Disclaimer: see first chapter…
A/N: Well here it is; the final chapter of this story. Thank you to everyone who read it. And now hopefully I can finish some of my other stories and then maybe even post some new ones. Thanks again!
"I'm really sorry about all of this, Spike."
"S'not your fault, luv."
They were nearing the airport now. Most of the drive had been in silence and Mandy wasn't even sure she should say anything now. It wasn't that he seemed that upset. He wasn't crying or yelling or anything, but his silence seemed to speak pretty loudly in itself. It was almost like he'd expected it to end the way it had; like he had known she wouldn't choose him. And somehow that was worse.
"It kinda is. I never should have offered to do that spell. Or…just cast the other one without asking."
"You were just trying to help."
"Some help I was. Now everybody's just miserable."
He let out a snort. "Not everybody."
Mandy assumed he was talking about Angel. He was getting what he wanted, after all. And though she had been happy enough for the couple in the past, now she had inadvertently placed herself on Team Spike, and she felt her heart break for him. It wasn't like she knew him that well, but it was clear that he loved Buffy, apparently more than anyone, and it wasn't fair that he was going to have to get on a plane and fly back to America without her.
"Well, enough people to count. I should just give up casting spells altogether."
"Don't do that."
"I thought you weren't a fan of magic."
"I'm not." There's always consequences. Always. "But sometimes it needs to be done."
He was staring out the window now. "It's been several years since I've been home," he remarked.
He looked almost reminiscent and Mandy couldn't help but wonder about his past life; his human life. 'He'd probably been a badass,' she thought. He looked like he might still be one now. Surprisingly, though it was surely mid morning where he'd come from, he was wearing black jeans and a black t-shirt and boots. Though, she supposed it couldn't surprise her too much. He was a vampire. He probably just hadn't gone to bed yet. They pulled up to the front of the airport where cars were dropping off other flyers. Spike opened the door and started to get out.
"Everything will work out for you," she said suddenly, causing him to cast a glance in her direction. "I know it will."
"Thanks pet." He stepped out onto the sidewalk, again thankful for the overcast skies outside. It wouldn't do for him to burst into flames on the way home.
Buffy found the woman sitting out behind the church in one of the white wicker chairs that were positioned close to a flower bed. She was staring across the parking lot but not really seeing anything. Buffy instantly recognized her.
"Hello?" she said to the woman.
"Oh hi," she replied standing up.
This was possibly the last person she had expected to see. "Katie?"
"What are you doing here?"
"Well, there are actually a few reasons I'm here. But before we talk about that, there's something you should know." She paused and waited to see if Buffy would say anything. When she didn't, "My name's not really Katie. And I'm not from Georgia." As she said the last part, her southern accent seemed to disappear.
Buffy instantly went on alert. "Then who the hell are you?"
"I'm what you call, an in-between. We're not demons," she said, suspecting that was what the Slayer was thinking. "We're more like angels. We help people."
"You're an angel?" Honestly, up until nowish, Buffy hadn't really even been sure there were such things as angels. She'd never seen one, even when she herself had been in Heaven.
"No. Angels don't usually show there faces down here."
"We come to those who have faced a great loss or those who need guidance. We give them what they need, stay with them through the bad, and leave when they no longer need us. We aid those who have proven themselves to be valuable members of society; those who have done something great. Such as saving the world."
"And you were helping Spike by pretending to date him?" Buffy asked incredulously.
"Oh, I wasn't pretending to date him, or like him. That wasn't hard to do. But our meeting was no accident."
"Why did you break his heart then?" she said as forcefully and convincingly as she could.
"We both know I didn't break his heart. I first introduced myself to Spike because he was lonely and lost; he didn't know what to do anymore. He was looking for something…and I think he found it. So he doesn't need me anymore."
Buffy looked hard at Katie…or uhh…whoever. This was a lot to process. As it turned out, she wasn't a sweet innocent little country bumpkin who enjoyed the company of the undead. Instead she was some sort of angel-esk creature who was simply working a job. Two things angered Buffy about this. First, the girl had deceived Spike. And even if she was telling the truth, about only being there till he didn't need her, which by the way would complicate things even worse since the obvious implication was that Buffy was the reason for the whole not needing bit, it still did not make up for the fact that she had lied and tricked him into almost loving her. And second, Buffy had saved the world plenty of times and didn't recall ever receiving extra help of any kind.
As if she could read her mind, "You may think that we don't notice; all of the things you do for this world. We do. And you have not gone unrewarded. I'm not saying that every good thing that happens to you is because of us, but we have helped you, Ms. Summers."
"So, you're saying I've met…something like you before?" Buffy wasn't sure whether she liked this idea or not. On the one hand, it seemed that someone did care that she was sacrificing a lot to save the ever failing world, but on the other, someone, or something, had been interfering with her life for God only knew how long.
"Yes. One of us has never been sent directly to you, but once to someone you know. You do remember Kennedy, don't you?"
"Willow's ex? But she was a slayer."
"No, she was one of us. We can be strong when we need to be. It's easier than you would think to pass as a potential slayer."
"But we never knew…"
"We don't usually reveal ourselves."
"Then why now? Why are you telling me all of this?"
She smiled. "Because you are special. I had only heard stories about you until now, and it turns out they were all true. You are something different, Buffy. And you will do more great things in your life. But…that is not the only reason I am telling you. Another is that I have become more invested than I should have in your situation."
"My situation?" she asked confused.
"The one where you are marrying the wrong man."
Buffy's mouth fell open. Tactfulness was clearly not in the girl's dictionary.
"It's so strange. I mean, we made the vampire human because we thought that would make you happy. And it seemed to. Until now. You can imagine my surprise when I saw you in Spike's apartment that day. After only spending a small amount of time with you, I realized there was something there. So I played the part of the jealous girlfriend just to see what would happen. It didn't take long either. I saw you kissing."
Though she wanted to be angry at the girl for being so deceptive, Buffy thought she could still feel red slipping into her cheeks. So they hadn't been as sneaky as they thought. And wait, hadn't she just said they had made Angel human? It did make sense. He had said he was surprised since he had signed all chances away in an attempt to defeat some lawyers or something. The Slayer started to wonder how much in her life had been affected by these in-betweens.
"And now I am sure that we made a mistake. So I am here to help correct it. I believe that it is Spike who will make you happy."
Buffy had been a little lost in her own thoughts. "What?"
"But unfortunately, it is not up to me to decide anything. You must do that on your own. I'm simply here to deliver a message, which is this: if you decide that Spike is who you want, we can do for him what we did for the other. If instead you decide to wed Angel today, then you will not hear from me again." Before Buffy could speak, she continued. "And you mustn't worry about whoever you do not choose. I can always return to Spike." She smiled slightly, clearly finding the idea enjoyable. "And we already have someone planted in Angel's life, ready to take charge if need be. She was originally assigned to help ensure your wedding went off without a hitch and to see to it that you two have a very nice home to move to. We have her posing as a real-estate agent for now. But as I said before, that can change."
The Slayer opened her mouth to speak, but closed it when she realized that she didn't know what to say. The girl was offering her a choice, a way out, if she wanted one. And with a promise that no matter which guy she chose, the other would be happyish. That was good right? But…what did she want? It was something she had been mulling over in her brain ever since she'd gotten on the airplane in Atlanta.
"There is one more thing," "Katie" said. "You left this." She handed Buffy a small plastic bag. "We'll see each other," she said before vanishing into thin air.
Buffy looked down at the bag and then back to the spot where the woman had just been. She felt like she had just experienced an overload of information from a creature she never even knew existed. And of course it was definitely possible that the woman…or whatever she was…had been lying. It could all be some plot to destroy her by confusing her to death. But for some reason, she honestly believed everything she'd heard. She opened the small bag and pulled out its contents. It was a white t-shirt with a simple gold circle in the middle with the words Hard Rock Café, Atlanta, GA printed on it.
"Katie" had said that if she chose Spike, they could do the same thing for him as they had done for Angel. They could make him human. Buffy didn't know if Spike desired to be human or not, but it wouldn't be a far stretch. He was the most human vampire she'd ever met; he ate people food, watched people movies and even had a people job. She also thought she recalled as a distant memory a story of Spike fighting Angel for the Shanshu. So maybe he did want it. But…did she?
In her mind, Buffy suddenly found herself back on the plane, sitting next to the young woman who was doing her best to give good advice.
"Well, ask yourself this. What is it that you really want? And I'm talking about you. Don't worry about anyone else and what they might want. Worry about you."
"I don't know what I want. That's kind of the problem. I just know that I have to go home. I've been gone for a few days and everybody's worried about me. Plus I only have this one outfit and no money."
"So go home, and if you want to get married in two weeks, then do it."
"And if I don't?"
"Then I think you know what you have to do."
And she did. She knew what she had to do.
Buffy's hands were shaking as she reached for the doorknob of the room where Angel and his groomsmen were getting dressed. They had decided to have a small wedding party with only two bridesmaids and groomsmen. Buffy had, of course, chosen Dawn and Willow, whilst Angel had chosen Steve, another of the watchers and one of the only friends he had made at the counsel, and a reluctant Xander, who only agreed for Buffy's sake. It was at that time that Angel had confessed to missing Wesley, Gunn, and Lorne. The last of which, despite not being dead, had been unreachable.
The knob turned under her hand and Buffy held her breath. This was going to surely be one of the hardest things that she had ever had to do. She entered the room to see Angel standing facing a mirror, presumably trying to tie his tie correctly, while Xander and Steve sat on the couch on one side of the room laughing about something. When they noticed her standing there, Xander jumped to his feet and came to hug her.
"Hey Buff, sorry we were late. It wasn't my fault. I told him we should have left earlier."
Angel growled slightly but Xander only laughed.
"Buffy, what are you doing in here?" Steve asked, coming to stand beside Xander. "You know it's bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding."
"I know I just…Angel, I really need to talk to you." She looked at her fiancé, who had finally gotten his tie on, though crooked, and then at the other two men. "Alone."
They seemed to get the hint as they both headed for the door. Xander turned around and gave her a concerned look, but didn't say anything else. Once they were gone, Buffy turned to Angel, who was now standing right in front of her, and took his hands.
"Buffy, what's wrong?" he asked concerned. She looked upset and nervous, neither of which were ever good emotions to see on her face.
"There's just something I need to say."
"Then say it."
She paused only briefly, knowing that if she thought about it too much she might not be able to say it. "I can't marry you."
She was surprised when instead of looking shocked he looked…like he knew it was coming. It wasn't quite sad or totally pissed; kind of somewhere in between.
"Is this because of Spike?" He would kill the vampire if he'd somehow brainwashed his fiancé into leaving him. It was just like him to show up and ruin everything. 'Payback,' his brain shouted at him.
"No," she said. "It's because of me. I really thought this was what I wanted. But…" She paused, collecting her thoughts. "I just feel like there's something missing. And I've felt that way for a while now. I was just so caught up in planning the wedding that I didn't really have time to sit and think about how I felt."
"And this has nothing to do with Spike?" he asked, anger rising slightly.
"Angel, this isn't about him. It's about us. We're not the same as we used to be. We want different things. I love my job at the counsel and I like living close. And sure, maybe I'll want kids someday, but not now."
"That doesn't matter, Buffy. I don't care if we move or get new jobs or have kids. I just want to be with you."
"Well I…" she stopped herself before she could finish the sentence.
Angel dropped her hands and started to turn away. He didn't want to hear her say that he wasn't enough for her anymore. It had been a fear of his since he'd become human. It had stopped bothering him so much that he couldn't protect her from things that went bump in the night, but knowing that he wasn't strong in other ways worried him. He was more breakable now and never wanted her to think of him as fragile or weak.
"There's something that should be there, but it's not. And I have to believe that you feel that, too. That you know in your heart that this," she said, gesturing around. "Isn't right."
And he knew she was right. The last few months had proved that to be true, even before the spell from hell, things had been different between them. As the wedding day had drawn closer, he would catch himself thinking maybe they should wait; make sure this was what she really wanted; because it was all about her. But now that she was making part of it about him, he couldn't be that upset that she didn't want to marry him because he wasn't sure he wanted to marry her either. He had asked her because it had been the plan. Once he became human he would find her and they would be together for the rest of their lives. But he hadn't stopped to think that maybe neither of them truly wanted that anymore, but just thought they did. And if he was honest, a part of him longed for another woman; one that he wished was still around.
"I will always love you," Buffy told him. "But…"
"It's over," he finished for her.
"I think it is."
"And this isn't a little bit about Spike?" Angel couldn't stop himself from asking.
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Maybe a little bit."
"He can't give you a normal life."
"I don't think my normal is the same as other people's."
"No, I guess it isn't."
They stood there in awkward silence for a few moments before Angel spoke. "I should probably tell all those people to leave then."
Whether he didn't really want to get married or not, he still wanted her, and he didn't want to wait around to see her head off with Spike. And as he made his way out of the room, he couldn't help but wonder how this had happened? How had Spike ended up with the girl? What had happened to the world?
He looked at her, the beautiful, strong woman that had changed his life.
"We'll be alright."
Without each other, he knew she had meant, though the words had not been spoken. He nodded in agreement. Yeah, he supposed they would.
Buffy let out a sigh of relief when she was alone. She felt a slight ache in her chest, of course, but also like a weight had been lifted. This time she had given him no hope. She hadn't said maybe someday. She had said it's over. It was scary, in a way, not to have that safety net anymore. But maybe that was what she needed. To be her own safety net.
But this safety net had something to do. All of this had almost made her forget about the man that had set this result into action. Spike. The man who loved her most in this world. A man that she was now 100 percent positive that she loved back. Buffy exited the room and headed back towards the room she had been in. She had almost reached the door when she saw Mandy coming around the corner.
"Where's Spike?" she asked the girl.
"At the airport where I left him."
"What? What did I do now? I was supposed to take him there, right?"
"No…yes…I mean…I really need to talk to him."
"Haven't you already said enough?" Mandy asked, more harshly than intended. It was just that Spike had really grown on her in the few minutes they had been in the car together.
"I did say a lot. But none of it is what I should have said."
"That I was wrong. That I don't really want to get married. And that I love him."
Mandy couldn't help but looked shocked, and quite pleased at the same time, by the answer. "You…you love him?"
"Yeah I do," Buffy said smiling. It was good to finally say it out loud.
"Well, that's great and all," came Dawn's voice from behind them, "But you'd better hurry if you want to catch him. His flight leaves in less than an hour."
"Dawn? You heard all that, huh?"
The younger Summers nodded. "And I think it's awesome," she said seriously. "I always wanted you two to be together. I'm only sad that I didn't get to use my escape plan."
The two sisters shared a smile.
"Didn't you say something about a flight leaving?" Mandy asked.
"Oh yeah. Giles called the airport. He took care of Spike's passport problem. Apparently, he knows a guy. And since Spike's technically a citizen of the U.K., he was able to get one really quickly."
"So he's got a passport?"
"And a ticket. The plane leaves at 3:30."
"What time is it now?" Buffy asked her sister.
The traffic had been worse than usual. Or at least, it really seemed that way. But everything seems worse when you're in a hurry. She was quickly running out of time and was almost sure she would never make it. She silently wished the people who worked for the airline would go on strike or something and refuse to fly the plane. It was close to 3:20 when Buffy finally pulled her car into a space at the Heathrow International Airport. Ten minutes until the plane would be leaving. He would be on it by now, surely. Or maybe not. Maybe this would turn out like the movies and he would be waiting for the final boarding call, which would be anytime now. She would have to run; fast.
As Buffy exited the car, she began to move as quickly as possible towards the stairs. The elevator would be too slow. She thanked the gods that she had opted to change clothes. It had been the fastest change in history, taking her only two minutes to get out of a wedding dress and heels and into a pair of jeans, a white t-shirt and tennis shoes. One minute ticked by as she made her way down the stairs and another as she dodged other cars, running into the airport. She realized once she was inside that she had no idea what gate he would be at. She was only slightly familiar with the airport having flown through it a handful of times. Surprisingly, her flight back from Atlanta had been her first flight since settling into the watcher's council.
She ran up to the ticket counter nearest the door. "Excuse me, where can I find the British Air flight to Atlanta?"
The woman looked slightly annoyed, probably because she'd passed a lengthy line of people who were now complaining loudly.
"I'm sorry, miss. You'll have to get in the back of the line."
"You don't understand. I don't have time to wait in line. The flight is leaving in a few minutes."
"Miss, I'm going to have to ask you to wait in line."
Buffy found herself getting irritated. "I just need to know which gate," she snapped. She was running out of time. She had to stop him. He had to know the truth.
The woman sighed and then looked at her computer. "Gate C," she said.
The woman let a small smile show on her face, as if she knew what Buffy was doing. The slayer turned and ran through the throngs of people making their way through the airport. When she reached the security area she stopped. A sense of déjà vu washed over her. She thought about her conversation with Spike at the Atlanta airport. He had asked her not to get on the plane. And she almost hadn't. But, she realized now, she'd needed to get on that plane. She'd needed to come back home not only for her job, but so she had a chance to work through her feelings instead of running away from them. She still loved Angel and always would. But he wasn't the one she wanted to be with anymore and she'd needed to have that conversation with him. She'd only wished now that she'd gotten the stones to do it before they were both dressed in formal wear.
Buffy neared the security checkpoint and was stopped by a man sitting at a little podium.
"Ticket and passport please," he said.
"I don't have a ticket. But I really need to get through here because there's someone…"
"I'm sorry, miss. I can't let you through without a ticket."
He held up his hand. "No ticket, no entry."
Buffy did her best to glare at him, which was more difficult in her rushed state. She had to think of something; convince this very unfriendly looking man to let her by. But she didn't have time to be charming, not that this guy looked like he could be charmed. So she did the first thing she thought of. She drew back her fist and punched him in the face. He fell back out of his chair and she took off running past him. She pushed past the people waiting to go through the gate and ran through the metal detectors, shoving the two guards standing there easily to the side. And then she really started to move.
When she finally reached the gate where British Air planes were located, she saw a sign indicating which was bound for the U.S. But as she stopped in front of the gate, the plane began to move backwards. She hadn't made it in time. Now he was gone; again. It wasn't the end of the world, she reminded herself. She could always buy a ticket and fly to Atlanta. But she couldn't help but feel a little disappointment. She'd been all gung-ho about telling him how she felt and now she'd have to wait longer. Possibly even longer than the couple of hours till the next flight and the twelve hours it would take to fly there if the security guards figured out where she'd gone.
She turned at the sound of that voice. "Spike."
He was standing a few feet away looking more than a little confused. "What are you doing here?" he wondered. The last time he'd seen her, it seemed like she wanted nothing more than for him to be out of her life, and now here she was. Shouldn't she be getting married right about now?
"I came to stop you," she replied. "But…I thought I was too late. Wasn't that your plane?" She had been sure she was at the right place.
"Yeah, I didn't make it. I had some problems with my ticket."
Buffy couldn't help but wonder if his missing the flight was lucky or whether Katie and her people had something to do with it.
"What did you need?" he asked as cool as he could manage.
"I… I just wanted to tell you that I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what I said. And you were right. I didn't want to get married."
He raised his eyebrows.
"I thought that I did; that I was doing the right thing. But…I've spent so much time trying to plan a life that I haven't stopped to think about what's right for me. I love what I do, helping all those girls, but there's also that part of me that needs to get out and kill things. The night we patrolled was the first time I've felt like myself in a while. And spending time with you made me realize how much I miss my old life. Not everything about it. I don't miss all of the apocalypses and dying and something always wanting me dead. I guess what I really miss is…you. It just took a spell sending me half way across the world to make me realize it."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that…" She took a deep breath. "I'm saying that I'm in love with you."
For the life of him, Spike couldn't think of anything to say. It was one of those moments in life, the kind that you wait for but don't ever actually expect to happen. Yeah, he thought he'd been right about her not wanting to get married, and he'd even thought that she still had feelings for him, but not that she really and truly loved him. And he couldn't help but wonder if she was telling the truth. But the look on her face told him everything that he needed to know. She wasn't lying.
When it didn't seem like he was going to say anything, Buffy continued. "I know that we haven't seen each other in a while. At least, not before a few weeks ago. But the way you make me feel…and we never gave us a real shot, which I know was mostly my fault. And I think…I know I'm ready to be with you now." There she had said it; everything that she had come here to say. She felt as if another weight had been lifted; however, Spike had still not said anything.
He was busy running all of this through his mind. It was what he'd wanted for some time now and he still almost couldn't believe this was even happening. But being with her, it would be selfish of him. She deserved better than what he could give her. After all, he was still a vampire. "I can't," he managed at last. "You should be with Peaches. He's human. He can give you a life with a few rugrats."
Buffy couldn't have been more shocked if he'd punched her in the face and said I hate you. She'd never really thought of Spike as much of the sacrificial type; in the sense that when offered something he wanted he would always take it without question. And she was sure that he wanted her. "But what if I don't need those things? I mean, I already have a family. I'm not sure that I even want kids. I killed my goldfish." She also resisted the urge to tell him that the powers that be could make him human if they both so desired. That would involve explaining about Katie and she wasn't sure she wanted to do that anytime soon.
Spike seemed to contemplate what she had just said. She claimed that maybe she didn't want normal; something he had suspected about her for a long time. But what if that changed? She wasn't sure if she wanted kids, but maybe someday she would and he could never give her that. She seemed resolute though and he wasn't sure how much longer he could keep up this smokescreen. He wanted nothing more than to take her into his arms and kiss the life out of her. Deciding the best option was to give Buffy what she wanted instead of arguing with her, he took a step forward.
"I've loved you since the moment I first saw you dancing in the Bronze," he said. "Even though I didn't know it back then." He recalled one of the many times Dru had tried to tell him he had feelings for Buffy.
"You're covered with her. I look at you and all I see is the slayer," she had said.
Then he had thought her to be on one of her wacko trips she took to never never land sometimes. But now he realized that she had just seen what he'd been too blind to.
"I hoped one day you would feel the same."
"I do," she said, pleased with his answer.
"So what does this mean?" he asked, still unsure of her plan for the future.
"It means," she said taking a step closer and kissing him lightly on the lips. "…that you're going to have to get used to cooking breakfast everyday."
"You know we're not gonna be some cheerful couple with a dog and a white picket fence."
Buffy smiled slightly. "Never was one for picket fences anyway. They're bloody dangerous."
Spike laughed lightly. "That they are, luv."
She wrapped her arms around his neck then and kissed him with all she had. Spike responded to her almost immediately, wrapping his own arms around her back and pulling her closer. They held onto each other for several minutes, neither willing to let go.
The sound of coughing got their attention and they reluctantly broke away from the kiss. An airport security guard was standing there with a baton in his hand. And beside him was the man who'd been seated at the little podium.
"Yes?" Spike asked, rather irritated.
The guard directed his attention to Buffy. "You assaulted a police official, miss."
"You assaulted him?" Spike asked with an amused smile.
She shrugged. "He was in my way."
"I'm going to have to insist that you exit the area."
"I was just leaving," she told him. "And sorry…about your face," she told the other man.
"We should be placing you under arrest."
Buffy tried to smile innocently.
"But you didn't seem to have any metal on you since you didn't set the detectors off. And Robert here is the forgiving type."
'Could have fooled me,' Buffy thought to herself. She could really only thank her lucky stars that she wasn't being hauled off to British jail right about now. Out of the corner of her eye Buffy could have sworn she saw a familiar looking woman smiling at her. She said a silent thanks to her…guardian angels? She and Spike hurried past the guard and made their way back to the main lobby where all of the ticket counters were positioned side by side.
"So what now?" Spike asked as they neared the sliding doors that led back to the parking area.
"Now…I don't know. But it doesn't matter what we do. Because in the end, the only thing that really matters is doing what feels right. Going after what you really want. And you are what I want," she said, wrapping her arms around his waist. "And right now, that's all I need."
"It's so good to hear you say that."
Buffy smiled at him. "I love you."
"I love you," he replied before kissing her.