Summary: Buffy pays a visit to Wolfram and Hart.
Timeline: Angel. Season five, post-Damage.
Feedback: deebradfield at
Disclaimer: Joss is the Creator Almighty. I am no more than his humble disciple.
Author's Notes: Yeah, hi. I know a lot of you are anxiously awaiting the next chapter of Equinox, but I was watching the scene in 'A Hole in the World' where Spike just barges into Angel's office, and I thought, "What if Buffy was standing right there?" Of course, she wouldn't fit in that episode at all, so I found a place where she could have. My brain, eh? Strange place. Glad I don't live there.
The quote is taken from the song "To Repel Ghosts" by the Manic Street Preachers, from their album "Lifeblood". Go, listen. It's sad and beautiful and brilliant. I mean, not that I'm biased or anything…


By Dee Bradfield

"When the disappearing begins
The ghosts we kept within
Can break free from inside
And untie our blindfold eyes

So when the ghosts find you
Be careful but be graceful
For all will be revealed
When ghosts become set free"

There was a wealth of possibilities behind that door.

Buffy stared at the tasteful wood veneer in front of her, contemplating exactly what she would find when she walked into Angel's spanky new office unannounced. After the whole Dana debacle, and the declaration-by-proxy regarding trust issues, who knew how Angel would react to her presence? She entertained a few different scenarios in her head, ranging from the big romantic, sweeping her off her feet 'Gone with the Wind' thing, to Angelus in full game face tearing her throat out without so much as a "Hello, lover".

Neither of those was really all that appealing.

She glanced back at the reception area, frowning. You'd think that an evil, multi-dimensional law firm would be busier after dark, but it was freakishly empty. Not a single scaly demon-type in sight. There was a non-scaly demon somewhere nearby, though. Angel was here, she could sense him.

She took a deep breath and pushed at the door with both hands, hoping the dramatic entrance would make her look more confident than she felt. To her delight, it and its neighbour slammed inward together and back against the walls with a satisfyingly loud bang.

Coolness. Maybe she could use her Supervisory Slayer position to get some of those installed in her office back at the Watcher Command Centre. Job perks: always a plus.

Angel was seated behind his desk and glanced up from some paperwork at the intrusion. His expression didn't indicate even the slightest flicker of surprise. "Buffy."

Well, that was sort of anticlimactic.

She beamed and piled on the perk, channelling the Buffy-Bot with a perverse gusto. "Yes, that's me!"

Angel just looked at her strangely, and she remembered suddenly that he'd never met the Bot. She'd automatically expected that he would know about it.

Oh, wait, that was…

She let the thought fragment, her scarred left hand flexing as though pushing the memories away. No, no. Not going there now. She had to put on the Brave Face today. There was to be no thinking of… him. That. Stupid Buffy brain for even bringing it up in the first place.

Angel didn't seem to notice her lapse in focus. He leant back in his chair, the picture perfect corporate chief, and tapped his pen against the blotter. "So, what brings you to Wolfram and Hart?" he asked. "I thought Andrew said that you didn't trust me anymore."

Buffy stood directly across from her former beau and gave him the hairy eyeball. "Well, I didn't come all this way to have you whine at me, that's for sure."

"I don't whine."

She snorted. "Angel, you sound like Dawn. Well, Dawn circa 2001, anyway. She grew out of it."

He set his jaw stubbornly. "I don't whine."

"Okay, way to prove my point." She turned her back on him to survey the rest of the office. It was bigger than her apartment. "Nice digs."


She twisted to look at him over her shoulder. "We've established that, yes."


"Two very good questions," she commended, before sighing herself serious and facing him once again. "Look, I just wanted to see for myself, okay? I wanted to know much it really took for you to sell out to the other side."

"I'm not working for the other side," he defended. "I'm working for me."

Buffy raised her brows sceptically. "And he's delusional, too."

Angel gritted his teeth. "When did you get so…"

"Independent? Grown-up?"


"Oh, that." She shrugged. "Someone was a bad influence, I guess." She let him make his own connections as to who that might be.

Angel stared at her for a long time and then punched a button on his intercom. "Can someone please tell me how a Slayer got as far as my office without security catching on?"

Buffy first thought that the answering squeal was electronic feedback of some sort, but then the door burst open and the squeal actually flew into the room.

"Oh my God, there's a Slayer here?" Harmony was asking. "Which one is …?" She caught sight of Buffy and stopped, drawing back defensively. "Oh, it's you. I should have known."

Buffy ignored her, intent on Angel. "Harmony works for you?"

He couldn't meet her eyes. "It's not like it was my idea."

Harmony glared at him, hands on hips. "Jeez, you don't have to be so harsh about it. I'm very sensitive to that stuff. I have got feelings, even if certain… other people in this office like to trample all over them." She looked at Buffy disdainfully. "Which is totally your fault by the way."

Buffy frowned. "What the hell are you talking about, Harmony?"

"Like you don't know." The blonde vampiress was a little slow on the uptake, but she eventually caught on to the meaning behind the furious stare Angel was giving her. "Oh! She doesn't know? Okay, right. I wasn't talking about anything then. At all. I do that sometimes, you know, talk about nothing. So, I'll just go do that. At my desk. Bye." She left, muttering something under her breath that sounded like, "Slayer loving freaks."

Buffy folded her arms, regarding the souled vampire with disapproval. "You really are evil."

He scowled. "Don't call me that."

"All right, not evil. How does 'arrogant and interfering' sound?" She waved a hand at the door. "Because I didn't miss the major clue-droppage from Airhead Incorporated out there, no matter how much you might wish I had."

Angel had the grace to look uncomfortable. "It's not what you think."

"You have no idea what I'm thinking. You never did."

Buffy turned and paced toward the rear of the office, almost into the conference room. She didn't trust herself to be so close and not do something violent.

God, had he always been this superior?

She sighed inwardly at the realization that yes, he had. He was always pulling stunts like this; making decisions behind her back, doing what he thought was best for her without even asking her opinion. He'd never believed in her enough, trusted her enough, when there were others she could mention who had been just the opposite.

The thought brought her to an abrupt halt.

Angel blinked at the rigid line of her back. She hadn't ever spoken to him like this before, never once felt the need to question his motives.

She spun back, something sharp and brittle in her eyes. "What are you hiding from me?"

He opened his mouth to comment, but was distracted when the intercom began buzzing. Before he could answer it, the door flew open again and the very thing he'd wanted to avoid happened.


Spike had been having a bad day.

Those demon medics of Angel's had been insisting that his reattached arms hadn't healed enough for him to be checking out, but he was buggered if he was staying a second longer in the place than he had to. It was only after he'd shoved his freshly dexterous thumbs into Dr. Thingamabob's windpipe that they'd finally conceded his recovery and let him out, pleased to see the back of him.

He'd wanted to tell Angel something before he left, though. Not 'thank-you' exactly, because that would be out of the question, but something else less obliging. 'Sod off', maybe. Yeah, that would work.

The elevator pinged, announcing his arrival on the executive level and as he stepped out he noticed three things: Harmony gawped at him wide-eyed and began fluttering about in a mad panic, Angel had his nifty transformable windows closed off, and there was a scent in the air that almost made his mouth water. Eau de Slayer. Angel didn't have another Sunnydale Special lurking about, did he?

Only one way to find out.

Spike sauntered right by his gibbering-idiot ex and pushed his way into Angel's inner sanctum. He went straight toward the desk, duster billowing, long strides taking him up and over the back of the padded chair to flop backward into the seat. He slouched down, threw a leg over the armrest and tucked his thumbs into his belt. So nice to be able to do that again.

"Fee, fie, foe, fum, I smell the blood of a Chosen One." He grinned snidely. "Been holding out on me have you, Peaches?"

He heard the gasp come from behind him about the same time as the full extent of her fragrance tickled his nose. Vanilla musk. Oh God, no. He froze and stared at Angel, sure that the same stunned disbelief on the older vamp's face was now reflected on his own features.

Just his luck that it was the one possibility he hadn't even considered.

Not her. Not here.

Angel's gaze shifted to focus beyond him, but Spike couldn't bring himself to move, not even to turn his head. To make matters worse, his palm began to tingle. He could have put it down as a side-effect of the recent repair job, but then he noticed that it was the burned one, the one that she'd been holding when she'd…

He closed his eyes, reliving those fiery last minutes all over again.

"I love you." So soft, so sincere

"No, you don't, but thanks for saying it."

God, Buffy, go, save yourself, get out, get out…

"You're not dead."

Her voice seemed to trigger something in his nerve endings and he twitched visibly before pivoting in the chair to find her standing frozen in place, caught in the weird unreality of the moment just like he had just been.

Ah, there she was. His golden girl. All lustrous blonde hair and big, shining eyes, so beautiful he itched to start spouting poetry again. What's a word means glowing? 'S gotta rhyme…

"Beg to differ, love."

She drew in a deep, shuddering breath, one hand pressing to the base of her throat as though the intake of air pained her. "Spike?"

Her eyes locked onto his, searching, tourmaline bright with tears. It was the quivering of that beloved lower lip that finally spurred him into movement and he was out of the chair and at her side in an instant.

"It's me, Buffy. I'm here."

She trembled, reaching out to touch with tentative fingertips, tracing the lapel of his duster and then resting her palm over his non-beating heart. His marked hand came up of its own accord, a mute reminder of their final moments together, and hers automatically moved to join it, entwining their fingers and holding on for dear life. Not once did she drop her gaze from his, as though she was afraid that if she did he would disappear.

Buffy suddenly sobbed and stepped forward into his embrace. She was still refusing to let go of his hand, though. If anything, her grip got even tighter. Good thing he was medicated.

"You're... Oh God, you're real," she whispered brokenly against his chest.

On some level Spike knew he was weeping too, but the sense of connection he was experiencing was so powerful he didn't much care. It felt as though they were two beings once forged from the same matter, torn apart and now reunited, at long last made complete, made whole.

Buffy burrowed deeper. "I missed you so much."

He stroked her hair with his free hand. "Missed you too, pet. Was lost without you."

Angel's incredulous snort was a rude awakening. They had forgotten he was there, forgotten where they were, the rest of the world had become irrelevant.

Buffy blinked in surprise at the interruption and pulled away, the Slayer returning to awareness in her eyes even as she scrubbed her face to erase the tearstains. She glanced over at her former love, almost in irritation, and then back to Spike. "So, um, how long were you gone?"

Spike straightened and sniffed, wiping the residual damp from his own cheeks. "Lost nineteen days all up."

"Nineteen days?" Buffy sounded dismayed, like she'd expected it to be longer. "That's it? But - but that means… You've been back for months! Why didn't you call me?" She turned on Angel heatedly. "Why didn't you?"

Angel shifted his shoulders, unnerved by the confrontation and kind of taken aback by the strength of her reaction to the other vampire. He obviously hadn't been taking Spike's claims about their relationship seriously enough. "Uh, that's actually… really, really complicated."

Spike felt an unwelcome pang of sympathy for his grandsire. He'd been on the receiving end of a brassed-off Slayer too many times to count and the results were never pretty. He scowled at the reaction, but found himself intervening nonetheless. "Not to justify the great poof's neglect or what all, but I was a ghost."

"Or maybe not," Angel mumbled.

Buffy was confused. "You were a what now?"

"A ghost. All Casper-fied and go-through-able. Couldn't touch anything much less make use of the sodding phone."

Buffy sat back against Angel's desk, brow knitted in concern. "That must have been hell for you. You're usually all Tactile Guy."

Spike nodded. "Yeah, tell me about it. Couldn't fight either. First thing I did when I popped back was take a shot at Captain Forehead over there." He jerked a thumb at Angel. "Went clear through an' ended up waist deep in that great ugly desk of his. Now that'll mess with your… head…" He trailed off and glanced down in shock as she reached out and took his hand again. A rare thing that, the Slayer initiating contact and he wanted to take a moment to indulge. There was an awkward pause before he continued rambling on. "You know, speaking of which, there was this bloke named Pavayne, right? Nasty bugger him, had this band of limbless spooks, all tortured and gruesome-like…"


Buffy smiled to herself, watching Spike's animated face as he told his tale. She wasn't really listening to the words; she'd get properly filled in on all the details later. For now she was just concentrating on the sound of his voice. She'd so longed to hear that lush accent again, to see that impish light sparkling in his clear blue eyes.

He really was back, large as life, and still as beautiful and vibrant as ever. If death was her gift, then she was beyond glad that this particular contribution had been returned to sender, none the worse for wear. Never happier, she sighed in pleasure.

He stopped short, mid-gesture, and looked at her suspiciously. "Not boring you, am I?"

"That depends on how long you keep yammering."

It took him a second to place the reference, but then he grinned. A big old Spike grin, all crinkled eyes and creased cheeks. He looked adorable.

Oh yeah, gotta love the visual stimulus. She felt her pulse speed up in response.

He picked up on the change, head tilting to one side as he contemplated her with a speculative expression. Unfortunately, Angel had also noticed and he looked much less pleased about it.

"I don't believe this."

"Oh, why the bloody hell not?" Spike puffed up defensively. "I told you, didn't I? You've no idea what we had, what we are to each other. Been too long out of the loop, you have. Out here in La-La Land, perched all high and mighty atop your shiny Trojan horse."

Angel frowned at him. "What is that even supposed to mean?"

"What is any of this supposed to mean?" Buffy challenged. "He's right, Angel. You shouldn't be here. The vibes in this place are enough to make my spider sense go all wiggy. It's evil. Off the scales evil. I don't have any doubts."

"I don't either." Angel folded his hands together, carefully and meticulously, trying to stay calm. "I have no doubt coming here was the right thing to do. We can make a difference. We are making a difference."

"Nice spiel," Spike noted. "That the company line now?"

Angel hardly spared him a glance before continuing to speak to Buffy. "What I do doubt is you having the right to come in here and tell me how to run my business."

"You don't run this place, Angel. It runs you. Can't you see that?"

"All that power's gone to his sloping great head," Spike postulated. "Pulled that caveman brow over his eyes, blinded him to…"

"Shut the hell up Spike!" Angel shot to his feet, any semblance to calm forgotten, his chair flying back to bounce off the wall. A battle axe fell off its hook, the resulting clatter lending a discordant note to the outburst.

The younger vampire just smirked at him. "Hit a little close to the bone did we?"

"I don't even know who you are anymore," Buffy said sadly.

"You never did." Angel couldn't resist throwing her own words back in her face. He stared at her, long and hard. "I want you to leave."

Buffy's eyes went wide in surprise. "Excuse me?"

"Just go." He slumped back into his chair, defeated. "I can't stand to see it anymore."

"See what?"

"You," he gestured abstractedly. "Being like this."

"Okay, way to bring on the vague. Define 'this'?"


Spike looked at Buffy, puzzled. "Baked?" he mouthed.

She waved the question off, busy trying to work out what Angel was getting at. "I don't know where you got the idea that I'm all done baking, because I'm not. I'm still Dough Girl here." She pulled a face. "And can I mention how much I hate this analogy?"

He just sent her a poignant little smile. "Buffy, you're done. You're cookies. If you stop to think about it, you'll realize that the timer actually went off months ago and you burnt your hand getting out of the oven."

Buffy stared down at her scarred palm, comprehension dawning, and began slowly shaking her head. "But, but I'm not…" she started to protest, but Spike brought her to a halt with a simple touch to her shoulder.

"Maybe it's best to back off, love," he murmured, unsettled by the conversation. Neither of them was making much sense, and for some reason the whole cookie-baking thing was making him nervous.

"Yes. Please do that." Angel thrust a resentful finger toward Spike. "And take him with you."

The younger vampire's brows shot skyward, and he eyed the pointer with some amusement. "Was goin' anyway," he informed smugly. "Just wanted to tell you one more thing 'fore I left." He leant in close, enunciating each word clearly. "Sod. Off."

Buffy could see the danger brewing in Angel's eyes and seized Spike's forearm to drag him out before he decided to get physical.

Spike flinched, hissing through his teeth. She apparently hadn't gotten the memo about his unpleasant little altercation with the psychotic hand-hacker, and on top of that the painkilling mojo had opted to start wearing off. "Ow. Damn it! Mind the mitts, Slayer."

"What?" She dropped his arm, and jumped back like he was toxic. "Why? What's wrong with you?"

"God, there's a question," Angel groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose. When they both glared at him, he indicated the door. "Exactly what part of 'get out' are you having trouble with?" he asked. "Because I could get security to help you grasp the concept."

"Don't bother." Spike stalked out without another word, leaving Buffy to unruffle the big man's feathers.

She didn't try.

After giving Angel one last apologetic look, she made her own way out, closing the door on his brooding face, not with the resounding bang her entrance had engendered, but a more of soft clicking sound.

It was over. So sayeth the whimper.

She rested her back against the door for a moment to recover. "Well, that was the kind of fun that's not," she commented after a beat.

Harmony popped up from behind her desk, where she had been unashamedly eavesdropping. "Oh, you are so preaching from the horse's mouth! The boss man has no fun. I'm talking ever. Oh! Unless you count that office party we had that one time." She glanced up at Spike, who lingered nearby. "You know, when he got all boink-buddy with Eve, and Lorne had that Incredible Bulk side-effect thingy from having his sleep removed."

"It's 'Hulk', you dink," Spike corrected with a smile reminiscent of an indulgent parent.


"Never mind." He looked over and met Buffy's eyes. "Hello cutie."

"Hey yourself, handsome."

His teeth flashed in a pleased grin and then he ducked his head, shooting glances up through his lashes and shuffling his feet. Buffy smiled affectionately. He was so cute when he got all William-shy.

"Ugh!" Harmony screwed her nose up like they were the most disgusting thing she'd ever seen. "If you two are gonna get all lovey-dovey… don't! I could do without seeing that freak show." She paused as though envisaging the prospect, and then shuddered melodramatically, flapping her hands. "Ugh!"

As Buffy stalked toward the ditsy receptionist, she realized that she felt more like herself all of a sudden, like she was back on familiar ground, alive for the first time since the imploding Hellmouth had taken him away from her. I am Slayer, hear me roar.

"Harmony, you are a freak show."

"Hey!" The blonde was offended for all of a second before her expression turned malicious. "Hey, speaking of, do you want to know what happened the day Spike got all… solid again?"

Spike's head shot up at that, and with a fierce look at the vampiress, he hustled Buffy towards the elevators before his spiteful former tumble could spill the beans.

The Slayer, naturally, dug her heels in. "Wait, I wanna know about…"

"No," he said tightly through clenched teeth, yanking her forward again, the tug-of-war agony on his wounded arms. "You don't."

Buffy stopped struggling immediately, having noticed the inordinate amount of effort he was exerting. She grabbed his hand and started to shove the sleeve of his duster up, only to get it snagged on the edge of a bandage. She fingered the white gauze. "What happened to you?"

He jerked away and began to tap impatiently at the elevator buttons.


"Leave it, Buffy."

"No." The elevator doors finally opened and she followed him inside. "I'm not going to go away if you ignore me. Especially not now. You're stuck with me, buddy."

Spike stared at her while the doors closed, and then he began to move in, backing her into the corner, invading her personal space. "Who says I want to ignore you?" He dipped down so that his forehead rested against hers and they could have been sharing the same air, if only he were breathing. "Maybe…" He nuzzled her nose. "Maybe I jus' wanted to get you all to myself."

She revelled in the intimacy for a second, tingling all over from the electricity that still sparked between them, before her resolve kicked in and she planted her hands flat against his chest, pushing hard. "Stop changing the subject."

He stepped back and sighed, rolling his eyes. "Stubborn bint."

Buffy crossed her arms and tipped her chin at him, determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. "So? Fess up. I'm all ears here."

"Surprised weedy boy didn't tell you," he mumbled, keeping his eyes on the elevator buttons. "Usually blabbers his mouth all over, dun't he?"

"Huh? Who boy? There's a boy in it now?"

Spike sighed again and shot her a resigned glance from the corner of his eye. "The name 'Andrew' ringin' any bells? Came to put a leash on your rogue Slayer?"

"Ding, ding." Buffy chirped. "I getcha. This is about Dana."

"Yeah. Me being the champion of the people now, decided to help out, didn't I? Lend a hand." He held one up and waggled his stiff fingers, demonstrating the limited range of movement. "Got both of 'em lopped off for my trouble."

"Oh my God." Buffy's eyes rounded in horror. "I'm sorry. They didn't tell me." She gave him a hurried once-over, checking for further injuries she hadn't previously noticed. "But you're okay now, right? Everything's okay?"

"Y-e-a-h…" He was bewildered by her show of concern, the single word drawn out so far it was almost a question. "Well, aside from being beholden to Peaches for the bail out, of course."

"So then, what's the big?"

"I just…" Spike halted as the elevator doors opened. "Hang on a second." He darted a suspicious look around the lobby to see if anyone was taking notice.

It was fairly quiet. Some unknown three-horned variety of demon was reading a newspaper on one of the lounges, legs elegantly crossed at his gnarled ankles. Seated alongside him was a pretty human female with a little girl in tow, a gaggle of Spotted Graknathyn were gossiping around the water-cooler, and there were sundry lawyers scattered about, but no sign of any of Angel's mob. Not even Fred. Good time to make a break for it.

He cupped a hand beneath Buffy's elbow and led her in a harried dash across the gleaming marble floor toward the stairwell for the parking garage. Funnily enough, she didn't object to his high-handedness in the slightest, seemingly content to be the one doing the following for a change.

Once through the door, he stopped to get his bearings and Buffy took the opportunity to press closer against his side. Rising up on tip-toe so that her lips were brushing his ear, she whispered, "Where are we going?"

He twitched his shoulder slightly as her breath tickled his skin, but showed no other sign that her proximity was affecting him in any way. He'd been able to do that since he got his soul, make with the pokerest of faces. Buffy wasn't overly keen on that part. It was one of the few downsides.

"Just indulgin' in a spot of criminal activity before we get out of here for good," he explained, turning to lead her down into the garage proper, "Nothing to get fussed about. Well," he amended, "Unless you're Angel."

"Oh, okay." Buffy even didn't blink an eye at his declaration of intent, instead she glanced around at the garage's cold, unyielding concrete walls and shivered. She didn't like being boxed in. It reminded her of the digging-out-of-her-own-grave thing. Much creepiness; it was even wiggier than the upper levels. "So, this is big with the 'wow' factor. You take me to the all best places."

Spike's hand tightened at her elbow, a little show of solidarity. "Know it's not the most refined of atmospheres in here, pet, but it's the only other way to get in."

"Get in where?"

He pointed ahead at one of the interior walls. "There."

Buffy squinted, and was about to ask again when she saw the vague rectangular outline of a door, only a shade darker than the surrounding wall. "What the hell is that?"

"Cloaked entrance," Spike muttered distractedly, running his fingers along the left-hand edge. "Learned a good many things about this building when I was haunting the place an' this…" There was a click and a whoosh as the door swung open, "Is the only way down into Angel's treasure trove besides the special elevator in his office. The great muppet-head himself doesn't even know about it." He started down the narrow stairway, his peroxided hair shining in the ugly fluorescent lighting.

"Wait, did you just say 'treasure'?" Buffy's eyes bugged. "We're not stealing it are we?" She paused in following his descent to wave a fashionably-booted foot at him. "I'm not exactly dressed for the big heist here, Spike."

He grinned up at her from the landing. "Not that kind of treasure." He pointed ahead of him into the dimly-lit underground chamber. "Bright and shiny, but you can't rightly stuff it in your pocket."

Buffy rounded the corner and peered past his shoulder. "I don't get it," she said. "It's just another garage full of cars."

Spike looked at her like she was insane. "Are you insane?" he asked. "These aren't just your average motor, pet. These are classics."

"Oh right. Like the DeSoto?" Buffy snorted. "That was a classic, alright."

He scowled, but answered honestly enough. "There's nothing here as classy as my old girl, but yeah." Spike flipped open a locker on the wall, revealing an assortment of keys. "Care to take your pick?"

"Oh gee, can I?" She sounded somewhat less than enthused.

Spike huffed and yanked a random key of its hook. "Fine. We'll take pot luck then." He pressed the button on the key, scanning around see which vehicle beeped in answer.

"Over there," Buffy pointed at a sleek, low-slung coupe half-way along the nearest row, and then grimaced. "It's red," she said in a disgusted tone.

Spike quirked his brow, lost as to why that was important. "And?"

"What do you mean 'and'? It clashes." She indicated her gauzy pink blouse with some irritation. "I can't clash. It ruins all the romantic riding off into the sunset imagery I've got playing in my head."

Romantic? Spike stared, not certain he'd heard her correctly. It hadn't really registered before but… Bloody hell, she'd really done it. Buffy had chosen him over Angel. She'd accepted him by her side without a second thought, as if he was the one who rightfully belonged there. He was almost overwhelmed by the implications of that.

She obviously hadn't realized the impact of her statement, her face crinkled in concentration as she scanned their other options. "Okay, that one," she decided after a time. "It's black. Black goes with everything." She glanced at him and grinned impishly. "Well, hey, you'd know."

Spike covered his momentary stupor by turning his attention to their carefully selected means of transport. It was the Viper. Angel's favourite. She couldn't have done better if she tried.

He was so pleased, he let her dig about his wardrobe slip right by without comment. "Right. Off we go then." He grabbed the Viper's key from the locker, knowing precisely which it was without even looking, and tossed the other cheerfully back over his shoulder.

"I really did miss this, you know," Buffy told him as she climbed in and buckled her seatbelt.

Spike shoved the key into the ignition and then looked at her curiously. "Stealing cars?"

"No! Well, this is fun, too, but just… I don't know." She waved vaguely. "I'm not good with the describing, but the hanging out, the bantering and stuff. Just, you know, being with you. I really missed it." She avoided his eyes, toying with the delicate gold chain around her neck. Her voice softened, laced with a lingering pain. "I still wasn't ready for you to not be there. It was horrible when you weren't. I'm glad you're not gone anymore."

Spike smiled at her little speech. She'd never been up to snuff with expressing her emotional side, she was much better at thumping things. At least she was making a go of it, though. "Is that right?"

Buffy took a deep breath and then reached over, placing her hand on his thigh and nervously squeezing the solid muscle there. "Oh, and by the way," she said, as casually as she could manage. "In case you didn't get it the first time… I love you." She finally chanced a peek from the corner of her eye, wanting desperately to see his reaction.

"I know you do," he replied simply, his scarred hand dropping from the steering wheel to curl around hers. "But thanks for saying it again."

Buffy grinned and leant across the seat, Spike bowing his head to meet her halfway in the tenderest of kisses, so soft and gentle it was almost chaste, but bringing with it the promise of so much more.

Spike sighed as he pulled away, the fingers of his other hand lifting to brush the line of her jaw. "Much as I'd love to carry on here, love, we've got to be getting this show on the road."

"Um, yeah, I guess. Grand theft auto in progress and all that." Buffy slumped back into the bucket seat. She licked her lips and then glanced speculatively over her shoulder. "We could go somewhere more private and try out the back seat."

"What?" He did a double take, blue eyes wide and shocked. He looked completely scandalized.

A secretive little smirk curved her mouth. "I've never done it in a car before."

"It's Angel's car."

"Your point being?"

Spike blinked at her. Did she mean it, or was she just yanking his chain? After a minute she winked and then started giggling. He pouted. "That's not funny."

"God, you are so easy!" She crowed in delight. "You should have seen the look on your face."

He glowered and floored it, spinning the car out of its parking spot and into the direction of the gate, tyres squealing, smoke and the acrid smell of burnt rubber billowing up around them.

Buffy yelped and clutched the strap of her seatbelt, but recovered quickly. "Ooh, Spikey," she crooned in an irritatingly blonde tone, "That was so manly. Do you know how hot that gets me?"

"Knock off the bloody Valley Girl routine," he sniped as they sped out of the garage into the Los Angeles night. "You sound like Harm."

"I don't!" Buffy whacked his shoulder. "You take that back."

He was fighting the happy grin and failing. "Make me."

"Oh, I will," she promised, "I'll make you so bad…"

"Now, that kind of talk's only gonna get a man all hot and bothered." He leered at her, doing that obnoxious thing with his tongue that only made her want to bite it. "Keep it up, Slayer"

"You're a pig, Spike."

"Yeah, but you love me." He'd meant to be flip, but he still couldn't quite grasp the enormity of it, and the fear that it was all a dream exposed itself in his voice. He barely contained a wince at how vulnerable he sounded.

Buffy, being oddly perceptive for once, heard it too. "I do love you, Spike," she reassured him. "More than I thought possible, more than… Man, I suck at this." She blew out a frustrated breath and tried again. "The way I feel about you is so true, and deep, and right. You're part of me now. Nothing can come between us."

He snorted. "You do realize you just cursed us, don't you?"

"Hey, we can handle it. We're a tough couple of cookies." She sniggered. "I said 'cookies'! God, I'm never going to be able to use that word in a proper context anymore. I'm gonna have to be all Giles-like and say 'biscuit'."

Spike shook his head, bemused. "You know, someday you're going to have to explain that entire conversation to me."

"Deal." Buffy pivoted so she could watch him while he drove, absently twirling a strand of hair around her finger. "Anyway, what I was saying was, we can handle curses. We can handle master vamps and hell-gods and the odd annual apocalypse. We've both died twice, survived other people and each other, and yet here we are - together. What could possibly hurt us now?"

Spike glanced in the rear-vision mirror, at the offices of Wolfram and Hart looming like a glass and chrome spectre behind them. If he looked hard enough, he swore he could see Angel brooding at them from his penthouse apartment. The old man was dangling over the abyss whether he wanted to admit it or not, hanging on by his fingernails. It was only a matter of time before he fell in. Spike didn't want Buffy anywhere near when that happened.

"Nothing I can think of, pet. Nothing at all."