Part 19 - The Art of Conversation

Merrick watched as Giles said his goodbyes to Larry. When he turned after shutting the door he saw that the worry line bisecting his brow had grown deeper. It was obvious to Merrick that the other Watcher was concerned about the boy. Larry hadn’t said much about what had happened last night, but it was obvious to anyone with eyes that more had gone on than he had admitted to.

Giles sighed as he turned to face his last guest. “Drink?” Merrick hesitated for only an instant before nodding.

“Yes please,” he said quietly.

It was surprisingly easy to fall into a comfortable conversation with the other Watcher, to let the animosity dissolve in collegiality and single malt. They discussed Council politics and gossip and were of one mind regarding the awfulness of iced tea and American manners.

“I’ve contacted the Council and requested an official transfer of the Slayer to your charge,” Merrick said.

“What?” Giles stared at him.

“I have no choice. The Slayer needs a watcher she trusts, and I am no longer that man.”

“Good Lord. I can’t possibly... I’m sure that given time Miss Summers will change her mind about all of this…”

Merrick shook his head. “It’s done. I know you will take good care of her, and I intend remain in Sunnydale for a little while if you don’t mind?”

“No. No, of course not.” Giles looked at Merrick, clearly at a loss for words. Merrick knew what he was thinking of course. The vast majority of Watchers never had the experience of guiding an active Slayer, that he was willing to give her up, in support of his duty was truly remarkable. “She’s the best Slayer I’ve ever seen. You trained her well.”

“Thank you.” Merrick accepted his due with a gracious nod. He looked into his empty glass. “Could I bother you for another drink?”


“So,” Cordelia said, as she completely failed to signal a left turn.

“Huh?” Angel forced himself to uncurl his fingers from the slightly crushed door handle.

“Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. I saw you and Giles giving each other looks. So spill: what’s up with Larry?”

Other than him reeking of vampire and spunk? “Uh, nothing, far as I know.”

“Yeah, right. Fine. I’ll work it out. It’s probably something obvious like Xander macking on Larry.”

He twitched; she was looking at him, when she should be looking at the road; looking at him with a little smile on her face and – shit.

“Hah! Knew it!” Her grin glittered in the darkness. “God that’s so weird. No offense, but the whole undead attraction thing, I mean, ewww. There was other you and Buffy – and then Joyce goes all Mrs. Robinson with Spike and now Larry…” she grimaced.

“Joyce isn’t going after Spike,” he protested.

Cordelia looked unconvinced. “Fine, it’s all Spike’s fault, whatever.” She said dismissing his correction with a wave of her hand. “My point is, no matter how cute any vampire might be in my book ‘room temperature’ doesn’t really go with ‘hot, hot, loving’.”

Angel was speechless.

“No offense,” she added as a stop sign flashed past unacknowledged.

There was silence as Cordelia continued to recklessly pilot her car through the unsuspecting town. As she blew through a stop sign Angel was relieved to recognize the neighborhood and realized that they were almost home.

Cordelia punched the dashboard remote as they came up the drive and pulled into the garage a bare instant after the door had opened. Angel let go of the door. Cordelia unlatched her seatbelt and checked her appearance in the mirror. He took a deep breath.

“You know, what you said earlier -- about Spike, and me. I’ve got to say, that sounds kind of bigoted Cordelia.”

“What did you call me?” She stared at him disbelieving.

Angel shrugged. “I’m just saying, it’s kinda unfair to reject something before you’ve tried it. Unless you have. Have you tried it?”

“Tried what? Locking lips with a vampire? Nope.”

“So, I was right. You’re a bigot.”

“Stop saying that!”

“Or chicken.”

“Am not!”

“Bawk bawk bawk. Chicken.”

“I’m not!”

“Prove it.”


“Prove it.” He grinned at her, channeling Liam for all he was worth as she stared at him, biting her lip. Her lovely, soft, lush, lip. He’d been spending a lot of time thinking about her mouth lately, all alone in his carefully blacked out bedroom. Her mouth, her eyes, her long curvy legs, her hips, her full round breasts, that absolutely perfect ass…

“Fine!” she snapped. “Just lips though, no tongue.”

He nodded. Barely managing to keep from shouting in triumph as with a look of grim determination she shut her eyes and leaned across the armrest towards him.

He met her in the middle, and pressed his lips to hers with infinite care, a butterfly’s wing of a kiss that sent fire racing through his dead nerves. God knew how many women he’d kissed but this felt like the first time; for him it was the first time, the first time it mattered. Forgetting to be careful he pressed in greedily and felt the shriveled muscle in his chest leap when she didn’t recoil but opened her mouth and kissed back. He put a hand on the back of her neck to pull her closer, losing himself in the wonder of her wet warm mouth, her smooth skin, the rising scent of her arousal…

Without warning Cordelia went stiff and yanked herself free. She scrambled away from him until her back was pressed against the car door.

“What was that!” she sputtered. “That was no test kiss. That was… What the hell was that!”

He couldn’t take his eyes off her mouth, wet and swollen from his kisses. His hands itched with the urge to take hold of her.

“Cor-de-lia,” he purred. “I think you know…”

“Stop that!” Cordelia snapped, forgetting her fear. “It’s not funny!”


“You know you’re in love with Buffy!”

It was his turn to look startled. “Huh? No I’m not.”


He could see her struggling to recalibrate her memories with this reality.

“O.K., maybe not yet but you will be. You guys are like Romeo and Juliet. You came to Sunnyhell because of Buffy.”

He remembered. Remembered watching her from Whistler’s old beat up car. Watching her bounce down the stair, a gleaming blonde vision. His heart had been filled with her. He’d come to Sunnydale with new hope, of being able to make up for his sins, of being her hero.

But she never came. And the Master captured him, and three years of torture had dimmed his hope even before he’d lifted his head and seen her.

He recognized her. The scar was new. And the anger. More than three years had passed, and the sweet girl he’d fallen for was gone. This Buffy Summers was hard, and cold; a Slayer, through and through.

“Yeah. I did. I came to help her fight, and I’m still going to do that. But we’re not in love. I can’t even imagine being in love with her. She’s not that girl and I’m not that guy.”

Cordelia stared at him.

“Cordelia, I don’t want her. I want you.” He leaned forward, and she mirrored him for a sweet instant before jerking herself back.

“Whoa! Aren’t you forgetting something? The curse? I’m not planning to play sudden-death tag with Angelus again.”

Angel scowled, he still wasn’t sure he believed that story about him losing his soul because of ‘a moment of perfect happiness’, or sex; he still wasn’t clear on that. Obviously it couldn’t just be sex; if that was all it took he’d have lost his soul years ago...

He leaned back with a sigh. It didn’t matter if he believed in it as long as Cordelia did. There was no way he was getting any further with her tonight.

“Yeah,” he said. “I forgot. I guess you’re right. I just needed you to know how I felt.”

She relaxed. “Oh. Oh Kay. Well, um. Good night.” She got hastily out of the car and disappeared through the door into the house. Angel watched her go, the half smile on his face slowly fading.

He really needed to have a talk with Giles.


When the doorbell rang, Trick knew immediately who it had to be. Damn, couldn’t a dude eat dinner in peace? He took a last swallow before pulling out his fangs and letting the girl flop back onto the bed. She lay there with her eyes half-closed, pretty much out of it. He was a long way from done with her though. He’d fucked her once already and he had plans to do it again before finishing her off. He hoped this wouldn’t take too long. He pulled on his pants and a sweater. “Be right back baby,” he murmured as he opened the door. She didn’t stir but he made sure the door locked behind him.

His premonition had been right on. “Hey man,” he said. He opened the door wide to the Mayor in. He still moved stiffly, and his features were still a little too greenish to pass, but with every day that passed he got closer to the time he could return to the public eye.

Wilkins smiled, revealing yellow teeth and purple gums. “Mr. Trick. Sorry to drop by unannounced, but I wanted to check up with you to make sure everything’s on track. You haven’t been in your office much these days.”

Wasn’t much room for him there, now that he was back and getting ready to take up his duties as Mayor again. Not that Trick wanted the job, but having his boss hanging around made him nuts.

“Plan’s going great. Everything in place for three nights from now.”

“Excellent. And our other problem?”

“The lawyers finalized the contract and wired them the retainer this morning; they’ll be here tomorrow. They cost a bomb, but their reputation says they’re worth it.”

“Well, that sounds great! So you don’t see any trouble?”

“Naw, I think we’ve got it covered. This time next week you’ll be living large and in charge.”

“Good man!”

Trick smiled and let the silence sit there until Wilkins finally took the hint.

“Well, I guess I’ll be going then.”

“Have a nice night man.” Trick shut the door on him, and locked it. Jesus fucking Christ on a bicycle he’d be glad when the dude ascended and he could blow this one-horse town.


Larry slipped in the back door quietly and crept downstairs to his room, careful not to disturb his parents. Technically he didn’t have a curfew, but if they knew he was coming in this late on a school night he’d hear about it. They were already pretty unhappy about him being cut from the team, but he couldn’t help it that he kept having to miss practice all the time so he could patrol. They’d had to shut down the program anyway after half the team had died/disappeared but that didn’t make it O.K. as far as his Dad was concerned.

He shut the door carefully, collapsed onto the sagging old couch he’d claimed when they got a new one last year and grabbed the remote. He flicked around a little before settling on Letterman. Dave was just starting the night’s list when the phone rang, jerking Larry upright, heart pounding ready for a fight. “Yeah, what?” he snarled into the phone.

“Hey, Lar. What cha doing?”

Larry’s brain froze. “Xander?” he managed after a painful pause.

“The man himself. How’re they hangin’ bro?”

He stopped himself from asking how Xander had gotten his number. “Uh. O.K. I guess,” he said warily.

“Still living with the ‘rents huh? Got your own phone and everything.”


“How are your folks anyway?”

“Fine. I guess.”

“They’re not giving you any trouble?”

“Naw, they’re great, really.”

“Yeah? ‘Cause I could help you out if they were getting on your case.”

“Let’s face it, football was your only shot at college, now you’ve blown that…18 and you’re out of here.” Larry wouldn’t even let himself think about it. “No! Man, please…”

Never thought he’d be happy to hear Xander’s nasty little giggle. “Hey man, just pulling your leg. You’re my pal. I wouldn’t eat your ‘rents – unless you want me to?”

“No. Really. Uh…Thanks.”

“No problem. So, what did Library Man say when you gave him the info?”

“Angel and – Giles! They’re going to check it out.” Which made it sound like they didn’t trust Xander…which of course, they didn’t.

“Sounds like you don’t trust me. Hey, you’d have to be pretty stupid not to check it out. And I already knew you White Hats weren’t stupid. If you were you wouldn’t have lasted so long without a Slayer. How’s she working out anyway? What’s her name again?”

“Buffy. She’s scary. Super strong. Kind of hostile.”

“Yeah? Sounds like fun. She’s killed a lot of vamps lately. Definitely made her mark.”

“I’m just glad she’s on our side,” Larry admitted.

“Bet you are. So, buddy, want to meet up? Get a couple of beers, talk over old time?”

Larry didn’t know which would be scarier: if Xander was serious about being buddies, or if he was just trying to kill him. “Tonight?” he hedged. “Uhh… It’s a school night.”

“Oh yeah. School. Been awhile. Tell you what – I’ll call you Friday, we’ll make plans, kay?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

“Ciao baby.” Xander made a wet kissing noise into the phone, and hung up.

Larry stared at the phone until the recording started complaining that if he wanted to make a call he should hang up... He hung up and unplugged the phone and spent the rest of the night watching CNN.



Xander flipped his cell shut and put it away. He was disappointed but not surprised that he couldn’t get Larry to meet him tonight. Left him with nothing to do though, like all the nights since the Master had gone down. Sunnydale was a really dead town if you were on your own. He missed Willow, and the Bronze. He’d heard the humans had taken it back over. Had someone living upstairs so vamps couldn’t cross the threshold.

All this talk about families had made him homesick. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been by the old homestead. Maybe he should drop by.

Mom had changed the locks, again. A quick twist and shove took care of that.

She’d cleaned up since the last time he’d been here. The place still would’ve given Martha Stuart the heebie-jeebies but there was no stink of garbage like the last time, and there were only a couple of dishes in the sink. New carpet too. Guess the insurance money had finally come through.

He found a half-filled black garbage back sitting on the service porch; it clanked when he lifted it: nice to see some things hadn’t changed.

He had a quick look at his old bedroom. Nothing had changed from the night he left, same boxes of comics under the bed, same Star Wars and 7 of Nine posters. Dresser still packed with fluorescent shirts and comic boxers; his stash of porn was still tucked away under a stack of baggy pants. God he’d been such a fucking loser.

Mom was fast asleep, snoring lightly, face buried into the pillow on ‘her’ side of the bed. The sag in the mattress that dear old dad had worn over the years was still there but that was the only sign left that he’d ever been there. She didn’t stir as he closed the curtains and got undressed. He pulled back the quilt and grinned because despite the new locks she was wearing the soft blue polyester nightgown that was one of his favorites. The smell of bourbon was sweet on her breath when he bent down to kiss her.

She woke up then, eyes wide and blind in the dark. “Who’s there?” she whispered.

“Hi mom.” He straddled her, covering her mouth with his, as her eyes began to leak.

He was kinda surprised when he pulled down her top to expose her breasts to see that his marks had all healed. It really had been a long time since he’d been by. That was Willow’s fault, she’d started getting really weird about his visits. Like she was jealous or something. When he’d come back the last time she’d forced him to take a bath in scalding hot water and nearly scrubbed the skin off his back. He didn’t need the grief, so he’d decided to take a break. Never meant to stop completely though.

He nuzzled into the powdered valley between her breasts, where it smelled like the good parts of his childhood and the sudden scent of fear as she felt his face change against her skin reminded him of all the good things about his new life. She shivered as his fangs scratched a thin line along the curve of her breast to her nipple and whimpered as he slid his fangs into her skin and pushed slowly into her dry heat but she didn’t try to fight him. Never since the first time. Xander sighed as he felt the blood began to flow, sweet and thick in his mouth. Every heartbeat, every whimper and groan sending pulses of heat through him.

Slow shallow thrusts and small, careful sips were the way to make it last and he wanted it to last as long as possible. Buried inside her, feeling her heat creeping through him, filling the hollow spaces, making him feel cared for and safe making him feel so fucking good, and hey, wasn’t that what moms are supposed to do for their kids? When he finally couldn’t hold out any longer the rush nearly blew out the top of his head.

Considerately, he rolled off her as soon as he could see straight again. After a moment she slowly pulled her legs together and turned on her side, away from him. He pulled her back, spooning her, soaking in her heat, and dropped a kiss onto the nape of her neck.

“Thanks mom,” he whispered. She didn’t say anything, but that was O.K. They understood each other fine.

Posted 10 May 2004


"Would you like to come in?" Joyce asked. She meant it even though she was pretty obviously dropping on her feet. Which served her right for going along with that vampire’s crazy plan and almost getting herself killed.

“Sorry, can’t.” Buffy said. She wanted to change her answer when she saw the sadness in Joyce’s eyes.

“I understand. Well, goodnight then.”

Well, that killed off any lingering doubt she had that this really was her mom because only mom possessed the power to make her feel that guilty without saying anything.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” The hell with it. She wrapped her arms around her mom and hugged her, before pushing her inside and getting the hell out of there.

She hit the cemeteries on the west side of town, as far away from Restfield as this one Starbucks town allowed. Pickings were thin, she only managed to dust three lone suckers and decapitate a scaly green demon with a whiny voice before she decided it was time to knock off.

Buffy grimaced at the scruffy blonde chick in ripped jeans she saw reflected in the big ass mirrors that had been installed at the Bronze's entrance, and then walked right on in anyway. The bouncer started to say something to her about a dress code but backed off real quick when he recognized her. He didn't even ask her for the cover.

They'd done a nice job fixing up the place, though personally she would’ve burnt it down. The name was the same but the interior had been completely redone and repainted, there wasn't much left to remind her of the abattoir she'd liberated a few weeks ago. Buffy was amazed by Sunnydale people. Everyone there knew what had gone on here when the Master was in charge, odds were that most of them had lost people to the monsters, but that didn't seem to bother anyone. The place was packed with people loudly determined to have a good time, even on a Sunday night.

Hypocrite much: not like she gave a damn about the casualties either.

She moved out onto the dance floor and marked out her spot. Started to move, giving herself up to the harsh repetitive music, letting it pound into her, fill her up like syrup, sweet and warm. The tension she'd built up from slaying drained away and other tensions started to build. She could feel their eyes on her, almost read their minds, could sense them wanting her. She danced alone, and waited.

Didn't take long till a guy moved in on her, crewcut UC Sunnydale student with a sloppy grin and a 16 oz plastic cup clutched in his hand. He tried to keep up with her; she let him try.

"Hey, wanna take a break?" he yelled after ten minutes. Buffy ignored him, she wasn’t done dancing yet. After five minutes he retreated back to his buddies.

Buffy kept dancing and the boys kept coming. There was a brunet, a cute Asian guy, a freckled skinny guy: not bad at keeping the beat, but he lacked stamina, then another blond, huge, pretty much had 'fullback' tattooed on his forehead. He wasn't bad, and she’d danced enough for now. So she moved closer, grabbed his hips as she did a slow grind and smiled up at him. "Want to go somewhere?"

She figured that one of these days a guy was going to tell her 'no', but she really didn't expect to live that long.

He had a bigass Jeep parked around the corner. He said something about a room, but she was in no mood to wait. She’d straddled him as soon as the door slammed shut, yanking up his shirt so she could feel the muscled chest underneath.

"Hey!" he said, but forgot his complaint when she reached down and deftly unzipped him, and then herself. His arms tightened around her as she took hold of him and quickly stroked him to fullness. He mouthed along her throat, and tried to kiss her as she got everything aligned. “Fuck!” he gasped as she impaled herself on him.

"That's the idea," she said. He made a noise that wasn’t a word when she flexed her hips.

Seven minutes later, she climbed out of the jeep, and slammed the car door behind her. She straightened her hair, checked her zip and headed back to the club. Oh well, maybe she’d have better luck with the next one.

posted 15 May 2004



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