The room was engulfed in darkness as his conscious crept out of the black sea it had lay in for hours on end. Xander's weak, tired eyes opened groggily as the sedative faded slowly away and the pain of his beaten body came surging throughout him. He let out a loud cry as he immediately clutched his cast covered right leg.
"God! Somebody help me!" he screamed and a nurse and doctor immediately ran into the room.
"Calm down, Mr. Harris, calm down," the doctor said gently as the nurse handed her a filled syringe. She calmly punctured his skin with a quick thrust of a thin, silver needle, "There. You're going to be just fine…"
The tranquilizer was strong and its effects came even more quickly than the pain had. Xander's shuddering form fell back down against the bed and his eyes grew weary as the pain receded and before the black came to swallow him whole again, he turned to see a white envelope with his name written in familiar script - Buffy's.
The ivy-walled edifice looked ancient and worn beneath the moonlight and Buffy wondered what it had looked like in its prime. Xander had taken her to look at this mansion once when they walked by it during patrol, said something about it belonging to a Havisham who died a few decades ago. Now, years later, still prevailed by death, it stood representing age and decay.
The huge black gate creaked when she pushed it open and walked in, the gate slamming loudly behind her. As her shoes hit the concrete pavement she wondered if it was all a trick - if Drusilla, Spike, and Angelus would all be there to gang up on her - but she took a deep breath and realized that it would never be like that. Angelus would never *let* it be like that. In his eyes, she was the ultimate killing prize, to be shared by no one and realizing this, Buffy's apprehension grew stronger.
"What do you think she's doing right now?" Cordelia asked glancing at Willow.
"I don't know…I'm not sure I want to know," she replied honestly as she looked up from her book, "I hope that whatever it is, it involves her staying alive."
The redhead looked at her in surprise, "Really?"
"What do you take me for, Willow? The Wicked Witch of the West?" Cordy asked and then paused, "On second thought, don't answer that."
She laughed, "No, of course I don't, it's just that, you've never really liked Buffy."
"Well, I don't," she said, "Sort of…at least, I don't want her to die. She's too important - not to me - but to Xander."
"You really do love him, don't you?"
"Yeah, he's the first guy I *really* cared about. I mean, all the other guys, it was always that they had a car, money, or whatever, but with Xander it was different. He didn't have a car - he had his mom's car - and he didn't have money or a great fashion sense, but for some reason, that didn't matter."
"Are you still - "
Cordelia shook her head softly and smiled as she looked at the magazine on her lap, "No, the reality of Buffy and Xander kind of kicked in." She paused and then glanced at Willow, "But, right now, if the remote impossibility that he would fall in love with me were to occur? I'd stop lying to myself, and everyone else, that I wasn't."
Before Willow could reply, Giles entered the library, "You two should get home and get some sleep."
"Sleep, Giles?" Willow asked, "Not sleeping is why we came here. I couldn't sleep if I tried. On one hand, I'm worried about Xander and on the other hand, I'm worried about Buffy."
"Why is it that we let these two run rampant in our lives?" Cordelia asked returning to her usual demeanor, "Oh…right…I forgot they're our friends. You know, this part of the whole friendship thing, sucks!"
"Agreed," said Giles nodding, "But in consolation, you know that they'll do the same for you."
"Did you decide to come to play, Buffy?" Drusilla asked with her humanoid face.
"Hello, Drusilla," the slayer responded with a stake in hand, "Play…yup, that's the motive."
"Spike, Buffy's come to play," the feminine vampire said as the counterpart rolled into the room.
"But not with you, pet," he responded as he patted the hand that rested on the armrest of his chair.
She pulled her hand away and smiled as she approached the figure in the shadow, "Angelus, can't I have her instead?
"Over Angel's ashes, maybe," Spike muttered as he began rolling away with a sigh.
"Dru, go away," Buffy responded bluntly, "I kind of like to get this over with."
"Dru, go away," he reiterated.
With an angry pout, she did as commanded.
"So, this is it," Buffy said as he walked out of the shadow he had been in, "The end."
"You mean, your end," he replied holding two swords in the air and tossing one at her, "Catch."
She grasp the sword's handle tightly and said, "We'll just see about that. Fair's fair, remember?"
"I wouldn't have it any other way."
The metals clashed loudly, the sound echoing in the large ruined room.
"I see you haven't lost your touch," he said.
Buffy instantly thought of a training session she had with Angel a long time ago that dealt with her putting a sword to his neck and she responded, "And I see you haven't lost yours. Let's just hope that this time, beheading is into play."
"You know what?" he said as tried to jab her side and missed, "Let's just not."
She breathed heavily and remembered when last she heard those very words. Xander. The day before she died. Xander, who was lying in that hospital bed because of Angelus. Xander, who had saved her life and who she had shunned so many times. She broke his heart then as she broke his heart nearly a month ago, but in a month ago's time, she wasn't in control…Angelus was.
Newfound antagonism rose from her as she attacked Angelus and their swords clashed once again. Left…right…her arm swung the sword against his counter attack.
"So how's your boy toy?" he asked snidely as he thrust his sword at her stomach and she jumped back onto a stone bench.
Angelus laughed, "Too bad, figured I left him for dead."
"Enough with the chitchat," she said angrily, "Let's get this over with."
"If you say so, lover," he responded and the tried to ram the sword near her heart.
Buffy moved out of the way and her left arm caught the blade, which seared the fabric of her shirt and the skin beneath. The red blood dripped from the wound and stained the white fabric.
He smelled the air and grin, "Ah, the smell of the sweetest of wines."
She gritted her teeth and tried to ignore the burning sensations that resonated from the deep wound. Taking a deep breath, she glanced at the sword with eyes glazed with hope and gripped its handle tightly.
It began again. The tension was at a high and continued to mount with every passing second until suddenly it happened. First, the cold steel broke into the skin that survived centuries of torment and punctured - tore - the core of vampiric life, so that with a gasp, the demon, Angelus, began to lose his grip on the immortality long obtained.
His eyes widened as he slumped to the floor, and Buffy saw an almost pleading look in his eyes as she withdrew the metal edge from his chest. Time no longer moved. It was frozen and she with it. Standing with blade in hand, she looked deep into eyes that almost looked human - almost looked Angel. Pulling herself together, she swallowed hard and breathed heavily as she rose the glinting weaponry into the air.
With a soft whisper, "Good-bye," the sword fell and the silver steel ripped through the pallid throat. The ashes crashed onto the floor, and the cry of anguish begun seconds earlier, echoed throughout the room. As if proclaiming that evil's destiny was fulfilled.
Exhausted, heavyhearted, she fell to her knees and there was a crash as metal hit cement when she relinquished the damaging weapon from her grasp. Falling upon the last remnants of Angelus, the sword, which bound him to his ultimate death, was covered until there was almost a sheath of ash over it. He was gone. There was nothing left to it but that for all that had been, was not, and Angelus, Angel, and her Angel gone with it.
"She killed him…didn't know she had it in her," Spike said when he saw him crumble into dust.
"So, she dies," Dru said simply as she saw the sun beginning to rise up ahead, "When she least expects it, I will come and I will kill her."
He looked at her resilient expression and sighed before rolling away into the shadows of the archaic structure. Drusilla had always been in love with Angel and for those centuries in which it had only been she and he, she had never left that state of mind and heart. Sadly, he realized that it would always be that way, and that love would mean his Drusilla's end, and therein laid his own fate.