Aurelia walked into the main area of the library and found it cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape. She sighed and just pulled down the tape. As she headed toward the table she looked down at the chalk outline of Kendra on the floor and passed it slowly, careful not to step on it. When she reached the table, she looked for a moment at the Orb, candles, and other things that were used in the attempt at cursing Angelus.
It tugged at her heart for a moment that she wouldn't get to see Cassius once before she died. For a moment, her hand lingered on the Orb. Then she reached under the table, pulled out Kendra's large duffel bag, and set it on the table.
As she went through it, Snyder came into the library. "You do know this is a crime scene, don't you? But then…. you're a criminal, so that pretty much works out."
"You know I didn't do it. The police will figure it out." Aurelia said.
"In case you haven't noticed, the police of Sunnydale are deeply stupid. It doesn't matter anyway. Whatever they find, you've proved too much of a liability for this school. These are the moments you want to savor. You wish time would stop so that you could live them over and over again. You're expelled."
Aurelia rolled her eyes and reached into the bag. She pulled out the sword blessed by the knight who first slew Acathla and held it up, turning it in her hand. Snyder looked at it, then at her, and gulped. Aurelia laughed as she gazed at the polished blade. "Little trolls like you always get what's coming to them in the end." She walked out of the library and leaned the blade into his face as she passed him. He bent back nervously and watched her go. This time she made no attempt to avoid the chalk markings on the floor. She had one more stop before she would go to face Angelus one last time at the mansion.
"Whistler." Aurelia said, spotting the demon by Giles' refrigerator. "What did you mean, the sword isn't enough?"
"You know, raiding an Englishman's fridge is like dating a nun." Whistler said. "You're never gonna get the good stuff."
"Tell me how to use it."
Whistler took a swig and looked back at her. "Angel's the key. His blood will open the door to Hell. Acathla opens his big mouth, creates a vortex. Then only Angel's blood will close it. One blow will send 'em both back to Hell. But I strongly suggest that you get there before that happens, 'cause the faster you kill Angel, the easier it's gonna be on you."
"Don't worry about me."
"It's all on the line here, kid."
"I'm not a kid and I can deal with this. I've got nothing left to lose now." She walked out, contemplating what Whistler had just said. She had to kill Angelus before he could open the vortex or else he would be trapped in a Hell dimension. If he was in a Hell dimension, he would still be alive and trapping Cassius's soul wherever it was. That was not a world Aurelia could deal with. She would always come back alone. At least with Angelus, she knew he would come find her. She wasn't always alone.
As she made her way towards the mansion, Xander came running out of the bushes on the hillside and jumped into the street in front of her. She startled and took a reflexive step back. "Xander!" She cried.
"Cavalry's here." He said. "Cavalry's a frightened guy with a rock, but it's here." Aurelia held up a stake. He tossed the rock aside and took it from her. "That's better."
"You are not here to fight. Just get Giles out and run like hell, understood? I can't protect you. I'm going to be too busy killing."
Xander looked at the sword Aurelia held in her hand. "Now, that's a new look for you."
"It's a present for Angelus."
"Willow. Uh, she told me to tell you…."
"Tell me what?"
"Kick his ass."
Aurelia nodded and continued walking. Xander hesitated a moment and then followed. She decided to take a side entrance and made Xander go around to another entrance and wait for her signal. Aurelia quietly made her way in and came up behind a vampire. She raised her sword and decapitated him with a single swing. He crumbled to ash as his head fell to the floor. Drusilla and Angelus turned their heads to look.
"Hello, lover." Aurelia mocked.
"I don't have time for you." Angelus said.
"You don't have a lot of time left."
"Coming on kind of strong, don't you think? You're playing some deep odds here. Do you really think you can take us all on?"
Aurelia smiled. "No. I don't."
Spike got up out of his wheelchair behind Angelus with a determined look on his face and whipped him hard across the back with an andiron. Angelus cried out in pain and collapsed to the floor. Drusilla twisted her head to look at Spike as he continued to whale on Angelus as hard as he could. Aurelia started for Drusilla, but another vampire attacked her. She spun around to face him, but he punched her and she fell to the floor. She tripped him when he came at her again and maneuvered herself to her feet, ready to fight. He came at her again with a series of punches, all of which she easily blocked.
Spike kept pounding on Angelus. "Painful, isn't it?" He kept swinging the andiron. Drusilla began to panic and jumped on Spike, taking him down to the floor with her. Aurelia's assailant backhanded her in the face and she went staggering into a chair by the wall. She quickly recovered to block another swing, brought her knee up into his gut and kicked him in the face, knocking him to the floor. She saw a pile of broken wood fragments and went to it. The vampire got to his feet just as Xander came into the room and surprised him with a punch. Aurelia picked up a suitable piece of scrap wood and got back into the fight. Xander backed off to go look for Giles. The vampire ducked a roundhouse kick and blocked another kick.
Spike and Drusilla got up from the floor and faced each other. "I don't want to hurt you, baby." Spike said. She grabbed him by the throat and shoved him into the wall. He slapped her arm aside and punched her in the face. "Doesn't mean I won't.'
Drusilla swiped at Spike with her hand and left four parallel scratches across his cheek. She followed up with a punch that knocked him to the floor. Angelus woke up and groaned in pain. He rubbed his eyes and looked up at Acathla. He got to his feet and went over to the demon. Aurelia was still fighting the vampire. She blocked a kick from him, punched him, spun around, and punched again. He fell onto his back and Aurelia quickly followed him down with her stake and jammed it into his chest. He burst into ashes just as Angelus took the last few steps to Acathla and grabbed the sword stuck in his chest by the hilt with his bloody hand.
A blindingly bright light emanated from it and Aurelia looked up from her kill in time to witness Angelus pulling the sword from the demon's heart. She let out a pained moan, knowing exactly what this meant. With a few telltale sparks the light was suddenly gone. Angelus whipped the sword around in his hand and held it up to look at it. Aurelia scrambled to get her own sword.
Drusilla looked up from her fight and gazed at Acathla with a smile. "Oh…. Here he comes." Spike came up behind her and grabbed her around the throat with his arm.
Aurelia held up her sword and faced off with Angelus. He held his own ready to fight her also. "You almost made it, Aurelia."
"It's not over yet." Aurelia retorted.
"My boy Acathla here is about to wake up. You're going to Hell."
"Save me a seat." She thanked the lessons in proper sword fighting she'd had in a few of her lifetimes as she thrust at him with her sword.
He parried and swung around with a thrust of his own, which she also parried. They clashed blades several times and Aurelia ducked a wide arcing swing from him. They faced off again and traded one thrust and parry after another. Angelus tried another arcing swing from above, but she easily ducked and sidestepped out of the way. They faced off again in front of Acathla and traded a few more blows.
Angelus tried a swing from above a third time and again Aurelia ducked it and escaped to the side. She jumped up on a low table and swung at him again. He parried and swung at her legs. She jumped up and over his blade and landed on the floor. He tried for her legs again, but she blocked his attempt with her blade. Again they traded several swings and Angelus tried a wide swing again. This time, however, he cut her superficially on the arm. He tried to take advantage of her distraction and came at her with his sword held high, intending to swing from above, but she dropped to the floor and rolled out of the way, so he only managed to smash a bowl on a table behind her.
Aurelia kicked his legs out from under him and scrambled back up. He turned to face her still on his knees and swung three times in rapid succession, all of which she parried. He swung a fourth time and this time she knocked his sword into the table with her parry and pinned it there. He backhanded her in the face and she spun away. He pulled the sword from the table and swung it hard at her. She blocked it with hers and kicked him in the gut, making him double over. She jumped over him into the clear and raised her sword to continue the fight. He thrust and she parried. Then he kicked her in her sword arm and she stumbled back a step.
Angelus kicked her again and Aurelia sailed through the curtains into the atrium. She hit the ground and scrambled back to her feet as Angelus slowly advanced. She thrust and he parried. She spun around and swung at him and he blocked her. Her sword bounced off of his and fell with the tip onto the low wall of a planting bed. Angelus stomped on the blade before she could raise it again and knocked it from her grip. He spun around and elbowed her in the face, knocking her back into a stone table, which collapsed and fell with her.
Aurelia was backing up against the wall without her sword while Angelus slowly and deliberately advanced on her holding his. He played with his sword, idly pointing it at her. She looked up at him. "Now that's everything, huh? No weapons…. No friends…. No hope." Aurelia closed her eyes. "Take all that away…. and what's left?" He drew the sword back and thrust it directly at her face.
With lightning-fast reflexes, she swung up with both arms and caught the blade between the palms of her hands. She opened her eyes and met his. "Me." She shoved the blade away from her and the hilt of the sword hit Angelus in the face. He staggered back and she hopped to her feet and kicked him in the chest. He stumbled back even more and she reached down and picked up her sword. She swung it around and thrust at him, but he managed to parry. They exchanged several blows, blocking each other. Aurelia spun around and swung her sword down at him from above. He held up his own to block, but she hit it hard and he fell to one knee. She swung again and he blocked. She spun around with a roundhouse kick to his side and he collapsed to the ground.
"I told you the game has changed, Angelus." Aurelia said, kicking Angelus back through the curtains into the main room.
He went flying in and hit the floor and rolled to a stop. Before he could get all the way back to his feet Aurelia leapt in and swung her sword at him. He almost missed parrying her blow and he stepped back to get his footing. They exchanged a few more swings. Angelus missed a block and got sliced on his hand making him drop his sword. She did a high kick to his face and he fell backward into Acathla and landed on his knees before her.
Aurelia raised her sword to finally kill Angelus, but stayed herself when he suddenly gasped loudly and groaned in pain. She saw his eyes glow bright red for an instant and go back dark. He looked up at her, but quickly collapsed to the floor, crying. Aurelia stared down at him, but still held her sword raised behind her.
Angelus raised himself back up, his eyes heavy with tears, and looked into her eyes. "Aur…. Buffy? What's going on?" She just looked at him, confused but not yet ready to lower the sword. He looked around a bit and got to his feet. "Where are we? I-I don't remember."
Aurelia slowly lowered her sword as she began to recognize the man staring at her from those once soulless eyes. "Cassius?"
"Aurelia? You're back?" She nodded slightly. He started to smile, but he saw the cut on her arm. "You're hurt." She looked down at her wound and felt his gentle touch on her arm. She ignored her cut and looked back up at him, stepping closer. He embraced her tightly. "Oh, my Aurelia…. God. You're back…. You're back! My Aurelia. Oh, my God, everything's so muddled. I…." He held her even more closely and kissed her shoulder. "Oh, Aurelia…." She cried into his shoulder and hugged him back, repeating his name over and over again like an answered prayer.
Behind Cassius, Acathla let out a low rumble. Aurelia opened her eyes and stared in shock as Acathla's face contorted. His brows angled down, his eyes glowed red, his mouth opened grotesquely, and the swirling vortex to Hell opened, small at first, but growing steadily in size and emanating a deep, red glow.
Aurelia let go of Cassius and looked up into his face. "What's happening?" He asked.
"Shh. Don't worry about it." She brushed her fingers over his lips and across his cheek. She laid her hand on his cheek and reached up to kiss him softly. It felt like heaven had finally returned to her. He returned the kiss and it became more passionate. They held onto each other like drowning people to a raft. But Aurelia broke off the kiss and looked deeply into Cassius's eyes, tears streaming down her face. "I've missed you so much."
"You have no idea how long I've looked for you…. Waited for you…."
Aurelia couldn't stop the sob that tore from her throat. She couldn't let the world be sucked into hell. She couldn't let her friends…. Her mother…. Be sucked into hell. "Oh, my Cassius. I love you."
"I love you."
She touched his lips with her fingers again. "Close your eyes." She nodded reassuringly and he closed his eyes. She tried desperately not to start sobbing and kissed him again gently. Closing her own eyes, she stepped back, drew back her sword, and thrust it into his chest. His eyes whipped open in surprise and pain and a bright light emanated from the sword. She stepped away from him as he reached out to her and looked down at the sword thrust completely through him. He looked at her imploringly, completely bewildered by this turn of events. She could only stare at the sword protruding from his chest and slowly stepped further back.
"Aurelia….?" Behind him the power of the sword began to swirl into the vortex.
Aurelia stepped further back, still looking only at the sword in his chest and not into his face. She couldn't look into his face. When the vortex finally met Cassius, it suddenly closed into Acathla's mouth without so much as a spark, taking him with it.
Aurelia stared at the stone demon for a long moment. She began to realize what she had done, what she had sacrificed, what she had lost. The pain of it was too much for her. She began to sob and collapsed to the ground. Her mind now began to whirl with should haves and maybes and why-didn't-shes. All these other possible scenarios played in her head. All of them preferable to what she'd just done.