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Fist and Fangs

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Planning's never been his strong suit, so he doesn't do much of it when he moves into the horde. Fighting this battle is insane and he knows it. There's some part of him that wants to switch sides, take a swing at Angel. Punching Angel is simpler than fighting the sea of demons and monsters that crash down around his ears, biting and clawing and threatening to kill his loved ones and eat his soul.

But Angel is ripped away before he gets the chance to ball his fist.

The dragon swoops down—and just like the bloody hero he is—Angel sticks a sword into its chest and hangs on for dear life.

"Hope that's not the last I see of you," Spike mumbles under his breath.

He hacks into the nearest beast—something ugly with fangs and fur. He pushes forward, off to the right.

"Spike!" Spike ducks under the ax swipe and backtracks to Gunn.

He knows Gunn hasn't got much longer, it's not just the blood (the smell of which is driving Spike insane with hunger), but it's in his eyes, his breath; every cell of Charles Gunn is pounding on death's door. Gunn knows it.

Spike tries to keep him close. If Gunn can stay alive long enough, he can take a few baddies with him, maybe even some cosmic scorecard. After that Spike just hopes he can stand to leave Gunn's body behind; ignore the fact that it will be beaten, torn, and rendered limb from limb as some demon feasts on all the human that remains.

Spike remembers a time when he would have been in there lapping up the blood.

"You will taste my grief." Illyria doesn't stop. She moves like liquid, slicing through them faster than Spike can track. She flits in and out of his peripheral vision. Once or twice he sees Fred and can't help but wonder how she moves like that; she's only mortal.

He's got Gunn at his back now and can feel him slipping further away. He doesn't tell him to hang on.

Illyria decapitates three vampires with a single arc of her sword. "Your kind is too fragile. You die too easily. You inhabit a weak form." Her voice cracks over the words, like a splintering stake.

Spike's full focus slides to her. It costs him a cuff across his face. Her grief is raw and red, tangible. For Wesley's death to have done that . . . Spike can't help but wonder if maybe there's a bit more Fred in her than she lets on—or maybe she actually loves him.

There's a groan from behind him, an anguished cry, and a body hitting the wet pavement. For a second Spike's ears clear and focus on the lack of breath behind him. The rainfall, the swords hitting metal, the grunts and growls, all fade away and it is silent because there's no labored breathing behind his back.

Gunn's dead.

A kick to the face causes focus.

The Skilosh in front of him dies a quick death. He spares one last look at Gunn and wishes he hadn't. Broken, bleeding, fighting to the death, it's noble and horrific and both what Gunn would have wanted and what would have only seeped into his nightmares. If he lives through this, Spike hopes he can forget the image . . . or have it burned into his mind as a symbol of heroism.

He fights on.

Illyria is just ahead. He tries to keep her in sight. Even though he's a self-proclaimed loner, being alone in the middle of this battle with the world raining down on his shoulders, evil drenching his skin, the blood of fallen demons staining his hair—it's too much. If he can't see someone else fighting against this mass he might give into it. He's always needed someone stronger to set an example, to carry him.

The dragon crashes at the mouth of the alley, crushing an abandoned taco stand and a few demons. Angel is riding it, pulling his sword out, dismounting, and kicking a Howler demon so hard that his neck snaps.

"Find a princess to go with that?" Spike shouts at him. He has just a moment to say something and he chooses a sarcastic comment; it's the sum of his life's ambition, that.

Angel doesn't reply, can't, because there isn't time to hear Spike's words, to process them, or to say anything in reply.

Spike moves toward Angel, some part of his mind telling him that they need to regroup. He slices toward his goal, but for every limb he hacks off; every head sent rolling; every body that thumps to the ground, explodes into dust, or dissolves into goo there is another. The demons fill in the gaps and there's no movement toward or away from his goal.

For a fight, it's surprisingly static.

Spike slashes, cuts, stabs his way to Angel, but after an hour has only moved a few feet.

His coat is ripped, the left sleeve torn completely open, the back shredded into tails. Blood, guts, and entrails cover his legs and face. He's crying because he just can't take it any more. His arms are sore; each swing of the sword feels like his shoulder is ripping out of his body. There's a burn in his chest that feels like he's being burned alive; he knows what that's like and it was easier than this.

Three demons tackle Angel and drag him down. They did it earlier and he broke free, throwing them back in a way only heroes can make happen. It sends a thrill of adrenaline through Spike, half eager to see it again.

Seconds pass.

The army closes in.

Spike doesn't want to be alone.

He rushes forward and finds that when properly motivated he can part the sea of demons. He keeps moving, pushing them away, faster, faster; he can't see Angel now, but knows he's on the ground just ahead, closer, closer.

Blue flashes past his right side. A body flies toward his face and he swings his sword, slicing it cleanly down the middle.

"Watch where you throw that!"

More bodies are thrown. Some fly over Spike's head, some crash into their fellows, some slump into walls and don't get up. Arterial spray hits Spike's face and he licks it off his lips. He rams an axe into the face of the vampire that wields it. Illyria punches her fist into a Serparvo demon's face; there's a squelching noise as she pulls her fist from the mess.

Angel groans, still alive, still conscious.

Spike pushes into the clearing. Angel is getting to his feet slowly, breathing hard because, after 250 years, feigning humanity comes naturally.

Illyria turns, lowering her sword a half-inch in recognition of her companions.

They all look at each other and in that look passes a sharing of wills, of purpose, of loss, of grief—Fred, Wesley, Gunn. The three demons are left living and perhaps that is a metaphor for the world; one day there will be only demons once again, the Old Ones will return and reclaim the land they once lost to humanity. Maybe it means that the humans—the fallen heroes—they get to go some place better, and the demons, the real sinners of the world, they have to stay and fight.

Even no existence would be more peaceful than this.

Their swords come up as they turn, each facing a separate way, facing the thousand on the right, the thousand on the left, the thousand in the middle. The demons will never stop coming, not really. Come daybreak, the vampires will flee, maybe some of the other demons that prefer night, but the monsters will still be there in dark corners.

For the first time Spike understands that this fight isn't about tonight and it isn't about now; it's forever, it's fists and fangs to the end of his life.

He cuts through a Lei-ach demon, slicing it from shoulder to stomach, and wonders, if he had known this in the beginning, would he have agreed to fight to the end?