Author's Note: I have a handful of ficlets I've been meaning to post for quite some time. Now that Marking Time is finally finished, guess I'll start. Here's the first chapter of a two-part post-show Spuffy reunion. Hope you enjoy!
A Matter of Perspective 1/1
Buffy climbed out of the cab, head tilting back to follow the lines of the building up and up…and still further up. Pretty impressive, she had to admit. But structure-gawking was not why she had hopped the first red-eye flight from Rome to Los Angeles.
Accepting her bag from the cab driver, she reached into her handbag and dug out the fare plus a generous tip. Then, squaring her shoulders and lifting her chin, she marched up to the building and sailed through the massive glass doors.
A short elevator ride later, she found herself charging into a spacious lobby. Her advance faltered briefly when she spotted a familiar face behind the reception desk, but in a flash she recovered and was storming her way across the floor, bag rolling along behind her with a soft clickety-clack sound. It didn't take long for her approach to be noticed.
"Buffy! Ohmigosh, I can't believe it! Long time, no see. You look great! How are things in Italy? Don't you just totally love it? They have the best shoes there!"
"Where is he?"
"You heard me, Harmony. Where. Is. He."
"Oh, I'm sorry. He's in a really important meeting right now. With…um…people…and stuff. If I interrupt him he'll be sooo cranky. But I'm sure as soon as they're done Angel will be really happy to see you."
"I'm not talking about Angel."
"Oh? Well, okay. Wesley's in the meeting, too."
"Really? Wow. I didn't even know you knew Gunn. Unless you mean Fred. In which case, you do know that Fred's a she, not a he, right? Not that it really matters since they're all in the meeting anyway. So you still have to wait. Sorry!" She flashed a bright smile.
"I'm giving you three seconds."
It took less than one for Harmony's finger to hit the buzzer.
"Boss? Um, really hate to interrupt but we've got a situation here."
Buffy narrowed her gaze and Harmony cringed.
"I mean, a really, really good situation. If like, you know, you were wanting to see an old friend from Sunnydale. Like, that old friend, in particular. Cuz, she's here. Right now. Threatening me."
In a flash, the huge double doors adjacent to Harmony's desk flew open. Buffy turned in time to see Angel stride out, his face uncharacteristically beaming with what was clearly a fake smile of welcome. His tense posture and shifting eyes gave him away. Behind him, other people poured out of the doorway. No one she knew, aside from what her brain dimly registered as a slightly scruffy, surprisingly dangerous-looking Wesley. And when, exactly, had that happened? But she shoved the thought aside to focus on a more important question.
"Where is he, Angel?"
The smile vanished, but to his credit, Angel didn't try to play games. "He doesn't want to see you," he said quietly. Then a flicker of uncertainty crossed his face. "We are talking about the same 'him,' right? Andrew told you? You're not here looking for some bad guy or rogue demon you think I know about but I don't really and I just accidentally gave something away that I shouldn't have. Right?"
"Good. I mean, okay. But like I said, he doesn't want to see you."
She tried to pretend that didn't hurt.
"Too bad. He doesn't get a say in the matter. Just like I didn't get a choice when everybody forgot to tell me he was back. Now where is he, Angel? Or do I have to go on a little search-and-destroy mission through all gazillion stories of this nice, evil building of yours?"
A delicate-looking woman with long brown hair had been standing quietly off to one side. At Buffy's words, her chin shot up and she pushed her way through the throng of people to plant herself in front of Buffy. "You just try it, missy, and we'll kick your skinny slayer butt!"
"Fred…" Angel's voice held a warning note.
"You may be a big whoop-dee-doo back where you come from, Buffy Summers, but you're not the boss of us. And you don't get to just crook your little finger at him and expect him to come running with his tongue hanging out like some fluffy little puppy! He's got feelings, you know. And he's got a purpose. He's not just your sidekick anymore. He's better than that. He can make up his own mind what he does or doesn't want, and if he doesn't want to see you, then…well…you can't make him because we won't let you! Right?" She looked to the others for support.
"Better believe it." A tall black man stepped forward, stationing himself next to Fred. "If my man wants to lay low, he gets to lay low. You got a problem with that, you can take it up with us." Folding his arms, he regarded Buffy with a challenging glare.
Buffy glared back. "Angel." Her low, harsh tone carried its own warning.
Wesley cleared his throat and all eyes swung his way. "Perhaps it would be wise to rethink your course of action, Buffy. I'm afraid he was quite adamant, and we really must respect his wishes."
"You know, Wesley, for some reason, I'm not too keen on taking your advice. I think there's something else going on here. Something you're not telling me. Why are you all trying so hard to keep me away from him?"
"Oh for goodness sakes!" Fred waved her arms. "You're bad for him, okay? I mean, seriously, what kind of life can you give him? He gets to be the Slayer's Consort? Except, you're not even 'The' slayer anymore, are you? You're 'a' slayer. And he's a vampire. And if he goes with you, that's what he'll always be. Just another vampire with a soul mooning after a slayer." Fred huffed and rolled her eyes. "And, hello? Angel! Been there, done that…probably didn't get a t-shirt."
Fred threw Angel an apologetic shrug. Then she was back facing off with Buffy. "It boils down to this…do you care about him enough to do the right thing? Because if you love him, if you really want what's best for him, you'll leave. You'll give him a chance to have the kind of life he deserves, the kind of life he'll never have if he goes with you."
Buffy stood there, trying to figure out if she'd died again and this time awakened in Bizarro World. Her resolve hardened. "Really not discussing this with you."
Fred waved her hands "Because you know I'm right, but you don't want to admit it! He has friends here, people who care about him. People who actually like him. Did he have that before, when he was with you? Is that what he'd have if he went with you now? And not only that, he has a mission here…a…a destiny! There's a whole prophecy about it." She stopped to shoot a guilty glance at a glowering Angel. "Okay, so that one's still up in the air a little bit. But if he goes with you, he might never find out."
Buffy frowned. "There's a destiny?"
"Like I said, maybe. But even if there's not, there's that…other thing."
"Other thing? What other?"
Fred's steady gaze wavered. For the first time she looked uncomfortable. "I'm talking about the Angel thing. With the kissing and the basking. It really hurt him."
"He told you about that?"
Fred shrugged. "He talked about it some. Not everything. But enough. You should really be ashamed. Stringing them both along like that. Is that what they teach you in Slayer School? How to be a big, fat slayer ho?"
Buffy couldn't decide which was worse – being lectured to and insulted by a total stranger, or finding herself wavering between the urge to punch her out and a nagging impulse to apologize. Which meant it was time to nip this puppy in the butt. Or whatever.
"If he doesn't want to see me, he can tell me to my face. Then I'll leave," she ground out.
Gunn shook his head. "Damn, woman, do we have to call in a translator? What part of 'You're not welcome here' don't you get?"
"She's always been that way," Harmony offered. "When he and I were together? She was always chasing after him, even though he didn't want anything to do with her since he was totally into me. It was only after I dumped him that he turned to her. She was his rebound girl."
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Yes, Harmony, I'm sure that's exactly the way it happened…in your own little psycho fantasy world."
Harmony looked at her pityingly. "See? She still can't admit the truth. That she was just a poor substitute with my pining Blondie Bear. You know, when he came back here he was all go-throughy for awhile, but when he got all corporeal again, he knew just what he wanted and—"
A nervous, high-pitched laugh interrupted her. Buffy squinted at the green-skinned, red-eyed demon she hadn't really noticed until now.
"Now, now, sweet cakes, it really isn't polite to gloat over someone who can snap our necks with her little finger. Where are our manners?" He moved to put an arm around Harmony, steering her away from the group gathered around Buffy. She watched as he threw her an ingratiating smile before turning his attention back to Harmony.
"You know, there's some delicious otter's blood in the break room refrigerator. Why don't we just go find it and let the nice slayer talk to our friends? I'm sure they'll get everything sorted out just fine without us. And I've been dying for you to tell me where you got that divine pair of shoes! I have a client who would kill for those. And I do mean literally."
As they moved out of earshot, Buffy looked at Angel.
"That was Lorne. He's a friend. He's good at damage control."
"Really? And what damage is he controlling, exactly?" When no one seemed inclined to answer, Buffy sighed. "You know what? Never mind. Obviously, we're going to have to do this the hard way."
Taking a step toward the elevator, she immediately found her way blocked again by Angel and his gang doing their best impression of an impenetrable forest.
Fred looked at her with sad eyes. "You know, I was really hoping I wouldn't have to do this, but you're not giving us much choice. He doesn't want to see you, Buffy, because he doesn't love you anymore. Plain and simple. He got over you. He moved on. He didn't want to tell you because he was afraid it would hurt your feelings. He just kept hoping you'd never find out that he came back."
Buffy stared at her. Looked deep into her eyes. Remembered the last thing he'd said to her.
"I don't believe you." But even she could hear how small her voice sounded.
"I don't know everything that went on between you two. He's too much of a gentleman to share that part with me. But we've grown pretty close…I mean, really close. So I think I have the right to tell you that you need to leave. Now."
"Close?" Again with the small voice.
"We spent a lot of time together trying to figure out how to make him solid again. We got to be friends first and then, well…" She trailed off, shaking her head. "Look, I'm sorry. But it's really for the best. Even if he hadn't stopped loving you and still wanted to be with you, you'd only wind up hurting him again. You're the slayer. You can't really love. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. Although, that's actually kind of funny since I sort of…well, never mind."
Old insecurities surfaced. "What? That's not true. I can too love. I can!"
Gunn snorted. "Yeah, right. That's not the story we heard."
Her lower lip started to quiver. "You don't understand. Nobody understands! I do love him. I told him so, but he wouldn't believe me." Tears welled up in her eyes, turning accusing faces into indistinct, watery blobs. "I know I should have said it sooner. I don't know why I didn't. There was so much happening and so much to do and…and…I don't know! He asked me what it meant and I couldn't tell him. He looked so hurt and I still couldn't tell him. And when I finally did, he said I didn't and he told me to go. And I did. I left him there. Not believing me.
"And all I keep remembering is that he died thinking I didn't love him. But I did. I really, really did. When I found out he was back, I was so mad and so happy. Only now it's too late. I'm stupid! Big, stupid Buffy! I can't ever get it right! He hates me, doesn't he?"
Wesley's tone was soothing. "I'm certain 'hate' is too harsh a word…"
"He does! He won't even talk to me, that's how much he hates me!"
"Don't be daft, love. Hate you? Not possible."
Buffy froze. It was his voice – soft, firm, achingly familiar.
"Yeah. It's me."
She still couldn't see clearly through the tears, but the strong, leather-clad arms that enfolded her left little doubt.
"Hush, now. It's all right. I'm right here. Not goin' anywhere, 'cept with you."
Her head tilted back and her eyes crossed a little as she tried to focus on his face. "With me? Really?"
"No other place in the world for me. Just by your side."
Buffy sniffed, tears drying on her face. "No. Not beside me. With me. Okay? For always."
The gazed at each other for what seemed like a very long time, then…
"Is there some place we can go? To…you know…be alone?"
Spike didn't even blink. "Charlie, boy, we're borrowin' your office, yeah?"
"Uh…yeah. Okay. Just let me—"
"No need to tidy up for us. We'll be fine." Buffy smiled as Spike looked down at her, eyes shining. "And don't worry if we're not out for awhile," he added, grinning. "Sun won't be down for a few hours yet."
Spike extended his hand, gazing at her with warmth, longing and a smile that made her just a little weak in the knees. In a deliciously non-slayer-like way. Slipping her hand into his, she let him lead her across the lobby and into a spacious office. Just before the doors closed behind them, she turned to throw a pointed look at the skinny brunette staring after them.
Buffy knew gloating was bad, but she couldn't help feeling smug. It had been so much easier than she'd thought.
Continued in Chapter 2