*** 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.