indie and tango
Buffy eyed her daughters warily as they picked at their pizza. Neither of them, not even Joey, the bottomless pit, seemed interested in the food. Buffy hadn’t even attempted, settling instead for yet another cup of coffee.
“Dad has an apartment,” Samantha offered quietly. “Off Crestwood. In that new development next to the park.”
Buffy couldn’t help it, despite her miserable mood, she laughed. Willow, Joey and Samantha all looked at her strangely. “Sorry,” she said, “but I know your father didn’t pick it out.”
“Daddy just needed some .. help,” Samantha replied carefully.
Buffy took a deep breath. “How was your father?” she asked quietly.
“Good,” Joey offered eagerly. “He looked good. I mean really good. We saw him at the shop at all these women were just swarming all over him. I think he might have started working out a lot more too – ouch!” Joey glared at her sister, nursing her sore shin.
“I see,” Buffy said suspiciously, knowing full well that of all the ways her husband coped with stress like this. Doubling his normal workout and flirting with customers weren’t in the rotation. Most likely, he’d been stinking drunk at his father’s trailer for the last week.
“He’s upset,” Samantha said quietly. “But I think he’s getting a little better.”
Buffy nodded solemnly, trying to ignore how much the thought of Angel being miserable tore her heart to pieces.
Hours later, Buffy and Willow sat together on the couch, both nursing a small snifter of brandy. “So, Lindsey,” Willow offered, “sounds like she’s not Angel’s favorite person.”
Buffy took a gulp, wincing as the alcohol burned its way down her throat. “*He* isn’t Angel’s favorite person,” she corrected.
Willow’s mouth made a perfect round ‘O’. “I see,” she said. Silence hung heavy in the air and Willow finally mustered the courage to ask, “Do you care about him?”
“About Angel?” Buffy asked, deliberately misunderstanding. “Of course, I care about him. He’s my husband.”
“I mean Lindsey,” Willow replied patiently.
Buffy winced guiltily. “He’s ... “ She trailed off, sighing loudly. “I don’t know what Lindsey is. A problem mostly.”
“Are you attracted to him?”
Buffy wouldn’t meet Willow’s gaze. “He’s an attractive man,” Buffy admitted. “He’s funny and smart. He’s a lot different from Angel. He’s spoiled, lazy when he wants to be. There’s a kind of coldness to him, something that makes you think he’s been hurt really bad in the past. He always plays it off.”
“And does this dark horse like you?”
Buffy blushed. “Lindsey’s pretty up front about what he wants from me.”
“And that would be ...”
“Sex,” Buffy answered honestly. “I don’t know if he wants anything else. I don’t know if Lindsey is capable of anything else. But there is definitely a physical attraction between us and he does his best to exploit it.”
“So I’m guessing Angel wasn’t being totally paranoid.”
Buffy frowned at her friend. “I have a ... flirtation ... with Lindsey. It’s harmless. I mean, yes, I danced with him and I spent an entire week beating myself up over it. But nothing happened.”
Angel wasn’t sleeping well - or at all actually. He tried to sleep at night only to remember that he wasn’t snuggled against Buffy as he had for the last eighteen years. Now that his daughters could find him, he couldn’t wallow in alcohol anymore to help him sleep, as much as he dearly wished he could. Instead, he picked up hours helping out his father at the bar at night just to kill time. After closing, he cleaned the place from top to bottom, spending whole nights making the floors gleam. He was pretty certain no one had mopped the floor there since his father bought the place.
Three o’clock in the morning found Angel in the onsite gym of his new apartment complex making friends with the 24 hour accommodations. He worked out until every muscle burned, until he could barely move and then he went back to his apartment and showered. Sometimes he could get an hour of sleep or so, but usually, he just missed his wife.
He couldn’t sit still or lay down for long. His arms ached from not being able to hold Buffy. He saw his daughters regularly since they loved his apartment so much and seemed to want to spy on him, but it wasn’t the same. He wanted to be in his house, making love to his wife and sleeping for more than a few hours a night.
The rest of his time was spent at the garage, fixing everything that he could possibly fix. The long days at the garage however, were also spent with Faith. He started getting nervous around her, thinking about Buffy walking in at any moment. It got to the point that when Faith spoke him, he nearly jumped out of his skin.
“Okay, what the fuck is going on, Angel?” Faith demanded finally after days of being treated like a bad habit. “You’ve been treating me like you think I’m going to start picking people off or something. What gives?”
“This isn’t working,” Angel groaned. “Look, I’m sorry about this, Faith, but you’re fired.”
She stared at him incredulously. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” she spat.
He frowned. “Look I don’t like this but – “
“But you’re pussy whipped,” Faith finished for him, a sneer on her face.
Angel nearly growled, advancing on Faith. “My wife kicked me out of my own goddamn house,” he yelled. “This isn’t a game, Faith, this is my family.”
She stared at him for a moment and then shrugged. “Fine,” she said, “I’m outta here.”
Watching her go, Angel was wracked with guilt. But as much loyalty as he felt toward Faith, he had to get Buffy back.
“Uh ... “ Angel looked dumbfounded at the bags of groceries sitting on the kitchen counter.
“Hello,” Samantha chirped cordially as she proceeded to unload what were obviously supplied for some large-scale get together, stocking the cabinets and refrigerators.
“Are we preparing for a siege?” Angel asked.
Turning around, Samantha frowned at her father. “It’s the Halloween party, Daddy. Remember, I told you about it.”
“I remember you *asked* me about it,” he said. “I also remember I said ‘no’.” She rolled at her eyes, obviously unconcerned with his refusal. “Samantha,” he continued, “I do not want thirty giggling girls in my apartment on Halloween night.”
“Daddy, I know you’re all prepared to brood and feel sorry for yourself or whatever, but it’s *Halloween*. Joey and I have a few friends who are supposed to come over and we never thought you’d actually say no, so we invited them first.”
She tapped one perfectly manicured fingernail against her lips thoughtfully. “I guess I can tell everyone to go to the house instead. I just thought you’d like company. I’m sure Mom’ll be fine with us having people over at the last minute. When she asks why, I’ll just tell her that you said-“
“Alright!” Angel groaned. “You’re treading on thin ice, Samantha. I know when I’m being manipulated.”
“I can’t believe you’d think that,” Samantha blustered in such a convincing tone, that Angel almost thought he was mistaken. He rolled his eyes. She was good but not that good.
“No alcohol,” Angel growled, ticking the rules off on his fingers as he went. “No boys. No drugs. And no one goes in my room.”
“Of course,” Samantha said, nodding her blonde head in agreement.
“Keep the noise level down so the neighbors don’t call the police,” he added seriously. “And make sure your sister is here *inside* the apartment all night long, understand?”
“Perfectly,” she sang out and rushed over to kiss him on the cheek. “You’re the best, Daddy.”
“Right,” he said, rolling his eyes.
Buffy giggled as Lindsey followed her inside the house. It was well past midnight and the house was empty. She could hardly believe she had gone out somewhere on Halloween. Every year she stayed home with her daughters and had parties or helped them with last minute costume preparations.
This year had been different. Sure, it felt a little odd, but at the same time it was liberating. The regular group from school met up for a party at McGee’s, their favorite club. There was a costume contest and lots of alcohol. Buffy had dressed up as a Brownie Cookie Girl ... well, okay, a naughty Brownie Cookie Girl. While the outfit was basically similar to the ones Samantha and Joey had worn as children, it was definitely tailored for an adult. Made from form fitting, slinky material, the dress clung to her curves. It was also low cut enough to flash generous amounts of cleavage. Buffy couldn’t remember the last time she’d worn something so blatantly sexy in public. While Angel had no issue with her wearing sexy clothes in private, he got decidedly territorial if she tried to leave the house in them.
Lindsey had dressed up as well. Buffy wasn’t sure what she thought of the pirate look, but she had to admit the hook had possibilities. They were both laughing and Buffy tried not to stumble as they finally made their way inside the house.
“Wait here,” Buffy said. “I have to go change into something more comfortable.”
Lindsey eyed her wolfishly. “Need any help?” he asked.
She rolled her eyes. “I don’t mean more comfortable like that,” she chastised. “I mean actually more comfortable. These shoes are killing my feet. Wait here.”
Buffy was humming to herself, dancing around her bedroom as she shed the Halloween costume in favor of an old t-shirt and a pair of sweats. Lindsey had invited himself over for bad horror movies and against her better judgment, she had relented, but if Lindsey thought he was going to get inside her cute little costume, he was sadly mistaken. She was just pulling her hair back in a loose ponytail when she heard Lindsey yelp her name. Quickly, she hurried down the stairs.
Buffy glared, crossing her arms over her chest as she realized that Angel had Lindsey cornered in the living room. Angel was rumpled and shirtless as if he had been sleeping, which, needless to say, was odd. She hurried across the room and pulled on her husband’s very cut and noticeably muscled arm.
“Angel, what the hell are you doing?” Buffy demanded, tugging on his arm until he turned to face her.
“What am I doing?” he growled, looming over her angrily. “What the fuck are you doing? What is *he* doing in *my* house with *my* wife?”
“Don’t you mean your *whore*?” she snapped, narrowing her eyes at him. She looked venomous and he took a step back.
“Baby…” he said, his voice just above a whisper. He had all but forgotten Lindsey’s presence.
“Why aren’t you at the apartment with the girls?” Buffy demanded, placing her hands on her hips. “You left them all alone there?”
“Yes,” he nodded. “I left them alone there so I could try to sleep here. They’re squealing and giggling and running around in…Buffy, they’re barely wearing clothes. Three of them actually hit on me before I got out of there!”
“Well you’re going back right now,” she clipped. “They probably planned to get rid of you and then were going to have boys over. Samantha is dating a boy with a red sports car! Joey could be making out with some pierced thug! You have to go back right now!”
He looked so miserable, she almost felt bad for him. "Fine," he grumbled, clearly uneasy with the thoughts of some hoodlums molesting his little girls.
Buffy watched the play of muscles in his back as he walked over to the couch where he had obviously been sleeping and shrugged back into his shirt. Satisfied that he was indeed intending to leave, Buffy walked into the kitchen to get his mail. She returned to the living room just in time to see Angel smirk at Lindsey. Without waiting for Buffy to say a word, he grabbed his mail and headed out the door.
For nearly a minute, Lindsey's wide eyes were fixated on the closed door. He swallowed thickly, turning to face Buffy. "*That* is your husband?" he squeaked.
"No," Buffy countered, "he's some indigent parolee I let sleep on my couch."
Lindsey frowned. "This isn't funny, Buffy," he snapped. "You could have at least mentioned …"
"That guy's an animal," Lindsey nearly hissed. Try as he might he couldn't banish the mental image of Buffy's very large, very muscled, very tattooed and pissed husband. He knew that Buffy was upper middle class and her husband ran a large corporation. Lindsey had expected someone much older, much paunchier and a whole lot less capable of cold-blooded murder.
"Angel's not an animal," Buffy said quietly. "He's just … overprotective and meddlesome."
Lindsey snorted. "And why exactly was he sleeping on your couch?" he asked. "I thought you kicked him out."
"I did," Buffy rejoined irritably. "You'll notice he left to go back to *his* apartment to check on our daughters."
"Yeah, I got that," he snapped, "but why was he in your house in the first place? How did he get in?"
Buffy shrugged. "I'm assuming he used his key."
Lindsey stared at her dumbfounded for a moment. "Key?" he parroted. "Your estranged husband still has a *key* to your house?"
“Well, yeah,” Buffy said, motioning helplessly. She bit her lower lip and looked over Lindsey’s stunned expression for a moment. “What if there’s an emergency? He needs a key to the house. Besides, what if something breaks?”
“Jesus Buffy,” Lindsey said, shaking his head. “You’re a law student and a man who looks pretty familiar with the prison system has a key to your house.”
“He’s my husband, Lindsey, and the father of my children. We’ve been married for eighteen years,” Buffy announced, exasperated. “Besides,” she mumbled, “he’s only been to jail a couple of times.”
”A *couple* of times?”
“Short times,” Buffy amended, “and really they were just misunderstandings.”
Buffy sighed, rubbing her temples. “You know,” she said, “maybe we should just call it a night.”
As much as Lindsey wanted Buffy, he had to admit she had a point. Being threatened with dismemberment by her husband had been quite enough to put a damper on his evening. Giving Buffy a quick kiss on the cheek, he left, vigilantly checking to make sure Angel wasn’t waiting for him behind a tree.
Buffy slipped beneath the sheets with a heavy heart. Biting down on her lip, she stared at the telephone on her nightstand. Giving in to temptation, she picked it up and dialed the number from memory. This time she actually let it ring.
“What?” he snarled into the phone.
“Never mind,” she mumbled.
“No, wait,” he amended frantically. “Buffy?”
“I just wanted to make sure everything was okay when you got back to the apartment,” she explained, hoping her excuse didn’t sound as transparent to him as it did to her.
“Yeah, after I kicked out a couple of Hell’s Angels that Joey invited over, everything was okay,” he said tightly.
“Well, okay,” Buffy said, “I just wanted to make sure.”
He was silent for a long time and she could hear him take a deep breath. “Buffy, I miss you,” he said softly.
Tears immediately sprung to her eyes. “I have to go,” she said quickly, grateful her voice didn’t crack. “Goodnight, Angel.”
On to part 6
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