Special Thanks: to Kimi, Chris, Melissa and Kelly
She pulls away, just a bit, her beautiful face shining up at him. Happy. Relaxed. He is amazed at her calm, since just moments before she was battling that renegade preacher. He tries to remember when she last looked like this, her face unmarred by worry, or pain, or sadness, but nothing comes to him. And he wonders how it is that every memory of her, his beloved, his girl, is bittersweet, tinged with loss and regret. It's not right, that these things touch her the same as they do everyone else in his life. The same as everyone else he has touched.
But now, within this dream moment, she is happy. Because of him. She breathes his name. "Angel." He wants to make this last forever, would give anything, he thinks, if he could. If he had anything left to give, it would be hers. Images assault his brain, trying to steal away this brief reprieve; lost boys and lost loves call his name, desperate and demanding. "Angel!" He can't do anything for them anymore. He pushes them away.
"I just want to bask," she says. And so does he. He wants to bask in her light, savor the peace and happiness that they both find in each others arms.
And then she pulls out her sword, and runs him through.
The third time that he dreams this dream, he wakes up, as usual, in a cold sweat, breathing hard, cursing these human afflictions that only come to him in times of torment. Damn his subconscious. Could it be more fucking obvious? He thinks about their last conversation. Sometimes, she thinks about a future with him. He can't believe he encouraged that. Nothing has changed, after all. Well, nothing, except for everything. He shakes his head. Everything has changed, except the fact that they still can't be together. They had a chance, once, and he gave up humanity, and her love, to be a champion. And if he had the chance to do it over again, he knows he would do the exact same thing. It's kind of funny, in that not really funny kind of way - at the time, he couldn't imagine having to make a more difficult choice.
Well, he never did have much of an imagination.
The boy, the one who's left, is just as insolent as the other, but with an underlying strength that poor Connor never had. Angelus' brand of cruelty, it seems, was far more effective than Holtz's. And as he looks upon that beautiful, sneering face now, Angel thinks that Angelus was a thousand times more patient than he himself could ever hope to be.
"I said...." Angel takes a deep breath, "...why haven't you told her?" The tension in his voice is evident, even to him.
Spike grabs this and runs with it, of course. He's a scrappy fighter, physical or otherwise; can always take advantage of an opponent's weakness, which in this case is Spike's considerable ability to piss Angel off. Angel wonders if Spike sits around thinking up insults about him in his spare time, or if he's able to come up with them off the cuff. This list of affronts is followed by threats of several colorful methods of maiming and torture, and when Angel is just about to clock him one, suddenly, he sees him. Sees beneath all the bravado and bluster, to the frightened William underneath. And when Spike realizes this, he gets terrified.
"Don't you dare," Spike says, and Angel can see the tears threatening, hear the tremor in his voice. Such an emotional one. Always has been. That's his weakness. Or is it? "Please." It's killing him to say it. "Just - leave it!" he says, before he storms out the door.
Angel has to hunt around a little to find her, but he finally manages to track down Giles. Speaking with Rupert ceased to be a pleasant experience a long time ago, and the man seems even less interested in maintaining the facade of politeness than he used to be. Time does not heal all wounds, apparently. Still, he gives him the information, and Angel waits for a quiet moment to call her.
She sounds tired when she first picks up, before she knows it's him. Then, her voice warms as they exchange greetings, before the inevitable worry creeps in. Why are you calling me? Is there an impending apocalypse that you need help with? As if whenever they speak, it must be the end of the world.
Not exactly, he tells her. He wants to know how she is. He's been worried. She starts to chatter on about all the new girls, and he laughs when she tells him that they don't make slayers like they used to. She tells him Dawn has started a new school, and Willow is doing well, and he sends his regards, though at the mention of the witch, the demon twitches beneath his skin. And there is more news, about Xander, and Faith. Everyone but her.
"Buffy. I want to know how *you* are."
There is a pause, and when she speaks, her voice has lost its brightness. "It's hard, sometimes. Everything is so different. Lots of ... changes."
Changes, yes. Change can be hard, especially when it involves the loss of important people from your life. It can be downright heart breaking. This, he understands. "If you mean Spike, it's okay to talk about him with me."
He hears her sigh into the phone. "I do miss him," she says softly. "And there were things ... not said ... or not said soon enough ...or, God, I don't know. Regrets. It's hard for me to talk about it. With anyone. I mean, he's the one I used to ..." She sighs again. "Never mind."
Angel makes a decision. "You know, I think you need to come to LA after all."
When Angel's secretary buzzes him to let him know she's arrived, he leans down to speak into the intercom. "Send her right in," he says. "And now you can send for him, too."
He gets up to hug her as she enters. She is guarded, looking around his posh surroundings warily as she crosses the room. No kissing, this time, but she smiles and embraces him warmly, holding on to him a bit too tightly, a bit too long.
"It's good to see you again," she says, finally breaking away. "And this place - impressive! It's been `Mr. Angel this, ` and `Mr. Angel' that since I walked through the massive and expensive front door. Did you win the lottery, or make a deal with the devil?"
He smiles. She's got his number, alright. "Jury's still out on that one," he answers. "It's kind of a long story." She looks at him expectantly, and he wonders how he's going to explain this, when suddenly Spike bursts in. Saved by the resurrected vampire.
Spike is always bursting in and slamming out, and this time is no exception. He's three long strides into the office before he registers Buffy, and comes to a halt.
"You bastard, Angel," he says, not even looking at him. It's barely a whisper, though, and his voice holds no anger; just this kind of wonderment as he stares at her face. "Buffy."
For a moment, Angel is sure Buffy is going to faint, and he steps forward with his arms out to catch her. She puts her hand out to hold him off, and he stops, watching both of them carefully as they watch each other.
She takes a step toward Spike. "Are you real?" she asks.
He puts a hand to his chest. "Yeah. Think so. Kinda recent, though."
Buffy walks the short distance between them slowly, until she is mere inches away. Spike doesn't move, but Angel can see him trembling, slightly. She skims her hands up his arms and Spike closes his eyes for a moment, then opens them, and smiles. Yes, she's really there, William. One hand comes to rest on his shoulder; when she raises the other, he mirrors her actions, entwining his fingers with hers. The look that passes between them is ... electric.
Angel feels a burning inside him. Jealousy and rage and joy and love and a maelstrom of other emotions threaten to pull him under, take him over. But he can't let that happen; he has to keep control. He decides it's time to leave the room, but takes one look back before he shuts the door. Buffy leans in, her face upturned, and Spike lowers his head to meet her lips with his own. Their arms fold around each other. God, it hurts. And he can't believe how beautiful they are.
His girl. His boy. It's not a bad outcome, all things considered.