She was waiting for inspiration. Of course, it never came when you needed it. Like, in a fight to the death or for the last question on an algebra test. Or standing in front of your closet an hour before your date is supposed to pick you up.
“I so should have gone to the mall,” Buffy grumbled. “There’s nothing in here that I can possibly be seen wearing in public.”
“Don’t be silly,” Willow said, uncrossing her legs and sliding off the bed. She crossed the room and reached into Buffy’s closet, pulling a red halter from its hanger. “What about this?”
“Duh,” Willow said. “Date with a vampire. I bet he likes vampy.”
Buffy bit the corner of her lip and eyed Willow skeptically.
“Come on,” Willow urged. “Just try it on.”
“Alright, but if it screams slut, you’ll tell me, right?”
Willow pulled her mouth into a straight line and said, “Of course.”
Buffy unzipped her hoodie and slipped the satin halter on over her head.
“You can’t wear a bra,” Willow advised.
“I can’t not wear one either,” Buffy said.
“Some day, years from now, our boobs won’t be as—young as they are now, Buffy. We should take advantage of their—perkiness before they make their journey south.”
“So, in other words- flaunt ‘em while you got ‘em.”
Buffy reached around and unhooked her bra, pulling the straps down her arms and yanking it through the side of the halter.
“It’s probably not fair to tease him.”
“Buffy, Angel’s a zillion years old. He’s probably seen breasts before.”
“You’re exaggerating,” Buffy grinned.
“About Angel seeing breasts? I don’t think so,” Willow replied.
“No, not that. About his age. He’s 241.”
“Oh, well, that’s not so bad.” Willow spun Buffy around to face the mirror. “See, not slutty.”
Buffy lifted her hair up off her neck and nodded. “It does have a certain ‘wow’ factor.”
“You look nice,” Angel said as they walked down the street towards the coffee shop. “I mean, really nice.” He smiled down at her.
“Thanks. It was a bit of a clinic, you know, deciding what to wear. It always is. I look in my closet and--” Buffy stopped. She was suddenly aware of the soft slide of satin against her naked skin. “I sound like an idiot.”
“No. It’s nice to hear you talk about-- stuff.”
“Well, it must be nice for you, too, not to have to think about demons and battle strategy.”
Buffy smiled. “It does make a change.”
Buffy crossed the street, avoiding the entrance to the Restfield Cemetery. Tonight was about coffee- not slaying, and Buffy intended on keeping it that way.
“So, do you actually drink coffee?” she asked as they made their way down Ash Street, heading towards the centre of town.
“Not normally. It makes me jittery.”
“Oh. Well, we don’t have to drink coffee. We could drink cocoa.”
“It isn’t so much about the beverage, Buffy, as the company.”
It was a beautiful spring night and the closer they got to the heart of Sunnydale, the more people they passed. People were lined up outside of the movie theatre; office workers were heading home after an extended day; a young couple pushed a sleeping baby in a stroller; teenagers gathered in groups on the corners, laughing and talking in exaggerated whispers.
“This is weird,” Buffy said.
“To be on a date?”
“Well sort of, yeah, but what I meant was it’s weird to watch people just living. I sometimes forget people get to do that.”
“You know,” Angel said, taking Buffy’s elbow and steering her across the street to their destination, “they get to do that because of you.”
“That’s a gross exaggeration,” Buffy said. “And anyway, I have help.”
The waiter walked away with their orders and Buffy and Angel stared at each other across the table.
“This is nice,” she said.
“But. There is a but, right?”
“There’s always a ‘but’, Buffy.”
“Well, let’s get it out of the way.” Buffy leaned forward, folding her hands on the table in front of her.
“I don’t really think I can explain it to you any better than I did the other night,” Angel said. “I don’t want you to get hurt and if we keep this up, I don’t know if I can protect you.”
“It’s been a long time since you were a teenager, right?” Buffy said.
Angel stayed silent.
“This is how it works: I would have dated a bunch of schmucks who would have taken me bowling or to the movies. Guys whose sorry asses I would have had to save and guys who would have then expected some sort of payment--“ Buffy emphasized the word payment, hoping Angel would get the point, “-- because they bought me a latte. You’re saving me from all that.”
“It’s a rite of passage, though, dating,” Angel said.
The waiter arrived with their beverages and a plate of biscotti.
Buffy shrugged, reaching for one of the hard biscuits and dipping it into her cappuccino.
“I can’t go back, Angel,” she said quietly. “I’m never going to be that girl again. How could I?”
“I can’t help thinking that that’s my fault, somehow.”
“You really are all about the guilt, aren’t you?”
“I guess—a little.” Angel’s mouth almost-smiled.
“Drink your cocoa.”
On the walk back, Buffy steered them through the cemetery. May as well get it over with and Buffy had the sneaking suspicion that they’d be spending a lot of their date nights in graveyards. Angel reached for her hand and led her towards a huge elm tree. He shrugged off his coat and spread it out, gesturing for her to sit.
“Are you cold?” he asked.
“Because I don’t really have the ability to warm you up.”
Buffy snuggled into Angel’s chest.
“I would have to disagree.”
He kissed the top of her head.
“Buffy,” he said, but before he could finish, Buffy had shoved him to one side and was flying across the grass to land a booted foot into the midsection of a scrawny vampire.
“Wouldn’t be a Buffy-date without some whoop-ass,” she called over her shoulder as she whirled, driving a stake through the vampire’s heart.
“Crap!” she said, brushing at the front of her halter.
“I didn’t even see that guy,” Angel said scrambling to his feet.
“Do you see now why I can’t date Tom, Dick or Harry?”
On Buffy’s porch, under the light her mother had left on, Buffy tilted her head for Angel’s kiss.
She thought, as his lips met hers, that no one would ever kiss her quite like this again. She felt his cool hands slide along the skin exposed by the halter and she shivered.
“You okay?” he murmured against her lips.
She nodded and pressed herself against him, lifting her hands to slide through his hair.
“What were you going to say before? Back at the cemetery.”
Angel narrowed his eyes, remembering.
“I was going to say thanks. I had a nice time.”
Buffy smiled. “Me, too.”
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