Immortal Beloved..." LXVI...



A shortie...

PG-13

Disclaimer: No, Joss, no...I make no claims, put that thing down!

It's all yours and ME's...

Spoilers for Angel to the bitter end...Flee at once!...

Summary: Various outcomes following "Girl In Question" and /or "Not Fade Away" on Angel...

Ok, I lied about stopping at 50...But me poor ole mum would just say, "so long as I like it, it's ok..."



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November 2004, night...On board the Venice Simplon-Orient Express, heading for Budapest...One of the luxury dining cars...



Beautifully attired in black evening gown, though worn with a careless air as if to say it hardly mattered to her if you were attracted or not, the young blonde woman was smiling softly at first one, than the other of the two seated on either side of her...One, a tall, dark-haired, immaculately-groomed, elegant-looking man, with an aristocratic air...Youthful one might say unless one looked closely into his old, even ancient, eyes...The other, a bit more conventional, a handsome, reasonably dashing young officer of one of Europe's various armed forces...

From his secluded seat, carefully chosen, the slight blonde man watched the group impassively as the train sped on through the night...The woman playfully touching the sleeve of the officer, then turning to the other...Who seemed unruffled by her obvious flirtativeness while the officer seemed a bit more anxious, even a little insistent in his efforts...She whispered in his ear, something that clearly did not please him, most likely a gentle tease or perhaps a polite, half-joking insistence that he tone his ardor a trifle...

He flushed and pulled back...The other man giving him a faint smile of something like sympathy mixed with a kind of world-weariness, as if the game of the evening was beginning to bore slightly...She turned back to him, flashing a bright smile...Playfully fingering a large earring...Pearl, almost no doubt...Looking round the train car briefly...

Blinking as she looked in the direction of the hidden blonde man...Who realized she'd caught the briefest glimpse as he'd leaned forward to observe her better...But he'd pulled back before she'd been certain, he was sure...

She stared his way for a long moment then seemed to shrug the vision off and returned to her teasing game between her two companions...But the young officer had apparently had enough...He rose, a bit tense, but managing to maintain a polite air, excused himself...The other rising slightly, offering a gracious hand...She looking a bit furgitively yet again in the direction of the blonde man's booth for a bare second, then smiled up at the soldier...Or pilot or sailor...Yes, pilot most likely, the blonde man thought, pulling back into the recesses of his booth...

A few moments later, after a bit of apparently idle chatter, the dark-haired man rose, clearly making a polite good-night to the woman...Who extended her hand for a brief kiss and smiled gently at him as he turned to go...

After he'd gone, she waved to the waiter passing by and reordered the drink she'd been slipping from...Again glancing down the way...Then idly fingering the newly delivered drink for a bit after smiling kindly at the young waiter, clearly as smitten as the young officer...

Suddenly she rose and moved down the car towards the booth...Halting by it without looking at the man seated, he leaning back against the wall of the booth...



"The fourth car, compartment 3...He's not there..." she murmured to the dark booth softly, still not looking into it...And continued on...

About fifteen minutes later, he rose out of the booth, left some money on the table, and went down the car in the direction she'd taken...

***

"Well...Spike..." she smiled at him...As he stood in the doorway of her compartment...Saying nothing...

"Are you coming in?...I mean, come in..." a wry grin... "I assume you still..."

"Please call me William, Buffy..." he said quickly...A flat tone... "And yes, I still need the invite...But lets us pretend my soul gives me some human status and use my human name..."

She looked away... "Come in, William..." she said quietly and moved back into the compartment, he following...

"Been tracking me long?..." she eyed him as she sat down, waving him to a small chair... "I'm in Europe for Angel..." he shook his head... "We're trying to reorganize what was left after the Partners were destroyed...It was coincidence that I spotted you..."

Champagne?...She offered a glass, he shook his head and she poured herself a small glass...

"Pretty good coincidence our both being on the same train...Especially this line..." she smiled, sipping...Then rose, frowning a bit... "And lousy timing..."

"Sorry if I put a damper on tonight's high jinks..."

"Hardly...But I mean you're a bit late..." She moved towards him... "You materialized at Angel's when?..."

"Nice to know I was an object of curiosity..." he sighed... "Were you and the Council concerned I'd revert and lead Wolfram-Hart to victory with or without the help of Angel's pointy-hair?..."

Unnnh...She grabbed him suddenly and pulled him close...Staring in his face for just a second then kissing him violently...He struggling for only the barest second...

"I should kill you..You bastard...." she whispered, releasing him and pulling back... "Too late...By a century..." he noted...

Yeah...She nodded... "Well, you should get what you came for..." she turned around, making a coquettish smile into the large mirror facing her now... "It's easier to undo than it looks..."

Silence for a long moment... "It's a pity I can't see you this way...I'm sure I missed a great facial expression..."

"Nothing you haven't seen from me before...Turn around..." Aw...She pouted, then spun round, a hard, brittle smile on her face...

"The Immortal's done a bang-up job with you...You've become a first-rate courtesan...Tell me, what was he after from that kid you were stringing along?..."

"Hey, it's still Slaying, right?...In a manner of speakin'..." she grinned so quickly the dark look that had flashed on her face almost escaped him... "I just don't hafta kill them now after I break their hearts..."

She shrugged at his hard look... "Who knows...He's up and comin' in NATO, I guess Henri wants to expand his list of potential friends in high places...He likes to plan ahead..."

"No point in asking why, I suppose?..."

"So..." she grinned again...Putting a lace-gloved finger in her mouth and slowly pulling the glove off... "You didn't come stumbling in just to find out what was up with me..."

Giles?...Dawn?...she eyed him ...



"Both..." he nodded... "It took both to get me to come...Though my business for Angel is real..."

"They should mind their own business..." she turned and went to the small table where her champagne glass stood, taking a seat... "Dawn's in college now, she's doesn't need an ersatz mommie any more...And I thought I'd made it clear to Giles that I'd resigned..."

The train, moving through a tunnel, made a low deep hum from amplified vibration on the tracks...

"Dawn still cares about her sister...As does your substitute father..."

"Hows about you?..." she asked lightly, but did not look at him...

"I died for you...Twice really if you count Spike's little sacrifice in Africa..."

"That was then, this is now..." she looked at him... "What about now?..."

"If I didn't care..."

Ah...She grinned again... "You...Care..."

That's sweet...She took another sip of champagne...

"Did you come to LA when you heard I'd returned?...Did you try to get me back before then?..."

"Nah, I was busy with other things...You know me..." she rose... "I have no heart and never give a damn...So long as the mission gets accomplished..."

"Why are you working for the Immortal?...This way?..."

"What?..." she looked down at her dress... "You don't like?...It sure cost enough..."

"Buffy..."

"William..." she licked her lips with her tongue... "If the sis and the 'ersatz dad' are nervous, tell 'em I haven't joined the ranks of Evil, Inc...Henri's just interested in good old fashioned power, wealth, and influence...Not world conquest or destruction..."

As for that 'courtesan' crack...I just smile, make nice talk, and keep the clients happy...And on occasion have myself a good ole time...At my own discretion...she frowned...

"Which I damn well think I deserve...As well as piling up a nice lil' nest egg towards retirement...Something even a young, retired Slayer has to think about..."

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer, world-savior...The Immortal's little trophy girl..." he eyed her... "Tell me, how big a client does one hafta be to rate your company?...Surely the assistant head of the reorganizing former Wolfram-Hart multinational comes close?..."

"You're here, right?..." a sly grin...

"'Henri' expected me to show?..." "No...I don't think so...I told him Angel had sent someone though, someone who wanted a little time with me...He'll probably want to talk to you later..."

Be kinda nice to see him surprised...He's a hard guy to surprise, given his lifespan...

"So that's why you have ten to spare on me...Thanks..."

"I have as much time as I choose to give you...Stay the night if you like...You can try to talk me outta this sordid existence I've taken up since..." she paused...

"The love of my life died for me...And rejected me, all at the same time..."

"So...It's my fault...And you are nursing a bitter and broken heart..."



"Hardly broken, William...Patched up very well...Though I missed having you to administer the first aid this last time..."

"Does the Queen of 'tough love' expect sympathy from me?... 'Show me you have a soul', that was your cure for mental illness, wasn't it...?"

"Yep...But I rate a double-standard...Always did..." she smiled...Gently settling into her chair... "Camere here..." she waved him over...He stayed in place... "Well, at least, sit down...You're makin' me nervous..." He turned slowly and took a chair...

"And all this..." he waved a bit... "Throwing yourself away like this..."

"Hardly..." she glared slightly... "All this is because I didn't show in Rome...?"

"Certainly not..." she pouted... "It's cause I...With a little help from my latest boss and more or less latest in general...Came to realize that it was time I got on with life...And tried a new professional path...One with less stress and personal risk and a helluva lot better return..."

However...Owing to my previous career...And my general unsuitedness to do much else...I was not exactly prime executive material...

"You had your work with the Council...The Slayers needed..."

"I gave that up at Sunnydale...Except for helpin' Giles gather his girls in...And beatin off the guys who still want to challenge me and get their names in the occult book of records...I quit that day...And Giles knows that..."

And he knows what I threatened to do if he tried to pressure me back into the fold...she stared at him...

"We're nowheres near the Sunnydale crater...Though the way you're hitting the booze you won't need to leap off a cliff soon enough..."

"Short life but a merry one..." she raised her glass... Then was silent...

"I hated you that day...And for quite a while..." she said flatly...

Cause you let yourself die alone...Unloved...And made me a monster...she eyed his questioning look...

"All you had to do was believe me...And after all that damned effort one might've thought..." she sighed...

"I believed you..." he eyed her... "You loved me for a moment...That's why I couldn't come to Rome..."

Yeah...she nodded... Heartless Buffy wouldn't have wasted any time takin' that foolish slip of the tongue back...

"I guessed that was it..." she sighed...Playing with the glass in her hands...

"But I kept hopin', after Giles let me know what Willow had learned, trying to get a handle on what ole Angel was up to at WH...I kept hopin' you'd believe...And come...I even got myself worked up at Angel for a while...Made myself believe you would come like a shot but he and the Partners were keepin' you..."

Then Andy came back from LA and when I cornered him, told me you'd told him not to let me know about you...

"Well...Then I knew..." she leaned back... "You'd never trust in me...And you'd never come to me..."

And Henri showed up, eager to meet me through his connections to the Council, about two weeks later...

"Nothing like a semi-redeemed vampire to win a girl's heart..." he regarded her coolly...

"Not to mention an out-of-this-world fuck..." she smiled... "Not the same as ours but in its own unique way...Quite something..."

"So Darla and Dru once told Angelus and me..."

Yeah...I gathered pretty quick he wasn't the 'one-woman' type...But then I've gotten around in my time...How brief it may be...

"And he was more interested in the status of acquiring me...For his company..." she grinned at his frown...

"Job situation being what it was for college dropout Buffy, I took the offer...Anything to get away from Slaying, the Council..."

"Congrats then...Your life is right on track...As is our train...Sorry I let the Nibs get me nervous..." he rose...

"Wait..." she stared at him...

Why did you come?...Now...

"I thought you needed me...Coming when I think Buffy needs me has become a habit...That's why I came to Rome earlier..."

"Though I always make a fool..." he began...

"Rome?...When were you in Rome?..."

"Angel heard you were being 'stalked' by the Immortal...We came...Didn't Special Agent Wells tell you?...He gave us quite a lecture on 'movin' on'..."

The Head Poof took it hard but I...he paused...

"I knew there wasn't anything waiting for me there...I just wanted to be sure you were ok..."

She startled him by rising suddenly, fists clenched... "Bastard!...You stinking coward!...What do I have to do?!...Die for you?!!...If I shove this..." she pulled a stake...A rather gleaming one...Mr. Pointy stained, varnished, and oiled he noted...from behind her champagne bottle on the small table beside her chair... "Into my heart, will that be enough?!!..."

"Buffy!..." he moved over, grabbing her arm...She furiously jerked her arm free...Staring at him, trembling... "I may as well, I'll never be free till I do...!"

"Buffy!..." He grabbed at her again... Then calmed a little as she pulled free and stood facing him...

"Fine...You want to play games, go ahead...I concede...You're as big a fool as I was...And as wallowing in self-pity..."

She stared at him a while, holding the stake by her side... "I'm not the cause of you throwing your life away, Summers...And I say 'throwing away' with all due respect to your new 'career', employer...And your obviously hefty income..."

You couldn't give me what I needed...Maybe you aren't what I was seeking...he eyed her... "But that's not a reason to punish yourself..."

And it sure as hell does me no Earthly good...he sighed... "As it's got Dawn and the rest determined to hound me until I get you back to your senses..."

She wanly grinned..."Here to save me...Again?...And this time for totally unselfish reasons, eh?..."

"Totally selfish..." he corrected... "It gave me the excuse I needed to make myself see you again at last..."

"Give it to me, girl..." he indicated the stake...Ummn... "From the other side, please..."

She chuckled and handed it over... "Guess I don't quite make it on your suicidal romantic scale... But then Henri's no Drusilla so I've got a much tougher job that way..."

"Well...You were never..." he began...Stopping as he saw her bleak face... "I will...Not today, not tomorrow...and not quick...But I will..." she told him quietly...

"Unless...You save me..."

"Girl...Hardly a twenty-first cent..." "I let you go last year and the year before I didn't lift a finger to help you even when Spike did all that he did to save me that year...I haven't any right to ask you to...But...Stay, please...Please...That's all you hafta do...Just stay...Save me, William...Like you came to..."

"You have to, you know..." she smiled wanly... "It's what you do..."



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