Spike looked up from the book he was working from and at the Slayer. They were both sitting in the Sunnydale High School library, researching from Giles' large collection of books for their oral report. Not that Spike really needed to research, considering he was the creature of topic. But the professor, Dr. Keeting, wanted a written report as well, complete with bibliography. Hence, the research.
He looked over to the red headed hacker sitting in front of the computer. She was trying not to giggle. Ever since Buffy's twenty-first birthday, Spike and Willow had become better friends. It helped that she was always in the library with Giles whenever he'd come to work on the various homework projects. Sometimes, Xander and Cordelia would be there, too, and they would be embroiled in researching the newest threat to the Sunnydale population.
Spike, at times, felt like he was missing out on something when Buffy and her friends would have a 'research party.' She hadn't asked and he hadn't volunteered to assist with her Slayer duties that revolved around things other than vampires. He'd only silently hold her when she came to him from a terrible battle, glad that the love of his undead life was still alive.
"Please, Buffy, concentrate," Giles instructed the Slayer. Buffy was in the middle of the library floor in her workout clothing, standing on her hands. Giles held a quarterstaff and a red dodge ball in his hands.
"I am concentrating," Buffy told him. She shifted on her hands. "Tell me again how this is going to help me?"
"It will give you better balance when you fight," Giles answered. He brought the quarterstaff out and smacked her on the calf.
Spike started to chuckle and Buffy shot him a dirty look, which made him laugh even harder considering she was upside down.
"I hope you're enjoying yourself, Spike," Buffy said. "Because later you won't."
Willow giggled and blushed when Spike turned his gaze to her. She immediately went back to the computer. "Do you find something amusing, Willow?"
"Who me? No," Willow said quickly. "Not at all."
"That's it! This grasshopper has had enough," Buffy declared, putting herself back on her feet.
"But, it is imperative that you continue training when the forces of darkness are at a low. To-to hone your skills, to…"
Buffy interrupted her Watcher. "To improve myself, yada, yada, yada. I've heard it before, Giles. And I've been here like a good little Slayer every night so you could pound on me with a rubber ball." She took a swig from a water bottle that sat on the checkout counter.
"Alright, Buffy, we will stop for tonight," Giles said, putting the equipment away.
"But we shall continue where we left off tomorrow," Giles finished.
Buffy groaned and plopped down next to Spike. "Make him stop."
"I can't, pet. He's your Watcher," Spike said. She batted her eyes at him. "No."
"You're no help," Buffy said with a pout. "I don't know why I even bother with you."
"It's my sexy accent and great body," Spike told her in all seriousness. "You can't keep your hands off me."
Buffy made an unladylike snort and Spike chuckled. Sitting forward, she looked at the notebook he was writing in. "Are we going to be ready?"
"Yes, we're going to be ready," Spike replied. She had asked the same question all week. "By next Wednesday, barring the apocalypse, we shall give our presentation."
"Great. You jinxed us," Buffy said. "Now the world is going to end for sure."
"You've stopped that from happening many times over, Slayer," Spike said. "You'll just have to do it again before it's time to give our oral report."
Buffy sighed dramatically. "But the end of the world would make a great excuse for an extension."
On the outskirts of Sunnydale, the hulking mansion sat ominously watching the town. Its current inhabitants made the scary place even scarier.
"Angel," Drusilla sang, looking for her 'daddy.' "Where are you?"
Angel sat on the floor in front of the fireplace, brooding. It was what he did best. His mind was still in turmoil over seeing Buffy again. With Spike. They had teased each other with affection that came from spending lots of time together.
He knew that Buffy would never get back into a relationship with him. There was too much hurt. Deep down, however, Angel had a sliver of hope that she still loved him as he did her. But now…
"There you are, my Angel," Drusilla said, entering the main hall. "You've been hiding from me."
"No, Dru, I haven't," Angel told the female vampire patiently. "I've been sitting here the whole time."
"I ate a pretty little girl and her blood sang to me," Drusilla told him. "Such beautiful songs. Why doesn't my Spike sing to me?"
Angel sighed. He wished he had the strength to end her un-life, but all he could do was sit and listen to her insane ramblings. "Spike's not here anymore."
"He's with the Slayer, right now," Drusilla said. "They're at the place where Slayer's blood ran. It made such a pretty sound when I slit her throat."
Angel frowned, not understanding what Drusilla was talking about. "Where are they?"
"In the place with all the books," she said. "I don't like all those books. They all call out to me and make so much noise." She cupped her hands over her ears. "Make them stop."
"There are no books here, Dru," Angel said patiently, but the female had already left the room. Angel stared into the fireplace and continued to brood.
"Have we got everything?" Buffy asked for the eighth time.
The engaged couple were walking towards their Myth, Magic and Monsters class. Tonight was when they had to give their oral report.
"Yes, ducks," Spike answered, holding the door open for her. "We have everything."
"The written reports?"
"In the bag."
"Our note cards?"
"In your hand."
"Do I look ok?"
Spike glanced at the Slayer. She was wearing a light blue skirt and camisole, with a matching button sweater. Her hair was pulled up in a twist. "You look smashing as always, luv."
"Good," Buffy said, smoothing a non-existent wrinkle out of her skirt. "I can't believe I'm so nervous. It's not like I haven't given oral reports before."
"Maybe it's because it's an open class," Spike said. "And anyone can come listen to the reports."
"Thanks much for reminding me," Buffy said. They arrived at the classroom door and made their way slowly to the front of the room where Dr. Keeting was standing. Buffy's eyed widened at the number of people sitting in the sloped auditorium where the reports were being given.
"Hello, Ms. Summers, Mr. Suffolk," Dr. Keeting greeted. "Are you two all set for your presentation."
Buffy gave him a painful grin, then dug in her bag for the written report. "Here."
"Thank you. I'll call the students to order in another few minutes. Feel free to set up," Dr. Keeting said.
Buffy set the bag of Slayer equipment on the large desk, then looked up at the sea of people. The auditorium was a typical university style classroom. A lab-counter like desk filled most of the teaching area with multiple dry erase boards on the wall behind it. The students sat in plush chairs with fold up desks. The room seated two hundred and almost all the seats were filled as they had been for the other oral reports which had started three weeks ago.
"I think I'd rather face the Master again," Buffy said to herself.
Spike's enhanced hearing picked up her words as he wrote on the dry erase board. He was putting up a diagram of vampire genealogy that went back to the days of Vlad, the Impaler. "Pet, it won't do any good to get all worked up."
"Can it, Spike," Buffy said. She looked for familiar faces among the audience. Willow, Xander, Cordelia and her mom had said they'd try to come for moral support. Giles promised to stay far away. She spotted them halfway up near the center and gave them a little wave. Xander held up a sign. It read 'Sunnydale Crime Club: Slayers of evil and the occasional powdered donut.'
Buffy smiled, her tension relieved by Xander's usual bad humor. She looked over to Spike, who had finished writing and was now carefully pulling weapons out of the bag using a cloth so he wouldn't get burned by holy objects. "You all set, my blood sucking fiend?"
Spike arched an eyebrow at her endearment. He noticed that Buffy had finally relaxed and was her usual charming self that he found so enticing. "Whenever you are."
She nodded and separated the note cards into two piles, one for her and one for Spike. Dr. Keeting called the class to order. "If we could all quiet down, please. Thank you. For those of you who are visiting, welcome to Myth, Magic and Monsters. Tonight's presentation is given by Buffy Summers and William Suffolk. Please hold any questions until the end."
The professor sat in the front row and nodded at the duo. Buffy walked in front of the large desk and began their report.
"Vampires," Buffy told the class. "The undead. Demons without souls. You've seen the movies, you've read the books, but do you really believe?"
"Earlier in the semester, Mr. Rupert Giles came and lectured about the vampire," Spike continued. "Building off of his lecture, we plan to discuss the hidden traits of the undead. This includes appearance, tastes, feelings and how to protect yourself against one."
"So, sit back, relax and planned to be amazed," Buffy said. "As we launch ourselves into the world of darkness...."
Buffy fielded the last question with professionalism and the presentation came to an end. The audience applauded, then began to filter out of the auditorium. Dr. Keeting came up to the couple.
"Great job," he told them. "Although I'm not sure I agree with your take on feelings. It seems to contradict the fact that vampires have no souls, therefore no conscience."
Spike and Buffy looked at each other and had to stifle their laughter. "As I said, sir, the older the vampire becomes, the more feelings he…well, feels," Buffy said. "He or she just has no compunction against the normal written or unwritten laws of society, such as killing, sex, or theft." *Giles would be so proud,* she thought with smile at her vocabulary.
"Sex, huh?" Dr. Keeting said. "You didn't get too in depth at that aspect. Would you like to tell me more?"
"Vampires view sex differently than humans," Spike spoke up. "We basically can fuck anything moving or not. At times, there is violence involved, too - before, during and after."
"Spike," Buffy hissed. She hoped the professor hadn't picked up on the fact that Spike said 'we.'
"It's ok, Ms. Summers," Dr. Keeting stopped her. "I've read similar accounts as to what Mr. Suffolk is saying."
"Hey, Buffster!" Xander said approaching the trio at the front of the classroom. "Great report."
Xander, Cordelia, Willow and Joyce had come down after most of the students had cleared. "That was very good, honey," Joyce told her daughter. She turned to the professor. "Hi, I'm Joyce Summers, Buffy's mother and soon to be Spike's mother-in-law."
Spike would be blushing if he could as he busied himself with gathering their stuff. He still found it hard to believe that he, killer of all things that piss him off, was engaged. It was unheard of in the vampire community. He and Drusilla had been a loving couple, but vampires often chose a companion or had a favorite. Angelus had been with Darla. The Master had Luke. The Gorch brothers had each other. Sometimes sex was involved, sometimes it wasn't. But to have a marriage preformed… and with a human, no less. Although, Buffy wasn't quite human because she was the Chosen One. Which actually made it worse. If the vampire community found out, they would label him a traitor as they did Angelus after his soul was restored.
"What do you guys say to a little pizza party?" Joyce asked the group.
"I say, where do I sign up?" Xander answered.
"I have to do a quick sweep, mom," Buffy said as the group left the classroom.
"Ok, honey. How about we all meet in about an hour?" Joyce said. "Oh, and Willow, ask Rupert if he'd like to join us."
"Ok," Willow said with a slight blush. Although Giles and her had been a 'couple' for almost eight months now, it was still strange. But not as strange as Buffy and Spike.
They arrived in the parking lot and Cordelia offered Buffy and Spike a ride. They declined and with a flurry of good-byes, Willow, Xander and the former prom queen took off towards the high school. Joyce left in her own car after promises to be careful.
"Are you coming for pizza, too?" Buffy asked Spike as they walked back to his condo.
"If you'd like," Spike answered vaguely. He was still thinking about the ramifications the conversation in the classroom had brought to mind.
They heard a scream. Buffy thrust the bag she was carrying at Spike, then took off running in the direction of the noise. Spike stood where she'd left him, alone on the dark street.
"You've been a naughty boy, Spike." Drusilla's voice came from nowhere. Spike looked around him, but could only hear her child-like laughter. "Mummy's hiding from you. She's playing hide and seek."
Spike walked to his right, into the park that was near his home. "Dru?"
Drusilla appeared behind him and put her cold hands over his eyes. "Guess who, my darling Spike?"
"Dru, what are you doing in Sunnydale?" Spike asked as the female vampire slid her arms around him and nibbled on his neck.
"I heard the angels singing and they told me to come," Drusilla said.
"Angels, pet?" Spike said. He stood unmoving as she stepped in front of him, wearing a long, black, loose dress. Her hair was pulled back in the clips he'd given her close to a century ago.
"Angels. My Angel," Drusilla replied. "And the flowers danced with joy. Why do my daisies wither and die?"
"Princess," Spike said with fake affection. "You need to leave. You don't want the Slayer to hurt you, now."
Drusilla whipped out her hand and scratched him across the cheek with her long nails. "You love her and not your princess. You've been a naughty boy and Miss Edith says you have to be punished."
She made a gesture and several hulking male vampires moved out of the bushes and grabbed his arms. Spike tried to shake them off, but they quickly bound his hands behind him, then pulled him after the retreating female vampire. The bag lay forgotten on the ground.
"Spike? Where are you?" Buffy called, returning to the spot she'd left him. Puzzled, she scratched her head with the pointy end of a stake, then started to his condo.
"Spike?" Buffy repeated, entering the dark home. The door had been locked and there was no sign that her love had been there. She picked up the phone and called her mom. "Hey mom? Is Spike there? Well, maybe I missed him. Yeah. See ya in a few." She waited for another fifteen minutes, then left a note on the door in case Spike returned.
Angel had followed Buffy and Spike to the school at a safe distance. He had taken to watching the Slayer's back once more when she was on patrol. For the past few months, he'd followed her and still had trouble believing she was with the other male vampire.
Sitting in on the lecture, Angel found he was extremely jealous of his childe. Spike spoke with ease to the listening audience and interacted with Buffy on an instinctive level, picking up sentences where she left off and vice versa. At the end of the presentation, he'd seen the Slayerettes and Buffy's mom go to the front of the room and chat amicably with the couple and the professor. Angel ducked out after that and into the cool night.
When the scream came, Angel circled around the couple as Buffy ran towards the sound. He watched, ready to aid if necessary, as Buffy dispatched two vampires who were trying to snack on a coed. He continued to follow her as she returned to the now-missing Spike, then to his condo before she went back home.
Standing outside the cracked window at the Summers' residence, Angel listened to the group he'd once called friends inside. They were talking about the missing vampire.
"I'm serious, he just vanished," Buffy was telling her friends.
"Poof vanished?" Willow asked. Buffy gave her a terrified look. "I meant, was the, uh, maybe like a spell?"
"Perhaps he wanted to eat before joining us," Giles said. He shook his head. "I still can not believe I am condoning a vampire feeding on people."
"It's not like he kills them anymore," Buffy defended her man. "Most of the time he drinks chateau le swine or uses me…and did I just say that last part out loud?"
"Don't worry, Buffy," Xander said. "We've seen the hickeys. And I shudder as I think about them."
"How long does it usually take him?" Joyce asked.
"Depends on his mood and whether we were going to be doing something," Buffy said. "Which is the reason I don't understand why he's not here."
"Why don't we give him another half hour, then look for him, alright?" Giles asked, trying to placate his worried Slayer.
Angel listened to the words coming from inside the house. Not only did it seem that these people were worried about Spike, they allowed him to feed and off of Buffy. His Buffy. He took one last painful look into the cheery house, then disappeared into the shadows of the night.
Fire leaves scars. Holy water does not.
It was odd, really, when thinking about it as Spike was doing. He was sitting in one of the many bedrooms on the second floor of the old mansion, his arms tied tightly behind him. He was looking at Drusilla's 'toys' which were scattered around the room. He remembered clearly how she had tortured Angelus before he was used to restore the female to full strength. Spike had always been a bit of a masochist, but he had a feeling he was in for much more than normal - for a vampire.
Crosses induce more pain than garlic.
Spike shifted uncomfortably, trying once again to loosen the barbed wire holding him. It only cut into his wrists more, leaving the scent of his own blood in the air. He sighed and wished he could have a cigarette. He hadn't indulged since Buffy's Watcher had lectured for their Myth, Magic and Monsters class. The Slayer was very persuasive when she wanted to be.
"You're thinking about her, aren't you?" Drusilla asked, gliding into the room like a dark goddess. "Miss Edith says the Slayer messed up your mind."
"Dru, Miss Edith is a bloody doll," Spike said. "She can't talk."
"Miss Edith says you need to be punished," Drusilla continued. She picked up a long, wicked looking knife and ran one finger down the blade. Blood welled up where it sliced her skin. "That I need to hurt you like you hurt me."
The female vampire put the knife at Spike's throat, pricking the skin with its tip. She held his black T-shirt with her other hand and split it down the center with the blade, cutting his skin in the process. A long, thin line of blood ran down the center of his chest.
Drusilla pushed the two halves of his shirt down his shoulders, along with his coat and button down shirt he wore. Now, the garments hung around his bound wrists, making it more difficult for him to move them. She bent and licked slowly up the cut. Spike shivered, but whether from arousal or disgust, he wasn't sure. After all, they had been lovers for over a hundred years.
She put down the knife and picked up a small bottle of holy water. Uncorking the glass bottle, she began to hum. Spike closed his eyes and tried not to scream as the burning started. Drusilla continued with the water until the bottle was empty. Spike's chest and back was covered with burn patterns that he knew would heal in a few hours.
"Who do you love, my Spike?" Drusilla whispered in his ear. "Who's your princess?"
"You are, ducks," Spike lied behind his clenched teeth.
"Miss Edith says your lying," Drusilla told him. "And that I need to wash out your mouth with soap." She picked up a cross on a long chain and grabbed his chin. Forcing his mouth open, she dropped the cross inside, then held it shut.
Spike's eyes began to water, his face morphing into its demonic visage as the cross burned the inside of his mouth. Drusilla laughed and pulled the chain from his lips. She dropped the cross on the table and picked the knife back up. The last coherent thought he had as she began carving designs in his skin was that it was going to be a long night.
"Nothing," Buffy said as the gang regrouped at her house. "How about you guys?"
"Well, we…we found your bag in the park," Giles told her carefully. "But no ashes."
Buffy's eyes welled up with tears, but she quickly wiped them away. "Was there signs of a struggle?"
"Maybe," Willow said. She had gone with Giles when the group had split up to search for the errant vampire. Cordelia and Xander were still out searching. "There were what looked like marks of someone being dragged away."
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Buffy said. "Let's follow them!"
"Buffy," Giles said. "We already have. They disappeared when they hit the pavement on the far side of the park."
"Whoever took him had to be vampires," Buffy said, more to herself than the occupants of the living room. "He would have put up a fight…wait, was there signs of a fight?"
"No," Willow said. "Sorry."
"Aargh! Why do they always go after my boyfriends!" Buffy yelled. "Don't they ever learn!"
"Buffy, calm down," Joyce said.
"I won't calm down! I want Spike back and I want him now!" She stormed out of the house in search of a few vampires to pummel and get information. The three in the living room looked at one another.
"Oh, dear," Giles said, removing his glasses and cleaning them. "I'm afraid the vampire population is in dire straights tonight."
"Where." Punch. "Is." Crack. "He." Smash.
The vampire being questioned by the Slayer flew back into a park bench, smashing it to splinters under him. One piece of the imbedded into his heart and he burst into dust.
Buffy had no luck with any of the vampires she had sought out. Either they didn't know or they had become dust before she could find out. Sighing, Buffy looked around for her next victim. "Where's a good vampire when you need 'em?"
She began to walk towards the Bronze, trying to pull off the weak little girl act, but the anger and fright about Spike radiated off of her in waves. Smart vampires stayed far away from her. Not so smart ones had no information to give.
Soon, morning came and Buffy knew she had to give up. The vampires would seek shelter during the day, so she had no one to beat senseless. Returning to her home, she crawled into bed and cried herself to sleep.
Angel found the unconscious vampire in the bedroom, slumped over the edge of the bed. He winced when he took in the damage Drusilla and her minions had caused the peroxide blond. Luckily for Angel, everyone except for Dru thought he was still Angelus. The female vampire didn't care one way or the other, as long as he was around.
Angel carefully removed the barbed wire from Spike's wrists, then turned him over. He winced again as he surveyed the cuts and burns on the front of his childe's naked body. Drusilla really knew how to do a good job. Then again, she'd learned from him.
He had to wait until nightfall and try to sneak Spike out of the mansion. Until then, the best Angel could do was clean the vampire up and force some blood down his throat to speed the healing process. He also needed to keep Dru and the others away. With a soul-filled sigh, he went about his tasks.
"Buffy?" Spike's weak voice came from the center of the bed where he lay. He tried to open his eyes, but they were still swollen shut. He felt a cool rag placed over them.
"Not Buffy," Angel answered quietly. He had redressed Spike after fixing him up and was sitting next to the bed, reading. When the younger vampire had woken, Angel placed the rag over his eyes.
"Who's there?" Spike said suspiciously. "Is that you, Watcher?"
"No," Angel said. "Just rest."
Spike tried to move, but groaned when his body protested. Angel pressed his hand against Spike's shoulder to hold him down. He slumped on the bed again, unhappy. And when he was unhappy, he got mad. "Where the bloody hell am I then? And who are you?"
"You're at the mansion," Angel informed him. He didn't answer the second question. "I'll try to get you out of here as soon as the sun sets."
Spike rolled his head to ease the tension in his neck. He winced in pain and swore.
"Here," Angel said. He put one hand behind Spike's head and held a container of blood to his lips with the other. Spike drank greedily.
"Thanks, mate," he said, dropping his head back on the pillow. "Though I don't know who the bloody hell you are."
"It's not important."
Spike sighed. "Fine. How much longer?"
"Two hours," Angel replied.
Spike nodded and tried to relax. He was worried about Buffy. Drusilla had not only 'punished' him, but had threatened the Slayer's wellbeing. The insane vampire went into great detail about what she was going to do to her.
The time passed slowly with only the occasional sound of Angel turning the page in the book he was reading. Finally, the sun set, and the vampire with a soul put Spike's boots on, then helped him to his feet. Spike still couldn't open his eyes. Drusilla had done an excellent job.
"I'm going to put you over my shoulder," Angel told Spike. "Act unconscious."
Spike nodded and felt himself being lifted. He inhaled sharply as his still healing ribs connected with Angel's shoulder. He heard the bedroom door open, then voices.
"Where are you going with him?" a newer vampire asked. He had been guarding the door since mid-afternoon and didn't know about Angelus.
Angel shot his hand out and grabbed the newbie by the throat, crushing his larynx. "You dare ask me what I'm doing?"
Spike finally recognized the voice of the person who carried him. Angelus. *I wonder if he has his soul?* Spike thought as he heard the newbie fall to the floor. *If not, I'm really buggered.*
Angel made his way down the stairs and out the door without further incident. The other vampires who saw him figured he was going to use Spike for his own pleasures. He had in the past. "Your house or Buffy's?" Angel asked.
"Do you want me to take you to your place or Buffy's?" he repeated.
"How do you know where I live?" Spike asked, not answering. He had to know if this was Angelus or Angel. He didn't want to endanger Buffy.
"I've been following you," Angel answered.
*That was a big help,* Spike thought sarcastically. "Will you put me down now?"
Angel stopped and placed Spike on his feet, but kept an arm under is shoulder. They started walking slowly towards town. "You still didn't answer my question," Angel said after they'd gone for awhile.
"What question was that?" Spike asked.
"Buffy's or your place?"
Spike tried to think of some question to ask the other vampire to ascertain if he was back to his lap dog self. Finally, he thought of one. "Boy, I could sure use a nice, tasty, human. How 'bout you?"
Spike heard Angel's sharp intake of breath. "I don't…no, thank you. I ate earlier."
"So, it's Angel," Spike said, relieved.
"Yeah," Angel replied.
"When did you get back?"
"Buffy's birthday, believe it or not," Angel answered. "Ironic, huh?"
Spike snorted, then winced. "Did you plan on letting her know you're back from the great beyond?"
"No," Angel said. "At least, not yet."
"She still dreams about you, you know," Spike told him. He wasn't sure why he was, considering the vampire holding him up was Buffy's first love. "Sometimes I catch her with a far off look in her eyes, and I know she's thinking about you."
"Really?" Angel asked, hope in his voice.
*Bloody hell,* Spike thought when he heard Angel's response. But as much as he wanted to keep Angel as far away from Buffy as possible, he knew that she would want to see him. She still blamed herself for Angelus being free and felt guilty for sending the soul-filled vampire to hell. He sighed. *I'm a bloody wuss,* he thought. "Take me to the Slayer's."
Joyce opened the front door at the knocking. She gasped when she saw the two vampires in the doorway. "Spike! What happened?"
Angel shifted on his feet, still holding the peroxide blond man up. "Can we come in?"
"I don't know…" Joyce trailed off, staring at Angel with trepidation. This was the man who'd hurt her baby.
"Joyce, it's ok," Spike said. "He's got his soul again."
Joyce stared at Angel for a moment, then stepped back out of the door. "If you say so, Spike. Come in."
"Thanks," Angel said, leading the other inside. He set Spike on the couch, then straightened. "Is Buffy here?"
"She should be back any minute," Joyce replied, moving to examine Spike. "Are you ok?"
"I'll live," Spike said. He smirked at his own joke.
Joyce turned to Angel. "Thank you," she said.
Angel nodded, anxious to leave. "I really should get going…"
"No," Spike said. He opened his eyes into slits and was relieved to be able to see. "She needs to see you."
"Spike, I don't think that's a good idea," Angel responded.
"I don't give a bloody damn," Spike said. "Joyce, could you excuse us a minute?" Joyce nodded and went into the kitchen. Spike tried his best to glare at Angel. "You're not going anywhere."
"Who's going to stop me? You?" Angel asked, sarcastically.
"You bet your stupid ass I will," Spike said.
The doorbell rang and Joyce emerged from the kitchen to answer it. She let Giles and Willow into the house. Willow ducked behind Giles with a loud screech when she saw Angel.
"It's ok," Spike said again for the second time. "He's got his bloody soul."
Angel ducked his head, unable to look the Watcher in the eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispered with a choked voice.
Joyce walked past the soul filled vampire and handed Spike a coffee cup filled with warm pigs blood. "Here," she said.
"Thanks," Spike answered, drinking the fluid with relief. Willow scampered around Angel and sat next to him on the couch, examining his wounds with professionalism born from aiding the Slayer. "I'm ok, luv."
"What happened?" she asked with concern.
"Drusilla," Spike said simply.
Giles looked sharply at Spike. "Dru-Drusilla?"
"She's at the mansion," Angel said, still looking at the floor.
"When did she return?" Giles asked.
"January," Angel answered. "About the same time I did."
"How did you?" Willow asked curiously. "Return, I mean."
"I don't know," Angel said. "I was in Hell, then I was in the mansion." He shrugged self-consciously.
Buffy stood in the doorway to the kitchen, surveying the people in the living room with wide eyes. She couldn't see Spike on the couch because her mom was in the way.
Angel looked up at the love of his life. His heart melted at the sight of her familiar blond hair and ever-changing eyes. She was dressed in her normal slaying clothes and was gripping the doorjamb for support. "I'm sorry," were the first words out of his mouth.
Buffy nodded, not trusting herself to speak. The man she betrayed and sent to Hell was standing in her living room. *Wait a minute. Why was he standing in her living room?* "Why are you here?"
Angel ducked his head in shame at her words. "I…uh…brought Spike here."
"Spike!" Buffy said, running from her place in the doorway and into the living room. She saw him on the couch sitting next to Willow, bruises and cuts marring his handsome face. "Oh, god, what happened?"
Willow moved so Buffy could sit next to him. Buffy carefully hugged Spike. "Are you ok?"
Spike nodded, inhaling the scent that was pure Buffy. "I'm ok," he whispered to the now crying Slayer.
After a minute, Buffy sat back and looked him in his swollen eyes. "Who did this?" she asked in a deadly voice.
Spike didn't answer. Drusilla may not be the love of his un-life anymore, but he didn't want her staked. "It's not important, pet."
Buffy glared at the other people in the room. "Well? Who did this?"
Willow looked at her feet, Giles took of his glasses and began to clean them, Joyce went back into the kitchen and Angel was looking at Spike. Spike shook his head at his sire's unasked question.
"Don't worry, Buffy," Angel said. "I took care of it."
Buffy didn't believe him, but gave up. She turned to Spike and helped him to his feet. "C'mon. let's get you to bed." She looked at Angel and silently told him not to leave. "Will, call Xander and tell him...whatever. I'll see you tomorrow. You too, Giles."
As the couple went upstairs, Giles quietly questioned Angel. "What should we do about Drusilla?"
"I'll try to get her to leave," Angel answered. "If not, I'll take care of her myself."
Giles nodded and held out his hand to Willow. "Very well," he said. "Joyce, we are taking our leave."
Joyce walked out of the kitchen to say goodnight. "Drive safely. Willow, are you ever going to convince him to get a better car?"
"I've been working on it," Willow said, squeezing the man's hand she held. "But I think he enjoys my attempts at persuading too much." She blushed.
Angel face showed surprise as the hacker and the librarian left. Giles and Willow, together? His thoughts about all that had changed were interrupted by Joyce asking him if he wanted something to drink.
"Ok," he said. Joyce nodded and returned to the kitchen. A minute later, she handed him a mug. Angel was surprised once again when he found it was pig's blood.
"I keep it around for Spike," Joyce informed him. "Makes him feel more welcome."
"How long have they been…together?" Angel asked.
"Almost a year and a half now," Joyce answered. "They got together in December of Buffy's sophomore year at Sunnydale Community College. The story is pretty funny."
"And you know he's…one of us?" Angel said.
"A vampire?" Joyce clarified. "Yes. I know all about vampires and Slayers. Buffy and I had a long talk after she got back."
"I'll let her be the one to tell you any more," Joyce said. "The only reason I'm telling you anything is because my daughter instructed that if you ever returned and had a soul, I was to answer your questions."
Angel nodded in understanding. The woman in front of him didn't like him and was only doing what Buffy had said. Buffy returned at that moment. "Mom? Can you leave us alone?"
Joyce nodded. "How's Spike?"
"He's sleeping," Buffy said.
"Ok. Well, goodnight, dear," Joyce said, kissing her daughter's cheek. It was only 7:00, but that was her signal telling Buffy she'd be in her bedroom if needed.
Buffy watched as her mom went upstairs, then turned back to the vampire in the living room. She gestured for him to take a seat.
"Is he alright?" Angel asked, sitting on the end of the couch.
"He'll be fine by tomorrow night," Buffy answered. She crossed her arms over her chest. "Now, what are you doing here?"
Angel gave her a pain-filled look. "I'll leave..."
"No. That's not what I meant," Buffy said. She sighed and sat on the opposite end of the couch. "I meant how are you able to be here? Why are you able to be here? I sent you to Hell to close Acathala."
"I don't know, Buffy," Angel replied.
They both stared off into space in silence, each with their own thoughts.
"This hurts," Buffy finally said. She looked at him with tears in her eyes.
"Oh, Buffy," Angel said. He moved and took her in his arms. She began to sob in earnest. "Shh. It's ok. Everything is going to be alright."
"I'm so sorry," Buffy told him. "I'm so sorry."
"You have nothing to be sorry about," Angel responded.
"But I'm the one who took away your soul then sent you to Hell just as you got it back!" Buffy wailed.
"It's not your fault, Buffy," Angel said. He rocked with her in his arms, rubbing one hand up and down her back. "It's no one's fault. It happened, and nothing can change that."
"But I was the one who sent you to Hell," Buffy cried softly.
"And I am proud of you," Angel replied. "So very proud. I don't think anyone could have done what you had to do."
"I almost didn't survive after that," she told him quietly. Her sobs had reduced to silent tears streaming non-stop down her face. She rested her head on his shoulder and listened to the silence of his body. "I lost it. Mom had kicked me out, Snyder expelled me, Kendra was killed, my friend's hurt and you were gone. I left Sunnydale and lost myself to escape the pain, but I couldn't. Each night I would dream of you holding me like you are now. Then when I woke, you were still gone."
"I'm here now, and nothing will ever change that," Angel said.
"How do you know?" Buffy asked, raising her head to look in his face. "How do you know that you won't die and leave me again?"
"Buffy, I went to Hell and I came back," Angel told her with a small, sardonic smile. "I think I can safely say I'll be around for a long time." He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "I'm just glad to be here with you."
Spike was not happy. Not happy at all.
Buffy had put him to bed like an invalid, then left without so much as an 'I love you.' Staring up at the ceiling, Spike tried to relax and let his body heal, but it was impossible. What he really wanted was violence. Preferably with lots of blood.
But, like the lap dog he was turning out to be, Spike didn't move. Buffy needed time to speak with Angel. And he needed time to figure out what to do about Drusilla.
*Dru, Dru, Dru. What am I going to do with you?* Spike thought with a wry grin. He honestly thought he'd never see the female vampire again. They'd parted on not so good terms, with Spike needing to put an ocean between them. That's why he returned to the states.
He returned to Sunnydale for a whole other reason.
Spike lied to himself that it was the Hellmouth that drew him. In reality, it was the tiny, blond Slayer.
Not that Spike had any affinity for Buffy at the time. More like an appreciation for a worthy opponent, who's quick wit and love of violence reminded Spike of himself. Although he did avoid her for the first few months. He only saw Buffy one time on his way back to his home.
Which was another difference that occurred when Spike returned to the small suburb. He actually paid for his living quarters, rather than taking over an abandoned building or reclaiming the title of master. He'd purchased property before, in fact he had several homes all over the world, including the one he'd left to Drusilla when they parted ways. But to live alone, in heavily human populated condominiums, was strange.
But then again, so was being in love with his mortal enemy.
Spike sighed again and turned his thoughts to the human who captured his cold, cruel heart. He would do anything for her, including the two hardest things he could imagine - dying. And giving her to Angel.
He didn't notice the tears that started to run down his human features.
"Hi," Buffy said quietly as she entered her bedroom later that night. She had just gotten off a rather boring patrol and was tired down to her bones, all the events that played havoc with her emotions over the past two nights catching up to her.
"Hello, luv," Spike answered, watching her. She quickly stripped out of her clothes and put on an old Sunnydale High School T-shirt, then climbed into the bed next to him. Spike wrapped his sore arms around her small, muscular frame and buried his nose in her hair, reveling in having Buffy close to him.
Buffy snuggled into Spike's cold chest, one arm and one leg thrown across him. She took a deep breath and sighed. "Spike?"
"I...do you...how are you feeling?" Buffy asked.
"Just fine," Spike answered. He waited silently for her to continue, knowing something important was on her mind.
"My heart hurts," Buffy finally said.
"Why does it hurt, luv?" Spike asked, squeezing her slightly.
"I thought Angel was gone forever," Buffy said. "But..."
"Now he's back," Spike finished for her. "And you don't know how that makes you feel."
"Yeah," Buffy sighed. They were silent for a few minutes, listening to the wind outside. "How do you feel about...this?"
Spike nuzzled her hair, then kissed her head. "Buffy, however much time you need, you can have. I will wait an eternity for you."
Buffy laughed softly at the irony of his statement. "Hey, did you realize that I'm here in my bed with you, with my mother across the hall? This is a milestone for us."
Spike smiled. "How did you finagle this with your mum?"
"I think she knows that I need to be with you, especially with all that has happened," Buffy replied with a yawn. "Plus, she probably figured this was better than me sneaking out to go to your place."
"Remind me to thank her tomorrow," Spike murmured as he placed another loving kiss on her head.
"Mmm," Buffy hummed, already falling to sleep.
"I love you, Slayer," Spike whispered in her hair.
"Love you, enemy of mine," Buffy mumbled back. She drifted off to Spike's quiet laughter, feeling safe in the arms of her deadliest foe.
Which was normal when living on the Hellmouth.