Title: The Final Night

Author: PrettyPoppy

Summary: On the eve of the final battle with The First, Angel and the gang come to Sunnydale to join the fight. Faced with her own mortality, Buffy must decide how she wants to spend what might be her final night on earth. S/B, with a little A/C thrown in for good measure.

Notes: This is really just a cathartic exercise for me. How I'd like to see things happen in the final episode. Spoilers through Season 7.

Feedback: Yes, please. PrettyPoppy@worldnet.att.net

Distribution: If you want it, just let me know.

Disclaimer: Nope. I don't own Buffy, Spike, or any of the other characters in this story. Everything belongs to Joss, Mutant Enemy, and whoever else has a legal right to it.

* * *

Chapter One: Enter the Cavalry

They were on the brink. The Apocalypse was coming and it looked like there was no way out.

Buffy paced nervously along the carpet in her bedroom, occasionally stealing furtive glances out the window. She was waiting. The world was coming to an end, and she was spending the early morning hours pacing in front of her window, waiting to catch a glimpse of the cavalry, coming over the horizon.

The cavalry. A fancy name for Angel, Cordelia, and their whole LA gang. It wasn't what Buffy wanted, dragging all of them into it, but it had happened. It was necessary. They were about to face the fight of their lives, and Buffy and the Potentials needed all the help they could get.

Faith had come back weeks earlier, and had ultimately been the one to convince Buffy to call in the reinforcements. Not a pleasant or easy task, but she had had no choice.

Angel and the gang had left LA sometime after midnight. Buffy knew they would arrive before dawn. They had to. It was the way these things worked.

Now, she waited.

There had been some casualties over the passed weeks. Three more Potentials had lost their lives fighting the good fight. What was left of her troops were now huddled downstairs on the living room floor, sleeping.

In spite of Buffy's orders to the contrary, Faith had gone out to, as she put it, "Kick a little demon ass." After spending so long locked up in a prison cell, she couldn't stand being sequestered any longer. Mortal danger never phased Faith. Sometimes it didn't seem to matter to her whether she died today, or ten years down the road. Buffy knew that it was really just an act, a defense mechanism. Faith couldn't deal with the idea that the world was going to end, so she had gone out to release some of her fears with her fists. Buffy didn't mind, as long as she came back in one piece. Hopefully she would. After all, she hadn't gone out alone.

Spike had gone with Faith. Much to Buffy's chagrin. But what could she do? She had forced him to be strong again, to reclaim his desire for bloodlust. What right did she have to keep him tied to the house, babysitting a bunch of teenage girls? He needed to be out fighting. She couldn't ask him to stay.

Buffy stopped her pacing and walked over to the window, to stare out into the street.

Spike.

God, what was she going to do about Spike?

She had told herself so many times that it was over. That she didn't feel anything for him but gratitude and friendship. And yet . . . tonight, when he had chosen to go with Faith, a part of Buffy had ripped in half. She wanted him to stay with her, or at least, to be the one going out with him, fighting by his side. There was nothing romantic between him and Faith, but the potential was there, and Buffy couldn't deny her jealousy. She wanted to be with him, wanted things to be like they had been before - before The First came into their lives, before everyday was possibly the beginning of the Apocalypse. Okay, so things had never been all daffodils and teddy bears for them, but if The First hadn't have come along, they might have had a chance - if not for romance, then at least a chance to cultivate their friendship. Something. Now they had nothing. The world was going to end in two days, if they couldn't come up with a brilliant plan quick. And even if they did, doubtless someone would die. Probably more than one someone. What if it was Spike? What if it was Dawn? Or Willow? Or Xander? Buffy tried to suppress a shuddering sob as she imagined all of her friends dying off, one by one. What if she survived and they didn't? What if she didn't and they did? It was just too much to bear.

Just as she was about to let tears overtake her, Buffy heard the distinct sound of a car pulling up in the driveway. She lifted her bowed head and stared out into the night. It was Angel. Oh God!

Buffy pushed herself away from the window and flew to the door. She made her way out into the hallway, and tried to hurry down the stairs as quietly as possible. When she got to the front door, she could hear the sound of voices coming from the other side.

"So this is where the Slayer lives," she heard an unfamiliar voice comment. "Not bad, although a little "Leave it to Beaver," if you ask me."

"Welcome to Sunnydale, Lorne," a very familiar voice chimed in. "Manicured lawns, white picket fences, the whole nine yards. It's very deceptive. Kind of gives new meaning to the word "irony." I'm just glad I got out when I did."

"Yeah, so was I," Buffy said as she opened the door and came face to face with Cordelia.

"Well, it's nice to see you too Buffy."

Angel instantly stepped forward and put himself between them. "Hello Buffy."

Buffy caught her breath as she drew back and looked up at him, their eyes locking in mutual accord. "Angel." The word was barely a whisper.

They stood there for a long moment, neither one moving, or speaking. Finally, Cordelia pushed her way forward and grabbed Angel by the arm. "Okay, we get it. Loads of sexual tension, right? Can we just get inside before whatever Big Bad is out there wanting us dead, starts picking us off one by one on your front porch?"

"Uh, yeah." Buffy shook herself and tried to come back to reality. "Come on in." She stepped inside and motioned for them to follow. Still, she couldn't take her eyes off of Angel.

The commotion on the front steps had woken all of the would-be Slayers. Willow and Kennedy - who had been up working on some protection spells - had come downstairs as well. Buffy suddenly found herself in the overcrowded living room, trying to bring order to chaos, and survive all the awkward introductions she could.

"Okay, everyone," she said, to the stuffy room of loud, curious girls. "This is Angel. You already know about him. This is Cordy. Cordelia," she said, motioning to the former cheerleader. "Um," Buffy looked over her shoulder, straining to see who was standing behind her in the entryway, crowded out of the filled-to-capacity living room. "This is Wesley. He's a former watcher."

"A former watcher?" Rhona, the spunky, African-American Slayer-in-training asked.

"Yes former. There is life after Watching, you know?"

"Shouldn't he, like, come out of retirement, now that all our Watcher's are dead?" Kennedy interposed.

Buffy plastered an exasperated smile to her face. "Well, why don't you ask him, once we've gotten all the introductions out of the way."

"Fine. I just asked."

Buffy turned back toward what was left of Angel's group. "I'm afraid I've never met the rest of the gang. Angel." She turned the floor over to him.

"Oh, right. Okay." He turned a little and made room for Fred to step forward. "This is Fred, that's Gunn," he pointed over his shoulder, "and that's Lorne."

Lorne finally stepped into the girls' view and a collective gasp swirled through the room. "Well, thanks. It's really nice to have my uniqueness appreciated." He smiled nervously at the girls.

"Okay, I think that's it," Angel said.

"Not quite," Connor said as he stepped into the house, carrying more of their luggage.

"Oh right, and Connor."

Connor stepped into view and a few of the hormonal, teenage girls giggled.

Buffy just rolled her eyes. "Is that it?"

Angel surveyed the group again. "Yeah, that's it."

"Okay, well," Buffy turned toward the new arrivals, "let's see how quickly I can do this." Buffy ran through the names of all the Potentials, introducing each one in turn. She also had to introduce the Scooby gang - and Andrew - to the strangers Angel had brought. By the time all the introductions were finished, it was half past four in the morning.

"Well, I think we can all turn in now. Thing's are kind of tight here, but Will's set up places for everyone, so she can show you where . . . you'll . . . be sleeping." The sound of the back door opening caught Buffy's attention, momentarily distracting her. She could hear voices in the kitchen.

"God that felt good! B doesn't know what she's missing. Always was more the mother hen type. Stay at home and protect the chickadees. Hold down the fort."

"Yeah, well, believe me, she's not always quite the goody-goody you give her credit for. I could tell you a thing or two about . . ." Spike's voice trailed off as they stepped into the living room and he came face to face with a very pissed off Buffy.

She folded her arms across her chest and stared him down. "Where have you been?"

Spike raised a quizzical eyebrow. "Out. You knew we were . . ." His gaze momentarily flickered from Buffy, and he caught a glimpse of Angel standing behind her.

"What the hell is he doing here?" The growl in Angel's voice was unmistakable.

"It's a long story," Buffy said, refusing to take her eyes off Spike.

Spike looked back to Buffy and smirked. "Yeah, that it is."

"Buffy." Angel grabbed her arm defensively and pulled her a little closer to him. "What's going on?"

"Nothing." She finally turned to look at Angel. "He's useful. That's all."

"Yeah right, that's all." Anya finally spoke up. "Let me tell you, sometimes he's a lot more than just useful."

"Anya." Xander grabbed her by the arm and pulled her close to him in warning.

"I just meant that he can be really useful for sex sometimes, that's all," she whispered defensively.

"Yeah," Xander said. "I think we all got that."

Angel's grip tightened on Buffy's arm.

Spike just shrugged off the whole exchange. "I'm going to bed," he said, as he crossed out of the room and headed toward the basement. "It's been a long night, and at least some of us, have actually been out fighting. Goodnight kiddies," he said before making his exit.

"I think I'll turn in too," Faith added, as she made for the stairs. Halfway up she turned around. "Goodnight B. Sweet dreams." Then she too left the Slayer slumber party.

"Buffy," Angel growled softly in her ear.

She pulled away from him, breaking the contact and turned to address the room. "It's late. We don't have much time. Everyone goes to sleep, now. We'll devise a plan in the morning. And that's an end to it. Goodnight."

Buffy caught a glance back at Angel and then headed up the stairs. Much to her dismay, he followed her.

When she got inside her bedroom door she turned around. "Angel, not now. Not tonight. I can't do this."

"Buffy, what is going on?"

"It's a very, very long story, okay? The world is probably going to end in two days, can we please discuss this in the morning? I'm not going to be of any use to anyone if I don't get some sleep."

Buffy tried to close the door on him, but he wouldn't let her. "Buffy," he said, leaning his hand against the open door, "there's something I need to tell you."

"Does it in anyway involve the Apocalypse?"

"Well, no, not really, but . . ."

"Then goodnight." She used her Slayer strength to dislodge his arm and force the door closed. She locked it behind her.

"Buffy, there's something I need to tell you."

"Not tonight. Tomorrow. I think I've had about all I can take for one night."