No one moved for several seconds. Then a shrill, gasping cry broke the silence. Buffy threw herself to her knees, grabbing Angel and turning him over. He gasped in pain, his face twisted into a grimace. Blood sheeted down his bare chest from the hole in his upper right pectoral.
"Oh my God," Buffy breathed. "Angel…"
"The baby," he hissed between clenched teeth. Buffy gathered the infant into her arms, not even noticing the bloodstains on the blanket. Tear-filled blue eyes stared back up at her even as the tiny girl quieted, sensing the presence of her mother. Buffy gave her a watery smile.
"That's it, darling," she whispered. "Mommy's here. It's safe now."
She tucked her daughter close against her chest and supported Angel as he sat up. Buffy glanced down at Walsh. The professor lay unmoving, her neck bent at an unnatural angle. Buffy grabbed Walsh's lab coat and ripped it from the body to press to the bullet hole in Angel's chest.
"We have to get you to a hospital," she said.
"No, something first." Angel gritted his teeth and slowly got to his feet, leaning heavily on Buffy. Holding the wad of material to his wound, he walked across the room and laid a shaky hand on one of the keyboards, smearing blood on it. "She's still logged into this computer."
"What are you doing?" Buffy demanded, cradling her infant. She looked from her daughter to her lover, feeling the bloodlust drain away, but not the worry. "Angel, you're losing a lot of blood."
"All right, we can go now," he said, turning away. Buffy looked past him to the computer screen, which was flashing the words "Self Destruct Initiated."
"Oh," she said. Angel placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Elevator's this way."
The elevator took them up into one of the housing units. Angel was having trouble staying on his feet; Buffy used one arm to hold him up and the other to carry their baby. As they stepped out of the building, Buffy felt the first tremor through her feet.
"Angel, we have to get out of here," she panted.
"Not enough," he muttered, his head lolling onto her shoulder. "Not enough. Have to make 'em pay…make 'em suffer."
"Well, they're going to suffer plenty when the place blows," Buffy grunted. They started across the grass lawn, their steps agonizingly slow. The baby began to cry again, tired, hitching sobs and tore at Buffy's heart.
Then she heard a low, muffled thump that reverberated through her chest. "Oh, crap," she spat, and lowered Angel to the grass. The ground rippled, sending Buffy to her knees. She shoved the baby next to Angel and threw herself over both of them just as the shockwave hit.
Glass and shattered timber flew in all directions as the dorm exploded behind them, sending a column of flame shooting into the sky. Smoke billowed over the college grounds, covering the three battered, bloody figures lying motionlessly in the charred grass.
"Shh, sh, sh. It's going to be okay. Don't cry."
He wasn't crying, was he? Maybe the soft, sweet voice wasn't talking to him. Everything felt distant, fuzzy. Like he was wrapped in a cloud.
"You can't cry and wake Daddy up, honey. If you start crying you'll have to go be with Grandma and Uncle Giles."
He struggled to open his eyes, if only to figure out what that infernal beeping was. A blank, white ceiling greeted him and something deep inside whispered that it was wrong. He stirred faintly, automatically testing his extremities. God, he hurt.
The voice was filled with hope and joy and love. He turned his head cautiously, noticing the oxygen line in his nostrils, and saw Buffy sitting next to his bed. He tried to say her name, but all he got out was "fff."
"Hey, you," she said, smiling. She reached out to stroke his cheek. "How you feeling?"
He groaned and she smiled wider. "Yeah. Doctor said you'd be feeling like that for a while. Apparently getting shot takes a lot out of you."
Angel mustered his strength and finally forced words through his stiff lips. "You think?"
Buffy laughed gently. "Look who I brought to see you," she said. She leaned down and placed their baby next to him. Angel managed to move his arm around her. She was the most beautiful child he had ever seen, with cloudy blue eyes that could change to be either brown like his or her mother's hazel-green. A cap of dark hair covered her pink scalp and her tiny rosebud mouth hung slightly open.
"She's incredible," Angel whispered hoarsely, tears pricking his eyes.
Buffy rested her chin atop her hands on the side rail. "She is, isn't she?" she asked, smiling gently. "Our baby girl."
Angel tore his gaze from his daughter's face. "What happened?"
"You blew up the Initiative," Buffy said wryly. "Paramedics found us when the fire department arrived. Official story is that it was a gang prank. You got shot by one of the gang members when you tried to stop him."
Angel blinked. "That's…um…good to know." He looked down again at the baby. "No one's ever going to bother you again," he told her. "I promise."
"We talked about names," Buffy said, reaching over to touch their daughter's forehead. "None of them fit, anymore."
Angel pondered for a moment. "I know," he said after a moment. "It's a name I heard once and really liked."
"What is it?" Buffy asked.
"Cadence," Angel said. "As in music."
"Cadence," Buffy repeated. "I like it." She bent over their baby. "Cadence Summers, I officially welcome you to the world." Then she kissed Angel lingeringly. "We did good," she murmured against his lips.
Angel reached up to cradle the back of her head. "We did good," he agreed.
Yay! Finally done. I hope you all enjoyed the ending and thanks so much for reviewing. Does anyone want seconds? Tell me if you do!