Skate by SCWLC

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, I don't own some of the dialogue, and I don't own the TV ad embedded in here.

Distribution: If you want it, take it, lemme know where it's gone.

Rating: PG-13 for a bit of language and violence.

Summary: It's my first AU. Buffy's a skater, Angel's a skater, Darla's jealous. Despite all my efforts to the contrary Riley turned into a moron.

Notes: This is pretty much fluff. I also want to apologise to anyone who is kinda tired of blatant Riley bashing. It wasn't supposed to come out this way but Riley turned into the moronic dupe before I could help it. On the other hand, if you like Riley as a dip then I suppose go ahead and enjoy. Also, yes, I know the title sucks.

Dedication: Special for this time is a dedication to all those feedbackers at who I never respond to.





It was the fourth time that day. Buffy swooped around and glared at Riley. "Look! I'm not some fragile little princess who needs pampering! We got to this point with both of our talents and we can't suddenly drop the quads just because you think I suddenly can't land them!"

He looked hurt, "Buffy, I just don't want to risk falling," he said reasonably, "It'll look badly overconfident if we keep them in and-"

"And what?" she demanded, "We won't come close to winning otherwise. There is no point in going to the Olympics if you don't have a chance at winning."

Riley had the gall to smile at her condescendingly, "It's for the experience Buffy. America will win hands down with Matthews and Riker. We can enjoy the experience of the Olympic village and quaint local customs . . ." He trailed off at the look on her face. It was a combination of shock, disgust, irritation and disbelief. She was sincerely appalled that he was spouting this tripe at her.

"Riley. We. Are. In. Canada. What 'quaint local customs' are you expecting to find?" She glanced around the well-appointed rink. "This is a first-world country, it shares a border with us, and we're just across the border from Detroit." Windsor had been a surprise winner for the Olympics to be sure, but the small city had gracefully risen to the challenge. By setting up most of the events in Detroit and having only those absolutely necessary events take place in the official host city they had avoided most of the headaches associated with hosting an event of that size.

Riley grinned at her goofily, "Well, I wanted to see an Eskimo eat some blubber for one."

She snorted in disgust and skated to their coach. "Giles, I can't take this. If I have to do one more competition with this guy I'm gonna to be arrested for murder one."

"Buffy, he's an excellent skater-"

"He's a moron," was her unequivocal response.

Her coach sighed. He agreed, but there was very little he could do. Riley was the only skater willing to skate with Buffy. As the first woman to effectively pull off quadruple jumps in competition she continually found it difficult to get a partner who could keep up with her. The virtuosity her skills demanded was hard to come by. Riley had been the only one so far who could come close. Still, he was too cautious, and Giles had to admit that hesitation was holding Buffy back. For what had to be the hundredth time, he started, "Buffy, you really ought to consider returning to solo skating. It-"

"No!" Her fervent response, as always, made Giles wonder why she was so insistent on having a partner. "No," she continued more calmly, "I like to skate pairs, and that's what I'm gonna do." For a moment she seemed to waver, looking at Riley as he carefully practised single axels, single salchow, single this and single that. Instead of doing

anything challenging. Then she put her chin up and skated back out onto the ice. "Riley, why aren't you practising the jumps in the program? Or your footwork?"

He did the condescending thing again that made Buffy grit her teeth, "You should always have the basics in place before you try the more difficult steps. My last coach-"

She rolled her eyes. If she had a dime for every time Riley mentioned his last coach, Maggie Walsh, she could have bought the whole damn city of Detroit. "Come on," she growled, and dragged the other skater out to centre ice, and cued Giles to hit the music.

So they started again, neither aware of the man with dark hair watching them from the bleachers. His concentrated stare picking out the flaws in both their performances, but noting the greater flaws of the man's and how they seemed to cause about half of the small blonde's problems. He rolled his eyes as the pair hit the side by side jumps in the short program, and again the woman performed faultlessly, while the guy wimped out, this time with a double.

The dark-haired man was called Angelus. He had been born Liam MacKenzie, but had his name legally changed the moment he reached the age of majority. His Catholic parents had been appalled their son would seemingly try to imitate rock stars like Sting at the same time as those godless gay male skaters. They hadn't spoken since his first

competition. Even now, as he was representing the Republic of Ireland with a good chance of winning the men's figure skating competition, they still told people they had no son. It was one reason of many he trained in the US.

He had come to know Buffy Summers from a distance and had been entranced by the sheer power of her skating. What she lacked in presence was something that would be corrected by time and experience. Of course, if she kept to the pairs skating she was going to have to find a partner who was up to her mettle. As Riley gave her a smug look and demonstrated an alternative for the step their coach wanted them to do that was both obscene and utterly unaesthetic, Angelus amended the thought. At the very least she could find a partner who wasn't a complete idiot.

Finally he tired of watching the pair on the ice who were supposed to be doing some sort of love story. They looked like they had been pulled from Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Buffy as the Fairy Queen Titania, Riley as the donkey-headed Bottom. He stalked off, his trademark black duster sweeping behind him, and ignored the large numbers of media hounds wanting to talk to the ever-elusive Irish skater. He simply strode past, got into his rental car and headed for the Olympic Village.

He was meeting his coach for dinner, and the two were going to talk tactics. Both for dealing with the press and dealing with the competition. "Angelus!" she exclaimed, a sweet smile gracing her features. He smiled back and they did that air kissing thing that Angelus privately thought was moronic, but put up with for the sake of a carefully crafted reputation. A reputation that was the only thing keeping most of the screaming teenage girls away. It also

succeeded admirably at keeping Darla at arms' length.

"Darla," he greeted her and held her chair for her. Once they were seated and their orders placed he got down to business. "Anton Kozyrskyj has just added a new spin sequence to his routine, and I think he's working with that Armenian girl on those spins."

Darla's expression of polite interest turned to wolfish business, and she frowned slightly as she concentrated, "Kozyrskyj relies a lot on those spins, I don't think this should be a problem. He hasn't landed more than one quad per program for a while now."

Angelus shrugged, "He's still capable of it though, and I think we need to get something into the program. Otherwise I'm going to have to resort to crowd pleasing shenanigans," he shuddered, "You know I hate doing those."

"Mmm," she was about to say something when their food arrived. After getting a decent start she turned to him, "So when is our free time on the ice?"

"Eight o'clock. We're less likely to have to deal with anyone seeing the new choreography that way."

The conversation ranged on, covering the things Angelus was going to say and not say when interviewed, and repeated admonitions on Darla's part that he be nice to and about the other skaters in public. As if he hadn't learned that early in his career when he had called another skater 'a damned fool'. There had been a media circus and he was

forced to retract the statement. It was proven two days after the retraction when the other skater was caught publicly supporting a group that believed the government had been infiltrated by evil vampires from another dimension.

Dinner wore on. In spite of the fact that she was his coach and despite the reputation about him that she seemed to believe wholeheartedly, Darla insisted on flirting with Angelus in the most outrageous fashion. "So," she said, leaning forward just enough so that he had a perfect view down her shirt. "I hear you've been watching that Summers girl and her partner."

In spite of his best efforts, his gaze could not help but land on her enticingly displayed breasts. Sensing the direction of his gaze, Darla shifted and Angelus caught a glimpse of her bra beneath her shirt. "And you care why?" he asked.

"I want to know if there's a reason you find the pair so interesting. You and I both know that neither Finn nor Summers are the sort of people to hold your attention for . . . personal reasons. That really only leaves professional ones." She looked at him inquiringly. He wasn't about to tell her how very wrong she was about his interest in

Buffy, so he told her half the truth.

"It can be entertaining to watch the two of them," he said with a calculatedly careless shrug, "She skates circles around him while he looks like he should be competing in the junior Olympics." He grinned at the memory of just how goofy Riley Finn had looked with his carefully controlled motions. At his best the other skater was mechanical. Excellent technique, but there was more to good skating than just technique. At his worst he looked grossly amateurish and Angelus could not fathom for the life of him why the two were partners.

They left the topic of Summers and Finn aside and concentrated on a discussion of how to manipulate the judges into giving higher marks. Darla was all for Angelus to play up to the audience, Angelus was planning on altering the choreography to play up the fact that he was as good at spins and footwork as he was at jumping. Something very few skaters in this competition could boast. An image of Buffy's delicate and graceful footwork across the ice sprang to mind but he pushed it away.

The skater and his coach finished dinner and left for the rink where several pairs were just finishing the final bits of their rehearsal. As he moved out, getting a feel for the ice, he noticed a blonde sitting on the bleachers watching intently. He did a couple warm-up double axels then circled the ice again to get a look at his audience. It was Buffy Summers. Their eyes met, and she glanced away, flushing slightly. Darla returned from wherever she had disappeared off to, and he put the younger blonde out of his mind as he went over his routines.

Buffy watched in fascination as the handsome male skater started into his rehearsal. His technique was virtually flawless, the choreography was both graceful and masculine, he was an amazing artist and he was one of the most stunningly sexy men she had ever laid eyes on. He was also quite intelligent, Buffy knew, having watched him in interviews with various talk and news show hosts. He had even graduated from Oxford with a double major and minor in history, Celtic studies and music respectively.

She herself was working through the final stages of her major/minor in dance and kinesiology. Of course, unlike Angelus, she was very unlikely to graduate at the top of her class. She wasn't at the bottom by any means, but she was hardly one of the best students either. She was helped at least partly by having a near eidetic memory for choreography, and avidly watched other skaters to steal bits of theirs. It was cheating in a way, she knew that, she also knew that several pairs had been ripping off a couple of her trademark moves.

They were hers. For all that Riley was her partner and they were in this together, she was the one who worked with Giles on the choreography. Riley was an excellent skater, but he had no initiative. What his coach told him to do, he did. And nothing more. Once again, Giles' words came back to her 'Buffy, you really ought to consider returning to solo skating'. She considered it for a moment before the memories began to take hold again.

She was sixteen and on her way to the junior nationals. Next year she would be going into the amateur competitions. Next year she was going to get to be famous for doing the thing she loved most. That afternoon she met Parker. He said he thought she had potential as a pairs skater. She was intrigued enough to try some skating with him. It hooked her. Being lowered into a death spiral, the lifts and throws, the added challenge of perfect synchronicity with her partner were things she relished. After a promising start as a working pair they even started dating.

Then, one afternoon, during a competition he dropped her. Buffy broke one leg, her arm, sprained the other ankle and was out of competition effectively for a year. Parker dumped her and publicly humiliated her when she began to practice again. One of her friends, never up to her level of skating, had dragged her onto the ice and had partnered her through several competitions as she regained her confidence. Xander had forced her to remember how much she loved skating, and he had helped her by taking the attention away from her.

Time had returned to Buffy the confidence to appear before the cameras, but she was still terrified of being alone. That was the real reason she didn't consider going back to skating alone. She did love the challenge and headiness of pairs, but nothing was worth the irritation and stupidity Riley put her through. Except she couldn't bear the thought of being out there alone. Parker's dumping her had left her with deep-seated insecurities about her worth as a person

and a skater, and so she stayed with a style of skating that was slowly ceasing to be a joy simply because she was too terrified to do otherwise.

Suddenly, out in the rink, Angelus' music started and Buffy was pulled from her reverie to watch a master at work. His every move combined athleticism with a grace and style that was as beautiful as it was individual. She watched, mesmerised by his choreography, even as she began to commit to memory every detail of the intricate dance on the ice. Every step he took was a study in restrained power and Buffy was drawn to him. She had been ever since she first saw him skate. She still fantasised about getting him to notice her, and had, on a regular basis, some pretty intense dreams on the subject.

It was such a pity he was gay.

Not that he was one of those people who felt it necessary to announce to the media that they were coming out of the closet. He hadn't been seen in any compromising positions with a member of the male sex and certainly there was nothing effeminate about him. Still, his parents had repeatedly said in interviews that he was, and he had never tried to deny it. It was also well known that he was never seen with a woman in anything other than a professional capacity. Learning about his preferences had popped one of Buffy's most cherished fantasies, but she just couldn't stop thinking about him.

Out on the ice, Angelus' attention had returned to the other skater in the stands. There sat the object of some of his more fevered fantasies, watching him practice with an avidity that surprised him. Finishing up with the last bit of his footwork, he skated over to her. "Hi," he said.

She just sat there blinking for a moment while he mentally smacked himself for starting with something as stupid as 'hi'. Then she smiled and replied, "Hey."

"So, you here to steal my choreography?" he asked with a smile.

She grinned, "I was considering it, but Riley could never manage that spread eagle into a camel spin that you got going. If he can't, I don't get to." She shrugged, then leaned forward. "What brought you over here?"

He didn't pause as he told her the truth, "I've been wanting to meet you for a while, Buffy Summers."

"Oh?" she asked with a flirtatious smile. His breath caught in his throat as the expression made even the hairs on his head tingle. "What possible reason could the great Angelus, Baryshnikov of the ice, have to meet me?"

"Maybe I find you interesting," he replied, easily falling into all the tricks he had used back in Galway to entice the girls.

Her smile moved from flirtatious to something else entirely, and he shifted slightly in the vain hope of hiding his interest in her, "Maybe?" She leaned forward . . .

And Darla called from the other end of the rink, "Angelus! Are you going to practice or should I hand in your letter of withdrawal from the competition?"

"I've gotta go. I'll see you around." With that he turned and left before she could say anything.

"Yeah. Around." Great. Another evening spent trying not to think about how sexy the man looked in tight leather pants. Or how expressive and flexible his hands were.

Angelus came to a halt beside Darla who gave him a suspicious look. "What were the two of you talking about?"

He shrugged, "Choreography," he replied.

Her eyes narrowed, then she turned and sent him practising his footwork across the ice until he was ready to drop. All the while he thought about Buffy and how she had been flirting with him. At least he hoped she'd been.

Darla watched Angelus with deep suspicion. Oh, she knew his reputation of being gay. She also knew that was a complete lie. She'd known that ever since they'd been forced to share a hotel room on tour and she'd walked in on him and some floozy he'd picked up in a bar. After that night she'd watched him carefully, and she knew now that he had both a voracious sexual appetite and, with his carefully maintained reputation, virtually no outlets. It was just a matter of time until he gave in and then she would have him. Until then, if it pleased him to think she was convinced like everyone else, so be it.

At least until today, when he had demonstrated more interest in the little blonde skater than he had in anyone at all for the last three years. She was going to have to step up her campaign. More, she was going to have to get rid of her competition.

"Angelus," she said, as he flopped onto the ice in exhaustion. So maybe she'd overdone her revenge on him for flirting a little. "I almost forgot to tell you. This year the skating gala is going to be in two parts. The one at the end for the winners, and an Ice Capades type of show over the weekend. You're going to have to learn some new choreography for the show."

She leaned back awaiting the explosion and was not disappointed.

"They want me to fucking learn new choreography!?" He glared at her, becoming further annoyed and angry when her only response was a shrug. "Do they think I'm some kind of machine? I can't put in a half-decent performance with only a week to learn the steps while preparing for competition!"

Darla shrugged again replying, "You're not the only one who'll be suffering you know. All the skaters are going to have to learn the new performance piece."

Angelus snarled in irritation and began to stamp (as much as he could in skates) off the ice. Abruptly he turned, "What do you know about this?"

Darla put on her most innocent look, "I didn't find out until earlier this evening. It simply slipped my mind. All I know is that you'll be asked to do some partnered dancing. No," she said lifting a hand to forestall the question, "I don't know who with."

He almost growled and stormed off the ice into the changeroom.


The next day he sat at the rink as the others straggled in. His eyes trained solely on Buffy as she yelled at the organisers for arranging something as badly planned and executed as this publicity stunt. She was magnificent when she was angry, and Angelus could just imagine that fire redirected to more pleasurable pursuits . . .

His thoughts were abruptly interrupted when she turned sharply away from the gala choreographer and skated right up to where he was sitting and flopped down next to him. He was so involved in not saying something as stupid as a pickup line that he missed the look of complete shock that settled over her face when she realised who she was sprawled next to.

The only thing in Buffy's mind for several seconds was that she had just gracelessly plonked down next to one of her idols looking like a sulky teenager. Complete humiliation didn't even begin to cover how she felt. So as soon as she got herself under control, she started to get up. Unfortunately the goof in charge chose that particular moment to ask for everyone's attention and begin describing the way he wanted things to unfold.

On the whole it wasn't nearly as bad as they had been lead to believe. Only a couple people had to learn any significant amount of new choreography, for the most part all that was being done was the short programs, with the long ones to be performed in the closing gala.

Unfortunately Buffy, holding the position of the first woman to ever complete a quad jump in competition, found herself having to match steps with the best of the male skaters. That meant Angelus. The friendliness he had shown her the night before evaporated, leaving her with a man who was more demanding than any coach Buffy had ever

had. Finally she had enough. "What the hell is your problem?" she demanded.

Angelus honestly had no idea why he was driving them both so hard. If pressed he might have said that he hated to see her potential going to waste the way it was with Riley. He couldn't say that however. "What do you mean?" he replied nastily, continuing before she could respond he added, "Maybe if you weren't so damn lazy we could get this down and I could get some real work done!"

With those words he whirled around and by some miraculous coincidence the section of Swan Lake his short program was done to came on over the speakers. He launched into his variation, the same one he had done last night under Buffy's watchful eyes, and let the motion take away his anger. He had based this dance around an invisible partner, a woman who wasn't there, but could be felt by the audience from the way he moved.

Only suddenly she was there, matching every step he took with a precision that took the breath away from every person watching. Not touching, Angelus and Buffy circled the rink, their motions in such perfect harmony that no one dared to interrupt. Not even Darla who had put on that music in the hopes of getting Angelus away from the

little blonde who was trespassing on the coach's territory. Instead she had given the two a chance to show an uncanny connection and chemistry in performance.

Out on the ice, Angelus was now skating purely on instinct. The only thing keeping his moves matched to the music was body memory. All his concentration was trained on the small blonde pulling ever closer to him as they launched into a completely synchronous quad-quad combination followed by a camel spin.

Buffy was lost to the concentration of copying Angelus' choreography. She came out of the camel spin, and was nearly shocked out of her skin when his arms circled her waist and he pulled her into a complicated footwork sequence that combined his steps into a piece of partnering that was an absolute joy to do. Buffy lost herself to the

improvisation and the feel of his hands on her waist. The positioning of the previously invisible partner Angelus had danced with came so naturally to Buffy it was startling. If there was one thing she'd always had problems with, it was synchronicity with her partner. Now they were waltzing around the ice with no rehearsal, and it was the most amazing experience of her life. This was why she had taken up pairs skating.

Angelus was similarly caught up. He had worked out the choreography of the routine with a partner in mind, and suddenly the space he had left for one was being filled to perfection. All too quickly the dance was drawing to a close and suddenly Angelus wanted to add something. Sure he could never do it in performance. He was, after all, a single skater, but he could take her hand just so, and do something he'd seen done a hundred times both live and on television.

She felt one of his hands slip into hers, and he began to move away. Buffy frowned slightly as he did so, this wasn't even close to being in the routine. Then he braced himself, leaning back, and Buffy understood what he was going to try with no preparation whatsoever. She smiled and let him. At least he wasn't going to try a throw.

Everyone watching out in the rink stared in utter disbelief. This was insane and impossible. No one would try to do a move like that unrehearsed. Then she slid into an elegant death spiral. It was then, silently and unanimously, decided that the pair on the ice must have been practising on the sly, simply because no one could do something that perfectly on the spur of the moment in a first skate together. No matter how good both skaters were.

Buffy felt as though she was flying. Her body was held in the most perfect position and She knew it was her best death spiral ever. She could only wonder where Angelus had been practising to be such a fantastic partner. Angelus was absolutely stunned as he held Buffy's hands in a vice-like grip at how beautiful she looked stretched and arched out moving in a circle around him. That was when the attraction partnered skating held for so many came clear to him. But only if he could skate with Buffy.

They came out of the move and into the final slow steps of the routine, then it was over. The crowd burst into applause, and Darla swept across the ice fuming. Angelus was staring into the little blonde's eyes as though she were the only woman in the world. She could hardly begin her campaign to make the girl look like a clumsy freak if she had just shown she was a perfect match for Angelus. Worse, the gala choreographer was planning to extend the pair's part of the show into a full blown tango. She was going to have to find another way to get the little brat away from Angelus.

She was about to try to pry them apart when the girl's skating partner came scrambling over. "Buffy! Why've you been practising with him? Coach Walsh always said that partners should skate just with each other."

Buffy looked at him in irritation. "Riley, this was the very first time Angelus and I have even been on the ice at the same time." Darla couldn't blame the girl for her annoyance with the young man and was very impressed at her ability to lie. "And would you cut the cord between you and Walsh?" The utter disgust with which Buffy spoke to

her partner gave Darla a moment of regret. She might have liked the blonde if it weren't for Angelus.

Riley gave her a shocked look, "Buffy! Why are you always so disrespectful of Coach Walsh? I mean, you're that way with Giles too. I don't understand. They're the ones who take care of you and-" he was cut off as Buffy snorted and headed for the changerooms. He trailed after her, whining about respecting her elders.

Darla raised an eyebrow and smiled slightly. She might have just found a useful tool. Now she just needed to find out how to use it.

Angelus glared in irritation after the Backstreet Boys wannabe. He controlled a snicker as his partner dumped Riley on his ass outside the women's locker room. A moment later he blinked as his own thoughts registered. His partner? He didn't have a partner. He skated singly, and after Riley's showing that day she ought to as well. He turned to clear the ice for the other skaters who had started to rehearse as well, and ran into Darla. "Hey," she said. "I really don't appreciate you going behind my back you know."

He paused and turned to look at her confused, "What are you talking about?"

Eyes rolling at the question she replied, "How about the fact that you've clearly been teaching the girl your routine? How about the steps you've clearly been rehearsing with her? How about the fact that you never even mentioned her name until yesterday?"

"I hadn't met her until yesterday," he responded. He was completely baffled by her line of questioning. The steps had simply felt completely natural. As though they were meant to dance them together.

"How did she learn the steps then? When did you learn how to work a death spiral that competently? If you hadn't met her until yesterday how the heck did you do that?" Darla demanded.

"We just did," he said. Darla stared at him incredulously, then threw her hands up in disgust and left the arena. Angel was startled when a voice spoke up from behind him.

"You know, if you're going to lie about it you might as well try something a touch more believable." Angelus whirled around to see Buffy's coach looking at him with dry humour.

"What are . . . Oh." Angelus suddenly realised just how insane the truth was. "As nuts as this is, I'm not lying."

The British man simply arched an expressive eyebrow then strolled away, presumably to catch up with his skater. Angelus looked after him for a moment then decided to get to his hotel room and rest before going back to rehearse his long program that evening.

Giles was hastening to catch up with Buffy while he mulled over Angelus' words. The man couldn't be telling the truth. Rupert Giles had been coaching for years, and even though both Buffy and Angelus were among the best skaters in the world, he simply could not believe something as patently fantastic as the two of them simply having a magical ability to partner each other. Clearly Angelus was trying to protect Buffy from adverse publicity, something for which Giles was extremely grateful. If word were to get out that Buffy was courting Angelus for a skating partnership, there would be a corresponding media storm, and worse, the judges would start to see partnering problems where there were none.

Although the sheer number of problems with the current partnership were enough to drive the poor coach quite batty. After the Olympics were over though, Giles was certainly willing to encourage her to court the male skater. They had excellent partnering, and were a good match both technically and artistically.

He caught up with Buffy as she slammed the women's dressing room door in Riley's face. Rupert suppressed the urge to smile. "Excuse me," he said to the young man standing dumbly outside the door. "Buffy, could I speak with you for a moment?"

There was some shuffling then she came out and, fixing Riley with a stern glare, replied, "Okay. What's up?" She turned her attention back to Giles and smiled.

"I wanted to know how the hell you managed to rehearse with Angelus when you haven't been out of our sight for more than an hour at a time on any given day." He smiled at her and waited expectantly.

"We didn't," she replied.

Giles just stood blinking at her for a moment before he said, "You . . . didn't."

"No." She looked confused he would even ask the question. "I just met him yesterday. I mean, I've watched him compete and stuff and yesterday he was going over his short routine, so I know the steps." She gave Giles a look of what appeared to be unfeigned innocence. He could hardly believe his ears.

"That death spiral and the footwork sequence were most definitely not in the routine." Giles looked at her baffled at how she could continue to claim the pair hadn't rehearsed.

Buffy looked at him imploringly, "Look, Giles, I know I sound nuts but it's true! The footwork and the death spiral were just improvised." She sounded so sincere, Rupert was forced to believe her. Which left him with the difficult task of convincing the other man to give up a solo career to work with Buffy.


The week to the performance passed quickly for Angelus and Buffy. Every moment she wasn't being frustrated out of her skull by Riley she was with Angelus rehearsing their tango. It started simply enough, some footwork across the rink, a couple side-by-sides, then it got hot. Right after the jumps, Buffy was supposed to essentially glue herself to Angel's back, and writhe around after him, then she was supposed to slide down, give him her hands to be pulled though his legs, and then the real partnering began. Of course, usually by then she was trying very hard not to think of all the tight muscles and extremely well proportioned anatomy she was all pressed up against.

Angelus was firmly trying to keep his interest in Buffy a secret from everyone while dressed in tight pants. This meant a lot of time spent imagining uncle Hamish dressed in bikini briefs. He was starting to get nightmares. The best and worst point in the routine came right at the end for the male skater. Buffy's slender, lithe, feminine body

pressed its whole length against his, her face inches from his own, and then the damned thing called for them to kiss. They'd both been putting it off. Angelus didn't know why she was, he was just grateful. The moment their lips met, he knew he was going to drag her off the ice to somewhere more private and have his way with her.

He should have known that pretending to be gay was going to come back and bite him in the butt.

The week was a much longer period for Darla. Her first order of business was to find some way of getting rid of her competition. Violence was simply lacking in finesse, and she didn't want to risk being traced to Buffy's dismissal. No, she had to find something that could get rid of the little blonde that was within the rules. The only problem was that Buffy Summers had never violated any rules within the skating community. There was nothing to be found on her that could get her thrown out. There were no scandals she could throw at the girl, and worse, even if she'd found some Angelus was a faithful friend. He would stick even closer to the other skater in support.

"Dammit! This is useless!" she shouted throwing the stacks of illegally gained information on Summers onto her hotel desk. The copy of the girl's birth certificate came free and fluttered to the floor. Darla huffed in irritation and bent over to pick it up. As she moved to toss it onto the desk with everything else something on the photocopy caught her eye and Darla leaned over to examine the paper more carefully. She began shuffling through her papers and three hours later was arranging an appointment with Riley Finn, a grin on her face.

They met in a small restaurant in the outskirts of the city. Once they had both ordered and the food had been brought, Darla began her pitch speaking in a carefully distressed tone of voice. "Mr. Finn, I know you're wondering why I asked you here, but I simply need advice, and as Miss Summers' skating partner you seemed the best to ask."

The young man puffed up in pride at being someone who was turned to in a crisis, and spoke in what Darla assumed he thought was a reassuring tone of voice. "Well, I can't guarantee you that I'll be able to help, but I'll surely try Ma'am," he said gallantly.

She suppressed the urge to either stare or wince. "You see Riley-- May I call you Riley?"

"Sure," he smiled at her and Darla gritted her teeth.

"I've come across some information about your partner, and it might well disqualify her from competition." Darla spoke with all the sincerity and concern she could muster, and was rewarded to see Riley's face settle into a condemning frown without a moment's hesitation.

"She's not using . . . *drugs* is she?" Riley looked so horrified and stunned Darla was ready to roll her eyes at the boy.

She smiled comfortingly instead and replied, "No! No. Nothing like that. It's not even something she would even be aware of." Darla was going to be going to the dentist after this because she was oozing so much sweetness her teeth were hurting.

"Oh. Well then what's going on?" Riley asked. His big blue eyes were so trusting Darla patted herself on the back for making use of him.

She took a deep breath and deliberately and visibly steeled herself. "Buffy wasn't born in America, she was born in Ireland. Her parents never got her citizenship changed and because of this she's not actually a citizen of the United States. She can't skate for the US."

Riley's eyes got even bigger and he said, "But if the rules say she can't skate for America why didn't you go right to the authorities when you found out?"

"The last thing I want is for anyone to accuse me of trying to undermine the American team or for anyone to think I'm trying to get Miss Summers to compete for Ireland. And, I mean, this isn't a big deal. It's not as though she's been cheating or deliberately doing anything wrong." Inwardly Darla smiled exultantly as Riley took the bait.

His face settled into a frown. "The rules are there to keep us from falling into anarchy," said Riley, beginning something that sounded like a frequently repeated lecture. "Without rules we're no better than animals. If we break one rule, how long will it be before we start breaking others? And then how long before society collapses?"

Darla hastily turned her laughing fit into a coughing fit. It wouldn't do for Riley to be mocked then. She took in a deep breath once she had recovered and said, "What do you suggest then?"

"I'll take the evidence to the Olympic committee. I may not be happy about it, but it's my duty to follow the rules." He smiled patronisingly at Darla who took him back to her hotel, gave him the papers, got rid of him, then collapsed in hysterical laughter to the bed. It was just perfect. That chump was so sincere in his beliefs that no one would look past him and he would get Buffy thrown out of competition.

And she would go home leaving Angelus to Darla.


Buffy was at an early practice with Riley when her cell phone rang and Giles was hurrying onto the ice a minute later thrusting it at her. "Hello?"

"Oh sweetie! I'm so sorry, this is all my fault!" her mother cried over the line.

Buffy stood simply blinking for a moment, ignoring Riley and Giles. "What?"

"I just heard the news about how the Olympic committee found out about your citizenship. I want you to know that your father and I never meant for anything like this to happen. It-"

Buffy interrupted her mother. "Anything like what? What does my citizenship have to do with anything?"

"You hadn't heard?" the woman's voice was both startled and, if anything, more upset. "Someone on the board found out that because you weren't born in the US you're not technically a citizen of the country. They're currently deciding whether you could be allowed to skate for America." Her mother's frantic explanation had Buffy staring off into space utterly stunned.

"I'm not an American?" she finally asked.

Giles, watching Buffy anxiously for a clue as to what had distressed his skater, shook his head in disbelief at that statement and muttered, "If she's not a bloody American then I'm Queen Victoria."

Buffy shot her coach an irritated glare then focussed on her mother's explanation. "Your father and I were on a business trip. We were on a brief side trip to Ireland when I went into labour and so you were born in Dublin." Her mother sighed. "It never occurred to either your father or me that you were anything other than an American, and I

didn't know about this loophole until we were called for confirmation."

"I . . . How did they find this out?" Buffy asked.

Her mother sighed, "I haven't a clue. I just wanted you to know that-"

"It's okay Mom. You wouldn't have known." Buffy said goodbye and began to skate laps until Giles finally shouted her over demanding to know what was going on. "Apparently I wasn't born in the US which makes me a citizen of Ireland and somebody found out and told the Olympic committee and they're now deciding whether I'm American

enough to skate for America or if I'm gonna get thrown out of the competition before it even begins."

Appalled, the coach demanded, "And your mother couldn't tell you who did this?"

Before Buffy could respond, Riley finally spoke. "I did." The two turned to stare at him watching as he straightened up looking righteous and proud. The incredulous stares simply made him indignant and he added, "Rules are there to be followed. If we don't follow them on a little thing like this then how long before we stop following them entirely? Then chaos will rain down-"

"Stop being so bloody damned melodramatic Finn," growled Giles, "You've practically destroyed both your chances of even being in the competition for a ridiculous bit of morality."

"It's not ridiculous!" cried Riley. As he began to expound upon his philosophies of right and wrong Buffy and Giles headed for the stands. Riley hurried after them, struggling with his skates as the two ignored him.

When Buffy sat down to take off her skates, Giles said, "Look. I'll go and ask around to see if anyone knows anything. See if I can't affect the decision." She smiled up at her mentor and squeezed the hand he rested briefly on her shoulder.

"Okay," she replied. Just as Giles reached the doors Buffy's eyes went wide and she left her shoes untied as she trotted after him. She caught up outside and called, "Giles! One more thing." Riley was puffing after her and muttering something incomprehensible about caution and shoelaces. Giles tilted his head inquiringly.

"What?" he asked.

"We need to arrange a press conference to deal with this. Especially if Riley," she favoured her partner with a long sardonic glance, "Is going to go around telling everyone that he's the one who told."

Giles smiled at her, "I'll look into that as soon as I can, Buffy." He had just reached his car when he turned around and shouted back, "Don't forget you have rehearsal with Angelus this afternoon!"

"I won't!" she waved and smiled. Then smiled more broadly at the thought of spending an afternoon with the handsome skater. She could fantasise about him while they practised. Which reminded her of another obligation to be fulfilled that evening.


"So anyways Will, I have to come out of a Bielman spin at the end and then just throw myself at him. Then we kiss. It's a nightmare."

Willow's voice was suitably taken aback by this statement. "What do you mean it's a nightmare? I've seen pictures of Angelus. He's hot."

"I know! That's the nightmare!" Buffy flopped backwards onto the hotel room bed the phone at her ear. "Everyone knows Angelus is gay. I mean, it's all rumour, but people have asked him and he hasn't denied it."

"So how does anyone know then?" Willow asked reasonably, "It's not as though it's anyone's business."

Buffy sighed, "And have you ever met a guy who wasn't gay that was willing to let everyone think he was?" she asked her friend pointedly.

"I guess not," the redhead replied. "Other than having to practically striptease for the only guy around who doesn't care, how are things? I saw the whole citizenry thing on the news."

Buffy moaned, rolled onto her stomach and got tangled in the telephone cord. "It's awful. People are asking me to talk with an Irish accent, Riley is babbling to the media about the laws of God and man," as she spoke the skater tried to get untangled and wound up rolling onto the floor. "Ow!"

"Buffy, are you okay?" Willow asked her anxiously.

"Yes," came the sour reply. "I fell off the bed." Buffy was pouting and they both knew it. As Willow broke into giggles Buffy mock snarled into the phone, "Yeah, that's right, laugh it up."

"I will," she said between giggles, "The great and graceful skater falling off the bed during a phone call. It's funny."


"Anyway, what was that about Riley and laws of God and man?" Willow inquired.

Buffy sighed again and said, "Oh you know how he is. Rules must be followed even if they're stupid."

"I don't know why you don't get a decent partner," Willow berated her friend. "I really don't think skating is worth the kind of aggravation you're putting yourself through." She took in a deep breath audibly over the line, and Buffy tensed, knowing what was coming. "Maybe if you'd just work alone again-"

"No!" Buffy shouted. Willow ignored the outburst and continued firmly.

"Buffy. Parker was a jerk. You can skate alone. You're good enough at it, you don't need a guy there to validate you." Willow's calm logical statement had no impact on Buffy who was shivering at the thought of being alone. On the ice or off. She couldn't do it. Willow gave up for the time being, but gave a parting shot on the topic. "Maybe you ought to go to a therapist for this," she advised her friend.

Buffy controlled herself, "I'm fine Willow. Besides, getting a new partner is really hard. Where would I even begin to look?"

The subject change was abetted. "Maybe you should ask Angelus," Willow said cheekily.

"Willow!" Buffy moaned, "If I partner him I'm going to be completely unable to do anything but throw myself at him within a month!" They chuckled together for a moment. "By the way, how's Xander and Anya's wedding going?"

"Ack!" was the reply and conversation moved on to gossip from back home.


By the end of the week the furore over Buffy's nationality had essentially vanished with everybody of import having decided that it wasn't worth the bother of getting her thrown from the competition. It was as well because the competition had begun. Buffy and Riley appeared about halfway through the program. It was a perfect position for them. Some of the best skaters had already gone, that gave them a mark to shoot for, but not all of the favourites had appeared.

"I wish we had gone first," Riley complained in Buffy's ear as they circled the ice in preparation for their short program.

Buffy shot him a look but didn't say anything. She'd gotten into an argument over the fairness of figure skating judges and didn't want to deal with that just before a performance. Instead she simply put her hand in his and settled into her opening pose. Riley did the same and they waited for the music to start.

When it did, they began moving then stopped in confusion. Instead of the bluebird dance of Sleeping Beauty the speakers were blasting out the Dixie Chicks' "Sin Wagon". While Buffy had wanted to do their routine to that, Riley had insisted on something else. She glared up at the booth where the people in charge of the music were. A flash of

blonde hair leaving the booth caught her eye, but then the Chicks stopped and she and Riley exchanged bemused glances getting into position again.

This time the right music came on but Riley was rattled. It became evident when he didn't simply double on the quads but fell. He got up and continued, but Riley was completely off that night. And that meant Buffy was off. They didn't do too badly all things considered but they were by no means in the top ten at the end of the competition.

While Riley took off for parts unknown Buffy stayed behind to watch the women's short programs. She was startled when Angelus sat down next to her and handed her a cup of hot chocolate. "It wasn't too bad," he offered.

"Yes it was," she said, her tone just short of a soft wail. "If only Riley wasn't so easy to throw off."

Angelus raised and eyebrow and seemed about to say something. Then he apparently thought better of it and they sat down to watch the other skaters. They left together, and Angelus suggested they go to a local coffee shop before heading back to the Olympic Village. When they were settled comfortably at a table he asked her, "Why don't you just skate in the singles competition? You're good enough to win gold there and you wouldn't have to put up with the Rileys of the world."

He was startled when she shuddered. "I just really love pairs," she replied. Her eyes slid away from his and Angelus put a hand under her chin and forced her to look him in the eye.

"That isn't all that's keeping you there though. Is it?" he asked. She shivered slightly again and he glanced around and pulled her after him. She protested for a moment, then went abruptly silent. They arrived back at the arena just after everything had been closed down for the evening and Buffy watched as Angelus expertly broke into the building. "Come on," he said and pulled her along until they were seated in the bleachers. "Now tell me why the hell you're letting all your talent go to waste with a right fool like Finn."

His dark eyes bore into hers and suddenly Buffy cracked. She began to cry and between sobs told him her story. Told him about the fall that had broken up both her partnership and her relationship. She told him about how, as she recovered from her injuries, Parker had told her again and again how she would never be as good as she was. The way he used to come to her competitions just to rattle her so that she would lose.

She told Angelus about the time he conned his way into the dressing room and tried to rape her after the first competition she won after the accident. That she had continued pairs skating because it meant that there was always someone just outside her dressing room to keep unwanted visitors out. She told him about how she just couldn't skate alone anymore for fear Parker would lunge out of the woodwork.

Through everything he held her, soothed her fears and let her know that Parker wasn't there. He wasn't going to be there, and that she was strong enough and good enough. Finally she felt the last of her pent up grief and terror fadeaway and she sat up, looking into the face of the man she was now fairly certain she was in love with.

"Thank you."

"I just sat here," he replied with a tiny, sexy, half-smile floating around the edges of his mouth.

She gave him a watery smile back, "You didn't have to."

His hand came up and caressed the side of her face before gently cupping her cheek. Buffy found herself suddenly breathless at that touch. "You were in pain. How could I turn my back on that?" he said. He leaned closer and for a moment Buffy thought that they were going to kiss. Then she remembered that he was gay and that there would be

no kissing.

She pulled sharply away and said, "Well I'd better be going. Giles and Riley are gonna be worried." He blinked at her, clearly startled by her mood swing and backed away.

"I'll see you tomorrow?" he asked.

"Count on it." Then she hurried away mentally smacking herself at every step for throwing herself at a guy who was completely uninterested.

Angelus watched her leave and dropped his head into his hands. He had thought that something was inhibiting her but he'd never have imagined it was something as serious as that. She wasn't simply a little nervous, she was suffering from a deep seated terror of abandonment combined with well hidden low self esteem. This Parker, whom Angelus wished to beat to a bloody pulp, had taken a talented girl and changed her into an insecure terrified woman.

That also must have been why she was so startled when he had been about to kiss her. He'd had a plan. Get her alone, kiss her, then explain about the masquerade of being gay he'd put on and sweep her off to his hotel room bed. Instead she'd leapt away from him when he got too close and run off terrified. That Parker had a lot to answer for.

With Buffy's experiences in mind, he headed back to the hotel with a new plan in the making to woo her. He was going to have to help her with her problems as well. He simply cared too much for her, now that he'd met her, not to do so. As the plan unfolded and settled in his mind he smiled happily and was still smiling as he bid Darla a polite

goodnight and went into his room.

Darla glared after him smelling the faint scent of another woman's perfume on his jacket.


The next day, as Angelus went onto the rink for his first program of the competition, his eyes searched through the stands for his small blonde bombshell. There she was, smiling at him, with both her skating partner and coach seated on either side. He smiled back, then made one more circuit of the ice before settling in the centre to start his routine.

He risked a glance up at her and nearly missed the opening bars when she smiled again and waved. He got himself back under control, starting the opening footwork sequence across the ice. He couldn't get his mind off the first time they had skated together only a week before. His imagination started to fill the empty space beside him with her small form and as he went into the spiral sequence his arms itched to reach out and wrap around the space where she ought to be.

He skated flawlessly and finished with his imaginary Buffy-shaped partner by his side. He came out of the self-induced trance to take his bows and got off the ice quickly. When the girls-who-clear-stuff-thrown-onto-the-ice came and deposited their haul, he was fidgeting anxiously, awaiting the judges' decisions and dreading the interviews with the media he knew were waiting between him and the dressing room.

Thankfully the marks came quickly allowing him to escape the mountain of teddy bears and flowers heaped around him. That and one indecent proposal written on a pair of red silk boxers. That one was brought to him by a deeply flushed young brunette who shoved the items in her hands at him and dashed off to whisper with her girlfriends.

He got to the changerooms and was only intercepted three times on the way by enthusiastic reporters. Darla was waiting for him when he got there, her face ecstatic. "Hah! You're in first place!" she clapped him on the back, "I knew Renaud wouldn't beat you!"

Angelus blinked at her, confused. "He hasn't even gone yet," he said.

"With two sixes, and the rest five-eights and five-nines? He's not going to beat that score except through a miracle," she replied, dismissing the Canadian. "Anyway, you'd better get to practising your long program this afternoon-"

He interrupted as he saw Buffy approaching him, "Sorry, I have to work with Buffy this afternoon. I'll fit in a practice somewhere, but . . ." he left the sentence hanging as he hurried to meet Buffy. He didn't notice the flash of pure hatred in Darla's eyes as she followed him.

"But what?" she demanded when she caught up. Angelus had completely forgotten the conversation he was in the middle of as he soaked up Buffy's enthusiasm over his performance.

He turned away from Buffy at Darla's question and said, "But what, what? Darla, have you met Buffy? Buffy this is my skating coach Darla Wells." As he spoke he wrapped an arm around Buffy's shoulder and smiled down at her. Darla seemed upset and got even more so when he said, "Don't worry, Buffy and I have plans, but I'll manage a couple run-throughs of my long program this evening."

She never got to say anything, because the media hounds descended upon them and by the time she could reprimand him for slacking off the two skaters had vanished leaving Darla fuming. She was going to have to find another way to get rid of the girl.


They had spent the afternoon practising side by side jumps, matching the rotations on their spins, the partnering, everything but that closing kiss. Neither Buffy nor Angelus dared to broach the subject. Finally they took a break even though Buffy clearly wanted to keep skating. "Why don't you keep going without me?" Angelus suggested. "I

just want to sit for a while, catch my breath."

Buffy bit her lip. It wasn't that she wasn't tired, it was just that she was enjoying the activity of figure skating more than she had since she started skating with Riley. The rink beckoned. "Okay," she said hesitantly, "You'll join me shortly right?"

"Sure," he smiled at her and settled in the stands. He continued to smile as she swept around the ice. The first part of his plan was working perfectly. She needed to remember that she was safe out there and that there was no reason not to be skating alone. After about a minute he was getting twitchy, wanting to be out there with her. This pairs thing was addictive.

Dressed in a bright red sweater and dark red leggings she stood out in brilliant contrast with the white surface beneath her. The ads on the boards of the rink and designs painted under the ice irritating distractions from her elegance and grace. He leaned forward, his his elbows settling on his knees as he watched her every move. She'd

stopped working on their routine, and was improvising something out there. He watched as she frowned slightly, setting herself up into a beautiful quad loop. She landed almost perfectly but there was a telltale wobble as she did. Buffy bit her lip and started to breathe harder. Angelus caught sight of this and was on his feet and hurrying toward her almost before the sight registered.

He was halfway across the rink when her floating arabesque spiral sequence fell apart. She began to sway, her uplifted leg started to dip, and her face reflected panic. He arrived just in time to catch her as she toppled over. Angelus felt her begin to sob as he held her, each shuddering breath rocking her whole body. He could feel

Buffy's heartbeat racing as she struggled to control the spasms of the panic attack which gripped her.

"Shhh. It's okay," he whispered to her, gently soothing her terrors.

"It's not! It's never gonna be okay again!" she cried. "I can't skate alone. I can't skate with Riley, where am I going to find someone to skate with. I can't stop, but I can't go on either!" Buffy clung to him as the last of her fear resettled into its usual place. When she finally had control of herself she pulled away heading for the changerooms.

Angelus followed and forced her onto the stands and sat her down. "First, that is ridiculous. You can skate perfectly well on your own. What you need to do is go to a therapist to deal with this phobia of yours," he said firmly.

She glared at him, which he took as a good sign of her recovery. "I don't have a phobia," she grumped.

"What do you call an irrational terror of being alone on the ice then?" he asked her reasonably.

Her hopeful look was so adorable he almost let her win the argument, "An irrational terror of being alone on the ice?" Instead he levelled a look at her. "Okay! I have a phobia. I know it's affecting my performance and that I'd be better off on my own as things stand now but I can't go to a shrink."

"Why? You don't trust them?" he asked her curiously. Her answer surprised him. Not that it should have.

"Unlike some people who shall remain nameless, part of my skating reputation is based on being a sweet, wholesome and innocent all-American girl," she said as though explaining things to a particularly dumb houseplant. "Certain male, nameless, people with dark spiky hair and really cute dark eyes can get away with a bad boy

reputation and drug charges. If I go to a shrink the media frenzy will destroy my career."

Angelus wracked his brains for the person she was describing and came up blank. However he could see her point. "Okay, have you tried getting past this fear?" The way her eyes slid away from his was the only answer he needed. "Then we'll start right now."

The rest of the afternoon was spent on making Buffy skate alone. At first she expected to react the way she had when Xander and Willow had tried this with her, but Angelus made her feel safe just by being within shouting distance. By the end of the afternoon, she was skating completely alone with him hiding from her view entirely. She

could pretend she was alone, and with the subconscious reassurance of his presence acted so goofy that he finally distracted her by cracking up at her chicken dance to Handel's water music.

He walked her back to her room at the Olympic Village and spent the evening working out the next steps of his plans while he rehearsed under Darla's watchful eye. Finally she tired of his mental drifting and demanded, "So I can safely assume all of your competition is dead?"

He jerked out of his reverie and the footwork sequence of his long program at the demand. "Hunh? What are you talking about?"

Darla stood at the side of the rink, arms crossed over her chest, every inch of her stylishly dressed body expressing disapproval. "What do I mean? You're skating as though you expected that there was going to be no one else skating over the next couple days." Darla levelled a look at him. "If I didn't know better I would say that you're in love with Buffy Summers. Since everyone knows that's impossible I damn well expect you to either buckle down and focus on

your routine or get the hell out of this competition because if you keep this up Renaud is going to whip your ass."

He glanced at her, startled, and started to pay attention to her again. By the end of the evening, he had completely forgotten about Buffy and was entirely concentrated on his skating. Much to Darla's happiness. She went back to flirting with him over dinner, and thought she might have gotten to him if Rupert Giles hadn't been waiting for them with a wish to talk to Angelus.

"Mr. Giles. I've been skating all evening and I'm really tired-" Angelus began.

He was interrupted by the British coach. "I only wish a moment of your time," the man said smoothly, then turned to Darla, "Ms Wells, I would request you give us a little privacy?" he smiled cordially at the blonde, who smiled cordially back and made an exit that was just short of rude.

Angelus raised an eyebrow. "So what do you want to talk about that you need privacy for?" he asked the other.

"Buffy informed us tonight that after the Olympics she is returning to women's singles skating. I wanted to thank you for convincing her of something that will, most likely, be the best for her." Giles smiled at Angelus gratefully.

He shrugged, "I simply forced her to skate by herself this afternoon. It wasn't a serious phobia, she just needed someone to push her a little." He was surprised by the look of stunned surprise on the coach's face. "What?"

"You managed to convince her to skate alone in one afternoon?" Giles was stunned by the look of him. "Her friends, her mother, myself, even a professional psychologist have all tried to convince her at one time or another." A beat later, "Phobia?"

Angelus stared in return. "You didn't know she had a phobia of skating alone? When we started she got panic attacks every time she was alone on the ice for too long." His exhaustion was forgotten as he glared at Giles who was honestly surprised at the news. Then he looked chagrined.

"God. That's why she refused to dump Riley like the bloody idiot he is." Giles shook his head. "I can't believe I didn't see it." He sank down onto the bench in the hall, followed by Angelus. He looked so angry with himself the skater couldn't stay angry with him.

"She's good at hiding it. I wouldn't have known if she hadn't had an attack while we were rehearsing for that damned gala." Angelus was startled by the sudden shift in mood of the coach when Giles suddenly stopped looking tired and somewhat sad, and became businesslike and enthusiastic.

"That's actually brought me to the reason I wanted your coach elsewhere."


Giles leaned forward, "Well, it's not done attempt to court one coach's skater on behalf of your own."

"What exactly are you asking me?" Angelus was rather hesitant to find out the answer to that question. The use of the word 'court' putting him very ill at ease with the coach. "If this is some sort of proposition-"

Giles' eyes went wide as he realised how odd what he had said sounded. "No! Oh my lord no! I'm not . . . That is to say . . ." he trailed off looking distinctly uncomfortable and Angelus realised that the other man thought that he thought that Giles was propositioning him.

"I didn't think you were," he said, noting the look of relief on Giles' face, "But are you asking for Buffy-"

"No no no no no. Buffy doesn't know I'm here, and even if she did we both know about your . . . uh . . . reputation. That is . . ." he trailed off momentarily then made the plunge. "I think you and Buffy ought to skate pairs together." This extraordinary statement left Angelus utterly speechless. Finally he spoke.

"You want me to skate pairs?" his voice reflecting the complete incredulity he felt at the request. "Where on God's green earth did you come up with this idea?"

Giles raised an eyebrow at him. "How about the fact that the two of you performed an inside edge death spiral with no more preparation than watching video tape of one another and improvised a footwork sequence on the spur of the moment as a pair?" he asked mockingly. The look on his face challenged the skater to deny the facts.

"Oh." There was a long pause while Angelus thought over this unusual proposition. "I thought you felt she was better off in women's than in pairs." He frowned at the coach, prompting for an explanation.

Giles obliged, "While it is true that I feel Buffy would be better off in singles than in pairs if her partner is Riley, she does love pairs skating. She loved it from the moment she and Parker Abrams first skated together," he sighed and faced forward. As Angelus watched his profile a small wry smile graced the coach's face. "When Riley keeps his mouth shut he's a fairly adept skater and partner for her and I've never seen her happier." He turned to look Angelus in the eye, "Except for last week when she was on the ice with you."

He was about to deny the statement when Giles cut him off before he could begin. "The two of you have a chemistry that I simply have never seen in any but the best pairs. Together you're a marvel to watch and I have been coaching Buffy for nearly her whole career as a skater. I know her, I've seen her with her partners. Pairs skating is her passion and you bring that out of her more than anyone I've ever seen."

Giles stood and started to pace before the skater, his agitation clear. "I've been encouraging her to get out of pairs before it became a chore, but you've made her love it again and I am willing to do virtually anything to get you to work with her." A thought occurred to Angelus and before he could control himself he was laughing hysterically. The other stared the question obvious.

"I was just thinking, sorry, of Darla's reaction if she ever heard this conversation." A couple final spasms of laughter and he was finished. When he looked up Giles was smiling at him openly.

"You see why I asked to speak privately."

He smiled back, completely at ease with the other man finally. "I do. I also have something of an answer for you. I've been thinking about this lately, but I'm Irish. I skate for Ireland. I know it's an odd way to express my patriotism but there it is. Unless you could convince her to change her nationality . . . I wouldn't even consider competing for anywhere but Ireland. Even if she did change I'm not certain I would want to give up my current career for pairs."

"Well," Giles looked somewhat disappointed, "I can't force you, but please think it over." They shook hands and the coach left. Darla, hiding behind her suite door gritted her teeth in fury.


The next day was the final opportunity for Angelus and Buffy to practice for the first gala. It was that evening, and they had yet to do the complete routine including the final kiss. The kiss that had been haunting Buffy's dreams and nightmares for a week. She was circling the ice when he finally arrived. She had used the talisman of imagining his presence to let her work on her own and was fully warmed up when he stepped out and started his warmup with a triple toe loop.

"Show-off!" she shouted, amused. He grinned at her and crooked a finger doing the opening bits of his short program as temptation. She rolled her eyes but joined him anyway as they started working on their routine.

At the end of her first Bielman spin of the morning Angelus sidled up behind her and whispered in her ear, "Lookin' good." The sensual whisper screwed with her momentum and Buffy screeched to a halt as she forced herself to firmly suppress the naughty images he'd invoked with just two words and a pair of lusciously tight blue jeans.

"Don't do that," she said trying to sound irritable and not quite certain that she did.

He swept past her, "What?" he asked playfully.

"You're in a good mood," she observed.

"A beautiful woman, clear ice, a fun routine, how could life get any better?" his feet swept into a spread eagle which swung him around to her again. "But we'd best be getting to back work hunh?"

Rolling her eyes again she skated over to the tape player by the rink and reset it at the beginning and the two began their complete rehearsal only to be interrupted by the woman in charge of the costumes for the show. As per Buffy's request they were getting a chance to rehearse in costume and that broke up the practice again as they both left to change. Buffy sighed crankily over the skimpy red and black number she had to wear and then soaked the floor with drool when she saw what Angelus was in.

A dark red faux velvet shirt did little to cover his chest because it barely had any buttons at all. That meant she could see the smooth, hard, alabaster tinted muscles she had been rubbing against all week. His legs had clearly been poured into the black leather pants he wore. The muscles in his legs clearly defined by those slacks were gorgeous. Buffy felt weak in the knees as she saw him slowly circle the rink. Then he turned to her with a smile which vanished when he caught sight of her.

Arriving in front of her, she could see how dark his eyes were and that beautiful face was moving towards her looking as though he might . . . Buffy shook herself out of it. He was gay. Everyone knew he was gay dammit. No matter how gut-wrenchingly sexy he was, he was not going to be interested in her. Besides, she thought wryly, why would he want Buffy Summers when he could have the beautiful and (if rumour was any guide) talented Darla Wells.

"So why don't we see how these work when we're working," she said with a smile. "You look good by the way."

"You too," he replied, that odd almost lusty look on his face disappearing.

So she started the music again. This was it. They couldn't put off practising that kiss any longer. As they moved into the final moments Buffy steeled herself, leaned against the most handsome male skater on the Olympic circuit and pressed her mouth to his.

A spark caught and Buffy's lips slid open and allowed Angelus' tongue into her mouth. He took advantage and any thoughts about him being gay vanished from her mind. Something came up between them and Buffy wriggled to get Angelus' belt buckle out of the way so they could continue to kiss properly.

A thought hit her. That lump wasn't his belt buckle, was it?

She gasped and pushed away slightly. His eyes were dilated and she was pressed tightly against him. His eyes flicked away from her slightly then back, and she felt him pull away ever so slightly. Moving away more fully she glanced over he shoulder and saw Giles sitting in the stands. Her eyes went wide as everything came together in her mind.

"Oh my God," she said gesturing at the rampant bulge in the front of his pants. "You . . . and . . . I mean . . . Giles . . ." She stood there for several seconds longer then squeaked and ran for the changeroom. He stared after her.

Angelus had been impatiently circling the rink in his costume for the gala when he spotted Buffy entering the arena. She was dressed in a tiny dark red dress with black lace designs stitched into it and instead of the usual short flared skirt, it was a diagonally draped swathe of red and black fabric. She made such an erotic sight he had hurried over to her intent on telling her the truth about his ruse and that he loved her.

She had made them rehearse and he had no chance to tell her. Then the grand finale came and she had felt exactly how he felt about her. Rather more literally then he had wanted before the first date. Which, of course, meant that Giles arrived to watch right then. He had been trying to subtly tell her they should get out of their amorous clinch when she had blushed and run. Suddenly he realised what happened. His reputation that he was gay. She saw him glance at Giles. She thought that he wanted Giles . . .

Angelus cursed and rushed after her intent on making Buffy understand. Giles watched them go and wondered what was going on with those two.

Buffy was hiding in the dressing room too shocked to be depressed when Angelus found her. "Buffy!"

"Y'know, it's okay," she started rambling, "I mean, I'm sure Giles would be flattered and all, even though he has a girlfriend and stuff. I know you're interested in-"

"You," he said.

"Guys and- did you just say you were interested in me?" she stared at him. He was smiling at her, and he looked like those people in movies who say good kitty to the big tiger that's about to eat them and she really had to focus on the issue at hand didn't she?

"I'm not gay Buffy," he put a hand over her mouth to forestall her response. "Please, let me finish." He took his hand away and waited until he could be sure she wasn't about to start again before he resumed. "I pretend to be gay because it's easier to let my parents hurl insults at the camera then it is to respond and because gay men are easier to ward off than hysterical teenage girls."

"But you said-"

He gently cupped her face in his hand, "I said I was interested in you. I have been since I first saw you skate. I . . ." he trailed off looking uncertain.

"You what?" she asked softly. His eyes slid away from hers. "Y'know, I kept from flirting with you 'cause it looks really stupid to flirt with someone who not only isn't interested but would never be interested." He looked up at her with wide eyes.

"I think . . . I . . ." He seemed unable to say whatever it was he wanted to say. Buffy found it so cute, thought he was just so sexy she couldn't help herself and kissed him. When they came up for air he asked, "Does this mean you're my girl?"

She giggled, "What do you think?" When he growled at her she softened and said, "Yes."


The gala seemed almost an anti-climax. They went out and did their tango, gaining loud catcalls from the audience. With last minute practices to make up for lost time neither saw the other for more than brief intervals in the days leading up to the final competition. The pairs were set to go directly after the men's long programs so Buffy sat and watched the competition in the backstage TV monitor.

Angelus went third. He vanished backstage after his routine and Darla found herself hunting for him through the whole competition. When it came up that he'd won, he reappeared followed by Buffy Summers. Darla's eyes narrowed as the two exchanged a kiss of celebration. He came over and hugged her, and Darla made herself smile at him and sent him to collect his medal.

In the stands, a contingent of Irishmen and women were on the verge of starting a riot. She ignored them and focussed her gaze on the Summers girl. She was glazed over as she stared at Darla's skater. The blonde coach felt her stirrings of suspicion turn into a more solid feeling of jealous anger. It stayed hidden as she congratulated

Angelus. It stayed that way until Finn and Summers' turn to skate came up.

Buffy stood at the edge of the ice at the World Championships. Behind her she could hear one of the Canadian couples cackling, "So?"




Angelus came up beside her and turned to the Canadian pair, "Would you two shut up?" He turned to her, "How are you doing?"

She smiled back, "Good."

Over the announcer's voice covering the scores of the last pair came the voices of the two Canadians imitating eastern European grannies again.

"How do you like your coffee?"

"I like my coffee crisp."

Buffy decided to ignore them in favour of Angelus who was cheerfully nibbling up and down her neck. The scores came to a close. A nice mix of numbers, not too high, not too low.

"You like your coffee crisp?"

Angelus stared at the two loonies who defiantly stared back and continued with their routine. "I like my Coffee Crisp!" He just shook his head and started to ask her again.

"I'm fine honey."

"You don't know from jokes, you never did," completed the Canadian. Which sent Angelus stomping over to give a piece of his mind to the two.

Buffy chuckled and stepped out to the sound of the Canadians ignoring Angelus and continuing, "So?"




Darla watched as the pair circled once, twice, three times around the rink, then Buffy pulled away from her partner to saunter over to Angelus.

Darla's eyes went wide, her face turning white as the two kissed. Her whole world narrowed to a wave of pure jealousy when she read the words on Angelus' lips that he spoke to the small blonde skater.

"I love you," he said to her.

A shriek erupted from Darla's throat and she launched herself across the floor. She picked up one of Angelus' skates from where they sat beside him. In slow motion she watched everyone turn around to see her as she brought the skate blade down onto the girl's neck. The force of the blow sent blood spattering everywhere, but Darla didn't notice as she continued to beat the younger woman with the skate.

"You bitch!" she shouted, punctuating her words with blows from her impromptu weapon. "How dare you take him away from me! He's mine! Do you hear me!? Mine!"

She never sensed the blow coming. Just felt the whole world turn black in between one blow and the next.

Angelus was horrified by the sight before him. Completely unaware of having quite possibly killed his coach he cradled Buffy's still, bloody form in his arms. "Buffy! Wake up!" he called to her. "Somebody get an ambulance! Please, don't die on me. Please love . . ." he trailed off, sobbing, unable to say anything more. When the paramedics came for her they had to struggle with him until he realised they were there to help.

As she was wheeled away he slipped into a daze, absently responding to the questions of both police and media with a skill borne of practice but with no real consciousness behind the responses. He was with the tiny skater in the ambulance on the way to the nearest hospital.


A week later Buffy was in a coma, surrounded by friends and family. Angelus refused to leave her side for even a minute. "Why couldn't she have gone for me?" he whispered to the still form on the bed.

"Angelus, please, you need to get some rest," Buffy's mother laid her hand on his shoulder.

He shook his head silently at her. She sighed, but left him alone again. After a minute he began to talk to Buffy. He'd been doing it on and off ever since the doctors had said she was in a coma. "Did I ever tell you about how the gay thing got started? My parents are really Catholic and they decided that when I started to take figure skating that it was a sign I was gay. Y'know, because so many male dancers and skaters are? So they started telling everyone that.

"They wanted me to be a university professor. I got my degrees to make them happy. Not like you. I can tell. Whenever you talk about university I can see how much you like it." He smiled at her sadly. "I hated every minute because I was doing what my parents wanted. I changed my name because I knew it would make them disown me."

His voice was hoarse with the tears he refused to shed. Still he continued, "I wanted to shock them. I did. They told everyone that I was gay and on drugs and anything else they could think of." He picked up her hand and held it between his own. Lacing the fingers of one hand with hers, he clasped it close to him as a physical connection to her. Hoping she could feel it. "It still hurts though. I mean, they're my parents and they hate everything I do and stand for."

"Well then I'll just have to beat 'em up until they change their minds." Buffy smiled into his astonished face which rapidly transmuted to joy.

"Buffy!" he leaned forward about to pull her into a hug, when he remembered the bruising and stitches. He settled for running his hands through her hair, along her face, and back up again. "I was so scared. I'm sorry about Darla. If I'd just-"

"Shush. It wasn't your fault," she told him sternly. "Is my Mom here?"

He grinned, "And Willow, and Xander, and his fiancee Anya who is the strangest woman I have ever met in my life, and Giles and-" She was laughing at him. Their eyes caught and he leaned forward and kissed her. "I love you."

"I love you too." Then she bit her lip a little hesitantly.

"What?" he asked, alarmed by her expression, "What is it?"

"Did the doctor say if I was-"

He reassured her immediately, "You'll be fine. You'll be able to skate and everything."

"Will you be my partner? Skating-wise I mean? 'Cause we're already dating. At least I think we're dating. We are dating right? What's so funny?" she demanded. He was laughing. She was just so adorable, and beautiful, and his.

"I don't plan on ever leaving you for an instant. I will partner you, date you, and will you marry me?" That last bit wasn't supposed to come out yet.

She seemed equally surprised. "We've only known each other for three weeks." He was going to try to back out and started to stammer apologies and say that he had no notion of where the proposal came from. "Yes I'll marry you."

A cheer from the crowd gathered in the hall brought them out of the world in which only the two of them existed. Joyce stepped out of the crowd and hugged Angelus and her daughter. Then she said, "You do realise that I now have to act like a mother-in-law?" That remark ended the moment entirely and Buffy was joyfully welcomed back by her family and friends.


A (very brief) Epilogue

A year later Buffy stood again at the edge of a rink, but this time she felt no apprehension. She let the mention of the pair before her wash over her. Then it was their turn. The announcer's voice came on over the PA, "Representing Ireland, Buffy and Liam MacKenzie! Gold Medalists!"

She took her husband's hand and the crossed the ice to the podium, the cheers of the crowd ringing in their ears.

The End