"Bloody, buggering hell. Red!"
"Willow. Been dimension hopping again?"
"Willow, my dear. Good to see you back safe. Have you got the last bit of information we needed?"
"Will! Long time no see."
"Willow, it's nice to see you again."
"Hi Willow. It's been a while since you popped over."
"Hi Wills. Just in time for breakfast."
"Hi guys. Wow, full on Scooby meeting. Without me. That's like having curry without vegie pilau. Dawnie, you're glowing. Yes, Giles, I think I've got some really good leads. Ages, Buffy, teehee. You too, Angel. Has been a while Nina. You're looking good. I always have great timing, Xan. Goddess! Spike? Spike, you're here and not..."
"Yeah, yeah, Red. Not undead. Story's done and dusted. On the epilogue now."
"Maybe for you Spike, but I'm yet to be informed of your miraculous return. Once again."
"Right, course, Rupert. Short story. Came back couple months ago. Here. Angel found me. Took me in. Work for him and Nina. The end." Still in love with your slayer, he added under his breath.
"Curry without what?"
"Sorry Xan. Just got back from India. Totally excellent food. Amazing really what they can do with a couple of vegetables and some rice. Best thing to go with curry, beside poppadums, of course. Gosh, speaking of food, I could so eat. Those pancakes look yummy! You work for Angel?"
"He does, Willow. In one of our supermarkets."
"Oh, I thought maybe you might be back to helping the helpless."
"We do. We feed them."
"Spike's a check out chick... er person." Xander held his hands up in all innocence. "Just a slip, dead boy junior. Honest."
"Right. Do-nut..." Spike saw Dawn's raised eyebrow, ducked his head.
"So, come and sit here, between me and Giles, Will. You can order some pancakes and fill us in on what you found after. Unless it's like world saveage time right now?" Buffy looked up with a questioning gaze.
"Nah. It'll keep." Willow sat on the offered chair and looked up to see a waitress hovering at her elbow. "Oh, I'll have the blueberry pancakes please and a vanilla latte." She looked around the table. "Gosh, I can't think the last time we were all together like this. Well, except for you, of course, Spike." He nodded at her and she studied him in return. He looked good, she thought. A little agitated but probably to be expected, suddenly surrounded by everyone, again. "So... back again, huh? How's that going?"
"Um... fine, Red. Been a few months now. Was a bit doo-lally at first, but Angel and Nina have been real kind. Specially Nina. 'S good, yeah." He smiled that shy, disarming smile, that'd always made her forget he was a vampire. "An' you?"
"Oh, same old, same old. I travel a lot. For the council. Senior witch, now. Round the world, different dimensions. It's interesting. I've just been chasing down a prophecy Giles found in one of the old journals."
"Always a prophecy, aint it?" He snickered.
"Quite. This prophecy is a little different. It seems to have just appeared, in this particular journal, recently. Quite strange, though not without precedent. It is, as is often the case, rather vague in its interpretation. Willow has been researching some ancient Hindi scrolls for me, in an attempt to clarify it."
"Hindi? Some weird and strange shite goes on in India, Rupert. Been there a time or two, back in the day, when me and Dru were travelling. The things we saw an' heard. Curl your toes, some of it. Humans can be quite inventive, put us demons to shame."
"Yes, well, a story best for another time, perhaps."
"It's not all blood and fang, Rupes. Took in the culture, checked in with some of the more religious types. I liked to learn the local lingo and such. Lotta time on your hands when you're a vampire. Can't always be about the killing, you know, watcher."
"Ah, I see. Actually, I don't know that at all, Spike. The knowledge of vampires the Council has acquired over the centuries, is based solely on cataloguing their deeds of destruction and the best methods of their destruction. Beyond looking at such things as siring, mating, feeding, little is known of what vampires actually do. This despite there having been two souled vampires in the world. Neither of which cared to share."
"Yeah, well, maybe you never really wanted to know, mate." Spike sat back, arms folded, the image of closed conversation.
Giles sighed. "Perhaps you're right. Certainly the last time you and I were together the situation was rather dire and the time for research of vampires was past. Though I do recall an earlier offer on my part, that you could perhaps, join us. Rudely rebuffed, on your part, as I recall."
"Come on, watcher. I'd not long been chipped. Was caught between your world and mine, mourning what I'd lost and wandering how the hell I was going to survive."
"Guys, chill! It's breakfast. Let's save the recriminations of the past for later, okay?"
"That's a big word for you, Slayer." He groaned as soon as he'd said it. Stupid.
"And I told you, Spike, to call me Buffy. It's my name and I like it." The smile was saccharine sweet. The tone was not. He grimaced, nodded to acknowledge his error.
"Is that why you're all here, Giles. Because of this prophecy?" Nina looked at the man, she only ever got to meet when something bad was going to happen.
"Yes, Nina. I'm afraid it is. The one thing the prophecy is specific on, is the place." He smiled at the woman.
"Oh, I was hoping you were just passing through. It's been so quiet here. Well, supernaturally. Still plenty of bad human stuff." She smiled a little sadly and looked at her husband. He reached for her hand and gave it a little squeeze before bringing it to his lips.
"It'll be okay."