Balance

by Saber ShadowKitten






Angel, Doyle and Cordelia met on the walkway lining one side of the ship's hold. Below them, several families of half-demons waited in fear, unable to get free from the hold. Hanging from a crane above them was the beacon the Scourge invented. The crystal-sided bomb created a light that would remove all traces of non-pure demons within a quarter mile in every direction when it exploded, and that light was glowing brighter and brighter.

"What's this thing do?" Doyle asked.

"Its light kills anything with human blood," Angel answered, searching for some way to stop the beacon.

"Well, it's getting brighter and that doohickey -- it's fully armed, isn't it?"

"Almost," Angel said, his eyes landing on possible salvation. "If I pull the cables, I think I can still shut it off."

"How're you gonna do that without touching the light?" Doyle said.

*****

"Eat a cookie, ease my pain?" Willow asked.

Buffy took a cookie off the plate Willow held in front of her and bit into it. "Mmm. Better?"

"Well, baking lifts about thirty percent of my guilt, but only seven percent of my inner turmoil," Willow replied. She shrugged. "Guess that'll just take awhile."

"It'll happen," Buffy reassured her.

"Don't I get a cookie?" Spike asked, tugging his arms against the rope holding him to the chair.

"No," Buffy answered simply.

*****

Angel looked at both Cordelia and Doyle with fear and resolution.

"Angel, that's suicide," Cordelia said quickly, panic in her voice.

"There's got to be another way," Doyle insisted.

Angel glanced down at the half-demons in the hold, then at Cordelia. "It's all right."

"No," Cordelia said firmly.

*****

"Well, I got to have something to eat." Spike made a disgusted face. "I still have the taste of Buffy in my mouth."

Buffy glared at him. "You're a pig, Spike."

"Yeah...well, I'm not the one who wanted...," he leaned back and turned his head towards the others, "... 'Wind Beneath My Wings' for the first dance!"

Giles, Anya and Xander turned and stared at Buffy. The Slayer blushed. "That was the spell," she mumbled, embarrassed. She quickly walked away from Spike.

Willow scowled at Spike and shoved a cookie in his mouth as she went after Buffy. Spike rolled his eyes and bit into it.

*****

Angel put his hand on Doyle's shoulder, looking into his true friend's blue eyes, tears in his own dark ones. Doyle clasped him on the arm. "The good fight, yeah?" Doyle said. "You never know until you've been tested. I get that now."

Doyle drew back and threw a surprise punch across Angel's jaw. The dark-haired vampire reeled and barely kept his balance, almost toppling over the edge of the walkway into the hold below. He stared at Doyle in shock for a second, then shoved the Irishman back into Cordelia. "I won't let those I care for die," he growled, deep ridges forming above his brows.

"Angel, man, no-" Doyle started to say.

Angel turned and leapt.

"ANGEL!!!"

*****

"Did I mention about the sorry part?" Willow asked Buffy, looking extremely apologetic.

"We may be getting into a forgetting spell later," Buffy told her pointedly. She shook her head slightly. "I loved him. We were betrothed."

"Well, at-at least you were getting along," Willow said, looking at the bright side.

"But we weren't," the blond said. "I mean, I wasn't even nice. And the bad-boy thing? So over it. Okay, I totally get it. I'd be really happy to be in a nice relationship with a decent, reli-"

Buffy stopped speaking mid-word and all the color ran from her face. She stood frozen, her eyes wide and unfocused, her mouth partway open.

"Buffy?" Willow said. "Buffy? Are you okay?" She sent a panicked glance towards Giles. "Giles, something's wrong!"

"No."

The harshly gasped word was followed by a loud growl that echoed in Giles' living room. Giles froze in mid-step towards Buffy when he saw Spike's vampiric face twisted in pain. The blond vampire started struggling wildly against his bonds. Xander and Anya quickly got to their feet, staring at Spike in fear.

The vampire ripped the rope away with a snarl. He stood, the broken bonds falling to the ground around him. Grabbing the chair he had been tied to, Spike hurled it across the room, the wood splintering against the front door. He grabbed the next nearest object and smashed it on the floor, then knocked everything off the sidebar before tipping it over and jumping on the antique wood, all of which happened within seconds.

Willow tore her fear-filled gaze away from the vampire in time to see Buffy sink down to the floor. "Buffy!"

Giles snapped back into focus. "Xander, grab the crossbow from under the table," he ordered.

The redhead crouched in front of Buffy, who was sitting on the floor, her legs partially folded under her. "Buffy, snap out of it, please," Willow said in worry and panic as she examined the blond's ghostly features.

Xander hefted the crossbow and took aim at the raging vampire, but before he could fire Spike darted across the room straight towards Giles, Willow and Buffy. "Look out!" Xander yelled in warning.

Giles fell back onto the floor as Spike slammed him out of the way. "Willow," he gasped.

Willow screamed as the vampire grabbed her by her hair and flung her partway across the room, away from Buffy. Anya rushed over to Giles' side, trying to aid the ex-Watcher in standing. "Xander, shoot him already," Anya said sharply.

"Right," Xander said, jumping over the back of the couch. He raised the crossbow again and took aim, only to hesitate when he saw Spike drop down to his knees in front of Buffy. "Uh, not really liking the consequences of misfiring here."

"Xander, wait," Willow said in a shocked voice. "Look."

The four watched, stunned, as Spike bent forward and wrapped his arms around Buffy's waist, his ridges pressed into Buffy's stomach. He let out a long, plaintive, animalistic cry. Buffy slowly bent over him, her arms going around his body, and she laid her cheek on his back. She closed her eyes, her face still deathly white, as Spike began to whimper repeatedly.

"Giles, what do we do?" Xander asked.

"I-I don't know," Giles said, not taking his eyes from the sight before him.

"Do you think maybe spell aftermath?" Willow suggested.

"It's possible," Giles replied. "Get the-the, er, book you used and I shall take a look."

"What do we do about them?" Xander said, gesturing with the crossbow.

"Right now, I suggest we l-leave them be," Giles said. "Spike does not seem to be harming her-"

"No, he's too busy making that annoying dog whine," Anya said.

"-And if this is part of the spell," Giles continued, ignoring the interruption. "It's possible that it-it would hinder more than help if we attempted to, ah, separate them."

"I'll go get the book," Willow said. "It's at the dorm."

"Xander, Anya, accompany Willow, if you please," Giles said, reaching for the crossbow. "It's much too late for anyone to be walking alone. But do hurry back."

"We'll be back faster than you can say 'do hurry back' again," Xander said. He and Anya headed for the door.

"Be careful," Willow said to Giles. Then she quickly followed her two friends.

*****

When the trio returned, Giles was sitting in front of the small desk, several open books in front of him as well as a stake and an open bottle of holy water. Spike's whimpers were barely audible, but no other changes occurred in their absence.

"Here," Willow said, pulling the spellbook out of her bag. She handed it to Giles. "I marked the page with the bookmark."

"Thank you," Giles said. He quickly opened the book to the correct spell and began to read. "Did you alter your casting in any way?"

"No," Willow replied. "I followed it word for word."

The phone rang.

Xander picked up the portable phone and handed it to Giles. The ex-Watcher answered it. "Hello?"

"Giles?" a shaky, quiet voice asked.

"Yes, this is Rupert Giles," Giles said, trying to place who was calling. Not very many people called him only by his surname. In fact, everyone who did was in his home with him, except for Angel and Cordelia- "Cordelia?"

Xander and Willow exchanged puzzled and worried looks.

"Yeah, it's me," Cordelia said over the line.

Giles could tell she was on the verge of tears. "What is it, Cordelia?" he asked without any of his usual irritation when speaking with the brunette.

"Angel's dead," she rushed out. "Dead dead, not vampire dead. The forever, he's not coming back, permanent, not even dust is left of him dead."

Giles clutched the phone in stunned silence.

"Giles, did you hear me?" Cordelia asked, her voice growing shrill. "Angel's dead. You have to tell Buffy that Angel's dead. He's dead!"

"Y-Yes, I heard you, Cordelia," Giles said. He turned his head to look at Buffy and Spike. "And she already knew."

"This is Rupert, right?" a new voice asked Giles over the line.

"Er, yes," Giles replied, closing his eyes against the burning in them.

"Name's Doyle," Doyle said. "I am...was...damn it. Angel was a friend. Cordelia is a bit hysterical right now. I'm not doin' too well myself, either. We'll call again in a few days, alright? I know Angel left a bunch of stuff for Buffy in case he ever..."

"I understand," Giles said when Doyle trailed off with a harsh breath. "I shall await your call." He disconnected and slowly set the phone on the small desk in front of him.

"Giles, what is it?" Willow asked worriedly.

Giles opened his eyes and met Willow's frightened gaze. "Angel has been killed."

"No," Willow gasped, her hand flying to her mouth as her eyes filled instantly with tears. "Oh goddess, no."

Xander blinked in shock. He mechanically walked over to the couch and sat down, staring blankly off in the direction of the television. Anya sat down beside him. "Just because I hated him doesn't mean I wanted him dead," he said more to himself than to his girlfriend.

Willow started crying in earnest. Giles got to his feet and embraced the redhead, closing his eyes again against his own tears. "Rest in peace, Angel," he whispered. "May your soul finally rest in peace."

*****

It was almost dawn before Spike finally quieted. Willow, Xander and Anya had long since left and Giles had gone to bed. The blond vampire slowly raised himself up, causing Buffy to straighten as well. Their eyes met for a moment, yellow to hazel, before Spike dropped his gaze to the Slayer's neck. He reached out and brushed her hair back from her right shoulder, then ran his fingertip over the still healing bite mark.

"Sire's mate," he said hoarsely. He closed his eyes a second. "It feels as though a part of me has died."

"A part of you has died." Buffy's own voice was soft and unwavering, almost loving. She reached out and brushed her fingers over his ridges. "A part of all of us has died."

"But what do I do now?" Spike asked, reopening his eyes as his face slid back into his human mask. Confusion and pain were reflected in the blue irises, unchecked emotions making him speak without hesitation. "I didn't... I never got to tell the wanker why I hated him so bloody much."

Buffy gave him a small smile, her fingertips tracing down the side of his cheek. "He knew," she told him with certainty. "I can feel it."

Spike blinked rapidly against the tears filling his eyes as he met her steady gaze. "You truly were his mate. You shared the bond."

She nodded, her smile turning sad. "And he left me anyway."

"He always was a stupid poof," Spike grumbled, wiping his eyes with the heel of his hand.

Buffy's lower lip began to tremble. "Yeah," she agreed, her voice choking up. "He was."

"Oh bloody hell, pretend we're still effected by that screwy magick," Spike said roughly, reaching for her.

*****

Giles found Spike curled protectively around Buffy in the hallway later that morning, both of them sound asleep, dried tear tracks on their faces. Some words were written in two distinct styles of printing on a piece of paper beside them, and he bent down in order to read it. He removed his glasses and wiped his eyes when he finished. Then, he straightened, retrieved a blanket and carefully covered the two sleeping on the floor.

Because of what was written, he knew that the long mourning period was just beginning -- for both of them.



I forgot to tell you
I love you
And now it's too late



Always, Angel.
And I will still never forget.



End

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