I didn’t die.
That was the surprise, that I didn’t die. That the Black Thorns didn’t destroy me completely, from body to soul and all in between. That I managed to walk, all right, crawl, out of that battle.
“You gonna make it?”
The voice was a complete surprise, one I hadn’t expected (didn’t I tell him to get out of town?). “Connor?”
“You were expecting the Easter Bunny?” He grinned that smile that made it look like his head was going to split open and offered me a hand up.
“Didn’t I tell you to get out of town?” I asked.
He shrugged, letting me brace myself against him. “Hey, I figured someone needed to be able to call in the calvary.”
Connor just smiled as he turned me to face the army at my back. “Well?” he asked, just a little impatient, “aren’t you gonna say anything?”
“Yeah, Angel, we came all this way,” Faith said, slinging back her hair, murky demon blood soaked through her clothes.
“And let me tell you, teleportation is not my favorite way to travel.” Willow scowled at me, fingers pressed to her head in an attempt to relieve the pain. “Especially moving this many people at once.”
“You had help,” Xander said mildly but pushed Willow’s hands out of the way to massage her temples for her. “A whole coven.”
“Yeah, but, ow,” Willow subsided with a wince, her face screwed up while Xander tended to her.
“You could at least say ‘thank you’.” The voice I’d been waiting to hear came from my right and I nearly jerked Connor to the ground, whipping around to face her. She climbed down from a pile of demon bodies, jumping the last four feet, that weapon she’d gotten before the final battle for Sunnydale in her hands.
“After all, we saved your ass,” Faith said.
“Collective asses,” Xander added.
“It was touch and go there for a little bit,” Buffy said, swiping at the hair hanging in her face and smearing her forehead with blue ichor.
I managed to extricate myself from my son, nearly falling in my attempt to hug Buffy.
She caught me and managed to toss her weapon to Connor at the same time. “Slayer reflexes,” she said, though her grin faded even as she spoke.
“My friends?” I asked her quietly.
“Dawn was taking care of Spike, last I saw,” Buffy said, “and there was a blue woman with them. She reminds me of Anya but don’t tell Xander I said that.” She hesitated.
“Gunn?” I asked, already reading the answer in her face.
Her mouth curled down slightly. “I’m sorry, Angel,” she said, “his wounds were…there wasn’t really anything we could do except make him comfortable at the end.” She looked away from me, towards her friends. “He stopped one of the bad guys from getting Willow.”
I tilted my head back, taking in a deep breath. Now they were all gone, my family; Doyle and Cordy, Wes, Fred and Gunn.
“You okay?” Buffy asked me gently, sounding as if she was afraid I might break.
Opening my eyes, I saw Faith catching Spike’s arm as Dawn helped him around a pile of bodies. Illyria walked behind them. Even from here, I could smell Connor’s interest in one of the women. God, I hoped it was Dawn. Willow was grinning at something Xander said. And Buffy…Buffy was in my arms.
“Not really,” I tightened my grip on her. “But I will be.”