indie and tango
Hearing a car door slam, Buffy looked up from the dishes she was washing. The afternoon sun bathed the front yard in a warm light that glinted off Samantha's long locks, making them look like spun gold. Taking a moment, Buffy turned off the water and watched her elder daughter smile, leaning against the convertible's recently closed passenger side door as she flirted with the young man that had just given her a ride home from school.
Something icy pulled at Buffy's insides and she quickly dried her hands. Striding to the front door, she pulled it open and called "Samantha, you need to come inside now."
Turning, Samantha frowned at her mother, but ever socially perfect, she never let on to her would-be boyfriend that anything was wrong. A few more smiles and laughs and she was soon waving goodbye as she carefully made her way up the front steps in impossibly high heels, looking as immaculately put together as she had when she left that morning.
Once inside, Samantha turned to face her mother, taking advantage of the fact that in three inch heels she was an inch taller than Buffy, who was in bare feet. "I'm eighteen years old and it's the middle of the afternoon," Samantha huffed. "Nothing was going on."
Frowning, Buffy said, "I know, it's just … " She trailed off. "Never mind, honey."
Shaking her head, Samantha turned and made her way up the stairs to her bedroom. Buffy sighed, walking into the living room and collapsing onto the couch. Turning, she looked at the pictures decorating the mantle. A lifetime of memories stared back at her from the artfully arranged frames. The newest picture was Samantha's senior portrait. Samantha was an absolutely lovely girl, the mirror image of her mother at the same age, same long, blonde hair, slight build, perfectly creamy completion and mutable hazel eyes, though slightly more petite.
Buffy looked from Samantha's picture to the picture of herself and Angel taken their senior year in high school. Buffy had been three months pregnant at the time. "Gods, I was just a baby," she whispered, looking at herself and Angel smiling at each other, absurdly happy.
Buffy winced as she heard the back door slam loudly, but was too overwhelmed to get off the couch at that particular moment. She heard several minutes of obvious cabinet raiding before the inevitable "Why isn't there any fucking food in this house?" boomed from the kitchen.
Sighing, Buffy yelled, "Language!"
Pushing herself up, Buffy walked into the kitchen to find her younger daughter riffling through the refrigerator. Josephine "Call me Joey or I'll break your fucking nose" was as much her father's child as Samantha was her mother's. In her bare feet, Joey was nearly six feet tall and her body looked like it belonged to a twenty-five year old, not a fifteen year old, all lush curves and toned muscle. She was wearing her ever present leather pants and tight babydoll t-shirt. Her unruly dark locks were clipped short and spiked up with gel.
"There's popcorn in the cabinet," Buffy offered.
Joey frowned at her. "I'm not a bird," she snapped. "Samantha eats that crap. I want some real food."
Rolling her eyes, Buffy pushed Joey aside and carefully plucked the items necessary to make a sandwich out of the refrigerator. "There," Buffy said, motioning to the counter.
Joey stared at the food and then looked back to Buffy, her bottom lip sticking out in a pout. "Mom," she whined.
Sighing, Buffy proceeded to make her daughter a sandwich.
Joey was sitting at the small kitchen table, her walkman blaring, flipping through a magazine as she ate her sandwich. Buffy cleaned up the newest mess and went about finishing washing the dishes.
Angel burst through the back door and headed upstairs without so much as a hello. Ten minutes later, he reappeared in the kitchen, wearing only a pair of black slacks, his hair still wet from his speedy shower. "You're not ready to go," he said to Buffy.
Carefully refolding the dish towel, she crossed her arms over her chest and looked at her husband. "Ready to go where?" she asked.
He huffed, looking at her incredulously. "We're supposed to be having dinner with the Nabbits in half an hour," he said shortly.
Buffy shook her head. "Angel, I have study group every Tuesday night. You know that. I told you last week I couldn't go."
He looked at her like she wasn't even speaking English. "These are the Nabbits," he said seriously. "They're considering investing in the new complex we're trying to open in San Francisco."
"We don't need the complex in San Francisco," Buffy informed him impatiently. She was getting very tired of having this conversation. "We hardly see you as it is now. And we definitely don't need the money."
Angel sighed, shrugging into the white button-up shirt he had been holding. "If I can get Nabbit as a partner, I'll have more time."
Buffy turned away, walking past him and up the stairs. He followed on her heels. "You always say that, Angel," she said. "But with every new investor you get, it just means more work for you."
"The other situations were different," Angel continued. "This time, I promise. I'll have more time."
Buffy turned around, staring up at him. "You always say that," she said wearily.
He frowned, leaning down to wrap his arms around her waist as he pulled her against his body. Buffy sighed, leaning her head against his chest. He pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead. "I promise," he said. "With Nabbit, things will change."
"I'll believe it when I see it," she informed him.
Angel released her as she continued down the hall to the bedroom. He followed her inside and closed the door. He sat down on the bed, pulling on his socks as he watched her shimmy out of her clothes with avid interest.
But as she pulled on a pair of low rise jeans and a red sweater with a deep V, he asked, "What are you doing?"
Turning, she looked at him. "I have study group," she repeated very slowly.
Angel dropped his shoe. "You're honestly not going with me tonight?" he asked, obviously shocked.
"Angel, dammit, I’m in law school," she said. "I waited years to do this, for the girls to be old enough for me to devote this much time to something. It's hard. I can't just drop everything every time you have something you need me to do. If I don't study, I'm going to flunk out of school."
“Baby,” Angel groaned, pulling himself to his feet. “Can’t you miss it just this once? This meeting is really important.”
“My education is really important too,” Buffy threw back before heading toward the door. “I told you I couldn’t go but you don’t listen!” With that, she headed toward the door and flung it open. She hurried out of the room and down the stairs, scooping up her backpack from its resting place in the living room before she headed out. Angel caught her at the front door and spun her around.
“Angel-“ Buffy started, but found herself tucked into his arms, his lips covering hers. She relented briefly but pulled away before he could deepen the kiss. He frowned at her when she backed out of his arms.
“You’re really going to the study session,” he stated plainly, looking into her angry and determined face.
“I’ll be home late,” she said, shaking her head and went through the door, letting it slam behind her.
“The basic idea of negligence is that they are required to perform in the way a reasonably prudent person would act under the circumstances,” Buffy said, leaning over the table at the Espresso Pump to make her issue. “The police could have dropped off the plaintiff pretty much anywhere, like, oh, I don’t know, some place safer. That’s not exactly prudent.”
“But we haven’t studied negligence yet, Buffy,” Lindsey argued. “Even if we had, there’s no cause for action because they didn’t restrict his physical freedom when they gave the kid more freedom than he would have had without a lift from them.” Lindsey met her eyes with a slow smile and took a sip of his coffee. He wished for beer but swallowed the hot liquid without complaint. One day soon he was getting Buffy into a bar instead of a coffee shop.
Buffy almost laughed, shaking her head. “Of course you would already know everything there is to know about what we haven’t studied yet.”
“Fourth generation lawyer, darlin’,” Lindsey drawled leaning back in his chair. “I’ve heard more about negligence than you can shake a stick at, besides Property and Tort was my grandfather’s specialty.”
“My father’s a librarian,” Buffy countered, “but I don’t know anything about the Dewey Decimal system.”
“Well, he probably didn’t make you spend your summers in the library either,” Lindsey said, chuckling. “Anyway, you study enough for both of us. I say we’ve beaten this case to death. Let’s go get a cold one to tide us over to the next chapter.”
Buffy rolled her eyes and checked her watch. It was already 11:30 and she was exhausted. “One more hour here,” she said, “and then I’m going home to bed. A beer would knock me off my feet.”
"Would that be so bad?" he asked, dispensing with all subtlety as his eyes raked over her form. He was twenty-four and Buffy was thirty-six, but he'd had older lovers in the past. And Buffy was a gorgeous woman with a mind to match. "I promise I'd be there to catch you."
Buffy's good humor evaporated and her spine stiffened.
"Oh no," Lindsey bemoaned, "here it comes."
"I'm married," Buffy said shortly. She genuinely enjoyed Lindsey's company. He was smart and easy on the eyes with a biting wit and a healthy dose of good ol' boy charm that no doubt secured him invitations into the beds of any available women. But Buffy wasn't available.
"I know you're married," he said. "And I know you're older than me. I also know I don't care. I want you."
Buffy's breath caught in her throat and as much as she wanted to, she couldn't break eye contact. There was a fluttering low in her stomach and her heart beat far faster than it should. This was wrong, so very wrong. But she couldn't deny that she was most definitely physically attracted to Lindsey. And the sensations he wrought in her were undeniably fascinating, all sparkly and new. What she had with Lindsey was completely different from what she shared with Angel.
Angel. Her husband. Her mate. Her lover for nearly the last two decades.
"On second thought, maybe I should go now," Buffy said tightly, closing her books and efficiently packing them away into her satchel.
Leaning across the table, Lindsey caught her wrist lightly in his grip. "You can't run from this," he said.
Looking up, Buffy met his eyes for a brief second. "Watch me."
Buffy was in the office, the desk strewn with books, none of which could secure her attention. She was forcing herself to study, trying to put the recent, jarring encounter with Lindsey out of her mind. It was late, she should just go to bed, but Angel wasn't home yet and she didn't like sleeping alone.
She heard the front door open and close and several minutes later, Angel appeared in the doorway, lounging against the jamb. He'd taken off his suit jacket and the top few buttons on his shirt were undone. Buffy swiveled her desk chair around, facing him.
Mutely, he crossed the distance to where she sat. He dropped to his knees in front of her. Leaning forward, he wrapped his arms around her waist, his head dropping to her lap. Buffy sighed deeply, running her fingers through his hair.
"You're my whole world," he said. "You know that, right?"
Her eyes misted and she whispered, "I love you, Angel."
He straightened up, still kneeling between her legs. He pulled her closer, capturing her lips in a gentle kiss. Buffy melted against him, wrapping her arms around his neck as she deepened the kiss. She wrapped her legs around his waist and held tightly to him as he stood and made his way to the bedroom. After twenty years of carrying his wife around the house, Angel knew the way by heart and continued to focus on kissing her as he went.
He was three steps from their bedroom door when they pulled from each other and cocked their heads in the direction of the stairs. Angel held Buffy close and tiptoed toward the stairs, listening ever more closely to the sounds coming from the living room. Thirty seconds later, he set Buffy lightly on her feet, kissed her forehead and made his way down the stairs where he found Joey on the couch with a guy who looked like he fell face first into a barrel of metal. He was pierced so randomly and frequently, Angel thought it couldn’t have possibly been on purpose. He had a huge tattoo on the side of his neck and one of his hands was moving over his baby girl’s chest.
“Hi, honey,” Angel said casually. There was a smile on his face, but his eyes were almost black with rage as he bared his teeth at the boy. His movements were unhurried and fluid as he made his way down the steps.
Joey jumped up from the couch and backed away from the metal faced kid. “Daddy, don’t freak out. I thought you’d be asleep already.”
Joey’s boyfriend pulled himself from the couch to look at Joey’s dad. His eyes widened as he took in the huge frame of the man who stood only a couple of inches taller than his daughter and still managed to look huge and menacing. It was the murderous glint in eyes that matched his daughter’s that made him back toward the door.
“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?” Angel snarled, moving closer to circle the couch.
“This is Eric,” Joey said, standing in the way of her father, “and he has to *run.*”
Ever interested in self-preservation, Eric did run for the door. Joey attempted to get in the way, but Angel carefully plucked her off her feet and set her aside effortlessly as he pounced on the very dead man who had been groping his baby. Eric was pinned to the wall with Angel's forearm quickly cutting off his oxygen supply when Buffy said, "Angel, you can't kill him."
"I beg to differ," Angel growled, pressing his forearm even harder into the idiot's windpipe.
"Angel!" Buffy snapped.
Glowering, Angel pulled back far enough that Eric could breathe, but he didn't release him.
"Eric, how old are you?" Buffy asked calmly.
Eric glared at her, but when Angel increased the pressure, he squeaked out, "Twenty-two."
Buffy nodded, taking a moment to give her daughter a glare that could have frozen ice. "Well, Eric," Buffy said. "I don't know what my daughter told you or if you even asked, but she's fifteen."
Eric's glower faltered and then finally failed completely as he gaped at Joey. "She's not fifteen. My kid sister's fifteen. Fifteen doesn't look like that."
"Trust me," Buffy said seriously, "she's fifteen and unless you want to add a few more felony charges to what is undoubtedly an impressive rap sheet, I suggest you never, ever come near her again."
Eric swallowed thickly and looked at Angel, "I didn't know, man," he said seriously. "I swear, if I'd known she was just a kid, I wouldn't have dreamed of it."
Angel growled, leaning in closer to his prey. "I know my wife was talking about felonies," he whispered, "but I assure you if you touch her again, you won't have to worry about the police. I'll just kill you."
Eric read the pure truth in Angel's eyes and nodded frantically. Two seconds after Angel released him, Eric was out the door and running down the sidewalk. In tandem, Buffy and Angel turned to face Joey, their arms crossed over their chests.
"What were you thinking?" Angel bellowed. "Do you know anything about that guy? He could have been dangerous. He could have hurt you."
Joey rolled her eyes, trying to appear unconcerned with her parents' obvious anger.
"Why on Earth would you bring a delinquent like that home?" Buffy asked. "What are you trying to prove? You're fifteen, Josephine. Do you want to throw your life away?"
Joey looked at her mother with pure contempt written on her face. "Worked for you, didn't it?" she bit out.
Buffy's eyes went wide and she gaped at her daughter. For her part, Joey obviously understood she'd gone too far. Her confidence seemed to wane.
Angel took a step forward, his face set in perfectly hard lines. "You're grounded for a month," he said. "No parties, no dates, no gigs, no band practice. You will be with either me or your mother or Giles and Jenny every second you're not in school."
"Daddy," Joey whined, her eyes welling with tears.
That pout from his baby girl could usually reduce Angel to mush in record time, but not tonight. His expression never faltered. "Upstairs," he said. "Now."
Buffy was already in bed, turned toward the wall when Angel finally walked into the bedroom. He set his toolbox in the corner. Buffy didn't need to ask. She knew that he'd nailed Joey's bedroom windows shut. She watched him undress and climb into bed, where he immediately pulled her against him.
“Did you talk to her?” Buffy asked after a long pause.
“Yeah,” Angel grunted. “Apparently his ‘wicked cool’ motorcycle was parked down the street and he’s in some death metal band from Los Angeles.”
“Twenty-two, Angel,” she muffed against his chest, before sitting up. “That’s almost as old as us! He could have done anything to her! She’s just a baby. She thinks she understands the world but she doesn’t.”
“I know,” Angel said quietly. “I talked to her about it, but I think she needs to hear it from you.”
“Why?” Buffy sniffed. “Cause you spent the time shouting expletives and threatening to kill him?”
“For only part of it,” Angel grumbled back. He gathered her closer against him and kissed the top of her head. He waited for the inevitable smartass reply and looked down to see she had fallen fast asleep.
On to part 2
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