Still Standing To Spite The Fall
By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: Post Not Fade Away. Written using the prompts from 600 Seconds. The prompts will be in bold.
Circling the edge of the battle, Buffy searched for Angel. He was here somewhere; she could feel that unique, familiar tingle that only one vampire gave her. She blinked rain out of her eyes and tried to find him through the shifting bodies. The swinging blades and thrusting spears slowed to a crawl as she finally spotted Angel. He stood back to back with Spike, a snarl exposing his fangs as he added a demon to the growing pile of bodies at his feet.
For a moment, Buffy let herself admire him. The smooth, fluid movements as Angel wielded the sword in ways its maker had only dreamed of. But she could see he was tiring, the sword coming back up slower with each parry, each thrust doing less damage. Blood ran from wounds all over his body to mingle with the demon blood pooled at his feet.
“Willow!” She shouted. “Now!”
From her position on the roof of the building across the street, Willow nodded. Her chant created a handful of silver strands that she wove into a small ball. Pulling a small packet of parchment paper filled with sulfur from her pocket, she stuffed it inside the ball. She balanced the ball on her palm and blew gently, causing it to roll off. It landed at her feet, rolled to the edge of the rooftop, and went over. As the ball rolled down the side of the building, it began to spark and grow in size. Fire sprang up along the strands constructing the ball, turning into a blazing inferno even as the ball continued to grow in size.
The demons at the base of the building were the first to die, their screams cut short as the fireball rolled over them. Without pausing, it consumed the next demons in its path.
“Bloody hell!” Spike’s eyes grew wide as he spotted the top of the fireball over the battle.
“What?” Panting, Angel blocked a wooden spear that was headed for his chest. It came close enough to snag on his coat, adding another tear to the already tattered leather. His sword was becoming too heavy to lift, and each strike was harder to parry.
Ducking a wild swing at his head, Spike planted a boot in the demon’s face and shoved him back into his fellows. “Could be!”
The dragon had gone down in a blaze of glory at the start of the fight after Illyria had launched herself onto its back and ripped a wing partly off its body. The spectacular crash had lit up the battlefield and taken out a good portion of the demonic army. They’d still die, but at least the odds were only a thousand to one now. Unless the dragon had recovered.
“It’s a ball – “ Spike fell back into his grandsire as a sword slipped past his guard and bit into his thigh. “Toy – “
“A toy?” Turning, Angel lopped the head off the demon that was trying to pry his sword out of Spike’s thighbone. “A toy?”
“Looks like a big freaking marble!” He shoved Angel back as yet another demon tried to make a name for himself.
“Reinforcements?” Early in the battle, he’d felt the tingle that meant a Slayer was nearby. It was amplified in such a way that he knew there were several Slayers out there. His only fear was that these new girls, recently come into their power by way of Willow’s spell would quickly fall due to their inexperience. More deaths on his soul.
“Could be!” There’d been a chatter of automatic weapons from time to time and the occasional thump-flash of explosions. Someone using conventional weapons was chewing through the left flank of the demons. Spike pondered the question for a moment between hacking and slashing. It was a bit unusual for one of their set to use guns. “Wes?”
“Dead!” Illyria had been very clear on that point. Still, it could be the group that Wes had rounded up to fight demons with after his split from Angel Inc. Someone was helping them, that much was apparent as the fireball wound its way through the demon horde facing them. Whoever it was, Angel welcomed their help. They could exchange recipes later – if they survived.
On the rooftop overlooking the battle, Willow drew her finger over the crowd in a random pattern. “Oh, the demons under the ball go squish, squish, squish.”
“Shouldn’t that be sizzle, sizzle, sizzle?” Xander asked.
“When you make the big fireball, you can sing the song you want.” She grinned. Killing demons felt good. Very clear cut and no angst involved. They were evil and therefore deserving of no angst.
“Oh sure, rub it in that I’m only here to be the muscle.” A baseball bat rested on his shoulder. It wasn’t likely that Willow would need protection, since she’d lain down a circle of protective runes around them when they’d gotten into position, but then again, you never knew what could happen in these crazy battles to end all battles.
“But you’re good at being the muscle. Very macho.” A frown wrinkled her forehead as she maneuvered the ball around a group of Slayers fighting their way into the heart of the battle. “Stay to the edges, girls. Aunty Willow is making a mess.”
Every Slayer heard her voice in their head and obediently backed up to stay on the fringes so that the fireball could do more damage. All but one.
“Screw that, Red.” Faith grinned as she ducked under a sword and came up to plant her own weapon deep into a demon’s throat. “Angel needs help, he’s fading fast.”
“Buffy’s getting closer, she can handle it.” Willow carefully moved her fireball to keep from adding Faith to the carnage in the ball’s trail. “Once a rogue Slayer, always a rogue Slayer. No cookies for you.”
A sword went deep into Angel’s side and he groaned, dropping his guard slightly. Another demon took advantage of the opening to thrust a spear into Angel’s exposed chest, the wooden shaft homing in on the vampire’s heart. Twisting desperately, Angel felt the spear burst through his back, the shaft narrowly missing its target. The demon snarled angrily and jerked it out of Angel’s body.
The move cost him, the last of his strength draining with the blood pouring out of his body, and Angel’s knees buckled. Collapsing to the ground, he bowed his head and let the rain pour over him and down his face. He closed his eyes and pictured Buffy as she had been the night they’d made love. Beautiful and loving. “Buffy…”
When a heavy weight landed on his back, driving him down, Angel held the picture in his mind. If this was the end, he was leaving with the one good thing in his life in front of him. Falling prone on the wet pavement, he waited for the final blow.
Angel groaned as the heavy body on top of him moved, scraping his face harder into the pavement. Then the weight was gone and he nearly cried out in relief. The tingle from so many Slayers being nearby ratcheted up several notches, and instinct made him try to get to his feet despite his wounds, his arms straining to lift him up.
A boot came down next to his head and he flinched. He knew the voice, but it had to be a hallucination. One too many shots to the head and he was hearing things. Forcing his eyes open, Angel looked at the boot next to his face. Instead of being rough leather on some huge misshapen foot, the boot was stylish and obviously expensive. And it covered a small, feminine foot. One of the Slayers then.
A scythe whistled through his line of sight and back out.
Closing his eyes, Angel called up the image of Buffy once again and retreated into the darkness.
Rain was splattering overhead and voices were raised in angry shouts as Angel opened his eyes. His head was cradled on something soft and warm. Snuffling through the blood clogging his nose, he breathed in a familiar, comforting scent.
“You’re not taking them anywhere!”
“We can help them!”
“Help them? That’s a joke – by planting things in their brains?”
He recognized Giles’ voice. The normally quiet man was shouting at the top of his lungs.
“I understand your position – “
“Then you understand why you won’t be taking them.”
“The government has jurisdiction in these situations!”
“Like bloody hell you do! You may have jurisdiction over terrorists and criminals, but with vampires, the Slayer has jurisdiction!”
“You can’t – if you think – “
Angel lifted his head as much as he could. The roof over his head turned out to be a cloth of some sort. It blocked his view of who Giles was arguing with.
He knew from the scent that Buffy was here with him, but Angel wanted to see her. Stifling a moan of pain, he rolled his head back until he could see her face. It was set in angry lines, the gray eyes concerned. “Buffy.”
“Angel.” She smiled and stroked her fingers over his cheek. “You’re safe. Close your eyes and rest, Giles will have this sorted out and we’ll get you out of here.”
“Hey, big guy.” Faith crouched down and stuck her head under the jacket that was being held over Buffy and Angel. “How ya doing?”
“Five by five.” He said weakly.
“Still working on that sense of humor, that’s good, everybody needs a hobby.” She patted his shoulder awkwardly. Touchy feely stuff wasn’t easy for her. “Hey, B, we can get Xander to jimmy open a door to the hotel if you want.”
“Do it. Giles could be arguing with GI Joe all night and there’s only a few hours to sunrise.”
“Don’t worry, we’re not gonna let them take him.”
“Oh, I’m not worried.” Buffy said sweetly.
Angel closed his eyes again, secure in the knowledge that Buffy would protect him. It’d been a good night. They’d broken the backs of the senior partners, brought Wolfram and Hart to its knees, and lived to tell about it.
He opened his eyes again. They hadn’t all lived. “Gunn?”
Buffy shook her head. Gunn’s body was a few feet away, a jacket covering his face. “I’m sorry, Angel.”
“He’s alive, but it’s bad.” A smile softened her face. “Well, he is dead, but he’s not dust, so I guess that means he’ll make it.”
“Illyria?” They hadn’t seen her since she’d taken the dragon down.
“Who? I don’t know.” She shook her head again. “What about Wes? We haven’t found him anywhere.”
“He’s dead.” Weary, he closed his eyes once more. “Cordy’s dead.”
“I know, and I’m sorry. Wes called and told Giles what happened. He said she helped you guys save the world one last time.”
“She wasn’t who we thought. She never was.” Angel reached up, searching for Buffy’s hand and hissing in a breath at the grinding in his shoulder.
Buffy caught his hand and squeezed it gently. “None of us are, Angel.”
They sat quietly for a few minutes, listening to the rain and the arguing. Buffy watched as demons were sorted out into those that were dead and those that were alive. She knew what would happen to them in the Initiative’s labs, but she couldn’t find it in her heart to care.
A thought struck her suddenly. “Angel, what about Lorne? We haven’t found him, was he – “
“He left.” Angel said softly. “I made him do something he didn’t want to do.”
Running footsteps caught her attention and Buffy rested her free hand on her scythe. She relaxed as Faith dropped down to crouch next to them again.
“We’ve got the place open. Xander’s bringing a door to carry Angel and Spike in on, figured it’d be easier that way.” Faith shot a look at where Giles was still arguing with some military guy. “Riley called, he’s on his way. Says he’ll make sure this all goes away.”
“Just like the Lone Ranger. Or was that the A-Team?”
“Here we go.” Xander laid the door he was carrying down next to Angel. “The Xander ambulance service, serving vamps across the greater LA area. One door, lots of waiting .”
Carefully, they rolled Angel onto the door, Buffy biting her lip as he moaned and cried out. The only consolation was that they couldn’t kill him by moving him. Willow and Dawn did their best to keep the jacket over Angel’s head as he was moved. They were drenched to the skin and cold, but they didn’t want Angel to suffer anymore than he already had.
“Everybody ready?” Taking one end of the door, Xander looked at Faith, who was holding the other end. When she nodded, he lifted his end slowly. “Wow, you’ve put on weight, Dead Boy.”
“Xander!” Willow glared at him. “Be nice to Angel! He’s hurt!”
“Oh, yeah? I lost an eye, top that.”
“Always got to one up me.” He stuck his tongue out at her as he began backing toward the Hyperion’s side door.
“Where are we taking him?” Buffy walked alongside, her hand lying on Angel’s chest. She frowned. He wasn’t pretending to breathe as he normally did. “We need to get some blood.”
“Andrew!” Faith yelled. “Where are you?”
“No need to shout, my frisky Slayer.” Andrew stepped out of the shadows by the doorway where he’d been attempting to lurk. “I’m always at your beck and call, your wish is my command, your every desire – “
“Shut the hell up. That’s my desire.”
“Of course.” He backed up a step.
“There’s some money in my pocket.” She swung a hip his way. “Get it.”
“Sure thing.” Andrew put his hand in her back pocket and felt around. “No panty lines. Interesting…”
“Just get the money.” Faith snarled. “Before I take your hand off.”
“Go get some blood. There’s a place down on Twelfth and Atlas, Iason’s Deli. Tell them it’s for Angel.”
“Blood? Eww! Can’t someone else go?” Blood was disgusting and nasty, even in bags.
“Yes, my dove of destruction.” Andrew put the soggy money in his jacket pocket and walked away. Two of the Slayers moved to follow him. They gave him distance to protect his ego but stayed close enough in case they’d need to protect his body.
“There’s warm water.”
“Everything is working.”
“He must have kept paying the bills all this time.”
“I found these upstairs.”
Angel felt lost in the rush around him. Hands were removing his clothes and washing his body, others were probing wounds and cleaning them out. He was lifted up and laid on something soft, it felt like a mattress, but there’d been a discussion of the stairs and they’d decided to keep him downstairs.
“There’s a spearhead in this one.”
“Still out, there’s a big hole in the back of his head.”
“The same place he was the last five times you asked, he’s on his way.”
He did not want to be naked and helpless in front of GI Finn. Angel struggled to sit up.
“Oh, no.” Buffy put a hand on his chest and pushed him down. “You’re not well enough to get up.”
“Fine, I’m fine.”
“Sure you are.” Pulling a sheet up over him, Buffy sat down next to him. “That’s why you’re still in game face and why I’m holding you down with one finger.”
“I’m – “ She had him there, he was in game face, the pain from his injuries making it difficult to shift back. Looking down at his chest, Angel saw that she was not, however, holding him down with one finger. He forced his game face into hiding, ignoring the pain as the change pulled at the cuts on his face. “Better?”
“Don’t worry about Riley, he’s on our side, believe it or not.” As she said the words, they struck her as ironic. Did anyone else keep their exes on the list of people they’d trust? Footsteps pulled her out of her thoughts, and she looked up to see Riley walk into Angel’s office. He looked good, fit and trim in his fatigues, and happy.
“You know, Buffy, we really have to stop meeting like this.” He grinned at her. “Just once can we bump into each other when it’s not a catastrophe?”
“Hey, I didn’t start this one, he did.” She patted Angel’s shoulder. “I just came for the peanuts.”
“General Mallory isn’t happy, but he’s agreed to leave without Spike and Angel.” Riley winked as he knelt down next to her. “Once I explained exactly what would happen to him if he did try, he was pretty agreeable.”
“Did you tell him I’d rip his head off?”
“Something like that.” Looking down at Angel, Riley held his hand out. “It seems I owe you a thanks for saving the world again.”
“You’re welcome.” It took more effort than he cared to admit to lift his hand to take Riley’s. Angel squeezed hard.
Buffy rolled her eyes, watching the two of them try to squeeze the other’s hand off. “How’s Sam?”
“Good, she’s good.” Riley pulled his hand back, trying not to wince from the return of circulation. “She’s outside organizing the cleanup. Right now they’re working on a story about gangs to cover this up.”
“Gangs on PCP, that was Principal Snyder’s story.”
“People don’t want to know, Buffy. There’d be chaos if people knew what lived out there in the dark.” He shook his head. “It’s easier for them to believe the cover stories than to believe the boogieman is real.”
“True. I wish I didn’t know sometimes.” A sad smile crossed her lips. “I’d be housewife Buffy now. Driving the kids to soccer.”
“The boogieman I can live with, your driving is something I’d rather not think about.”
Buffy refused to rise to the bait about her bad driving. It was true, so there wasn’t much she could say to change his mind. Instead she stroked a hand over Angel’s forehead. He’d closed his eyes and was either unconscious or asleep, or pretending to be.
A part of Riley was happy to see his rival for Buffy’s affections brought low. The other part had to admit that Buffy’s affections had never really been his to begin with. Angel had always been between them even before he’d known of the other man’s existence. Riley gave Buffy a quick hug before standing. “Take care of each other.”
“You too, and tell Sam I said hello.”
“I will.” Getting up, Riley left the office. He found Faith and several other young women guarding the hotel’s doorway.
“Finn.” She nodded at him.
“Faith.” For some reason she made him uncomfortable, as if she were an old girlfriend or a one night stand that hadn’t worked out. “We’ll take the demons with us.”
“Hey, we don’t want ‘em. Except for, you know, Spike and Angel.” A grin curved her lips. “We sorta make a habit of collecting the ones with souls.”
“What about the dragon?”
“Dragon?” She looked out the door to where the demon bodies were being tossed into a truck. “There’s a dragon?”
“That’s what it looks like. Big lizard with wings.” Even with all the things he’d seen, Riley felt a rush of excitement at the chance to examine a dragon. “It’s dead, but we’d like to dissect it and see how it works.”
Her face conveyed her disgust at the idea. “Take it, it’s yours. And, damn, get a hobby.”
“Can’t.” Grinning, he stepped past her on his way outside. “I’ve already got a wife.”
“Keep things covered just in case the soldier boys change their mind.” Faith said to the girls as she walked away.
Inside Angel’s office, she saw that he was lying on the mattress they’d brought downstairs and Buffy was holding his hand. Giles was digging in one of the wounds on Angel’s body and frowning in concentration.
Grimacing, Faith went to sit on the edge of the desk. “Soldier boys are cleaning up.”
“Good. I always hated taking out the trash.” Buffy bit her lip as Angel clamped down on her hand. “Where’s Andrew? Angel needs blood.”
“What about Spike?” The other Slayer looked at where the blonde vampire lay on a second mattress. He was still and paler than usual.
“He’s still out.” There was worry in the gray eyes. “I’m not sure what to do. Angel’s never been out of it like that.”
“If we get some blood into him – pour it down his throat maybe?” A laugh escaped her. “This sure as hell wasn’t part of my training, you know? You want to know how to kill a vamp? That I know how to do.”
“The Council would have a hissy fit.” Buffy laughed with her. “If they were still around, anyway.”
“Did you know Finn’s married?”
“Yeah, I met her last time the Initiative was in Sunnydale. She’s pretty.”
Faith grinned. “And you hate her?”
“Of course. Doesn’t the ex always hate the new girlfriend – wife in this case.” Riley had looked happy and that made Buffy feel good. She could admit now that she’d never really loved him. “Sam’s good for him, and she’s nice. Which of course, means I hate her that much more.”
“Got it!” Giles held up a bloody spearhead. “Damn thing thought it could outsmart me.”
“Giles… it’s a piece of metal.” Buffy turned away from the bloody thing he was holding up. “Just get rid of it.”
“Sorry, got a bit carried away.” He tossed it into the trashcan. “Damn thing was lodged quite firmly in a rib.”
Willow was stanching the flow of blood with a clean rag, her face paler than usual. The blood reminded her too much of Tara’s gushing out over her hands as she held her.
“I have returned! Victorious!” Andrew held up a large sack as he walked into the office. “It seems that the innocuous neighborhood deli is in fact a front for a dealer of human blood. Perhaps we should deal with them before we leave this den of inequity.”
“Ixnay, they’re on our side. They buy it from a company that gets the outdated blood from hospitals.” Faith pulled a bag of blood from the sack. “It helps cut down on the human casualties.”
“I don’t think that means they’re on our side.” Andrew turned away from the sight of blood. “However, I suppose we must sometimes tolerate those who operate on the fringes of right.”
“Let me get these last few bone fragments – “ Giles poured whiskey into the gaping wound with one hand, teasing out the last few slivers of bone with the other. “ – and we’ll sew him up.”
“Won’t his skin heal up around the stitches?” Buffy chewed on her lip. “Won’t that be worse?”
“We’ll be able to remove the stitches once the skin begins to heal back together.”
Angel arched up and growled as the whiskey burned the raw flesh. He squeezed Buffy’s hand and she winced both at the pain and the amount of blood pouring out of the hole in Angel’s side.
“I need some air.” Willow stood up abruptly. She’d had all the blood she could handle for one day.
They watched her walk out, her step unsteady and her skin nearly as pale as any vampire. Xander followed after her, putting an arm around her waist for support.
“Come on – “ Faith brushed past Andrew. “The kitchen’s this way.”
“We have to cook it?” Grimacing, he followed her. “I thought they drank it au natural.”
“Won’t his skin heal up around the stitches?” Buffy chewed on her lip. “Won’t that be worse?”
Giles washed his hands off in one of the basins of hot water that had been brought in. “Buffy, I’m not sure what we can do for Spike. The Council would have information on how a vampire recovers from a wound this severe, however – “
“They’re gone. I know.” She looked to where Spike lay. “We know they can recover. He was in a wheelchair for awhile after the organ fell on him, and eventually he was able to walk again.”
“Get some blood down him.” Angel shifted around to where he could see Spike, ignoring the pain from his wounds. “His body will use it to heal him.”
“How exactly do we do that with him out?” Too bad there wasn’t a hospital for vampires. Buffy shook her head as she realized what she was thinking.
Faith came back carrying a tray with a pitcher and two large mugs. “It’s nice and hot. Hopefully not too hot, we kinda had to guess at it.”
Moving behind Angel, Buffy helped him to sit up, letting him lean against her for support. “A burned tongue is the least of his worries.”
The scent of warm blood teased him as Faith set the tray on the desk and poured blood into one of the mugs. His game face slid out from behind his human face and his nostrils flared to pick up more of the sweet scent.
“Whoa…” Faith held the mug out to him. She’d seen Angel in game face, but it was always a surprise somehow.
“Sorry.” Taking the mug, he lifted it to his mouth and gulped the blood down. It was too hot, but a scalded tongue was nothing compared to some of the holes in his body. His side burned where Giles had dug the spearhead out. Surgery didn’t appear to be one of the man’s skills.
“What about Spike?” The other Slayer sat down next to the unconscious vampire.
“Angel said we need to get some blood down him.” Buffy put a hand under the mug to help support it in Angel’s shaking grasp. “Any ideas how?”
“Xander’s probably got a funnel.” Faith joked. When they looked at her, her smile faded. “I was kidding.”