Chapter 9: Livid.
The morning flew by quickly, Buffy’s condition never changing. Giles almost had to drag Dawn out of the hospital, only convincing her to come with him to the Magic Box when he agreed that they would return immediately after the meeting.
Together they met, red cheeked and puffy eyed standing silent for a long moment as they all fought to keep their emotions in check. Giles had Dawn set on the task of making hot drinks for everyone and when she left the room he informed the others of the attack from the previous night, and of the cryptic speech of the vampire who had appeared to be in charge of the operation.
Xander was furious that it was inadvertently because of Spike that Buffy was in hospital, and when Willow tried to stand up for Spike, Xander snapped at her. It had been Angel that had gotten her to the hospital, not Spike he pointed out. Giles stepped in at this point, silencing them all with a shout and a glare that was not to be defied. He informed them all that if it hadn’t been for Spike, then Buffy would be dead… she wouldn’t have even made it out of the cemetery alive.
Sobered by this piece of information, Giles handed out the books he had been using to research the key and the ‘prodigal’ and set them on task, just as Dawn returned with a tray of steaming hot drinks. Insisting that Buffy wouldn’t want her to fall behind, Giles set Dawn on her homework and the Magic Box became silent.
Spike paced his crypt like a caged tiger, his jaw clenching and unclenching in anger as his frustration grew. He was trying to remember the events of last night, trying to find something that would point to who it was that was responsible for the attack but no matter how many times he played it through his mind, nothing came to him.
He remembered seeing a flash of blond hair and for a moment he thought that it might be Harmony, but he had laughed that off. She didn’t have the stones nor the smarts to pull off something like this.
He was itching to get outside and find those responsible for hurting Buffy. He almost wished that he had chased after the four remaining vampires that had taken off, and made them pay for what they had done but he knew that if he had wasted anymore time then Buffy wouldn’t even make it to the hospital.
He was fuming that no-one had let him know what was going on… whether or not she had even made it there in time. He didn’t have a telephone but someone could have come past the crypt. The longer that he was kept locked inside, the more frustrated he became.
When sunset finally arrived, he dashed out of his confines and into the cemetery, immediately heading towards the hospital.
“She’s in the hospital.” He answered her nervously, keeping his gaze lowered to the floor.
When he nodded in response she picked up a dagger and flung it at him, imbedding it in his head.
“Guess I’ll have to do this myself.” She said with a determined frown.
Spike stood in the corridor outside her room, breathing unnecessarily as he tried to work up the courage to step inside. When he could take the suspense no longer, he opened the door and walked inside.
What he saw froze him in his tracks.
She didn’t even look like she was alive.
He was so lost in despair that it wasn’t until Giles cleared his throat that Spike noticed that there were other people in the room. The watcher was sitting in a chair in the corner of the room; Dawn slumped in the one beside him. And in the shadows of the room… was Angel.
Spike’s face clouded instantly with anger. “You son of a bitch…” he snarled as he took a step towards him.
Angel’s expression remained passive, his gaze finding Spike’s and holding it for a moment before he returned his stare to Buffy. Giles stood, effectively blocking Spike’s path to Angel, not that he couldn’t have shoved past if he wanted to. His expression became questioning as he looked at the watcher in disbelief.
“He got her here in time.” Giles said quietly.
“In TIME?” Spike exploded, startling Dawn who jumped in her seat. “She’s in a bloody coma.”
Giles’ expression became stormy; matching that of Spike’s and the watcher’s stance became more determined. He knew that Spike was worried; it didn’t take a genius to see how much this was eating him up inside. But picking a fight with Angel was not going to do anything to help Buffy.
“Spike I think you should leave.” Dawn said quietly, her expression became hard.
Spike’s jaw dropped in astonishment. He didn’t believe his ears. But one look into her eyes confirmed what he had heard. He opened his mouth to argue, but stopped when he saw the pain in Dawn’s eyes. Gritting his teeth, his eyes flitting to Buffy once more before he turned and left the room.
Dawn watched Spike leave, and once he had left the room a sob escaped her lips. He had no right to accuse Angel like that, if it weren’t for him then Buffy might…
She didn’t even finish the thought. She knew Spike was worried about her sister, and under normal circumstances she would wanted him to be there. But he couldn’t be around if he was going to pick fights.
Giles took Dawn in his arms once more offering the comfort she desperately needed. She didn’t know that it had been Spike who had came to Buffy’s rescue; she only knew that it had been Angel who had brought her to the hospital. When she had been called at Janice’s house, the caller had spoken to her friend’s Mom, before driving her straight to the hospital. Giles knew that Dawn had assumed it was one of them.
If he could tell her without explaining why it was that Buffy had been in the cemetery he would. But he couldn’t. It would break Dawn’s heart if she found out that it was inadvertently because of her that Buffy had been hurt. The threats against Dawn’s life had been too important to ignore, but Dawn wouldn’t see it that way.
So for now, Giles kept quiet.
Turning to Angel, he let him know that he was going to take Dawn home to his apartment, and he would return before morning. Angel nodded in response, taking the chair beside Buffy’s bed and reaching for one of her hands, enveloping it in his.
Spike wandered meaninglessly about town. Why hadn’t Giles stood up for him? Why had Dawn kicked him out? And Angel…
He swung his left leg out, kicking at an empty soda can, sending it skittering down the street. The poof hadn’t even responded. He had just looked away… Like the great big bloody coward that he is.
“Takin’ the credit I bet… blaming it all on me, what a bloody surprise.” Spike ranted as he moved down the street.
He made it all the way to the factory district before he even realized where he was going. Walking inside the remains of what had been his old lair when he had first came to town he finally proceeded to take his frustrations out on the remaining furniture. He threw the charred chairs at the walls, smashing as they connected, pieces of wood flying all over the place. He overturned the large table and threw the pot plants, which had housed ferns that Dru had insisted on having at the stone pillars, feeling momentary satisfaction when they shattered and sent the dirt spraying throughout the large room.
When there was nothing more he could destroy in the room he collapsed to the floor and howled in anguish.
He had been terrified that she wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time… but seeing her like that, with tubes running everywhere, had broken his heart. She looked so helpless, so frail.
He replayed his actions through his head over and over. If only he hadn’t left his crypt and followed that noise. If only he had dodged that fist that had almost knocked him unconscious. If only he had ran faster when he heard her shout.
The countless what ifs taunted him as he broke down in desolation.
He dreamed of her…
But that wasn’t anything out of the ordinary; she was always in his thoughts. The sound of her laughter was like music to his ears and her smile… that bright smile that she reserved only for those closest to her, how he wished that once, just once, he would be on the receiving end of it.
But that wasn’t going to be possible, not if she didn’t wake up.
Not if they didn’t let him near her…
Spike wasn’t the only person who dreamed of Buffy.
Angel had left the hospital shortly before sunrise, tiredly making his way into his old bedroom. The Mansion was just as he’d left it. None of the vamps in town had attempted to take up residence, and he could tell just by taking a deep breath of the musty air that it had been a long time since even Buffy had been here.
He should be glad about that… but he didn’t know if he was.
He still loved her. Buffy was still the only woman in the world that he cared for. But he stood by his decision. She deserved a chance at a normal life. Seeing her move on and into a relationship with Riley, especially after that day they had spent together in LA, had been almost too much to bear. The demon in him had wanted to tear out the soldier boy’s throat, even more so now.
Giles had informed him of Riley’s sudden decision to leave Sunnydale at the hospital, and the sudden rush of rage that had overcome him had made it difficult to contain his game face from surfacing in the hallway filled with medical staff. Riley didn’t deserve her, not if he didn’t realize how special a gift he had thrown away. Angel grit his teeth in irritation, the soldier boy had willingly thrown away something that he himself would give anything to have.
Throwing his coat on a chair in the bedroom he quickly peeled off his clothing and sunk into bed, soon falling into a restless sleep.
Giles and Dawn returned to the hospital that morning, but there was no change in Buffy’s condition. She was stable, which was one thing that they could be thankful for. But what they needed was for her to wake up.
After a while sitting by her side, in the condition that she was, became unbearable. The pair left the hospital and drove in silence to the Magic Box where Xander, Anya, Willow and Tara were all waiting for them. The mood was not dissimilar to the previous day, each person wearing matching somber expression on their faces as they continued with their research. Narrowing the field was the hard task.
Spike’s recall to Giles suggested that they were looking for vampires, but they were obviously working for someone. As was the Bornossiak demon. Figuring out who was behind everything was the issue.
Xander slammed shut the book he was reading with frustration. “Giles I’m not seeing anything new here.”
He stood up and began to pace the room. It didn’t feel like they were doing enough. All he wanted was for Buffy to wake up and looking at books wasn’t going to help achieve that. He needed to do something, something active. An idea came to mind and he grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair and slipped it on.
“I’m goin to pay Willy a visit.” He announced as he left, not giving anyone the chance to stop him.
Anya worried about Xander’s safety and thought about following before reasoning with herself that he would be okay. Xander was smart. He wouldn’t go into a bar filled with demons and pick a fight. Most likely he would pay for the information. Having convinced herself that her beloved would be safe, she returned to her shop keeping duties whilst Tara, Willow and Giles continued with the research.
“We really should be getting receipts from Willy…” she muttered. “I’m certain his ‘intel’ could be written off as a tax break.”
Willow caught Anya’s mutterings and shook her head in disbelief before continuing with her research.
“I want answers Willy.”
The greasy haired bartender gulped visibly when the slayers dark haired friend leaned ominously over the bar. Ominous was not a word one would normally associate with Xander, but it fit his demeanor tonight.
When he had entered the bar mere minutes earlier he had been expecting the usual bravado then to be slipped a $20 for his troubles. But not this time, this time Xander Harris was angry. Willy had never seen the kid so worked up, and he had been in here dozens of times before.
Using his bar cloth to wipe his forehead before returning to his glass polishing, his eyes darted around the half empty bar before he nodded once. “I don’t know much… but I’ll tell you what I do.”
Xander’s expression told Willy that he was listening but that he shouldn’t try his patience.
“New group of vamps arrived in town a couple of days ago. Big plans they say. Going to make the slayers life a living hell they say.” Willy raised an eyebrow. “I’ve been here a while, heard this sort of bravado before. But these guys, these guys were different. They knew stuff, stuff that outsiders shouldn’t know.”
Willy leaned closer further over the bar and Xander mirrored his actions as the bartender’s voice lowered in volume, not that there was much point, considering the vampires in the room would be able to hear him anyway.
“They didn’t mention who they were working for, but I did hear one little tidbit that you might find useful… for the right price of course.” He suggested, rubbing his fingers together in a sign of wanting cash.
Xander’s expression darkened before his fist shot out and connected with Willy’s nose. Both men shouted in pain, Xander shaking his sore fist in the air whilst Willy covered his bleeding nose with his dish rag.
“Willy…” Xander threatened.
“Alright, alright!” Willy spluttered in pain. “The Master. They mentioned the Master.”
All of the colour left Xander’s face, his jaw slackening. How many times can this guy come back…?
“That’s not possible… the Master’s dead. I saw Buffy crush his bones; he is one vamp who is definitely dust in the wind. Literally.”
“Hey man, don’t beat up the messenger. That’s what I heard. That was the only name that came up in conversation.” Willy shrugged his shoulders, gently prodding his painful nose.
“Thanks.” Xander muttered as he turned and left the bar.
This was bad… very bad…
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