Author: kcarolj65

Summary: Angel wants to see the real reason why Buffy sends him back to LA (during Chosen).
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon and ME own everything and everyone in this story. I just play with them.

He's not really following her, though anyone watching would have thought so. It's not as if he needs to make sure she'll be safe; Miss Cookie Dough with her cool axe-thing made it very clear she doesn't need him to hold her hand. She doesn't even want him fighting by her side in her current apocalypse. Doesn't need him.

Actually, she does, and she knows it. She just doesn't need him enough.

Angel wants to see the reason why. The real one.

So he follows that well-remembered scent to where it's strongest, crouches beside the basement window, and peers in.

The reason why pummels a punching bag with quick, sharp jabs hard enough to shatter human ribs, pausing only when Buffy descends the stairs. Hooded blue eyes flash jealous hurt while his mouth snarks out crude innuendo: so typical of him. Angel's seen this play a thousand times; he knows all the lines and inflections.

But familiarity doesn't make Spike's pain any less bittersweet to watch. The corners of Angel's mouth curl upward minutely. He's missed this.

Spike holds out his hand for the amulet, puppy-eager beneath the grudging tone. This too is something Angel recognizes, and he leans forward, avid, cruelly enjoying what he knows must come and ashamed that he enjoys it. Buffy doesn't disappoint: she explains softly, slowly, hesitating. Spike's face falls and his hand drops to his side. The bleached-blond head bows.

Angel blinks. Blinks again, hard. Stares.

Who is that?

That chastened creature, with the grace to endure his shame and accept its justice is someone Angel has never seen before, someone he cannot identify.

He suddenly needs to breathe.

The idea of Spike With A Soul jarred his world askew. The actuality of it is more than his mind can wrap around.

And it's about to get worse. Or, perhaps, better. More interesting, certainly.

Because, without another word, Buffy spills the amulet into Spike's hand.

Angel's gut clenches, the way it does when you're about to fall, and then relaxes. It's already done, and he can't do anything to change it.

But he can watch.

He leans forward, quivering with anticipation. He wants to see this.

He waits.

Spike tilts his head into Buffy's palm and blinks slowly at her. Angel shifts impatiently.

Surely Spike won't squander this opportunity. Any moment now the blond vampire will gather Buffy in his arms and kiss her soft and gentle, or hard and demanding - it doesn't matter, because either way it'll be wonderful, and he wants to see.

He knows what kissing Buffy is like, can still taste her on his lips. Her mouth hasn't changed much since the first time he kissed her, years ago. Lifetimes ago. The fresh innocent flavor is gone forever, but her new taste is just as intoxicating, only in a different way. Still sweet. Still Buffy.

He's never kissed Spike. Done everything else imaginable to him, with him, but not that. He'd denied himself the touch of that silky mouth on his, because the consequences would have been unbearable, and had had to experience it vicariously. By watching. After all, he was the ultimate vampire.

Fledgling William had kissed Drusilla in so many ways, passionate, playful, cajoling, vengeful - all of them tinged with desperation, an aching desire to draw an elusive something from the depths of her. Or, failing that, to press it into her, a sort of ethereal osmosis, infuse her with it so they'd both burn bright.

But Angelus had broken her too thoroughly, and the lovely shell that remained held little more than murky, insubstantial fancy, with will-o'-the-wisp flashes of emotion and clarity that only made her usual state harder for Spike to bear.

Spike's anguish had been exquisite, nauseating, irresistible. He'd punished both of them for it, and they'd screamed and cursed and begged, all of them dancing along the fine line between love and hatred.

Darla had held herself aloof from their activities. But she'd observed everything and she'd known, and her eyes had shined with a new color of mockery, nearly as bright as when she'd taunted him across his father's drained body.

Anxious, he'd left his childer alone that night and attended his darling, in all her favorite ways. She'd writhed and moaned during, then smiled emptily at him after, and told him guilt had soured his mouth.

He'd beaten Spike within an inch of his unlife after that, and had never explained why. He'd like to do it now, but he's frozen, watching the strange tableau before him.

They're still not moving or speaking. Audibly speaking, that is.

Spike's eyes are so soft; Angel's never seen them so soft before. The infinite tenderness he'd shown Drusilla had always had an edge, tinged red with anger and pain. The edge is gone now, and the pain has a quieter hue to it, and there's hope and serenity in those soft blue eyes.

Spike sees everything he's ever looked for in the woman before him.

Buffy accepts his gaze steadily.

They are, both of them, so beautiful it breaks his heart.

Raised voices in the kitchen, and Buffy's hand drops from Spike's cheek to his shoulder, squeezes it reassuringly before she runs upstairs. Spike's eyes follow her, then he retreats to the cot, a quiet smile on his lips. He lifts and eyes the amulet with wary curiosity.

Angel eases away from the window, disappointed and stiff, and turns to leave. His chest is heavy and twisted; he's been cheated of them.

He knows they neither know, nor care.


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