THE GANG’S ALL HERE
Illyria arrived in the middle of Giles’s large office, her passengers still clinging to her hands. She quickly shook them off and walked over to look out a window, turning her back on the astonished humans in the room.
“Dear Lord!” Giles’s gasp was echoed by anyone who wasn’t currently coughing and gagging from demon-fire smoke.
“Buffy? Are you all right?” Willow approached cautiously, her fist clenched in case she needed a fiery defense against the game-faced vampires staring around the room.
“I will be,” Buffy said, taking a deep breath and smiling when she was able to exhale without coughing. “Not so sure about these guys, though—Angel, stop that growling!”
“I’m hungry,” he muttered. “I can’t help it.” He shifted back to his human mien, but his eyes continued to flash amber.
“Spike’s hungry too,” Buffy snapped. “And he doesn’t sound like he’s picking out his next meal.” She glanced up at Giles. “Can you send somebody out to a butcher shop? They’re both starving.”
He narrowed his eyes at the two emaciated vampires, but nodded and sent his assistant to find someone to run the errand. He turned back to Buffy and her two companions.
“Thisis why she needed you? To bring them back? Both of them?”
Buffy nodded. “That’s what she said. She only told me about Angel, but turns out she wanted to bring Spike back too.” Buffy sent a glare in Illyria’s direction. “She couldn’t do both by herself. That’s why she needed me.”
“Why didn’t she tell you about Spike? And why did she want him?” Willow stared at the two vampires, keeping her distance from them as their eyes kept flashing amber. With a deep breath and a visible effort, Spike’s settled into his normal blue and he smiled at her reassuringly.
“She was confused about who he belongs to,” Buffy said with ill-concealed belligerence. She saw Illyria stiffen, but the blue god didn’t turn around.
“I think it’s sorted now, love,” Spike said softly. “Let it go.”
Buffy whirled to glare at him. “What if I’d said no? What if I didn’t care if she rescued Angel after what he did? I would never have known about you. You’d have died there!” She paused, then, “Again.”
“I was not going to leave my pet in that place so unsuited to half-breeds.” Illyia turned to face the room. “Had I known he was important to you, I would have told you about him. I was led to believe it was only the other half-breed you cared about.”
Illyria’s angry glare in Angel’s direction was only the slightest bit more frightening than the one Buffy knew she was aiming at him. Between the two glares and the growing rumble in Spike’s throat, Angel began moving to get behind Willow.
“Don't hide behind me,” she said, adding her glare to the others. “You knew how Buffy was grieving for Spike. How could you have lied like that? And why didn’t you tell Buffy where he was?”
“He could have told Buffy when he was alive and solid,” Angel grumbled. “It’s his fault I didn’t tell her.”
Buffy switched her glare to Spike, whose low growl vanished immediately as he tried to avoid her eyes.
“That’s true. And we’re going to have a conversation about it as soon as he stops looking like a walking skeleton.” She tapped her foot until Spike glanced up at her. “It could get loud… and painful.”
“Looking forward to it, Slayer. You’ve got every right. I was a git.”
“Yes you were… whatever a ‘git’ is.” As she spoke, she noticed he was swaying and got one strong arm under him just in time to keep him from collapsing. She steered him to a chair and waited, holding his shoulder until she was sure he wasn’t going to fall over. “But that fight is for another day. You just sit here and wait for somebody to come back with the blood.” With a slight squeeze first, she let go and faced the room.
“We haven’t had a chance to talk about what happened to them yet. That place wasn’t really anywhere I wanted to hang out longer than we had to. By the way, Hell? Pretty sure that was it. Demons, heat, unbreathable air. The whole package.” Buffy shuddered, then glanced at Giles.
“You’re gonna have to wait until they can be around people without wanting to eat them before you ask all those questions I can see you’re already thinking up.”
“Have they lost their souls, then?” Giles reached into a drawer and withdrew a large cross, which he set next to the stake already resting on his desk.
Buffy blinked. “I don’t think so.” She made a face. “They’re starving, Giles. They live on blood, remember?. Right now, we’re the only source of it. That’s why they’re—” She whirled at a commotion behind her to find Spike had flung himself out of his chair and tackled Angel to the ground. The two vampires lay there, panting and growling, but too weak to move again. “What the hell….?”
Willow had run to Spike, but was clearly reluctant to get too close to the inert, but still snarling, vampires. She leaned closer to him, keeping him between her and Angel.
“Are you okay, Spike? And thank you.” Willow turned her eyes to Angel and shook her finger at him. “I’m really disappointed in you, Angel.” She straightened up and narrowed her eyes at him. “Not to mention, you’d have been on fire before you took the first sip.”
“Did he try to bite you?” Buffy was rethinking her decision to help Illyria bring Angel back. She knelt down beside Spike and pulled him away from Angel. “Come on, get back in the chair.”
His words slurred, Spike managed to gasp out, “If it’s all the same to you, pet, think I’ll just rest here for a bit….” His eyes drifted shut and he stopped moving.
Buffy frowned, but told herself he wasn’t dust, so he’d be fine. She let him rest there while she stared at Angel and shook her head. “Sometimes I feel like I don’t even know you.” Then she remembered how he’d almost drained her when she finally got him to drink from her to save his life, and she sighed. “And then I realize I do and I should have been paying more attention.”
“To me but not to Spike?” Angel managed to look dangerously angry and hurt at the same time. The puppy dog eyes didn’t work nearly as well in amber as when they were soft and brown.
“Spike won’t let his demon eat anybody. Especially not his friends. I trust him.” Her unspoken lack of trust in Angel had him growling again, but his weakened condition left him with no other way to display his anger than with sounds of annoyance.
“And again, I ask, are you certain they have their souls? If they’ve survived a hell dimension—” Giles was still clutching the cross and keeping the desk between himself and the others.
Buffy rolled her eyes and interrupted. “In the first place, Spike doesn’t need one to be safe, and you should know that, so get over yourself. And Angel-us isn’t that good of an actor. I’m not a seventeen-year-old who’s so in love with him she can’t see the difference. He’s hungry and cranky, and kinda pissed off at me right now, but the soul is there.”
Willow added, “I think I can see it in his aura. If I couldn’t, I’d have set fire to him even though Spike did knock him away before he could hurt me.” She raised an apologetic eyebrow at Buffy, who nodded her agreement.
“If you thought he’d lost it again and he was trying to bite you….” The only one not gaping at her in wonder was Spike, still seemingly unconscious on the floor.
Before anyone could comment upon her lack of interest in Angel’s life or death, one of the former Sunnydale potentials came into the room carrying a large shopping bag. She stopped and took in the sight of Illyria’s haughty outline, then Buffy and Willow standing over the two vampires.
“Huh. Guess that explains why I had to clean out the poor butcher’s supply of blood.”
She set the bag down at Buffy’s feet, glancing with no concern at the vampires, but doing a double-take when she recognized Spike. She narrowed her eyes when Angel gave a muffled growl, but stepped toward him rather than away. As she slid a stake from her sleeve, he realized what he was looking at and slumped against the wall.
“Are you feeding him too?” Vi’s question made it clear what she thought of the idea, and Buffy smiled at her.
“For the time being. Thanks for being so quick, Vi. I don’t think they can die of starvation, but I’d rather not find out.”
“No problem. So Spike didn’t die on us again, huh?” She stared down at the unconscious vampire and clearly struggled to hide her reaction to his condition.
“Well, didn’t take long for that word to get around,” Willow said with a sigh.
“It’s okay, Wills. I wasn’t planning to keep them a secret, I just didn’t want anybody to see them until they look a little better…. And have a little more control over their hunger,” she added, flicking a glance at Angel who was staring at the bag with his fangs extended. “Oh, for God’s sake, here!”
Buffy took a container of blood from the bag and put it in Angel’s reaching hand. When he’d bitten into the lid and begun gulping, she shook her head and took out another container. She placed that one where he could reach it, then opened another, and knelt down beside Spike.
“C’mon, Spike. Wake up and get better.”
When there was no response, she sighed and sat down where she could hold him up with one hand while she held the blood in front of his face with the other. She touched the rim of the container to his lips and tilted it just enough to make them red. Her frown deepened, then relaxed into a smile of relief when his tongue came out to lick his lips. She quickly tilted the jar again, waiting until his lips had parted to tip it far enough to pour some into his now-open mouth. She poured until she could see that he was awake and aware, then paused to give him time to let it settle.
He grabbed the container from her with one hand and continued pouring, reminding her of how often she’d seen him chugging beer.
“Okay then. I guess you’ve got this.”
She let go slowly, making sure he was able to remain upright on his own, before reaching into the bag again. She set another container down beside Spike, then counted out the remaining plastic jars and split them between the two rapidly swallowing vampires. She was surprised when, after chugging the two jars of blood, they both stopped and closed their eyes.
“It’s fine, love,” he said without opening his eyes. “Just need to let that settle in and go where it needs to go. No sense eatin’ so fast I can’t keep it down.”
Angel nodded his agreement, also without opening his eyes. After several minutes, while the humans in the room stared at them, Angel opened his eyes and picked up another container. This time he pulled the lid off and began to drink from it more sedately. He paused part-way through and looked up at Willow.
“I’m sorry, Willow. You know I’d never have done that if I wasn’t starving.”
“Note to self,” she replied with asperity, “don’t get between Angel and his meal or he might make you part of it.”
“That’s not fair!” he protested. “I was starving!”
“So was the vampire that pushed you off me.” Indicating she was through with the conversation, Willow walked over to stand closer to Giles, who was frowning at Buffy and Spike. He had put the cross down and seemed more relaxed, nodding his head when Buffy made eye contact.
When Spike reached for the next jar, Buffy got to her feet, trailing her hand across his bony shoulder as she did so. He gave her a quick smile, then went back to drinking. She joined Willow and Giles, motioning for Vi to come with her.
“Why?” Vi asked. “Aren’t they okay now?”
“I’m sure they’re fine, but watching vampires eat is pretty gross under the best of circumstances, watching them guzzle like this is really disgusting,” Buffy said. “But if it doesn’t bother you….”
Vi shrugged. “It was kind of… interesting… at first, but yeah, if I think about what it is... yuck!”
“The question now is, what are we going to do with them? Where are we going to put them?” Giles cast his gaze at his unwelcome guests.
Angel looked up from his drink. He already appeared stronger and more alert. “We’re grown men, Giles. And we’ve been taking care of ourselves for a long time. You don’t need to feel responsible for us.”
Buffy answered for Giles. “Neither one of you is strong enough to be on your own yet. And you don’t have anywhere to go. The Hyperion is long gone, and even if it wasn’t, you couldn’t get there from here.” She paused and glanced at Giles. “We have enough room here for two more, don’t we?”
“We do,” he said stiffly. “However, I am not comfortable giving former employees of Wolfram and Hart a place to live in Council Headquarters.” He waited for Buffy’s argument, but she was silent. “Unless they are restricted to the basement area except when they’re being escorted by a slayer.”
“You mean, if they’re locked up in the dungeons that for some reason are underneath this building.”
“It seems a reasonable precaution,” he said stiffly.
Buffy was already bristling with her response when Spike and Angel both spoke up.
“It’s all right, love. It is a reasonable precaution,” Spike said, meeting Giles’s gaze with his own cold stare. “But just so you know, I never got a bloody penny from the tightwad boss at Wolfram and Hart’s LA branch.”
Angel gave an obligatory growl, but added, “It’s fine, Buffy. All we need right now is something soft to lie on and a lot more blood. It’s going to take at least several days for us to be strong enough to be a danger to anyone in this building, but if it makes everybody more comfortable to have us locked up, that’s fine.”
“Speak for yourself,” Spike muttered, contradicting his own agreement. “You’re not the boss of me.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “And there’s the best reason to do it. We won’t have to listen to them arguing all the time.”
Once both Spike and Angel appeared to be strong enough to stand and walk without help, Buffy held out the bag for the cartons of blood they hadn’t opened yet.
“Let’s take these with us, and you can drink more when I get you settled downstairs.”
“I’d like to speak with Spike first,” Giles said. “Willow can show him where you’ve gone when we’ve finished talking.”
Instead of looking at Giles, Buffy looked at Spike, a question easily visible on her face. Spike was staring at Giles, holding the watcher’s gaze until he’d seen what he wanted to, then he nodded.
“You go on, love. I won’t be long and Red will make sure Rupert doesn’t have any nefarious plans to do me in while you’re elsewhere.”
Giles had the grace to flinch at the reminder, but shook his head. “Spike will be perfectly safe with me,” he said, looking at Spike rather than Buffy. “Our conversation may well begin with my apology for doubting him and your trust in him.”
Buffy shrugged and said, “Okay. C’mon, Angel. Let me show you to our dungeon.”
“Basement,” Giles corrected. “It is only a basement now.”
“Tomato, tomahto,” Buffy said, waving her hand as they walked out.
Spike sprawled in a chair, sipping from the container of blood in his hand.
“So, Head Council Wanker, what’s so important it couldn’t wait till I look less like somebody who died in a concentration camp?”
Giles sighed and pulled a bottle of scotch from a drawer. He placed it and two glasses on the desk and poured one to hand to Spike.
“Appreciate the offer, but I’ve got some healing and fattening up to do before I’d enjoy it enough to be worth the while.”
“Fair enough,” Giles said, helping himself to a big swallow. He set the glass down and stared at Spike. “You should have told Buffy where you were,” he said abruptly. “She grieved. She tried to tell everyone how proud of you she was, but the pain was there. Even I could see it,” he added with a wry twist to his mouth.
“To be honest, I never thought Andrew would keep his mouth shut,” Spike said. “Figured, he’d tell her and she’d either come because she cared, or she wouldn’t because she didn’t.”
“For someone your age, you can be incredibly stupid.”
“Guilty as charged. Never should have listened to the big poof. But that’s on me too. I know him too well to think he had my best interests at heart.” Spike drank some more of his blood. “But you didn’t keep me here to break my balls because I didn’t come to Buffy as soon as I was solid.”
“Solid?” Giles frowned.
“Came out of the amulet as a ghost. Walking through walls, disappearin’ from time to time, almost got dragged into hell once or twice. Couldn’t have come to Buffy if I tried. By the time I opened that package that turned me into a real boy again…. Well, that’s none of your business. All you need to know is I wasn’t really all here at first.”
“Right. Well then… I did mean it about the apology. Once you’d…. When Buffy explained how much we owed you— And when I saw how much she suffered, no matter how she tried to hide it, how hard it was for her to…. I realized what a huge mistake I’d made. I am, to be honest, not sure she will ever forgive me for it.”
“The girl always forgives. Too much love in her not to. We don’t deserve it. None of us do, but she forgives us anyway.”
Giles nodded and took another big swallow of his drink. He put it down and stared at Spike.
“Don’t hurt her again,” he said.
“That’s it. You’ve been given a second chance. Don’t bollix it up.”
Spike snorted and shook his head. “Pretty sure that’s something I say to myself all the bloody time. Sometimes I manage it, more often than not, I don’t.”
“Well, do your best. I’d like for her to have a little happiness in life. There’s been very little of that for the past several years, I’m hoping getting you back will help with that.”
“Nothin’ I’d like better than to make Buffy happy, but I’m not sure I’m the vamp for the job. She might—”
“You’re the one she wants. Don’t be a bloody arse about it.”
Spike stood up and sighed. “Do my best,” he said, swaying slightly. “Need to find a bed right now….”
Willow stepped forward and put her hand on his arm. “Can you stay on your feet long enough to get to a room?” Giles got to his feet and came around the desk to follow them into the outer office area.
Spike swallowed down the last of the blood and tossed the container in a wastebasket by the door.
“Yeah, I’ve got it, Red. Show me to the dungeons.”
“It’s a basement!” Giles said as he watched them leave.
“It’s a dungeon,” Willow whispered. “But it really doesn’t look much like it anymore. Just kinda dark and damp down there…. and there are locks on the outside of the doors….”
“I’m a vampire,” Spike said as they stepped into an elevator. “Dark and damp is homey to me.”
“Uh huh.” Willow didn’t say anything else as they quickly dropped two floors and the door opened. On the other side, Buffy was just reaching for the button.
“Oh. There you are.”
“Did you think I was going away?” Spike asked, leaning against the elevator wall.
“I was worried about you,” Buffy said with a frown.
“He’s okay, Buffy. Just really tired, I think.” Willow gestured for Spike to precede her out of the elevator. “I’ll go back upstairs and make sure we have a steady supply of blood for the foreseeable future. Welcome back, Spike,” she said, giving him an obviously unexpected hug. He put an awkward arm around her and muttered his appreciation. Willow stepped back and smiled at him. “It really is good to see you again. And not just because Buffy will be happier.”
She stepped back into the elevator and pushed the button for the upper floor, leaving Spike leaning on Buffy, his expression wavering between shocked and astonished. As the door closed, he realized what he was doing and tried to stand on his own.
“I’m alright, pet. You don’t need to hold me up. Just show me where I’m bunking down and you can go back to—”
When Buffy finally took her mouth off his, ending the kiss with a tenderness that was unfamiliar to them both, he took a deep shuddering breath and rested his forehead against hers.
“So, does that mean we’re alright now?” he murmured, holding her in a loose embrace that he wouldn’t admit was also helping him stand up.
“It seemed like the easiest way to shut you up before you said something really stupid.”
She put her arms around his waist and took most of his weight on them. Squeezing him tightly, she said, “Let’s get you someplace where you can stop pretending you aren’t about to collapse.” She stepped back a little and draped one of his arms over her shoulders, holding his hand lightly and steadying his body with her free arm. “It’s right down here. C’mon.”
She led him to a nearby doorway leading into a dark, but comfortable-looking room. A bed was against one wall, with a lamp on a small chest beside it. Another lamp beside a big chair, and a small desk/table completed the sparse furnishings.
“As dungeons go, this is better than some I’ve been in,” he said as he sank into the chair and watched Buffy click on the lamp by the bed.
She nodded. “We’ve tried. Sometimes we have a lot of guests, and we just couldn’t afford to waste all this space.” She turned down the bed, then walked over to him and knelt down to take off his much-worn and abused boots. “What happened to these?” she asked, frowning at the charred and torn leather.
Instead of answering her question, he reached down and touched the top of her head. “You don’t have to do that, love. I can undress myself,” he said, shrugging out of his coat, but not otherwise moving.
“I’m not undressing you,” she replied, continuing to untie the boots and pulling them off one at a time. “I’m just getting these off so you can get into bed.” She glanced up at him in sudden fear. “Do you need more blood? Should I not let you go to sleep until you—”
He took her hands and pulled her into his lap. “I’m fine. I’ll need more blood when I wake up, don’t doubt it, but right now I just need to rest and let this stuff I’ve had already do its work.” He winced when she wriggled, trying to find a way to be comfortable on his legs that were only skin and bones, and nudged her. “If this is as uncomfortable for you as it is for me, you won’t hurt my feelings by getting off. In fact….”
She stood up, shaking her head. “I’m sorry. That had to hurt.”
“I put you there, love. It’s my own fault for being stupid.” He closed his eyes briefly, then opened them when she took his hands and tugged him to his feet.
“Let’s go. Into bed with you.” She put his arm over her shoulder again and wrapped one arm around his waist, holding him in place as they walked the few feet to the bed. “There’s a small fridge in the hall, near the snack machines and microwave. I’m going to keep blood in it, so you… and Angel… can help yourself whenever you want to.” She released him when they got to the bed, frowning when he just fell backwards onto the pillow and seemed to pass out with his legs still dangling off the edge at an awkward angle.
“Aren’t you… don’t you want to… Spike?”
The only response was a muffled sound between a growl and a purr. After a few seconds of indecision, Buffy picked up his feet and put them on the bed with the rest of his body. She stared at him for a few more minutes, then gave a sigh and reached for the belt around his much too loose jeans. When she’d unbuckled it and undone the snap on his waistband, the jeans were so loose she could just pull them over his hips and down his legs without unzipping them. She gave a small gasp at the unhealed wounds on his emaciated lower body and quickly covered him with the sheet.
She frowned at his tattered tee shirt, noting the burn holes in it, then took the collar in both hands and with an easy tug, ripped it in half. She slid it out from beneath his inert body and tossed it to the floor.
“If you wanted me naked, love, all you had to do was ask,” Spike mumbled, belying his words by turning on his side and burying his face in the pillow.
“You wish,” she snorted as she pulled the sheet all the way up over him. Tucking it around his shoulders, she leaned down and ran her hand through his hair. “Maybe later,” she said in a whisper. “Maybe later.”
When there was no suggestive reply, she sighed and switched off the lamp before making her way out into the hall. She frowned at the door for a few seconds, debating Spike’s right to privacy against the possible trauma of waking up in what would appear to be a cell, then shrugged and closed the heavy door most of the way, taking care not to engage the latch. She walked down the hall to Angel’s room and peered in at him, but he was also seemingly unconscious, so she just pushed his door until it was barely ajar, and left them to their healing sleep.
Buffy walked into Willow’s office and sank into a chair.
“Hi. I thought you’d be keeping Spike or Angel—okay, Spike—company for a while?”
Buffy sighed and shook her head. “They’re both unconscious. I should have remembered that from… before. That vampires take in the blood and then sleep heavily while their bodies repair themselves.” She frowned. “And, I guess, they’re both pretty exhausted. I don’t think they got a lot of sleep where they were. They might just be tired.” She shrugged. “Either way, Spike wouldn’t know I was there, so I might as well do something useful. Like call Dawn… and Xander, I guess. Who else would want to know?”
“Well, Dawn first, for sure. I can tell Xan the next time he calls or comes in. I don’t know who else, to be honest. Maybe a few of the girls who would remember him from Sunnydale, but they’re kinda scattered all over the world right now and Vi’s already seen him. I guess Giles will tell Andrew when he gets back from wherever he is.” She paused. “And I’ve got no idea who might want to know about Angel. Besides Illyria and she already knows. I think there was a girlfriend—a werewolf, actually—but it was pretty new and he sent her away before the big fight.”
“There’s Connor.” The soft southern voice seemed odd coming from the blue leather-clad creature that had silently entered the room. For just a few seconds, she flickered into Fred’s face and body, then was back to herself.
“The vampire sent him away to live his life as a normal human. However, he knows his lineage and I’m sure he would want to know his sire—” She hesitated at the expressions on Buffy and Willow’s faces. “Perhaps that’s not the correct word? When his… father? Biological progenitor? The man who implanted his seed in Conner’s mother—”
“We get it, Illyria.” Willow rolled her eyes, then gave Buffy an apprehensive glance. “You knew about Connor, didn’t you? I mean, Fred told me, but she seemed to think you already knew—”
Buffy’s expression was stony. “Spike told me. One time when we were fighting and I was throwing Angel in his face. Wes told Giles when they were worried Angel had lost his soul again, so when I finally asked Giles about it, he knew a lot. Not everything, I guess, but enough. I had too much going on in my own life just then to follow it up, but I asked Angel about Connor when we stopped there after Spike…. After Sunnydale, and he filled me in on what he’d done to keep Connor safe.”
“Well,” Willow said with false cheer. “I guess we can just let Angel share that news himself, huh?” She smiled at Illyria. “So what are your plans now?”
Illyria frowned. “Plans? I am a god. I do not make ‘plans’ I do whatever pleases me.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Are you staying here?” she asked. “I mean, you rescued Spike and Angel because you… know… them, right?”
“Will they be staying here?”
“At least for a while they will.” Buffy shifted uncomfortably, then stood up and stared into the eerie blue eyes. “Spike will be wherever I am,” she said. “Are we clear on that?”
Illyria bristled, then relaxed back into Fred’s face and voice. “We’re clear, Buffy. I know how much he loves you and that’s where he’ll want to be.”
“Wow,” Willow walked up and stared. “Fred? Is that you?”
Illyria faded back into her normal self. “Those are the memories of this shell’s former inhabitant. I can allow her to emerge if it is necessary to reassure or lie to a human, but she is not here. I do not permit her to affect my decisions.”
Willow gave her a sad smile. “You keep telling yourself that, your …goddess.”
Illyria gave an offended sniff and walked away to stare out the window again.
“What did you mean, Will?”
“I know Fred. She’s—she was—a stubborn little thing, and brilliant. If there’s a way, she’ll find it and influence Illyria, goddess or not.”
“Oh. Well that’s a good thing, I guess.”
“Might be. We’ll just have to see.”
“Where is he?” Dawn burst into Buffy’s small office in the business portion of the building complex.
“Hi, Dawn, it’s nice to see you too.” Xander smiled to show he didn’t mean the sarcasm.
“Sorry,” Dawn said, blushing. “But I got here as soon as I could, and they said Buffy was—” She looked around. “So where is he?”
“Spike and Angel are still downstairs,” Buffy said. “They’re a lot better, but they still look deader than usual. Spike says they feel fine, but they don’t mind staying down there until they won’t scare anybody who runs into them without expecting to.”
“Spike loves to scare people. What a crock.”
“Well, that’s his excuse and he’s sticking with it, so we’ll have to go down to the basement to see them.”
“Him. I want to see Spike. I don’t care about Angel.”
“And that’s why I love you,” Xander said, holding his hand up for a high five. Dawn grinned and smacked his hand.
Buffy rolled her eyes at them. “Seriously. Do you think you two can manage to be nice to Angel? I think he’s feeling kind of left out. Willow’s pissed at him for trying to bite her—”
Matching “What?”s made her roll her eyes again. “He was starving! They both were. You’ll be able to tell when you see them again.”
“I’ll bet Spike didn’t try to bite anybody,” Dawn said with a sniff.
“Well he was just… maybe he was too weak to try it.”
“Really?” Dawn but enough disbelief in her voice to bring back memories of her early teens.
“Okay.” Buffy sighed in defeat. “Spike tackled Angel away from Willow, and then he passed out from the exertion. That’s beside the point. The point is, they were starving, and now that they aren’t, they’re perfectly safe. Still all souled up and everything.”
“And you want me to benice to Angel?” Xander’s expression indicated he hadn’t heard of Willow’s close call until just then.
“Just be polite. We handled it, and he’s sorry. But nobody talks to him except me… and Spike, I guess….” Buffy shook her head. “Sometimes they fight like they hate each other, and then other times….” She sighed. “I don’t think I understand vampires.”
The small group of humans emerged from the elevator to the sounds of arguing. Loud, obscenity-laced arguing.
“Oh great, they’re at it again,” Buffy muttered, hurrying toward the sounds before they could turn into a physical confrontation. “Stop it!” she yelled, getting in between the two game-face-wearing vampires. “What’s wrong with you two?”
Spike immediately dropped his fangs and wrinkles. “I’m sorry, love. We’re just getting a little stir-crazy down here.”
“So, you’re bored? Would you rather be back in hell eating tasty demons?”
He looked shame-faced. “’Course not. It’s not like I don’t appreciate what you—” He broke off, focused on the tall girl walking toward them and broke into a grin. “Bit! I mean, Dawn. How are you, love?” He toned down his welcome, remembering that they hadn’t been friends the last time he saw her.
“Hi Spike,” Dawn said, almost shyly. “I’m glad to see you’re alive… again.” The last word carried more of an edge than her greeting had.
“If I grovel for being a wanker and not letting you and Buffy know where I was, will you forgive me?” Buffy had already told him that Dawn’s anger was no longer for the attack that Buffy’d explained away by saying “You don’t want or need to know what our relationship was like then”, but for leaving them to grieve for him when he was not dead.
“I’m thinking about it. It might be easier if you were hugging me instead of looking like you to expect me to….” She frowned. “You know I wasn’t really going to set you on fire, right?”
“You can be right scary,” he said without really answering her question directly.
“On fire?” Angel broke in. “You were going to set him on fire? Why? What did he do?”
“Nothing,” Buffy said firmly. “Nothing that matters now to anyone. Is that clear?” Her glare at Xander said he would lose important body parts if he attempted to tell Angel about why Spike left to get his soul. Xander raised his hands in surrender.
“No idea what you’re talking about,” he said.
Angel glared at him. “Obviously, you do know what they’re talking about. What is it?”
“Not mine to tell,” Xander said. “Buffy says ‘nothing’, it’s nothing.” Spike gave him a surprised but grateful look, to which Xander just shrugged.
“Dawn?” Angel turned to the girl he barely knew.
“It was nothing,” she said. “I was just mad at him and I threatened him, and then life got complicated and busy and awful, and then he burned up and I never had a chance to tell him I wasn’t mad anymore before he… died.”
“So, we’re alright then?” Spike asked. His voice was uncertain, but he held out his arms.
“No! I hate you for not coming to us as soon as you were back!” she said, throwing herself into his embrace. He murmured his apology into her hair, over and over until she finally pushed herself back. “But I missed you. I’m glad you aren’t dead.”
“Got to say, I’m a mite happier about it now than I was a week ago. Guess I owe Her Royal Blueness and your sis for that.” He smiled at Buffy, as he dropped his arms and allowed Dawn to step away.
“Are you better?” Dawn asked dubiously, looking him up and down.
“Getting’ there. Might not look pretty yet, but I’m plenty strong enough to be getting bored and antsy.”
“Exactly how long are you planning to keep us down here, Buffy?” Angel said, with some asperity. “We’re not a danger to anyone now.”
“I know,” she said apologetically. “I just don’t want you having to worry about the other slayers until I know you can take care of yourselves. And until you don’t look so much like we’ve been starving you down here.”
Angel and Spike studied each other briefly, then nodded.
“Point taken,” Spike said. “If I look as bad as he does… not that I could look that bad, but—”
Angel snorted. “You wish you looked as good as me, but yeah. I guess neither one of us is ready for a close up yet.”
“You don’t look that bad,” Dawn said. “I was expecting a lot worse.”
Buffy nodded in agreement. “I guess that’s true. I’m surprised every time I come down here how much better you guys look. And if you feel strong enough to start fighting…. I guess you could start coming up.” She glanced at Spike apologetically. “But Giles is still insisting you have to have a slayer with you any time you come upstairs.”
“As long as it’s the right slayer,” he responded, smiling and raising an eyebrow at her.
“That would be the one who’s waiting until you’re strong enough to fight back to kick your ass for not coming to me?” She put her hands on her hips, but her glare was belied by the way she couldn’t help smiling back at him.
“Is anybody else feeling slightly nauseous?” Xander said, rolling his eyes. “I think I liked it better where you were trying to hide your feelings.”
“I’ll second your nausea and raise you a ‘Buffy, we need to talk’,” Angel said with a growl.
Buffy whirled on him. “No, Angel, we don’t ‘need to talk’. We talked right after Spike burned to a crisp and closed the hellmouth. Remember? We talked about how proud I was of him, and how heartbroken I was that he died thinking I was lying to him about loving him because I waited so long to say it. About how I was so used to having him to rely on that— You know what? You lied. You lied to him about me, you lied to me, by omission, about the fact that he was back, and you lied to Illyria about what Spike meant to me so she’d hand you off to me. And you tried to lecture me just a couple of days ago. We have talked all we’re going to. You really don’t want to even start that conversation again.”
She turned back to Dawn and Xander. “Anybody else want to comment on my love life and who I plan to spend it with?”
Xander and Dawn both shook their heads. “Nope. We’re good.” Dawn grinned at Spike, who was staring at Buffy in happy astonishment. “I think Spike might want to hear it again though.”
Buffy blushed and tried not to look at the man staring at her so warmly. “I was getting to that part. I just think I need to kick his ass first. It’s what we do.”
“My arse is yours, love. Always has been, always will be.”
“And on that bit of TMI….” Xander moved closer to Spike and held out his hand. “Welcome back, Fangface.”
Spike shook the offered hand and said softly, “Thank you. I’m sorry about your girl. She was good people.”
Xander’s expression darkened for a second, then he nodded. “She was. The best. Deserved better than me.”
“Seems like we’ve got something common after all,” Spike said, nodding at Buffy.
“Tell Giles I’ll be in my cell,” Angel snapped. “I want to talk to him.” He turned his back on the small group and went into his room, slamming the door behind him.
“It’d be funny if that automatically locked,” Spike said. “S’pose that’s a bit much to hope for?”
“I really don’t know,” Buffy said, trying to smother her smile. “I was careful not to shut them all the way when I left you two down here.”
Leaving Angel to his angry brood, Buffy sighed and looked at Spike who was bouncing on his feet, suddenly eager to leave the comfortable but boring basement.
Xander pointed at Spike. “Are we escorting him up to mingle with the real people? What’s the plan now?”
“Do you have anything you want to change into before you come upstairs with me?” Buffy gave Spike a pointed visual once-over.
He blinked, glanced down at his tattered jeans and bare feet, then back at her. “Is that why you went shopping for me? So I won’t embarrass you when I appear in public again?”
“I just thought you might want to be dressed. You know, in case we leave the building or something….”
“Right. Be right back.” He dashed into his room, pulling his jeans down as he did so.
“Spike! Door!” Dawn shouted, turning her back on him.
“We’ll meet you upstairs,” Xander said, nudging Dawn toward the elevator.
Shaking her head, Buffy followed Spike, now struggling into a new pair of jeans.
“Hmmmm. I should probably have bought you some underwear, shouldn’t I?”
“No,” he growled, glaring at her while he zipped up. “You absolutely should not have. You know me better than that.”
“I guess I do,” she sighed. “I just thought maybe I could civilize you a little bit.”
“I’m plenty civil,” he said, his voice muffled by the tee shirt he was pulling over his head. He sat down to pull on his socks and boots, pausing to look up at her. “You know I’d do whatever you wanted if it would make you happy, love. But don’t ask me to give up all my bad habits.”
Finishing with his boots, he stood up and ran his hands through his hair. “Am I suitable for public view now?”
“You’re getting there,” she said, smiling to take the sting out. “Could use a haircut and a little more fattening up, but you’ll do.”
“I’ll do? That’s the best you can do? I’ll do?”
She giggled and brushed her lips across his, dancing away before he could take it any further.
“Come on. Let’s get out of here.”
Once Buffy had shown Spike around the building, introducing him occasionally to curious watchers or slayers, and letting him get re-acquainted with Vi, they went searching for Dawn and Xander. They found them outside Giles’s office, watching Faith and Illyria facing off across the meeting table in the center of the room.
“Uh oh,” Buffy muttered as she entered the room. “Uh, hi. I see you two have met.”
Faith glanced at Buffy, then behind her to Spike. “Hey there, blondie, you’re looking surprisingly close to your regular inhuman self. I expected you to be more of a…. corpse.”
“Nothing like a week in a dungeon and some TLC to give a vamp a new lease on life… so to speak. Nice to see you, luv. I see you and her godship have met.”
“What’s her deal?” Faith asked, turning to glare at Illyria again. “She got all huffy when I asked where you and Angel were.”
‘She’s how we got out of hell,” he replied, walking closer to Illyria and smiling at her. “She brought Buffy with her and the two them got us out of there. We owe her.”
Illryia softened her stance a little bit, saying, “What is this one who asks about you and the other vampire?”
“She’s another slayer, pet. The next one after Buffy.”
“She is not properly respectful,” Illyria sniffed. “She needs to be trained.”
Trying not to laugh, Spike signaled Buffy to hold on to Faith as he put a gentle hand on Illryia’s back and turned her away.
“She’s a slayer, pet. Disrespectful bints, every one. Bloody building’s full of them.”
“I am not comfortable in such conditions. I wish to leave now.”
“Where do you figure to go?”
Instead of answering, she said, “You are staying here with that one.” It wasn’t a question, as she pointed to Buffy.
“You know I am.”
She glared at Faith. “And this one thinks she is here for the other half-breed.”
Spike raised a surprised eyebrow, but nodded. “S’pose she could be at that. I think they go way back.”
She gave what was almost a shrug. “There will be violence other places. I will find it.”
“You saved me, luv. You’ll always have a place with me….”
“Your place is with her. I do not wish to share you.”
He smothered a smile. “Pretty sure she feels the same way, your lordship. But we would be honored to have you on our side.”
“The shell will make sure you know how to find us—me.” She shifted into Fred’s mien long enough to kiss his cheek and say, “Take care of yourself, Spike,” then back to Illyria.
She stalked over to Faith and stared at her. “I am a god,” she said. “You should be more respectful.”
“Yeah, whatever. So, you’re leaving Angel to me?”
“He is not my pet and does not need my permission to go where he wants to. But he is important to the shell, so we will be watching you.” Without bothering to register Faith’s indignant cursing, she turned her back and walked out of the room.
“Well, that went well,” Xander said as he and Dawn entered. “At least I’m guessing it did.”
“Did you know she can disappear?” Dawn asked. “She just walked out and went poof! Like Willow, only meaner looking.”
“So, where do I find this other ‘half-breed’ that isn’t a pet?” Faith asked, grinning at Spike. “And can I just say, if Buffy isn’t giving you good belly rubs, you know where to find somebody who can.”
Spike laughed with her, but put his arm around Buffy. “Know where my place is, don’t I? Not likely to stray again.”
“Your loss,” Faith said with a shrug. “I heard Angel was pouting and Giles wants me to go with him when he talks to him, so I’ll catch up with you guys later.”
“’K. Good luck. He was pretty cranky when we left the basement.”
Faith cracked her knuckles. “Wouldn’t be in his best interest to get cranky with me,” she said as she walked out.
“Now what?” Dawn asked. “What are we doing tonight?”
“I dunno. I figured you and I would get something to eat here, but now that Spike…. I guess we could all go out for dinner?” Buffy carefully avoided Spike’s gaze as she waved her hand around the little group. “Are you free, Xan?”
Dawn and Xander exchanged looks before glancing at Spike and then Buffy.
“Let’s be clear, are we going on some kind of awkward double date, or—”
“We’re four old friends going out to eat, because it’s time for dinner. Don’t make it a big deal.”
“Seriously, Xander.” Dawn’s narrowed eyes had Buffy exchanging a quick look with Spike, who was obviously torn between happiness and homicide. She stepped closer to him as Dawn finished quickly, “How many times have all four us sat around eating pizza at the Magic Box, or even hanging out at the Bronze?”
“Right. Silly me. Not a date. Then why is Spike looking at me like that?”
Dawn smiled at Spike and put a hand on his chest. “Back off, big brother. I’m eighteen now and I don’t need a bodyguard.” When Spike muttered an apology, and shrugged at Xander, saying, “Force of habit” she rolled her eyes. “And I am never introducing you to my real boyfriends. Ever.”
“I’ll be alright, Bit. Just have to keep reminding myself you’re all grown up now.”
“You do that.” Dawn smiled fondly as she spoke, clearly slipping back into the once-affectionate relationship she’d had with Spike as if the past two years hadn’t existed.
Giles looked up as Faith entered his office.
“Shall I assume from the lack of violence that you and Illyria have reached an understanding?”
Faith shrugged and sat down across from him. “More like she took her attitude elsewhere. It’s kind of spooky how she can be Fred and then not-Fred.”
“Were you and Miss Burkle friends?”
“Nah. But Wes used to talk about her when he made his monthly let’s-check-on-Faith visits to me in prison. Feels like I know her.”
Giles nodded. “Are you ready to see Angel, then?”
“Any time you are, boss.” Faith grinned at his flinch. “According to Buffy, he’s in a pretty bad mood.”
“So I understand. I sincerely hope he isn’t planning to ask me to interfere in Buffy’s life choices.”
Faith rolled her eyes. “I was there to see the ‘great love affair’”—she made air quotes — “from both sides, including his. In spite of all the heavy-breathing, it wasn’t even close to what I saw from Buffy and blondie during that last year in Sunnydale. With Angel, Buffy had teen-age drama; with Spike, she has history. They’ve been through stuff, got the tee shirts, and came out of it still liking each other.”
“A very astute observation for you to have made.”
Faith laughed. “I had lots of time to think and grow up while I was in jail. I learned stuff.”
“So it seems.” Giles stood up. “Shall we beard the beast in its den, then?”
Faith followed him out the door toward the elevator.
“Ah, he’s not all that bad. Just a little too full of himself sometimes and too sure he knows what’s good for everybody. Sometimes he’s right, sometimes he isn’t.”
They rode down in silence, both slightly tense as the door began to slide open.
They stepped out of the elevator to see Angel stomping in their direction. He stopped abruptly when he saw Faith, staring back and forth between her and Giles.
“Don’t go all mushy on me, now,” Faith said with a grimace. “Just ‘cause we haven’t seen each other since Wes busted me out of jail….” She paused. “Or since we escaped from Sunnydale, I guess. We did see each other then.”
“I’m sorry, Faith,” Angel said, walking toward them more slowly. “I didn’t mean to act like I wasn’t happy to see you, I was just surprised to see you here.”
“Where might you expect to see the second-in-command slayer?” She put her hands on her hips. “Or did you think I’d get slapped back into prison as soon as Buffy’s honey closed the hellmouth?”
Angel visibly flinched at her words, but said only, “No, of course not. But I didn’t know you were going to stay with Giles and Buffy after you left LA.”
“I’m in and out,” she said with a shrug. “Usually I’m babysitting the Cleveland hellmouth, but I come back to check in with the boss.” She gave Angel a hard look. “Seems like it was good timing on my part, seeing as how he needed an escort to meet with you.”
Angel shook his head and growled. “That’s ridiculous. He’s perfectly safe with me. Everybody’s perfectly safe with me. I was just pissed off at Spike and Buffy when I said I wanted to talk to him.”
“So, you don’t need to talk to me?”
“Well, yes, I do, but not—” He growled again. “Why haven’t you done anything about Buffy’s… whatever it is, with Spike?”
While Faith rolled her eyes, muttering, “I knew that was going to be it,” Giles sighed heavily in agreement.
“If that is going to be your attitude toward my head slayer and her choice of companion, I suggest you plan to leave here as soon as you feel sufficiently strong enough.”
“Giles! It’s Spike!”
“I’m well aware of who it is. I believe both Buffy and I have known Spike longer, and perhaps much better than we know you. We are capable of making our own decisions about him.”
“If you knew him well, you would have had him dusted by now,” Angel said. “You’d have taken him out of Buffy’s life.”
“I made that mistake once. Fortunately, it was an unsuccessful attempt, and one I do not intend to repeat. I am only hoping they will someday forgive me for it.”
Surprisingly, it was Faith who said, “Buffy’s always forgiving people for stuff. She’s stupid like that. Isn’t that right, Angelus?”
Angel bristled. “Buffy knows that isn’t me, it’s my demon.”
“Spike’s demon survived a hellgod’s torture to protect Dawn. And hung around after Buffy was dead to keep his promise to keep her safe. Can your demon say that?” Faith grinned at the expressions on their faces.
“I told you I know stuff, boss,” she said to Giles. ”Buffy and I did some talking before we took down the First Evil and its fugly vampires.”
She turned back to Angel. “That ‘it’s not me, it’s my demon’ shit isn’t cutting it anymore. Not for anybody. Without the soul, you’re Angelus, but you’re still Angelus when you have it, you just have a reason to control the demon then. You have to answer for the things you do, no matter which you you’re trying to be.”
She smacked her fist into her palm. “Anyway, if that’s all you wanted to talk to the bossman about, I guess we can go back upstairs. Dinner smelled wicked good when I walked past the dining hall.”
Angel look back and forth between them, seeing no support for his objection to Buffy having Spike back in her life. He growled once, then nodded.
“Fine. Have it your way. I’ll leave here as soon as I can.”
Faith studied him for a few seconds, then offered, “You can always come to Cleveland with me. It’s not Sunnydale, but there’s enough to keep the good guys busy.” She turned her back and walked away, waving a hand at him. “Think about it.”
“It would probably be in your best interest,” Giles agreed. “You should give it some thought.” He followed Faith onto the elevator.
“So, we established that this isn’t a double date,” Xander said as he finished off his dessert. “What is it, exactly?”
“It’s a chance to relax and not have to worry about how the new slayers are going to react to Spike and Angel.”
“I think it’s a pretty safe bet they won’t be inviting them out for dinner,” Xander said, smiling at Dawn’s giggle of agreement.
Buffy laughed with them, and then said, “If you two think I don’t know there’s something going on between you, you’re not paying attention.”
“What? Going what? Between us? Me, the other big brother and the little sister?” Xander glanced apprehensively at Spike, but he was just gazing at them with a bemused expression.
“Bit old for her, aren’t you?” Spike said with no trace of the growl Buffy had expected.
“Says the man who was born an entire century before his girlfriend.”
“Touché” Spike acknowledged, glancing at Buffy for a reaction to being labeled his girlfriend, to find she was laughing and moving closer to him.
“I guess we really don’t have much room to talk, do we?” She bumped his arm with hers, then turned to Xander. “What happened to ‘I love her like a brother’?” she asked?
“Well, turns out she has another big brother, and he’s a lot meaner and stronger than I am, so I figure I don’t need to be so big brotherish if Spike’s around. And it turns out there was a boyfriend vacancy.”
“That so, Bit? There isn’t some poor unsuspecting git for me to put the fear of Spike into?”
Dawn shrugged. “There might have been, but then we ran into Buffy fighting a demon one night, and …. “
“An’ he decided he wanted no part of your family?”
“I guess. Xander was just trying to help me get over it and cheer me up by keeping me busy and….”
“And I’m cheerier. And that’s all you need to know, big brother. Like I told you, I’m an adult and I can take care of myself.”
Spike and Xander held each other’s gaze for several minutes, then nodded and toasted each other with their beers.
“Well, if the testosteroney people at this table are through being manly, I think it’s time to head home,” Buffy said, shaking her head at them.
“Gonna put me back in my cell?” Spike asked, his voice light but his eyes wary.
Buffy reached for his hand. “I kinda thought you might want to come home with me,” she said.
“You haven’t kicked my arse yet,” he whispered, moving closer to her.
“It’s only a question of time till I’ll have to do it for something. It can wait.”
“Is it okay to talk about being nauseous again? Ow!” Xander said when Dawn kicked him.
Buffy stood up. “You can talk about whatever you want,” she said. “We’re going home now. I’m assuming you two can find your way back to the Council building.” She took Spike’s hand and pulled him away from the table.
“You don’t live at the Council building?” Spike asked, his surprise obvious as they walked out of the restaurant and turned left.
Buffy frowned. “No. I spend enough time there as it is, I don’t need to live there too. I thought I told you I had an apartment—I mean a flat?”
“You did, but I thought you just meant you had a nice suite somewhere on an upper floor.”
“Oh. Well, no. I have my own little place in the basement of a building Giles owns. Did you know, by the way, that he has money? No wonder he didn’t care when I blew up the school. He didn’t need the job. He just bought the Magic Box because he wanted it.”
“Sneaky old bastard. Letting you work yourself sick at that sodding greasepit when he could have helped you out.” Spike’s growl was genuine. “I should rip his throat out.”
Buffy shrugged. “He helped a little, but I guess he just really wanted me to grow up and stand on my own.”
“I wish you—Bloody stubborn woman.” He was still growling when she put her free hand on his arm, but stopped immediately.
“I know you would have given me money. And maybe it would even have been money you came by honestly….” She rolled her eyes. “Maybe. But that’s not who we were then, and you know it. To you, I guess, I was your girl to take care of, but to me—”
“To you, I was the boyfriend you didn’t want to acknowledge, and letting me help you with money would have made that too hard.” He tried to unlink their hands and pull his arm away, but Buffy held tightly to both.
“That was then. This is now. It wasn’t like that after you came back… and it isn’t like that now.” When she saw that he had relaxed, she added, “Feel free to keep me in the manner to which I’d like to become accustomed.” She beamed at him until he laughed.
“’Fraid you’re out of luck, love. Don’t have a penny to my name. You might have to keep me.”
“Maybe we can get the Council to pay you too. You could be one of the fighting instructors—give the girls a taste of the real thing before they go out to take their tests.”
They resumed walking, hands still linked.
“How far is it? And did you say a basement flat?”
“Don’t look at me like that. It has nothing to do with you, I thought you were gone forever. It has to do with being cute and cozy and free.”
“Cute and cozy… sounds wonderful,” he snorted. “Just my thing.”
“Don’t be a jerk. You’re going to love it.”
“I am? And why is that?”
“Because I’m in it and I want you to live there with me.” She pointed to a door down a few steps from the sidewalk. “But only if you want to, of course. I mean, if you don’t think you’ll be around enough to—” Her half-serious comments were cut off when he fastened his mouth on hers and kissed her until she was whimpering in the back of her throat.
“Okay then. I going to take that as a yes, you want to?”
“Never want to be anywhere else.”
“Then we should probably go in.” She pulled away and led him down the steps. She unlocked the door and turned to smile at him. “Come in, Spike. We’re home.”
Reunions: 1 – the obvious – S/B
2 – Spike and Willow, Giles, Xander, and Dawn (and Vi and Faith)
3 – Angel and Willow, Giles, and to a lesser extent Dawn and Xander
4 – Angel and Faith
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