Ready To Serve by pfeifferpack

1. Chapter 1 by pfeifferpack

2. Chapter 2 and 3 by pfeifferpack

3. Chapter 4 and 5 by pfeifferpack

4. Chapter 6 and 7 by pfeifferpack

5. Chapter 8 and 9 by pfeifferpack

Chapter 1 by pfeifferpack
Author's Notes:
Please know this story IS Spuffy in spite of any misleads so don't flame me!

Disclaimer: Joss owns this entire universe and all characters within...I take them out to play. The story is all mine, the characters are his and no cash or other reeimbursement comes to me for any of it.

Thanks to the beautiful and talented NMCIL for the lovely banner
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Chapter 1
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*** February 7, 2005 LONDON

Buffy Summers paced nervously at the Heathrow visitors station. It had been such a long time since she had seen him. So much had happened in both of their lives. She felt guilty for not even calling to check on him.

How was he? How was he feeling? He had given up so much and those around him were treating him with such coolness and even distrust. He was a hero, damn it, a champion! He had been fighting the good fight for years now. OKAY, so he'd made a few mistakes along the way; well, who hadn't? His intentions were usually good. It was his nature to protect those he loved and it was long past time for everyone to just forgive and move on. Even Buffy's friends, the old Scoobie crew, still had reservations where he was concerned. Geez, he'd saved the world as much as any of them ever had--time to move on, folks!

It seemed strange that he'd be flying in. The vampire’s problem with sunlight usually forced him to travel by freighter or in other ways given to darkness. W&H, however, had the executive jet fitted with special glass that allowed him the freedom to travel like anyone else could. He had even caused Buffy to laugh when he told her that he was doing the actual flying himself! Ever since the Wright brothers, he'd yearned to try it and had learned from the W&H pilot, forging a license after perfecting the skill. "Too bad he won't be wearing one of those snappy uniforms," Buffy thought with a wide grin.

He had seemed oddly nervous when she called him at New Year’s. Well, he was still probably remembering how it was when they'd said their goodbyes. She had to admit that she'd left her feelings fairly open for debate, if judging the actions against the words. Still, he should know her well enough to take her at her word after all these years! Here she was, younger than he by a century or so and yet he was still the one insecure all the time. WELL, she would fix that with this visit. She'd given it a lot of thought these last 6 months. Loss tends to point out the temporary nature of life and love, even if one of the people involved were "immortal".

"Hey, Buffy, you're looking good," he said.

Buffy jumped at his voice, recalling herself to the present and his presence right there. She flushed to have been taken by surprise. She WAS still a slayer, even if she wasn't "The Chosen One" any longer. She was supposed to feel the vampires if they were nearby. She had always known when Spike was near, knew it to be him specifically. Funny how connected she had been to him....ah, but that was then and that was Spike.

"Angel," she said softly as she drifted dreamily into his open arms.

"God, it seems like forever!" they both said at the same time and then laughed.

"So, still like being the fly boy after all those hours in the air?" she asked with a smile.

"Yeah, I guess I now fit the cliche of a flying vampire even if I don't go all batty like in the movies," he joked. "Looks like I timed my arrival just right, 'cause I'd hate to burn up on the way to your car. I wasn't completely sure when the sun went down here. It's hard enough keeping track in the U.S. where you can travel without changing continents."

They moved through the airport on their way to customs and then to Buffy's borrowed car.

"Yeah," she replied, "You think that's bad? I had to learn how to drive all over again after basing myself here. Of course, some people seem to think I can't drive anywhere, so be warned," she said with a chuckle. "It's really good to see you, Angel." Buffy’s damp eyes were shining up at him. She couldn't help herself as she remembered the last time she'd seen him. The final battle was just a blink away and no one knew who would survive...or if ANYONE would. Angel brought the one thing that had won the battle: the amulet. He'd expected to wear it and fight at her side. Buffy remembered the entire scene when she had told him to leave instead. Those memories, quite naturally, led to the memory of Spike.

Spike! He'd been so jealous and hurt to see her kiss Angel like that. Buffy still wished she could have spared him that. Even though she had made it clear that Spike didn't need to be jealous and they had slept in the comfort of each other’s arms until the end, he never really got past having seen her with Angel. That was why he hadn't believed her there at the end. God, how many months after that day did she wonder about the outcome if he HAD believed her. Would he have taken off the amulet when she asked and left with her instead of burning to ash as he did? Some questions and decisions could just never be put to rest no matter how much time passed. ‘Just stop it, Buffy,’ she chided herself. ‘Spike is dead and gone; Angel is here and now.’ If Spike HAD lived, she would probably still be torn between her two vampire lovers. In a way, her life was much simpler now, saner really.

"What's up Buffy?" Angel asked, his brow furrowed, "You're so quiet all at once."

"Oh, nothin' really, just thinkin' of old times. At least the surroundings are nicer this time. Cemeteries aren't all that cheery or romantic-- not that airports are either," she answered perkily. Her mind flashed to a certain, sometimes romantic, cemetery in Sunnydale and she quickly shut off that memory before it could take hold.

"So…," she changed the subject quickly, "everyone still mad at you for the mind wipe thingy? Gotta admit I was kinda pissed off too when I heard, but then I realized, ‘hey, that's just Angel’. You always bulldoze ahead when you think you are all right decision-y and all. I guess it was easier for me to let it go 'cause all that got wiped from me was knowing about Connor and, hey, you havin' a baby with Darla....I'd rather forget anyway," she admitted.

"Yeah, everyone says they understand now, but I still get those looks," Angel divulged. "I kinda feel eyes boring into my back when I leave the room even now. I still think I did the right thing. Hey, I had a duty to my son and he's doing great now, you know," he said, looking to Buffy for approval.

Angel and his former AI team still worked together, but the total trust that had once been a hallmark of the group had been severely damaged. His relationship with Wesley, especially, had suffered. Wesley had more memories of a personal nature tampered with than the rest had. His fall to the dark side and his relationship with Lilah had been altered in his memory because Connor had been the catalyst to it all. Even now Wesley often wondered what memories were real and which were planted. He had told Angel that he felt as if his mind had been raped. Angel had flinched at the accusation.

Part of the reason for Angel's presence in London was an effort on his part to do a favor for Wesley, a bit of a surprise. Officially, Angel was delivering masses of data to the New Council that had been copied from W&H resources. The library of the New Council would exceed the old one in both the amount of information and the quality of the facts recorded therein.

What Angel had not told Wes was that he intended on having a long talk with Giles about re-establishing Wes with the Council. Angel knew that Wes still felt the sting of being fired. His ego had been hurt and had taken yet another blow when Giles had not even asked if Wes would be interested in helping to reform the Watchers Council.

Of course, Angel would make it clear that he expected the New Council to assign Wes to L.A., right where he was, but the offer to be reconnected would make the former Watcher know he was valued. It would make sense for the Council to agree because Wes had so much offer. Really, a liaison between the Watchers and W&H as run by Angel would be a perfect position for his old, loyal friend.

Little by little, Angel was trying to show his friends how sorry he was for the hurt he had unintentionally inflicted with the mind wipe. He couldn't say he was sorry for doing it, but he WAS sorry for the hurt it had left in its wake when discovered. Buffy and Angel were both so caught up in thoughts and memories that neither noticed the silence between them nor the fact that they were now at the car park.

"Well, here it is," Buffy announced as she keyed open the door to the ancient Fiat that Giles had loaned her. He had seemed to feel that any damage suffered at her hands would merely blend in with the years of dings and bumps already weathered by the old vehicle. Buffy still gave new meaning to the word "slayer" when behind the wheel of a car.

All thoughts of debts owed to his friends in L.A. left Angel’s mind as he began to see his long life pass before his eyes. Buffy weaved in and out of traffic at an alarming rate of speed, making Angel wonder if she was getting a bit even with him about Darla after all. Still, he feared saying anything to her about her driving. The one comment he had attempted led to Buffy turning her eyes on him and off the road entirely. The lorry driver had been as rude as any California driver when the Fiat cut him off as they careened into his lane. Angel felt silence in the car would be golden indeed.
Chapter 2 and 3 by pfeifferpack
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CHAPTER 2
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Buffy waited for Angel in the library at the New Council headquarters. Giles and Angel were catching up on "white hat" business and demon demographics. Buffy never had enjoyed being research girl or the dusty books part of being one of the good guys. Just give her a stake or an axe or two and point her at the enemy. Spike had been that way too, she remembered with a wistful smile.

They really had been perfectly matched for the dance. God, she missed that, missed him. ‘No!’ she reminded herself firmly, ‘I have got to move on. It is what Spike would have wanted, part of what he died to give me. He wanted me to have a happy life. He pushed me to leave him there so I could have it all,’ she told herself for the thousandth time. She didn't want to cheapen the cost of his gift by wallowing in memories. No, it was time to move forward, serve up those cookies.

She had meant something important when she had used that silly analogy to try to explain her heart to Angel that night. She did have a lot of growing up to do, decisions to make, hard truths to face. She had spent lots of time working on her issues since Spike died for her and saved the world.

It had begun there in the Hellmouth when she came to realize that she really DID love Spike. Their hands were flaming while joined and she knew it was the end. She would never be able to look deep into those expressive blue eyes filled with love for her ever again. She felt the sharp knife of grief even though he wasn't gone yet. She felt the depths of loss that drove away all the stupid barriers she had placed around her heart. She loved. She finally admitted to him and to herself that she had loved for a very long time. Soul or no soul, she had loved this man. She had months afterward to mourn the time lost by her denial. Months to kick herself for the endless mixed signals that had served to leave doubt in his mind when she finally spoke her heart’s truth to him. She faced a lifetime of bitter regret where Spike was concerned, but she owed it to him to at least move ahead with the gift of life he had given to her at such a dear cost.

Buffy had come to a few definite decisions while "baking". She did not want to go through her life alone, unloved. She would NEVER have a "normal" life. "Normal" men just did not work for her; she would either scare them off or break them. She had to get past the trauma of what had happened to her with Angel and stop comparing every other man to that time of her life....her first love. Sure, Angel had lost his soul because of her, but Spike had gotten HIS because of her too. She had to kill Angel, send him to hell, and Spike had chosen to die for her, but that didn't mean it always had to end that way. Time to drop that fear once and for all.

Angel was Angel now, not Angelus, and both of them were wiser now. Of course, with Angel, a new meaning was placed on the phrase 'safe sex', but ‘hey, that's part of being a grown-up,’ thought Buffy. She smiled at the memory of the shocked look on Willow’s face when she had approached her a few days ago with her grand plan.

Willow had worried that Buffy was reacting, rather than acting from the heart, and tried to caution her old friend. She tried to convince Buffy that she had nothing to prove to anyone and had plenty of choices in life without going backward. Buffy had finally just laid out her plan and what she needed from Willow, then dropped the discussion. Willow would worry but could always be counted on to do the right thing.

This time it WOULD be the faerie tale with the happily ever after that Buffy craved still.


~~~


"So," Giles asked with a deep sigh, "have you told Buffy? I know we decided it wasn't the right thing to tell her when Spike returned, but he has been back over a year now. He doesn't appear to be going away any time soon....more’s the pity. I should expect she will be livid with both of us when it does come out. Frankly I'm still shocked that he didn't make straight for her when he recoporealized last year. What was that drivel he gave about it being anti-climatic after his 'gloriously heroic death' in the Hellmouth? Good God, this is SPIKE here...there has to be another motive than that rather lame one," Giles sputtered.

Giles nearly spat out the name 'Spike', Angel noticed. ‘Wow, I wonder how he says MY name to others?’ he wondered to himself. Angel was well aware of Giles' dislike for both the vampires in his Slayer’s life.

Angel and Giles had been in full agreement about keeping the knowledge of Spike’s resurrection from Buffy. After much discussion, they congratulated themselves on having made the only "correct" decision regarding the issue. No, as long as there remained ANY question about just how and why Spike had been returned and then recoporealized, it would be foolhardy and dangerous for Buffy to be allowed down that road again! Not knowing with certainty what "power" was behind this doubtfully miraculous regathering of ash was reason enough for silence.

Just how much harm could befall both Buffy AND the New Council if Spike proved to be a tool, willing or otherwise, against them was unthinkable. After all, the FE had planted a successful trigger in Spike after his re-ensoulment. One couldn't be too careful, could one?

Angel had explained it over and over to Spike in those months after he had regained the use of his body. The lovesick vampire surely didn't wish to endanger the very woman he had died for, after all. Angel wasn't about to trust that Spike would continue to let his insecurities keep him away from Buffy forever. No, better give Spike lots of reasons to stay dead to Buffy. What she didn't know wouldn't hurt her.

’Besides, she said herself that she didn't LOVE Spike...yeah, he was "in her heart," whatever that meant, but so were Giles, and Xander, for that matter.’ Angel rationalized to himself once more. Everything Giles had told him about how Spike clouded Buffy's decision making just reinforced Angel’s decision to keep the information to himself.

He still loved her too much to leave her vulnerable to danger because she had a soft spot for his grandchilde. Someone had to make the hard decisions, after all. It was Angel's sad lot in life to have to carry that burden so often.

Spike couldn't have been that much 'in love' if he talked himself out of going to her anyway, and hadn't he grabbed a nooner with Harm right after getting his body back? Angel counted off the rationalizations and decided he was in the clear.. No, no harm done, no foul on his part. ‘Spike is a big boy who always goes after what he really wants. If he didn't go after Buffy, he didn't really want her. Spike was merely obsessed, as Giles contended,’ Angel decided, ‘and got over it, that was all.’

Giles was likewise reassuring himself that their shared secret was the proper course of action. Spike had always been divisive in the ranks, a regular thorn in HIS side. Spike had played them all like a tune when they had faced Adam and that had only been the start. Buffy had turned to the vampire time and again over those last few years before the Hellmouth was closed for good.

Giles remembered well how ashamed Buffy had been when her relationship with that demon had come out. He thought of the wedge driven between himself and his Slayer by this.....creature. Yet she had trusted that soulless killer with her mother, her sister, even her own life! ‘True, Spike HAD come through for her more often than not, but it was only to earn a place in her bed,’ Giles thought with disgust. Spike was an opportunist who must be kept from getting that close to Buffy ever again. Let Angel deal with the blighter in Los Angeles. They would destroy each other, if everyone got lucky.

Giles supposed, in retrospect, that it was a good thing the plot with Robin Wood to kill Spike had failed. But with Spike burning up at that final battle...well, Giles was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Buffy had grieved but was now on the mend. No need to open old wounds or set up for another possible disaster. Why, she and the other children had finally gotten back to the trust and friendship that had served them all so well before Spike came along and bollocksed it up. ‘No, she is not going to hear a word from me about that rotter!’ Giles declared to himself firmly.

"Yes, well, thank you again....and, uh, thanks also to Wesley for the valuable information. Thanks to that, the Council has even more resources than before the First Evil destroyed and laid to waste to the vast libraries. True, the data is now on computer discs rather than in lovely old volumes, but I do not look gift horses in the mouth…" Giles trailed off, remembering the reason for his use of that phrase in his mind just moments ago.

"I still wonder what decided you to bring it here physically rather than posting it or merely doing some electronic transfer," Giles continued, leaving the subject on the table with an implied question.

"Well, I've got another thing or two on the menu for this trip, Giles," Angel hinted. "For one, I'd like to run an idea by you about Wesley," he began. The next hour was spent discussing the pros and cons of Angel's idea for the Council to seek out Wesley with an offer. The discussion went well and Giles and Angel parted company with a better understanding of how their individual institutions could serve each other and the greater purpose in the war against evil.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Angel found Buffy asleep in the large, overstuffed library chair, snoring softly. He chuckled as he reached out a finger to wipe away the small amount of drool on her oh-so-sweet lips. She was still as adorable as ever, such a sweet, precious little girl.

Buffy woke with a start at the feel of a cool finger on her lips and felt an unacknowledged sense of loss as she identified Angel as the owner of the finger. Her dream was forgotten in the dim light of the library and the company of her first love.

A nagging feeling of regret and loss lingered that Buffy couldn't quite explain to herself, however. Buffy took Angel to his hotel, said goodnight and left him to get over the jet lag.

~*~
CHAPTER 3

February 8, 2005, London
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’Time for Operation Return to Life,’ thought Buffy as she placed a call to a waiting, nervous Willow on her cell....oops…mobile phone. She never mastered speaking American English, much less English English, she thought with a sigh. ‘Lifts and elevators, trucks and lorries, cellphones and mobiles...geesh, can't we even agree in the same language what to call stuff?’ she huffed internally.

Willow assured her she would be waiting for the prearranged code to act and wished Buffy all the happies she could want. "Phase one, check!" Buffy smiled.

Buffy had told Angel she would pick him up at seven for dinner at a little East Indian place near her apar…um...flat. Angel, remembering the drive from Heathrow, suggested meeting her there. "Phase 2, check!", Buffy smiled again, "Everything according to plan."

Willow was the only Scooby in on Buffy's "plan". Dawn might be suspicious due to Buffy's quick agreement to HER plans for the evening. Dawn never liked Angel much though, so she said nothing to Buffy about his visit at all.

All Dawn remembered about "the great love affair of the century" was lots of tears and pain for her sister--that and Willow's dead fish. Dawn knew the memories were planted by those monks, but they felt real. She even remembered naming some of those very fish Angelus had murdered!

It was probably a good thing that Xander was off on Council business because that way Buffy couldn't be accused of keeping secrets from him again. If Dawn didn't like Angel, Xander positively despised him, even after all these years. While Xan had finally come to terms with Buffy loving Spike, he would never be open to a return of the "Bangel years".

Spike being dead had gone a long way towards softening Xander's attitude toward him. That and a bit of shared loss after the final battle had led to tears and beers between the two friends in the months after the defeat of the FE. Now Buffy never brought up Spike and Xander rarely mentioned Anya. They both knew the wounds were still there and easily opened, so they avoided the conversation.

One thing Buffy knew for certain, Xander would be furious at her plan and she would rather not deal right now. Restarting your love life was never something needing a democratic vote.

That was another lesson Buffy learned too late, but least she had finally learned. ‘I'm so sorry, Spike,’ she thought, not for the first time.

Angel looked yummy in a deep gray suit with a peach shirt. ‘Peaches!’ Buffy nearly laughed aloud, thinking of the snarky comment Spike would surely have made if he could see Angel now. "Nice look on you. Kinda Hollywood," she complimented him with a smile.

"Thanks, Buffy. You look beautiful as ever," he replied. Damn, she was thinner, yeah, but he could still see the same girl he first saw sitting outside that high school in L.A. sucking on a lollipop, not prepared for her awesome fate. The still beautiful girl he'd fallen in love with all those years ago. The bubbly cheerleader exterior hiding the cool Slayer underneath.

She still made up those words that just screamed "adolescent" to the listener’s ears. When Angel was with her the years rolled away. She was still his fifteen-year-old Amazon princess, a fierce warrior on the field of battle yet his sweet kitten by the hearth. His princess to protect and cherish. He'd happily play her knight in armor anytime she needed.

He remembered how he had loved gently guiding her, mentoring her, molding her, helping her become all she could be. Angel had never felt so fulfilled as that golden time in his long life. His golden princess Buffy and here she was across the candlelit table!

Buffy saw the gleam of approval and maybe lust in Angel's eyes when he saw her arrival. She had been as careful in her wardrobe as she had been with all other aspects of her plan. She had chosen a frilly pastel dress that spoke of youth, beauty and innocence. All ice - cream - and - rainbows Buffy, just the way Angel liked her. Her hair fell in soft curls around her shoulders and her makeup was kept to a minimal look...artfully applied. She was a walking California dream.

She had first tried on a silky, black slip dress that oozed of sensuality and sophistication. She realized, after surveying the end result, that it would appeal more to Spike than Angel and quickly changed. Seeing the look in Angel’s eye now, she was glad she did.

Dinner was good and spicy, the conversation easy and light. The two old lovers began to reconnect and catch up. Angel spoke of the changes he had gone through: his brief time spent as a father and his hard decision to do what was best for his only child.

He talked of the friends he had made and the incredible changes in Cordy he had watched. He beamed proudly about her growth from the shallow girl Buffy remembered to the tireless fighter of evil, looking out for the helpless and needy.

He explained the fine line he walked daily since he'd taken over W&H. Buffy could see the tension on his face as he related the compromises they had been forced into making. Like Buffy, Angel had finally had to face the dangerous idea of "grey areas" in his work.


Buffy didn't tell Angel about her trouble staking vampires. Oh, she still did her duty but couldn't stop the memory of how one certain vampire had died for the love of her after seeking out and winning back his soul...also for her.

She remembered the pre-soul sacrifices Spike had made and the depth of his love for her and for Dawn. She sometimes wondered if other vampires were capable of the things Spike had accomplished and felt a twinge of regret when dusting them.

Angel skirted over his Darla years. He was pretty sure that Buffy wouldn't understand why he had allowed Darla and Dru to dine on fresh lawyer blood with him acting as Maitre d’. He was also careful to gloss over some other choices and actions he'd embraced in their years apart.

Most of all, he very carefully avoided any stories that might drag the name Spike into the conversation. Angel was outwardly enjoying the evening but internally felt like a point man going through a mine field.

He knew that Buffy needed him to live up to the image she had of him and he wasn't going to let her down. Life on a pedestal was hard work and stressful.

Buffy told story after story of her exploits on the European continent meeting and mentoring new slayers. Buffy's unique brand of English had confounded more than one interpreter and caused more than one funny incident.

For a girl who had never before been out of California, Buffy had logged a lot of mileage over the last year and 8 months. She had only settled back in London just before Christmas and was happily nesting with Dawn. It was good to be back in a country that almost spoke the same language she did.

Angel politely asked about Dawn and her plans for University. He inquired about all the Scoobies, names and faces from so long ago to him. Buffy filled him in with each inquiry.

He promised to drop by and see Willow before going back to L.A. in a few days. Buffy thought he didn't look too upset to find that Xander was with Andrew in Spain and not expected back in time to meet up with Angel on this trip.

Over dessert, Buffy suggested that Angel walk her home and come in to see her new flat. The only awkward moment Bufy had noticed all evening was when she had ordered a glass of wine with her meal.

Angel had tried to suggest that she would probably prefer one of the yogurt shakes they had on the menu instead. After Buffy reminded him she wasn't an underage child anymore, he had looked a bit sheepish and muttered an apology.

Somehow she couldn't finish the wine and she refused to admit it was because of the concerned look he shot her way each time she would raise her glass to drink.

Buffy's mind flashed to a cozy crypt and an amused vampire as they had shared his bottle and their current troubles while sitting on a stone tomb. Spike had smiled so beautifully at the faces she had made when the alcohol hit her taste buds. She couldn't remember any other time he had laughed so freely and easily....he'd looked so young. No disapproval there, nope!

Spike knew her inside and out, good and bad. She could relax fully and just be herself in his company. It was nice not to be on Sunday behavior all the time. Just be a girl, just be herself, just be Buffy--loved for who she was.

Buffy sighed deeply and asked Angel to repeat what he had just said as she had not heard him, having been lost in her own thoughts.

"I just was asking if Dawn would be upset seeing me, since she was kinda mad at me for leaving for L.A. when we were last in a room together," he repeated. He hadn’t really seen the girl at all, but the monks’ memories were clearly there of her telling him off when Angel had decided to leave after Buffy’s high school graduation.

"Naw, Dawnie is cool, all grown up almost. She's staying with a friend tonight doing a bit of study with a schoolmate. A GIRL friend I should say, 'cause I don't want you thinkin' I’m a bad influence," Buffy was quick to reassure him. "Dawn got the brains in the Summers genes but still likes to study with friends."

Buffy was glad her babbling had disguised the momentary blink-out she had just experienced. She really had to leave Spike at home and not bring him on her dates, she thought. Well, maybe not at home either, at least not tonight, she amended to herself.

Buffy excused herself to go to the ladies room. As soon as she was sure she had the small room to herself, she pulled out her trusty phone and rang up a waiting Willow. "Hey, Will," she began brightly, "Operation Happy Ending is full steam ahead. We just had dessert and are headed to my place. Just checkin' to make sure you're awake and by the phone waitin' for 'code red'," she said in serious tones.

"Sure thing, Buff. Heh…heh…are you sure this is what you want?", Willow asked nervously.

Will, I've given it lots of thought these last couple of months, you know that," Buffy reminded her. "I've only loved two men in my life and one is dead and gone forever. I am tired of being alone, Will," Buffy spoke softly into the phone. "Angel and I had something real and special once. I aim to reclaim what I lost years ago. A slayer has an early expiration date and I don't want to go out like some sappy soap heroine."

"K, Buff, I understand, I DO..I mean...Kennedy and I couldn't make it 'cause I was still so grievy over Tara, but I might have found comfort with Oz if he'd dropped back into my life. I really DO understand and I'll be awake. Have fun and be careful, Buffy," Willow added with a serious tone.

"This time," thought Buffy, "I know what to expect and am totally prepared. I've got the world’s most powerful witch on call and a fancy new wording for a resouling all revved up and ready when Angel hits the happy…yup, all set", Buffy reassured herself. All ready!

She and Angel would finally get their morning after. Angelus would have enough time for one insult, maybe two, and Willow would have that soul shoved back in. This time there'd be no damn fine print. They'd finally have a future possible. Nothing like a bit of planning ahead.
Chapter 4 and 5 by pfeifferpack
~*~
CHAPTER 4
~*~


Angel said all the right things about her home in the making. Buffy and Dawn had to start from nothing since everything they had owned was in the bottom of that crater in California. All their memories and mementos under the rubble, along with the graves of their mother, Tara, and the unplanned resting places of Anya and Spike. Also the bodies of more young girls than Buffy wanted to remember. She'd not had the heart to return there and found no amusement in the official story of a freak plate movement leading to a city-size sinkhole.

Yes, Spike HAD made HER earth move, but there had been no earthquake that day. That great gaping wound in the California landscape was only slightly smaller than the hole in her heart at the cost of it all."OK, past is past, now onto tomorrow," Buffy reminded herself and smiled up at Angel.

Somehow he seemed too tall as she put her arms around his neck and drew him down for a kiss. His lips were as cool and passionate as she remembered, but not quite as soft as in memory. His lower lip didn't beg to be caught between her teeth as she thought it had. The soft curling hair that should be at the nape of his neck wasn't there either. Wait, that was Spike's sensuous lip, nape, curls and comfortable height she was remembering!

‘Stop it now, Buffy!’ she demanded of herself.

Angel was so gentle in his touch, so careful not to go too fast or scare her in any way. Buffy couldn't stop herself from remembering the raw passion and hunger of Spike's touch. He never treated her like some china doll that might break if he showed her his desire. She was all woman in his arms and he was all man...her man. ‘Damn it, Buffy, Spike is gone! Angel is here. Get a grip," she screamed at herself mentally.

Angel could feel Buffy stiffen a bit under his touch and reminded himself to slow down for his little girl. He really needed to ease out of this situation. He didn't want to make Buffy feel rejected, far from it. He just didn't dare let this blissful moment progress to anything tragic. He knew he should run, not walk, and do it now before it was too late.

God, she felt good in his arms. ‘To have Cordy here again.......SHIT! Where did that come from?’ Buffy, he meant Buffy, damn it.. He'd lost Cordy, but now he had his Buffy back in his arms and he wasn't going to blow the moment by letting memories of his last love interfere with the here and now.

Somehow during their separate musings the star-crossed lovers had moved into Buffy's bedroom without being aware of the movement.

"Jeez, where had Buffy learned THAT?" Angel wondered at the change in her kisses. He decided he really didn't want to know after all, as he had similar thoughts about what she was now doing with her hands.

Soon all thoughts left both their conscious minds as the world narrowed to one of touch, taste and feel only. They both had their eyes shut tightly as they reached with desperation for the comfort that their history represented. They fell to the bed and gave in to the need they both had to connect with each other and with love itself.

~~~

Willow was beginning to panic. "Come on. How long can a man last anyway?" she said aloud to no one but herself. "Goddess, did he turn into Angelus and kill Buffy? Oh, shit…oh, shit…I should never have let her talk me into this," she cried.

~~~



"But…but you're still Angel!" Buffy exclaimed in confusion. "How....why...I mean I'm glad and all, but, well....you know," she stammered.

Angel found himself at a loss for words. Everything had seemed perfect enough. What the hell was going on anyway? "Is something wrong with the curse? Wait....not WRONG...um....right, yeah, right with the curse?" he wondered.

The pair looked at each other rather sheepishly and began to awkwardly dress. "Well, Buffy, I probably should go back to the hotel," Angel muttered in embarrassment. Buffy didn't even try to stop him. She merely began walking towards the small living room.

Suddenly the room exploded, along with the front door, as a frantic Giles and Willow burst in. "Buffy! Oh my goddess, you're alive!" puffed Willow. Giles thrust a cross in Angel's face and sought to reassure Buffy by saying, "Don't panic, I have him stopped here."

"Will! Giles! What do you think you're doing?" asked Buffy as her face began to redden. This evening was not turning out as expected in any form.

"Willow began to worry. She rang me and told me of your rash idea....you didn't call her and we assumed that Angelus was back with a vengence, so to speak," Giles began to explain.

"You didn't call me, Buff, and…and…and I tried calling you, but you didn't answer, so I thought…I decided....well, I didn't want to face Angelus alone, so...," Willow continued, nearly stumbling over the words that spilled out rapid fire.

"God, Buffy, does everyone know what we...?" Angel trailed off. If vampires could blush, he'd be deep scarlet by now.

"No, no, Angel. I only told Willow so she could put your soul back if we…you know…WHEN we had our perfect moment again," Buffy said in her own defense.

"Well," Angel answered with no small amount of anger-tinged sadness in his voice, "I guess we've both discovered our 'perfect moment' came and went years ago, didn't we, Buffy?"

Giles, not understanding the cause of the tense mood between Buffy and her proclaimed 'true love', spoke up with a question then. "Did you tell her about Spike, you bloody idiot?" he asked Angel. Really, Giles could think of nothing else that might cause Buffy and Angel to be so at odds with each other.

The room became dead silent as Angel went even more pale than usual.

Buffy recovered first. Looking from Angel to Giles and back again, she demanded, "What ABOUT Spike and what does he have to do with anything here?"

Willow simply squeaked out, "Spike?!"


~*~

CHAPTER 5

~*~



Giles poured yet another shot of single malt and prayed he could keep fuzzy as long as possible. Last night had been a nightmare.

He had started the night worried that his Slayer was either dead or turned at the hands of Angelus. If possible, the night only became worse as Buffy was now more angry than he had ever seen her. She was barely speaking to him or to Angel. She was also showing signs of intending to walk--no, run--right into the coils of that other vampire Giles just could not seem to pry away from his Slayer ...Spike.

God, not even being burned to ash could keep the bloody bastard away! Giles was beginning to believe that Spike was his own personal punishment from the Powers that Be for his Ripper years!

He had a hellish headache and hadn't even begun to experience the hangover sure to come. Perhaps if he remained drunk all of this would just go away.

He was glad to live in a detached home as his neighbors would surely despise him for all the yelling and the fair amount of cursing that had come from his usually quiet home last night.

The four people involved in this tawdry melodrama had gone to Giles' home--followed him, actually--to hash it all out after he had blurted out the unmentionable name. "Blast and damn. Now Spike is mucking up my life from across the bloody ocean," he groused. "Is there no end to this?" he pled with whatever Powers listened to the woes of middle-aged Watchers.

Slowly, Buffy had gotten the story from the two conspirators in silence, her angry insistence making sure they left out no detail, no matter how small. The two managed to put the best possible spin on the events that they chose to divulge, giving Buffy MOST of the story in a sanitized form.

Willow sat, her mouth gaping open, amazed at what she was hearing. She wasn't really surprised at Angel's highhanded decision to make choices for Buffy; he always had, after all. But she thought that Giles had learned his lesson after meeting Buffy's cold fury over the botched plan to kill Spike before that last battle. Apparently he hadn't.

"Over a year and a half...over a year and a half you've kept this from me!" Buffy practically screamed more than once. "Why the hell did you think I shouldn't know something as monumental as Spike resurrecting?" Buffy demanded from Angel and then Giles.

They both tried to explain the reasoning behind their mutual decision in favor of silence, but to no avail.

"And Spike, good thing for him he's not here right now or I'd send him someplace he'd NEVER resurrect from!" she continued. "You two, I can almost get you two ....you're both great at makin' the big decisions behind my back, planning my life out for me, but Spike…," she sputtered, then fled the room in tears.

Everyone decided to give Buffy a bit of time to collect herself - and possibly use the time to hide all the weapons in Giles' home.

Willow shook her head in disappointment at the two nervous men pacing in front of her. "Really, don't you think Buffy has earned the right to think for herself by now?" she chided them. "And Angel, if you're the one who convinced Spike to stay away, I'd have to say you're not a very good influence on him…shame on you! Shame on you both!" Willow pronounced. "You, you, MEN you...so it's okay for Buffy to go out every night and kill the big bads, but she needs the ‘clearer thinking’ of a manly man to make all those life choices for her? Glad I swore off guys!"

The two targets of the ladies’ wrath had the decency to look chagrined.

"Could you pour me one of those, Giles?" Angel begged his reluctant host, "or maybe two or three? Think we should phone Spike? Kinda warn him about the incoming storm....tell him to hide all the sharp wooden stuff?"

"No," said a vengeful Giles, "Why should WE have all the fun? Maybe she'll still be angry enough to stake him and we will all be better off." He defiantly stared back into Willow’s glower.

~~~

Buffy decided the best thing to do would be to do the surprising herself. Then she made sure that no one would spread word of her mission. "You boys are so good at keeping secrets that this shouldn't be too hard for you," she stated, staring at them both with icy cold eyes.

Angel never thought he'd ever feel sorry for Spike, but unless Buffy calmed down a lot before her flight landed, Spike was in for one hell of a ‘welcome back’. Then the less mature side of Angel chimed in with an evil laugh. He wished he could go back on his promise to keep quiet if only to get Fred or Gunn to videotape the reunion.

A brand new Hellmouth was about to open. Angel just hoped there'd be some of L.A. left to return to when it was all over.
Chapter 6 and 7 by pfeifferpack
~*~
CHAPTER 6
~*~


Looking back, Spike would have good reason to be grateful that the Concorde was no longer in service. It took enough time to get from London to L.A. for Buffy to cool down a bit and even begin to think.

"Why, why hadn't he even called?", she asked herself again and again. Yeah, yeah...she got that Angel had yammered at him about possible danger and too many questions, his purpose and all of that, but, geez since when did Spike listen to Angel?

Somewhere over the Atlantic Buffy drifted off to a troubled sleep. Dreams, not of the slayer type, yet every bit as disturbing, kept her from getting any true rest. "Scenes from an affair" she would have titled them if they were a film rather than dreams. Vague relived memories of their incredibly disfunctional, secretive affair soon after she had died then been whisked away from heaven and her reward.

Buffy realized with a start that now there was one more thing she and Spike shared. Both had died as heroes only to be brought back against their will. She only hoped that he had been someplace as wonderful as she had been, even if only for a short time. He had earned it. Maybe, after she finished knocking him senseless for not contacting her, she would ask him.

Buffy had booked whatever flights would get her to L.A. in the least amount of time yet the hours dragged on for what seemed like forever. She changed planes in Atlanta with only the shortest of layovers. Her skin felt like ants we crawling under it as her nerves worked overtime in anticipation and anger. Part of her wanted to kill him and the other part just wanted to touch him again, make sure he was really there. He had always made her feel so
many jangled emotions....always this intense too.

Back in the air again, she tried to relax and get some rest. More troubling dreams of things, words and events that Buffy had hoped to never revisit replayed in her mind and stayed with her on waking.

Spike's face, so frequently bruised, battered and bloody stared at her from over the last few year. So often he became a punching bag either on her behalf or by her own hand.

She remembered the first time, that turning point in their relationship, when Glory had tortured the soulless vampire almost to the point of no recovery. She had told him she would never forget what he had done for her. Yet within a year she, herself, had beaten him nearly as badly.

She heard her own voice, so harsh in her own ears, as she repeatedly called him evil, disgusting, a "thing". "God, how could he have continued to love me through that?" she asked herself in wonder. Yet, he had. He so very clearly did love her, all the way to the point of death. No matter which Buffy he had to deal with, he still loved. And, unlike Buffy, he loved unashamedly and without restraint.

If she had ever wondered if he had a false image of her that he actually "loved", his speach to her the night when she'd been driven from her own home had proved to her that he did know her and loved all of what he knew. How many women could ever hope for that?

Finally, Buffy remembered their last moments together. Her surprise at realizing just what her feelings really were for this man. "Yes, man!" she deliberately repeated to herself. Her horror in realizing that she had run out of time was still crystal clear. Her fear filled voice as she finally said the words that she knew were more desired by him than anything in this life. The admission of love returned that she had denied to herself and to him until it was too late to matter. Words she knew he had craved more than even the blood he needed to survive. She had cheated him to the end.

She had cried many nights, when she knew herself to be alone, over his reaction. He had still looked at her with endless love for her shining out of his eyes and told her that he didn't believe her! She could hardly blame him, given their history.

God, she had been such a fool clinging to a memory of a faerie tale first love that wasn't even real. Yes, she HAD loved Angel, or at least the image she had of Angel. She had idolized him, had a vision that no one could live up to. That was who she had truly loved. That and the dewy eyed memories of 16 year old girl with the first rush of attraction and romance. Poor Angel, their great love wasn't even about the man he really was. He deserved that at the very least. No wonder they didn't have that perfect moment of dangerous happiness! THAT Buffy and Angel had been gone long ago, if they had ever really existed at all except in imagination.

Maybe she already knew why Spike had stayed away when he resurrected. What could he have reasonably expected from her? "Hi, Buffy, guess who's not dust anymore," he might have asked. "And what would I have said back to him?" she asked herself. Well, she probably would have said the right words, "Oh, I'm so glad," and all, but, would she have run TO him, or headed for the hills with one excuse or another?

It had been a year and 8 months since that battle, since she had watched as he began to burn to his death. She'd had time to grieve, to get honest with herself and to grow up.

Hey, she had just finally put the whole "Buffy 'n Angel 4ever" baggage to rest after all this time. No, maybe it would have been of the bad for Spike again if he had called or come.

Maybe, once again, he knew her better than she knew herself. Maybe she finally wore him out as she had nearly broken him once before.

Well, at least now she was in a place where she could talk to him as he deserved. She had been given enough time to think, to remember, to admit some hard truths to herself. Maybe she'd surprise him with this new, improved, Buffy.

She was pretty sure he'd still love her 'cause he always seemed to "get her", yet love her anyway. Besides, look how long he had loved dizzy Dru. No, her Spike was the very definition of long haul guy.


~*~

CHAPTER 7

February 12, 2005 Los Angeles, California

~*~

The crash of ceramic startled the W&H employees in the lobby outside the big man's office. One of Harmony's herd of Unicorn had become as much dust as Harm feared for her own fate. Judging by the look given to her by the slayer, Harmony might join her mythical steed shortly. "That bitch never did like me," Harm reminded herself.

Angel's secretary was so startled to see Buffy there at W&H that she had knocked over her prettiest pink ribboned, gold horned treasure.

"Um, Buffy!" she tried to say as brightly as possible. "Angel isn't here and, gee, you're looking great Buffy ...um...those Italian shoes? Can I get you a cab or a hotel or something, lunch maybe you look like you could eat something. I just know Angel will hate missing you! I guess you must have missed him over there with Giles," Harmony rattled in a close imitation of one of Fred's over long sentences. "Woah, I hope someone has enough sense to warn Spikey," Harm thought briefly, then returned to worrying about her own situation again.

"Not here to see Angel, already saw him. Just point me to Spike's office and don't EVEN think about phoning a heads up, Harmony. I still remember your lame gang and your going after my sister. If you know what's good for you, you'll become my new best friend here real quick," Buffy said while giving Harm her best serious slayer look.

"Ooooo-key, sure thing Buffy," Harmony replied filled with cooperation. "Just go down that hall there and it's the 3rd door on the left, um, he's probably in," she continued.

"Thanks for your help, Harm, oh, and sorry about your horsie," Buffy said as she turned to leave.

"It's a Unicorn you skinny dumb blonde," Harmony said under her breath to Buffy's retreating back. "Probably natural too!" she huffed in disgust.


-----------------------------------------------------------------------


Spike sighed and took a large sip of his coffee. He had agreed to help Wes in some translations of an ancient demon dialect that was frustrating both of them for the past few weeks. "Some sort of demon Nostrodomus crap written in more than one language," Spike had reported to Wes that morning. "Gonna take bleedin' forever, makin' sense of it," he had decided. Wes had the same pained expression on his face as did Spike at the thought of the number of hours likely to be needed in translating the old document.

Spike stood up to stretch his cramped muscles. He had always preferred being in motion and this research stuff was really starting to feel like hell to him. "Well, that's the idea, ya' soddin' git, do the 'good guy' routine and keep your bum out of the real hell eventually," he reminded himself of the more personal reasons to play for this team. "Gotta' be useful, can't just get by bein' decorative," he joked to himself.

All week Spike had tied to discover where gel boy had got off to. Finally, last night over a pint, Gunn had slipped and Spike found out that Angel was with Giles in London. "Great, the poof is off to the motherland, probably carvin' his bloody initials in some tree with the slayer while I'm here up to my arse in bad demon poetry," he grumbled. "Hey, saved the world here - you'd think I'd catch a break now and again," he said aloud to whatever Powers might give a listen.

The slayer, HIS slayer, not a day went by when he hadn't decided to call her or just show up. Then not a minute later, he'd see himself acting like a bleedin' lap dog again...begging for scraps and getting kicked in the head for his efforts and comin' back for more. NO...this resurrection thing was about him, not her. About his chance to do everything right this time.

He'd bollocksed up his life as William over a woman and paid dearly for it. He'd get it right this time. He would always love Buffy, but this time he had to make his unlife count for more than just that; just her.

He won his soul for her, but it was still HIS soul. He had to feed it and use it to make the winning of it worth all he had endured. "Wouldn't be any kind of man if I didn't," he told himself. Wasn't gonna' let himself be the 'thing' she'd always called him," he thought with renewed determination.

"Another stretch, another refill on the coffee and back to the grind stone for this vampire," he thought. Spike headed for the coffeemaker. "Bloody brilliant invention, this," he said with a smile.

The smile faded quickly as somethng registered on his awareness. He stood still, his senses on full alert. He sensed...."no, can't be," he felt a tremble begin inside at what he seemed to be sensing. He moved, catlike, to the door of his office, arriving just as the knock sounded.

He nearly kept quiet. The urge to pretend he wasn't in rolled through him like a tidal wave. He wasn't prepared, wasn't nearly ready, he began to panic. Trying to calm the unnecessary breaths he had always continued to draw, he took a deep breath and spoke. "Come in, Buffy, and thanks for knocking," he said with false bravado.

"How'd you know it was me....did that twit Harmony warn you?" she asked as she entered. "God, what a strange first conversation to be having," she thought.

"Still a vampire, pet, besides always could tell when you were near," Spike reminded her. "Come on in, slayer, I still don't bite," he smiled at her as he tried to lighten the mood.

Buffy and Spike stood in complete silence drinking in each other as if thirsting for ages. Neither reached out to touch he other as if fearing the vision would disappear like a mirage.

Finally the moment was ended with the dulcet tones of Harmony asking, "So, ya' want me to hold your calls, blondie bear?"

Buffy lifted an amused eyebrow at the obvious attempt on Harmony's part to ruffle her feathers.

Spike never took his eyes off of Buffy when he replied, "Harm, I'm sure you've got less dangerous things to do than to play 'tweak the slayer' so why don't you just run along and do them.....there's a good little girl."

Buffy laughed aloud and went to sit in one of the 2 side chairs in Spike's office.

"So, peaches got all guilty like and decided to tell you about me, huh?" he began.

"No, actually it was Giles who let the cat out of the bag. He looked kinda' funny tryin' to shove the kitty back in too...you'd have loved the look on his face," she relayed with a grin.

Spike smiled slightly but didn't respond. He felt on uncertain ground here. Clearly Buffy seemed glad he was alive and she didn't appear to be about to stake him for keeping his return a secret. 'Still, it wasn't like she was havin' to hold herself back from givin' us a hug', he reminded himself.

"Well, I sure didn't see this coming," she said. "Last week I had no plans to ever come back to California again and I would never have thought to........God, Spike, you're alive!" she trailed off as the tears finally slid from the pools of her eyes.

"Well, luv, still not exactly alive ya' know, Vampire still," he answered. It was all he could do to keep from wiping her tears from her flushed cheeks. God, she was so very beautiful! She glowed. Spike knew if his heart DID still beat it would be nearly irratic enough to hospitalize him right about now.

She was everything he loved and all he had ever wanted, all in one small two footed package. Close enough to touch and dangerous enough to burn. Reaching for her was like reaching for the sun and he had to remind himself what the sun did to a vampire. He needed no reminders of the pain that came from burning to death, he remembered that all too well.

"So, um, wanna' spill? I've gotta admit I doubt if I got more than the Readers Digest condensed version of your grand reentrance. I sorta' heard enough, got plenty pissed of, then stormed off to make plane reservations. Kinda' anti-climatic to go back after that for more details. Angel and Giles told me you were a ghost, then something about a package in the mail and bingo, Spike all solid citizeny?" she tried to tease the story from him.

"Yeah, that's kind of the story in a nutshell. One minute I was burning up as Sunnydale was coming down around me, next thing I'm in the fashionably posh office of my grand sire. Figured I really was in hell, ya' know. Wasn't a lotta' love I was feeling, gotta tell ya', pet. Your true love was even less happy to see me than I was to see him. Guess I was just too much 'mail' for Peaches," he punned.

"Ouch!" Buffy acknowledged the joke. "So, did anyone figure out how the amulet got to Angel or how you were stuck in the cheap jewelry ....'cause I gotta' tell ya' that thing wasn't really your style," she tried to join his apparent light mood.


"No clue, darlin', and no real answers about the ghostly start, or the mystic package of recoporealization either," Spike said a bit more seriously. "That was one thing I had to agree with Angel about. I've been played by too many big bads over the years to just think it's all ice cream and fluffy bunnies now. Last thing I wanta' do is let some bleedin' evil power turn me into some surprise letter bomb against the people I lo......well, not gonna' be used again if I can help it 's all."

Buffy saw a flash of fear quickly followed by the set jaw of determination as Spike expertly masked the feelings on his so expressive face. She sadly remembered when his face was an open book. Had she been the cause the caution that made him mask his emotions? She remembered it had started when he returned from Africa with his new shiny soul, as soon as his mind cleared. She had thought the soul might be the cause, but now wondered if she had done that to him too.

"Okay, guess I can see why you'd be careful after what the FE did after you got your soul," Buffy admitted. "Still...closin' in on a couple of years here, Spike, didn't you think I'd want to know, what to see you?" she asked with an emotion cracked voice.

"Wasn't really sure, pet," he answered in a near whisper.

Buffy wasn't sure what to say to that. Obviously he didn't know how much she had meant that "I love you" in the hellmouth. Maybe, in all fairness, she hadn't realized it either until just a few days ago.

She felt like a blind person who had just regained their sight. Unlike that analogy, she saw everything with a clearness and focus she was sure she'd need if she was going to keep from blowing this yet again. Spike was a strong man, but years of trying to pull her out of the river denial and years of abuse at her hands had pushed him to his limits.

He wasn't on a false pedestal like she had placed Angel. He was real and he felt things deeply and she had hurt him badly. "This time," Buffy swore to herself, "I'll be the woman he deserves and try to deserve the man he has always been."

"Know a place around here where a girl could get one of those onion things you got me addicted to?" Buffy gave Spike a sly smile that hinted at more than onions.

"You buyin' slayer? 'Cause payday isn't for a while and I gotta' tell ya' brood boy can pinch a penny hard enough to be acused of assassinatin’ ' Lincoln all over again ."

"You're on......blondie bear," she teased as she stood to leave.

"I swear I'm gonna' kill Harmony sooner or later," he laughed in response. "Don't suppose you'd be forgettin' that little name she insists on callin' me any time soon?" he asked. "You've got no idea how my insides roll whenever the gelled wonder uses that nickname.....yeah, I'm just gonna' have to kill the silly bint," he complained good naturedly. He held the door for Buffy to lead the way out of the office.



----------------------------------------------------------------------

They ate at a small dimly lit outlet of a chain resturaunt that featured those onion blossoms and fake Australian ambience. Spike was starting to feel more comfortable in her company than he had since the beginning of their life changing affair a few years before. Back when he and Buffy had laid foundations of real friendship and caring. Back before it got both more wonderful and more ugly than any time in his long life. Comfortable enough to be a bit scary.

Buffy basked in the warmth that defined Spike. She watched as he ate and drank and breathed, all those human things that vampires didn't do...but Spike did. ("Just like love", her subconscious mind added sternly.) How was it that she had never really noticed just how human he had always been. Funny, she and all her friends had always judged him by human standards and found him wanting. No excuse of, "he's a soulless demon" to temper their judgements of him, not like with Angelus. No, the soulless demon reminders were reserved for putting him in his place.

He'd always been as much human as vampire and never been given credit for all the things about him that defied the demon within.

Even getting his soul back hadn't changed him much. He wasn't like Angel, who was not at ALL like the soulless Angelus.

"...at least I think that's how the bloody thing will wind up translating. Um, Buffy did I put you to sleep with the shop talk?" Spike asked self consciously. He had been explaining his latest project at work and had looked up to see a far away look on Buffy's face that made it clear that she hadn't heard much of what he'd said. She didn't respond so he said, "and then the chicken exploded in a mess of feathers and blue eggs came out of Fred's nose."

"Huh?" Buffy said as what Spike had just said finally reached her mind. "God, I'm sorry! I really was listening, okay, maybe not the last sentence or two ...but all the rest. I was attentive girl, promise," she tried to assure him quickly. "You know me, research, not so much my thing. Dawnie got the smart DNA, I go the pointy sticks," she finished.

"I've always thought you are a lot smarter than you are aware of, Buffy," Spike revealed. "You let other people treat you like you are less than you really are. Your mind works just fine, Buffy, don't let anyone treat you like you are lacking," he advised.

"Hey, same for you, you know. I hear the stuff about "stupid Spike", even let you kinda' say stuff like that about yourself. You couldn't have lived over a century if you were stupid, much less win against a couple of slayers, survive Angelus, AND keep daffy Dru alive too. I'm really glad Wes seems to see you've got a lot to offer," she stated, "you always did."

They both were silent for a while lost in their own thoughts with a side order of self-conscious embarrassment.

The rest of the evening was back to the comfortable sharing of two souls firmly connected to each other, anchored by a shared past.

They each filled the other in on what they had been doing since that morning so long ago in Sunnydale. By the time the waitress began to hint that the table was needed for other diners, they had shared tears and laughter in a way they never had with each other before.

Spike drove Buffy back to her hotel using the hot red Viper that he had claimed for himself the previous year.

"You know, I left London so angry with you...but....I think all it really would have taken was seeing you there, alive as ever. I'm just too happy to be angry at anyone. There's still so much to say, to clear up. Spike, take tomorrow off, okay?" she begged with words and her eyes. "I'll make sure Angel doesn't fire you," she quipped. "After all, it is Saturday and even Angel couldn’t ask you to work without days off!" Buffy pointed out.

"Sure Buffy, if that's what you want...'as you wish'," he answered softly, quoting from "PRINCESS BRIDE". "You know what they say, ‘evil doesn’t take time off’, so we can’t either," he replied. "Actually, I usually DO have off the weekends, we all do, but several of the poofs key people are doin’ the 24/7 because of a couple of cases on the hot burner right now. I’ll go in and clear up the urgent stuff then I’m all yours," he promised.

Buffy leaned over the gear shift and kissed him lightly saying, "Welcome back, my champion," and got out of the Viper before Spike could react.

Spike was nearly in a stupor at that. All the physical blows she had ever leveled on him hadn't knocked him as senseless as her words and kiss.

Hell, was he supposed to meet her here tomorrow? Was she going to call? "You wanker, just let her get out without a plan. Yeah, you're a regular Einstein," he chided himself.


---------------------------------------------------------------------

When he returned to his office to do some clean up work he saw the flashing message light on his phone. He hit play as he warmed up a mug of blood, executive Otter blend at that. A fella deserved a bit of celebration now and again after all.

"Yes, Spike, how is the translation going on your end? I fear I've hit a bit of a snag or two with my segment. Perhaps we can go over it in tandem and get a handle on it finally. Yes, well, give us a call then when you get in to set up a time for a cram course in demon linguistics."

CLICK ... BEEP

"Um, Spike, I wasn't sure if I should call. Buffy's liable to kill me but I guess you should have fair warning. Buffy found out and is on the warpath. You might want to get out of town for a while so she can cool off. I"m going to tie things up here in London and will be flying back home early next week. Ok, well, Wes has the scoop on all our current cases, you can check with him if anything comes up. Wait, don't even think about taking the Viper if you leave town! Oh, and Willow says...hey."

Spike snorted then said to the machine, "thanks for the heads up, poof."

CLICK

"kinda' beat ya' to it, did the slayer. And 'hey' back at ya' Red."


BEEP

"Spike! Wow I'm a space case today. Just chalk it up to jet lag and a big case of the happies! Tomorrow how about I meet you there at your office. God, how weird is THAT sentence! I think early afternoon 'cause I just got hit with a major case of time differentitis! Anyway, I'm sure we'll find some place to talk. You haven't shown me where you live even. I am so glad you are here and real. I've missed you more than you know. Remember when I said I wasn't ready for you to be gone? Well, never got to the ready. By the way, I love the way my name sounds when you say it. It doesn't sound silly, just pretty. Spike, I've never had a better day than today ... um .. see you tomorrow. I lo.......I'll see you then, goodnight."

CLICK

Spike stared at the machine and forced himself to not get his hopes up. He seemed to have Buffy's friendship, she clearly cared that he wasn't dust. "Pretty good for one day, lad," he smiled.
Chapter 8 and 9 by pfeifferpack
~*~
CHAPTER 8
~*~

February 13, 2005





Buffy woke after the best nights sleep she could remember since her mom was alive. "Mom," she thought fondly, "she always seemed to like Spike. I really should have talked to her more about men." But today wasn't going to be about regrets or mistakes.

Spike wasn't the only one with another chance laid out in front of him. Buffy wasn't going to just keep coasting, keep assuming the next chance would always be there. That day in the hellmouth, watching Spike burn to ash, that memory underlined it once and for all. Sometimes you ran out of time, out of chances. She'd not do that again. No more living with regrets.

Spike rolled out of bed to the sharp blare of the alarm clock. He planned to get a little time in working with Wes on the translation before Buffy came to help him play hookey. Buffy, over a year and a half of feeling a Buffy sized hole in his life and now she was here. That had to mean something. She came to him, that had to be an important change. "Just go with the flow this time, mate, don't get your hopes up too high," he reminded himself.

It was all he could do to drag his eyes from the clock as he worked with Wesley on the document. "Spike, is there somewhere you need to be because you don't appear to be here, actually?" asked Wesley. "Anything you'd care to share?"

"Buffy's here. Came in yesterday, nearly gave me a heart attack...well if my heart still worked that is. Don't have to wonder if I should tell her anymore now. Gonna' spend the day together, catch up and all. Not sure where it's heading or IF it's heading anywhere at all but a bloke's gotta' give it a shot. I know sod all about much in this world, but I do know I love her and always will," he shared with one of the first people at W&H to befriend him.

"Well, Spike, I certainly am not one to give advice on matters of the heart. Not a terribly good track record myself, I fear. However, I would say that your brief experience with death and as a ghost should point up to you the brevity of life, such as it is. What I mean to say is, well, I'd say give it a jolly good go and good luck to you both," Wesley said with sincerity.

Harmony stopped Spike on his way back to his office to let him know that Angel had tried, once again, to call him and, "maybe you should check in with him 'cause he seems to think you're a big pile of dust again or something," she finished.

"Harm, you can tell our brooding leader that I'm still bloody well intact next time he calls. I'm gonna' be out of the office until later," he instructed the simpering secretary.




---------------------meanwhile in London------------------------------

"Willow, I swear I was only looking out for Buffy's best interests. Geez, this IS Spike we're talking about here. I've been dealing with Spikey, he hasn't changed, not really. Buffy deserves better, you know that," Angel said for the millionth time.

"Got part of it right at least, Angel," Willow began. "Spike hasn't changed much since the soul. He loved Buffy before he had it and was doing lots of good stuff too, even when Buffy was dead. He's not two different people like you and his soul doesn't go walkies every once in a while....hey, none of him does. Okay, maybe now that he has a job and all he might take a vacation vacation, but I mean he doesn't walk out on Buffy when she needs him, even when she's
mean and stuff. He would do anything for her and loves her totally. He nearly died for her more than once and finally did. Besides Spike's helped to stop at least three Apocalypses and has never started even one. I don't know where she'd find anybody 'better', do you?" she addressed both Angel and Giles in her glance.

Willow had firmly chastised both of Buffy's "protectors" about the web of lies they had found themselves trapped in now. Neither thick skulled defender of Buffy's virtue had any bright moment of illumination so far and Willow was out of patience with both of them.

"Hey, Willow about the other night at Buffy's ...with all this stuff that's happened I haven't had a chance to really ask. Just what was Buffy supposed to call you about that got you so worried?" Angel asked.

Willow laid out Buffy's failed plan to Angel's amazed expression. "I guess you guys didn't, you know, get all happy and all so I wasn't needed."

"So, you're saying you could re-ensoul me without the bad side effect...you could do that?" he asked, an incredulous look on his face.

Willow saw the look change to one of hopeful wonder on Angel's face at the possibility and said, "You know, maybe we could see about fixin' that soul problem ofyours anyway. You gonna' be in town a while?" and she smiled at his grin. "Wow, he DOES have more than one facial expression!" she thought in surprise.


------------------------------------------------------------------------


Buffy arrived just past noon and went straight to Spikes office. He wasn't there but she could tell he was somewhere in the building probably doin' the researchy stuff with Wes. The building was fairly empty but she never had trouble sensing Spike, even if there had been the work week crowd in the building..

Fred popped her head in the room and saw Buffy standing there. "Hi, you're Buffy right? I heard you were here and knew Spike was still in with Wesley so I thought I'd drop in and let you he didn't skip out on you or anything....not that he'd do that, skip out on anyone, especially you....no Spike is really much more polite than Angel would have a person believe. Anyway, he'll be done soon, Spike, not Angel, and I'm sure he would want you to make yourself at home...well he doesn't really LIVE here, but just feel free, you know. If you need anything, just ask. I'm Fred, Fred Burkle, by the way, Spike is my friend. Well he's have to be my friend seein's how he saved my life and all even while he was still a ghost. Gave up being solid and all and we only had just met! He talks about you all the time, not gossip or anything like that but about how much he loves you and how wonderful you are. I'm glad you finally came," she said in a rush.


Buffy blinked at the slight woman before her trying to process all that had been said and then smiled. "I'm so glad Spike has friends here. I'm afraid we weren't always nice to him in Sunnydale even when he saved OUR lives. He deserves friends." She shook Fred's hand.

After the verbal whirlwind left Buffy alone, she took the opportunity to look around a bit. Yesterday she had only seen Spike, the wonder of him actually being there. Today she had time.

The office suited him somehow. She remembered how he had managed to make a burial vault and hole in the ground feel homey once. He had put his crypt together with things he would find or steal, but his taste had been excellent.

The same artistic feel was here in the office in the few but fine pieces of sculpture and colorful wall hangings. The color choice all made a person feel comfy as did the style of furniture. There was a refinement and sensual aura to it. Buffy couldn't wait to see his home. So weird thinking of Spike with a home and an office. "Wow, Spike has a job!" Buffy marveled, anything was possible in the universe.

Buffy settled in to await Spike's return. "Spike's return...a bloody miracle," Buffy thought, then laughed at the pure Spike phrase she'd used. God he really was a part of her.

All that time she denied her heart, told herself that she'd found her true love when she was fifteen and lost that only love by the time High School was over. Had she been nuts??? Spike was the one who watched soap operas, she'd just tried to live one! She giggled at her own stupidity.

Spike heard the sweet sound of a happy Buffy giggle coming from his office. He wondered what it was she found so amusing. "Oh God, I hope she didn't bloody well snoop about and find those poems," Spike thought then froze in fear.

"Please, please...any Power who cares at all for a stupid sod like me....don't let this happen again. I couldn't bear it to have HER make sport of my bad rhymes," he dared to pray. He steeled his nerve, took a deep breath and reached for the door knob to meet his possible doom. "I will not cry. I'm not that weepin' wanker anymore. Let her laugh. I'll join her. Have a right good chuckle," he worked hard to convince himself. "Once more into the breech," he muttered under his breath and turned the knob.

"Hello slay...um, Buffy," he said in relief. She didn't seem to have the folder with his pathetic poems, so maybe his secret was still safe. "Thank you!" he whispered with uplifted eyes. "I was doin' a bit of work with the ex-watcher while waitin' for you. Hope you weren't bored too much."

"Naw, gave me a chance to check out corporate Spike. Gotta' say I like the look. It suits you somehow," she said.

Yesterday she had been so involved with his just being there in the flesh, she had only thought about his new look when remembering the day while trying to drift off to sleep. He had worn black, but the slacks had been tailored and dressy. His shirt had been a black button down dress shirt.

Today he was wearing navy pin striped, cuffed dress slacks with a crisp white shirt. He had on a red power tie that was loosened at the neck and his French cuffs were folded up to just below the elbow. He looked like he had just stepped out of a current issue of GQ. He took her breath away. If she were honest, he always had.

"Wow, you look so good. I mean, the whole Billy Idol look worked great as ‘Big Bad’, but gotta’ say, the update is…..," she trailed off while looking at him appreciatively.

"Thanks luv, got Lorne to thank for the new look," he admitted.

"Lorne?" Buffy asked.

"Yeah, green bloke, red eyes and horns. He didn’t do the makeover himself, thank God, had some of his clients come in last summer to do un upgrade on me," he said and smiled.

"Was kinda’ funny," he shared the memory with Buffy. "He told Harmony to ‘get the fab five on a 911 call’. She thought he meant to call the police first, then tried to work out the fab five and decided he’d need a company necromancer to bring back John and George. The little nit got her fabs mixed up and thought he wanted a Beatles reunion," he laughed out loud. "They did a good job they tell me, mirrors, ya’ know, no help to me. That Carson fella’ was a bit too interested in parts of m.....um...the makeover, but they were nice enough all things considered," Spike shared. "My tree’s not quite in their forrest, but they were okay," he finished the story.

Buffy wondered if the experience had been filmed for an episode of Queer Eye and decided to Tivo the program just to be sure. Any scene with Kyan prying the hair products away from Spike so his curls would show would be worth the tape.

As for Buffy, she wore a cream colored dress with soft lines that clung just right to her curves. She had deliberately worn her hair down, remembering how he had always loved her hair. She felt a moment of shame earlier when she remembered cutting it just to spite him when he had dared to compliment her on its beauty. She'd been such a bitch to him then he'd still complimented her on the cut. "That's Spike," she thought fondly, "loves me no matter what
.....at least I hope he still does."

"Your hair is really long now, Buffy," he noted. "I don't remember it ever being quite that long, it's lovely." Spike longed to run his fingers through her hair but feared she'd show up bald next time if he made too big a deal of likeing it long and shampoo commercial floaty.

"I've been letting it grow, glad you like," she said smilingly. "What do you say to us finding some shady spot and try to get past the awkwards?" she invited.

"Not a lot of shade in L.A., pet," he reminded her. "Don't want you to think I'm bein' pushy, but you did say you'd like to see my place. Maybe we could pick up lunch and talk there. It's a big step up from the crypt and an improvement on my first basement digs here," he promised.

"Sounds like a plan, lead on William," she urged.

Spike stopped briefly to speak to a handsome black lawyer and a rather loudly dressed demon while Buffy waited at the elevator.

"Yeah, that’s my Buffy. We’re gonna’ go have a bite, not me doin’ the bitin’, mind. I’ll be out of the office the rest of the day. Be nice not to get any pages from either of you tonight, okay?" he said mostly to Gunn.

"Sure thing Spike, hey if I had a lady lookin’ that hot who was lookin’ at me like Buffy is you....hey, just sayin’. Have a good time, Blondie and just leave the pager at home. I think we can survive a night or two without your bad ass self on call," Gunn reassured Spike and patted him on the back.

"Say soulfull one, if you need theater tickets or anything ‘special’ while the goddess is in town, you know the door to my office is always open for you. Anything to further the cause of romance and happy vamps!" Loren chimed in cheerfully.



---------------------------------------------------------------------


They stopped briefly at a small Thai resturant to pick up lunch and continued to a quiet older residential area with lots of established vegetation and plenty of young families.

Spike had an actual house! It was a smaller version of Buffy's old home, a sort of bungalow with a deep front porch and lots of trees and flowers. He told Buffy that he had gotten a great deal from a client and it felt like home when he saw it.

The grand tour showed a home lovingly furnished and cared for. Dark wood gleamed and soft pale fabric invited, speaking of comfort. No clutter, but plenty of Spike's personality showed through. Everything was classicly timeless, except the hi-tech electronics showcasing the flat screen, hi-def home theater. Buffy had to wonder if Spike still watched "Passions" and if it looked better in Hi-def.


Buffy realized she shouldn't be surprised at Spike's home. He had made a hole in the ground homey after all.

She felt oddly shy there with him. He had changed a bit. A little less restless, more focused. She hoped her re-entry into his life wouldn't take that from him. Funny how both of her vampires seemed to flourish in her absence. Both had become true champions of those in need once they had taken their eyes off of her. That realization saddened her somewhat.

Loving her had caused them both to WANT to do and be good, but leaving her had done the trick in completing the change.

Lunch was delicious and the conversation interesting. Spike had begun to tell stories about places he had been. He left out any yucky details and kept it totally PG and fun for the family. He had done a lot of traveling and seen a lot of things that Buffy was amazed at hearing. time seemed to fly.

Spike had retreated into his small kitchen. He still was having trouble believing it was real. Buffy was here in his home! Flesh and blood, too, not just the stuff of his dreams.

He longed to jusy hold her as he had done those nights in Sunnydale. To hold her close to his heart, that heart that seemed to almost beat again when she let him close. He was afraid to get his hopes up too high. The fall might just break him this time.

Too often in the past he had allowed himself to believe that she loved him. He told himself she had used the word "can't" deliberately to deny the love she felt. Then, at the end, he realized she probably didn't love him. Well, she loved him...just wasn't IN love with him. The pull between hope and this "truth" he had come to believe at the end had been warring within him since his return. That was what had kept him there and away from Buffy. He could bear knowing she loved him, thought well of him if he was at a distance. He wasn't sure he could deal with finding out she was no more in love with him than in the past. Now, she was here and he'd have his answer. The only problem was that he wasn't sure if he was ready for it.


He came in with two wine glasses and a sweet, tasty Merlot. It occurred to him that this was Valentines eve. Tomorrow would be Valentines day and likely to find him either happier than he had ever dreamed he could be, or with a heart in so many pieces no one would ever be able to find a piece big enough to drive a stake through.

"What if he doesn't love me anymore?" she wondered. What if I managed to kill off all those feelings, feelings a vampire wasn't supposed to be able to have at all.

Spike was a miracle! Doing and feeling things all the "experts" said could not be done or felt. Her miracle, and she had done far worse than reject him. She had used him, building his hopes with her actions while destroying them with her words. Finally, she had cast him away like a toy no longer wanted. She always had been hard on her toys.

Still, he did have the same soft look in his eyes when he gazed at her. Maybe she hadn't lost her last chance.

"Got a little fireplace here, luv," he said chuckling. "Yeah, kinda' stupid havin' a fireplace; bein' a vampire and havin' already burnt to ash once, I know. Not too bright, me and Angel," he
continued, "Him with his love for convertibles and me with a bleedin' firelight fetish. Suicidal, that's what we are. Maybe it's just the L.A. vibe." He looked at her as if expecting some answer to his musings.

Buffy merely replied, "a fire would be nice, Spike, Thank you."

They couldn't have asked for better atmosphere. A warm fire, candlelight, good wine, soft music and each other. All that was lacking was courage.

Two heroes of the people, two who had died for the world and were willing to do so again if needed, dancing around three small potentially deadly words.

So dance they did. Bare feet on soft carpet, to the sad and plaintive voice of Sarah McLaughlin. The sound of the music only broken by the occasional chime of the wall clock.

Buffy looked at the clock as it chimed on the quarter hour mark and noticed there were only fifteen minutes left until Valentines day, the day to celebrate love and acknowledge lovers. Time to dig deep for the courage she showed effortlessly in battle.


~*~

CHAPTER 9

~*~


"I love you Spike," she began without warning.

He stopped the dance yet didn't look at her, didn't move at all. He continued to hold her close but said not a word. He had even stopped breathing, not that he needed to breathe.

Buffy took a deep breath and plunged headfirst into scary waters. "Ok, I wanna' be really clear for once. I am IN love with you. Have been since before the whole soul getting. Didn't want to....fall in love, you know, especially with a soulless vampire. Couldn't say I loved you though till you'd changed so much. I saw all that the last year. You cared for so much more than just me. You loved Dawn and took care of my friends. I began to see you for the first time. I guess lots of the things I saw had been there a long time but I hadn't seen them. When I did see, well, then I DID love, and um, I let myself fall. Still I told myself that when we defeated the First there would be time and I could tell you. I waited too long to say anything. I knew for certain the night before the battle. I'd stood on the porch, knowing what we faced. I kept thinking of you, the wonder of you! How you were so human, how you were always there for me. How much you were always giving to those you love even when all you got back was a swift kick. How you never would leave for long and always come back. I finally saw you. I loved what I saw. I still do."

The silence was broken by the clock chiming the midnight hour. Buffy had to listen closely as Spike's voice was but a whisper. "My first valentine," he said in an awed voice. "Never had one before, can hardly believe this one," he choked out over a sob.

"I didn't want to mess up your life, Buffy. When I died, that was kinda' a high note, you know. I was afraid I'd just bollocks everything up. Figured you think kindly 'bout me now and again....I sorta' liked belivin' that. Never dreamed you'd ever love me.....not after... and not now," he admitted.

He pulled back a bit and looked into her large hazel eyes moist with unshed tears. "Buffy, I adore you. I have for so long I can't even remember when I didn't," he said.

"Funny, even when I was alive I never felt as alive as I do when I'm with you. It's like I'm somethin' brand new. Never thought I needed a soul, thought YOU were my soul...till I hurt you. Knew I needed one of my own then. You are my heart though. I swear when you are in my arms, mine beats in time with yours. Didn't know how I was gonna' keep livin' without you, but I knew I had to fight the fight, you know. Be someone you could be proud of," his voice broke.

Suddenly all the fear dissolved leaving only joy and need as the two lovers kissed. All the tender love, all the passionate desire, all the lost time was wrapped in their embrace. Words could wait, now was the time for bodies and souls to speak in the most ancient of languages, and speak they did.

They lay together, replete and happier than either could remember being. Time seemed to come to a stop, as if some Lord over Time were gifting them to make up for all they had lost.

Spike sighed and said, "Sorry, pet, I should have some kinda' Valentines pretty for you.. flowers, a card...something. Fine suitor I've turned out to be, and me a Victorian gentleman. We invented the holiday, you know," he said as he stroked her golden hair gently.

Buffy got up and headed for the kitchen. Spike heard her low, vaguely evil laugh. She practically danced back into the room, smiling wickedly, her hands behind her back.

"What's that you've got there, Buffy?" Spike asked in a low honeyed tone. "If it's a stake, at least I'll die happy," he teased.

"No stakes for you bucko....not even the cow kind. I think we are gonna just retire that joke 'cause I really don't want to think of coming that close to loosing you again," she said becoming serious for a moment. "Now about what I found in the fridge... Well," she giggled, "what's Valentines day without chocolate?" She pulled out the ice cream topping from behind her back and held it in front of her. "Now, Spike, is it better to give or receive?" she asked with a grin.

"Both, love, both," he answered as he took the bottle from her and proceeded to demonstrate.

"I think I'm gonna' love livin' in L.A.," Buffy said with a sigh. "I think I can become little miss California again without too much trouble. That is if a certain sexy, wonderful man thinks he could put up with me. I also need to know if I have a home," she hinted.

"Home is where the heart is, and you are my heart," Spike reminded her. "Any place I am you aren't just welcome....you are necessary, luv."

"Wonder if I can get a corner office at W&H if I apologize to Angel for calling him a ponce?" Buffy asked as she poured a bit of chocolate on her smiling vampire.

"Yum, she exclaimed, "looks like I'm not the only thing ready to serve up!".







~fin


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