"Gunn, we lost the head, start preparing the troops for war!"
"Head's in your office"
"It's been brought in"
Angel and Spike shared a look of confusion before turning their gaping mouths back to Gunn, "who brought it in?" Angel asked, slowly.
Gunn's eyes averted to the floor for a moment while he took in a deep breath, slowly gaining the strength to look back at the two men standing before him; "I think you'd better go and see for yourself" he replied evenly.
Angel looked at Spike quickly, and then back at Gunn, "who exactly is in my office right now?"
Gunn raised his hands defensively and began to back away; "Just go and see for yourselves!" he murmured, before turning on his heel and hurriedly walking away.
Angel looked after him, and then to Spike who's eyebrows were raised curiously.
"What in the hell?" Angel mumbled through gritted teeth as he closed his fists tight and began striding towards his office door.
"Hold up!" Spike said, bounding behind him, "whatever it is, I got your back…" their recent Roman camaraderie clearly not quite faded.
"Oh boss, you should know that…." Harmony's voice shrunk as she watched Angel and Spike push the office doors open, "…Buffy dropped by for a visit" her words, too late, had fallen on deaf ears as Angel and Spike found themselves staring at the only petite blonde who could fool both men into thinking they had raging, beatings hearts….
"Buffy" Angel whispered her name, more to himself than anything, as a confirmation of her presence. He looked at her, golden hair hanging wavy and loose down her shoulders, wearing a svelte black wrap dress with blue jeans underneath and heeled black boots.
"What are you doing…?" Angel began, but stopped when he realized she wasn't paying any attention to him; her speckled green eyes had landed on Spike the moment they burst into the room, and hadn't left.
It seemed that their staring contest was lasting a life time; at least, it seemed that way to Angel. He felt awkward and out of place in their reunion, and wanted desperately to leave… but at the same time, he didn't want to give Spike the pleasure and he couldn't physically turn away from the sight of her.
Eventually Angel had enough, and quickly cleared his throat; "what are you doing here?" he asked, slowly.
Silently Buffy's eyes ripped away from Spike and she spun around, reaching for a familiar looking green bowling bag which was sitting on Angel's desk. She gripped it for a moment, before turning back to them and throwing the bag from her chest into Angel's ready hands, "Gabriel sends his regards" she said as Angel unzipped the bag and inspected the head. Satisfied, he looked back to her and raised one eyebrow quizzically, "Gabriel?" he asked.
She leaned against Angel's desk, looking from him to Spike and back again, "I'm a little bit blurry on the details, but I understand you two have a history with him"
"Oh no" Angel mumbled, gritting his teeth and averting his eyes momentarily, before glancing back at Buffy angrily, "The Immortal?"
Nodding her head slowly, she corrected, "Gabriel".
Angel let out a mocking laugh, "Look, I don't know what he's up to but you should know that he's…."
Buffy threw her hands up, "No!" she interjected, sternly. "Right now, you don't get to talk, especially not if your going to give me more Dawson-esque jealousy crap!"
She stood up, folding her arms tight across her chest and looking from Angel to Spike, and finally avoiding looking at either one of them.
"Gabriel got a call last night from Wolfram and Hart, asking for his assistance on a delicate matter involving a Karpo demon" she began to slowly pace in front of the desk. "According to a very bosomy woman by the name of Ilona Costa, a dark and broody vampire from L.A came in to make a trade, but managed to screw the whole thing up" Buffy lifted her head and eyed Angel momentarily, before quickly disregarding him again, "she also mentioned his British bleach-blonde sidekick" at this, Buffy raised her head and stopped pacing, perching once again on the side of Angel's desk. "She was very taken with the two of you, said you were a little slow on the uptake, but all in all, 'the very meaning of handsome'…".
Her voice was controlled but strained; Spike could hear the suppressed anger in every single word and it made his insides rumple. He lowered his head, looking intently at the floor. He could feel her eyes had drifted back to rest on him, but he couldn't bring himself to look up, to meet her angry gaze, undoubtedly looking to search his face for answers he didn't have.
The room fell silent for a good few minutes, the quiet seeming to expand and suffocate all three of them.
"That's it?" Buffy finally breathed, "Neither of you have anything to say to me?" her voice rose, the anger beginning to seep through, no longer able to be contained.
Buffy rose from the desk and took a few steps toward Spike, standing before him, only an arms length away; he was forced to meet her gaze. "You have nothing to say to me?" she spoke in a whisper this time, her voice quivering, breaking from all the anger and sadness, "nothing at all?" she repeated, turning away from Spike to stare at Angel, allowing him to see the tears.
Angel's head bowed, "we didn't…." he began, but nothing more came.
Buffy nodded slowly and brought a shaking hand to wipe furiously at her wet cheeks, "how long?" she finally breathed.
"Six months" Spike answered her, quietly.
Buffy let out a mocking laugh, turning back to him, "six months?" she repeated. "So what?" she began, "if I hadn't have found on my own you were never going to tell me?... you would have left me thinking that you were…." Spike's piercing stare made her ache all over, and the rest of her words dribbled out in a whisper, meant for only him to hear "... I thought you were gone" tears continued to slowly run as she spoke, "did I-" as the thought arose, her throat tightened momentarily, "did I leave you down there, were you alive and I left you down there?" her voice was so little, afraid of his answer.
Spike's eyes widened and he shook his head, "No, pet…no" he wanted to reach out, brush the hair away from her face and hold her close, make her believe it was alright. But instead he stood firm, and watched as she struggled.
She was finally able to release her held breath, "then how?"
"I-I don't exactly know how" he quickly sighed, "I was somehow trapped inside that amulet and then the trinket was sent to Angel" Spike motioned towards him, but Buffy's eyes didn't move, "…I was a ghost for a little bit, and then this package was delivered and I was made corporeal again…" Spike shrugged, "I really don't know much about what happened"
"And why didn't you…?" Buffy began, looking for a moment into Spike's eyes, but then focusing on Angel; "you should have told me!"
"What would we have said?" Angel interrupted.
Buffy turned to him, lips pursed, "it wasn't fair, Angel!" she said, vehemently, "you send your lackeys on to me, following me around for God knows how long – reporting back to you about what I'm doing - about my new life!" she shook her head, disgusted, "but you keep my in the dark about Spike?" her eyes were fierce, "it wasn't fair and you know it!"
"Don't go getting mad at me!" Angel bellowed back, "It wasn't my place to tell you what had happened… that was up to Spike and he didn't want…." His words shrunk, realizing what he'd said.
Buffy turned back to Spike, "you didn't want me to know?" she said for him.
Spike ignored her for a moment, looking behind her at Angel, "thanks a lot, mate!"
Buffy shook her head and brought a hand to her temple, "I don't believe this!" she murmured.
Angel shifted his weight, finally feeling the strength to leave the room, partly because he guessed Spike and Buffy wouldn't be having any intimate moments, the way this conversation was going…. "I should leave you two alone" he murmured, "I have to get this head to a demon family…" and with that he headed for the door, but before leaving, he turned slightly and over his shoulder he said "you should stay, at least for tonight, ok?".
She didn't say anything, but Angel left all the same.
Spike and Buffy simultaneously lifted their heads, meeting each other's gaze but feeling that suffocating silence engulf them once more.
"I would say sorry, but I don't think that's gonna cut it"
She scoffed and confirmed his suspicion.
"Why?" she spoke before the quiet had a chance to leak into the room again, "why didn't you call me? E-mail me? Write me?" she scoffed again, "why didn't you come to see me?"
At this, Spike raised a hand, "well actually, in the beginning I couldn't!"
"What with me being ghostly and all, I couldn't leave L.A…. I was haunting this place" he nodded his head solemnly; "I tried to leave. I tried to go and find you, but every time I got to the outskirts of this Godforsaken city, I'd just end up right back here…"
"You tried to come and see me?"
Spike nodded. "I was scared. My first instinct was to go and find you…."
At that, Buffy felt her insides ache again; "so why didn't you come and see me when you were brought back to life?" she thought for a moment and corrected herself, "well, made bodily anyway?"
Spike sighed, and moved to the leather couch on the other side of the room, sitting himself down, he concentrated on a loose piece of thread rather than Buffy's inquisitive face; "it wouldn't have mattered"
"What? What wouldn't have mattered?"
Spike looked up, "what I-" he stumbled, unable to look at her as he spoke, so he averted his eyes again, "what I did wouldn't have mattered"
"Spike…" Buffy began, taking a few steps toward the couch.
"I died" he said sternly, causing her to stop in her tracks. Taking a deep breath, he looked up, into her face, "I died for you"
Her eyes began to sting again as he spoke.
"It wouldn't have mattered a sodden bit if I'd just turned up on your door-step, perfectly alright…"
She began to shake her head, "No…" she started, taking a few more steps towards him. "It still would have mattered", tentatively she took a seat beside him on the couch, "if you'd have come back, it just means I could have told you…."
Her voice drifted into silence, so Spike turned to her, encouraging her to go on.
Her eyes were watery again, "it just means I could have told you how…." She turned to him, "how proud I was of you".
Spike's mouth was slightly agape, his eyes wide as he stared at her, her words still hanging about him. And then, he cracked the smallest of smiles.
He let out a slight chuckle.
"What?" Buffy probed, wiping at her teary eyes.
"Just laughing at the absurdity" he murmured. Turning to her and realizing she had no idea what he was on about, he explained. "Harmony said that you wouldn't care, she said that you'd have been happy to see me…." he shook his head, "but I didn't listen to her".
Buffy gave a small laugh as well, "one of the few times when you should go against your better judgment."
Spike watched her as she smiled, and felt that familiar rupture of warmth in the place where his heart should be. "Ah, maybe it was stupid" he sighed.
Buffy turned to him, the remnants of her smile still playing on her lips, "ya think?"
Spike gave a small nod; "or maybe I should have let Andrew tell you way back when…."
Spike cursed himself silently.
"Andrew knew about you?"
He turned to her, the smile replaced with a glare.
"When you sent him down here to collect psycho-slayer" he admitted.
"That geek!" she exclaimed.
"Easy love, I asked him not to"
"And since when has Andrew ever been known to keep a secret?" she scoffed, "the one time he shouldn't keep his mouth shut…" she shook her head, furious. "He's been living under the same roof as me for the last month, in close quarters and he doesn't blab…. How is that humanly possible for Andrew?"
"Oh, he was just being loyal to me, pet" Spike averted his eyes momentarily and mumbled, "I think he looks up to me or something…. Man crush perhaps?"
Buffy shook off her anger, feeling herself calm, "well now I know"
Spike turned back to her, and felt as her hand tentatively reached across the couch and found his, "now you can come back, with me".
"Love…" he tried, squeezing her hand but avoiding her eyes. He couldn't say no while looking into those eyes… "I have to stay here" he murmured.
"But…" Buffy stumbled, wriggling her hand out of his grip, "why?" she asked, "don't you want to come back and…."
"Yes" he said quickly, already knowing what she was going to say.
Spike bit his lip and looked into her face, "something is happening, and I have to be here for it"
Buffy's forehead furrowed, "what is it?"
"And before you offer, I am telling you that you can't stay!" his eyes didn't leave hers, and she knew he meant it.
"That bad, huh?"
"But maybe I can help…. Me and the other slayers…"
He didn't say anything, only creased his brow and fixed his gaze more determinedly; "it's not your fight, pet"
"So, you won't come back with me?"
"It's a bloody hard offer for me to refuse"
"But you do?" Buffy quickly shot him a sideways glance, "you do refuse?"
"And that just gives me all the more reason…." Buffy let out a breathy laugh and gave a slight shake of her head, disbelieving.
"All the more reason?" Spike queried, turning to look at her.
Buffy turned to him, and stared for a moment or two before slowly reaching her hand up and placing it flat against Spike's cheek, cupping it.
As he leaned into the warmth Buffy softly spoke; "I know that down in the hell-mouth you couldn't allow yourself to believe it…" she gave a small, sad smile and continued, "because if you did, you'd have had a reason to live…" she slowly leaned in to his face, "but believe it now, and always" their lips connected, and after one soft kiss she pulled away, her face still close to his, "I love you".
"Buffy…" Spike's eyes closed again as he tried leaning back into her, for another kiss.
"Don't." she pulled away slightly, making Spike open his eyes and look into hers; "whatever's coming that's so big, you feel obliged to stay here, whatever it is, just know that I love you" she brought her other hand to cup the other side of his face, and looking warmly into his blue eyes she said; "I hope that's enough reason for you to not pull another martyrdom, and come back to me, ok?"
Spike gave a small nod, before leaning in and hungrily kissing her lips again. There, in her embrace, Spike knew what home was… he knew he'd get back there, some way, no matter what.
Buffy was waiting for the elevator, when Angel stepped out from behind the doors.
"You're leaving?" he asked.
Buffy nodded, "Spike is pretty intent on me not hanging around for this big throw-down you guys have scheduled…."
Angel nodded, and Buffy searched his eyes; "of course, if you said it was ok for me to hang around…"
He shook his head, "Spike is right" he couldn't help but sneer at himself for saying it out loud; "….you can't stay here, not for this"
Buffy nodded solemnly, "nice to know I'll always have you two to look out for me…."
"You never needed anyone looking out for you, Buffy"
She gave a small smile, which Angel mirrored; "but yeah, you always will" he admitted.
He stared into her eyes for a moment, searching for something, an answer… and when she broke away, looking awkwardly to the ground, he found it.
"Listen, Angel…." She began
He raised a hand. "Crazy as it sounds, this year I've really been grappling with the idea that Spike may just have one up on me…" he cleared his throat, "so if your about to verify that idea…." He looked away for a moment, "please, don't"
Buffy bit her bottom lip as she looked up at Angel. She would always love him, he knew that, and he didn't need her to say it out loud. Both of them knew she wasn't a 16 year old girl anymore, dreaming of a fairy-tale ending.
"Angel…" she began, and reached up, kissing him warmly on the cheek. "Take care of yourself, ok?"