New Wounds... old confusion.
Jon was amazed. He and Dawn brought up the rear as Willow and Xander walked ahead. He couldn’t believe just how relaxed they seemed. It was almost as if this were an afternoon stroll. He looked at Dawn and Dawn grinned at him.
“Are you guys always like this?”
“Mostly,” said Dawn. “Joking in the face of death is a good ol’ Sunnydale tradition.”
“I’d rather no one died,” said Jon.
“Oh, no one usually dies… except the bad guy,” said Dawn airily.
Jon felt slightly shocked by what seemed to be her cavalier attitude. He found himself hanging back just a little, trying to stay alert despite their relaxed attitude. Mostly, though he didn’t admit it to himself, he wanted to make sure nothing snuck up on them from behind. Yes, it was true they were just after one girl, but from what they’d been told, she was extremely dangerous. If she were anywhere as strong as Buffy, he believed it. So far, this slayer had gotten the drop on the guards at her mental hospital as well as the security guard in the department store where she’d obtained a change of clothes and a stash of food. Jon had no idea what the skills the security guards had possessed, but he saw no reason to take dumb chances.
Jon hadn’t seen much of Willow’s magic, on which they were apparently depending so he had no idea if he was wrong to be concerned. Part of it was, of course, worry for Dawn – something he decided he needed to keep to himself for now. He’d never have treated Sam the way he found himself wanting to treat Dawn – mostly because he knew Sam was a seasoned combatant and he’d gotten used to that idea long before he admitted to himself that he loved her. Of course, there was nothing he could have done about any protective feelings he might have had, since he’d been her superior officer and sending people into danger was what you did. Of course, that was the other him.
Dawn, on the other hand was a civilian – at least that’s how she felt to him and the way she, Xander and Willow kidded each other did nothing to dispel his concerns. Jon really wanted to tell them to be quiet, but this was their gig, not his, so he bit his tongue. Despite his discomfort, he got the feeling that they were all a bit more aware of what was going on than they seemed to be. Even so, when this was over, he decided a discussion had to be had, particularly since they were going to be going through the gate soon.
As he walked, he began to observe his three friends. Even though they laughed and kidded, he noticed that Dawn and Xander in particular were actually quite aware of their surroundings. They might not be moving with stealth, but he slowly realized they were a lot more alert than he’d originally thought. Willow was more difficult to read. However, if she were as powerful as they said, who knew what she was capable of?
Teal'c followed Buffy silently down one level, responding to her signals. He decided she must have learned the military signaling from her old boyfriend. Teal'c found he could not recall the man’s name – but he did recall that he was a friend of Graham Miller’s. He recalled Buffy’s description of her patrols with the demon hunting military group in Sunnydale. She had been alert from the beginning, but suddenly it was clear she was on high alert, aware of everything around her. Teal’c couldn’t tell just what it was she was responding to, but he could tell she was responding to something because her demeanor had changed completely. Buffy began to walk faster and more quietly. At first, they’d been searching each room. Now it was clear she had a definite objective. As small as she was, she moved quickly though she wasn’t quite running. It was clear she either felt or heard something. In fact, he was now almost certain she’d sent the others the other way deliberately, though he couldn’t tell just how she knew whatever it was she seemed to know. Then they were at the top of several flights of concrete stairs. She paused, looking up at him and nodding. Then she took off down the stairs, taking them two at a time, and yet still making very little noise. He followed a little more slowly so he could maintain the stealth she obviously still wanted. By the time he was half way down the third flight of stairs, he was a full flight behind her. Then she hit the bottom step and began to sprint and soon she was half the building and half a flight ahead, her footfalls barely giving her away. She was barely visible in the near darkness only broken by the dim glow of dust encrusted security lights. She came almost to the end of the corridor, and made an abrupt right turn, vanishing into a dark room. Teal'c followed Buffy as fast as he could and cautiously entered the room but he couldn’t see anything at first as there was even less light.
Teal’c couldn’t have said whether he heard her voice first or smelled it first. Blood. Even over the oppressive smell of stale molasses, the smell of blood was distinctive and as sickening as it always was. Buffy! He followed the sound as quietly as he could.
“Head and heart. Head and heart. Head and heart…” a demented voice repeated over and over like a sick mantra.
“Ohmygod… Spike!” he heard Buffy’s anguished voice in the gloom, and was at her side almost instantly.
Buffy grabbed the young woman who was leaning over Spike’s unconscious body from behind and she immediately began to struggle. Teal'c heard the sound of bones breaking as the bloody saw in the woman’s grasp hit the ground. Buffy had her on the ground and in the handcuffs she had brought with her. Still the young woman was struggling. Then Buffy slugged her and she lay still.
“You need to secure her better than this, Teal’c. She’ll probably only be out for a couple of minutes and she’s as strong as I am and running on adrenaline.”
Teal'c found it hard to believe the girl would wake up any time soon, given the force of the blow, but Buffy sounded confident, so he got to work. Even as he secured her legs with the ropes Buffy had insisted he carry, the young woman began to stir, pulling the cuffs taut. She moaned as the pain of her broken wrists registered, but she continued to struggle, and Teal'c realized he had to move faster. Even with most of his weight holding her in place, and her semi conscious condition, she was still a handful.
“Handle it. I’ve gotta try and keep Spike’s hands attached –she’s cut them almost all the way through,” said Buffy.
Teal'c worked faster.
“Get the others down here,” she said a few seconds later.
Teal'c heard the sound of ripping cloth.
The young woman was beginning to buck harder and Teal'c came to a decision. He pulled his zat out, stood up and shot her once. Then he called Xander’s phone and returned to securing her, deciding to treat her as he would a Goa'uld. As Buffy had promised, her phone worked perfectly, despite their being in the subbasement. Moments after the call, the room lit up as all the lights in the ceiling suddenly came to life. This made Teal'c’s job much easier.
“We have captured the slayer,” Jon heard Teal'c’s voice through Xander’s phone. “We are on sublevel B 3”
“Gotcha,” said Xander. “We’re up, Willow.”
Jon watched the transformation of his three companions as they made their way down the stairs to the ground floor. The joking was over and they were all business. Willow led them down the stairs. She touched a nearby light switch and muttered the words to some spell, and it seemed as if every light in the building suddenly came on.
“Whoa!” said Jon. “Wait, why didn’t you do this before?”
“We didn’t want to spook her,” said Xander.
“That makes sense,” said Jon.
As they came down the stairs to the main level, Jon heard the sound of running boots.
“Down here!” said the voice.
Jon heard the sound of half a dozen pairs of boots closing in on the sound of the voice.
“Wait,” he said. “That sounds like soldiers.”
“It’s gotta be Angel’s people,” said Xander, continuing down the stairs. “They’re the one’s who called Faith about the slayer.”
“Oh,” said Jon, following them down.
As the four of them cleared the stairs and turned to run toward the basement stairs, they came face to face with four large men carrying weapons. As they came into view, the soldiers raised their weapons.
“Stop,” said one of the men, who Jon decided was probably the team leader. “You need to evacuate the building now.”
“We’re with Buffy,” said Willow tersely.
“I’m sorry miss, but I can’t allow you to go any further,” said the man. “You people have to leave…”
Willow said just one word. “Thicken.”
Jon was stunned to see the men were now stuck as if in some sort of glue.
“Come on,” said Xander, “We don’t have much time.”
The four made their way into the basement as rapidly as they could.
Buffy was in Angel’s office. She’d arranged for Dana’s hospitalization at council expense until she could be transferred to England for a proper attempt to help her heal. Willow and Xander were taking care of the details. Dawn and Jon were waiting in the lobby with Teal'c.
“I can’t believe you let Willow put the whammy on my men,” said Angel in an irritated tone.
“I can’t believe Spike came back and you didn’t bother to pick up a phone and call me,” said Buffy.
“Buffy…,” said Angel.
“Don’t Buffy me, Angel. Even if he was stupid enough not to let us know he was back, don’t you think something like that is something we should know about? Remember what happened when I came back to life this last time?”
“I’m…,” Angel began.
“Save it,” said Buffy. “How is he?”
“They’re giving him blood. Thanks to you, she didn’t manage to cut off his hands all the way, but they still needed to sedate him. He’ll be fine,” said Angel.
“I want to see him,” said Buffy.
“What? You done baking?” Angel said snidely. He said it softly, but even though she didn’t have vampire hearing, her hearing was still much better than average.
Buffy’s fists clenched and unclenched at her sides. Angel tensed for the flurry of punches that never came.
“You could say that.”
Buffy said it so quietly, Angel who liked to believe he feared nothing, felt fearful.
“I’m sorry,” said Angel, his voice raw and flat.
“You know what Angel? I don’t care from sorry. I don’t care anymore. Spike was right. We’re not friends and I can’t let myself forget that again. You’re just an office romance gone wrong and you and I never did work well together. No matter how much I deny it, we can’t be friends because you’re still hung up on some perfect romance we’re never gonna have. You haven’t asked yourself why Spike came back. Did it occur to you that it might mean something? You certainly didn’t care about my grief or Dawn’s grief. I should have remembered you wouldn’t even think about me or my feelings if they got in the way of your adolescent fantasy and you’re just too pig headed to get the concept of me letting you down easy… I guess I really didn’t think you were so self-centered that you’d keep something from us that might have some kind of world ending consequences. Are you really that selfish or has your time in this comfy little corner of hell made you completely lose your mind?
“That’s not fair,” said Angel. “It’s not like he called you, is it?”
“Harmony… and just consider that
source for a moment… I have to hear this from Harmony of all people… she tells me he wasn’t exactly in a position to call anyone until about a week and a half ago. Yet you didn’t call, did you? Trust me, Spike and I will be having a conversation – but I get Spike’s kind of stupid. I really don’t get yours.”
“You get Spike?” Angel actually looked hurt.
Buffy sighed and rolled her eyes.
“Yeah. I get that after all the crap that happened in the last year that he has less than any clue how to deal with me or us… After what he did – the good and the bad – after going out in a literal blaze of glory – I bet he’s afraid he could never top that – that he felt as if he finally redeemed himself and he probably wants me to remember him that way… so, yeah, I get him.”
“Thought so. Stupid, but I get it. I truly do. And I bet you nudged him in that direction too.”
The angry tears that had been threatening, began to flow in earnest but she didn't look away.
Angel couldn’t meet her eyes.
“And you ask me why I don’t get you? I’ll tell you why. It’s because you – you betrayed me, Angel. You knew I’d grieve him and you let me suffer in ignorance. You knew how devastated I was when I was in LA right after… everything. No, it’s not like I didn’t tell you exactly how much it hurt when you saw us after Sunnydale because – stupid me – I actually trusted you when I couldn’t talk to my friends because I knew how they felt about Spike. You knew where I was and what I was going through – every time I talked to you on the road when we were looking for slayers. You knew how sad I was, how sad Dawn was and yet you preferred to let us suffer. You want to tell me just how many times we spoke after he came back or would you rather keep that to yourself? Did you really think you could keep it from me forever?”
Buffy wept as she spoke.
Buffy cut him off before he could say anything else.
“You didn’t think. You live up here in your lovely bubble, Angel. Is it nice?” Buffy’s face twisted into an angry sneer as she gestured at the luxuriously appointed office and her voice rose. “You’re a piece of work, you know that? But, I don’t know you anymore. The Angel I knew would never come to work for Hell Incorporated. The Angel I knew was better than that.”
“You have no idea…”
Angel stopped, realizing he was about to reveal secrets he wasn’t ready to share with Buffy. Her reaction to Connor the first time had been bad enough. He didn’t want her to remember her disgust over him and Darla – or anything else from the last couple of years that he’d managed to erase by coming to Wolfram and Hart. He couldn’t tell her just how much he hated it here.
Buffy stared at him, eyes narrowed, wondering just what it was he hadn't said. She found herself getting even angrier.
“I have no idea? You’re right about that. I don’t know you at all. I’m beginning to think I never did. I don’t even like you anymore, you know that?”
“Buffy… I… Spike’s not good for you…” said Angel, knowing even as he said it that he had said exactly the wrong thing.
Buffy's momentary flash of emotion wasn't something Angel could really read, but he was sure of one thing. It did not signify anything good for him.
Buffy bit her lip, trying to force the hysteria down. Though tears were streaming down her face, she had the paradoxical impulse to begin laughing too. Angel knew nothing of her life of the last several months in Colorado. They’d stopped talking regularly even before that and she hadn’t really had time to wonder why he’d stopped calling and only momentary guilt for not initiating any calls after he did.
Now she was glad he knew nothing about Teal'c or the transformation he’d brought in her life. She hadn’t introduced Angel to either Teal'c or Jon at the scene, other than to tell him that they were with her. Finding out that Spike was alive was confusing enough and it had only taken a short conversation with Harmony before the ambulance took Spike back to Wolfram and Hart for Buffy to learn that Spike had only recently become corporeal and that his using a phone had only recently become possible.
“I want to see him,” said Buffy. “Dawn and I both want to see him.”
Seeing an even paler than usual Spike laying still surrounded by the machinery of modern medicine and magic was like a body blow to Buffy. The demon doctor would only allow them into his room one at a time, so she and Dawn had to take turns. She’d allowed Dawn to go in first, knowing she’d want to stay a little longer than Dawn. When Dawn had come out of Spike’s room looking devastated and burrowed into Jon’s arms sobbing like a little child, Buffy had squeezed Teal'c’s hand tightly and he had briefly hugged her close.
“You will be all right, Buffy.”
“Thanks,” she’d said, hurrying into the room before she lost her nerve.
Now she stood over the bed, looking down at the still vampire, his arms bandaged and immobilized. Buffy stroked his brow gently before leaning in to place a gentle kiss on his forehead. As she did, her tears fell onto his face.
Buffy pulled back in shock.
Blue eyes stared up at her and Buffy stared back, suddenly unable to speak. She wanted to squeeze his hand, but settled for squeezing his shoulder. She immediately registered the hurt from her impersonal gesture and leaned in instead and hugged him as closely as she could without pulling anything out. She felt him tense, then relax. Buffy finally pulled away, stroking his forehead gently.
“You OK?” he asked.
“I should be asking you that,” she said, smiling at him.
“Should think that’s self evident, Buffy,” he stared up at her, looking bemused and a little drowsy.
“I missed you,” she said.
“’m sorry,” he said, his eyes focusing on her… “Thought it was for the best…”
“Stupid Spike,” she said.
“I’ve been called worse… by you, actually,” he tried to smile at her, but it ended in a wince.
“Oh God, Spike, I need to let you rest… The doctor said…”
“Sod the doctor…”
Just then a woman in scrubs entered the room with several large syringes.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to leave now,” she said.
“OK,” said Buffy.
“Don’t go,” said Spike.
“I’ll be back,” she said.
Buffy leaned in to kiss him lightly on the cheek. He turned so her kiss ended up connecting with his lips. Buffy didn’t jerk away, but she didn’t linger long enough for it to turn into something else either. Instead, she just leaned in and hugged him as tightly as she could without dislodging the IV or the nasogastric tube that was feeding him blood. Once again, the floodgates opened and when she pulled back, she was weeping silently. She was surprised to see that Spike was crying too. He was watching her with that intensity that always tugged at her in so many ways. She was so glad to see him and yet so torn. She could tell that, even as groggy as he was from the drugs, he knew something was up.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call you,” said Spike.
“I— don’t worry about it – for now,” she said, squeezing his shoulder gently.
“I need to give him the medicine now,” said the nurse. “He’s overdue. Painkillers wear off much faster with his type of constitution.”
“Tomorrow, OK?” she said.
“Bye luv,” Spike said, his eyes beginning to close as the nurse accessed his IV and the medication began to flood his system.