“Hi, Mom,” Buffy greeted her mother, relieving Angel of the obligation to make the first statement. In 200 years, he had never been quite this scared before.
“Uh, can I come in, Mrs. Summers?” Angel asked.
“Oh, yes,” Joyce replied hesitantly. “May I take your jacket?”
“Thank you,” Angel removed his jacket and handed it to Joyce, who placed it on a coat hook near the door.
Angel sized up Joyce and Ted. He had met Joyce briefly before, the night he and Buffy fought the Three. She was wearing a nice red blouse and a frown on her face. He smelled a hint of fear off of her – probably nothing more than extreme anxiety over meeting him. From what Buffy had told him about her, she was a very loving woman.
Ted was different. He was a big man, as tall as Angel, if somewhat wider. He wore a collared shirt and nice pants, probably the same clothes he wore at work. He wasn’t afraid, but he did smell… off. Angel couldn’t place it, but something was wrong about him.
Figuring it out could wait. Right now, Angel needed to make a good impression on Joyce.
“Nice to see you again, Mrs. Summers.”
“Ted Buchanan,” Ted extended his hand.
“Angel,” Angel shook it. They had decided to use as much of Angel’s actual life as possible in creating his fake background. The name change was part of it.
“Buffy’s told us absolutely nothing about you,” Ted joked.
“Well, I hope I can rectify that tonight,” Angel replied.
“I think that was the entire point of Angel coming for dinner,” Buffy added.
“Well,” Joyce said after a significant pause, “dinner’s on the table.”
Giles moved slowly through the cemetery, keeping an eye out for any signs of vampire activity.
It was the first time he had actually done this – gone on patrol to cover for Buffy. Buffy had explained the critical importance of her having dinner with her mother tonight, and Giles actually agreed. It would be much easier to keep up appearances if Buffy had a believable excuse for her late night outings and absences from school.
There was the possibility that Joyce might not like Angel and forbid Buffy to date him, but that wouldn’t stop Buffy from seeing Angel. She was completely in love with him, and while Angel’s vampiric nature and the 224-year age gap gave Giles some pause, he knew that Angel was equally in love with her – that he would, in fact, die for her. Giles wasn’t Buffy’s father, but for what it was worth, he approved of Angel.
He heard a branch snap behind him. He spun around, holding out a cross to ward off… Jenny.
“I get that reaction from men all the time,” Jenny smiled wryly.
“Jenny! What are you doing here?” Giles needed to get her out of here. Hunting vampires was dangerous at best, and without a Slayer present…
“I saw your car back there. I wanted to apologize.”
“I don’t think this is a good time to –“
“Please, let me get this out,” she cut him off. “I was very harsh the other day. I know how bad you feel about putting me in danger…”
Giles spotted a vampire behind her.
“Imagine how I must feel now…”
They all sat down at the table. Angel and Buffy sat on one side, Joyce and Ted on the other. Angel was quick to start on his chicken – he had assured Buffy that he could eat solid food, it simply didn’t do him any good.
After a few bites, Joyce asked the inevitable question:
“So, how did you two meet?”
“At the Bronze,” Buffy answered. “We started talking, he mentioned he was a history major, so I asked him if he could help me with my studies.”
“You’re at UC Sunnydale?” Ted asked.
“Was,” Angel corrected. “I graduated last spring.” There was the issue that the first time they had met, Buffy had introduced Angel as a freshman at community college, but they were banking on Joyce not remembering. There was also the fact that Ted might be able to find out that he didn’t attend any nearby college if he tried.
“Very nice,” Joyce seemed to approve of that. “And what do you do now?”
“Tutor kids in history. Sorta like Buffy, only they pay me.” Picking Angel’s “job” had taken a while. They had settled on professional tutor, since it fit with his “major” – and, more importantly, there was no way Ted could check on it.
“So you’re from around here?” Joyce inquired.
“Hardly.” Angel smiled. “I was actually born in Galway, Ireland.”
“Ireland?” Both Joyce and Ted were surprised by that.
“I moved to New York when I was 10.” Actually, Angel had been 140 when he had come to New York. “I’m an American citizen now.”
“Well, why come all the way out to Sunnydale for college?” Joyce pressed.
“Long story.” And completely made up.
“Well, you’ll have to tell us sometime,” Joyce smiled. Angel was relieved that he wouldn’t have to cover that particular lie tonight.
The vampire leapt past Giles, knocking him to the ground. He managed to avert a biting with his cross, but the vampire wouldn’t let go. Jenny looked around for a weapon.
Of course. Jenny opened up the bag and pulled out a crossbow. She clumsily tried to load it – fortunately, it had several bolts already attached.
By now, Giles had broken free of the vampire. He pulled out a stake, but the vamp knocked it away. As they fought, Jenny tried to take aim…
“I have to ask,” Ted took over the inquiries, “what kind of a name is ‘Angel’? I’m guessing you weren’t born with it.”
“No,” Angel shook his head. “I was born Liam Reilly. Thing is, I never really liked that name. A girl I met once said I had a face like an angel, so I changed my name to Angel.”
The truth was a little more complicated. Angel didn’t have any real problem with the name Liam Reilly, except that it was given to him by his father. He had also left out the part where he had gone by Angelus for a while, and changed it to Angel after he had gotten his soul.
“Interesting,” Ted said.
“I like it,” Buffy put in. “And you do have a face like an angel.” She took Angel’s hand, and they just gazed at each other for about a minute. Angel meant every moment of it, but it was also important to show how much he cared about Buffy. Nothing would win Joyce over more than obvious signs that he cared about Buffy.
That part, he didn’t have to lie about at all.
Giles finally got the vampire turned around so Jenny had a clear line of shot to his back. She fired – just as the vampire pulled Giles around. The bolt buried itself in Giles’ side. He doubled over in pain.
Joyce couldn’t believe it. She had shot Giles. She had just shot her boyfriend!
“Nice shot, lady!” the vampire laughed – a second before Giles pulled the bolt out of his side, and plunged it into the vampire’s heart.
The rest of the dinner went well. The topic of conversation shifted away from Angel and onto Ted.
As everyone finished up, Joyce turned to Buffy.
“Buffy, can you help me clear the table?”
Angel got up quickly. “I’ll help you, Mrs. Summers.”
Somehow, Joyce wasn’t entirely surprised. She smiled at Angel as he collected plates and brought them into the kitchen. Joyce followed. As she began washing, she turned to Angel.
He cut her off. “You want to know why I’m dating someone Buffy’s age.”
“Actually, I was going to ask you to pass the soap, but an explanation will do.”
He handed over the dishwashing soap, then began explaining.
“I wasn’t looking to date someone her age. But after a few tutoring sessions with her, I realized I couldn’t stop thinking about her. One night – the night after you and I first met, actually – I started babbling, and I just told her that I wanted to kiss her.”
Joyce’s eyebrows went up. “And?”
“And then she leaned in, and we kissed.”
“I’m in love with your daughter, Mrs. Summers. She’s the most important thing in the world to me. And I want you to understand that.”
Jenny rushed to Giles’ side.
“Oh, god, I’m so sorry…”
“I think I’m all right,” Giles groaned.
“You’re just in shock.”
“No, really, it didn’t go in too deep. The advantages of layers of tweed – better than Kevlar!”
“We’ve still got to get you to a hospital.”
They got up. As they started walking, Jenny started laughing.
“What is it?” Giles asked.
“Some night, huh? You sure know how to woo a girl back, don’t you?”
Giles started laughing too. “Heh heh – oww.”
“It was very nice meeting you,” Ted shook Angel’s hand.
“We’ll have to do this again sometime,” Angel replied.
“Maybe you can come over for Buffy’s birthday on Friday?” Joyce suggested.
“Absolutely,” Buffy agreed. “Mom, would it be OK if I walked Angel home?”
“Well…” Joyce looked to Ted.
“Oh, it’s not far,” Buffy assured her mother. “There are some things I want to talk to him about.”
Her mother finally relented.
“Be back by 10:00.”
“Well, I think that went pretty well,” Buffy said.
“I think the obviously-being-in-love helped my case,” Angel replied.
“Then what’s up?” Buffy could tell that something was bothering Angel.
“What, you don’t like him? Join the club.”
“No, I mean, I’m not entirely sure that he’s human.”
“Yeah, well -” the meaning of Angel’s words fully sunk in. Buffy turned to face him. “What?”
“I’m not entirely sure that he’s human. He didn’t smell quite right.”
“You think he’s a demon?”
“No, I’d have noticed something like that. Maybe he’s possessed.”
This was not good. If Ted was possessed, then Mom was in danger.
“I’d better get back to the house – I don’t want to leave Mom alone with Ted.”
“You go on home,” Angel said gently. He kissed her quickly, then let go. “I’ll call Giles.”
“Good night, Angel.”
“Good night, Buffy.”