Buffy's New Job - In Between

First Official Date

Buffy and Steve dropped his bike off at the apartment building after leaving the Smithsonian Mall. They took her car to a small Italian restaurant a few miles away from their home. Steve held the door open for her as she got out of the car and again when she walked into the restaurant. It was just before the dinner rush, so they were seated right away and Steve requested a booth in the far corner.

"So…. Here we are." Buffy said.

"Here we are." Steve said.

They stared at each other for a long, quiet moment before grabbing up their menus and burying their noses in them. The waiter came and took their drink orders and again to bring them some bread and a small plate of olive oil with Italian spices floating in it. Over her menu, Buffy would catch Steve glancing at her. They averted their eyes when they caught each other. A couple of times they tried to start a conversation, but both of them failed miserably.

"This is ridiculous!" Buffy said finally, putting her menu down. "Why are we nervous? We've been out to eat together before."

"I don't know." Steve set his menu down.

"It shouldn't feel any different, right?"

"Of course not."

"So why does it? We've been playing boyfriend/girlfriend for months now if we really think about it. We've even fallen asleep together."

"Solid reasoning."

"So, this isn't different and we should just be normal."

"As normal as two super humans can be."

Buffy laughed and reach across the table. Steve took her hand and kissed her knuckles. "I'm really happy that it's official, though."

"I am too."

The waiter came with their drinks and took their food orders. Steve, as usual, got two plates of food. It always amazed Buffy how much he could eat, so she had to comment on it. "Where do you put it? You eat more than a horse!"

"My metabolism just burns through everything so quickly that it takes me longer to actually get full."

"It is incredible to watch you eat. Why have I never taken you to an all-you-can-eat buffet? We're going to a buffet for one of our dates."

Steve laughed. "Whatever makes you happy."

"So, how was Peggy today?"

"She was good for most of the visit. Her memory lapsed at the end. She spoke very highly of you, though, and she sends her regards." Buffy cocked her head and stared at him. "What's wrong?"

"Your speech just got very formal. What happened?"

"Nothing happened. It's just hard to talk with Peggy and then her memory goes and she gets upset because she's forgotten that I didn't die in that plane crash. It hurts. Every time."

"I know it does."

Buffy got up and moved over to Steve's side of the booth. She took his hand and laid her head on his shoulder. "She was your first love, right?"

Steve chuckled. "The first love that actually returned my feelings." He kissed the top of her head. "I feel guilty sometimes that I love her and that I have such strong feelings for you, too."

"Don't feel guilty. First loves are hard to shake." Buffy looked up at Steve. "I haven't seen Angel in years, but I still love him. I'll always love him. He was my first everything. And just like you and Peggy, we were denied happiness because of crappy circumstances. Different circumstances, of course. I mean, you and Peggy could sleep together and not have her go psycho and try to torture and kill you for months and then try to end the world when that failed."

Steve chuckled slightly. "I don't know. I never slept with her. Maybe she could've."

"True. People surprise you. But Peggy doesn't strike me as the type of person to lose her soul and go fifty shades of evil."

"No. That she doesn't." He hesitated for a moment, but decided to ask what was on his mind anyway. "You don't talk much about Angel. Why not?"

Buffy shrugged. "Too painful, I guess."

"Do you miss him?"

"Sometimes. He wasn't just my boyfriend, he was my best friend. I would tell him everything. There are moments where I want to run and tell him stuff out of habit that should be long dead, but it's not."

"When was the last time you felt like that?"

"When I first joined the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D., I wanted to tell him about it."

"Did you?"

"No. I don't even know if he knows about it."

"Can I be honest?"

"Of course."

"A part of me would like to meet him."

"Oh? Why?"

"Maybe it's a male thing, but I'd like to meet the man every guy you've ever dated has been compared to. See what I'm up against." Buffy began to laugh and shook her head. "What?"

"I've never once compared you to Angel."

"Why?"

"He's not a factor in my relationship with you. The only way he could relate to us is the fact that he was the first in a long string of doomed relationships."

"We're not doomed." Steve said quickly, squeezing her hand. "I think this is the long haul, you and I."

Buffy smiled. "I think it is, too…. I mean, we took two years before we even went on a date…. But it doesn't stop me from being scared that I'm going to screw it up somehow. It's just my track record."

He reached up and cupped her face, turning her to look at him. "I meant what I said before. We'll figure everything out together one day at a time. I can't lose you, Buffy." Just as he leaned in to kiss her, the waiter came back to freshen up their drinks, give them their salads, and ask if they wanted more bread.

Buffy sighed and went back over to her side of her booth. After a few bites in silence, she finally said, "If you really want to meet Angel, I'm sure I could arrange it."

"I don't want you to be uncomfortable."

"It'll only be uncomfortable if he gets all judgy about who I'm dating."

"Do you think it'll be a problem?"

"I'm not sure. He couldn't stand Riley. They got into a fight the instant they met. Of course he hated Spike, but Spike and I never actually dated." She snorted slightly. "There were definitely no dates involved there. Angel is actually the one who realized Ben was a Chrinara demon."

"I can't blame him for being judgy on that one."

"I can't either. A soulless Buffy would do no one any good." After a few more bites of salad, Buffy finally said, "Ok, I'll call Angel."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. It'll be nice to see him again."

Steve took a bite of his salad and looked up at Buffy. "What if he doesn't approve of me?"

"I don't care."

"You don't?"

"Angel's opinion on my love life has no bearing on me. Just because I love him and respect him doesn't mean I have to agree with his opinion. He's not the one dating you. I am. And I am perfectly happy doing so. Also, I don't care what my father says either because I haven't spoken with him in years. So, if it comes to it and you wanna be all old-fashioned and adorable, please ask Giles or my sister for my hand in marriage."

Steve laughed and shook his head. "With you, Buffy, I don't think I would ask anyone but you."

Buffy smiled. "Good."

Steve sat back and sighed. He'd just finished his second plate of food while Buffy was still working on her plate. They'd kept up an easy flow of conversation between bites. Their initial nervousness had been so silly and they'd ended up laughing at it a few times over the course of their meal.

"Do you want dessert?" He asked her.

She laughed. "Dessert? I haven't even finished my dinner yet!"

He grinned. "Well, I know how much you like dessert and I saw that they have cannolis on the menu."

"I do love cannolis."

"May I order you a cannoli and get us another bottle of Lambrusco?"

Buffy smiled. "Sure. Why not?"

Steve stuck his head out of the booth and gestured for their waiter. The place was now super busy with the dinner rush, so the waiter took a few minutes to make it over to them. When he finally came over, Steve ordered Buffy's cannoli and their third bottle of Lambrusco before adding on a large slice of cheesecake for himself. The waiter nodded and headed off to add to their ticket.

"Cheesecake, huh?" Buffy asked.

"I didn't want you to eat dessert alone."

"Such a gentleman." She chuckled. "I have to tell you, this is the best first official date I've ever been on."

"Really?"

"Oh yeah. My first date with Angel I didn't even make it because I got ambushed by a vampire on the way there. When I finally showed up, I was covered in pumpkin guts and hay." At Steve's expression, she added, "It was Halloween."

"What about Riley?"

"It took me a long time to agree to go on a date with him."

"Why? He seems like a decent guy."

"He was so human and normal and I'm so not. He pursued me for months with tons of rejections. When I finally said yes to a date, we ended up getting interrupted by the Initiative wanting us to catch a demon."

"Any other bad first dates?"

"Well, I guess I could include Parker. I met him in college. He was really sweet and charming. I fell for it because I missed Angel…. It was right after he'd left Sunnydale…. And I ended up sleeping with him on the first date only to wake up and find out that he'd moved on to his next conquest. I was just one girl on a long string of them."

"I'm sorry."

"Yeah, me too." She laughed. "I hate that I have a one night stand on my record."

"Don't feel bad. I have a couple."

Buffy blinked in surprise. "You do?"

"Well, Bucky was always trying to find girls to go on dates with me and a couple of them weren't exactly…. Well, they weren't upstanding ladies I could take home to my mother. I was young and, I'll admit it, desperate." He shook his head. "So, what about Ben the demon? I would assume that would be bad."

"Oh, the service was terrible and the food sucked, but it was actually semi-decent. I just don't count it because he turned out to be a demon and all the charm he was using was just to draw me in so he could suck my soul. I'm really embarrassed that I didn't realize it."

"How did Angel find out about him?"

"We ran into him in London. He had come to visit Slayer HQ and I was walking around with Ben after a date and Angel knew right off. Apparently there was some kind of spell happening on me and my friends to cloak his demon essence. He didn't know about Angel. I thought Angel was crazy and being a jealous ex, but during the fight he had with Ben, the crystal Ben had been using as part of the spell broke and my Slayer senses went haywire. Angel and I took him out together."

"Will you tell me more about you and Angel?""What do you want to know?"

"What's he like? What were you two like as a couple?"

"You're just asking me to compare you two, aren't you?"

"I'm a male. We like to know where we stand in the world. Especially when it comes to women."

Buffy laughed slightly. "I don't know how to describe Angel. He's…. Angel. When I first met him, he was cryptic. He would swoop in and tell me about some impending doom and then swoop back out." She looked down at her fingers for a moment, remembering the feel of the claddagh ring she'd once worn. "I was head over heels for him. I can't remember wanting anything more than I wanted him." Buffy looked back up at Steve watching her and listening intently. She loved that about him. He actually cared about what she had to say. "He resisted for a while, but eventually we started dating. We were definitely not an old fashioned couple. We spent a lot of time patrolling together and making out when things weren't busy." The waiter came back to the table with their desserts and bottle of wine.

After making sure Buffy's glass was filled, Steve said, "So you were in love."

"I was in deep. And on my 17th birthday…." Buffy smiled slightly, looking away with a blush. "He gave me a claddagh ring that matched his and told me he loved me and then we…. You know…. We were so happy for that one night. And then everything changed. He changed. He lost his soul and became the Scourge of Europe again. Angelus hated me for making him feel love. He tried for months to literally drive me crazy. He'll never know just how close he actually came to succeeding. There's no torment worse than a monster wearing the face of the man you love."

"I couldn't imagine what that would be like."

Buffy thought for a moment how to accurately portray a fraction of what she'd felt in those months. "Imagine if Bucky hadn't died. Instead he'd become your enemy. Someone two hundred percent bent on destroying you because you were his best friend and you reminded him of his humanity and the bond that you guys shared. That was Angelus for me."

Steve looked down at his hands before getting up and going to Buffy's side of the booth. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and she leaned into his side. "I'm sorry."

"I'm not your typical damsel in distress, though. Everything he did to me…. To my friends…. It made it that much easier to finally do what I needed to do…. To kill him." She took a long sip of wine before continuing. "Of course my life can't be that black and white. Just as I was ready to kill Angelus, we discovered how to bring Angel back. Giles' girlfriend Jenny was part of the clan of gypsies that originally cursed Angelus. She had been working on a way to decipher the original spell and do it again. Angelus found out and killed her. He thought he'd destroyed everything, but she'd managed to save it to a floppy disk and it had fallen between her desk and a filing cabinet.""Did he know when you tried to curse him again?"

"Not at first. He sent me a message to come to the cemetery to distract me while he kidnapped Giles. That's when they were doing the spell. His lackeys did some real damage. They put Willow in the hospital, broke Xander's arm, and killed my friend Kendra. She was the Slayer that had been activated when I died the first time. I was blamed for her death because the police came in just after I had. They found me standing over her body."

"You were arrested?"

Buffy chuckled. "They tried. But you know my reaction to having guns pointed at me. I knocked them out and ran. When Willow woke up, she decided to go ahead with the spell while I went to kill Angelus. It was the first time Spike and I had worked together. We made a deal that if I let his girlfriend and him walk, he'd help me kill Angelus. I didn't know that Willow was trying the spell again, though. Xander lied to me about it to get his way."

"What do you mean?"

"He hated Angel. A big part of it was because I chose Angel over him."

"Xander was in love with you?"

"For a long time, but I was never in love with him. He's always been just a friend. Then everything happened with Angelus and Xander hated him even more. When we found the spell to restore Angel's soul, Xander was seriously opposed to it. We got into a fight about it."

"If Angelus was so bad, then bringing Angel back…. Why wouldn't he want to bring Angel back?"

"Xander couldn't separate the two. He thought everything Angelus did somehow reflected back on Angel. He thought they both deserved to die."

"That makes me think of Xander in a new and less flattering light."

Buffy shrugged. "He's Xander. He has opinions that he doesn't always filter properly."

"Does he still hate Angel?"

"I don't know. Maybe he's grown up and he's able to separate Angel from Angelus now. After all, he was in love with a vengeance demon. Almost married her."

Steve chuckled. "Ok, so what happened next? You were going to fight Angelus and Xander lied to you."

"I was too late. Angelus had already started the ritual to end the world. We got into a sword fight and he almost beat me, but I turned it around and just as I was about to kill him…. Willow's spell worked. Angel's soul came back, but the only way to stop the end of the world was to kill the one person I loved most in the world just as I'd gotten him back. So I kissed him and told him that I loved him and then I shoved a sword in his heart. I'll never forget the look of hurt and betrayal on his face. He was so confused because he didn't remember what had happened in the last five months. The last thing he remembered was going to sleep with me in his arms after the happiest night of our lives."

Steve blew out a breath after a quiet moment. "No wonder you don't talk much about him."

"It gets worse."

"I don't see how it could. That was pretty bad."

"He came back. I didn't actually kill him. I just sent him to hell for a hundred years. He was brought back somehow and he was…. Well, imagine being tortured for a hundred years straight. He was a feral animal, but…. He's so strong. He came back from it. He healed from it. I spent a lot of time with him just talking and desperately trying to keep my distance. He was right to walk away from me. I was so angry at him for making that decision for me. A part of me hated him for walking away and hurting me that bad. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't eat. He helped us defeat the Mayor and then he just…. Left. I spent most of that summer in a haze. I just curled up on my bed and slept as much as I could. I really didn't care if I stopped existing. I just wanted that pain to go away."

"I'll never do that to you, Buffy."

Buffy looked up at Steve and smiled. "I know." She reached up and placed her hand on his cheek.

He closed his eyes and turned his face in to press his lips to her palm. After a moment, he looked back at her and said, "Was that the end of it?"

"Of course not. There's always more pain to dole out in my life. He had this friend…. Doyle…. Who got visions. Doyle got this vision of me in trouble and Angel came back to Sunnydale. He didn't let me know, though. I swear, everyone knew he was there but me! I got really mad and I went to LA to confront him about it. We got attacked by a demon with regenerative blood. Angel got some mixed in his system and…. He became human again." Buffy looked down for a long moment. "We got to be together. We got to be young and in love and I don't think we left his bed the entire day and night. It was the happiest 24 hours of my life. But then Doyle got another vision the next morning and instead of waking me up, Angel went after the demon alone. He was just human, though. No strength to fight demons anymore. I managed to find him just before the demon was going to kill him. We went back to his apartment and my head was swirling with all of these happy thoughts of having a life with the man I loved. He said he was going to go out for coffee and he didn't come back for a couple of hours. I got really worried and it was so much worse than I could've imagined."

"What happened?"

"He went to these things called the Oracles. They work for the Powers That Be. He had them turn back the clock. Reverse time so he could kill the demon before it made him human."

"Why would he do that?"

"He said it was because he couldn't protect me. That there was an apocalypse coming and he needed to be able to protect me from it." Buffy shook her head. "Once again, Angel took my choice away from me. I didn't have any say in his decision. We had only a few minutes before the Oracles took back the day. He hurt me yet again. The day reset and I didn't remember any of that. I just thought I was there and I snapped at him for not telling me he was in Sunnydale and then I left."

"How do you know about it now?"

"When I died the second time and went to what I believe was heaven…. Those memories were a gift from the Powers for sacrificing myself to save the world. And when I came back…. I got to keep those memories. Angel confirmed what had happened when we saw each other after I came back."

"Was that the last time you saw him until everything with Ben?"

"No. He showed up right before we turned Sunnydale into a massive crater. He gave me the pendant that destroyed the Hellmouth. At first he wanted to stick around and help, but I needed a second front in case I couldn't stop what was coming. We talked about the future and I told him that maybe one day we'd have our chance. I used this awful cookie dough analogy."

Steve cocked his eyebrow in amusement. "Cookie dough?"

Buffy rolled her eyes and laughed slightly. "I told him that I was like cookie dough. That I wasn't done baking yet. That I still didn't know who I was going to be. But one day I would be cookies and that maybe he would be the one to enjoy Cookie Buffy."

"Are you Cookie Buffy now?"

"I hate that I used that analogy."

"Well?"

She laughed and shook her head at him. "Yes, Steve Rogers, I believe that you are the lucky winner of Cookie Buffy."

Steve smiled. "Good." He leaned down to kiss her, but the waiter chose that moment to come to the table to check on them. Both Buffy and Steve groaned and turned to look at the waiter. "We'll take another bottle of wine and the check."

"Yes, sir." The waiter went off to fulfill the requests.

Buffy looked around to see that the once busy restaurant was now only a few customers. "We talked all through the dinner rush?"

Steve turned to see what she meant. "Oh wow. I guess we did. And finished off three bottles of wine."

"How did we not notice that?" Buffy laughed.

"Well, I was a little preoccupied with listening to you." He went to kiss her again, but the waiter interrupted them yet again with the check. Steve sighed and handed the man money to cover the check and tip. "Can we take our next bottle of wine out on the patio?"

"Of course, sir. I'll bring your change out to you there with your new bottle."

"I don't need any change, thanks."

"Thank you, sir." The waiter ran off to get their fourth bottle of wine.

Steve stood up and held his hand out to Buffy to help her out of the booth. She grabbed her purse and jacket and took his hand, letting him lead her outside. The patio was lit with little white Christmas lights and soft music played through hidden speakers. There was no one else but them out there. "This is romantic." Buffy commented.

"Care to dance?"

She looked up at him. "You don't dance." He smiled and took her purse and jacket, setting them down on the nearest chair before pulling her to him. She put her right hand on his left shoulder and held his right hand in her left. He began to sway gently to the music and she laid her head down on his chest as he moved their entwined hands to the other side of his broad chest. "You big liar. You said you didn't know how to dance."

"This is about the extent of it. And I may or may not have practiced a little in the last few months."

"With who?"

"A body pillow." She looked up at him incredulously. "What? It's about the same height as you."

Buffy smacked their entwined hands against his chest. "I'm not the same height as a pillow."

Steve laughed. "I said about."

The door opened and their waiter interrupted them yet again with their bottle of wine and two new glasses. Buffy rolled her eyes and looked up at Steve. "Would it be wrong to stuff him in a large tire and roll him down a hill?"

"Wrong? Yes. But it would be funny to see." They sat down at the table and Steve began pouring the wine into the glasses. "The funny of it might just outweigh the wrong of it."

Buffy smiled up at him. "Why the hell did it take us so long to get here?"

"Past trauma. I'm glad we're over that now." He held up his glass. "To our future."

She clinked her glass against his. "To our future."

Steve came around to Buffy's side of the car and opened her door for her. He helped her out of the car and they headed for their apartment building hand in hand. All the way up, he had to refrain from kissing her. He wanted to make it to her door, kiss her there, and then say goodnight. It was going to be a proper first date. No interruptions.

"This was amazing." Buffy said as they mounted the stairs.

"I couldn't have asked for a better night." Steve said. They'd spent over five hours at the restaurant just talking and enjoying each other. He didn't want the night to end, but he was going to make it a perfect first date and end it like a gentleman.

But as they came to their floor, Buffy stopped and held up her hand. He looked down at her, confused, but on alert. They'd been partners long enough for him to know when her Slayer senses were warning her that something was off. Finally he heard what she was hearing. Music was playing from his apartment.

"You never leave your stereo on." Buffy said quietly.

Steve shook his head. "No."

She motioned to her apartment as she took out a throwing knife. He hadn't known she had that on her. Steve had her keys in his hand and he quietly opened the door. It was dark inside her apartment and they split up to check for any intruders. He met Buffy at the window and they climbed out onto the fire escape. Steve stayed behind her up the escape and then took the lead as they headed to the other side of the roof.

When they got down to his apartment, he quietly lifted the window and slid in before turning to help Buffy. He'd left his shield leaning against the wall in the hallway. He picked it up and turned to tell Buffy to go through the kitchen, but she was already moving in that direction. Whoever the intruder was, they were in the living room and he and Buffy would surrounded them.

Much to Steve's surprise, the intruder was none other than Nick Fury. He was sitting in the chair in a corner with his head leaned back on the back of the chair. Steve dropped his defensive stance and said, "I don't remember giving you a key."

"You really think I'd need one?" Fury retorted. He looked at over at Buffy as she stood in the kitchen entryway. "My wife kicked me out."

"I didn't know you were married." Buffy said.

"A lot of things you don't know about me."

"I know, Nick. That's the problem." Steve said, reaching over to hit the light switch.

The light illuminated Fury's badly beaten up face. He reached over and turned the light off before typing something on his phone and showing it to Steve and Buffy. It read: Ears everywhere. "I'm sorry to have to do this, but I had no place else to crash." Fury began typing again on the phone and turned it around. SHIELD compromised.

"Who else knows about your wife?" Buffy asked.

He started typing again. You two and me. "Just…. My friends."

Before Steve could say it, Buffy asked, "Is that what we are?"

"That's up to you two."

Suddenly, gunshots rang out Steve ducked behind his shield. He saw Buffy hit the floor as Fury was shot multiple times. Steve reached out and dragged Fury away from the wall into the hallway. Fury grabbed Steve's hand and shoved a flash drive into his palm.

"Don't…. trust anyone." Fury passed out and Steve stared at him for a moment before heading into the kitchen. Buffy was leaning against the kitchen counter gripping her shoulder. It was bleeding pretty badly. He grabbed a towel from the sink and pressed it against her wound.

Before he could ask her what happened, his front door was kicked in. "Captain Rogers? Miss Summers?" The nurse from the third apartment on their floor appeared. She walked into the kitchen with a gun drawn. "Captain, Miss Summers, I'm Agent 13 of S.H.I.E.L.D. Special Service. I'm assigned to protect you two."

"On whose order?" Steve demanded.

The nurse spotted Fury bleeding to death on the floor a few feet away. "His." She pulled out a com unit from her pocket and said, "Foxtrot is down, he's unresponsive. The Slayer has a gunshot wound to her right shoulder. I need EMTs."

"Do we have a 20 on the shooter?" The dispatcher asked.

"He's on the roof over there." Buffy said, pointing with her uninjured arm. She pushed Steve away. "Tell them Steve's in pursuit." He started to protest, but she pushed him again. "Go. I'll be fine."

Steve sighed and let her take the towel from him. This was not the way their first date was supposed to have ended. He backed up, grabbed his shield, and took a flying leap out the window to chase the shooter.

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