The casualties were enormous. So many lying dead in the alleyway, their lives ended far too soon. It would take one hell of an effort to clean this up. At least four hundred slayers still stood. Gunn's body had been taken into an alley out of the way so he could be tended to properly. Angel was not sure who had done it, but the gesture was appreciated. The few hundred survivors were battered and bruised, some hanging on by a thread. The smell of death and fresh blood permeated the air. Both scents were a distraction Angel could not afford tonight. The Hyperion was just a short distance away and he knew what he had to do.
"Let's start bringing those that need help to the Hyperion and set up a triage there. We emptied it of first aid supplies but there should at least be clean linens there to use as bandages."
"I'll get first aid supplies," Illyria said.
"Good. You know what we're looking for?"
"Things to stop a human from dying."
"That about sums it up," Angel said, his voice low. The girls were slayers but they were still human and could only take so much damage.
His eyes searched the darkness frantically for the one slayer he had done everything in his power to ensure survived this battle. He would not let her die because of him. She was a short distance away from him, an arm around an injured slayer she helped walk. Hazel eyes met brown and the look of concern on her face was replaced with relief, reflected he was sure in his own.
"I don't know what to say," he said when he met up with her. Someone else had taken the injured slayer off her hands.
"There's nothing to say. You needed me."
"I'll always need you."
"Me, too," she whispered.
He placed a hand against the side of her face gently, his fingers pushing back her hair. "Are you hurt?" he asked.
"No, I'm fine, ready to go another few rounds."
"Bite your tongue," he quipped though not entirely kidding. "I thought you weren't coming. I thought you didn't trust me anymore and that it would just be the four of us."
She laughed and shook her head, cupping his cheek with his hand. "I told you once when you asked me if I was still your girl that I always would be. I told you after Mom died that I needed you forever. I told you when you brought the amulet that I thought about it sometimes. Nothing's changed, Angel. I'd never turn my back on you when you needed me."
He watched as she scanned the aftermath and his heart went out to her. These girls had come to help him at her request. She must have gone against Giles' wishes and come here anyway. It was still not clear to him how she knew.
"Hey, it was about time I was timely for you instead of the other way around."
"A guy's got to feel useful," he said as he placed an arm around her and led her toward the Hyperion.
"Is it what you expected?"
"No," Angel said. "I thought we were going to die."
"Even when you saw us?"
"I thought things were looking up." He wanted to ask her if she remembered. If it had all been some sort of dream. The last thing he remembered was leaving LA bringing a much younger, much less experienced and hardened Buffy to Sunnydale.
"It's just like I pictured it," she whispered.
"This place, the hotel. It's how I knew where to find you. How did I know where to find you?"
"I don't know. Maybe in a dream we shared I showed it to you." He wanted to tell her the truth, but knew if she did not remember it was for a reason. He had not been able to alter the major things. He had not been able to stop them from making love and losing his soul. He still left Sunnydale after the mayor had been defeated. He still had failed to be there for her when she needed him most and he had come home from Pylea grateful to be back safely to find Willow there. He had not been able to stop her from dating Finn or Spike.
He had managed to stay in touch better this time around. He had not shut her out of his life as he had the first time. He had left Sunnydale and closed the book on his life with Buffy the first time. He did not want to do that this time, he wanted to remember and cherish what they had. It was the only chance he had at true love and he did not want to forget.
He realized as he looked at her that he would not want her any other way. He would not know who Buffy was if she had not dealt with the things she had to deal with. They had taken a different road but were in the place they were supposed to be.
"Angel, Buffy, we could use a hand in here," Spike called out from the hotel.
"So, what's on the schedule for tomorrow?" she asked, sliding her hand into his.
"I don't know, I think I'm done fighting for a while."
"Glad to hear it. I kind of hung up the slayer gloves."
"I heard." She blushed slightly and Angel leaned down to kiss her. "What did you have in mind?"
"I don't know. We've got our work cut out for us here. But after that."
"I was thinking we could get coffee or something."
"Yeah, you know, like normal people."
"Coffee sounds good. And Buffy?"
"Yeah," she said, drawing away from him to check on the injured slayers.
"You're welcome," she said and began to take command in the Hyperion's lobby.
Angel closed his eyes before joining her in helping with the wounded. He had lost his connection to The Powers That Be but he could not help but feel that they would be pleased. Their champions, all three of them, were fighting like they were supposed to be. Together.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com