Author's Note: Well, this is it, the last chapter. I know it should be longer, but, truthfully, I've been losing interest in this story some time and was too lazy to make it longer. Which is probably obvious to you guys due to the recent short chapters I've posted. Only my personal vow to never leave any of my stories incomplete made me stick this thing out to the bitter end. In conclusion: thanks for all the reviews. I don't deserve them. Oh, and Roony? I completely agreed with you when you said you liked this story better as a one-shot.

xxxxx

It had been hours since Angel had told them of his plan to take down the Circle of the Black Thorn, the Senior Partners' instrument on Earth. His friends still didn't trust him, not completely, but they agreed to go along with it. Angel didn't know why. They were giving up their lives for this plan, this mission. That's what it was all about, right? Fighting the good fight? Angel wasn't too sure anymore. He needed someone to tell him. He needed people to keep him focused, to remind him what it meant to be a hero. Hell, what it meant to be a man. First there had been Buffy, then there had been Cordelia and Connor and - they were gone. It didn't matter anymore.

There was only one thing left to exist for and that was the fight. Screw the Powers That Be, screw Wolfram & Hart, Angel would be master of his own destiny. He was through being a puppet.

He had told his friends to go out, enjoy their last day, before the night came. It would likely to be their last day alive. What were they doing? What should he be doing? Tying up loose ends? Writing goodbye letters? He hadn't even spoken to Buffy. He hadn't even called her to say - it didn't matter anymore. Nothing mattered anymore.

Angel was in Spike's apartment with Illyria. He wasn't with Connor, or Cordy, or Buffy. He was with Illyria. It didn't seem right. His last day alive and he was with the thing that had destroyed his boy, destroyed the only good thing Angel had left. Did that count as irony?

"You want to be with Spike."

"No, Illyria," Angel sighed. "I just want my life back."

"Which one?"

"All of them, none of them, I'm not sure anymore."

"I could assume his shape, make him come alive again this once for you. But you would never ask me to."

It sounded almost resentful.

"Is that what you want, Illyria? To be Spike?"

"Do not presume such things, half-breed. I merely wish to further my study of humanity."

"Why?"

Illyria looked away. "I am unsure."

That wasn't an answer. It wasn't even the beginning of an answer, but it would have to do.

"Do it. Be Spike."

Illyria's eyes found his again. They were questioning. It wondered why Angel would agree to something he'd vehemently protested less than a week ago. Angel didn't even know the answer to that. He just knew he had to see his boy one last time.

"Just for a minute. Don't talk. Just..."

"I understand."

No, Angel thought sadly, you don't. You can't

In seconds, Illyria's body suit and ice eyes vanished. The unnatural pallor and blue tinge were gone from its skin. It looked like Spike. For a brief instant, Angel could almost pretend it was his Childe sitting on the bed, not a demon wearing his skin.

"Will?"

It really did look like him. Like he looked on his last day alive. His hair was perfectly bleached and gelled. His clothes were blue jeans and a black tee shirt. He didn't have his duster, but Angel didn't care. It was Spike. Right down to those piercing blue eyes... Angel turned away. There was still no scent. It was Illyria, not Spike. Angel knew that and, yet, he still needed to pretend, if only for a little while.

"God, I can't believe you're really here. Well, you're not really here, but... I should say something. I don't know what, but I - I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry I couldn't save you. I wanted to, Spike. I really did. You thought I hated you. You blamed me for making you into a monster. I suppose I did, but, God, I don't know, okay? I don't know what to say, what to do..."

Angel knew he was rambling. Spike would never have let him ramble. He'd have interrupted with some snide remark. Illyria Spike hadn't said a word.

"You're dead, ya know? You're dead and I killed you. I asked you to stay, remember? After you became corporeal again you were all set to go to Europe, but I stopped you and you stayed. I knew you wouldn't have gone to Buffy, I didn't ask you to stay out of jealousy. I asked you to stay because I missed you. You were my boy. We shared so much... I hated you. I loved you. I didn't want you to go, so you stayed. You stayed and you died. I killed you, Will. I didn't mean to. I really didn't... I missed you and I think you missed me, so you stayed. You died because you stayed."

His manner of speech was quick, almost frenzied. In his nervousness, Angel had begun to pace up and down the length of the tiny room. He was talking and moving so fast he doubted Illyria was still following what he was saying. He didn't care. The words he spoke weren't for Illyria's ears.

"I haven't been right since you died. I haven't been right since Romania. You were - annoying, Spike. You were an insolent brat. You were stubborn and stupid and generally a pain in my ass. I should be happy you're gone, but I'm not. I feel cold and empty and I don't know why! You were my Childe, Spike. My boy, my friend, my - you annoyed me. A lot. I hated you, I really did, but I can't - I can't stop thinking about you! I made you, I killed you. You're in my head. I hear your voice all the time and I can't stop thinking about you because you won't shut up!"

The demon was still silent. Angel wanted so much to hear Spike's voice, his true voice, and, yet, he didn't want Illyria to respond. That would break the lie.

"I look at Illyria and all I can see is you. I look at Wes and all I can see is the man who took my son. I look at Gunn and all I can see is a lawyer. I look at Lorne and see and friend I'll make into a murderer before the night is through. I look at Fred and see Drusil - Drusilla. I see Drusilla. I never realized how alike they are. Both innocent and pure and so very, very kind. Drusilla, she was so frail, I laughed when I crushed her. I always found it weird that you never hated me for that."

Angel stopped pacing, and, for the first time during his long rant, he looked at Illyria Spike.

"How come you never hated me? You were innocent once, Will. I remember when you wore glasses and your hair was honey brown. I remember your first kill and how excited you were when you used that railroad spike. I remember your jokes and how you used to laugh. I - I killed you. I damned you. I destroyed you. You're gone. You're not coming back and I can't, I can't... I'm sorry, Spike. I am so sorry. And if we're going to die tonight, I want you to know that."

Angel put his hands on either side of Spike's face and leaned over to kiss what remained of his boy. He didn't know why he did it. Illyria wasn't Spike - not that Angel would have kissed Spike had he been there. Their relationship had never been based on such acts of intimacy.

The kiss was gentle, painful, mournful; an empty apology to someone who no longer existed. The demon didn't respond to his action and, when Angel felt how cold those lips were, a lone tear trickled out of his eye and down his cheek.

Breaking the embrace, Angel stepped away from Illyria.

"Change back," he ordered hoarsely, his voice shaking with unsaid emotion. "Now."

Illyria was silent for a moment before murmuring, "As you wish." When the Old One had reverted back to its blue form it asked: "Do you desire to explore this contact further?"

Angel shook his head. "It wasn't that kind of kiss."

He had to leave. Angel had wasted enough time with this creature. He had other concerns besides corpses and memories. He had another person to say goodbye to.Without another word, Angel got up and walked toward the door.

"Where are you going?"

"To see my son."

Five hours later

They had done it. They had destroyed the Circle of the Black Thorn.

Most had survived. That in itself was a marvel. Some, like Gunn, were more wounded than others. Others, like Lorne and Lindsey, were gone completely. The remaining ones looked proud, resigned to their fate. It was odd how such weak creatures could have such strength. Wesley and Fred where linking hands. Her mate wanted her to leave.

"Bit late for that now, Wesley," she replied tersely.

They stared at the approaching army. Yes, the Wolf, the Ram, and Hart would have their revenge.

Angel had survived thus far, and Illyria had an unnatural desire to not see him die. It was the shell that was affecting it so. Perhaps it would be a blessing to be vanquished this night before Spike's feelings could infect it further. It had been god to a god, now it was a foot soldier in a half-breed's army. How far it had fallen, and yet Illyria would not leave. It had nowhere to go. Its place was with its brothers and sisters. What greater way to rejoin them then to fall in battle?

Illyria looked to the half-breed. He was smiling.

"What now, vampire?"

"We fight."

"That's not much of a plan," gasped Gunn. "How 'bout giving us the specifics?"

The demon horde was almost in striking distance. Still, the half-breed was calm.

"Well, I kinda want to slay the dragon. Let's go to work."

And the sword fell.