Thanks for all your reviews – I do read them and love getting them! And thanks especially to Catlimere for her detailed review – it’s nice to know what exactly people like. Again I’m sorry it took so long – life tends to intrude, but I promise you the story is continuing to grow, at least in my mind if not on paper. And I also promise that I do intend to keep going. Just a short chapter this time.
Daniel squinted absently at yet another blond head in the crowd, trying to match the indistinct features to the picture in his head, a muddy composite of library card and concussion addled memory. Nope, too tall. But there was another petite blond just to her left and he switched his scrutiny over, only to discount her as well a moment later. He was starting to get a headache from all this squinting, and it was official – as a place to meet someone Grand Central Station sucked. He frowned and shut his eyes for a moment, rubbing at the crease between them absently. Knowing his luck she had probably decided not to come, or some last minute crisis had demanded her attention. For a security consultant she certainly was away from home a lot, and often at very short notice. It was only extreme luck that had finally allowed both of them to be in the same city at the same time and that had required quite a lot of scheming on his part, including persuading General Hammond that it was of earth shattering importance that he attend the Society of American Archaeologists annual conference. But she had to do some pretty fancy manoeuvring on her part, although she hadn’t been very clear to him about exactly what it was she was officially in the city to do.
To be honest it had become clear over the last few months that her schedule tended to be somewhat maniac. In fact her schedule reminded him, of well, his. Without the world in peril issues of course. But it had become apparent to him over the last six months of emails that carefully skated around her job issues that whatever she did it wasn’t as danger free as she so flippantly asserted. However with the enigma that was Buffy Summers it was merely just one more mystery piled upon a mountain of them. Why did she stay up half the night as though sleep was something to be avoided? And why did she never mention her family or any friends?
It was as if she existed in a bubble that consisted of her and her job, to which she seemed totally devoted. It seemed somewhat – obsessive. His mouth quirked slightly at the irony of him considering someone else’s devotion to their job obsessive. It was a bit like pot calling kettle black. He scanned the crowd again, searching for an elusive blond head and checked his watch absently. She was over 15 minutes late now, which didn’t seem like the woman he had come to know over the last few months. She had obviously changed her mind for some reason. With a sigh of disappointment he stuck his hands in his pockets and turned away, trying to dispel the sudden wave of depression that stole over him.
Buffy eeled through the crowd, searching frantically for a tall tawny topped figure. Damn New York traffic. She should have known better than to suggest Grand Central Station for a rendezvous point but too many bad rom coms had meant that it had just slipped out before she had really thought about it. At least in future she wouldn’t scoff in disbelief at all those Hollywood movies when the hero and heroine missed each other at railway station. She spun around desperately, trying to see one blond head among a crowd that suddenly seemed completely made up of blond men who were all taller than her. She just couldn’t see! But then out of the corner of her peripheral vision she caught sight of a slim figure turning away, hands in pockets, head down as he slouched away into the crowd. But as she turned he disappeared, melting into the crowd and she let out a squeal of pure frustration as she bounced up on her toes, trying to see over the heads of the crowd. There must be someway she could check if it had been him!
Utilising her Slayer agility she bounced up onto the narrow ledge edging one of the stone pillars that lined the walls and held on precariously, ignoring the bemused looks shot her way as the New Yorkers briefly acknowledged the physical impossibility of a petite blond clinging to a wall like a spider and then dismissed it from their minds. Even as she scanned the crowd for Daniel a corner of Buffy’s mouth twitched in amusement at the determined nonchalance of the crowd. New Yorkers. Almost as determined to ignore anything that didn’t fit as the Sunnydale crowd used to be. It certainly made being a Slayer in this town easier to explain away.
There! A flash of vaguely familiar features just heading down the side of the concourse. With a burst of renewed energy she bounced off the pillar and catapulted into the crowd, elbows flying.
“Excuse me –coming through, clear the way.”
She ignored the dirty looks cast her way as she forged her way through the crowd. After all, she had been waiting six months to meet this newest of her friends in person and a few dirty looks were not likely to stop her. Impervious!
Daniel was just turning out into the shopping mall when what seemed like a small whirlwind ploughed into back and grabbed at his sleeve, just as a breathless, slightly Californian accented voice gasped out his name.
He spun in place, turning so fast that he nearly lost his balance and had to grab at the steadying hand she offered, his frown transforming into a delighted smile as he recognised the green eyes staring anxiously up at him.
“Hi! I’m really sorry I’m late – the damn taxi got stuck in traffic, and then I couldn’t see over the crowd, and I thought I’d missed you….”
She was aware that she was babbling but didn’t seem able to stop; caught by the amusement in his eyes, which now he wasn’t concussed were even bluer than she remembered. She paused to gasp in a breath and then stuttered to a halt as he put his hands on her shoulders and shook her gently.
“Buffy. Stop. It’s okay. Honestly. I just thought that work had held you up, or something.
“Oh. Right. Uhmm.”
She smiled up at him, feeling a little stupid, terribly aware of the pressure of his hands on her shoulders. He smiled down at her; aware that he was grinning like an idiot but unable to stop. She was here. Finally. Solid and living, full of bounce and energy. He found himself examining her face, trying to memorize every feature, the slim, strong oval of her face, the high, carved cheekbones, the soft rose lips, aware that he was probably causing the blush that was flagging up over the golden skin but unable to stop. He couldn’t believe that she was really here.
He was staring at her, and she found a blush rising, heating her face until she wanted to duck to avoid his gaze. But she pushed away the impulse, biting her lip and torn between embarrassment and laughter at the frankly fascinated expression on his face. After a second laughter won out and she grinned up at him, the flash of white teeth momentarily breaking the trance he seemed to be in. He smiled back rather ruefully, glancing aside and away for a moment, breaking the tension.
“Sorry. It’s just that I’ve been trying to convince my friends that you actually exist for quite a while now and so it’s nice to actually have concrete proof for once.”
He saw a flicker of something he couldn’t quite decipher flash across her face and then she smiled again and stuck out a small hand for him to take.
“Buffy Summers. Please to meet you in person when you’re un-concussed. Finally.”
He returned her smile and shook her hand firmly, the pressure of her fingers sure and strong, likening the warmth of her touch against his skin just a little more than he thought he really should have.
“Daniel Jackson. Likewise.”
For a moment they stood, shaking hands and grinning goofily at each other and then Buffy shook herself out of the trance she was threatening to fall into. He was just soo cute! But no – she didn’t get to think like that anymore. Bad, bad Buffy. Daniel was just a friend. A cute, witty, funny, tall, oh – so gorgeous friend. But still – just a friend. And she had to learn to keep her mind out of the gutter.
Deliberately breaking eye contact and pulling her hand back she glanced around the crowded concourse before looking back at her companion.
“Hey – would you like to get a coffee or something? Or something to eat? I know you have to catch a flight but do you have time?” She kept her tone uber causal but inside a little voice was chanting ‘say yes, say yes.
Daniel couldn’t seem to stop the stupid grin that seemed to be permanently etched on his face. It had been years since he’d felt this illogically happy. She was just so - there. So alive, as though the air around her sparkled. And he found himself energised just by standing beside her, a feeling so foreign to him he couldn’t even remember the last time he’d experienced it. So when she offered coffee he grasped at the opportunity with both hands.
“Well my flight isn’t until tomorrow morning. If you’ve got time, I would love to get some coffee.” Her smile this time was like a thousand watt bulb and he blinked, dazzled, and more than a little infatuated.
She bounced in place, trying not to let the feeling of totally unreasonable happiness overwhelm her.
“I know the perfect place.”
She spun around and started to stalk off, stopping abruptly a second later as she realised he wasn’t following.
He was staring at her again and she felt that treacherous blush stealing up across her cheeks again. Then he shook himself and paced after her.
“Sorry. Woolgathering. Bad personal habit.”
She glanced at him and raised an eyebrow as they started off through the crowd. There was definitely something a little Giles-like about him. But Giles before all the crap that had come between them, when he was still her friend and protector from all the non-slayer related crap that life tended to throw at her. Not like he was now – all Council and formal, the brittle framework between them all that was left of something that used to be warm and vital. But no – she wasn’t going to be dwell on the negative parts of her life today. Today was a good day. Sneaking another glance at her companion she clarified the thought. Today was a very good day.
“Doesn’t bother me. I tend to babble, so I can’t criticise.”
Recognising the comment as the reassurance it was meant to be, Daniel flashed her a grateful smile.
“So where are we going?”
She paced along beside him, dancing slightly in place, her grin mischievous.
“It’s a surprise. Don’t you like surprises?”
“That depends if they’re nice surprises.”
She pursued her lips mock-consideringly. “Well this one is. A nice surprise that is.”
“Well then my lady. Lead on. I am entirely in your hands.”
She paused, the tempo of her dancing steps slowing a little as she considered his remark, obviously a little taken aback at his rather grandiose declaration. Daniel mentally cringed as he tried to determine whether he had said the wrong thing. This meeting new people thing could be so hard sometimes! But then the dance came back into her step and she grinned back at him, eyes glimmering in amusement.
“In my hands hhm? Be careful. That can be a scary place to be.”
He returned her smile, outwardly serene and inwardly trying not to fall too far, too fast. That way always hurt. But not since Sha’re had he been so immediately attracted to someone. While their emailing exchange had left him with a hugely positive impression of her, in the flesh she was just so much more. In his mind he could feel Jack urging him to go for it, smirking an evil O’Neill grin at the same time. However outwardly he only smiled, managing at least for now to keep it light.
“Well then, I’ll just have to trust that you’ll keep me from getting hurt, won’t I?”
She raised an ironic eyebrow at his reply, obviously amused.
“I suppose you will. But don’t worry about it. I’ve had lots of practice.”
And leaving him pondering over her cryptic reply, she led him off into the crowd.