Unable to handle losing heaven, and the people who anchored her to Earth, Buffy seeks out the one person who always helped her when the pain was too much to deal with - Angel. What she sees shatters what little hope she has left. Disclaimer:
BtVS and AtS belong to Joss Whedon, The Bodies is the property of Drowning Pool and Let Me Go is the property of 3 Doors Down. Author's Notes:
Buffy and Spike are only friends, and he's the only one who knows she's back. Social services forced Mr. Summers to take responsibility for Dawn. Giles moved back to England.
I've compressed the Angel timeline to line up with this story. This is a Buffy story all the way and will focus on her with a few others thrown in on the side. The only thing that won't happen is Cordelia/Connor sleepage, cuz uh, yuk.
Buffy watched Angel and some woman dressed like a comic book hero burst from an elevator. The bright red lipstick smeared across his lips told her all she needed to know about what they were doing in the closed compartment. No one noticed her standing there huddled in a large leather jacket, looking like a lost waif.
She watched them fight side-by-side. It brought back memories of nightly patrols and kisses out her bedroom window. She ignored the by-play between the woman and another man. Her eyes took in the changes in Angel. He seemed heavier than she remembered, and his eyes held this sad look of longing, which showed his desperation. What's he doing with that woman? She isn't really his type. Is he a thief now, or does he just want someone he considers a freak like him? Who could be more of a freak than me? Why didn't he come to me? How could he not know I'm back? I felt him when he came back from hell. How could he not hear me screaming for him to come to me that I needed him?
She saw his head shoot up, and then turn in her direction as if he had heard her thoughts. She faded back into the shadows, pulling on some shred of inner strength she wasn't even aware she still possessed. Her body fell into the meditation techniques Giles taught her. Before she died, before her mom got sick, before Dawn, well it seems before everything, they worked on her only allowing others to sense her when she wanted. Buffy learned to let the Slayer out in a surge of power, a slim ribbon, or cut it off completely. Her heartbeat slowed to the barest thump, blending with the building's natural noises. She drowned out not only her Slayer presence, but her own as well. Her eyes went back to Angel and the beautiful brunette of their own accord.
Angel swore he felt a familiar pull, one that reminded him of Buffy. He pushed her memory back to its place in the darkest regions of his heart and soul. He had to keep his focus on finding Cordelia.
Gwen walked back over to Angel with the Eye of Pythea swinging from her hand.
"Do you really love this girl? I mean going to all this trouble just to steal this so you can find out where she is to try to get her back. You sure I can't interest you in a different flavor?"
Buffy's heart fluttered, she pushed hard to keep it steady. Angel's stealing something to try to find me.
A slow smile broke out on her face, one of the few since her return. She took a step forward, ready to tell the love of her life she was back, when his words reached her. They completely shattered what was left of her world.
"Yes, I do. She's the most important thing in my life and I never got to tell her how I felt. Cordy's not only important to me, but she's what keeps our group together. She makes us a family."
Her heart broke in that moment; she wasn't even sure it beat anymore. Her feet moved of their own volition, taking her away from the pain. Everything I believed, fought for, lived for, died for, was a lie. No friends, no family, nothing - what do I have? Angelus asked me that and I guess that I was right - me. All I have is me.
Buffy rushed outside and quickly moved away from the building. She felt her connection to Angel stretch the further she walked away from him. It stretched until it finally snapped. All the pain, fear and anger burst from her small body in a roar that caused windows to crack and car alarms to sound.
Angel and Gwen ran outside to see what was happening. They searched the streets, but only saw a shadow as it turned the corner. He couldn't shake the feeling something was terribly wrong. Taking the Eye of Pythea, he told Gwen goodbye, and then rushed back to the Hyperion.
Several hours later found her in Las Vegas. She called Spike to tell him what had happened. He wired her money, telling her to do whatever she needed to do. The Hellmouth was quiet, but he promised to stay and watch it. He also promised not to tell anyone she was alive.
Spike had no problem with her request, since he could barely stay in the same room with the Scoobies. It angered him that after everything they'd gone through, they still didn't trust him. He knew Willow didn't tell him because he would've stopped her, but that didn't explain the others reasoning. Turn about was fair play, they didn't deserve to know she had returned. Stupid wankers, thinking the Slayer would ever get sent to Hell for saving the world.
"Slayer, just let me know how you're doing, and don't do anything stupid, like dying on me." His voice was rough with emotion, although he tried to play it cool.
"If I die, I promise you'll be the first person I'll haunt. Thanks Spike, for everything. You're a good friend."
She hung up the phone before he could say more.
After finding a reasonable hotel off the strip, she went looking for a job. She liked the hustle and bustle of Vegas. The city had its own vibe, and it called out to her. She found herself at the Tropicana Casino and Hotel where she accepted a bartender's job, with the possibility to move to the main lounge if she did well with the customers.
It didn't take Buffy long to fall into a routine. Because she was new, she had the midday shift, which wasn't the busiest, although the tips were still decent. She quickly became a favorite with the customers, who loved her natural quickness and habit of quipping. The quips weren't the same quirky ones she was famous for; they had an edge that quickly put customers in their place. As a joke, the other bartenders gave her a nametag with "Ice Princess" on it and the name stuck. Everyone called her "Ice" for short.
If anyone from Sunnydale saw her on the street, they would have to look twice to recognize her. Buffy no longer sported her California blonde look. She decided she needed a change, and went for the complete opposite, dyeing her hair a pure white with black tips; tiny braids interlaced her hair and framed her face. She wore dramatic, form-fitting clothes of silks and leathers, depending on her mood. The biggest change showed in her eyes. The once vibrant hazel no longer sparkled with love and life. They were fathomless, and although they still sparkled; they held a hard edge that warned the world not to step over the line.
The casino personal thought her nice and a good worker, but an enigma. The women wanted to hate her but found they couldn't. Buffy didn't purposefully set out to draw attention; she just couldn't help it. She didn't realize the many shields she put up only added to her appeal.
Las Vegas drew all sorts of people, with the exception of vampires and most demons. Buffy found herself with energy to burn and no outlet. She tried to go dancing, which helped, but ended up spending half the night getting rid of over-zealous men. She went to the gym early in the morning or late at night to avoid drawing attention. A break came after working at the Tropicana for a month.
A sign posted for a house singer caught her eye. Shrugging a shoulder, she walked over to take her place in line. The other people waiting were all shapes and sizes. Each practiced their songs as they waited for their turn. Several stared at the small wild-child beside them who simply leaned against the wall and closed her eyes. A song that perfectly fit the way she felt ran through her mind. The only problem she could see was if the band didn't know it. Another shrug pushed the thought away as she approached this challenge the same way she did slaying - feet first. Her turn came faster than she thought. Buffy went straight to center stage, after talking to the band.
She closed her eyes, allowing the anger she kept tightly under control to break free. Her eyes opened and a pure, husky voice filled the lounge. The entertainment manager sat up in his seat. His eyes widened as he watched the small girl on the stage belt out a hard rock song. Her body caught the beat, as hips swayed, back arched while she moved from one side of the stage to the other like a professional. Buffy lost herself in the music. Silence met the performance's end, and then everyone started clapping and shouting.
"You're hired when can you start?"
That was how she ended up in her current predicament. She loved singing with the band and bar tending. It happened the third night the band played. They opened for the main act, some guy named Lorne. Buffy had only seen pictures and thought he wore makeup, but that changed when the band ran long.
Lorne's handlers carefully kept him away from the other acts. But, tonight found him on a collision course with the Slayer, literally. They slammed into each other backstage. Their eyes grew wide when they recognized what the other was before Lorne was rushed on stage. Buffy wondered how she hadn't felt him and decided to stay for the act. What she saw she didn't like. Her spidey sense went haywire. The ones Lorne singled out to sing received special cup of coins to play on specific machines.
They took their cups over to the machines and sat down. Each player slid coins in, then pulled the lever repeatedly like a robot until they played their last coin. They stood up and walked away in a daze as if they didn't know who they were or where they were going. Buffy watched this with her anger increasing to a dangerous level. She had to leave the casino to cool off. People on the street gave her a wide berth, not sure, what it was about the small woman, but instinctively knew she was dangerous.
The AI team were still reeling over losing Cordelia. They had worked hard at becoming a team again. Angel thanked Wesley for his help finding a lead to Cordelia's whereabouts. They called a tentative truce with the understanding this was the first step toward mending their relationship.
Connor showed up one week later. He snuck into the hotel to listen to everyone talk, not wanting to admit he actually missed them. Angel caught him, and Connor surprised them both by asking if he could have his old room back.
Now, the entire team was on their way to Vegas to try to see Lorne, the last missing AI team member. Angel was determined to convince the Host to come back where he was really needed.
Now, here she was, not only about to go back on stage, but she had to contend with Angel and his team being here as well. She finally managed to sneak backstage to talk to Lorne, who told her about Lee stealing people's futures to sell on the black market. Buffy slipped back into her dressing room when she heard Angel demanding to see Lorne.
"Damnit, I don't need this not tonight," she grumbled under her breath.
Buffy went about getting dressed for her performance. Dressed in low-rise, lace-up black leather pants that showed off a toned stomach that sported a gold belly ring. Large hazel eyes looked smoky and mysterious outlined with black liner and deep red lipstick drew the eye to full plump lips. There wasn't anything to be done about Angel and with any luck; she could keep out of his way - yeah right. Looking at herself in the mirror, she saw a woman who didn't take anything from anyone, a woman who chartered her own course then sailed it.
Buffy moved to her place on the stage with her back to the audience waiting for the curtain to rise.
"Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome our very own, Ice."
The audience felt drawn to the tiny creature onstage. Muscles played under her skin as her body started to undulate to the music. A booted foot spun the tiny body with the precision of a ballerina. Some audience members caught their breaths when they heard the first husky note. Her name may be Ice but when she sang she was fire personified. Let the bodies hit the floor
Beaten why for
One - nothing wrong with me…
One - something's got to give…
Let the bodies hit the floor
Push me again
This is the end
Skin against skin blood and bone
You're all by yourself but you're not alone
Driven by hate consumed by fear
Let the bodies hit the floor
(Bodies by Drowning Pool)
Angel watched the woman's performance in shock. She looked so much like Buffy, which was impossible because she was dead. Plus, Buffy would never move or sing like that, or dress like that, not to mention her hair. Although he admitted it fit this woman, whoever she was. No, if it were truly Buffy he would know it, he would feel it.
"Man that girl's one hot chick, and damn can she sing."
Fred slapped her boyfriend who seemed unable to take his eyes off the stage.
Angel couldn't stop his eyes from wandering over the toned, yet lush body moving across the stage. When the band finished and the singer left, he wasn't alone in watching her exit.
The AI team waited excitedly for Lorne to appear. They hoped to get a chance to talk to their friend, or at least let him see them. Lee saw the group who tried to get backstage to his talent. Something told him the tall dark haired guy was the one to take out. He grabbed a waitress, and after whispering something in her ear, she headed out to the lounge.
Buffy moved backstage, at ease in the shadows, to climb up to the catwalk above the stage. Lorne handed out four special coins to the unknowing audience members. Her eyes followed only one man as he moved among the players. The way he acted as if he owned the place put her teeth on edge. An opportunity fell into her lap, and she just wasn't the type girl to let one pass her by, not anymore. Anyone looking up would have seen a flash of white before it simply disappeared.
Angel sat glued to the slot machine. "Come on lucky seven. Daddy needs a new pair of shoes."
Cordelia looked on in shock and anger. If she could stomp her foot in the land of white, she would have at that moment.
"I can't believe you. You see one glimpse of me looking happy, and we are done. I bet if it were your precious Buffy, you wouldn't have written her off so quickly. Would you stop playing that stupid machine! That's just great. I mean, what's the point of being an all-seeing powerful whachamawhoosit, if I'm not allowed to intervene? My friends are gonna die. I mean, what am I supposed to-Angel. God, look what they've done to you. If I could just get you into that room, maybe - Think, bubble head. How do I..."
Fred, Gunn and Wesley couldn't persuade him to leave the slots to go with them to see Lorne. He ignored them, acting more like a zombie than a vampire, and then he suddenly snapped out of his daze.
"What are we doing gambling? We came here to talk to Lorne, and that's what we're going to do."
He got up to stride toward Lorne's dressing room. Screams could be heard from the back room; people came rushing out. Angel ran through the doors, with the others close behind him. Sounds of fighting and bodies slamming into walls came from a room at the end of the hall. They burst in just in time to watch the sleazy manager fly across the room into a large container. It shattered, letting wisps of colored smoke free.
"No, you've ruined it all," Lee cried as he tried to gather the stolen destinies before they flew away.
Buffy looked at Lorne. "Go finish this. You started it, now you finish it."
He nodded then turned back. "Thanks, gumdrop. Will I ever see you again?" His red eyes took her in as if he was trying to memorize everything about her.
"If you need to get in touch with me, just call Willy's Bar in Sunnydale and ask for Spike. Tell him that I kept my promise and haven't died again."
She faded into the shadows, then jumped back up to the hole in the ceiling she had dropped down through. She stayed long enough to hear Lorne break the seedy manager's neck.
Things continued to go well in Vegas; the band was part of the lineup now. Their popularity continued to grow with their repertoires. Buffy learned to live in her own skin, although every once it while it still felt too tight. She hired a lawyer, but still wasn't having any luck finding her father or Dawn. It turned out Spain was a lot larger than it looked on the map. She missed her little sister, and only hoped she was okay. Spike seemed to fill her thoughts more and more lately. As if thinking of him caused her phone to ring, she picked it up.
"Slayer, mate by the name of Lorne called. Said big trouble in LA and really needs your help. You want the number or want me to call him back and tell him to wank off?"
He smiled when he heard her chuckle over the phone.
"It's okay, Spike. Lorne's cool, even if he does hang out with Angel. Give me the number, I'll give him a call. How've you been...I've missed...you...talking to you? If things are bad in LA, can you get away to lend me a hand? I'd like to have someone there I trust other than Lorne."
"Course I'll be there Slayer; don't even have to ask just tell me when and where. I'll bloody well be there with bells on."
"That would almost be worth an apocalypse to see. Let me call Lorne, and I'll call you back with the 411." She paused, then softly added, "Spike, thanks."
He looked at the phone for a few minutes before pulling out a cigarette.
"Slayer, what's going on in that pretty head of yours? If you and I show up in LA together, there'll be a second apocalypse caused by Angelus."
He shrugged, not caring what his grand-sire thought. Spike's phone rang before he even finished his cigarette.
"Can you meet me in LA tonight behind Caritas...There's a back alley behind the club...Do you know where it is? Spike, we have to hurry...Those idiots want to release Angelus to find out about the latest boogey man. If I don't get rid of the Beast before they do, then we are all screwed."
Wesley argued with Angel that Angelus was their only hope to battle the Beast. He couldn't believe his friends wanted him to do this. They didn't understand what they were asking of him. How could they even think about setting Angelus free?
Lorne slipped in just as Wesley left. His red eyes took in his friend's deep concern and fear.
"Angelcakes, can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Not now Lorne. I'm not sure I can handle one more person telling me that we need Angelus to find out about the Beast," he sighed, raking his hands through his hair.
"I just wanted to let you know I called a friend I thought could help. They agreed to come, so if you could just give them tonight before letting out your bad self, maybe everything will turn out okay."
His head shot up to look at the Host. "Who's this person and how come you've waited this long to call them for help? In case it's escaped your notice, we are trying to stop a demon we can't defeat." His voice rose with his anger.
"Don't yell at me, Angel. We've won against odds this bad before. For your information, I only met Ice when I was in Vegas where she saved my life and your Shanshu by the way. She told me to call her if I needed help, but I didn't want to if I didn't have to. So, excuse me if I tried to protect a friend from the weird that is our life."
The sarcasm dripping from Lorne's voice shocked not only Angel, but the rest of the AI team who came to see what the yelling was about.
"What's going on?" Fred asked, as she looked from Angel to Lorne in confusion.
Lorne walked away then called over his shoulder. "Ask Angelcakes, he knows what everyone should and shouldn't do. I'm out of here, kiddoes. Some of my friends are having an end of the world party with lots of alcohol."
Angel's shoulders slumped. He shouldn't have taken his frustrations out on Lorne, but unless a miracle walked through the door he had no other choice than to see if Angelus could help.
Spike hugged Buffy then stepped back to look her over and be sure she was okay. His eyes took in all the changes. She had put back on the weight she had lost before she died. Her body was toned, yet looked curved and lush. The hair and clothes suited her. She looked look like the Slayer he knew she kept carefully hidden from the world. The Buffy Summers standing in front of him was comfortable in her own skin. She had finally done it. Buffy shed all the layers of doubt, dependencies, hurt and anger. She dug herself out of her own grave a shell of her former self. Now, she's standing here a woman of purpose who knew her own mind. Spike hoped she'd let him be part of her new life.
"I think that's the quietest you've ever been around me, Spike. What's the matter, don't you like my new looks?" Buffy gave him a sexy pout.
He swallowed before he answered, "Ducks, I like you any and every way you are, and if you don't know that then you aren't as smart as I know you are. Just takin' in the changes and admiring how you've come into your own."
Buffy moved forward until her lips were next to his ears. She gave his lobe a soft lick then a tender nip with her teeth.
"I've thought about you. Thought about how you never left me, my mom or Dawn. You were always there when I needed to talk to someone, and no matter what, you always told me the truth. I've also thought how blue your eyes are, and if you kiss as good when you aren't under a spell. So, if you're open to it, I'm wondering if you want to see where else we might take this."
She circled him like a predatory cat. Spike's eyes closed while his mind and body fell into a wild fantasy. He growled before pulling her around to face him.
"Make sure you know what you're doing, luv. Once you take that step, I won't let go. I stayed with Dru for over a hundred years. I'll dog you 'til you return to your grave."
"Sounds fair to me," she purred.
Buffy licked his bottom lip then kissed him with a passion that was wild and free. They reluctantly pulled apart when they heard heavy footsteps behind them. Looking up, Spike and Buffy saw a red-skinned demon that looked as if he was made from rock. Buffy started laughing. Her hands grabbed her stomach to stop her sides from aching.
"That's got to be the dumbest looking demon I've ever seem. I mean look at him. What's he trying to do look like the devil with the horns and everything?"
"He's a big wanker though, luv. I think your laughing is getting him mad."
"Since when's that something new? Hey, Lavaboy, do you want to dance; or am I supposed to just laugh myself to death here?"
"Who are you to show no fear of me?" The Beast's gravelly voice asked not understanding this creature in front of him.
"Oh, sorry I guess we're supposed to do the whole intro thing. I'm Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and you are? I know the Beast isn't your real name, so what is it? Let me guess, Maurice? No, well what about Herman? You do kinda have that Munster kinda thing going for you. I gave you my name, now you tell me yours. In case no one told you, that's how we do things here, so give. I always like to know who I'm killing."
She gave him a huge smile but it didn't reach her eyes.
"You're a Slayer? I was not aware you and Angelus still had an alliance. We can become allies as well. You are Angelus' mate, are you not?"
"Uh, that's one great big no. Angel's got him a new honey and I scratched him out of my little black book. Well it looks like it's time for me do the big throw down."
Buffy launched herself at the Beast, drawing a short sword from her back. Surprisingly, her sword left shallow slices in the thick skin.
"Bet that hurt didn't it. You know they've got the most amazing things on E-Bay these days. You can even bid on sacred swords. This little baby was blessed daily for over a thousand years to help stop the darkness. Let's see what else my baby can do."
She flipped over the top of the Beast's head. On the way down, she cut the Beast from its neck to the base of its spine. The Beast screamed causing the ground to shake. Spike saw his opening and took it. He raced across the short distance in a blur of sped. His feet hit the red-skinned demon directly on the knee. A large pop rang out in the alley then the Beast crumbled to the ground. Buffy was on it like a pouncing tiger. Her blade seemed to be everywhere at once until it struck true taking the Beast's head.
She stood up breathing heavily. Buffy looked over at Spike then gave him a saucy grin.
"What do you say we deliver our Christmas presents early this year? When we're through, we can get back to what we were discussing earlier."
The doors of the Hyperion crashed open. The AI team immediately grabbed weapons ready for an attack as they headed for the hotel lobby. Shock was the strongest feeling but others were there as well, jealousy, confusion, hurt, wonder.
Standing in the entrance was Buffy Summers in all her newfound glory. The true shock factor was what happened next.
A large object was lobbed across the lobby to land at their feet. It was the head of the Beast.
"Is Lorne here?"
"I'm right here, gumdrop. I was just about to head out to a party. You interested? It was supposed to be an apocalypse party, but now it will just be a great big drunkest."
Lorne grinned taking in his friend's demeanor. He moved forward to pull her into a hug. Feeling her tense up, before she finally give in and hugged him back.
"Buffy." Angel finally had to admit to himself the singer in Las Vegas was, in fact, Buffy. "How, when, why didn't you tell me?" Hurt shown clearly from his dark brown eyes.
"Spell, couple of months, and it isn't your business. Now, before we get into the whole this is your life, I don't care what you people do, but Lorne's my friend, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't get him killed. Not to mention whoever thought they could get Angelus to cooperate is a fool; but again, not my problem. I've one more toy surprise for you then I'm out of here. Spike, bring her in."
The bleached blonde vampire walked in dragging a kicking Lilah Morgan.
"Oh, stop your squirming you stupid bint. Vampire, remember, not as if you can get away from me. Now, talk like a good girl, before the Slayer sees what her blessed sword will do to someone who plays for the Partners."
Lilah looked at Buffy with fear in her eyes. She searched the faces in the room before landing on Wesley.
"Wesley, help me, she's crazy. She threatened to kill me."
She tried in vain to get away from Spike's iron grasp, as she pleaded with her lover for help.
"Buffy, what's the meaning of this? I know Lilah isn't the most upstanding person, but that doesn't give you the right to threaten her life. I demand you release her, this instant."
He advanced forward, intent on getting Lilah away from Spike.
"If I were you, I'd stay where you are, shut up and listen for a while. Your little lovebird's going to sing you a pretty, little song. Oh, Wes, by the way, don't ever talk to me like that again. You were never my Watcher and I don't respect you. From what I've learned about you tonight from our girl Lil, my opinion hasn't changed. Time's a wasting, Lilah."
Her tone left no room for argument, and the evil lawyer started to speak.
"We brought the Beast here so you would take away Angel's soul to fight him."
"But he killed everyone at W&H, and you barely escaped with your life," Fred exclaimed as she pushed her glasses up.
"If you go look, you'll see we're already up and running." She heard Buffy growl behind her and the story spilled out. "Once you were Angelus, your soul would mysteriously be lost. If by some fluke, you found some way to get it back, the contingency plan was to leave clues on how to kill the Beast then offer the LA offices to you when you did. We would of course set up certain situations so the offer was more than you could walk away from, like say, a normal life for Connor when he goes over the edge thanks to Angelus."
Angel vamped out, rushing across the lobby only to be stopped by Buffy. "No, you haven't heard all of it, so just hold off on your self-righteous anger."
"Buffy, why are you protecting her? What's happened to you?"
He looked down at his lost love, but all he saw were hard hazel eyes. He saw none of the love and devotion that normally lit her eyes when she looked at him.
"Get over yourself, Angel. Tell them the rest, Lilah," she demanded.
Cordelia moved to put her hand on Angel's shoulder to calm him down. She wanted Buffy to know she and Angel were together now. Things were still rocky between them since Connor thought he was in love with Cordelia, and Angel didn't want to hurt his son. They still had the curse to contend with, but they were trying to work through it.
"Angel, just listen to what they have to say." Her voice was soft and soothing, and he nodded his head like a robot.
Buffy looked at Spike with a sparkle in her eyes. They smirked sharing the same thought. The great Angelus was no more than Queen C's trained puppy. She moved to stand closer to Spike, but slightly in front in him. He lit a cigarette, wanting nothing more than to grab Buffy and run from this place. But, she wanted to finish this with Angel, so he would help her do just that.
Lilah wondered how she got herself into this mess in the first place. She went to the Slayer after she killed the Beast, offering her Angel's deal, ownership of W&H with all the perks, even to bring her mother back to life, which was her biggest mistake. The one that almost got her killed. If it weren't for Spike, the Slayer would have torn her apart. Who knew that although the Slayer walked away from the Hellmouth she wouldn't, couldn't, be bought? It still irked her Buffy had figured out most of their plans then forced the rest out of her. Now, here she was spilling them to Angel. She wondered what part of Hell the Sr. Partners would send her.
"We put a spell on Connor so he would think he was in love with Cordelia. When the Beast finished killing the Ra-tet, it would've completed a ceremony to blot out the sun, and you would've had no choice but to bring out your big gun - Angelus. Are you getting what I'm saying here, people? We played you like chess pieces. We wanted Connor and Cordelia to sleep together. It would've sent the boy over the edge, 'cause Miss Thing over there would've rushed back to the souled Avenger. He wouldn't take her back, and it's not such a wonderful life in the world of Angel, which means it is in mine." She turned to Buffy. "Can I go now?"
Buffy nodded then moved out of the way to let the evil lawyer pass. When Lilah was even with her, she pulled her down so she could whisper in her ear.
"I'll only warn W&H this once; don't ever threaten or mess with me or mine again. Angel can fight his own battles, but I'm not part of the deal. If I ever find out you're even looking in their direction, I'll pull down that building then dig straight to Hell, and take out your Sr. Partners. Are we clear here?"
Lilah grew wide-eyed, her face paled before scurrying out the door. Buffy moved back to stand in front of Spike. This time pulling his arms around her waist, letting everyone know they were together.
Angel watched this by-play with mixed feelings. He had buried his feelings for Buffy so deep when she died; but seeing her alive and standing there with Spike, they came rushing to the fore.
"What's going on here, Buffy? Why are you with Spike, and why do you look like that? Let me help you."
She leaned her head back on Spike's hard chest and laughed.
"I don't need your help, Angel. Once, I did, but not anymore. I'm here because my friends thought they needed me, so they pulled me out of heaven. I had to dig my way out of my own grave, where Spike found me and took care of me. Dawn and Giles were gone, so stupid me, I came looking for you. I seem to remember promises of forever and love and always at my mom's funeral. I got to LA in time to see you with Electro Girl. Tell me, Angel, when you kiss her, do your lips tingle?"
Cordelia glared at him, and Angel looked everywhere but at the two women glaring at him.
"I heard the words you spoke to her Angel. Stupid me, I thought they were about me. I was about to step from the shadows, but then you said Cordy's name. Congrats, Cord, I guess when it comes to men you are the Slayer. I left and went to Vegas, where I met Lorne. He called me, told me that you were going to get in touch with you inner self and I thought, oh hell, no; so I came, killed the Beast. Now, I'm leaving, ta."
She grabbed Spike's hand to leave the Hyperion for good, when Lorne called her name.
"Ice, wait a minute. Would ya, sweetie pie?"
She turned back around, and her faced softened, giving the anagogic demon a real smile.
"What you need, big guy?"
"Would you do me one eensie weensie favor before you go? Would you sing for me? I only got to catch bits and pieces of your act when I was in Vegas because Lee kept me away from everyone."
He gave her puppy dog eyes, and shrugged. Buffy knew what he was doing, but wasn't bothered by it. No matter what anyone said, she planned to create her own destiny. She closed her eyes, allowing the world to fall away. Her husky voice filled the room. One more kiss could be the best thing
But one more lie could be the worst
And all these thoughts are never resting
And you're not something I deserve
In my head there's only you now
This world falls on me
In this world there's real and make believe
And this seems real to me
You love me but you don't know who I am
I'm torn between this life I lead and where I stand
And you love me but you don't know who I am
So let me go
Let me go
(3 Doors Down Let Me Go)
Lorne saw her past, the pain, then he saw her future, which looked bright and promising. He smiled to know his friend would be happy. He looked over at Angel and didn't like what he saw. The souled vampire didn't need to sing because his aura screamed that he considered this girl as his possession.
"Can I talk to you for a minute, gumdrop? We can just step outside for a little privacy."
Buffy walked with him out to the garden. She didn't say a word just waited to hear what he had to tell her.
"Pixie Stix, you've had some hard times, but the Powers are proud of you."
"Just tell me what you saw, Lorne. I don't need a pep talk. It's sweet of you to try, but it's not necessary."
"You don't understand, sugar plum. You've earned a free pass. Whatever you do from here on out is up to you. Your destiny is your own. The Powers have released you from their service. Ice, Buffy, you're free to make your own life. They'll activate another Slayer to watch over the Hellmouth."
He watched the emotions play over her face. It was the first time he saw her show, even a glimpse of the girl she used to be, but as soon as it was there, it was gone.
"Good, it's about time they did something other than sit on their butts while the world fell apart. Lorne, if you ever need me again, I'll always help you; but I'd rather you not involve Angel or Wesley in the mix if you don't mind. If you get a chance; come back to Vegas and see me. They put us in the regular line up. There's even talk of a record deal. Who would've ever thought I'd be singing rather than slaying?"
She kissed his cheek, then slipped back into the hotel. He watched her go, then whispered to himself and the Powers.
"Oh, sweety, you've such a bright future, but you'll never be able to just walk away from slaying. It's a part of you. At least you've learned to accept both sides and let them live in harmony; too bad Angelcakes hasn't learned to do the same."
He shook his head as he thought about the rocky road ahead for his friend.
Inside the Hyperion, Angel was trying to interrogate Spike. Wrapping his hand around the smaller vampire's neck, he pulled him up to his face.
"What've you done to Buffy? She'd never have anything to do with you. Is it a spell? Did you play on her emotions after she came back from the dead when she was confused and in pain? Tell me, boy," he roared at his grand-childe.
The AI team had never seen this side of Angel before, and it frightened them. He vamped out when they fought, but there was something different about his actions. Spike broke Angel's hold, and smashed him in the face with a hard right hook.
Cordelia screamed and Connor moved to rush to his father's defense, forgetting about his jealousy. He felt a hand on his arm holding him back. Looking down he saw the woman with the white and black hair.
"Let me go right now. I don't want to hurt you."
"Sorry, Angel Jr., but you aren't going to get in the middle. It's been a long time coming, and those two need to get it out of their systems," Buffy said in a bored voice. Connor tried to break her grip, but found he couldn't. "What are you? Why's everyone so upset with you and how do you know my father?"
"Slayer, was dead, not anymore and used to date him. Now watch the big boys fight; you might learn something. Oh, yeah, you might want to think about this. Cordelia used to feed and diaper you when you were a baby. Don't you think it's kinda gross to be lusting after a woman who once powdered your butt?"
Connor looked like he was going to be sick. It was as if Buffy's words broke through whatever feeling he had for the seer. He looked at Cordelia in a new light. His world seemed to tilt, then righted itself. Although he didn't feel love for her anymore, he still cared for as a friend. Connor looked at Buffy in a whole new light.
"Thanks, I'm not sure why no one ever talked to me like that, but I'm glad you did."
They looked back when they heard a loud crash. Spike had landed on the round sofa, splintering it. He got up with a smirk on his face, licking the blood from his split lip.
"Mmm, now we're getting somewhere. You've gone soft, Angelus, sitting here in your big hotel, waiting for the cheerleader to tell you who needs saving. I go out every night, slaying all kind of beasties, saving the innocents they'd kill, not just the ones in some stupid vision. Now, let's do this for real."
With those words, he launched himself at Angel. The larger vampire wasn't ready for the speed at which the bleached blonde vampire moved. Spike hit him feet first, sending his Grande Sire to the ground. His body flipped forward to land on top of his prey as his fists started to pound on Angel's face.
"You don't control me, Angelus. I'm not your boy, I'm not your anything. You left us long ago, and you can't pull that sire string anytime you don't like the way things are going. I'm not anyone's puppet. The Slayer isn't your business anymore, so leave us alone."
His hand swung back to level another blow when a small hand stopped it.
"Let it go, Spike. It's not worth it. He's not worth it, not anymore. Look at me, Spike." He turned to see Buffy standing there. "I'm right here. He isn't standing between us. Hell, he isn't even in the picture. Look at my neck and tell me what you see."
His azure-blue eyes peered at her neck where Angel's mark marred her golden skin. The skin was still scarred, but it didn't look any different from the ones left by the Master or Dracula. The mark didn't stand up like it used to, proclaiming to the world she was Angel's. It lay smooth against her skin.
"Touch it, Spike, and tell me what you feel."
Her hazel eyes never left his, never strayed to the dark-haired vampire who watched in anger and frustration. His pale hand tenderly caressed her slender neck feeling the smooth skin. Understanding lit his eyes before a smile crossed his face.
"Luv, why didn't you just tell me?"
"Planned on it, but thought I'd wait until we were in nicer surroundings." She smiled at him, leaning forward to give him a soft kiss. "If you're through with your big throw down, how about we get out of here? I've a really nice apartment in Vegas, and it isn't too long of a drive. You game?"
Spike got off Angel totally forgetting about the other man. He put his arm around Buffy and they simply walked out of the Hyperion.
Angel watched them go while his anger grew to an uncontrollable level. He jumped up, ready to go after Buffy. She had no business being with Spike. She was supposed to be in Sunnydale having the life he left her to have.
"Hold your horses, Angel Lips," Lorne called out. "Ice is none of your business, and the Powers won't be happy if you interfere."
"Just what do you think you're doing? Don't tell me you're planning on running after Buffy? So what if she's with Spike? That girl has never had the best of taste when it came to men," Cordelia yelled at the exact same time.
He looked from Lorne to Cordelia. "Lorne, what do you mean the Powers won't be happy?" he asked, ignoring Cordelia knowing he'd pay for it later.
The Host knew the souled vampire had a hard road ahead of him, but he needed to get back on track. Angel had to learn he couldn't control other people's destinies, only his.
"Buffy's been released as a Slayer. The Powers have rewarded her for services rendered. Her destiny is her own, now. You, on the other hand, are about to move further away from yours. You're so wrapped up in everyone else's lives, you've ignored your own. You're supposed to be seeking atonement for your past. Where did you ever get the idea you know what's best for everyone else? In other words, get off you high horse and quit meddling in other people's lives, starting with Buffy. She isn't your business anymore. You gave up that right, when you walked away. Her future's looking brighter every day, but you aren't part of it, so let her go."
Angel growled at the thought of Buffy's future including Spike. The words escaped his mouth, before he could pull them back.
"I marked her. Spike has no right to even think of touching her."
Cordelia saw red at those words. She stormed over to stand in front of Angel.
"What about me, Angel? What about you telling me that you loved me? Was it all just a lie because you thought your precious Buffy was dead?"
"Cordy, no, I do love you. But, you have to understand I have to protect Buffy. It doesn't take anything away from my feelings for you."
His eyes softened as he looked at her, trying to get her to understand. He loved Cordelia; she was perfect for his life, but Buffy was the reason he did any of this.
Lorne shook his head as he watched Angel create the first tear in the life he had created here. He only hoped the souled vampire would realize what he was doing before it was too late.
Cordelia turned, walking slowly up the stairs to her room. She prayed Angel would call her back or follow after her, but he did neither. Tears fell down her cheeks as she felt her heart begin to break. She loved Angel and had believed he loved her. Tonight showed her another side of him, one that hadn't let go of his obsession with Buffy Summers.
Angel watched her leave. He wanted to go after her, but found himself frozen in place. He was torn between his emotion for Cordelia and Buffy. His demon screamed that he couldn't allow his grande-childe to take what was theirs. Angel knew he and Buffy had no future, and that he wanted one with Cordelia, but didn't know what to do.
They crashed into her bedroom after racing back to Vegas. Neither wanted to stay in LA any longer than necessary. They wanted to start their relationship where Buffy had started her new life.
Buffy watched him sleep beside her. He looked so innocent with his hair tousled into soft curls. She smiled feeling truly alive for the first time in a very long time. She realized that coming back from heaven was horrible, but it also gave her a chance at a new life. She had felt hopeless, dead, lost. She knew something had to give or she wouldn't survive. The Powers had finally smiled down on her, allowing her the opportunity to create a future, not as the Slayer, their plaything, but because of the person she was inside.
Yes, something had to give, and for once, it wasn't her. The End