The Vulnerability of Faith


by Demona


**********

During the fight:

Cordelia and Gunn had stayed together to fight after Buffy and Faith had started their own personal fight. The sides of good and evil collided. The numbers of vampires to humans was favoring the vampires. Cordelia and Gunn were finally separated. Gunn held his own against the vampires, but Cordelia was not that lucky. She ended up face to face with Xander, the vampire.

"Well, well, Cordelia must be my lucky day. I never thought I would get to meet up with you. Look, you are all alone too! No Faith, no Gunn, no Angel, nobody but me," Xander told her. Cordy backed up and into a crypt wall with Xander following her the whole time.

"I am never alone Xander. I always have something to protect me," Cordelia said to him.

"Oh so what is it?" He asked her and grinned, fangs gleaming in the moonlight overhead.

"This," Cordelia said and uncapped a small jar of holy water and threw it at him. It splashed all over his face, blinding him momentarily. She used this momentarily lapse in his vision to her advantage and as her chance to run. He caught her after a few steps, however, and shoved her to the ground. She cracked the side of her head on the metal gravestone plate. Blood trickled down her face as she tried to get up. Xander backhanded her sending her back to the ground. He jumped on her holding her down. He then grabbed hold of her hair and slammed her head back onto the metal plate a few times. She cried out in pain and tried to fight him off.

"Face it Cordelia – you are going to die. I'm gonna make you one of mine. You will worship me!" Xander said and bit into her neck. She tried her hardest to throw him off but he was too heavy. She managed to get a hold of a tree branch lying on the ground. With the last bit of strength she had she plunged it into his heart from his back. His face rose up off her neck in horror and pain to look her in the eye.

"Cordy?" Xander asked and then dispersed into dust. Her arms fell to her side and her body relaxed completely. She lay there looking up at the stars in the sky. Gunn fell to the ground next to her. His hand immediately pressed to the wound on her neck in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding.

"Oh god Cordy! I'm so sorry I couldn't get away from them. They were too strong and there were too many. Baby, I'm here - hang in there - I'm here now," Gunn said to her. Tears were welling up in his eyes and finally spilled down his cheeks.

"Gunn…" Cordelia got out.

"Yeah baby. I'm here, hang on till sunrise baby, just a little while longer."

"I love you Gunn. Remember that ok?" She said to him. He frowned and shook his head 'no' violently. He leaned down and kissed her lips gently, tenderly, and lovingly.

"God Cordy, you can't leave me. I love you so much baby. Come on Cordy what about all those little kids we were gonna have together?"

"I don't think I am going to make it Gunn. Find someone else to fulfill that dream with for me. Promise me you will find someone else to love for life please. We'll meet again I promise," Cordy forced out. Her breathing slowing down, her eyes glazing over, it was hard for her to keep her eyes open at this point.

"No Cordy. You can't leave me. You can't; what am I going to do without you?"

"You are going to make due. Promise me before I die. Promise!"

"I promise I will try Cordy, but I won't love them nearly as much as I love you. I'll love you forever Cordy. I'll love you forever," he told her, tears falling down his face and onto hers. She took one last breath and closed her eyes.

"Thank you…" she got out and then she was gone. Gunn pulled her into his arms. Holding her tightly to his chest, screaming for someone to help him, someone to fix this, crying because his lover was dead.

**********

He picked her up and carried her body through the gravestones as the sun rose over Sunnydale. He looked around for others that had survived and only saw a few of his friends still standing. Gunn carried her back to Oz's van and gently placed her on the floor in the back. Angel was hidden under a blanket in the darkest corner of the van. Kate was inside the van leaning against the van wall, she looked like shit and Amanda, covered in blood, was crouched beside her fussing over her. Both of them were alive and seemingly well though. Oz came to the back of the van, with Lindsay, helping a limping and badly injured Giles. Gunn assisted them in getting him into the van as well. Lindsay climbed in next to Giles to hold him up.

"Where are the others?" Oz asked.

"Spike and Buffy are dead. Faith is probably dead at this point. Cassandra and Willow took her back to Giles's to attempt to save her or something to that effect. I have no idea about the others. Has anyone else seen any of them?" Angel yelled from under the blanket that he was hiding under. He paused in his rant. "Is that Cordy's blood that I smell?" He asked and started to lift up the blanket.

"Yeah man, she didn't make it," Gunn said calmly. He was in shock still over the fact that she was dead and no longer living.

"No! This isn't possible. She wasn't supposed to die. I can't believe that the PTB would allow her to die. Did she get a vision or anything?" Angel yelled and moved to cradle Cordelia in his arms. Tears streamed silently down his face, unnoticed by him as he pulled her lifeless body into his arms.

"She hasn't mention anything about visions in the last week since the vision she got about Buffy's death. Nothing. She didn't see any of the other deaths. I think that the PTB had finally given up on her and her visions. We were on our own at that point. She is dead Angel. I tried to keep her but she just left; she had nothing left to live with. She even made me promise that I would find someone else to love. Can you believe her? On her death bed she makes me promise to love someone else…" Gunn trailed off.

"Little help here," a deep Scottish voice said and then MacLeod emerged at the back of the van holding a dead Methos in his arms. Both Immortals were covered in blood. Oz grabbed Methos' legs and helped Mac get him into the van.

"What happened to him?" Oz asked as they were tossing him none too gently into the van.

"Dumb ass decided to be all chivalrous here for once and jumped in front the 2 x 4 that was headed for my head. It knocked him out cold. I heard his neck snap and the vampire was all excited cause he 'killed' one of the good guys but he didn't expect me to just hop over Methos' dead body and slice his head off. The element of surprise is great. So, I am actually proud of him cause he saved my life, which Methos isn't supposed to do. But perhaps that means that he is starting to really care about me and is prepared to die for me. I mean for once he is starting to act like a real boyfriend would."

"Don't hold your breath on that one Highlander. I am not a typical boyfriend and I won't have you thinking that I died for you. It just so happened that I was running to get out of the way of the large knife being thrown in my general direction. It was an unfortunate accident that my head collided with the 2 x 4 meant for your thick ass skull," Methos got out after Mac's speech. Everyone managed a smile of some sort.

"Where's Richie?" Mac asked everyone.

"With Dawn at Giles's place. Think Highlander, it is hard for you I know, but think!" Methos retorted and Mac cuffed him over the back of his head. They got everyone secured in the van and then headed back to Giles' house to assess everything before deciding what to do, leaving Spike's Desoto there at the graveyard.

**********

Back at Giles' place…

Willow and Cassandra kept me alive until Angel and crew returned from the fight. Dawn and Richie helped out as well. Angel came to my side immediately, my vision was gone at this point but I knew that he was there just by presence alone.

"Faith, can you hear me?" I heard him ask me very worried.

"Angel?" I managed to get out. I felt him grab my hand tightly and his tears fell onto my face.

"I'm here baby, I'm here. We're gonna get you some help ok? Hang on ok?"

"No Angel. I'm gonna die very soon. Please let me die here in peace, please stay and hold me while I die," I pleaded with him.

"It's gonna be ok Faith. It's gonna be ok," Angel softly said to me. I felt Willow and Cassandra's spell lift off my body. Pain returned to me full force. My death was almost upon me. Right before I died though someone opened my mouth and I felt warm liquid enter. It was thick and coppery tasting. Before I could realize it was blood I had swallowed it. The last think I heard before the darkness totally consumed my body was Angel's words: "I love you Faith."

**********

After they mixed Spike's blood with mine they secured me in a bed and reset my broken bones in my body. They strapped me in tightly. Amanda showered quickly and took Kate & Giles to the hospital with Oz, a slightly battered Lindsay, Dawn and Richie. Gunn laid Cordelia's body on the couch and walked calmly to the bathroom took a long hot shower washing all the blood off him and then passed out after he got redressed. Methos stripped Cordelia completely and himself down to his boxers and got in the shower with her dead body. He washed all the blood off her body and her head/hair. After she was totally clean he put clean clothes back on her and laid her on the bed where Spike once laid. MacLeod had placed Gunn next to her on the bed moments later. Mac and Methos sat with the couple to watch over them.

About 35 minutes after Cordelia was laid on the bed she sat up gasping to get air into her lungs. She looked around panicking. Her hand immediately went to her neck where her wound had already healed and closed, leaving only a scar to remind her of her first death.

"What is going on?" She asked them. Her attention shifted immediately as she noticed Gunn on the bed next to her. "Oh God, is he dead?" Cordelia asked, touching his neck. Her relief was evident in her body posture when she felt his pulse.

"Cordelia. I think you have an idea of what is going on here. You are Immortal," Methos told her. She locked eyes with him. "You ok?"

"Figures I am Immortal. You'll kill me off almost right away. And Gunn? Immortal or no?" Cordelia ranted. Methos cracked a slightly smile at her rant.

"He's not Immortal. He is going to die Cordelia," Methos told her. Mac glared at him.

"It's ok Mac. I am used to him. His lack of sincerity is comforting at times," Cordelia defended Methos.

"That is right you both have no tact!" Mac commented.

"Funny Highlander!" Methos told him

"Faith and Angel? Buffy? Where did everyone go? Who died? Help me out here!" Cordelia suddenly asked as she jumped off the bed panicking. "Faith…did she survive? Where is my bestfriend?"

"Most of them are at the hospital. Faith was killed by Buffy. Angel killed Buffy and closed the Hellmouth permanently, stopped the Apocalypse, saved the world etc."

"She's dead?" Cordelia cried tears welled up in her eyes immediately. She headed for the door but Methos stopped her.

"It is a little more complicated then that. She's a vampire now Cordy. Spike gave Willow and Cassandra his blood to change Faith after Buffy killed her. So, she is currently going through the process of becoming all vampy. And Willow and Cassandra went to get an Orb of Thesulah and all the other shit needed to do the soul restoration spell from the Magic Box. She is in the other guest bedroom. You can go see her, or you can stay with Gunn. But you have to remember that he thinks you are dead. You died in his arms remember?" Methos told her and she nodded to him. Cordelia leaned down and kissed Gunn on the lips and then left the room. She came into the room where they had placed my body and acknowledged Angel.

"So you are Immortal huh?" Angel asked. She nodded to him.

"Is she gonna be ok?" Cordelia asked as she sat down gently on Angel's lap. He pulled her completely onto his lap and wrapped his arms around her waist.

"I think so. I hope so. I'm so sorry Cordy I really am. I'm sorry for attacking you and hurting you. I'm sorry for being a shitty boss and a shitty friend," he apologized to her. She leaned further into his embrace and looked up at him.

"You are the best boss I could ask for Angel. Angel, you are a great friend. You are a good person, a good soul, and a great lover to Faith. Never let anyone tell you anything else and never doubt yourself. You are a great lover to her. She deserves no one else," Cordelia told him. He sighed and kissed the top of her head.

"I only hope that she forgives me doing her wrong over these past few months. The last week has been complete hell as well. I hope she does find it in herself to forgive me," Angel told her and she nodded in agreement.

"She will. You broke her heart and didn't know it. It hurts when someone you know and you thought knew you doesn't actually. I don't know what to tell you to make it better, but just to listen to her, watch her movements. She will give you everything you need to know sooner or later." Cordelia told him and rose up off of his lap. "I'm headed back to see if Gunn is awake. I have to explain to him that I'm not really dead, just Immortal," she told him, placed a kiss on his lips gently, and walked out of the room leaving Angel staring at my body on the bed.

Gunn woke up about 15 minutes after Cordelia returned to his side. It was a hard thing for him to deal with because he didn't understand how she was Immortal. Then when he realized he was going to die he was a little upset. She was going to literally live forever and he was stuck as a mortal.

At the hospital Kate didn't survive due to multiple injuries that she incurred during the fight. When Amanda came back with the rest of the group she was a wreck. Lindsay was ok minus a few broken bones. Giles was all right as well. He had a broken leg, internal organ damage, just a lot of minor injuries from the fight that added up and caused him to be in a great deal of pain.

**********

I awoke gasping for air. I had a horrible dream that I had become a vampire and killed all my friends. I tried to sit up but realized I was secured to the bed at my wrists, ankles, and waist. And besides that my whole body was radiating in pain. I snarled in anger and I heard a chuckled next to me. My eyes focused on Angel. I growled angrily at him. I took a whiff of the air and smelled him and his soul clearly. It radiated off of him and all around him in waves. Something about it was unique, powerful, and strange and I couldn't place it.

"Morning Faith," Angel said to me.

"Unchain me right now," I snapped at him.

"Damn, I just lost money," a female voice said this time. I whipped my head around to face that voice and I growled at Cordelia.

"I told you she's a bitch in the morning Cordy!" Angel teased her.

"Like you would know. You weren't up before me. We hardly spoke at the end of our relationship." I informed Angel bitterly.

"Touché Faith. Damn, vampire or not she's still Faith," Cordy said and I laughed at that.

"Let me outta here Cordy. Come on," I begged changing my voice when I looked at her.

"Don't you worry Faith. We'll let you up in due time. As soon as we get that pesky little soul in your body again we'll let you go. Don't you worry any Faith," She told me and I laughed at her and then snarled and tried to lunge at her. I failed miserably and fell back to the bed.

"Magic Faith," Angel explained to me and I continued to growl.

"Damn she is a feisty one in bed," Cordelia teased Angel and I glared at her. She shut up a little and then smiled. "Call if you need anything Angel, Willow and the rest should be back soon. I'll have them come in here immediately to perform the ritual. I'm going to go be with Gunn," Cordelia told Angel and I hissed at her angrily. She left the room leaving Angel staring at me tied to the bed. We didn't talk until the others came into the room to perform the ritual.

**********

Willow and Cassandra came back about an hour after I awoke from the Magic Shop where they were gathering supplies. They waited another 2 hours until Oz and the rest of the people returned. They needed Oz and Giles to cast the spell as well. So Angel had Willow, Oz, Cassandra, and Giles replace my soul. They secured it minus the happiness clause while Angel made sure the PTB anchored my soul. He left almost immediately after the spell was cast and I had my soul back in my body. He was gone for about 2 days while he traveled to and from LA to figure all this stuff out. He walked back into Giles' house where I was still laying on the couch recovering from my injuries I had sustained before my death. My neck was covered in permanent scars from various vampire attacks, I had a mark where my heart was where B had staked me, my cheek had a scar where the bone had come through when B had broken my jaw which was reset again, and my knee had scars where the bone had broken through the skin, so basically I was a wreck. Angel walked in the door and we were all happy to see him again and glad that he made it back safely. After he nodded his head in acknowledgement to everyone else in the room he directed his attention to me.

"It's ok Faith, your soul is permanent. The PTB told me that you have the soul you had as a human, no weaker no stronger. So you will always have to fight to remain in the light," Angel told me. He came over to give me a kiss on my forehead lightly not trying to be passionate at all. His lips burned my forehead. That is when I heard it. A heartbeat close to me, a new one to the room, and I knew it was Angel. I sat up despite the pain and he looked at me curiously, cocking one eyebrow.

"You are human!" I exclaimed.

"What are you talking about Faith?" Cordelia asked from her position on the couch next to me.

"His heart is beating. He is warm. Angel is human," I gently said to them. Tears ran down my face unnoticed by me. Angel was in shock. Oz walked over to us. He sniffed Angel and then sadly nodded.

"He's human," Oz quietly said to everyone. Angel sat down on the chair closest to him heavily.

"To shanshu," Angel whispered and tears rolled down his face. He frowned in general and then looked up at me. Our gazes met and more tears rolled down our faces. I knew that I was going to live forever and Angel was now the mortal one of us. Angel was now going to die at any given moment. Our roles suddenly were reversed and I was terrified.

"This is not fair!" Angel yelled suddenly. He rose to his feet but collapsed to the floor completely distraught and in hysteric tears/sobs. I managed to get off the couch and down next to him on the floor. I pulled him against my body and he cried. His heartbeat got louder and louder in my ears and it became almost too much and I shoved him away from me roughly. I was in game face and fighting the bloodlust that had suddenly overwhelmed me.

"Someone get her some blood," Angel yelled out. He moved towards me and I growled.

"Stay away Angel. I can't control this," I told him angrily. I smelled blood before the bag was thrust under my noise. I bit into the bag hungrily and drained it quickly. I felt everyone's eyes on me and thankfully the bloodlust disappeared. Angel took the blood bag from me and gently wiped the extra blood off my face.

"How long since you fed last?" Angel questioned me gently.

"When you fed me before you left. I haven't felt hungry since then until now."

"That was 48 hours ago Faith! I have fed like four times since then. I know you are like super vamp but come on! Faith, would you go 48 hours without food human food?"

"I…I don't like drinking blood Angel. I hate being a vampire. I hate that I have to feed from a bag of blood!" I cried to him and he pulled me into his embrace this time.

I spent most of that day to myself. I put myself on an 8-hour feeding schedule to keep off the bloodlust. I sat in the windowsill with sunglasses on to protect my sensitive eyes. They were the only part of my body that was affected by the sunlight. Cordelia came to check on me mid-afternoon with her blood as an offering. I could smell her even before she got close to me.

"I told you I wanted to be alone Cordelia," I commented as she headed towards me across the bedroom to the window.

"I told you I didn't care remember? Besides I come bearing gifts, my blood." She snapped back.

"I don't want your blood. Keep it," I wearily told her.

"I'm worried about you Faith. A lot has happened to you in the past week. You won't talk about it with me either. I know if Spike were here he would know what is bothering you."

"Why would I tell him and not you?" I asked her, still not looking away from the window and the outside world.

"You know you would. He told me about two you know. I know about the sex and the lies. I know you two were more then just friends even though you never pursued it."

"You could never understand my relationship with Spike."

"I do though. He made me understand. He told me everything."

"You lie Cordelia. He would never tell you anything that happened between the two of us."

"The night of the vision I got about your death. I called you to make sure you were ok. You left shortly after that call and drove to Sunnydale and went to Spike. You beat the hell out of him and then you cried and then you fucked him. The scratches, scars, bites, and bruises weren't from a group of vamps it was from one. Why didn't you let me help you?"

"You couldn't help me Cordelia. I went to him because I knew I could hurt him, make him feel physically what I felt emotionally, and it wouldn't kill him. It would have killed you. That is why I went to him."

"He loved you Faith."

"I know. We talked about us once. We almost ran off together, but the night before we were set to leave you almost died due to that stupid ass gang of children. I knew I couldn't leave you like that. I called Spike and told him it was off and he confessed he was about to call when I did. Although our feelings for each other were evident and in the open between us we also realized we could never date each other."

"That gang attacked me over a year ago."

"I know."

"You would have left it all for him? All of us for him?"

"I didn't did I?" I snapped.

"I didn't even know you loved Spike. You played me well."

"No Cordelia. I didn't play you. Spike and I were not lovers. Even when we talked of running away the most we had done was kiss a little. I didn't fuck him until 2 months ago."

"He said he loved you, perhaps more than Buffy."

"I know."

"Did you love him more than Angel?"

"No. Not even close."

"Then why leave Angel for Spike? Why run away with Spike?"

"I'm not a good person Cordelia. I do my good deeds now because I feel I have to atone for my sins, because it keeps me around good company and great friends, and mostly because when I am good I get to be with Angel. I get this feeling inside me sometimes that I can't control. A need to be destructive. I need to beat something up and sometimes I need to kill. If I don't get it out of my system then it gets worse. Angel watches me like a hawk and babies me unbelievably. I needed to get away and Spike gave me a way out. The plan was that he would come and kick my ass in from of a few demons and we would disappear for good, together. Only problems lay in us, in our hearts. He loved Buffy and Sunnydale. I loved Angel, and you, and Angel Investigations. So I dealt though my restlessness and finally got rid of it a month later when I attacked that pack of demons on the West Dock alone and almost died. It got rid of that feeling and I have been ok since then until two months ago when I learned I was going to die. I still have restless bottled feeling. Death didn't shake it. Knowing I did die but am still here didn't help it. I know it has to do with Angel but I can't face him right now. He is human Cordelia, he's human."

"You can't back out on him. He's going through a rough time too. We all are. He got sentence to death via being a mortal. You aren't talking to him at all, which is killing him."

"I know how he felt about me now. I understand why he was reluctant to get close and act on his feelings. I was able to die at any moment, being the Slayer only increased those odds. I am to live forever and he's going to die."

"He lived with that though. He loved you enough to live with it. He knew you could die and yet he still cared for you. Don't turn away from him. Don't lock yourself away and hide from him and from everyone else," Cordelia said. I remained silent. "We lied to you about how you were turned. Angel was going to tell you when he got back from LA but he got sidetracked with the whole human mortal issue at hand."

"You lied? What do you mean by that?" I asked finally turning to face her for the first time since she arrived in the bedroom.

"Well Buffy didn't turn you completely. We think she might have been able to because of the whole stake through her heart and then into yours, but we weren't sure. Willow and Cassandra brought you back here and then they poured vampire blood down your throat right before you died."

"Who's blood was it? Where did you get vampire blood? Who did this to me? I was finally going to get to die! Who gave them permission to fuck up my life because I surely didn't!" I yelled at her.

"Spike." She quietly answered and tears slowly rolled down my face from under the sunglasses.

"He did?" I asked in a tired, meek voice.

"He did. He drained blood the night before and put it in the frig for you because he knew Buffy would drain you and he knew that he couldn't save you alone. He told Willow and Cassandra their primary mission was to make sure you survived the fight one way or another. They followed his orders over yours to save you."

"But why? He's dead now."

"He traded his life for yours. He gave you the blood you needed to survive and he died in your place sort of. He did it for you and Angel. So you could be together forever. He didn't know about or count on Angel's gift of human life. He did it to keep you alive because he loved you Faith. He loved you so much, enough to be selfless and give Angel what he desired for eternity. Spike gave you a beautiful gift Faith. Never forget that. You may have to drink blood for the rest of your life and you may not be able to do certain things you used to but you still can walked into the sunlight and live on this earth. Some of the people that went into this fight can't do that anymore."

"He was always hardheaded. I told him forever wasn't my kinda deal. I was a get in, get what I want, and get out kinda girl. He always knew me better than my lies."

"Don't close out Angel. Spike did this all so you two could be together. Don't let Spike's death and gift go to waste," she told me gently. She placed a hand on my face gently and kissed my lips softly. "I love you always," she told me and I nodded to her. I mumbled "thanks" to her after she left the bedroom.

**********

That night after dinner I walked out to the backyard to Angel. He was laying in the hammock in the yard watching the sunset silently.

"I was wondering if you would ever come back to me," Angel's voice commented as the swing remained completely still with no movement from him. I stopped a few inches away from him.

"Take me home Angel," I quietly whispered to him. He reached his hand out of the hammock and I interlaced my fingers with his before he tugged me haphazardly into the swing with him.

**********


Epilogue
Year: 3715
Location: The former United States of America
California Island

I opened my eyes after the flashback ran its course through my mind. I suddenly felt tired and realized it was almost sundown. I had been standing here for 14 hours next to the gravestone at my feet. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. It was such a crucial part of my life because it was the beginning of my life. I had never had better friends then I did then. I looked up and noticed the rain had stopped as the night encompassed the barren plain I stood on.

Over the past centuries I had watched my friends die, some be born and die, and some stay by my side. Lindsay had died a year after the attempted Apocalypse in the line of duty at Angel Investigations. He was out on a routine sweep with Oz when they were attacked by a huge group of vampires out looking for Angel and me. They were surrounded and overpowered and even with Oz turning into a werewolf he was no match for all of them. Lindsay died the next morning in the hospital from severe blood loss and other physical injuries. Gunn and Cordelia didn't work out after she became Immortal. They tried to keep their relationship together, but the fact that she would live forever bothered Gunn and they drifted apart. He left LA and never returned. Giles died at the age of 98 in Sunnydale. Cassandra was there at his funeral, mourning the loss of her lover. His death impacted me greatly because I lost a great friend, a mentor, and a father figure. Oz lived for about 500 years because of his case of lycanthropy. A werewolf hunter took his life. I avenged his death shortly afterwards. We buried Willow about 175 years after Oz. She wasn't a very strong Immortal and no amount of magic could save her when she needed it. She ventured out on her own one day and we buried her body the next. Cassandra, after the loss of Willow, was never the same. I never expected to see her go but she just lost all desire to fight. She was buried next to Willow roughly a year after her death. Richie died a few months later by a freak accident that left him mortally dead and an Immortal cut off his head before he could return to life. Cordelia's ability to survive did not surprise me. She, like Amanda, is still around today. The two of them are still great friends. MacLeod is a difficult story to tell. He followed us for a long time. When we lost Oz things in our group changed. I killed a human man out of vengeance and Duncan was pissed. He chose to leave with Amanda, Richie and Dawn and head back to Scotland. That was all it took for Methos and Cordelia to hook up. They have been together for 9+ centuries and love each dearly. We have added a few more to our group over the years and lost too many to count. Those who fight our fight are hard to find and even harder to keep.

**********

My lover wrapped their arms around my waist bringing me back into reality from reliving my past. I leaned back into the embrace immediately feeling a sense of calm and home wash over me.

"Are you through here?" The voice of my lover whispered in my ear.

"I could be. I just – god – I hate this – I hate not having any of them around anymore," I honestly said. Tears forming in my eyes yet again and I tensed up in my lover's arms.

"You get all depressed every year Faith. Nothing changes. They are dead and buried – you can't bring them back. You just need to accept the fact that they are dead. They have been dead for almost two millennia now."

"I know. But flesh and blood, you can't escape that. They gave me life from their own blood. I have them in me. I am them in a sense."

"Faith…"

"I am them," I quietly repeated.

"All right then what do you think they would be doing if they were here? Would they be in mourning over their dead friends after 1700 odd years?"

"I don't know. I don't remember."

"You are mourning what you don't remember?" Confusion evident in the voice behind me.

"I remember their faces, I remember their smiles and their tears. And I remember how they died. I remember the fight that changed my life forever. I don't remember most of the details but I remember the battle. I come here every year to mourn the loss of my friends and myself. I lost my life forever in that battle. I lost everything that night. My lover became human and mortal of all things. Human!" I gently whispered.

"It's ok Faith. I'm here still aren't I?"

"Yes, you are Angel. But I mourn that too. I am your grandchild and your Sire. I turned you back after you were granted mortality to die like a normal human. I took that away from you because I was not strong enough – I was too weak to survive without you. I took your mortality, crushed it, and gave you immortality again," I cried, tears rolling down my still damp face.

"You never told me you were sorry about changing me back. Do you regret it?"

"Yes and no. I am sorry you didn't get your reward of being human. I took that reward and damned you again. I took away your reward!"

"No Faith. You returned it. It was a punishment and hell to live without you forever. I had planned already to change you but Spike beat me to it. I told Willow and Cassandra their duty at that fight was to save you, to hold off your death till I could change you. Little did I know that Spike had told them the same thing. I don't want to see forever without you. I am not mad that you changed me back Faith. I wouldn't have allowed you to if I didn't want it. I wouldn't have asked for immortality if I didn't want it," Angel confessed to me honestly.

"I don't care if you aren't. I should not have done it. I didn't…I shouldn't have done it. I didn't do it right at all. I took away and robbed a warrior of his honorable death."

"I'll die someday Faith. I only hope I die when you do because I can't live without you and you can't live without me. But that day is far away Faith. You and I are happy and safe. We need to go, however, and meet up with the others. The sunrise will be here before we know it. They will be worried if we do not return before then. Come now Faith," Angel told me. I dropped to my knees in the mud and looked at the gravestone in front of me. It was weather worn and deteriorating. I kissed the stone gently and whispered: "Forgive me for not being able to save you all. I hope you are happy wherever you all are. We'll meet again someday. This is the last time I will come. You are forever in my heart and soul – you will always be remembered. I love you," I whispered, kissed the stone again one last time, and stood. Angel held out his hands from atop our horse. I grabbed his hands and he pulled me up in front of him. He wrapped one arm around my waist and with the other took the reins. He nudged Red into a moderate gait and we headed back several hours to our camp.

**********

I realized then that I was free. Free of guilt of not saving Buffy and her friends. Free of the guilt over turning Angel. But the memories and emotions of my old friends till stayed in my memory. A star shot across the sky – forever falling – and I smiled. I was going to be ok with Angel. I knew I would meet up with all my old friends later in my life. Buffy and Spike were happy together wherever they ended up and they were watching over Angel and me. I wouldn't meet up with them for some time though, not until my mission in life was over. I still had bigger battles to fight and even after all this time people and things to save. It all made sense to me then, after all this time, everything including my existence and the existence of those around me made complete sense to me. A dear, dear friend of mine had once argued "someone has to fight the good fight". To me in that moment I knew without any sense of doubt that me and my crew were those 'someones'.



End