Coffin of Hope
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Title: Coffin of Hope
Author: Chelle Storey-Daniel
Summary: Buffy comes to visit the vampires at Wolfram & Hart and the secret she carries with her will change their lives forever.
Dedication: To Mary Ann and Rachel. Because I love them and they make me feel good about being firmly rooted in a fandom that everyone says is dead. :)
Neither vampire tried to contain their glee at Buffy’s impending arrival at Wolfram and Hart. Co-workers commented quietly that Angel had never been in such a good mood and that Spike’s swagger suddenly had a noticeable bounce. Before the staff could get used to the new, much improved, management however, the directive came down that the lobby had to shine, the walls had to be clean, and the elevators were to have fresh flowers inside at all times. The employees traded their business suits and briefcases for jogging suits and cleaning pails and on the date of Buffy’s arrival, the premises smelled fresh and the floors gleamed in the soft lighting.
Smiling, Angel arranged a vase of fresh tulips in the main atrium as he waited for Buffy and Giles. He growled when Spike began speaking for the millionth time that morning. “So, what did he say exactly?”
“Giles said that they would be in town this week and asked if they could stop by today.”
“That was it?”
“I told him yes and here we are.”
“Something’s not right.” Spike put his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “She would have called us herself. Something happened to her.”
“Maybe Giles is surprising her by stopping by.”
“I don’t like it.”
Harmony came strolling across the polished wood floor, trying to force a smile and failing miserably. “Buffy’s here. The guards just called in clearance.” She crossed her arms, staring from one to the other and gave up the pretense of happiness. “You know, we’re not an evil empire when you have the Slayer over for tea and stuff. If this becomes a practice then I’ll have to leave or something. I’m just saying.”
“Shut up.” Angel moved past her, staring at the open elevator. Spike was right. Something was very wrong.
Giles walked in, looking far too old and tired for someone his age, and in his arms he carried Buffy. As soon as he got a good view of her, Angel gasped in shock. Her face was as white as snow and her hair was thin, pulled back in a skinny ponytail. When she glanced up at him, he saw no spark in her eyes and the deep, black bags that sunk beneath them tore at his heart.
“What happened?” he asked quietly.
“She’s sick,” Giles replied.
Spike could scarcely believe what he was seeing. He took a step forward and gently took her from Giles’. He felt her slender arms around his neck and her breath against his skin. “We’ll fix it, love.”
“You can’t,” Buffy whispered, moving her palm across his cheek. “I missed you so much. You could never know how much.”
He felt his eyes welling with tears and tightened his jaw, grinding his teeth against the pain he felt. “Missed you, too.”
“I had to come and see you. Even like this.”
“I’m glad you did, baby.”
Angel moved around the reunited old lovers and spoke to Giles. “What’s wrong with her?”
Giles glanced around at the myriad people who were watching their exchange. “Is there someplace more private?”
“Of course.” Angel led the way to the elevator and stepped aside, allowing the necessary people to follow. No matter how she looked, she still smelled the same, vanilla and rosewater, and he turned, smiling down at her. Wordlessly, he brushed her a stray hair off her face and kissed her temple. She was cold.
When they arrived at Angel’s apartment, he plumped up the sofa pillows and indicated that Spike should desposit her there. Spike was loathe to let her go, but finally set her on the sofa and pulled a throw around her fragile shoulders. Buffy smiled at him, then Angel. “I’m sorry. I’m sure this isn’t how you imagined me coming to see you.”
Angel kneeled down next to her. “What happened? Was it a demon?”
Buffy glanced up at Giles, who removed his glasses and began cleaning them. When it was apparent that he wasn’t going to help her explain, Buffy took a deep breath and said, “I’m dying.”
“Well, stop.” Spike kneeled down beside Angel, trying to edge him to the side. “Stop right now.”
She chuckled a little, then coughed, wincing in pain as she reached out and took his hand. She trailed her thumb across his skin and stared into his eyes. “I kept trying to think of how to say this to you. I had a bunch of ideas on the plane, but I don’t remember which one sounded best. So I’ll just say it. It’s cancer.”
“Where?” Angel asked, studying her closely as if he could see it.
“Everywhere that counts.” Buffy gave them both a small, wavering smile. “It’s okay. I’m okay with it. I just ... I had to come and see you both one more time while I could. The phone calls have been great, but there’s something about seeing your faces that I couldn’t turn down. I had to see you again.” She looked at Spike when she said the last words.
“What are they doing for you?” Spike looked down at her hand in his, amazed at how much smaller it had gotten.
“They’ve done everything they can. I mean, the doctors have been great.” She shrugged a little. “We’re in town because there’s a really good hospice nearby that can make me comfortable until - well, until I go. And it’s right on the ocean so I can breathe the salt air, which is better for me I’ve heard.”
“This isn’t right -” Spike stood and paced the length of the room. “You’re a bloody Slayer. You can’t be sick.”
“No, they’re wrong.” Angel stood as well. “You should get a second opinion.”
“She’s had about fifty opinions,” Giles interjected, sitting wearily in a leather armchair and folding his hands in his lap. “They’re all the same.”
Angel shook his head. “I want our doctors to look at her.”
“Angel, it’s just more medical bills that I can’t pay and -” Buffy began to cough, loud and hard. Giles leaned forward and handed her a white napkin that was red with blood when she lowered it from her mouth. She closed her eyes for several seconds, trying to get her breathing under control. Finally, she said, “I’m finished being poked and prodded and stuck with needles and put into machines for x-rays. I just want to sleep now in a coffin of hope.”
“Of hope?” Spike looked bewildered.
“I’ve been there, Spike. I hope that I go back. I’m not scared.”
“There has to be something we can do.”
She reached up, touching his cheekbone, then the scar over his eye. “You’re beautiful, Spike.”
He kissed her hand, smiling a little. “You were always the looks in our relationship.”
“And the brains and the wit and the charm,” she replied with the barest trace of a smile, the gasped in pain and clutched her stomach. “Giles? I think -”
“Say no more, sweetling.” Giles pulled a bottle of pills from his pocket and handed her two of them. “Can we get some water?”
Spike rushed into the kitchen and returned, handing the glass to Buffy who washed the pills down and smiled gratefully at him. “That will knock me out in about thirty minutes. Until then, why don’t you tell me what’s been happening around here?”
Spike and Angel sat side by side on the sofa in Angel’s office. Neither of them had spoken for over an hour. They had stayed next to Buffy, trying to keep her entertained with stories and anecdotes until her eyes had gotten glassy and she had finally dozed. Giles had fallen asleep in the chair and the two vampires had left quietly. They wound up in Angel’s office out of habit and not due to any real need to be there.
“I can’t believe this is happening.” Angel finally said, his eyes shining in the pale light of the moon that seemed to be hanging just outside the windows.
“She probably weighs eighty pounds.” Spike looked down at his hands. “I held her and she was cold.”
“I’ve never felt so powerless in my life. I’ve never been this ... this devastated.”
Spike shook his head. “We have to fix her.”
Angel looked thoughtful. “That would be wonderful for about five minutes. And then we’d have to stake her.”
“Why? Willow cursed you and I know how to get her a soul if the witch can’t do it.”
“Spike,” the older vampire turned to glare at him. “Do you remember telling me what it was like for her to come back from Heaven? Can you imagine having her wake up as a vampire, then giving her a soul, and then telling her that she’s never going to die and never get back to that place she spent months longing for?”
“Bloody hell,” Spike growled. “It was just a thought. I mean, we have a million resources, but we can’t take a sick woman and make her whole again?”
Angel’s brow suddenly creased. He sat up a little straighter, then ran a hand through his hair and burst out laughing. Of course they could make a sick woman whole again. “You’re a genius!”
Angel turned and faced his childe, staring at him. “Spike, do you love her?”
“No, I mean do you love her enough to do whatever it takes to make her well?”
“Angel, I just *died* for her a while back.”
“Come with me.” Angel stood and grabbed his coat off the back of the sofa.
“What are we doing?”
“You’re doing it. Not me.”
“Great.” Spike stood as well. “What am I doing?”
“Whatever it takes.”
“You want me to dive in to an empty pool, head first mind you, because it’s a ‘leap of faith’?” Spike stepped out onto the diving board, staring down into three inches of filthy, stagnant rainwater that had settled on the bottom of the cracked pool liner. “Because me bashing my skull open will prove that Buffy needs to be cured.”
“Can you just trust me?” Angel put his hands on his hips. “I am, after all, trusting you enough to do the right thing.”
“Which is what exactly? Buffy told me you used to be all cryptic. I don’t like it.”
“If I tell you then it nulls and voids it.”
“This is ridiculous.” Spike turned and bounced a little on the rickety diving board. “Bombs away, then.”
“Wait.” Taking a step forward, Angel laid a hand on Spike’s arm. “She may be down there.”
“Buffy. Jeeves may have here there when you arrive. Just don’t let it distract you. Okay?”
“Buffy’s in the pool with a bloke named Jeeves?” Spike cocked his head to one side. “Have you fed today? You’re a bit delusional.”
“Just jump, Spike. If you really love her then jump and prove it.”
Spike shrugged and jumped headfirst. But the crash and the pain he expected never came. A fierce blue crackling light leapt up to meet him and he saw a man and the rapidly approaching floor and processed that he would need to tuck and roll to avoid breaking his neck. He hit hard, but quickly shot to his feet, staring at the man. “Jeeves, I presume?”
“Well, you certainly have faith. Now we must test your valor.” The man smiled at the vampire. “I *am* Jeeves and I will be assisting you in your trials this evening, sir.”
The man nodded, straightening his garish tie and adjusting his suit lapels. “Yes, sir. You dropped in on me with a desire. Will you speak it aloud, then?”
“Speak it - what? That I want Buffy to be cured and never be sick again?”
“Buffy.” Jeeves stepped to one side and Buffy appeared, pale and wan and looking ready to topple on her scrawny, shaking limbs.
“Spike?” Buffy said, her voice hoarse. “What happened? Where are we?”
Spike made a move toward her, but Jeeves held up a hand, stopping the vampire. “She is your collateral. Should you complete the trials she will be made whole.”
“And if we leave right now?”
“Should you forfeit the trial, which began when you jumped, she dies instantly.” Jeeves voice was somber, hollow. Then he clapped his hands together and smiled at Buffy. “You may relax in our antechamber, sickly miss. We have refreshments and magazines.”
The man snapped his fingers and Buffy disappeared. Spike was enraged. “Bring her back! I want to see that she’s safe through all of this!”
“In a moment, sir, your safety will be your primary focus.”
“You will have three separate trials. Please remove your shirt and shoes.”
“I want to talk to her! I want to make sure this is what she wants.” Spike held his ground, not budging. “I want to make sure she’s okay with me curing her.”
“You removed her choice when you dove into my chamber.” Jeeves shrugged a little, then straightened his suit again. “Your shirt and shoes if you please.”
Spike yanked his jacket and shirt off, then kicked his shoes and socks at the man, who caught them easily. “What do I do?”
“You try to survive.”
With that, Jeeves left the room and a gate in the back of the dungeon slowly lifted, revealing a chalky white demon who slobbered and growled when it saw Spike. It carried a long chain and as Spike took a moment to size his opponent up, the chain came slicing through the air straight at his head. Ducking, Spike lunged, catching the demon around the middle and knocking it backwards. One of the torches on the wall fell, sending a scattering of flame and ash and Spike picked it up, using it to pound the demon’s head into a pulp. He stood back, watching it writhe on the ground, then set it ablaze.
The gate in the corner opened and Jeeves emerged. “Very well done, Spike. You beat any other time and I think it’s fair to say that I will be searching for a new attacker.”
“Where is Buffy?”
“She’s fine. A little tired, a little agitated, but she’s okay. Are you ready for the second trial?”
In the antechamber, Buffy was attempting to pull open the door. So far she had only succeeded in yanking off the handle, but she could see through the hole that was left. Spike had emerged into a hallway, wearing nothing but his pants, and was following Jeeves to another corridor. “Spike!” she cried, coughing harshly. “Please let me out!”
Spike stopped and turned, walking toward the sound of her voice. “Buffy?”
The walls shifted and hundreds of crucifixes emerged. Buffy could see them, could see them coming dangerously close to Spike’s bare skin. “Go back!” she called. “Spike, look out!”
Spike studied the walls and shook his head. “Looks like Principal Wood decorated this place, love.”
He moved further down the hallway, toward the sound of her voice. The doorknob was a crucifix. Spike grabbed it and turned the knob, hissing in pain. Buffy stared through the little hole on her side, wincing when she saw his smoking palm. “Stop it!” she cried.
Turning, his face vamping, he looked for something to beat through the door with. Instead, he saw a basin that had a bright light shining on it. He walked to the bowl and stared at the contents. In the bottom was a key. He plunged his hand into the liquid and bellowed in pain. “Soddin’ holy water! “Who has the time to bless water anyway! Tossers!” he yelped, but grabbed the key and turned, unlocking the door despite the hideous blisters that stretched up above his elbow.
Buffy, weak as she was, threw herself at him. “What’s happening? Why are we here?”
“Can’t explain just yet, pet.” Spike grimaced, trying to support her with his good arm as she burst into another coughing spasm and almost lost her footing.
Jeeves appeared in the doorway. “Miss Buffy, you may accompany us to the final trial if you so choose.”
“What trial? What’s happening? Why are you doing this to him?”
“He chose his path, madam. Now choose yours.”
“I go where he goes.” Buffy said, and even though it took every ounce of her faltering strength, she stood up tall and took his hand.
Spike kissed the side of her head and followed Jeeves down the hallway, moving slowly to keep from tiring the dying Slayer. In the next room, Jeeves put his hand on Buffy’s arm and moved her away from Spike. She opened her mouth to protest, but quickly found herself locked in a cage that seemed to materialize out of this air. Spike’s face contorted with rage and he lunged at the host. Shackles and chains shot out, grabbing him and holding him spread eagle in the back of the room.
“Stop it!” Buffy screamed, her hands gripping the rails of the cage as she tried to pull them apart. “Let him go!”
Jeeves stared up at Buffy, shaking his head sadly. “He entered to spare your life, miss. Death is the final challenge. We cannot spare one life without taking another.”
The walls of the room shifted the same way the hallway had done earlier and a big row of hundreds of stakes emerged the far side of the room, pointing straight at Spike’s heart. Jeeves turned to the vampire. “Are you prepared to die for her?”
“Let her leave the room.” Staring from the stakes back to Buffy, he felt weak kneed. She had walked back into his life for the span of a few hours and he would have to leave her without telling her what was in his heart. It would only hurt her more.
“No.” Shaking his head in a very good impression of sadness, Jeeves shrugged. “She stays.”
“Don’t you make her watch this!” Spike yelled, tugging on the restraints. “You let her go! She’s not a part of the trial!”
“She is now. You strayed from your path to free her. If we let her go then you have forfeited the trials. She dies where she sits.”
Spike laughed cruelly. “So she *has* to watch me die. Is that it? To make it harder? Fine. Get on with it then.”
“No!” Buffy began to cry in earnest. “Don’t do it! Tell him you want to stop, Spike. Please tell him! Please! I can’t-”
“S’okay, baby. You’ve seen it once already.”
“Don’t you dare do this!” she screeched, using what was left of her fleeting strength to tug at the heavy bars. “I don’t want to live if this is why it happens! Do you hear me! I won’t! I’ll do it to myself if you go through with this.”
“Take it back, Slayer!” His gaze hardened. “You take it back right now.”
“Please don’t do this! Please!!”
The wall holding the stakes moved a little closer and Spike lifted his chin defiantly, watching the approach. “It’s okay, Buffy.” He shifted his gaze to her. “Turn around, pet. Don’t look. They can make you stay, but they can’t make you watch.”
“Please don’t!” she begged, reaching through the bars toward him. “Please, Spike! Don’t leave me again!”
A cold tear trailed down his cheek. “Say it one more time, Buffy.”
“Don’t leave me!”
“No, what you said last time. Before - before I died.”
Realization dawned on her and she lowered her arm, grasping the bars again. “I love you.”
He closed his eyes and smiled a little. “Now that’s worth dying for. Get on with it then.”
Jeeves said, “Are you saying that you are prepared to give your life for hers?”
“Yes, bloody hell! Now do it!”
The stake’s flew. Buffy screamed.
And then Spike was lying on his side on the cool floor, fully clothed. He shot to his feet as Jeeves emerged from the shadows, supporting Buffy against his side. Jeeves was beaming. “Congratulations, sir. You have succeeded.”
“She’s still sick!” Spike growled. “You better-”
Jeeves laid his hand on Buffy’s head. “Within twenty four hours, madam, you will have your life back. You will be cured and, per Spike’s wishes, you will never be sick again. Not even with a cold.”
The bags under her eyes stood out starkly under the bright lights and she stared, dumbfounded, at the man. “I’m going to live?”
“You are.” Jeeves indicated a doorway. “You may go.”
“Come on, love.”
Buffy held her ground. “Will I be strong again?”
“Yes. You will be fully restored to what you were.”
With narrowed eyes, she turned to Spike. “Then I am kicking your ass until you wish that those stakes had hit you.”
Spike smiled at her. “I look forward to it, baby.”
He reached for her. Just in time.
She fainted and fell forward into his arms.
“Oh dear.” Jeeves shuddered a little. “She’s been brought back from the dead before. By supernatural means, yes?”
“Her witch friend did it. Used a spell after she had been dead over a hundred days.”
“Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.”
“I’m afraid I can do nothing to help her.”
“What!?” Spike shouted the word again, holding Buffy close. “I did your bloody trial! I agreed to die for her!”
“What is she to you?”
“You’re a vampire. She’s human. Surely you realized that she would die one day. She’s mortal.”
“She is still Buffy Summers and she deserves to live.”
“Buffy Summers? Buffy Summers! The Slayer?” Jeeves stared down at the pale, hollow faced girl who was resting in the arms of the man who loved her. “She’s a Slayer, right?”
“The best one who ever lived. The best Slayer, the best *girl*. She doesn’t deserve to suffer after everything she’s done for the world.”
“So, in essence, she was born with a supernatural gift. So, being brought back by supernatural means is just a day in the life or whatever. She’s a warrior. Right?”
Spike studied the other man. “Why?”
“I’ll probably get fired for this, but what the hell?” He bent down, touching her again. “Rules are meant to be broken once in a while.”
“You’re going to let her live?”
“She’ll be fine.”
Angel was pacing back and forth beside the pool, alternating between walking out onto the diving board and sitting on the edge, his feet dangling over the side. If Spike really loved the Slayer, his Slayer, then they’d come out together. He checked his watch, worriedly watching the horizon and praying that the sun would rise late. Then it hit him. Buffy had been brought back by from the dead before. The same way Darla had. The trials could not benefit the Slayer. “Oh god!” he moaned. He had forgotten.
He paced back to the diving board and stepped up onto it, prepared to dive in, when a loud pop sounded and Spike emerged, carrying the Slayer in his arms.
Rushing to the side of the pool, Angel took her from Spike and held her close, inhaling the sweet scent of her. She had been crying, her cheeks still moist, but warmer than they had been.
Spike climbed the ladder and ran his hand over her hair, pushing it away from her face. “She’s been through hell. And then the wanker tried to pull out on the deal and tell me he couldn’t help her.”
“How did you get him to change his mind?”
“He knew she was a Slayer. I was two seconds away from killing him, but he saved her because she’s a Slayer.”
“But you did it? You said you’d die for her?”
“Then she’s yours.” Angel held her a little closer, kissing her lightly on the forehead before he handed her back to Spike. The blonde vampire looked a little surprised, but gladly took her. “Let’s get her back in bed.”
Buffy awoke several hours later and stretched, feeling her long dormant muscles singing in anticipation. She smacked her lips, thinking that she was thirsty, hungry, had to pee, and felt like doing jumping jacks at the same time. Rolling onto her side, she opened her eyes and came face to face with Spike, who was sitting next to the bed watching her. “Hey,” she said.
He handed her a glass of cool water and leaned forward. “How do you feel?”
She drank thirstily until the glass was nearly empty. “Parched.”
Laying back against the pillow, she studied him. “Did last night really happen?”
“You were going to die to heal me.”
“Yes,” he repeated softly. “Did it work? Do you feel better?”
She sat up, gingerly pressing against her abdomen where the most significant amount of pain usually radiated at the slightest touch. Nothing happened and she wasn’t out of breath from the simple task. “I do.” She smiled then, positively beaming, and launched herself off the bed, leaping into his lap to hug him. “You saved me.”
Spike laughed, his silent heart soaring, and returned the hug. “You’re not mad?”
“Oh, I’m furious!” She sat back a little and looked into his eyes. “I was pulled out of bed in the middle of the night. Teleported to some weird dungeon. Had to watch you almost die. Again. And then I woke up and you were all the way over here.”
He attempted to process her words, but surely he had not heard her correctly. “You were sleeping so peacefully.”
“Alone.” She let her palm trace over his cheek. “I heard once that if you save someone then you’re responsible for their life forever.”
“I can think of worse crosses to bear.” He gazed into her eyes, which were alert and free from pain. The bags were gone and a healthy pink had returned to her cheeks. Without thinking, he pulled her down and kissed her. To his surprise, she didn’t pull away, didn’t recoil at his touch.
She sighed in contentment and wrapped her fingers in the back of his hair, holding him close. Breathless, she pulled away after several seconds and studied him. “Did you believe me this time?”
“When I told you I loved you last night. You didn’t tell me I didn’t mean it, so do you believe that I do?”
“It’s a simple question.”
“I believe that you want to because you think you owe it to me. But you don’t.”
“I do love you.”
“The same way you love Xander. Maybe even Giles. Not the way you love Angel.”
“No. I don’t love you that way. I’m *in* love with you.”
“Spike.” She turned his face to hers and forced him to look at her. “How could you not tell after all the letters and phone calls and the invitations to come to Europe?”
“I - I don’t-”
“You don’t want me anymore.” She slid from his lap and bit her bottom lip. He started to reach for her, but she shook her head. “It’s okay. Really. I’m kinda used to it.”
He watched her pad across the floor and heard the bathroom door lock as she disappeared behind it. Swearing, he got to his feet and started to knock on the door. Giles stepped into the room, drinking a cup of tea. “You know, you may be brave and noble, but you’re an idiot. And a right ass.”
Spike heard the shower come on in the bathroom and stepped away from the door, yanking the covers up as he smoothed the bed back into place. “I’m not in the mood for a pep talk, mate.”
“She does love you.”
“She came here to tell you that before she died. To tell *you*. Not Angel. She came for you even though the doctors advised against it and the trip could have killed her.” Giles sat down on the newly made bed, still sipping his tea as if the conversation was casual and commonplace. “She grieved for you for months after Sunnydale. She still grieves for you. Surely you should prove yourself worthy of that.”
“I proved myself last night.” Spike sat down in the chair he had sat in for the duration of Buffy’s sleep.
“You proved that you’d die to save her.” Giles waved a hand dismissively. “Now prove yourself worthy of her heart.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“Do you love her, Spike. Really love her?”
“I’ve died for her once and tried to again! How can you ask me that?”
“If you love her then make a decision. Right now. Go to her or walk out that door and stay away. You can’t be in her life halfway anymore. It kills a piece of her at a time to live that way.”
“I can’t leave her. I can’t.”
“Then go to her.” Giles stood and pulled a small, delicate looking key from his pocket. “Angel thought you might need that.”
Spike watched the man leave the room and stood, staring at the closed door that separated him from everything he had ever wanted. He considered the ramifications of barging into the bathroom, the same way he had done one fateful night in Sunnydale, and finally decided that nothing, not even bad memories, could stop him. He unlocked the door and pushed it open. The shower in Angel’s bathroom was clear, but fogged, and he could see her tiny form behind the smoky glass. She was sitting on the floor, her knees drawn to her chest as the water beat down upon her.
He pulled his shirt off, leaving his pants firmly in place and slid the door open, kneeling next to her. She turned to look at him in surprise and quickly wiped the tears off her cheeks. “Go away.”
“No, love.” He reached in, tenderly stroking her bare arm.
She was unashamed of her nakedness. Standing, she tried to push the door closed again. Spike stood as well, holding it open. “You’re soaking the floor!” she snapped.
“I want to talk to you.”
“Right now, Slayer. We’re talking about this right the hell now.”
She crossed her arms over her breasts, shivering. “It’s cold! Either get in or wait until I’m done! But close the damn door.”
He swore, kicking off his shoes and shoving his pants down. He stepped in behind her and pulled her into his arms, her back against his chest. They stood that way until she turned, leaning against him and wrapping her arms around him. He kissed the top of her head and said, “I do want you, Buffy. Always.”
“There’s no but, love. I just don’t know why you would love me.”
“Spike!” She stared up at him, her eyes brimming with fresh tears. “Am I the only one here who remembers those last few nights in Sunnydale? That meant something to me.”
“You didn’t come to me when you found out I was back.”
“You didn’t come to *me*. I found out you were back by mistake and when I called you ... you didn’t ask me to come. I told you where I was and you heard me crying and telling you that it was a miracle, but you didn’t come. Every time the doorbell rang, I thought it would be you.” She shook her head sadly. “You stopped loving me, didn’t you?”
“Never.” He pushed her wet hair back and hugged her, kissing the curve of her shoulder. “Not for a second.”
“Buffy, let’s not.” Pulling back, he forced her chin up. “We’ve both been brought back from the dead and we’ve been given a second chance. I don’t want to live in the past or have you ask me to explain things that I don’t know the answer to. I don’t know why I didn’t come anymore than you do. But we’re here now. It’s what we do from here on out that matters.”
“What do you want to do?”
He smiled down at her. “Is that a trick question.”
She felt him then, hard against her belly. Her eyes widened and she glanced down, then back up at him. He misunderstood the look and his smile faded. “But it’s too soon. I understand. I mean, you need to make sure you’re completely well and I-”
“It’s what we do from here on out that matters.” She wrapped her hands around his swollen member. “This is the first day of the rest of my life. I know exactly what I want. Exactly.”
He moaned a little, hissing her name. “Are you sure?”
Angel glanced up, smiling a little when Buffy bounced down the stairs of his apartment and sat down opposite him. He pushed the basket of blueberry muffins that Giles had cooked her way and watched as she devoured two of them back to back. His own orange juice was the next thing to go and he chuckled. “Giles is cooking you breakfast.”
“I need tons of food. Tons! I can’t wait to get through breakfast so I can have lunch, then dinner, then a snack.”
“That’s quite an appetite you’ve worked up.”
She swallowed hard, realizing that he knew exactly what she had just done. “Angel-”
“Not that you need it, but you have my blessing.” He filled the glass again and handed it to her. “Spike surprised me a little last night. He did something selfless not expecting anything in return.”
Buffy nodded. “He was amazing.”
“I know what he went through. I did it, too. Once.”
“That’s a story for another time.” He picked up a muffin and bit into it, grimacing. “Yuck. There’s no accounting for taste.”
“Are we talking about the muffin or my boyfriend?”
“The muffin.” He gave her the crooked, half smile that only she could draw from him. “I’m not going to go all ‘Dawson’ on you.”
“You know, Dawson accepted that Joey had moved on in the last episode.”
“Then I guess I am going all Dawson.” Reaching across the table, he took her hand. “If you decide to stay here with him I want you to know that you’re welcome and I’ll be good. If you decide to take him back with you, I’ll be a little sad to see him go, but I’ll support the decision.”
“You’ll be *sad* to see *Spike* go?”
“He grows on you. You should know that better than anybody.”
“Aww.” She smiled, popping another piece of muffin in her mouth as Giles emerged from the kitchen carrying a platter full of food, followed by Spike who was telling him how unhealthy everything was.
All three men watched with amazement as the Slayer, who had been rejuvenated overnight, attacked the food with relish. Her hair, which had been so thin and lank, curled around her shoulders in soft waves and the sparkle in her eyes spoke of her happiness as well as her health. If anyone opposed to the two blonde warriors showing open adoration and affection, it didn’t show.
Giles and Angel exchanged looks across the table.
Some things were worth the sacrifice.
And the deep laughter that erupted from her was music to their ears.
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