This is my humble offering for the latest round of seasonal_spuffy but also my first ever posted Buffy fanfic, so I'm pretty nervous but also very excited about finally getting to share it! As much as I loved the last season of Angel I was always disappointed that we never got a proper Buffy/Spike reunion, so I wrote this story like the (two part) television episode I always wanted to see. Thank you to my lovely beta joans_journal for all of her feedback and encouragement on this. Comments will be greatly cherished.
The sun had set long ago.
Angel did not mind. The darkness hid a multitude of sins, and he was guilty of his share of many.
The orange lights of the Los Angeles skyline glimmered distantly through the necrotempered window. Before him the penthouse was shrouded in darkness. The only illumination was a soft halo of light emanating from the sconced lamp on the wall beside his bed, highlighting the tangled bedsheets which had remained untouched since his departure that morning. Angel slowly removed his jacket and draped it across a nearby chair. It was with a touch of irony that he realised pretty much everything he owned could pass for funeral attire. Today of all days his choice of wardrobe was wholly appropriate.
He felt exhaustion beckoning as he lowered himself onto the edge of the bed, loosening the grey pin-striped tie at his collar. He stopped when something caught his eye where it stood upon the bedside table.
Angel abandoned his tie and picked up the framed photograph instead, with its embroidered flowers and multi-coloured sequins. It brought a small smile to his lips as he traced his fingers wistfully across the faded image of a much happier time.
"We need to have a picture, Angel." He remembered her words as though it were just yesterday. "After Doyle… After what happened I want there to be a record of us. Of our family. And hey, we can get a ton of copies made and even make a bunch of them wallet-sized! Do vampires carry wallets? We can get you a wallet. And you know what normal people often carry in wallets? Money. Money made from a regular stream of clients. Are ya getting my drift with this?"
Angel sat inert upon the edge of the bed, staring at the picture in silence for a long time. He was no stranger to loss. But this. This was Cordy.
He knew that he was lost without her.
The sound of a telephone cut through the darkness.
Wesley sat alone in his office with the heavy blinds drawn, despite the early hour. The sleeves of his shirt were pushed up roughly past his elbows, his shoulders hunched as he pored over yet another dusty volume. Beside him sat a half-drunken mug of coffee. He did not even attempt to suppress a sigh as he looked down at the mess of books scattered across his desk. He was deeply engaged in research and loathe to be disturbed. The phone rang several more times before he decided to answer it.
"Hello, Research and Intelligence." Wesley ran a hand across his tired face as he spoke the words. He frowned as he listened to the disgruntled voice on the other end of the line. "No, no I'm afraid he is rather indisposed at the moment." He leant back in his chair as he listened to the reply, carefully setting his pen down upon the desk. "I am not at liberty to divulge that information," he said. "But if it is an urgent matter you may leave a message with his secretary and he will get back to you as quickly as-" He paused, closing his eyes and rubbing at them wearily. "Swearing blood vengeance is all well and good, but it's hardly going to-"
There was a knock at the door. Wesley glanced up as Harmony ducked her head into the office. His frown grew as he took in the urgent expression on her face.
"Call back again tomorrow," he told the agitated caller. "We will discuss the matter then." And he hung up the phone and straightened again in his chair, suddenly conscious of his rather dishevelled appearance. "Harmony. You're not at your desk. What seems to be the problem?"
Harmony was wearing a pink summery dress and matching heels. It hurt his tired eyes just to look at her.
"I need to speak to Angel," she said.
Wesley shook his head.
"Harmony, we've been through this. Angel is on sabbatical. Until he feels he is fit to return to work we must respect his wishes and leave him alone in order to grieve. It's only right."
"Believe me," she said, "he's going to want to hear this. It's really urgent."
"That may be so," said Wesley. "But whatever it is I am sure it is not a matter of life and death."
"Well, yeah, that's the thing," she said helplessly. "It kinda is."
Shafts of morning sunlight flooded in through the nearby window. For a long time Angel remained motionless in his bed, staring up at the ceiling above. The ache of loss was not getting easier. It just became more pronounced every time he woke up and remembered she was gone. It was not the same for the others. His deal with Wolfram and Hart had modified their memories, erasing much of the heartache of the last year. He still remembered it all.
God, he remembered everything.
For the first time in days he found himself getting dressed and calling his private elevator. The office waited for him downstairs. Perhaps there he might find something he could do: a life he could change, a soul he could save. The telephone in his apartment began to ring as the elevator doors slid open before him. Angel simply let it ring as he stepped inside the elevator and pressed the call button for the floor below.
As he stood in the enclosed space Angel felt a strange sensation raise the hairs on the back of his neck. It was a familiar feeling which he could not quite place as the elevator came to a stop and the chrome doors opened out onto his office.
A blonde woman was standing behind his desk. At first he thought it was Harmony. Her back was turned as she examined the array of weaponry which currently adorned the office wall. When she heard him enter the visitor turned with a start, her long blonde hair cascading over her shoulder.
Angel stopped dead in his tracks. Now he understood perfectly.
Angel remembered the last time he had seen her. Things had been different then. Very different. Nothing could have been further from that moment than the young woman who stood before him now. She was not as painfully thin as she had been then, with a healthy tan no doubt acquired after several months living under the Mediterranean sun. Her hair was down this time, lightly curled and more sun kissed than he remembered. She wore a white buttoned shirt with short embellished sleeves, as well as a pair of tan trousers and brown heeled boots. A fine silver chain hung around her neck, bearing a small pendant which glinted in the sunlight filtering through the nearby window.
They both regarded each other in surprise for a long moment. Angel realised that he must look very different as well. He was not as trim as he had once been, the dark-on-dark ensembles having long since given way to tailored suits and pinstriped shirts. He stood awkwardly in the middle of the space, staring at her numbly. He did not know what to say. He had not been expecting this. Not now. Not after everything that had happened since…
Buffy offered him a smile. The gesture seemed strained.
"Why are you…?" He swallowed, taking a hesitant step towards her. "I mean, when did you-?"
"This morning," she explained. "I just got the red eye from New York. I was going to call first, but I had no idea if you even wanted to see me." She paused and looked at him accusingly. "And why exactly is Harmony working as your secretary?"
"That's a very long story I'm not even sure I understand myself…"
"I'm sure there's a good explanation." She gestured around her. "For all of this. Or at least I hope so. But that's not why I'm here. This is about something else. I had to see you."
He nodded absently. He was stupid to think for even a split second that she might be here for a social visit. This was strictly business.
"I thought you didn't trust me."
She studied his face for a moment.
"I don't know if I do," she said. "But I've just flown more than six thousand miles to see you. I wouldn't have come here if it wasn't important."
Angel shook his head.
"Buffy, this really isn't the best time…"
"And why is that?" she said.
A million reasons screamed through his mind. The thought of Cordelia brought with it a fresh surge of pain at the sting of recollection. He forced it back down into the depths.
"You don't understand..."
"No, I really don't," she said. "What could be so important that you can't even spare a few minutes to talk to me? Is your schedule really that busy?"
"You know what?" he said brusquely, his anger rising. "You're right. I do have a busy schedule. I actually have a business to run here." He approached his desk and began to rifle absently through some of the paperwork lying there, deliberately ignoring her presence. "Go and talk to Harmony. See if there is any space in my day to schedule a meeting, but as it stands…"
He trailed off when Buffy calmly placed her hand on top of the file folder he was about to pick up.
"Angel." Her voice was disarmingly gentle. He glanced up and met her eyes. " I know a lot has happened since… since Sunnydale. I don't pretend to understand what you are doing here, and I'm not sure I even want to know, but this is serious. I need your help."
He regarded her and noticed the change which had come over her expression.
"What kind of help?"
Buffy withdrew her hand. He straightened again, the folder forgotten.
"I'm not sure how much Andrew told you," she said. "About what happened in Sunnydale."
Angel studied her carefully.
"He might have mentioned a couple of things," he said evasively.
"After Spike…" She caught herself and began again. "After we closed the Hellmouth there was still a lot of work to do. We've been rounding up all of the activated Slayers wherever we can find them. Teaching them. Training them."
"That's why you took Dana."
"Yeah," she said softly. "Willow has her friends in the coven searching for all of the newly awakened potentials, but I guess some girls are gonna slip through the cracks. We still don't know how many are out there."
"You know, you could have trusted me to handle her," Angel said. "I'm not running the evil empire here. I could have kept her contained. I don't think you understand the kind of resources I have here."
"And that's exactly what concerns me," she said.
"And so you came here." It was more of a question than a statement.
"It's not what you think," she said. "I'm not here to take any more girls. And I didn't come here to lecture you or to pick a fight over everything that's happened. Honestly I think we're kinda past that. This is about something else." She took a shuddering breath. "I've been having dreams again. Slayer dreams."
This put him on edge.
"What did you see?"
"They're not exactly big with the sense making," she said. "I see flashes, here and there. Death. Evil. Apocalypse." Her tone lightened. "You know, the usual. But this time it's different." Her voice became fragile. "I can sense there's badness coming, Angel. I-I had to see you. I needed some answers."
Angel shook his head.
"Buffy, to be honest we're not really the best people to be interpreting vague portents of doom. It never ends well."
"These aren't so much portents as huge flashing neon signs of evil," she said. "And they're all pointing here. I remember the same thing every time I wake up."
He stepped closer.
"And what is that?"
She took a deep breath.
"A wolf, a ram and a hart."
Wesley reached over and tugged on the beaded chain hanging from his reading lamp. It illuminated a mess of books and scrolls which were scattered haphazardly across the surface of his desk. Buffy glanced in curiosity at an open volume which had pride of place amidst this clutter. She caught a glance of the title—Higher Beings and the Real World Intervention of Otherworldly Planes—before Wesley closed it and pushed the volume aside as he reached to take a pen out of his desk tidy. Then he gestured for Buffy to take a seat before him.
His jaw was shadowed with a few days' worth of stubble and his dark shirt slightly crumpled. Buffy hardly recognised him as the same awkward ex-Watcher who had defied the Council on Faith's behalf so many years ago. Older and wiser, perhaps, although she got the distinct impression that he would have gladly traded back some of that wisdom for any price. She knew the feeling well.
"I apologise for the clutter," Wesley said as she sat down. Angel hovered quietly at her side. "I'm afraid that you've caught me at a rather bad time. I've just been doing some light reading."
Buffy nodded at this.
"I see your definition of 'light' appears to be rather weighty."
"Indeed," he said. "Lately I find myself searching for answers I am not too sure can even be found. But then one often thinks his own modest efforts rather fruitless in the grander scheme of things." The mirth seemed to disappear from his expression then. He cleared his throat and touched his pen to a spiral bound notepad set upon the desk before him. "So tell me, Buffy, when exactly did you start experiencing these dreams?"
"Dawn did the calculations," she said. "It was about nineteen days after we closed the Hellmouth."
Wesley started to make a note of this. Then he paused as something occurred to him, his unseeing eyes fixed upon the notepad.
"Nineteen days? That's odd…"
Buffy glanced up at Angel, the worry evident in her expression.
"What is it?" she said.
"Nineteen days after the battle," Angel murmured, following Wesley's unspoken line of thought. "That was my first day here as CEO."
Wesley nodded in deep thought.
"That would start to explain the imagery, I guess. But if you've been having these dreams for so long, Buffy, then why didn't you get in contact with us sooner?"
"I don't know," she said honestly. "I figured it was just me. Y'know, the Slayer part of me. I've been having a lot of dreams lately. Lots of girls all sharing the memories now. I guess it's getting a little crowded in there."
"The Slayer spell," said Wesley. "You believe it has something to do with these dreams of yours?"
"That was my guess," she told him.
"And they led you here to Wolfram and Hart?"
Buffy shuffled uncomfortably in her seat.
"Faith said that I needed to go to the source," she said. "So here I am."
Wesley considered this silently, lowering his pen and abandoning his note taking. Angel cast him a questioning glance. His impatience was obvious as he stood expectantly beside Buffy's chair.
"What do you think?" he said.
Wesley gave him a knowing look.
"I think we may need to get a second opinion."
"I'm really not sure about this..."
Buffy wringed her hands nervously as Lorne sat at the head of the large conference table before her, flashing her a friendly smile. Not so friendly was the added audience of Wesley and Angel who flanked him upon either side. She was reminded of a Broadway audition.
"No need to be shy, princess," Lorne beamed. "You can't be any worse than our resident manpire over here." He put up a hand. "Just no Manilow, please. He's already murdered most of that poor guy's back catalogue."
Buffy chattered anxiously: "It's just that the last time I burst into song in public there was this whole brain-to-mouth filter issue that I couldn't seem to control…"
Wesley gave a confused frown.
"The last time?"
"Also, I get dry mouth," Buffy added.
Angel folded his arms.
"Murdered is such a strong word..." It had obviously been bothering him.
Lorne chuckled uneasily.
"Look, help me out here, pumpkin," he said. "I can only read your destiny if you sing something for us. Sinatra. Streisand. Hell, I'm even partial to a bit of Stevie Wonder myself. Just a few lines will do. We're not handing out any Grammys here."
Buffy nodded. There was no escaping this. She knew that. Clearing her throat she dropped her hands to her sides and took a few difficult breaths. She kept her eyes firmly closed as she began to shakily sing.
Lorne watched her intently as she sang. Angel soon leant down towards him with a questioning expression.
"Are you getting anything?" he whispered.
Lorne grimaced through his teeth.
"Yikes," he muttered. "Somebody fix me a piña colada. This is gonna be a toughie."
"It's that bad?"
Wesley was watching Buffy with an approving smile.
"I actually think she's rather good."
Lorne leant in to Angel conspiratorially.
"I'm not talking about her pipes, mutton chops. This girl's reading is off the charts. I've never felt anything like it." Buffy's eyes were still closed, but her voice became a little stronger as she continued the song, oblivious to their hushed exchange. "Anger, fear, guilt. She feels it all intensely. It's like a smorgasbord of emotions. Gonna be hard to pin anything down."
"Are you saying that you can't read her?" Angel asked him.
"Oh, I can read her alright," Lorne said. "But it's kinda like reading War and Peace for the first time. Gonna take me a while to digest, is all. And even then I'd prefer the Cliff Notes version."
Angel did not seem too assured by these words.
Some time later Angel gently eased shut the doors to the large conference room behind him. Wesley stood nearby, clutching a heavy volume to his chest. His face was etched with concern as he watched Angel turn away. He looked even paler than usual and just a little tired.
"Best to leave those two alone," Wesley said quietly. "She's had a long flight, and Lorne works best without an audience."
Angel lowered his hand, staring at him in incredulity.
"Okay, there are a million things wrong with that statement."
"You're right. I wasn't thinking straight. I just meant that-"
"I know what you meant," said Angel. "Buffy doesn't need any distractions. I get it. I'm a distraction."
And without another word he turned away and marched back towards the lobby. Wesley followed him as he rushed past a number of startled-looking employees and approached the main desk. Harmony was nowhere to be seen. Angel began to cast around here and there, clearly distracted by her absence.
"Harmony?" he called. He tapped a hand impatiently upon the desk and then turned back to Wesley. "Where's Harmony? I need my blood. She knows I need my mug of blood."
"Angel, calm down. I'm sure she's just taking a lunch break."
"Exactly!" he said. "We're vampires. We don't need lunch. Do you know what we need? Blood." He cast about again. "Harmony!"
Wesley shook his head disapprovingly.
"Look, Angel, I know it can be a tad disconcerting when an ex shows up out of the blue like this. But there's really no need to take it out on your subordinates..."
Angel got defensive: "That's where you're wrong, Wesley. This isn't about Buffy. It's about blood. I can't function without my morning blood. I get cranky."
"Clearly," said Wesley. "But you're barely functioning as it is. Maybe you should go back to bed, take the rest of the day off. We can handle things down here. You don't need to worry about Buffy, or anything else for that matter. You've been through enough."
"I'm fine," Angel lied. He slowed down and leant upon the desk, staring darkly at nothing for a long moment. "I just need to figure this out. I need to do something."
Wesley glanced down at the volume in his hand, but then seemed to think better of something and said: "Angel, I understand your concern in this matter. But promise me that you won't do anything reckless. Buffy obviously has concerns for your welfare. These dreams of hers may yet prove to be prophetic."
"I don't trust prophecy," Angel muttered.
"Nonetheless," said Wesley, "it would be foolish to dismiss it."
Angel remained silent at this. Then he suddenly pushed away from the desk and headed off at full speed.
"Okay, here's the plan. Get Buffy to come by my office when she's finished with Lorne. I can make some sketches and see if the images in her dreams match up with anything in the Wolfram and Hart database."
Wesley nodded, matching his pace as he walked.
"I'll go through my texts. Maybe I can find something that will prove useful."
"Get your entire department working on this," said Angel. "I want every prophecy in our archives pulled apart, seam by seam. Search for anything which mentions slayers or Hellmouths. And get Fred to help you. I want the whole team on this."
"What about Gunn?"
"Tell Gunn we've got it covered. He's been acting CEO in my absence and it's gonna stay that way until further notice. Pretty soon the entire building is gonna know that I'm back, and we've got enough on our plates without clients crawling out of the woodwork for a personal audience. It's probably best that we don't spread around the fact that there is a vampire slayer on the premises either."
"I'm not too sure if that is possible," said Wesley. "News spreads fast in a place like this. It may already be too late to keep Buffy's presence contained."
This comment gave Angel pause. He appeared to be thinking something through. Then he stopped and turned towards an approaching grunt.
"Hey, you. Check with security. I wanna know the moment Spike shows up within two hundred yards of this building. Do not let him out of your sight."
The man nodded, a little taken aback.
He put a hand to his earpiece and muttered something incomprehensible as he started off in the direction of the elevators. Wesley glared at Angel in disapproval.
"And have them do what exactly?" he asked. "Detain Spike in the car park?"
Angel's expression darkened with a scowl.
"I don't want him coming anywhere near…" He caught himself. "I just don't want him around, Wesley. Deal with it."
And without waiting for an answer Angel turned away and started off again in the direction of his office. Wesley stepped up behind him.
"She has a right to know, Angel," he called. "You can't keep the two of them apart. It's not right."
Angel did not stop.
"I'll decide what's right around here."
Wesley raised his voice a little: "Are you really so petty as to keep your ex away from a man she at the least considered a friend?"
These words seemed to hit home. Angel came to a standstill outside his office doors. His voice softened considerably.
"I already lost Cordy," he murmured. "I don't want to lose her too."
Wesley bowed his head.
"Buffy can make her own decisions," he said calmly.
Angel touched a hand to his office doors.
"I know that," he said without looking back. "I just don't want her to make the wrong one."
Wesley affixed him with a questioning expression.
"The wrong one for her, you mean, or the wrong one for you?"
Angel did not turn around. He had no answer to this.
The machine hissed softly as a stream of hot coffee poured into the little plastic cup poised beneath the dispensing mechanism. Buffy watched anxiously as the steaming coffee filled the cup almost to the brim, afraid that it would overspill and stain the expensive carpeting with mass-produced espresso. Or maybe not, since she was still unsure exactly how she felt about Wolfram and Hart and the fact that Angel was running the place. It felt like she had stepped into another world.
"Need some help?" said a voice.
Buffy started at this. She turned to find a besuited man staring back at her, clutching a briefcase.
"Er, yes," she replied. Her beverage had finished pouring by now, thankfully without incident. She quickly scooped it up out of the machine. "I was heading for Angel's office. Wesley gave me directions. And then I started feeling a bit avoidy. And also jetlagged, hence the coffee."
He seemed surprised at this.
"Angel's back in the office? Guess I chose the wrong day to take a long morning meeting." He glanced down and fiddled for a moment with the clasp on his briefcase, then looked up again and smiled warmly at her. "So you got a meeting with the big dog? I'm not surprised you're feeling nervous. Angel has that effect on people. Well, demons mostly. They don't exactly admire his policy of, y'know, killing them. Sorta puts on a damper on office relations. That's where I come in." The man held out a friendly hand. "Charles Gunn. Attorney at law..." He cringed. "And I did not just say that."
Buffy smiled as she juggled her coffee and shook his proffered hand.
"Of course." As the handshake ended she suddenly remembered her manners and added: "I'm Buffy Summers."
"Ah." Gunn's face brightened considerably. "So you're the Buffy I've heard so much about?"
"I guess," she said, clutching her coffee to her chest. "Do people talk about me here? Sort of a know-thy-enemies kinda deal?"
He smiled in reassurance.
"Relax, blondie. No office gossip going on around here, 'cept the regular brand of water cooler chitchat. Actually Angel told me all about you. Vampire slayer extraordinaire. And you've got the wrong idea about this place. We're doing a lot of good here. We just have the budget and the resources to play in a bigger sandbox, as it were."
She did not seem convinced.
"You do good? At Wolfram and Hart?"
"It's really not as weird as it sounds," he said reassuringly. They set off together down the corridor. "I've been on Angel's crew a few years now, but since we took over this place I've been his legal ace-in-the-hole." He tapped his head. "Got me a comprehensive knowledge of the law installed in this handsome noggin when I signed up for the job, along with a few dozen demon languages and some Gilbert and Sullivan. But I've been fighting the forces of darkness since I was yay high."
She nodded haltingly, her brow creased.
"Little mental upgrade courtesy of the Senior Partners," he explained. "Downloaded straight up, no waiting. Well, some waiting. But I got a pretty sweet deal out of it. Way I figure it five hours re-reading People magazine has nothing on three years of law school."
Buffy's interest was piqued.
"Do they offer Italian courses?"
They soon reached the end of the corridor. Each reached out a hand to push open the set of double doors. They emerged into a quiet lounge area just off the lobby. Their pace had now slowed considerably.
"So what brings you to the big city?" said Gunn. "I'm guessing Andrew briefed you on the whole Dana situation?"
"Pretty much. But I'm actually here on a different mission. Rumblings of doom. Freaky blood-soaked dreams. We're not too sure what it means at the moment. Could be an apocalypse. Could be indigestion. But I'm not taking any chances."
"Seems we got a lot of that going round," he said. "Apocalypses, I mean, not indigestion."
"Apocalypses are a dime a dozen in this town. Lived through a good share in my time. But all the signs point to the end times a'coming. And then there's this whole Shanshu prophecy business..."
Buffy frowned as she raised her cup of coffee.
Gunn gave her a sideways glance.
"Your guess is as good as mine. All I know is it's got something to do with Angel and his playing some part in the apocalypse, for good or evil. Or not. Don't know much about the specifics myself."
Buffy nodded absently, taking this in with some trepidation.
"Prophecies can be vague in their vagueness."
A few employees strolled past as they turned an intersection in the corridor. Buffy was lost in her thoughts as she sipped on her coffee. Gunn shook his head in amusement.
"What am I saying? Here's me yammering on about apocalypses and prophecies with the original slayer of vamps. No doubt you've fought every beastie under the sun and out of it. I'm guessing you're not exactly sweating over some new Big Bad on the horizon. By all accounts you've got an army of Slayers to back you up these days."
"Hopefully it won't come to that," she said. "I tried the whole Generalissimo Buffy but it wasn't really my thing. Besides, I'm trying not to worry too much for now. The green guy with the horns is looking into it."
"Yeah, he read me a little earlier. But by the look on his face I'm not too sure he liked what he saw."
"I find that hard to believe."
Buffy gave a bashful smile as she took another sip of her coffee. It had cooled substantially by this point.
"So," she said slowly. "Yay high, legal ace, Gilbert and Sullivan... Is there anything else I should know?"
"I play a pretty mean round of golf."
She glanced up at him teasingly.
"And so you help Angel to fight by valiantly fending off hordes of evil lawsuits?"
"Hey, a brother can still throw down on occasion. Nowadays I just do it in a dapper suit and tie." He fussed with his collar. "For instance, there was this whole mess in the office a few months back with a host of invading cyborgs, and-"
Her eyebrows shot up.
"Cyborgs? You mean, like robots?"
"Killer robots." He paused and gave her a knowing look. "I'm not making this any less weird for you, am I?"
Buffy smiled in amusement.
"Weirdness is kinda my M.O. Besides, I've battled a couple of killer robots in my time. They weren't exactly Schwarzenegger."
They had reached Angel's office without even realising it. Gunn slowed as they came to a standstill outside the closed double doors.
"Listen, I better get going." He looked at his watch. "Got an arbitration meeting at noon and I'm way behind on my paperwork. Been hard to get back into the swing of things ever since…" He looked sad for a moment as his sentence petered out. "Besides, I'm guessing after you and Angel have finished doing your thing you'll be itching to catch up with our resident former ghost. No doubt the two of you have a lot to talk about."
She gave him a puzzled look then. It slowly dawned on him that Buffy had no idea that Spike was even alive. It had been a while since he had last seen the guy himself. He had gotten into the habit of showing up at the office whenever there was trouble and then disappearing for days on end, no doubt helping the helpless out on the dark streets. Gunn did not think it was his place to tell her, so he decided to change tack instead.
"Anyways, I should grab a quick lunch and prepare myself for the voodoo death threats and recriminations. It was nice meeting you."
Buffy's frown widened as she paused with her hand raised, preparing to knock on Angel's office door.
"Voodoo death threats?"
Gunn smiled as he turned on his heel.
"Welcome to L.A."
The news of Angel's return to the office soon spread throughout the building like wildfire. It was not long before Harmony was stuck firmly behind her desk, fielding phone calls left and right. Per Angel's instructions she told them that he was unavailable and that Charles Gunn was still acting CEO until further notice. She reiterated this message a dozen or so times as the morning wore on.
So it was that with a certain saunter in his step Spike emerged into the main lobby of Wolfram and Hart, his leather duster swirling as he wielded a battle axe covered in blood. He casually stepped over the body of an unconscious grunt as he exited the elevator, garnering a number of wary glances as he approached the main desk. Harmony was chattering away on the phone, oblivious to his presence until:
He smirked triumphantly as he deposited his axe upon the desk. Harmony jumped in alarm as it gave an almighty clang. She glared up at Spike as she lowered the phone in her hand.
"Hey," she cried, "rude much? I could have been speaking to someone important."
Spike raised an eyebrow.
"Are you not still speaking to them now?"
The phone dangled in her hand, forgotten. Harmony gave a sigh and hung it up in exasperation, cutting off the person on the other end of the line.
"Never mind," she said. "It's ruined now, whatever."
Spike shrugged and then hefted up his axe again.
"Just like my brand new axe. Bleedin' thing broke as I was separating a particularly stubborn beastie from its particularly stubborn neck." He tossed it down, a little more gently this time. "Are you sure Angel isn't keeping back some of the more high-end weaponry in that office of his? Couple of swords, a throwing axe, maybe a rocket launcher or two…"
As Spike craned his neck towards the office doors Harmony became aware of a continuous pinging sound. She glanced over and noticed that people were milling around near the elevator. Its doors were repeatedly trying and failing to close upon the motionless form of one of Angel's grunts.
She turned back to Spike.
"Er, did you just kill that guy?" she ventured nervously. "'Cause Angel has this whole no tolerance policy when it comes to slaughtering innocents in the workplace, believe me…"
Spike followed the source of her gaze and shrugged again.
"Guy was hassling me in the car park," he explained. "Never did catch what he was blathering on about. Lost my patience with him shortly before my fist met his face. He'll wake up soon enough."
"Well, I wouldn't wanna tick off the boss if I were you," Harmony said. "He's in a foul mood today. Been on my case already about his morning blood, not to mention rescheduling this conference with the Fell Brethren…" She gestured helplessly. "And, by the way, you're getting blood all over my desk."
Spike ran a hand admiringly along the blade of his axe, which was currently dripping blood at a steady rate.
"Just stumbled across a rather nasty vamp nest downtown," he said. "Figured the boss might fancy a good old-fashioned scrap. Spot of violence bound to take his mind off Cordelia, snap him out of his funk. But it sounds like somebody already beat me to it."
"I thought you and Angel were, y'know, mortal enemies or whatever. Why do you even care what he's going through?"
Spike raised an eyebrow.
"Well, aren't you a ray of sunshine today."
"Hey," she said. "Cordelia was my friend too. Angel's not the only one going through something here. You didn't know her. Nobody knew her. Not like I did." Spike withdrew his hand from the desk, his expression muted. Harmony was starting to get teary eyed. "And now she's gone. And it's like nobody cares. They just yell at me to fetch them their blood and reschedule their meetings. They don't care what I'm going through. They just expect me to put on this huge fake smile and act like everything's okay, when really-"
The phone rang. Harmony turned away to answer it.
"Hello, Wolfram and Hart?" she said cheerily. A pause. "No, you want ritual sacrifice. We don't slaughter goats at this branch. Well, not anymore." Another pause. "I know, right? It's crazy. But those are the rules. New regime and all. We've had to make some adjustments. But I can give you the number for a great place out in San Fran. They outsource all of their goats from a company in Cairo…"
Spike nodded absently as he turned away and muttered to himself:
"You don't have to be crazy to work here, but…"
Harmony's eyes went wide as she remembered the instructions she had been given not ten minutes earlier. She shot to her feet and rushed out from behind the desk in a panic, abandoning the person on the other end of the line for a second time.
"Spike!" she cried. "Wait! You really don't want to go in there..."
He did not stop pacing
"And why the bloody hell not?"
Her warning was to no avail. Spike was not a few strides from the office doors when they suddenly opened of their own accord and Angel emerged from within, engaged in conversation with somebody he could not see. Spike stopped short when he saw just who it was.
Angel came to a standstill. Buffy was just two steps behind him. Her face turned a drastic shade of white as she locked eyes with the newly undead vampire from across the lobby.
She looked like she had seen a ghost. Which, Spike vaguely realised, she probably thought she had.