Part 27



Looking down at the two people at his feet, William knew that there was no decision to make on which one he would save from the fire. He briefly glanced at Liam, his narrowed eyes barely resting on him and as his emotions hardened, he reminded himself that *all was fair in love and war*.

"No hard feelings, mate"

A sheet of ice covered William's heart as he left the dark haired man to his own fate.

Sweeping Buffy's limp form up into his muscular arms he was almost out of the hallway before he heard her softly cry out her husband's name.

"Angel" Buffy moaned out the word almost pitifully. Even unconsciously, she seemed to feel her soul being pulled away from its mate.

William cursed loudly

" Oh, Bollocks"

**Don't look back**

His whole body urged him to keep on going, to shut out his conscience and just keep moving. It screamed out that he couldn't save them both and if he tried, all three of them would end up as crispy critters. The biggest mistake he made that second was to look down at the girl in his arms. Buffy was filthy and bloodied and her lips were swollen but, despite all of the hardship she had suffered, he still thought she was the most beautiful creature he had ever set eyes on.

**Go, you pillock. Take the bleedin' girl and just get the hell out of here**

As he moved her body closer to his chest, Will heard Buffy cry out again for her husband and he jerked when her sad face twisted in pain.

"Angel"

The sound of the other man's name on her lips wrenched him to his soul. Alive or dead Angel would always be there, forcing his way between them.

William tensed; he hated the tug of emotion continually pulling at his conscience. The last thing he wanted to feel at that moment was sympathy.

**Let the fucker burn**

Biting into his lip until it almost drew blood, William silently cursed his conscience again. He couldn't do It.. Subconsciously, he knew if he left Angelus to burn to death he would see the pain in Buffy's eyes for the rest of her life. No matter how much he wanted her, and no matter how much Liam being dead would make that possible, Will knew he couldn't live with her being in that much pain.

Before he could change his mind again, he bent his knees and placed Buffy back on the floor as gently as he could. He then turned and hating every footstep he took, William reluctantly walked back the few feet to the man he envied more than any other person in the world.

Grabbing Liam's shoulders he pulled him roughly around to face him.

" Get the fuck up" William shook Liam so hard he almost swore he heard more of his broken bones crack. The fire was almost above them and if the dumb bastard wouldn't help save himself, then he could leave him to burn with a clear conscience. With one final slap to the face, Liam winced and opened his eyes.

The pain in his chest was almost unbearable. Without needing confirmation, Liam already knew that at least three of his ribs were broken in the fall and his shoulder was now dislocated at the very least.

William didn't bother with pleasantries.

" Buffy's hurt and I can't carry you both" he tried to shout over the roar of the approaching flames as best as he could, but the smoke that now flooded the lower level muffled the sound.

Slightly disorientated Liam lunged for the blonde man.

"This is all your fault" His body immediately recoiled in pain.


William just glared. **I knew I should have left you**

"Do you want to stay here and argue or do you want to live? "He couldn't stop the sneer that slipped across his face. "Personally, I don't give a rats arse but, by the looks of your wife I'd say she needs to get out of here as soon as possible" William's eyes turned and settled on the small form lying just a few feet up the hallway.

Liam followed his gaze and felt his heart fell out of his chest. As much as he hated Pennington, the smug bastard had a valid point.

Running a shaky hand through his hair, he nodded and seeing the real danger they were in, ignored the pain feeding on every nerve ending in his body and staggered to his feet.

From the way his arm hung uselessly at his side, William knew Liam wasn't in a fit state to carry anyone.

With his good deed done for the day, he hurried back to where he had left Buffy and without looking over his shoulder, he picked up her crumpled body with a smirk. **No matter what happens to Liam now, I'll be a hero in her eyes for the rest of her life.**

"Straight up and then turn left" Almost grinning, Will barked out the direction and moved quickly ahead.

Too much in pain at that moment to protest, and knowing that Buffy's life was all that mattered, Liam pushed down his alpha male pride and followed the younger man carrying his wife.
Pennington would get everything he deserved once Buffy was safe. The second they were outside, all bets were off, damn the consequences, he was personally going put the Englishman in the ground for this.


*****


With a rush of adrenaline, head down, William burst out of the exit doors he had previously wedged open and staggered down the fire escape with almost a spring in his step. Reaching the safety of the quad, he gently laid the woman in his arms down onto the ground.

Moaning gently, Buffy's eyelashes flickered open and her blurred vision tried to focus on the face in front of her..

"Try not to talk, sweetheart. Everything's going to be okay" A masculine hand gently caressed her brow.

She blinked twice at the sound of his voice.

William's eyes locked with hers and his left hand lightly brushed along her blistered cheek. In the dim light of the quad, confusion passed over Buffy's pale features, the emotion lingered there for a few seconds until cold reality set in and she realised that she was no longer inside a burning building.

The pain she felt in every part of her body was intense but the evening breeze washing over her at that moment brought a cool relief to her burning skin.

Then it hit her that something was missing.

"Where's Angel?" Buffy's voice was barely a whisper.

Her eyes lifted back to William and he felt his heart constrict when he saw the fear they held.

"It's all right, luv. He's right behind......" William looked over his shoulder and at the lack of the other presence, he felt his heart sink like a stone. Liam hadn't followed them out after all. He was still somewhere inside the blazing school.

Even in her dazed state, Buffy realised that something was terrifyingly wrong. The face of the young man in front of her suddenly lost every trace of colour, leaving his intense blue eyes even more brilliant in the soft light.

Tears spilled from her eyes.

"I swear he was right behind us, Buffy" Frustration that he had lost sight of the other man in their flight emanated from every bone in his body. He might have wished him dead a few minutes earlier, but wishing and cold reality were two very different things.

William's whole body went taut when he saw the anguish and desperation seep into Buffy's tear-filled eyes. At the thought of Angel still trapped inside that building, she felt like her whole world was once again slipping through her fingers. **Angel was the strong one. This wasn't supposed to happen to him.** If her husband was no longer alive Buffy didn't see any point in going on. After everything she had been through the last few months, the prospect of a life without Liam again was just too hard to accept.

No longer able to look at the burning building that was possibly suffocating the life out of her lover at that very second, Buffy sadly turned her head away. Her exhausted gaze focused on the man in front of her, silently pleading with him to help her one last time.

The raw emotion travelling across William's sharp features made her shiver. As if time slowly reduced to a crawl, every word, every act and every deed between the three of them was playing out for the world to see. With a sinking heart, Buffy took in the injuries that Liam had earlier inflicted on William's handsome face and realised that her pleas would fall on deaf ears. Pennington hated her husband nearly as much as Angel hated him and there was no way on earth that he would risk his own life to save a man who only a few hours earlier had beaten him senseless.

**It's hopeless** With a painful sigh of regret Buffy started losing her struggle to remain conscious and her blood shot eyes closed back over.

Lying on the cold grass with both lungs full of toxic smoke, third degree burns on five percent of her body and a badly broken heart, an exhausted Buffy Angelus gave up the fight. The last thing she heard as a wave of darkness washed over her shattered soul and dragged her back down into oblivion was a softly muttered curse.

"Oh, bloody Hell"

*****


Liam couldn't breathe. His chest tightened and the incredible pain shooting through his left lung told him that it was a lot more than just smoke inhalation closing down his respiratory system.

He felt drained. Physically. Mentally.

Liam turned his face and through the smoke he could feel the tiny whispers of a cool breeze drifting in from the end of the hallway. Knowing that William had already taken Buffy in that direction and that she was now safe on the outside of the school, his shattered body gave into the pain and the fumes and he slumped down against the wall.

**I love you, Angel. I just wanted you to know that**

He didn't want to die. Liam wanted nothing more in the world than to hold his wife in his arms one last time and tell her how much he loved her. Sadly, he now feared that it wasn't going to happen. In the thickening smoke and intense heat, he could feel his heartbeat slowing; he could feel the lack of oxygen suffocating his brain. Slowly closing his eyes, Liam could feel his death and he didn't have the strength to fight it.

"I love you too"

****


**Don't do this. Don't do it**

"You need your bleeding head read, mate" William muttered as his body once again faced the smoke and heat of Sunnydale High.

**Only someone not in their right mind would willingly walk back into the bloody lion's den like this**

**Insanity or love. Take your bloody pick, either way it wasn't doing him any favours.**

William found what he was looking for thirty feet from the exit. His heartbeat thundered and with a rush of strength he didn't know he possessed, he picked up the much larger man and begrudgingly threw him across his shoulders.

Liam cried out in agonising pain but there wasn't time to go easy.

"I should have been a fireman not a bloody poet"

****

Dropping to his knees and gasping for breath, William unceremoniously rolled Liam from his aching shoulders and dumped him down on the grass a few feet from his wife. With a thud, Liam groaned out as his broken bones once again made contact with the hard ground. At the chilling sound, Will lifted his eyes but at that moment in time he didn't think he could move even if he tried. Buffy had been as light as a feather but the other sod; he had been so heavy it had almost broken his back.

"Remind me never to do anything as stupid as that again" Clutching his chest with his hand, William gasped for another lungful of air.

Aching from head to toe, Liam rolled onto his side and slowly pulled himself up on his knees. He raised the arm that wasn't hanging out of its socket and wiped the sweat and dirt from his eyes.

"For what its worth...." Liam didn't get time to finish the statement.

At that moment the air was filled with the sound of hysterical screaming. Both men turned back to the building at the same time. A look of horror graced both their faces.

"Oh.." Liam started to speak as his eyes made out the source of the screaming.

"Shit!" In the same state of disbelief William finished the sentence for him.

"Help me" Darla's terrified screams burst from a broken window at the top of the building.

By this time the whole school was glowing in the dark night as the fire staked its claim on everything inside.

William closed his eyes trying to cut out the picture of his sister surrounded by flames, but the image remained stencilled into his head. With a deep weary sigh, he pulled his exhausted body slowly back to his feet. At the sudden movement Liam turned his head.

"You can't be seriously thinking of going back in there?" He gasped out in disbelief.

Liam didn't need to be a mind reader to realised what Pennington intended. His determination was written clearly across his smoke-covered face.

When William didn't answer Liam tried again to make him see sense; he owed him that much and maybe a whole lot more.

"Don't be insane, its suicide" He tried desperately to reason with the younger man. Darla wasn't just a few feet inside this time; she was realistically cut off from any chance of salvation.

Lifting up his hand William ran his dirty fingers through his hair and drew in a deep shaking breath.

"I have to try...... She might be a lunatic but she's still my sister." His voice trailed off, and he tried to swallow the fear clogging his throat

Even with his broken ribs and his shoulder badly dislocated, Liam still managed to grip the smaller man's shirt. His long fingers twisting in the ruined cotton.

"It was her choice" He argued, pain distorting his features.

The bitterness in Liam's voice wasn't missed on either of them. Darla had made her bed and now she could burn in it for all he was concerned. Buffy had almost died that night and he would never forgive her for that.

Eyes filled with grief, the English man sadly shook his head. He couldn't think of all the evilness his sister had just put them through. At the end of the day Darla was still his blood, his only kin, and in his own way he was as much to blame for her actions as she was. Because of his passion for Buffy he had willingly encouraged his sister's twisted obsession. If he had taken more time to really understand her feelings, then maybe none of them would be fighting for their lives that night.

When he finally spoke a mixture of pain, frustration and helplessness touched every word.

"Sometimes we don't have a choice"

William coughed then, his scorched lungs screaming out in protest at the prospect of inhaling more smoke. Turning his head towards Buffy, his gaze swept over the unconscious form that he knew without a doubt he would love for the rest of his life.

**Another man's wife**

In that frozen second in time, his whole being longed for the beautiful blonde girl. He longed for an impossible dream that would forever be just out of his reach.

**She doesn't love you. She never loved you**

"Tell Buffy that I...." Will's voice trembled as his eyes caressed her slight figure one final time. Then in less than a heartbeat, he ripped his eyes away.

Above, Darla's distant screams once again filled the air as the fire raged ever closer to the rooftops

Cutting out her terror for a microsecond, William turned his face back to the man he both hated and envied with a passion. Liam was everything he despised and yet he was still everything he wanted to be.

Their eyes met and held and in that stilled moment in time, both men knew that after this night, their lives would never be the same again.

The next time William spoke he made his feelings perfectly clear. He took a deep breath and let go of the past.


"Tell Buffy that I said goodbye" All traces of jealousy and bitterness were gone from his voice, leaving just the barest hint of regret in his tone. He'd paid his debt to both Buffy and Liam and now it was time to close this chapter once and for all.

Their eyes then locked, and in that instant, both men could see their destinies.

"Nooooo" Liam lunged forward but, by the time he had pulled himself across the quad, the poet had already disappeared back up the fire escape and into the burning building.

"You stupid, stupid bastard" Staring at the empty staircase, Liam sank to his knees in utter frustration.


*****


Fuelled by adrenaline William felt his heartbeat quicken, the blood pulsating through his veins at a frantic rate. Determination, like a grim death mask, set across his features as he took the stairs to the roof two at a time.

He wasn't completely stupid. In his heart he knew the first second he saw Darla screaming from the upper storey window, that reaching her was impossible. Most of that part of the building was now an inferno, devouring every stick of furniture and lick of paint that crossed its path.

Liam was right, it was suicide but it still didn't stop him from trying. Rushing into the depths of hell, he knew realistically that he wasn't going to save his sister that night, he was going to die right alongside her.

William wasn't even being noble or self-sacrificing. In a way he was being a coward, taking the easy way out. This way there were no questions to answer. No prison food to choke on. No keeping his lily-white arse pressed up against the wall for the rest of his incarcerated life and, more importantly, no endless years of knowing that the love of his life didn't love him in return.

No, running head on into a blazing school was definitely the easier option.

Long before he reached the top of the stairs flying cinders caught his clothing alight. William closed down the pain and focused all of his last thoughts on the woman that he would always love but was destined never to have. Not in this lifetime and more than likely not in the next. As much as he hated to admit it, he'd always known that she belonged with Liam Angelus. Soul mates and all that bollocks.

**She was never mine**

A vision of Buffy's smile seared onto his memory and, at that moment, the agony scorching his body seemed to slightly ease. He couldn't save Darla but he had saved Buffy. Resting in peace would come easier knowing that he wasn't a totally evil git after all. With a blistering crack the stairs supporting his weight disintegrated.

"Buffy" Almost like a silent prayer, her name slipped softly from his lips as he fell.

The crackling flames enveloped him in a heartbeat

Dying seemed to take forever but, when at last it did come, William's demise was filled with visions of large hazel eyes and hair the colour of sweet corn. As the skin on his once perfect body peeled away with the heat, melting the muscles and tendons to the bone, William Pennington's agonising screams died in his throat. For the young poet who wrote endless words of passion but never found a love of his own, Death, when it arrived was a truly welcome relief.


*****


Outside


Liam staggered to his feet and supporting his broken ribs with his left arm, he stumbled towards the school. He didn't think of the consequences, he didn't have time to. All that mattered was stopping Pennington from throwing his life away, especially after he had just saved both his and Buffy's.

As he reached the bottom of the fire escape, a final explosion shook the whole building to its foundations when the blaze inside made contact with the newly installed boilers. In the aftermath that followed, a shower of glass and debris rained down from every window that was left standing and the sky above the High School was filled with black swirling clouds, blocking out both the moon and most of the stars.

Almost in the blink of an eye, the school, Darla Penn and the poet William Pennington were gone.


*****


Brushing the glass from his dirty hair, a badly shaken Liam coughed, his lungs only managing short painful gasps. When the ringing in his ears from the explosion subsided, it was replaced with the high pitch sound of sirens filling the air. Flashing lights, emergency vehicles and a town full of help was all closing in to try and save what was left of the still smouldering school. Just one glance at the destruction in front of him confirmed that they would be too late.

Turning away Liam winced and ignoring the nauseating pain coming from at least three broken ribs, he tried to pull himself to his knees.

"Buffy?"

He saw her through the smoke and his stomach plummeted.

Liam closed the short distance between them and, half-stumbling and half-falling; he dropped to the ground by her side. He ignored all the madness around him, but as he reached out to stroke her hair, his hand trembled with fear. She looked so lifeless. Like a dirty broken doll carelessly thrown aside. Her once golden skin was now burned red and blistering. Her lips were cracked and bleeding. Her blonde hair was singed and discoloured by the black smoke but the most terrifying of all was the waxen look that covered her face.

All the fight and determination that he had always adored about her had simply drained away.

Liam pulled his wife into his arms and, hardly noticing his own pain, softly cradled her small form against his chest. She was so still, still and pale. He gently stroked her cheek, brushing her hair away from her face

"Don't leave me, Buffy. Not again. Never again" he pressed his lips to her head and even through the strong tang of smoke, he could taste the blood that matted her hair. She was so small, so fragile looking and Angel knew that if he lost her again his heart would never recover.

As they sat there in what looked like the middle of a war zone, his concerned eyes never left her face.

Silent tears slid down his cheeks as he continued to cling to her hand.

Buffy didn't move.

Before Liam had a chance to grieve, the outside world came crashing in with a roar of activity. Pulling his wife from his arms.

"Alright son, we'll take over now"

Gently pushing Liam to the side the first two paramedics on the scene rolled the unconscious girl onto her back.

"Breathing's stopped. Have we got a pulse?"

"No. Nothing"

As his fears took on terrifying reality, Liam felt as if his own heart had stopped beating. All of a sudden, his abused lungs were missing a vital breath of air.

**It can't end like this. It can't** The words chanted over and over in his head as he watched the paramedics start CPR. Over and over they pressed at her small chest, willing the organ behind her ribcage to pick up its tired beat.

"Anything yet?"

One breath, five compressions.

"No. Still nothing."

One breath, five compressions.

"Come on sweetheart. You can do it"

One breath, five compressions.

"I've got the adrenaline"

One breath, five compressions

"Wait a second"

One breath...

Beat.

Beat.

Beat.

"I've got a pulse. It's very weak but it's definitely there"


*****


First there was nothing. A safe, black void of nothingness that wrapped her tightly in its' embrace and refused to let go.

The darkness was peaceful, calm and cool and she was so hot. Even lost in the silent vortex, she withered and burned.

Buffy didn't want peace, she didn't want rest and she didn't want calm.

She just wanted to live.

So, with that thought as her lifeline, she rejected the easy road and like a warrior she fought.

Slowly, after what seemed like forever, the darkness receded and the black of her world started to let in grey shards of light.

Buffy timidly opened her eyes.

The first thing she noticed was pain. Buffy ached all over, from the pounding in her head to the tingling in her toes; no part of her body was spared.

But pain was good. Pain meant she was still alive.

**Wherever alive might be**

Turning her head ever so slightly she noticed she was in a small room.

Small, white, with a strong smell of disinfectant and something she couldn't quite put her mind to...

** Flowers**

**That was it**

The fragrance of fresh cut flowers fought its way bravely through the sanitised aura of the room.

A sharp intake of breath confirmed the flowers in question were roses.

**Long stemmed and yellow**

As the perfume filled her senses her mind was flooded with memories.

**People screaming. Fire. Death**

The strongest feeling of déjà vu closed in on her. **Been here, done this, already got the nightshift and the scars**

Blinking against the light that was flooding across the sterilised room, Buffy slowly turned her head and shivered.

Once again Angel was at a window standing just as she had first seen him that fateful morning in New York. Seemingly gazing into nothingness, his broad shoulders hunched slightly under a dark crumpled shirt and one hand was thrust into the pocket of equally dark trousers, stretching the fabric over his lean hips.

At the vision another rush of déjà vu came crashing over her in wave after tumbling wave.


Gripping the side of the bed, and ignoring the IV in the back of her hand, Buffy took a deep steadying breath. Everything looked so similar. If it weren't for a new pain throbbing all around her body, she would have sworn that the last few weeks were nothing but a terrible nightmare. Sadly, the red blistering of her skin told her otherwise. It was real enough. Too real. The sling supporting Liam's right arm was further proof of that.

Not really sure how to break the ice, Buffy spoke quietly through the silence, her tone gently teasing.

"We really must stop meeting like this"

At the sound of her hoarse voice, Liam turned in a heartbeat. His dark worried eyes, red-rimmed with fatigue, immediately searched her face for signs that her memory was still intact. When she first failed to wake up her doctors had tried to eradicate his fears, promising that his wife's condition was nowhere near as serious as it first appeared. Liam wasn't convinced. After everything that had happened these last few days, he was terrified that her memory would be lost forever.

The soft expression that caressed her features soon alleviated his fear. Not only did she recognise him but she also loved him.

Buffy took a moment to really look at him and the dark lines of worry crossing his handsome face melted her heart.

With the whisper of a smile she tried to sit herself up but the jerky movement brought on an unexpected bout of coughing. Almost bending in half, the angry spasms racked her small frame as she fought to catch her breath.

Liam crossed the room and, picking up the jug from the small bedside cabinet, quickly poured her a glass of water. Buffy accepted it gratefully and, as she swallowed the cool liquid, the burning inside her throat subsided for a few blissful seconds.

Reaching out his uninjured hand, Liam softly stroked her back and quietly reassured her that the damage done her lungs would heal over time. "You inhaled a lot of smoke but the effects are only temporary."

Looking up to meet his eyes, Buffy nodded her head that she understood, then raised her hand to her face and traced her fingers over the fresh pink skin on her cheek.

Almost as if he could read her mind, Liam saw the new dread reflecting in her eyes.

He gently brushed her hair back from her forehead and after trailing his fingertip down her nose and across her lips, he let his hand rest lightly against her warm cheek.

"Don't worry about your scars, they will heal completely" His voice was soft and the warmth of it flowed over her and soothed her fears.

Unable to contain her relief at hearing his words Buffy turned her head into his hand and softly kissed his palm. She then sank back into her hard starched pillow and let all the new memories she was remembering replay in her mind.

As Liam watched the emotions play across her pale features, he knew there was no avoiding the next question.

His eyes locked with hers and he hesitated, but only for a second. He took a none too steady breath and rubbed his hand around the back of his neck.

"Do you.. Do you remember what happened at the High School"

Buffy nodded slowly and the tears brimming in her eyes told Liam that sadly, she remembered the details of the fire only too well. There were a few gaps in the story that needed filling in but these missing moments were not due to lack of memory, just the simple lack of being conscious.

"I remember being inside the school but after we fell it all gets a little confusing " she whispered as the memory flared up inside her head. One moment she was crashing through the floor and the next she was outside with William in the cool air.

Liam nodded. It was to be expected and, in a way, he was glad that she didn't have to live with any more of the horror than was necessary.

"The last thing I remember was thinking that you were dead," Buffy said sadly.

Liam just nodded.

"I know the feeling"

His strange reply left her feeling even more confused.

"Buffy, I think you should know that there are people that will want to talk to you as soon as you're up to it. I've told them as much as I could but I wasn't a great help. I think we were both very much in the dark these last few months" Liam's low voice was tinged with a mixture of resentment and regret. Resentment that he hadn't seen through Darla Penn a whole lot sooner and regret that he hadn't stopped her before it had cost people their lives.

Buffy could read the angst in her husband's eyes only too well but there was no emotion in her voice at all when she asked about the other woman's fate.

"What happened to Darla?" Her gaze clung to his dark features.

Liam watched her carefully. He knew there was no point in putting off the inevitable, she would have to know the truth sooner or later. He took a small breath and went straight to the point.

"She's dead"

Buffy just nodded, as if the information was simply too painful to talk about.

Her only regret about the news was that she feared she would see Darla burning to death in her nightmares for years to come. So much loathing for one person to carry was something she would never get her mind around.

Closing her eyes for a moment, Buffy fought the tears building behind her swollen lids but she refused to cry. Darla Penn didn't deserve her tears.

"She must have hated me so much." Her voice cracked, but she caught the sob in her throat keeping her promise of no tears..

"Sweetheart, she was insane. The police found all the evidence they needed in her diaries. It seems she's been gunning for you for most of her twisted life. Her jealousy of you and her sick obsession with me brought it all to a head."

Liam saw his wife's eyes cloud in pain but she quickly pushed the emotion away..

"I know. She found great delight in telling me just how my being alive ruined her life. She planned for me to disappear again, hoping that you would fall into her waiting arms. I hope the bitch burns in Hell."

Buffy took a deep calming breath and closed her eyes, forcing herself to think of the future instead of dwelling on the past. If she didn't let go of her own anger, she was likely to end up as insane as the woman that had almost killed her.

Liam stood silently as his wife confronted her demons. Her eyes opened and lifted to his and he felt his heart contract as he saw the turmoil they held.

"Buffy, there really is no need to worry about Darla anymore, its over now. This whole sick masquerade is over. "

He paused, just long enough to give Buffy the distinct impression that there was still something he was not telling her.

"Is there anything else, Angel?" She prompted gently, preferring to get all of the bad news over and done with in one sitting

Liam perched on the side of the bed. He looked at her for a long moment; his dark eyes mixed with an array of emotions she couldn't quite place. He then lifted his wife's hand and softly stroked her fingers.

"Yes."

**Tell Buffy that I said goodbye**

Taking a deep breath, he knew this was going to be the most difficult part of the story. It was the part he knew he would never understand himself. The man he had always hated had suddenly gone from being a stalker, to a hero, to a corpse, all in the blink of an eye.

"Well," he started slowly, carefully watching his wife's reactions.

**Oh, bloody hell**

Almost as if she knew what was coming next Buffy felt her throat start to thicken, she closed her eyes and a single tear slipped silently down her cheek.

"It seems I was wrong about William Pennington, Buffy.... Maybe he wasn't such a bastard after all"


******


Seven days later


Buffy stood calmly composed, with just the flicker of a soft breeze gently teasing at her hair. The warm golden rays of the sun trickled down through the trees and washed over her skin but sadly, she felt none of its heat that day.

Dressed in a simple black dress she watched in silence as the elegant coffin slid effortlessly into the rich American soil. With no family on either side of the Atlantic, it was decided to bury William Pennington in the town he was once desperate to leave but, in the end, found that he never could. Now, on a bright sunny afternoon at Restfield cemetery, it no longer mattered. With no family to claim him, the troubled young poet would rest alongside his sister in Sunnydale for all eternity.

At first, everyone had tried to talk Buffy out of going to the funeral, stating that it would be far too distressing. But, stubborn to the last, the determined young woman plastered on her resolve face and threatened to discharge herself if she wasn't released. Surprisingly, Angel had been her only ally that day. He not only supported her decision to say goodbye to the man who had helped save her life, but he also insisted on going along with her. The past was going to be laid to rest that afternoon and, deep in his heart, he understood that good-byes were needed for all of them.

The day, like nearly every other day in Sunnydale was bright and sunny and although there was a great interest in the double funeral, one being a nearly famous poet and the other a lunatic arsonist, the burial was kept to close friends only. Sadly, that meant in the end you could count the actual mourners on two hands.

Hidden from the curious masses, two flower-covered coffins had stood in a small corner of the cemetery, shaded by a hundred-year-old willow tree. Even though it was a joint ceremony, only one of the coffins was actually occupied. It was no secret that when the boilers at the high school exploded on the night of the fire, the intense blaze that ripped through the roof cremated everything in its path. When the fire was finally extinguished William's charred remains had been discovered in the basement, but even after an extensive search of the ashes, all that was left of Darla Penn was a few pieces of expensive jewellery. That and the legacy of being an insane, cold-hearted bitch who, single-handed had finally destroyed Sunnydale High School forever.

Darla wouldn't be mourned or missed.

William, on the other hand was a different story. Losing his young life in a futile attempt to save his sick sister meant his death would be remembered as something heroic. Both Buffy and Liam decided that the world didn't need to know any different.

"Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust"

Buffy eyes focused on the falling earth as it crashed down on top of the coffin but her mind was somewhere else at that moment. Suddenly she found herself thrown back into the past that she now could remember with heartbreaking clarity.

**I've been in Hell now for the last two years. I didn't want to fall in love with you. I knew it was wrong, but I had no choice. You're in my gut, in my throat, I'm drowning in you Summers, I'm drowning in you**

**After what you've put me through there's nothing you could say that I would believe. I could never love a man like you... You're beneath me**

**You're beneath me**

**Six feet beneath me**

Pulling herself out of her reverie Buffy leant slightly forward and dropped the single yellow rose she was holding in her right hand down onto the coffin lid below. A tiny sigh slipped into her voice as put the horrors of the past few months firmly behind her.

"Good-bye, William"

She didn't cry. After the last few weeks, Buffy doubted that she would ever be able to really cry again. She watched as the delicate flower came to its final resting-place alongside a man she would never love but also knew she could never hate. She wasn't fooling herself, Buffy understood only too well how close William had come to helping Darla destroy her life but, when push came to shove, he showed his true colours and was there when she really needed him.

**I was wrong about William Pennington, Buffy. Maybe he wasn't such a bastard after all**

Albeit reluctantly, William had also been there when Angel needed him and that in itself warranted her forgiveness.

"Thank you" Her soft words were whispered over the graveside so quietly that only the warm breeze heard their sound. The breeze and maybe, just maybe, the person they were meant for.

Turning her head slightly, Buffy lifted her eyes to where her real love was still waiting and the smile he gave her wrenched at her heart. Angel loved her. After everything that had happened between them over the last five months, the love, the passion, and the desire her husband held for her still shone blatantly from the depths of his dark chocolate eyes. An expression that she knew she mirrored to perfection

Squaring her small shoulders, Buffy took a quick, sharp breath and stepping away from the open graveside, she shivered on realising just how many times she had come close to losing her husband. Time after time fate had stepped in and saved the day. The return of her memory was a blessing but she didn't really need it to know how she felt about Angel.

No one would ever come between them. Liam *Angel* Angelus would always be the love of her life.

Without realising that he had approached her, a strong arm wrapped its way around her small shoulders, pulling her into the comfort of his body.

"Have I told you lately how much I love you?" Liam's soft words startled her out of her reverie as his warm breath tickled against her ear.

A smile graced Buffy's lips for the first time that day.

"I'm not sure" Her eyes twinkled before adding "Maybe you should tell me again just in case I forget"

With a soft groan, Liam rolled his eyes and slipped his left hand around her small waist. Her arms crept around his body and he tightened, rocking her against him as if he would never let her go.

Buffy could feel the bandages that were still strapping his ribs so she leaned her head carefully against his chest.

"I think we've had enough amnesia in our lives to last us life time." He teased softly.

Buffy just smiled

"Me too"

Not wanting to end the moment, Liam gently ran his fingers down her back, drawing feather-light circles over the thin material of her black dress.

Reaching up on tiptoes Buffy wrapped her arms around his neck, winding her fingers in his hair.

" I was thinking. The way trouble seems to follow us around lately, maybe we should just go home where it's nice and safe." His mouth leant closer, his lips almost tasting her breath " We can lock all the doors, scramble under the covers and maybe get around to that night of red hot sex you promised me?."

Buffy quirked a suspicious eyebrow

"I promised you?"

Liam smiled and brushed a kiss to her lips.

"You did. I clearly remember"

She shook her head but her expression was soft and teasing.

"Well, I guess there must still be a few parts missing from my memory after all"

Liam chuckled and the undertone of his reply sent a shiver running down both their spines..

"Don't worry. I'll soon help you remember" His fingers moved lower, gently teasing every nerve ending in her body..

Buffy pulled back slightly, just enough to look into his eyes and
lose herself in his smile. At that moment, all thoughts of amnesia and the pain they had faced over the last few months were pushed away.

A blush of colour crept into her cheeks at the thought of their promise. Suddenly it felt like a lifetime since she had been in his bed, or even in his arms.

"That sounds fair to me... Lets go home, lock all those doors, and then you can start on helping me to remember" She whispered seductively into his ear and silently promised, that no matter what the future held for them, she would never leave his side again.

Closing that chapter on their lives, the two lovers entwined their fingers and walked away from the two open graves without a backward. glance.

*****


Epilogue
Four weeks later



The petite female moved slowly along the aisle. Each painful step an effort in itself. Her eyes, covered by dark sunglasses searched along the row of numbers and, on locating her place, she slipped quietly into the soft window seat.

"Would you like a magazine?" The flight attendant smiled as she held out a copy of the early issue

Without a word the passenger nodded and reached out a gloved hand. If the attendant noticed her trembling fingers she didn't remark on it.

"Such a terrible way to die"

The passenger looked across at the front page of the glossy and a shiver passed over her soul. Along with a smiling picture, the headlines carried the full story of the poet William Pennington's heroic demise. His funeral and the plans for a memorial.

Slipping off her glasses, Darla wiped the tears away from her pink, scarred cheeks and turning her face away from the other passengers, she glanced out of the small side window. Outside, the sun was just rising on what promised to be a beautiful day but, for the female hiding away in first class, she didn't see the beauty in anything any more.

Flicking through the magazine pages, Darla ignored the searing pain in her fingers and on finding the full story, she hungrily devoured every printed word.

**Two dead in High School blaze.**

William Pennington had died along with his sister in a blaze that completely destroyed Sunnydale High School. Darla would have smiled if her face weren't so badly scarred.

From the interview in the magazine, it seemed that the whole world now believed she was dead.. No one was looking for her. It was a good start.

With that reassuring thought the passenger closed her eyes.

Her ex-lover, Parker might have been a violent prick but when she really needed him he had surprisingly come through for her. Okay, it had cost her most of her inheritance but Parker had managed to get her out of Sunnydale and into a private burns clinic without any real questions asked.

Darla would never really know how she managed to survive the fire that night. Maybe fate had played yet another twisted hand. When the roof exploded she was still clinging to the fire escape and with the force of the explosion, the twisted metal had carried her to a relatively safe dropping distance. While the rest of Sunnydale was centred on the other side of the building, she had somehow managed to find her car and, in too much shock to feel the pain of her burns, she had disappeared into the night.

As the quiet unobserved female started to turn the pages of her magazine, a small article in the corner caught her attention. A tiny picture of Buffy and Liam loomed up from the page and taunted her with their annoying survival. In the photograph Liam appeared to be wearing a sling and Buffy looked like shit but both were smiling and holding hands as they left the hospital a few weeks earlier.

While Darla continued to glare at the picture, the engines roared into life and the plane started its course along the runway, slowly lifting into the brilliant morning skyline.

Twenty minutes later she was still lost in a world of her own. A world that believed she was dead and now allowed her to move freely without fear of reprisals. As the plane slowly turned away from the small town below and headed out for LA, she carefully tore the picture of the two lovebirds from the magazine. Holding it carefully between her gloved fingers, Darla proceeded to tear Buffy's image away from Liam's side.

Running her finger over his blurred dark features Darla Penn's insane, vengeful mind raced with a million new possibilities.

"Don't you get too comfortable now, lover. This is not over... This will never be over"


The End.. ;o)