Angel’s body hit the ground hard, rolling several times and coming to rest against something hard and leathery, several other objects collapsing and covering him over.
Spike let out a cry of pure emotional pain, and leaped to his feet, intending to rip that hunter limb from limb… and promptly fell down, his face winding up sticking in the soft carpeting…
Pressing his palms to the ground, Spike levered himself slowly onto his hands and knees, realizing with something akin to shock that he HAD hands and knees to be ON now. He was back. They were back on the jet… Then again, they’d never really LEFT, had they? He carefully pushed himself to his feet, grabbing onto the wall to steady himself. After living two weeks in the body of a four-legged panther, he was having more than a little trouble finding his center of balance.
”Bloody hell…”, Spike muttered to himself, then he blinked, realizing that his leg didn’t hurt anymore. A quick glance down told him that the wound hadn’t carried back over to this body. A jolt startled the vampire and caused him to stumble again, and he realized with a shock that the plane was actually LANDING. God. Had they only been gone for two or three hours? Wait until Angel…
Spike froze. ANGEL! Quickly, he whirled to stare at where the older vampire lay. Angel had apparently fallen off the seat he was on when they ‘snapped back’… And he’d rolled into the large collection of luggage that he’d insisted upon bringing onto the plane, knocking several of the larger suitcases down on top of him. But that would’ve been comical, if it wasn’t for one thing.
Angel was VERY still.
Spike swallowed, and very slowly approached his Sire. He dropped to his knees by Angel’s side and started carefully moving the luggage that covered his Sire, mumbling under his breath. “C’mon, mate… You’re not dust, so you HAVE to be alright… Please, please be okay…”
The older vampire didn’t move at all in response to his Childe’s words.
Spike choked quietly, ignoring the fact that the plane was taxing to a stop. Wolfram & Hart planes had priority, anyway. They could stay there as long as they needed to, without running the risk of being run away from the gate. Spike sat back on his heels, crouching much the way he had as a panther, and placed a hand on his Sire’s unmoving back. Swallowing, and feeling the sting of tears starting to well up in his eyes, the younger vampire shifted and laid down next to his Sire, snuggling as close as he had when both of them had been animals such a short time earlier.
The part of him that was still bothered with pride didn’t like the idea of laying on the floor of a plane, wrapped around his Sire like some kind of security blanket. But, by now, that part had been far overshadowed by his love for Angel. And the pain of even NEARLY losing him was almost overwhelming. If only he would just move… Please let him move…
As if in response to his Childe’s worried thoughts, Angel let out a very soft groan and shifted against Spike slightly. The younger vampire let out a soft sound of relief… but didn’t move away from his Sire. “What… what happened?”, Angel mumbled, then blinked in shock when he realized all he heard was his own words. No growls, yips or barks.
Spike hugged Angel tightly, and whispered, “We’re back, Angel… It’s over… God, mate, I was so worried…”
Angel shifted slightly, rolling over until he faced his Childe, and smiled a little bit at the younger vampire. “So was I…” He hugged Spike gently, rubbing the vampire’s back the moment he noticed the tears in Spike’s blue eyes. “Hey… Shh… I’m okay, Spike. I’m right here. I’ve got you.”
Spike nodded, swallowing, and, for an instant, burrowed against Angel’s chest, nuzzling him in an open display of affection that would’ve been more than taboo a few hours before… Or two weeks, depending on how they looked at it. But something had changed. Maybe not how they felt… But more like the WAY they looked at how they felt had changed.
And, in one very important way, they HAD changed. Both of them sank slightly into the soothing feeling of having their Sire/Childe bond back after so long without it and working around it. They could feel each other, the way they’d always been meant to. And neither of them would ever really feel alone again, as long as the other was still alive.
Maybe that had been the point of their journey, both the real and the dreamed. In some odd way, they’d both found something they’d been missing for literally over a century. They’d had the realization of how much that long dormant bond meant to both of them. And of how much they both needed and loved each other. Spike had risked his life for Angel… and, when it had come down to it, Angel had done the same for him without a second thought. This, perhaps, was what their Guides had wanted them to see. And they’d passed their test.
After a few moments of just hugging together on the floor of the plane, they both moved away from each other at the same time… But both were smiling now.
“You think she’s waitin’ for us?”, Spike asked quietly. He didn’t have to add who the ‘she’ was. They both knew.
Angel nodded. “She wasn’t just part of the dream.” He shifted and stood up, then helped Spike to his feet, both of them more than a little shaky back on two legs. “And that means she’s out there right now, waiting for us. Let’s go.”
Spike nodded, and gripped his Sire’s hand tightly, a grip that Angel was quick to return. “Sounds good to me, mate.”
Angel smiled, and used their joined hands to tug Spike into another quick hug, before releasing him and going over to gather up his luggage. “Let’s just get our bags, first…”
Spike smirked. “You mean YOUR bags.” He held up the one bag he’d brought on board. “I have mine.” He grinned playfully at his Sire, and ignored the sudden impulse to swish a tail he no longer had in the gesture that now accompanied that expression. “Clothes horse.”
Angel raised an eyebrow, then pounced at Spike, who laughed as his Sire tackled him onto one of the couches and tickled his ribs. “What did you call me, Childe?”
Spike laughed, shaking his head, and grabbed his Sire’s wrists, tugging hard and sending both of them onto the floor. “Clothes horse!”, he choked out, but this time, Angel just laughed and gave him a playful swat as he untangled himself and got to his feet.
The older vampire chuckled softly, then tilted his head in a very wolf-like manner at his luggage. They’d lived two weeks in a jungle, with nothing but each other… He suddenly couldn’t remember why bringing half his wardrobe along on a weeklong trip had seemed so important. “You know what? You’re right.”
Spike snickered quietly as he picked himself up off the floor, scratching absently at his ribs, but then blinked at his Sire’s comment. “Huh?”
Angel shook his head, dropping to his knees and sorting through several of the suitcases, pulling out his favorite items from each one… and consolidating them into one suitcase. “I AM a clothes horse… I can’t believe I thought I needed all this stuff… It just… It doesn’t seem…”
“Important?”, Spike offered quietly, watching his Sire.
Angel nodded. “Yeah. It doesn’t seem important anymore.” He stood up, holding his one suitcase, and grinned at Spike. “Okay. NOW we can go.”
Spike grinned back and headed for the gate that had been attached to the jet to lead them down into the terminal, and chuckled when Angel came up beside him and looped his free arm around Spike’s shoulders, squeezing him in a sideways hug. “Why, Angel. What are people gonna think?”
Angel just chuckled. “Tell you the truth, Spike… I don’t really care anymore. This is about you and me… Not ‘people’.”
Spike purred very quietly. A part of him had been rather worried that their newfound closeness would go away as soon as they returned to the ‘real world’… But Angel had just proved that nagging thought wrong. The younger vampire felt something deep inside him relax at that realization, and he leaned gently against Angel as they walked.
But as they entered the terminal, both of them stopped in their tracks.
Everyone was gathered there. Milling around as if this was some sort of party… And from the banner that dangled from the ceiling, it apparently was. “Welcome Home, Spike & Angel”, it read, in large, bold letters.
“Wow,” Spike mumbled. “Buffy really went all out…”
Angel just nodded in response, but both vampires dropped their suitcases when they heard Buffy’s voice.
“Spike! Angel!” The Slayer was running toward them, pushing through the small crowd of Scoobies and Slayers, most of which Spike recognized from that day on the Hellmouth.
The pure joy of seeing Spike… The REAL Spike, after so many months, was shooting through Buffy like adrenaline, and she practically knocked him to the floor when she leaped up and wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him deeply and passionately.
Spike felt his legs go weak, and only his arms around the smaller Slayer and a large amount of pure willpower were keeping him upright. Not to mention that his return kiss was just as passionate as Buffy’s. Something inside him shifted, and he literally FELT a ‘pop’… Then suddenly there was another bond, just as strong as his bond with Angel… But this one was with Buffy. The Slayer had blocked him from it from so long, that her suddenly shoving the second mate bond open subconsciously almost caused Spike to stumble.
A mate bond… A SOUL mated bond… Just like the one she had shared with Angel for years, only newer, coursed through the two of them as they kissed. Reunited after so long, Buffy didn’t know whether to laugh, scream, or cry. Though the third option seemed to be showing up the most. “I missed you,” she mumbled into his mouth, basically making the understatement of the year. Mere words couldn’t express how much she’d missed him, OR how happy she was to see him. “God, Spike, I love you… I love you so much…”
Spike swallowed, and pressed his forehead to Buffy’s, raising one hand to gently wipe away her tears, along with his own, now. That she would say that is one thing… That he could FEEL through their new bond that she MEANT it was another thing entirely… As was the fact that she had said it, and was KISSING him in front of the Scoobies… In front of Angel…
Spike nuzzled Buffy’s nose, shushing her gently, and started to mention that he wasn’t here ALONE… which she knew, of course, he just felt the need to point it out, so Angel wouldn’t feel left out. He wasn’t getting anything from his Sire that told him that Angel might BE feeling that way… But Angel was also good at hiding things. However, someone tapping him on the shoulder cut off the vampire’s thoughts.
Spike blinked, reluctantly pulling away from Buffy to see who touched him… though he kept one arm around the Slayer, assuring himself that she was really there. And Spike blinked in surprise when he saw Giles standing next to them. He sighed, immediately expecting the Watcher to give him some kind of lecture, or to pull Buffy away… But he wasn’t prepared for Giles to hug him.
Spike swallowed, realizing suddenly that he was feeling the tears welling up a lot today, even as he wrapped his free arm back around Giles on pure reflex. The Watcher’s fatherly presence was soothing to him. Always had been… Though that had been dampened a bit when he’d tried to have Spike killed less than a year earlier. Though the emotions were showing up again now.
“I never got the chance to tell you, Spike,” Giles whispered as he pulled back, his hands on Spike’s shoulders. “I couldn’t have been more proud of what you did back on the Hellmouth, even if you had REALLY been my son.”
Spike blinked slowly, and this time HE hugged Giles, almost tight enough to half suffocate the man, but he knew his own strength and stopped just short of such a drastic turn of events. “Rupert, you have NO idea how much that means to me.”
Giles just nodded when the two men stepped back, and clasped a hand gently on Spike’s shoulder. “I know. I just had to tell you.” He smiled at the vampire, then gestured at the rest of the Scoobies, slowly approaching. “And I think there are a few other people who would like to say something.”
Spike swallowed, and suddenly realized that Buffy was holding his free hand tightly, reassuring herself that he was really THERE. And he relaxed a bit, squeezing her hand in return. He was incredibly grateful for her support right then. Especially as Xander approached him.
The young man, with a wisdom and pain showing in his one good eye that far out shadowed his years, extended a hand slowly, and shook Spike’s firmly when the vampire gripped it. “Look, Spike,” Xander said, a touch of his old humor in his voice. “I know you and I’ll never be the best of friends, but I just wanted you to know…” The humor faded, and Xander was suddenly very serious. “What you did, on the Hellmouth that day… You saved all of us. Every person in this room… in the world, whether they know it or not, owes you their lives.” The young man smiled a bit. “You’re a good man, William.”
Spike blinked at the use of his given name, and nodded, gripping Xander’s hand tighter and shaking it again. “Thanks, mate. That… that means a lot, comin’ from you.”
Xander just nodded and stepped back as Willow moved toward him.
The witch showed almost none of the timidness that Spike had come to associate with her over the years. With her new powers, had come a new sense of purpose, and responsibility. And it showed. The girl had become a woman. But when she hugged Spike, it was the old Willow who’d once comforted him when he’d initially had the Initiative Chip in his brain… Who’d sat with him and talked from time to time… The girl who’s shoulder he’d cried on when Dru had left him… That was the person who hugged him tightly. Unlike the others, they didn’t exchange words. The hug between the two creatures of power and darkness, striving to stay in the light, was more than enough to convey their feelings.
The greetings moved on. Robin, and Andrew. The group of Slayers that had been there that day, and knew him first hand. Then Buffy gently took his hand and tugged him as the group began to move toward the doors. There was a van outside to take the group back to the Watcher’s Mansion, where there was more than enough room for all of them. But something made Spike stop.
Angel was walking a few feet behind everyone else, and the emotions that now came through the Sire/Childe bond weren’t exactly happy. In fact, Spike noted that Angel was in serious danger of brooding. He gently kissed Buffy’s cheek and whispered to her to wait for him for a moment, before he turned and walked back to meet his Sire.
“Hey, Peaches… What’re you doin’ way back here?”, he asked quietly, stopping right in front of his Sire and forcing the older vampire to look at him.
Angel just shrugged. “I didn’t want to interrupt…”
Spike snorted. “Bullshit, Angel.” His voice softened, and he put his hands on his Sire’s upper arms. “C’mon. You think I’m gonna let you be that far away from me after what we’ve been through? You’ve got another thing comin’. C’mon, mate. They’re waiting for us.”
Angel blinked, then smiled and nodded, letting Spike lead him back over to where Buffy waited. The younger vampire looped one arm around Buffy’s shoulders, and the other around Angel, and the three headed for the van together.
Where would the three go from there? Only time would tell for sure. But one thing was certain. Wherever it was, whatever they were doing, they would be together. How long would it last? In answer to that, another question must be posed.
How long is ‘forever’?