"I’m going to kill Angel," Faith said. She turned and jogged out the doors of the library.
"Can I come?" Xander said, looking at Buffy. His face was a cool, unfeeling mask, but the look in his eyes was unmistakable. Pure hatred.
Buffy paled as Xander grabbed Cordelia’s arm and ran out the doors. "Giles?" she whispered, her throat clogging from tears that were threatening to overflow.
Giles gave Buffy a distasteful glance, then went into his office and shut the door.
She turned to Willow for support. A wide range of emotions played across Willow’s features before she turned herself into Oz’s embrace. Letting out a choked sob, Buffy ran out of the library and into the night.
It was going to be the longest run of her life.
Cordelia’s car screeched to a halt outside the mansion. Faith leapt out, followed closely by Xander.
"Just make sure he doesn’t leave," Faith instructed. Xander nodded and ran in the opposite direction.
Angel was sitting in front of the fire, watching the flames. He was getting stronger with each passing night, but he still had a long way to go.
He heard the sound of footsteps. *Buffy,* he thought, not moving. She checked up on him every few days, bringing animal blood from the butchers. It was painful to see her, but Angel was still grateful. She didn’t seem to hate him,, but looks, as he had shown everyone, could be deceiving.
Angel was about to turn his head to acknowledge Buffy’s presence when a fist connected with his jaw. Tumbling off of the chair and towards the fireplace, Angel shook his head at the pain. Looking up, he saw a young brunette staring down at him, fire in her eyes.
"Hello, Angelus," she said sweetly. "I’m Faith, the Vampire Slayer. And you’re dust!"
Faith launched herself at Angel, smashing his head against the cement in front of the fireplace. Angel growled and felt his face slip into its demonic form. He threw her off.
Scrambling to his feet, Angel bolted for the door. He flinched, coming to an awkward halt, at the large cross thrust in his face. Xander stood there with Cordelia slightly behind him.
"Hello, Angelus," Xander said. "Going somewhere?"
Xander brought his left arm down and, at the same time, backhanded Angel with his right. He then grabbed Angel by the hair and slammed his vampiric face into an upraised knee.
Angel stumbled back, nose bleeding. He looked at Xander in surprise. He had never expected that much strength from the boy.
Whirling, Angel was about to run for the other exit when Faith punched him in the gut. He bent over in pain, just in time to receive a spinning back kick to the face that sent him flying.
Angel crashed onto a stone table, breaking it beneath the force of his impact. Faith loomed above him, stake in hand.
"Good-bye, Angelus," she said, and raised the stake high for the final blow.
Buffy’s voice echoed in the great hall. She burst past Xander, running full tilt towards Angel and Faith.
Time seemed to slow. Buffy watched as the stake descended towards Angel’s heart. She dove for the duo, and landed across her former love…and the stake plunged into her back.
Stunned silence filled the room. Buffy lay across Angel’s chest, bleeding profusely. Her surprised gaze took in Angel’s demonic features. She brought her right hand slowly up and ran her fingertips lightly over his ridges and down the side of his face until Buffy was cupping his cheek.
"Buffy?" Angel said softly.
Buffy smiled slightly and looked deep into his golden eyes.
"I’m sorry," she whispered. Then collapsed on top of him, lifeless.
Angel’s scream tore through the others in the room and out into the night. Primal, soul-wrenching, filled with more pain and anguish than a thousand years in Hell could have caused.
All of Sunnydale was frozen in silence at the sound.
Faith stumbled back a few steps, her face deathly white.
Afraid to move, Xander stood breathing heavily at the sight in the center of the room. "No," he whispered.
"Call an ambulance," Angel suddenly yelled, holding Buffy’s body against him. "Now!"
Cordelia ran out of the mansion to make the call.
No one approached the vampire or Buffy. In the silence, Faith and Xander could hear Angel muttering dissociated sentences and incoherent fragments. Sirens soon sounded in the distance, but it was an eternity later for those in the mansion.
The paramedics arrived and ran into the mansion following Cordelia. "She’s over here," Cordelia said, pointing to her lifeless friend. She then ran over to Xander and threw herself into his arms. Xander stood numbly, holding her too him.
The two EMT officers saw the young blond laying on top of someone, covered in blood, a stake sticking out of her back. They approached quickly and were about to start when they saw Angel.
"What the!" one of the EMTs gasped, stumbling back on his knees.
"Help her," Angel growled, golden eyes flashing.
The paramedic nodded and went to work on Buffy, packing large gauze around the stake. Buffy was carefully lifted off of Angel and onto a waiting gurney, face down. She was still alive and breathing, but barely.
As soon as Buffy was off of him and on the stretcher, Angel jumped to his feet, startling the paramedics. They looked fearfully at him for a moment, then, at Angel’s growling command, pushed Buffy towards the waiting ambulance.
Angel climbed in the back of the vehicle and sat. He reached out and put his large hand over Buffy’s smaller one. "Don’t die, don’t die, don’t die," he repeated over and over as the ambulance sped to Sunnydale Hospital.
The paramedic driving had radioed dispatch about the injury and about the demon accompanying them in order to prepare the hospital staff. The ambulance doors opened and several doctors helped pull the gurney out. They glanced nervously at Angel, but did their jobs.
Angel followed close behind the doctors and nurses as Buffy was wheeled into the emergency room. He tried to get close to her, but was pushed back by a large orderly. "You have to give them room," he said quickly, then went back to his job.
Angel growled, but stayed back, watching closely. More doctors rushed into the room as they carefully removed the stake protruding from Buffy’s back.
"It punctured her lung," one of the doctor’s said, wrapping the stethoscope around his neck. "We need to get her to the OR, stat!"
Buffy was wheeled out of the emergency room and to a waiting elevator with Angel right with her. He tried to enter the swinging doors at the end of the hall, but was halted by another orderly. "You can’t come in here," she said, then went through the double doors, leaving the vampire in the hallway.
Angel was holding onto his sanity by a thread. He paced back and forth in front of the operating room doors, mumbling in Gaelic. Several nurses tried to get him to sit down, but were scared off by his loud growl and demonic visage.
Angel stumbled. He was growing weaker by the moment from the fight and from lack of blood. He leaned and slid down the wall, clasping his arms around his bent legs. Angel put his forehead on his knees and began to rock back and forth, sobbing. "Don’t die, don’t die, don’t die, don’t die…."
Angel looked up at the nurse, his face a bloody tear streaked mess. The nurse blanched at the site of vampire, but held her ground.
"The young lady is in the recovery room. You may see her if you would like. We’ll need to get some information from you," she said as Angel stood on two shaky legs.
Angel was led into a room with ten, still patients lying on ten identical beds. His demonic face became even more pale under the blood. Sliding into the chair next to the bed, Angel took Buffy’s hand and placed it in his own.
"Sir, if you can give me her name," the same nurse asked, pen in hand.
Angel looked at her with blank, golden eyes.
"B-Buffy," he answered, his voice barely audible.
"Buffy? Buffy what?"
Angel didn’t answer. He instead looked down at Buffy’s pale face and brushed a strand of hair off of it.
"Ok. I guess ‘Buffy’ is all I’m going to get," the nurse said, clearly frustrated. She took her information and left.
Angel didn’t hear the nurse leave or any other sound around him. He was completely focused on the young woman lying in the bed. "Don’t die," he whispered, his voice wracked with emotion.
And then what little thread that was holding Angel together broke.
Joyce Summers was ushered into ICU to her daughter’s side. "Buf-," she started to say, but trailed off when she saw the vampire seated on the opposite side of the bed.
Angel sat there in full game face, blood on his cheeks, his body twitching slightly. He still held Buffy’s hand tightly in his own.
Joyce back up a few steps. She grabbed the nurse who was checking on another patient. "What’s he doing here?" she asked quietly.
"He’s been here all night. We can’t get him to leave," the nurse answered.
"But…don’t you see h-he’s a-a-a," Joyce trailed off once again.
"Ma’am, I know you are scared of his appearance. We all are. But he has yet to do anything wrong, so we have no excuse to kick him out," the nurse explained.
Joyce nodded, then slowly approached her daughter, watching Angel carefully. When he didn’t move, or even register that she was there, Joyce leaned down and touched Buffy’s face. "Oh, baby," she softly cried.
After assuring herself that Buffy was ok, Joyce left the ICU and hurried to the waiting room. Xander had called Joyce, Giles and Willow from the hospital after they arrived and quickly explained what had happened.
"Is she alright?" Giles asked anxiously.
"She’s unconscious, but the doctor said the operation went fine. The were able to repair her lung and, hopefully, she will be awake soon," Joyce said.
Everyone in the waiting room visibly relaxed only to tense up at Joyce’s next sentence.
"There’s a vampire in the room with her."
"A-are you sure?" Giles asked, looking towards the ICU doors.
"Unless he has some strange facial deformities, I’m quite certain," Joyce answered.
"Angelus," Xander spat. He quickly stood.
"Xander, I-I think it’s best that I go in and see if it is, indeed, Angel," Giles said.
Giles slowly entered ICU and stopped short when he saw Angel sitting beside Buffy. Taking a deep breath, he approached the demon.
"Angel?" Giles asked. When the vampire didn’t respond, Giles looked at him closer. He waved his hand in front of Angel’s face.
He carefully touched Angel’s shoulder. Then shook slightly.
Nothing. Angel just twitched under Giles’ hand. The vampire was unreachable.
Relieved ever so slightly, Giles looked down at his Slayer’s peaceful face. "Come back to us, Buffy," he said softly.
Giles went back to the group in the waiting room. "It is Angel," he told them. "But he seems to-to be comatose."
"We should dust his ass," Xander said, standing.
"Xander!" Willow yelled. "Buffy almost died saving him. She lost him twice. Can you imagine what a third time would do to her?!"
Xander was about to retort, but Giles cut him off. "Willow’s right, Xander. Killing him would only hurt Buffy, and we need her to heal."
"Is it safe to sit with her?" Joyce asked.
"I think so," Giles answered. "just stay on the opposite side of the bed and have your cross handy."
Joyce nodded and went back into the ICU.
Buffy swam back to consciousness with a groan.
"Buffy?" she heard her mom’s voice call.
"Did you get the number of that truck?" Buffy said with a rough voice. She felt her mom hug her. "I’m ok, mom."
"I was so worried…"
Buffy opened her eyes as her mom leaned back. She saw Angel in game face staring off into the distance. She looked quizzically at her mom.
"He’s been like that since I go here," Joyce said.
"When was that?"
"Three hours ago."
Buffy blinked in shock. *Three hours? And in his game face?* "Mom, can I have a minute?"
Joyce was reluctant. "If you’re sure."
She nodded. "I’ll be right back."
Buffy watched her mom leave the ICU and turned her attention to the vampire holding her hand.
Angel was in Hell once more. A Hell recreated by his own mind. Images of all the people he had killed continuously flashed by, calling to him, haunting him. And standing at the center, with large, pain-filled eyes, was his love. His Buffy. He watched again and again each terrible thing Angelus had done to her or her friends.
"Why?" Buffy’s phantom asked him as the scenes played out in his head. "I loved you."
And he felt Angelus’ laughter at her pain.
In the depths of his mind, he heard a voice calling his name. Her voice. Calling him home.
His whole body jerked in shock. Angel blinked rapidly, turning his head towards her voice. "Buffy?"
"In the flesh," Buffy said with a grin.
With a sob, Angel lay across her waist. He buried his face in her abdomen and cried.
"Ok. This is not the reaction I was expecting," Buffy said. She brought her free hand up and caressed the top of Angel’s head. "Shh. It’s ok, Angel. I’m ok." Buffy repeated this over and over as the vampire sobbed, bloodying the sheets.
She heard footsteps and saw her mom and Giles approaching. She could see the Slayerettes looking anxiously from the doorway. Buffy held her hand up to halt their approach, shaking her head. Then she resumed comforting Angel.
Joyce and Giles stopped where they were and waited.
Angel calmed his crying and slowly raised his head to look at Buffy. Bloody tear streaks matted his handsome, human face. "I’m so sorry, Buffy. I’m so sorry I hurt you."
"I’m sorry, too," Buffy said, cupping his cheek with her hand. "I’m sorry I couldn’t end it, like you would have wanted. I’m sorry I betrayed you and sent you to Hell."
Angel shook his head. "You have nothing to apologize for. I’m the one to blame. You should have let the other Slayer kill me."
"No!" Buffy said vehemently. "I couldn’t do that to you. You, Angel, never harmed anyone."
"But I did…"
"No, you didn’t. It was the demon. Both Giles and you have taught me that the demon is no longer a person, but you, Angel, are a person…well, you know what I mean."
Angel looked deep into Buffy’s eyes and saw the tenderness and forgiveness in them. Although he knew they would never return to what they had before, Angel would accept what she would give. Because he loved her. He always would.