Presumed Dead – trope

Not Your Mother's Reunion

"Go away. I'm not in the mood."

"Just wanted to say hello, love. Didn' t mean to be interrupting anything." He sent a hard look at the man just now standing up, righteous indignation on his face.

"She told you to go away," the man said, placing himself between Buffy and the rough-looking man trying to talk to her. "I suggest you follow that advice."

"That what you want, Buffy?" Spike ignored the man's obviously growing anger. "Know you're probably right brassed off at me right now, but I thought you might want to—Never mind. I guess I was wrong. Have a nice life, Slayer." Throwing off the hand Buffy's date had used to grab his shoulder with enough force to cause the man to stagger backwards, Spike turned to leave. He stopped when a much smaller and stronger hand fell on his arm. He heard Buffy's heart rate go up as he turned to meet her wide-eyed gaze.

Spike studied her bewildered face and the growing disbelief in her eyes as she grabbed his other arm and held him in place. Her hands squeezed his arms as she absorbed his solidity.

"I don't know how you're doing this, but if you're solid enough for me to touch, you're solid enough for me to send back to hell!"

Spike frowned in confusion. "Wasn't in hell, Buffy. Just another dimension for a while. Came to find you as soon as I could. Seems there wasn't as much need to rush as I'd hoped..."

The genuine sadness of his expression, and the gentle way he twisted away from her rough grip, broke through Buffy's defenses against believing the impossible.

"Sp-Spike? Are you real? Not the First?"

"Is that what you thought? That I wasn't me?"

"Well, what did you expect me to think? You never told me you came back... before... And then, as far as we could tell, you and Angel..." She glared at him. "Where the hell have you been?"

"Tried to tell you. Blue sucked us into another dimension with her. Took a while to get ourselves oriented... and even longer to convince her we needed to come back here."

"We? Us? And what's a 'Blue'?"

Calls herself Illyria. It's the god-thing that replaced sweet little Fred. The one your watcher couldn't be bothered to send us any help to stop it from happening. If you're going to be getting all huffy, chew on that for a bit."

"We? Us?"

He sighed and shrugged. "Right. Forgot what would be the most important information there. Yes, the big poof made it back too. Bit surprised he didn't beat me here, as a matter of fact..." His voice trailed off. "And just to complete the happy reunion..."

"Buffy!"

Angel ran up and without paying any attention to Spike or Buffy's confused and angry date, he picked her up and hugged her tightly. When she didn't respond except to squirm out of his embrace, he released her and stepped back.

"So, Spike told you, then? How Illyria whisked us away and we had to fight our way back so I—we—could come to you?"

"Spike has been busy not doing the groveling he owes me for not letting me know he was alive... or that you guys needed help." She shifted her gaze from Angel to glare at Spike briefly, then brought her attention back to the older vampire. "And you! You knew how I was... that I... You let me mourn for months for somebody you knew wasn't gone? How could you do that to me, Angel?"

Angel cleared his throat and shuffled his feet. "Well, we—I— You deserve better, Buffy. You needed time to get over—and then it seemed like you had, so..."

Both vampires turned to stare at Buffy's bewildered date. Tall, muscular, clean-cut, he bore a strong resemblance to Riley.

"Has a type, doesn't she?" Spike muttered as the man glared at them, not sure which of the strangers he disliked most.

Buffy sighed and waved her hands between them. "Taylor – this is Angel and this is Spike—William. They are old... friends. Friends that I thought were dead. Guys, this is Taylor. He's..." Her voice trailed off as she realized she had no idea what to call the man who, up until just a few minutes ago, she'd be thinking she might be willing to call her boyfriend. "Oh shit," she murmured as all three men stared at her, waiting for her to identify Taylor's position in her life.

Angel stuck out his hand, which Taylor automatically took, resulting in what had immediately turned into the time honored male contest. Only Buffy's warning, "Angel..." prevented him from crushing the human man's hand.

"Sorry," he said with a smile that didn't reach his eyes. "Sometimes I don't know my own strength." He gave a soft growl as Spike muttered something rude in a voice too low for human ears,

When Taylor seemed reluctant to repeat the handshake with Spike, who had kept his hands firmly in his pockets anyway, there was an uncomfortable silence for several minutes. Buffy broke the silence by returning to her chair and sitting down.

"Why don't you join us and fill me in on what went down? All we know is what we could glean from the news and a few reports from witnesses who knew who to call."

Both vampires glanced at Taylor and raised questioning eyebrows.

"It's okay. Taylor is... he works for the new Council. He survived the blow up and got in touch with Giles eventually."

"Funny, he doesn't look like a watcher," Angel said, baring his teeth again.

"Wet team," Spike said flatly. "That's what you were or are, isn't it? Council's pet killers, paid to take care of unruly slayers and/or vamps that get out of line."

The other man's face had blanched as he realized that the two men sitting down on opposite sides of the table were the very creatures he'd spent much of his adult life stalking.

"Buffy, they're—"

"Yep. They are. Old ones, too, in case you're thinking of doing anything dumb. But it's okay. They have souls. They're on our side." She gave them searching looks while Spike and Angel tried to look innocent. "At least, they used to be. I've got no idea what working for an evil law firm did to them."

"Damn near got us dusted," Spike growled. "That's what it did for us. You can thank your ex here for that."

"Ex? Ex what?" Taylor appeared to be choking on the water he'd just brought to his lips.

Glaring at Spike, Buffy said, "Long story, ancient history. Not a big deal."

It was Angel's turn to choke as he stared at her in shock.

"And me," Spike asked quietly. "Am I ancient history too?"

Their eyes met and held, his saying everything he was keeping off his abnormally inexpressive face, hers searching for some sign that in spite of his not contacting her when he emerged from the amulet, he might still love her. After long minutes of speaking only with their eyes, they both relaxed and slumped back in their chairs, small smiles twitching their lips.

Angel stood up and nudged Taylor's chair. "Come on, Councilman, let's go get a drink and talk about what it's like to be thrown over for somebody half our size." When the man didn't stand up, Angel grabbed his arm and pulled him to his feet. "We'll be in the bar," he said to Spike.

"Well, that was... unexpected." Spike frowned in the direction Angel had dragged Buffy's date.

"It was kinda odd, wasn't it? Here I was, thinking there was going to be a three-way testosterone contest going on, and..." She smiled. "Seems like Angel might have gotten the message finally."

"What message is that, pet?"

"That there's only room in my life for one souled vampire – and it isn't him," she said, meeting his astonished and delighted gaze. He leaned toward her, taking her hand and kissing her palm.

"That's—"

"That's all you get... for now," she said, taking her hand back. "I wasn't kidding about the groveling. You owe me, Spike. You owe me for months of grieving when you were walking around LA all alive and... and not with me!"

"One round of abject groveling, coming up," he agreed. "Maybe two or three rounds," he added when her eyebrows went up. "Definitely at least five or six..."

"There could be chocolates and flowers involved. Maybe even jewelry..."

"Whatever it takes, Slayer. Just point me at it."

"I'll make you a list," she said, smiling as she spoke. "Let's go somewhere that I can write it down for you." She stood up and held out her hand.

The End