Bat Out Of Hell
Giles let Cordelia's phone ring again. It was only after five am but he needed their help post haste. A groggy voice greeted him. A groggy voice still tinged with a Cordelia attitude. "Hello. The normal person needs eight hours of beauty sleep. I, in my perfection, need six. I don't have six until eight am. Call back then." She slammed the phone down.
He shook his head and hit redial. "Cordelia?" he said as soon as she picked up.
"Yeah..and?" She said, irritated.
"It's Giles." He glanced at the clock and sighed. "I know it's early but I need you to wrestle up the others and get them here before six thirty.
"What!?" Cordelia sat up in bed and pulled her eye mask off. "Giles, it is summer! I was out all night hunting for Buffy and getting attacked. You can't let this run your life."
"But this is my life!" Giles pointed out in clipped tones. "Buffy has been more than willing to go out of the way to pull herself out of bed for you and the others. I expect you here at six thirty with Oz, Willow and Xander." He slammed the phone down.
Cordelia slammed her phone down and flopped back on her pillow. "Argh!" she cried. "It never takes me less than two hours to get ready. My hair!! I guess I have to ponytail it today!" She picked the phone back up and began to call the others.
Buffy tugged with all of her might at the manhole cover that they had found. She groaned as it cut into her fingers but she kept pulling. Spike stepped up and said. "I'm about to start smoking here. Let me have a go?"
"Be my guest." She stood up and rubbed her hands on her pants. Didn't much matter. Her overalls were torn and dirty as it was. She raised an eyebrow as Spike began to turn the cover and then pulled it off. "Wow. I guess I must have loosened it."
"Get in." Spike pointed.
Buffy was about to tell him age before beauty when the sun began to rise and Spike moaned out in pain. He shot into the tunnel feet first and Buffy shook her head. "You know," she called. "I could fix that flat and go on back to Sunnydale and meet you there."
"And what would that serve?" Came his muffled voice.
"Well, if we have to walk in the sewers it'll take us all day to get back home. I'm the one who stops this and I don't need your help." Buffy picked up the manhole cover and started to slide it. She jumped a little as Spike's vampire face came into view, just out of the sun's rays.
"Don't try to back out." he growled. "The part I didn't tell you is that Dru has marked all your little pals for death and she won't ease up til they all die."
Buffy nodded and slid the cover back on. She sighed and looked at the flat tire. She had seen her dad do this a million times. She went to the trunk and pulled out the small tire and the jack. "Let's hope this last hour back is free of cops." Then she cursed a little at being the only seventeen year old in America without a liscence.
Giles jumped as the door flew open and Cordelia stomped in. He smiled a little as she sailed past him without a word. He looked again at Xander who stumbled in with his hair a mess and mismatched clothing. Willow and Oz came in together, laughing at something one of them had said. Looking wide awake and full of energy.
"So Giles, what's the sitch?" Willow asked."
Giles stopped smiling and remembered all the times Bufy had asked that same thing. "It appears that it was indeed Druscilla that you saw." He motioned them to sit down as he explained what was about to happen and how he had reason to believe that Buffy was coming home. When he was finished he glanced around the table. "Well?"
"Well," Xander rubbed his head. "You can't keep a bad vamp down. If Angelus is coming out..we need to get Buffy back out of town."
"Wrong." Giles said. "Angelus is no more. Willow was successful in restoring his soul. Just moments before Buffy stabbed him."
"What?" Willow stood up. "No..Buffy wouldn't have done that then."
"She had no choice." Giles looked at the floor. "She knew that he must bleed to close the hellmouth. She did what she had to and then fled."
"Poor Buffy." Cordelia said. "I mean..imagine knowing that after all this time..Angel had come back. Xander, didn't you tell her Willow was working on the spell?"
Xander jumped and looked at Cordelia. "Well..why don't you just broach an entirely different subject there, Cordy!"
"You didn't tell her." Willow looked at Xander with a solemn expression. "You didn't tell her anything."
"I..I..."Xander glanced at the others. "No. I didn't tell her."
"Why am I not surprised?" Willow asked and looked at Giles. "But he is technically still alive? Well not technically but alive in the sense of 'Look it's Angel the vampire'?"
Giles nodded his head. "He is suffering in there. The most heinous things you can imagine. We MUST get him out. For Buffy's peace of mind."
"What goes around, comes around." Xander shrugged.
"Yeah and when you were a hyena and did all sorts of stuff...you still need to be punished!" Cordelia narrowed her eyes at him.
"Hey! That was completely not my fault..I was posessed by an evil...oh...I see your point." Xander sat back looking dejected then sighed. "Let's get the bat out of hell"
Buffy felt a chill race across her spine as she passed the "Welcome To Sunnydale" sign. The windows were down and she could actually feel a difference in the air here. It was thicker, more electrical. She slowed down a little and turned down a road that she had never wanted to go down again. The mansion loomed ahead of her like a giant monster raising it's head out of the ocean. Tall, deformed trees jutted up all around the mansion and as Buffy stepped from the car she inhaled deeply and smelled death. She grabbed up her slayer bag and walked toward the door.
One of the first things she noticed was there were no birds chirping. This was summer. There should be birds on such a lush lawn. The birds probably sensed the same thing she did..but they were not as stupid as she was. THEY were not stopping here. The door scraped heavily on the floor as Buffy pushed it shut. She turned and looked around the foyer. The floor to ceiling windows were better than beacon lights and there was no darkness here. She ambled into an adjacent room and wondered if she would find what she was looking for.
She found it. It was exactly where she had left it. Acathla stood with the same humped back and regal look about his face. She stood a few feet in front of it and looked it over. The sword was now protruding from it's stomach. Angel's stomach. Her mind echoed the voices of that day..three weeks ago. "Close your eyes." she had said in a quivering whisper. Okay. He had agreed with such trust. She had plunged the sword in and let go. He screamed her name.BUFFY! He reached for her but she had stepped away. His hand, his loving trusting had that had consoled her, comforted her and wiped away her tears..reached for her and then he was gone.
Buffy shook her head and ran her fingers through her ratty hair. The memories faded away and she took a tentative step toward Acathla. The statue's eyes seemed to follow her every move. She looked closely at it's eyes. She flashed back to that day and remembered that the statue's eyes had never looked this human. She paused and then reached and touched the sword. She hissed and drew back. It burned her flesh. She glanced at her red fingertips and then looked back at the statue. A red teardrop fell from the corner of Acathla's eyes. A blood teardrop. Buffy grabbed her bag and ran as fast as she could out to the car.
Druscilla, who had been hiding in the corner watching Buffy, grinned. Dru walked up to the statue and lowered the cloak she had around her to protect from the sunlight. "Soon, Angel." she whispered and ran her fingertip through the blood tear and licked it. "So very soon. As soon as the night falls." She clenched her teeth as her flesh began to smoke and then retreated into the darkness.
Buffy's hands shook as she pulled into the library parking lot. She registered that she was hungry and sleepy and that she was ready to burst into tears at any given moment. She stepped out of the car and looked around. She had been right. Everyone was apparently here. Oz's van, Giles' clunker and Cordy's Beemer were all parked in the faculty parking. She patted her clothes down. Realized how awful she must look and stepped into the school.
The hallway seemed to close in and then grow longer. This was the same hallway she had run down three weeks ago to find Kendra's lifeless body. This was the same hallway she had run out of to make her way to kill..or stab Angel. She had hated him then. But that hate was gone as soon as she heard his voice. Angel's voice when he had come back. She closed the door and breathed in the scents of the school that she was so familiar with and then she paused outside the library and peeked in.
Giles was slouched in a seat looking through a book. Big shock there. Willow and Oz were seated together at one end of the table, both hard at work on a computer and a laptop. Xander was laying sprawled on the checkout counter fast asleep with his mouth open. And Cordy? Cordy stood looking at Xander with a face full of disdain and a glass of water. Buffy smiled inspite of herself as Cordy threw the water right into Xander's face. He shot up like a bullet and promptly fell into the floor. "Ahhhhh." he yelled and grabbed his wrist.
"Oh my GOD. Xander, I'm sorry." Cordy pulled him up. "I didn't even think of your wrist."
Xander was about to say something when he caught the sight of a face peering through the round window of the swinging doors. "Buffy?" He said and pushed Cordy away. He ran into the hall and saw the girl rushing away. She didn't look like Buffy from behind. He trotted after her and spun her around. It was Buffy. He grabbed her and pulled her to his chest. "Oh God, Buffy...where were you? Are you ok?"
Buffy leaned against him and held on tight to her emotions. She heard a commotion and glanced back up the hall to see that the others had come out and were staring at them. "I'm okay." She whispered to Xander. She glanced at his arm, still in the cast. She turned to head back towards the library.
"It's Buffy." Willow shouted and took off running to meet her. She squealed as she wrapped her arms around her. "I haven't hardly been able to move, Buffy. But seeing you here. I'd be able to run a marathon!"
"Are you okay?" Buffy pushed her away so she could look at her closely. Willow had begun to cry and Buffy could no longer block her own tears from falling. The first sob choked through her and came out and she leaned back into Willow to let the dam erupt.
"Buffy?" Came a gentle voice and an arm around her. "Come along."
Buffy leaned against Giles and felt him kiss the top of her head as he walked her into the library. He stopped a few feet away from the chairs and lifted her face. He wiped the tears away with his handkerchief and pulled her into a hug. She returned the hug. A Slayer to her Watcher. He held her in his arms until the sobs had turned to sniffles and then he pulled out a chair for her. "Sit down, Buffy." He guided her.
She kept her eyes on the floor. Guilt washed over her. She had left them. Left them to do her dirty work even though they were all hurt too. Someone offered her a soda and Buffy glanced up at Cordelia. "Here you go." Cordy said with a half smile. "Welcome home, Buffy."
"Thank you." Buffy smiled a little and flipped the tab. Her throat was dry and she drank deeply.
Giles knelt down in front of her and pointed to her neck. "You were bitten?"
"Oh..yeah. Spike. It was his way of making me come back home." She couldn't bring herself to look them in the eye.
"And the bruises here?" Giles said and pointed to the backs of Buffy's hands where the IV's had been.
"Spike's way of making sure I came home not wearing a toe tag. He almost killed me and then he took me to the hospital. He said something about me stopping Dru." She took another sip of the soda and glanced around. The tape was gone from the floor where Kendra had been.
Giles followed her gaze and then took her hand. "You've been cleared in all of that. We all told the tale of gang members and how Kendra tried to save us. She was heralded and we shipped her home to be buried."
"It should have been me." Buffy said. "I should have been the one to die."
"Don't say that!" Willow said and put her hand on Buffy's shoulder.
"It's true." Buffy could feel herself about to cry again so she changed the subject. "What do I have to do to get Angel out of hell? And when can I take a shower?"
Joyce was just putting the finishing touches on her breakfast when someone knocked at the door. She peeked through and looked at Giles. She opened the door quickly. "What is it, Rupert?" she asked, so afraid of the answer.
Giles stepped away and Buffy stepped up behind him. Joyce gasped and looked at Buffy. Really looked at her. Her blond hair was now brown and she was dirty and frazzled. Joyce slowly stepped out onto the proch and reached for Buffy. Buffy glanced at Giles who grinned a little, as if pleased with himself. She stepped into her mom's embrace and closed her eyes. Her mom smelled like vanilla. Buffy inhaled and hung on, not wanting to let go.
"Oh, Buffy." Joyce sobbed. "You are skin and bones. Are you hungry?"
"Yeah." Buffy stepped back and glanced up at her. "Mom, I'm sorry."
"No...we can be sorry later. Come on in and let me get you some breakfast." Joyce ushered Buffy into the house and looked at Giles. "Rupert? Do come in?"
"No. Thank you, Joyce, you and Buffy should talk. I'll be back in a bit to check on her." Giles took Joyce's hand and smiled. "It's going to be ok."
Joyce smiled gratefully at him and then went into the kitchen to find her daughter and hang onto her for a while.
Spike could feel it when he crossed into Sunnydale. The hellmouth's energy. He groaned a little and kept trudging through the sewers. He paused at a juncture in the tunnels and cocked his head to one side. Where would Dru go? He asked himself. Would she go underground? To Angel's or back to the mansion? He leaned against the opening and fished around for a cigarette in his pocket. He was about to light it up when a rat dropped from a low wall and landed on his shoulder. He yelled out and dropped the whole pack of cigarettes in the dirty water. "Dammit all to hell!" He shouted and kicked the pack of cigarettes. "I hate the whole freaking world! I hate that bloody Slayer and that blasted Angel and I HATE SEWERS!" He was still mumbling about all the things he hated as he headed towards the mansion.