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Like Embers in the Rain

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There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

Angel folded the note and placed it on the bedstand. The letter brought back painful memories … things he would rather not dwell on any longer. Drusilla would soon be gone, just like the rest of her kind. She was one of the few who remained. It wouldn't be long now. It was almost over.

While he had been reading, Angel had been tracing Buffy's movements through the house. With his vampiric hearing, it was hard not to. She was in the bathroom now. She turned on the shower. The water pattered sharply. Buffy stepped into the shower and Angel heard the sound of her body breaking the stream of water. She moaned in response to the temperature. First, because it was too cold. Then, because it had become too hot. Soon he would be able to stand there with her, crammed together in the tiny tub, watching her nakedness from above. For now, he could only imagine.

The water cut off. Buffy's naked feet stepped out on the floor. She hummed softly as she dried herself off with a towel and got dressed again. The door to the bathroom creaked. Buffy stepped out into the hall. Her bare feet stepped softly on the carpet. She walked straight past her own room. Angel saw the light shining through the gap underneath the door break. The handle came down. The door slowly opened and the light from the hall flooded the room. Buffy's slight figure appeared in the opening.

“Hey, lover,” she whispered.

She was wearing one of his shirts. He could see her cold nipples push against the soft fabric. The shirt fell so low over her crotch that he could not see whether she wore anything underneath. He should have listened more carefully as she got dressed.

“Are you all right?” he asked her.

“Yes,” she said and came towards him. “I just felt the need to talk.” She sat down at the end of the bed, adjusting the hem of the shirt to keep the mystery intact.

Angel noticed Buffy looking at the folded letter on the bedstand. “Another letter from Drusilla,” he said.

“What is she saying?” Buffy asked.

“The usual,” Angel said. “She's calling me an Uncle Tom - a traitor to our kind.”

“Haven't you been one for a long time now?” Buffy asked.

Angel sighed. “I guess,” he said, “but in her confused mind she must realise that the end is coming for her soon, and somehow she seems to have learned about my get-out-of-jail-free-card.”

Buffy smiled. “It wasn't free,” she said. “You earned it.”

Angel found his eyes wandering down to Buffy's naked legs. Her thighs were fuller than they had been. He shifted his position so that his growing erection would not show through the blanket. “I guess,” he said. “It will just take some getting used to. At the moment, I am one of the damned, bound for eternal torment. In a few weeks, my soul will be washed clean, and I will be able to eat hot dogs in the sun.”

“... and take your bride-to-be to bed.”

“... and take my … bride … to bed.”

Buffy leaned forward and gave Angel a kiss. Her body rubbed against his bare torso through the thin fabric of her borrowed shirt. Her wet hair fell over his face. Lately, her touch had started to bother him. She was so warm and full of life. Her eyes were wet and her lips were moist. The rhythm of the blood flowing through her neck up to her brain pounded in his ears whenever she came near. How could touching him excite her so? His skin was dried up and cold. There was nothing moving inside him. It was only through dark magic that his dormant insides did not rot away. These thoughts had become unbearable to him. He could not wait for the day his flesh would be restored.

Buffy sat up in the bed. "I better go," she said. "We don't want to do something stupid so close to the finish line." She put her naked feet on the carpet and began walking back to the hall.

Just before she reached the door, the phone on Angel's bedstand started ringing. Angel groaned, but he figured it could be someone from The Initiative, in which case, he better answer. He picked up the receiver and mumbled a greeting.

"Hello, brother," was the response.

Angel dragged his palm over his face. "I am not your brother, Spike."

Buffy stopped on the threshold.

"No?" Spike said. "I thought we were soul mates, mate."

"What do you want?" Angel asked, impatient for the conversation to be over.

Angel heard Spike snicker. "Oh? Is that so? Now that you're soon to be made into a real little boy, you're suddenly too high and mighty to speak to the rest of us. Just throw us on the scrap heap like some broken old toys."

"Spike, it is not as though I am the one who decides which vampire the divine powers of the cosmos want to turn human," Angel said. "Let it go."

"Don't worry, mate. I bear you no grudges," Spike said. "I just needed to speak to your old lady."

"Speak to me," Angel said.

"No, no, Angel, this is about business, see?" Spike said. "Seeing as you're soon about to retire, I think it is best if I told this directly to the slayer."

Angel put a hand on the mouthpiece. "Spike wants to talk to you," he said, "and he is being a dick about it."

Buffy sighed. "I better hear what he has to say," she said. "I feel responsible for him."

"You have no reason to," Angel said.

"Just give me the phone." Buffy sat down on the side of the bed and took the receiver from Angel. "Hi, Spike. Listen, if you are calling to brag about how many vamps you've dusted this month..."

"Nah, luv. I already know you can't hold a candle to me these days," Spikes said. "It's not that..."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Then, Spike, what is it?"

Angel heard Spike's voice deepen in a way that made him uncomfortable. "It's about the boy."

"Which boy, Spike?" Buffy asked.

"That Harris kid," Spike said. "Xander..." Spike was silent for a moment. "Dru," he finally said. "Drusilla got to him."

Buffy dropped the phone. Angel caught it and lifted it to his ear. "What are you saying, Spike? Is Xander dead?"

Buffy had turned white as the sheets. Her face bore an expression of utter paralysis.

"I have a hunch he isn't," Spike said, "but I can't know for sure. I hope ol' Dru is keeping the kid as bait. I am bringing the slayer dyke, Missus Cardboard, Nikki's kid and some soldier boys down to find him."

Angel swallowed. "I don't know what to say, Spike."

"You don't need to say anything, mate," Spike said. "Just be happy in the knowledge that there are still people out there fighting the good fight. I'll bring the kid back safely in time for your big wedding retirement party."

Angel finished talking to Spike. Meanwhile, Buffy had gotten up and started pacing back and forth across the floor. "We need to go to him," she said.

"It is too far away," Angel said. "Drusilla is hanging out at some old plantation mansion in Louisiana." He pushed the blankets away and got out of bed. "We should speak with Willow. Maybe she can do something … with magic. At the very least, she would want to know."

Buffy stopped by the window. She was standing with her back to him, hugging her arms. In the reflection, she was alone. He walked up to her and put a cold hand on her shoulder.

"Willow..." Buffy spoke the name as though hearing it for the first time. "Oh, God … Willow. She will …" She stifled a sob. "Willow has gone into hiding," she said.

"Hiding? From what?"

Buffy laughed. It had that same painful ring to it as it had had that night long ago when she learned she was prophetised to die. "She is worried about The Initiative," Buffy said. "She thinks they may rethink some of the allowances they've made for us once the rest of the vampires are gone."

"You didn't tell me," Angel said. "Do you think she's right?"

"I told her she was being paranoid," Buffy said. "I can't tell if I don't believe her, because she is wrong or because I can't bear the thought her being right. It would put our future at risk."

With those words, Buffy took the plant that stood by the window and threw it against the wall. The pot smashed into tiny pieces and the dirt spread across the floor. "I can't take it any more, Angel," she said, as she collapsed into his arms. "I'll kill them all," she said. "I'll grind them into dust."