Exit, Stage Left

Angel swung the axe around and splintered the side door to the hotel. “In! Illyria, help Gunn; Spike, behind them, you don’t know the way.”

The silence of the Hyperion lasted a split second and then the ululating howls seeped inside, swelling and billowing. Angel ran down the corridor, not looking back. Speed. Three of them could move very fast indeed, but would it be enough? The door to the basement was open, as he’d left it, and he was through it and on the stairs without time for a single, regretful glance around. Too many memories of Cordelia and Wes, too many...and he’d said goodbye to the place earlier on anyway. The sewer entrance gaped, warded against any but those he called friend. It wouldn’t hold for long, but it might be enough...

He spared a glance and saw Spike twist around, Gunn’s axe in his hand, beset by a demon whose face was he stuff of a classic nightmare – but Spike was growling, game face on, and he flung the broken body of the demon back in the faces of those who crowded behind it, and slammed the door closed, wedging it shut in a swiftly flowing movement before jumping over the side of the stairs.

“Don’t hang around, mate. Move it!”

Angel was running before he’d finished speaking, feet slamming against concrete, the rank, damp scent thick in his nostrils. The city was his workplace, but the sewers – they were part of his home. He threaded his way through them, a silent Illyria at his heels, Gunn cradled in her arms like a baby....he thought of Connor, fighting beside him, rescuing him, and felt fierce, hot pride surge through him. More than the dark power Hamilton’s blood, more than the anger and sorrow over Wesley’s death, that gave him heart.

He brought them through to the place he’d prepared, hearing pursuit scrabble and slither and slide, distant now, but getting closer every moment.

“Here,” he said. “This will do.”

No need for magic now, and it felt cleaner to do it without, to fight demons with human weapons, explosives and charges, timers and detonators, mundane and hidden, oh so carefully. His thumb caressed the button that, inevitably, was red, and he counted silently.

“One.” For Doyle, who had only died when he had no choice and who wouldn’t have ever made the mistake of getting boxed in.

“Two.” For Cordelia, who would have been at his side, muttering curses, steady as a rock.

“Three.” For Fred, who would have devised something with a different coloured button because if she’d ever done anything the same way as other people, he’d never seen it.

“Four.” For Wesley, who should have fucking been here and he couldn’t think about that now because he was pressing down and the world was a wall of heat, slamming into him and he was falling back on top of Spike, who hit him reflexively and without malice, and Illyria was bent over Gunn, shielding him and –

The screaming of the demons stopped, and the dust settled, and later, much later, somewhere high above them, the sun rose on a new world.

Time then for tears.

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