She had always wanted to live by the beach.
Now that she was actually doing it, she'd found that
wasn't everything she'd imagined it to be.
Not that it wasn't beautiful. It was. The beaches
in Northern California
were very different from the ones
she was used to, the ones she'd spent her summers on
ages ago...before all hell had
broken loose in her life.
The first difference she'd noticed was the ocean it-
self. She'd gotten a good look at
it as they'd traveled
up the coast, and the farther north they got, the darker
the water became. By the time they hit
Carmel, it was
gray and frothy, churning against the huge rocks that
lined most of the shore. This water had not a
the turquoise blue shades she'd seen further south.
The beaches were not the friendly playgrounds she'd
from her childhood. There were no expanses
of smooth, uncluttered sand warming in an afternoon sun,
no fire pits, or
playgrounds, or volleyball nets.
The sand up north was cold and wet, and strewn with
thick ropes of kelp, twisted sculptures
of driftwood, and
sea glass. Walking barefoot on it was just asking for
Which was just as well, because
it wasn't warm enough
to walk barefoot. In fact, not only did you need shoes and
thick socks, but you'd best have on
a heavy sweater under
a jacket if you wanted to keep out the chill.
Buffy knew this, because she spent a great deal
walking the beach that was less than a mile from her
The first day she'd gone out for a walk,
the sky had
fooled her. Sun had been splashing playfully on the small
patio outside her bedroom. She'd thrown on a pair
shorts and a t-shirt, shoved her feet into sandals, and
left the house with nothing but her keys...only to return
half an hour later, shivering and damp.
She'd learned her lesson, though, and the next time
she'd ventured out,
she had been dressed for the occasion.
Now, she hit the beach almost every day, and it
hadn't taken her long to
discover one reason why this
beach was better than the ones she'd been raised near.
It was nearly empty.
could walk for miles and never see more than one
or two other people. She left them alone, and they returned
Buffy had no interest in making friends. She
wanted to be alone, and lonely.
It was precisely what she deserved.
were all gone now, the people she had loved. One
by one, she'd driven them away.
Giles was back in England, trying
to scrape together
a new council of watchers. He called once a week, and
they talked for a few minutes, but it wasn't
anymore. Too much pain and too many harsh words
had passed between them, words that could never be
back, deeds that could never be undone.
He had taken most of the remaining potentials with
him. Faith and Robin
had gone along, too, and Buffy had
heard vague tales of a possible school being set up,
strictly for the education
and the training of slayers.
She didn't care. She really didn't.
Willow and Kennedy had continued up the coast
were living in San Francisco, the last she'd heard,
running a magic shop. Apparently, Wil had finally
to develop and maintain control of her powers.
Buffy wasn't interested.
And Xander. Xander had stayed for a
while. Had pretended
that everything would be all right. He'd found a job in
Monterey, and a small apartment not too
far from her own
house. In the evenings, he would show up and she would
make dinner. They talked a little. Sometimes
movie. He would go home, and she would go to bed. On
the weekends, he would pick her up and take her on
sightseeing tours. Fisherman's Wharf...Cannery Row...the
But she never took him to her beach.
Didn't want him there.
Not in 'her' place. The place she went to be alone...and
think...and wish to God in heaven that
she had done things
In the end, even Xander left. After more than one argument
passed between them,
with cold accusatory words being
flung about like slaps across the face, he had packed his
things and given up the
lease on his apartment. Said good-
And still....she didn't care.
was the only one she could talk to now. The only
one who really understood. But Dawn had school, and
friends, and didn't
always have the time to listen.
Or the inclination.
Which was all right. There just wasn't that much to
anymore. Life had gone on, and Buffy was fine
with watching it from the sidelines. Someday, she'd
get back in the game.
she felt like it. When she had a reason to.
The timer on the microwave went
off at the exact
same moment the phone rang. She took the warmed
up pizza out and set it on the kitchen table, then
for the phone.
"Hello...Who?....Oh, yeah...How are you?...Okay...I'm
I'll be on the next flight out...NO!...No, please don't...Yes.
Thank you for calling...I will..."
slammed the handset back into the phone's
cradle so hard that it let out a tinny 'ding'. Anger began
to simmer inside
of her as she dug up her wallet and
pulled out a credit card.
When she had the one she wanted, she reached for
phone and punched in the number for information. She
scribbled down a phone number, disconnected the line and
hi. When's your next flight to L.A.?... Okay, I need to
be on it...Buffy Summers...Just one...That's fine....Master-
The terminal at Monterey Peninsula Airport was
crowded with travelers.
Buffy hadn't been on
a plane since the horrors of
9/11 had occurred, and she found things to be quite
different. For one thing, security
tight. Everybody was searched and re-searched, then
run through a metal detector by airline employees
seemed to be viewing each passenger as a
After removing all of her jewelry and dropping her
keys in the little dish, her tote bag still set off the
alarm. She was unceremoniously hauled to one side,
to dump the contents out for inspection.Her
antique silver compact turned out to be the culprit.
Buffy was beginning
to wonder if she would have to
provide a hair sample and a pap smear in order to get
through security. She stared at
the wall clock, knowing
she'd have to sprint through the airport to catch her
flight, and that action in itself would
another avalanche of security guards down on her.
Finally, when she'd reached the point where she
ready to begin knocking heads together, she was allowed
to proceed. Forcing herself not to run like a lunatic,
made it to the gate in time to be the very last passenger
As the plane ascended, the hassles of
to fade from her mind, and the anger that had been
fueling her actions returned in full force. She stared
the window, one thought reverberating over and
over again in her head...**This time, I'm gonna kill that
stepped out of the terminal at LAX, into a patch
of hot sunshine. Unfortunately, by this time, she was
so used to overcast
skies and chilly weather, that she
recoiled from the glare, fumbling in her bag for a pair
pulled up to the curb, and she flagged it down.
Yanking open the door, she practically fell into the
back seat of
the cab. The driver hardly gave her time
to close the door behind her before he swung the taxi
out into the traffic
"Where to, young lady?" he inquired, checking her
out in his rear view.
"1127 Spring Street in Los
replied, reading from a scrap of paper. "It's a law
firm...Wolfram and Hart."
The driver nodded.
"Know it well. About fifteen minutes
"Good," Buffy said quietly, crumpling the paper in a
clenched fist. "Cause I can't wait to get
only took twelve minutes.
As the cab pulled up in front of the building, Buffy's hand
was already opening her door.
She tossed a twenty
dollar bill into the front seat, and stepped out onto the
Craning her neck back,
she stared up...up...up.
It was a huge stone and steel monolith of a building,
at least fifteen floors. It blended
perfectly with the
other buildings lining the street, clearly announcing the
fact that this was a high priced set up.
black marble facade boasted a tasteful sign in
thick gold script...Wolfram and Hart Ltd...
followed by the street
Taking a firm hold on her temper, Buffy shoved open
the glass doors and walked inside.
the reception desk, she headed straight for
a bank of elevators. Two security guards followed
behind her, but she was
in no mood to deal with any
more questions or demands. She walked onto the
elevator and punched the button for the floor
wanted, glaring at the approaching men in a way that
meant serious business if they even thought of trying
"Buffy Summers," she announced, as the doors began
to slide smoothly shut. "Feel free to call your boss
tell him I'm on my way up."
The ride was smooth and silent,
with only the
changing floor numbers giving any indication of
The bell dinged melodically, and the
doors opened out into a lobby area. Buffy stepped
off the elevator, her shoes sinking into plush beige
one side of the lobby, there was a reception desk
and standing behind it was....
She blinked hard, tugging off her
pushing them into her bag.
No, her eyes weren't fooling her. Harmony Kendall
was still there,
staring back at her with a huge cow-
eyed look that made Buffy want to slap her silly.
Just the sight of the female
vamp angered the slayer,
bringing back every transgression the stupid bitch had
A door suddenly
opened on the other side of the
desk, giving Buffy a brand new target for her rage.
The minute she saw him, she
dropped her bag and
crossed the room towards him at a quick pace.
When he looked up from a stack of papers in his
and spotted her, his eyes widened and his lips
silently formed her name.
Disregarding any insipid greeting he was
process of giving her, she grabbed hold of his shirt and
shoved him up against the wall, furious all over again
Pinning him to the marble, like a bug on a hat pin,
she glared up into his surprised face, her eyes
flashing and sparking with rage.
Without giving him the chance to speak, she
practically screamed the words
"WHERE IS HE??!!"
Angel stared down at the small blond whirlwind that
a death grip on the front of his shirt, his mouth
gaping in surprise.
Her fury mounting, Buffy pulled him forward
him back again, hard enough to make his head crack
against the wall.
"You knew!" she said angrily.
"You knew how I felt
about him...and you didn't tell me he was back! I
had to find out from your hired help!"
guards were beginning to arrive on the
scene, but Angel raised one hand and held them
Everyone in the
office had stopped in the middle
of whatever they were doing to watch the drama
The ones with no idea
who Buffy was were
obviously wondering how long their boss was
going to tolerate being pushed around by a girl
"Buffy," Angel said quietly. "Calm down and listen to
"Why?" she demanded, tightening
her fists in his
shirt front. "What can you possibly say that's gonna
put you in a good light? What, are you gonna tell
it was all for my own good? That you were only
thinking of ME the whole time?"
He stared down into green
eyes that were burning with
the heat of her accumulated rage. "I WAS thinking of
you," he insisted. "I..."
STOP thinking of me!" she yelled. "Damn you,
Angel! When are you gonna stop interfering in my life?
Just who in the
HELL do you think you are?"
Angel was beginning to get angry as well. "I think I'm
someone who cares about you,"
he said through
slightly clenched teeth. "Someone who...who wants
what's best for you."
"Oh, spare me," Buffy
said, using the sarcastic tone
she'd learned from another vampire. "You don't know me
anymore...and you have no idea
what's best for me. You
don't get to make those judgment calls. I am NOT the
sixteen year old child who fell in love
with you once upon
He looked at her with wounded eyes. "I realize that."
Hardening her heart against
his "kicked puppy" ex-
pression, she said, "Then realize this...I don't love you
anymore. Not...not the way I love him."
tears welled in her eyes when she
remembered her last moments with her champion.
"He died...thinking that I didn't
love him," she choked,
trying to swallow around the knot of pain that had been
firmly lodged in her throat for months.
"I never got
a chance to prove it to him, to make him believe."
Somewhere off in the distance beyond her heartache,
heard the soft 'ding' of the elevator. Although the
sound registered in her brain, her back was turned, and
see a woman with long brown hair step out
of the car. She took in the scene being played out
between Angel and Buffy,
then turned and got back
into the elevator.
"You," Buffy went on, "you had no right to keep him
from me. Not
when you knew...."
"You didn't tell me you loved him," Angel replied
defensively. "How could I know..."
lame excuse brought all of Buffy's anger
screaming back to the surface. "I told you that he
was in my heart...and that
was ALL you needed to
The eyes of their captive audience bounced back
and forth from Buffy to Angel,
then back to Buffy,
like spectators at a ping-pong tournament.
Slightly unnerved by their scrutiny, Angel lowered
voice. "Can we take this into my office?"
Buffy ignored the question, relaxing her hold on
his shirt and taking
a step back. "Don't imagine for
a second that I don't know why you didn't tell me
he was back," she said hotly. "You
BECAUSE you knew...that you kept it from me."
"What? That's not...no, you're wrong."
NOT wrong!" she shouted him down. "If you'd
told me that he was back...you knew that I would
come for him. And you didn't
want that to happen."
The elevator 'dinged' softly, and the doors swooshed
"You do know," Angel said,
"that until a few days ago
he was a ghost? He couldn't even...."
"I...DON'T...CARE!" Her voice rose in volume as
tightened her hold on his shirt again. "Now, you
tell me...you tell me where he is, or I swear to GOD
I will tear this
place down around your ears until
I find him!"
Angel's eyes looked past her to the other side of
but he said nothing.
This only angered her more. "TELL ME!!"