Disclaimer: The sandbox belongs to Joss Wheadon; I'm simply destroying the sandcastles
Title: Over Baked
Characters: Buffy, Spike
Timeframe: 10 years post the end of "Angel: Season 5" (AU - I've not read the comics)
Summary: Buffy comes to LA searching for Angel as she feels she's become the person she's supposed to be...
Notes: Inspired by Buffy's comment about needing to be "done baking" before settling down – I wrote this ages ago [Written February 2009] and never posted it… dunno why *shrug* so here it is now. Enjoy
Spike, once known as William the Bloody, stood at the side of the desk in the head office to Wolfman and Hart, staring at the vacant chair behind it.
The Apocalypse had come, the forces of darkness unleashed on the masses only to be beaten back by a line of heroes augmented by girls with slayer powers. Angel, Spike, Illyria, Lorne and Gunn had become the final line, caught in a fight to the death - one that had come for them one at a time.
Gunn and Lorne had died almost from the start. Gunn going down in a swarm, fighting to the last as his throat had been torn out. Lorne, never the best fighter to begin with, had fallen at his side after nearly being sliced in half. Hours and then days had passed, the group unable to mourn as they fought for their very survival.
And then, Illyria had sacrificed herself when she'd opened to the power that had once sustained her and disappeared in an immolation of righteousness that had spread death and destruction throughout the city.
But not to the living.
Holding up one hand, Spike silenced the would-be intrusion, lost in his memories.
It was but one change that had come over him since the end of that epic battle - since Angel had felled the Dragon and the rift between Earth and the demon realm closed. He was less outgoing, less chipper than those who'd known him had come to expect.
But then, there were few who knew him anymore and none who could understand the changes.
In her time in human form, Illyria had come to appreciate that human beings had something unique to offer. As such, she had learned a few human traits of her own and in her final moments shown just how far she'd come... just how much she'd grown. That final wave of energy had focused on demons and demonoids - soulless creatures and monsters.
Only the fact they had souls had saved Angel and Spike from destruction; but not from the pain.
Illyria's sacrifice had given Angel and Spike the upper hand, banding together with a small group of Slayers to cut a swath of death through what remained of the demonic army. The swath had been long and bloody and Slayers had fallen under the hordes. Few had survived their trek, and those that had proved to be both resourceful and stalwart.
But that had been almost ten years ago.
Ten years in which he and Angel had rebuilt the office of Wolfman and Hart. Ten years where they'd been pains in each other's proverbial backsides - and enjoyed every minute of it. Ten years of brotherhood, bound together by their unique position, neither human nor demon - Vampires with souls.
"Sir, I hate to intrude, but you have a visitor."
"I'm not seein' anyone, luv. Just tell 'em your 'ole boss is busy."
"I tried, sir, but she's very adamant. She demanded to see Angel."
"She?" Spike turned - and stopped. Blonde hair caught his gaze in the foyer beyond. No. Not here, not now. "The Slayer."
His assistant - Harmony had been but one of the demons destroyed in the days of madness - nodded. "Says she was an old friend of his."
"She is. Did you tell her anything?"
"No sir, she just kept insisting that this is the address she was given to get in touch with him."
"Send her in."
His assistant turned and left, stepping into the foyer where the blonde turned. Spike could practically see her smile as she turned with a flounce and stepping into the office. Her smile slowly died as she spied him and Spike couldn't really blame her. He wasn't her tall, dark and broody and he never would be.
"Spike." Buffy glanced back towards the door, shifting her coat in her hands. "I asked to see Angel."
"I know, but seein' as how I'm the boss now, they sent you to see me. Drink?"
"No," her brow furrowed. "I thought Angel was the head of this branch."
Unwilling to break her heart just yet, Spike headed for the corner of the desk where the whiskey decanter was kept. Ignoring her response, he pours two glasses and turned, offering her one. "Take it, Buffy."
Making no move to, Buffy shook her head. "Spike, where's Angel?"
"I will, luv, just sit."
"I don't want to sit, I just-"
"Sit - please?"
The color drained out of her face at his courtesy. Spike was not a nice person by nature, even with his soul. Courtesy was used only in extreme circumstances, when force wouldn't accomplish his goals. Two steps brought her to the nearby couch where she sank into it, her gaze never leaving his face. "Spike?"
"Angel was the head of this branch. Now it's yours truly."
"Oh God... no..."
Spike continued at her horrified whisper, placing the glass on the table beside her and wasn't disappointed when she collected it and slammed back the contents.
"Angel's gone, Buffy."
Silence descended between them as the words hung heavy in the room. She shook her head, as if to deny the words, to deny what they meant. "Gone..."
He nodded, wishing there was an easier way to do this, but knowing there was no easy way to break it to her; Buffy had loved Angel completely, just as Angel had loved her. He'd know it despite being in love with her himself. It had taken Angel dying for him to admit it, if only in the privacy of his mind.
"You mean he's on a trip right, out of the office?"
Desperation colored her words. Under other circumstances - a lifetime ago - he'd have enjoyed this. "No."
"He can't be..." Her throat seemed to close on the word, the eyes he loved so much begging him to tell her she wasn't right. That what he was telling her was some kind of morbid joke.
If only it was.
"He's dead, Buffy."
"Vampires are dead by nature."
Spike reached into his pocket for the one thing that would tell her the truth irrevocably. Slowly withdrawing it, he sat on the edge of the couch next to her. "Angel wanted me to give you this if something happened to him. Normally, I'd say bugger it, but I know what Angel meant to you."
Buffy rose to her feet, the glass and her coat dropping to the carpeted floor without a sound and backed away, her hands up defensively in front of her. "He can't be; he promised me... He said he'd... He knew I wasn't done... but I am. I'm done baking. I'm done and he's supposed to be here to eat... he's..."
A snippet of an odd conversation from a long time ago rose within Spike's mind - something Angel had said when they'd been overseas searching for the Immortal and found Buffy with him. Something about waiting for cookies and the Immortal eating cookie dough. It hadn't made sense then and now, with poignant clarity, it made perfect sense.
Angel had been talking about Buffy - and the poor bastard had gone and gotten himself dusted the night before she'd arrived to say she was ready.
If Buffy hadn't looked so stricken, Spike would have laughed. But he couldn't, not when this was hurting her so very badly. And while a part of him was rejoicing that Angel was finally out of the picture, leaving him free and clear with Buffy, he knew she'd never give him a chance now. Everything they might do would remind her of Angel - and he wasn't too keen on living in the man's shadow with a girl who didn't want him.
"You're twelve hours too late, luv." Spike told her softly, looking her straight in the eye so she could see he wasn't lying. "Angel was dusted this morning."
Buffy's legs wobbled and buckled and Spike was beside her in an instant, catching her as she collapsed. Tears flooded her eyes, but she didn't sob. Instead she stared at him as a line of silent anguish traced down her cheek. "How?"
"Just after Sunrise. He jumped from his car to save some kids about to get hit by a bus and missed landing in the shadows afterwards. Real heroic like. Stupid, but heroic."
Her eyes closed, and her shoulder bowed. Spike could feel the way she shuddered in his arms and abstractly wondered if she'd grieve for him when he too had been dusted. Holding her, he placed his chin on the top of her head and rubbed her back - but she didn't seem to want his comfort.
Buffy pulled from his embrace and rose to her feet, dashing the tears from her cheeks as she struggled to breath normally. Her face was slightly blotchy from holding in most of her grief and Spike figured she'd grieve later, when she was in private. A mask settled over her features as she seemed to draw her nature about her like armor.
Slowly rising to his feet, Spike held out his fist to her. "He wanted you to have this, Buffy. Said you'd understand the way it was pointing when it fell off his dusted finger."
As if in slow motion, or maybe against her better judgment, Buffy extended her hand. It trembled a little as Spike dropped the small, silver circle into her hand. Normally a Vampire's effects vaporized with him, leaving no trace but dust and carbon - except in this case. Somehow, Angel's ring, a pair to ring that Buffy was wearing now, had remained intact. A silver ring with two hands, a crown and a heart in the middle. Her fingers closed about it and squeezed...
The scent of blood permeated the air as the circular metal band bit into her flesh with the power of her grip. Crimson fluid slid from between the clenched digits to drip on the carpet.
"I understand." She tilted her chin, forcing a smile despite the shine of tears in her eyes as droplets of blood continued to slide to the floor. "Thank you, Spike." Without another word, Buffy turned on her heel and left. Following her was a trail of blood that Spike suspected was supposed to get her killed while her coat and glass remained forgotten on the floor.
Bending, he scooped them up, tossing the jacket on the couch and placing the glass on the table where it would be collected later. Done baking. Over baked was more like it. Shaking his head, he turned back to the desk and stepped around it to assume his newly minted position.