Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
"Now that the world isn't ending, It's love that I'm sending to you, It isn't the love of a hero, and that's why I fear it won't do."- Hero
The sun shone brightly, warming the cool morning air. All was quiet and still. Even those few survivors of Sunnydale were quiet for a precious few seconds once the excitement settled and the true destruction of what they had survived sunk in.
The vast crater, created by the unlikeliest of heroes, stood out in stark contrast to the bright and cheerful day surrounding the small group gathered at the edge. Dirty, bruised, and bloody, the small group of fighters lingered at the edge of a desolate place. To some it was the only home they had ever known, and as they all turned to leave, giving one last broken glance, leaving a piece of themselves behind in the rubble.
Angel sighed, rubbing a tired hand over weary features. It had been a week since Spike miraculously returned to the world of the living. Apparently, Spike was to act as Angel's new Seer. Neither vampire was happy with the arrangement, but they had managed to settle down in a routine unexpectedly fast.
Spike for his part was quiet and withdrawn. He only spoke when someone talked directly to him, and only then in short concise answers. He only seemed to come alive after a vision. During those times, Spike had focus, a mission to accomplish. The rest of the time Spike seemed shell shocked and fragile, his blue eyes shining with a pain Angel did not understand.
Hearing a soft knock, Angel looked up to see Wesley standing in his doorway. Motioning for the Englishman to enter, Wesley silently closed the door, giving the two men the illusion of privacy. Nothing was ever private at Wolfram and Hart.
"I did as you asked," Wesley stated.
"How did that go?" Angel asked as tired eyes focused on the other man.
"She'll be here tomorrow."
Nodding, Angel dismissed his friend and went back to staring at the open file on his desk. A knot of anxiety settled in the pit of his stomach. Spike had been adamant they not call Buffy, but as the days had progressed, none of the Los Angeles crew knew what to do anymore. Therefore, that morning Angel had given the order. Wesley had called Buffy, and now it looked like she would be arriving sooner than anyone had expected.
The flight from Rome to L.A had felt like it lasted centuries. The extra time to gather her thoughts had done nothing to dissolve the huge ball of lead happily taking up residence in her stomach. Scenario after scenario ran through Buffy's head, each worse than the last. What if he had changed? What if he had gone to hell? What if he'd gone to heaven? What if he didn't love her anymore?
Shaking her head, Buffy forcefully pushed her erratic thoughts away for the moment and gathered up her carry-on bag so she could disembark. It really didn't matter what had happened. Spike needed her, and this was all Buffy needed to know.
Once off the plane, she spotted a sleek black sedan sitting on the tarmac. The driver held a sign with her name on it. When he saw her, the driver nodded his head in greeting. Opening the trunk, he quickly took her baggage and ushered her into the cool air-conditioned vehicle.
The ride was swift, surprisingly so considering Los Angeles traffic conditions, and in no time, Buffy found herself waiting in Angel's office.
Opulent seemed to be too vague a description for her current surroundings. His desk was a massive oak number with a black leather chair behind it. She just knew if she sat in that chair the cushions would fold around her, cradling her tired body. Buffy suspected the black couch resting against the wall facing Angel's desk carried the same comfort level as his chair, and her desire to lie down and rest grew.
Weapons hung on the wall behind his desk, all sharp and vicious, and able to tear into bodies with ease. A part of Buffy wanted to walk over to the wall and liberate a few for her own collection. Buffy had to remind herself Wolfram and Hart was evil, and taking weapons would be spreading their evil. Besides, they probably wanted her to steal them so she did not.
Hearing the door open, Buffy turned. With a mixture of relief and some annoyance, he had kept her waiting after all, Angel finally entered. Looking him over, Buffy noticed small changes to his appearance, the tired circles under his eyes, and the slight droop to his shoulders. His brown eyes held deep shadows, ones that reminded Buffy of hers. A lot had happened in the few short years they had been apart, and it had taken a toll on them both.
"Hey Angel," Buffy said as she greeted him with a warm hug.
After a moments pause, "How is he?"
Sighing, Angel ran his fingers through his hair.
"He's quiet," Angel said, after taking a moment to gather his thoughts. "And lost, though I know that more from watching him than anything Spike's said. He reminds me a bit of what you were like after you came back."
Eyes filling with tears, Buffy slowly sank down into one of the chairs facing Angel's desk, her hand covering her mouth. Angel's words brought back memories of a time when she was too numb to feel, but the harsh world had still broken through. Every waking moment had been hell for Buffy, and if it had not been for Spike, Buffy didn't believe she would have made it that awful year.
"Where is he?" Buffy asked once she had gotten her emotions under control.
"Look Buffy," Angel said, his voice gentle. "Spike said he didn't want to see you. We only called you because we were worried. Coming back from hell, well Buffy, it is hard and I just want you to be prepared. He might not be the Spike you remember."
"Angel," Buffy said in a hushed voice. "I don't think Spike was in hell."
Standing in the doorway of one of Wolfram and Hart's many offices, Buffy let her eyes scan over Spike. He looked as she remembered blonde hair, pale skin, black clothes, and leather duster. He was currently trying to ignore Wesley, and Buffy could tell from the tension in his shoulders and voice, that he was very close to snapping.
"Look," Spike said with a sigh. "I've already told you I don't want to talk about it, so just bugger off."
"Spike," Wesley said, exasperation filling his words. "Can you at least tell me if time move differently or was it the same?"
Spike simply turned his back on Wesley, refusing to answer any of his questions. In Spike's opinion, his afterlife was no ones business but his own.
"It was longer," Buffy answered as she stepped into the room. Upon hearing her voice, Spike spun around, eyes wide. Soon anger burned brightly in his eyes, and he turned a withering glare on Angel and Wesley.
"Bloody hell! I thought I told you two I didn't want her involved."
"Spike," Angel said in a soothing voice. "We were worried."
A disgusted look was the only answer Angel received.
"We just wanted to help, Spike."
"No you bloody didn't," Spike snarled. "All you wanted was to satisfy your curiosity. You didn't give one thought to how I'd feel about this."
"Don't you think I had a right to know?" Buffy asked. "I was mourning you."
"No." His tone was firm, and cold enough to freeze. "My return has nothing to do with anyone but me, Slayer, so forgive me if I wanted to keep the details to myself."
Turning away from the group once more, Spike settled down into the chair he had turned to face the windows. When he heard the office door close, Spike let out a whispered sigh. He did not want any nosey questions, or pity disguised as sympathy. He just wanted to be alone, to be given time to adjust to living again.
"I'm sorry." Her voice carried through the room, and every bit of tension Spike had released came rushing back. His muscles tensed, his eyes narrowed, and his teeth ground together as he tried to keep his scream from clawing its way from his throat.
"I'm sorry you're hurting. I'm sorry the world is too bright, and too loud. I'm sorry it's a struggle just to make it from minute to minute. But I'm not sorry you're here."
Taking a few steps forward, Buffy place her hand on his shoulder. Slowly his hand crept up and his fingers wrapped around hers. Quickly choking off a sob, Spike tightened his grip on her hand.
"It hurts, Buffy," Spike whispered. "It hurts so bloody much."