I’m sitting at my desk. The usual hubbub, well, bubs about me. New cases, new stuff every day. The memory of last night still tugs at me. God! What he must think of me. Although considering that he was affected by the sensitivity training too, I guess he has no right to judge.
‘Detective Lockley!’ interrupts my reverie. ‘Yes, Sargeant?’ I answer, shaking my head to clear the cobwebs.
‘There’s a message for you. I tried to get you when you came in, but you went straight into that meeting…’
‘It’s okay, Sargeant. Just give it to me.’
She hands me a slip of pink message paper, and I’m shocked by the words printed evenly there.
Stopped by to see how you were recovering.
Call if you need me.
‘Uh, thank you, Nichols,’ I stammer slightly. She nods and walks away. Not what I had expected. But kind of what you had hoped, right? I don’t know where that thought came from. Angel is just… an informant, right? A fellow crime fighter.
A thoughtful, intelligent, attractive, and those eyes… whoa, Kate. Slow down. He does not think of you like that. Or does he? Remember the night at D’Oblique? Those few weeks you spent there undercover, and the most memorable night is the one where you meet a guy, have a good conversation, then try to arrest him for murder. Way to win ’em over, Katie.
Acquaintance in the police department
He’s a good friend to have here in this crazy town. Any P.I. worth his salt knows that to have an acquaintance in the police department is always a good idea.
Is that why he came by? To check on my police activities? Or to check on me?
It’s been a long while since I had met anyone worth spending a few minutes in conversation with, let alone to call again after a first date… meeting, I mean.
The only way I made it through that horrifying speech I made at my Dad’s retirement party was to look out through the throngs of cops I’ve known forever and to see his face. Soulful brown eyes meeting mine, encouraging me with just a small smile. Of course, that was before I went schizo and started crying in front of all those people.
Ugh. Should I even call him? I don’t really remember a lot of what happened last night. I feel sort of like I have some kind of hangover. He did stop by, though. The least I can do is call him, right? There’s no harm in that. I’ll just chat briefly, and then be done with it. It’s the polite thing to do.
Good job I have a memory
I pick up the phone on my desk and dial the digits I didn’t realize I have memorized.
‘Angel Investigations, we help the hopeless! Can we help you?’ his strange assistant Cordelia answers in a sing songy voice.
‘Uh, Cordelia, hi. This is Kate Lockley,’ I get out before she interrupts me.
‘Oh, hello, detective. Feeling better this morning? Any crying jags? Any urges to wave a gun in my face?’ she sounds a little peeved, which I guess she has the right to.
‘Yes, well, I am really sorry about that. I wasn’t myself last night. As I’m sure you noticed… Um, is Angel around?’
‘Oh, you want to talk to Angel. Let me see if he’s here,’ she says, and I have a mental picture of her putting the phone on the desk and counting to ten before telling me he’s not there.
‘Here you go, detective,’ she finally gets back on the line, and I hear the click of one line being picked up and another being disconnected, and then I hear, ‘Kate? How are you?’
Even his voice raises the hair on my arms. Stop it, Kate. It’s not like that.
‘Angel. I got your message. I’m sorry I wasn’t available when you came by… how are you?’
‘Actually, quite well, considering,’ he says, a small laugh in his voice. ‘Are you alright? Did you need help with something?’
The concern that is evident is his tone is touching. I push on, feeling a little more bold now.
‘No. I just wanted to, well, thank you, I guess, for your help last night. I don’t remember a lot of what happened, but I do remember you getting me out of that party without humiliating myself too much in front of guys I’ll have to see every day as long as I work here…’
‘My pleasure,’ his voice rumbles down the line. ‘It’s not every day you get to be that entertained.’ Silence. Then, ‘I’m joking, Kate.’
‘Look, Angel,’ I tell him, trying to salvage this conversation, ‘I would really like to thank you in person for the help. Are you free tonight?’ I say before I grasp what I’m asking. He is quiet. Uh oh. ‘Uh, look, it’s not that big a deal, I just thought you deserved some thanks, and I have some spare time this evening, there’s a new coffee shop on Beach, the Java Spot I think it’s called, and well, if you don’t have any plans…’ I trail off.
I rush around my apartment, certain I have forgotten to do something. Take one last look in the mirror at my wow I need a tan reflection.
Black circles not too big. Cover up works great. Hair down, not too fancy. Sweater set and simple black pants with medium heeled shoes. I debated on the shoes for a while, but decided to try and look a little different than normal. He’s seen all the police clothes, lets try to look a little like a real girl.
Wait! Why do I care? It’s just Angel. It’s not like I’m looking for someone to, ulp, date. Especially not him. He’s a colleague I’m just thanking for a job well done. So we’re getting coffee. Friends get coffee all the time.
I grab my keys, and race to the car, already a few minutes behind.
I see his huge GTX parked on the street when I pull up. Trendoid coffee shops I usually avoid like the plague, but I couldn’t think of any other place to meet that wasn’t too… datey.
He stands as I enter the café. Oh, boy. I had forgotten just how attractive he is. Which is weird considering I saw him last night. It seems a lot of things have changed for me since then.
Long black leather coat, dark wine colored sweater, and black slacks hang on his lean yet muscular frame. His smile is welcoming as he pulls out my chair.
‘Kate. Glad you could make it.’
‘I’m really sorry, I got away from work late, and had to run home first,’ I spit out in an oh so attractive breathless manner.
‘It’s fine. I’ve only been here a few minutes. Do you want something?’ he asks. How about a shot of tequila to calm my suddenly jangling nerves?
Frou-frou mocha drinks
‘Oh, how about one of those frou-frou mocha drinks?’ I tell him as I reach for my wallet. He puts a hand on my arm. ‘I’ve got it,’ he tells me and heads to the line at the counter.
I glace surreptitiously at his back while he waits. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any man who can pull off that type of jacket. They usually look like a reject from The Matrix or some such thing. He looks good in his.
La la la – stop with this line of thought right now, Missy. Friends. Friends only.
He returns to the table, my mocha in one hand, his no doubt plain black roast in the other.
I am pleasantly surprised to see his is also a fru-fru drink, complete with whipped cream. I laugh before I can stop myself.
‘What?’ he smiles down at me as he takes his seat, and a sip of his coffee, which promptly gets whipped cream on his nose. This makes me snort.
‘You have whipped cream on your nose,’ I tell him, stifling my laughter. He wipes it off with a napkin, and takes another big glug of his drink.
‘The nose is always a casualty when whipped cream is involved,’ he jokes, which brings to mind suddenly unbidden visions of Angel and whipped cream. I blush furiously, and try to cover it up with a giant sip of my own coffee. BIIIIG mistake.
‘Uh… uhh… ow!! Hot hot!’ I spit out, and grab a glass of water that is sitting on the table, and try to salvage my burned throat with a large swig of cold liquid.
‘You okay?’ he asks, mopping at my sweater with a napkin, where chocolate and coffee have spilled. I manage to stop sputtering.
‘I… yes. Highly embarrassed, but relatively unharmed,’ I say, and gently take the napkins he’s trying to use to clean me up with. ‘Black is a good color to wear to drink coffee in.’
‘Sorry about that. You were saying?’ I ask, taking a much smaller sip of my drink.
‘We were talking about whipped cream,’ he says in all seriousness, then winks at me. Again with the blushing. What’s my problem? I don’t like him like that. I don’t! Why not?
‘How’s your father? Has he recovered from the retirement party?’
‘Oh, I don’t know if he will ever recover from that. When your daughter accuses you of being a bastard in front of your colleagues and friends, that’s not something you just forget. We had a… talk about it this morning. Actually he told me it never happened and I just listened.
My dad and I, we don’t exactly see eye to eye on a lot of things. Expressing emotions especially,’ I finish, not really sure why I feel so comfortable opening up to him. I wasn’t kidding when I told him I have problems trusting male people. Yet for some reason, I just know I can trust him. Something in his demeanor, maybe it’s the look in his eyes, like the one he’s giving me now. A cross between concern and compassion.
How does he do that?
‘I’m sure he knows it wasn’t what you meant to say, Kate. We were all under the… influence of a very persuasive person. I would think he would understand that,’ Angel tells me, and just hearing him say it I know he’s right.
I feel like I know him so well already. Why is that? There is something… some quality he has that just puts me at ease. I’ve never been a believer in true love or soul mates or any of that pap, girls like that don’t become cops, they don’t get anywhere in the world. Yet there’s something… He cocks his head, gives me a look.
‘Kate? What’s wrong?’
I sigh, and run my hands through my hair. ‘It’s been a long couple of days,’ I answer, and he nods in agreement.
‘You tell me about yours, and I’ll tell you about mine,’ he says, and I find myself nodding, totally comfortable telling him anything.
I only notice what time it is when the few remaining waiters are clearing the tables around us. Angel stands up.
‘I guess they need to close up. Wow, I really didn’t know it was so late,’ he says as we head to the door. As we cross through and hit the street, we hear the kid locking the door say, ‘Thought those lovebirds would never leave. But that guy’s coat was bad ass.’
Uh. Embarrassment yet again. He looks at me and I look away, too uncomfortable to meet his gaze.
We walk the few remaining feet to his car. He leans on it, sighing now himself.
‘Kate,’ he says hesitantly, ‘not that I don’t enjoy the company, but I’m afraid I’ve given you the wrong impression here.’
Oh no. Not this conversation. The ‘you’re a really great girl but I just wanna be friends’ riff. I put up a hand to stop him before he plunges that dagger into my newly formed feelings.
‘Angel, stop. I don’t expect anything from you. I really just wanted a night away from the precinct, and you were the first willing victim to agree to go with me,’ I sputter, trying really hard to sound casual.
He gives the concern face again. ‘Are you sure? Believe me, the last thing I would want to do would be to hurt you. I’m really not… in the market for a ‘relationship’ right now,’ he says, and I notice he’s twisting a silver ring on his right hand around and around almost unconsciously.
Oh lord. I so so so do not want to have this conversation. Especially when I had hoped against hope that he might be interested. But why should this one be any different than the others?
I laugh, casual Kate. ‘Oh, no, Angel. I honestly really just wanted to thank you for your help last night, and I have. So, thanks. And I’ll be seeing you around, I guess,’ I finish and finally manage to dig my keys out of my purse.
Get to the car, Katie, now, before he sees you crumble.
I start to walk away toward my car. He grabs my arm, turns me to face him.
‘I’m sorry, Kate. If this were any other time… I just can’t, right now.’ He smiles sadly. ‘But I would be glad to help you any time you need it. Angel Investigations is really lucky to have a friend in the police department.’ Not that old line again. ‘hey, I’m so glad to have a hook-up. Can you get me out of my parking tickets?’
‘I understand. I’ll be seeing you, okay? Gotta get home now,’ I remove my arm from his hand, and finish the walk to my car. He stares after me.
‘Well, good night, then. I really had a good time.’
I get into to my Toyota as fast as I can and shut the door. Giving him a little flippant wave and drive off, trying not to peel rubber as I pull away fast enough to leave my hurt feelings behind with him.
Later that night I sit alone in my apartment, trying to watch a lame comedian on an even lamer talk show. My thoughts can’t help but turn to the disastrous evening and the fact that I’ll probably never hear from him again.
That’s it, Katie, drive them all away. That overzealous act works almost as good as the ice princess one. And the part where you spilled coffee on your chest? Brilliant.
Who needs guys? Who needs companionship? Not me. I have my work. I should be proud of where I am in my life. Made detective faster than my own father did. I have a nice apartment, a car, clothes, friends.
Then why do I feel so miserable?
Angel sits in his GTX, still parked on the street in front of the coffee shop where he had spent the first evening in a long time not brooding about things. Not feeling guilty, not missing Buffy. And that’s what bothers him so much.
He hasn’t had any kind of relationship with a woman that wasn’t Buffy in so long he doesn’t know how to feel about Kate. Does he like her as colleague? Or more?
He knows his mission. Help the helpless. Atone. But why in his heart of hearts does he feel so bad, so accountable for the expression on Kate’s face when he told her he ‘wasn’t looking for a relationship?’ Has he lead her on?
He twists the Claddagh ring on his right hand.
His cell phone rings, making him leap in surprise. He answers it.
It’s Cordy on the other line. ‘Angel, vision time. We need you at the office.’
‘On my way.’ He hangs up. Starts the beast of a car, and turns around in the light traffic, heads back to the office, his friends, his purpose. She’ll be fine, a voice whispers in his head.
I really hope so.