Gift With Purchase - Dawn
Waving Spike's letter wildly in the air, Dawn shrieked. "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God! Andrew... get in here!!!"
“What’s up, my little Buttercup?” Andrew peeked around the door, standing just outside of her room as if he were afraid to step inside.
Dawn bounced in her chair. “I just got an early Christmas prezzie from Spike and Buffy. Look!! A round trip ticket to Los Angeles! Oh my God – I’ll finally get to see Spike. And Buffy, of course. And Xander, too. I so can’t wait.”
Andrew slowly walked over to the excited teenager, and put a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“That’s so cool, Dawn. I’m very happy for you.” He kept his head turned, so she wouldn’t see the sadness in his eyes, but the little quiver in his voice was enough to give himself away.
She frowned. “What’s the matter Andrew? I thought you’d be happy for me. You know how badly I’ve been wanting to see Spike, and spending the holiday with Buffy and Xander and… oh!”
“I am happy for you, honest I am. It’s just… well,” he muttered, ducking his head, “I’m gonna miss you. I thought we’d be together for Christmas – you know, like have a Muppet Christmas with the snow and the roaring fireplace and the mulled wine.”
Frowning, Dawn realized she hadn’t given a thought to what the little pest was gonna do for the holidays. He had no family, and no real friends. He tried so hard to fit into the Council mold, but he was still geeky to be around, and ended up annoying everyone after less than five minutes. Except her. Seems the constant exposure of having lived with him for months took the edge off the annoyance factor.
“There’s always Giles,” she lamely offered. “I’m sure he’d love to have some company for the holidays.”
“No, no – it’s alright, little one. You go off on your grand adventure and enjoy the good times with the VamPyre and the Slayer and the Recruiter. We can get together when you come back.” He turned to go, walking out of her room so very slowly.
Dawn caved. “Hey, Andrew – wait up!” she called, running after him. Luckily she caught him at the edge of the hallway. “I’ve got a great idea. You’ve been working really hard and I’m sure Giles wouldn’t mind if you took a couple of weeks off during the holidays.”
“Nah,” he said, shoulders slumped dejectedly. “Just gonna stay around here and work on the files. Someone needs to do it and everyone else will be with family.”
“Well, if you don’t mind, I’ve got an early Christmas prezzie for you, too.” She grinned at the startled but hopeful look on his face. “How’d you like to come with me to California? You can surprise Spike again, and I’m sure he’ll be happy to see the man responsible for reuniting him and Buffy.”
She could see him struggling to hold back a huge, cheesy grin. “Do you really mean that, Dawnie? You’re not just pulling my leg here, or feeling sorry for me? I don’t need pity presents you know.”
“Nah, the more the merrier. I’d kinda like your company, too. You’ve grown on me over the last year, and I think we work well together. We can help the gang set up their new investigations agency. Cool? You accept my gift?”
“You’ve made me the happiest Junior Watcher this side of the Atlantic, my fellow co-worker.” He quickly wiped the tears from his face. “I’ll see you later. I – I have a meeting to go to now, but thanks. For everything.”
“You’re very welcome, Andrew,” Dawn murmured, and planted a small kiss on his cheek before walking away.
They both walked on to their respective destinations, each a little lighter due to the holiday spirit in their hearts.
Bedeviled - Angel
“Always do the right thing.” This was the motto he’d tried to live by for the past nine years; from the moment Whistler had shown him the next Slayer to be called, a sixteen year old innocent named Buffy Anne Summers.
He’d tried to lead her and protect her and train her in ways to protect her life. In doing so, he’d put that very life at risk by falling in love with the girl. A seventeen year old nymphet with fists that could take down a building had given him a perfect moment of happiness, and Angelus was back on the scene.
The world got lucky, no thanks to him, but in part due to his erstwhile childe, Spike. That soulless bastard had conspired with Buffy to take Angelus out of the picture, and consigned him to the very hell he’d tried to bring on Earth through Acathla.
He’d walked out on a heartbroken eighteen year old Buffy and Sunnydale, telling himself that he’d left her for her own good – that she needed a normal boyfriend to keep her in the sunshine, to possibly marry and have children with. He’d not left her for the likes of Spike. Hell, if he’d wanted her to wind up with a vampire, he’d have stayed in Sunnydale, himself.
It’s not that he ever expected to be truly happy. He’d left behind the woman he loved, for one thing. He’d kept tabs on her for the next few years, until her death. Of course, he’d also heard that Spike was still around, but couldn’t hurt humans so he’d just written him off as useless.
Apparently, upon her resurrection, Buffy did not. True enough, she’d fucked him and fucked with him until Spike had broken, but the anger over their physical relationship had left its jealous mark. It wasn’t what he wanted for her.
He, Angel, was the vampire with a soul. That’s the way it had been for over a hundred years. Prophesied to become human. Surrounded by and supported by a stalwart band of supportive friends turned family.
Until he fucked it all up by first sleeping with Darla, and leaving her with child. The highest and lowest moments in his lifetime all wrapped up in a pretty pink package; a son, Connor. Ripped from his arms when his past stepped up to bite him on the ass.
He’d returned, of course – as a sullen, snarling teenager, twisted into a parody of hatred and devotion, nicknamed The Destroyer. And he lived up to his name with a vengeance.
The only way to save his life was to end it, he’d felt. The deal he made with Wolfram & Hart allowed Connor a new life, happy with normal human parents. It was the right thing to do, to wipe his son from the minds of the world, folding time and space and changing things forever. Except for him. Once again, he alone would remember and suffer.
The quick trip to Sunnydale with the amulet provided by W&H was also the right thing to do. He’d intended on wearing it in the final battle with the First, once more Buffy’s champion. When he’d gotten there, he found the world had shifted on him, as well.
He’d found a tired twenty 23 year old woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders and an ensouled Spike in her heart. She’d refused his help, taking the amulet and giving it to that William-come-lately. Foisting him off with some sad analogy of unbaked cookies and maybe laters.
Delighted when Buffy and company showed up at his office, battered and aching but alive – finding out that Spike had dusted in saving their lives and the world was… a bonus. So he wasn’t perfect, just happy to have the bleached menace out of Buffy’s life and out of his hair.
The arrival by amulet of the now you see him, now you don’t ghost Spike drove him to distraction. Doesn’t anyone stay dead? The anger he felt at Spike’s immediate desire to find out about the Sunnydale crew and Buffy led him to withhold that information out of spite. No way was he going to be responsible for bringing those two back together again.
“Do the right thing” had become a whole new grey experience.
Gods, he should have drained Andrew dry when he’d shown up as the new Council’s emissary and expert. This was all his fault. If he’d only kept his fool mouth shut, Buffy would never have found out that Spike was unliving once more. She’d never have come to his office, and she would never have been seduced away by that smooth bastard.
He’s got his corporate spies everywhere these days. Found out that Xander-fucking-Harris had jumped aboard the Spike loving train, and the three of them had the audacity to set up a copy-cat investigations company. Phoenix Investigations, indeed. How damned pretentious could they be?
With all the resources he had at his disposal, did they think they could do a better job of things than him? He could crush them like a bug under his thumb and not give them a second thought.
But he won’t. Not now, not today. He still cares for Buffy; it would break her to lose Spike again, and she’s always been attached to the boy.
He sits isolated in his office, signing papers and delegating tasks to his staff. He takes cases based on monetary value to the company and not necessarily on need, and he wonders…
Why they don’t ask him to join them?
Beloved Irritant - Buffy
The motel in Oxnard was nothing to write home about, not that there was a home anymore after the town collapsed. Their wounded had been tended to, room assignments had been issued and the intrepid band of warriors dispersed for the night. They were in desperate need of down time before heading to Los Angels in the morning.
Buffy was too wired to sleep, had too many thoughts wrestling for notice in her head. She needed time to think, to work out a plan for the coming days and to remember in private the man who’d sacrificed everything for her – no, not just her, for the world’s continued existence.
She recalled the night he blew into her life like a dust storm, leaving grit beneath her skin. She’d been dancing at the Bronze, surrounded by a mindless throng of undulating dancers. Pounding music, sweating swaying bodies – all thoughts of slaying blotted out by sheer sensation. She could count on one hand the number of actual nights off she’d allowed herself from her life as the Chosen One.
As she’d moved her body in time to the music – eyes closed, head thrown back in pleasure, she’d felt the tingling sensation on the nape of her neck and the pit of her stomach that alerted her to possible danger – that she was being watched. Scanning the room, a cursory glance found nothing amiss. No more than five seconds later, a hottie in a black leather duster called out to the crowd for help – “Where's the phone?” he’d said. “I need to call the police. There's some big guy out there trying to bite somebody.”
Of course she’d trotted out to the alley, like a good little Slayer and dusted the vampire, who’d called out “Spike! Gimme a hand.” before going poof. She’d looked up at the sound of clapping, to see the hottie from the Bronze – Spike, walking towards her. The conversation that followed would be forever imprinted in her memory.
Spike: Nice work, love.
Buffy: Who are you?
Spike: You'll find out on Saturday.
Buffy: What happens on Saturday?
Spike: I kill you.
Spike had once mentioned that she was like a raspberry seed in his teeth; small, annoying and impossible to get rid of. He, of course, was like wet sand in a bathing suit; irritating as hell, and next to impossible to shake off.
In the years that followed their first meeting, Buffy recalled other fights, chance meetings, reluctant truces and begrudged amnesty. They’d tried to kill each other and ignore each other. In the end, they’d watched each other’s backs and been each other’s touchstone.
Clasped hands in flames, they’d stared into each other’s eyes. Words of love had been spoken by her and gently rebuffed by him. She’d left as he requested, joining her friends in their flight towards safety.
Now, she thought, Spike’s words in back of The Bronze had been prophetic. He’d left her the way he’d arrived, as dust she’d never be able to remove from her skin.
She closed her eyes and thought she would die from his loss.
Angel - Drawn From Memory
When he’s sure Spike is asleep, Angel slinks back into the small, dark infirmary room, and pulls a chair up to the side of the bed. He’s brought his sketchpad and some soft graphite sticks, but as yet, he just observes the still figure in complete repose.
Angel remembers, all too clearly, many nights just watching Spike, then William, peacefully curled up next to him in his bed, after a long night of pain and pleasure. Fully sated, his Will looked like a rumpled angel; face slack with pleasure, a small smile curling his lips upward. Ghosting his fingers over Will’s smooth skin, Angel recalled aching to touch, to caress, to stroke to full hardness... to awaken the devil once more. Instead, he’d crawl silently out of bed, pull out his sketchpad, and commit the beauty before him to paper, never wanting to forget…
Brought back to the present by a small shift in the figure sleeping before him, Angel realized a new sketch was unnecessary. He could draw Spike from memory, just by closing his eyes.
His reflective mood was immediately shot, when, from the direction of the bed came in deep, fuck me tones… “Oi, ponce… quit the brooding and cuddle up,” followed by a weak slap to his head. “Seems I’ve got some motor function comin’ back, and I want to share.”
Quickly, Angel shucked his clothing, pulled up a corner of the blanket and slipped into bed. Once more enfolded in his grandsire’s arms, the pair of angels slept like the dead.
Buffy - Feelings
Attempting to turn over in her sleep, Buffy awakens to the sensation of being stuck. Notices that she’s being held against something firm and cool… Spike! She smiles at the realization. He’s back… really, really back.
They’re both fully dressed, having fallen asleep in the middle of an hours long conversation. They’d agreed that while sex would have been a delightful release, they were too unsure of what they really meant to each other to risk obscuring the exploration with old patterns.
Taking the time to see the man in her arms, Buffy started from the top. Beautiful mess of bedhead curls, long, sooty eyelashes quivering as he dreamed, beautiful lips still slightly swollen from the one physical act they allowed themselves. Strong arms encircling her waist, angry pink scars running around both forearms… reminding her of what was almost lost. She would never take comfort in his arms again without being grateful.
Such a new thing for them… restraint, and not in that hands chained overhead to the bedboard kind of way. To look and to see, to observe and to feel... to connect.
This time, it would be real.
Andrew - True Happiness
Laughing to himself, Andrew couldn’t help but enjoy the feeling of having done something truly good and selfless. Buffy had called early in the morning, his time… to thank him once more. Spike had commandeered the phone for a moment, to playfully growl about secrets and lies… and thanked him, too.
Ahhh… the pleasures of doing the right thing. Good thing he wasn’t Angel. True happiness should be savored.
Spike - Someone’s Been Sleeping
For a man who was an unrequited virgin when he was turned, for a vamp who hadn’t gotten any in over a year… he certainly spent a lot of time with bed buddies these days. First? Angel. Healing the past, cementing the future. Drawing strength from the old bonds.
Just as important; Buffy! It was almost more than he could bear. Almost, mind. No longer insane, after all.
The lack of sex, itself, wasn’t disturbing. He was more sated than even the most acrobatic and lengthy acts had left him. He was forgiven his trespasses, accepted for self, wanted for comfort and needed for existence.
Shanshu who? Unlife was good.
Willow - Nice and Easy
When Willow awoke to a clear blue sky and brightly shining sun, she decided to take advantage of an all too rare occurrence. She packed a straw basket with all the essentials for a picnic lunch, loaded her small, orange ragtop Volkswagon, and headed out. She had been visiting Giles, in Bath… but he was chairing yet another round of meetings, trying to organize the new Slayers Academy as well as the revamp the Watchers organization. It just meant she had no commitments and could spend the day reading in the countryside. Nice and easy.
Heh, she thought to herself. Nice and easy. So many different things that phrase has meant to her over the years. When she was a sophomore at Sunnydale High, her schoolwork was nice and easy. No trouble for the little geek she was. Personal life sucked beyond the telling of it. Except for Xander, she had no real friends until Buffy arrived.
Nice and easy in her college years; well, her relationship with Tara blossomed, and things between them were nice and easy… they just fit well together. Nice and Easy also allowed her to brighten up her red hair a shade or two. Just to rev up the tone a bit, and she always got a chuckle out of buying the brand.
When all hell broke loose, under the guise of Glory, her magicks made things nice and easy. Always looking for a shortcut, something to ease the way; to show Buffy she could help. To do things better than… well, Giles, she thought. She wanted to show that she was a grown up, and talented and special.
Then Buffy took a swan dive off the tower. Nothing was nice and easy after that.
Stretched out on her blanket, on the warm grassy plain, looking up at the cloudless sky, Willow remembered it all. How she reveled in her leadership when it all started. Strong Willow, telling everyone what to do, where to go, how to survive. Got the Buffybot up and slaying, just a few odd programming glitches that sent Spike into varying degrees of depression or rage. She still feels twinges of regret at that… she had found it so nice and easy to wind the vamp up; make him pay for ever having made the bot in the first place. For assuming he had a right to hang with them, or have a relationship of ANY kind with Buffy. Now that he had paid for their lives with his, she could only mourn the lost chances at true friendship.
Leadership weighed her down, far too soon after assuming Buffy’s mantle. Had to make things easier, make them like they used to be… when Buffy was their leader. Nice and easy. Easier, anyway. Arrogant witch that she was… everything was so clear then.
Willow frowned… even to herself, it all sounds so insanely stupid now. Resurrection. Giles was right. She could admit it, now. Rank, arrogant amateur. Couldn’t live life as it unfolded. Had to make everything nice and easy. Turned it into a freakin’ disaster. Buffy suffered for her conceit, as did everyone in turn. An unhappy Slayer made for a miserable entourage.
These days, thanks to the help of the coven in Devon, her new responsibilities towards the Watchers and Slayers… Willow has learned the true meaning of inner peace.
She places her hands on the cool grass, takes a deep breath, and lets the past go. These days, she takes things nice and easy.