*too many, too much, too hard, help me, this time I've gone too far*
How do I get myself into these situations, I wonder silently. Having demon spawn injected into the back of my head and being transported to demon dimensions seems almost everyday compared to this. Being on a date, with Kate Lockley, is on a level of weirdness I had yet to encounter until tonight.
Because I had no idea it was an actual date.
No, Angel had casually -- how can one
man make being casual look so awkward? -- suggested that I call Kate because
she could do with a friend that wasn't, well, dead. At first I didn't think
anything of it. I don't have any real female friends in LA and frankly Angel,
Gunn and Wesley know next to nothing about Prada handbags or great eyeliner,
and Fred is far too wrapped up in her physics textbooks to give any consideration
to anything so linear as shoes, so I was game. Then it occurred to me that Kate
much about fashion either, with her perennial neutral-coloured button down shirts and -- God! -- that *thing* she did to her hair a while back.
Still, I was prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt, despite the fact that we'd had our differences in the past. It took all my people skills to persuade her to go out for dinner. After coming up with several convoluted, embarrassed excuses, she finally agreed. Angel said I could borrow the Plymouth and I should've known, then, when he actually clapped his hands together in something bordering on satisfaction that I was being set up. Because Angel, when he's not being broody, can be a really sneaky guy.
Fashionably late, as ever, I showed up
at quarter past eight and when she opened the door I nearly had to scrape my
jaw off the floor. Kate Lockley was wearing a dress. A dress that was of *this
season*. Kate Lockley had curves and legs and knew how to use them. I'd never
noticed that before. I'd always dismissed her as some Cagney and Lacey wannabe
and therefore sort of
non-sexual. Certainly not a threat.
I think I started babbling something about a foot spa commercial I'd auditioned for and she gave me this funny little look. Before I'd always thought she had scary eyes. That thousand yard stare would pick you apart, silently interrogating you for any crimes you might have committed, and it always made me slightly nervous and I tried not to think about all those unpaid parking tickets. But at that moment, they made me uncomfortable in other far too complex ways that I really didn't want to think about.
I'd made reservations at this cute little Italian place I knew. We made idle conversation about Pylea as we drove there, but I judiciously left out the bits about The Host being decapitated and developing a crush on Groo -- a situation which seemed all too ridiculous to me now in the stark filter of this world. I mean, he was cute, and he bulged in all the right places, but I'd had enough dumb jocks to last me a lifetime. Even noble ones with really adorable eyes.
I guess I'd just wanted a little romance in my life. I'd wanted to believe that I was someone's idea of a fairytale princess, more than just cleavage on legs. And I got to wear a tiara for the first time since being May Queen.
The waiter takes our empty plates away and Kate looks at me directly, her cheeks flushed candy-pink with alcohol. She's had a few glasses of wine while I nurse a second coffee. I think we've run out of smalltalk. Certain topics are off-limits: her dismissal from the force, the suicide attempt, her family. In other words, all the things I'm curious about. I don't think I've ever met a woman who appears so strong, so unapproachable, and yet so brittle. A scant couple of years ago, I would've had a field day making scathing comments. Now, with the slightly uneven focus of her blue eyes, the almost-not-there smile that curves her lips, I feel strangely protective of her. And really very glad that Angel found her in time.
Maybe it isn't so awful that I'm finding Kate Lockley attractive, in an entirely scary way. The butch cop thing never did anything for me but she's softer around the edges now that she's not on a crusade against my boss. Not nearly so intimidating by candlelight.
Her hand rests lazily on the tablecloth between us and I have this urge to -
"Angel put you up to this, didn't he?" she asks, words running together slightly, toying with the wine glass, and pre-empting me.
I shrug. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to be. Although, I cannot *believe* Angel set me up on a date without me knowing it."
Kate leans back in her chair, a smirk on her face. "So this is a date, is it?"
"Well, aren't you a little overdressed for a casual dinner between non-friends?" I reply bluntly. That earns a laugh from her, and some small, ashamed part of me is surprised that Kate Lockley is capable of finding humour, of being more than the stereotype I'd assigned to her.
She leans forward again, conspiratorially, and I can't help but look at her breasts. They're just so *there* now. "People are looking at us. They must be wondering how on earth I got a date with someone like you."
I mock roll my eyes, smiling the whole time because I'm hugely flattered by her words, by the way she's looking at me. When did she start looking at me like that? Maybe she always has and I could never get past my mental block of 'cop lady obviously crushing on Angel.'
"I thought my brooding hunk of a boss was more your type." I hadn't meant to say that out loud, and I don't know why the tactless inner voice that will forever be unreconstructed Queen C of Sunnydale High chose this moment to rear its head.
Kate's expression turns coy as she stares at the napkin beside her wine glass. Only for a second. Then she levels those cobalt eyes at me again and I feel like I'm being immersed, by her, her proximity, and possibilities I hadn't been aware of. Right now, I'm drowning in the realm of the possible.
"Sure, he's an attractive man," Kate says with an ironic smirk, "but I'm not interested in Angel."
Her fingers edge across the tablecloth, a series of tiny movements stretching across languorous seconds, until her pinkie brushes against mine and it seems like a lifetime since someone has knowingly touched me this way. Groo -- sweet, cute, clueless Groo - was the last and he really had no idea about the power of touch. How it could make your insides coil, your feet curl, and the hair on your neck stand on end.
Kate's fingers are surprisingly delicate for someone who knows how to handle a gun, who knows precisely where to aim a well-placed bullet to kill or just to incapacitate. Yet those same hands, which trace my own fingers now, washed down pill after pill with vodka.
Every shred of common-sense screams at me that Kate is Too Much Work and that I really shouldn't get involved with an ex-cop with father issues but I think I left my common-sense behind in Pylea. And, anyway, what use is common-sense in a world where my boss is a vampire, a girl I used to victimise back in high school died saving the world (again), and I can't get a decent acting job to save my life?
"Good," I say, taking Kate's hand gently in my own, not caring that the man at the next table is watching us like a drooling schoolboy, "'cause the whole blonde thing is so cliché for him now."
She gives me a little lopsided smile and all the thoughts swimming around my head about the who and why and what of this woman are dispelled. Kate Lockley may be a foreign language to me but I want to learn.
~ fin ~