Who We Used To Be

by Sweetprincipale

A short two or three chapter piece, just a tiny snippet of life, set after Angel season five, acting as if no comic series or novels occurred. Consider this an alternate universe, it'll be easier.

Author's Note: I needed a break from novel length pieces, guys. Work on the big projects resumes this week. Throughout the piece the Moody Blues song "Nights in White Satin" and orated poem "Late Lament" are used. All rights and credit and grateful thanks go to them. If you haven't heard it, listen to it before or during this piece, it's beautiful.

Dedicated to ginar369, Sirius120, cavemenftw, Alexiarrose, DLillith21, omslagspapper, suchagleekx, MMWillow13 , mike13z50, micmoc, MaireAilbhe, jackiemack916, lynbie, Babyfaith18, Inazea, seapea, sbyamibakura, mercurystar69, waddiwasiwitch, Starscape91, and babe ruthless.

Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.

Part III

Buffy managed to wriggle free from his arms in a few steps, not pulling away, just setting her feet on the floor. "You shouldn't carry me, you've been all beat up and you-"

"Have superhuman strength, plus a miracle just happened. I got to see you, never thought I would again." He laughed gently. Kissing continued, one hand each on the back of their partner's head, holding each other still, as if they were both afraid the other might vanish.

"You'll keep seeing me." Buffy's free hand traveled down to her waist band and she began to fumble and tug at her jeans. She was surprised when Spike's lips unglued from hers with a little wet pop and one of those sexy outward snorts of air he made, that primal sound she hadn't even known she'd missed. She opened her eyes,expecting to see the lustful fiendish expression she had once been so familiar with.

She was surprised. The eyes were lustful, but it was a steady, burning gaze. He tugged her hand up, placing it on his back as he pulled her closer, made them melt into each other.

"Missed you, Buffy."

"I missed you, too. I thought you were gone. Gone- gone. 'Never see you again' gone." Panic edged her kisses and caresses, her relocated hand made an effort to reach his zipper and again she was rerouted. "Spike!"

"There's no rush, is there, Luv?" She's changed. It's not the same, get it over and get away from me, the reminder of her sin. Wasn't that way at the end, won't be that way now. She loves me. She does, and I should believe in her. Always have, always believed in her.

Buffy blinked. "No..." She said slowly, puzzled expression on her face. "Except that we finally caught up to each other and I'm sure what I want. Which is a first for me. As in ever." She gave a self-deprecating roll of her eyes. "Unless you're not sure?" Her voice was suddenly timid.

"NO! God no, no!" Spike's blue eyes bulged open and he clung to her with a steel grip.

"So what's the deal?" She looked half-amused, half-confused now. "You used to tear clothes off me. Ruined a lot of my stuff. All the time." She accused, but it was in a pouting, petulant voice, not genuinely angry.

"Well- if you're not goin' anywhere, and this is us, makin' love, I thought it ought to be a little bit- slower." He took her cheek back in his hand and led it to his. "The bloke that tore your things and knocked you down is gone. I don't like that kind of game anymore." He lipped her ear and blew a wisp of her hair from her face. "The girl that used to fight me an' fight herself before she'd let me near her- she doesn't live here anymore either, does she, Slayer?"

"No." Buffy smiled softly, eyes misting. "I'm all done fighting this particular battle. I surrender."

Music to his vice-craving ears. Yet, he didn't want her to give in as in give up. "Ah-ah, Luv." He corrected. " 'S mutual. Call it a truce. Call it a permanent one."

"Just call it love." Buffy rubbed her cheek to his jaw and then let herself arch up and back, falling into his arms and feeling relief flood through her. I made the right choice. Finally. And yeah, it is right, totally right. I loved him before, but maybe I couldn't really have been with him before. I wouldn't have let myself, I would have fought myself and fought him, and he- he just kept getting pushed farther and farther until snappage happened. God, I'm so stupid. But I'm finally wising up...

"Love. Love is- different." His chest made all the motions of breathing, pumping up and down as he forcibly expelled the air that he kept inhaling, pulling her scent inside himself as they nuzzled and tussled over each other, kissing and touching in a way that felt foreign yet familiar. Like a town you visited once a long while ago, vaguely remember the street signs and the scenery, but it's never been home before. If this was love, then he was finally home.

But making love had never happened. That had to be a joint effort. They'd shagged, they'd used and abused, and they'd comforted, and he'd made love. It'd never been properly returned. Then he'd tried to force that love to come out of hiding and- he gave a shudder and closed his bruised eyes hard. That monster died, and she bloody well knows it. She knew it before I did...

"Alright?" He asked hoarsely.

"Better." She answered in that same constricted tone as her fingers made their way under his shirt. She traced upward and he moaned, letting his own hands finally start heading for skin. "Scars are all gone." The ones the First had carved into him, she didn't know if they'd stay or not, maybe not visible as white healing on white, but maybe the type to leave marks you could feel. She could tell that they hadn't now.

"Made of strong stuff." He grinned and traced her forehead, just over the eye, where she always seemed to get gashed in battle. "You never scar."

"Not the type you can see."

They exchanged a rueful smile, and her outer shirt dropped to the floor to reveal a clinging white shirt. "Reckon you've got plenty no one else will ever know about."

"You have the same thing, all the inner turmoil and- holy cow, Spike, look at these!" Buffy'd managed to roll his black tee half way up and stopped, staring openly. "This is with a couple gallons of human blood in you? God!"

Spike looked down at himself. One side was a black and bruised mass of knitting ribs and the rest was fading claw and slash wounds. "We can't all be super gal, Luv." He teased, and made as if to cover himself back up, not knowing why, she'd seen worse, done some damage to him herself, before and after they became involved physically. "Be good in a few days."

"I can help." Buffy halted his hands, and pressed a palm to his ivory chest, head sliding down, lips grazing gently along the marred surface. "Kisses make it better. Mom said so." She murmured, eyes holding a small spark of playfulness, the rest of her face serious and deeply intent.

"Well, if Joyce said so, it must be true. She was a hell of a woman, Luv, never argue with her." Spike stared at the scene before him, Buffy sinking to her knees in front of him, hands tender, lips soft. Even when she'd performed her infrequent acts of "lip service" for him before, it hadn't been like this, it had been vigorous to the point of violence, passion that wasn't human, that was more like an animal. It was my fault. I told her she came back wrong, came back less. Should have told her she came back more, came back like a guardian angel for this world, for her friends, and that I would fight until she was ready to pick up the sword. Why the bleedin' hell was I so stupid?

"We were really dumb, huh?" Buffy's thumb popped open his fly button as she continued lightly feathering kisses on all the bruises and wounds- and there were plenty, but they couldn't take away his beauty. When you think you'll never see someone again, if they come back at all, even in pieces, they're a welcome sight, nothing can detract from that kind of beauty.

"What?" Spike made a strangled noise as she touched him on the short and curlies, running her fingers lightly through, working down. He was unable to think clearly because of that, but also because her last words had scared him well and truly. She can read minds now? I was just sayin' I'd been a bloody stupid fool and now she says we were dumb. Oh, shit, she's gone psychic- now wait. That's absurd, if she'd gone psychic she would've known where I was an' all.

"Am I hurting you?" Buffy was hastily rising, catching the sudden strain in his body.

"No! Christ no, the very opposite." He laughed weakly. "You just said somethin' about our intelligence levels...?" He led.

Buffy shrugged and flushed slightly. "I was thinking about all the times we were together- and we didn't do it right. I'm sorry."

"What've you got to be sorry for? We weren't the same people then, didn't realize what we had in front of us." He shook his head to dispel her doubts.

"You always did." She whispered, eyes absolute, sure on his own.

"No. Wish it was true, but it isn't."

"You always knew about me."

"No." He insisted. "Knew about pieces, and knew about myself. Screwed up plenty. But I won't screw up this time, Buffy." He swore.

"I won't either. Well- not a lot. Not to the point of making you think I don't love you when I do!" She wiped at her eyes suddenly with her balled fist. "I'll make sure I tell you every day!"

Spike's eyes widened. "Seein' me every day, that the plan?"

Buffy didn't hesitate. "We didn't come back from the dead and get our heads out of our butts to not learn anything. If you're not ready to- be around in person all the time, I can email you. I can call you. You do have email, right?" She asked nervously.

He laughed once. "I think so. Yeah, I had an account set up for me by one of the local good guy team, but I dunno what I do with all the little pictures at the top, to be honest."

Buffy laughed and sighed. "I can teach you. Willow taught me a lot of computer-y things this year. Email is cake. Ooh, we can video chat!"

"Pointless." Spike teased his fingers along her waistband. "When you could just shout down the hall. Or- walk next door." Not sure how much of the conversation about a nice little flat and nice guy was meant to be a unit. Plus, Dawn's gonna take some convincing. "I'll be close by."

"Yeah. I was hoping close by meant close by as in same bedroom." Buffy joined his hand and slid her slim legged pants over his hips and to the ground.

"Brilliant." He kept his eyes from peering down to those slender legs, he didn't want to distract himself too much. "Only- what about the Little Bit? I mean, Dawn." Don't call her Little Bit anymore. She didn't exactly make you feel welcome, and had no reason to. Hell, she didn't even make Buffy welcome, it was all such a bloody shambles, at the end- it was jus' Slayer an' me. I should have let her know I loved her, should have told her I believed her. Glad the stupid part of the pride is gone. Oh, hell, never had any pride when it came to her, 'cept of course when it mucked things up...

Buffy's face was serious, but not concerned. "Dawn had to put up with the Immortal Idiot for a few months. She would consider anyone an improvement over him."

"Golly, thanks." Spike muttered sarcastically.

"Not to mention she must have filled about five notebooks about you. She and Andrew lead classes in Spike-ology with anyone who'll listen. About how you can go as deep into bad as a demon can go- and climb back out to save the world and sacrifice yourself for people who don't deserve your help, how you can fight for a soul, how you can 'Be like Spike'. The way they tell it, not my words. Although they kinda have a point."

Spike looked stunned. "She- forgives me?"

"For some things? Not yet. For not letting you have a real chance to make up for what you did wrong? Hell, yes." Buffy looked at him as she guided their hands together, to her shirt, up and over her head. "She and I talk a lot more. Everything's different and- nothing is the same in Italy. We hang together a lot. She told me she wished she'd been more like me." Buffy blinked and beamed suddenly. "It only takes dying, almost dying, and the world almost ending to get my sister to compliment me."

"She's stubborn. Must be a genetic trait..." Spike dodged a teasing blow and sank his forehead wonderingly into the small hills of sun kissed cleavage she presented him.

"Or maybe she watched you too much." Buffy countered, sinking to the bed and taking him with her.

"Oh, God." Spike panted. This is it. Bed. Me. Her. Almost nudity. Thank You, PTB. I'll overlook the sucked into hell and bein' made a ghost crap, just for this moment. A few more moments like this would be even better, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more...

Buffy sighed and reclined fully, watching her broken lover, her angel from the underworld, climbing over her, gently, slowly, not onto her, just poised to do so. "It doesn't matter where she got it from, it just matters that she told me she missed you and she wished you were back. That she hoped you were in heaven. And she told me you and Willow - okay and me- were her heroes. For different reasons though."

"I'm her hero?" Spike's eyes almost dropped cleanly from his head.

"Yes. Because you taught her people could be as bad as you can get, but still do the right thing when it counts. If you love someone enough. She was watching me do the whole 'with a guy, but not in love' thing. Again. She hated the Immortal. And the name. Why do all the guys I like have these fancy ass names?"

"I'm sorry, what was that, Slayer?" Spike poked the soft hollow of her stomach with a prodding finger. "Dawn's smart. The guy was an ass. Knew him a century ago, and he was an ass then." He growled.

"Don't critique the dead and dusty- you weren't making the healthy relationship top ten list, either." His eyes flickered guiltily and she amended. "Nice we get to try again, right?"

"You do really want this? Not gonna come to me, find me, and run?" He cursed himself for asking, for watching her eyes burn in anger and then pain.

"I don't do that now." She whispered tightly.

"And I don't give a girl reasons to run." He shared the culpability for the past faults.

"I love you. I loved who you were- maybe not all the time, or maybe not the right way but-"

"I know, Luv, you did tell me." He soothed.

She nodded but pushed past his comfort with a determined look on her pretty face. "And I love who you are even more, I can tell. You changed, but I did, too. I can love better now, Spike."

"I think I can give you somethin' better to love, as well." He let himself drop inch by inch, until torsos met. Funny how when she was his cushion, his ribs felt not even the slightest twinge.

"I just want to be with you, this you, this new guy who's made up of all the old things I missed and totally added great new things I wanted and already love." She ran her fingers through his platinum hair, not gelled, instead disheveled, and a large streak of it missing on the side of his injured cheek. "You feel okay?" Maybe we should wait. He's all broken and bruised and I haven't slept in two days and I probably totally have popcorn stuck in my teeth. Oh God. What if I have popcorn stuck in my teeth?

"I'm wonderful. You feel even feel better than I remember, an' that was as good as it gets." But she never held still long enough for me to feel this. Maybe that's it. Or maybe it's better because she's- oh that's what it is. For the first time in their entanglements, she was holding him as much as was holding on to her. This is going to be bloody fantastic.

The tentative kissing and caressing turned to full body contact kissing and caressing in the already dim room. But who needs lights when you can see in the dark? Still, as her bra flew off over his sinewy back with a soft giggle and kiss, Spike wished the accouterments of the place were a bit better. He had some dosh now, a little bit from his Wolfram and Hart "expense account" but he'd never bothered to do anything with the place. He had said to Lindsay straight off upon seein' the crummy little digs that he needed a better bed, right off the bat in fact, first thing he said. Lindsay'd looked at him with those oddly knowing eyes, right before he'd told him he wouldn't be needing it anytime soon. Bastard'd been right. Dead now, evil and sneaky, but right. Spike shrugged internally. He could relate to that.

The bed was a cheap, old, metal framed monstrosity, barely a double, and they used to cut a wide swathe. Of course, they used to be trying to wear each other out to the point of exhaustion and possible injury. He supposed, really, that it didn't matter, but he spoke his wish-slash-apology out loud anyway,

"Sorry the furnishin's aren't a bit better, Slayer." He pinned her softly on her side, rolled her to him, naked bodies moving together, hands not seeking out the private places on each other just yet. Well- he cupped one peachy globe, not seeking them out much.

"This is fine!" She protested hotly, licking a trail from his lobe to the apex of sternum, wondering why she'd never noticed, not just with him, but with anybody, how you could love a taste and scent and feel of a person enough that you quite literally could devour them.

"Fine for me, not like I used it much. Never used it with someone else." He wanted her to know that. Okay, he'd shagged Harm for all of three minutes on a desk, thinking only of Buffy the whole time before they got interrupted- and he'd been relieved to be out of the situation actually. But this bed was proof that he'd used it as a place to kip, infrequently at that, and nothing more.

Buffy scowled between nibbles of his skin."Wish I could say the same about my bed. The one I got this year, I mean. Well, I'm not taking it on a plane to London with me. We'll get brand new stuff, for all of us." She declared firmly.

We'll get a new bed. We'll have an apartment. Suddenly the furniture seemed just find, a rough cut starting place, but any place to start over was good. Spike glowed and reached to the floor beside them. He fumbled around, old cigarette wrappers and an ash tray, a bottle of Scotch, now empty, and -ah ha. His fingers closed around a small remote. "The furniture might be utter crap, but I do have a bloody good sound system. Oh, an' a game system, Luv, imagine that. Rehab for when my hands got cut off. So while we were out shoppin' in the electronics store I got the new-"

"What?" Buffy's screech made the metal rungs of the headboard ring faintly. "Your hands got-"

"They work! They work, got 'em sewed back on!" He hastily reassured, stroking her with his perfectly in order fingertips.

Buffy let out a soft mewl of desperation. "You could have been killed! I thought this whole time you were dead, and here you were still in as much danger as ever." She felt sick. But you can't change what you didn't know, can you? "We're not doing that again." She hissed fiercely.

"You were in just as much danger, an' I thought of you every damn minute, no matter where I was, hell, oblivion, trapped in that law firm... You're right. We're not doin' that again, that bein' apart gig." He swept her hair back from her face and looked into her eyes, hoping she could see honesty in the gray lighting. "You have to know I wanted to find you the second I came back. You were the first thing I asked about. Ask Peaches- when he's less out of his skull- and he'll tell you."

"I don't have to ask. I believe you. You were on my mind every day, too. Maybe not every minute, but I thought I had to let you go. 'Cause you weren't here anymore." She swallowed painfully. "No wonder it never worked all the way. You were waiting for me to find you."

"I was workin' up my courage to come get you." He added.

"As long as we ended up together- Spike- we could be in a pit somewhere, I really don't care. I'm just happy we found each other again."

He kissed her with deep conviction, forgetting about everything else and his little attempts to add to the night's atmosphere. It was her and him. It was perfection. Groaning in bliss as her leg worked over his hip, letting him feel that wet female silk along his thigh, he gripped the remote and chucked it to the floor. Spike hit the play button as it fell free, and the stereo began to blare out his Moody Blues disc.

Buffy gave him a quizzical, startled look in the middle of their deepening kiss. "This sounds surprisingly not like screaming punk metal." She half-laughed.

"I was s'posed to die the other night. I decided to listen to somethin' -poetic for my last night on earth. Since I didn't have you to hold onto." It was the truth. Just not all of it. He flushed on the inside, even if it was not reflected in his pallor. I'll tell her I gave a poetry reading. Later. Much later. No need to tell her I have this looped not just for the music but so I could hear "Late Lament" read every six minutes until I got my courage up to read my own works. Probably won't tell her that the twentieth run through was what it took to get me to the club. I might not mention the fact that I need most of a bottle of Jack to get from the club bar to the stage.

"I'm sorry I wasn't there. I'll be there for the next time. There will be a next time." They shared the wry smiles of ones who know they're screwed in terms of facing apocalypses. "And I will be with you."

"I know you will. 'Cause I'll be by your side, Luv, 'til I kick it for real."

They shared a somber smile, acknowledgement of their vow. Their kisses resumed, deepened, and the positions changed, Buffy pulling him over top of her, legs bending slightly at the knees as her heart rate sped up. "Deal. In the mean time, I do like the music. It's pretty." She praised the song. "It feels like good love-making music to me."

It had felt like good last night of your life music less that two days ago. Now it was good love-making music. Oh well. Spike reflected that if he was given the option, that was what he'd choose to do on his last night, on every night. Be with her.

"I do love you." He shifted up, almost home.

"Love you, too." That was so easy to say. Now. Oh well, if it had been easy to come by, she wouldn't have appreciated it.

He was frozen, just letting the moment happen, feeling her pulse race under his fingers, hear the blood whooshing through her heart, faster it flew, the closer he got.

Buffy was the one who couldn't take the suspense any more. Sure there could be more foreplay. There could be about a thousand things they used to do or had never tried, but it wasn't going to be like that tonight. Tonight he was broken outside and healing inside, and she was finally feeling like her heart wasn't missing a crucial piece. All that had to happen was for the two of them to slide together, and suddenly- all the old pain wouldn't just be ignored, it was going to get washed away.

She moved under him, fluid, flowing, lost in smooth white sheets, eyes adoring every inch of him and body bringing them together, a carnal bridge to close the gap between past and present- and give them a future.

Nights in white satin,

Never reaching the end

"I could do this forever." Spike found himself reborn in her touch. When she connected them, everything changed. Pain melted. Happiness came back. He remembered what it was like- really like, to be simply happy. She loves me.

"We will. Now that I know you're here. I would never have stayed away if I'd known..." It wasn't an accusation, it was a plea for him to understand. She wasn't condemning him for not finding her, not right now, she was begging him to know that the only reason she'd been away from him for a year was not that she didn't believe in him, didn't love him, but that she hadn't known finding him was even an option.

Letters I've written,

Never meaning to send

"I tried to tell you, tried to find you at the end..." He reminded her, kissing away her self-punishing tone. "Look." He reached past her head, under the pillow- the side he didn't lie on when he slept. Her side. His fist came out with a clutch of looseleaf. Every one began the same. Buffy... "I wrote you. Least once a week. Soon as I could hold a pen... Just never was brave enough to send 'em."

"I'll read them now."

"Yeah. Only- not right now."


Beauty I'd always missed

With these eyes before

This was what she'd been missing out on? Buffy didn't know sex felt like this. That it wasn't a battle of wills or an endurance test, or some pleasure seeking, mind-numbing escape. It was this beautiful, amazing thing. The person you love, the person who is your other half- they're connected to you, body and soul. Suddenly- you're whole again. Suddenly you knew you were not whole before.

Just what the truth is

I can't say anymore.

He picked up the pace, unable to go slow and steady anymore, he had to pour out some of that missing heat he'd finally found. Not rough. Just thorough. "Fooled ourselves before." He hissed, forehead to hers, both of their eyes closed, and jaws locked tight. What they'd shared was so flawed, this, this was the real deal. His tongue roughly darted out and claimed her lips, surprised and pleased when her blunt teeth snared his lower lip in a passionate, loving kiss and released it. They didn't fight themselves in their union anymore.

"Mmhmm." She exhaled sharply as her thighs were brought up suddenly, up high, over his waist, resting on his battered ribs. Head down he worked inside her, pink folds split around a hard ice white shaft, her pink fingertip indenting ivory forearms as she clung to him. "Don't hurt yourself."

"I just don't wanna hurt you." He pleaded. "I thought you knew that night- that I didn't want to hurt you that I wanted to show you- dammit, how could we keep getting things wrong? Me, that time, just me."

"I forgive that, and I understand it. You might have been trying to show me the wrong way, but I was the one who pushed you away to the point you couldn't use words anymore." Bad images clouded both their minds, and the rocking motion, so deep, so pleasurable stopped. "You can talk to me now..." Her voice was shaky, not from fear of him, from fear of old mistakes.

"Never gonna stop talking to you. Or telling you. The only thing I ever wanted you to hear. I love you, Buffy."

"I love you, too." Motion resumed, this time, flying, soaring, rising with the music.

'Cause I love you,

Yes, I love you,

Oh, how, I love you.

Gazing at people,

Some hand in hand

"What are you doing in bed with me?" Angel's voice was mystified but lucid, and his eyes were able to open almost normally.

"Shh. I am giving us 'comfort'." Illyria pressed her arms around him with cool deliberation.

"Why- what- what's happening?" Angel looked around a place he didn't recognize, and at himself. He was in horrible shape. The only one with him was Illyria. Illyria, who was holding him. That was completely unprecedented. "Ummm. Um. Comfort is good. But- uh- why?"

"Because we survived. Wesley did not. Your Cordelia does not."

The words pained his heart. A jolt of realization attacked him as his mind slowly fought for clarity. "Spike! Gunn?" He almost sat up but his body wouldn't allow it yet. Neither would the blue haired creature who fixed him with her oddly frozen eyes.

"They live yet. Spike is being cared for, such care as he needs." Care for this 'heartache', as he called it. Buffy cares for him.

"Gunn? He had bites, did they-"

"Had he died, yes, perhaps he'd be demon in form. But he hadn't died and he refuses to. Anne says he is a fighter."

"We're at Anne's?"


Angel spoke carefully now. He had hazy recollections of the world going up in blue flames when Illyria felt true pain, true loss for the first time. He didn't want to be on the receiving end of that. "Great. About the them. So- you and me and comforting?" He asked cautiously.

Illyria frowned. "Spike said we both hurt, and that in grief, I was to put my arms around you and it would help us both."

"You listened to Spike?" Angel's eyes managed to open fully, if only for a second.

Illyria glared. "I do not feel this human pain as much when I care for you. I think Spike knows of what he speaks."

Just what I'm going through

They can't understand.

Angel let himself be taken over by the haze of pain and sleepiness again. He had dim recollections of Cordy listening to him, stroking his hand, kissing his brow. But Cordy was dead. It must have been her spirit, visiting once more. Poor Spike. He didn't have a Cordelia to visit his dreams. He had Buffy, but Buffy- Buffy never loved him. But at that moment he suddenly knew with certainty that Spike loved her, in whatever twisted, sick way he did. And he knew Spike cursed the day he'd failed to win her heart. "Yeah. Spike knows of what he speaks. For once."

Some try to tell me

Thoughts they cannot defend

Buffy let herself glide with him, in absolute abandon. Blood seeped from his wounds, sweat drenched her, and they were staining the bed with their combined juices. She'd felt him release once, without missing a beat, in mid thrust, just saw and felt him tighten and burst, and keep moving. Stamina boy. She didn't care about the mess, she wanted it. Wanted to be making love to him all night and all day and all of her life. If someone told her that she needed to stop and do it differently, if someone told her it was wrong- she was going to slay them. Problem solved.

Spike didn't know what was happening at first, when she curled into a little half-tuck under him, but then he felt the full body contortion, and her scream split the air. The scream was one long word- his name. Tears prickled his eyelids but he blinked them away. The convulsing was continuing, from the pelvis down anyway. So wet she was drenching him, and he'd already drenched her, from the inside out. "Easy, Luv, easy. No need to push yourself, or me." He soothed, momentarily concerned her old style of lovemaking was coming back to the forefront.

"I'm not pushing myself." She gasped in pleasure, green eyes sparkling with lust and love and heat. "This part? This part was always real. With you- whatever else was bad, the sex was always amazing."

"You were some wild thing, some amazing, beautiful firebird..." He gasped in awe. Even underneath, she managed to look like she was in control, the goddess of all things beautiful and untamed.

"That part didn't change. It just was waiting for you to unleash it again. I'm always your firebird." She whispered in amazement at herself, at him, the things he said. I should have let him talk. He might have told me ugly truths, but he would have told me these beautiful things before. I am beautiful and I am in love and this is making love. It's just making it the way we want- beautifully, but passionately. Two wild things, finally free.

Just what you want to be

You will be in the end

"God, woman, I love you."

She blushed, sparkles in her eyes. "Call me a firebird again?"

"I'll call you every sweet thing I ever wanted to call you, beautiful girl. You'll be around to listen."

And I love you,

Yes, I love you,

Oh, how, I love you.

Oh, how, I love you.

Nights in white satin,

Never reaching the end

Angel felt the flutter of something soft and white against his face. He thought he did. His eyes opened. Illyria slept beside him, or at least laid there, her eyes half closed, staring at something inside herself as if she were trying to solve a very complex problem in her head. He wearily shut his eyes again, and this time the white fluttering thing remained, and dragged him in.

"Let me go!" He cried in his tortured, healing mind.

"No, dumbass, I'm your guide!" Cordelia, wrapped in something white and flowing, latched onto his hand, his metaphysical one, and tugged. "If I let go, the Powers are so totally going to pack me off to the B-list heavenly realms, and who wants that?"

Angel clasped it and pulled her into a hard hug, lifting her off the ground. "You're back! I knew you were here to see me, I felt you and I-"

"I wasn't here. That was Buffy." Cordelia said gently.

"Buffy was here?"

"Yeah. You thought she was me."

"I- I'm sorry, I had this big fight and-"

"Yeah, we saw. You and the Angel Inc. groupies saved the world. And blew out an entire evil dimension plus six evil earthly conglomerates. We're so proud. I'm so proud." She stopped and kissed him, leaving him speechless, before leading him forward some more, into the light.

"Where are we going?" Angel finally asked.

"Some people want to see you." Cordelia said mysteriously.

Letters I've written,

Never meaning to send.

"There's the man himself!" Doyle sprang out of a seat in what looked like a small living room in anyone's suburban home.

"Missed you somethin' awful!" Fred bounded up to him, arms out.

"Have a seat, Angel." A man he didn't recognize asked him to sit.

Angel disobeyed. "What's going on? I can't be in heaven, I'm not dead! I can't be in heaven, Wes isn't here! And- and your soul, Fred, they said it would be destroyed by being taken over by-"

"Oh, don't you worry about what they tell you down there. We're here. We're all here, an' Wesley's gonna be here soon."

"Sit, please, Angel man." Doyle hugged him briefly. "Your hard to get in touch with, I'll tell you that. So much goin' on around you a guy can't even get in a little spiritually significant dream!"

"No! I won't sit until I know this isn't some trick, or some trap."

"Does this look like a trick?" Cordy held out something small and red, a suspended drop of blood floating in the ether as if by magic.

"Uh- yeah. Kind of." Angel stared at it.

"Miss Chase. Let me explain."

"You can try. He has a following directions problem." Cordelia sat down and looked at him with impatient amusement. "I missed that about you." She whispered softly.

Beauty I'd always missed

With these eyes before,

Just what the truth is

I can't say anymore.

Angel's throat tightened. "What's going on?" He asked the unfamiliar face.

"You didn't wait for destiny to find you. You went to find it. You fully expected to die and you accepted your fate with a willingness and humility that is refreshing."

"And so not like him." Cordelia mumbled under her breath.

"Hey!" Angel turned to her with a little frown.

"For this action, we grant you the fulfillment of your prophecy."

Angel's heart rose in his chest, like helium feeling it with gladness- and then it halted. "But- I'm supposed to have it? 'Cause there uh- there's two vampires with souls now." He leaned forward and lowered his voice. "Who do I see about that? Isn't that kind of like a- a -duplicate billing issue or something? I thought there was supposed to be just one of us with a soul."

The man stared at him in silence. Fred pointed hurriedly to a seat and Angel backed away. "The prophecy is yours until the end of your mortal life. When you accept the Shanshu, it goes into effect immediately. At the end of its use, it is returned."

Angel sprang forward and grabbed at the red droplet. He paused before his fingers could wrap around it, then looked at Cordy, eyes brimming suddenly. "Cordy- Cordy, I'll be able to come here sooner. Not- not soon maybe, but not centuries and centuries. Fifty years, sixty tops and I'll be back with you."

Cordelia nodded, throat tight. "I know. We're going to the same place. I know that."

"Would you- would you wait that long?" He asked fearfully.

Cordelia glared and then said in a harsh voice, "Of course! If this wasn't heaven, Buster, I'd be putting your Chippendale worthy ass in a sling for even suggesting that I..."

"Down girl." Doyle eased her back. "I think she's tryin' to say she loves ya, man. An' she'll wait as long as it takes."

"Thank you. Thank you." Angel hesitated, then sprang forward, and captured her in a long, searing kiss, decidedly not heavenly, full of carnality, but he was figuring it had to last a few decades.

"Oh, hello Angel Cakes, come to Mama!" Cordelia gasped and let herself stagger against his chest as he pulled away.

"Um. We can- I mean- there isn't some rule- in heaven, can you and I-"

"Make love until our little feathery wings fall off? You betcha." Cordelia smiled and blinked suddenly. "I love you. I'll wait."

"I love you, too. And I'll wait too. For you, til we're together again."

'Cause I love you,

Yes, I love you,

Oh, how, I love you.

Oh, how, I love you.

"Not to break up the mood, an' I know it's rude and all, but what about Buffy?" Fred asked timidly. "She's still alive down there..."

"She needed more time to bake. And I just figured out I don't really want cookies. I like cheesecake a lot better." Angel earned himself a playful smack from Cordy ad he held her hand, unwilling to let go until he had to.

"Uh- someone wanna explain that to me? I've been out of the Angel club the longest." Doyle looked confused.

"No, that's a confusing thing for me, too." Fred assured him.

"For all of us." Cordelia looked at him nervously, as if afraid maybe his injuries had damaged his brain permanently.

"I love you. I love Buffy, but- not like that- anymore. I need a partner. I need my Cordy." Angel slowly turned to her and to the man who seemed to be appointed his judge. "If I- if I gave this thing up, to Spike for example- would you give Cordy back to me? Would you want to go?" He asked the man and Cordy in turn.

"You would do that?" The anonymous figure asked.

"She's my friend. She's my partner. My other half." Angel whispered.

"I don't think it works like that." Cordy said in a clogged voice. "But- I'll go where you are."

Their judge stared. "I will speak to you about it at another time. Soon. Take the gift, Angel. Swallow it whole. The rest resolves itself."

The metaphysical dwelling seemed to spin and dissolve, and Angel found himself crashing back to the bed, waking up with a start. "Cordy! I love you, Cordy, wait!"

Illyria sat up and stared down on him. "You are dreaming. She is no longer in this realm. It isn't Cordy who you felt near you yesterday, it was the other girl, Buffy. I'm sorry. I know what it is like not to be able to be in the dimension where you wish to be." She said with that disconcerting growing empathy she'd acquired since Wesley's death.

Angel nodded, swallowing hard, fists clenched in heart-filled agony. Which is when he felt something. A ruby red teardrop in his palm.

It was real. She'll wait. She loves me.

'Cause I love you,

Yes, I love you,

Oh, how, I love you.

Oh, how, I love you.

Breathe deep the gathering gloom

Watch lights fade from every room

Bedsitter people look back and lament

Another day's useless energy spent.

The curtains around the hospital bed made Charles Gunn look paler and more gaunt than he was normally. But he was awake. "Annie?"

"Charles! Oh, God, Charles, you're awake!" Anne catapulted to her feet and rushed to hug him, but stopped short as she stood at her uncomfortable plastic visitor's chair, mindful of the tubes and wires protruding from her friend.

"Hey, I'm not dead. That's pretty tight." He managed to smile and looked at her. "How long you been sitting there?"

"A couple days, give or take a break."

Gunn's eyes were filled with gratitude, then worry. "Angel? Spike, Illyria. Did they make it?"

"Everyone's fine. Even you." She bit her lip. "You scared all of us so bad." She gasped out around a hand clasped over her mouth. She began to cry, shuddering little sobs escaping her as she found the hand that wasn't connected to an IV. "The world would be a scary place without Charles Gunn in it."

"It's already scary, Annie."

"But I always feel better knowing you're around." She confessed. "Seeing you the other day- it was like old times, it was better. You were back with the crew, in the neighborhood, helping. You do so much good. More than people will ever know, Charles Gunn. It breaks my heart to think of you not being there."

Gunn let his feeble fingers tighten on hers. "Scares me to think of you not bein' around either, Annie girl. You do more good in a different way, than I could ever do." She opened her mouth to contradict him, but he laughed with a wince and forestalled her. "Don't worry. I'm not goin' anywhere. I gotta get up out of this bed, and get back to evil ass whoopin' and I think we may have done a little damage outside the building that I better clean up." He said sarcastically.

"Yeah. You have a little area to fix up. It's called downtown LA." Annie rolled her eyes. "Just get better. We need you."

Impassioned lovers wrestle as one,

Lonely man cries for love and has none.

"How did we go for a year without this?" Buffy cried, slippery like a copper seal, hands roving over him as she rode him this time around.

"I dunno. Never find out again, right?"

"So right. So right. Oh yeah, Spike, right there, right there, right there-" Buffy's chant broke off with a sudden yelp and gasp. Spike dislodged her from her perch on his cock only to haul her quivering knees up and place them over his face, grip her rear, and hold her tight.

His tongue danced inside her and he drank, there actually being enough to drink after an hour or so of passionate coupling. He literally drank down their juices, slurping and kneading, wide mouth widening to engulf her, clit to perineum, and make love to her with his tongue.

"You keep doing that and you'll drown." Buffy realized she could feel her juices literally flowing, not just collecting inside, but pouring out from her hot core down his pale throat.

"I'm already dead. Can't drown me. I'd like it if you tried, though." He winked, mouth still buried in its delicious nest. "Drown me with your juice, tear me up, wild thing, burn me up, firebird- just never leave me lonely again."

"I swear I won't."

New mother picks up and suckles her son,

Senior citizens wish they were young.

Illyria patted Angel's healing arms awkwardly as she removed herself from his presence. I am not suited for the role of caregiver. She had had that thought at least a hundred times in the past day, yet she continued to do it. However, now that he seemed to be peacefully asleep, not talking or calling out fitfully, she eagerly separated herself. She went to sleep in the corner sofa farthest away from him, liking the feeling of being removed from others, at a distance from human and mortal pain and suffering, above that, as she was destined to be. Gods know no pain. She wished she were home, powerful, vital, inhuman once more.

It was the shell she'd been merged with, Illyria assured herself, that made her hurt in her heart. It was the shell that found the ache worsening when she was alone. She refused to admit Spike's idea of "comforting" had been a good one for her true self, not just the old fragments and memories she'd been forced to carry with her.

She did not need sleep as others did, but she did need some. She slowly let her eyes close and found herself slipping peacefully into blackness.

"About time. You former immortals and your odd hours." Wesley's voice was cool and amused. "I've been waiting for ages to speak to you."

Illyria rushed to him, wild eyed, as she saw him standing in the darkness. "You live?" She cried.

"Not I." Wesley gave a small grin and watched her pull up short.

"Then what is this?"

"This is your dream. Apparently. Good Lord, it's bleak in here. Is this all you have to occupy your slumbers? Blackness?"

"I don't live as mortals do, my brain does not behave as theirs does." Her face took on an angry cast. "Is this what the dead do to torment the living in your world? Haunt their rest? Angel cries out for Cordelia, is that because she invades his mind as you're doing to me?" Her tone was filling with bitterness and rage.

Wesley, as he always seemed to be in her case, was the model of patience. "I take it you object to my presence?" He smiled slightly. "Shall I leave?"

"No." Illyria answered quickly. Then closed her eyes wearily. "The image of you hurts me."

"I know. The image of you always hurt me, too." He reached out and dared to trace her face. Fred's face, gone so horribly wrong, yet still so clearly Fred.

"So you return to pay me in kind?" Illyria could accept that. Vengeance was an old emotion. So was love for that matter, but her kind did not have it.

"I return to thank you. I know what you did. I know how you feel. And I know that it hurts you." He dared to keep his hand on that face, and look into the frightening eyes that most couldn't hold contact with for more than a second.

Her eyes felt some kind of malfunction occur. Water rushing from the inside out, and overflowing.

"Oh, Illyria..." Wesley was shocked, his tone soft and mournful. "Illyria, you don't need to do that. Not for me." He hesitated before continuing. "Listen to me. I came to value you greatly, but my heart belongs to someone else. Don't miss me too much. Miss me as a friend."

"I do not have friends." She spat and ashamedly wiped at her faulty eyes as they stained her cheeks.

"Then I was your first friend. I treasure that honor. Your heart hurts because I'm not in your world anymore." He patted her shoulder once, gently. "I told you I'd help you understand this world. Think of this as my last lesson."

"Then you'll leave me in peace?" She demanded, forcing the words out because she didn't know if she wanted to be left in peace, or if she liked the pain of his company, for the small familiarity of having him to speak to again.

"Yes, then I'll be gone. My soul has an appointment with its mate." His smile suddenly was beatific, peaceful in a craggy, stubbled face.

"I though I destroyed the soul of the shell." Illyria found an odd sense of relief flooding her.

"You fragmented it horribly, but Fred's strong. And even one of those pieces is enough of herself to last an eternity. That's what's left, and that's where I'm going to be. With her."

"You came to give me this last lesson. That what is important survives?" Illyria extrapolated that from all he'd said.

"Ah- no. I mean yes, but that wasn't the point I came to make. Although it is a very good one." He looked pleased. "You'll do fine here. You find meanings I don't even think of."

"I am smarter than all of you." She reminded him with an impatient toss of her head.

"As you say. But- you still are learning some things. Your heart, what you do with others, that's new." His face grew grave. "Angel may not be around forever."

"He will not live as long as I."

"Exactly." Wesley knew the truth of that, a truth she didn't even know. "What will you do? When he's gone?"

Illyria considered. "Spike and Charles Gunn are still here. I suppose I will remain with them."

"Charles has Anne. Spike might not want to stay in this city. There may be someplace else he needs to be, a person he needs to be with."

"Then I would be alone." The idea was both comforting and frightening. She cursed herself for the comforting portion.

"You needn't be alone. They both will be your friends, you just have to change the way you think of the relationship. We are at the end of an era, Illyria. Soon this little band of brothers will splinter into their own camps, all of them doing good, but all of them doing it differently."

Illyria thought. "Doing good. That's the battle and destruction I joined in your presence."

"Well- technically, although not all battle is good. Battling evil-"

"Wesley, do not lecture me on those who are evil and those who are good. I learned to pick out the evil ones quickly." Her face cleared. "I enjoyed that. That felt like home. That made my power -" No. That had not made her power return. That was lost love. For him. "I will seek out evil and destroy it. I will hunt down all the ones in league with those who hurt you. I will avenge you."

"I'm avenged, my love." The term slipped out, and it gave her heart a little crack of pain and light all at once. "My friend. You have avenged me. Don't make a mission about one man. Make it about the idea. Evil hurts, causes pain, takes away lovers and friends. Stop it. I know you can."

"I know I can." She replied confidently. "I will travel and hunt the evil ones in this realm. And when I'm done I'll go to another."

"You do that." He didn't bother to tell her she'd never be done in this realm, because there's always someone somewhere who chooses the wrong path. "When you get lonely, you'll come to your friends. You may even make new ones. If you ever get an urge for a tweedy Englishman- the older, more boring version of myself- look up Rupert Giles." He smiled mischievously. "Yes, please do that someday. I'd love to see the look on his face when he meets you..."

"I will do that. I know my mission now. Whatever else the others choose, I know what path I choose." She leaned forward suddenly and kissed him hard on the lips and the pushed him away. "That was the shell. Not I."

"Of course." Wesley felt as though he'd been slapped in the mouth- yet quite enjoyably. "Goodbye for now, my friend."

"Goodbye." Illyria nodded curtly, and waited for the solid dome of blackness to make up her dreamscape once more. "Goodbye... my love."

Cold hearted orb that rules the night

"So that was Charles Gunn. Wow. He's- not what I expected." Buffy and Spike strolled arm and arm in the moonlight, the next night, walking the several miles from the hospital back to his basement flat was nothing to them. People stared at Spike's healing face, but he was already so much better, and he was only interested in Buffy, so he didn't mind.

"I'm gonna miss him. We'll email." Spike laughed, picturing the two of them battle hardened men with thug-like tendencies at times, sitting down to type up letters across the sea.

"I think Anne has a crush on him."

"Then if the boy has any sense he'll take her up on the offer of affection." Spike frowned. "Did she used to be in Sunnydale?"

"You bit her neck at that Sunset Vampire Lovers Club place thingy." Buffy reminded him with a scowl. "When you were waiting for me to get there so you could kill me."

"Ah. You grabbed Dru. Trade off. No one got hurt. Much."

"Except Ford." Buffy whispered.

Spike's soul stung. "He sold you out."

"I know. I staked him. After you turned him."

"I'm sorry."

"Me, too."

They walked in silence. Spike suddenly perked up and said cheerfully. "I told Anne all the flat's furniture could go to her shelter when I head back across the pond."

Buffy laughed. "That probably makes you two even. I think Anne would do anything for those kids. I liked getting to talk to her. We've run into each other a few times in the last eight years." Buffy sighed.

"Gunn's gonna get back to his old haunts as well. Street patrols. Join up for the big battles when the good guys sound the clarion call..."

"We'll have to make a special Slayer signal we can shine in the sky to call all the good guys in for apocalypse support." She laughed. It was funny, but being in love made even the big serious things in life take on a lighter outlook.

"Get us all Good Guy League rings that flash a secret message when we're needed." Spike added. He paused and looked up at the full moon and then down at the girl with him. "It's a beautiful life, Slayer."

"It is now." Buffy kissed him deeply, not caring they were in public, not caring when his hands seemed to wander down automatically and start kneading her back and her cheeks and-

"What's that?" Spike's head tilted in puzzlement. "Don't tell me they make falsies for your bum, Slayer?"

"What are you- oh!" Buffy laughed and reached into her pockets. "Human blood. Bagged, donated of course."

"You stole these from the hospital?"

"Dawn showed me a few moves." Buffy giggled.

"You stole blood. For me?" He wanted to drop to his knees and propose at that moment.

"Well, I sure don't want it." She quipped. Then softened. "It'll help you heal faster."

"I love you."

"Duh. Here." She handed him the bags. "We need those sharp pointy straws like Capri Sun bags have." She sighed. Spike gave her an incredulous look and morphed into his vampiric form.

"I do. Called fangs." He rolled his eyes. He sucked greedily on the cold blood, even though he preferred it warm. This still worked, he could feel himself getting better with each sip. "You don't mind this?" He asked cautiously. "Used to gross you out."

Buffy gave him a "Have you been with me for the last day and half?" look of incredulity. "You were gone. Now you're back. You honestly think I care if you eat so you'll get better? You might be different, but that stupid streak is still in there." She took his arm possessively again and they strolled. Spike was silent, grateful. "No, I don't care. I let go of a lot of things, unimportant things I cared about. Even- even the most important things I cared about."

She fell silent and Spike pulled her closer. He knew what she meant. Before they'd gone to see Gunn in the hospital, they'd been to see Angel. She'd told him their plans, in a soft voice, holding his hands, and they smiled at each other. Angel seemed to understand. He didn't say much, seemed tired, seemed accepting. But he let go. She'd let go.

But she didn't let go of me. He purred in satisfaction as her arm returned his gesture, pulling him tightly to her side, like he was always meant to be there.

Removes the colors from our sight.

Red is grey and yellow white

Illyria finished telling Angel about her dream, now that they were alone. In turn, Angel told her about his trip to some ethereal plane, showed her the small red pearl that was the embodiment of his reward. "I swallow it whole. And then- then I'm human." He couldn't believe it. His dream come true.

Illyria also looked like she couldn't believe it. "Why would you curse yourself like that?"

Angel sighed. He tried to explain. "It's not like humanity is for you. You were cursed with a human shell. I am a human, cursed with a demon center. You want to be back in your immortal form because that's the rightful form for you to be in. I'm the opposite. I'm supposed to be in a mortal form, and I'm not. I want that humanity back, see?"

She saw. "So you will take it?"

"Yeah. Yeah. I was waiting- I don't know why, felt like I needed to wait- but- I feel like I'm ready now. I talked to Gunn on the phone. My son is safe. And he kicks ass, just like his old man!" He beamed with paternal pride. Then the smile left. "Buffy doesn't need me here, Spike never needed me, and uh- yeah. I said all my goodbyes."

Illyria looked at him. "Why should you say 'goodbye'?"

"I don't know. I guess this is goodbye to the old me. That's all I meant. Next time they see me, it'll be different. I'll be human." He savored the word. Something nagged at him, and he could see Illyria had the same questioning look on her face. "What?"

"You are certain that is what you want?"

"Very." He whispered, and brought the blood red teardrop to his mouth."Here's to being demon free." He laughed once and swallowed.

Blood burst back into his system, mortal blood, his own, his heart beat, the ever present extra bones that made up his demon face melted into his own human ones. There was rip inside of himself, like a cancer torn free, and for the first time in centuries there was no dark thing lurking inside himself. He belonged wholly to himself, fully human once again. He laughed with joy and screamed in exultation. Even the stern woman by his bedside looked at him with wonder in her eyes as he yelled, roared happily, "I'm freeeeee! I'm freeee!"

And then things began to change. Red mist and black mist flooded his vision, and he choked and gasped, suddenly lying back. He had the brief thought that Illyria looked like Fred, not just her physical features, but something in her face- when real emotion passed over it. Emotions flew over it now, quiet unfamiliar happiness changing to fear and worry as she fell back with him.

"Angel!" Illyria bent over him.

"What's happening?" Angel looked up wide eyed.

"Angel!" Illyria didn't answer the question, she seemed frantic, tugging his shirt open, his bandages off. "Oh. Oh, mortality! Humanity, it's a curse, I told you!" She shouted and held up her hands. They were coated in blood.

Angel understood. Vampires could live- that is, exist- with huge wounds like he had. Humans couldn't. His injuries from the battle. A human would die from them, even partially healed. "Oh." But he still laughed, he breathed in deeply, fresh air, real air for the first time in over two centuries.

"I'll phone the hospital!" Illyria jumped from his side but he caught her hand to stop her. "You're dying!"

"I know. Isn't it wonderful?" He laughed once more and smiled up at her, watching the combination of blue and white blur to gray. "My soul- it's safe now. This life- has been a long bad dream. Don't you see? I said goodbyes for a reason..." His voice was getting fainter, and the room was getting darker- but there was a bright white mist at the end of the room. A beautiful face in the center... "Not long until I can see her again..." He whispered.

"But you- you have fought to attain this gift! You cannot just give it up! You are a champion, you earned this, you are a fighter, you must fight for it!" Illyria was furious at him for lying down and accepting his demise.

"I fought for it for so long... I changed. All I really want," he held her hand firmly and smiled at her, even though he couldn't see her anymore, "is for the pain to stop. You guys keep up the fight. I'm all done battling for my salvation. It's right- here." His breathing sputtered to a wheeze, and the white mist enveloped him. A tearful Cordelia held out her hands to him, smiling so hard her glowing face looked as though it might split in half.

"You are a warrior." Illyria entreated him once more.

"No... that's who I used to be." His voice was barely audible, coming in pants now, coming through smiling lips that had turned cold and pale blue as the blood flowed away from him. "Don't worry. Not- who I am -anymore."

Illyria watched the eyes roll back and close, the smile fixed in perfect, permanent peace. She forced herself away from the body, to the sink to wash her crimson hands. She was enraged, but it was slipping slowly away. He was with his love now. That was why he didn't fight. He had fought enough, and he knew his final reward awaited.

She looked at the cold, still form on the couch. That is not Angel. That is only his shell. I understand. She felt pain and pride, confusion. She was changing. He had changed. Humans are imperfect and inconstant. They change... I am changing, too. She looked in the mirror and saw that her eyes had betrayed her again, tears made clear traces down her perfect face. She whispered her confession to herself before she set about the task of taking care of her friend's final needs.

"I am not the being I used to be."

In heaven, Angel let the Shanshu float from his soul, and it flew, returned to wherever the place was that prophecies rest. Someday- maybe- Spike would get the chance to use it. But he was done with it now."Hi Honey. I'm home." He turned to the woman drifting beside him.

"About time!" Cordelia scolded with a smile. "Wow. You look really good in white." She surveyed the heavenly figure before her, clad in white, radiant, a perfect match for her.

"It's the lighting." He blushed and let her wrap her arms around his neck and he sighed into her hair. "So. You wanna show me around? I've been in a lot of different hells, but this is the first time I get to see a heaven." He thought his soul might burst from pure joy and relief.

"I was thinking we'd try out the perfect happiness deal, now that it's safe." She giggled mischievously. Angel let out a little playful growl and she squealed. She ran, pulling him after,and he followed her, laughing, into eternity.

But we decide which is right.

And which is an illusion

Spike rubbed at his eyes, Buffy rubbed at hers. "I'll cancel the flight." Spike said shakily, reaching for the phone again.

"No. Spike. He would have wanted us to get home."

"But- he's gonna be buried. He'll have a funeral. Proper funeral." His voice was thicker than he'd have liked. Spend all those years wishin' he was dead, spent the last week hopin' he didn't die in a bloody war, an' he pops his clogs within five minutes of becomin' a real boy. Marvelous. The stupid screw up...

"I only knew him as a dead man. Who had a proper funeral -sometime before the Revolutionary War." Buffy choked on a sob. "I don't want to see another dead human. I don't want to remember them putting him in a box like it's his big finish." She shook her head vehemently, mourning again for a man she'd already spent years grieving for. He would not spoil her finally found joy, nor would he want to. He had always loved her- in a way that wanted the best for her, even if it wasn't the best. Maybe leaving without attending his burial wasn't right in the eyes of the world's etiquette, but she believed it was right between them. "His death isn't the end for him. He's gone home. He wants to be with Cordelia. Weird as that is. He's not really dead, he's just in a new place, in a new form."

"I know how he felt." Spike cupped her face in his hands and they kissed, the kiss meant to be comforting, was becoming more needful. She slid into his lap, straddling him as he sat on his coffee table. He could feel her warmth pressing into him and he moaned.

"I know how he felt, too. All he wanted was to be home with the person he loved. That's all we want too." Her kiss turned ferocious, desperate, and they were knocked backwards onto the floor.

They were a tangle of limbs and hot kisses, tears to kiss away and bodies to soothe. "Do you think this is bad timing? Disrespectful to his passing- or- or something?" Buffy asked as she ripped his belt from its loops and clutched his waist to hers.

"He never got to be with her on Earth, from what I could tell. What d'you think his homecoming is like?" Spike asked with a leer and stifled laugh.

"Not as good as ours." Buffy replied, smile gracing her face as she caressed his. "Or maybe just as good, but no one's could be better."

"Amen to that, Pet." He kissed the edge of her tearing eyes down to her soft upper curves, and then lay there, listening to her heartbeat. "He had this. A heartbeat. For a minute or so." His brain whirled with the poetic and grief stricken way justice played out. "But he wouldn't be happy being alive without her. Not wholly happy. I know first hand. It's great gettin' to be alive again- well in my case, undead again- but it doesn't feel like it should unless the person you want most is there."

"I know. I know just what you mean." Coming back from heaven was hard, but living in the world was harder. Living in it this last year without her questionable but unshakable rock to lean on in the form of Spike? That had been the hardest. "I don't think we need to feel sad for him anymore." Buffy's face cleared rapidly as realization struck her fully.

"No. No, we don't need to do that." Spike gave her a look of understanding. He'd so often been the one to understand her...

"What a person wants and needs can change. He has what he wanted." She pulled him down to her and kept him there, would always keep him there, with her. "He has what he wanted. And so do I."

"So do we."

"So do we."

The End of the Old

The Beginning of the New