She wasn't sure how it ended up this way. It had been so simple once upon a time. So easy to make the choices when she was younger. And yet here she was- confused and terrified. Wasn't this supposed to be easier now? Now that she had ended the teen years? Wasn't she supposed to know what she wanted to do with her life?
Then, why was she stuck sitting in front of Wolfram and Hart on a Monday, when she should be in London helping the gang and the new slayers? Why wasn't she training with Faith or collaborating with Giles or discovering newly empowered girls with Xander? Why wasn't she at least enjoying her day off by watching sappy romances until she went through all of the chocolate in her apartme- flat?
She sighed and hugged herself, staring up at the glass building. It was so huge. Much larger than even her high school in LA. She couldn't even remember the last time she had been in such a huge building. What if she got lost? Or an alarm went off- sorry, Miss, you're not allowed here; this is a majorly evil place.
When had she turned into a girl again? She'd been a leader for years now, only indulging in girlish fantasies when it was convenient or necessary. Even Spike was different. But, now she was squinting into the sun, trying to ignore the terrible flutters in her gut. How could she be more nervous now than she was confronting the Master or the First? Or even Angelus? How could he scare her more than Angelus?
This was stupid. She stood up abruptly, knocking her box to the ground. It opened on impact, spilling chocolate chip cookie dough into one huge glop. Buffy swore, but hesitated against gathering picking it up.
"Can't even eat. Stupid." She wiped a chocolate chip off her boots and began strutting toward the door. She looked back for a moment and saw birds already devouring the cookies.
"Let's just hope it goes better than that," she muttered, pushing the door open. As soon as she stepped in, she glanced around, somehow expecting an unwelcome, but the lawyers ignored her. She slowed down slightly and smiled at everyone who walked by. No one smiled back.
She followed the crowd into an elevator, but she didn't even know where she was going. She could feel more people squeezing in, including a strange green fellow with bright red horns not unlike Rudolph's nose. He was gabbing into a phone, and all of the lawyers just made a face as he continued to prattle on louder than the general chatter of the elevator.
For some reason, she followed this demon out, pushing against a balding man who smelled of smoke to exit the elevator in time.
And then she entered a different world. Of openness and even though this was Evil, Inc. she could imagine herself working here. She was still trying to take in overly modernist furnishings when she spotted a familiar face.
"Harmony?" Buffy muttered, immediately crossing the wide lobby. Harmony didn't even look up from her computer.
"Hey, Buffy, what are you doing here? Boss didn't tell me to expect you or anything. Are you here for Spike? He's been moping recently and it might be about you. And I really think what you did to him was-"
"Harmony," Buffy said, trying to keep her voice even. "You've seen Spike?"
Harmony flipped her hair back and leaned forward, finally looking up from the computer screen.
"Of course I have. He won't leave me alone. He wants me so bad, but I have decided that Spikie-bear is just too mean for-"
Buffy closed her eyes for a moment and tried to keep her breath level. Spike? Here? Alive? Why hadn't he called? Hadn't he known that she had spent the last months crying? Hadn't he thought that maybe Buffy cared about him? That she deserved to know that he hadn't died?
"Spike is alive," Buffy said, opening her eyes slowly.
"Yes. Though he is a vampire, so maybe not that alive. And he was a ghost for a while, but then he got this package-"
"Thank you, Harmony. Is there a reason I shouldn't dust you right now?"
Her eyes widened, and she pushed her chair back.
"Because I haven't been feeding on humans and Angel has a new policy-"
She continued to blather on, but her mention of him awakened Buffy.
"Where is Angel?" Buffy asked, interrupting Harmony's monologue. Harmony flipped her hair back again, and pointed to a set of double wooden doors.
"Right in there, but he's in a meeting until three. Would you like me to book you in? He can have a dinner appointment at 6. I hear the new Italian place is good. Not that I've tried it myself. Or any of the waiters! Even though they're supposed to be really cute. Like, really cute, and-"
"Shut up, And I'm going in now, okay?"
She shook her head violently, but I didn't spare her another word.
I wished I still had the cookie dough. That would at least be a conversation starter, but now, I was going in. With just me. Was it a complication that Spike was alive? Yes. Was I angry at him? Yes. Was I angry at Angel for not telling me anything that was going on recently? Yes.
I sighed, and pushed the doors open.
And there he was. I ignored the three demons that in any circumstances I would be trying to kill, and just focused on him. Behind the desk. The way he was leaning forward, an earnest smile. Wide eyes. I hadn't seen him in how long? Less than a year, but it felt as if I'd taken my first real breath since I let him walk away in Sunnydale.
"Angel," I said.
"Buffy." He rose immediately.
"I'm sorry, but this is urgent. Would you mind finishing this later?" Angel asked. I wasn't sure if he thought I was bringing the scoop on the latest apocalypse, but I didn't bother correcting him.
"But this is a ceremony only performed once every three thousand years and that's tonight. There is no other time we can-"
"Sorry, but if you must have someone look it over, send it to Wesley across the hall. My secretary will know how to see to it," he said, his dark eyes never leaving mine.
The demons left immediately, but I couldn't stop staring at him. Look at him, running Evil, Inc. and still… Angel. Not Angelus. That I could tell without any more than a glance.
"Hi," I said meekly, suddenly unsure of what to say.
"Hi." He smiled and walked over to me. He grabbed my hands. His touch was cold but refreshing. Like air conditioning on a summer day.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, bringing my hands to his face. He kissed them.
I turned away from him. Why was it so hard when he was right here?
"I don't think we're any good for each other." I didn't want to see his face, but I had to say it. I just imagined Will giving me her resolve- face. I closed my eyes.
"You're a vampire. I'm a slayer. You're here running the evil company and I'm in London training the new slayers. I have killed so many vampires. I hate them. I hate that they've ruined my life and that I can never be normal. I hate that my sister isn't even real, and that I can't stop people I love from dying." I opened my eyes and turned to the window.
"I hate you for making me like being in the darkness. I hate you for making a lot of my high school life really complicated. I hate you for making my friends angry at me. Xander could never understand why I'd always run back to you. You know, and not get with the slay-age."
I could hear him not moving, probably not even taking a breath.
"I hate slaying and I hate you. What we had was no more than a high school fling. Everyone has them. Those small little romances that mean nothing, but both members thought that they would never love as strongly again. And when they're over, they never think they'll be able to move on. And yet somehow they do. I found Riley and even Spike. You were doing weird things with that detective and then Cordelia." I couldn't suppress a shudder.
"We have been told again and again that what we have can never work. And I think that eventually we started believing it. Whenever I saw you, it was awkward and strange. When I saw you after that Thanksgiving in LA, it was just…weird. And now? We're strangers. We had a fading romance, and now it's over. We haven't had a meaningful conversation since…"
I faded off.
I wondered if he'd say anything, but he didn't. I stared down at the little people below, all rushing about to their own lives and their own problems and lovers.
"I can justify it a million ways. You're old. You're so old, it's disturbing and perverted. I was just a child, and I didn't know what I wanted out of life. We've grown apart and into completely different people. I mean look at you. You actually make jokes, I hear now. You don't just mope the entire day- maybe we're better apart and I'm just better alone without a man to drag me down. Maybe the life and death circumstances and the whole forbidden romance made it more exciting. I don't know. But even after all of that, I'm still here."
I started tapping my foot.
"Because I can't stay away from you, Angel." I turned around, and saw dried tears on Angel's face.
"We've been through this whole thing before, and it's stupid and I know there's the problem with your soul, but I don't think I can stay away from you anymore. We're spent more time apart recently than our whole time together, but whenever I meet a man, I compare him to you. And he always fails. Not that Spike and Riley aren't good guys but not the guys for me."
I looked into Angel's eyes and stepped forward.
"I came here with cookie dough, but I dropped it and the birds are probably enjoying it right now, but I just wanted to show you something." I could feel myself starting to babble, so I shut up, closed the space between us, and kissed him. His lips were cold, as always, but it was as natural as the rising of the sun. Like he was made for me.
He was the one to break away first.
"Wow." It was probably most emotional I'd ever seen him, but he was smiling, and when I tried to step away, he held onto my hand. He opened his mouth like he was about to begin speaking, but I rushed on, knowing that if he started, his logic would prevail again.
"I don't think I'm finished baking yet. But I don't know if I'll ever be. All I know is that slayers don't live long, and every moment I'm away from you is a wasted moment."
He stared down. "What about my soul?"
I squeezed his hand encouragingly.
"A complication, I'm sure, but we're trying to figure out a way to fix the loophole."
He pulled away and turned around.
"But what if they can't? I can't do this, Buffy. I can't be near you, and not-"
I grabbed onto his hand and pulled him close.
"I love you, Angel. And as long as you love me, nothing else matters. Do you remember when it was like that?"
I smiled and stared into his eyes. After a moment, I wrapped my arms around his neck, like I had done in the Bronze so many years ago.
"I love you, Buffy. No matter what happens." He smiled more widely than I could have imagined.
And I leaned forward to kiss him again. "Then nothing else matters."