The End of the World as We Know It

By Shakespeare's Girl

A/N: This is not happy. This is incredibly un-happy, so consider yourself warned. No spoilers, just character death. Which is going to make me persona non grata with a few people I know, but I'm a writer, not a people-pleaser. Written for The Challenge.

"Oh!" She was choking on that one word, the sword running her through forcing air out without her consent. She looked down at the handle that was sticking out of her stomach. "Oh--"

She couldn't even get breath to scream at the pain.

"BUFFY!"

She looked up at the shout, saw him running things through with his sword, heading toward her. She looked around, but the demon who had turned her own sword on her was gone. How had this happened? She looked down again. Maybe if she could--

She was on her knees. When had that happened? She took hold of the handle in one hand, the other clenched around her knee. If she pulled, maybe it would come out, stop hurting.

"Buffy!"

Angel. He was on his knees in front of her, moving her hands away from the sword.

"Angel," she greeted him. "I-I have to-to get it out--" she stuttered, breath not lasting long enough for more.

"I know," he nodded. "Let me."

She sat back, and thought she felt something touch the sole of her foot, but then Angel was pulling and the sword was gone, and she was falling back. "Oh--god!" Angel caught her, his elbow crooked to cradle her head.

"Shh, don't try to talk. Just--just--"

He was crying. This was bad. Buffy smiled, weakly. "So, wh-where do we go from here?"

"Shh," he smoothed hair back from her forhead. "Shh. It's all right."

"No--" she shook her head, gasping for breath. "No. You believed in me . . . and I believe in you . . ." she frowned. "This isn't how it's supposed to be."

"Just stay still," he urged. "I think--I think someone's calling an ambulance."

She coughed. "Don't let them bring me back this time?"

"You won't need to be brought back. You aren't--you won't--"

"It's okay. It doesn't matter."

"It does, Buffy, it does--"

"It doesn't! Whether or not I--just keep fighting! Keep fighting."

"I don't want to fight without you."

"I'll keep fighting too," she promised. "Just promise me . . ?"

"I promise."

She nodded. "There's so much I wish I could say . . . so much I should say . . ."

"You'll have time to say it, I promise." Angel's hand found hers, squeezing it tight as he smiled, his tears showing the lie for what it was.

"I'm scared to say it," she admitted. "But I'm more afraid of not saying it."

"You don't have to say anything," he whispered.

"You didn't have to come be with me, fight with me."

"Yes I did."

"Yes, you did. Nothing's changed, has it?"

"No."

She gasped in a breath, then smiled up at him. "Not long now," she said. "I just--I realized that--you're here," she kept gasping, even as he tried to silence her, making little noises of "shh" and comfort.

"I'll always be here."

"Yes. And do you know what that means? It--It means you must love me, still," she told him. "And I--I love you too," she whispered, her eyes beginning to glaze. She looked up at him with sudden clarity. "You must love me."

Angel watched as her body went slack, her heart slowing to a stop, her eyes going dark. She breathed out one last time, and Angel stood up, her blood on his hands.

With a shudder, he walked a few steps away. In the distance he could hear sirens.