Armor Thin

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Title: Armor Thin
Author: aerintine
Era:
Post-NFA
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Crossover with AtS
Word Count (this part): ~5000
Betas: My heartfelt thanks to these folks. dampersnspoons , whose excellent ideas, enthusiastic support, and patient guidance are the reasons I can do this at all. This story would not exist (or be readable) without her. lostboy_lj , who daily holds up the firmament with his kindness, wit and insight. anythingbutgrey , who graciously lent me her giant brain for this first part to ensure Angel got done right. She gets an extra special thank you, since she agreed to beta despite being as far from a Spuffy as a fan can get. Thank you, Elyssa.

Summary: Some important battles are fought with weapons, and some aren’t. Some we can see and others blind us. Some even involve marbles. All of them lead us away from home and back again, one way or another.

A/N: My first Spuffy fic! Thank you to the mods and maintainers for keeping this community going strong. All your hard work is appreciated. I had hoped to complete my story before my posting day, but it turns out I write like molasses in January. I had no idea I could write so slowly. So. Only Part 1 of 3 (4?) for now – hopefully parts 2 and 3 (&4?) for the free day. Thank you for reading!

***

Part 1: Deluge & Denouement

Angel crossed his legs and uncrossed them, discomfort in his every movement. Fatigue framed his eyes and pressed into the line of his jaw.

“Why did you come? Giles made it pretty clear where the Council stood on helping us.”

Buffy made a sweeping gesture with her hands from her place on the couch in Angel’s office. She’d found him there after Willow informed her that the mystical energy surrounding Wolfram and Hart had surged to life again. The witch’s ominous announcement came just after sundown, mere hours after they’d settled into their hotel to recover from the alley battle the previous night. She’d arrived expecting to find Angel engaged in some new skirmish with the evil stronghold, but instead found a bustling office building filled with the daily work of a thousand minions dressed in three-piece suits. A brunette in a pencil skirt and severe bun had immediately welcomed her, offered her coffee, and escorted her into an executive office. He’d appeared out of an elevator masked in the wall a moment later, hair still dripping from a recent shower, clothes clean and freshly starched. It threw her, to say the least.

“And as you see, Giles is not here. The Council is not the boss of me. Also, he confided in the wrong dweeb about what was going on. Word got out. And here we came.”

Everything was moving much too slowly. The jet, supposedly made faster by the Watcher’s Coven, slogged across the sky as if through molasses. And now, crammed into an armored SUV with nine other slayers and a slew of stakes and swords, balancing her scythe between her knees, Buffy felt like the wheels were spinning. They were moving, but not getting close enough, fast enough. Things needed to move faster. She needed to get there. Faith’s unit was in the vehicle just ahead of them, and, if she craned her neck, she could just make out Xander’s face behind the wheel of the dark Escalade following closely to their rear. They had managed to get into the city and keep together without interference from the airport authorities. Thank goodness for small favors. So far, so crappy.

“Think we’re just about there, ladies.” Robin Wood’s caramel voice cut through the tense silence. Buffy’s heart pounded when she looked out the side window and saw the billowing smoke through the downpour. It looked like a bomb had gone off. And off. And off. A flash of fire cut across the black sky and the girls gasped, arching to see where it came from.

“Holy hell!”

“What the– ”

“Is that– ”

“Shit, is that a dragon?”

Angel’s eyes darted as he tried to place the reference. “What ‘dweeb’ are you talking about?”

“You’ve met him. Our nerd-in-residence and Watcher wannabe. Andrew Wells.”

Angel’s face remained blank.

“Small, blonde, likes waxing poetic about hobbits?”

He nodded. “Right. Andrew. The kid who gave me and Spike the run around in Rome. He told you?”

“Yeah. He squealed like, well, Andrew. All I had to do was stare hard at him for a few seconds. He said he’s been in touch with you.” She shook her head. “Forgot to mention about your business partner, though. Little weasel. Kinda impressive actually. Anyway, he told me almost everything he knew. He, uh, said something about a wolf?”

Angel looked sheepish. Buffy quirked her mouth and crossed her arms.

“There is a wolf. I mean, there was. I don’t know. I sent her away. Think she might be a little bit miffed about that… wait, business partner? Spike and I are not partners. In business. Or. Anything.”

Buffy ignored the last part and homed in. “’Miffed?’ Let me guess. You did it for her own good? You couldn’t be what she needed so you decided what she needed was to be away from you?”

“Something like that.”

The trio of SUVs pulled off to the shoulder about one hundred yards from the melee, slayers pouring out like beetles. They shouldered crossbows and axes, pocketed stakes, checked daggers strapped to hips and legs. In less than a minute they were gathered again in their neat groups, ready to leap as one into the fray. They waited for the signal.

Buffy and Faith exchanged glances, assessing the situation. They could hear a sort of constant thunder, which they knew, all too well, had nothing to do with the weather. It was a cacophony of growls, roars, and screeches reverberating off of walls and the metallic smashing of weapon against weapon. It was battle thunder, the sound of death reaching for them.

“Good gravy. Couldn’t Angel have chosen a drier day to pick a fight with Evil Incorporated?” Xander griped. “It’s raining hard enough to drown a bag of kittens, as my Uncle Rory used to say.” He made a disgusted face. “And please, stop me if I ever try to quote him again.”

“Will do,” said Faith, “but damn, the sentiment is right on. This is one nasty slog.” She looked up at the heavens, searching with her eyes. “Wish Willow would hurry up already. Don’t much like the idea of Team Angel being alone in that hole. I’m itching to hit this wet bitch.”

Buffy swallowed a tart reply to Faith’s vulgar assessment when she realized she felt exactly the same way. Itching to hit her – it, er, them. The bad guys. Pound ‘em. Angel needed them in there, and quick.

“Yeah, that always works out great for you, doesn’t it?” Buffy sighed and looked up at the ceiling. “You know the definition of insanity, right Angel? Expecting new results when you keep recycling the same stinky old solution? You might try changing your approach to, well, everything really. Sometimes using your noggin for something other than glowering helps and also how long exactly has he been back from the dead?”

Angel stiffened, indignant. “Hey. I do not glower. Last night? Was about doing what was necessary.” He narrowed his eyes at her. “And you know, you’re not the only one Andrew’s been talking to. Met any interesting infinitely old guys lately?”

Buffy continued to stare at him, unimpressed. “Uh huh. You’re glowering right now. And that’s not your concern.”

Angel raised a disbelieving brow. Buffy relented.

“Fine. Point taken. No more dating talk. But that doesn’t get you off the hook for yesterday’s trouble, or the other thing.”

“Listen. I’m well aware of the many hooks I’m on; there’s no need for you to inform me of them. And frankly, if we’re talking concerns here, that’s definitely not yours. As for the other thing, you’ll have to ask Spike about that. It was his call to make, Buffy. No one else’s.”

Buffy called out to her squad’s Communicator.

“Hele, how are we for time?”

The dark-haired Estonian slayer squinted her eyes in concentration. “Willow will be here any minute. She’s finishing the seal on the city. Should get the signal soon.” She looked back at Buffy. “She says she’ll be here before we can say, ‘Are you a good witch or a bad witch?’”

There was a snicker or two from the squad. Xander and Buffy exchanged knowing looks. Just then there was a flash of white light, rippling like a dome over the sky and down towards the horizon. In the next instant, Willow was before them, energy crackling around her grinning face.

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Are you kidding me? You brought hellfire down on an entire city. You created a cluster of crap so huge it took Willow and our entire coven to clean up the carnage. They had to enchant the news stations to report an earthquake destroyed Dodger Stadium and not a freaking dragon. And hello, it’s not like you and I haven’t talked. You could’ve told me about him.”

Angel shot her a long-suffering look and sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “He came back a couple of weeks after the Sunnydale collapse. Though he wasn’t here-here for a while. Then when he was he wouldn’t leave. I’m pretty sure he hung around just to bother me. And, I would have gotten the dragon eventually. If Willow hadn’t butted in.” He muttered the last under his breath.

“What are you all waiting around for?” Willow said, “Let’s go kick some evil hineys.”

A series of whoops tore into the air. Buffy smiled.

“Meet you in the middle, B.” With Wood already in the lead, Faith and her team took off at a run towards the southern end of the burning block. Xander and Vi followed suit, guiding their team west. They moved away like blades through the rain; a lithe, streamlined beast formed of bodies each more honed and graceful than the last. Deadly in their efficient beauty.

Buffy watched them go, then looked back at her squadron. The tension in their bodies was palpable; they were anxious to be let loose.

“Everyone else in place, Willow?”

“Yep,” said Willow, “All wiccans present and accounted for. And your little dog, too.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Really, with the Wicked Witch jokes now?”

Willow smirked, “If not now, when? I mean, I’ve got the outfit.”

Buffy’s BFF was in her full regalia, white dress shining almost as bright as her matching hair.

“You look way more like Glinda than Elphaba these days, Will. What with the Bride of Christ motif.”

“I’ll save my outraged and offended retort until after the battle’s done, k? I should go. We’ll cover you from above.”

Buffy hefted the scythe and turned fully towards the latest pile of suck to land unceremoniously at their feet. The roaring was getting louder. The stench of death was upon them.

“Be careful up there. There’s a dragon.”

Willow’s smile grew large.

“Oh, believe me, I know. She’s mine.” With those words, the witch disappeared.

“Buffy! The fun’ll be over before we even start. Come on!” Bethany shouted.

Buffy kept her attention on the melee before them. She called over her shoulder.

“Right. Let’s go. We’ve got work to do.”

“What do you mean, he wasn’t ‘here-here’?”

“That’s all I’m going to say about this, Buffy.”

“But—”

“No. Listen to me. I had to do this. For my son’s future, I had to. If I had seen another way I would have taken it. I’m grateful for your help, really. Thank you. But it had to be this. And as far as Spike goes? No, I couldn’t have told you. Or more precisely, I wouldn’t.”

He held up a hand when Buffy opened her mouth to protest.

“Like I said, not my call. And to be perfectly honest, even if I could have I wouldn’t have. Him being away from you can only be a good thing.” Angel’s face was impassive as he delivered his verdict.

Buffy balled her fists. She felt something rising in her belly, an old familiar feeling of resentment and righteous anger. Was it always this way with them? Was he always this boorish? Was she always this defensive? The edges of her vision began to shimmer as her ire bubbled out.

“You wanna find a better way, Angel? How about, I don’t know, talk to people? Tell them what’s up. People have lots of ideas. You remember people, right? All those sweaty, smelly bodies milling around in the world? Pledging their undying blah-di-blah? Trust me, I have a team, so I’ve been schooled in the talking. They never shut up about their brilliant ideas.”

She only paused to take a breath before diving back in.

“And how can you sit there like the boss of everything and decide keeping him away from me is a good thing? I’m not stupid, Angel! This is just petty jealousy.” Her voice was nearly a shout. “I expect more from you, damn it!”

She’d been slogging her way through a wall of dead trolls when she caught sight of Angel. He was knee-deep in Hell Hound entrails and roaring like an enraged lion. Blood streaked down his forehead in rivulets. His yellow eyes seared with hatred as he hacked away at the yipping canines surrounding him. She made a beeline for him once she saw the rest of her team closing in at the edges of her vision. When he spotted her, he paused a moment, sword raised. Confusion furrowed his already furrowed brow before recognition and realization flashed across his features. He nodded at her as he cleanly sliced the head from another growling hound.

She was about to call out to him when she heard a shriek from above. They both looked up and saw the dragon screaming a river of fire through the sky. Buffy’s eyes filled with rain. She crouched on instinct, ready to defend herself if the thing came closer. As she watched, a Willow-shaped dervish blazed bright behind the great beast, hurling her own brand of white fire in a rapid succession of bolts. The worm turned on its attacker and shot out another stream of fire. Willow was ensconced in light, and the dragon fire bounced around its perimeter. Buffy smiled.

“Go, Will!” She shouted into the air.

She brought her attention back down to earth, still smiling. Her smile met that of – oh, crap.

“Die, Slayer!” She had just enough time to swerve left as what she vaguely recognized as a M’Fashnik demon aimed for her jaw with a length of broken pipe.

“What is this, the demonic version of poetic justice?” She kicked it in the gut. “I was cheering on my witch, you jerk.” She bashed the back of its head with her elbow before bringing the scythe down to cleave its spine. It dropped to the alley floor with a grunt.

She looked up expectantly, but Angel was once again lost in the fracas. She frowned, wiped her wet hair off her face, and went back to work.

Borrowed blood rushed to Angel’s face. He shot up off the settee. He was as angry as Buffy had ever seen him.

“Well maybe you shouldn’t, Buffy,” he said through gritted teeth. “Maybe when it comes to you and Spike, the best you should expect is I haven’t ripped him limb from limb for having the gall to love you!” After a couple of seething breaths he turned his back on her and stalked over to the window. Buffy stood too, ready to attack. She shouted after him.

That’s the best I should expect? You allow him to remain intact? Of all the arrogant, pigheaded, paternalistic – wait, did you just say he… Oh.” Her bubble effectively popped, she worked her jaw for a second and then sat with a perplexed frown. She watched Angel place his palm on the window, lean his forehead against the glass. He seemed so old all of a sudden. The thought was so bizarre, she nearly laughed. When he spoke, his voice sounded weary and exhausted.

“If you want to shout at someone about this, go find him. I’m too tired. I don’t even know what we’re doing here, Buffy.” He stared through the pane. “Besides, I don’t like cookies. Spike’s the one who’d understand food analogies.”

Buffy looked at him like he’d just recited the Boy Scout Oath.

“What are you – oh, right. That.”

“Yeah. That.

Everything was moving much too quickly. The rain kept pounding down, not nearly enough to wash away the gore. He was ankle deep in muck, covered in blood and sweat and stink. And still they came. Everything ached, down to the marrow of him, but he had to keep on.

Slash.

Lunge.

Swerve.

The clang of his sword against the various weaponry of Wolfram & Hart’s demon horde shook him through, over and again. He spared a glance to his right, looking for Charlie. Checking in. But all he could see was more rain and piles of dead demons. No sign of Gunn. Gone, then. Just like that. No time to feel the sting of it; would put it away for later. He knew Blue was behind him somewhere. The guttural screams and crunches battering his ears spoke to it, accompanied by the occasional bloody limb flying past his head. She really ought to watch her aim.

After impaling a big lumpy bugger on his own spear, Spike turned again, seeking out his sire. He was there, just up ahead, wrestling with something that looked like a garbage disposal turned inside out. Angel appeared to have the upper hand. Which was fortunate, since a bunch of Lumpy’s friends decided on this moment to catch up with the action.

Spike set his mouth in a grim line, and went back to work.

“Well. Um. Turns out my ill-timed analogies are awkward…” she paused. Screwed her face into a disconcerted frown. “Weirdly sexual… and kinda incorrect.” She looked back at Angel. His back was still turned to her. She felt her defenses rise again. “And also, I am with someone now. And also, I officially don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Really.”

She set her jaw. “Yes, really.”

“Everything about you since I walked in this room says otherwise. Your fixation on Spike’s comings and goings. The fact that we’re talking about him at all. Seems to me the writing’s on the wall.”

“There’s no writing! No wall! I just – I just want to know that he’s – that you’re okay.”

“And you picked me to verify that important bit of knowledge? You came to find me to ask how Spike’s doing. Me.”

Buffy spluttered. “I didn’t – I mean, he’s been here with you and last night was – I thought – “

Angel turned and offered a weary smile. “You want to know what I think?”

Buffy swallowed. Crossed her arms again. Uncrossed them. “Not really.”

Angel came back to sit beside her. She looked at him warily.

“I think you’re feeling a bit miffed yourself. Because as it turns out, you’re done. Cooked. Maybe you were even done back then. You just didn’t know it yet. And the one you’re done for hasn’t agreed to, erm, pull you out of the oven, as it were. So instead you’re biding time. That’s got to be a hard pill to swallow.” He clasped his hands and looked at the floor. “Almost as hard as the one I’m swallowing now.”

Buffy blinked. “I can’t believe you’re saying this.”

“Believe me, neither can I.”

Buffy couldn’t tell how long they’d been fighting, but it seemed like maybe the onslaught was lessening. Maybe. Another vampire exploded around her stake. And another. Their dust coated her face and carved dirty paths down to her chin as the heavens continued to unload their burden. The rest of her group appeared to be making progress as well; she could hear their whoops and shouts reverberating off of the alley walls. She heard a screech and turned to find a group of big bumpy demons – Plainclothes? Playdates? – clustered around something at the center of the alley. She felt her adrenalin leap again at the thought it might be one of her people. She ran at them, hacking and gutting as she went.

She tore her way through them. One. Two. Almost there. Three. Four and a half. She busted through the fifth demon like paper-mache and raised her scythe –

Only to come face to face with a ghost.

She froze.

The ghost’s eyes widened comically. Then he was saying something, but she couldn’t hear him for the buzzing in her ears. She blinked. He was waving an arm at her. Did ghosts have arms? The thought jarred her and the world came rushing back, along with her voice.

“Spike?”

“Buffy, DUCK!”

She immediately dropped to the pavement, or what would have been the pavement if it weren’t currently a river of bloody sludge. Gross.

She heard the ring of Spike’s sword as it swept across the air just above her hairline. In the next instant she was bathed in something warm and unbelievably smelly. She fought off the urge to vomit. A beat passed. When she looked up he was standing there, sword in one hand, the other reaching down towards her. She looked at it for a moment, still unsure if he was really real. When she reached out her hand, he clasped it and pulled her to her feet.

“Spike?”

“’Lo, Buffy.”

She gaped at him. “Uh – “

“Come to play with Papa and us kiddies, eh?”

“I – What?”

“Glad you’re here. Could use the reinforcements. You bring the whole crew, then?” His face was open, questioning. Buffy gulped.

“We brought weapons.”

Spike smiled, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Good thinking. Whatta you say, then? Shall we?”

She stared. The rain poured.

Spike gestured with a sweep of his hand. His brow furrowed a little. “The fight, Slayer. “

Buffy looked around. Oh. Right. Alley. Demons. She looked back at his drenched face.

“Spike. Hello.”

He turned to stand beside her and raised his sword again.

“Let’s end these filthy cockroaches, yeah?” He nodded towards the other end of the alley. “Go on, then. I got your back.”

She shook herself and nodded. She brought up her scythe and, with a glance to her left to make sure he was following, leapt towards a huge dump truck-like thing with horns like a goat.

Oh, but work felt like dancing again in an instant.

Buffy gave him a skeptical look. “Are you trying to get back at me for the glower remark? Because you do glower, Angel. Messing with my head won’t change that.”

“I’m not messing with you. Look around.” He gestured at the room. “You walked into my own personal apocalypse. You’ve got my thanks for helping end it, but that’s all. I’ve got no more team. They’re all dead or missing or Spike. But I’m still here. The last member of the Circle. I brought them down, but I can’t get out. I’m right back where I started, minus everything that made it bearable. This building, this business, I’m tied to it. Probably forever.”

Buffy tried to interject. “You could – “

But Angel shook his head. “I made my choices, and I’ll accept the consequences. My son is safe; that’s all that matters. Everything else: you, Spike, the fucking Immortal, it’s all flotsam. I’ve got no more to give. I’m not the guy, Buffy. I jumped off that ship and joined the sharks long ago.”

It soon became clear they were gaining the upper hand. Most of the smaller demons had been dispatched, and the three slayer teams worked side-by-side with the three remaining fighters from L.A. to bring down the biggest beasts. The rain had finally abated, replaced with thick, muggy air that tasted of copper and smelled of refuse. Everyone was soaked well past the bone, and felt weighed down under the fetid night.

Willow and the coven finally brought down the dragon; its smoking carcass now littered the north end of the alleyway in several chunks. The witches took to the task of demon disposal even as the rest of the crew fought on.

When only a great Haxil Beast remained, Buffy watched as the blue-haired woman Angel had been fighting alongside for the better part of an hour halted in place. She looked up at the slavering demon’s face, her own an impassive mask. She cocked her head in a way that reminded Buffy of a chicken. Made her insides squirm. Not a woman at all, then. Something else entirely. In the next moment, whatever-she-was brought her hand down through the air like a referee at a wrestling match. The air seemed to part in her hand’s wake, gaping wide. She reached with both hands and grabbed the Haxil by its ankle. Pulled. Then they were just… gone. The rift sealed itself behind the duo as they went sailing through it.

For a moment, there was silence. It boomed at their ears, still throbbing from the sounds of battle.

“Well, would you look at that,” said Spike.

Angel limped over to stand beside the blonde vampire, his right thigh sporting an angry gash. His face was covered in dried blood and confusion.

“I thought she wasn’t supposed to be able to do that anymore. Wes said – ”

They exchanged a pained look.

“Yeah. Think Illyria kept that little trick close to the vest. Kept us off her back, anyway.”

Faith made her way to Spike and Angel, nearly tripping over a pile of… something. Buffy tried not to decide exactly what.

“What the what, boys? The hell did that stick-girl just do?”

“Illyria’s not a girl, Faith.” Angel leaned heavily on his sword. “And I’m pretty sure she just dragged a two-ton Haxil Beast through a portal the length of my arm.”

“Damn.”

Everyone stared at the place where the world had rent open for a minute. Waiting. When nothing happened and Illyria did not reappear, everyone’s attention shifted to assessing wounds and doing head counts.

“So does this mean we win?” A ragged-looking Xander appeared next to Buffy, his arm draped heavily around Hele’s shoulders. He was out of breath and wincing, his free arm banded across his stomach. She spared him only a glance, her eyes fixed on the two vampires standing a short distance away.

“I think so, Xan. Yay, us.”

The rest of the slayers gathered around, grinning and laughing, offering each other high fives and hugs. Buffy extricated herself from an assault by Bethany’s cloying arms, only to find Spike and Angel had moved away from the group. They were walking slowly towards the closed end of the alley. Spike held Angel’s arm by the elbow, as the older vamp was still noticeably limping. Amazingly, Angel didn’t appear to be putting up any protest against the support. Buffy felt her throat tighten at the sight. She started to follow them.

Buffy’s face softened.

“Angel. Look at me.”

He slowly turned towards her, as though loath to do so. She could see the depth of sadness in him.

“That’s not true. That will never be true. You’re still a champion.”

“I’m really not. It was just a joke at my expense. I suspect the Senior Partners and the Powers are sharing a good laugh right about now. With Wes and Gunn barely gone cold. Bastards.”

“Spike thinks you’re a champion.”

Angel snorted. “That’s the real joke.”

“Why would he have stayed here otherwise? He believes in you. Your people, the ones who died? They believed in you, in this. Are you going to let them turn over in their graves by insisting they followed the wrong guy?”

Angel sighed.

“There’s more happening here than you know, Buffy. More than I’d ever want you to see.”

When she reached them, they were both staring at a crumpled form wedged between the wall and the body of a large yellow demon. The man still held the dagger’s handle, the other end buried in the demon’s chest. His eyes stared ahead, unseeing.

Buffy touched Angel’s shoulder. He stiffened, and she pulled back.

“Who was he?” she asked.

Angel’s voice was quiet, strained. “Family.”

Spike cleared his throat. “Charles Gunn. He was… he was important.”

“I’m sorry.”

Spike nodded. “Should move him, take him someplace safe. Away from all this.” His voice was low, choked with emotion.

Angel forced out his next words like blood from stone.

“Yes. Wesley…”

Spike nodded again. “Wes too.” He turned to address Buffy.

“Best you all go tend your wounded, pet. Nothing more for you to do here.”

Buffy was taken aback at the abrupt dismissal.

“I could help you – “

Spike shook his head, but offered a soft, conciliatory smile. “Thanks all the same, Buffy. We’ve got it from here.”

She looked at Angel, but he was still focused on Charles’ face. She slowly nodded and turned to rejoin her group.

“Buffy,” Spike called after her.

She turned back, a hopeful look on her face.

“Thanks for coming. Really.”

Her lips curled up and she nodded again. Made her way out of the alley and across the street, where a passel of slayers and two beleaguered Watchers climbed into their vehicles. She risked a look back and saw Angel disappear through a doorway into the side of the burnt-out building. He was carrying Gunn’s body in his arms, moving with resolve despite his injury. Spike followed closely behind.

She tossed the scythe into the back and claimed the passenger seat next to Xander. One by one, the SUVs started up and pulled out, headed to their hotel. The wiccan contingency stayed behind to finish clearing debris and erasing the battle evidence.

It all happened so fast, Buffy thought, as they drove away.

And that was that.

Buffy put a cautious arm around Angel’s slumped frame. She rested her temple on one defeated shoulder and looked out the window at the night sky.

“It’s okay. I’ve seen plenty. And you know what? Tiger may have got you by the tail this time, but you’re way tougher than the tiger. You’ll beat them back.”

Angel pushed his nose into her hair and reached for the hand she had resting in her lap.

“You really think so?”

“Said so, didn’t I?”

He closed his eyes.

“That you did.”

They sat there for a long while. After a time, they unwound from each other. Angel went to his desk and wrote an address on a scrap of paper. Buffy accepted it without a word, and turned to go. Angel’s voice halted her.

“Buffy.”

She turned back to look at him again.

“Go easy on him? He lost them too, just as much as I did.”

She bit her lip at the redness in Angel’s eyes. Angel was never supposed to look like this. He was supposed to be composed and confident and master of everything. Not this broken man standing in a posh office looking like a lost child.

“I’m so sorry, Angel.”

“So am I, Buffy.” He swallowed. “Goodbye.”

A wisp of something small, something glimmering and bright she didn’t know still lived inside her, broke free. It fluttered a moment behind her breastbone, then floated away. A small sound escaped her throat, the tiniest whimper.

“Goodbye.”

And that was that.

~TBC~

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/460252.html

aerintine

aerintine