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Title: Pausing for Air
Author: Tania
Rating: PG
Summary: A post-Not Fade Away Drabble, or fanwank if you will.

Gasping didn't begin to describe the sound coming from his body. The fight wasn't over, and Spike felt like a coward for even taking the time to wipe the blood from his brow. He sent a very short nod towards the heavens as thanks for making some of the opposing army human. He certainly wouldn't have lasted through the first hour if there hadn't been a way to replenish his rapidly depleting supply of blood.

He was more than a little jealous that Angel had tasted Hamilton. Whatever extra bit of juice he'd been able to extract from the liason had certainly helped. Angel was the least battered of all of them. If three can really be called an all.

They'd barely been at it for twenty minutes when Spike saw Gunn slump against the wet stone wall and close his eyes. It was barely short of a miracle that he'd survived that long. He watched in a kind of horror as Angel backed away from the oncoming army and asked Charles if he was ready to go or keep fighting. Spike knew what Angel meant, and the immediate frown covering Gunn's face showed that he understood the full weight of the question as well.

"I can't let you do it man," Gunn cried. The pain of not being able to continue bled through every pore in his body, but they all understood his reasons. If he was the last one standing who would kill him? Never a witch handy when you needed one. Angel had taken his hand and thanked him for years of loyalty with a firm shake and a hand on his cheek, and watched with deep sadness as his friend slipped away.

Now only the demons remained in the alley. Dozens left, alive and coming for them. More seemed to crawl from beneath the dragon's corpse every few minutes, not as many killed by the falling reptile as they had hoped, but at least it had given them a short respite. Spike knew they wouldn't get another.

As well rested as he was likely to get Spike reentered the fight, back to back with the last true friend he had. Illyria fought at her own pace. Spike wasn't sure if she was still altering the world around her or not, but every now and then it seemed to him that demons dropped dead in front of him from out of nowhere. Maybe they were all in their own time zones now, many forms making up an hour, no scheduled breaks, just slicing bodies filling in the gaps between fight and retreat to safety as best they could.

Hours later the fight was nearly done. This first wave at least. There was little question that the Senior Partners had another army at their disposal. Maybe they would think the two ensouled vampires and broken goddess of little consequence now that they were without home or ally. It wasn't likely they'd ever walk away without looking over their shoulders for the enemy at their tails, but Spike held out hope.

They had fought the good fight despite Angel's warnings that they would never survive. The thing was, the armageddon never ended. There never was 'the other side'. There never would be a time when the final battle was behind them. There never would be a beating heart between them, and the tears in Angel's eyes even as he slayed the last demon between them and the dust covered Hyperion told him that Angel knew it too.

Three bleeding heroes crouched on a red lake of death in an alley they knew entirely too well. They held each other's wounds as tightly as they could, waiting for the bleeding to stop and the next fight to start.

And they waited.