Disclaimer: My name is Amy, so not Joss Whedon, thus I own nothing but the characters I create. I do not, however, claim responsibility for their actions. This is posted merely for entertainment, well since truthfully, I'm not a writer and no one would pay for this. ;)

Spoilers: Not really, only through season 5. I began this story before watching the end of season 5, but I changed a few things to better fit. If I missed something just go with it, it's creativity. I've read the comics but they don't exist in here.

...

This is just the first part of an epically huge fanfic I've been adding to for years. I personally hate when people publish an awesome story and never update, or ask for loads of feedback as ransom for more. I'm not really sure why I'm uploading, must be because this story is 203 pages (single space 12 font) and I feel like it needs a purpose. People reading and enjoying is a purpose I can life with.

May 20, 2004 - The First step is always the hardest

Prequel:

Twenty minutes after the first sword swing, the dragon swooped down from the black night sky and breathed a wall of flames towards Angel, and involuntarily, the small army surrounding him. The vampire saw the flash of light at the last second and rolled safely away; but he couldn't even spare a moment to see if Spike or Illyria managed to dodge in time.

Thankfully Lorne hadn't shown in the alley, he wasn't build for this kind of fighting. Gunn had fallen ten minutes ago, and Wesley had fallen at the hands of Cyrus Vail.

'At least they didn't have to worry about anything anymore.' Angel would mourn both, if he survived long enough himself.

Another swoop from the creature and Angel readied himself, as soon as the beast was close; he jumped up and grabbed a hold of the dragon's back right leg. They both sailed up into the night sky, Angel hanging on like a tattered flag blowing in a heavy wind.

...

Illyria's blue eyes scanned the ground, her distant expression masked by blood and gore, that which was soon washed away due to the heavy downpour. "I wished to do violence; these creatures offered no resistance as I destroyed them. They were a vast disappointment."

Spike leaned heavily against the brick wall in the alley, his body covered in various cuts and more than a few holes. "I'll be sure to let you handle the next wave then, Blue. Save myself the trouble. Won't be long now, can hear the sound of…Bloody Hell!" Spike yelled as he pulled his soggy cigarettes from what was left of his leather trench coat. "Sodden smokes are…well sodden. Always fancied a smoke after a tumble, the nicotine really brings out the taste of the blood. Not that I could drink any of this swill." He commented toeing one of the many puddles of various demon bloods pooling at his booted feet.

Illyria started at him a moment, then looked away, 'It is not worth my words'.

Spike cast a glance up at the sky, "Hey speakin of swill, where the hell is that bloody poof? Was lookin' forward to seein' that ponce get eaten."

Illyria ignored the half-breed; she had no concern about it or the others; her mind was elsewhere now. She looked down at the hands of her shell, the hands that one Winifred Burkle was born with and died with, and now belonged to Illyria.

They would be stained red with blood, if the rain did not rinse them clean every few seconds. However, Illyria could still feel the blood, smell the repugnant odors that filled this world now, everything she knew was gone. Her kingdom, her Qwa'ha Xahn, priests, followers, and slaves…lastly her Wesley was dead.

'My jailer, Drogyn, was correct. The time of Illyria is past; this world is no longer fit to sustain my presence. This game I play is still pointless, it still annoys me…though I am no longer as compelled to play on.'

Bright blue irises focused on the vampire as he continued to struggle lighting the ruined cigarettes. "I have grown weary of this battle; I am no longer compelled to play. I shall return to the Deeper Well, to prevent anymore of my brethren from being contaminated by the plague the muck has become." She turned from him and began to walk down the alley.

Spike looked startled a moment than ran after her, "Hey now Smurfette, what's gotten into you? Just goin' to prance off without so much as a goodbye? Come now, Blue. We all got our issues, but we don't run from 'em…we fight 'em…"

Illyria held up a hand to silence him, "Your words fall on deaf ears, my mind cannot be swayed. I have no place in this world; it is no longer suitable for me. From the Well I shall wait, sleep until the stench of humanity is but dust on the wind, then, I shall arise again, and this world will belong to me once more."

Just then, a horde of demons ran down the alley, the last wave of Wolfram & Hart's army. Spike got ready for action, but Illyria stepped in his path. "One final act of violence before I rest." She said as she charged the horde.

Illyria moved at a mind mumbling speed, demon pieces rained down along with the steady downpour.

'For Wesley.'

Within mere minutes, the last of the army was nothing save scattered meat piles. She turned to the white-haired vampire, "If it is closure you seek half-breed…then Goodbye."

Before Spike could argue further, Illyria raised her arms in front of her, hands sparking bright blue energy, she moved her arms back quickly; a second later she was gone.

Spike stood staring at the spot she just vacated, then turned his blue eyes to the piles of demon debris she left behind, "Right…now there's somethin' you don't see everyday."

...

Almost 5am

Buffy felt a shadow pass over her, a moment later a huge creature flew overhead, leaving a trail of smoke streaking across the bright night sky. The dragon roared, sending a plume of fire shooting over its back.

Buffy squinted at the flash from the flame, "Did the dragon just set its own back on fire?" she asked the watcher by her side.

"Yes, it would appear so." He replied, just as baffled as the slayer.

She looked closer when she saw a flash of metal glinting in the moonlight between the dragon's flapping wings.

"O…my…God" she said as her eyes grew wide, "Angel" she whispered.

"Huh? What? Where?" Giles stuttered looking around.

"Angel…he's…riding the dragon" Buffy said to him with disbelief thick on her tongue and pointing at the flying beast.

"O my" he whispered following her point, his expression of shock matching hers.

"We need to help him!" Buffy exclaimed looking around desperately for something, anything to use as a weapon against the beast. "How do we kill a dragon?" she asked her watcher as she searched.

"Uh...well….honestly Buffy, I haven't the slightest clue." He said removing his glasses and wiping the spotless lenses on his shirt.

She stopped and stared at him, "What? But you're…you're Giles! You're supposed to know this stuff!" She outraged.

"Buffy, dragons are mythical creatures, like unicorns, they are not included in the occult texts. They only exist in fictional stories." He tried to explain to her as he rested the glasses on his ears and nose.

"Try telling that to the dragon, you know….the one right there." she gestured into the air.

...

Angel gripped the scales like his life depended on it, and near as he could tell, it did. '

This thing is impossible,' he thought, 'a dragon! Really? Now I have seen everything...'

He loosened his right hand and reached for his sword, if he dropped it…game over. Once pulling it free of his belt, he raised it and quickly plunged downwards with all his strength.

The sword tip glanced off like hitting cement. Angel tumbled sideways, he hadn't expected the blow to bounce off, and loosing his leverage he rolled towards the beating wings. He reached his hand out and managed to steady his fall by rapping an arm around the wing.

The dragon turned its head at him, red eyes glaring; it had had enough of this tiny creature crawling on his back. The creature inhaled, smoke billowing from its nostrils, and prepared to send another plume of flame at the parasite. Angel's eyes widened as he realized he was about to become BBQ. "Oh Shit" he mouthed as the dragon exhaled a wall of flames at him.

The fire rushed towards the vampire, sending a burning wave of heat at him, so he did the only thing he could, he let go…and fell.

He figured he had maybe 15 seconds before he hit the ground, maybe less. But he didn't get the chance to find out. Pain exploded in his torso as the dragon snatched him from the air into its jaws. Teeth plunged into his chest and back, causing him to scream out into the night sky.

'This damn thing thinks it's going to eat me' his mind raced. "Sorry pal, vamps not on the menu" Angel yelled threw gritted teeth as he swung the sword he still gripped in his right hand. "Now you see me" he taunted then stabbed the sword into the creatures staring red eye, "Now you don't."

...

Buffy grabbed her head and started to pace, "Ok I've seen lots of movie with dragons…we can…pierce the heart, cut off the head…"

"Stab it in the eye…"Giles added looking up.

"Yeah, that could work" Buffy agreed.

"No Buffy look" He indicated. As she looked up she saw the dragon thrashing in the air, Angel's sword penetrating its eye.

...

They all heard the dragon roar in pain and rage, Angel's perspective gave him complete surround sound. He had hoped the dragon's tight crushing bite would loosen but it didn't, it was determined to hold its prize to the death. In response, he twisted the sword deeper into the eye, breaking through the thick skull and piercing the brain. "Let go!" He demanded.

The dying creature responded by inhaling. Angel felt the heat rising towards him, "Shit, Shit, Shit" he panicked. He let go of the stuck blade and gripped the dragon's jaws and with all his strength pulled them apart. He felt the teeth slide from his body and grunted in pain. He fought back unconsciousness; he didn't have that luxury at the moment.

A second later the flames rushed at him, he managed to roll from the beasts jaws, and use his leather coat to shield his face from the fire. Next he knew, his left hand was scorched, his punctures throbbed, and he was falling.

He felt weightless as he fell, the world rushed closer, his city reaching up to break his fall, and it did.

Angel slammed into a parked car, crushing the roof into nothing, and then bounced off onto the pavement. The car alarm sounded weakly then died.

Had he been human, every bone in his body would have broken, being a vampire had its advantages, and only half were broken.

He didn't try to move, he managed to open his eyes long enough to see the dragon's corpse slam into earth, satisfied it was dead, he let the darkness take him.

...

"ANGEL!" Buffy screamed when she saw the dragon jaws clamped around him, seconds later a flash of fire, then Angel falling to the ground.

She ran towards him, horrified at the crunching sound his body made as it hit a car. She knelt beside him, rolling him onto his back, tears freely flowing down her cheeks as she discovered his injuries. "Angel? Can you hear me?" she whispered touching his cheek, as her eyes traced the puncture wounds, and the burnt skin of his left hand.

Giles reached them a few moments later, not having the speed or adrenaline of the slayer.

"Is he going to…?" She asked him, looking at the fallen vampire, terrified he would turn to dust under her touch.

"I…I don't think so. When a vampire expires it tends to be rather immediately. The fact he even hit the ground is a good indication he'll live…well, exist rather."

Buffy felt a small sliver of relief, but not enough to satisfy her. She glanced up at the sky and felt a stab of fear rush up her spine, the reddening of the horizon indicated the sun was rising. "Giles, the sun! We need to get him inside, Now!" She grabbed the prone vampire's shoulders and when Giles positioned himself at Angel's feet, they lifted.

Angel gasped and twitched in unconscious pain as his body was moved. Buffy felt his bones grind beneath her hands, "I'm sorry, we have to move you" she whispered to him, keeping a tight grip so he didn't fall as they walked him into a nearby building.

The building was a three story tenement, it still looked moderately sound after the earthquake, and the front door was standing open. The best part, it was currently abandoned…so no invitation required.

They quickly carried Angel inside and into the bottom floor apartment, placing him on the closest bed. Giles sighed in relief once the vampire was settled, "He's rather heavy" Giles panted. Buffy shrugged, "He's mostly muscle." Giles raised a brow at the remark but didn't comment.

They were quiet for a few minutes, closing blinds, checking out the place, seeing what they could use and couldn't. Buffy came from another bedroom and was tearing a sheet into strips, "Giles, can you go find some supplies? First aid stuff, food, water…blood?"

He cringed at the last request, "Yes, he will need to feed, with that much damage to his body; I gather he'll need quite a bit actually."

Buffy nodded her understanding, "Hurry?" She asked. He nodded and turned to go. "There's a butcher shop two blocks away between 23rd and 24th, try there first." He nodded and disappeared into the morning sun.

She turned her attention back to the unconscious vampire lying in the next room. He hadn't awakened yet, nor had he showed any signs of healing. She remembered his wounds used to begin healing almost immediately.

As gently as she could, she peeled off his ruined shirt and punctured coat and cleaned the wounds with water she found in the fridge; with the power out, most everything else inside was spoiled. She wiped what little blood was left around the wounds and did her best wrapping a damp strip of sheet around the burn.

She noticed more than a few already healed and half-healed injuries, indicating he had been fighting for a while before the dragon.

His skin had begun to bruise, turning his chest and arms into a black and red checker board. "You're going to be ok," she whispered repeatedly to the unconscious man lying prone next to her, more for her own comfort than his.

6:30am

Almost an hour later Giles returned with a sack over his shoulder and a large paper bag in his arms. He handed Buffy the paper bag when she met his at the door, and shrugged the sack onto the kitchen table. "Hey, it's Old Saint Nick." she punned, more of habit than anything, "Stealing from the abandoned, giving to the poorly equipped."

"Ha. ha." he said mirthlessly. He opened the sack and pulled out a bottle of burn cream and some proper bandages. Then a few first aid kits, and a variety of canned food and water.

"Congrats Giles, you're a looter" she said as she surveyed the stock and gave him a weak smile.

"Yes well, turns out the city is rather devoid of people at the moment. Made acquiring goods rather easy." He noticed the stove was gas and began to rummaging threw the cabinets for a pan, "I'm going to make tea and some breakfast, interested?" he asked.

"Maybe later" she replied, "Angel's not healing. I think something's wrong." She quickly picked up the medical supplies in her free hand and headed back into the vampire's room.

Giles followed, "Try the blood," he commented, "It should activate his healing." She nodded and closed the door behind her. Giles wasn't upset at being closed out, he had little interest is seeing the vampire feed, and decided to get back to his own stomach's needs.

Buffy dropped the med supplies on the bureau and placed the bag on the floor. She opened it and lifted out one of four quart sized containers of blood and placed it on the nightstand. She pulled Angel as upright against the headboard as she could without grinding his bandaged but shattered ribs. She grabbed a few towels from the joined bathroom and emptied a mug of water from the nightstand down the sink.

She put the towels on Angel's chest, to minimize the mess if he didn't swallow the blood. She filled the mug with the red liquid and brought it to his lips, "Come on Angel, breakfast time." He didn't respond. "Hmm...You're not going to make this easy are you?" she questioned the prone vamp.

She sat next to him on the bed, with one hand she pulled down his jaw, and with the other poured in a little blood.

He responded by coughing.

She pulled back and wiped up the crimson trail that spilled down him chin. "Oh come on, you don't breathe, so you can't choke" she reasoned. She brought the mug to his lips, "Try again?" she asked.

This time he drank, not really conscious, but driven by instinct.

She sat with him for almost an hour, getting him to down as much blood as he could, which turned out to be two and a half quarts worth. When he finally refused more, she carefully laid him back down and wiped the drips from his chin.

Buffy wished he had regained consciousness, but felt better when she saw his wounds had begun to heal, and the bruises starting to fade. "You'll be good as new in no time." She told him with hope. Satisfied with his progress, she stepped out to stretch her legs and see what Giles was doing.

7:30am

Giles was sitting at the kitchen table, a cup of tea in his hand, an empty bowl next to him, and reading from a pile of newspapers; getting the full story 'as far as the media were concerned' about what had been happening in L.A for the last few weeks.

He looked up when he saw her come in, "Ah, Buffy. How is he?" He asked, more for her sake than his.

She frowned, "He hasn't woken up yet, but he's healing anyways. Took two and a half quarts to jump start him."

"Yes…understandable." He nodded, sighing inwardly at her analogy choice. "There is more soup if you're hungry." He indicated towards the pot on the stove.

"Sure, why not." She grinned, realizing she was starving. "Let me just go wash up."

A few minutes later, Buffy was sitting at the table with her own bowl, barely tasting the chicken soup as it disappeared off her spoon. He placed some bread on the table and she eagerly snatched a piece, "Ooo Carbs, a slayers best friend" she said as she dipped it in her soup then swallowed it down.

"I'll go keep an eye on him, finish your meal and get some rest Buffy; you've been under substantial stress since before we left Rome." Giles said to her, concerned about his slayer's health.

She looked up at him and smiled at the concern, "Ok but only for a little while, I'll be an hour or less."

He nodded and entered the room Angel was occupying.

Giles stood over the still unconscious vampire. Curious of the rate of vampire healing, the watcher leaned in, peeling the bandage back to see a puncture. It looked closed, but was still an angry red, and puffy from swelling.

He checked a few other wounds, all the teeth lacerations looked infected, but the other injuries were clear and swelling free. "Hmm…odd" he mumbled, unsure if vampires could get infections. He examined the gash closer, a thought occurred to him and he placed his fingers against to the wound, it was warm.

Before he could call out to Buffy to communicate his findings, Angel's hand clamped tightly around his throat and he found himself airborne and pushed up against the wall of the bedroom. Angel's yellow vamp eyes stared wildly at him, flashing anger and pain. 'Bloody Hell.'

The sound of the watcher slamming into the wall brought Buffy running.

"ANGEL!" Buffy yelled as she burst into the room and darted towards the ruckus, she grabbed the vampires arm, trying to yank him off her gasping watcher. Angel automatically swatted at whatever grabbed him, and turned back to his prey.

His grip suddenly loosened as Angel regained his senses; he looked at the man he had been strangling, "Giles?" he questioned as his vamp features receded. He let go and Giles crumpled to the floor, panting and gasping.

Buffy recovered from being tossed across the room and rushed over to Giles; seeing he would live she looked up at Angel who was looking around unsteady and bewildered.

"Angel?" She asked, approaching him slowly, she really didn't want to have to fight him, especially injured as he was.

"Buffy?" he asked, still confused, since the last thing he remembered was hanging onto the dragon for dear life.

He noticed the bandages on his chest, and then looked down at Giles coughing on the floor, then back at Buffy. 'Now they decide to help me?' he thought. "Sorry. Now go away." he whispered as he blacked out.

Buffy shot forward and caught Angel as he toppled forward, controlling his fall back onto the bed.

Once he was down, she turned back to Giles. "Are you OK?" she asked the watcher concerned, seeing the red marks on his neck.

"Yes," he coughed, "I'll…be fine." He said wincing. "No…permanent damage."

"Tell me what happened." she ordered, wondering what he could have done to provoke Angel to attack. As she asked she pulled him up and walked him into the kitchen, sitting him in a chair and giving him a glass of bottled water.

He sipped it gingerly as swallowing hurt, and told her about Angel's infected wounds.

"You touched him and he snapped back to partial consciousness still in survival mode" she concluded.

"Apparently" he agreed. She nodded, having done it before herself.

"Stay here, just in-case. He probably doesn't consider either of us friends at the moment." she told him and heading back to check on Angel.

The injured vamp was still lying partially on the bed where she left him. She called out to him but he didn't respond. She gently picked his legs up and swung them back onto the bed, and pulled the blanket up to his chest. Her brow furrowed when she noticed he was sweating. She placed her hand against his forehead and was surprised when she felt heat. "You're burning up?" She wondered, even when he was dying from the Killer of the Dead poison from Faith's arrow, his fever was cool. Just to rule it out, she checked his pulse, it was missing as always.

Giles read the concern on her face when she walked back into the kitchen. "What is the matter Buffy? Did he do something to you?"

She looked up, "No, it's just…he has a fever Giles. Angel doesn't get fevers." They talked about the Killer of the Dead for a while and Giles agreed that vampires were incapable of producing natural body heat.

"I'll go check the bookstore; it's just across the street. I can't make any promises; it's not an occult shop. But I could get lucky." The Watcher told her. Buffy nodded as she gathered up some water and a few facecloths. "Yeah, anything you can dig up would be great. See if you can get any info on the dragon, I have a feeling the dragon's bite is what is causing it."

He nodded as he grabbed his coat and headed out. "I'll be back as soon as I've found something useful."

She called out to him as he was walking out the door, "Just make it until sundown, we don't know what else could be lurking in LA at night. Best we keep together when it's dark." He nodded in understanding and disappeared out the door.

8:30am

Buffy returned to the bedroom and began bathing Angel's forehead with the cool water, she wished she had ice, but the power was still out in the city.

A half hour later Angel began to stir. He groaned and opened his eyes, a moment later they focused on Buffy sitting beside him. His brow furrowed in confusion, "Buffy?" he asked, not sure if she was real or some hallucination.

"Yeah, it's me. I'm here." She said as she replaced the cloth with a cool one.

He looked at her a moment then asked, "Why? Why are you here?"

She frowned and pulled away from him, she had been hoping he wouldn't be mad but obviously he still was.

He sat up, painfully, as he spoke, "I called you for help, Giles hung up on me. I lost everyone…" he trailed off, memories of the final battle replaying in his mind.

"Angel, I know I haven't been there for you recently, but I was busy..." She countered.

Angel laughed mirthlessly, cutting her off, "Yeah, fucking that bastard the Immortal."

A flash of anger shot threw her and she slapped Angel hard across the face. He didn't react to the smack at all. "You were spying on me! How dare you! This is why we stopped trusting you Angel! That law firm corrupted you. And keep the Immortal out of this, you don't even know him!"

He locked any emotions he might have had deeply away, "First, I only paid that guy to watch you so I knew you were safe, you really weren't much into communicating once Sunnydale fell. Second, I tried the best I could to do good with Wolfram & Hart, and in the end, it cost me everyone I cared about. Lastly, I've known the Immortal longer than you, he's been my enemy since 1894 when he chained up me and Spike, seduced our woman, and then tortured us. So yeah, sorry, can't say I like your newest boyfriend." he spat.

Her mouth fell open but no sound came out, she closed it again and thought about what he said. "He stole your girl and tortured you?" she asked, a light turned on in her head and she sighed, "He left suddenly one day, mentioned he needed to deliver a package then he disappeared. Andrew said a couple of guys from the Immortal's past showed up, that they were being set up by him. I was part of that plan, wasn't I? He only pretended to care about me to hurt you?"

Angel didn't meet her eyes, but mumbled, "I don't know. Maybe. Bastard had us chasing you instead of the package we came to pick-up."

"Us?" she asked, wondering who else in Angel's past the Immortal was taunting.

He looked up at her, "Spike, who else?"

She looked at him a moment, wondering if his fever was causing brain damage. "Angel, Spike has been dead over a year now, I told you he died closing the Hellmouth in Sunnydale."

Angel looked at her dumbfounded, "Andrew didn't tell you? Wow, didn't think the nerd had it in him to keep a secret." He said the last part more to himself than Buffy.

She went ridged at his words, "What do you mean? What didn't Andrew tell me?" she demanded.

Angel told her about Spike being resurrected from the necklace, his brief stint as a ghost, and his involvement in Wolfram & Hart the over the last year.

"Why…why didn't Spike tell me he was alive?" She asked the vampire. Angel simply shrugged, "Said something about showing up alive would cheapen his glorious ending…or some junk like that." They both sat quietly for a few minutes, thinking their own thoughts.

"I'm Sorry" Buffy whispered, "I'm sorry you lost your team, your friends. I wanted to trust you Angel, I really did, but with the info I had…I couldn't afford to take that chance. I had way more than I could handle as it was, I had to make sacrifices."

He laughed humorlessly again and added tonelessly, "Nice to know I'm still at the top of the 'sacrifice first' list."

"Angel, that's not what I meant." She sighed, wishing he wasn't so offensive towards her. "Of all the people asking for my help, I figured you needed it the least. You've fought some awful things over the past few years, and you always came out on top, I figured you could handle it."

He shook his head, "Yeah, I handled it great, got everyone I gave a damn about killed and totaled L.A. in the process, a real champion I turned out to be."

"Angel, please don't beat yourself up about this…"she stated.

"Yeah can't have that, need to leave something for my enemies to beat up, I can't do their job for them, makes it way too easy."

Angel groaned, but it came out more like a growl, as he placed his hand against his head. His eyes shut tightly and Buffy could tell he was in pain. "Angel? Are you ok?" she asked, she wanted to reach out and touch him, but decided he probably wouldn't approve.

"Fine" he hissed threw gritted teeth, "Get eaten by dragons all the time, no big." He groaned again then slowly sank back down onto the pillow, his body suddenly exhausted.

Buffy shifted then gently placed the cool rag back upon his head, he didn't protest. She continued to bathe his fever with the as cool as room temperature would allow water for a few minutes, she had thought he had passed back out but then he spoke.

He opened his eyes and looked into hers, "I'm sorry… for being as ass. My problems aren't your responsibility; I can't blame my failures on you. It's just…" he trailed off, unshed tears stinging his eyes.

"I know" she comforted him, "You're grieving Angel. You lost far more than most people, and you lost it all at once. I don't know what I would do if I lost the gang."

They both sat in silence for a long moment. "You didn't fail." She pressed upon him.

He looked up at her, "I wouldn't exactly call this a win…" he mumbled remorsefully.

"The dragon's dead, your not. Sounds like a win to me." She added with a smile.

He looked away, not feeling very celebratory, "Maybe I should be."

She frowned and scolded him, "Angel, Don't say that."

"Why not? It's not fair. I'm already dead; I don't have a life to lose. They did." He argued.

She shrugged, "Life isn't fair. We should know. You lived for a reason Angel, your destiny isn't finished yet."

He glanced up at her, "Yeah, sure. Must be destined to spontaneously combust." He grumbled over the throbbing heat beginning to consume his body.

7pm

Angel gasped and winced in pain, constant pain. His body was hot to the touch, the fever spreading to every surface. She sat next to him, dabbing a cool wet cloth against his dry skin, in a failing attempt to control his fever. He had stopped sweating, but she figured it was due to him not having anymore moisture to lose.

Buffy didn't know what to do; he was in so much pain. She wished he would fully pass out into oblivion; this semiconscious state was torture to watch. "Angel?" she called, running her hand against his cheek, "I don't know what to do. I don't know how to help you." A tear fell down her cheek, followed by another and another.

Giles cleared his throat to get her attention; she looked up at him, not bothering to hide her grief or concern.

"Here" he said as he placed a mug in her hands, "Perhaps it will help him." When she looked at him questionably he added, "It's a healing tea, known to help with fever and pain. Although, I can not guarantee it's usefulness on the physiology of a vampire."

"Thanks" she told him, grateful for anything to try. She felt so useless watching him suffer. "I don't know if he'll drink it, he spits out the blood."

She got next to Angel, resting her back against the headboard and resting his head on her lap, "Drink?" she placed the mug against his cracked lips; he automatically turned his head away. "It's tea, to help with the pain" she said to him determined to make him try it. She tilted the cup letting a little drip between his lips. "Just tea" she repeated and tried again.

He took a sip, wincing at the medical taste, but the cool liquid felt too good in his dry mouth to protest. A minute later the mug was empty. She smiled at the small victory and turned to her watcher. "I'll get more" he said before she could ask.

A moment later he returned refilling the mug in her hand then placing the kettle on the nightstand where she could easily reach it. "Thanks" she smiled to him and he nodded, "I'll keep researching the best I can with what I've brought back." he said and went back to the kitchen to read his books.

She coaxed another cup of tea into Angel then let him rest. The tea seemed to be helping; he wasn't gasping or thrashing as much. She absently ran her free hand threw his hair; the other held a cool cloth to his burning forehead.

9pm

Buffy hadn't realized she had fallen asleep until she awoke to Angel mumbling. "Angel?" she called, his eyes opened but were clouded in fever and she could tell it wasn't her he was seeing. It looked like he was having a conversation with someone, but she couldn't understand the words. This went on for a few minutes, during which Buffy tried and failed to snap him out of it. After a while she gave up and turned her attention to the book Giles left for her to research.

9:30pm

"Buffy?" a weak voice asked a while later, she looked down to see his clear eyes staring up at her.

"Angel?" She asked, "You're awake?" she cautioned, unsure if he was really talking to her or still hallucinating.

"For…the moment" he groaned as he adjusted his sore body more comfortably. He noticed the bandages were gone and he took a quick inventory of his body, it felt like the bones had healed, the bruises were fading, the punctures were closed, but he was hot…he was never hot.

He groaned against the heat, "Hot" he whispered.

"You have a fever" Buffy answered as she placed the cool cloth back on his forehead. He moaned in relief at the cool sensation the cloth offered. She picked the mug up and brought it to his lips; he drank the cool liquid greedily.

When the mug was empty he relaxed, and noticed his head was pillowed in her lap. "Couldn't find me a real pillow?" he asked casually, wondering if there was a deeper meaning to her holding him.

"Would you prefer one? I can move." She started to but he stopped her, "No. Don't. Moving hurts."

Buffy unconsciously ran her fingers through Angel's hair again, his eyes had closed, but she could tell he wasn't sleeping. He seemed in much less pain than earlier in the day but she couldn't tell if it was from Giles's tea or the natural progression of whatever was causing the fever.

Angel opened his eyes when he felt a strange sensation flow through him, seconds later that sensation exploded into pain, a very familiar pain that emanated from his chest.

He gasped and clutched his chest as the pain hit, "No" he mumbled, "No…it…can't be. Not possible!" His voice panicked as he sat up.

Buffy asked also panicked, "Angel? What's wrong?"

"Go…get away!" he barked and then cried out in agony as he felt his soul being ripped from him. "Angelus" he managed to say, to warn her, then his world went black.

Buffy's heart froze when he heard him say his evil alter ego's name. Angel gasped and crumpled to his side as she reached out for him. 'He can't be losing his soul' she tried to reason, 'there was defiantly no 'perfect happiness' happening in the hours he's been alone with me.'

Her thoughts on the subject ended abruptly as his hand clenched around her throat, she was tossed onto her back as Angelus pinned her down with his body. She tried to wrestle him off but he had her at an awkward angle, she had no leverage, she was trapped.

"Hello Lover" Angelus called down to her with a smile across his sharp fangs. His cold yellow eyes locking onto her like a snake stalking a mouse.

Her eyes widened when she realized she was helpless at the moment.

"Can't say I understand what's going on, but I'm not one to look a gift Slayer in the mouth."

He squeezed his eyes shut a moment and growled in pain. "This damn heat, think it's killin' me. But if I'm dying Buff, I'm taking you with me" He snarled and bared his fangs, a second later he bit into her throat.

...

To be continued...

...