Buffy watched as Acathla's mouth opened back up. She glanced at Giles and then at her other friends. It had been a long three weeks since she had put him there. Since she had put Angel in Hell. Whistler nodded at her and she put her arm into the light and felt something grab hold. It pulled hard..yet she stood her ground and pulled back. She grunted in the effort it took to hang on and not lose her footing. His hand came out first. His hand clutched her upper arm and she saw his claddagh ring. She tugged hard and pulled him free and they tumbled to heap with him on top of her. He looked bad. He was haggard and worn. He was crying and he was scared of her. He bolted away like her skin was Holy Water. She called out to him but the kept running..and running..into the darkness. "ANGEL!" she screamed..needing to apologize.."I LOVE YOU!!"
"Buffy!" Said a voice. Buffy stirred a little and looked at Kate. Her blond friend of about two weeks. Kate smiled. "You love Angel. The whole damn alley knows that now."
"I was dreaming." Buffy sat up and rubbed her eyes and realized that the sun had set. "I wish it was real."
"A dream is a wish your heart makes." Kate smiled at her. "My dad used to say that."
"Yeah..well my heart must go on.." Buffy took the vodka that Kate held out, sipped it and grimaced. "Celine Dion said that."
"Who?" Kate rubbed her own eyes.
Buffy looked at her. Kate had been the first person Buffy ran into in Las Vegas. They were both seventeen but Kate had been homeless for most of her life. She was tough as nails and quite a good fighter. Buffy had been almost robbed her first night and Kate had come to her aid. Buffy didn't realize that homelessness did not lend itself to much radio listening. "Celine Dion," she shrugged. "She's a way famous sad singer."
"Oh." Kate shrugged. "It's late. We should probably go see if they are serving any dinner at the shelter."
"Okay." Buffy stood up and gathered her few belongings from under the box she had been laying on. She pulled her newly aquired brown hair into a tangled pony tail and stretched. She had gotten used to sleeping during the day now because if you fell asleep at night on the street..it could cause bodily harm. She trudged along behind Kate.
Kate led the way through a maze of alleys that ran through the warehouse district of Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Hearts Outreach was about half a mile away. Buffy could feel her stomach rumbling. It made her nauseous. Kate took a shortcut through another alley. A way creepy alley that Buffy didn't like at all. The moment they rounded the corner, she froze. "Kate," She called. "Let's stick to the main road."
Kate, who was a few feet ahead of her stopped and looked back at Buffy. "Are you insane? We have to get there before they get full or we may not eat tonight either. Come on!"
"Damn." Buffy muttered but followed her into the darkened alley. She could tell that something was up. The hairs on the back of her neck began to slowly creep to a standing position. She stopped and glanced behind her. Nothing there. Maybe she was being paranoid. She turned slowly and her eyes widened. Kate was gone. "Kate?" she called loudly. "Kate..big laughs..haha..now get out here. I'm hungry."
Someone laughed in the darkness and Buffy squinted. "I'm hungry too." came an unmistakable voice.
"Spike!?" Buffy said furiously. "Las Vegas is *so* not out of the country."
"Yes, luv. Well..I know that." Spike stepped from the darkness with Kate clutched in his grasp. He had his hand over her mouth. He hadn't bitten her yet. "Las Vegas is where YOU went and I have been looking for you now for three weeks. Shame on you for leaving your little pals to defend against the big bad hellmouth."
"Let her go." Buffy put her hands on her hips. "This is between you and me."
"I told you already." Spike grinned. "I'm hungry. I can't eat you."
"You don't let her go and you'll never eat again." Buffy pulled a stake out and tapped it against her pants. "And..why can't you eat me?"
"Well pet, I need you to help me." Spike tightened his grip on Kate and she squealed a little. "Say yes..or Katie here goes out like a light."
"Let her go." Buffy took a few steps toward them. "Spike, I'm not kidding."
"And you think I am?" Spike morphed from his handsome, flawless face to that of his true vampire self. Kate's eyes widened and she passed out cold.
"Out like a light..you weren't joking." Buffy kicked Kate out of his grip and whirled a roundhouse kick at Spike's head. He caught her foot and threw her onto her back. He straddled her and Buffy realized that three weeks of barely eating and not training had left her at half her usual strength.
"Tsk Tsk." Spike said as he brought his face down toward hers. "A weak, ugly, skinny girl is what you've become. And you stink too. You help me and I'll help you."
"I'd rather die." Buffy turned her head away and bared her neck.
"And so you shall." Spike grinned.
Buffy gasped as she felt his tiny fangs dig into her neck. The pain was terrible but she didn't have the energy to scream. She slowly gave in and blacked out.
Giles scratched his head and looked at Joyce again. "And you are quite positive that she wouldn't go to Florida to reside with her Grandmother?"
"Mr. Giles, it has been three weeks since she had this..this breakdown. I'm sure she'd have gone to Florida by now." Joyce got up and walked through the kitchen. "Would you like some tea"
"Yes, please?" Giles glanced around the small kitchen. He saw a photo of Buffy on the refrigerator and walked to look at it. He took it down and trailed his finger along her smiling face. He fought the urge to cry and put it back just as Joyce turned around. He gave a half smile and removed his glasses and rubbed the threatening tears away. He cleared his throat and said, "I've noticed the fliers all about town of her. Perhaps her father should put some up in Los Angeles and perhaps you should go on television. What have the police said?"
"All they say is that she is a runaway. They are looking for her. Of course you and Willow and Xander cleared her of all suspicion when you told the police about the gang." Joyce sighed and sat across from him. "Her dad has already put fliers out up there. Oh..Mr. Giles, it is all my fault. I failed as a parent." She began to sob quietly.
Giles looked perplexed as he stood up and knelt in front of her. He took tissue from the box on the table and put it in her hand. "There, there. Ms. Summers, Buffy is an extremely smart and wonderful girl. I realize the tremedous stress that this has caused but you must have faith in Buffy. You must have faith in her character."
Joyce blew her nose and wiped her eyes. "Mr. Giles, please call me Joyce. Thank you so much for helping me."
She threw her arms around his neck and he almost tumbled backwards from his crouched position. He patted her on the back and squeezed her tightly. "Call me Rupert, Joyce." He pushed her away and held her by the shoulders so he could gaze right at her. "We are going to find her."
"We are never going to find her." Cordelia said as she filed her thumb nail in the back of Oz's van. Xander, who was beside her, glanced at her harshly. "What?"
"Buffy once told me that nothing bad happens until you say something like that." Xander snapped.
Willow peered at them. "Well..that's not exactly what you said but I understand where you are going with this, Xander."
"I'm glad someone does." Cordy said and tucked her file in her purse. "We have passed this same tree three hundred times, Oz. Does the werewolf in you need to get out here and mark your territory so we can move on?"
"Does the excercise freak in you fancy walking, Cordelia?" Oz replied and grinned at Willow. His grin turned to a frown as he looked closely at Willow and saw that a tear was coursing down her cheek. "Will," he whispered and wiped her face with his thumb. "we are going to find her. We are."
Willow nodded and sighed as she listened to Cordelia berate Xander for not defending her against Oz's threats.
Spike looked at Buffy who was still unconscious in the passenger seat. He silently cursed himself for draining her as much as he did. He had only meant to put her to sleep but she was pale as a sheet now. The taste of her sweet, sweet blood had overpowered him. It had fed something that had been long hungry. He reached and felt of her pulse which appeared to be weak as hell. He cursed aloud and followed the sign that said "Hospital Parking".
Oz parked his van at the school and looked at the others. "What now?"
"Three weeks of this same thing. With the same results. We are wasting our time. Buffy might be dead!" Cordy pulled out her compact and looked at her lips. She noticed the silence and glanced over the top of the mirror at the others. "Not that I think she is..or isn't. I just..need to go."
"Great idea!" Willow said angrily as Xander opened the back doors and helped Cordy out.
"So.." Xander poked his head back in the van. "Same time tomor.." He was cut short by Cordelia's deafening screams and he spun around to see her in the grasp of a vampire who was inches from her neck. He yanked the stake out of his back pocket and stabbed it in the back. It spun and wailed in pain but it didn't explode into dust.
"Xander..the HEART!" Willow screamed and jumped out of the van but quickly crumpled. She was still wobbly from the attack in the library. Oz was by Willow's side and had her back in the van before she could even think. He ran up and grabbed the stake from the vampire's back and plunged it in again.
"Thanks, man." Xander looked at the cast on his arm and swore under his breath. "Damn this thing."
"It's okay." Cordelia smiled at him and kissed his cheek. "That was brave."
Willow watched as Cordelia smiled at Xander and kissed him again and then she looked away. She looked through the foggy parking lot and then gasped. Walking right out of the haze was Druscilla. At least it looked like Druscilla. This girl was wearing an old fashioned dress and had long black curls. She paused and looked at Willow. Willow felt a chill course through her. "Guys?" Willow said in a barely audible voice. No one heard her and she tore her glance away to look at the others. "Guys!" She said louder. They all looked at her. She pointed toward the spot that Dru had been in but she was gone.
"What is it, baby?" Oz asked as he walked up to her with the others following. "Are you ok?"
"It was Druscilla. Right out there." Willow shook her head. "I know it was."
"We need to get out of here. Cordy will drop me off at home. Will, you need to call Giles okay? And tell him what you saw." Xander patted her on the arm and then hopped in Cordelia's car that was parked about three spaces down.
Druscilla stepped back out and watched the tail lights fade into the night. Oh yes. She thought. Alert the watcher that I am home. He plays the starring role in all of this. He is the key that I need to open Hell on earth and let Angel come home to me. Run and tell him, girl. Run and tell him. She grinned a huge grin and chuckled as she saw a young couple on the swings in the distance. She licked her lips and walked toward them.
Only the girl's scream pierced the night's air. The boy died too quickly. Dru wanted the girl's blood most. She craved it's purity. She drank deeply and felt powerful. Powerful enough to get what she wanted.
Spike watched the hospital staff as they stuck the needles into Buffy's veins to give her blood and a clear solution. She still had not come around. She was lifeless. He paced in the hallway and then glanced at the clock on the wall. Dammit! He gritted his teeth and looked in the room again. It's already after ten pm. He grabbed a nerdy looking doctor by the collar. "Is she dying or NO!?" he shouted.
The doctor patted him and looked at Buffy. "I'm sorry, sir. Someone should have spoken to you about her. She seems to be coming around. She is very dehydrated from lack of proper nourishment. And she is apparently anemic and the cuts on her neck bled quite a bit."
"So she isn't dying?" Spike could have jumped for joy.
"Not from this. But she will if she doesn't take better care of herself. She's very underweight and...well...apparently homeless." The doctor gave Spike a hard look. "And I'd wager she is about sixtenn years old."
Spike said nothing. He walked to Buffy's bedside and glanced at her ratty brown hair. When he last saw her she was vibrant and beautiful. And she was also pinned to a wall by Angelus and he was sure she'd die. But she had sent Angel into hell and Dru had awakened in the car and gone insane on him for attacking Angelus and for attacking her. The sun had gone down and they stopped to feed and she disappeared without a trace. He could feel it though. He had listened to her insane babblings about opening hell to free her Angel. She was on her way to Sunnydale.
Buffy made a small sound and Spike leaned towards her. "Angel.." she whispered. He stood back up and rubbed his neck. What in the bloody hell do all the women see in that bloke? He wondered. Buffy moved a little more and opened her eyes. "Hello, baby!" Spike grinned.
Buffy's eyes grew wide as she looked up at Spike. She realized that she was in a hospital and that he looked very pale in the fluorescent lights. She felt terribly light headed as she attempted to sit up. "Spike..."
"Ahh ahh..no no..stay there." Spike said and pushed her back. "I need you strong for what you have to do."
Buffy fell back and looked at him closely. "What do I have to do?"
"Well..for starters..don't die, pet. And second..suck up this blood so we can hit the road. We are about five hours away from Sunnyhell and Ducks is probably already on the road to opening the hellmouth and getting out that bastard. Which ..by the way..good job. I figured he'd surely kill you." Spike glanced at the blood bag.
Buffy followed his gaze. "You've had enough blood, you jerk. Don't even think about it."
"I was gonna squeeze it into you." Spike reached for the bag.
"NO!" Buffy almost yelled. She glanced around and lowered her voice. "That would probably kill me. My veins are not blood suckers..."
"Oh..right." Spike glanced around and then pulled up a chair. "I didn't mean to almost kill you."
"Oh yeah...which time?" Buffy glared at him.
"Despite the changes in your appearance..your mouth certainly hasn't changed at all." He rubbed his hands together. "Are you full yet?"
"What's the rush?" She glanced at the clock that said half almost eleven. "You still haven't told me my big purpose in all of this."
"Well, gee!" Spike frowned. "That's a tough one all around. YOU are the SLAYER. It's your place and you have to stop her from opening that Hellmouth again. Angel deserves to stay gone. He is crazy as hell as Angelus. He's an arse all around but even I hated him."
"I am supposed to kill Dru?" Buffy grinned. "I can do that."
"NO!" Spike stood up. "I don't want her dead. I want her weakened and dependant on me again. I haven't the heart to do it but YOU can. And in doing so..you can keep Angelus in hell where he belongs."
He doesn't know. Buffy thought. He has no idea that Angel's soul is back. She stared at the cieling for a minute. Then she looked at him. "How could he come out of hell?"
Spike flopped back in the chair and glared at the clock. "GOD! Didn't your Watcher teach you anything? HE is trapped inside that blasted rock. You didn't stake him, right?"
Buffy shook her head and closed her eyes as she remembered the look on Angel's face when she drove the sword into his stomach. "No. No stakes."
"Well you little idiot..there are certain things that can and can't kill a vampire. A sword through ANY body part is going to hurt all to hell but it won't kill you." He shook his head. "Did you get a bump to the head? You can't have always been this stupid."
"You need my help, Spike. Obviously you do. And if you want it then you better lay off of me." she reached and pulled the IV out of her hand. "I'm full."
Giles unlocked the library and stepped inside. He breathed deeply as he always did. Drinking in the musty smell of the leather books and old pages. He flipped on the light and headed right for the ritual section. He jumped a little as someone stepped out and looked at him. "Who's that?"
"Watcher Giles." said the voice. "It's me."
"Which me would that be?" He said and reached to grasp a stake.
"Surely you haven't forgotton me so quickly." The man stepped out and smiled at Giles.
Giles gasped and hurried across the room to grasp the man in a hug. "Whistler." he said.
Whistler patted him on the back as he returned the hug. He took a step back and appraised Giles rumpled appearance. "You look like hell."
"Yes well..Buffy is.."Giles began.
"On her way home." Whistler finished.
"What?" Giles sat down for a moment. Then stood right back up. "How do you know this?"
"Giles..you know better than to ask me that." Whistler grinned and sat down. "Something's up. That Druscilla chick is here and she is hell bent on opening the hellmouth and letting Angel out."
"Letting Angel out?" Giles sat across from Whistler and listened as he told him about Buffy sending Angel to hell. He pulled off his glasses when Whistler had finished. "Good Lord, Whistler. No wonder she ran away. She couldn't bare what she had done."
"Well..here is the kick. He got his soul back right before she stabbed him. He was Angel again and she sent him into hell anyway." Whistler pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to Giles. "He can come back...if Buffy has that."
Giles looked at the claddagh ring in his hand. "This is..?"
"Angel's ring. I found it in a crack right below Acathla. It's too large to be Buffy's ring. Angel gave her one just like it. He also gave someone else a ring just like that. And if she gets a hold of that one..she gets him out." Whistler paused. "Druscilla. She knows how to open the gate to hell. But she has to possess one of his worldly possessions. The thing is..if Druscilla opens that gate...she isn't pure enough to fight off other demons that may come through. Buffy is that strong."
Giles pulled a chain from around his neck. A chain where he kept the stone of Jenny's that Willow had given him. He looped it through the ring and put it back on. "Whistler, it is time that Buffy stops hurting and suffering. She deserves some peace."
"Dammit to hell, Buffy!" Spike shouted and slammed his fist against the steering wheel. "I deserve some peace here!"
"Well..I deserve an explanation!" Buffy shouted. "What in the hell am I up against here?"
"Dru is the one who knows it all!" Spike shrugged. "I heard her say Angel, ritual, ring and freeing her Angel. HER ANGEL..I'm the bloke who stood by her when she was so weak she couldn't move and she wants that rat bastard."
"Shut up! You whine!" Buffy glanced out the window and then a something dawned on her. "A ring?"
"I said ring!!" He turned on the radio.
Buffy reached and turned it off. "What kind of ring?"
"Son of a BITCH!" Spike yelled. "One second of your mouth NOT running! That's all I want. Sleep, dammit!"
Buffy leaned across the armrest and screamed. "WHAT KIND OF RING!?"
Spike jerked the wheel hard to the right and jumped a curb. He slammed the brakes..hard. "Damn you! It's some kind of Irish piece of metal. NOW SHUT UP!" He pulled off and looked her quizzically. "What the bloody hell is that sound."
"Nice job, driver! You'd think that all that time you spent wheelchair bound would have taught you not to jump curbs." Buffy rolled down her window and sighed. "Flat tire."
Spike stopped the car and closed his eyes. "I loathe you all the way to hell." he said in quiet, even tones.
"Yeah..well you'll be going there in about forty five minutes when the sun rises." Buffy leaned back and smiled innocently. "Give or take a few minutes."
For the first time he could ever remember. Spike was scared.