Disclaimer: SMG is the owner of the quote, "Buffy loves Spike. She's just not *in* love with him." which I used in the fic. And I'm pretty sure we all know who these characters really belong to at this point.

Spoilers: Major spoilers for 'Chosen' and 'Home' as well as that possible "I'm drowning in footwear!" rumor.

Synopsis: "He's alive." B/A, B/S, C/A and shades (*eg*) of A/S, W/L and possible B/W friendship

Dedication: To all my buds who have showed up on fanfiction.net over the years. Laney "TheHotness" for being my writing buddy for about three years now and for wonderful Holes fanfic. Quimby "Cake Eater" for being obsessive and for writing a Mighty Ducks x-over fanfiction with me. Lindsey "Doodle" for writing a Sailor Moon x-over with me and for her Alias obsession. Laura "Salix Ardens" for understanding Buffy, for ever loving W/T, and for hating Spuke with me. *Mushy friendship moment*

Dedication 2: To SMG and DB for saying all nice things about B/A recently and for having such great chemistry. And to Joss. He's a bastard, but he kind of made me hope again. Damn you, Joss! And, possibly, thank you.

Anti-Dedication: Jane Espenson. Only put Angel in the end of 'End of Days' because 'Joss made her.' Shut up, you Spuffy loving Spike worshipper! And, boo hoo, I'm so sad Joss didn't ask you to work on Ats next season. Have fun on Gilmore Girls next year and don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

A/N: So Tim Meaner's 'Home' kind of made me love Angel again. Anyway. This is my way of dealing with Spuffy, B/A, and Angel's heart wrenching sacrifice. I *swear* if Angel doesn't get his reward in the end…

She was free.

It had taken her a while to realize it. To understand that she could go where she wanted, live where she wanted, and do what she wanted. She still fought. But on her own terms. She was done taking orders, done saving the world by destroying those she loved most.

The realization had come when she had finally looked at herself in the mirror. Not a quick glance over to make sure she looked okay, but a look at herself. A look into her own soul, if you will. She and Dawnie had been in Cleveland, training some of the new slayers on hellmouth fighting. She had looked into the mirror and realized… she looked the same. She still looked like the girl that had been saddled with the responsibility of the human population.

She had freedom and it meant that she could do what she wanted, where she wanted, and when she wanted. And she still felt like the one and only slayer.

And that thought, that stupid thought that she always had, the one that was too far in the future to actually be *real* popped up.

Cookie. Dough.

She was startled to realize that the future she always knew she would one day have was happening. And she hadn't fully grasped the possibilities. Until that moment—when she looked into her very own soul.

She stood outside the office of Wolfram & Hart. She clutched a small duffel bag that held everything that was dear to her. She hadn't talked to him since she had told him to prepare a second front, since she had watched Spike sacrifice himself for the world. It didn't matter. He'd understand. And he'd know she had survived the battle.

When you're around I can feel it. Inside. And it throws me.

It had come to her when she had looked into the mirror. She wasn't waiting for him. He wasn't going to sweep in, pluck her on his noble stead, and make her happy for the rest of her life.

*He* was waiting for *her*.

She had always thought he'd come get her when he was ready, when he realized leaving her was the biggest mistake he ever made. But it wasn't Angel who needed to grow up.

I'm not getting any older.

So she climbed the steps to Wolfram & Hart and gasped in surprise upon seeing the meticulous white walls, the marble floor. Everything was fresh and gleaming. And huge. Her eyes widened as she took it in, it seemed endless. She wondered if even Angel knew everything that went on in the building.

Men and women dressed in perfectly pressed suites hurried all around her. Each carried identical shinning briefcases.

"Good morning, Ms. Summers," they greeted, as they hurried past. "Have a good day, Ms. Summers. Let us know if we can be of assistance, Ms. Summers."

Buffy wished that she was till innocent enough to be impressed by the greetings. The polite voice barely registered, however, as her eyes masterfully searched for… Angel… the future…

She paused on the figure of a man rushing towards her. Young, black, immaculately clothed. Yet he did not carry a briefcase. Instinctively she paused, summing him up. The other workers parted before him and he carried himself with a cool, albeit cocky, swagger.

"Can I help you?" he asked in a light tone. It didn't fool her. His posture screamed that he was ready for anything. She was momentarily impressed he'd been able to place her as an outsider so quickly. *That* was talent.

"I heard a rumor that Angel was in charge of this joint. We have some unfinished business."

"Unfinished business…?"

Buffy shrugged. "Cookie dough… you know, the usual."

His eyes narrowed in silent suspicion. She didn't care, she was already turning. Her heart leaped with the knowledge that she could still feel him. Even after all their time apart, she still knew.

"Gunn," he said in his soft, commanding tone. "It's okay."

"Sure, it's not like I'm your chief of security or nothin'."

Gunn's reply was lost on her. She was too focused on Angel. Her eyes travelled up his chest to fasten on his eyes. She looked at him silently, a small smile blooming across her lips. She remembered for a second how hard things had always been between them. But it had also been her easiest relationship. She had never been forced to question her love for him, or question the fact that she'd never love any one more.

I killed Angel. Do you even remember that? I would have given up anything to be—I loved him more than I will love anything in this life. And I stuck a sword through his heart because I had to.

She had loved again. Maybe not with Riley, but Spike she'd loved. Even if it hadn't been what he wanted.

"Hi," she whispered weakly.

His eyes bored into her, a million questions in them. "Buffy." Her name was final, not the breathy question she had grown so used to.

He hadn't gotten older, but he'd changed. He was more confident. Sure. He knew why she was there.

"Wow, *the* Buffy?" Gunn asked, slight awe creeping into his voice. "I think I'll just be going now…"

"Uh huh," she said absently, watching as Angel turned around. She followed him close behind as he wove through the corridors of Wolfram & Hart.

"If I got lost in here…" she began, a confused expression on her face as she jogged to catch up with him.

"I'd find you," Angel assured her, holding an elevator door open.

She smiled to herself, not missing the underlying meaning. She surveyed him curiously as soon as they were alone.

"You've changed," she noted.

"I've been through a lot," he answered shortly.

She sighed. A lot that she didn't know about. Silently she trailed him from the elevator to what she assumed was his office.

She gasped. "Angel…" she trailed off, staring at him with wide eyes. "You're beautiful in direct sunlight."

"So are you."

He gets to be there when I can't. He gets to see you in sunlight.

"Windows part of the new 'Boss of the Corporation' deal?"

He nodded. "It's nice. Doesn't make me any less suspicious of their intentions. But it's nice."

She touched his hand lightly. "It must be."

"It is…" he paused. "It makes a lot of it harder, though."

She didn't have to ask what "it" was. His life. Being a vampire and living among humans. Being the same and being irreparably different.

"Anyway," he shook his head, and gave her the once over. He winced. "Are you done baking?"

God, what a thing to ask a person. No wonder he'd found the cookie dough thing so hard to do the first time around. She laughed softly. "It sounds stupid. I just sort of woke up one day and knew I was ready." And there really was no need to add in the whole 'looking into the mirror of her soul' thing.

He looked pensive. "Does this mean I can stop using the cookie dough metaphor?"

She grinned, loving the way a smile felt on her face. "I'm sort of hoping that you can use some extra help in LA. I know I'm not exactly the one and only slayer anymore but…"

He frowned, "Did I miss that memo?"

That's right. She blushed, he didn't know about all the potentials getting their slayerhood thing. Sighing, she launched into the story. "… and pesto! All potentials gained super slayer powers."

Angel listened with rapt attention… and then asked the question she'd been dying to circumvent. "What about the medallion?"

"That is a good question," she muttered. "One I think it'd be much better to must skip over."

"Buffy."

"I'm so not getting out of this one, huh?"

"It was Spike, wasn't it?"

"Give the man a million dollars," Buffy snarked. "His powers of reasoning are actually improving with age."

Angel glowered at her. "Are you trying to make this reunion as painful as possible?"

She sighed, wondering how much to tell him. "He saved us," she finally whispered. "The medallion… it sucked the hell right out of the Hellmouth. And it took Spike with it."

"You loved him." It was a statement, not a question, but his eyes searched her face, willing her to deny it.

Buffy looked down, guilty but refusing to let it take her over. "Haven't we already had this conversation?"

His eyes clouded over and he walked to the window, peering at anything but her face. "I never expected you to wait for me." That was a blatant lie—they both knew it. "But Spike?"

"It isn't like you think. He did it for himself, when he put on the medallion. He didn't do it for me, didn't do it out of an attempt to win me over. He did it to redeem himself. And that… that means something." She shifted uncomfortably. "He understood me, better than I understood myself, better than anybody." Angel tensed, but he didn't say anything. "But I didn't love him… at least not the way he needed. I thought I could have, though. I almost wanted to."

"What happened?"

"You showed up," she said honestly. "And I knew… I loved Spike, but I wasn't *in* love with Spike."

Buffy blinked back tears. "It doesn't matter. He's dead. He died in the Hellmouth and he isn't coming back."

"Good to know that I warrant second best," Angel said, his voice betraying the pain her words were causing him.

"Angel…" she trailed off, wishing that he'd look at her. "You know that isn't true. You're still the only thing in my freaky world that makes sense to me. And that's never gonna change. You're the only person I've ever thought about having a future with—the only thing I've seen when I looked that far ahead. You *know* it."

Angel, when I look into the future… all I see is you. All I want is you.

He turned. "Maybe. It's been a long time since we tried this."

She laughed bitterly. "You're telling me."

"We'll take it slow. We still have the curse to worry about. And a lot has happened since we've been together."

"Yeah. I died and came back and everything," she quipped, regretting the words the second they left her mouth.

"And I wasn't there for you," he finished tiredly.

Buffy grinned. "Spike was," she teased gently.

Angel grimaced. "Buffy *please.*"

"It wasn't my best time," she admitted. "I'm glad that you weren't around for it."

He looked at her tenderly. "So," he began in a hoarse voice, "if I ask if you're glad to see me, will I get as good an answer?"

"That depends."

"On what?"

"On what you're planning on doing about it." She tipped her head back, accepting his kiss. She melted again him, struck by how nothing ever felt so right as when she was in Angel's arms.

He pulled away, looking deep into her eyes. "Buffy…"

He'd always had the ability to say her name in a way that made her knees weak. "Angel," she whispered, thinking how perfect the name felt across her lips.

He pushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "Buffy, you're really here. Buffy…"

They kissed again, deeper. A hundred promises sealed between them. She was finished baking and her sometimes future was happening.

With Angel. Because he was the only one she'd ever even considered having it with. No matter how far away it had always seemed.

Someone screamed.

With a muffled moan, she pulled away. Feeling slightly dizzy, she focused on the figure of a thin girl. She stood in the doorway, eyes wide with fear.

"Oh my… my goodness. I'm sorry, I didn't know," she let out a high laugh. "Obviously. Or I wouldn't have come barging in here. I'll just leave, you'll never even know I was here."

"Fred," Angel cut in gently. "What's up?"

Buffy touched her mouth with the back of her hand, wishing that she was still kissing Angel. Something was wrong.

"Oh, it's nothing. Nothing at all," she turned to Buffy. "I'm just not used to Angel kissing strange girls." Something about her words made her pause. With slitted eyes he looked accusingly back to Angel. "Angel!" she began scandalously. "With Cordelia still in her coma!"

Buffy felt her breath catch. "Cordelia?"

"That's right!" Fred cried angrily. "Cordelia! In a coma! How could you, Angel?" Suddenly, she started backing away, "You're not evil, are you?"

Buffy turned to Angel. "Cordelia? You and… Cordelia?" her voice sounded muted and far away, and she backed against a wall to keep from (vomiting, crying, screaming). "I need to sit down."

"It's not what you think…" he started uncertainly.

"Then what is it???" Fred and Buffy cried simultaneously.

"Fred," he reached out a hand. "It's me, I'm not evil, I swear. Cordelia isn't coming back. Besides…"

"Besides what?" Buffy bit out angrily.

"Buffy…"

"Buffy?" Fred asked, eyes widening. "Buffy? Oh." Then, more slowly, "Oooohhhhh."

"Besides what, Angel?" Buffy demanded between clenched teeth.

"What, now only you're allowed to move on? It's okay that you love Spike but I'm not allowed to find someone else?"

"No… yes… no!" she cried.

"Spike?" Fred piped, in a small voice. They both ignored her.

"So which is it?" Angel said, irritated.

"I don't know!" she yelled. "Excuse me if this is somewhat of a *shock*!"

"Um," Fred tried timidly. "Did you say Spike?"

Angel finally focused on her. "What?"

"Gunn apprehended someone who walked in, yelling at the top of his lungs. He said his name was Spike," she paused. "I think he was looking for Buffy."

Buffy swallowed. "Where is he?"

"Here, pet," a familiar voice drawled from the doorway.

They all turned to the doorway, where they could see Gunn holding firmly on to Spike. Spike was grinning as if it was the happiest day of his life. Gunn was looking at him distastefully.

Angel gasped. "He's alive."

Buffy felt a lump gather in her throat. "Thank you Mr. States the Obvious."

"No, I mean, he's *alive*."

TBC