AUTHOR: BuffyX

DISCLAIMER: I am poor. I mean, dirt poor. I literally am broke. Joss, all I could give you is pocket change and lint. So please, don't sue.

SUMMARY: Buffy and Spike, reunite. Hey, that rhymes!

SPOILERS: Up through Chosen and Home. The rest is my own speculation.

FEEDBACK: I am not below grovelling for feedback. Email me at buffyxbvsb@hotmail.com if you want to give me suggestions, compliments, or tell me how much I suck.

There are some things, Spike thinks, that only Angel can understand.

He'd never admit this to anyone but himself, of course. But it is true. Of course, it shouldn't be that unexpected; he spent twenty years with Angelus—fighting both beside and against him, fists, fangs and fucking. They know each other in ways that no one else ever could. They had loved the same woman. Had both lost her for the same reason: circumstance. They were tied together by history and blood. Like family.

And then, of course, there is the fact that they've both come back from the dead. Twice. Brought back by a higher power, both dropping naked out of the sky. Well, at least Angel got the privacy of the abandoned mansion rather than the middle of a hotel full of onlooking bystanders. Hmph. The Powers That Be couldn't even give him that much respect or decency. How humiliating. Yeah, they have a lot in common.

Including hair gel.

Of course, Spike doesn't use nearly as much as Angel does. But after he started stealing it from him, he realized quickly that the Poofter had good taste when it came to name brands. Expensive, this stuff was, but well worth the money. All he needs is a dime-sized glop to tame down his tousled curls. Still, as he now squints his eyes and frowns at the near-empty bottle, he knows that there isn't enough left. Stupid hair.

Angel'll understand, at least. Maybe he has some extra hair gel somewhere else, or he can run off to the store for him or something. There's no way he's going out to the market; hell, he doesn't even know where the market is. Yeah, he can convince Angel to do it, he decides as he heads out to the hall.

"Angel?" he calls out, looking both ways. "Peaches, you around?"

The upstairs level of the Hyperion, however, appears to be pretty much empty, except for a couple stacks of boxes stashed outside the doorways of the rooms. Figures. The one damn time he actually needs something, and no one's even around. Sighing, Spike heads for the staircase. Maybe someone's lurking about down there. He's standing at the top of the stairs when he sees it.

It's Buffy.

The sight of her takes his breath away, metaphorically speaking, and the empty bottle in his hand clatters to the floor carelessly. She stands at the bottom of the staircase, a long figure in the empty lobby, two bags in hand. Her long yellow hair frames her face like a bright halo and cascades to her shoulder in soft waves. It's grown longer since he's last seen her, bleached blonde with natural golden highlights by the sun. She's as beautiful as ever, gazing up at him, watching his slow descent with wide green eyes full of wonder and awe as he practically stumbles his way downwards.

Once he's at the bottom, he stands perfectly still, staring at her in amazement. Drinking in her presence, and she seems to be doing the same. For a long time he can't seem to quarry speech, but finally he realizes she is waiting for him to talk, so he tries.

"Buffy?" Just her name, and it's more of a question than anything, because he still can't believe his eyes. He's been fucked up enough in his lifetime to know that sometimes his mind will see things that aren't really there, that appearances can be deceiving, that she could even not be real at all, just some kind of mirage, or a dream of some sort—

"It's me." A small smile reaches Buffy's lips, and Spike knows. It's her. It's really, really her. "So you're really here. I mean, Angel told me that you were—that you were back, but I didn't—I guess part of me didn't really believe it until I saw—"

Buffy starts to rush forward in his direction, dropping her luggage to the ground. But as soon as she moves, she notices him take a step back, wary. She stops in her tracks, and a long, awkward pause ensues, both of them just taking each other in. Neither of them have even the slightest idea of what to say now that they're actually face to face.

"Your hair," she blurts out clumsily. "It's…different."

Spike instinctively lifts a hand to pat down his disheveled mop of curls. "Yeah, haven't really taken the time yet to dye it." He blinks and tilts his head slightly, eyeing the boquet of flowers dangling in one of her hands. "What are those for?"

"Oh!" Buffy's eyes dart quickly down to the rumpled boquet she's clutching. "These are for you. From Dawn. There's a note, too, I think." She slowly comes forward, stops a few feet away and holds them outward, handing them to him. For a brief second there is contact, hands touching, skin brushing, eyes locking. They stay that way, gazing into each other's eyes intently. She feels her breath hitch in her throat, and times seems to freeze, the world just falling away.

"Buffy? Is that you?"

Angel's voice instantly shatters the moment, and Spike jerks back, hastily looks away.

Buffy turns to face Angel, forcing a small smile. "Yup. In the flesh."

He smiles back, coming forward and enveloping her into a warm hug. She's a little surprised at the gesture, but puts her arms back around him in return. It feels nice to have him holding her again, and she closes her eyes, pressing her face against his crinkly coat and breathing him in. After a few moments, he pulls back and holds her out at arm's length.

"I didn't realize you would be coming this late," he says, eyes searching her face. "If I'd have known, I would've sent someone to pick you up from the airport. That's what I was planning on doing--"

"It's okay," she assures him with a smile. "I just took a cab. I wanted to get here as soon as I could."

"I'm glad you're here." Angel squeezes one bowed shoulder tenderly, and Buffy gazes up at him, her smile widening.

"Me too," she tells him sincerely. She turns, bends down and picks up both of her suitcases. "So, where should I put this? Just point me where to go and I'm there."

"There's a place upstairs—" Angel starts, but Spike cuts him off.

"You invited her to stay?" He breaks his silence, staring over at his grandsire.

"For awhile, yeah," Angel explains, almost sheepishly. "I thought she could help us figure things out, you know, about what's going to happen, and—"

"Right." Spike nods curtly. "Well. Far be it from me to get in the way."

He turns for the staircase, and Buffy starts to follow, anxious.

"Spike!" she says worriedly. "You're not in the way—"

"Don't worry," he responds nonchalantly. "I'm fine. Tired, is all. Think I'm going to go turn in for the night."

As he begins to hurry back up the stairs, she tries to pursue him again, but Angel catches her by the arm and stops her.

"Let him go," he tells her quietly, and she sighs, watching Spike's retreating back disappear around the corner.

**

Buffy knows as soon as she lays down that the idea of sleep is ridiculous, because it's never going to happen.

She tosses and turns, beating her pillow practically to a pulp and kicking down the sheets, trying to fight her way into finding a comfortable position. Sleep evades her, however, and finally she gives up, knowing that it's no use. She lies there, staring up at the ceiling, thinking of how warped and miraculous it is that just a few doors down the hall, Spike is laying in bed, alive and whole and here.

Closing her eyes, she stills her body completely and concentrating as hard as she can. She tries to focus hard enough so that she can sense him, somehow, maybe sense his presence. As hard as she tries, she can't feel him. With a sigh, Buffy finally rolls out of bed and tiptoes her way down the stairs. Just as she's entering the kitchen, she hears a voice.

"Couldn't sleep?"

Buffy jumps, whirls around and sees Angel, sitting at the table. He looks up at her with dark eyes, and she bites down on her lower lip, a little embarrassed at how jumpy she is. She's not sure why. Usually she can sense people before she sees them; part of the whole Slayer package and all. She sighs loudly.

"Yeah," she replies with a nod. "Same to you?" A pause, and he sends her a pointed look. She realizes suddenly, face blushing, flustered. "Oh! Right. You got the whole nocturnal creature of the night thing going on. Forgot about that for a second."

"Sit down." Angel gestures to the seat across from him, rising to his feet. "Would you like something to drink? Coffee, cocoa?"

Buffy pulls the chair back from the table, the legs scratching across the floor, and flops down. "Water would be nice."

He stands, goes to the cabinet and rummages to find a spare glass. "How do you like your ice, cubed or crushed?"

"Either is fine." She glances around the room and notices how bare and empty it is, except for some scattered half-filled cardboard cartons. "Hey, I never asked you—what's up with all the boxes?"

"Oh. That." Angel hesitated for a second as he poured water into the glass. "We're moving to new offices. Across town. Actually, we were in the middle of getting this place ready to sell when Spike came back. It was kind of a shock, to say the least, so we've been putting off the move until we can get things…worked out."

"Understandable," she replies, taking the cup from him and sipping it quietly. "So…how has he been? Since he's been back?"

"He's been okay," Angel says slowly as he sits down across from her. "At least, I think so. There are times when he's kind of, well, twitchy. Startled easily. And he's a lot more…quiet. I mean, we're talking Spike here—usually he's all about the rude comments and sarcasm. But now he doesn't argue, doesn't put up a fight about anything. It's strange."

"Well, you don't know him anymore," Buffy replies a little too sharply, almost edging on defensive. "When he got his soul—everything changed. He changed."

"I know." He bows his head and stares at the table. "I guess I'm just not used to it."

"I was around him all year and I'm barely used to it." She sighs, sets the glass down and looks at him. "So he's still soulled vamp guy, right? I mean, he's not—"

"Human?" Angel finishes. "No, he's still all vampire."

"I don't understand," she says, sighing once again. "Why is he back? He was burned from the inside out. I saw him, Angel—and even if he hadn't dusted, the Hellmouth was caving in. He wouldn't have been able to survive all of the debris falling down."

"We're not sure, but we think it has to do with the amulet," he explains. "We think maybe that maybe it chanelled some kind of energy that allowed The Powers That Be to bring him back. You see, there's this prophecy—Shanshu."

"Bless you."

"No, I mean, the prophecy is called Shanshu."

"Oh." Buffy looks at him, makes a face. "Shanshu? Who came up with that?"

"I don't know, whoever wrote the prophecy, I guess. It's just a name."

"It's a stupid name, I'll tell you that much."

"That's not the point, Buffy."

"Fine, fine. So, Shanshu. What does it mean?"

"It's an ancient prophecy, and it says that the vampire with the soul, once he fulfills his destiny, will Shanshu -- become human." He pauses, looks back up at her. "It's a reward thing. A reward I thought I was working toward, since I was the only vampire with a soul in existence as far as I knew, until—"

"—Spike came into the picture," Buffy finishes, realizing.

"Yeah, pretty much." Now it's Angel's turn to sigh.

"So what? Now he's sticking around here, so you two can wait to see which vamp wins first?"

"What, like you have a better idea? Buffy, he's got nowhere else to go."

"That's not true."

"Tell me, then. Are you going to take him in? Is that why you came back here, to bring him back to England with you?"

"God, Angel. No one is going to 'take him in.' Spike isn't a fucking puppy, he's a man. He can decide for himself."

"You didn't answer my other question."

Buffy stops. "What?"

"My other question." Angel stares at her squarely in the eyes. "Did you come here for him?"

"Does it matter?" she questions.

"Well, I wouldn't have asked if it didn't," he replies evenly.

"Obviously me coming here wasn't too big of a deal," she retorts sharply. "Apparently you didn't even bother to mention it to him, did you?"

He hesitates. "I had my reasons."

"Like what?" Buffy demands. "Don't tell me this is more jealous vampire crap, because I swear to god, I've had enough of it to last me a lifetime."

"It's not jealousy, okay?" he snaps. "I didn't tell him because he didn't want you here."

This stops Buffy cold, and she looks at him, shocked. "What are you talking about?"

"He didn't want you here, okay?" Angel repeats, aggravated. "Part of the reason I didn't tell you was because even if I wanted to contact you, I couldn't, because you were all over the place. But the other was because he made me promise I wouldn't tell you."

"No." She shakes her head adamantly. "He wouldn't say that."

"Buffy, it was only because he didn't want to upset you," he explains in a softer tone. "He didn't want to disrupt the life you had going. He thought he'd be a burden, and that's why he didn't want me to tell you about him coming back."

"No, you listen to me," she says angrily. "I know him, and he would never say that. He wouldn't. He…" Her voice trails off.

"Loves you," Angel completes for her, and she doesn't respond. "Are you in love with him?"

Buffy blinks at him. "You've already asked me that."

"And you never really answered," he reminds her. "So. Are you in love with him?"

She swallows hard. "I am."

"How do you know for sure?" Angel's voice is a little strangled as he asks the question. "If you weren't sure before—"

"Things are different," Buffy says quietly. "A lot of time has passed since the last time you asked. A lot of things have changed since then."

"So does this—does this mean—" He stops, pushes his chair back quickly as he stands up, closing his eyes briefly before looking at her again. "Does this mean you don't love me?"

"Angel." She gets up too, looking at him. "That's not what it means."

"What does it mean then?" he questions plaintively. "Do you love me?"

"I do," she answers slowly. "Part of me will always love you. But I don't think that means anything for us anymore." She pauses. "It's been years, Angel. What I had with you was—it was amazing. I know I'll never love anything else the way I loved you. You'll always be with me, but I… I've let go of what we had. You were my first. I just-- I don't want you to be my last." She exhales deeply. "I'm sorry."

Angel sighs, slumps back down in his chair again. "Don't be."

"I am," she persists. "I'm sorry if that isn't what you wanted to hear. But that's what I feel. And I won't apologize for loving him."

"You shouldn't have to," he says softly. "Doesn't matter. We were never really meant to be, were we?"

He smiles a little, and she feels herself relaxing.

"Always did seem like something was prying us apart," she admits, rolling her eyes. "Demons. Curses. Apocalypses. Mystical duty thing. And now that all of that stuff is pretty much out of the way…"

"We've both moved on." Angel laughs, and it's stark, dry in the quiet of the night. "Sounds weird, doesn't it?"

"It does," Buffy agrees. "So. Has there been, you know, anyone for you? To move on to?"

Angel considers the question for a moment. "There was. Still kind of is. Except, she's kind of…in a coma."

"Coma?" She blinks at him in surprise. Didn't expect to hear that. "Anyone I know?"

"Actually, yeah." He clears his throat, straightens in his seat. "It's Cordelia."

"Cordelia?" Buffy's eyes widen, and she's stunned into silence. It takes her a minute to gather her thoughts and recover her voice. "All right…processing. You. And Cordelia. That's… Okay, not what I expected. Still, if you can handle my news about Spike, I can deal. At least, I think." She pauses. "Wait, why's she in a coma again?"

"Long story," he informs her, running a hand through his hair. "Probably wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"I'll believe you on that one," concedes Buffy with a grin. "So, you got any ice cream around here?"

"Actually, I think so." Angel stands up and moves to the freezer, rummaging around. "If I remember right, I have a pint of cookie-dough-fudge-mint-chip somewhere here."

"Mmm." Buffy beams. "Sounds delicious."

He pulls out some spoons and smiles back, a little sadly. "Yeah. It is."

They sit together and eat from the carton until the first rays of dawn appear.