"Ford, we need to get out of here," Buffy said in a rough whisper.
"It will be fine," he said, smiling at her mischievously as he pulled her inside the room lined with bookcases.
Buffy tugged her wrist out of Ford's grip as he stealthily closed the door. Nervously, she looked around, her heart pounding in her chest. Her nerves had nothing to do with Ford. They were standing inside Angel's private study.
She had been in the room several times in the past, but never unescorted. She knew it was Angel's inner sanctum and she couldn't stop a warning shiver that crawled up her spine at the thought of what he would do if he caught them. "Ford, we can't be in here," she said firmly.
Sitting down defiantly in one of the plush leather chairs, Ford made himself comfortable. With a wicked grin, he held out his hand in invitation.
Buffy stared at him, dumbfounded by the depth of his ego. She shook her head and in blatant defiance of his wishes, wrapped her arms around her own waist. Buffy wanted answers, not a make-up make-out session.
Ford released a defeated sigh and his bravado waned measurably. As his pleasant mask relaxed, Buffy saw the strain on his features. Wearily, he rubbed the bridge of his nose. Several long moments passed before he once again met her gaze. "I messed up," he said seriously.
Buffy laughed sardonically. "Gee, ya think?" she snapped.
Ford's lips pursed into a thin line as he changed tactics. "Why did you dump me?" he demanded.
"Why did you get drunk at the Prom and tell Cordelia that I'm a frigid bitch who won't have sex with you?" she countered, barely managing to restrain a snarl.
Pushing himself out of the chair, Ford rose to pace around the room. His face was a reflection of anguish as he turned to look at her. "What else could I have done?" he demanded.
Buffy's jaw dropped as she stared at him. "I'm not sure," she said sarcastically, "but telling my biggest rival's best friend about our private life wasn't on the short list."
"God, you just don't understand," he said, turning away from her to resume his pacing.
"Try me," she said grimly.
He spun around to face her. "Do you have any idea what it's like for me? I'm dating the hottest girl in the entire fucking school and I can't even get to second base anymore!" he spat, his voice thick with frustration.
Buffy pursed her lips together tightly. Her chastity was a sore spot in their relationship to be sure. How many times had he tried to bully or guilt her into sex? She couldn't even remember. It was bad enough having to put up with it from him, but then to hear from third parties was simply too much. "You're a jerk," she said coldly.
Ford smiled. "So why are you so mad?" he asked. "It wouldn't bother you so much if you weren't ashamed of it."
"Ashamed?" Buffy repeated incredulously. "It's my body, Ford. I have every right to decide who I invite in."
Ford shrugged impudently. "If you were really so secure, it wouldn't bother you so much that other people know you're still a virgin," he pointed out.
Buffy flushed as she looked at her former boyfriend.
Ford stepped closer. "You're mad because you're embarrassed, Buffy. You know this is ridiculous," he said. "We've been dating for a year and a half and we still haven't had sex."
Exhaling sharply through her nose, Buffy turned and sat down in the chair Ford had recently vacated. She was an adult. It was her body. She had every right to be choosy about who she did or did not have sex with. Being her boyfriend didn't automatically entitle him to anything.
But moral high ground was cold comfort at the moment. Ford had a valid point. They were both eighteen, both adults - and it wasn't like their relationship was fly by night. Buffy had been pursued by countless guys, but none of them had been able to hold her attention for more than a week or two - until Ford. And as far as high school relationships went, theirs was one for the long haul. Ford wasn't simply trying to get into her pants, they were genuinely close friends - or at least they were once. Her continued rebuffs of his advances had strained more than just their physical relationship. Their seemingly indestructible camaraderie had crumbled under the weight of dissatisfaction. Ford was frustrated because Buffy wouldn't have sex with him and Buffy was frustrated because Ford refused to understand that she needed time. Not to mention the fact that Buffy's father violently disapproved of the relationship.
Buffy told Ford she simply needed time, but more and more she wasn't sure that was true. Buffy glanced at him. She wasn't a prude. Buffy didn't feel that it was morally wrong to have sex, for her it was a personal choice. She simply wanted ... something more. She had no idea what. There was some elusive element that prevented her from giving in to Ford. Her own life had been irrevocably impacted by her parents' casual attitudes towards sex. She had vowed long ago that she would demand more for herself and consequently for any potential child. She needed substance. She needed ... magick - as ironic as that was. She almost laughed aloud. She actually did have magic with Ford in the very literal sense.
A big part of what initially drew Buffy to Ford Rayne was that he came from an old Wiccan family. Even though she had pushed away everything having to do with her Slayer duties, Buffy couldn't quell her fascination with magick. Rupert Giles was staunchly opposed to magick of any sort, but Buffy had always been captivated by it. Ford taught her beautiful little spells that would light the way on a darkened path or chart out a map of the stars on the ceiling of her bedroom. They were definitely some interesting times. Everything had been new and exciting. She remembered making out with Ford for hours underneath those twinkling stars. She remembered the feel of his skin against hers, of the power tickling over her heated flesh. It had been a rush like no other. They fell into a pattern of magick and make-out. The magicks always gave a hell of a high that completely lent itself to sexual exploration.
But all exploration, magickal and sexual, had ended when her father found her spellbook and supplies in her room. Buffy was certain she hid it away as usual, but when he walked into her room, there it was in plain sight.
Rupert Giles' rage was exquisite. Buffy found herself grounded for two months, out of her father's sight only while at school - where he both dropped off and picked her up. She was forbidden to ever see Ford again. It was utterly humiliating and a horrible way to start off her senior year in high school. While her classmates were all making the most of the best times of their lives - driving their own cars, staying out all hours partying and making memories to last a lifetime - Buffy was sitting at home with her parents and two younger siblings doing her homework and filling out college applications.
When her house arrest finally ended - mostly thanks to Jenny's bullying - Buffy found that her relationship with Ford had cooled measurably. He immediately suggested that they try some new spells. While the offer was tempting, Buffy declined. She still saw no real harm in the magicks they had done, but the pain it caused her father wasn't worth it. He was the only parent she had left now. Ever since Rupert discovered she was working magicks, Buffy knew that some measure of her father's trust had been forever lost. That fact angered her, but it hurt even more intensely.
Much to Buffy's surprise, without the magicks, there wasn't much substance to her relationship with Ford. Whereas before his touches had set her aflame, now they seemed awkward and rushed. His kisses, which she would have once given anything to have, were now overly demanding and rough.
Ford no longer held the physical appeal he once had. The knowledge made her feel guilty. Ford waited for her while she was grounded. He made it obvious that he still wanted her as much as ever. Ford was a very popular guy. It would have been easy for him to abandon Buffy in search of more accessible companionship while she was grounded. But he hadn't. And when she was finally free again, she simply didn't want him with her former hunger. Ford was understanding at first, reassuring her that she simply needed time. But time didn't help. Buffy and Ford were two of the most popular people in school. On the outside, they still looked like the perfect couple, but on the inside, their relationship was disintegrating. The further Buffy withdrew, the more angry Ford became.
Buffy wasn't some fragile flower. She had no problem holding her ground when Ford got too pushy. She valued him as a friend and despite their troubles, she was loyal.
Of course, that was before he broadcast the state of their affairs to the entire school. When Cordy and Sunday had approached her with those knowing smiles and then snarkily congratulated Buffy on her chastity, she had been so shocked she hadn't said anything. For years, Cordelia and Sunday had been forced to play second fiddle to Buffy. Ford's big mouth provided them with the perfect ammunition they needed to assume her role as the most popular girl in school. In less than a week, the entire student body was looking at Buffy with knowing glances, laughing and whispering as she passed. Buffy had never felt so exposed in her entire life. It was absolutely humiliating.
Luckily, school was finally out for the summer and since she had graduated, Buffy would never have to go back again. But it didn't save her from having to see those same catty faces at almost every social function. And to top it off, Sunday and Cordy were both matriculating at USC in the fall - the same as Buffy. She had no doubt that word would be all over campus before Rush week finished. Something like that could doom her entire college social life. Buffy knew that a lot of college guys liked bad girls. How far was she going to get if they thought she was some sort of goody goody who was waiting on a marriage proposal before she would be willing to have some fun?
Buffy had no problem maintaining her convictions in the face of adversity - so long as it was worth it. Problem was, she was no longer certain that remaining a virgin was worth it.
What exactly was she waiting on? True love? Buffy laughed at the very idea. She might have been innocent in some respects, but she wasn't an idiot. By virtue of being one of the beautiful people, she was stripped of most of her illusions very early. She knew how ruthless life was and she didn't buy into the fairy tales. And it wasn't like she had Mr. Right waiting in the wings. Buffy was popular and pretty, she dated a lot of guys. None of them had interested her like Ford, despite his recent shortcomings. Was the fact that she was no longer infatuated actually that important? She had no desire to be a thirty-year-old virgin - which was exactly what was going to happen if she didn't modify her unrealistic standards somewhat. Maybe Ford was right, maybe this was ridiculous.
She looked up at Ford, who was emanating frustration. He was attractive with his dark hair and light brown eyes. He was tall and leanly muscled. He was on the verge of manhood, but she knew that even as he aged, he would retain his boyish features - the eternal Peter Pan. Yes, Ford was definitely cute. Even when he was pouting, which was what he was doing at the moment.
Looking at him, Buffy felt suddenly emboldened. What would that mercenary bitch, Sunday, do in this situation? She sure as hell wouldn't sit here and worry about love. In doing so, Buffy was handicapping herself. She wasn't about to endure four years under Sunday's thumb. College would be a fresh start and Buffy intended to start in the lead. Besides, she was a healthy, mature woman. Why not get it over with?
Filled with feminine power, she rose to her feet and slowly stalked over to her estranged boyfriend. Ford's expression changed as he watched her, morphing from irritation into wary interest. He didn't balk as she pressed her lips to his. With a sigh of pleasure he pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her waist. After long moments, he pulled back and looked at her. "Does this mean what I think it means?" he asked.
Buffy considered playing coy, but decided against it. "Yes," she said baldly.
Ford smiled wickedly. He looked at the beautiful Persian carpet on the floor and cocked a speculative eyebrow.
"No way," Buffy said firmly, sobered by his insinuation. "Not here. My car is outside, we can go somewhere."
Ford's expression took on a hard set. "Why not?" he asked angrily.
Deciding against starting a fight, Buffy wrapped her arms around his neck. "I know you hate him," she said, "but this isn't the time or the place for this fight."
Pouting again, Ford met her gaze. He looked around the room, filled with luxuries. Not so long ago, his own home looked much the same. Now, however, it was a very different story. Angel's private study was perfectly arranged, dark wood and leather, priceless pieces of art and ancient texts. It looked much like the study that Ethan, Ford's father, possessed before Liam Roarke crushed his business ventures beneath his heel. Ford wondered how many of Roarke's possessions had been purchased with the money that should have belonged to him - to his entire family.
As Ford's gaze fell on the sketch above the mantle, he shook with rage. It looked out of place against the rest of the artfully arranged pieces. It was a simple sketch. Beautiful because of its simplicity, but nothing ostentatious. Of course, if one took even the most introductory of art history classes, they would know it was a da Vinci. Ford knew that for all of his father's wealth, it could never have compared to Roarke's. The entire Rayne fortune was nothing more than a drop in the barrel for a man of that much wealth. Yet Roarke hadn't hesitated to ruin his father, to send their entire family into a downward spiral. For what? For nothing. He had done it because it amused him to crush another man so completely.
"Ford," Buffy said softly, pulling him to the door. "We have to go."
Angel ran his hand lightly over the back of the chair. Even with Darla's cloying perfume and her musky female scent clinging to him, he could smell Buffy. One of the perks of not being entirely human. He knew without a doubt that Buffy had been here with the careless little boy. He could also smell the lingering fragrance of her arousal. A rumbling growl disturbed the silence of the room. "Take care of this," Angel commanded without bothering to turn and face Wesley.
"Anything in particular?" Wesley asked evenly, well accustomed to being given such tasks.
As Angel raised his head, the cold rage in his eyes caused the seasoned lieutenant to shiver. "Decisive," he rasped with a hard smile, "I want Ford Rayne out of her life and I want it done tonight."
With a curt nod, Wesley was gone. Angel poured two fingers of brandy into a snifter and sat down in the chair, savoring the scent of Buffy even as it enraged him. How dare that idiot child paw at her. Pressing his eyes shut, Angel reined in his rage. Ford Rayne would be gone soon enough and the field would be clear.
Buffy was not going to slip through his fingers. She was born
for him. He had waited years for her, patiently biding his time as
she grew into a woman. He watched as her already impressive spirit
bloomed into full power. Rupert Giles did everything in his considerable
power to keep them apart, but that too would soon come to an end.
The old man was blind to the hole he was digging himself. Angel was
not. He simply needed to be patient for a while longer and everything
would fall into place.
Out of habit, Buffy handed Ford the keys to her car. Though she was reluctant to let him take the power position of driver, she loathed driving. He took the keys, giving her a blinding smile as they slipped into the sporty little convertible. It was a graduation present from her father and Jenny. Given that they had been fighting since Prom, Ford hadn't had a chance to get behind the wheel. He tore out of the driveway, leaving unsightly black marks on the pavement.
Half an hour later, Buffy frowned as Ford pulled the car off the freeway and into the largely abandoned industrial district. Her father warned her often to stay away from this place. It was an area populated by the demonic underbelly of Los Angeles. Any number of creatures called it home, vampires, demons, trolls ... Dark Wiccans.
Buffy sighed as she sank deeper into her seat. She should have known. "Ford, what are we doing here?" she asked as he pulled the car to a stop in front of an old dog food factory.
He smiled brightly at her. "Just wait," he said. Before she could stop him, he was gone.
Several minutes later, Ford re-emerged, carrying something. She rubbed her temples with the pads of her fingers. Why had she thought tonight would be any different? She snorted in disgust. She didn't even care anymore. She just wanted this over. Maybe then life could get back to normal.
She didn't say anything as Ford slipped behind the wheel again and drove several blocks, parking in a patch of deep shadows under a bridge. Buffy looked around. "Do you really think it's a bright idea to sit in a parked car in this neighborhood?" she asked.
He waggled his eyebrows at her impudently. "I'm a Dark Sorcerer, we'll be fine," he said.
Buffy refrained from rolling her eyes at his comment. Ford Rayne was no Dark Sorcerer. The Dark part she bought. While Ford had kept most of their magickal dabblings fairly neutral, she knew that his tastes leaned towards the black arts. It was in his blood. The sorcerer, however, she knew was complete smoke. He played, nothing more. Ford didn't have the power to be a sorcerer like Ethan. Buffy decided that pointing this out would not be conducive to maintaining an intimate mood.
She watched as he unwrapped the package he had acquired at the factory. "What is it, Ford?" she asked.
"Don't worry," he said. "It's just a little something I picked up from Rack to get the ball rolling."
Buffy took a deep breath and crossed her arms over her chest. Rack was a local magick pusher and Buffy violently disliked him even though she had only met him a handful of times. Everything Rack touched was dirty. "I promised my father I wouldn't mess around with this stuff anymore," she said.
Ford ceased what he was doing and looked at her seriously. "Do you want this, Buffy?" he asked. "I mean us, tonight, you and me? I'm not an idiot. I know you're not here because of your undying love and lust for me."
Buffy looked away. Gently, Ford touched her chin with the tips of his fingers and made her meet his eyes. "So we're not soulmates," he said wryly. "But I do love you and regardless of the fact that you're unhappy with me, I know you care for me too. We're comfortable with each other. We know each other. We've messed around a lot in the past."
Buffy nodded, swallowing harshly. "Yeah," she said. She and Ford definitely were not soulmates. Gee, that was a fun night. Ford found this spell and suggested they try it. He thought it would be a romantic way to 'prove their love'. It wasn't. It was some serious magick. Buffy found out later that only a handful of people in the history of humanity actually have a true soulmate. They did the spell, pouring ritual sand over their bodies. Nothing at all happened to Ford. At first they thought the spell hadn't worked. But then an odd little geometric design appeared on Buffy's right hip. Buffy didn't know what it was. The design looked incomplete, like they were only getting part of the picture. It was a bit of a mood killer when Ford touched it and nothing happened. It was supposed to do something when her soulmate was near. Not that Buffy really believed in that. They probably just messed up the spell and now she was stuck with half of a stupid looking tattoo. Some day, she was going to have it removed.
"So our relationship isn't perfect," he said with a shrug. "But it's not awful. We're attracted to each other and we both know that magick makes it better. A lot better. Let your first time be something to remember."
Buffy pursed her lips together. He was right, of course.
The magick did make the physical a lot better. Her insides tightened
at the mere thought of how good it made things. So, they weren't
lying to each other about the situation, trying to make it into more than
it was. They weren't pretending. It was about sex. It
Hours later, the door to the small, grimy conference room opened and Lilah entered. Buffy held her gaze for a few scant seconds before dropping her eyes to the battered tabletop. After being arrested, she called her father, who in turn got Lilah on the case. That in itself was something of a feat. Lilah was one of the elite criminal lawyers in Los Angeles. Her monthly payment for covered parking at the corporate garage would cover most people's mortgages. Yet here she was standing in the doorway at four in the morning.
"My client has nothing to say, Detective Lockley," Lilah said in an almost bored manner. "Unless you plan to charge her with something tonight, we're both leaving."
"She isn't going to hide behind Daddy's money," Detective Lockley replied venomously. Buffy got the distinct impression that Detective Lockley had issue with the wealthier section of the population.
Lilah smiled mirthlessly. "If you had any evidence, you would have already charged her. "
"She will be charged as soon as we get the test results back," Lockley replied
This time Lilah laughed. "Right now, you have a baggie of powder which means nothing. Good night, Detective Lockley. You can be expecting a civil suit on behalf of my client filed against you and the rest of the Los Angeles Police Department."
Buffy winced, wishing she could take back this entire night. It was a futile wish and she knew it. If life had taught her anything, it was that there was no use bemoaning the past. Nothing could change it. Best to simply suck it up and move on. Easier said than done, of course. She was filthy, she felt like the stench of stale cigarettes, BO and urine that permeated the interrogation room had seeped into her very pores. Her designer dress was wrinkled and stained beyond repair, and the stilettos were killing her feet. Without having to be asked twice, she followed Lilah out of the room and then fell into step next to her, ignoring the throbbing pain in her feet.
"I didn't do anything illegal," Buffy said firmly.
"And what about the drugs they found on you? What happens when those tests come back?" Lilah asked blandly. Buffy had the distinct impression that Lilah didn't care at all if she were truly guilty or innocent.
"Nothing," Buffy said. "They're not drugs. They're harmless. It's powdered Rodomian Bloodroot."
Lilah smirked. "This case is in the bag," she said, her mood lightening.
End Chapter Two
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