Goodbye to you

Their inky figures were painfully conspicuous against the hospitals stark white walls. They strode along with purpose, through the main entrance, waiting rooms and down endless fluorescent corridors, slowing when they reached the end of one particular hallway.

A bundle of people were waiting outside room 730; all were strangers to the two men, but strangers with familiar features - her family.

A head lifted, a woman's chocolate eyes landing on the two approaching figures - they had almost vanished from her memory.

"Mum-" somebody grabbed her arm as the woman rose shakily from her seat, "it's alright" she hushed, motioning for them to not follow as she went to meet the two strangers.

Her thin, gray-brown hair was pulled back in a limp plait; her wrinkling features exposed and made all the more noticeable as she smiled.

"Dawn" one of the men nodded solemnly, forcing his own taut smile.

She didn't seem to hear him, as she looked from one familiar face to the other, quietly glad that they hadn't changed, couldn't change. Seeing them reminded her of a time long past, and she was happy for the reminiscence they brought.

"It's good to see you" he broke her thoughts and she blinked, focusing on Spike's crystal eyes.

"It's been a long time" he added, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

She smiled again, and bowed her head slightly, "it has, it has…" she murmured. She shook her head and looked back to them, "I would have contacted you, to tell you…" her eyes watered slightly as the words caught in her throat.

"No need" Angel started, he flashed Spike a side-ways glance and averted his eyes to the checkered floor, "we knew" was all he said.

Dawn nodded, "I hoped you would" she murmured, and then moved aside, motioning for them to see her.

As the two men walked past the group of family members they heard the beginning of a questioning protest but Dawn, clearly now the families patriarch, silenced them, only saying "it's ok".

Moonlight flooded the room, banishing the darkness to illuminate the white-wash walls and a thick scent of flowers bombarded their senses instantly.

As they moved deeper inside their eyes refused to tear away from the small figure in the bed.

Both approached cautiously and hovered by the bedside, eyes tracing over the woman's face, memorizing and becoming accustomed to her now aged features. Eyes closed and streaked with wrinkles, pale pink lips, porcelain skin and golden-silver hair sprawled out onto the pillow.

A beautiful shadow of the 16 year old girl they had met years before.

Her emerald eyes opened, looking at the two familiar faces, she smiled.

"Hi" she breathed, and both men smiled back.

"I didn't think you would…." She began, but stopped herself.

So many times in the past she had wanted them to be with her, to come and save her from grief, fear, loneliness or uncertainty, it seemed a shame that they were only just answering her call now, when it was all too late.

"Didn't you hear me?" she whispered, looking from one face to the other.

Spike nodded, "of course we did, pet"

Her eyes began to water, "why?"

Angel stepped forward, reaching out his hand to touch hers; "you didn't need us" he whispered.

She blinked, "but I wanted you…." She murmured.

Angel's eyes stung as he gently rubbed her hand, "I know".

She was in no state of mind to be explained the truth, or their reasons. All they could do was placate her with simple answers which may have seemed harsh in her now fragmented mind.

Of course, had she ever been in real danger they would have come to her rescue, deep down they hoped she knew that. But in the years following the final battle in the Sunnydale hellmouth, when the potentials had been summoned and her life opened to possibility… she hadn't needed them, not really.

She wanted their comfort when friends passed away and their reassurance when the tediousness of everyday life overwhelmed. But these were just things she had to face, things that every human being faces in life, and they knew that.

Eventually she stopped calling on them, and they rightly supposed that she had found someone with whom she could properly share her life with, someone who she came to rely on instead of them.

A stealth visitation to her house in London years ago confirmed their suspicions; she was a wife and mother, and happy.

"I missed you…" she murmured, grasping Angel's hand but looking into Spike's eyes.

Both men looked at one another, but were too beaten and saddened to bother clarifying her words.

"Missed you too, love" Spike whispered back.

"I'm glad you came for this…." She continued, turning away from them, looking out the window which the full moon eclipsed.

Angel sat down on one side of the bed, and Spike walked around to the other.

"You've done well for yourself" Spike said, as he sat down, "nice little family you started up".

Buffy smiled and gave a small nod, "but I miss him" she whispered in reply.

Spike and Angel shared a glance, and remembered feeling her heart break seven years ago when her husband died.

"I know, love" Spike soothed, reaching out a trembling hand to brush a stray piece of hair.

"Will I see him again?" she asked, painfully enthused but quiet.

Angel squeezed her hand again, "I don't know… your doing something that Spike and I will never have a chance to do…will never understand"

Spike nodded, "you're a bloody lot stronger and braver than us, I can tell you that right now"

Buffy looked from one to the other and smiled again, "It's not so bad" she murmured, and both men felt their eyes sting.

She continued to smile, "look at you two", she let out a huffy laugh, "so glum"

Spike quickly swiped at a stray streaking tear and tried without success to smile back.

With her other hand, she reached over and squeezed Spike's hand "I'm so happy…" she murmured.

"Buffy…" Angel started, but she stopped him.

"I never thought I would have this…." She felt her eyes water but she continued to smile, so softly, "…dying an old woman- that was like a dream for me…"

When their creased brows and stinging eyes didn't subside she sighed, "Well, let's just hope its third time lucky…."

At that Spike let out a quick laugh, and swiped furiously at his wet cheeks; "glad to see you've still got that wit about you"

She smiled and shrugged, and then slowly shook her head. "Can I tell you something?" she whispered, turning to Angel.

He nodded solemnly.

"I am a little bit scared"

Angel closed his eyes and felt the searing pain enter his body and invade his soul.

"Will you stay with me…?" she asked, turning back to Spike.

He nodded, reached out and brushed her hair back again, "didn't even need to ask, pet"

"Good, good…" she soothed herself, giving both their hands another squeeze, "…I didn't want to go until…." Her eyes clouded over then, hazy with tears as she stared up at the ceiling, "….I waited for you…." Her hands became dank, and her breathing painful, both men could feel her blood slowing; "…I waited for you, I didn't want to go until I'd seen you one…" her head gently lolled to one side, just as a smile formed on her lips.

Both men cradling their heartache took one last look at their love; the first slayer to die an old woman, and to love two vampires.

They looked down at her, at the half-formed smile on her lips, and for a moment both men saw that 16 year old girl from so many years ago….