Notes and disclaimers: all owned by mutant enemy, other corporate entities. Not mine. No profit garnered here. Title from the LL Cool J song. Much beta thanks Signe.


GOING BACK TO CALI




"You're sitting in my lap," he said. He sounded really disturbed by it, which Buffy totally understood. She'd been really careful about how she sat, so there were no awkward moments that boys could have. Xander had a ton of stories like that from junior high and high school and possibly after that.

"I'm your new girlfriend," Buffy said. "You know it's not true, but we need to look real."

"Why can't you just be my friend, or like, cousin? You're sort of my cousin. Actually, no, you're not related to me at all." Connor shifted but didn't throw her off. He was polite and took direction well without being mouthy; excellent qualities in a young man, Buffy thought. And he often seemed pretty young. He said, "Maybe you just want to see Stanford."

"The demons and their wacky cult followers all know me from when I killed half of them. The ones that survived really remember me. And the demons can smell people with their ears or hear your heartbeat with their nose. It's one of those two." She glanced around the patio area where they were getting their coffee to make sure they weren't standing out. Just two college students who loved the PDA.

"So you changed your hair, I mean, you used to be blonde. Like, I remember that from when we met and you yelled at Angel." He reached around her and got his cup of coffee. "You changed your hair for the wacky human cult followers. You killed half of them?"

"I killed the demons," she said. She had tried really hard not to kill the human cultists. Though people who get cultish about demons who looked like that and had a seriously evil doll were crazy crazy people. But they were still people. They had (or had had) moms and brothers and sisters and cousins, too. "And if I'm someone notable, or have a weird reason, they might hear about me. And they know I'm coming. Or they probably expect me to. So girlfriend is better than cousin or just a friend. I'm just some crazy ditzy girl who can't get enough of you."

"You're not really ditzy," he said. "You talk ditzy, but you're clearly not stupid. Also, there's a lot of people at this university. And in this city. I mean, we have Google. The company. So why does a girlfriend or cousin or whatever even stand out?"

"So you don't want to date me?" she said, snuggling closer. "It's not like I'm not hot, right?"

"Um, it's not that. I just think this is a really, well, stupid plan. It's like someone watched too much soap operas and worked from there. Are you really that notable?"

"It's not actually my plan," Buffy said. "Well, it's a little mine, but mostly it's Dawn's and she thinks a girlfriend will stand out less than something else given that I'm older and not a student and hotter than you." She smiled. "I'm definitely funnier than you, see how I did that."

"Why am I even trying to argue with you," he said and sipped his coffee again. He put his hand around her waist and she noticed he had very long fingers. Also, he was very warm.

"I think I should know things you like, as your drunken hookup who followed you home. You can list them for me quickly."

"I like soccer and baseball and basketball, but I'm too short to get away with playing basketball as well as I can. Though that's not something you would share. I don't know, Buffy. Do I still call you Buffy?"

"Hmm, no. Well, not in public. Let's go with Anne. It's my middle name," she said.

"Anne," he repeated. "Okay." He gave in really easily, she thought. Which worked out well for her.

His friends, none of whom looked like she thought Stanford students should look like, were walking up, so she took his coffee cup and took a sip herself. It was really really hot. "And you like your coffee McDonalds suing burning hot. Gotcha," she said.

*

"And he was all, you ruse-d me, and I was all, you betcha. I mean, hello, working for Wolfram & Hart. Of course I ruse-d you. And Spike, coming back from the dead like that hasn't been done before, a lot." Buffy paused. He was totally not paying any attention. "Hello?"

"Sorry, did you need me to say anything?" He kept staring at his laptop screen. Which was probably more interesting than Buffy going on about how she'd yelled at his father. She should be nicer.

"Are you reading something?" She tried to keep the annoyance out of her voice.

"No," Connor said. "You can keep going with your 'boy-I-sure-showed-Angel' story. I'm engrossed."

"It shows," she said. She got up from the frankly uncomfortable chair by the desk and sat down next to him on the floor. He closed the laptop and looked at her.

They sat in silence for a few minutes and then Buffy said, "Okay, what now?"

"You're in charge. I've got my homework done, we were all social at lunch like you wanted. Just like we have been the past week and a half. We don't, uh, how long are we supposed to do this, anyway?"

"I'm doing all the work," she said. "You just get to have the hot older girlfriend. And we should be done by the full moon. Or dead. One of those two for sure. Probably done."

"Okay then. Well, I'm going for a run." He'd changed before she turned around to look and headed out before asking her to join him. He probably wasn't going to ask.

He really did mean running, which apparently he did every night. And lots of working out. He managed to play three sports, two of which were official NCAA approved with uniforms that said Stanford everywhere and the other just intramural fun. He went to all his classes and he was passing them with the kind of grades Buffy had never had much of a chance at, what with all the slaying and boyfriends being AWOL. Boy Scout College Boy. Which was funny, since the first time she met him, he was covered in demon's blood, laughing. She'd never thought Angel was that funny, but she guessed a lot of things changed since she'd last seen him face to face. Lots of ha-has over slaughtered demons was the new post-Wolfram and Hart Angel, just hanging with his son.

The really hard part of being undercover as pretend girlfriend was finding the time to establish her cover in his busy schedule of being the most well adjusted college boy who ever did live. She kept thinking it was just a layer and underneath he would be crazy and neurotic and relatable. There was no sign of that yet. Even the demon blood thing was just splatter from killing and not some ritualistic marking with laughter and possibly fart jokes. They were just bonding. Killing demons.

She got dressed in her pajamas and sat on the other bed to wait for Connor to get back. He claimed he had a roommate, but she'd never seen the boy. Unless he was invisible, which could be possible since Connor said he was a chemical engineering major. In Sunnydale, chemical engineering plus creeping bad would have equaled invisible or part-time monster. But she'd think Connor would have said something if his roommate showed up invisible. She was thinking about that when she fell asleep and she dreamed, briefly, of skipping rope in Rome. She'd never been there so it just looked like a sound stage with lots of marble.

"Wake up, you're drooling."

She blinked and sat up. "Was not," she said, rubbing her mouth. She had not been drooling in the slightest.

"How late is it?"

"Two a.m. I woke you up because you were saying, that thing, the one you're here for, it's leaking, right?"

Now that she looked, his coat was scuffed. She rubbed at it and then pulled her hand back. "Yeah, it would be, um, desire. The leaking evil would affect people. Greed, ambition, all that. It would affect the demons first, and then vulnerable people. I don't know, it's weird. You never could tell who would go crazy living on the Hellmouth. And it's kind of like that." She was babbling. It was really unfair of the world to expect her to start working right after she woke up, even after only three hours of sleep.

"Yeah, this wasn't demons. It was two guys from the football team." He stood up and took off his jacket. She was tired enough to watch him and not stop herself.

She shook her head and lay back down. "What were they doing?"

"Being very greedy," he said. "Anyway, not so much now. But I wondered if it was because of your voodoo thing."

"Probably. But it's not mine. And I don't think it's technically voodoo. It's just a magic doll."

"Okay," he said. "You can go back to sleep now, I just wanted to check."

"I wasn't drooling," she said.

"Yes, you were," he said.

She turned on her side and muttered, "Freaky boy watching people sleep."

When she woke up, he was already gone as per normal. She got a lot of work done during the day while he did his classes and sports and maybe multiple honor societies and volunteering. She called Dawn while she patrolled Palo Alto by getting a white mocha with extra whipped cream at Starbucks and wandering around the populated streets, stopping trouble, sipping coffee. "I don't think I'm any good at being undercover," Buffy said.

"You just hate the haircut," Dawn said. "You hate that your hair matches your fake boyfriend."

"My haircut is way better than his," Buffy said. "And it turns out I look really good with short hair."

"Better than I would," Dawn said.

She watched a man steal some girl's purse, and the girl was so engrossed with staring at a store window she didn't even notice. Luckily, the idiot thief ran by Buffy so she just had to stick her foot out and shout, "Hey, your purse!" to take care of all of it.

She had to put a little more work into stopping Palo Alto's descent into Sunnydale mark II, but it was mostly casual stuff. She'd been a Slayer for nearly eight years and she knew how to mask her good works. Mostly. Good enough for people who were totally unfamiliar with demons and magic. Or pretty unfamiliar.

In the afternoon, she went to watch her "boyfriend" practice. She'd brought a book since it was just practice, she didn't need to cheer or look that interested. She did enjoy watching boys in shorts running fast and being cute and in shape. Even though she felt very old because they all looked fourteen. She was very old, aged with wisdom and smarts. And she missed being in college and those occasional days or hours when she'd just been a student, learning and going to parties.

She looked up from her book. It wasn't like she could go back. It wouldn't be like that now, she'd just feel awkward and old. Plus, her life was actually easier now than it had been back when she was in college. She wasn't responsible for the whole world or a town on a Hellmouth where everyone wanted to destroy the world. She was only responsible for little slices of the world and she could say whatever to that whenever she wanted. She just hadn't wanted to yet.

Connor had been waving to her from about a hundred yards away for the past minute while she stared into space like a total idiot. She waved back and he went back to stretching. That would be the end of practice. She'd read all of two pages in her book. "Can't even get through a crappy Harlequin," she muttered, shoving the book into her bag.

"Maybe because it's a crappy Harlequin," Connor said. From out of freaking nowhere.

"Don't do that. I only want you sneaking up on bad people, not using your powers to scare the crap out of me." He was leaning over the back of the bench she'd sat down on to wait for him. "Don't you usually shower now?"

"I said you liked me sweaty. And now you have to kiss me in case anyone's watching, right?" He stepped back before she did anything. "Kidding. I mean, I did say it, but you don't have to kiss me."

"I know I don't," she said, as she stood up.

"So when do we actually do something besides stopping crazy people from getting themselves killed?"

They were walking side by side back to his dorm and she was mostly thinking that he wasn't very smelly for being sweaty. He probably wasn't that sweaty, given his strength and vamp powers and all he'd done was run around and kick a ball.

"I was thinking tonight. We can plot where the crazy's been happening, where we've both seen people being affected and then triangulate and square-ulate until we know where the leaking is. We have a lot of crazy data points. Then we go there and kill the bad guys. Or burn them which would also kill them. Either way, we're both really strong and effective at killing things so I'm not that worried. We'll be plumbers and plug that leak."

He ignored her joke. "And they won't suspect we're coming because they don't know you're in town. Also, square-ulate is not a word," he said. "I don't know how to do something that isn't, like, real."

"Whatever, you know what I mean. I think it's a very good plan."

"Works for me," he said. "But, don't start thinking you're Napoleon or something."

"I am short," she said. "And yet powerful."

"Does your stomach pain you?"

"Not right now, though I am getting hungry." She grinned and took his arm. Whether someone was watching or not.

*

"It's not like I'm majoring in math or cartography. I don't think you can major in cartography nowadays," he said. He was holding their map upside down.

She righted it and said, "But it's still right. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck and has webbed feet, I say bring on the plum sauce."

"Have you ever actually had duck?" He was throwing things into a bag. She hoped they were weapons but he was doing his vamp speed and she couldn't see that fast.

"I had Peking Duck once, back in Sunnydale. My mom took Dawn and me to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate, the only Chinese restaurant in Sunnydale not run by demons, believe it or not. But the duck was probably duck." She had her bag already packed and her Slaying boots on, she was sitting around, feet up waiting ready. "Usually, the guy is waiting on the girl, you know."

"You had more time than me," he said. He smiled and went to the door. "Plus, you like this stuff."

"I wouldn't say like. It's my calling, remember?"

"You still like it. You don't have to do it anymore, right?"

She shrugged. "Are you ready yet?"

And then they were off. Twenty minutes of walking later and weird sniffing moments, they were back in the sewers. "Why is it always sewers?" Buffy sighed and rubbed at her nose. Such a great smell.

"I agree," Connor said. "Why not lurk under a liquor store, or like, Starbucks?"

"Starbucks," Buffy said. "With the mochas and frappaccinos and those little pastries and cranberry bars. It'd be nice to be at Starbucks."

"You're such an addict," he said. He was looking at her, grinning, right when she saw the demon behind him, streaking up on three legs.

By the time she said "duck," he'd crouched and turned and shoved a dagger right into the demon's midsection. He stood, and the momentum had the demon flying over Buffy's head, landing very painfully behind her. He said, "That's one for me."

"We're not doing that counting thing. I know those books, no counting for scores or competition."

"You think you'd win," he said. "You're all, I'm the Slayer."

"It's possible," she said. "Not that I read the books, I just watched the movies more than once with two friends, no, wait, one friend and Andrew. They were telling me about it. But I'd feel unfair counting against someone who wasn't as good as me."

"You're probably better. More in practice."

"You're not that far out of practice. You kill things with Angel."

He shrugged and looked past her shoulder. "I owe him, and it makes him happy. So, yeah." He looked down at the demon. "Is it twitching?"

She stabbed the demon when it twitched the second time and then cut off one of the heads. "That usually works. It doesn't matter which head. So I guess we go this way."

"Fine," he said. "No counting."

Thanks to him, she was totally counting. Her first was the demon guarding stairs up. Her second was right behind the door at the top of the stairs. And then there was three, four, five and six right behind two. Then she was backed up against Connor and had a chance to look around. "So we're in a basement?"

"Yeah," he said. "Looks like an abandoned building, no idea where. We were in the sewers for a few minutes."

"Hey, look, more demons," she said. And there were five coming towards her and noises indicating Connor had some heading to his side.

She was up to twelve when the wave seemed to cease. Connor said, "Didn't you say these guys had human cultists? We haven't seen anyone with two legs."

"I don't know, either." Buffy looked around. "We have to find that Satan's Barbie."

Connor poked at one of the bodies with his dagger. "It's not here," he said. "Go ahead. Say it. I know you want to."

"Twelve."

He rolled his eyes. "Eleven. What do you win now?"

Buffy looked at one of the basement walls. "I think I win a suspicious looking seam in that wall."

It took the two of them some serious prying and Buffy sacrificing a really nice manicure to get the wall open where the Bratz doll from hell was stowed. Nothing special was required to stop the leaking, just the usual burn and step back from the smoke. They threw all the demon bodies on the fire, waited for it to go down and walked back to campus.

"Got more studying to do?"

"You have this thing, you think I'm such a Boy Scout whatever. I'm really not."

"I think you're overcompensating," She said. "You're being the perfect son that never makes a mistake and gets the grades and plays sports so everyone brags about you because you think your parents wouldn't love you if they knew all their memories were programmed by Evil, Inc, directed by your biological father who felt really guilty for the shitty life you had the first time."

He stopped walking. And then started again and caught up to her. "Okay, sure. But it's not as crazy as you make it sound."

"It's a little crazy. Everything I remember about my sister before she was 14 was programmed courtesy of Monks With a Mission, Inc. I still love her. And she was really bratty when she was 15, and 16. And now, actually. I think it's the way families work. We just, we love our family. Even when we know we're just being told to do so."

He laughed. "Oh, right, you're so wise. You're too scared to go back to college."

"Am not."

"Are too. You're actually smart. Which is obvious to anyone." He looked really cute when he said things like that.

Buffy shook her head. "Thanks. But, however right you are, which is not much, I actually like being a 40 hour a week Slayer. Not the past 3 weeks, but generally. It's like a job I like, like working as a fireman or ice cream taster."

"Whatever," he said. "So I guess you're dumping me now, heading back to your sister?"

"Tomorrow morning. I'm tired." She said, "I promise to keep in touch."

They were at his dorm, outside his door. Connor stepped back from the door and said, "You won't believe this, but my roommate's in." He looked at her and then back at the door. "I'll sleep on the floor."

"Oh, god, whatever, we're both tired enough I don't need bundling and swaddling blankets to know you won't be a jerk. Also, I know you and trust you won't be a jerk." She took his hand and said, "Did we ever even smooch once?"

He started to answer but she was standing on her toes to kiss him. He said, "n-No? Or yes, now."

"Right," she said. "But still, don't try anything tonight." Then she pushed the door open and went in, pulling him behind her.

THE END


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