Prompt: 039 - Angel - AI Team - They saved Fred, but at what cost.
A/N: Written for zombie_fic_ation's Zombie Fest 2013.
"To Hell with the world."
Spike says nothing in reply, his back to his grandsire, his head hung. Hopeless. Because that's what they are if Angel doesn't act.
Angel's moving toward the door, where, behind it, Drogen is preparing the spell, and the vampire feels it, the moment. The moment when he should stop. The moment when he should turn around. The moment when he realizes that somewhere along the way everything became topsy turvy, leaving Spike with the better understand of the words "the greater good." Or maybe this is how it always was, him trying to end the world, Spike valuing it too much to let him; both of them sans soul then, both of them with souls now.
Things don't change, Angel realizes. Except for when they do. When a hero decides to change them and takes advantage of that all important moment.
And he lets the moment pass, disappearing inside, away from reason, because he made a promise and that's more important than anything else. One soul, he knows, isn't worth the world. Only this time maybe it is.
"I'm saving her," he says.
And the man who cannot lie frowns and says, "You will."
A man stands at the window of a sky rise and watches the ants below. The mob of bodies all seem to blend together as they scramble over one another, pulling at clothing, tearing at their own dead flesh, just for a chance to get closer to the glass front of the lobby. They see their prey inside, and that fills them with hunger, but they can't reach the living. That fills them with frustration. Makes their moaning and growling and snapping all the louder, drawing in even more of their kind.
But more won't help their cause. The wards raised just outside the glass doors and windows won't let them inside. The most dangerous place in the world is also the safest.
Wolfram and Hart stands tall in a world of the living dead.
"If I'd been at her left, I'd be one of them right now," Wesley says, in the same voice he uses when he's considering what might have happened to volume seven of Machelich the Necromancer's compendium.
Gunn looks up from the desk, where he's going over the list of rations they have left, making notes for their supply runners, and thinks that the other man will look even worse when the liquor dries up. If it ever runs out. Wolfram and Hart kept a surprisingly large stock of the good stuff.
"What's that, Wes?" he asks, even though he already knows where this train of thought leads.
Wesley takes another sip off his glass, then sets it aside, turning back away from the window but not really looking at the other man.
"If I'd been standing to Fred's left, instead of her right, I'd have been the first one infected." He stared at the wall, contemplating the idea. "Isn't that funny? How a few feet could make such a difference?" He smiles faintly. "It drew a line across the world, a line straight from Fred to Deeper Well, and I would have been standing in that line if I'd only moved to her other side. It's so…literal."
Gunn's eyes are downcast. He holds his own guilt, deep inside. And he doesn't talk about it. Wesley shouldn't either. "You need to keep that to yourself," Gunn says, a little angry. "She can't find out."
Wesley's smile widens just a bit. "She's a genius, Gunn. Did you really think that she wouldn't put it together one day? That she wouldn't realize what really caused the outbreak? She's studied the bodies. Seen what happens to them. How their skin hardens, how they boil from the inside…Do you really think she hasn't figured it out already?"
Gunn's eyes dart up, wide, frightened. "But she doesn't know why it spread. So just keep your mouth shut. We all agreed. She can't know."
"She can't know," Wesley echoes.
Lorne hums a song, singing a lyric or two every few minutes, (Ella Fitzgerald whispers in his ear promises of blue skies and bluebirds all day long) as he rolls the food cart down the hallway, past the offices they've turned into living quarters. He knocks on every door, greeting each person inside with a smile and a quip as he hands them their dinner. He finishes each delivery with a reminder that the kiddos will be putting on a show in the lobby after nightfall.
After nightfall. So they don't have to look at those glassy blue eyes in blue-stained bodies.
"…Nothing but blue skies, from now on," he sings, quietly.
He keeps the smile on his face. Somehow. But he can't manage to hum the song after a while.
It spreads, quickly, with a bite or a deep scratch.
Fred stares into the microscope at her newest samples, but they are all the same as the rest. The disease remains impervious, while the human flesh rots and burns and dies away. She lets out a shaky breath, but doesn't stop moving, her feet taking her to her desk, where she bents over, jotting down a chemical combination and a note. She is ever moving, a whirlwind of motion, since she's recovered enough to walk. As the days pass, she doesn't even think before she goes to work, making her rounds to check on the infirmary, out of duty, and then on her laboratory, out of obsession. Then she shuts herself into her personal workstation, away from the others.
And she tries. She tries. She tries.
She is pale, circles beneath her eyes, lips constantly parched from being chewed. But she can't spare a moment to care.
Who is it this time, coming to visit? She shoos them away, muttering under her breath, before she even gets a good look at him. Strong arms grab her, holding her still.
Her knees shake and she falls into him, burying her forehead into the shoulder of his jacket. The leather scent gives him away.
"I have work to do, Spike," she whispers.
"Sure you do," he agrees, "but we haven't seen you in days."
Days. Fred can't remember how many days it's been. For that matter, she can't remember how long they've been locked up in this building while the masses died on the other side of thick glass and metal and magic. Weeks, months? It feels longer.
Spike snorts. "We're starting to forget what you look like…Gunn 'n Wes are upstairs, actin' like madmen, they are. Brawlin' over whether your hair's chestnut or brown, of all the things."
"They are not."
Fred chuckles against him but feels an uneasiness building in her chest. If she stays this still for long, it'll have time to travel up her throat, to her eyes, and if she starts to cry, she won't be able to stop.
"How is Wesley?" she asks in her quietest voice.
Spike shrugs. "He'd be better with you beside him."
"I don't think he would," she replies. She doesn't look him in the eye when she pushes away from him, because she knows he can hear her second question, about Angel. And she knows his answer would be the same as it always is: 'he's out looking for survivors, love,' 'he's out on a supply run,' 'he's anywhere but here…'
Her handsome man who saved her can't look at her anymore. And she knows why, even if they never talk about it. She knows, and she hates him for it. And loves him for it.
Because she didn't want to die. Not like that. But she didn't want to kill, either. Not like this. There was no winning, not for her. Or Angel. She knows.
Spike catches her chin and draws up her face. The smile he's wearing is genuine instead of cocky or sarcastic, a strange look for him. Fred understands; he's happy to see that her eyes are just the same as they were before the world ended. He needs to remember that not everything that came of Angel's decision was bad. He needs to remember why.
"You need to get out of this room," he says, trying for stern.
And let everyone else see eyes that are not tainted with blue, he doesn't say. She hears it all the same. Her boys need the reassurance, every once in a while. If they can pretend the line of blue eyes, the end, didn't start here, so can she.
Fred slips her lab coat off, leaving it behind on her stool, and follows the vampire out to where her family, her heroes, are waiting.