Fred caught movement above her and glanced up at the lab's observation window with a sigh.
Spike was in her office. Again.
She finished her notations, then closed up her notebook and pocketed her glasses as she went to see what trouble he was creating now. The last time, she had caught him stubbing cigarettes out in her already pathetic looking philodendron.
Some days, having the blond vampire around was worse than minding a little kid.
As she stepped off the stairs and into the office, she realized how apt the comparison was.
He sat behind her desk, a pair of surgical scissors in one hand and a tightly folded piece of paper in the other. Scraps of paper littered her blotter as he very carefully cut bits away, folding and refolding it to suit his needs.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
He didn't look up. "'S nothin'." He twisted the paper in his hand again and several tiny pieces drifted down. "Something my mum taught me when I was a tyke."
She picked up two of the longer pieces and saw that they were the banner and sidebar to a sheet at heavy linen Wolfram and Hart letterhead. "Why?"
"Didn't get to last year, did I?" He was so focused on what he was doing that Fred didn't think he even realized he was answering her. "To busy tryin' to heal, didn't even know what day it was. And the year before that?" Several more flakes of paper tumbled to the desktop. "Well, that wasn't likely to happen, was it? But this year, this year I can do it. And do it right." Two more sharp snips released a flurry of bits.
"But why are you doing it at my desk?" She tilted her head, trying to get his attention. "Spike?"
"Huh?" He looked up, really seeing her for the first time, then looking down at the mess he had made. "Oh, um . . ." He stood up, putting his project aside and catching up the wastepaper basket, using his arm to slide all the bits and pieces off the desk and into the can. "Sorry about the mess, I just came in for a pair of scissors." He held them up sheepishly. "Everything in Supply was too big. I'll just . . ." he pointed to the door, ". . . get outta your way."
"Okay," she nodded, still baffled.
When he had gone, she went to the trashcan and fished out one of the larger wads of paper, obviously a reject. She went back to her desk, unfolding and straightening it carefully as she went before smoothing it out gently on her blotter.
What she ended up with reminded her of the paper doilies her mama used to put powdered sugar designs on top of chocolate cakes. But this resembled those the way a cold fusion reaction resembled a candle flame. A ring of delicate cutwork hearts and clusters of flowers surrounded two doves, wings lifted behind them in flight. The detail was so fine, she could see the centers in each flower and the feathering in the birds' wings. One wing of one bird was separated from the outer ring. The fatal flaw that consigned it to the trashcan.
Apparently, Spike had found a hobby.
She was on her way out to lunch two days later when Spike stopped her in the lobby. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Um, sure. Of course."
Looking around surreptitiously, he led her off to a corner. "I'm workin' on this project, and I need a couple of things. But see, the thing is, I'm completely skint. Normally, I'd just nick the things I need, but it doesn't seem right, you know? And Angel's so tight-fisted, he won't even give me the time of day . . ."
"How much do you need?" she said, reaching into her purse.
"Twenty should do it," he replied, relieved. "I'm sorry, pet. I hate to ask . . ."
"Don't be silly! I'm glad to help. I know you're good for it." He gave her a look. "Well, okay, maybe not. But I don't mind sharing." She presented him with the bill. "Don't spend it all in one place!"
"Thanks, pet. I appreciate it."
"My pleasure." She looked from his retreating back to her wallet and back again. She'd have to hit the ATM before lunch now.
The stack of presentation folders slid back and forth in her arms as she made her way to the conference room, running over the parameters in her head one more time. The quantum mechanical requirements for a mystical distribution grid on this scale was . . .
She was surprised on opening the conference door to see Spike in his shirtsleeves, a pen in one hand, pacing back and forth in front of a yellow legal pad on the table. "Spike? What are you doing here?"
"What?" He looked up in surprise. "Oh, Fred. Nothin'. I . . ." He began gathering up wads of paper from the table and stuffing them into his pockets. "Sorry, did you need the room?"
"Yeah, the science team is coming up for a briefing in ten minutes." She set the binders down and began distributing them around the table, pocketing one yellow crumple in her lab coat.
"Okay then." He threw the duster around his shoulders and grabbed up the notepad. "I'll just get outta your way."
"'kay. See you later."
When he was gone, she unfolded the sheet in her pocket.
It is unbound, part
And yet not.
No saint could love more purely.
She hoped he finished soon. Or that Angel gave in and gave Spike a place of his own. She didn't know how many more of these surprise encounters she could take.
She was working at her desk when a light tapping came at her door. "Come in!" she called without looking up.
"Fred?" Spike came in with unusual hesitation, a small manila envelope in his hand. "Got a favor to ask."
She put her pen down and took off her glasses, meeting his gaze with a comforting smile. "Of course, Spike. What do you need?"
He tapped the envelope uncertainly against his hand. "I need this to go out in the mail."
"Oh." She looked puzzled. "You could just give it to one of the mail guys."
He shook his head. "Need it to go anonymous. Can you arrange it?"
"Appreciate it, pet."
She held out her hand. "I need the envelope."
"Right." He looked at it, rubbing one hand lightly over the address. "Oh, bloody . . ." He dropped it on the desk and stormed out of the room.
She picked it up and turned it over. It was carefully addressed in neat copperplate handwriting to exactly the recipient she had expected.
Miss Buffy Summers
c/o Rupert Giles
After everything, she couldn't resist.
She turned it over and folded up the tangs to lift the flap. She tipped it up and shook lightly.
A card fell out.
She set the envelope down and gently picked up the card. It was made of silky red rice paper over a heavier cardstock. On the front, one of the hand-cut doilies was affixed in a nest of delicate silk lace, and the fold was bound in a length of gold silk cord with delicate tassels at the ends. She opened it gingerly. It was lined with fine white linen paper. The far page was covered in the same handwriting that had addressed the envelope.
The warrior's heart
Knows naught of restraint.
It is unbound, part
and yet not. No saint
Could love more purely.
This champion knows
That to love truly
Means having to go
To the end and back.
And she does without
Fear, leads the attack
Her mind free of doubt.
Those whom she loves are
Most blessed by far.
It was hard to breathe. So much love and longing. She wasn't a literature person, but she knew what moved her. She didn't think many women wouldn't be moved by it.
She hoped the one it was meant for got the message.
Fred thought for a moment, then reached out and pulled a technical pen out of her pencil cup and wrote briefly in short, precise strokes. She blew on the ink to dry it, then folded the card back up and returned it to its envelope and sealed it.
And deliberately dropped it into her regular outgoing mail bin.
Sometimes Cupid needed a helping hand.
The leadership team (also known as the former staff of Angel Investigations) was meeting in Angel's conference room when they heard raised women's voices coming from the lobby.
"You can't go in there!" Fred recognized Harmony's slightly hysterical tones. "He's in a meeting!"
"Well, he's done now!"
Fred and everyone else jumped as the door burst open. Standing in the wreckage of the door stood a tiny blonde woman whom Fred had never seen before, but knew instantly anyway.
"How could you?" The blonde advanced on Angel in a rage.
"Buffy, what's the matter?" He backed up, hands raised defensively.
"You knew what he meant to me, and yet you could do this? Send me this . . . travesty?" She threw the red silk card down on the table in front of him.
"I didn't send anything, Buffy. I don't know what you're . . ."
"Hey mate! Somebody broke your . . ." Spike stopped just inside the office, stunned by the sight of the object of his obsession all these months.
Fred could feel everyone suddenly holding their breath.
"Oh my god," Buffy breathed, moving hesitantly towards him. She reached out and gently laid a hand on his chest, as though confirming he was actually there.
"Hello, Buffy." Spike's voice was thick with emotion and fear. Fred had heard it before. It was the same fear he had had when facing hell.
The Slayer pulled back and punched him in the nose.
"You son of a bitch!"
And then she was in his arms, kissing him with a passion Fred had never seen outside of the movies. Spike's arms were around her, holding her, touching her as he returned the kiss, murmuring whenever his mouth was free. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I was a coward. I tried, but I just couldn't."
"Shut up. Just shut up. I missed you so much. I love you . . ."
Wes and Gunn were escorting a devastated looking Angel out the other door of the conference room. Fred smiled and moved to follow them.
"How did you know?" she heard Spike asking.
"My card? How . . . Fred! Just you hold it right there!" He didn't let go of Buffy, just looked up at her.
"Oh, I don't want to impose . . ."
Holding Buffy's hand and drawing her behind him, he went and picked the card up off the table, opening it.
There, beneath his own script, in neat technical printing were the words "Kiss the joy as it goes by, the poet William says."
He looked back at her. "You did this?"
She shrugged. "Had to get you out of my office somehow."
His face was so open, so happy. "Thank you, pet."
"Yes, thank you," Buffy added her thanks, and Fred thought she saw tears in the Slayer's eyes.
"Happy Valentine's Day."
She closed the door behind her to the sounds of their reunion.