Still Standing

[SPOILERS for Angel 5.22, 'Not Fade Away', 5.21, 'Power Play', and for a good chunk of Angel Season 5.

[AN: There're a number of post-'Not Fade Away' fics out there already. This is my spin on how things went Outside...]


This is it. The big fight.

Spike /feels/ the shift, from Inside to Outside, knows what it means.

They all do.

The show's over. The _series_ is over.

This is it.

The end.

They know it, but it does not stop them plunging into battle.

And Spike throws himself in, with all the passion and poetry and power in him.

This is what he understands. This is what he knows.

Spike and William the Bloody and William the bloody awful poet fighting in unison - his many faces finally united as one.

He moves with grace, slicing into first one demon, then another, cutting his way through the horde.

Angel's swordwork is elegant and brutal and to the point, artistry in his killing.

Illyria is violence in motion, disposing of her enemies with simple efficiency, grief etched into her face.

And Gunn fights with determination, with strength, his mortal wound almost an afterthought.

Even as Spike is appreciating this, he's still in motion. With a backhand blow, he sends his latest opponent stumbling into Angel's path.

The other vampire dispatches it with a quick sword thrust to the stomach.

In the brief moment between one opponent and the next, Spike smirks, his old, familiar trademark sneer slipping into place, and raises one hand, thumb pressed against the first two fingers.

"Be seeing you," he says. "Wankers."

And then he - and Angel, Illyria and Gunn - are gone.


They reappear in an empty conference room, devoid of any windows, with only a single door in the wall.

Illyria stares at Spike. "...What have you done? Where are we?"

"Everything's gone according to plan, should be in a little town name of Nameless." Spike says, feeling his body relax. "As for what I _did..._ sent up the distress flare, didn't I?" He makes the 'Be seeing you' gesture again. "Had a feeling we'd find ourselves up shit creek come the sendoff, so I made arrangements."

"...Arrangements?" Angel says, warning in his voice.

"Yeah." Spike says. "Trust me. I don't /do/ deals with the devil."

Angel's expression is dark, but he says nothing.

"Then what did you deal with?" Illyria asks.

"Lady called Amber." Spike says. "Nice girl. Taken a bit of a shine to me, she has."

"She is powerful." Illyria states. It is a fact, not a question.

"Yeah." Spike says. "Could say that."

"...How powerful we talking?" Gunn asks. "Hamilton? Illyria?"

Illyria nods approvingly at the comparison.

Spike waves a hand. "Bit higher."

"...The Senior Partners?" Angel says.

"Dunno 'bout _that_," Spike says, after a moment's thought. "Be a fight to see, that's for certain."

"...Lemme get this straight." Gunn says. "You're friends with someone who can take on the Senior Partners?!"

"What can I say?" Spike says. "Some of us've got it, and some haven't."

Angel's eyes narrow, but before he can say anything, somebody knocks on the door.

The four of them turn in surprise, Angel in particular.

The door clicks open.

The woman standing in the doorway regards them for a moment, from golden eyes hooded under heavy lids. before stepping inside.

"'Lo, love." Spike says.

The woman's mouth quirks upwards at the greeting. "Spike. Want to do the honours?"

"No problem." Spike says with a smirk, indicating each one in turn. "'Kay. This's Angel, Illyria and Charlie-boy.

"And this," he announces to the other three, "is Amber."

Illyria regards Amber for a moment. "So _you_ are why the half-breed speaks so familarly to me."

"Don't blame me." Amber deadpans. "He was like that when I met him."

"Why did you not teach him respect?" Illyria asks.

"You've been around him long enough," Amber says, her mouth quirking again. "You can't teach Spike respect."

"Mm." Illyria says. "He makes noise when you try."

"Tell me about it..." Angel mutters.

"Yep," Spike says, hands behind his back. "Never gonna get _this_ boy on his knees..."

"No?" Angel says, regarding the younger vampire with a certain dark amusement. "That's not the way _I_ remember things..."

"Like you're one to talk." Spike returns.

"...We need to get that seen to." Amber says, looking over Gunn's wound.

"It is mortal." Illyria informs her.

Amber smiles. "No problem."

She snaps her fingers.

The wound disappears.

Gunn looks down, astonished. "How'd you do that?"

"Act of will." Amber says. "In this building, my will is law."

Angel's eyes narrow. "Who _are_ you?"

"I'm a goddess." Amber answers. "Specifically, I'm the Muse of Metafiction and Folktale."

"...Brilliant." Angel mutters.

"I''m not a Power, Angel." Amber says softly. "Not one of your Powers, anyway. They are their own order of being."

"You'll forgive me if I don't bow down and worship you." Angel says caustically.

"I wouldn't expect anything else of you." Amber says. "Besides... the whole 'worshipping' thing doesn't go down well for me." She looks down and away. "We're not here to be worshipped. That's not why we exist. It's an incidental." She hesitates. "An _unwanted_ incidental, much of the time."

"Nice to know," Angel says, but his caustic tone has lost something of its bite.

"...Wait a minute." Spike says, snapping his fingers. "Where's Wes?"

"...He is dead." Illyria says, and the grief is once more plain on her face.

"So was I." Spike says. "Hell, so was _Buffy_. But we still came back."

"He is dead." Illyria repeats. "I saw him die. Can you not accept that?"

"Yeah." Spike says. "But it doesn't matter."

Illyria turns on him, furious. "HOW DARE YOU!! HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT?!"

"Illyria." Amber says quietly.

"I will _not_ stand here and listen to this half-breed dismiss Wesley's death!" Illyria rages. "I was with him when he died! I gave him a lie, that he might have some small comfort in his dying! And I will _not_ have that dismissed by this insolent worm!"

"_Illyria._" Amber repeats. "Hear me out."

The ancient demon falls silent, directing a baleful look at Spike.

"Spike isn't being disrespectful." Amber says. "Not this time, at least."

Spike raises a dark eyebrow.

"Wesley is dead, yes." Amber continues. "But here, Outside, he can come back - as Buffy and Spike did before _their_ official resurrections.

"That's why Spike's saying witnessing Wesley's death doesn't matter - he can come back."

"Do not tell me Wesley's death did not matter." Illyria says, her voice breaking. "I feel grief for him. I still desire to inflict violence. It..." She searches for the words. "It hurts that he died - hurts beyond a simple wound of the flesh - and you will not tell me that does not matter."

"I would not do so." Amber says quietly. "They treat it casually and easily, as if it were an everyday occurance.

"But it is not.

"It matters precisely because someone's life ended. That is what death _is_.

"People don't think about that - and perhaps it's necessary. Perhaps it enables us to cope, to function, to act in the world.

"Perhaps treating death so easily is what enables them to go on."

Amber sighs.

"I wish there was something I could say that would make it easier for you, Illyria. Something I could say that would help you feel better.

"On one hand, what they do is horrifying - but on the other, it may well be necessary.

"And neither can be avoided."

"...I feel angry." Illyria says, her voice harsh. "I feel angry that they can do this. That they can treat this event, these emotions, with such ease.

"If, indeed, they must do so in order to live..." She hesitates. "Then so be it.

"But that will not quell my anger."

Amber nods.

"...Um..." Gunn says, uncertain of what to say now.

"So is the bloke coming back or not?" Spike says bluntly.

"...He's coming back." Amber says eventually.

Gunn sighs in relief.

Amber holds up a hand. "But he's not coming back _here_."

"...Then where...?" Angel begins.

Amber sighs. "The thing is... as long as _something_ of a person survives, they can come back Outside. It doesn't have to be their soul - if their identity or their memories survive, that can be enough too."

"Which means...?" Angel prompts.

"...Fred." Illyria says finally. "He is with her."

"..._What?_" Angel demands, looming over everyone else in the room.

Spike nods, as if he's been expecting this. "Wondered what'd happened with that."

"But Fred's gone." Gunn says.

"Yes," Illyria says, "I destroyed her soul. But her memories, her personality, still exist within me.

"And by Amber's account, that is enough to let her return to him.

"She died... but she..." Illyria hesitates.

"She's coming back." Amber finishes. "They're both coming back.

"But not here."

The others are silent.

"...What becomes of me?" Illyria asks, almost plaintively.

"Fred will be brought back separately from you." Amber says. "You - as you are now, in Fred's old body - will continue on independent of her."

She sighs, aware of the inadequacy of anything she can say now.

Nevertheless, she continues.

"It will be a long time before Fred and Wesley recover." she says. "From my own assessment, it would be best to leave them be." She looks at the four of them again. "Should it prove necessary, I'll give you their eventual location - but it'll be decided on what both they - and I - consider necessary.

"Do not ask lightly."

They stand in silence for a while, absorbing this.

Finally, Spike sighs.

"Hooray for happy endings." he says, voice edged with sarcasm. "So what about us? What're we supposed to do /now?/"

"That's down to you." Amber says quietly.

"What about the Senior Partners?" Angel says, cutting in.

Amber smiles sadly, almost to herself. "You killed the Order of the Black Thorn, slew the Partners' liasion, and brought their LA office tumbling down.

"The Wolf, Ram and Hart will not forget _that_ soon."

"And I'm guessing they ain't gonna be sending a thank you card, either." Gunn says.

"The Senior Partners have no foothold in Nameless." Amber says. "No legal outpost, at any rate."

Her mouth twitches, this time without humour. "Then again, this realm's always had a rather loose relationship with the law."

"Which means..." Angel presses.

"One way or another, the Senior Partners will want to make sure you pay." Amber answers. "But they won't - indeed, they _can't_ - kill you permanently - the last I knew, you were still a major player in their apocalypse, and it may well be that _that_ is the key to their retaliation.

"Then there's the question of whether your story will continue Inside.

"The Buffyverse is still alive - Joss is in discussion with Dark Horse Comics about continuing it in the Buffy Comics - but as for a new series, or a movie, or even TV movies... I don't think there'll be anything soon - certainly not this year."

"No reason not to keep hoping." Spike observes. "I mean, the Who guys managed it..."

Amber smiles. "Yes, they did."

"Yeah." Gunn says. "Y'never know."

"We can't live our lives waiting for that." Angel says. "Not waiting on something that may or may not happen. We've gotta find another reason to keep going, to keep fighting."

"The forces of the Wolf, Ram and Hart still wish to make us answer for our deeds." Illyria says. "All of us."

"Sounds good enough to me," Spike observes. "_I'm_ not about to give 'em the pleasure of letting 'em beat us down."

"Yeah." Gunn says. "Knowing they're still out there, still messing things up, making things worse? That's enough of a reason for _me_ to keep fighting."

"I will not let Wesley's death go without meaning." Illyria says. "I will continue to fight."

"Then let's do it." Angel says.

The other three nod.

Gunn raises a hand. "Uh... just one problem."


"Where we gonna crash?" Gunn says. "Outta Wolfram & Hart, and you just _know_ LA ain't gonna be safe for a good while yet."

"Hm..." Angel ponders this. "Hold on. Hold on."

He whirls on Spike. "Spike. You've got a place in Nameless, right?"

"Nope." Spike says firmly, folding his arms. "There is no way we're putting the lot of you up at our place."

"Doesn't matter. Doesn't matter." Angel says. "What I'm saying is we get a base in Nameless. We start the fight _here_."

"How?" Spike inquires. "Seems to me you've pretty much handed the Partners your pink slip."

"So we start again." Angel says. "Back to basics. Doing what needs to be done. Fighting the Senior Partners wherever and whenever we can."

"'Angel Investigations' mark 2?" Spike scoffs. "Yeah, right."

"...That's _brilliant!_" Angel exclaims. "'Angel Investigations' mark 2! A new beginning. A fresh start. A chance to make things right. Spike, you're a genius!"

"...Hooray for me." Spike mutters.

Illyria appears to be contemplating something.

Then she faces Spike.

"I will live with you." she states simply.

"You'll _what?!_" Spike splutters.

"I will live with you." Illyria repeats. "You have displayed the capacity to distinguish between Illyria and Fred, to see me for what I am. Angel and Gunn have not."

Angel and Gunn raise their eyebrows.

"I find your perspective to be the more..." She searches for a word. "Comfortable. Yes. The more comfortable to live with.

"True, you are annoying, aggravating and insolent, but you put up a good fight and are willing to speak the truth. This is not intolerable.

"Therefore, I will live with you."

"Oh bollocks." Spike mutters.

"Ahem." Amber says.

"...Yeah?" Spike says.

"Remember 'Genius'?"

"...Oh *bollocks*." Spike mutters, with extra added emphasis.

"...What is 'Genius'?" Illyria says.

"It's Paul Gadizikowski's imaginary counterpart to 'Angel'," Amber answers. "All of you have counterparts there - Angel's is Genius, Spike's is Nails, Gunn's is Gladius... and yours is Galatea.

"And since they're based on you, they tend to make similar decisions to you."

"Which means _they'll_ probably show up here, too." Spike supplies.

"Galatea?" Illyria considers this. "Hm. This should be interesting."

"The gods are bastards." Spike says, folding his arms. "All of 'em."

"Pretty much." Angel says.

"Tell me about it." Amber says.

"No argument here." Gunn says.

Illyria tips her head. "This is wrong?"

"...Okay," Spike says finally. "_Now_ I'm depressed."

Amber considers.

"What I can do is this," she says. "I can let Angel and Gunn stay here in the office the next few days - there are bedrooms, it won't be a problem - and send Spike and Illyria to Spike's place. I suspect a few days' downtime would be appreciated."

Angel nods.

"Thanks." Gunn says.

"I'll have my secretary chase down details on long-term accommodation and office space." Amber says. "You'll probably prefer looking for somewhere yourself, though."

"No offence." Angel says.

"None taken." Amber says.

She looks around. "Is that okay with everyone?"

The four of them nod.

Amber nods. "All right. Here goes..."

She snaps her fingers.

Spike and Illyria vanish.

"Come on," she says to Angel and Gunn, opening the door. "Let's see about getting you two rooms."

Angel and Gunn look at each other, and follow her out.

Angel pauses on the threshold, looks back at the room.

Then he closes the door behind him.




Disclaimer: 'Angel', Angel, Gunn, Illyria and Spike are Joss Whedon's/Mutant Enemy's.

Amber is mine.

'Genius', as mentioned above, is Paul Gadzikowski's creation, along with the names of Angel and Spike's counterparts. The names of Gunn and Illyria's counterparts are my own addition.

The tangled explanation of just how much needs to be left for someone to come back is deduced in part from previous TTR fics.

Summary: The good fight never ends. But everyone needs breathing space. Spoilers for Angel 5.22, 'Not Fade Away'.


Copyright 2004 Imran Inayat.