And by and by my Soul returned to me
The harsh neon light glinted off the implements hanging from the ceiling, accentuating the grime that covered everything else in the Hyperion’s kitchen. The blades sparkled, throwing sherds of brilliance into the gloom below. Someone had cleaned and sharpened them. Why? Angel stared at the rack. Two vacant hooks. He narrowed his eyes in thought
The kitchen floor was covered in recently delivered boxes, most of them empty. Angel had agreed that the Hyperion was to be the base for the combined Slayer/Vampires-with-souls operations and he’d offered to help Buffy unpack, stowing provisions in places she couldn’t reach, glad of the thinking space the activity afforded.
“Top cupboard, first shelf.” Buffy handed him a box of chocolate chip cookies.
Angel opened the cupboard door and found a place for the box beside the peanut butter variety. He had to admit, if only to himself, that he was having difficulty adjusting to the idea of working with her. He’d become too used to running his own team and didn’t yet know how he was going to handle moving aside from the position as sole leader.
And then there was the problem of Spike. No one knew how the loss of his memories of loving Buffy would affect him in the long term. Nevertheless, Angel marvelled yet again at the speed of Spike’s apparent recovery. During his disintegration in the lobby, he’d been barely coherent. Now, less than 30 minutes later, after a shower and copious mugs of blood, he was back to his old acerbic self – almost. With Buffy’s arrival in the kitchen, he’d disappeared into the walk-in larder and was rummaging through the freshly stocked shelves.
“You see that?” Angel whispered to Buffy. “How does he do it? Thirty minutes of screaming and yelling and he’s coping with major memory loss. Six weeks crazy in a school basement and he deals with having a soul!” He stared at the larder door. “It took me decades.”
“It wasn’t that easy, believe me,” Buffy replied. She raised her head from the carton of supplies. “And why did no one tell me he was back?”
“Before or after The Immortal?” Angel retorted. “He said he’d contact you when he was ready. I guess by the time he was, it was too late.”
Buffy flushed and they stood in silence for a while avoiding one another’s eyes.
“He never even called,” Buffy said finally. She placed the empty box inside the stack heaped beside the rear exit and turned to a pile of freshly washed Tea Towels. With a deep sigh, she began folding them, piling them neatly on the counter.
"Neither did you," replied Angel, watching the displacement activity in which she was engaged. "All I got was a 'no one trusts you’, from Andrew."
"Taking over Evil Inc. What was I supposed to think?" Buffy argued, smoothing the white and blue-checked cotton in her hands. “Besides . . .” She paused. Angel’s scowl reminded her of their last conversation about her feelings for both vampires. “He didn’t believe me, you know . . . at the Hellmouth.” She lowered her eyes, hiding the tears that were forming.
Angel’s face softened. “He did,” he said quietly. “But he didn’t want it to affect what you were going to do.”
Buffy pursed her lips. “Deciding what was best for me?”
Angel folded his arms. “If you believe that, then you really didn’t know him all that well. He came close to killing me over you after he recorporealised.”
Buffy looked up. “Yeah?” she said, hopefully. “I mean . . . not the killing you, obviously. Not that I haven’t come close to doing that myself a couple of times . . .”
Angel noticed the fleeting expression of optimism. “Maybe we should send him away?”
Buffy’s face hardened. “Not gonna happen. Not again.”
“Buffy, you’ve seen what happens to him when you’re around. When someone loses his memories, he becomes a different person. I know all about that.”
“No! We need him here.”
“Wes needs him here. We need you . . .”
“Shit!” The sound of breaking glass from inside the larder accompanying Spike’s expletive brought their squabble to an abrupt end.
“What are you doing in there?” Angel called to Spike.
“Finding something decent to drink,” came the muffled reply.
“You won’t find anything in there,” Angel dropped his voice “I hope.” He turned anxiously to Buffy. “He heard us. Tell me you didn’t stock up on drink.”
Buffy scowled at him and opened her mouth to respond, closing it again immediately as Spike emerged from the larder clutching a dusty bottle.
Angel recognised one of Wesley’s finest malts, a present from the Old Country he’d said it was; to be opened on a special occasion, like a wake. “Spike, before you open that and get thoroughly drunk, how much do you remember now?” He tried the diplomatic approach.
Spike perched on the edge of one of the kitchen work surfaces. “It’s coming back in short bursts,” he said, unscrewing the cap of the single malt. “Like the bloody trailers for Passions. Only making even less sense.” He laughed and took a swig from the bottle. “Bloke burns up saving the world just to be brought back and for what?” He stared into the space over Angel’s head. “Some tin pot god’s idea of a joke, that’s what.”
Buffy folded the last item and picked up the pile of towels in front of her. Spotting a door marked ‘linen’, she crossed the room and paused in front of it. She swung her head back towards Spike.
“You don’t remember why you fought for your soul, but you remember saving the world?”
“Don’t pick and choose the episodes, Slayer, the reruns schedule themselves.” He took another gulp of whiskey. “’Sides, not altogether convinced about the soul-having. Don’t feel any different.” He looked over at Angel. “As flies to wanton boys are we to the' gods; they kill us for their sport. Well sod that.” He stared at the linen in Buffy’s hands. “You doing the housekeeping now? Thought we had minions for that.”
Buffy bit back a response and opened the linen closet, clamping the towels under her chin with one hand and reaching for the light switch with the other. As she groped along the interior wall, a figure, clutching a knife, launched itself at her from the gloomy depths.
Before Angel could move, Spike launched himself from the worktop, pushing Buffy out of the way and sending the man sprawling onto the floor with one swift blow. Spike's hand automatically clutched at his head. "No pain!" he cried.
He flashed a look at Angel who smirked an 'I told you' at him.
"No chip. Right," Spike chortled. He offered his hand to help Buffy to her feet but withdrew it rapidly before she could take it.
Angel hauled the man up off the floor by his collar.
"What the hell are you doing in my linen closet? Our linen closet," he corrected swiftly at Buffy’s raised eyebrows.
“I . . . I was hungry. I found some food and was . . . ”
"Looking for napkins?" Angel finished threateningly.
The man’s face contorted in fear and he shrank back into his jacket, flinching in anticipation. Angel released his grip but stayed close, towering over the lightly built figure.
The man relaxed slightly. "Hey Man, I thought this place was deserted. Needed a place to hide when all the craziness started." He swung his head to each of them in turn. “You’re that Mr Angel guy. I d…d…didn’t know this was your p…p… place, I swear,” he stammered addressing Angel.
The double doors swung open and the man gasped fearfully. Illyria, still bloodied from combat, strode towards him, carrying a meat cleaver.
"Oh God, Oh my God. I'm gonna die," he squealed, sinking to the floor and covering his head with his arms.
"I am no longer your god," Illyria hung the cleaver on the ceiling rack and regarded the figure cowering at her feet, coldly. "This one is of no consequence. I would not waste the edge of a fine sacrificial blade on one such as he."
"He just tried to kill Buffy. That's worth a lot of consequences," Spike responded. He glanced up at the utensils hanging from the stainless steel hooks. “Sacrificial blades? Is that what they are. And here’s me thinking Cheffie used them to slice and dice for the casserole pot.”
Illyria regarded him coldly. “I know nothing of this ‘casserole.’ My Wesley does not regard it to be of any import. He merely asked that I return the blade to its keeper in the room of the sacrificial furnace.”
"You're them,” the man gibbered. “ But I'm not the one you want. I don't know where he is. I don’t know anything!"
Spike grabbed the man’s arms and peered into his face. "You're what's'isname from accounts, Miser Maurice, yeah that’s it." He grabbed him by the lapels and dragged him to his feet. "You owe me money, Mo!"
"You know him?" Angel asked incredulously.
"Yeah, played poker with him enough times to know he's a lying bastard. He knows plenty."
Spike pushed Maurice over to Angel who flattened him against the fridge door.
"Does he now?" Angel said morphing into gameface. "Now isn’t that interesting. Talk to me!"
Maurice choked, and paled at the sight of Angel's vampface. "They'll kill me if I tell you."
"I'll kill you if you don't." Angel shoved him hard against the refrigerator, denting it with the ferocity of the impact." So what's it gonna be, Maurice? Now? Or maybe later, depending on how fast you can run? Your choice."
Maurice swallowed nervously, and swung his head from Angel to Spike to Buffy and, finally Illyria.
"They're after the boy.” Maurice lowered his eyes. “Connor."
Angel recoiled at the name and dropped him. Maurice seized the opportunity and made a dash for the rear door. Spike started after him but was stopped in mid-stride by Angel’s voice.
"No, Let him go." Angel intoned flatly slumping against the fridge.
Spike frowned. Something about the name resonated against the back of his skull. "Who's Connor?"
Angel didn’t answer, looking instead at Buffy who had moved to his side.
Illyria broke the silence "The one who binds Angel to this world."
Spike studied Angel’s face. The look of desolation and despair was familiar somehow but he couldn’t recall when he’d seen it before. He clenched his jaw in frustration and turned his attention to Buffy. Her freshly washed hair fell to her shoulders, soft and golden, a glowing curtain caressing her features. Her face, bruised and battered still, bore the scars of the recent battle; a Warrior. Spike’s expression softened as his heart gave a lurch. God she was beautiful. He closed his eyes for an instant against the rising tide of confusion that swept towards him on the sentiment.
He swallowing hard, driving the sensation away, and opened his eyes. "Thought that was the Slayer," he said hoarsely.
Buffy smiled sadly. "No. Not me, Spike. Angel's son."
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