Angel stood looking at the neat row of white headstones in front of him in the cemetery, so much lost. Three of the stones had been added today and he hoped that no more would have to be made. To the far left there was Cordelia's, only just beginning to loose the "new" appearance. Beside it stood the three new additions to the plot, all identical to the first except for the inscriptions. Francis Doyle, Winifred Burkle and Wesley Wyndham-Pryce. Of course two of the graves where empty, there had been nothing left of Doyle to bury after he gave himself to save the Lister demons from The Sourge's Beacon. The same was true of Fred, when Illyria had taken her over they knew she was dead but now there wasn't even a body to bury or ship home to her parents. Angel knelt down by the closest stone and put the last of the flowers he'd bought from the 24 hr corner shop across from the cemetery on the turned earth.
It disturbed him that he didn't know how Wes died, well he knew about the fatal stabbing but what had happened before that? Only Illyria knew that and she was gone now too.
He ran down the alley behind the Hyperion, sword held tightly and rain blowing into his eyes. Reaching the fence at end of the alley as thunder crashed overhead he stopped and looked around, his heart sank as he didn't see anyone.
"Boo." Spike appeared from the deep shadows at the alley's edge. The sight of him sparking a pang of relief not something he normally associated with seeing Spike.
"Anyone else? "
"Not so far. You feel the heat?"
"Finally got ourselves a decent brawl."
A noise at the entrance to the alley made them turn to see Gunn running down the road towards them his axe in hand. The initial delight at knowing someone else had made it faded as Gunn grew closer.
"Damn! How did I know the fang boys would pull through? You're lucky we're on the same side, dogs, 'cause I was on fire tonight. My game was tight."
He stumbled as he reached them letting them catch his and seat him on a nearly crate.
"You're supposed to wear the red stuff on the inside, Charlie boy." Spike's light teasing did nothing to offset the cold feeling settling in Angel's gut as he looked at his friend.
Gunn glanced down at himself and the blood seeping through his clothes. Then looked back up, dismissing his injuries. "Any word on Wes?"
As he spoke Angel heard a faint clamour from the road beyond the alley, then a sound much closer to them, behind them at the fence. Angel and Spike spun round to face the intruder, relaxing when they saw Illyria. The relief and seeing her arrive was brutally cut short with the first words out of her mouth.
Angel felt like someone had punched him in the solar plexus. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Spike drop his head to look at the ground and heard Gunn emit a choked sob. A small portion of his mind noted than the clamour seemed to be growing louder very quickly; he could make out many voices yelling along with inhuman growls and shrieks.
"I'm feeling grief for him. I can't seem to control it. I wish to do more violence." Illyria seemed puzzled by the feeling but they didn't have time for that now.
Everyone could hear the crowd now, getting closer to the alley.
"Well, wishes just happen to be horses today."
"Among other things." Angel looked at the crowd swarming in the mouth of the alley, if his heart still beat it would have stopped in that instant. Hundreds, maybe thousands of demons of all sizes, shape and abilities raced towards them brandishing weapons and various limbs at the small group. Overhead a dragon shrieked in challenge.
Gunn stared down the alley in shock. "OK. You take the 30,000 on the left..."
"You're fading. You'll last 10 minutes at best." Illyria informed him.
Her announcement only caused Gunn to set his jaw in determination and push himself to his feet hefting his battle-axe. "Then let's make 'em memorable."
They stepped forward as a group to give themselves some more room to work, Angel and Spike to the front with Gunn and Illyria a couple of steps behind and one to the left. They stood in silence for a moment watching the demons grow closer.
"In terms of a plan?" Spike asked.
"We fight." Angel replied
"Bit more specific?"
Angel took another step forward while watching the dragon swoop overhead. "Well personally, I kind of want to slay the dragon." He looked back at the crowd who'd slowed and seemed to be gathering themselves for an attack. "Let's go to work." He raised his sword as a group of demons from the front of the crowd rushed them.
After that the night passed mostly in a blur. Gunn had lasted 15 minutes before his strength gave out and Spike dragged him behind the meagre protection of the crates by the fence before standing guard near him using the discarded axe to hack indiscriminately at the furious demons that now surrounded them. Angel focused on decapitating anything within reach. He had to admit Illyria was impressive having pushed her way into the thick of the crowd she concentrated on shattering the heads and spines of anything within range of her fists and feet. And so the fight had continued. The demons where so close paced in the alley that Angel and co couldn't help but find their marks and very few of the attackers could do any damage to them without taking out their companions.
Ironically it had been down to one of the attacking demons that any of them had managed to survive at all. A mage of some sort, Angel never saw who it was, had opened a portal to, he assumed another dimension. The portal sucked in everything around it increasing in strength as it grew. It pulled in light rubbish and then the demons closer to, which was when they first noticed it. By the time it was 10 ft in diameter it was sucking in half a dozen beings at a time and those in a 20-metre radius of it were having a hard time fighting the pull.
The vortex had continued to grow and eat up everything in it's path and Angel continued to ignore it, staying in the here and now, focusing on blocking each offensive and dealing with the demon behind it. It wasn't until Spike, who'd been forcing his way forward into the crowd, lost his footing and along with those surrounding him he was pulled inexorably towards the portal. Angel was too far way to help him; too many demons in the intervening space to fight through in time. Illyria had come to the rescue killing the demon that'd created the portal but both where sucked through as it closed.
As soon as the portal was gone Spike had regained his feet fighting off those closest to him and working his way back to Angel's side, where they took a moment to regroup, their opponents doing the same. The portal had decimated the demonic ranks bit but those left hadn't shown any sign of defeat.
Then suddenly they'd moved back away from the 2 vampires for a moment Angel couldn't work out why then a glimpse of movement caught his attention. The dragon had folded its wings and dropped through the air straight for them. It landed neatly in the space cleared by the retreating demons and swiped at them with one huge claw. They'd leaped out of reach one to either side of the alley. They fought with the dragon for what seemed like an age before Angel slid his sword under its scales and through its heart. Angel had noted during the fight that the onlookers had stopped jeering the fight. As soon as the sword hit home Angel backed away and waited for the next attack that surprisingly never came. The remnants of the hoard had turned towards the mouth of the alley and seemed to be continuing to scuffle amongst themselves.
Something slammed Angel into the wall nearest him, hard, and the world went black. When he opened his eyes again the first thing he'd noticed was pain all through his chest. The dragon's tail lay close beside him, apparently what had slammed into him. Spitting out the blood in his mouth and ignoring the protests of his shattered ribcage he pushed himself up out of a pool of blood to look around the alley. A few figures still battled further up the alley but mostly all he could see were bodies littering the ground. Getting his feet under him had taken some work but standing offered him a better vantage point. Spike lay on the other side of the dragon corpse, partially hidden with one arm thrown over his eyes.
"Damn thing had one hell of a death throe."
"Got you too?"
"No. I'm just laying here for the fun of it! Damn thing broke my legs."
"I just told you..."
"Not that, to the rest of them I mean."
"Oh that. Seems the power shift didn't go unnoticed after all. The Slayers decided they wanted in on the party."
"Gunn." Angel turned and painfully picked his way back along the alley to the fence. For a moment he couldn't see Gunn then he saw unnaturally still legs protruding from under a collapsed crate. Crouching, ignoring his ribs grating against each other and the pain in his lungs, he gentle pulled the splintered wood off his friend and pressed shaking fingers against the carotid artery. Nothing. Gently he reached up and shut the half-open eyes.
"Step away from him vampire!"
Angel jerked his head up to see a young brunette woman stood a couple of meters away brandishing a stake.
"Hey no, I was just..."
"Looking for a quick snack?"
"Ali no, it's all right he's on our side." Faith jumped over the dragon's tail. "Hey." she smiled.
"Faith." Angel nodded in greeting.
"Is he dead?" She pointed to Gunn.
"Sorry. You the only one left?"
"Well Spike survived." Angel jerked his head towards where the blonde vampire lay.
Faith walked up the dragon's hind leg to look over the other side. "Didn't see you there bat boy."
"Anyone else think maybe we should get inside seeing as it's almost dawn and all that." Spike ignored Faith and waved the arm that had previously covered his eyes at the sky.
Faith frowned down at him from her perch on the dragon's hip. "You walk?"
Spike lifted his head and glared at her. "No."
"Megs! Roz! Pick him up and bring him."
"Yes vampire has a soul and fights on our side, for the record so does Angel. No staking!" She jumped down from the dragon and turned to Angel. "Got somewhere close?"
"The Hyperion is just down the block."
"Good place, we should be able to hold it, unless that's were our friends went."
"Let's hope not." Angel looked down at Gunn's body as the two slayers Faith had called picked Spike up none too gently ignoring his cantankerous remarks.
"Ali can you get Gunn. Umm.."
Angel looked back up at Faith and the other slayer Ali. "Take him to the hospital it's only a few blocks that way." He pointed in the direction away from the Hyperion. "He shouldn't lie here."
The girl nodded, stepped carefully around Angel and lifted Gunn with deceptive ease.
"Jo. You go with Ali then meet us back at the hotel down the block. Angel let's go before you combust."
They'd made it into the Hyperion as the sun rose above the horizon and started it's daily climb into the lightening sky. A quick check through the rooms showed no unwanted guests so they settled down to take care of what first aid was needed. Faith helped tape up Angel's ribs then the 2 of them set and splinted Spike's legs before moving him to one of the bedrooms while the Slayers tended to each other. Next they'd gathered all the weapons together in what had been Angel's office and decided on a watch rota for the day. Those not needed went to get some rest.
As expected they received a call during the day to say that Gunn's body had been found and taken to the city morgue. Angel also put in a call to the police about Wesley having gone to see a client and never returning. To insure his body was also recovered before the demon found it.
Later as the sun set the hotel was besieged by the remnants of the demon hoard and what reinforcements they'd gathered. The attacks continued nightly for more than a week delaying the funerals. In the end Gunn's family and friends claimed his body and arranged the funeral, burying him near other members of his old gang lost in the fight against vampires.
It was a fortnight after their strike against the Circle of the Black Thorn before Spike and Angel, accompanied by Faith could stand in the cemetery and bury Wesley in a plot beside Cordelia. That had been a week ago. Since then there had been a few skirmishes but for the most part LA had seemed remarkably demon free, even the vampires seemed to have gone into hiding allowing Angel time to being rebuilding his life. They'd had Wesley's belongings shipped to the hotel to be sorted into what could be used, weapons, magic supplies, books, furniture etc. and what couldn't be used was given to Annie for use in the new shelter. Faith had departed, before the police caught up with her, leaving some of the Slayers to keep the streets clear. The Hyperion had almost been split in two with Angel and Spike rarely seeing the four Slayers that inhabited the same building.
A bone chilling cold swept across Angel as he sat on the ground, pulling him out of his ruminations of the events of the last while with a shiver. Pushing himself to his feet he looked around the dark cemetery for something that would cause the sudden freezing sensation, seeing only his car, rows of headstones and the odd tree, he felt it subside to a lingering chill. The sky in the east was beginning to glow with approaching dawn. Angel glanced at his watch amazed he'd lost so much time and shaking off the last of the chilled sensation walked the few yards to where his car was parked on the access road. Climbing in and shutting the door against the growing sunlight he looked at the headstones one last time before starting the engine, turning the car and driving away.
Written and originally posted in June 2004