The makeshift stake in his hand drove downward with all his considerable strength, causing the vampire beneath him to scream in agony. He stood, his face sliding back to human as the vampire's beneath him did the same.
"Probably should have dusted you. But honestly? I don't want to hear her bitch about it".
Spike turned away from his grandsire, reaching for the gaudy golden cup.
"Spike, wait! Wait! That's not a prize you're holding," Angel protested, drawing the fragment of wood from his shoulder with a gasp. "It's not a trophy. It's a burden. A cross". He stood painfully. "One you're going to have to bear until it burns you to ashes. Believe me. I know".
Placing the cup back on the pedestal, Spike narrowed his eyes as Angel continued talking. "So ask yourself – Is this really the destiny that was meant for you? You don't need it. You have Buffy, a life to live, a destiny of your own. Do you really want this too? Or is it just that you want to take something away from me?"
Spike had already considered his choice. The torment part? Not his bag. The chance to be human? Not something he'd ever wanted again – but… being a living, breathing man would give him certain advantages. There was one thing he couldn't do for Buffy, and he had to be human if he ever wanted to. That would be worth it.
Taking the old sod's destiny away from him? After he'd refused to call Buffy, refused to help ghostie Spike out? Nothing but a bonus.
He looked Angel in the eye and shrugged. "Bit of both". He raised the cup to his lips and swallowed deeply as the other vampire staggered towards him, then let it fall from his hands, stunned.
"It – it's… Mountain Dew".
Surprised, unsure of what it meant, the pair of them stood like fools, staring at each other.
What the bloody hell is going on?
Both heads whipped around at the sound of thudding feet. "Spike! Spike! Where are you?" Buffy skidded to a halt in front of them, nervously twisting a ring on her finger. "Really? How – What the hell?"
His drank her in, joy at her appearance edging out surprise. "Hullo cutie," Spike said, trying for smooth.
"Don't give me that!" Her eyes raked over him, taking in his battered appearance. "How long?"
"And – the first thing to do wasn't pick up a phone and call me?" she demanded furiously.
He took a step back, hands up. "Would have been. Right after this. Was a bit of chaos to be dealt with first. Apparently my reemergence amongst the living – er – whatever, caused the universe to go out of whack. Thought you'd forgive me if I took care of that first".
He was gazing at her, blue eyes pleading and warm, and Buffy glared back, not sure if she could forgive Spike just like that. She'd been feeling flashes of him for weeks now, the ring seeming to activate randomly for seconds at a time. Until today, when the pull of the ring had turned on and stayed on, long enough for her to (finally!) follow it, driving at speeds that would have terrified even her husband. Surely he could have let her know somehow? Not left her to panic and worry and think she was losing her mind?
But – there he was. Living, breathing – okay undead, unbreathing. But flesh. Substance. Presence. His sorry excuses for why he hadn't called her could wait.
"Husband," she murmured, rushing forward, wrapping her arms around him and sighing as his encircled her, amazement and shock giving way to relief. She squeezed him tighter as she laid her head against his chest, and he hissed in pain.
Pulling back and glaring at him once more, she asked, "What on earth happened here?"
Spike darted a furtive glance at Angel. "We were – trying to resolve the small matter of the universe spinning off its hinges".
"By beating each other to death?"
"More or less," Angel muttered petulantly. "It's his existence that caused the problem in the first place".
Spike rolled his eyes. "Nothing doing mate, you know the Powers dumped your sorry self and brought me in to replace you. I'm the better Champion".
Buffy, already exhausted from the drive and strung out from the events of the day, couldn't take their bickering just then. Frustrated she stepped away from her husband to better make her point, ignoring how her body screamed to remain pressed up against the man she thought she'd lost forever.
"One of you better start giving me answers," she threatened. "Before I finish the job you started".
Spike darted a panicked glance at Angel and then reached for her, hurrying to explain. "See, it all started when I popped out of that shiny trinket your sweetie-bear brought you…"
"But Spike, I don't understand. I didn't think you wanted to be human. And with the Gem of Amarra, I mean, it's like the best of both worlds". Buffy wrinkled her nose. "Where is it, by the way? You didn't lose it, did you?"
He pulled it out of his pocket and slipped it on. "I wanted to beat the wanker fair and square, luv, let him know who the best man is".
"The 'wanker' finds calling you the best man debatable," Angel growled.
"The victor writes history. Which makes you the wanker and me the best man. Now shut it, I'm having a private conversation with my wife here". Angel grumbled, but didn't move away.
"Angel," Buffy said dangerously, her eyes narrowed to mere slits. "If I understand it right, you knew how much I was grieving for my husband but didn't in any way, say, let me know he was around. Personally, I'd call you the wanker too. And a whole lot worse".
Spike shot Angel a triumphant look and turned his back to him, taking both of Buffy's hands in his.
"S'not so much that I want to be human as… Saw the way you looked when Robin told his tale. When you realized a Slayer could have kiddies. Thought it might be… wanted to give that to you if I could. Give you that chance. S'the only thing I can't give you. And if it takes turning me back into a man to do it…"
Buffy stared at Spike. If the vampire holding her hands didn't love her, she couldn't imagine what love was. He'd given up evil, taken on a soul, and died for her. And now he was talking about relinquishing the power and the strength he cherished to give her something she'd never dared dream of?
Heedless of his injuries, she tackled him to the ground, kissing him senseless, pouring months worth of despair and loss and longing and love into him through her mouth, her hands, her body, desperate to reassure herself that, yes, he really was there, that his body was indeed real and underneath her own.
Angel cleared his throat uncomfortably when Spike rolled them over, then louder as their hands grasped frantically at each other.
"Oh. Sorry, Angelus. Not," Spike smirked, pulling a very flustered Buffy to her feet. She looked everywhere but at Angel.
"I don't understand," Angel said thickly. "You find the Gem of Amarra. You earn the propehesy-"
"Apparently fake, remember?" Spike interjected, but Angel waved him off.
"You end up with the life I was destined for. And the girl and maybe even the fat grandbabies. I'm the one the Powers chose. You – you're just a screw-up. Not meant for this". He shook his head in disbelief. "You have to be the luckiest son-of-a-bitch in the history of the universe".
Buffy wanted to protest Angel's assessment. Wanted to say something along the lines of how Spike worked for it instead of waiting for somebody to hand him what he deserved. Or maybe she would say something about the choices and the changes Spike had made.
Except she didn't. Because if she tried to speak to Angel right now, she would resort to using her fists to back up her points.
So she waited to see what her husband had to say, knowing he'd find the perfect words somehow.
Spike looked down at her and she leaned into him, clasping his hand tightly. "Luck has nothing to do with it, mate. Nothing at all".
His blue eyes were fixed on hers, the overwhelming passion and intense devotion stealing her breath away.
"It's all about love".
A/N OCT 5th: The epilogue has been updated. I removed some of the Spangel snarkage. Even though I loved the snarkage, it didn't really fit the rest of the story. I'll post the original chapter on my LJ so it won't be lost to the ages. Thanks to everybody who was brave enough to be honest and point out that the snarkage didn't fit! http://spuffy-luvr.livejournal.com/