"I liked your planes better," Spike says.
Angel did too. It's a very different environment here. All these other passengers around them, and the pilots who don't have any sort of training in magic to save them in the event of, for example, the wings falling off spontaneously or the engines shutting down mid-flight.
And what happens if they get delayed? Sure, the flight's only supposed to take a little over three hours, and they only left an hour after sunset, but maybe the sun set more slowly than they'd realised and they'll end up combusting while they fly over France.
And they don't have access to the alcohol because they aren't in first class.
"Yeah," says Angel. "Those were better."
"Really were," says Spike.
The old woman in the window seat looks up from her rosary to glare suspiciously at Spike once more, like she hasn't noticed that the vampire beside her has practically pressed himself against Angel in his attempts to put as much distance between them as possible.
It's the hair and the leather. Angel knows it's Spike's thing, but it's not really a very champion sort of look.
Or maybe it's because Spike moved the armrest between them so he can lean ever farther away from the holy object. She's probably not the sort to be accept two men leaning.
Not that he and Spike do that anymore.
Angel stops fiddling with his seatbelt long enough for the flight attendant to walk by without frowning at him. He worries when it's loose, but when he tightens it he starts thinking about being tied up in the seat at the exact moment he could jump out mid-tailspin and save his own life.
Spike shifts his shoulders, bumps into Angel, and shifts again so they aren't touching as much. He scowls at the chair in front of him, even though he'd fit just fine in his seat if he didn't have to sit on the side of it.
Angel picks at his seatbelt, accidentally undoes it again, and snaps it back closed quickly.
"Scotland?" Spike says again suddenly, pretty much out of the blue but he's been saying it out of the blue for the last day and a half (since they intimidated the info on the real Buffy's whereabouts out of Andrew) and there's not much blue left for him to come out of.
He also has a point.
Scotland's probably the last place on Earth they'd have thought of to search for Buffy. Angel might have even checked some places not on Earth first.
It doesn't have enough sun to appeal to his image of Buffy, but it has too much sun to be the sort of opposite-to-the-expect, secret underground (not literally, though, because there was apparently yet another Buffy who was literally underground) hideaway that undercover mental image Buffy would use.
Maybe he should have spoken to the real Buffy more frequently these last few years. He feels like he's barely got a grasp on her these days. Riley, Spike, and now Scotland. He used to know her, didn't he?
But at least he'd been right about her being in Europe. And at least Spike is just as surprised by her current location as Angel is, as he's been announcing repeatedly.
"Maybe we should take her someplace," Spike says. "Once we're reunited and all. Take her away to somewhere nice. She'll like that, don't you think?"
"Yeah," Angel says. "That would be nice." It is a good plan. He was more ready to settle down in Rome than he is in Scotland. And, unless she's gotten a lot of mileage out of these past few months, Buffy hasn't travelled much. It would be fun, him and Spike introducing her to all sorts of new places they'd visited back in the day.
And this time hopefully without killing anybody.
Spike leans down, putting himself back dangerously near the rosary, to drag out the bag he'd manage to cram under the seat in front of him earlier. He opens it and takes out the one of the bags of cookies from the top.
Angel would tell him to leave them alone, since they're for Buffy, but the bag is probably about to burst open and the only things in there that aren't Ziplock bags of cookies are a single extra T-shirt and Spike's video game thing, which is all he owns.
They can give the rest of them to Buffy, along with everything else they tried and failed to send her earlier, once they're reunited with the love of their lives.
Xander meets them near the baggage claim with a hand-written sign on a regular piece of printer paper that reads "Undead Duo."
He could barely look less like the high schooler Angel knew six years ago. He's seen Xander a few times since then, they'd fought some Native American spirits together, buried Buffy, and he'd seen him briefly after Sunnydale collapsed when he and Dawn and Buffy were running around taking care of what he knows now were the newly-called Slayers. But none of those times had given Angel the impression that what Xander was becoming was this.
He looks… powerful, actually. In a human way, but somehow still powerful. He's bigger, with what might be actual muscles, and his sweater doesn't look like a clown's hand-me-downs. The eye patch is working for him (Angel had forgotten about that, he hadn't asked and had kind of assumed it was just a temporary thing). Xander finally looks like someone who actually has been running into vampire lairs to save people since he was sixteen. He looks like someone who actually belongs serving at Buffy's side. He looks like a soldier.
It's strange how people change like that.
"Well, well," Spike drawls. He slinks toward Xander predatorily. "Looks like the whole army thing took after all."
"Shut up, Spike," Xander says, completely unthreatened. He crumples the paper and tosses it at a nearby trashcan. "Are you guys evil?"
"I'm not evil," Angel tells him. He tries not to let his voice sound upset, but, honestly, why are the Scoobies always thinking he's gone evil? He's rarely evil, and it was only those two times. And that one other time with Faith, but he was faking that one. Like he was faking it the last few months. It's all fake. They don't need to get so judgemental.
Xander looks to Spike. "Is he evil?" Why is he looking to Spike? He trusts Spike more? Spike? When did this happen? How did this happen?
"Nah," says Spike, "not right now." Like Angel just goes evil all the time. Seriously, what is with everyone?
"We live with almost four hundred Slayers," says Xander, "so if you start to feel any evil coming on or think about some snacking, just, you know, don't." He grins.
"I'm not evil," Angel says.
"Fine. Grab whatever needs grabbing and we can get going." He gestures toward the carousel in the background. The old women who'd been sitting next to Spike is hovering as close as she can to where the bags drop without actually crawling onto the conveyer belt.
"We just have the one bag," Angel says. "Andrew said he'd send our things to your place."
"After we got your address out of him," Spike adds. "You really wanted Andrew to be the one hiding all the group secrets? Not your best move, Lieutenant."
Xander ignores him. "Sending your things here? As in all your things? As in staying here?"
"We're here for Buffy," says Angel. "We're done waiting around, or leaving."
"I didn't leave," Spike puts in.
"We're ready to stick things out. Together."
"Right," says Xander slowly, like he's not entirely convinced. "Sure." He waves his hand for them to follow him to the door. "Come on."
Angel hangs back a few paces so he can ask Spike in a voice too low for a human to hear, "Is his eye actually gone?"
Spike barely glances at him as he walks by to follow Xander but he nods his head and makes a gesture with his hand like he's forgotten exactly how to make a thumbs-up. "Yeah," he says, just as low. "Priest."
"Okay," Xander says as his redhead Slayer-turned-driver drives them through the gates of a castle. Andrew hadn't mentioned that they are living in a castle. Buffy is living in a castle. "Here's the plan." He twists around in the passenger's seat to look at Angel and Spike, crammed together once again in the backseat. "I'll go talk to Buffy, let her know you're here—"
"She doesn't know?" Spike asks.
"You knew we were coming," says Angel, "why didn't you tell her?"
"Well, see, the two of you have this habit of abandoning her—"
"It was his fault," Spike interrupts, pointing at Angel.
Angel smacks his hand away. How was he supposed to know that Spike was going to burn to death and then become a ghost and then chicken out at the thought of returning? That's all on Spike. Really.
"I didn't 'abandon' her…" Angel starts, but no one is paying attention to him.
The Slayer at the wheel parks them in a barn that seems to be serving as a garage now. She shuts off the engine but neither she nor Xander gets out of the car.
"I didn't tell Buffy because I didn't want to get her hopes up. But, hey, if you two had decided not to show up today after all, believe me when I tell you how much I would have told her what you did. So now you both get to sit here and wait while I tell her what's going on and then she can decide what she wants to do with you. And I don't think I have to tell you how dead you'll be if you bail this time."
"You're at a castle of Slayers," says the girl. "Two vampires won't make it to the gate."
Xander turns his head enough that she's not completely on his blind side. "Thank you, Leah." He grins at her then looks back at Spike and Angel. He smacks the headrest of his seat with his palm. "Okee-dokee. You guys have fun waiting." And with that he climbs out of the car, shuts the door, and heads out of the barn.
Leah turns to face them, gives them a bright and somehow terrifying smile, then turns to follow Xander. As she walks away, Angel can see that her hair is much longer and much more impractical than he'd realised when she was driving.
Spike waits quietly until the door closes behind Leah, then he almost tears the car door off when he violently throws it open to escape. Angel scrambles out after him and begins to pace while Spike leans against the side to the car and digs through his pockets.
"I don't know what he's going to say. It can't be good, though, whatever it is. You know that guy's always had it in for me. Do you know what he's going to say?"
Spike lifts his head just enough to eye him as he thumps a cigarette loose from the package. "Well, it isn't like he's overly fond of me either, so at least don't worry that he's making anything easier on yours truly." He sticks his cigarette between his lips and holds out the pack to Angel in offering.
Angel starts to lift his hand to accept but then drops it so he doesn't interrupt his pacing. He's not in the right place for smoking. It's never really worked to calm him before and right now Xander could be in there with their girl, telling her all kinds of skewed things. He could be making them out to be evil, or completely ignoring the whole 'bringing them down from the inside' part of his Wolfram and Hart plan. Buffy might even believe him.
They haven't even spoken to Buffy in almost a year. Spike hasn't seen her since he died and Angel only saw her a few days after that. People change, maybe she thinks they've changed for the worse.
He can't remember the last time he went this long without seeing her, actually. Maybe they haven't ever spent this much time apart since they first met, when she kicked him in the back and he gave her a necklace.
Sure, they lived apart and haven't spoken much, and there'd been fights between them, but their lives did keep crossing. She came down to chase Faith and he came to be at her side when her mother died. They met in the middle when Willow brought her back and she'd come to see him after everything, to tell him that she'd won and what she'd lost.
"She'll be different," says Spike.
God, he really hates it when he does that. Just steals his thoughts. Reads him like he's out there to be read or something. Stupid perceptive Spike.
"Of course she will be."
"Things have changed for her. She's apart from most of the Scoobies, moved across the world."
"She's in charge of a lot more people now and she lives in a castle."
Angel paces some more.
Spike finishes his cigarette, grinds it out under his boot, and prepares to light a second one.
"You know, that might not even be Buffy he's taking so long to talk to." Okay, it's only been a few minutes but still.
Spike looks away from the flame of his lighter, cigarette still unlit. "Christ, you think so?"
"I don't think we should put it past them. Andrew sending us off on a wild chase. To Scotland! You might have been onto something. Why would Buffy be in Scotland?"
Spike flicks his lighter shut and pulls his unlit cigarette from his mouth to point it at Angel. "See, that's what I've been trying to say! And Andrew could do it. He used to be evil, you know."
"Andrew was evil?"
"Yeah, killed a man and everything."
"Wow, that's… he actually managed to kill someone?"
"Huh. I didn't think he had that in him." He tries not to sound at all impressed. Because he isn't. There's a man dead because of this but… still… Andrew was able to kill someone.
"Right? It's surprising, isn't it? Doesn't look like he'd have the strength or the stomach for it."
"Yeah." Angel pauses his pacing to put his hands on his hips. "I guess you can't tell with those things." He frowns. "You don't think Xander…?"
"No," says Spike. He's finally gotten his cigarette lit and the word is accompanied with a puff of smoke. "I mean, he might be lying and planning to trap us in here and kill us, but I don't think he's gone evil."
Angel paces for another minute. Even if Xander spins their story and positively as he can, he doesn't know the entire situation. There will be questions. And hopefully Giles isn't here because Angel's still beyond angry with him and if he somehow manages to not bury his fist in the other man's face, he's pretty sure Spike will fill in for him.
He finally comes to lean against the car beside Spike. "I don't know what we're going to say to her. We should have practised this. Maybe made some notes of some ideas or something." And Andrew and that other Slayer still have all the poems Spike wrote too.
At least they can offer her some cookies.
"Yeah," says Spike, "not entirely sure how well I'll do leading with 'sorry I'm not as dead as you thought.'"
"Maybe she'll just be happy and relieved," Angel suggests. "That would work for us. Maybe it'll make her look over the darkness and not calling."
Spike nods. "And we did just barely live through a big battle just a few weeks ago."
"Right," says Angel. "More relief."
"Right." Spike exhales a lungful of smoke. "And she loves us. She'll be happy."
Angel nods again and for a minute watches his own hands as he fiddles with his watch. Idleness. Not nervousness. Definitely just idleness.
They've been spending all this time trying to fight The Immortal and they never even had to. He hasn't even been a threat this whole time. Now all they're up against is Buffy and her feelings.
Not that that will be necessarily easier.
"You, um…" Angel begins and then trails off, not completely sure he wants to give his thought the sort of life that comes with articulating it.
"Hm?" asks Spike.
Angel hesitates a moment more, then asks, "You think Xander would have told us if there was another guy, right? Some other guy. He would have said something. Or that Slayer with all the hair would have, right?"
Spike takes a moment to think on it, but even by the time Angel's finished talking, his face has already taken on a sort of resigned sadness. "No," he says finally. "No, I don't think he'd have said anything."
"Dammit." Angel growls and momentarily considers destroying something. Maybe one of the cars. But it's probably not really Xander's car anyway and it's not like he said Buffy wasn't dating some new guy either, or like he or Spike had even asked.
Angel slumps back against the car.
Spike drops his cigarette down next to the first one and pulls the pack back out for his third. "Guess we'll see," he says.
"I guess so."
It's six cigarettes and a brief cookie break later before the door opens. Angel's worn down the soles of his shoes from pacing the length of the garage over and over, or at least he's pretty sure he has and he doesn't want to look and confirm it because these shoes weren't exactly cheap.
The sun is rising behind her and it casts a halo around the gold mess of her hair. Her clothes are rumpled and there's a little smear of dirt on her left cheek. Without turning away from facing them, she shuts the door behind herself and walks forward.
"Hey," she says. "It's the really real me this time."
Angel knows it's true. He can see it in the way she moves and in her eyes. Her smile is tired but somehow still bright and brilliant and happy to see them. He can smell it in the air around her, something the glamour the Roman Slayer is using lacked. The dirt and the sweat and the effort that make Buffy infinitely more than just some party girl.
It looks like she's walking slowly but she reaches them in half the time it should take her to cross the barn and suddenly she's standing in front of them.
She takes a moment to look at Angel, to just stand there and stare him in the eyes. Basking, like she's said last time. Then she reaches out, her fingers brushing over where his hands are joined together, and she slips her own hand in until they're clasped palm to palm, his fingers tight over her knuckles.
"Buffy, I don't know what you heard…"
"I heard that you lost a lot of friends this last year," she says. Her eyes don't so much as flicker away from his. Her smile stays strong. "And you got in a big fight and then disappeared."
"Right." He breaks the eye contact instead. He looks away, just a little, and by what could easily be chance his eyes momentarily pass over Spike, standing frozen at his side, staring at Buffy with a look that somehow borders between blankness and worship. "Well, we're alive."
Buffy squeezes his hand and tugs him nearer so that he leans over. She loops her other arm around his shoulder and hugs him tightly. "I'm really glad," she says into his cheek. She holds him there and he frees one of his hands so that he can draw it around her waist and return her embrace.
She releases him after a while, though her fingers linger still on his hand. She turns to Spike.
Spike looks at her like he's forgotten everything else in the world, maybe most importantly the cigarette burning between his fingers. He stares at her, lips pulling toward the most small and tentative smile Angel's ever seen.
Buffy looks right back at him like she's never seen anything more amazing in her entire life. Like her prayers have been answered and God has given her the greatest gift she could ask for and he realises that, yes, she really does love Spike. Really, truly, absolutely loves him.
And Angel can't help but wonder if she looked at him like that when he first came back, even when he was vicious and feral and out of his mind? Or if she stared into his eyes the same way when Acathla gaped behind him.
"You're back," Buffy says, the awe in her voice unmistakeable.
"Buffy…" It's the only word Spike seems capable of at the moment, which kind of fits in line with Angel's previous idea on his thoughts.
Spike lifts his hand and his cigarette drops free. He doesn't seem to even notice, just reaches out until he can touch Buffy's shoulder gently, as if he's testing for something. To see if she'll accept his touch or disappear at it, Angel doesn't know.
Without looking away from Spike, Buffy sticks out her boot and stubs out the cigarette under her toe. She lifts her own hand and rests it against Spike's face, her palm lying flat against his cheek and her thumb moving slowly over the sharp shape of the bone. "I missed you so much," she says.
Angel should have called Buffy. Right back at the beginning of everything, he should have called her. He should have picked up the phone as soon as Spike swirled into screaming existence in the middle of his office. He spent all that time thinking he had to keep them apart but it hadn't worked, not in the end, and now they're both here with her between them, one of her hands in Angel's and the other still stroking Spike's cheek. It took them this long to figure out how to win back their girl when all it was was what they'd done a century ago.
Behind Buffy, the door she'd entered from creaks open and another girl steps inside. "Buffy?" she calls.
Buffy's hand drops from Spike's face to his hand when she turns her head around. "Hey! Come here."
"Yes, ma'am," the girl says. Ma'am. They're calling her ma'am. Things really are different for Buffy now. "Xander said you were in here." She heads toward them.
The girl is small, about Buffy's size, and Japanese. Judging by her damp hair and overly cute pyjamas, she looks like she's just gotten out of the shower.
She also undeniably radiates Slayerness.
Buffy squeezes Angel's hand and he looks away but he thinks she probably squeezes Spike's too. She lets them go and takes a step back when the girl arrives at her side.
"Satsu, this is Spike and Angel," Buffy says, pointing at each of them as she says their names.
Satsu lifts her hand and gives a little wave. "Hey."
Buffy reaches her arm out and loops it around Satsu's waist like they're close friends. Which is good. She's not as isolated out here as they'd thought. And she should have more friends out here, especially now that she's separated from most of the other Scoobies.
"Guys, this is Satsu," says Buffy, "my girlfriend."