Thank you to Spikeslovebite for beta'ing this chapter!
11/28-re-edited so excuse any mistakes.
"What I mean to say is, we have been unable to discern whether the soul is intact or not," Giles clarified. "Angel has remained in a highly feral state since he was returned."
"Returned?" Buffy asked warily, her body tense.
"Yeah, pretty much returned like an overdue library book or something," Willow commented. "One minute, we were sitting in the library doing the research thing; the next... POOF! One very wild vampire delivered in the middle of the room. We've all been making with the research, but so far...." She shrugged helplessly.
"You forgot the part where he dropped disgusting and butt naked in the middle of the floor," Xander injected a bit too vehemently.
"Hello! Buffy's not the only one trying to repress certain things!" Willow cried, her face turning crimson.
"So..." Buffy looked at Giles, "you're here... because Angel came back, is that it?"
Another heavy sigh was expelled from the Watcher's lungs. "Buffy, we're here because quite frankly, we've exhausted all outlets available to us. The Council has been sniffing around-"
"They don't know about Angel?" Buffy interrupted.
"No, they do not. Without having knowledge of why he was returned in such a manner, I felt it remiss of me to turn him over to the Council. My instincts were telling me to stake the murdering bastard," Giles' face hardened with his harsh words, "but something else has been telling me that I would be making a very grave error if I did so. I believe at the very least, I need to know what occurred that last night."
Both Spike and Buffy tensed simultaneously, looking to the other for support. In a flat voice, Buffy responded, "Angelus and I fought, he got his soul back, and I sent him to hell by sticking a sword through his gut. The end."
Gasps echoed throughout the room. "Oh, Buffy...." her mom murmured, her face stricken with belated pain for her daughter.
"I dealt with it. It's over." The look that Spike and Buffy shared did not go unnoticed.
"How did you hook up with the Evil Incarnate here?" Xander asked, tense with self righteous anger. "Did you kill his psycho ho-bag or something? Or did she just suddenly see the light and dump his ass?"
"Xander!" Willow shouted, stunned by his attitude. She could feel the temperature in the air chill by several degrees, something that had nothing to do with the cold weather outside.
"What? Like you weren't wondering?"
Buffy's face was dangerous as she beheld her old friend. "Spike accidentally staked her during the fight, and if you say another word about it, I will let Spike eat you."
Xander was blown away by the vehemence in which Buffy spoke to him, realizing that he had just crossed a line. He didn't miss the flash of pain that crossed the vampire's face at his words, either. Finding himself oddly chagrined, he mumbled an apology.
"Ok, while this is all sorts of irritating, it is getting nothing accomplished." Buffy fixed a contemplative look on Giles. "I'm guessing you didn't come all this way just for that little bit of info, so why don't you just get on with it?"
Giles cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Yes, well... as I said, Angel has been back for a month now, and no progress has been made with his, er, rehabilitation."
"And that means.... what?" Buffy asked.
"He's still all fangy and grr...." Willow supplied, "but he seems to be trying to say something, just keeps making with the same growlies and stuff. We've been keeping him chained up at the, uh, mansion. I guess we were, uh, thinking that you could have better success at figuring out what he wants. Why he's here," she finished lamely, apology evident in her green eyes.
Spike tipped his head back and stared at the ceiling, briefly allowing his eyes to close in frustration. "Buffy will just agitate him. Won't do much good with sussing things out."
He met the looks of confusion with an impatient snort. "For whatever reason, only the demon is in control. Think the soddin' Slayer is going to be able to carry on a conversation with the monster? Not bloody likely."
"And I suppose you can," Xander said scornfully, not able to keep his mouth shut.
" What? You think you humans are the only ones worthy of having your own language? Bloody lot you know."
"I knew Angel was trying to tell us something!" Willow said enthusiastically.
"Don't suppose you tried to soul him up again, did ya?"
Willow nodded. "I think the spell was wonky though, because nothing happened. No 'poof' or anything."
Spike sighed at that comment. "What are you thinking?" Buffy whispered to him, already having some idea.
Spike gave Buffy's hand a gentle squeeze. "I'm thinking that Angel is in there somewhere."
Buffy nodded in agreement, her mind spinning on the significance of that.
Xander held up his hand in protest. "Hey! Whispering in front of the guests? Not good on the politeness front."
Elaine arched one well-groomed eyebrow at Xander's complaint. "Guest?"
"Ok, maybe not so much with the invited, but still. It's rude."
Spike ignored the boy and directed his attention to Giles, who was massaging his temple with his fingertips. "You need a vamp for this, Watcher."
Giles raised his eyes quizzically to meet Spike's determined gaze. "Are you quite certain?"
Spike snorted at that statement. "Yeah, think I bloody well am."
"I should have tried the soul spell again," Willow babbled. "Maybe it would have worked a second time."
"Nah, you did fine, Red." Spike looked at Buffy, giving her a lopsided smile that was full of meaning. "Guess we're headed back to Sunnyhell after all, pet."
The journey back to Sunnydale wasn't wrought with the raw, naked emotion that the long drive east had expelled from their mental well-being; but it was far from stress free. The group traveled by plane, taking advantage of the red-eye flight schedule that would keep the harmful rays from touching Spike.
There were hurt feeling and scathing remarks when Buffy and Spike insisted on traveling in separate sections from the Sunnydale group, but Joyce saw the desperation behind the seemingly uncaring request and put an end to the blustering. It didn't take much to realize that her daughter and Spike needed the time to themselves and Joyce was determined to give it to them.
Upon reaching Sunnydale, Spike could finally feel the whisperings to his senses that screamed "family." His sense of worried anticipation increased, but the soothing touch of Buffy did much to quell his growing nervousness. She was with him, that he knew. Whatever was to occur, Spike was secure in the knowledge that Buffy was his.
Buffy found Sunnydale not changed a bit in the year she had been away. The elaborate normality that effected the town welcomed her back with open arms, but Buffy resisted the alluring pull. This wasn't her town anymore. She didn't belong here.
Dawn was swiftly approaching as the weary group pulled up in front of the house that Buffy used to call her home. Even though Giles was anxious to explore the possibilities that Spike had brought up, he knew it was foolish to expect anyone to rush into anything without some sleep.
Ignoring more of Xander's loud complaints, Giles dropped Joyce and her daughter off, along with the vampire that called Buffy 'his wife.' Giles was surprised to find that he had little trepidation in doing so, instinctively knowing that the two women would not come to any harm. Buffy had, after all, been co-existing with the vampire for a year. And even he had to admit that Spike had shown considerable restraint when faced with his prejudice, as well as Xander's.
The next twenty-four hours would be most telling, and Giles was quite anxious to get on with things. However, he drove himself wearily home to get some much needed rest, his own unease growing at what was to come.
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