In thirty years hospitals hadn’t really changed much. There had been advances in technologies and improvement in combating diseases but there was still that atmosphere; that unmistakable air of death and loss that pervaded throughout buildings like this. New Sunnydale Hospital was no different. It was a brightly lit and brightly painted place. The wards were cleaner than clean and the staff mostly managed to look cheerful and busy. It had good reviews in the local newspapers and was considered to be one of many shining beacons in the city of New Sunnydale.
Spike still hated it.
The last time he’d been here was to watch his wife die. Now he was doing the same with Buffy. He’d heard the moment that her heart had stopped beating. She was gone for three long minutes before the ambulance arrived and the paramedics revived her enough to keep her alive. All Spike could think was: I let Buffy be dead for three minutes. He had just sat there with a stupid blanket thrown over his head, staring uselessly with vacant eyes at her unmoving body, while Mya – his child – called for help.
So it seemed that for all the changes he’d made and for all the things he had learned and bettered about himself, Spike was still worthless. He’d put on a good show of responsibility and capability but when it really came down to it? He choked. That was what he did.
He sat in the hallway staring at his hands which were covered all the way up to his forearms in dry but sticky Slayer blood. His focus flittered between feeling nothing in a hazy numbness and being hyperaware of everything around him. He registered trolleys rushing up and down the hall, he heard calls for doctors over the loudspeakers, and somewhere in the distance a heart monitor was flat lining.
Buffy was in surgery, he was aware of that. A grey haired doctor had informed him of that. Spike had forgotten the man’s name.
The vampire still had his blanket wrapped loosely around his shoulders and to any passer-by he would appear to be a decent approximation of a shock patient. Spike guessed that was accurate enough; he wasn’t feeling much of anything right now.
Mya sat down next to him, two Styrofoam cups in her hands. She set one down beside him and clutched the other in her left hand, slipping her right arm around his. Spike glanced at the cup of warm blood substitute but did not acknowledge it again.
He could feel the tremor running through Mya’s grip and he was reminded that irrespective of what was happening to Buffy, his daughter was pretty shaken up too. It was with this in mind that Spike looked at the girl beside him, his face as open and honest as it had ever been, and tried to smile with reassurance.
Mya shook her head in a slight and stilted movement. The implication was clear; he didn’t have to pretend to be even remotely okay for her sake.
Spike took her at her unspoken word but still looked away, turning his face so that all she saw was the back of his head as his face crumpled and cracked into a picture of agony.
“What happened? Where is she!”
Willow and Xander had arrived. Mya had called them in the ride over in the ambulance. Spike hadn’t had the presence of mind to even think of them. He wiped at his face as he turned to watch their harried approach. Xander was running down the hall, Willow not far behind.
Mya stood up, holding a hand up. “She’s in surgery. They said they’d tell us when they have news.”
“The hell they will!” Xander spat, moving around her and continuing on past Spike. “I’m gonna find a doctor right now.”
Willow halted. “What happened? Spike, what happened?”
He looked at her; her face etched with confusion and heartache and his mouth opened to speak, to offer some sort of explanation or reason, but he found nothing.
“Spike!” Willow practically screamed at him.
“Hey!” Mya stepped between them. “She got…shot. She got…I told you, she got shot. She’s in surgery. That’s all we know. It’s all we know.”
Willow’s expression softened when met with the girl before her. “But…why?”
“We don’t know. She was protecting me,” Mya said quietly. “It could have been me.”
Willow paused before reaching out and bringing her into a hug. “That’s…that’s Buffy, all right. That’s what she does.”
Spike turned away to watch Xander up the other end of the corridor. He was yelling and waving his arms around. Two nurses were attempting to calm him with little success. Spike thought that he should be like that. He should be demanding answers and getting irrationally pissed off. He’d been like that the first time, of course. With Claire. It had been cancer then, though, and certainly nobodies fault but that hadn’t mattered to him. He’d been mad at the world. Mad at the doctors. Mad at Claire. Mad at himself. He’d thrown himself into a destructive rage and only the thought of Mya had brought him back. Anger hadn’t given him his wife back. But it had given him fleeting relief. He should have been like that now – impassioned, uncontrollable, frenzied.
Instead he was sat on a plastic chair with a blanket around his shoulders and a cooling cup of blood substitute spoiling next to him.
Spike turned back and blinked at the man standing off to the side of him. He was dressed in a suit and a long dark trench coat. His hair was parted at the side and he wore thin rimmed glasses and designer stubble. He was police. And he looked familiar.
“I need to take a statement from you and your daughter,” the detective said in what was clearly his soothing and sympathetic voice.
Spike blinked again.
“Right now?” Mya pulled away from Willow. “I don’t think he can.”
The detective regarded her for a moment. “There are some things we need to discuss.”
“Right now?” She repeated, her voice rising in anger and disbelief.
He glanced at Spike. “It’s for your protection. Both of you.”
“What are you talking about?” Mya stepped into him, folding her arms.
Willow placed a hand on her shoulders. “What is this about, detective? Buffy was obviously the target – she’d just wrapped up a murder trial.”
“I’m well aware, ma’am.” He said dryly, his eyes all for Spike. “But we have reason to believe otherwise.”
Willow frowned. “Why?”
“The bullet that hit Miss. Summers was wooden.”
+ + +
When Buffy opened her eyes she was not impressed by the scene that greeted her. Heaven had changed a lot since she’d last been there. It now looked a hell of a lot like a hospital ward. A futuristic hospital ward but a hospital ward nevertheless. She grunted and tried to roll onto her side but without much success. Looking down she saw that she was hooked up to all sorts of machines and none of them wanted her to go anywhere. In fact almost as soon as she’d made a movement one of the shiny silver devices attached to her had begun to beep in a shrill tone. Buffy stopped moving and it stopped bitching at her. Seemed like a reasonable compromise.
Nothing hurt, which seemed weird. She guessed that she was pretty drugged up and had to admit that whatever newfangled medication they had her on was awesome.
A warm voice greeted her, “Miss. Summers.”
Only a second passed before the owner of the voice entered her line of vision. He was a grey haired man dressed in a lab coat and holding a clipboard. Buffy really hoped this was a hospital because she was not in the mood for an Initiative style probing.
“I do prefer having Slayers for patients,” he confided in her, his eyes dark blue and kind. “You tend to survive a lot more than the regular ones.”
Buffy managed to croak out a reply, “Um, thanks?”
“I’m Dr. Mallory; I’m your lead surgeon. The operation went very well.”
“Hence the survival?” She rasped, swallowing a couple of times.
“Indeed. The bullet penetrated your bowels, which is very unfortunate. It was a long surgery but a successful one – the fragmentation of the bullet made it a rather large challenge,” Dr. Mallory admitted. “But, like I said, you Slayers are made of sterner stuff. A medical miracle. And the benefit of an awesome surgeon didn’t hurt either.”
Buffy gave him a look. “Awesome?”
“Why yes, I am.” He smiled. “You have some extremely anxious and, dare I say, semi-violent visitors who would like to confirm your wellbeing with their own eyes. Shall I send them in?”
“Do I have bed hair?”
“Of the worst kind,” Dr. Mallory admitted.
Buffy hesitated briefly before nodding. The doctor gave her one last smile, and a quick glance at her chart, before padding out of view. A minute or two passed before she heard hurried and heavy footfalls. Buffy cursed her bed hair silently but tried to paste a ‘tired but heroic survivor’ expression on to her face. Xander appeared around the curtain first, his shoulders falling in visible relief when he saw she was okay.
She noticed he was wearing a fresh shirt and dark jeans and remembered his and Willow’s request to get changed before their celebratory barbeque. Buffy guessed that would have to be postponed, then.
“Aw, you got all pretty for me,” she rasped.
Xander looked her over for a moment longer before taking a breath and retorting good-naturedly, “And you developed the husky tones of a sixty year old emphysema patient for me. You shouldn’t have, Buffy.”
“I think I sound sexy.”
“Yeah, the combination of the sexy voice and the tousled hair really works for you.”
Buffy reached up slowly to pat her hair. “Bridget Bardot inspired.”
Xander managed a warm if shaky smile before he hurried over and took her hand. She felt the sweat on his palm and the shakes running through his fingers. Buffy smiled at him.
Willow appeared around the curtain next, her approach more cautious than her friend’s. Mya followed closely behind and pulled her father in by the hand after her. The Slayer’s gaze skipped immediately to Spike. He was holding on to Mya tightly as though she was anchoring him. He was wearing a hospital orderly’s shirt which confused her until she realised that he’d probably had her blood all over him. As it was now, his skin was sparkly clean. Like the past had been erased. But it hadn’t because it still shone in his eyes. He looked lost and troubled and though that made sense Buffy didn’t like to see him this way. The last time she’d seen that look it had been when he’d found out the First was controlling him and that he’d lost a part of himself.
“Not so glum, please,” Buffy implored. “This wasn’t your fault.”
“Kinda was.” Xander huffed, turning away.
Willow glared at him. “Xander!”
Buffy frowned. “What?”
“The bullet was wooden, Buffy,” Xander explained with his back still to them all, his shoulders rigid. “The police think it was an H.F.H. attack.”
“Wooden.” Buffy said, the medication clouding her brain.
Spike spoke for the first time his voice low and miserable, “The bullet was for me. It should’ve been me.”
“No arguments here.” Xander muttered.
“Xander,” Buffy sighed. “What happened to being nice?”
“All bets are off when he is getting you shot at!” He turned on his heel to face her, his expression angry.
“Hey, it’s not his fault!” Mya said. “It’s not like he wanted a hit put out on him, you…ignorant…prejudiced…idiot!”
Xander blinked at her.
She continued, enraged, “H.F.H are full of people like you, so stupid and so scared of what they don’t understand that they go around using their fear as motivation to hurt people! If you want to blame someone, blame your brothers-in-arms, jerk!”
“I’m not…Mya, I’m not a member of Humans For Humans –”
“Know what? That surprises me every day. They seem like your kind of people.”
“Hey! Hey, come on –” Willow tried to intervene.
Mya took a step back, waving her arms wide. “I’m sick of it. I’m so sick of it. I’m sick of dad getting the blame. Someone just tried to kill me and him and nearly did kill Buffy and all he gets is abuse and stupid comments. It’s bull. It is bull and I hate it! And I’m…I’m scared, Willow, okay? I’m scared.” Her eyes were shining but she did not cry.
The redhead moved in, slipping her arms around her. “Mya.”
“My, I’m…” Xander’s head was hanging in shame. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…I don’t think before I speak. I’m sorry.”
Buffy’s eyes were for Spike as he watched his daughter quickly wiping at her eyes in resistance of showing weakness. His face was sad but resigned and Buffy could see that despite what Mya had said, Spike blamed himself. Just like he had blamed himself when she got stuck in the portal. Just like he was always blaming himself. She flashbacked to the many times she’d screamed at Spike that everything that went wrong was because of him.
“Spike,” Buffy held her hand out, making the machine bleep loudly.
He looked at her.
“Get here. Now.”
Spike complied obediently, shuffling towards her and only briefly hesitating before reaching out to take her hand. His skin was cold and smooth.
“The guy who shot me; what happened to him?” She asked.
“Dead.” He answered, not meeting her eyes.
Buffy nodded cautiously. “Okay. Right, well, if H.F.H is after us then we take the fight to them, right? Not a big deal. This is what we do.”
“Not us. Me. They want me.”
“If they want you then they want me, Spike.” Buffy replied. “There is no you without me. Not anymore.”
Spike sighed, shaking his head. “Buffy –”
“I love you.”
“You know I mean it when I say it,” she said, eyes all for him. “So you know that we’re in this together then.”
He looked back. “You died, Buffy. Because of me.”
“Because of them. Not you. Also…I died? Again? People should really let me know about these things,” Buffy sighed, glancing at Willow. “Life insurance is going to be hell.”
Spike chuckled softly and she would have missed it if he hadn’t been standing so close. Buffy looked back to meet his eyes and smiled gently. He returned it, although his wavered with worry. “I’ll speak to Riley. I’ll get him to sort this out.”
Xander frowned. “Uh, Buffy? What’s to say Riley isn’t behind this?”
“He isn’t. He let Spike go before, in the past. And he knows how I feel about him. He knew before I did,” Buffy reasoned. “I’ll talk to him. See, guys, this is why it’s always a good idea to stay friends with your exes.”
Willow smiled shakily. “Relationship advice from Buffy? This does not seem right.”
“Yeah, Buff, one ex in jail and the other in a violent vigilante group does not gel with the whole ‘let’s stay in touch; we’ll email’vibe.” Xander added, still not looking at Mya.
“Police want to speak to you,” Spike said, voice low and still subdued.
She squeezed his hand. “They can wait.”
A few minutes passed between the group in silence; a living diorama of confusion, anxiety, repressed anger and awkward embarrassment lingering until Mya, as usual, broke the spell.
“So, I guess I’m supposed to know that you and Buffy are together now, then, right?” She asked, eyebrows rising, her voice warm with amusement. “Way to be subtle and considerate about telling me, guys.”
Spike and Buffy looked at each other and both turned to her guiltily. Each attempted to think of something suitable to say. Both failed.
Mya shook her head. “Sometimes I think I’m the only one with any social graces around here. And I’m sixteen. What does that say about you all?”
Buffy decided she had a point.
+ + +
Mya looked through the window to the ward, watching as the blonde Slayer sat up in her bed and made an irate phone call. It had been barely twenty four hours since she had been shot and she still wouldn’t rest. Mya found it admirable and inspiring and empowering but also slightly exhausting just watching her be Buffy.
“She wasn’t kidding about making a call to H.F.H?” She asked as she turned away and crossed the hall.
“Buffy gets things done,” Willow informed her. “She’s a doer.”
The girl nodded, making her way over to the seat beside the witch. “I’m sensing that.”
“You know, Mya, you don’t have to be okay with Buffy.”
Mya frowned. “What’d you mean? Buffy’s great. She’s strong and honest and resilient and stupidly pretty and she…has honour. She’s packing a whole lot of honour.”
“She’s all of those things,” Willow agreed. “But she’s not your mother.”
Mya looked away. “No, she’s way too short.”
“It’s okay if you hate her. I’ll back you. We can get our hate on together. You don’t have to be so grown up and mature all the time,” she placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder.
Mya nodded as their eyes met. “Thank you, Willow. But I like her.”
The older woman seemed to analyse her answer for any waver of an untruth but after a moment she simply inclined her head in agreement. “Good. Me too.”
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