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It's The End of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

by Minim Calibre

He doesn't remember painting the walls of his flat red, but red they are. It must be blood, then. Not all his, or he wouldn't be alive to wonder at it. There's simply too much of it to belong to any one, living person.

Unless, of course, he's already shuffled off this mortal coil and is now trapped for eternity in his living room. Warm copper taste (pennies, pence, they put coins on dead men's eyes, and his lids are heavy, wanting to shut) in his mouth tells him otherwise, but he's still not sure what happened, why the walls are red, not blue.

"...can't leave him. He's lost too much already."

Too much what, Gunn? he wonders. Blood? Family? Friendship? But it's Gunn talking, so it must be blood.

"If we don't, we'll all die."

Treacle-sweet, practical. Fred's probably correct, but he rather wishes she'd let practicality slip to the side just this once.

He doesn't want to die, not this time.

"Fred, he saved our lives."

They keep arguing. He stops listening, choosing instead to listen to his breathing (no gurgles, no bubbles, they seem to fill as expected--at least his lungs aren't damaged). How many times now? Faith, the explosion, the bullet for Gunn, the knife for Angel, the pillow for Connor. That can't be all, he must have missed some. Does it add up to nine?

"...Angel--Angelus--can still get in here." Fred again. "We have to leave before he gets back, find somewhere where he doesn't have an invite." She's crying. Everything's blurry, so he can't see her face, but he can hear her choking on them. Angelus. Oh, lord. It's starting to come back...

//Gunn's still weak, still not up to fighting, not this. Not him. They can't go to the hotel--it's not safe. Nowhere's safe. Back to Wesley's with the ragged lot of them. Fred and Lorne help him get Gunn through the door. He needs time--time they don't have--to gather everything he needs for the disinvite. Too late. Shouts to anyone who will listen for weapons as the door comes down.//

Everything is black and harsh and red where it should be blue after that.

"Phone." He can barely hear his own voice.

"Wes? Can you hear me, English?" Gunn's crying, too. Something isn't right.

"Get me the phone." He starts to cough, tastes more blood. "Now."

"You shouldn't be talking, Wes." Gunn's hands, surprisingly gentle, are stroking his cheek.

It's frustrating and beautiful all at the same time, but he needs to talk to what might be their last chance. "Give me the damned phone." He manages to raise his voice enough that they all turn to look at him.

Fred hands him her cell phone.

He hopes to G-d Lilah will choose to ignore her caller ID.

"Miss Burkle, what the fuck do you want?" Well, it was a faint hope. At least she didn't hang up.

"It's me, Lilah." He tries to make his voice soothing enough to keep her on the line.

Gunn withdraws his hand as if burned.

"You're calling me from her phone? Well, that's new. What do you want me to pretend for you this time?" She's angry; he can't blame her.

"I--we--need your help." He coughs again, and can't seem to stop this time.

"Wes?" Lilah shouldn't sound this fragile. It really must be the end of the world.

"Please, Lilah. Just come over, and hurry. We need shelter, somewhere Angelus can't enter."

He passes out before he can hear her answer. He comes to on her couch, surrounded by three wary faces, so she must have agreed to help, bless her coal-black heart. She's standing by the window, looking out at the destruction with a glass of scotch in one hand and a cell phone dangling uselessly from the other.

"I thought this was what you wanted, the end of the world," he tells her.

She turns away from the window. Her face is dry, but her eyes are swollen and red. "On our terms. These aren't our terms."

"So, no Christmas bonus, I take it." It's not the time for bantering, but there's nothing else he can do, not without admitting how much it rattles him to realize she's actually frightened.

"I'm going have to give myself one just to pay for your medical bills and getting your blood out of my couch."

"So sorry, Lilah. I didn't intend to bleed all over the furniture this time."

"Blood all over the upholstery for non-sacrificial reasons, a whole mess of Good N' Plenty's on my carpet--I'm beginning to think you're making me go soft, Wes." She walks over and kisses him, marking her territory. His blood glistens on her lips when she finally lifts her head.

Gunn and Fred stare first at him, then at her, then back at him, like they're watching a tennis match. Realization dawns quickly for the pair of them, tempered by resignation.

When this whole mess is over, should they survive, he knows there will be hell to pay.

Should they survive, it will be worth every penny of the cost.


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