What Life Through Yonder Window Breaks
They stopped for Chinese take-out at The Golden Buddha, and placed their dinner order: spicy Kung Pao chicken for Spike, chicken and broccoli for Buffy, and chicken chow mein for Xander. Side dishes, too – an assortment of comfort yummies: fried wonton, spareribs, roast pork fried rice, eggrolls and the ubiquitous fortune cookies. Enough food to gorge an army with, or at least three people talking about their future plans.
The walk back to Spike’s apartment was made in companionable silence. She smiled to herself, at what a picture they must have made. Arm-in-arm-in-arm, Buffy in the middle. Two men and a Slayer. For a moment, she felt like a protected little girl, linking arms with the man she loved on one side, and her oldest male friend on the other. It had been a long time since she’d felt so cared for.
Unlike previous times in her life, she didn’t equate the sense of security and protection as personal weakness. These two men weren’t telling her that she needed looking after, that she was weak and incapable. They were adding their strength and love to hers, lifting her up beyond her own sense of self. It was a good, solid feeling; one she hoped wouldn’t be soon lost.
She almost gave in to the desire to skip down the block.
Once inside the apartment, Spike bypassed the tiny kitchen, opening all the food containers at the livingroom table. Buffy brought out paper plates and cups and Xander pushed the table away from the couch so that the three could sit down comfortably on the floor.
They prattled on as they ate – basic small talk about travel and Slayers at large. The vampire regaled everyone with what he’s called “Hair Gel Tales from the Evil Empire,” Buffy told them all about Dawn’s thriving in Rome, and her growing competency with ancient human and demon languages.
Finally, Xander broke the peaceful reverie with a loud, soul-satisfying belch. “Ooops, sorry folks. Think I’ve just reached my food limit. Which is of the good, seeing that there’s no more food to be had.” Rolling his shoulders to loosen an odd kink or two from sitting on the ground, he said: “I’ve got a few things I’d like to talk about with both of you.
“Buff, you asked me if I had plans to go back to Africa. I could do that – I was going to, as soon as Sela was with Giles, like I said before. I couldn’t think of a single reason to stay here one moment longer than necessary. I sure hadn’t planned on spending time with you, even once I’d heard you were here.”
With a sad smile, she said, “I understand, Xander. We’d stopped reaching out to one another. I mean, we all left for different continents, for crying out loud. It was just too easy to let everyone and everything else go.”
“Yeah, but this is old territory between us. The new and improved info is what’s important. When Spike popped up behind you – well, you saw my reaction.”
Spike snickered. “Yeah, git – tried to change my sexual preference in one easy lesson.”
“Ha ha, Fangboy, very funny, but you’re not gonna make me stray from my path here. What I wanted to say was that for the first time since Anya died, and probably a while before that… I felt a connection to someone else. I wanted to talk to you, Spike – to find out what happened to you. It mattered to me.
“And as for you, Buff – you practically glowed walking out of that elevator. You looked so much like the girl I fell head over heels for outside of Sunnydale High.”
“I remember Willow telling me something about you and a skateboard, and a handrail,” the blonde giggled. “Guess I really did knock you off your feet.”
“You were a knockout, in that most literal of senses, and it’s taken almost eight years to see you that carefree again. I think it’s worthwhile sticking around to enjoy your company, if you and Spike don’t mind.”
“Told you before mate, not a problem for Buffy’n me. S’just you need a place to stay. In a pinch, you can kip here for a night, but we’d be like three peas in a very tight pod.”
“Es no problemo – the Xan-man can always find a place to stay. And did I just revert to high school geek boy talk? I am so ashamed I hang my head,” he groaned.
Pushing away the remnants of her dinner, Buffy scooted over to her favorite vampire, who lifted the petite blonde and settled her into his lap. Leaning back against his chest, she sighed, wistfully.
“You know, it’s been only a few days since the world has changed for us all, and I’ve been too caught up in just being happy to give any thought to what comes next.” Chewing lightly on her bottom lip, she continued. “I left my sister and my whole existence in Rome dangling when I flew here. I mean, it wasn’t a difficult decision to make,” she said, softly stroking Spike’s cheek. “I had to see for myself that he’d come back.”
As if seeking to reaffirm his presence, Buffy burrowed her face into the crook of the vampire’s neck and hugged him until he practically creaked.
“Bloody hell, pet,” he winced. “M’not goin’ anywhere soon. Have some mercy on the ribs.”
“What’s the matter, baby? Can’t you take a little lovin’?”
“From you, Slayer? Any time,” he said, pressing little butterfly kisses up and down the smooth column of her exposed neck.
Clearing his throat, Xander said, “Do I have to get out the fire hose, people? You’re raising the ambient temperature in this room by leaps and bounds, and I’m not the one who needs to worry about combusting here.
“Now that I have your attention, I’ve got a couple of ideas I’d like to explore with you both. Seems to me that before your smoochfest a moment ago, Buffy was heading in my direction, in that ‘where do we go from here’ way. Without all the singing and dancing, of course.
“Looks like none of us have any real direction right now, other than a desire to do the right thing. Guess that’ll be our reason d’etre until we die… and don’t come back. None of us trust Wolfram & Hart and nobody’s comfortable with the idea of working side by side with Angel and his crew. But we do trust each other.
“We’ve also worked with each other for years, so there’s a sense of what works and what doesn’t, and nobody has anything left to prove. I think we have the makings of a business venture at hand, and I’d like to know what you guys think before I continue to speak until I run out of words.”
Looking at Spike for confirmation before she replied, Buffy cracked her knuckles. “Xan, I’m willing to see what you have in mind, and Spike is willing, too. The sooner he disassociates himself from Angel, the better it’ll be for all of us. I’d love for us to be able to stand on our own.
“When Angel moved to LA, he had a good idea… to help the helpless on a person by person basis. Cordy helped him form his efforts into a viable business. I’m not thrilled with the pay for savingness of it all, but I think it’s an idea that can work. Keep it small, keep it trustworthy.”
“It’s a niche that needs to be filled,” Spike agreed, “’cause ever since Captain Forehead went corporate, the little folk lost their easy access to help.”
“Terrific!” the brunet exclaimed. “Even got a name picked out for the agency. How does Phoenix Investigations sound to you?”
“Why would you call it…” the Slayer trailed off, somewhat confused.
“Oh pet, it’s absolutely poetic. Good on you, Xander. Both of us having risen like the phoenix from death, and me, literally from ashes.”
Looking at Xander with a new sense of appreciation, Spike cocked his head. “Actually works for us all, Slayer. This isn’t the same whelp we knew in Sunnyhell. S’like the African sun burnt away the child and left a new man.”
Buffy’s hazel eyes sparkled with excitement as she rose from the blond vampire’s comfy lap and walked over to the table. Picking up a fortune cookies, she handed it to her friend. “I think we have the bare bones of something worthwhile here. Why don’t we cap off the night with the reading of the fortune cookie – and you can do the honors.”
Cracking open the cookie and reading the paper fortune to himself, Xander smiled broadly and handed it to the vampire.
After staring at the little slip of paper for a moment, Spike read it aloud. “Your future lies entwined with your most trusted companions.”
Maybe, just maybe, they were off to an auspicious beginning.
Beta'd by my sweetness, willa_writes, who did her damnedest to try and keep me on track.