A/N: This story was written by me under the pen name of Candlekeeper and archived on my Grave Tidings site, as well as a the Bloodshed verse. Initially borrows dialogue from the AtS5 episode, "A Hole in the World" in order to set up the scene. It goes A/U from there.
"The phoenix...He sat in the guise of a chattering raven on Shakespeare's shoulder, flapped his black wings, and whispered in the poet’s ear "Immortality!" You kissed the pen that fell from his wing; he came in the radiance of heaven, and perhaps you turned away from him toward the sparrow who sat with tinsel on his wings. The phoenix, renewed each century—born in flames, ending in flames. In heaven, his right name was given—Poetry."
~Hans Christian Andersen, 1850
Slamming back the door into Angel's office, Spike strode inside to walk over a chair instead of around it. "Harmony just pulled me out of a very promising poker game down in Accounts Receivable, so this better be good."
Throwing himself into the chair before Angel's desk, the vampire hung his leg over its arm. "And by the way, all the guys down there agree that astronauts don't stand a chance against cavemen, so don't even start."
Tossing a pencil onto his blotter, Angel sighed. "Look, I can't do this anymore."
Spike smirked. "Admitting defeat, are you?
"You and me. This isn't working out."
Spike widened his eyes and held a hand to his chest. "Are you saying we should start annoying other people?"
"I'm saying you should go."
"Got nowhere else to be, Peaches." Spike beamed. "And anyways, where would I rather be than with you?"
Angel glowered. The intercom beeped.
"Boss, are you there?"
"Yeah, Harm. What is it?"
"The Slayer's on line two."
"Fine." Angel turned off the intercom and turned a sour look on his grandchilde. "You need to leave."
"That's a hell no."
"So stay and torture yourself. Listen, but don't talk. One word from you and I'll rip out your vocal cords."
"Yeah, sure. Whatever."
Angel punched the blinking light. "Hey, Buffy. Are you in L.A.?"
"Hi, Angel. I'm in Albuquerque." Her voice was bright and cheerful with an artificiality that immediately made Spike sit up. "I have one of those pre-paid cell phones where anywhere in the U.S. is local, but I'm going back to England tomorrow so I'm trying to use up all of my minutes."
She's chattering, he thought. She never chatters unless she's nervous.
"What are you doing in New Mexico?"
"Visiting Xander. I needed a break and he bugged me to come for a few days, so here I am sitting on bleachers at the Gathering of Nations--that's the biggest Native American Pow Wow in the world--waiting for one of the dance competitions to start. I was hoping to see an eagle dancer, but I don't think that's part of this program."
Leaning back in his chair, Angel closed his eyes and gave a half-smile. "Describe it for me?"
"Let me see. I'm inside a university stadium but the sun is shining outside. There's not a cloud in the sky, and it's a really amazing blue. Sunnydale skies were never like this. We just had Indian fry bread with honey, so my fingers are sticky. Xander went to get some napkins and water so we can wash off. I guess we could have used the diet Coke, I didn't think of that. I mean, Spike used it to loosen lug nuts on the DeSoto's tires and it's totally not sticky."
"So now you're sticking to your cell phone?"
"Um… yeah. I didn't think about that. The honey's probably in my hair too."
"Why not just lick your fingers clean?"
"I tried that already. Real honey is tenacious—am I using that right? It's a Spike word, and I'm never sure if I'm using those right. Angel, I'm calling because I had a weird experience earlier."
"We were in the arts and crafts tent, and Xander was looking at dreamcatchers. I started talking to this old Native American man who had a wolf—a real wolf--lying at his feet. He started talking to me, actually--the man, not the wolf. He was holding a black and white-dappled feather and turning it around and around between his fingers, all the time staring at me. I smiled, but he never smiled back. He just kept staring."
"I thought you said you talked?"
"I'm getting to that." She giggled, but it didn't ring true to Spike. "I asked if the wolf was his, and he said, 'Shadow is my friend, he helps me walk between the worlds. You also have a companion between the worlds.' I told him I was sorry, but I didn't know what he was talking about.
"So then he crooked his finger and said, 'Come behind the table.' I did, and he had me kneel beside the wolf. 'You're not afraid of him.'" I wasn't. I mean, after fighting so many demons, what threat is a wolf?"
"He told me he was a guardian and a healer to his people, and the feather he held was an eagle feather. When he was a boy, his home burned down and all that survived were eagle feathers. His father found them in the smoking ruins, floating on top of black ash and water. He handed me his feather and wrapped my fingers around it and held my hand between his. And then he told me the feather I was holding was one that had survived the fire. I wrote down this next part."
The sound of paper rustling came over the speakerphone.
"'This feather is like the one who walks between the worlds with you. Some people would say it's only a thing while others would say there's something alive in it. Its power lays in its dreams of the sky, the currents of the air and the silence of its creation. It knows the insides of clouds and the insides of flames. It carries your needs and your desires, the stories of your brokenness. It rises and falls and keeps company with you, one part of your world where a soulless thing can fight and win the right to fly out of the darkness to claim the light.'
"Angel, the hair on the back of my neck stood up when he talked about flames and soulless things. My left hand--the one that held Spike's down in the Hellmouth and the one this man was holding--got hotter and hotter. He told me that I'd find my own black feather floating on ashes, just like his. It really wigged me out."
"Ashes and light, like a phoenix rising from the fire," said Angel, looking across at Spike, who was now sitting upright in his chair and listening intently.
"That’s what I thought because Spike's the only one who walked with me and turned to ashes." She sighed and the phone line crackled, as though she was running her fingers through her hair. "I really hate being prophecy girl. Giles hasn't come up with any new ones since the other slayers were created and Spike closed the hellmouth, but now I've got Apache healers speaking cryptic to me? I mean, Spike is gone, I watched him burn. I know he'd come back if he could, but he can't. Not from ashes. For that old man to have picked up some shadow of Spike when he looked at me and said the things he did when I miss Spike so much...It's just cruel."
"It's not cruel, Buffy. It's--" Angel hestitated and tapped a pencil on his blotter. He glared daggers at the younger vampire, to the point Spike broke glances with him and stared at the floor.
"You're supposed to be getting on with your new life," said Angel. "You can't want a soulless monster like Spike--"
"Stop right there. He wasn't soulless and he wasn't a monster. I was baking for him, not you, Angel. I loved Spike and I miss him. And you know what? I'm sorry I called to tell you about this really weird thing that happened Never mind. Bye."
"Buffy, no. Wait."
"Why should I?"
"I think I know what your Apache guy meant. Hang on a minute." Punching a button, Angel set the line on hold and got to his feet to come around the desk. "Damn it, you are such a pain in my ass."
Springing to his feet, the vampire turned to go. "Yeah, I know. Get the hell out of your office so you can tell her the words of a senile old Indian don't mean a thing. Which they don't. Gave her the world, didn't I? Am leaving her alone so she can have that normal life she craves. Thanks for the charity of letting me hear her voice."
"Shut up, Spike." Grabbing his coat, Angel hauled his grandchilde around the desk and shoved him into the chair. "I'm going to lunch. You talk to her."
"You're sodding kidding."
"I said you should leave earlier, and I wasn't kidding. I'd rather have you anywhere but with her, but for some awful reason that I can't fathom, she wants you. Won't stop talking about you. Even if I managed to get rid of you, I get the feeling she'd eventually find out and stake me. So let me tell you something, boy." Grabbing Spike by his duster lapels, Angel leaned down and growled. "You and your shiny soul have one chance to make her happy. You screw this up, and I'll screw you so badly that you'll weep blood and wish for the next hundred years that you were dust."
The door snicked closed behind Angel in the next instant, and Spike stared at the blinking light on the phone for a few seconds before reaching for it. My hands are shaking.
"Spike?" The barest whisper.
"I'm back, pet." He spoke softly, sensing her fragility. "Got trapped in that amulet for a few weeks, but somebody mailed it here. When Angel dropped it on the floor, I came back."
"Seems so. But I don't know any Apache healers, and I promise I don't have feathers. Been hanging around here annoying Peaches 'till I sussed out a way to tell you I was back."
"Oh, God. He was right. Xander! You're back and the healer was right--Spike's my feather and he's back, and—I have to get to L.A. Spike? Can we meet? Please?"
"Don't cry, love. We can do anything you want to do."
"Just let me get to L.A.—"
Spike was gripping the phone so hard, he thought he might break it. "I'll have Angel send his plane. Santa Fe was it?"
"No, it's Albuquerque. Oh, hurry. I can't believe you're back. Wait. Yes, I can. I should have known you'd find a way back."
Need to be there, Spike thought. Need to touch her. "Hang about, pet. Be right back."
Clunking down the phone, Spike sprinted to the door. "Harm! Need the sodding company plane sent with me on it to New Mexico."
"Angel already made me send for the pilot," Harmony called across the lobby. "You leave in like half an hour."
Leaping over a chair, Spike snatched up the phone. "Be there in a couple of hours. Will have Angel call you with the exact time, that all right?"
"More than all right. Let me give you my number." She did, and he scribbled it down. "I don't want to hang up."
"Have to hang up, pet. No getting on the plane if I don't."
The plane arrived before his slayer did, landing gracefully on a private airstrip in the desert outside of Albuquerque. Unlatching the door, Spike jumped down onto the tarmac and trotted a few feet away from the plane to turn in a circle beneath the full moon. Headlights bounced haphazardly in the distance from what could have been two miles or a a half-mile away, given the visibility on a clear summer night.
He trotted toward the lights, evading sagebrush and boulders until he heard the rattle-trap vibrations of an old vehicle. A few more seconds of sprinting, and he met the old pickup truck as it slid around a turn. He could sense the slayer inside and so, grabbing the side of the truck, Spike leaped up into the bed.
Buffy slid open the back window and reached for him. Sitting cross-legged on the uneven metal, Spike reached back, his hands enfolding hers and bringing them to his lips as the truck bounced on the rough road, bruising both his tailbone and his balls.
She laughed, a happy sound in the night. "It's good to see you too."
The truck skidded to a stop on the edge of the tarmac and Spike leaped out to grab the door handle. Vaguely, he registered that the truck was a beat-up blue '65 Chevy. A classic if it were cleaned up and restored. He growled low since the door was locked against his efforts, keeping him from his slayer.
"Wait, Spike. Wait..." Buffy called through the glass. "The window won't go down. And where's the door handle?"
The driver chuckled and reached across the slayer to shove up the lever. The squeaky door swung back hard and suddenly the vampire had an armful of Buffy. Careening against him, she leaped up to wrap her legs tightly around his waist. Her lips were against his, her fingers were mussing his hair. She was warm and trembling and so alive and happy for him that Spike very nearly sank down in the dirt with the shock of it.
"Oh, God. You're real and you're all right and you're here. So very here." She punctuated her words by haphazardly kissing his lips, his nose, his cheekbones, anywhere her mouth could reach.
Spike could smell her tears, could taste them in her kisses. Whirling around, he leaned against the side of the truck and adjusted his grip. Supporting her with an arm beneath her butt, the fingers of his other hand anchored themselves at the back of Buffy's head to guide her mouth unerringly to his.
"If you're kissing me hello, pet, I want to be kissing you back."
He'd never forgotten how absolutely wonderful it was to kiss her, or how he'd never gotten tired of doing it. Could have done this for hours, back in the day, he admitted. She never let me.
Buffy seemed to have changed her mind. Spike's reality narrowed to only the slight woman in his arms. Her warmth was plastered against him, his brain semi-registered that she weighed less than she had when he'd last held her like this. He could smell her arousal and inhaled as she exhaled whenever they broke apart, wanting to take her breath inside him and keep it there always. Again and again her lips found his, touching and taking and giving in a hungry way he'd never known from her.
"I do love you," she whispered between kisses. "Stupid vampire, not believing me. I do and I will, so what do you say to that?" She broke off kissing him to glower at him instead.
Giving a crooked grin, Spike licked his lips. "Hello, cutie. I missed you too."
The noise of outrage she made was quiet, but the flame kindled in her eyes told him he'd pay. I certainly hope so. Leaning in, Spike buried his nose in her throat, breathed in her scent, and nipped her jaw gently.
"Love you, Buffy. Always," he whispered.
Vaguely he was aware of someone coming around the back of the truck. Raising his head, Spike locked gazes with an old man who had fierce dark eyes and a weathered face .
Buffy didn't move from her perch around Spike's waist. "Xander wanted to stay for the night ceremonies, so I caught a ride with Sam." She twisted a little to beam at the Apache. "This is Sam."
Spike took the hand Sam offered and ventured, "That isn't your real name, is it?"
"No more than Spike is yours." He shook hands, then enfolded Spike's with both of his. Looking hard at the vampire for a moment, Sam nodded in seeming satisfaction. "I saw his light surrounding you. You should let him take care of you.""Yeah, well. She should do a lot of things."
"Excuse me?" She bounced a little in his arms. "I'm right here."
"I am glad you found your feather, Buffy." Sam closed the door of his truck as his wolf leaped up from the floorboards and onto the seat. Retrieving a small duffle from the truck bed, he handed it to Spike who slung it over his shoulder. "This is hers. And it's time for me to go."
"Thank you for the ride," said Buffy, releasing Spike's waist to slide down onto the dirt. "Are you sure you won't let me pay you?"
The old man waved away the offer. "It's good to help."
Sliding her arms around the old man's waist, Buffy hugged him tightly. "Thank you for everything."
He patted her back. "You two take care of each other, or I'll have to come talk sense into you. Ánágodziih doleel, Buffy and Spike. I'll see you later."
The vampire led the way across the tarmac to the waiting plane while Sam climbed back into his truck. "I guess I got it right then, back in Sunnydale?"
"You walked through fire and saved the world and you're asking me that?" She ruffled his hair, probably because she knew it would annoy him. "You know you got it more than right."
Reaching the plane, Spike caught the set of stairs that had half-descended. "So, seeing as I'm some sort of phoenix come back from the ashes, does that mean I get the girl instead of the bird?"
She smacked him, but not hard, and giggled.
"Now there's a sweet sound. Up you go, pet."
They boarded the plane and Spike worked the lever to pull up the stairs behind them. "Buffy...."
Something in his voice made her turn from where she was settling her duffle under her seat. Coming to stand beside Spike, Buffy was in time to see the outline of Sam's truck fade into nothing against the desert moon, as if it had never been. Clouds of dirt roiled in the emptiness left behind.
"Did he just...disappear?"
"But where did he go?" asked Buffy.
"Better question might be where are we going?" Spike finished securing the door. "Need to get the plane back to Los Angeles, and Angel either wants to kill us or give us his blessing. You up for that?"
"As long as we're together, I'm up for anything."
"And this Sam just dissolved in the night?" Angel pursued, rocking slightly in his office chair.
"Yeah. Him and his truck. Guess he'd done what he came to do." Spike slouched in his seat.
Rummaging through her duffle, Buffy came up with a parchment scroll. "Sam insisted I buy this at his booth."
"Buy it?" Angel shook his head. "He gave you a ride, but he didn't give that to you?"
Buffy shook her head. "It wasn't cheap, either. But that's okay, I think it's beautiful. It's big enough to use as a wall hanging in our new apartment, too."
She began unwinding it across Angel's desk. Catching one side of it as Spike caught the other, Angel stood up and started reading softly. "Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be the shelter for each other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be the warmth for the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. Go now to your dwelling place to enter into the days of your life together. And may your days be good and long upon the earth."
He unwound the scroll further.
"Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together. Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves. When frustration, difficulty and fear assail your relationship--as they threaten all relationships at one time or another--remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part which seems wrong. In this way, you can ride out the storms when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives--remembering that even if you lose sight of it for a moment, the sun is still there. And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight." Angel nodded in satisfaction. "That sounds about right."
Spike looked at Buffy, whose gaze had gone soft and loving for him. "Guess he's decided to bless us and not kill us after all, pet."
AUTHOR'S NOTES: The words on Buffy's wall hanging are known by many names: Apache Wedding Blessing, Apache Wedding Prayer, Apache Song, and Cherokee Wedding Prayer. It's been published in several variations, including the extended version above. The author is unknown. If the source is Apache, the original language would have been Athabascan.
Feathers are featured in the quotation illustration because in nature feathers provide warmth and shelter. Oriole feathers are the specific feathers in it, as the bird was revered by the Apache. Arizona writer Gary Every wrote, "The Apache love the Scott’s oriole which inhabits their oak and juniper scrublands just where the mountain slopes begin to rise; ascending towards the heavens. These black and yellow feathered friends are believed to be the happiest of birds; they always sing good, never fight, and mind their own business. It is always good with that bird."
In another bit of coincidence the common name, oriole, is from "aureolus," Latin for golden. Regarding "Aurelius," the Aurelii (meaning 'the golden') were a Roman gens. The male form was Aurelius and the feminine form was Aurelia.
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