Graphic by KatLurkin

She felt the blood well in her hand, felt it ooze over her fingers now slick as they pressed tight to the wound in her abdomen. She cried out and stumbled, her only thought to get away, to find shelter, safety, but her legs were having none of it and gave out the moment she pressured them with her slight weight. Grunting she fell first to her knees, then onto her hands, rolling herself over onto her back and relieving the sharp pain only slightly.

The vampire righted himself from the kick she’d laid him out with, even as he’d plunged the saber into her gut, all but slicing her in two, and sprang to his feet. Buffy saw him through slit eyes and attempted to crab-walk backwards, scooting away from him as quickly as she could, knowing it would never be quickly enough. With sure steps he closed the distance between them and grabbed her legs as she crawled, blearily, to anywhere but there. With a yank he flipped her body over and dragged its bleeding form across the grass, ripping even further at the wound that spilled her life over the ground.

Buffy grappled fruitlessly at some purchase on the blades as her body was ruthlessly jerked across the park grounds, even as the comforting blackness of unconsciousness beckoned her, as its warm fingers licked at her mind, calling for her to sink in and be done with it.

“Buffy!”

She heard the voice, even noted the panic in it, and dismissed it, summoning the clarity to wonder if next she would see a white light…or perhaps her mother waiting for her. Had she the strength, she might have chuckled at the thoughts.

The sounds of fighting came from somewhere around her, but as she opened her eyes the sight of the distant stars captured her attention and everything else was forgotten. So pretty…pretty pretty black-blue sky…twinkling with little firefly lights. Twinkling…twinkling…

Her focus was still on the sky when a dark figure loomed above her, blocking her view and causing her eyes to blur at the sudden change of distance.

“Buffy…oh God…Buffy,” the panicked male voice was familiar, as was the cool scent that reached her nose and the strong hands that touched her so gently now, afraid to hurt her even further.

“Angel?” she rasped, his name the eternal question when coming from her lips, her voice still sounding sweet and young and innocent despite the pain.

“Oh God, Buffy…don’t move…I’ll—I’m sorry…I’m too late…I tried to get here and I--”

He trailed off and looked down at her, at her face contorted with pain. When the wave ended her features returned to their normal //beautiful, so beautiful// form and she met his eyes. When she spoke his heart began to cry, so lost was the sound of her voice. “Is this really happening?”

Sewer. Prom. Heartache and pain.

He shifted, realizing that nothing he did now would be good enough, nothing was going to save her, and closed his eyes, centering himself. When he opened them again, she was staring at him, the detached gaze of someone slipping away from memory and from life. He ran a hand over her forehead, smoothing her hair, and cradled her in his arms, holding her to him even as he began to hear the sounds of her heart slowing.

“Buffy…I’m sorry…I couldn’t get here fast enough…” he stammered, emotion thickening his voice as he desperately ran his hands over her face and through her hair, ignoring the blood that was staining his clothing.

“You’re here…” she whispered lazily. “Why are you here?”

His heart began to ache with love and anguish, ripping through him in an almost physical pain. “I—Cordelia had a vision. I tried…I’m too late.” Her forehead was slick with sweat and he clutched her, not caring if his hands were rough. “I never should have left. I never should have left you. Not after you came back, not after the funeral, not after that day in LA…not three years ago. I never should have left you Buffy…do you understand me? I never should have gone. If I’d been here…this…” he looked helplessly down at her bleeding form.

She was staring him, her mossy hazel eyes seeming to find focus for brief moments at a time and she reached one hand up and gently stroked his face. “It’s okay…we did what we were supposed to do.”

They say how he's gonna kill me? Do you think it'll hurt?

Angel’s head practically snapped as he shook it. “No. No. I won’t believe that. I won’t believe that I’m supposed to lose you like this, that I was sent away just so you could die.”

“Meant to be,” she mumbled and unceremoniously leaned over to spit out the blood in her mouth. The act exhausted her and her eyes fluttered shut. “In a minute, I’ll have died twice while you were gone. It’s fate, Angel.”

What do you know about this? You're never gonna die!

“I won’t believe that. I don’t accept it, Buffy,” he moaned as tears fell from his eyes, dripping onto her face and mingling with her own.

He was amazed when she chuckled, then was reduced to a wrack of spasms and coughs. He held her tightly until it passed, then looked down again into the pale face of his love. “Imagine you…Angel…” she wheezed, “…stubborn.”

“Dammit, Buffy,” he whispered. “Don’t make jokes…please. I can’t…I can’t take this.”

One Slayer dies, next one's called! Wonder who she is.

Willing her eyes to open she took a moment to regain focus, knowing her time was almost out. “It’s not yours to take. Death is my gift…can’t cheat it a third time.” Through labored breathing, she apologized. “I’m sorry.”

Will you train her? Or will they send someone else?

Pure pain welled in his eyes. “Don’t be…God, Buffy…don’t be sorry…that’s for me. I’ll never be able to tell you how sorry I am that I wasn’t here, that I couldn’t stop it, that I didn’t save you. I love you…I always have. I always will.”

Her finger trailed over his lips and a small smile appeared on her lips. “I love you, too, Angel…” With that her eyes closed and he stared at her, blind panic immobilizing him as his ears rang with the sound of her life slipping away.

“Buffy…Buffy…” He shook her gently. “No…Buffy. Please…Buffy please. Come back. Come back to me…I can’t. It’s you. It’s always you. Forever…my soul and yours, my heart and yours…please…don’t leave me again.”

*~*~*

When they found her body the next morning, it was Willow who made the connection, and who bit through the tears to make sure that people knew the Slayer had not been alone when she died. The Claddagh ring had been her first clue…but even without that, the ceremonious way her body was laid out, surrounded by flowers and perfumed as it was, would have told her who had been with Buffy until the end. But it was the ashes at the Slayer’s side that finally allowed the little witch to have her tears.


Graphic by Robin tCJ

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