Faith reached for the hole in her abdomen with a shaking hand. Willow had suffered an injury like this, it wasn't so bad. But she knew this was different. The Ram's horns were far more powerful than Conner's stake. Willow wasn't here to enact a healing spell. Faith felt strong hands grab her and pull her away from the confrontation. "Faith, Faith,"
Faith reached upwards and felt a face, his face. "Angel," She whispered "Are we winning?" Faith felt a little delirious and she wasn't sure she could trust her blurry vision. Was Angel responding? She couldn't tell. Her gut hurt so much. "Can Willow heal me?"
"Yes Faith we're winning and you're going to be all right."
"Liar," She may have been suffering from wavering lucidity, but she knew false reassurances when she heard them. She felt the warm blood spilling out of her. "Hurts,"
"Don't worry," We'll be out of here soon and Willow will heal you."
"Don't think so." Faith said "I think this is a special wound. You know?"
"Shhh," Faith felt lips on the crown of her head, lips without temperature. "We're going to defeat this bitch and then take you back to the surface. You'll be okay."
Faith was about to protest, but changed her mind. "Okay, go kill her. Kill her for me."
She felt the vampire leave her side. Faith knew she was dying but refused to leave until the Ram was gone. Only when the thing that had killed her was dead could she go. She felt the pain like a pulsating bundle of energy. Internally she begged Buffy and the vampires to hurry.
Wesley looked into the chasm. He felt a heavy despair. A raging wind that spontaneously changed direction without rhyme or reason attacked them as they stood on the site of the former Hyperion. As Fred approached him her hair was whipped back and forth, stinging her face. She put a hand on his shoulder. "They'll come back." She said "They have to."
Wesley shook his head. "You can't be sure."
"We came back." She said "Somebody is watching over us."
Wesley turned to meet her eyes, a far more pleasant sight than the deep hole in the ground. They were warm and inviting rather than dark and hard. He tried to tuck her hair behind her ear, but the wind refuted him. "Who? Are they strong enough to see us through this?"
"They were strong enough to keep me safe. The fire that was supposed to destroy me didn't get any part of me, not one. Remember?" Wesley did remember. Illyria herself had been sure that Fred was gone, because her survival was so impossible. How had she been preserved?
"Yes," The sound of approaching demons, heavy footsteps and loud roars, shook the assembled from their individual thoughts and conversations. Wesley bent down and picked two swords up off the ground. He handed one to Fred. "One last time?"
He couldn't make out the look she gave him. It was a sad smile, an accepting one; but also one who didn't quite believe the 'one last' part. Wesley didn't let that bother him. They would get out of this and move on with their lives, lives without demons and monsters. He had to believe that. Her hand touched his when she took the sword. "One last time,"
Angel could only see red. He couldn't think about whether Faith would live or die. He couldn't think about the fate of the world and how it rested on his shoulders. He couldn't think about his own future. He just had to kill the Ram. This monster had made him what he was. She had created the vampire. If not for her he would never had become a monster or committed the monstrous acts he'd spent so long atoning for. She had not been content to ruin his thus. She'd arranged for his soul to be ripped from its resting place and returned to this world. She's forced a stolen destiny on him because she thought he would fail. She's hurt people he loved. She'd tried to corrupt him. Now she might have killed his friend. She might have killed the woman he tried so hard to save. This demon had to die. Right now nothing else in the world mattered to Angel.
He swung with a speed and strength he hadn't known he possessed before now. He couldn't see Buffy or Spike or even Faith. All he saw were his targets and a red blur around them. He hacked and he stabbed. The point of his blade parted the flesh around her knee. She was forced to bow forward for a moment. Angel swung at the creature's neck and planted his sword in her. She rammed his body, pinning him to the ground. She lifted a foot to crush him but toppled over to her side. Buffy had grabbed the hilt of Angel's sword and pulled down, slitting her throat. A waterfall of blood poured out. Buffy didn't shy away from it. Angel struggled to his feet. He grabbed Faith's sword. He swung at the Ram's eyes but she shrunk down to her human form, away from them. Spike, Angel, and Buffy surrounded her.
The beautiful woman seemed unaffected by her slit neck. She let the green syrupy mixture spill down her and discolor her clothes and skin. She opened her mouth wide. A thick tongue like a boa constrictor unfurled. Her canines curled outwards like tusks. She moved like lightning and grabbed Spike, then Angel by the neck. Her fingers contracted and crushed their unnecessary windpipes. Her tongue wrapped around Buffy's neck and pulled the woman closer to her. Buffy was choking and Angel couldn't release himself from the Ram's grip.
Buffy still managed to hold onto her sword even as she struggled to draw in a breath. She swung at the thick muscular tongue, cutting it, but not deep enough to sever it. Green slime leaked along the length of the tongue and dripped onto Buffy. Buffy dropped her sword and went still. Angel fought harder, but to no avail. The Ram dropped Buffy. She swung her tusks at Spike, impaling the vampire. She dropped him and he clutched the painful wounds. She kicked him in the face. She picked up Buffy's dropped sword and swung it to decapitate the vampire.
Buffy jumped up and grabbed the Ram's wrist, throwing off her aim just enough to cause her to slash Spike's chest instead of his neck. The Ram jerked her arm, tossing Buffy away. The Ram dropped Angel and lifted the sword to decapitate him. Buffy picked up the sword Angel had lost when he drove it into the Ram's neck. She shoved the enchanted blade into the Ram's back. The point stuck out from between her breasts. The Ram fell to her knees and then Buffy pulled the sword out. She swung at the beast and separated her head from her body.
Green goo gushed from the Ram like a science fair volcano. Her skin melted away and whatever had been inside of her evaporated into the air. Buffy dropped the sword and fell to her knees. Angel struggled to his feet and stumbled over to Faith. "Faith," He gripped her hand.
Spike walked over to Buffy and collapsed to his knees next to her. She laid her head on his chest and he lay his head on her own. Angel watched Faith's shallow breathing. It didn't look like it would last much longer. "We got her Faith. You're going to be okay because we got her."
The sound of sardonic clapping filled the chamber. If that was Lilah Angel was going to be pissed. He turned to look at the clapper. It wasn't Lilah.
Conner wasn't sure what he was fighting for, but the fighting at least distracted him from the pain. Cutting down these demons didn't fill the emptiness inside him, but it at least kept him from staring into that abyss. That's why when the last demon fell at his feet and none came forward to take its place Conner felt neither satisfaction nor disappointment. He looked behind him. Teresa was holding Lorne's bloody hand and wrapping a strip of fabric around it. Her claws made the task difficult but she was doing her best. Willow was holding a glowing hand over Anne's forearm while Gunn had his arms wrapped around Anne. Harmony was helping Xander to his feet. Kennedy, Wesley, and Fred were examining the fallen demons for any still living to finish off. Conner threw his sword into the distance, drawing attention to himself. He hadn't meant to do that, he'd just been angry. Now he just wanted everyone to stop looking at him.
Xander walked over to him and Conner clenched a fist. He tried to look as hostile as possible so the man would back off. Xander stopped a few feet in front of Conner. "I'm alone too." Conner didn't notice Willow shooting Xander a confused and upset look. "I know how it feels to lose someone and think the world has ended, but it hasn't. Look," Xander gestured to the sky. Conner shielded his eyes from the sun. Sunlight, how long had it been since he'd seen it?
"Everyone leaves me." Conner said in a monotone
"We won't." Anne walked up to Conner and put her hands on his shoulder.
Gunn walked up and stood next to her. Conner remembered that summer Gunn had tried to be like a father to him. It hadn't gone very well, but they'd both been different people then. It was still nice that he'd tried. "You're family Conner." The man said "We won't let you be alone." Conner began to shake and cry. He fell to his knees. He felt Gunn's strong hand squeeze his shoulder. "Let it out. You'll feel better when you let it out." Anne hugged Conner.
Conner could hear his own loud racking sobs. Yet his advanced hearing meant despite the cacophony he could also hear when the earth began to split apart once again.
The Hart was wearing a smile of undiluted joy. She looked as though someone had just told her the funniest joke she had ever heard, or the most pleasant story. Her white gown rippled as though in the wind, even though there was no wind down here. "Hello Angel,"
Angel gripped Faith's hand tighter. He had never seen the Hart before, but he knew it was her. "You," She looked like an angel, how dare she look like that?
"Me," Angel stood up in front of Faith. "Do you want to kill me?"
"Very much," Angel replied
"Do you think you can?" Angel looked at the panting Buffy and the red welt around her neck. He looked at the bloody Spike. He looked behind himself at the dying Faith.
"Are you going to try anyway?" The Hart spoke like a kindergarten teacher to a precocious child. She continued to flutter in the nonexistent wind.
Angel felt like he had to. He knew that she was the most powerful of the senior partners, knew that she would kill him; but he had to try to take her down anyway. "Yes,"
"Are you sure that's what you want?"
Angel clenched his fists. More lies, more tricks, more games, he knew what was coming and he didn't want to hear it. "After everything you did to me, how could it not be?"
"Angel," Angel turned around and saw Cordelia. He stared in awe as she knelt down next to Faith and touched the woman's side. A white glow came from Cordelia's hands. When she removed her hands the blood was still there but the wound was gone. Cordelia touched Faith's face, her expression one of mourning. "I wish I could do more."
Cordelia looked up and gave him a sad smile. "You did it, you saved the world."
Angel frowned. "That isn't how it feels."
"I know. I'm sorry. But the world will seem like a much better place when you see the sunrise." Angel flinched. Did she know what he had done, that he'd traded away the prophecy?
Cordelia stood and began to approach the Hart. "Be careful," Angel warned
Cordelia waved him off. She stood in front of the grinning demon. "Give my friend back what belongs to him." She demanded "And open the door out of here."
"I'll be more than happy to let your friends back to their world, but I have no reason to return the prophecy to Angel. He handed it over of his own free will."
Cordelia held a piece of paper up in front of the Hart. "Give him what you have or I'll give him what I have." The Hart's smile didn't waver but her eyes hardened.
The Hart held out her empty palm and a piece of paper materialized on it. "Trade ya,"
Cordelia picked up the Hart's piece of paper and replaced it with her own. The Hart closed her hand. Cordelia walked back to Angel and took his hand. "Hey,"
Angel touched the side of her face. "Cordelia,"
"You stopped them."
Angel leaned his forehead against hers. "Your hiring criteria is too low."
Cordelia giggled. "Really high actually."
"Someone I love has to love them." She explained "Lilah will come around."
"If you say so." Angel said "I miss you. We all miss you."
"Would it be stupid and corny for me to say I'm always with you?"
"Yes," Angel kissed her forehead. "Say it anyway."
"I'm always with you Angel." Cordelia put the piece of paper in his hand. "You stopped them. You saved the world, saved everybody. Now I need you to do one more thing."
"Anything," Angel felt his heart begin to beat.
"Enjoy your reward. Enjoy being human." Cordelia took a step back.
Buffy gasped. "You mean…"
"I'm so bored." The Hart said "So mortal boy, now that you have even less chance of defeating me are you going to try to kill me?"
Faith struggled to her feet and stood as steady as she could. Cordelia walked over to the slayer and let Faith lean on her. Buffy pulled herself to her feet and leaving Spike on the ground she walked up to Angel. She put her hand on his chest and felt the heart beneath it. "Angel,"
Angel shook his head. "Looks like you're off the hook." Angel said
"What a relief," The Hart rolled her eyes. She swung her hand in the air, pointing at the far wall. A staircase formed from the stone. "Your friends are up there."
She turned to go. "See you around,"
"I don't think so." Spike said
Angel pulled Buffy into an embrace, oblivious to what was going on around him. She put her lips on his. "You're human." She said "This is real. It's like a dream, but it's real."
Angel kissed her passionately. "It's all real."
The Hart was gone. Cordelia called Spike over. "Could you help her to the surface?" She gestured to the trembling Faith. Spike led the woman toward the staircase.
Angel tore himself away from Buffy. "Cordelia,"
Cordelia held up her hand. "Go see the sun, and your son."
Angel nodded. "Will I ever see you again?"
"Of course," Cordelia looked surprised by the question. Angel and Buffy held hands as they headed up the staircase. Spike helped Faith follow them. When they were out of view Lilah materialized next to Cordelia. "What is it?" Cordelia asked
"Kind of cruel isn't it? Maybe we should have warned them."
"No," Cordelia said "They deserve some happiness."
"How long will it last?"
Cordelia put her hand on Lilah's shoulder. "Let's go home."
The Hart stood on the bank of her bloody river. One thing left to do. She sensed that Holland was done and journeyed down to a room of earth, with smooth brown walls. In the center of the room was a golden circle, three meters in diameter. The symbol was decorated in ancient symbols. The air had the electric aftertaste of powerful magic. "Thank you Holland."
Holland bowed and left.
The woman chained to the golden circle pulled at her restraints, but the magic was too powerful for her to fight against, even with her newfound abilities. "Hello Illyria,"
"Explain this indignity." Illyria demanded
The Hart ignored this. "Did you enjoy your… vacation?"
Illyria glared at the Hart with pure loathing. "I will devour your body and make a coat of it." The old one swore to her ancient rival "I remember when you were as an ant."
"No need for that." The Hart explained cheerily "It's warm where you're going."
"Why did you return me?" Illyria asked
"It's not for me, it's for you." The Hart sounded positively motherly. "I just want you to be happy." Illyria continued to struggle against her chains. "Do you enjoy it?"
"Being chained up like a lower being?"
The Hart shook her head, black curls dancing in front of her face. "Do you enjoy your new strength? Do you enjoy being rid of the disgusting humanity that Burkle woman put in you?" Illyria took a few moments to stare impassively at the Hart before she slowly nodded. "I am glad." The Hart kept up the motherly act. "Now that you are strong again with the power I have given you would you like to find your betrayers and destroy them so utterly that. They will wish. They had stayed. Dead." The Hart enunciated each word with unmistakable malice.
Illyria glared at the Hart. "I would like that."
Wesley watched the new hole in the earth form. What untold horrors might now emerge from the depths to seek the senior partners' vengeance? Angel and Buffy emerged from the darkness and stepped into the sunlight. Wesley gaped at the sight. "Angel?"
Angel looked up at the sun and smiled. The sun's rays hit him in the face and he didn't burst into fire. Fred squealed and ran up to her friend. Angel enveloped her in a hug. "Hey Fred,"
"Dad?" Conner walked up the Angel. Angel let go of Fred and enveloped Conner in a hug. "You're human." Angel squeezed his son tighter. "You're alive and you're human."
"I am. I am and I love you so much Conner."
Conner began to cry, but they were tears of joy. Wesley felt a happy tear slide out of his own eye. "How is this possible?" He heard Willow ask
"Shanshu," Wesley whispered
"It's a miracle." Anne said
Xander saw Spike and Faith stop along the line of shadow in the rock staircase. He pulled of his jacket and hopped into the hole. He traded Spike the jacket for Faith, helping the woman to the surface while Spike used the jacket as cover until her found sanctuary among the shadows with Harmony. Wesley walked up to Faith and Xander, concerned. "Are you all right?"
Faith was very pale from blood loss. But she still smiled and nodded. "I am."
Wesley hugged her. "I'm glad."
She held tightly to him. "I am too, but also very tired."
Xander walked over to Buffy and hugged her. Willow joined in. Angel stopped hugging Conner long enough to look around and make sure no one was lost but the ones he already knew about. He locked eyes with Wesley who was still holding Faith. Gunn clapped Angel on the back. Angel hugged the man. "I'm glad you're okay." Gunn said "And I'm happy for you."
Lorne walked up. "How's it feel?" He asked "To be a regular old human?"
Angel wrapped his arms around the Pylean. "It feels wonderful." Angel let him go and threw an arm over Conner's shoulders, pulling the boy against him. Conner smiled.
Lorne had a big goofy grin on his face. To rest, to finally find peace, it was all he wanted for his friend. He felt a clawed hand tug at his. He followed Teresa away from the main group. "I had a vision." She said "I know what's coming next."
Lorne felt a chill. "You mean it's not over?"
Teresa didn't respond for a few moments. "I'm not going to tell you. Is that right?"
Lorne thought about that. He looked over at the group. Wesley was helping Faith over to a pile of debris. She sat against the wreckage and leaned her head on her shoulder. Her pale skin shined with sweat. Angel was hugging Conner again. He let go of the boy and ruffled his son's hair. Buffy let go of Xander and Willow. She pulled Angel into a passionate kiss. Gunn and Anne mimicked the couple. Willow and Kennedy followed suit. The battle scars were there, plain for all to see, but these people were happy. The world was safe, for now. Did they need to know how long this would last? Lorne didn't think so. He knew that he at least didn't want to know. He wanted to savor this for as long as possible. "Yes, it is."
"Good, I was scared."
"Don't be." He kissed her.
Wesley knelt in front of Faith. "Can I get you anything?"
"I'm okay. I'm going to live. She won't let me die." Faith mumbled in delirium
"I think she's talking about Cordelia." Angel said from behind him
Wesley turned around and stood up to face the newly human Angel. "Cordelia was down there?" Angel nodded. "She have anything to do with your newfound humanism?"
Angel nodded again. "I thought I'd lost my chance."
"You earned this." Wesley said earnestly "I'm glad it worked out."
"Yeah it did didn't it?" Angel looked around with a bog goofy grin on his face. "I'm kind of terrified. Good things don't usually happen to us. When they do, it tends to herald misery."
Wesley kicked a pebble on the ground. "We paid for this."
Angel looked at his former home, but he was thinking of Nina, Kate, and Oz. He thought of them and a lot of other things. He thought of the days gone by and the horrors they had all been subjected to. Those times were over, but had it been worth it? "We did."
The two men hugged. Faith laughed and her laughter turned to coughing. Wesley knelt down in front of her again. "Faith, we should really get you some medical-"
She grabbed his hand. "I told you I would be okay." She squeezed his hand.
Angel knelt down as well. "You did good Faith."
"I know." She said "I kicked ass." She closed her eyes. "Who killed her?"
"Buffy," Angel said
"Good old Buffy," Faith went still.
Angel shot Wesley a panicked look. "I think she just fell asleep. She probably needs a blood transfusion." Wesley explained "I doubt any near-by hospitals are still in operation."
The men stood up and turned to the crowd. Xander walked over. "Is she okay?"
"Do you know her blood type?" Wesley asked
"A positive," Xander said
"We could find a pharmacy or a clinic with medical supplies." Wesley said "There'll be sterile equipment and we can give her a transfusion."
"Where do we get the blood?" Xander asked
"I'm A negative, she can take mine."
A funny thought struck Angel. He tried to hold back laughter because he thought it wouldn't be contextually appropriate, but he couldn't. "What's so funny?" Xander asked
"I wonder what my blood type is."
Wesley gave Angel an odd look which turned out to be him holding back his own laughter. Xander didn't share in the two men's laughter until Buffy and Willow came over and upon learning what the source of the laughter was joined in themselves. Hours later when Faith woke up in a pharmacy with a fresh pint of blood and someone told her the story of the spontaneous laughter over her passed out self and what had been found so funny she laughed too.
Robin sighed as he shut his laptop. He picked up his phone and then leaned into the couch as he read the notice that informed him he had no missed calls and no new texts. The sound of keys in the lock drew his attention to the door. The only other person who had keys to this apartment was in California. Robin stood up as the door opened.
"Faith?!" Robin was overjoyed, confused, and angry all at the same time.
"Hey babe," Faith said as she closed the door.
"You were supposed to call me when you caught a flight."
"Sorry honey, I wanted to surprise you." Faith walked up to Robin and began passionately making out with him. Robin was surprised as he fell into the couch.
"You said on the phone you got hurt." Faith began pulling at Robin's shirt.
"All better baby," Faith said "Except I miss my fun time."
"I missed fun time too." Robin admitted as he pulled off her shirt.
The events of the next hour took Faith's mind off the incessant tingling of the scar on her abdomen for the first time since she'd left L.A.
Buffy hailed a cab while Angel pushed the luggage trolley to the curb. "Dawn's freaking out." Buffy said "She said she cleaned the apartment three times today."
"Really?" Angel asked
"That's Dawn-speak for 'she made Andrew clean the apartment three times today' you'll learn to translate." Buffy assured him "She's really excited we're coming though."
"She can't be as excited as I am." Angel leaned in for a kiss at the same time the cab pulled over. Buffy and Angel loaded their bags into the trunk. "But you're sure she's cool with me moving in like this? I don't want to make things awkward."
"Of course she is." Buffy said as they got in the cab. "Dawn just wants me to be happy."
"And you are?"
Buffy laid her head against his chest. "I've never been happier."
"Good," Angel gripped her hand. "Me either," Angel remembered the curse. "It's almost like this is some trick to bring back Angelus, but he's gone. He's really gone."
"And you're here, with me." Buffy said "Nothing could make this better."
Angel nodded in agreement. "So about the Andrew thing…"
Buffy sighed. "He's trying to find his own apartment. You two can manage to get along for a few weeks I'm sure." Buffy said
"I could get along with a cabal of slime demons if it meant living with you." Angel said
Xander unlocked the door to his apartment. He headed for the fridge and pulled out a beer. He popped the tab and took a sip. Xander put the beer down and picked up his laptop. He sat in front of the TV as he logged into his E-mail. Everything was either work-related or junk mail. Xander turned on the TV. The news came on. Xander often watched the news because he didn't have to keep up with it to understand what was going on. Xander looked around his empty apartment and rubbed his temple. Xander stood up to retrieve his beer. He stared at it and then began to cry. Xander threw the beer to the other side of the kitchen and sat on the ground crying.
The racking sobs were loud and startling. Xander felt like he was listening to a recording of the call of a rare demon, not himself. He wanted to stop crying, but he couldn't figure out how. Xander imagined himself getting up and going to work in the morning. He imagined to talking to Willow, or Faith, or Buffy. He imagined just living his life. The tears kept coming.
"I love it!" Teresa was jumping up and down with the excitement of the proverbial kid in the hypothetical candy shop. "It's perfect. We have to get it."
Spike and Harmony emerged from the basement of the empty building. Spike ran his hand along the dusty walls. "We can make it work if the price is good."
"Caritas 2.0 is going to be amazing!" Teresa said "And Spike & Harmony's paranormal investigations will be the talk of the New York City underground."
Harmony squealed with delight. "I'm in the name?"
"No," Spike growled as he shot a look at Teresa
"Looks like that settles it." Lorne said "This is the new Caritas." Teresa threw her arms around her boyfriend and kissed him on the cheek. She gave no hint that she knew of the horrors that would take place here, including her eventual death.
Six Months Later
Spike was having more fun than he thought he would. He'd never admit it of course, but this wedding wasn't half bad. He'd be glad to get back home, but for now dancing with Harmony on the polished wooden dance floor that was far from any direct sunlight was nice. Spike caught a glimpse of Buffy, dancing in the arms of her very human boyfriend. Willow was close by, dancing with Kennedy. Xander was dancing with Dawn. Spike saw Gunn and Anne on the other side of the dance floor. Lorne and Teresa were dancing close to them. Faith and Robin were hiding out by the buffet table. The rest of the people in the reception hall were strangers to Spike, except of course for the nuptials themselves. They were dancing in the middle of the dance floor.
The first song was coming to an end and Spike snuck over to where Buffy and Angel were. "Can I have the next dance?" He asked "Don't worry, I won't bite."
Buffy laughed. "I've got a stake on me."
Spike raised an eyebrow. "Where?"
Buffy pushed his shoulder playfully. "Perve," She held up her purse.
"Right, so are we going to dance or what?"
Buffy rolled her eyes and took Spike's hand. Angel stepped back to find a new dance partner. They were silent for a few moments. "I'm glad you came." Buffy said
"Likewise, must have been a long flight." Spike said
"Angel wasn't going to miss this." Buffy said "I mean he was the best man. Of course Dawn won't let me go to a wedding without her. I had to buy her a new dress."
"Doesn't she get paid?" Spike asked
"Yes, but she only remembers that when it's convenient for her."
Spike chuckled. "Well I'm sort of glad the scoobies are here. Part of me thinks a hoard of demons is going to attack at any moment." Spike spun Buffy around.
"So far so good. Harmony in particular seems to be having fun."
Spike nodded. "I was kind of surprised Fred asked a soulless creature of the night to be one of her bridesmaids. Isn't that bad luck or something?"
Buffy shrugged. "I think when you've died and been resurrected, the best man is a former vampire, and half the people in attendance are somehow connected to demons the traditional superstitions go out the window." Spike noticed Willow wave her hand over a plate with a single remaining hors d'oeuvre and the plate replenished itself.
"I suppose you're right." Spike conceded
"I tend to be, as a general rule." Buffy teased
Spike chuckled and was disappointed that the song was ending. He expected Angel to swoop in and snatch his girlfriend away, but it looked like Angel had snagged a dance with the bride. "One more?" He asked "For old times' sake?" The second the words left his mouth he knew they were exactly the wrong thing to say.
Buffy shook her head. "I'm going to get a drink." She said diplomatically, leaving Spike alone on the dance floor as she walked away. Spike could kick himself.
"Smooth," Spike turned to see Dawn standing there. "Do you need to save some face?"
Catching her meaning Spike began to dance with the slayer's little sister. "Thanks,"
"Don't mention it." She said "We're old friends." Spike dipped her. "How's New York."
"Not very new." Spike said to an appreciative chuckle "I've been there six months and I already feel like I know the place backwards and forwards."
"That's a good thing right?" Dawn asked
Spike shrugged, which made for an awkward dance move. "Can't complain. Rome?"
Dawn also gave an awkward shrug. "Crowded; between me, Buffy, Angel, Andrew-"
"Andrew still lives there?" Spike interrupted
Dawn made a face like she smelt rotten fish. "We keep trying to get rid of him."
"You're being too subtle." Spike said "Beat him into submission."
Dawn laughed too hard to keep dancing. She clutched her stomach. "Is that how you handle the roommate?" She looked over at Harmony.
Spike shrugged. "Harmony's… she has her uses." Most of them were sexual in nature but he wasn't going to tell Dawn that.
Dawn nodded. "She helps out with the demon hunting?"
"She thinks she does." Spike realized he was being unfair. "She does her share. I wouldn't be able to handle the administrative nonsense without her. She handles all that."
"Seems like that would be a lot of work." Dawn said
Spike conceded that point. Lorne and Teresa were always lecturing him about how he didn't appreciate Harmony, but he usually tuned them out. He wasn't about to do that with Dawn. "So why don't you move out?"
"What?" Dawn seemed taken aback by the question.
"If you're feeling crowded you should move out, get your own place." The song ended, leaving their conversation unfinished. Dawn said good bye and left. Spike was alone again, but this time no one swooped in to save him. "Right then,"
He removed himself from the dance floor and watched Fred dancing with Gunn. Angel and Buffy were dancing together again. He watched the former vampire spin his lover. Spike tried to picture himself in Angel's shoes and couldn't. He thought of all the demons he'd slayed in the last six months. Could Spike ever be just a guy? He decided to tell himself he couldn't regardless of whether or not it was true. This was his happily ever after. All of his friends' dreams had come true. Spike decided his had as well. Violence, Harmony, New York, they were enough. Spike had spent a long time being ruled by passion, now it was enough just to be enjoying himself, to be helping people. The song ended and Spike approached Fred.
"Can I kiss the bride?"
She giggled. "Thank you for coming."
"I wouldn't miss this for the world." Spike kissed the crown of her head.
None of them knew that a distance away a woman was standing still, waiting. A woman who looked very much like the bride except for her blue hue was patiently waiting for the hour when she would be able to destroy the happiness being celebrated inside.