Remember the Time

Part 4

indie and tango

*****

The first week was absolute hell. Buffy had been prepared for Joey’s rebellion. Lashing out was how her younger daughter reacted to any sort of stress, it only stood to reason that in this situation, she would be a hundred times worse. And she was. Three times, Buffy was forced to have a very stilted phone conversation with Angel, informing him that he had to come over to the house and make sure Joey went to school. As far as Buffy knew, Joey had gone to school, but Buffy took great care to make sure she wasn’t present when Angel arrived. If he called and wanted to talk to her about one of the girls, Buffy grit her teeth and forced herself to be civil, if he wanted to try and guilt her into letting him back into the house, she merely hung up the phone.

Samantha’s reaction, however, had come as a shock. Samantha was always composed, impossible to ruffle and exceedingly headstrong. Buffy had expected her to take her father’s relocation in stride the way she took everything else. She didn’t. Samantha didn’t act out the way Joey did, but she had her own ways of expressing her unhappiness. The entire week after Angel moved out, Samantha did not utter a single word to her mother, did not shoot a single glance in her direction.

Buffy had just spent Saturday morning being treated like she didn’t exist when the doorbell rang. She opened the door to find Willow on the other side. “Will,” Buffy said, so startled she almost dropped her coffee cup. “What are you doing here?”

Willow smiled guiltily. “Angel called me,” she said.

Buffy’s smile faded. “He had the nerve to call my best friend and ask you come all the way from Seattle to see me?” she fumed.

Stepping inside the house, Willow frowned at her. “Did you really kick Angel out?” she asked quietly.

Buffy flushed. She glanced into the living room where her daughters were still pretending they lived alone in the house. “Let’s go upstairs,” she said to Willow.

They were quiet as they walked upstairs to Buffy’s bedroom, closed the door and sat down on the bed. Buffy’s hands were clasped tightly around her coffee cup. “I kicked him out,” she said seriously.

“Buffy, what happened?” Willow asked, slightly frantic. “I mean, I know you and Angel have had some rough spots, but I never expected this. Why didn’t you call me?”

Buffy stared at her hands. Of course, Willow had a point. How could she do something so momentous without even mentioning it to her best friend?

Willow cleared her throat quietly. “Angel says you have a lot of new friends,” she offered.

“Classmates from law school,” Buffy said offhandedly.

“He said that you’ve been spending a lot of time with them, one in particular.”

Buffy’s head snapped up and she looked at Willow. But Willow’s expression wasn’t judgmental. It was confused and slightly hurt. Buffy laughed punchily. “Yeah,” she said derisively, “my new friends. Did he mention his old friends?”

“Old friends?” Willow repeated, confused.

“Faith,” Buffy said, spitting out the woman’s name like a curse.

Willow nodded solemnly. She well remembered their junior year in college when Angel hired a new mechanic at the shop. Like Angel, Faith had a rough life. They had a lot of similar experiences, a lot of things to commiserate about. While Angel insisted he saw Faith as only a friend, Faith wasn’t so noble. She went out of her way to try and snag Angel, doing everything she could to undermine Buffy and Angel’s marriage. Somehow, Buffy and Angel managed to get through that time, but it was always a touchy subject.

“I went out with a friend from law school, Lindsey. Had a few too many drinks, went dancing ... Angel didn’t speak to me for a week. He called me a whore – “ Buffy clamped her mouth shut, choking back a sob. “And all the while, he’d taken Faith to this damn dinner meeting without even mentioning it to me. It’s like if he doesn’t think it’s a big deal, it isn’t. He has no respect for my opinion on the matter. He tells me I’m being paranoid, but when the situation is reversed, he makes me feel like trash.” She buried her face in her hands, sobbing.

“Oh, Buffy,” Willow said, pulling her close.

***

“Come on.”

Joey looked up sullenly at her older sister’s very determined countenance. “Why? Where are we going?”

“To find Daddy,” Samantha said evenly, her high heels clicking on the floor as she headed for the front door. Joey fell in line behind her sister and they both went through the front door without so much as a shout in their mother’s direction to let her know they were leaving.

Samantha slid behind the wheel of her mother’s SUV and carefully checked all of her mirrors, before buckling herself in and checking that Joey had done the same. Joey was sure ten fucking minutes had passed before her sister finally backed from the driveway.

Their father wasn’t at the garage, which was the first place they checked. He wasn’t at Grandpa’s bar, so they headed directly for Grandpa’s house. Both girls groaned in unison when Samantha announced that was their next destination. Despite the fact that their grandfather had never bothered to move from the hovel trailer he lived in, he married a woman who was the same age as their parents. They stood tensely side by side and knocked on the door, bracing themselves for whatever came next.

“Girls!” Harmony, their un-grandmother squealed when she opened the door. Samantha eyed the woman her grandfather had married with one severe sweep. Harmony had her long blonde hair hanging freely down her back with no discernable style. Samantha, whose golden locks never dared to stray from her rule, was tempted to snarl. Apparently at one time Harmony had been in her mother’s inner sanctum and had lived by fashion laws. Samantha could see some of that in Harmony as much as it pained her to admit it. Harmony’s dress was only slightly out of style, but it was designed for a much younger woman.

“I’m so excited to see you! We have so much to talk about,” Harmony panted at her step-granddaughters.

“Is our father here?” Samantha asked politely but briskly. Joey opened her mouth to add a comment but Samantha squeezed her arm gently and shot her a glare that made her quiet instantly.

“He’s in the living room watching television with Jake,” Harmony said, waving off their question. “We should go do stuff! I never get to see you.”

“We’re really in a bit of a hurry,” Samantha answered in the same brisk tone. “Maybe some other time.” They brushed past her and went into the living room which was about four steps from the front door. Their Grandpa and their father sat side by side engrossed in some sort of motorcycle race. They both were nursing beer already and from the look of the scattered bottles around the trailer, they had been at it for quite some time. Angel was slumped in a pair of dirty jeans and a wife beater.

“Daddy!” they both gasped.

“Dammit Harmony,” Angel slurred drunkenly. “I told you I didn’t wanta see anyone.”

Joey gaped at her father, tears welling in her eyes. Samantha merely crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him.

“Don you take ‘at tone with me,” Angel slurred, pointing a finger at Samantha, totally missing the fact that she hadn’t actually spoken yet. “Ya look just like yer mother.”

Turning, Samantha looked at Joey. “Get his suitcases and put them in the Jeep,” she ordered. Joey opened her mouth to protest and Samantha just snapped, “Now!”

Turning back to Angel, Samantha summarily pronounced, “You’re a mess, Daddy.”

“Thank you, sweetheart,” he rejoined sullenly.

From his recliner, Angel’s father watched Joey lug the suitcases out the door. “I guess you’re leaving,” he said, trying to hide a smile. Jake Roarke was mean to everybody, it was just his nature, but even though he was overly gruff with his granddaughters, he adored them completely. Both those girls had some fire in their veins. He knew his son didn’t stand a chance.

“Get up, Daddy,” Samantha ordered. “We’re leaving.”

Angel opened his mouth to argue with his daughter but fell silent. He’d seen that look on her face before and he knew there was no use fighting. Samantha usually made a concerted effort to go along and get along, but when she finally put her foot down, there was no changing her mind. And besides, while he appreciated the fact that his dad let him crash in the spare room, he really wanted to get away. Harmony’s grating voice was about to drive him insane. With a groan, he pushed himself to his feet and followed his daughter out the door.

Two hours later, Angel was finally sober and nursing a very serious headache. He was sprawled across the Jeep’s back seat as Samantha and Joey sat in the front arguing over apartments in the classified ads.

“Daddy, wait here, Joey and I are going to go look at this place,” Samantha called.

Angel couldn’t do anything more than grunt in her general direction, wincing as the car doors slammed.

Joey followed Samantha sullenly up to the apartment complex’s office. She was scowling like mad as the leasing agent walked them through one of the display apartments. Smiling politely to the leasing agent, Samantha grabbed her sister’s arm and dragged her inside one of the bedrooms. “What’s your problem?” Samantha demanded.

“Daddy doesn’t need an apartment,” Joey seethed. “He needs to move back home.”

Samantha rolled her eyes. “Think of the big picture,” she said.

“What big picture?” Joey demanded in exasperation. “Mom kicked Dad out of the house and now you’re helping him find an apartment. You should be helping him get back in the house.”

“He and Mom are going to get back together,” Samantha informed her sister flatly. “But in the mean time, he needs a place to stay. Mom’s not going to want him back if all he does is go over to Grandpa’s and get drunk. He needs to be appealing, independent. We need to show mom what she’s missing.”

“Oh,” Joey said, struggling to follow the logic.

“And besides,” Samantha said, “when he moves back in, I get the apartment.”

“Hey,” Joey said, her eyes lighting up. “An apartment would be cool.”

“I said ‘I’, not ‘we’,” Samantha countered.

“If you want my help, it’s we,” Joey said, crossing her arms over her chest.

Samantha seemed to consider it for a moment before snarling, “Fine.” She looked around the apartment. “Daddy can’t stay here,” she pronounced. “There’s no natural light.”

It took most of the day to find a place that was adequate for their father and more than adequate for the girls’ future use. They finally found what they were looking for on the richer side of town. The apartment was absolutely stunning with newly refinished hardwood floors, three large bedrooms and a fireplace. A set of sliding glass doors led to a veranda perfect for getting uninterrupted rays. There were two full bathrooms, one off the Master Bedroom and another in the hallway. The apartment was perfect and they managed to talk the leasing office into letting them have it right away. The girls were thrilled, and stunned when Angel was not.

“Daddy, maybe you didn’t notice the crown molding,” Samantha urged gently. “This place is perfect.”

“Honey, the rent is ridiculously high,” Angel said, trying to keep the groan from his voice when every syllable made his head pound a little harder. “And I don’t want crown molding or natural light. I want a bachelor pad. I want stained carpet. I need a veranda-free environment.”

“Sorry, Daddy, but we can’t always get our way,” Samantha quipped, pushing the paperwork toward him. “You need natural light and a beautiful spacious place. I’ll not have my father living in some place like that.”

“Does your mother know about this?” He asked eyeing them curiously.

“Are you fucking kidding?” Joey said with a laugh, eyes glittering with rebellious fun. “She doesn’t even know we took the Jeep!”

Angel’s eyes narrowed and Samantha elbowed her sister. “I beg you not to help me.”

Samantha brightened her best smile for her father and pulled the lease smoothly from his hands before handing it to the wary leasing agent. The guy knew that Angel Roarke was a very wealthy man, but he looked like he belonged in a different part of town.

“Daddy, do you want to come along to buy your furniture?” Samantha asked brightly.

“You bet. I’m not leaving you alone to get me some frou-frou couch. I want a bachelor couch and a bachelor bed,” Angel growled.

Samantha clucked her tongue disapprovingly at her father. “You’re not a bachelor, Daddy.”

Joey nearly choked to death to keep from laughing. She always thought she was the bad one, trying to pull the wool over her parents’ eyes, but Samantha steamrolled her father like nothing she had ever seen. It was absolutely terrific.

***

Angel turned in a slow circle, taking in his new, hopefully temporary, home. While agonizingly hung over in the back of his estranged wife’s SUV, Angel had warmed somewhat to the idea of having a place of his own. When Buffy had first booted him out of the house, his reaction had been disbelief. When it finally did sink in that she was serious, he’d been overwhelmed by fear like he’d never known. Buffy was his life, his love, his entire world. If she didn’t want him, what good was he?

But it wasn’t in Angel’s nature to wallow in his misery, so he’d become defiant. If Buffy didn’t want him, then fine. He’d just destroy himself and see how she liked that. Granted, getting drunk and hanging out at his Dad’s trailer wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. And he was relieved by the time Samantha arrived and ordered him outside.

While he still would have preferred to go home to his own house, his own bed and his own wife, he was forced to consider the merits of having an apartment. Angel realized he’d never lived on his own, not counting the couple nights a month his Dad would kick him out and he had to crash with Oz or Spike. Nope. Angel had gone right from living with his Dad to living in Buffy’s basement. So the idea of having a place that was his, that could be a guy hangout was very novel.

As he lay there trying not to let his head explode from the pounding, he had visions of some dank little hole in the wall where the only working appliances were the microwave and the fridge. He had visions of all night poker games and having no fear in renting all the porn a man could watch.

Somehow his fantasy bachelor pad hadn’t had vaulted ceilings, skylights, natural hardwood floors and a membership to the onsite gym. He sighed in defeat looking at the tasteful, yet functional, furniture Samantha had picked out.

Of course, this was for the best. Samantha was right, if his baby girls were going to be staying with him at least part of the time, he couldn’t live in some rat infested apartment. And hopefully, he wouldn’t have to stay here long either.

***

Willow looked out the kitchen windows at the quickly darkening sky. “Are you worried about the girls?” she asked.

Buffy sighed. “No,” she said. “I’m sure they’re with their father. Samantha and Joey don’t do anything social together.”

“They’re angry with you,” Willow said. It was more of a statement than a question, but its intent was passed along. Willow was worried.

Buffy nodded as Willow turned to face her. Buffy’s took a deep breath and struggled not to cry as she looked mournfully at her best friend. “They think I’m this ogre who made their perfect father leave,” she choked out. “If you could have seen the look on his face when he called me a whore, Will, you would understand. I devoted my entire life to him and our children and all he does is work. He just wants to make money and then come home and be the good guy all the time.”

“It’s okay, Buffy,” Willow whispered, pulling her into a hug. “Everything is going be okay. You’ll see.”

“I don’t know how to live without him, Will,” she sobbed. She held on for dear life and poured her heart out, crying so hard her entire body shook. “And I’m so angry with him. I can’t stand it, Will. I can’t stand it.”

***

“Holy shit,” Joey whispered, her mouth dropped open in shock.

Samantha shushed her sister and watched in awe as her mother cried in her best friend’s arms. She had seen her mother upset and had even seen her eyes well with tears, but never in her entire life had she seen something so heartbreaking as what she had just witnessed. She only wished they had been close enough to make out the sobbed words her mother was speaking.

After a few minutes, Joey backed away and Samantha tiptoed after her. Joey went straight to the front door, opened it and slammed it closed again before shouting. “Mom?”

“We’re in here,” Willow called back, louder than necessary.

“When’s dinner?” Joey shouted back, still trying to shake off the image of her mother sobbing to so openly. “I’m fucking starving to death!”

“Language!” Buffy shouted back in a voice that was almost clear. Almost, but not quite.

Samantha took Joey’s hand in hers and squeezed it, her hazel eyes gleaming with challenge and hope. “We’re going to fix everything, Joe,” she whispered.

“You bet your candy ass we are,” Joey whispered back.

***

On to part 5

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