Angels Among Us


by Saber ShadowKitten
Life After Buffy 4






"Hey! Get away from there!" Spike unsheathed the knife strapped to his thigh and pulled a stake from his duster pocket when he saw the figure crouched on Buffy's grave. Ever since she was laid to rest, the denziens of the night had endeavored to dig her up to keep as a trophy or for some other nefarious reason. The blond vampire didn't draw out any fight with those that disturbed Buffy's grave; he simply killed them, quickly and efficiently, using his knife or stake.

He reached her grave in moments, his blue eyes spitting fire. "I said get away from--" The crouched figure rose and turned, and Spike immediately stopped his forward rush. "Oh. Sorry. Didn't know it was you."

Angel, tear tracks etched on his cheeks, stared somewhat dumbly at the other vampire. "Spike?" he questioned.

"The one and only." Spike wiped his itching brow with the back of his hand and it came away sticky with a bronzish-yellow substance. He recognized it as Borvid puss, most likely from the Borvid he'd killed five minutes earlier. Hell, if it was in his hair...

"What are you doing here?" Angel asked, frowning deeply. "And what's in your hair?"

With a groan, Spike sheathed the knife and dumped the stake back into his duster pocket. He gave Buffy's headstone a baleful look. "See what you did, Slayer? You've maaachhh--"

Dangling a foot off the ground by Angel's hand was not the way Spike had envisioned the end of his patrol. He usually ended it by bringing Buffy up-to-date about the goings-on with her sister and her chums. Sometimes he'd pick a flower off another person's grave -- they were dead, what did they care about floral arrangements? -- and leave it on the Slayer's. Sentimental and a bit pathetic, but he swore he'd heard her scolding him once for stealing the flowers.

There was a carnation currently in his pocket. There was also a game-faced vampire holding him by his throat and shaking him like a rag doll.

"If you even think about desecrating her grave, so help me, I will break every bone in your body and leave your burning corpse as a gift to her," Angel snarled, his fingers digging into Spike's neck.

Spike kicked him in the nuts.

Angel gasped and instantly dropped the blond. Spike quickly gained his footing and, rubbing his bruised throat, took several steps back from his hunched grandsire. "Pillock," the younger vampire croaked. "I'm the one who stops the bloody arseholes from disturbing her."

"I don't believe you," Angel ground out.

"Don't." Spike lowered his hand and clenched it into a fist. "We're not going to do this here. Not in front of Buffy."

Angel's bent head shot up and he stared incredulously at Spike. "What did you call her?"

Spike blew out an irritated puff of air. "Buffy. It's her name. Two syllables. Rhymes with 'stop calling me "Slayer;" that's what I do, not who I am.'"

The brunette's lips twitched. Spike saw and he relaxed, a small smile gracing his own lips. His eyes drifted to the grave-marker. "She really was a peach, our-- your Buffy," he corrected quickly. Now was not the time to get into a proprietary fight. Technically, Buffy had been Angel's. Spike was just lucky that, in the end, she'd called him friend.

If Angel noticed the slip, he didn't give any indication as he straightened and turned to the grave. "Yeah, she really was," he said with heavy sadness.

"C'mon, mate," Spike said, shoving his hands in his duster pockets. "I think Dawn put aside some of Buffy's things for you. And I'm sure she'll want to see you."

Angel frowned, but followed the smaller vampire away from Buffy's final resting site. Why was Spike acting so... courteous? It was like he cared that Angel was hurting, or about Buffy's grave. Angel wished he'd kept more in contact with Buffy -- hell, if he had a wish, it would be that Buffy was still alive, even if, in exchange, he'd never speak with or be allowed to see her again. But that wasn't possible, and now he was in Sunnydale with an empty place where his heart used to be, walking next to a vampire he was supposed to hate.

"You do know that I'm good, right? A white hat?" Spike said out of the blue as they reached Angel's car. The blond smiled with self-depreciation. "Well, actually, I'm soddin' horrible at being good, but I try. S'all Buffy would want, eh?"

"Uh-huh." Great, Angel thought, climbing into the convertible. Spike's chip had scrambled his mind. What was Angel going to do with a second Drusilla?

The trip to Revello Drive was punctuated with: "Don't touch that," "Don't touch that, either," and "Spike, will you quit it." And Angel had thought riding in the car with Cordelia was bad. The brunette parked on the street, the driveway blocked by Joyce's SUV and Spike's DeSoto. Spike led the way around back, stopping to crush his cigarette and drop the butt in the garbage can, a sight that flabbergasted Angel.

"Take your shoes off, I just mopped," Spike ordered as he unlocked the back door to the Summers residence with a key.

Spike had a key. Spike just mopped. Angel hoped he was in the Twilight Zone, because maybe when he got back, Buffy'd still be alive.

"Dawn, I'm home, and I brought company," Spike called as he entered the house, dropping his removed boots on a mat just inside the door. He shed his duster and hung it on a coat hook, then turned to Angel, who was standing in the doorway, gaping like a fish. "In or out. I'm not paying to air condition the backyard."

"You're not..." Angel figured he should shut up, go inside, and play along. Someone would give him a copy of the script sometime.

"Shoes," Spike reminded him, tossing his keys in a basket on the kitchen island counter.

Yes, Angel thought a bit hysterically as he kicked off his shoes. Mustn't forget: Spike just mopped.

"You're back." Dawn Summers bounced into the kitchen, dressed in sweats, her long, dark hair up in two pigtails. She made a face at Spike. "And you're goopy."

"Demon puss," Spike explained, hand going self-consciously to his hair.

"Gross," Dawn stated. She turned her attention to Angel, who was hovering by the back door. "Hi, Angel. What're you doing here?"

"Visiting," Angel answered hesitantly.

"Ah." Dawn nodded sagely.

"Crumb-bum, keep the poof entertained. I'm going to take a shower," Spike said.

"'Kay," Dawn replied. Spike headed out of the kitchen and she walked over to the refrigerator. "Want something to drink?"

"Uh, no." Angel frowned in the direction Spike went. "Why is Spike taking a shower in your house?"

Dawn removed the orange juice from the fridge. "I guess no one bothered to tell you, huh?"

"Tell me what?"

"Spike lives here," Dawn replied, taking out a glass. "He's my guardian."

Angel pulled out a stool and fell onto it. "I think I'd like that drink." Preferably something 100-proof.

"So, what took you so long to come?" Dawn said conversationally as she retrieved a second glass. "I thought you'd be here before we even had the funeral."

"I... couldn't," Angel said, wondering how to explain the all-consuming grief he'd felt since Willow had told him of Buffy's death. "It... I just couldn't."

Dawn was suddenly beside him, giving him a tight hug. "I understand," she whispered near his ear. "It took me three months to be able to go into her bedroom."

Angel allowed her comfort to soothe him for a moment before pulling away. "So," he cleared his throat and continued. "Spike's your guardian?"

"Yeah, aren't I lucky?" Dawn went back to pouring the orange juice.

"That's not the first description that comes to mind," Angel said dryly.

But Dawn missed the sarcasm completely. "The kids in my summer school class think he's so hot, which I totally don't see. I mean, c'mon, he's so skinny and kinda short," she said, returning the orange juice container to the fridge. "Plus, he's always like: 'Dawn, do your homework,' 'Niblet, it's time for bed,' 'No, you can't see that movie. You're too young.'"

Angel felt the smile creep across his face, something he hadn't done in what seemed like forever. "Which movie?" he asked.

"Wild Things," she said with a dramatic sigh. "It's not like I haven't seen two girls sucking-face before, or bouncing boobies. Geez, I've slept over at Willow and Tara's a bunch of times."

Angel was proud of himself. He didn't spit the orange juice across the counter.

Dawn rambled for awhile, filling the kitchen with her bright chatter and taking Angel's mind off of why he'd returned to Sunnydale. It was nice, sitting and listening to her. He'd laughed and smiled more than he had in a long time because of her stories. And, as icing on the cake, he'd learned some juicy tidbits about the current incarnation of Spike. Angel had reservations, however, as to Spike's role as Dawn's guardian, which he'd satisfy by grilling Giles at some point during his visit.

"Is your homework done?" Spike's question preceded him as he re-entered the kitchen, shirtless and with dark grey track pants riding low on his hips. His hair was damp and uncombed, falling into a peroxide tangle over his forehead.

Dawn rolled her eyes. "Yes, Spike," she sighed. "I finished it at The Magic Box."

"Good." Spike picked up a stack of mail on the counter and began to go through it, separating the mail into three piles. He frowned at one of the envelopes, slit it open with his finger, and started to read the enclosure as he wandered over to the pantry.

"Oh, hey, I have some stuff for you," Dawn said to Angel, rising from her stool. "Be right back."

Angel watched the girl leave the kitchen, then turned to Spike. The blond's back was to him, hand wrapped around a graham cracker box, still reading the mail. Angel's eyes alighted on a two-inch, smooth white scar on Spike's lower back and his brows furrowed. Spike didn't have a scar there, the brunette thought. And only holy items, like the sword that had cut Spike's brow, left permanent marks on vampires.

"Stop ogling my arse, peaches," Spike said, not raising his attention from the letter.

"I never have, and never will, ogle your ass," Angel stated. At the blond's snort, he said, "I was wondering what made that scar on your back. A knife?"

Spike went rigid, his arms dropping to his sides. The paper crinkled in one hand, the package of graham crackers crunched in the other. His reply was blunt and bitter, "My failure."

Without another word, he turned on his heel and stalked out of the room. Dawn appeared before Angel could decide whether to go after Spike or not. "What'd you say to Spike?" she asked, setting a shoebox on the counter in front of him. "He looked like he does when Xander picks a fight."

"I only asked him about the scar on his back," Angel replied with confusion.

Dawn groaned. "Angel, that's got to be the worst thing you could bring up to him."

"Why?" Angel was beyond confused and heavily into utter befuddlement.

"You know how Buffy d-died, right?" she asked, stuttering over the word. "How she jumped off the tower to save me?"

"Willow told me." Angel covered the girl's hand and squeezed gently.

"Did Willow also tell you that Buffy wouldn't have had to jump if Spike hadn't failed to protect me?" Dawn said. Tears began to fall from her eyes. "At least, that's what he believes. I tried to tell him none of it would've happened if it wasn't for me, but he refused to listen."

"Dawn--"

"Instead, he held me a- and stroked my hair," she continued, furiously wiping the tears from her face. "And he said that I was the only one who wasn't to blame for B-Buffy's death."

Perhaps Angel had underestimated Spike, after all. "He's right," Angel said. "You're the innocent in the story. Your role was to live."

Dawn's lower lip quivered as she gave him a tremulous smile. "That's what Buffy said before..."

Angel stayed silent and observed the girl compose herself. She extracted her hand from his, wiped her nose on her sleeve, and pushed the shoebox towards him. "Here. It's just a few things I thought you'd might want, like the claddagh ring and a few pictures."

"Thank you," Angel said, swallowing back his own tears. "I'll, uh, go through it when I get home."

"Yeah. I figured."

He stood, pushed in the stool, and slid his shoes on. He half-smiled. "Spike just mopped."

Dawn giggled. Angel tucked the shoebox under his arm and tugged one of her pigtails. "Take care, kiddo. Call me if you need anything, okay?"

"I will," Dawn agreed. "Night, Angel."

"Goodnight," Angel echoed, then quietly left.

As Dawn was cleaning up the orange juice glasses, Spike returned to the kitchen. "He gone?" the blond asked, black tee-shirt firmly tucked into his track pants.

"He's gone," she confirmed.

"Good." Spike pinched the end of her nose. "I already have one brunette angel in my house. I don't need two."

Dawn rolled her eyes again as he grabbed the rest of the mail and headed back out of the kitchen, saying over his shoulder, "And I'm not short."

"Are, too!" she called after him.

"Not!"

"Too, too, tooooo!"





End