Part 15

 

Angelus prowled the corridors, tracking a noise he’d heard a few minutes previously. Walking stealthily through the building, he grinned and moved silently behind Wesley.

 

“Angelus, I take it?” Wesley asked without turning.

 

How did the guy know he was there?

 

“Jeez, is no one surprised to see me?” Angelus complained.

 

Wesley smiled faintly. “Well, I suppose you could say it was my idea that helped Spike bring you back.”

 

They had worked together to banish Angel and bring him back? It appeared that his childe had spoken the truth; he had indeed planned to exile the soul. This changed everything… Spike was an ally. He felt a rising warmth towards his childe and the return of the old affection. Jesus this could be real fun, if they could just deal with that soul. He was more determined than ever to help his afflicted childe.

 

“And here you are,” Wesley continued.

 

The human’s casual indifference was irritating. Why the hell wasn’t he screaming in terror?

 

“Suddenly everyone wants me back. I’m overwhelmed. And you think that will stop me killing you? I ought to tell you, kind of peckish here.”

 

Still not a flicker of fear crossed his face.

 

“You will not harm my human.”

 

He whirled around, to find Illyria static in the corner, poised like a mime artist with one arm stretched in front of her face. Oh well, she made a pretty effective deterrent if he’d had any intention of harming the man. With a thoughtful expression, he studied her motionless face. Maybe it was his imagination, but she appeared a little pale, her eyes less than their usual startling mixture of electric and ice.

 

Suddenly she doubled over clutching herself, her eyes became whirling pools of confusion.

 

Then she disappeared.

 

Each passing hour she was becoming more irrational, and what the hell was it with her and humans? She had made it clear that she cared nothing for any of them. Except she did show these odd flashes of something for Wesley. And now that he thought about it, she had begun to look at Spike as though he were actually visible. But this latest vanishing was odd. She hadn’t expected to slip away, of that he was certain. Suddenly her earlier appearance and puzzling words, made a kind of sense. He was positive he knew where she had gone from here, and that it wasn’t Karlsson she’d been trying to protect when she’d appeared earlier. It seemed that temporal disorder was another symptom of the coming explosion.

 

Wesley had grown accustomed to her sudden comings and goings, and remained outwardly unmoved by her disappearance, neither did he seem to feel the loss of his protector. He had no intention of being dependent on the whims of a precocious god, and had been taking his own defensive precautions.

 

“Yes well, perhaps I can offer you a glass of water first?”

 

“Not the liquid I was thinking of,” Angelus explained patiently.

 

“Quite.” Wesley was already reaching across, picking up his glass. “Oops. I do beg your pardon,” he apologised as water slopped onto Angelus’ skin.

 

“What the…?”

 

Snatching back his blistered hand, he grabbed at a decanter, slopping it over his burning skin. Dammit, that was his favourite single blend malt he’d just poured away.

.

“Oh my. The water appears to have an unfortunate effect on you. And I have to admit, I’ve been drinking it all day. I suppose that means my blood is also unpalatable?” Wesley queried.

 

A small growl escaped the vampire. He wouldn’t be looking quite so smug later.

 

“Huh, clever. You’re right, I can’t drink you, could still break your neck….”

 

“True. Spike would never forgive you though.”

 

“As it happens, I don’t want to kill you, Wes,” he continued sweetly.

 

The human stepped back uncertainly.

 

“I ought to find that reassuring, however, I find myself strangely apprehensive.”

 

Angelus nodded his understanding.

 

“Ever since the evening with that Predictor, you’ve known how it would end.”

 

“What do you mean?” he asked.

 

But the seemingly prescient vampire had put his finger on the truth; Wesley had known for a while.

 

Angelus didn’t answer the question, as though sensing it was rhetorical.

 

“You need to trace Illyria.”

 

The change in topic threw him for a moment.

 

“What? Why? I mean, how?”

 

“She’s leaking some sort of trail. A human body wasn’t meant to contain such power. You need a low emanation scanner.” Whatever the hell that was.

 

Wesley’s face couldn’t hide his interest or concern.

 

“How did you get this information?”

 

Unwilling to rouse the man’s suspicions by mentioning Eve, he merely replied, “I have my methods. Just do it, Wes.”

 

Wesley knew his obsession was unhealthy, he should have grieved and let go. Instead he clung to this last remnant of Fred as a drowning man clings to the wreck of his ship. True, Illyria was unpredictable and dangerous, but the thought of losing this one last connection to his Fred was more than he could bear.

 

He quickly made his way to the lab, it was coldly soulless without her presence, but a sense of focus kept him away from his usual maudlin musings. He opened a program and located a small blob against the building schematic. If Angelus was right, and this was her readout, then it appeared she was outside the room where she normally trained with Spike, and leaking an immense amount of power, judging by the strength of the signal.

 

He needed to obtain a readout to discover the scale of the problem. He quickly tapped in a command, and felt himself go cold. Immediately he began checking the equipment and the connections. True he had a signal, but it couldn’t possibly be correct.

 

Another half hour and he still couldn’t find anything obviously wrong.

 

“Oh bloody hell…”

 

He stared at the reading that grew higher as he watched.

 

“What is it?”

 

Wesley nearly jumped out of his skin and wondered how long Angelus had been watching him.

 

“If these reading are correct…” He frowned as he made some mental calculations.

 

“Yes?” Angelus prompted impatiently.

 

“No, this must be wrong.”

 

“Share with me, Wes.”

 

“I, uh…. She’s overloading. It seems that the fusion between her demon essence and her host's body is deteriorating rapidly.”

 

“She’s a walking time bomb. Is that what you’ve discovered?”

 

Wesley went white and nodded.

 

“So you know what your role is in the coming battle?”

 

There was no answer, but, by the look on his face, Angelus was satisfied he’d got the point. Jeez, anyone could see that the man had a death wish; you’d have thought he’d be celebrating.

 

“How long have we got?”

 

“I… I can’t say. I need some parameters. I don’t know the tolerances of her body.”

 

Angelus remembered Eve’s comment.

 

“I guess, we’re looking nuclear. How long before she reaches that point?”

 

“At this rate, she can’t possibly last more than two hours.”

 

This was working out too perfectly. Soon they would be back under surveillance and he could play protagonist in this little play. He sat back in a chair, hands linked behind his head.

 

“So hey, Wes, tell me why did you and Spike want me back, breaking up your cosy party? Were you punishing Angel because he wanted Spike and not you?”

 

Wesley’s thoughts were elsewhere, he had many things to fear, and Angelus was now the least of them.

 

“To be truthful I can’t really say that I wanted you back, but Spike asked a question and I answered. Suddenly, here you are.”

 

“Huh. Last time we met, you were crapping yourself. When did you grow a pair? Not that I’m criticising, they look good on you. Hell. If Spike weren’t the jealous type, I swear I’d….”

 

He noted that Wesley’s gaze was focused behind him and caught the scent of his childe, “Hey Spike, no harm, just catching up with my pal Wes.”

 

“Yeah? Why would I be jealous?” Spike meant it as a sneer and was horrified when instead it sounded accusatory.

 

“Aw come on, don’t be coy. Or are you just shy in front of Wesley? No need is there, Wes? He was just telling me,” Angelus ran a hand down the side of Wesley’s face, “how attractive he found me.”

 

“Leave him alone, yeah?”

 

Angelus grinned.

 

“What did I tell you, jealous,” he said in a stage whisper as an aside to Wesley. “Sorry, I know how horny you’ve been since losing the stick insect, and I’d love to help, but you see how things are.”

 

The atmosphere turned icy.

 

“Don’t mention her. Don’t even think of her.”

 

“But why not? Angel used to think such a lot of her. Especially at bedtime, he used to think a helluva a lot of her…”

 

Spike knew exactly what Angelus was doing, used to use the same tactics himself.

 

“Enough!”

 

“Don’t you just love it when he’s all manly?”  The dark vampire grinned as though joking, but there was no joke in the smouldering eyes.

 

“Ok. Enough with the distractions, we’re on countdown here. Another minute and all eyes will be on us once more.”

 

Angelus could feel the tension building as they all watched the sweeping hand of the clock.

 

“Right, we’re on.” Spike said.

 

“On what?” Eve’s voice sounded from near the door.

 

“Now the fun starts! Hi Eve, I was just thinking of you. And lookie here, the whole fang gang. Hello, Muffin.” He sniffed ostentatiously at Lorne’s neck.

 

The over red lips smiled nervously. “I’m no muffin, believe me. I taste like road kill.” He pulled a face as he realised a vampire wouldn’t necessarily find that repellent. “Ten day old road kill.” He clarified. Yeuck.”

 

“And Charles, great to see you! Loved the stunt you pulled on Fred, Truly, it was worthy of… well, me actually.”

 

Gunn shifted uncomfortably, but his words showed his old defiance, and dark eyes burnt with loathing.

 

“Back off, Bloodsucker.”

 

“Hell, that’s pathetic! You think it’s an insult? It’s a description Gunn, or are you too stupid to get that. How Angel ever managed to work with such a shit-for-brains is beyond me,”

 

Gunn drew a stake from the waistband of his pants, “I’ll show you stupid!”

 

It was Spike who grabbed his arm, putting the other hand to Angel’s chest.

 

“No, you won’t actually. Put the bloody thing down, and  you, stop behaving like a pillock.”

 

Angelus smirked to see Spike taking his side.

 

Wesley noticed his self-satisfied smile.

 

“I think the pillock remark was directed at you, actually.”

 

“Oh.” He shook Spike off in irritation, only to have his arm caught by Eve, who pulled him aside and pressed a scrap of paper into his hand.

 

“The spell, as promised. So tell me, what do you plan to do with it?”

 

“Does it matter?”

 

“I guess not.”

 

“It will work no matter where and how we use it?”

 

“Yes. He just has to say these words. It will take a couple of minutes you understand, we take his soul, make sure there’ve been no tricks and then we seal the deal.”

 

“No backing out once the words have been said? Both parties bound?”

 

“We’ll make this one watertight.”

 

“Thanks. Great job.”

 

Eve gave a slight smile.

 

“So, you wanted to talk about re-negotiating your terms of employment with Wolfram & Hart?”

 

“That’s right. I want a direct link to the Senior Partners.”

 

“Sorry. Not possible.”

 

“I think it is.”

 

Eve gave her supercilious smile, and ignored him, turning to say something to the others, and was therefore, taken unawares as fangs sank into her neck, and Angelus drained her power away.

 

The others stared in shock, and Spike finally understood how he’d cocked up.

 

He’d trusted his Sire.

 

He cursed himself for his blind stupidity. The betrayal bit deep, tore away a chunk of who he was, leaving behind an ugly, gaping wound. It felt like the kind of wound a person such as himself could sicken and die from.

 

Eve’s body sank to the floor, and Angelus’ newly forged connection, channelled hideous screams of outrage as his body fed on the well of strength her blood had given him access to. He thought he’d known invulnerability, but until that moment he’d been a puling infant trying to take on adults. He smiled across at Spike, and in the blood and flesh hanging from his fangs, Spike saw all he’d work for dissolve to nothing. This was the end. He was all out of plans and they were as good as defeated.

 

“You hate me that much?” he asked Angelus.

 

His words were flat and empty. No posturing and no bravado, just pure Will, as pure as winter sun, eyes reflecting distant crystal blue skies, voice threaded with frost, as winter crept into his soul.

 

“The battle was coming Will, we both know it. All I’ve done is timed it to our advantage. Nothing’s changed, we’re still on the same side.”

 

Spike had lost the reins, events were careening out of his control, his destiny in the hands of someone else.

 

“It’s ok. All’s safe in my hands. There’s a happy ending in sight, well not for the Circle or the Senior Partners, but for me and you….  I’m here, charging to the rescue, remember?”

 

Spike stared down at Eve, she seemed to be looking back desperately trying to convey something, but gradually those speaking eyes lost focus, became glassy and spoke no more, her shock at discovering she was not immortal was frozen forever, deep within those eyes. She died and Spike realised that once again all choice had been ripped from him.

 

“We’ll have to fight, and soon.”

 

“Uh huh. Should suit your temperament, fists and fangs, backs against the wall. Your sort of fun, no?”

 

Spike realised that Angelus was attempting to pick him up, motivate him for the coming battle, and was touched how well his Sire knew him. He came alive when the odds were stacked against him. This was the fight he’d sought all his life, in every alleyway and every bar, with every mob and each invincible demon, all had been forerunners for this moment.

 

The building began to grumble in response to Eve’s passing. The humans began to back away and look around nervously.

 

“My sort of fun,” Spike agreed with a tight smile and when Angelus slapped him on the back in approval he felt a jolt of the power that his Sire had stolen crackle through him. His eyes narrowed as he shot a glance at Angelus, who grinned back gleefully.

 

“We’re going to win, Spike.”

 

For a moment Spike could almost believe it.

 

The grumbling became louder, tremors ran through the floors, and the walls shuddered.

 

“We have to go. Now!” Wesley shouted above the noise, grabbing Lorne by the arm and dragging him towards the doors. Gunn was following, and not before time, as the overhead walkway began to creak ominously.

 

“Where to?” Spike asked.

 

“There’s something I have to do, I’ll meet you later.” Angelus explained.

 

“The Hyperion,” Wesley shouted. “We still have our weapons there.”

 

Angelus nodded.

 

“Okay.”

 

The vampires exchanged looks and then flew towards the doors, arms flung over their heads to shield themselves from tumbling masonry.

 

“Oh Christ! The barrier we put in place to keep you in….” Spike looked up in distress at having forgotten such a thing.

 

“It’s been gone for ages,” Angelus replied, and sauntered through the doors.

 

By the time Spike had joined the others outside, Angelus had used all his new strength and speed, to disappear faster even than Spike’s eyes could follow.

 

He was reeling, felt almost giddy. Angelus could have left earlier, gone hunting, caused havoc, but instead had stayed to help. The winter that had settled bleakly into his soul with Angelus’ betrayal and the death of Eve, began to thaw and melt.

 

He turned to face the others.

 

“He said we could survive this.”

 

But Gunn was looking for atonement, and death was written on his face.

 

Wesley already knew his role and accepted it, not because he wanted to die, but because he could see no other way to end this. He remembered that evening so long ago, Fred had been flattered at being called a god, and concerned for his own prediction.  The suicide bomber. He looked sadly at Illyria, she had lost her centre of balance, the calmness had gone, and her eyes were wild. She looked like a wounded animal. His heart grieved for her, this creature who was out of place and out of time.

 

Lorne hardly knew what was happening, everything was moving apace in a world of violence and betrayal that he had no wish to understand. 

 

“No, he actually said that you and he would survive it.”

 

That was true, but Spike was dogged in his determination.

 

“I’ll be dust before I lose a single one of you.”

 

“Hardly comforting, Honeypie.”

 

Meanwhile, Angelus had reached his destination travelling faster than the news of Eve’s death. He was therefore invited in, and although Sebassis was guarded, it was no more than his usual personal bodyguards, rather than armies bristling with weapons.

 

“Angelus! I was wondering when I might see you. Please sit. Would you care for a drink.”

 

He held out an ornate glass and a weak looking slave uncorked a vein and drew his own lifeblood for his Prince’s pleasure. The slave raised weary eyes to the vampire, awaiting his decision.

 

“Sure. Why not.”

 

If it tasted good he might feed well before leaving.

 

A glass of green liquid was brought to him and he sipped at it delicately. It didn’t have the sustenance of human blood, but it had a kick all of its own. Almost like a drug it imbued a sense of power. Not something he needed, he was swimming in real power.

 

“Hmmm. You taste good,” he told the slave and licked his lips deliberately.

 

The slave moved back to his master and Sebassis stroked his horns comfortingly. Angelus watched this interplay with interest.

 

“Who is he? One of your enemies or just a household slave?”

 

Sebassis smiled. “This is my sibling’s son.”

 

“Ah.”

 

“A pretty child once, but he was wild with ambition. He thought he could usurp me. I broke him of that idea and now his only ambition is to please me.” The stroking continued, the slave leaned into the touch although his face remained impassive. “Maybe you could take some lessons from me in how to treat your childe.”

 

Angelus looked thoughtful as though considering it, and then shook his head.

 

“Spike is different to that… thing.” He didn’t even try to hide his contempt of Sebassis’ nephew. “I made my childe strong. I’m beginning to think he’s unbreakable.”

 

“Really? Maybe I was about to back the wrong vampire, because you are, oh, so breakable.”

 

There was a threat in the words. The surrounding guards moved hands to the haft of their weapons. Angelus felt like he could blow them away with the gust of a breath. It was time to end this charade.

 

“You are so far behind current news, it’s almost sad.”

 

He rose to his feet. Weapons drew around him in response. Sebassis was looking at him in amusement, so secure in his own castle that even the easy confidence of the threatening vampire could not shake him.

 

“You’re dead with a word, Vampire”

 

“No more words then, hey?”

 

The guards didn’t even see it happen, as far as they were aware Angelus never moved, but suddenly there was their Prince, his throat slit from ear to ear.

 

In seconds the throne room was a mass of carnage, green blood smeared the walls and pooled on marble tiles. Only the cowering puny slave was left to survey the scene of devastation as the dark figure strode through the palace killing all he could find.

 

Huh, so this was where Bubba had been hiding out. He discovered that not even the Prince’s patronage could save him from this engine of death that stalked the palace. Angelus left the one witness to tell the story, it was a tale that needed no embellishment, but he could trust the slave to try anyway. All to the good, he wanted every single demon they could muster to appear on the battlefield. He turned to the slave and deliberately emptied his glass of blood on the floor.

 

“I lied. You taste like shit.”

 

He was amused to notice that this verdict seemed to bring the demon more pain than watching the horrific slaughter of the household. On that note he strolled back to the Hyperion.

 

Entering the hotel, he noticed there was some sort of disagreement bubbling away.

 

“Angel.”

 

Angelus almost smiled at the name. In moments of stress they fell into old patterns. He graciously became Angel for them. He needed them for the battle, afterwards would be a different story altogether….

 

“What is it, Wes?”

 

Illyria recognised this place. The alleyway behind the Hyperion is where we face Hell….”

 

“And I think we should run. If we’re not here then it can’t happen, right?” Lorne asked.

 

“You of all people know better than that. You can’t hide from destiny, Lorne.”

 

“Peaches? Why are you covered in green… blood?”

 

Angelus’ smile jolted everyone’s memory as to who they were dealing with.

 

“Sebassis and his retinue are dead.”

 

They looked at him in slack-jawed shock, and he preened under the attention.

 

“Ok. Time to choose our weapons. Even now the legions will be gathering. Come on guys, buckle up.”

 

There came a flurry of activity as they dragged out chests and chose their weapons.

 

Illyria?” Angelus asked. “You could end this, destroy them, burn away our enemies like dry grass.”

 

“I could.” Although she doubted it, her strength veered wildly and shot forth unexpectedly, it took all her concentration just to stay in this place and this time. “But I care not. This is not my battle.”

 

“So you will watch as they tear him to pieces, you will listen as his screams of pain screech through you.”

 

“I cannot….” Then suddenly stopped. They were words she had never used before, they tasted strangely on her tongue and mixed with emotions that one as invulnerable as she was never meant to feel.

 

“Have I been infected?  Is humanity an infection?”  She automatically looked towards Wesley for answers.

 

He thought that Illyria had been talking of feelings for Spike, and gestured towards him.

 

“You’ve spent time with him, you allowed yourself to learn his ways.  Now you find you care.”  Wesley replied.

 

“I care nothing for the half-breed. No. But he is my pet.  He belongs to Illyria.”

 

She turned to one side and froze, moving not a muscle, not a twitch.  Her eyes stared, unblinking, yet sharply focused on things beyond their knowledge or comprehension.  

 

She replayed all that she had experienced, and observed what she had become - a weak, corrupted version of herself. Her face almost crumpled in grief.

 

It horrified her.  How could this happen?  To be so degraded. 

 

Were these filthy emotions truly within Illyria’s perfection, or was it memories from the shell clouding her judgement?  She’d so blithely called on the dead girl’s memories as she’d tried to make sense of this alien world. She realised now she’d made a mistake.  She had been infected.  The awful truth occurred to her that she cared about these beings; the haunted one, her little pet, the beautiful, black-skinned one, the half-breed warrior and even the green demon.  Her face twisted in rage as she screamed out denial.

 

She would destroy them all.  Wipe them all away before it came to this.  A flash of an image entered her head, she saw herself weeping real tears over a dead, cold, corpse.  And realised it was too late.  It might sicken her, but somehow she was bound to these insects by an odd affection.

 

She returned to the people she had claimed, and found it ironic that now that she had the will, she no longer had the power to save herself or her people. It was the final humiliation of this ill-fated leaving of the Deeper Well.

 

oooo

 

They shivered as rain lashed around them, running in rivulets down their faces; wide-eyed with disbelief they gazed through the tear in the world to the hell beyond, and the army amassed against them.

 

“Angelus? You going to share your plan with me now?” Spike asked, without taking his eyes off the hoards before him.

 

“I’ll tell you part of it. Illyria is dying.”

 

“What! You’re wrong, Peaches. God. Remember?”

 

“The shell is too weak for that power. Wesley’s confirmed it. She’s leaking power and very soon it will explode from her, by all accounts taking half a continent with her.”

 

“Ok…I can see that will deal with the army, also us, and most of America…. Shit. This is your plan?”

 

“She’s going to be the other side of the portal, and you’re going to shut it behind her.”

 

“Angelus! Are you insane, I don’t know how….”

 

“It’s ok. It’s going to be ok.”

 

He pressed a slip of paper into Spike’s hand.

 

“What’s this?”

 

“Say the words, give it a minute or two and the portal shuts. It’s powerful, Spike. Nothing can prevent it closing once you’ve said the words.”

 

“Ok…. Why can’t you say them? You like using magic, and love taking the bleedin’ glory, would have thought destroying hell would add nicely to your rep.”

 

“Yes, well… there’s a cost associated with it and I don’t have the readies.”

 

Spike examined his bright eyes and shifty look.

 

“Price?”

 

“Uh huh. You close the portal, probably save the world but lose your soul.”

 

“Oh.”

 

He felt numb. The one good thing he had done as a demon. His soul. His precious prize.

 

“Oh,” he repeated.

 

“It’s for the best, Childe. This is no way for a vampire to live.”

 

“I….”

 

He could say nothing. Silently he sent up a small prayer, knowing this would be the last time he would have that connection, the last time he would be recognised by the Power, by God, whatever you named it. After today he would be just another nameless demon, living without that light of benevolence shining upon him.

 

“It will all be better afterwards, Will. You’ll see. Me and you against the world.”

 

“Yeah. Afterwards.”

 

Gunn looked at the demons that confronted him and grinned, he was a warrior born and bred, raised on the streets of LA, streets that could make hell look like a walk in the park. He wore the look of a man prepared to die, a berserker with nothing left to lose.

 

This meant something to him. It was his sacrifice and possible redemption for the betrayal of Fred.

 

“Whoa, man! All this just for us?”

 

He laughed and hefted his axe, anticipation sharper than the edge of its blade.

 

Lorne wasn’t a warrior, he’d abandoned his world to escape battles and casual death. No hero, just a lounge room singer. He weighed the unfamiliar sword in his hand, which was almost too heavy to wield, and wondered if he could shatter them like glass with a perfectly pitched upper C#. It was all he was good for.

 

Angelus considered his childe, he was staring blankly at the piece of paper, and Angelus knew he would play his allotted part in this drama. He turned his eyes to the other key player, watching as Illyria convulsed. Her instability was the reason he had chosen this moment for the fight, and her time was close now. He caught Wesley’s eye and the human nodded back.

 

He eyed the distance to the portal.

 

Illyria?”

 

She merely looked up from her crouched position.

 

“You’re too strong for this human body.”

 

“Tell me something I do not know, Human.”

 

“Which world is it, Illyria? Your power will explode across the land killing everything in its path. You can kill us all, or you can save us.”

 

“I care not.” The untruth rang hollow here at the end of things.

 

Wesley said nothing more, but made his way across the expanse of land to where the portal displayed his final resting place.

 

“Where do you go? Human?”

 

She painfully staggered to her feet and followed him.

 

“Human, stop! I command you… I ask you… Wesley?”

 

He whipped around to see Fred’s face staring back at him. He stared in wonder, tears stood unshed in his eyes.

 

“Fred?”

 

“Don’t leave me, my love.”

 

“Oh God! Fred…. I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” He ran to her and pulled her close. “We have to do this.”

 

The face was flickering insanely between Fred and Illyria, and he could hardly bear to watch, yet at the same time devoured the image, each time Fred stared back at him.

 

“Angelus! Spike!”

 

Yet another voice rang out and all eyes turned to this new player.

 

“Cyvus,” Spike muttered, “Of course, I was just wondering how things could get any fucking worse.”

 

“You made a mistake, Spike. Of all the Circle members to dupe, you really chose the wrong one.”

 

 Angelus was moving away from Spike as though disassociating himself from his wrong doings, and out of the range of retribution. In fact he was circling closer to the sorcerer.

 

Cyvus smiled. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten you either, Angelus. We know what you did to Sebassis. Bubba and Brucker. I have a surprise for you, Vampire.”

 

Angelus could feel walls closing in around him, and made a furious leap for Vail. But with a gesture of a stick thin arm he found even his newly acquired power could not prevail, he was held in mid air. Cyvus was muttering some words and a flash of gold light appeared in the vampire’s eyes.

 

“Something you mislaid. I return to you.”

 

He smiled benevolently as Angel dropped to the ground with a crash. Bathed in confusion, the vampire hid his soulful eyes in his hands.

 

Well at least one of his plans had worked. Spike felt like laughing crazily but knew it was the type of hysteria that would end in heaving sobs at the stupid bloody irony of what he was about to do. Would they call him a hero afterwards? Or just a fool? Maybe the two were synonymous; you have to be a fool to be a hero. He drew his gaze from Angel and cast his eyes towards the widening rift.

 

He knew what he had to do. Whether Illyria stepped through or not, the portal had to be closed. He couldn’t afford the price, it was unfair that he should be the one to pay it, but what else could he do? One person, one soul, what the fuck did it matter in the scheme of things.

 

He glanced back at Angel who crouched in the mud of the alley, his hair plastered to his scalp by the rain. It brought back memories of showers and waking in the morning to Angel running fingers through the dark strands, embarrassed at being seen like that. Spike smiled, that flattened morning look was usually just for him. He found it kind of endearing.

 

Satisfied that Angel was suffering, Cyvus turned his attention to Spike.

 

“What are you muttering, Will? Are you gibbering in fear… because I tell you, well you might.”

 

Spike continued his chant and then with a smile he dropped a scrap of paper to the ground.

 

“Cyvus. Good to see you again, Mate.”

 

Cyvus could feel the air tingling around him.

 

“You’ve worked magic? What have you done?”

 

“If you want to switch to the winning side, now’s the time.”

 

“You believe you are going to win? Against them?” He gestured to the widening portal and began to laugh.

 

Meanwhile, Angel slowly came to himself, remembered where he was and what he was doing.

 

The army was beginning to pour into their world. Wesley and Illyria were struggling to make their way through. He heart bled for them. Angelus’ plan had been cruel and amoral and necessary. He took up the strands of the plan, and began weaving them together into a rope strong enough to strangle the Senior Partners. Maybe not kill them, but perhaps leave them reeling and gasping.

 

Then he stilled, suddenly recalling Spike’s role in the plan and glanced up… to see that lethal piece of paper, used and soggy in the puddles of rain

 

Spike wondered what Angel would do. Protect him? Guide him? Be his soul for him?

 

He felt it leave with a crack and a whoosh. It was different to Angel’s drawn out agony. There was no point fighting, it was being taken with his consent. A light disappeared from his eyes.

 

“No!”

 

Angel’s cry was lost in the squalling wind and the rhythm of rain falling like tears in the night as though mourning the soul’s passing.

 

That was it. His precious, hard won soul was gone.

 

It left him with a feeling of emptiness. He didn’t feel liberated or even particularly evil. He felt bereft. Automatically he turned towards Angel for support and in that split second saw a reaction he’d never considered.

 

Horror and rejection.

 

He could almost see Angel’s thought’s playing out like a flickering Fellini film on a cinema screen. Soulless. Evil. Beneath me.

 

He became aware of the alleyway being invaded, but the portal was becoming hazy around the edges. Cyvus finally realised the purpose of Spike’s magic - closing the portal before it had discharged Sebassis’ legions upon them. He turned his immense power towards maintaining it.

 

Illyria’s hands clutched frantically at her head, and Wesley was half lifting her, helping her towards their destination. Then suddenly he was struck down.

 

Angel gave a shout and watched in horror as his soulless childe thwarted his plans. Spike had knocked Wesley out and was going to keep Illyria this side of the portal! Struggling to get to them, Angel shouldered his way forward, but the demons were focusing on him. This was the vampire that killed their Prince, this was the one they all wanted to claim a piece of. He was being slashed and bitten and punched.  Forced to defend himself they fell to his wrath, but more appeared, blocking his way to Spike. He was howling and stabbing in frustration.

 

Spike reached for her and tenderly took her hands. She stared out from wide eyes and Illyria faded completely, and all that remained was Fred.

 

“There’s no need for Wesley to die too,” he explained.

 

“I….” She looked towards the portal that was now being held open by the sheer determination of an ancient sorcerer looking to defeat them.

 

“Are you afraid, Luv?”

 

Slowly she nodded. “I’m weakening. I can’t do this alone.”

 

“Here. I’m with you.” He took her hand and she struggled to her feet.

 

She pulled herself tall, and it hardly mattered whether it was Illyria or Fred whose pride held her body straight and head high. Spike smiled at her and her lips twitched in reply, in the wretched misery of the past few weeks she finally knew peace and certainty. Together they stepped through the rushing hoards and into the gaping tear.

 

Wesley watched in horror. Angel wondered that he could have doubted Spike for a second, even soulless he had more humanity than those who should have more right to such a quality.

 

The last image they had was of Illyria, her body drawing in to itself and then blue light screeched from it, piercing through the darkness, illuminating everything like a lightening flash that refused to fade.

 

Keeping the portal open for the armies of hell was beyond him. Vail was pouring all his strength into the thankless task. As Lorne approached, he barely had the power to raise his eyes, never mind a spell. So it was that Lorne raised a blade and took his life.

 

Inside the portal, Spike could no longer hold on to her as blinding power burst from the too weak body. His eyes squinted against the glaring light, one arm thrown up to protect his face from the heat. But his skin was blackening already.

 

The portal shut, and Angel was grateful to be spared the sight of ash floating in a foreign hell dimension. He remembered an old poem that Spike had loved ‘If I should die in some foreign land….” It crossed his mind that there was now a part of hell that would be forever England. 

 

They were momentarily blinded by the absence of that intense light, all was darkness.

 

Gunn and Lorne looked towards the other two who stood with identical expressions of loss etched upon their faces, but they turned away from each other. So many emotions they’d shared in the past, but heart-rending grief was theirs to savour alone.

 

The vanguard of the army was in this world and they still had work to do. Lorne merely stared, whilst Gunn tried to eliminate them single-handedly. The two grieving men picked up their weapons. Misery turned to fury, and fury turned to violence. The look on their faces was enough to make an opponent turn and flee in fear. Angel used the last of his dark power to kill every single one of them.

 

In those last five minutes, when the world went insane, Wesley lost his last connection to Fred, Angel lost Spike, Gunn found no redemption in death and Lorne took his first life.

 

They returned to the Hyperion and released bloody weapons, letting them clang to the floor. They had no words, and went their separate ways to find a distant room, where they could close the door and bury themselves in grief.

 

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