Not Done Yet by Djinn
Angel sees her in his dreams; she is fire and blood and life. She is what drives him, what pushes him ever onward. Once, he kept fighting to be worthy of her, to one day be with her. Now he knows she's moved on, moved away. That she loves another.
Buffy doesn't love him anymore.
He wakes, the thought ringing through his head. He remembers that day, long ago, lost now, turned back forever, when he and Buffy made love, when he was human and they touched and kissed and ate ice cream in his bed. His bed in the first place he lived in L.A. The place that burned down. Fire scorching everything he held dear. Except his friends.
Some of them lie around him now. In this cave, where they have retreated from the powers that they tried to destroy. Wolfram and Hart is back to old management. Angel and his team are on the run. On the run...but not dead. Or not all of them.
He sits up, looks over at the fire that fills the cave with dancing light. He takes in the people who lie scattered over the dark, damp earth, counts them out of force of habit. All present. All the ones still living anyway. Mostly soldiers left now, Riley Finn's soldiers who appeared at the other end of the alley and fought the monsters, trapping them between them and Angel's group. It should have been the final battle, the last hurrah for Angel Investigations, but Riley made the difference for them. For some of them. Not for Gunn, though. Or for Fred or Cordy--only death came earlier for them. Not in battle, but still they died fighting the good fight.
He likes to think that anyway. All the women in his life are dead. Darla, Fred, Cordy, Lilah, even Buffy--dead to him now, even if she lives. She's been dead before, twice before.
Illyria survived. Illyria who sits in the back of the cave with the half-lucid Wesley who rose from the dead. Her tears gave him back his life, he said, stroking her face in a way that Angel thought would surely get him torn limb from limb. But Illyria allowed the touch. Now she sits holding him, his head on her lap. She is singing softly in the Fred-voice that gives Angel the creeps--and comforts him too. Is she still in there? Somewhere? His Fred? The woman he doomed to death by saving?
Does she forgive him?
He misses her. His Cordelia. The woman who kept him grounded, kept him humble. Made him laugh. He loved her.
But not like he loves Buffy.
How could Buffy forget him?
He sighs. Buffy forgot all of them. He's not special in that. He looks over at Spike, realizes the other vampire is sitting up, leaning against the wall and watching him. Their eyes meet across the fire. As one, they turn to look at Riley, their rival.
Their one-time rival. Riley is sleeping, his arm thrown around Sam, the wife that Angel never expected him to have. What was Riley thinking? Moving on? Wasn't he going to love Buffy forever?
Riley didn't even know that Buffy had moved on to the Immortal.
"She's with the who?" Riley asked, when Spike told him where Buffy and Dawn were. He didn't sound terribly concerned. Just hooked his arm around Sam and smiled at her. "Buffy's happy? Good for her."
"Good for her," his wife echoed, her eyes meeting Riley's in what Angel recognized as communion.
It is why Riley doesn't care that Buffy doesn't love him anymore. Riley has moved on.
Angel should be happy Riley's moved on, because maybe someday Angel will too. Riley can show him the way, how to keep on fighting the good fight, far away from the tiny slip of a woman who they both loved.
A soft sigh makes Angel turn back to Wesley. Wesley never loved Buffy. Angel is not even sure Wesley liked Buffy. But then Angel is not sure anymore who or what Wesley likes. His friend is a cipher to him, never more so than now as the man lies curled around the demon that killed the woman he loved. The woman they all loved in some way.
Fred died so that Illyria might live.
Cordy died...why? Angel thinks of Cordy, and memories of Connor and Jasmine arise. That terrible moment when they killed the last chance for peace. When they killed truth hidden in the body of utter ugliness. Ugliness clothed in an illusion of beauty and grace. Truth. Illusion. Which was she, this granddaughter of his? Jasmine would have saved the world.
But the price was too high.
Or was it?
Spike gets up, pushing himself awkwardly to his feet. He took a beating. They all did.
"You should get some rest," Spike says, sitting down on Angel's leather coat as if it is a picnic blanket and not Angel's last link to everything he knew.
"Get off the coat, Spike."
"Or you'll what?" Spike pulls out a pack of cigarettes, seems to think better of the idea and pushes them back into the pocket of his own coat, now ripped and torn but still wearable. "What do you think of that?" He points with his chin toward Riley and Sam.
"I'm fine with it."
"You think he's happy with her?"
Angel turns to look at Spike. "Why wouldn't he be?"
"I saw how he looked when he found Buffy and me together." Spike smiles. "Yeah, that's the look he had too. He's just making do, that's all."
Angel looks over at Wesley--he may just be making do. But Riley? "No. There's something more."
"What?" Spike's voice is a little desperate, as if he wishes he knew Riley's secret.
"Riley gave up. Finally. He gave up on Buffy." Angel looks down. "I'm not sure we ever will."
Spike doesn't say anything. Just plays with the dirt, drawing symbols in the ground.
Angel tries to make sense of them. Finally realizes what Spike has written: BA and BR and BS.
Then Spike rubs his hand through the symbols, leaving Buffy with none of them. He looks over at Wesley. "Does he see her? Or just Fred?"
"I don't know."
"What do you see?"
"I see Illyria."
Spike nods. "Me too. I think he sees something else." Spike gets up, walks to the mouth of the cave and pulls out a cigarette.
Almost against his will, Angel joins him.
"You want one?"
"No." Angel stares out at the stars. The moon is high and bright, lighting up the trees below.
"Something out there?" Riley's voice would have startled Angel if he hadn't heard him coming.
"Buffy," he whispers, hears Spike echo the name.
"She's pretty far away," Riley says softly, leaning against the wall. "And for the record, I do love Sam."
Spike smirks. "Methinks he doth protest--"
Angel can't help but smile as Riley throws Spike back against the wall of the cave. Hard.
"I'll show you protest." Riley looks like he's itching for a nice stake.
Angel is tempted to hand him one.
Spike's face changes. "I can fight you now, Captain America. Let's finish this finally."
"Is there a reason you are fighting each other?" Illyria asks, and this time Angel does jump because he didn't hear her coming--the way she moves gives him the creeps. But he realizes her strange voice is becoming less so by the day. He's even getting used to the blue hair.
"Soldier boy here's asking for it," Spike says, pushing Riley away.
"Vampire boy here's an idiot," Riley says, pulling out a stake he must have had all along.
Angel suddenly admires his restraint.
Illyria pushes between them, ending the conflict but pretty clearly not caring. "They will send others against us?"
"I imagine so," Riley answers when Angel and Spike don't.
"We will kill them. I will enjoy that." Illyria smiles an ugly smile, then turns and walks back into the cave, back to Wesley. The Fred-singing starts up again.
"Nice girl. A little creepy, but handy to have around in a fight." Riley sits down cross legged, ignoring Spike as the other vampire stalks back into the cave. Once he's gone, Riley looks up at Angel. "I really hate him."
"Yeah. I get that." Angel sits too. "I still don't like to think of him and Buffy..."
"At least you just have to think about it. I had to see it." Riley looks over at Angel and grins, and Angel finds himself responding. Buffy had good taste.
Well, except for Spike.
"Sam's a fine woman," Angel says.
"She surely is." Riley doesn't look at him, his gaze seems fixed far away. All the way to Italy maybe?
"Do you ever miss her?"
There is a long silence, and Angel wonders if Riley thinks he will be betraying Sam if he says yes.
Finally, Riley whispers. "When I let myself."
"Yeah. I get that too." Angel thinks of Nina, gone now, safely out of town. He knows he's made her a target by getting close. Hopes she is okay wherever she is. He will go find her.
Riley is sitting, staring out at the night. Angel watches him, wonders what the young man has been through that allows him to sit so still, as if he's a vampire himself who doesn't need to breathe or move. There is a gleam, and Angel realizes it is Riley's wedding ring, shining in the moonlight.
"Aren't you going to tell me I should find a nice girl, settle down?"
"Not if it's going to make you truly happy." Riley shoots him a wry grin. "Buffy told me about the curse."
"Is there anyone she hasn't told?"
Riley laughs, his face lightening with the expression, making him look like the kid he probably still is in some ways.
Angel suddenly feels very old. "You and Sam and your soldiers. You don't have to stay."
"We fight demons. Demons are here. In large numbers. More fun for us." Riley shoots him a stern look. "We stay till it's over."
Another grin, this time sideways. "Because Buffy would never forgive us if we didn't." The look he shoots Angel is half envious, half amused. "She always loved you best."
"Really? You think?" Angel worries he sounds too needy. Cordy would be bopping him on the head about now. Fred would just sigh and look sad. Darla would have scowled. Nina...Nina would just give him the longsuffering look of a woman who knows she's lost before she even got in the fight. "I'm with someone."
"No, you're not." Riley is watching him, his look sad, full of...pity. Riley pities him? "If you were with someone, she'd be here."
Angel doesn't answer.
"Sorry," Riley says. "That was out of line. I don't know you; I could be wrong."
"You're not wrong. That's annoying, by the way."
Riley pushes himself up in one smooth move. "Yeah. I get that." His grin is a mixture of cocky and contrite as he walks back into the cave.
Angel sits for a long time, then he hears a noise. Then another. Footfalls coming up the path toward the cave.
He stands, is about to whisper into the cave that they've got company, when he sees the moon glint off of light hair, sees a woman move out of the trees.
She smiles up at him. "Heard you might need help with some demony things?"
"I might." He is grinning. Like a fool. When was the last time he did that?
"I brought reinforcements." Buffy moves aside, letting Faith and a host of other young woman walk by her, past him and up into the cave.
"Hey, big guy," Faith says, stopping to give him a quick hug.
"Hey, you," he says back, letting her go so he can stare at Buffy.
"Yeah, figures." Faith laughs, the sound happier than he has ever heard it. "That's okay. I have someone waiting for me to get back when this fight is over." Then she is gone.
Buffy walks up to where he is standing. "Are you okay?"
"No. I've lost people I care about."
"I'm sorry." She looks like she might take his hand, thinks better of it.
"You're with someone." He doesn't make it a question.
"Me too." He doesn't sound very sure of that.
"That's good." She doesn't sound very sure of that either.
"Yeah. It's good that we're with other people." He sighs, looks away. "I thought you were cookie dough. Not done yet."
"I'm not done yet."
"So he's your oven or something?"
She laughs. "Maybe. Maybe he's the mixer. Maybe he's the spatula. I don't know. I'm just sorry I thought up that lame analogy in the first place."
"Yeah, me too." He turns to look out again, keeping watch because it is easier than watching her.
"I'll always come." She leans against him, her shoulder butting up against his arm. "When you need me..."
"I know. Me too." He reaches out, isn't surprised to find her hand right where his hand is, her fingers twining with his.
"Slayer." Spike's voice is suddenly the thing Angel hates most in the world.
Angel looks around for a stray piece of wood.
Buffy doesn't let go of his hand, just reaches out with her other to Spike. "Long time, Spike. I thought you were dead."
"Yeah, well, you know how that goes." He takes Buffy's hand, stands there, his expression more blissful than Angel's ever seen it.
"I so do." She smiles at Spike, a sweet smile, but not the same one she gave Angel a moment ago, and he is glad.
Maybe she really does like him best.
"Riley's here. With Sam." He feels the need to tell her that, to protect her from the shock. He's about to tell her about Illyria, then realizes she probably doesn't care.
"I know." She smiles. There is no jealousy in her expression.
Angel is feeling positively giddy. He just wishes Spike would go away. Would Buffy mind if he borrowed her stake? He sees Spike eyeing the stake too, realizes the other vampire is probably thinking the same thing.
"If either of you make a move, I'll stake you myself." Buffy is smiling, even as she lets them both go. "So, where can a girl get some shuteye around here?"
"I'll show you," he and Spike both say at once.
Buffy just rolls her eyes. Spike is the first to turn away, going into the cave ahead of them. Buffy turns back to Angel, her look open and full of something that for a moment looks like longing. Then it is gone, and she is just smiling. He follows her back into the cave, the firelight dancing across her body as she walks around his coat to give Riley a hug.
The flames flicker on her face, and she leans down to greet a sleepy Sam. As she rises to look back at her slayers, her eyes taking in Wes and Illyria and the rest of the soldiers, her skin drinks in the firelight and turns to blood, to life.
She is everything that drives him.