Angel – The Aftermath

Gunn, gone. Lost several minutes into the battle, from a combination of his old wounds, and far too many new ones.

Wesley, gone as well. But he’d taken Vile with him. Every one had accomplished their goals. Everyone had gone in with the knowledge that they weren’t getting out. That had been their decision when they voted ‘go’.

Iliria. Gone, now as well. Along with Fred’s body… Or, rather, what was left of it. But she’d gone down fighting. Literally, as one of the Senior Partner’s vicious, vile dragons swallowed her whole. However, as she apparently suffocated in it’s digestive juices, she managed to use a claw that she’d torn from one of her earlier opponents to rip it’s belly wide open from the inside out. The dragon had dropped dead, but Iliria had never emerged from it’s inert form. Maybe she’d found some modicum of peace. Maybe she never would.

Lorne. Gone, but as far as anyone knew, not dead. Though no one ever hoped to see him again. He would be greatly missed, however, assuming anyone was left standing to miss him.

Lindsey. Gone, taken down by Lorne, of all people. With a gun. The irony would be greatly appreciated by anyone who happened to realize what had happened.

Fred. Gone weeks ago, Iliria, who had eventually become what they might even call an asset, if not a friend, taking her place.

Cordy. Cordelia Chase. Gone even earlier, to the pain and anger of most of her friends. And, later, the understanding of all of them.

Doyle. What could be said about their first soldier down? Loyal. Loving. A truer friend could never be found. “Blessed is he who will lay down his life for a friend”. Isn’t that what they say? If that’s true, then there was probably no demon more blessed than Alan Francis Doyle.

Going down the list was painful. And every time another scream of pain or anger was emitted, be it demon, animal, or vampire, Angel felt a new jolt of rage surge through him. A rage that sent him flying into the battle with new strength.

His sword was long gone, as well as a large hunk of flesh from his side when one of the nastier beasts had managed to get a tooth hold on him. But Spike had saved him… By literally leaping up and ripping the creature’s jaws open, breaking it’s neck in the process.

And he was still fighting, Angel noted out of the corner of his eye as he parried yet another demon’s attack. There seemed to be a never-ending tide of them, pouring out of the sky. It was almost funny, Angel mused. You’d think that a tide of demons would come up from the ground. But the Senior Partners, wherever they were, apparently had a sense of humor. Angel could only imagine what the local news would look like tomorrow.

Taking stock in a moment of relative peace, more to distract himself from the pain of his own wounds than anything else, he looked around. The Hyperion was still standing, but only by pure luck. Most of the other buildings in the area had been almost leveled by the titanic battle taking place in the streets of LA. The ground was littered with corpses, smeared with blood and gore. Dragon. Demon. Human. Vampire dust from the five hundred or so that had accompanied one of the many waves to spill out of whatever that was in the sky. But, for some odd reason, no dust from him. Or Spike, who just finished off the dragon he’d been fighting.

In obvious pain, and without the use of his left arm, Spike limped toward where Angel was now sitting atop the corpse of one of the other dragons. The onslaught from the sky seemed to have stopped. It seemed almost as if the Senior Partners didn’t know what to do with the two vampires who simply refused to die. But Angel knew they weren’t giving up. The Senior Partners were creatures of habit, and great patience. It might be five minutes, or it might be five centuries, but they WOULD come after them again. He knew it.

And at that moment, he swore to himself that he would still be around. And put up as good of a fight as he had today. He blinked. Tonight?

What time WAS it, anyway?

The portal had blocked out the sun. Daylight had broken over all of LA but the five block square area around the Hyperion. The sun had risen, set, risen again, and set again… God, had they really been fighting for over forty-eight hours? Angel tried to look at his watch, but it was gone. Broken or swallowed, or PTB only knew what else might have happened to it. The storm clouds still gathered overhead, as if the sky was ready to belch out another round of warriors, but as Angel and Spike sat silently on the corpse of their fallen enemy, the next attack didn’t come.

And an hour later, while the pair still sat expectantly, the clouds slowly began to roll away. Angel blinked slowly up at the sky. His body still tense, hands clenched on the paw of the dragon who’s belly he sat on, ready to rip the claws out to use as weapons, the vampire regarded the retreating clouds with suspicion. Maybe the next wave wouldn’t come from the sky. He had to be ready.

Spike, on the other hand, opened his mouth to say something for the first time in literally days, but suddenly reeled and coughed up blood, expelling one of his own fangs in the process. Angel’s bleeding and battered hand was on Spike’s back before the older vampire knew what he was doing, and he kept it there as his Childe moaned quietly.

“Don’t let the pain through yet, Spike,” Angel whispered. “If they attack again, and we let the pain through, they win. Just hold out a little longer. I have to know for sure.”

Spike swallowed, then nodded, and his back stiffened under Angel’s touch, causing the older vampire to withdraw his hand and go back to clutching the dragon’s claws. They sat in silence, one staring defiantly at the sky, and the other slowly looking around for any hint of more danger. As the first rays of sunlight began to peek over the horizon, Angel finally let his tired, aching, throbbing body relax. Shifting, he slid down off the dragon’s monstrous belly, and dropped to the ground. He winced at the jolts of pain that shot from various spots on his badly wounded body upon the impact, then reached his hand up to take hold of Spike’s good arm, helping his Childe down from his perch.

Wordlessly, the two headed toward the Hyperion, slipping and staggering through blood slicks and around stinking piles of dragon and demon innards. The courtyard wall had been crushed, but other than that, the Hyperion seemed untouched. A haven in the midst of destruction and death. And it was into this haven that the two vampires dragged their bleeding, abused bodies.

But once they were inside, Angel froze.

That was Fred, behind the desk! And Wesley, walking past inside his old office. Gunn! Over by the weapons closet. And Lorne, laughing about something on his cell phone. Cordelia! Coming toward them! Arms outstretched and… and…

And she passed clean through him. Or disappeared before getting there. All of them vanished as he turned to look directly at them. Fading like the memories they were. The lobby was dusty and dirty after a year of nonuse. No footprints graced the floor, save their own. No sound except the sickening drip of their blood as it leaked from their soaked clothing.

Angel stared for a moment, then, without warning, his legs just stopped working. He fell, and would undoubtedly hit hard, probably hard enough to break a kneecap at the least… But a strong arm wrapped around him. It wasn’t enough to stop his fall, but it was enough to slow it. To slow it just enough that when his supporter sank to the floor beside him, both of them hit with enough control that no bones were broken that hadn’t started that way.

“They’re really gone,” Angel whispered, sounding sick. Choked. He’d thought that they’d all die. Instead, the two vampires were left to live their mockery of life, while their living, breathing friends… Their family… lay rotting in the street outside. Or worse.

Spike just nodded. For once, the younger vampire, the first to vote ‘go’ only three days earlier, didn’t seem to know what to say. Or, perhaps, he’d finally developed the wisdom to know that the best thing to say, sometimes, is nothing. Sighing, Spike turned his head to examine his useless left arm. Dislocated at the shoulder, and broken at the forearm, with the bone protruding in a compound fracture, the skin around it dark purple and angry, it defiantly didn’t look good. But what did it even matter? “We’re all alone,” he whispered, his tone matching Angel’s. Both speaking so softly that they didn’t even create an echo in the empty hotel.

Neither of them knew how long they sat there. Even the pain radiating from every spot on their bodies didn’t seem to matter anymore. In the days to come, neither of them would remember how they wound up in Angel’s old room. How they’d even gotten up the stairs. But there they sat. On the end of Angel’s bed. Which was strangely devoid of dust, considering how long he’d been away from it.

Both vampires leaned against each other, their eyes closed. Warding off tears that seemed destined not to come. Even as they seemed destined to survive. To outlive their family. To live amongst the purest kinds of pain imaginable, and to be forced to endure. Angel drew in a slow, pain filled, unnecessary breath, then shifted on the bed and forced his eyes open to regard his Childe sitting next to him. And he winced when he saw Spike’s arm clearly for the first time.

Spike, for his part, just sat passively on the bed, unmoving. Perhaps unwilling to move… And perhaps unable. But whatever his reason for being still, it was beginning to unnerve Angel. Spike was never completely still. Ever. Though, as Angel looked closer, it became obvious that he wasn’t completely still, even now.

Spike was shaking.

Angel didn’t know if it was from pain, or anger, or grief, or even simple cold. But, whatever the reason, Spike was shuddering. The movement was so slight that Angel had to watch his Childe closely for a few seconds to make sure he was really seeing what he thought he was. Angel raised a hand wordlessly and placed it on Spike’s shoulder. Only then did he realize that HE was shaking as well. Trembling.

He felt cold. Both of them did. Which was an odd sensation for a vampire. But after being soaked with blood, rain, and various other… liquids, then fighting for their very lives for days, it really wasn’t surprising. Angel almost felt like laughing humorlessly at the fact that the Hyperion’s air conditioner was still working after all this time. And again at the fact that it had chosen that moment to come on and blow icy air on the wounded pair.

Angel sighed, though, after a moment, and carefully began helping Spike get the tattered remains of his jacket off. Spike was almost limp. Pliable. He moved slightly to help his Sire, but mostly just let Angel do what he would. His lips moved, but no sounds came out. Though Angel could lip-read a bit of what his Childe was soundlessly mumbling. ‘We’re all alone’, seemed the recurring theme. And Angel felt his heart soften a bit when the real reason for Spike’s shaking suddenly became apparent. It may have had it’s roots in the cold and the pain, but the real source of his Childe’s trembling was fear. Spike was afraid. Terrified of being alone. He could fight dragons a hundred times his size and win. Nearly be swallowed several times and rip his way out of a demon’s throat with his bare hands and one of the demon’s own vertebra. None of that phased him, really. Battling was his life. Fighting was what they were built for.

But one thing neither of them was built for was being alone. Utterly and completely alone. Angel grieved as well, of course. He felt the pain of his family’s deaths. But Angel had been alone for years. Nearly a century at one time. Spike hadn’t.

When he’d come to Sunnydale years earlier, he’d been with Dru. And he’d BEEN with Dru almost every day since he was Sired all those years earlier. Before that, he’d had his mother constantly. After Dru, he’d fallen in with the Scoobies. After them, he’d found himself in the middle of Angel’s group, and eventually accepted. Now, for the first time in his life, Spike was learning the meaning of true loneliness. And it scared him.

Angel didn’t blame him, of course. He was still in a state of shock, however. The fact that everyone was gone just didn’t want to sink in. Everyone. After so many times that they’d cheated death. Wesley had his throat slit once and survived, for god’s sake. Gunn had survived losing and then having to STAKE his own sister. Not to mention the friends he’d lost after that. Fred had survived five years in a demon dimension where she was considered a glorified beast of burden. Iliria, on the same note, had survived her own… or, at least, her borrowed… body going nuclear on her. And Cordelia… Poor, sweet Cordy. How many times had she been nearly killed? How many months had she laid there in a coma? How many sacrifices had she made to save them? Even becoming part demon herself in order to stay in the fight. And she was gone, too, now. Angel had been to and returned from hell. Spike had a similar experience. And yet the two vampires, of that entire group, were the only ones left standing.

Well, sitting. But the principal was the same.

Angel swallowed as he carefully helped Spike slip off his shirt. Though the action was more like ripping it and peeling it off of him. His shoulder didn’t allow enough motion to let him take it off normally. And what Angel saw once his Childe’s torso was bare nearly made him choke.

Spike was covered in cuts and bruises. But these weren’t the normal ‘just been in a bar brawl’ wounds that they were used to seeing. Angel realized with something akin to shock that he could literally SEE Spike’s ribs. Not through the skin. There was no skin in one place. And white bone, washed clean of blood by the insistent, constant rain, glared horrifically out of his Childe’s skin. The muscle wall that shielded the ribs was all but gone as well. Torn away to the point that the ligaments that had attached it to the bone were hanging loose and ragged. It was a bite wound. Much like the one Angel carried on his own side. Only, when the dragon had bitten Spike, it had ripped at him as well. Unlike Angel, who had been rescued before the beast’s horrid teeth could do their steak knife-like work, Spike had literally lost at least a pound of pure flesh and muscle.

All the bruises were dark, almost black in color, and had tinges of violent, angry red running through them. The bruises on a vampire who was slowly starving to death, not enough blood left in his body to produce normal looking bruises. The worst one started high on Spike’s back, and vanished beneath his jeans. Kidney shot, it looked like. And a nasty one. That wound alone would have killed a human.

One of Spike’s blue eyes, normally so piercing and defiant, was swollen shut… perhaps even missing under that puffy, swollen lid. And the other eye had a tiredness in it that Angel had never seen on his Childe before. Spike always seemed so full of energy… Full of life, as odd as it sounded to apply that term to a vampire. But the one good eye was just staring blankly. Dead, and devoid of anything besides a vague feeling of pain. Spike’s hair was matted with blood and rainwater, his usual gel long washed away, as was Angel’s. Spike’s hair, however, was starting to curl a bit as it dried. Angel noticed this, and gently moved to brush a couple of sodden curls out of Spike’s face.

Where to start with bandaging? Was there even any hope? If they set Spike’s arm, and any other broken bones, then relocated his shoulder, and got some good food into him, chances were that the vampire would recover on his own within a few weeks. But that was with constant care. And Angel vaguely realized that he was in just as bad a shape, himself. If not worse.

However, he still had the use of all four limbs, despite a horrible burn across his back from one lucky fireball shot a dragon had gotten off at him. So that put him a bit ahead of Spike on the ‘okay’ scale. Besides, the rain had soothed the burn enough that Angel wasn’t even really aware of it anymore. Third degree burns are a blessing like that. They have a tendency to incinerate nerve endings, so the pain from the burn just stops registering after awhile. However, he wasn’t looking forward to getting his own jacket and shirt off. He KNEW the material was stuck to him, and that peeling it off would only rip multiple wounds open again. Still, he needed to get it off, or he was risking infection from the vile fabric, soaked with god only knew what besides his own blood. Closing his eyes against the pain, he slowly started to strip his own shirt off, wincing and actually crying out a couple of times as it came off.

The sound of his Sire’s pain caused Spike to turn worriedly toward him. His good arm came up and carefully helped Angel get his shirt off. The two working together managed to remove the disgusting clothing without much further harm to Angel. But the action of helping seemed to take the last bit of Spike’s energy. Slowly, the younger vampire just… slumped. He almost could’ve been falling, except that the reaction was rather controlled. He was just laying down. Resting after so much pain. And Angel carefully helped him, making sure he laid on his unwounded side, with the badly injured arm up where Angel could work on it.

“Hold still, Childe,” Angel whispered, not even noticing that he addressed Spike using the affectionate term. He was worried. Even scared. After all they’d lost, he could NOT lose Spike. Not now… Spike was all he had left in the world.

Spike, for his part, just rolled his good eye up to blink at Angel, a surprising amount of trust showing in that blue eye. He knew fixing his arm would hurt. He also knew that Angel would do everything he could NOT to hurt him more than absolutely necessary. However, he couldn’t help the soft whimpers that began to escape him as Angel worked to set his forearm. The trick was to do the forearm first, and both of them knew it. With his shoulder dislocated and pressing on the nerves, he could barely feel the rest of his arm. It would cause him far less pain to set the wounded arm now, AND THEN relocate his shoulder joint, than to do it the other way around. And Spike stayed mostly quiet as Angel worked, positioning the snapped bones carefully into something resembling their natural position.

Angel swallowed hard as he carefully rotated his Childe’s battered arm. The truth was, the bones were a little worse off than he had originally thought. Less ‘snapped’ and more ‘shattered’. It would take weeks of around the clock care and the best food possible to get Spike back into shape. Both of them knew, though, that they didn’t have that kind of time.

“How long?”, Spike whispered after awhile, absently flicking his tongue at the painful spot on his gums near his left canine. The spot that marked him, at least temporarily, as a one-fanged vampire. Fangs grow back quickly, though. If a vampire is in good health, they shed a set every twenty years or so, with the new ones growing in sharper and longer. But Spike was a good ten years from needing to shed his fangs. And he wasn’t in the kind of good shape it would take to stimulate the fang to spontaneously regenerate.

“How long what?”, Angel murmured, still carefully working with Spike’s arm. But he knew what Spike was asking. How long would they be safe here? Most likely, within hours, the Hyperion and the area surrounding the old hotel would be crawling with reporters. They couldn’t let themselves be found. But neither was in any shape to leave.

Or maybe Spike was just asking how long it would take his arm to heal. Sometimes the younger vampire could be just as cryptic as his Sire.

“‘Fore we haveta run outta here,” Spike mumbled, wincing when yet another fragment of his bone snapped back into something resembling it’s usual place.

Angel shook his head and muttered, “Too soon for either of us to be able to go. That’s for sure. These bodies are shot… We won’t stand a chance against anything for awhile, now that the rush of that battle’s gone.”

“So why don’t the bloody Partners come after us again, now? When we can’t fight?”, Spike mused, closing his good eye in thought.

“Because they don’t know we can’t,” Angel answered simply. “We seemed pretty ready to keep going out there. And the Partners aren’t Omniscient. They don’t know everything we say or do… The fact that I was able to penetrate the Black Thorn kind of made that clear. For all they know, we came in here to restock on weapons, just in case.”

Spike gave a dry, humorless laugh. “They’ve gotta be completely pissed off at us, you know that, right? We just… We don’t die, and we don’t stay dead when we do.”

Angel nodded gravely. “And that strange ability we seem to have may just be what stopped the attack out there. They don’t know what to make of us. They’re regrouping.”

“Then it’s over? We won?”

Angel sighed. “I wouldn’t call this winning, Will.” The old familiar name slipped from his lips without a second thought. And Spike, for his part, didn’t react adversely to it. “We survived. That has to be enough. We’re on the hit list of every demon in the world now… There’s nowhere we can go that we won’t be hunted. We’ll be recognized everywhere. We can’t risk ever going near Buffy again, too,” he said, sounding a bit choked. Then he added, “Or Nina. They’re off limits… Pretty much forever. As are… pretty much any humans.” He gave Spike a sad smile, finally finishing setting his forearm. “Looks like it’s back to being just you and me.”

Spike smiled for a split second, then sighed. “We can’t hide from ’em forever, though. Not…” He shrugged, then instantly cried out in pain. Angel quickly seized the moment and gripped Spike’s upper arm with one hand, and the ball of his shoulder with the other, and quickly popped the joint back into place. At the only moment where that pain would bleed into another, making it easier for Spike to take. “Not… and still be… us.” The younger vampire finished through gritted teeth. “And thanks.”

Angel gave a dry chuckle. “You’re welcome.” He sighed, then tilted his head. Something Spike had said rung true, though. As long as they were… them… they’d be in danger. So the most obvious solution, at least to get a tiny sliver of peace, was for them to NOT be them. If that made any sense at all.

And if Angel remembered correctly, there just might be a way to accomplish that.

“You’re right,” the older vampire said quietly. But when Spike looked at him, it was as if his Sire had been once again imbued with new strength. “So that’s our way out, too. We leave… but not as us.”

Spike sighed. “A glamour spell won’t last long enough this time, Angel.”

Angel smirked suddenly. “I wasn’t thinking glamour…” He motioned to the window, where filtered sunlight lit the dark curtains from the outside, though none of the dangerous rays could get in. “Will, have you ever wondered what it would be like to fly away? And I don’t mean in a plane.”

Spike, for his part, looked at his Sire as if he was insane. “Angel, mate,” he started slowly. “You lost me.”

Angel smiled this time, and whispered, “What if we could use bodies that aren’t injured? What if we could just fly away… Out into the sunlight, because our bodies wouldn’t BE vampires anymore.” He shrugged. “Not right then, anyway.

Spike raised an eyebrow, then his eyes slowly widened as he realized what his Sire was actually proposing. “A morphing spell? You can do that?”

Angel shook his head. “I can’t,” he said quietly. Then he pushed himself up slowly and limped over to a chest of drawers in the corner. “But I have something that can… And once the spell is cast, we’ll have the ability forever… Who knows? It might come in handy.”

Spike watched Angel skeptically out of his one good eye. “There’s gotta be a catch, Angel. Spells like this always have a catch.”

Angel nodded… and pulled a small, unassuming blue amulet out of the drawer, carrying it back over to Spike. “Yeah… But as long as we keep an eye on the clock, it won’t be a problem. And we can do that. So… Want to do this?”

Spike shook his head. “Not until you tell me why we’re gonna be clock watchin’, mate.”

Angel sighed. “Okay.” He sat down, turning the amulet over in his hand and examining the ancient markings on the amulet itself. “If you go past two hours in a morphed body, you get… stuck. Forever. That body becomes yours, and you live out your life in it. Or, rather, it’s life. The bodies aren’t immortal. Only we are.”

Spike sighed, and reached out his unaching arm to touch the amulet with the tip of his fingers. “That’s all? Getting trapped in a body that isn’t your own, n’bein’ forced to live out your life like that?” He gave a quiet, sad smile. “Considerin’ the price we’ve paid to simply BE here today, that definitely doesn’t seem too bad.” He looked at Angel. “I’m in.”

Angel smiled, then held the amulet out for Spike to touch. The moment both vampires, willing to accept the gift… the curse of the amulet and the power it contained, touched the ancient object, a shock… Not entirely unpleasant, though… went through them both. No words were needed. They knew the power they now held.

It had been Wesley who’d discovered the amulet years ago. It had intrigued him, as morphing spells were rare… most people considered them extinct, actually… So he’d given the amulet to Angel. And told him all about it. He could use another body to go out into the sun, but if he lost track of time, he’d be trapped for the rest of his life in that body. Angel had turned down Wesley’s offer to use it, though. Saying that the Sanshu prophesy was his real ticket out into the sun, and he didn’t want to cheat before he earned it. But he’d kept the amulet. And, until this lonely, blood soaked day, he hadn’t even known why. Now he did. It was his and Spike’s way out.

Now that the amulet had been used, it crumbled to dust in the two vampire’s hands, leaving them holding nothing but each other’s hands. Spike watched the dust with one tired eye as it sifted through their fingers to the floor, then released Angel’s hand with an expectant look. The words ‘now what?’ weren’t spoken… but they were definitely implied.

Angel took a deep breath, then muttered, “Now we do something that would seem incredibly stupid, if we were going to keep these bodies. Try to get over into the shadows, Will. Be careful, though… I have to open the window.”

Spike swallowed, then nodded and carefully pushed himself up, limping over into the small shadowy area by the dresser. Angel made his way to the window, standing carefully to one side of it, then carefully reached through the curtains, teeth gritted against the pain as his hands started to burn. But he managed to get the window unlocked and up, then jerked the curtains open and dropped to the floor to get out of the sunlight himself.

Over in the corner, Spike made a quiet sound, only not crawling toward his Sire’s pained form because he would have to pass across a pure beam of sunlight to get there. And Spike wasn’t ready to die yet. So, instead of going to his Sire’s side, he said quietly, “How do we do it?”

Angel gritted his teeth against the pain of his scorched arms and hands. “Focus. Picture what you want to become, as clearly as if it were in the room with you. Looking at you. We need birds… And we need birds that can fly high and far. Birds of prey, Spike. Raptors.”

Spike nodded in understanding, and closed his eyes.

One day, many weeks earlier, Spike had been standing in Angel’s office at Wolfram & Hart, simply staring out the window. Into the daylight that couldn’t harm him there. Passing a couple of stories below him, a medium sized hawk had passed, riding the warm air currents generated by the building itself. It’s wings had been spread wide, and as he watched, it lifted up, and up, and up… Until it passed the floor he was on and disappeared into the afternoon sun. The bird had a wicked, curving beak. Made for tearing flesh. And sharp, cruel talons, all the better to grip and rend it’s prey. The mice and rats and voles unfortunate enough to wander across it’s territory. The bird had piercing brown/yellow eyes. It’s chest was a mottled white with brown specks, and on it’s back, head and wings, it was a simple tawny brown. But it was the tail that gave this magnificent animal it’s name. The rust red feathers spread wide to act as a rudder. It was a Red-Tailed Hawk.

And, when Spike opened his eyes… it was him. He stared across the room with the laser focus eyes of the hawk, able to see a flea on a dog from a football field’s length away. And staring right back at him was another raptor. Larger. A dusky gold in color, with eyes a startlingly clear yellow. It was a Golden Eagle.

It was Angel.

The two birds stared at one another, both slowly becoming aware that they were not alone in these new bodies. Along side their thinking, feeling vampire minds and souls, there was another presence. The instincts of the birds passively existed alongside Angel and Spike. Golden eagles would on occasion attack hawks. Steal their prey. The hawk had to be wary of the other raptor. And the eagle watched the hawk with equal cautiousness. The hawk was smaller and faster than the eagle. That could be dangerous as well.

‘Well,’ Spike thought to himself. ‘It’s like havin’ a roommate in your own head.’

‘Tell me about it,’ another mental voice responded, which made Spike’s hawk body jump and squawk in surprise. Angel’s eagle blinked. ‘Hey. I can hear you.’

‘Yeah. Too bad they didn’t mention that in the owner’s manual that came with that buggerin’ amulet,’ Spike responded, fluffing up his feathers.

Outside, the acute hearing of both birds could hear the gathering crowd. The dragon bodies had mysteriously disappeared… The Senior Partners cleaning up their own mess, apparently. But the destruction the epic battle had caused was very much real, and still there. It looked like a bomb had gone off. In fact, that would most likely be the explanation the media chose. For there was no one alive to tell the tale of the brave souls who fought and died in those streets. No one except the two men turned birds in a second floor room of an old, run down hotel that was no longer home to anyone.

But there was something more important to the birds instincts. Something that overpowered the odd sounds of muffled human voices coming from below. They were confined, as no bird is meant to be confined. And a freeing breeze came drifting through the window.

Spike was the first to hawk-walk toward the window, but Angel followed a moment later. They knew, as anyone with knowledge of morphing spells did, that wounds in one body never effected another. And when they chose to change back to their vampire forms, all the injuries they’d sustained would be gone. Only the exhaustion and loneliness would remain.

But, Spike mused to himself as he flapped up onto the windowsill, then launched himself into the sky. They weren’t really alone, were they? They had the bird’s instincts… The instincts that guided them on when to flap, and when to glide as the pair slowly circled up and away from the carnage below. They had each other, as well. Both seemed to know now that they’d be inseparable for as long as both of them lived.

And they had the sky. The sound of the wind rushing over their feathers, and the feel of powerful muscles controlling things as tiny as individual feather movements.

Had any birdwatcher been checking out the sky on that morning… the first time the sun had come out in two days, they would’ve seen a birdwatcher’s dream. A Red-Tailed Hawk and a Golden Eagle, soaring side by side on the same thermal. Anyone watching would’ve thought it was insane. Those two creatures should’ve been mortal enemies… Constantly competing for territory, food, or both… But there they flew. Side by side. As if some sort of compromise had been reached. And, in reality, wasn’t that exactly what had happened?

They followed the wind currents, soaring away from the Hyperion. Away from the pain and death. But they would never escape the memories. And in reality, they didn’t want to.

For as long as Angel and Spike survived, the memory of their friends… Their family would live on.

Gunn. The street fighter turned super lawyer, who’s soft heart had never really been broken. Muscle and brains. Strength and smarts. Gunn was one of the greatest men either vampire had ever known.

Wesley. The once demure, even… well, wussy, Watcher who’d finally truly become what he’d strived to be for so long. A man of valor, who always tried to do what was right. Sometimes he was wrong, and he had to live with it, but when it came down to it… Wesley had finally reached a point that he would’ve done his family proud. And he certainly was worth far more than his father would ever admit.

Lorne. Hopefully he was off somewhere. Maybe starting a new Caritas. Perhaps he’d finally found a place in Vegas that would let him headline… without keeping him as some sort of sideshow freak. Wherever he was, they knew he was having fun… Lorne could always find the good side of everything. And somehow they knew that they’d see him again, someday.

Fred. Sweet, innocent Fred. The tiny body that just seemed to contain too much love for her to ever give it all away. There was always room in her heart for another person to care about. Always ready to welcome someone with open arms, and a kind word. It was no mystery why everyone loved her… Because she loved everyone first.

Cordelia. Beautiful, playful, buoyant, occasionally bitchy, Cordy. Someone who’s tactlessness was legendary. Someone who’d made friends with a ghost, and taken the essence of an odd demon into her body just so she could keep helping people… Just so she could stay on the team. Cordy, who’d once slept in the same bed with Angel and an exhausted baby Connor. Who’d made a deal with the Powers, just to come back that one final time and set her man straight. Cordy, who’s love reached out even beyond death, and showed them all the way to win.

Doyle. Sarcastic, playful, occasionally annoying Doyle. Someone who became part of the family so quickly, and who had left such a large void when he died… A void that Angel had been surprised to find out, hadn’t ever been filled.

For as long as Angel and Spike existed, so would their family. Living on in the memories of the vampire pair. And, if the two birds soaring off into the daytime sun together had anything to say about it… Forever was going to be a very long time.



(AUTHOR’S NOTES: Dedicated to the demise of my two favorite series: Angel… and Animorphs. May all characters who gave their lives in the process rest in peace.)