time making good decisions, but Hannah was safe with him. She was sure of that much, so she contented herself in looking out the window as Angel directed the car toward the bar.

Once they arrived, Angel and Buffy threaded through the crowd, squeezing past bodies to get to the bar, where Doyle was working.

"Is Spike here with Hannah?" Angel demanded angrily.

"In back," Doyle said, "She's fine, Angel. It's not a-"

"Save it!" Angel answered and headed toward the back of the bar. Buffy thanked Doyle before hurrying after her enraged husband. She nearly slammed into his back because he stopped just outside of the office door. She peeked around him and saw Spike and Hannah kneeling on the floor in front of the office door. After a moment, her eyes widened as she realized that Spike was teaching her how to pick locks.

"Hi!" Hannah announced happily, "Look! Uncle Spike's showing me how to open the door and I don't even need a key. Neat, huh?"

"Um...sure, sweetie," Buffy said, reaching out her hand to her daughter.

"Don't cha want to watch me open it, Mommy?" she asked, the beginnings of a pout starting at her lips.

"Course," Buffy said, moving around her fuming husband to kneel next to the door. Angel took the opportunity to guide Spike away from his family.

"What the hell were you thinking?" Angel shouted, "You bring my three year old daughter to a bar and then you teach her how to pick locks? Are you going to educate her on the five finger discount next?"

"Look," Spike said, raising his hands helplessly, "Dru's got a gallery showing, Red's operating on someone and Xander's whelp is tossin' his cookies. We're understaffed, so I brought her here with me. Give me a bloody break. I didn't call you away from boffin' your old lady. Trying to be nice here, godammit. Not like I was teachin' her how to make Jell-o shots."

"Do me a favor," Angel said, "Next time, just call. I thought you'd know it was common sense to not bring a minor into a bar, considering you're the owner, especially when the minor in question is THREE!"

"Sorry, mate," Spike said, shrugging, "It's not even a big deal."

"It's a huge deal!" Angel roared. Just as the words were coming out of his mouth, he felt a little tug on the bottom of his shirt and looked down to see Hannah standing there, with Buffy not far behind her.

"Don't be mad, Daddy," Hannah asked, her eyes filling with tears, "I'm sorry."

"Oh no, sweetheart," he said, scooping her into his arms, "I'm not mad at you. I'm upset with Uncle Spike because you're too young to be here...by about 18 years."

"When I'm 21, I can come back and see Uncle Spike's bar?" she asked.

"We'll see," he said, kissing her forehead and changing the subject as she yawned, "You must be tired, huh? It's way past your bedtime."


come a little bit closer, let me look at you

"Thank you for meeting with me on such short notice, Mrs. Burkle," Wesley said, taking a sip of his coffee and looking over the beautiful woman sitting across the booth from him. Lilah never even crossed his mind as he waited for her answer, hoping she would correct him on the ‘Mrs.' part.

"It's Miss," she answered, her slight Texas accent coming through in her words, "but you can call me, ‘Fred.' Everyone does."

"Alright, Fred," he said, unable to hide his smile. He was thrilled beyond words that she wasn't married. Her slight nervousness was so endearing, he found himself wanting to hug her close, "As I'm sure you're aware, I represent the Holtz-Travers School for Gifted Children and we're always looking for exceptional children. I'd like to sit in for part of the day next week if it isn't too much trouble."

"Sure," Fred said, nodding agreeably, "But I don't think I can let you talk to the children without their parent's consent."

"That's quite alright," he said, smiling at her in an attempt to sooth her worry, "I just want to observe them. I'm familiar with the rules of scouting children."

"Of course you are!" she said, "I didn't mean to imply-"

"That's alright, Fred," he said, leaning in, "The reason I wanted to meet with you in person was to ask you about your charges. Are there any that seem more gifted than the others?"

"Well, there is one student that is particularly exceptional," she answered immediately, just as he knew she would. Hannah Summers' brilliance was not something that would be overlooked, even by the most inept teacher and the lovely Winifred Burkle seemed fairly exceptional herself, blinking at him from behind those small glasses.

"I see," he mused, sitting back in his seat once more, "Please tell me."


i've got your number now

Lilah went into Daniel Holtz' office and slammed the door, not bothering to knock or apologizing for waltzing in on Saturday morning. She was furious and that was apparent to her boss as she plopped into one of the chairs from across his desk, crossed her legs and glared at him.

"Ah, Lilah," he said, in his deep, gravelly voice, "How nice to see you and so early on a weekend."

"I want an explanation, Mr. Holtz," she demanded.

"I was certain you would," he said, placing the paper aside that he had been reading and folding his hands, "This is regarding the Summers' child, yes?"

"Yes," she snapped, "You know damn well that she was my most important discovery and you just handed her over to Wesley! How could you?"

"This is not what it appears," he said easily, offering her a kind smile, "I believe you might realize after I point out the tasks I have planned for you that you'll see we haven't slighted you."

"I beg to differ," she snorted, "I can't see how any other assignment is more important than Hannah Summers. Do you realize what she is capable of? Once we determine her full IQ and her actual learning rate, I know she'll be the perfect child for the job."

"I'm well aware, Lilah," he said, speaking in a low warning, "There's no need to speak to me as if I haven't the foggiest idea of what is going on. I do monitor everything that goes on here, you know."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Holtz, but this case means a lot to me," she said, easing her voice. She knew that Holtz wouldn't be fooled by the good girl routine she planned to give him, but it was worth a shot. If she could bring Hannah in, then there were a world of opportunities for her, especially if she was given to their client. Once Hannah was taken on to the project, they would need a mentor that understood gifted children. Lilah fully intended on filling that role, "I've been working here for 5 years, searching for a child like Hannah."

"We haven't taken you off the Summers' case," he answered.

"But, Mr. Travers said-"

"We have put Wesley on part of it, but there's more to this case than just talking to day care workers and intervening with the parents," he said, "Our previous methods haven't been working and I need you to take a different recruiting route with Hannah."

"Oh," she said, leaning forward and griping the edge of his desk, "What did you have in mind?"

"You understand that this must be kept in the utmost confidence?" Holtz asked, "I expect you to keep this from your lover as well."

"I'll keep it under wraps," she answered, blushing slightly. She didn't know that Holtz knew of her relations with Wesley. They had taken great pains to make sure that no one on the staff knew about it. Of course, Holtz always had a way of knowing things that no one else did.

"I don't doubt that a ruthless bitch like yourself can do just that," he crooned.


so this is how it feels
to breathe in the summer air
to feel the sand between my toes
and love inside my ear

"Hello Charles," Anne sang out as he strolled into the shelter. He watched as she sprayed the window in front of her with cleaner and wiped it carefully, "I'm sorry, I'm almost done."

"That's okay," Gunn said, cocking his head to the side and shamelessly taking in her body as she cleaned, unaware of his stare. He loved the way she put her whole body into the task, her dark blonde hair flowing over her shoulders freely. As she turned around a second later, he looked away, nearly caught ogling her. It was strange, to say the least, that a woman would have such a profound effect on him. He was used to working with and seeing attractive women all the time, but she was something different.

"Thanks," she said, tossing her damp paper towel in the trash and then directing him into her office.

"I'm going to have someone outside of your office every night after dark until we find out what gang has been harassing you," he said as he took a seat, "The person guarding will have pager and I'll give you the number in case something happens. I'll also give you my cell phone number and you can call me if you need me."

"Thank you," she said, accepting the card he offered with the numbers on it. She saw that his cell phone number was written on it, rather than printed like the other numbers and smiled slightly. She had suspected that he was treating this case differently and when she saw he had written the number on there, she hoped it meant he was just as attracted to her as she was to him.

"About the fee," she said, sighing, "We haven't really covered how much this will cost, especially if it goes on for a long time."

"Right," he said, nodding. He hadn't even thought about what to charge her, probably because every time she spoke, he forgot that he was there for a job, that she was client and he was supposed to be working, "I'm assuming that you have a limited budget for this sort of thing."

"Yes," she answered, nearly wincing. ‘Budget' wasn't really the word she'd choose for the meager amount of money available to her, "I'm afraid that after you quote a price, I won't be able to keep you on the case for very long. I kinda hoped this would be over quickly."

"I didn't," he said and then closed his mouth, fighting the urge to slap himself on the head. Amending his statement quickly, he said, "I meant to say that we won't leave before the job is completed, even if you can't pay the fee. I can write part of it off to charity if we end up working pro bono."

"Are you sure?" she asked.

"Of course," he said with a smile teasing his lips, "I can't let you or your residents be in danger, can I?"

"I guess not," she mumbled, starting to return his smile.

"Good," he said, then let's discuss what your budget is and we'll work around that," he said, knowing full well that if her budget was 20 bucks, it would be payment enough. Hell, he'd do it for free just as long as he could figure out ways to keep seeing her. Unfortunately, the case really just called for surveillance. He would just have to be more creative than usual. Grinning happily, he leaned and listened as she told him about the financial affairs of her shelter as longingly as he would if she were discussing her idea of a perfect date.