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Slings and Arrows

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At first, Buffy thought she was just walking. She didn't realize where she was headed. She didn't feel like showing up at home and having the inevitable fight with her parents about walking out of the hospital in the middle of the night against medical advice. Especially not now that they were both there to gang up on her again. Besides, she might wake their precious baby. That whole drama could keep until morning.

But Buffy certainly had no intention of going back to the hospital voluntarily. She'd like to have been patrolling. She felt like killing something. But she didn't feel up to the kind of quick thinking it would take to face off against the forces of darkness without so much as a cross, let alone a blade or a stake. She guessed she should have grabbed something of Giles's on her way out, but it had just been too critical to not be there anymore at that moment.

So Buffy kept to the shadows, minding even less than her own business. Which felt wrong and sort of humiliating. But she had enough troubles to deal with tonight without going out hunting for more.

Instead she walked, her mind wandering, while her feet moved purposefully in the direction of what she wasn't thinking about. Until she found her self in the neighborhood of the Bronze. On the street in front of Angel's apartment building. Walking down the steps to his front door.

Buffy reached for the knob, then hesitated. Should she knock? How long had it been, for him, since they'd last seen each other? How long since they had kissed and killed together at the ice rink, fearlessly in love? Long enough for Giles to have gotten her pregnant, obviously. And at least a few months piled on top of that. Willow had said her pregnancy was accelerated, one of the many funtastic details of the whole Slayer gig. But surely it still have to take at least a few months to grown an entire 7-10 lb. person from one tiny little cell.

Buffy knocked, but probably not loudly enough for anyone to hear. Not even a vampire. She was getting cold feet. Why hadn't she asked Willow about Angel? How she'd left things with him; what to expect?

Well, okay, there was no real mystery there. Buffy had lost the will to sit still and listen the minute Willow had dropped the bombshell of the century on her. She and Giles had a baby. Together. It had taken hours for anything else to matter after that, and now here she was, smack in the face of anything else that mattered and not a clue what she was about to walk into.

But whatever waited on the other side of that door, Buffy had to see it for herself. She was pretty sure Angel had survived Career Week, but she needed to be really sure. To see him. To touch him. To hold him in her arms if that was even still possible. Which, it very well might not be, she realized, feeling more miserable and confused by the second.

Maybe Angel would hate her. Maybe she'd broken his heart. Then again, for all she knew, he and Giles might have cooked up the whole baby thing together while pouring over their zillion-year-old prophecy books and drinking hundred-year-old scotch. She wouldn't put it past either of them, what with it being the semi-annual End of the World and all.

Suddenly, Buffy felt so unsure of herself, so close to loosing her nerve that she couldn't hesitate any longer without backing out out altogether. That was not going to happen. “When in doubt,” she mumbled to herself, reaching resolutely for the doorknob, “barge in.”

“Naughty, naughty,” a tall, thin female figure answered in a nasty-sweet sing-song voice, suddenly slamming the door open from the inside. “It's not nice to come in uninvited.”

Buffy froze. Of all the things she might have expected to find in Angel's apartment, this was not one of them. Skin like snow, lips like blood, and hair as dark as ebony. It was strange how well two things, two people could fit the same description and yet be nothing alike.

The way Drusilla was nothing like Angel, even if they were both vampires. The way she was nothing like a helpless princess waiting to be rescued and no one to be counted out in a fight. And what in the name of Sunnydale was she doing here? Was she living with Angel now? Had she killed him? Were they lovers? Had Angel switched sides or had she?

“You!” Drusilla hissed, suddenly going full vamp face and lunging at Buffy, as if she'd only just recognized her. And maybe she had. Buffy doubted she looked much like herself after however many months in a coma.

That was her last thought about anything but tactics. This was not a time for thinking but for killing. And Buffy suddenly found herself feeling very, very ready for that, unarmed or not.

Fortunately, tactics were not Drusilla's strong suit. Especially when she was as pissed as she clearly was. As Drusilla lunged head-on for Buffy's throat, the Slayer hoped backward up three stairs and out of her way, just in time to send the vampire sprawling face first onto the concrete stairs. Just like Wiley Coyote.

Unlike the roadrunner, Buffy did not take the opportunity to flee. She jumped down into the middle of Drusilla's back, grabbed her by the hair, and slammed her face into the concrete again. Her eyes cast about for anything sharp, wooden, consecrated, or all of the above. But the stairwell was empty.

Drusilla tried to get her arms under her to push herself up, but Buffy slammed her face down a third time and a fourth, running on pure rage. Finally, Drusilla managed to struggle to her feet and shake Buffy off of her back sending her flying through the doorway into Angel's apartment, screaming with at least equal ferocity.

They had fought their way across the room, nearly to the kitchen door, before Buffy finally realized what Drusilla was saying, or rather, screeching over and over. “Youkildim, youkildim, Youkildim!” You killed him. The words struck Buffy in the chest like bullets. She could have meant Spike. But somehow Buffy knew she didn't.

You killed him.

Buffy found herself on the floor next to the bed. Drusilla was on top of her, fangs coming at her throat again. She blocked with an arm, which Drusilla bit savagely, almost as if she meant to gnaw her way right through it to get to Buffy's jugular. Until she got distracted by the blood.

The quality of Drusilla's moaning and growling shifted from enraged to enraptured the moment Buffy's blood touched her tongue. Buffy let her have it. For just as many seconds as she needed. She couldn't have planned a better distraction. Although any distraction she had planned probably would have hurt a lot less.

Whatever. A pint or two of blood bought Buffy the seconds she needed to rip the bedpost off of Angel's bed with her free hand and jam it in Drusilla's back. It went in a good bit lower than the heart, but it left her wriggling on the floor in agony, no longer able to focus on fighting Buffy, or on anything besides her own pain.

Buffy grabbed an old shirt that was laying across Angel's chair and tied it around her arm to put pressure on the wound and help stop the bleeding. It only partly worked. Part of her wanted to stay and finish Drusilla off while she was down. But the part that was in charge of not dying knew that Drusilla wouldn't be down for long.

They might not be alone for much longer either. Between the noise they'd made and the sweet smell of Slayer blood everywhere, Spike was bound to be rushing home to his beloved at his best vampire speed. Buffy doubted he'd be more than a few blocks away. It was like the two of them were joined by an invisible tether. One was never far from the other.

For once, Buffy chose discretion over valor, as Giles would have said, and decided to get out of there while the getting was good. Even if out of there meant back to the hospital.

*****

All the machines in the room kept up their steady bleeping and blooping. Each had it's own unique little sound. Together they made a sort of off-white noise that could be soothing once you were used to the rhythm of it.

Xander was used to the rhythm.

He sat in the semidarkness. Half asleep; half awake. Half waiting for Cordelia to wake up; half waiting for her to die.

Xander came here after patrol most nights. This was a good place to wait. It was quiet here, but not too quiet, thanks to the Bleeping and Blooping. Nobody tried on console him here, to tell him they were sorry for his loss or that he would get over it.

In this room, the only person who mattered was Cordelia. She was the center of her own tiny universe at last. Here nothing was expected of him except devotion to her. And that was easy. He'd always known she was too good for him, better than any girl he would ever love again.

“Hey,” said a nervous little voice. One he knew so well that his certainty that he was mistaken felt like a knife through his heart.

“Buffy?” he asked doubtfully, drowsily, lifting his weary head to look. Then, suddenly wide awake, on his feet even, “Buffy! Oh my God, Buffy!”

She was in his arms before he knew that he had taken a step. Actually he must have taken all the steps. If anything, Buffy had stepped back. They were standing in the hallway. Which was too bad; because Buffy hardly got a sound out, let alone a word, before they had attracted the attention of at least a dozen hospital staff.

'What are you doing out to bed?' was the major refrain, aimed entirely at Buffy. Xander was confused by their blasé , commonplace annoyance. “But, she's awake!” he tried to explain. “It's... it's a miracle.”

A portly nurse heaved a heavy sigh. “You mean nobody told you?” she asked, sympathetically incredulous.

“Uh, yeah, that would be a no,” Xander returned indignantly. But already he was becoming distracted, watching as Buffy was all too easily lead away by an intern in a white coat who wanted to take a look at her apparently wounded arm.

The nurses gave him a few more words of encouragement or comfort or whatever, then told him he'd best leave for the night. They knew he was usually in Cordelia's room this time of night. Of course they did. But they liked it better when nobody could say for certain if he was or wasn't there. Admitting that non family members were sometimes allowed to visit after hours if the nurses liked them was against hospital policy.

Reluctantly, Xander got on the elevator and road down to the ground floor. He usually liked to stay until it was at least bordering on daylight. The hospital had a big parking lot, with plenty of cars to hide in, under, or behind; even at this hour. He had a cross on his key-chain and a little sprayer that said pepper-spray but was really holy water; but still.

Xander peered through the glass front doors, trying to convince himself that he could see enough of the terrain between the hospital and Uncle Rory's convertible to feel sure of getting there safely. But from this vantage point, there could be a couple of vamps making out in the back seat for all he knew.

Finally, just as he was on the verge of venturing forth, purely for lack of excuses; a thought struck him. Willow! Sure the hospital had probably called Joyce and Hank with the good news, but they weren't telling anyone yet, apparently. Somebody had to tell Willow. Which Xander manfully undertook to do. Which meant that he had to use one of the payphones in the lighted, crowed waiting area of the Emergency Room. Darn it.

Of course that also meant being glared at by the tall, blond creature who worked security in that part of the hospital at night. But even though the vampire still gave him the creeps, and Holy Moses would he have been afraid to go anywhere alone with the guy; Xander had to admit that at least Spike was on his best behavior at work. He guessed there was nothing some vamps wouldn't do to keep a job that had it's own blood bank.