"Another Opens"
Damage: Chapter Three
by indie

Buffy had almost fallen asleep by the time Lilah finally vacated her father's study.  Luckily, their meeting had given Buffy time for a quick shower in the pool house where she lived.  She was now dressed more comfortably in an old Lakers t-shirt and a worn pair of jeans.  Still, the shower was no substitute for sleep.

Bleary eyed, her head pounding, Buffy stepped inside her father's office.  She avoided meeting his piercing glare.  Sitting on his desk was the remainder of her possessions, the same ones that the cops had confiscated and then returned when she was released.  Minus the vial of bloodroot, of course.  She gave a fleeting thought to how much Ford had paid for the rare item.  No doubt he would be in debt to Rack for quite some time.  Her backpack was unzipped to reveal a Krentavian Orb and a ritual N'Ke'Dve dagger.  Buffy sank into one of the chairs opposite her father's desk.

"Harmless," Rupert Giles said tautly.

Buffy winced, her vision fixed on the floor.

"Lilah is an exceptional lawyer," Giles continued, "but she is only a lawyer."

"Meaning what?" Buffy asked.

"Don't play coy with me," Giles snapped.  "These items may not be on the Los Angeles Police Department's list of contraband materials, but they damn sure are not harmless.  You, of all people, should know that."

Buffy hung her head, choosing to maintain her silence.  Rupert was completely unreasonable on the subject of magicks.  He insisted on treating her like an idiot child where they were concerned.  He acted as if she didn't have a brain in her head.  And where was Ford?  Her stay at the cop shop was cut short due to her father's political influence, but Ford no longer had such backing.  She still had her cell phone.  He hadn't called or paged which meant he was probably still in police custody.  She was more than a little irritated with Ford at the moment, but she still had no desire to see him suffer unduly.  She wouldn't put it past her father to try and use some of his political clout to have Ford held longer than necessary.

"Buffy," Giles whispered, "I know that you know the difference between right and wrong.  So I must confess, I do not understand what you were doing tonight."

Buffy's self-loathing was in full force.  The quiet desperation in her father's voice, the knowledge that she had let him down was almost too much to bear.  She felt like she had buried a dagger in his back, betraying his trust like this - again.

But at the same time, she was angry.  Why did he have to act like she was going to turn into a minion for the forces of evil with the least bit of provocation?  She was a Slayer, goddammit, whether he wanted to admit that or not.  Theoretically she was one of the most powerful supernatural beings alive, but he treated it like being a Slayer was a job she could pursue or leave at will.  Buffy straightened up in her chair.  She was strong enough to handle a little dark magick.  She didn't need to be lorded over like a five-year-old.

"These items," he continued, exasperated, "they are powerful tools for the Dark Arts.  In the wrong hands ... even in the right hands, without the proper precautions they are exceedingly dangerous."

The pleading quality of his voice, the utter despair, cut her to the heart.  Her father was so important to her and right now, he did not trust her.  He was being unreasonable, but she knew it was because he wanted to protect her.  She swallowed harshly, hating herself for what she was about to say.

"They're not mine," Buffy whispered.

"What?" Giles asked, afraid he had misheard her.

Looking up, Buffy met his gaze.  "They aren't mine," she repeated.  "I was with Ford.  They belong to him.  The cops showed up and since they were in my car, I got the blame."

Giles looked at her, his expression deathly serious.  "These items are not yours?" he asked.

She shook her head slowly.  She knew that he needed to think that she had merely been led astray.  To her eternal shame, she let him think that.

Giles stared at his daughter, wanting desperately to believe her.  "I understand," he said.  "Ford Rayne is a bad influence.  You're a good girl.  Go to bed, Buffy.  We'll finish this conversation tomorrow."


Buffy woke to the sound of soft knocking on her bedroom door.  She blinked quickly.  Judging from the light, it was late afternoon.  She rolled over onto her stomach, reaching for her cell.  No new calls. Apparently Ford didn't want to talk to her.  She sighed heavily, the migraine was gone, but she was in no mood for visitors, especially the kind who would enter the pool house and head up to her bedroom without an invitation.   She smacked her lips distastefully.  She needed another shower and a change of clothes.  She had collapsed onto her bed fully dressed.  "Go away," she grouched.

Hearing the door open, she buried her head under the pillow.  The bed shifted as Jenny sat down at the foot.  Lightly, she touched Buffy's leg.  "Are you all right?" she asked quietly.

"No," Buffy replied ruefully.  She was disgusted with herself for being utterly spineless.

"I won't pretend to understand all of the specifics of last night," Jenny said.  "But I'm sure you had your reasons."

Buffy was reminded of how much she adored her stepmother.  Her parents' brief affair ended long before Buffy was born.  Rupert Giles found true love and married Jenny when Buffy was a toddler, living in Sunnydale with her mother, Joyce.  Buffy had spent every summer with Jenny and her dad in Los Angeles and enjoyed it immensely.  Life was comfortable and sedate, filled with predictable happenings and love.

After the turbulent times of her Calling or her mother's death, Buffy had been lost.  Alone, either of those events would have been overwhelming, but together they almost crippled Buffy permanently.  During those dark days Jenny was a great source of support and love.  She was indispensable as Buffy adjusted to a new existence.

Sitting up in bed, Buffy scooted back so she was leaning against the headboard.  She rubbed her eyes wearily.  "I didn't do anything wrong," she said.

"Of course not," Jenny replied, as if it should be painfully obvious to everyone.

Buffy smiled and looked at her stepmother.  Jenny was beautiful, her dark hair pulled back in a flattering style.  You would never know by looking at her that she had two small children.  There was nothing frayed or frazzled about her appearance.  Buffy knew from experience what a feat this was.  Twenty minutes alone with her two stepsiblings, Dawn and Xander, was enough to drive anyone insane, but Jenny had an unflappable calm.

"Is Dad mad?" Buffy asked.

"Rupert is upset," Jenny conceded, "but he'll get over it.  You may be his child, but you're not a child.  Being an adult means making decisions, even if some of them don't have positive consequences."

Buffy nodded, looking out the window at the quickly fading light.  Jenny had left a good deal unsaid.  It was no secret that she did not share her husband's views about what was and was not appropriate for Buffy.  Jenny felt that Rupert was smothering the girl with all of his "protection", denying her the opportunity to know the Slayer side of herself.  But Jenny lost that argument long ago.

"About last night ..." Jenny began.

"I don't want to talk about it," Buffy said wearily.  "I didn't do anything illegal.  The cops picked me up because they thought I had drugs.  They'll test the stuff and see that it's harmless.  I have nothing to hide.  Dad may not have approved of my actions, but they weren't wrong."

Jenny took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  "I will admit that Rupert tends to get a bit overzealous where magicks are concerned," she said.  There was more than a little bitterness in Jenny's voice and Buffy knew why.  When Jenny married Rupert, she abandoned her family magick.  Buffy knew it hadn't been an easy decision.  The magicks had been passed down from one generation to the next for centuries.  But ultimately Jenny was forced into a decision and love won out.  Buffy had never been given a similar choice about being the Slayer.

"Those items can be dangerous, "Jenny continued.  "As I said, I'm sure you had your reasons, but I seriously suspect that it has a lot to do with Ford Rayne ... Buffy, your father and I discussed it and we have never trusted him or his family.  We were thrilled when you two stopped seeing each other this spring.  But now -"

"You and Dad are discussing my love life?" Buffy asked quietly, stiffening her spine.  Her face betrayed her incredulity.

With a chastising look, Jenny said, "Of course we are concerned about your love life, Buffy.  You are our daughter.  We worry.  We're concerned that he's not good for you."

Buffy pursed her lips into a thin line as she glared at her stepmother.  "I see," she said.  "You and Dad think that I'm incapable of deciding who is and is not good for me."

"That is not what I said," Jenny replied, becoming slightly ruffled.  "If you were involved with any other boy, it wouldn't be an issue, but in light of what happened with Ethan ... Buffy, Ford isn't in a good mental place right now.  He has a lot of anger and pain.  We are concerned that he is not well intentioned.  Given my connection to Angel, Rupert and I are worried that Ford may be trying to use you -"

It was too much for Buffy to take.  For far too long, Rupert and Jenny had treated her like a child - and she had gladly let them.  She thought it was easier than letting them see the unvarnished truth of the adult into which she was growing.  But it wasn't easier.  It was harder.  And every lie she told them, every untruth she let them believe made her into more of a caricature of herself.  She couldn't do it.  Not anymore.  She couldn't keep hiding behind the "good girl led astray" ruse.  It was time they saw her as an adult, capable of making her own decisions.  She didn't need to be protected.  "Ford isn't using me," Buffy interrupted her voice calm, but leaving no room for argument, "I'm using him."

Jenny gave a startled look to her stepdaughter.  She frowned.  "Buffy, I seriously doubt that you are capable of using Ford -"

"Because I'm such a good little girl?" Buffy asked baldly.  "I was going to have sex with him, Jenny.  He suggested the magicks, but I agreed.  If the cops hadn't shown up, we would have gotten high on Dark Magicks and then screwed in my car."

Jenny stared blankly at her stepdaughter.  "Well," she said, and then looked away.

Buffy watched her deal with the implications of what she had just said.  To her credit, Jenny seemed spun, but recovered quickly.  When her eyes once again met Buffy's, there was something in them, a sort of understanding.  Buffy felt like for the first time that Jenny was seeing her for who she really was.

Jenny smiled gently.  "I suppose we have tried to keep you our little girl," she said ruefully.  "I'm sorry if you felt that we expected you to be a particular type of person."

"You're not disappointed?" Buffy asked, bracing herself for the answer.

Jenny looked straight into her eyes and said, "You are an amazing young woman, Buffy, and I will love you no matter what.  But you don't need your father and me trying to run your life.  You need to live it yourself."  Her lips pursed together and she added, "I trust you, Buffy, and I hope that you learn to trust yourself, to realize how much you are worth.  Self-respect is something easily lost and very difficult to get back."

Chagrinned, Buffy nodded, but slowly a smile crept over her features.  Jenny held up a finger of caution.  "Not so fast," she said.  "I speak only for myself.  Your father still wants to talk to you."

Buffy's smile faded.  They both knew that Rupert would not take the news well.  Boldly, she stood up.  She needed to have a very serious conversation with her father.  It wasn't going to be easy, but the longer she let this situation continue, the harder it would be.  With a little reluctance, she put one foot in front of the other.  All too soon, she was inside the main house and headed for her father's study.  She paused outside the doors to collect herself.  She had no intention of backing down, but it didn't make her anxious to fight with her father.  She knew he only wanted to protect her.

Buffy took a deep breath, resting her forehead against the doors to her father's study.  Yes, she had gladly jumped into her new superficial existence.  She allowed her father to treat her like a helpless little girl because it was so much easier than being responsible for her own actions - or her own inaction.

But like it or not, Buffy knew she was a Slayer.  No, not the Slayer, but still a Slayer.  Of course, the girl they found to replace her only lasted a few months on the job.  The one after her was doing better, but still, her days were numbered.  Buffy knew she was being a coward by allowing them to fight in her place, but up until now she had been too weak to do anything else.  But more and more, the guilt was preying on her conscience.

Maybe it was her father's insistence that she couldn't handle magicks - hell maybe it was Angel's insistence on calling her "Slayer", but Buffy knew that something had to change.  She couldn't continue to hide behind her father, to shirk her responsibility.

When Buffy entered the room, Giles was seated at his desk studying one of his myriad dusty, old tomes.  He looked up and slowly removed his glasses as he gestured towards a chair.  Buffy shook her head, preferring to stand.  Rupert shrugged and leaned back in his chair, studying his daughter.

"Jenny has advised me against issuing rash edicts," he said dryly.

Buffy nodded.  "Sounds like a plan to me," she said.

Giles frowned severely.  "Do not take that flip tone with me," he admonished.

Buffy looked at him from beneath her lashes.  "Yes, sir," she mumbled.

Somewhat placated, Giles took a deep breath.  "I trust you, Buffy," he said seriously.  "I know we discussed it last night, but frankly, I am beside myself about your behavior.  Those artifacts are extremely powerful tools for the Dark Arts.  I definitely understand the lure of darkness, but I also trust you to make the right decision."

Buffy shifted uncomfortably in her chair.

"On the matter of Ford Rayne, however," Giles said dryly.  "I will not defer to your judgment.  In you, I have complete faith.  I would not trust him any farther than I could throw him.  I do not want you to see that boy again."

Buffy met her father's gaze.  This was not going to be enjoyable.  "I know that you are worried about me," she said.  "But I am an adult."

Giles bristled visibly at her tone.  "An adult who is living under my roof," he noted harshly.

Buffy recoiled as if he had slapped her.  Her expression was hard as she said, "Under your thumb, you mean."

Giles studied his daughter's defiant countenance for long moments.  "You are an adult," he said with absolute seriousness, "but you are still living in my house, eating my food, driving the car I gave you.  This is your home, but there are limits.  I will not condone your meddling with Dark Arts.  And you will not, under any circumstances, see Ford again.  These are my rules."

Buffy looked at the hard set of her father's features, at the rigid line of his spine.  She knew him well.  She knew that there was no chance of him relenting.  When Rupert Giles made up his mind, there was no changing it.  But she couldn't live with his rules.  Not any more.  He was right, it was his home, his money and he was free to place whatever stipulations he felt necessary over those domains.  But she also realized that she could no longer live with his law ... or him.  "Fine," she said plainly, "then I'll leave."

"And go where?" Giles demanded.  "You don't have any money of your own.  You don't have an apartment.  You don't have a job."

Buffy looked at her father and sadness threatened to overwhelm her.  She knew that he only wanted to protect her, but it did not keep the collar from chafing.  She was an adult and he refused to see her as such.  "I love you," she said.  "But I can't be your little girl forever.  I am an adult.  I have to make my own decisions, even if they aren't always the right ones.  I'm not proud of my actions last night, but I do defend my right to make that mistake."

Giles stared at her incredulously, realizing for the first time that she truly did intend to leave.  While he heard her words and could mentally understand her reasoning, in his heart it made no sense.  She was not merely growing up, she was rejecting him, rejecting everything that he had done for her.  "You're not going anywhere," he said.

Buffy shrugged.  "You can't stop me," she said.  "I'm leaving."

In a panic, Giles yelled, "I'm your father, Buffy.  I'm your source of food and shelter.  I'm paying for your schooling. You cannot survive without me.  You will go to your room."

Buffy stared at him as if he were a stranger.  He was honestly trying to treat her like a child.  Did he not have any more faith than that in her?  She was unable to speak as she looked at him.  Turning on her heel, she walked blindly out of his office.

Buffy was numb as she returned to the pool house, tears streaming freely down her cheeks, clouding her vision.  Luckily, she knew the way well enough that it wasn't a problem despite the fact that it was now dark and she couldn't really see through her tears.  Once again, this was her fault.  Three years ago, she was too weak to deal with life.  She let him step in and take care of things for her, take care of everything.  Now, he was so used to doing for her that he truly thought she was incapable.  His lack of confidence hurt and angered her, but more than that, it shamed her.  He thought she was incapable because for far too long she had let him believe that.

Her numbness melted into a mixture of determination and anger.  She would show her father just how capable she was of running her own life.  Hurriedly, she threw things into two large duffel bags, mindless of the sobs issuing from her throat and the tears on her cheeks.  Clothes, pictures, her mother's jewelry, stuffed animals; all of it got piled in a formless heap.  The bags were so full she could barely get them zipped, but somehow she managed, throwing them over her shoulders.  She exited her little bungalow, locking the door behind herself as she carefully skirted around the pool.  The main house's patio doors were open and she slipped inside as gracefully as her cargo would allow.  It was quiet and as stealthily as possible, she headed for the front door.  As her father had so eloquently pointed out, the car was his, so she couldn't take it.  She pulled her keys out of her pocket and threw them on an end table.  She wouldn't be coming back.  She didn't need her keys.

Blindly, she tore open the door and rushed headlong down the steps.  Immediately, she crashed into someone and her momentum sent her tumbling down the steps to land in a pile on the sidewalk.  "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Buffy said frantically.  Wonderful way to start her brand new life.  She brushed the hair out of her eyes, glancing up at her victim.

Her anxiety vanished as if it had never existed while her face settled into a frown.  "Oh, it's you," she said dryly, thoroughly disgusted with herself for apologizing.  She wiped self-consciously at her wet cheeks with the back of her hands. She had no desire for him - of all people - to see her crying.

Angel looked down at the heap of tangled limbs and duffel bags in the middle of the sidewalk.  He knew better than to offer the hellcat a hand up.  "It's wonderful to see you as well," he replied with an amused smirk.

With a growl, Buffy rose unassisted to her feet and brushed off her clothes.  "My father is home, just so you know," she snapped.  "He cancelled his business trip."  Liam Roarke was one of Rupert Giles' least favorite people on the planet.  Giles tolerated him because the arrogant young mogul was his beloved wife's half-brother.  But there was no love lost between the two men and more often than not, there were open hostilities.

Angel watched Buffy gather up the overstuffed bags, trying to balance them without much success.  He sighed.  "Ionuin," he asked with more than a little amusement, "where are you going?"

Buffy turned to glare at him.  Angel and Jenny often had conversations in Gaelic, but Buffy never managed to learn a word of the language.  She had no idea what his pet name for her meant, but she knew it couldn't be flattering.  He had been calling her "Ionuin" for years. She was fairly certain it meant "monkey" or "pest" or "flat-chested wench."

"It's none of your damn business," Buffy hissed in ShadowTongue, far too upset to concentrate on speaking English.  But she was on the verge of tears again.  She really didn't need to be mocked by Angel while she was trying to make a hasty retreat to ... to where?  Buffy had no idea where she was going.

Her father was right, she had no money, no car, no apartment.  She had mooched off of him for years.  She didn't even know if she would have a dorm room in the fall since he was paying for her education as well.  For all of her popularity and status, she didn't have a damn thing that was her own.  Most people had years to work on their independence, but she was trying to cram it all into one grand gesture.

It was too much.  Buffy dropped her bags and clapped her hands over her mouth as she started sobbing.  She was disgusted with herself for breaking down in front of Angel, but helpless to stop it.

Wordlessly, Angel picked up both of her bags and headed down the walk to the circular drive in front of Giles' enormous house.  With a small chirp, the trunk to his BMW clicked open and he deposited the bags inside.

Buffy gulped a frantic breath of air as her crying subsided in the wake of her growing confusion.  She stared at Angel as he mutely opened the passenger side door and stood waiting - obviously for her.

Not knowing what else to do, she self-consciously walked down the sidewalk, and after several tense heartbeats and sniffles, climbed into his car.  She sat, staring out the windshield, bewildered, as Angel walked around and slid behind the wheel.  He flipped the ignition and the engine roared to life.  As he shifted the car into drive, he turned his head and said, "Seatbelt."

Angel had been bodysnatched, that was the only explanation.  Buffy clicked her seatbelt into place.  Satisfied, Angel drove down the driveway and out into the residential street headed towards the freeway entrance.

Buffy was in a tight spot.  She needed whatever help she could get.  For that reason, she would be willing to overlook the fact that Angel had obviously been lobotomized earlier in the day.  But if you had a lobotomy, could you still drive?  Well, she couldn't prove the brain segmentation, but Angel was acting weird.  Even for him.  That was saying something, especially given how well she knew him.  Angel had been a part of her life since she was eight years old.  Up until she was fifteen, they had actually been friends - in so much as you could be friends with someone ten years older than yourself.  And who - by the way - did that?  What twenty-year-old man would sit through eighty-five viewings of "The Princess Bride" with a ten-year-old girl?  Perv.  Oh, he'd never done anything out of line.  At the time, Buffy had adored him for it.  Now she just found it creepy.

After Buffy's "accident", her father became absolutely dictatorial on the subject of Angel.  He was no longer welcome in their home.  At least not while her dad was there.  Angel and Jenny weren't particularly close, but as each other's only living relatives, they both felt the need to maintain contact.  Angel visited only when his brother-in-law was away.  Buffy was sure that suited his sneaky nature just fine.

Jenny rarely spoke of her past beyond the fact that she had been born and largely raised in Ireland.  All Buffy knew was that Jenny and Angel had the same mother, but different fathers.  Jenny and Angel's mother was a gypsy.  Jenny seemed to harbor more than a few bitter feelings towards the woman.  After becoming pregnant as the result of an extramarital affair, their mother divorced Jenny's father and embarked on a nomadic lifestyle that carried her two children across the globe for years on end.

Jenny was thirteen when her mother was murdered somewhere in Asia.  She and four-year-old Angel were returned to Jenny's father.  It was nearly a year later when they learned that Angel's father was aware of his son - and wanted him.  As it turned out, Angel's father, Linwood Roarke, was very wealthy and had no other children.  He was aging and at war with his family.  He apparently decided that a bastard child was better than leaving his fortune to his estranged siblings and their families.  Having no other recourse, Jenny's father reluctantly handed over the little boy.

By the time Jenny saw her brother again, Angel was unrecognizable.  Gone was the gentle little boy, replaced by a man as cold and calculating as his father had been - and even more wealthy.  The one good thing Rupert Giles had to say about his brother-in-law was that he knew Angel didn't remain in contact with Jenny because he needed money.  Angel's fortune eclipsed Giles' many times over.  Any relationship he chose to maintain with Jenny was not for monetary gain.

But Angel's wealth wasn't measured only in financial terms.  He was also a very powerful practitioner of the Dark Arts.  Buffy couldn't look at him without remembering the price he paid for his power.  Angel was a twilight creature, similar to a Slayer.  He had willfully absorbed a great deal of dark magicks in his quest for power.  The magicks were not sufficient to turn him into a creature of darkness, but he was no longer entirely human.  Buffy remembered when Angel almost died.  She remembered the pathetic, wasted creature he had been the morning Jenny pushed past Wesley and forced her way into his private rooms.

Angel scared Buffy, but not for the reasons he scared so many people.  She shivered at the idea of what could drive a young man to sacrifice so much of himself for vengeance.  Angel was beautiful and wealthy and powerful.  That was enough to make most of the world turn a blind eye to his less desirable qualities.

But Buffy wasn't blinded.  She saw how he was different from humanity.  His eyes were black and lifeless as a reptile.  It didn't escape her notice that he intensely disliked direct sunlight.  She also noticed his grip was always a little too firm, betraying a strength that was decidedly preternatural.  She didn't miss all the little ways he was set apart from humanity - because though she tried to ignore it, she was set apart too, albeit in different ways.

As the car merged onto the freeway, Buffy cleared her throat.  "Where are we going?" she asked.

"I'm taking you to a friend," Angel said casually, not bothering to look at her.

"Who ... where?" Buffy asked, her head beginning to pound from stress and confusion.

Turning his head, Angel looked at her dispassionately.  "You're running away from home, right?" he asked coolly.  "One of your stuffed animals was poking out of a bag.  Given that you're not twelve and headed for a sleep-over, I'm guessing that means you're leaving permanently."  Angel knew the stuffed animal in question was named Mr. Gordo, but he wasn't going to say that.  The more disinterested Buffy thought he was at the moment, the better.

"I'm not running away," Buffy said defiantly.  "I'm leaving home.  I'm an adult.  I don't have to run."

Angel smirked. "So you weren't running when you almost knocked me down the steps."

Buffy said nothing, staring mutely at the road.  Angel couldn't help but smile at the sight.  She was so gloriously beautiful when she was angry.  He loved her feisty, defiant nature.  Buffy spoke her mind and stood her ground, bowing for no one.  Well, at least not for him.  Angel knew that the Buffy he saw was not the same one with which the rest of the world was acquainted.  Her irritation with him never allowed her to maintain the vacuous façade she donned for so many other people.  He found that bare honesty incredibly charming.

Buffy had no idea how absolutely attractive he found her - had always found her.  Angel had waited years for Buffy to be old enough to pursue.  He had always known he would eventually have her.  It was fated.  Tonight was proof enough of that.  He stopped by on a fluke to speak with Janna and Buffy stumbled into him before he even reached the front door.  Some things were simply meant to happen.  There was no arguing with the destiny.  It was one of the few lessons he remembered from his mother.

"I'm also guessing," Angel continued, "that you don't have anywhere to go.  I can't imagine you begging for a place to stay from any of the social vultures you hang out with, though I'm sure they would love the gossip.  And I know my sister would never forgive me if I let you sleep on the streets."

Buffy flinched at his words.  No doubt Cordelia and Sunday would love to let her stay at their houses, provided they could be the ones to break the news of her recent incarceration and subsequent homelessness.  No, she couldn't do that.  But she did have her limits.  "So you're going to give me to someone?" she balked.  "No thanks.  Just drop me off somewhere."

Angel rolled his eyes. "Let's dispense with the melodrama, shall we," he said wryly.  "I am not dropping you somewhere in L.A.  Janna would kill me.  Secondly, I am not giving you to anyone.  This isn't white slavery for gods' sake.  An associate of mine needs a roommate.  You'll like Willow.  She doesn't think very highly of me as a human being.  She also goes to UCLA and is a damn fine Wicca."

Much to her irritation, Buffy's interest was piqued.  In spite of, or maybe because of, her recent fight with her father, the Wiccan arts seemed even more appealing.  Buffy knew a large part of her father's aversion to Angel was based solely on the fact that he was very knowledgeable in the area of dark magicks. Plus, Buffy was intrigued to discover what kind of people Angel kept as associates.  She couldn't imagine him being platonic with a woman.

But regardless of how much she wanted to start her own life, there were a few problems with Angel's plan.  "I ... I don't have any money," Buffy said in a rush, embarrassed.

Angel looked at her impassively.  "Are you going to get a job?" he asked.

"Yes," Buffy said.

"Fine," he replied blandly.  "Then I'll lend you money and you pay me back.  With interest, of course.  I'm not running a charity."

Buffy narrowed her gaze, looking him up and down.  Try as she might, she could discern no ulterior motive in his words.  She had no idea why he was being so helpful, but she was also clueless as to what he could possibly stand to gain.  She couldn't give him the benefit of the doubt, Angel never did anything without a reason.  However, at the moment, she couldn't afford much skepticism.

[End Chapter 3]

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