Title: "Closing Curtain"

Author: Lokoa E-mail: mehlk@netzero.net Disclaimer: * lifted eyebrow * Don't own them, though they'd be so much happier with me. They're the creations of Joss and his evil minions. Rating: PG-13 story matter and language Timeline: Years later, with the Final Battle between Good and Evil taking the field. A/N: I'm still working on my other story, going on about four months now.it's just not coming to me. I needed another break. Everything has happened up to "Sleep Tight" for AtS and roughly "Dead Things" for BtVS. A/N 2: Vayu is the God of Wind, just incase you wonder. A/N 3: This is a different writing style for me, and towards the end, the POV is continuously switching. It was easier to write it that way and get the feelings of the characters across. A/N 4: (These are fun * G *) My normal wonderful beta, Red, is way to busy with RL at the moment so all mistakes are mine! ;) Feedback: Oh, yes please. I can beg if you'd like. ( I have little, if no, shame. * g * Dedication: To Red (Karen). Honey, I don't know what I'd do without you. Our friendship is so very dear to me. Also, to all the wonderful Babblers at Ducks' BB. You guys are the absolute * best *. You keep me sane. Or add to my insanity.can't tell the difference, really. * g *.

Some say the world will end in fire. Others, that it will end in ice. But there are those few who believe it will end in love.

Solid.

Wet.

Her hands gripped the crumbling soil, bits matted together with the blood spilled of those deserving and undeserving.

No sun shone down on them.

The clouds suffocated the bright ball and not an ounce of warmth dripped from the sky.

It felt.gray.

And dreary.

Free reign for all the beasties who feared sunlight.

Get up.

She had to get up. No time for failure, no time for indecision.

Get. Up.

Her arms and legs pushed against the hard ground. She ignored the odd angle of her bony left elbow and prayed for her right leg to go as numb as her left.

Tired.

So tired.

Didn't matter. She was the Slayer. She had a job.an obligation. She'd be damned if she saw Good bow to the feet of Evil.

She'd come so close herself. Wanting to give up. Always the shadow. But a shadow isn't possible without at least a ray of light, right?

She held on to the thought with all she had.

She didn't think any of them truly understood what she had gone through. The sacrifices, pain, fear...and in the end, the pride.

She had done it.

She belonged to the side of Good and would fight with all she had.

Determination ran in her blood.

Good. It's what she needed.

With a raw scream of victory, Faith ran on.

* * * * * *

Her legs trembled and she threw her head to the Heavens.

They formed a circle around her. The ex-cheerleader, the werewolf, the class clown, and many other recent strangers. The protected her, as she protected Them.

The energy inside her burned..hurt..but she didn't stop.

They'd prepared for this. She was ready.

The sound of The Fight was a mere hum in her ears now. Her red hair trailed down her back as her red blood trailed from her nose.

She'd been casting for so long now. She felt her body's protests with each hand she raised, each word she chanted, each eye she blinked.

She screamed to the God's, offering protection, strength, and courage to the two Warriors who needed it most.

Sparks sizzled at her fingertips and a wave of dizziness overtook her. Her eyes rolled back in her head and her weight pushed her to her knees.

As she hit the ground, her view was obstructed by many large objects that looked like humps along the once flat field.

Oh God.

So many bodies. Tara..

No. Now was not the time. There would be time to find her lover's body somewhere among the rubble and grieve after their victory. She forced her heart to stone. Grief would slow her down, and she'd hate herself if that grief caused her to lose even more of her friends. Her family.

Her name. Somebody yelled her name.

He was at her side in an instant. She told him to go fight. They had to keep fighting. But he just sat in a crouch at her side and urged her to continue.

She'd been in love with him once, back in highschool. He'd been her first lover and they'd shared many happy years together. But it just wasn't meant to be. She'd accepted it. Now, she just deeply loved him.

He was hurt.

She'd placed protective spells over them all, but those only covered so much. When you ran right into the throngs of Evil, your 'side effects' of the spells were bound to come into play.

His left eye was swollen shut and a yellow liquid oozed from the corner. His arm was held close to his chest as though he feared it to get damaged, or it already had.

So many cuts marred his pale skin and again, the realization of what their family was doing, hit hard.

What was swirling all around them was the Battle to end all Battles.

They had to win.

Willow reached her hand to Oz and he gripped it in his.

Together.

They must all bind together.

She clenched her jaw and threw herself to her feet with a grunt. Her head spun for a moment but she held her ground.

"Grant the access and the gift of thou's protection.."

* * * * * *

He fought around her, protecting one of his best friends, as she continued to chant.

Punch.

Hit.

Pain.

Kick.

Fall.

Get up.

Do it all over again.

He wasn't a fighter. He knew it. He'd been the humor to the group.

Lightened their spirits it times of crisis.

But he'd changed in his years since highschool. While that part of himself would forever remain inside of him...it was less. Controlled.

He'd become a man. With a beautiful ex-vengeance demon for a wife. And God, how he loved her. Sometimes, it was all that kept him fighting.

Like now.

He ached.

He bled.

He wanted to lie down. Stop.

He'd been trained in fighting for this. They all had. But it was nothing like the lessons. Couldn't even compare.

It wasn't just the physical pain of the actual Battle, but what he saw.experienced during this time. Fellow fighters of Good they'd collected together, falling.drowning, in their own spilt blood.

The echoing cries of the wounded and dying. Noises that he felt certain would forever haunt him in his nightmares.

The forces of Evil were as heavily armed as they were. But the worst was their leader. It was a sick irony how things had turned up in the end. The leader of Dark wasn't a stranger or something they'd read about from one of Giles' musty old books. He was once considered a part of the Scoobies, long ago.

But if they won. If they could pull together and do this...

It would be their greatest victory.

* * * * * *

He hurried over to the fallen black man, and helped him up.

His friend.

His family.

They'd been fighting together this whole time and every time one went down, the other was there to pull him up.

It was exhausting.

His head couldn't conceive of all that was going on around them. All that threatened to be lost if they failed.all that was already lost.

So the two men focussed their attention as one.

Find the target.

Eliminate the target.

Thus the cycle continued, occasionally interrupted with a snap of his bone or a painful twist of his body.

He would give the orders of strategy, for he had once been a Watcher himself (What did it matter that he had been unsuccessful with controlling either one of his Slayers) and for he had once been the leader of their team back in L.A.

The latter position hadn't lasted long, though. It had fallen back into the hands of the one who deserved it most. The rightful Warrior.

Briefly he spared a thought to the said Warrior and his companion. May God be with them.

Lord knows they needed all the prayers they could get.

He turned his head to see another one of his friends run into a large clump to the side, his voice singing at an ear-plunging pitch. His green skin was looking a little pale and one of his two horns were barely hanging by a thread of skin to his forehead...and yet, he continued on.

As they all did.

He felt an overwhelming surge of pride lift his battered heart. How he was graced to have lived in the presence of such wonderful and noble souls.

Each and every last one of them knew that they had a chance to die. And probably would. That this battle may change nothing, except decrease the members of their family.

Yet, when they were told, not a single one of them had hesitated in accepting.

It seemed so long ago that they all had gathered for the meeting in Giles' apartment. He'd left a message on their machine back in L.A.:

"Wesley,

This is Giles. I must see you and your entire team tonight. I cannot stress the urgency of this message. I do not wish to share such a matter over a machine..but..I think this is what we've been fighting for..this is it.

Bring your weapons and anything you and yours wish to fight with. (There was a long silence for a moment, and while listening to this, puzzled, Wesley had wondered if that noise in the background was indeed a sob coming from the elder man. Finally, his voice filled the room once more) .and Wesley? Before you leave - tell the ones you love how much they mean to you. Don't give yourself the opportunity to regret leaving old wounds unhealed..You may never have the chance to mend them"

And a long silence followed afterwards, as if he wanted to say more but couldn't, or didn't have the right words to say, until he finally hung up his phone and disconnected himself.

Now, sweeping his eyes over the suffering around him, he couldn't hold back the tiny idea that all things previous to this day, this battle, had been..pointless.

Every demon they had all battled in their past years. The infinite number of times they had risked their lives to make this world free of one last vampire. Even the isolation they had to live with. It wasn't easy to find someone who not only believed, but accepted, that demons existed and that it was their job to fight them.

That the world didn't consist of black and white and partial gray. It practically was gray. Good guys were tainted with darkness and sometimes slipped into it. Evil wasn't always meant to destroy. Some were worthy of redemption and forgiveness.

If, in the end, this present battle was meant to determine All.what did the past matter? Why did The Powers continue to threaten their lives and those they cared about, if ultimately, win or lose, it wouldn't tip the scale?

The thought froze him. Dear God.had it all been for nothing?

No.

He refused to believe it.

It was because of their previous battles that they had been brought to this place.

The points had been ever so slowly tallying in their column until it became great enough that they might actually stand up to Evil, and once and for all, end its ongoing battle.

One way or the other.

And if nothing else, without their past experiences and traumas, he wouldn't have gotten to know the amazing young woman who's future had been stripped away, yet who fought for her friends and for the world.

Or the vampire, who with his determination and bravery inspired such loyalty and devotion.

Or their friends, who in ways, were just as capable of having the title of "hero" themselves. They fought the good fight not because it was their destiny nor because they were looking to right their wrongs, but because they wanted to.

Yes, every moment shared had been worth it.

Wesley squared his shoulders and raised his crossbow.

They would be victorious. Or go down trying.

* * * * * *

Her blade sliced through the air, decapitating her opponent in one swift move.

She didn't even stop to catch her breath or to watch it's head slip from it's shoulders to rest in the rubble. Instead, she pivoted on her right foot, sword raised, ready to meet her next challenge.

No time.

Had to keep fighting.

Sweat drenched her hair and ran down her face, mingling with her blood and stinging her cuts.

Her muscles quivered with exhaustion, but she would not stop.

A hit came from behind and she stumbled, falling to the ground. She pulled her right shoulder into her body and rolled with the impact.

As she hurried to her feet, the demon was approaching her swiftly, sword raised. At that moment, she saw a figure over the demon's shoulder, running towards them.

Her Watcher.

Her father.

Her heart filled with joy to see him alive and fighting. She had not seen her friends for hours now and the worry was literally making her ill.

The only comfort she took was in knowing that Dawn was safe, somewhere far away from here, with a girl from Angel's team she didn't remember the name of. Harry? Frank?

She snapped herself back to the current situation. She found her mind drifting off more and more as the battle wore one.

It scared her.

She knew her mind was screaming for rest and even though she was the Slayer, there was only so much she could withstand.

The demon came at her, swinging his sword in the air, his features twisted in rage.

She met it in the air with her own and sent her leg slamming into his chest.

"Behind you!"

He screamed his warning to her as he finally arrived at the scene, panting from his run.

At the sound of her mentor's voice, she spun around only to meet a bone- shattering blow to her jaw.

She stumbled back in pain, with just enough time to cough up the blood from her mouth, before Demon #1 gripped her around the waist, knocking her sword from her grasp, and together they fell to the ground.

She had the briefest moment to see the man who had warned her, run to the still standing demon and engage in fighting, before she has to use every ounce of concentration on her own fight.

Putrid breath covered her face, as she struggled with the demon on top of her.

Heavy.

Suffocating.

She pulled in a deep breath at the same time that she lifted her leg from the ground and swung it in a circular motion towards her head.

Crack.

It's leg snapped as her own leg pulled it in the journey to her face, causing it to twist at an angle it was incapable of.

Its scream was shrill and high, like nails on a chalkboard.

She now had the upperhand and wasted not time.

Elbow to the nose.

Twist of her body.

And their position was suddenly reversed.

Straddling its middle, she reached at her waist, pulled out her crossbow bolt, and rammed it in its eye.

It was dead before it had a chance to scream.

Some of the liquid from the eye splashed onto her face and her hands. Her stomach lurched as she fought to keep its contents from coming up.

She stared at the death she'd created.

With her own hands.

And she knew more would have to come before this was over.

But what choice did she have?

They grunting and sound of metal meeting metal, pushed her to her feet and she turned to see him fighting bravely against the remaining enemy.

The demon swung out his sword and he jumped back, but it was a fracture too slow, and the blade sliced through his sleeve to the skin.

Too close.

She sprung to her sword, gripped it in her hands, and ran to the fight.

With its back to her, she pulled back her arm and ran her sword through its back, and out through its chest.

The demon froze in action, its face wearing a mask of pain and shock as its eyes followed to its chest to see the protruding blade.

Its fingers lost the grip around its weapon and the blade fell to the ground with a soft thud, kicking up the brown earth in its wake.

She saw its legs shake and knew he was about to fall backwards. She stepped out from behind him in just the amount of time to see the demon lock eyes with the man still standing in front of it, and throw out its hand to yank the man towards him.

Oh God.

The scene played as if on slow motion and she felt her heart clench as her head screamed.

"No!" She finally found voice to her fear, though whether it came out as a scream or a whispered plea, she couldn't say.

Too late.

The demon had the front of his shirt in its filthy and murderous hand, and used its quickly fading strength to pull him against his own chest.

His eyes bulged as the blade pierced his skin and sank in deep. His weight was more than the demon could support, and they toppled to the ground.

Pain filled his eyes as he went down with the now dead demon, forcing the metal in further.

Go to him!

She couldn't move.

Her legs were so heavy and her head so fuzzy.part of if screaming his name over and over while they other half was - silent. Shocked with disbelief and held quiet with pain.

GOD DAMNIT, GO TO HIM!

She ran, falling to her knees beside him. He was weakly trying to push himself off the blade and her tiny hands flew to his waist to help.

She lifted him up and off the demon, and he fell back on her. She clutched him to her as they fell backwards, taking the full brunt of the impact.

Her mind flipped to Slayer-mode instantly.

A sound of pain escaped his throat as she laid him down on the ground, carefully.

"It's going to be okay.you'll be alright. You will."

Tricky words.were they for her sake or his?

Her hand shook as she reached at her shirt to pull some fabric off.

Damnit! Why won't it tear?

She began to frantically rip at the cloth and managed to rip a large enough piece off.

She lifted his shirt cautiously and her heart sobbed at the wound.

So deep...

So much blood...

She placed the material over the gash and added pressure.

It was going to work. He was going to be okay. They'd stop the bleeding and find somebody to clean the wound. There were hundreds of soldiers out here, surely one of them had supplies for emergencies like this. Or maybe she could find Willow and -

The weight of his hand on hers pulled her out of her mind's ramblings.

"Wait," she whispered, trying to shake free of his grip. "I - I have to get some more cloth. Stop the bleeding."

He didn't say anything, just squeezed her hand tighter. She looked at him, eyes wide, pleading with him to let her help him.

Their eyes locked and an unspoken knowledge passed between them. The blade had punctured his heart and too much blood had been lost to fix what had happened.

She shook her head at him, slowly at first, and then more fiercely. Her chin quivered and her eyes blurred with tears.

He just gave her a tiny nod and another squeeze of her hand. She watched as he opened his mouth and pulled together his fading strength to talk to her.

"I'm so proud of you."

Her cheeks were wet with tears now as she tried to stay strong for him.

Why was it so hard? Why couldn't she just be there for him, like he had all those times for her?

She brought his hand to her lap as he struggled to continue on. For a brief second, panic rose inside of her for the fear of their safety. Here she sat, hardly paying any attention to her surroundings, as the battle wore on around them at all sides.

But it was gone as quickly as it had come. The Powers owed her at least this moment to be with the man, who as far as she was concerned was her father, as he died fighting * their * fight.

"Not just of the Slayer in you.but of the extraordinary young woman you are as well." His voice was raspy and low but he was determined to continue on.

"As a Watcher, it is my duty to send you out to fight every night, even if I were to believe that your chances of returning were slim. And how I worried about you.If I could have, I would have fought them myself. But I couldn't, and you had to. The relief I would always feel to see you the next day - " he was interrupted by his bodies convulsion and pulled in a gasp of air.

She couldn't hide the sob that escaped her lips.

"I - "

But he stopped her with a shake of his head. "Please, I must finish."

She nodded.

"I know you yearn for normalcy. And that the weight of your duties is almost to much sometimes."

Normalcy.

There was no such thing.

She had given up on that dream long ago.

"And still you continue to fight. Your love for this world and life itself aids you as the Slayer. You are not a normal Slayer. You took the rules and threw them to the wind - and because of it, you are the best this world has ever and will ever see. You refuse to let your strings be pulled by other people.

Things never will be the same after you. The Council, the Slayers, the Watchers..Their barbaric methods and cruel disposal of their Slayers, will no longer exist. Because of you. One girl in her generation."

She could no longer fake self-control, and she let her body shake with her sobs. She tried to fore her words out, aware of how little time they had left.

God, she was so unprepared.

She shouldn't have been, though. She knew.

They were all aware of what could happen when they entered this fight. Knew they should say their good-byes because they would just be too lucky to have each and every one of them return safely.

But to say them would have made it more real somehow.

Did everything in her life have to be taken from her? The unfairness of it all began to crush her and her breathing became more difficult. Simple, involuntary movements such as taking oxygen into her lungs had to now be thought about as she forced her lungs to expand.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inhale.

Exhale.

She looked into his eyes and the disappearing sparkle and invading lifelessness terrified her.

"It's because of you," she whispered. "I had you with me and I know even if my decisions were wrong..if disconnecting myself from the Council was suicide, you would support me."

There was an expanding pause between them as she decided over her words carefully. "I hope you don't mind, but I've always thought of you as my father."

For the first time, his eyes glistened with tears and a single drop of salty liquid slipped from his eye. "That means the world to me."

Another pause slipped between the two, giving each the time to frantically gather their thoughts.

They had entered this together.

They would not leave the same way.

He turned his head and looked at their surroundings, running his eyes over each detail, almost lovingly.

"Do you know where we are?"

She nodded.

She always knew she'd be back her someday.

So many of her early years spent here, inside these now crumbled walls.

The irony was not lost on her.

For the most part, this was her beginning, and therefore, would be her end.

She gave him a bittersweet smile. "I guess Highschool never does escape you."

"I didn't mean-"

"I know," she said, softly. "You mean we're in the Library."

He smiled then. "Our first encounter with each other. Little did we know how much we had in store for us in the long years ahead."

"I'm going to miss you," she whispered.

He turned to her once again. "Fight. Don't give up. I know you can beat this. Let him protect you, and you protect him. You both were born to do this. Together."

His throat made a gurgling sound and his eyes widened as he fought to drink in oxygen. His skin had lost its glow minutes ago and was looking a sickly blue. His body jerked violently as he squeezed his eyes.

She bit her lip as her tears flowed. "I'm not ready! Don't leave me!"

Calming, he looked at her, his body still trembling on the cold ground.

"You are ready," he voice was so soft she wasn't sure if she'd actually heard it or had read his lips. "This is my time. I accept that, just as you must."

The wind picked up speed as it flew through her blonde hair, carrying it on an invisible journey.

She felt Death near.

It surrounded not only the fight, but felt almost dense around them, hovering over him like a child would his favorite toy.

Death teased them, with long, rough, icy fingers..swinging Time before them before snatching it away, ending its own game.

She'd been around this all too often in her life, and knew they had mere seconds left.

The realization was not lost on him, either.

"Go to him," he murmured. "You are your own tools..your love, the force. I'm ashamed to have ever doubted you both. The love you share together.it will change the world. Don't let that become lost."

"I won't," she promised.

He shut his eyes briefly and she saw his struggle to reopen them.

"You have touched so many lives, and it has been an honor to be your Watcher."

Her throat made a horrible sucking sound.

This is it.

Oh God.

She squeezed his hand in hers. "And I'm honored to be your Slayer."

The bond between them glowed in their hearts. Together, they'd broken the rules of the normal Watcher/Slayer relationship, and had formed an everlasting friendship in return.

"Goodbye, Giles," she whispered.

And he was still.

Cold.

His hand limp in her own.

She stayed with him for minutes (hours?) not wanting to leave.

It was over.

Her future held no more promises of him in her life.

She would never have any more tea with him.

She would never again embarrass him with her very American choice of words.

They would no longer share training sessions followed by their late night discussion which had become to popular over the years.

But she had to accept it.

Yet again, she must fight the Good Fight, unmattering what The Powers decided to strip away from her this time.

But more importantly, he'd asked her to.

With a deep, shuddering breath, she finally released his hand from hers and placed it carefully at his side.

Leaning over, she pressed her lips to his icy cheek and whispered, "I'm glad you're finally at peace."

She forced herself to stand on her shaking legs and took a few, stiff steps away from the body.

The wind was still in turmoil, as if Vayu himself was punishing this day in the only way he knew how.

Maybe he was.

Wait.

Something...she could feel something..

Her Angel.

She felt his worry and fear for her in every sinew of her tired and weary body.

His words came as caresses on the wind, flowing into her heart. The soft ring of courage and love.

She could almost feel his strong, gentle fingers running over her skin and giving her strength.

His lips stretched the distance between them to rest on her own, giving her the best balm to her soul.

"Please be safe," she pleaded, softly, raising her head and closing her eyes. "I love you."

And Buffy moved forward.

----------------------------------

Where was she?

They'd lost each other somewhere in the fight. Had been torn from the safety and love they provided for each other by fighting side by side.

He needed her.

Needed to run his hands through her hair.over her face, her lips.

Needed to feel her small body crushed to his.

Needed to see that she was safe.

His legs moved in swift strides across the earth as his mind's thoughts jumbled and jumped from point to point.

So much pain.

And loss.

And carnage.all in the span of just a few hours.

He'd prided himself on saving souls. But no matter how hard he fought, how many punches he could pull or how many kicks he could spin, three lives would be lost to the one he could save.

No matter if the lost lives were worthy or unworthy of Death itself.

It was a difficult truth to live with.

Now, scanning his eyes over the ruins, he wondered how much of his own family had been lost today.

The thought was almost too much to bear.

Family.

Something a creature like himself never expected to have.

And yet he did.

Even if they'd been lost.

His heart shattered a little at the thought. Connor. His flesh, his blood, his son.

Sometime he still had dreams about him. That he'd stopped Holtz or that he'd gone in to save him.

Useless wishes.

For months after Connor's kidnapping, he'd slept in his son's nursery, clutching his tiny stuffed animals to his chest.

They had smelt like him.

For weeks, they had researched any way to get Connor back.and in the end, had gotten no where.

The only way they could think to get Connor was through Sajahn, but he never showed again.

Just.disappeared.

To this day, he wondered what had been Sajahn's motivation for such a cruel and inhuman act. What he could have done that was so horrible, and yet so easily forgotten on his part, to push the demon to such an extreme.

Maybe he was never meant to find out.

Ultimately, it didn't matter. He'd lost his son, and the other factors weren't important.

Over time, he'd mended things with Wesley. He'd understood what the ex- Watcher's intentions were, however misguided they seemed.

Fear could make you do crazy things. He'd seen it a million times.

But they were never quite the same. He'd offered Wesley forgiveness. After all, he of all creatures understood the need to be forgiven..but it didn't change what had transpired. It was just something they had to accept.

Maybe someday he would see his son again.

Maybe not.

But it was worth the chance of more heartache, so he clung to the thought, strangling it in his grasp.

"Angel."

So soft, so tired.but his soul would never forget the sound.

His eyes shot up and he spun around.

God, there she was. Standing only yards away, her soft hair blowing the raging wind, her body covered in dirt and blood, and her big, round eyes searing into his.

She looked beautiful.

He saw her take a step.

Then another.

Faster.

She was running to him. Her strong legs pushing against the dirt, her eyes never leaving his.

She threw herself into his chest, his strong arms crushing her to him in a bone-shattering embrace. She was briefly aware of the pain of her bruises and cuts being squeezed so hard and then she just didn't care. The pain was gone when she was in his arms.

"Oh God," she whispered, nuzzling her face into his neck.

"My love," he sighed. He frantically planted kisses to the top of her head, letting himself happily drown in the scent that was uniquely her.

It had been too long.

Too long since he'd held her in his arms.

She lifted her head from her resting-place on his chest and looked at him. "I've missed you. So much."

"I love you."

She smiled at him, her first real smile all day and he leaned down, placing his lips against hers.

His strength poured into her and she felt as she always did when they were together like this; like one of those light, airy bubbles racing giddily towards the top of a champagne glass.

His lips pressed against hers with a hunger only she could sate. They exchanged soft moans and sighs as hands journeyed and tongues dueled.

As his hand brushed her side, she winced slightly, and he pulled away, concerned. "You're hurt."

"You too." She ran her fingers gently over the back and purple bruise along his forehead and placed a soft kiss to his swollen jaw.

He felt her worry and fear like it was a slap in the face.

"We'll get through this."

Her eyes snapped to his.

She was silent for a long moment and he reached out, taking her hands in his, rubbing his thumbs in soft caresses over her skin.

"I don't think I'll be able to walk away from this," she said softly, "if you're not walking with me."

"I won't let anything happen to you."

"I don't mean that."

"And I won't let anything happen to myself, either," he assured her. "Not when I have things worth living for." He squeezed her hand in his and brushed his lips over her forehead.

His reassurance made her want to tell him about Giles.

But she couldn't.

Not when they still had one more fight to face. One more enemy.

Her heart still held mixed feelings when it came to * him *.

A lot of it was hate.disgust.

But a smaller part was sorrow.

Regret.

Guilt.

She never wished for it to turn out like this. For it to have come to what it now was.

But he wanted it this way. So shall it be.

Things had changed so drastically over the years. The final countdown to the End of Days.

Prophecies.

Departures.

Loss.

Reunions.

She still found herself speechless around the beautiful man in front of her, and thanking whatever powers of the universe that brought them back together.

Things had fallen apart without him as her support. Slowly at first. But at the end.so much had been lost, so much wasted, that had he been in her life, the need for them to be here fighting who they would soon be fighting, would be non-existent.

Things between them took a long time to mend.

It took the threat of the End of Days to push them together again. And then followed sleepless nights of talking, sometimes ending in arguments and tears, before realizing that yes, their relationship was difficult and sometimes filled with times that giving up seemed like the easiest option.

.but being without each other created a feeling far worse than anything they could imagine.

When she looked up, he was watching her intently. "What are you thinking about?"

"Us," was her simple reply.

He gave her that gorgeous half smirk that just made her legs tremble and heart flutter.

"What about us?" he prodded, gently.

"How we're here, together, after.everything. It blows my mind sometimes."

"I know the feeling."

"Tsk, tsk. For people who consider themselves great warriors, you sure do lack that common sense that screams danger."

The two lovers whipped their heads around to the voice.

The icy, cold, dangerous voice that haunted her dreams.

She shivered, and beside her, she felt his anger and surprise.

He'd caught them off guard.

"Mm, the knife is ready to cut, but the heavens dim its sight."

The petite blonde ticked her gaze to the left to see the dark haired vampire step beside their intruder. She seemed to be holding a dead squirrel in her arms, rocking it gently against her chest.

"Hello, my sweet," her companion smiled, reaching out a hand to run his fingers through her black locks. "We're just about ready to begin."

"Good." Her fingers stroked the still animal in her arms. "The sky no longer hides it protectors. Now the whole family can play."

"That's right, luv," Spike turned her attention to the warriors. "Let's play."

* * * * * *

Her heart thudded in her chest.

One of them would have to lose.

She stared at him across the field, his chiseled cheekbones seeming to her more hollow than ever. His ocean eyes shining with hate, energy, and...love? His strong hands clinched in fists at his side as his vampire lover swayed softly beside him.

Pain, disgust, guilt.he at least was able to give her something. He treated her as she deserved to be treated, not like her friends did. Tip toeing around her, always cautious of the words they chose.

She didn't have to worry about standing tall against all the impossibilities that the world threw at her. With him, she didn't have to be 'Buffy', when inside, she was so far from that girl of long ago that they were completely separate entities inside of her.

She could fall with him.

"What is it, luv? Having second thoughts?"

Her facial expressions didn't change, except maybe to sadden a bit. "No. I'm not. This is how you want it, and you gave us no choice."

The blonde sneered at her. "Don't try to take the bloody Moral High Road with me, Summers. I know what kind of woman you are. You're not sweet and pure like your soddin' Scoobies think. You're dark, twisted." He narrowed his eyes at her, forcing her to meet his strong gaze. "You're an animal. It's all you've ever been."

"It would do you best to shut your mouth," her lover growled, taking a step forward. "Or I'll do it for you."

"Oh. Right. Wanker to the rescue, then."

"Do you think I'm playing, boy?"

"Okay." She held her hand against his chest and pushed the other in front of her in a futile attempt to stop the fly of words. "Not real interested in the pissing on a tree contest."

She turned her back to the younger vampire and stepped close to the one facing her.

His knuckles softly brushed across her cheek and she sighed, leaning into his touch.

"That wasn't true - what he said."

"Maybe it was," she murmured, bringing her hand up to touch with his, 'but not anymore."

He studied her briefly and decided not to comment. She didn't need his words of justifying her past right now.

All they needed was each other.

She looked into those chocolate eyes. Pools of wisdom and love, and it was times like these that she truly understood the cliché of eyes being the windows to the soul.

She could see his fear for what they were about to face.

See his love for her.

For his friends and family.

She could read his soul in those eyes.

And maybe it was childish, but it gave her heart the greatest thrill, when she saw her own reflection in his eyes. Saw the slightly distorted figure of herself lightly traced in those brown depths.

Her whispered name spilled from his lips brought her out of her thoughts.

"What do you want to do about." He tilted his head in the direction of their impatiently waiting enemies.

"You take Drusilla. I'll handle Spike."

His eyes clouded and he shook his head. "No."

"This is my fight. I have to."

"I won't let you fight him. He's too dangerous and you've forgotten what he is like without the chip. He'll throw you off your game. He'll use anything you've ever told him when you were.close.with him. I can't let you do it."

She pressed her lips together, before answering. "I'm not asking your permission."

He pulled back slightly and she instantly softened, reaching out her hand to his, their fingers lacing immediately.

"I know you're only looking out for me," she told him, "but this is something * I * have to do. I can't explain why.I just do. You have to trust me."

"You know I do," he replied. "It's him I don't."

She gave him a tiny smile and pulled him down to her, kissing him softly. "I love you," she whispered against his mouth.

He sighed against her bringing his fingers to tangle in her hair.

"Cheater," he murmured back.

She grinned and pressed her forehead to his. "How about after this is over we spend the weekend on a remote island, locked in our hotel bedroom. You can continue to tell me all about the history and wisdom you gained that you so like to bring up."

"The stuff that bores you to tears?"

She smiled. "That's the stuff."

"Mm. And then maybe I could spend the rest of the time ravishing and worshipping you like the Goddess you are?"

"You better believe it, buddy."

"What the Hell are you two doing over there?!" The British voice sent waves of nausea over her and she had to close her eyes to push away the feeling.

"Are you ready?"

Opening her eyes, she nodded at him. "Yes."

She watched as his jaw muscles grew taunt and she knew he still wanted to fight her decision to face Spike.

"I have to," she reminded him, gently.

" I know."

He pressed his lips to her temple. "Please be safe, beloved. I can't lose you."

"I can't lose you, either," she whispered back. "I love you."

"I love you."

They broke apart reluctantly and with a deep breath, she turned to face the pair of vampire lovers.

She took a few steps forward before spinning around and running right back to him, throwing herself in his arms, and crushing her lips to his.

He let out a moan, desperately clutching at her and lifting her off of her feet to give him better access to her.

Oh God, what if this is the last time we ever get to hold each other?

The thought belonged to neither one nor the other, for it was racing through both of their minds.

What if I never again feel his lips against mine?

Her heart singing beautifully in my ears?

My fingers in his hair?

Her skin touching my fingertips?

But they knew.

Knew what had to be done.

What only they could do.

They broke apart, breathless, and he sat her back on the ground, gently, his heart weeping for the loss of her warmth against him. Both of their eyes glistened with tears as they prepared to break apart again.

"Always," she said, softly.

His heart soared with love for the amazing woman in front of him. "Always."

* * * * * *

He was filled with disgust, seeing her run back to him.

He was the one who was bloody there for her when Nancy Boy up and left!

* He * was the one who continued to fight by her side when he was once a neutered vampire.

He almost damn well DIED for the lil' bit, and what did he get? A fucking thank you?

His demon raged inside when the Slayers lips touched the Vampire's.

He had offered her everything! Why couldn't she see it?

Didn't matter.

It would end today.

He was free of his confinement and all would be unleashed.

He was a demon.

Evil.

And she was human. Even more so, The Slayer.

The universe had already set the rules for two like themselves. There was only one way it could play out. And he had his Black Beauty, anyway. He loved her as much as his capability could stretch. She made his unlife - interesting.

He watched as the two lovers reluctantly parted, gripping hands until their arms would no longer stretch and had to break contact.

His icy blue eyes ran the journey from her head to her toes as she began to make her way over to him. She walked with her shoulders back and head high, her eyes a whirlwind of emotion as she watched him.

Her hair was matted to her head and her clothes clung to her body with sweat and blood. In his mind, he could clearly see what ly hidden beneath her clothes. The silky, soft skin lying over hard muscle. The dip of her neck and the pillows of clouds that were her breasts. Her firm stomach leading down to her moist core.

She never ceased to amaze him when they were together. The grunts and animal cries that would escape her throat in their frenzied coupling. The feeling of her nails gouging his back, the scent of freshly spilt blood pushing him over the edge.

But she never let him bite her.

In fact, she never let him really touch her. When his caresses became gentle, almost loving, he could feel her panic until they became rough again.until they became void of emotion.

He would never forget the time he brushed his lips over His mark and she'd nearly exploded on him. She'd thrown him off of her in hysterics, running out of his crypt as fast as her Slayer speed would allow.

She hadn't come back for a long time after that.

The air seemed to still and this moment freeze in time as Slayer and Vampire faced off.

She came to a stop in front of him and he gave her a smirk. Her only response was a blink as she turned her head back around to her dark haired lover. He had already been making his way toward their other enemy as their eyes locked and she gave him a slight nod.

They mouthed something to each other, of what, he could no be sure, before she turned back to him.

He watched over her shoulder as his lover and Sire disappeared together over the horizon, falling out of sight, and leaving them utterly alone.

Well, not completely alone, but that fun will wait until later.

Neither of them spoke and even silence itself seemed to take on a sound in the humming of his ears.

He watched, amused, as she shifted her weight and defiant as ever, refusing to be the one to speak first.

"Well, luv. It's all come down to this, hm?"

"Your choice."

He chuckled. "If that helps you sleep at night."

She paused. "It didn't have to be like this, you know."

"Yes it did."

"You didn't have to get your chip removed."

Rage stirred to life inside of him. Was she so ignorant that she didn't even understand * why * he did what he did?! "Damn well I had to get it removed! I was sick of taking your CRAP all the time!"

Her eyes hardened. "That isn't fair."

"Oh, right, you were just to fucking screwed up to take the blame."

Her fist met his face with a sickening snap and he growled in anger.

"Don't you DARE try to place everything on me!" she spat. "You * knew * how lost I was and if I'd been in my right mind I NEVER would have touched you!"

Her head whipped back with the force of his punch.

"Don't play games with me, Summers. I know you bloody well liked it. You'd like to hide behind that excuse but you know just as much as I do, that deep down, you WANTED it."

"No."

"Yes. You didn't have to keep coming back. But you did."

"It isn't that simple!"

"Of course it is."

"What the HELL do you know? You don't even have a conscience! You can't even * begin * to understand what I was going through. You can't comprehend what human emotions feel like!"

"I can feel love!"

It was out before he could stop it.

He saw her indecision on how to respond. Her jaw muscles clenched and fists tightened.

"You never loved me," she said, softly. "You can't."

"Don't -"

"You make me sick. If you would have loved me you would have never let me go through with what we did."

Something inside of him snapped. How DARE she try to tell him what he did and did not feel! He didn't * choose * to love her. Hell, he would have returned her back immediately.

In a fit of rage, he lunged at her. She was caught off guard and buckled under his weight.

She grunted as the back of her head slapped the ground and pain split her skull.

He frantically climbed on top of her, straddling her waist, and held her two tiny wrists over her head with one hand.

She struggled beneath him, but it only caused him to push more weight on top of her.

"I hate you," she whispered.

His eyes flashed golden and he threw himself against her, crushing his cold lips to hers.

She gasped and tried to pull her wrists free of their confinement.

He growled, slipping his tongue roughly into her mouth and biting down on her lip. She cried out into his mouth, and tried to suck in oxygen.

When the drop of blood hit his mouth, colors exploded behind his eyelids and the demon roared in dominance. The thick liquid smoothed over his tongue and he greedily sucked at her lip.

Gathering her strength, she gave one, hard tug at her wrists, twisting at just the right moment and rejoiced when she felt his fingers slip off her skin.

She threw out her arm in a right hook, catching him in the jaw before he could try to stop her.

He grunted and tried to bloke the next assault, but she pressed her hands against his chest and shoved with all she had.

He landed, ungracefully, a few feet in front of her and she pushed herself to her feet, walking towards him.

"You're disgusting," she spat.

He remained on the hard earth, watching her above him. His eyes brimmed with fire and he no longer felt as controlled as when they first began.

He wouldn't be happy until her cold, lifeless body was in his hands. He would feast on her for weeks and the once thought of swimming in the Slayer's blood was enough to push his hunger into starvation.

She'd hurt him.

Now, he would hurt her.

"Look at you," he replied. " 'So alone and helpless'" he mocked. "You know why, don't you? Didn't you ever think, didn't you ever wonder why it is that every person who walks into your life can't get away fast enough, or why is it that everyone always seems to desert you?"

He made sure all of her attention was focused on him and his voice the only thing that filled her ears. "It's you. Nobody. Wants. You. You're Boy Toys never stick around. They use you and discard you. Your bloody * father * couldn't even stand you! When was the last time he bothered to call? Been a while. Your mum lived in denial for the rest of her life - because of you. She wanted a normal daughter and instead got a Slayer. Your friends, your Watcher.you bring darkness and pain into their lives with your presence alone. How much happier would they be without you? How much pain could you make disappear if you never met them? ...I reckon a lot."

She stood there, motionless. Her vision was slightly blurred from anger or from tears, she couldn't tell, and she silently fought against his words.

"Lies," she whispered.

"Just the truth, luv. Sometimes it hurts."

"Angel warned me you would do this. And a part of me expected it as well." She paused. "I'm sorry you proved him right."

He watched her as he took in her statement. The rapid beating of her heart thudded in his ears, but her features remained fixated..determined.

"It ends now," she spoke, reaching behind her and revealing a wooden stake clutched in her tiny fingers.

Was that fear he just felt? Something coursed through his dead veins that he desperately tried to push away.

Their dance was over.

No more twirls.

No more dips.

No more turns.

'Oh well,' he thought. 'Time to bring out the last act.'

"Boys!"

They entered just as he'd planned.

6 vampires and two who-knew-the-hell-whats.

He felt, more than saw, her body tense and her eyes tick back and forth to each demon.

"Figures," she spoke at him, "to much of a coward to fight me yourself."

He saw her struggle to remain calm in their situation.

God, this felt good!

He ignored her, turning to the new arrivals.

"Have at her. I don't really care what you do, but DON'T kill her."

He turned his eyes to hers. "That'll be my fun."

* * * * * *

Her heart sunk.

Infact, it fell from the tower and smacked against the sharp, jagged rocks, cutting a new hold with each puncture.

She'd been the Slayer long enough to know when things looked helpless.

She wasn't going to make it out of here.

Maybe, just * maybe * she could in a different circumstance - but not now.

She was so hurt.

So tired.

So drained.

Stop it!

She couldn't think like this.

But, god, how could she not?

For a moment she felt pure hate squeeze her battered soul.

She'd had a chance.

She could have won.

But he'd take it all into his own hands. Distorted everything until he knew he would be victorious.

And, oh god, Angel.

Her mind backtracked to the conversation they had had just last night.

Their final night together before the Battle - where everything after that would be so uncertain.

She'd thought he had been asleep and though she tried, her eyes remained wide open, soaking in the black of night. Her mind was working at one- hundred miles a minute, her imagination showing her both victories and failures of what could transpire the next day.

The soft bed and cushion of her pillow offered her no comfort in drifting into the world of unconsciecness.

Then she'd felt a gentle hand slip over her waist and his cold, beautiful body pulling her backside against him.

She sighed as his lips whispered against her ear before placing a sweet kiss at her temple. Her arm moved behind her to pull him closer until no space existed between their bodies and limbs tangled, offering no distinction of whose was whose.

He had held her then, knowing without words, that it was what she had needed.

She remembered thinking in that moment how if she were able to squeeze any more love for this man into her heart, that it would surely burst from fulfillment.

"Beloved," he said, softly, "want to tell me about it?"

She rolled over in his arms so that they were face to face. The sheets pooled at his waist and the silver moonlight streaming through the window cast a beautiful light over his features.

He reached out to brush a stray lock from her cheek and waited patiently for her to answer.

She'd told him everything.

Her fears.

Her doubts.

Her hopes.

He'd listened throughout her whole spiel and in the end, offered her the only thing he could promise her without a doubt.

"Whatever happens tomorrow, whatever the outcome, I will never leave you. You are the most precious thing I have in my existence. You fill me with things I never even dared dream I would get to experience. You complete me. Nothing could ever keep me from finding my way back to you."

She'd smiled at him through her tears then, and brought her lips to his.

"Together. Always," she'd whispered.

Now, watching her attackers gather around her, she clutched her only weapon in her hand, letting the wind cool her sweat that clung to her body.

This was her battle.

Everything had led her to this point and she would not turn away.

A sort of sadness, a sort of fear, filled her. Wishes of having said her final goodbye to her friends, getting to hold Dawn one more time and tell her how much she loved her.

And her Angel..they could have lifetimes together and never wish to be any place the other was not.

But at the same time, there was pride shinning through. She'd led their army here and they would win.

She felt it.

Good could never be overcome by Evil. There are obvious ups and downs on both sides, but Good was too strong, too pure, to be shadowed by something darker.

Now was their chance to prove it.

One of the vampires struck and she sidestepped his swing, slamming her foot into its back.

He didn't even flinch.

What the Hell?

A fist hit her face and she felt every bone in her nose shatter. The unexpected pain blinded her for a moment and she felt a sticky liquid drip over her lips.

That shouldn't have happened.

She'd taken an uncountable number of punches to her face, stood against far worse creatures than vampires, and had never felt pain like this.

They're not normal.

The sick realization slipped over her.

Rough hands gripped her around the waist, throwing her to the ground as two other pairs of hands tried to yank her in the opposite direction.

The platinum vampire's laugh scratched through the air, "Take turns. There's enough for everyone."

No, damn it!

She reached for the figure nearest her, and together, they rolled on the ground, fighting for dominance.

//Nothing could every keep my from finding my way back to you.//

She straddled his waist, pushing all her weight through her pelvis. She gripped her stake in her hands and sent it slamming down.

But the target was missed as a sharp needle penetrated her left shoulder blade from behind.

The effect was immediate as relaxants began to spread through her muscles.

The diversion was all the vampire needed to roll out from beneath her and stumble to its feet, eyes burning and saliva dripping.

She flipped herself from the ground to her feet as the other demons formed a circle around the two, cheering loudly.

The Slayer and vampire circled each other cautiously, sizing up their opponent. She could feel the drug taking effect, spreading throughout her body and sucking her strength away.

Without warning, she spun on her left heel, bringing her leg into a roundhouse kick. It hit him in the chest, and she offered no time for him to recover as she launched an assault of punches to his upper body.

He managed to block a few, but she got in major damage before his foot hit her midsection and knocked her breath away.

She saw his arm swing at her and she ducked, bringing her stake up with her and planting it in its chest.

Its remains tangled in her hair and in her clothes, but she didn't have time to give it a second thought as she spun to face her next attacker.

Bright white spots blinded her vision as she took an elbow to the face.

She ignored the pain and forced herself into the air, getting in three kicks at its neck, before gravity began pulling her back to Earth.

But something else was waiting for her.

As she prepared to land on the ground, in that split second, she saw a vampire step beneath her, foot raised, and in a moment of decision, she threw her body the opposite way.

She hit the ground.

Hard.

Ungracefully.

Her elbows took the brunt of the hit and she grunted as the join in her right elbow pulled out of socket.

// Together. Always. //

They were on top of her before she knew it.

She flung her arms out in defense, rejoicing in their cries of pain.

But it was useless.

There were too many.

Too many.

And she was tired.

Hurt.

Bleeding.

Her mind screamed out when she felt rough, scratchy hand spin her arms over her head.

Fight damn it!

She brought her legs swinging in an arc, meeting with a crack at one of the demon's shoulders, causing it to roll off of her.

She bucked, trying to pull herself free, her muscles straining and pulling with each movement.

//Together. Always. //

The demon at her hands growled and threw his head down, embedding his teeth in her triceps.

She cried out, but forced herself to stay still. If she moved, it would only create a larger rip. She felt bile rise in her throat at it's sickening slurping sounds it made feeding off of her body.

She could feel her conscience slipping away with each drop of blood she lost.

Hold on.

Hold on.

Don't slip away.

Can't...

// Together. Always. //

Her eyes moved lazily to the shadow above her as the demon grinned sickly and jumped into the air, pulling into a tuck.

She watched in horror as he descended downward and she braced herself.

No...

He landed on her chest and she could hear the crushing of her ribs ringing in her ears.

Her mouth opened in a silent "O" as she fought to pull in oxygen.

Anything.

//Together. Always.//

Black rings were closing in around her eyesight and she felt herself slipping.

'Angel' she mouthed.

The pain was suffocating her as well as her lack of air, and the black circles were getting bigger..

Bigger.

Bigger.

"Enough! Get off of her!"

The British voice seemed so very, very far away...

She felt cold hands lift her upper body from the hard ground and saw a flash of blue eyes and blonde hair before the black completely took her.

//Together. Always.//

She slipped peacefully into the silence.

* * * * * *

He stood.

Motionless.

Staring.

The dust began to blow away in specs from the top of the pile until the wind had carried most of it away.

It was all that was left of her.

All that was left of such old eyes that had been the witness to so many horrors.

All that was left of the once sane woman who was turned against her own will. By him.

She was one of his worst regrets. Once so pure, so sweet, and he had taken it all from her. Ripped away from her the beauty of Life and Light, because it was entertaining.

'Not me', he tried to remind himself, '* Him *'

Was there a difference?

It was the same hands that had choked the life out of so many bodies.

His eyes that bore witness to his own cruelties and horrors.

His mind that remembered with such perfection, their screams and beggings.

His little sister had screamed..

Don't.

He suffered every day for his sins.

She used to get onto him all of the time for 'brooding' back in L.A.

He smiled at the thought of his old friend. She'd come such a long way from her days back in Sunnydale - he was so proud of her.

He often wondered if he'd be the same person he was today without her addition in her life. She'd dragged him kicking and screaming into humanity and he owed a lot to her.

He was grateful for her.

He loved her.

He remembered when the realization had first struck. They'd been researching a case together and had lapsed into a comfortable silence and the thought just - appeared.

He loved Cordelia.

Nothing had terrified him more.

He'd panicked after that and then Fred and Lorne throwing around Kyrumption and Moira.

Fred and Lorne who had never seen him with any other woman than Cordelia.

Fred and Lorne who knew nothing of his past, who knew nothing of his life back in Sunnydale.

But he'd let it get to his head and began to see Cordelia in a completely new light. She really was a gorgeous woman and had a sweet heart, once you got under all her walls.

And he'd had Conner to take care of. Conner who deserved a beautiful life surrounded by people who loved him.how awful could it possibly be if Cordelia took the role as his mother? Didn't his son deserve at least a normal family?

And there was Buffy's - passing. God, he still couldn't say the "d" word in the same sentence with her name. It brought back too much pain. He'd broken down after that. Couldn't stay with them, around them. He had to get away. They couldn't understand.

He'd isolated himself in the Monastery, crying himself to sleep some nights and convinced he would meet the morning sun, the next.

He'd had three long months to think about her. Only her. He had come back to his family - different.

Goofier.

Happier.

He couldn't be who he used to be.

Couldn't be the man who hadn't saved her.

And it was easy to act such a way around them. He new they loved him, but preferred to see him happy, content. They easily bought into it because they had wanted to.

And so had he.

He remembered the day that he had finally pulled Cordelia aside by the hand, and into a room where they could be alone.

If he'd had a beating heart, it would be pumping at a dangerous speed.

She'd watched him oddly as he'd fumbled over small talk, trying to get to his point.

After what felt like hours, and a lot of confusing emotions, he'd come to such a simple conclusion.

* Of course * he loved Cordelia.

She was his family.

But somewhere along the line it got distorted with his love for Buffy, which came flaring up with her death, his love for his son, and he duty to his friends.

They'd gotten Giles' call only weeks later.

Buffy needed him.

Final Battle.

Help.

No time.

..The first was all he needed to hear.

He'd packed up his things quickly and the team of A.I. headed to the Hellmouth.

He entered Giles' house feeling a surge of long forgotten warmth at all the familiar faces.

An embrace from Willow.

A handshake from Xander.

An exchange of welcomes from Giles.

A hug from Xander's wife, who had gotten a little too touchy with his backside.

A shy, sweet smile from a woman he later learned was Tara.

A bone-crunching hug from Dawn.

Everyone was there.

Except Buffy.

They began to fill him in while they waited for Buffy's arrival, but he couldn't give them his full attention. His hands were jittery in his lap and he continually shifted anxiously in his seat on the couch.

If they noticed his familiar journey with his eyes to the door, back to them, and once again to the door, they didn't comment on it.

Cordelia patted his leg gently beside him, and gave him a reassuring smile.

He gave her a silent thank you with his eyes, which she smiled in return. Things were completely back to normal between them and he was so grateful.

And then he felt it.

The slight tingling being born in his chest and crashing like waves throughout his body.

He forced himself to take oxygen into his lungs in an act of remaining calm.

He tore his eyes from the doorway and tried to focus on Giles.

"Buffy," her best friend said happily, crossing over to her as the two women shared a quick hug, "you're here."

God, he couldn't help himself. He turned to look at her, but her attention was focussed on her friend. She hadn't yet surveyed the room but he could tell by the way her jaw clenched and her heart raced, that she felt him.

He fixed his eyes on her, but his view was obstructed slightly.

"Yeah, sorry for the lateness," she said. "Unscheduled slaying got in the way."

"Are you alright? Is everything okay?" Giles' concern towards his Slayer was evident in his voice.

"Fine," she smiled, stepping forward, "just your run of the mill vamp."

Angel stood as she entered the room and their eyes locked instantly.

"Buffy."

Was that a shiver that just passed through her?

"Angel."

It was always like this between them.

The exchange of names and nothing more - as if all other words were unnecessary.

He felt it was a very intimate act sometimes, to give voice to her name. To feel his mouth open and the two syllables caress his tongue as they slipped into the air.

She looked beautiful standing before him. Her hair was pulled into a messy bun and a few golden locks had escaped, creating thin waterfalls around her face.

Her eyes were a swirl of emotions that burned a hole into his.

The pout of her lips drew his attention as well, and when her pink tongue innocently slipped out to moisten them, he felt his dead heart jump.

Somebody had helped him.

Both of them.

For once, the Fate's had been on their side. They were ironic in their choosing though, bringing them together in a time where everything around them would be falling apart.

But they were strong for each other. To have her presence alone, gave him such an incredible feeling of Life.

There's no way he could do this without her.

She was his purpose.

His reason for getting through this.

He was fighting for her. For them. They both were.

He'd fight until the end of time for her. Gladly.

Something cold seeped into his body suddenly. Like icy fire flowing through his veins.

He gasped at the sudden change and uncomfortableness of it.

And then it was gone.

He stood there for a moment, with his hand on his knees, trying to grasp what had just happened.

The realization slammed into him and he stumbled back.

He knew and he screamed.

No.

Nononononono.

He wasn't even aware of the fact that his feet were beating along the earth, bodies, blood, and devastation passing beside him in a blur.

//Is there a problem ma'am?//

//It looks better on you anyway. Oh boy.//

//One of us has to walk away here. I know.//

//Do you think I want something to happen to you? Do you think I could stand it?//

//I missed you.//

Faster.

//Oh. I didn't even notice.//

//I look into the future, all I see is you. All I want is you.//

// I tried to, but I can't stop.//

//It's not like I've never been there before.//

//Close your eyes.//

//Tell me you don't love me.//

//See? Safe as houses.//

//In 243 years, I've loved exactly one person.//

//I want my life to be with you.//

//I'm not going to say goodbye.//

//I'll never forget.//

//Do you want to go after her? Yes. //

Faster.

//And Riley? I don't like him.//

//I'm so grateful you came, Angel.//

//It's Buffy.//

//Oh God, you're back.//

//Nothing has changed.//

//It took the threat of the end of the world to make you come back to me!//

//I can't live without you anymore.//

//Nothing could ever keep me from finding my way back to you.//

//Together. Always.//

Faster.

He could see her now. And * He * was with her.

He stumbled blindly to his knees, shoving his Childe out of the way.

"Get away from her," he whispered.

"No, mate. I can't - I can't leave her."

"GET AWAY FROM HER!"

He didn't care that his face was wet with his tears as he screamed at the vampire. He drunkenly got to his feet and grabbed the blonde by the collar, shoving him away from her.

How dare he. How fucking dare he be left existing when his world was shattering before his eyes..when his beloved lay bleeding because of * him *.

The younger vampire didn't even try to defend himself. He landed a few feet away, and slowly got to his feet, meeting the elder's heartwrenching stare.

"Why?" he whispered, brokenly, "why?"

"I..I didn't mean." His eyes were locked on the woman as his voice trailed off.

"Don't LOOK at her!" he cried, lunging at him as the two fell together in a crumpled heap.

His brown eyes bore into the ones beneath, as he reached behind him and revealed a stake in a trembling hand.

The blonde didn't flinch at the weapon and kept his eyes locked on his Sire's.

"I didn't..I didn't mean for this to happen. I love h-"

He was dust before he could finish.

He should have done that so long ago. Maybe if he had, Buffy would still-

Buffy.

His heart bled and he didn't have the strength, or maybe the will, to stand up.

He turned on his hands and knees and crawled to her side. Her name fell from his lips as he reached out a hand to touch her face.

Her lips.

Her cheek.

Her hair.

He nearly keeled over in joy when he saw the slight, uneven rise and fall of her chest.

If he could just get her to a hospital fast enough..

"Oh, my love, hold on. Be strong for me."

He gently placed a hand beneath her neck and legs, cradling her torn body to his chest. He looked around helplessly for a moment. He didn't know where they were or where any of the others were..if there was even anyone else left..

'Not now' he told himself, looking down in his arms, 'there are more important things.'

Randomly choosing a direction, he began the journey of finding anyone who could help her.

With only a few steps taken, her soft lashes opened to reveal hazel orbs staring up at him in confusion.

He stopped immediately as he watched her face twist in pain and her body become stiff in his arms.

She said his name so softly that he almost missed it, but just hearing her speak threatened to break his curse there on the spot.

"I'm right here," he reassured her, placing a feather kiss to her forehead.

The sides of her mouth turned up into a small smile, "You never left me."

His eyes watered. "Never."

He began to walk again and she immediately winced and began coughing dangerously. Her entire body shook in his arms as her lungs fought their own war.

Blood gathered at the corners of her mouth as tears squeezed from her closed eyes.

His throat choked and silent tears spilled down his cheeks.

"Not to much longer," he whispered, as her coughing subsided. "We're going to get you help..I love you."

Her eyes fluttered open and locked on his. "I can't."

He looked confused for a moment. "You can't what?"

Her hand gently stroked his cheek and ran lazily over his soft lips. "You're so beautiful.."

"You can't what?" he pushed, fear creeping into his voice.

"Did we win?" she asked instead. Her doe eyes stared at him, pleading for an answer.

In his mind he saw the wind carrying the ashes of his family to an unknown destination and felt in his heart, that Good had overcome. "We won."

She shut her eyes for a moment and a smile slipped across her beautiful features. "We won."

"Talk to me," he pleaded. "What can't you do." He feared he knew the answer but he would never accept it.

"Lay me down."

No. Please, no..

His voice cracked as he forced out, "Why?"

"Please.."

He could never deny her anything. He dropped to his knees and as gingerly as possible, laid her tiny body on the Earth.

She cried out sharply with the contact and the knife in his heat twisted deeper. Her body began trembling and he quickly shed his duster, draping it over her.

Reaching out, he began stroking her hair, burying his fingers in her silky strands as she let out a soft sigh.

"We should get moving soon. We don't want to wait too long."

She watched him, silently, before reaching out and taking his hand in hers.

Her small fingers curled around his, and tiny sparks came to life with their skin on skin contact.

"I love you," she said, softly. "You know that, right?"

He nodded, unable to speak.

"I wish I could go with you..but I can't."

"Don't say that."

Her heart broke in her eyes.

"I'm so proud of you. You've done such good.I only wish I could be around to see the rest I know, in my heart, that you will do."

His world had just crashed and burned.

As if on cue, the sky above lost all touch of light and midnight fell over the land.

Angel buried his face in her neck and wept.

* * * * * *

"Please."

She didn't know what she was asking. All she was aware of were his tears running down her neck and her own down her cheeks.

His large body shook against hers and she ignored her own pain as she wrapped her arms around him, holding him close.

His voice was muffled against her skin as his shaking breath forced out, "I can't lose you. Not again..not after we've made it so far.."

"You're not losing me," she told him. "It's not possible."

He lifted his head and the look in his eyes shattered her soul. His lips softly brushed against hers and the kiss tasted of love and tears.

It was a familiar taste between them.

There would be no more.

The thought made her throat constrict and more tears slip out of her eyes.

God, she didn't want to leave him.

But she could feel it.

Death.

It was settling like a dark cloud over had and the world was slowly slipping away.

Her body filled with cold and renewed its trembling.

"Hold me? Please?"

His chin quivered slightly. "Of course."

She knew he was trying to be strong for her now. Her Angel, always so brave.

Her body had become numb by now and all of her feeling in her legs had been lost.

He laid his full length down beside her, turning on his side and helping her do the same, so that they were face to face.

"Closer?" she whispered.

"I don't want to hurt you.."

"You never could. I-I just need to feel you.."

Without hesitation, he scooted his body up against hers and pulled her to him, kissing her hair tenderly.

She forced herself to take a deep breath through her cracked and broken ribs.

She wanted to drown in his scent.

Wanted his touch to be the last thing she ever felt.

She wasn't going to lie to herself.

She was scared.

But somehow, death didn't present the same fear it once did. I guess being around death all your teenage life and actually dying twice has that effect on you.

But it wasn't dying in itself that scared her.

She'd accepted that fact long ago and embraced it coming into this battle.

It was what would happen afterwards..

She's once been to what she believed was Heaven. Over the years, the vividness of it had escaped her some, but she still remembered what it felt like - the sheer joy, contentment,.wholeness that filled her being. She loved and was loved. Everything was - right.

But she'd been stolen from it.

By her friends.

What if she couldn't go back? What if it was a one way ticket, exposable after one use?

"What are you thinking about, beloved?"

"Heaven."

His eyes softened and a salty drop of water slipped down his face.

"I'm scared," she confided. "What if I can't go back.what if they don't' want me anymore.."

He reached out to stroke her cheek. "How could they not? You're everything Light."

"No..no I'm not. The things I've done since I've been back.."

"That doesn't matter," he said, softly. "There is not one person in this world who hasn't done things they regret. It's part of being human. But this," he placed his hand on her chest, just over her heart, "this is truly beautiful. Each beat that graces the world. The powers saw something special in you - the ability to put your heart out there for others.to risk your life in place of theirs. If they only saw a tiny percent of what I see in you...Do you know how incredible you are? Such strength and compassion.beauty and fire, all here. Inside of you. You amaze me. Every day. There is no doubt that you don't belong in.Heaven."

He faltered over the last word and she reached out to touch him.

"Thank you."

She wanted to say more, but she felt herself begin to convulse and her back jerked violently off the ground.

Shocks rippled through her bruised body and she knew.

"Angel.I-I don't have much time," she whispered.

Oh God.

Please don't take me from him.

Not now.

Not yet.

I'm not ready.

His voice called out to her, "No! Wait!"

His reign of self-control was over and he no longer fought against his tears. They ran in rivers, soaking his face and collar of his shirt.

"Don't leave me.please.no."

She could feel her heart slowing.

It hurt to talk.

So much.

"I love you. With everything I am."

I love you.

I love you.

I love you.

"I love you, too," he sobbed, "so much."

They locked eyes as her body gasped for breath. She could feel it slowly giving up the battle - it had fought too hard for too long.

It craved peace.

The entire world became chocolate orbs and hazel depths.

So many things passed between them in that moment, as they allowed their escape into each other.

All their sacrifices, battles, harsh words, tears.it all disappeared as The Slayer and her Vampire held each other.

Their story that would never be forgotten.

Their love that spanned universes wide.

Everything had tried to keep them apart.

And nothing could.

They'd found their way back to each other, just as was certain. It wasn't with a snap of the fingers or a twirl of a wand..it was hard. Rocky. But they'd succeeded.

Time, distance, other lovers, heartache..what did it really matter?

They had given each other their hearts all those years back.how could they even have thought that it would end any other way than with them together?

All that is, shall be.

"Together. Always."

"Together. Always."

"Kiss me.," she pleaded.

He brought his head down to hers and captured her lips with his own.

Death was just another obstacle that they would overcome.

Maybe not tomorrow or next year.

But someday.

As the white light shone before her, she wondered what was just beyond its rays.

Maybe Giles will be waiting for me.

And with his lips on hers, all was right in the world.

Buffy Summers, The Slayer, closed her eyes for the last time.

* * * * * *

Ironic how he was back here.

This spot.

This time.

All for her again.

Only this time, she wouldn't be here to try and stop him.

This time there would be no freak snow event to manipulate his plans.

He couldn't take his eyes away from the light colors fighting against the black.trying to seep into the air and take its rightful place in the sky.

It had been a long time since he'd seen a sunrise. The beauty of it was proving to be as stunning as he had remembered it.

He knew she wouldn't want him to do this. She would tell him it was the weak way out just as she'd done on that long ago Christmas morning.

But he didn't know how to exist anymore in the world without her.

He could never go back to his life again.

Couldn't face each day knowing that he could have her by his side - when he didn't.

They'd made it.

Finally.

Only to have it cruelly ripped away again.

He didn't tell her friends.

Hadn't needed to.

They'd found him on his way to his overlook - had called out to him. He'd barely heard their voices over the weeping of his soul.

Willow, gentle Willow, had run up behind him, limping and bleeding, calling his name.

He'd turned to her slowly. And when his face met hers, he saw the tears fill her eyes and heard the trail of whispered, "No. No, please..no.".

He hadn't needed to say a word. Didn't know if he could have anyway.

Willow had collapsed at his feet with grief and exhaustion, and Xander had stepped forward, kneeling beside her, and they had cried together.

He'd wanted to help them, he truly did. But he had forgotten how.

They'd lost their dearest friend.

He'd lost his soulmate.

The world had last a hero.

He'd silently walked away while they grieved and had come here.

He stood against the black of the rapidly fading night and looked over the town that had been the birth to their relationship.

So many memories dwelled there, but he held each and every one in his heart, as well. They would never be forgotten.

He could feel his vampire sense tingling and warning him of the rising sun soon to come.

He fought against his instinct to flee.

There would be no more hiding.

"Angel."

It took the vampire a minute to realize the sound wasn't in his head, but coming from just behind him.

That voice.so familiar.

Couldn't be.

But it was.

As he turned around, he came face to face with the Irish man.

"Doyle? But.but how? When? How?"

"Nice seein' ya too," he grinned.

"No, it's.I can't believe it...are you real?"

He chuckled. "As real as it gets. I know, lots a'questions," he took a tiny step forward, "but that'll all be answered in good time. Right now, I got a bone crackin' vision to give ya."

Overcoming his shock, he forced his brain to work. "You still have visions? But I thought-"

"You and me both," he said, lightly. "Turns out The Big Guys have other plans for such a stunning half demon like myself."

He tried to force a smile for his friend, but he failed miserably.

He was elated with Doyle's appearance. For so long he'd dreamt of it. Doyle had been his first true best friend and the loss cut deep.

But the moment was.cheapened. They both knew he couldn't remain and his sorrow..it was buried so deep that nothing could lighten it.

Turning his back to Doyle, he turned to look over Sunnydale.

"How long will you be staying?" he asked, softly.

He heard his sigh and watched the Irish man step beside him.

"You know the answer."

The vampire just nodded and the two stood silently gazing over the lights of the city.

So different than L.A. This place was almost - cozy, for lack of a better word. L.A. was truly the city of Lost Angels.

But he was lost now.

It wasn't fair.

"I'm here for a reason, ya know."

He didn't take his brown eyes away from the town. "I know."

"You're 'bout to get your biggest wish. I requested to be the one to deliver it."

"You can't give me my biggest wish."

He felt the half demon's frustrated sigh at his side.

"Man, you're about to become human! The Shanshu Prophecy is finally kickin' in."

His eyes wandered up to the Heavens and for the first time, he noticed all of the stars out tonight.

Beautiful white balls of gases, contrasting conspicuously against the midnight.

He swore he could see them in her eyes, sometimes.

"It doesn't matter," he said, hoarsely. "Now without her."

"Of course it matters! It's all you've been fightin' for!"

"No it's not."

Doyle didn't press the statement and instead chose a different path. "She would have wanted you to have it."

He didn't answer. He knew it was the truth.

But knowing didn't really change anything.

"It was an accident, Angel. The Powers didn't mean for her - for it to happen."

"Yeah, well, it did," he snapped, finally turning his gaze to him.

Doyle's sympathy showed clear in his eyes. "It did."

"I just.I can't do it anymore. Night after night after night.forever."

"Not forever anymore," he reminded, gently.

"It would feel just the same." He looked down to the ground and back up again, meeting the eyes of his friend. "I deserve peace. * We * deserve peace. Together. We've obeyed the rules long enough. Sacrificing so much of ourselves to the world..I'm tired, Doyle. They broke the last straw and unless they can give her back to me.."

"I wish they could.."

"Then this is how it has to be."

"What about your friends?" he tried. "And Cordelia? What's she going to do?"

"You'll watch over her, just as I know you've been."

Doyle smiled, sadly.

"And she has Wesley, Gunn, Lorne.they don't need me anymore. Good has won and all that needs fighting are the remaining demons left. They can all have their normal life they so deserve."

"You shouldn't do this."

"I have to."

Doyle deflated at his side, finally nodding. "Very well."

He turned to look at him with water glistening in his blood shot eyes. "I'm glad I got to see you again."

Doyle smiled. "I am, too."

The two friends embraced and the sun seemed to stop its spreading long enough to give them their moment.

Pulling apart, Doyle laid a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"Are ya ready?"

"Yes."

And he was.

The demon inside of him was screaming at him to get inside, but he used all the built up years of learning to ignore it, and silenced its cries.

"Maybe I'll see my son, too.."

"Wait!" he called, suddenly. "Just-"

But it was too late.

The golden light had made its assent and had bathed the land.

He kept his eyes fixated on the oceans of colors in the sky, the stench of burning flesh filling his nose.

It was odd, but he didn't feel any pain. His heart was already with hers and he was only waiting for his physical form to join.

If Doyle was calling out to him, he couldn't hear, as white light burst before his eyes and engulfed him whole.

Ringing filled his ears as he was pulled through a never-ending tunnel of brightness.

And then all was still.

He felt the peace lay over him like a warm blanket on a cold day. He blinked his eyes rapidly, trying to get used to the new colors around him.

That's when he saw her.

Staring at him with tears trailing down her cheeks.

Happy tears, he realized.

Neither one of them said a word.

They just ran to each other. Truly sappy romance movie running.

It was beautiful.

She was beautiful.

They met in a crushing hug. Her legs left the ground, snaking around his waist, and all that could be heard for miles around was the sound of their laughter and joy mingled together.

It was harmony.

Lips landed any where they could find and love was a living, breathing, pulsating entity between them.

..Their story had never ended.

It will never.

Nothing had been in vain because everything had led them here.

To each other.

Beginning to end.

For they had truly come full circle.

THE END