thank you to spikeskat for the betaing!
Not appreciating the tension that Angel had brought into the house, Joyce nodded curtly in Rupert's direction and motioned for him to accompany her into the kitchen to obtain his missed dinner - but not before giving the interloper a harsh, warning look.
Xander's face was a study of confusion as he stared at the vampire whose appearance had changed beyond the dramatic since seeing him chained up at the mansion just mere hours before. His eyes flew around the room to search for the slightest hint that would help him solve this mystery, realizing that the others present did not appear too surprised by the dramatic transformation.
Willow caught his probing glance and the two teens shrugged simultaneously, both realizing that there was a loop that they'd obviously been kept out of. An uncomfortable thought began churning in Xander's mind, and with an unexpected burst of keen observyness, his suspicious gaze latched onto the small, healing marks that he had noted on Buffy neck earlier. Taking the time to study the pair together, Xander quickly found his eyes traveling unbidden to the mangled version that Spike bore on his own throat.
In an instinctive attempt to repress earlier that evening, Xander had not given Spike's jagged wounds much consideration beyond the juvenile gratification that something had managed to take a chunk out of the vampire - and he'd just hoped there had been lots of pain involved; his sole focus had been on the healing wounds of his friend. But something about the situation was beginning to stink here and Xander didn't like it one little bit.
Xander's eyes narrowed as his head volleyed back and forth between the two intense vampires and Buffy, a feeling of nausea suddenly overwhelming him as his brain made the connection.
"Ok, now why am I getting a seriously disturbing visual of chain-fanging here?" Xander finally couldn't help but demand, his hands fisting tightly on the table.
The guilt that jumped into Angel's eyes answered his inquiry and Xander became outraged upon further inspection of the damage that had been done to Spike. He may not like Spike or this entire situation, but at least the bleached bloodsucker had taken care of Buffy, which is a whole stinkin' lot more than he could say for Dead Boy.
Unable to ignore the hard looks that Buffy's two friends were sending him, Angel kicked himself for giving into his haste to get to Buffy's side. He could feel the hostility grow until it was almost a tangible, living thing. And the worst thing was that Angel knew he deserved every single bit of it.
Didn't mean he had to like it, though.
A heavy sigh pushed its way out of unused lungs as Angel pondered how best to proceed. He didn't know who the other two people were, and didn't really care. Right now, he just wanted to do what he came here to do. Namely, talk Buffy out of whatever disillusionment she was under. Because he still wanted her, dammit.
Making a determined effort to ignore the two teens trying to stake him with pointed glares alone, Angel focused on the girl he knew he had betrayed, yet still couldn't help but love.
God, she was beautiful.
With a tortured sigh, Angel found himself uttering her name softly. "Buffy..."
"Angel," she replied as impassively as he had been emotional, unconsciously leaning into Spike, craving the calming influence that his body brought to her. She could feel the tensely coiled muscles against her in obvious response to his elder's presence, and her hand found its way to his knee, giving it a squeeze of reassurance.
They shared a brief, tender smile.
Buffy knew why Angel was here, a blind person could see the reason on his ineffective, tortured face. But she just couldn't give Angel the reassurance he obviously wanted. That gift of acceptance back into her life. The truth was, he had no place anymore.
Feeling the heavy weight of his searching, pleading stare, Buffy waited for Angel to continue, but the silence stretched on while the souled vampire tried to find the words he needed to convey the emotions he was currently experiencing.
"So, this is Jaws?"
Buffy turned to look at her friend, seeing the worry lurking behind Elaine's heavily made-up eyes at the return of mucho tension and badness that involved Angel's appearance. She nodded and smiled with a small hint of amusement. Elaine always had the best timing. "Yep. This is Jaws, alright," Buffy replied.
"Jaws?" Angel's brow was heavily furrowed as he stared at the blonde stranger seated at the table.
"Yeah, Jaws. You know... that monster with big, pointy, sharp teeth that tears people apart who don't deserve it?" Elaine informed him pointedly, leveling him with a hard look.
"Elaine!" Rick shook his head at his wife's audacity, yet again. "Jesus Christ, can't you keep your mouth shut for once?"
"What? Am I wrong?"
Rick merely shook his head and muttered under his breath, knowing arguing with her was an exercise in futility.
"I heard that, you know," Spike commented with a knowing smirk from across the table, unable to prevent the snicker that escaped. "Wouldn't go saying that one out loud. Well, not if you want to live to tell about it, that is."
Elaine gasped loudly and rounded on her husband. "What did you say?"
"Not telling you."
"Oh, you'll be sorry for that one, buddy boy," Elaine threatened, but her menacing look lacked the necessary conviction to cause Rick's guard to truly go up.
Angel was growing more confused by the moment. This reunion had not gone at all like he'd hoped. To see Spike, of all things, seated so casually at Joyce's table, eating pie and at obvious ease with the situation was wrong. Just... wrong. He knew the man who Spike had been joking with and the loud woman were human, but he didn't recognize them as being from Sunnydale.
So, who the hell were they?
And better yet, why were they so obviously well-acquainted with Buffy?
Nope, this wasn't going the way he had hoped at all. Yeah, so he'd expected some lingering resentment from the people he'd... ok, tried to kill before, but this was ridiculous.
Angel crossed his arms in front of chest, his shoulders rolling forward even more in an unconscious attempt to make himself as inconspicuous as possible, especially given the derisive inspection he could practically feel the strange woman giving his attire.
One thing he could not deny. Angelus had horrible taste in clothing.
Needing to get this over with, Angel raised his eyes to Buffy, doing his best to ignore the other vampire glued to her side. "Can I talk to you?" He waited a beat. "Alone?"
"Yeah, like that is so going to happen," Xander interjected before anybody could say a word, his face indignant. "Not."
A low growl cut off any further sputtering from around the room, and everybody's attention was directed to Spike, whose intent, amber-tinged stare was glued to his grand-sire's.
"Not bloody likely," Spike bit out.
This is what Angel had been looking for, an opening. This was something he was familiar with - talking down to Spike. "I think Buffy can speak for herself, William. "
Buffy's chin shot up at his condescending tone and she glared at her former lover. "That's right, Angel, Buffy can speak for herself. And Buffy says that it's not going to happen."
"Ooh, keep that up, Buffy." Elaine rubbed her hands together in anticipation. "You know how much I like watching Spike when he's doing that possessive, growly thing."
"Would you just shut up, Elaine?" Rick shook his head in wonder. "Did you ever think of maybe minding your own business for once? In your entire life?"
Elaine looked thoughtful. "Well, no. Not seriously, anyway."
"Who are you people?" Angel found himself asking, eyeing the pair incredulously. This was the second time that the woman had interrupted him and he was getting a little irritated by it.
"Oh, calm down, Peaches, and take a load off," Spike bit out, kicking at the empty chair across from him out for Angel to sit in. "Your sulking about is getting a bit old."
Angel had no problem directing his ire at the one he deemed responsible, but managed to lower himself into the chair that Spike had indicated. "Fine, I'm sitting. Now, can sometime please tell me what is going on?"
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