All Roads Lead To Rome - Chapter Five - Troubled Waters
The storm buffeting the plane as it made its approach to LAX didn’t bode well for Buffy. Her mood matched the weather. The closer they got to LA, the more agitated she became. She was nervous about seeing Spike, she was nervous about running into Angel. Wolfram & Hart, itself, was giving her fits. Add a full-blown case of PMS, and no wonder her teeth were on edge. God help the first man, woman or demon that impeded her search.
When the shaking finally stopped, and the plane landed, Buffy almost cried with relief. Her tension was palpable. She absentmindedly smoothed the wrinkles from her outfit; tight black leather pants, red silk blouse and, of course, Jimmy Choo boots. The idle thought came to mind that she had dressed for Spike, in his colors. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and tried to think of that saying… she needed to do something… oh yes! That was it. She needed to ‘gird her loins,’ even though she wasn’t sure exactly how you ‘girded.’
Her destination in hand, Buffy deplaned and hailed a cab. She wasn't sure how far Wolfram & Hart was from the airport, but she had a pocketful of Council of Watchers cash and the driver seemed to know where he was going. Good enough.
Standing in front of the massive W&H building, Buffy took those agonizing last steps and pushed open the lobby doors. She walked to the Reception Desk, all her Spidey senses tingling. When the woman looked up to greet her, they were both absolutely gobsmacked. Spike would be so proud of her for actually getting the word right in context. “Harmony! What the hell are you doing here?”
Harmony tried to stay cool. She and Buffy hadn't been friends in high school, but still, it was nice to see a familiar face. She also tried to be professional, because that was her job. “Hey, Buffy! Nice to see you… oh, and by the way? Thanks so much for saving the world, ‘cause you know, if you hadn’t? Then, like… we wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t have this terrific job. I’m Angel’s personal assistant, you know… and…”
Buffy cut her off before the blathering made her ears bleed… and Angel’s name was as good a place as any. “Harmony, I need to see Angel… where is he?” Harmony seemed pretty hyper, and Buffy needed to get on with this. She could see Spike in her mind’s eye, bouncing on the balls of his feet with impatience; hear him muttering words like ‘bint’ and ‘bloody hell’ with perfect clarity. Gods, she missed that! Gathering her wits about her, Buffy said, “Bloody hell, Harmony… just tell me where I can find Angel!!!
Harmony stopped her twittering and had the strangest expression on her face. Shocked wouldn’t be inappropriate. She just pointed towards the bank of elevators in the rear of the Lobby, and Buffy was off like a shot.
There was a directory posted to the left of one of the cars, and Buffy scanned it for Angel’s office. She stepped into the next available elevator, pushed the button and took another calming breath as the door closed. Soon, she thought… soon… what? She really had no clue as to how this was going to pan out.
Stepping out onto the third floor was impressive. Lots of lovely, plush carpeting… but no people. Empty. “Hello! Is anybody there?” she called. It seemed to echo in the empty halls. Empty offices, light streaming through impressively sized windows. No place for a vampire to hide.
Feeling that little warning tingle in the back of her neck, Buffy spun around to come face to chest with an extremely familiar patch of red silk. Looking up, she was confronted with a green skinned, red horned, red eyed, smiling demon. Dressed in her outfit- minus the kicky boots – right down to the black leather pants! Buffy lost it. The giggles started deep in her gut and just bubbled out of her, loud and strong.
Amused, Lorne said, “Hey there, you delightfully dressed petite four. You seem to be in a good mood. My name’s Lorne. What can I do for you?”
Only in LA, Buffy thought, would you find a demon with her fashion sense. Trying to stop laughing enough to speak, Buffy said, "Hi, I'm Buffy, and I need to speak with... "
Lorne’s demeanor changed immediately. “Oh, crumpet, the vamp you're searching for isn't here right now."
"You know me?" asked Buffy.
"Hells bells, sweetness... everyone knows you! Buffy... THE Slayer who saved the world!”
Buffy's face crumpled at that, and she began to sob... quietly at first... then deep, stomach wrenching wails.
At the sound of the woman’s distress, Wesley came running out of his office. “Lorne, what’s the… Buffy? Is that you, dear?”
At the sound of her name, Buffy’s tear streaked face looked up into the kindly blue eyes of someone she couldn’t quite place… and then realized it was her old new Watcher. But what a difference a couple of years had made! No longer the tweedy little nerd, but a more ruggedly handsome and weary version of the man she once despised.
“Wesley? Is that you? My god, I’d have passed you by in the street!” Sniffling, she accepted his extended hand and stood up.
“It seems as if time has changed us all, Buffy. What brings you here to Wolfram & Hart? Are you looking for Angel? Why are you crying?” Wes would have said more, but the sound of a throat being cleared behind them stopped him cold.
Buffy swiped at her eyes, drying the tears, and turned around… sudden anger screaming from her every pore. The face she turned on Angel wasn’t one of sweetness and light, and everyone quailed before her. A Slayer pissed was a formidable sight, indeed.
“Hello, Angel. Long time no see,” she spat. “Anything new?”
If at all possible, Angel paled before her. She was certainly a vision… dressed like a miniature version of Spike; all black leather and red silk.
Buffy continued. “So… how’ve things been since I left California? I’ve met some interesting new Slayers… all over Europe. Been a busy little bunny. How about you? Meet anyone new and interesting? Old and annoying? How’s the family?” Buffy was gunning for him, and didn’t seem to be running out of ammunition any time soon.
"We've spoken on and off for the past half year, Angel... are you sure there isn't anything you might have neglected to mention? Something that I might have been interested in hearing? Someone I might have wanted to drop by and see?"
The venom was just dripping off of each syllable, and Lorne and Wes were paralyzed... couldn't have looked away had they wanted to. Angel shook his head slightly, snapping out of his daze. Walking towards her, he said, “Buffy… can we take this into my office? There’s a lot we need to discuss, and it’s really not appropriate to…”
At his attempt to herd her into the privacy of an office, Buffy pulled away and screamed. “Who the bloody hell do you think you are, Angel? Lord and Master of all you survey? Owner of lives? Maker of paths? Where the fuck do you get off keeping something as HUGE as Spike’s resurrection a secret from me? Don’t even get me started on how pissed off I am at the Bleached Menace, himself, for not calling me, but…”
A light went on in Buffy’s head, stopping her speech, cold. “You never told him where I was, did you? He had no clue how to reach me! You were manipulating everyone, weren’t you? Why do you have to be such a damned control freak? I’m not sixteen anymore, Angel. I can and do make my own decisions on a daily basis. I make decisions for all those new Slayers, Angel. Where the hell do you get off playing God with us all?” Buffy broke at that, the tears starting again, in earnest.
Flinching from Angel’s touch, Buffy turned to Lorne… for some reason she derived immense comfort from his embrace. “There, there, crumpet… it’ll be fine. Calm down, and let the gelled one try and explain.”
Silently, Buffy straightened and followed Angel into his office, locking the door behind them. Her bout of hysteria over for the moment, she was willing to listen to what Angel had to say before tearing into him again. Trying hard to contain her anger, she said, “Fine, Angel. Tell me. Tell me why you’ve gone all closed-mouthy on me. Why you kept Spike’s resurrection from the last person to have seen him as he burned to ash!” Buffy’s voice raised in volume as she tried to tamp down her urge to shake Angel to within an inch of his unlife. Crossing her arms primly over her chest, she settled back in the chair for him to begin.
Angel took an unneeded breath and began the saga of Spike. He told Buffy all about the amulet arriving in an unmarked envelope, Spike’s emergence as a spectral figure, told her of how Spike had asked about her and the others immediately, his brush with hell, the efforts involved in recorporealizing him. Of course, he left out the bits about how he hadn’t personally gone out of his way to help his wayward grandchilde; she’d have known, anyway. He apologized for not letting her know… claiming that he didn’t want her upset all over again if Spike had slipped away for good. Mentioned the Shanshu prophesy, the false Cup of Eternal Torment, and the fact that Spike no longer resided at W&H.
Her eyes glazing over as Angel went on and on, Buffy snorted delicately. And she thought her life was a soap opera… man, Angel was describing a Fellini movie! Trying to keep all the facts straight, she said “Fine, Angel. So life’s been a living hell. Been there, done that, have all the freaking t-shirts. Just tell me why I haven’t…”
At that moment, there was a loud commotion from the hallway, and both Angel and Buffy turned towards the doors as they fell from their hinges. They heard him before they saw him…
“What the bleedin’ hell is going on, Angel?” came from the bleached blond tornado in black leather. Saying he stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Buffy sitting there would have been an understatement.
Buffy got up from the chair, and slowly walked over to the agitated vampire. Staring deeply into his shocked eyes, she raised her hand to his face, lovingly caressed his pronounced cheekbones, then drew back and slapped him as hard as she could.
Lorne and Wes had silently crept into the office to stand with Angel. All three stared at the double blond vision in black leather and red fury.
Spike brought his hand to his cheek, hardly feeling the sting. “At least you didn’t go for the nose, luv,” he said, as he opened his arms to enfold his weeping Slayer into his embrace.
Pulling back from the cradle of sanctuary she'd never thought to find again, Buffy whispered, "How, Spike? How could you not let me know?" Waiting for his answer, once more wrapped in Spike's protective hug, Buffy asked the other question that had been tickling the back of her mind. "Spike? How do you feel? Andrew told me what happened to you... what Dana did... oh God, Spike... are you all right?"
Grinning like a madvamp, Spike held up his hands and said, "Look Buffy - everything up my sleeves!" The other answer, to Buffy’s “How?” would have to come at another time.
No room left for rational thought, he nuzzled into Buffy’s neck, breathing in her familiar scent, and closed his eyes. For the moment, he was in Heaven, and everything else faded into oblivion.
Okay folks, this is my first real attempt at actual dialogue, so bear with me.
ETA: Now beta'd for your reading pleasure.