The Last Battle

Summary: Future fic. The last battle, the one to close the gates of Hell forever has been fought, but wars always have their casualties. Written for Jess for a ficathon. She requested Angst, future and B/A. I hope I delivered. Written from Angel's pov

Rating: PG

I shove my sword into demon's gut. I clasp the hilt with two hands and pull up, slicing the Ulgrash demon completely in half. The pieces of the body fall to the side and I catch a glimpse of Buffy going down under a mob of monsters. The way to her is clear. We've killed almost everything in the place. I try to ignore the flash of red hair buried under demon bodies or the shattered frames of the glasses Giles always wore as I run to my love.

The attack on Buffy is a last ditch effort to kill us all. They don't have any hope of winning, not anymore. They just want to take as many of us down with them as possible. I slice through the demons with a rage and fury I didn't know even I possessed. When I am finished the ground is soaked in blood. Buffy is lying in the middle of all the blood. I kneel down next to her and she smiles faintly at me. I gather her in my arms, pulling her close to my chest.

"Did we do it?" She asks. Her voice is thready and weak, like her pulse hammering in my ears.

I nod. "Every last one of them."

"The spell-"Buffy starts.

I shake my head. "Willow-she didn't make it."

"Angel, we have to close the gates with the spell. Otherwise they'll open again." She struggles, trying to rise to her feet. I hold her down.

"I'll do it. You lay here, conserve your energy." I know she couldn't handle one more burst of activity. Right now she needs to be still and let her slayer healing do its work. I fumble in my pocket and pull out the leather pouch Willow gave everyone. We knew there was a chance some of us wouldn't make it. Everyone was taught the spell to seal the gates of hell. It was the most important part of this battle. If the gates of hell could be closed demons would cease to exist.

I take a handful of the herbs and sand in the pouch and scatter it over edge of the Hellmouth. There is a flash of light and I watch in amazement as a crystalline seal forms over the Hellmouth. It thickens and grows solid as I watch. When it is done there is nothing but a semi shallow rocky crater left. The casual observer would never know the mouth of hell lay beneath that surface and I guess that's the point.

I kneel down beside Buffy and take her in my arms again. She smiles weakly at me and raises a hand to caress my face. She doesn't have quite the strength to make it all the way. I grab her hand and lay it flat against my face. I close my eyes and breathe in the scent of her. Underneath all the blood and dirt I can still smell vanilla, strength and sunshine.

"Do you have any idea how beautiful you are to me?" She asks. Her words are mere whispers but they seem to echo in this cavern filled with the dead.

"It can't be half as beautiful as you are to me." I answer without opening my eyes.

"Angel, open your eyes. I want to remember for the rest of eternity what they look like." She says.

I open my eyes and look down at her. "You're going to have a long, long time to remember what I look like. We closed the gates of hell, no more demons for you to fight. You can have a normal life, be a real girl like you always wanted to be." I say. I can not finish my sentence without my voice cracking.

She coughs and her lips are flecked with blood. "Tell me-tell me all the things we'd do."

I smooth the hair back from her head, careful to avoid the gash on her forehead that goes all the way to the bone. I can hear her heart slowing and skipping. It sounds like a drum in the silence of this room. I swallow the tears that threaten to choke me. "I'll take you to Europe. I'll show you all the things you've saved when you saved that tiny town that no one even remembers now. I'll show you the pyramids and the Sistine Chapel. I'll make love to you while the sun rises over the Greek ruins. I'll walk with you by moonlight through the Roman coliseum. We'll go all over the world, Buffy, you and me for the rest of forever." Tears choke me and I can't go on. Her breathing is shallow and ragged.

Buffy's fingers creep along my face and thread in my hair. I pull her closer into my body, as if I can keep Death away if only I hold her tight enough, close enough.

"I'm sorry I never got to see you in the sunlight." She says.

I force myself to smile at her. "It's okay, I look better in indirect light anyway."

She smiles faintly at me, my own ray of sunshine in the form of a girl, the only girl I have ever loved in over two hundred and fifty years. A cough seizes the smile and racks her tiny, fragile body. Her lips are coated with fresh, bright red blood. Panic creeps into her eyes and she looks at me with real fear on her face. "I don't want to die like this, please don't let me die like this." She says.

Oh, God, I can't do this. I can't sit by and watch her die. I thought I could do it. I thought I could be strong until the end for both of us but I can't. She was always the strong one. I can't watch her die. Tears fill my eyes and spill over my cheeks. I'm tempted to deny it, to tell her she's not dying and maybe just maybe by saying it, it will be true. She would see through it and we'd waste the little time we have left arguing over whether she was dying or not. That's not how I want to spend the last few minutes of our lives together. "Tell me what I can do to make it better, love. Anything," I confess and I would do anything at this moment to keep Death away.

"Wait-"Her voice is a whisper and I'm not sure I would hear it if I wasn't a vampire. "You have to know. I always loved you, with my last breath I love you and that won't end just because this body does. I will love you in Heaven, I will love you in Hell and all the places in between."

My tears splash on her face. I smooth them away with my fingers. "I will find you." I vow. My voice is a hushed determined growl that fills the silence.

"I know. Don't let me die like this. I want you to carry me with you for the rest of your days. I want you to drink me."

I shake my head. "No, Buffy, I can't. Anything but I can't do that."

"Angel, this hurts. Listen to me, I hurt. I don't want to die in pain and hurting. You can make it good for me. You can make me forget. Please." Buffy says.

I swallow hard. It was the please that did it and her admission that she's in pain. I've never known Buffy to ever admit she was hurting, but then again I've never watched Buffy die.

"Please," She says again and it is weaker then before.

I lower her to the ground, tenderly, gently. I lie down, my body flush with hers. I brush my lips lightly across hers, knowing this is the last time her lips will feel warm against mine, the last time I will feel that sweet exhalation of breath against my mouth. I bury my nose in the crook of her neck and breathe in the scent of her. It is mingled with the smell of my tears. I kiss the big pulse in her neck, the one that is beating so weakly I can barely feel it against my lips. I have to nearly force my game face. I slide my fangs into her skin and her blood rushes into my mouth, past my fangs. There is an intense moment of pleasure and pain. Her blood is particularly salty and it takes me a moment to realize it is because my tears mix with it.

Her heartbeat slows until it has nearly stopped. Her breath no longer warms my neck. Angelus screams at me and God help me but I listen to him. I pull my fangs from her neck and tear at my own wrist. I can stop this. I can keep my love from dying. I hold my wrist to her mouth. I told someone once that you couldn't resist, you thought you could but when it came right down to it, you couldn't. I've never seen anyone turn away the blood of vampire when they were this close to death. Buffy does. She turns her head. My blood and her blood stain her lips. Her heart beats loud in my ears one more time. Her chest shudders to a stop and then all is still.

Sobs rack my body. I bury my face in her neck, still fresh from my bite and sob until there is nothing left and some how I feel her. It's almost as if her soul, the part of her that makes her everything I love, has stayed behind to comfort me. I can not help but think on the time we wasted. I never thought she would die. I knew she was a slayer, I knew they didn't have long life expectancies. She was my golden girl. She was the one who was going to beat the odds. Only she didn't, and now she lays here in my arms, her warm skin quickly cooling, even faster then normal because she has no blood in her to keep her warm. Her blood courses through my veins, hot and tingling. I scent the air. Sunrise is coming. I don't have long left. I rise, cradling my precious cargo to my chest, my nose still buried in hair that still smells like she did alive.

I walk out of Hell holding Heaven in my arms. I emerge in an ancient cemetery. The last time someone was buried here was at least a hundred years ago. I lay Buffy down carefully at the entrance to the crypt that stands over the mouth of Hell. I glanced up at the lightening sky and begin to dig a grave with my hands. The earth is damp and somehow it seems sacred to be digging Buffy's grave with my own hands.

When it is deep enough that I am satisfied animals will not dig it up, I clasp her body to mine one last time. I smooth the hair away from her face and memorize every line. Even in death she is achingly beautiful. I press my lips to hers and close my eyes, maybe when I open them this will all be a dream and she will be alive and warm in my arms. I swallow a sob and open my eyes, like all my other dreams this one isn't going to come true either. I glance at the rapidly lightening sky and I am reluctant to lay her body in the earth and cover it with dirt but the sun is coming and if I want to make sure nothing gets to her I have to hurry.

"Buffy, I love you, always." I whisper and commit her body to the earth. I cover it up with rich, dark dirt, leaving a hollow. I ache inside so much I think I'll die from it. It starts at the exact place she once ran a sword through me to save the world. It radiates outward until even my fingernails hurt. I can feel her blood inside me. It tingles and for the last time my beautiful golden girl makes me feel almost alive. I lie down in the hollow of her grave and close my eyes against the pain. In just a minute I'll be with her. I can smell it as the sun crests the horizon and then I catch on fire. I murmur Buffy over and over again until I am ash.

*

Spike pushes the rubble off his battered and bruised body. He doesn't remember ever hurting this much. He takes a deep breath and coughs at the dirt in the air. There is blood everywhere but he can't smell it. The room is littered with bodies. He can see Willow and Giles fell close together. Faith died protecting Xander. He moves aside as much rubble as he can and he feels oddly weak.

It is a little hand that brings him to his knees. The fingernails still have chipped bubblegum pink polish. Spike falls to his knees, cradling the hand in his own. He can not bear to look at her face, bloodied and pale. She was his to protect, until the end of the world and he failed. He had one job and he couldn't do it.

He pulls her body into his, bending his head over her shining brown hair. He stops breathing, waiting, listening for a pulse or a whisper of breath and is surprised when his lungs ache from the effort of not breathing. Spike takes a deep breath, realizing for the first time that he is alive. He remembers a vague riddle of a prophecy hidden in a dusty tome about a vampire with a soul. He didn't realize the prophecy included all vampires with a soul.

Spike considers hauling the dead out one by one. For what? So they can lie in the earth rotting away? He shakes his head and lays Dawn's body back on the ground. He runs his fingers over her eyes and digs two quarters out of his pocket. He places them on her eyelids and stands. He's not a priest. There's nothing to be done about the dead now.

"I'm sorry, Niblet. I guess in the end I just wasn't enough." Spike says. He turns and walks up the stairs into the sunlight for the first time in well over a century. The light blinds him at first. He doesn't remember it ever being this bright. He looks down, the brightness too much for his dark accustomed eyes, and catches sight of the fresh grave. He kneels beside it and runs his fingers through the ash on top of it.

Spike doesn't have to ask who lies under the dirt or who the ash is. He covers the ashes with more dirt. He wonders if Angel knows he missed his redemption by minutes and then he decides he wouldn't care. Angel is exactly where he wants to be. Shanshu was always about Buffy when it came to Angel, with her gone it holds no meaning.

Spike turns and walks into the morning sun. They saved the world and all the dead deserved to be honored. He's going to make sure they are.

*

The light is almost blinding. I squint my eyes against it and throw my arm up. My eyes adjust slowly and I lower my arm. She is standing in front of me smiling and it's my sunshine smile. She holds her hand out to me.

"Come on, I have so much to show you."