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Chapter 11

The hospital was dead silent. Well to Angel at least. Something had managed to draw in his undivided attention. That something being a very ill slayer. There she was, merely meters away, lying in her hospital bed after having been rushed to the ER from the institution well over twenty-four hours ago.

Nothing seemed to register to the shaken vampire other than the fact that Buffy still hadn't regained consciousness, and if anything she looked even weaker than before. And that thought alone scared him, yet he couldn't figure why.

He sat still watching her. Never once turning his gaze away. Afraid that if he did she would wake alone and afraid, or even worse... she would die. But Angel wouldn't let that happen, so for that reason alone he concentrated on nothing but her seemingly peaceful form.

It turned out that even the doctor's constant chatter out in the hall by his loves door wouldn't pull him away. It was only now and then that he would eavesdrop and that was only because he would hear them mention her name while flicking through her case file. But that didn't seem to happen often. In fact it was so rare that it only led Angel to believe that whatever was happening to her was being kept from him. This then only led him to wonder if maybe there was a lot he didn't know about.

Like why was it that they had constantly pumped medication into her when she was in the institution? Sure they'd always given her something to calm her, but there were other meds as well. Ones that although he never voiced his concerns about, or invested a lot of thought in, he still noticed. And for some reason Angel never thought to question them until now. Could it be that there was something seriously wrong with her, and he just never knew? Something worse than being mentally ill?

No. He couldn't think like that. He knew everything, physically she was okay. He had to believe that, especially now.

One long miserable day had passed since he'd found her in her room pounding her skull against the wall. Since he'd felt her body give in and slum into his arms. One whole day and yet still there was no sign of improvement. In fact it was quite the opposite. The slayer was slowly fading away.

He'd set up vigil by her bed, and when doctors or nurses came in to attend to her, he refused to leave. He would never leave her again. He'd made that mistake once and look what had happened. No, from now on Buffy would be guarded constantly, as he just couldn't trust anyone alone with her.

As he'd done all day Angel stuck to the shadows as the golden rays of the dying sun spilled through the half closed blinds, and streaked the walls of her room. He could have asked someone to close the blinds, or even draw the dark curtains earlier, at least for his own safety. But he couldn't bare the thought of keeping her hidden away in darkness anymore. Her skin and hair had lost the glow that had once captivated him, and there was no way he'd deny her of it any longer. Besides, he'd still managed to find a spot beside her that kept him out of harms way. Well that was at least until the sun started its slow yet steady dip, down over the horizon.

So he'd relocated and sat on the floor in the corner, just behind the door. And even well after the sun had set he couldn't move, as he couldn't do anything other than look at her and will himself not to cry. She just looked so... gone. Sure she was there, lying in bed, all that technology forcing her body to do the things it should be able to naturally do. But it just wasn't right, it wasn't meant to be happening. But then again after the blood loss and the fact that she'd almost died in his arms as the institutions paramedics rushed her to the hospital, he was lucky she was still here with him at all.

And that's where she was going to stay. No matter what, she wasn't going to die. He just wouldn't let that happen.

His thoughts were interrupted as the door to her dark room slowly creaked open, revealing Margaret. It appeared as though she'd come straight from work as she still wore her white tunic.

Angel said nothing as she slowly walked into the room; after all it wasn't as if Margaret wasn't aware that he was there. Where else would he be? Instead he just watched as the nurse crept up to Buffy's bedside.

He saw the faintest sliver of a smile cover her face. A sad one at that. It seemed as though Margaret had given up hope and again it was something that Angel questioned. Why was it that the doctor's weren't doing anything more to heal her? Why were they all just giving up?

Looking at the girl that had managed to stir strong emotions within her, Margaret pushed back her tears. Now wasn't the time, no matter how much it hurt. She'd cry when she was alone, where no one else could see just how much this girl meant to her.

The nurse just couldn't believe she'd let herself get so attached, when she was always the one to advise other nurses that it was never a good idea. But she couldn't help it, Buffy was special, and Margaret had known that from day one.

She was strong, yet at the same time so emotionally weak it was heartbreaking. Margaret couldn't help but open up her heart to the poor girl. And now there was a very high chance that she wasn't going to survive these last lot of injuries. But with her condition Margaret was surprised that the slayer's body hadn't given up months ago. But now it just seemed inevitable, and there was nothing left for the nurse to do but let go. "Goodbye sweetheart. I hope you find peace at last." Margaret whispered to the slayer as she lay there, making no reaction at all to the nurse's words. Her hand then swept over the blondes brow and soothed the hair away before she turned for the door. It was always so much harder letting go of the patients that desperately needed help, and yet couldn't be helped at the same time.

In the corner the vampire stood with a worried look on his face. Why was Margaret saying goodbye?

As the nurse made her way towards the door she finally noticed Angel who emerged from his hiding place, and she offered him a comforting smile then went to step around him.

He stopped her in her tracks. "What's going on?" He almost demanded of her as his hand latched onto her arm, and when she tried to pull it free, his grip only tightened.

Her eyes flew to his hand almost instantly, and the short nurse stood there waiting for the man to release her. "I was just saying good-"

"Goodbye? I heard." Angel spat back at the unsuspecting nurse. Which then caused her to think that maybe he was losing his mind, and why on earth was his death grip only getting tighter?

"Ahh," her eyes remained trained on his hand, and she watched with sheer fascination as his knuckles came close to tearing through his alabaster skin "you're hurting me." She stated with a tremble in her voice, as her eyes met with those of a vicious creature not happy about being kept out in the dark.

For the first time ever Margaret saw just how much this patient meant to him. Not that his previous actions weren't testimony enough to that. But this, this feeling. God it was so strong. Even she could feel it, flowing in thick waves, slamming through her like a rough blow to the stomach, and almost knocking her clear off her feet. The melancholy, the absolute desperation, and above all the pure love. It was more than she could take, and yet she was just an outsider. For Angel this had to be so much worse than she'd first imagined upon meeting him. It was funny how one look alone told her just about everything she'd wanted to know about the slayer. Or more likely, what she was to this tall dark man... his world.

"Then answer my question!" He shook her by the arm and pulled her a little closer, as his other hand secured her free arm. "Tell me what's going on." he snarled.

"I-I can't." It was barely a whisper, but Angel heard it loud and clear.

"Margaret I don't have time for games. Something's seriously wrong here." his eyes settled on Buffy and her unconscious body for a brief moment, before he again returned his attention back to the nurse. "I need you to tell me everything you know so I can do something." He almost begged.

It was then that any fear she'd previously felt as he held her and silently refused to let go dissipated. Instead all she could do was feel sympathy for the man. Here he was trying desperately to find a cure, to make things better when there was no chance of that ever happening. "There's nothing you can do." She sadly stated as she tried to ease herself out of his hold, taking a small step backwards.

"You don't know that." Angel demanded, his grip not lessoning, not even for a second. "You don't know us." He whispered this time, and once again his eyes fell on his beautiful slayer. No matter what anyone said he wouldn't give up. He couldn't. Besides, these people didn't know, they didn't understand the things the pair had overcome together. And not just the misery and heartache, but the demons... the darkness. Anything that was thrown their way, they could and would always be able to beat it.

Margaret just didn't know that because she didn't understand them, or their world.

But one person that did was Lorne. And all Angel could remember was Lorne telling him she was gone, a lost cause even. But he didn't believe him, in fact he refused to. As a simple reading just wasn't enough to change his mind. No one knew Buffy like he did. And if he believed in her, than that was all she needed. His strength, his love. A warrior fighting for her.

A frown crossed Margaret's face at his words, and as she spoke Angel shook his thoughts away. "You love her, don't you?" It was simple question. So simple that Margaret was already sure of the answer. And at the same time she couldn't understand why it had taken her so long to see it.

Angel didn't verbally give her an answer, but his eyes said everything. He didn't just love her, he couldn't live without her. "I'm sorry." Was all she could say.

Letting out an unnecessary breath as he pulled one hand away to pinch the bridge of his nose, Angel tried not to let his emotions overwhelm him. Buffy needed his strength, she didn't need him breaking down and losing it. "Don't be sorry; just know that if you tell me, I can help her."

"I wish I could believe that, but..." she didn't want to finish her train of thought. In fact she wasn't allowed to. It would be violating the law. Buffy was her patient and her case was confidential. And yet still, something told Margaret that if Buffy were able to put the words together, Angel would have known the whole story from day one. So with that in mind, she set out to break his heart. "She has cancer."

This time instead of his grip tightening even more so, he set Margaret free. He then stepped backwards, and led himself out of the room as he shook his head from side to side.

"I'm hearing things." he mumbled, as he slumped against the wall with his eyes cast downwards.

His hands rose in closed fists, covering his ears to block out the noise. It was as though suddenly that silent hospital was buzzing to life, and it was just too much. From the Doctor's, patients, family members and numerous machines. It was overkill.

"I'm sorry." Margaret offered as she followed him out of Buffy's room and into the hospitals hall. She knew she'd done the wrong thing by telling him, she was never meant to share information on a patient's condition with anyone but immediate family. That was why she'd only given out so much when he'd first come to the slayer's aid weeks ago.

But now it was obvious that the blonde had no one else. And it was also obvious that if anyone was going to ease the girl's suffering at least a little, it would be Angel. He had a right to know, even if it wouldn't make things better, it would certainly make them easier on the poor girl.

"Shut up!" He spat back. She wasn't meant to apologize, because then that meant that it was real, that he'd really heard the nurse say... "No." He shook his head, and his fists punched against his ears so hard that had he of been human, he would have done some serious damage to himself. He just wanted to block her out so desperately, because then that meant that it wasn't real, and Buffy wasn't dying.

The thought alone tore at him. It was bad enough knowing she was unreachable, and that she was so lost and broken that she no longer made sense of reality. But for her to be sick, and with a fatal illness. No! He couldn't bare the thought of losing her again. Three times was too much damn it! He just couldn't survive a fourth.

"I'm sorry." she repeated, before turning away from the vampire and heading for the exit.

He raised his head slowly, and watched her retreating form for a brief moment before shouting out after her. "You can't do that." He practically begged. "You can't tell me this bullshit and then just walk away." He wasn't pleading this time, instead the words were a hiss from his lips.

Margaret stopped and turned to face the distraught man. No she couldn't do that. That much she knew herself. It was cruel, giving him nothing but those three fatal words.

"What do you want to know?" She asked, as she watched Angel push himself off the wall and catch up to her.

"Everything you know, every damn detail!" He insisted, still unable to believe that he was willing to listen to this bullshit. Because that was just what it was, fucking bullshit!

Margaret nodded, for once not giving a damn about the repercussions. "Okay."

This time Angel was completely alone as he sat out by Buffy's bedroom door, on the floor, using every ounce of his vampire strength to bite back his tears. Margaret's words swum around inside his head, and as much as he tried he couldn't push them away. He couldn't even label them as bullshit anymore and dismiss them like they were moronic to begin with.

The girl on the other side of the wall he was currently slumped against was dying and there was nothing he could do to stop that. For the first time in he couldn't even remember how long he would watch another die of natural causes (natural being that no vampires, demons, spells or anything paranormal was involved, himself included).

And it wasn't just anyone; it was the one woman he'd given up everything that ever meant anything to him for. The most important being his humanity years ago. He hadn't even second guessed it, he'd pretty much been told that was the price and he'd gladly paid. Knowing deep down that he was sparing her life.

If given the chance he'd do it again. But who would grant him such a wish? Who would care enough to spare his love when they'd already tortured her so cruelly? She'd been through so much. She'd witnessed the deaths of loved ones and it had driven her to insanity, and now there was something else. Something that no matter what, the vampire had no chance of beating. There wasn't a thing in the world that could cure her cancer. Margaret had repeated that to him at least ten times. She'd told him it was so severe that she was surprised the blonde had managed to survive this long. And after last night, and the serious battering her head had received, Margaret was sure that the brain tumour was ready to do its worst.

She'd told him of the doctor's diagnosis too. That they'd given her a day, maybe two if she was lucky. And that she would most likely hemorrhage while still in her coma, yet thanks to that unconscious state she wouldn't feel any pain. With that new found knowledge came the realization that he was about to lose her again.

It hurt more than any pain he'd ever experienced before. Which turned out to be a lot of both the physical and emotional. He'd lost so much over the last two hundred and fifty (and change) years. He'd even been tortured in the most physically painful ways imaginable and yet that pain paled in comparison to this. This hurt so much that he wanted to die. Anything than merely existing without her again.

All he wanted in that moment was to hold her. To tell her he loved her and to hear it in return. Knowing that that was something that wasn't exactly unattainable Angel forced himself off the floor. Reaching out he twisted the handle on the door to her room and slowly crept inside.

By the looks of things he didn't have much time left with her, so he couldn't waste his only chance to tell her that he needed her. That he loved her so much that this time round her death would surely kill him. Easing himself onto the bed beside her, he grabbed a hold of her small fragile hand. And held on for dear life as he fell asleep and invaded her dreams.

He couldn't see through the darkness. It surrounded him so much that he his own form wasn't even visible. So he walked along slowly with his arms outstretched beside him, trying to feel his way through. But nothing was there to be felt. Nothing but his own pain. It was excruciating, it felt like his inner turmoil was seeping from thousands of tiny gashes that covered his body from head to toe.

He could feel the blood dripping, and chilling winds that whirled around him. The strange thing was that with those winds came no sound. And the darkness seemed never-ending as he continued on, searching for the light... searching for her.

With his arms still out beside him, he stretched out his long fingers as far as they could go and finally he felt something. It was small, but still it was something. He looked over in the direction of his hand and noticed that there was something settling on his index finger. It was some sort of glowing insect, a firefly maybe? He wasn't sure. But it seemed oddly still, as though the gusts of the tornado like winds weren't disturbing it in the slightest.

Angel started to move his digits hoping it would fly away so he would then in turn be able to follow it. As though it would somehow lead him to her. But the insect didn't move, it stayed put, as though it were waiting for something. No even a second later Angel finally heard something, and it wasn't the ferocious winds that whirled around him sending his short hair and clothing in all directions. It was something so subtle. A slight humming...

Another insect settled on his fingers, followed by another, and another, and so on. Before he knew what was happening he was surrounded by them. Hundreds of thousands of glowing wasps? Was that what he was seeing? And that humming had increased, so much so that it was deafening.

The insects swirled around him, creating a tornado like effect before they started attacking him on any patch of exposed skin they could find. And that only really left his hands and face.

The insects stung his flesh over and over, and Angel tried to swat them away, but it was useless. They were everywhere. And then in the next moment they mysteriously disappeared, and Angel could see why.

There was light ahead, and she was incased in that light. She stood but meters before him.

But for the first time in their shared dreams she looked dramatically different. In fact she almost resembled herself on the day he'd found her in the institution. And for the first time her appearance gave away that she was seriously ill. Her face was so ghostly, and it was just so strange considering that usually in their dreams she resembled the Buffy he'd known years ago.

"Buffy?" He asked confused.

"Get out." The slayer growled.

Her words threw Angel a little and he couldn't help but flinch at them. He thought they were getting somewhere in these dreams. He thought she wanted him there.

Regardless Angel knew that there was no way he was about to leave. He was after all desperate to talk to her, and above anything elseā€¦ to hold her.

"Buffy please." He stepped forward, and regretted it almost instantly.

"GET OUT!" She screamed as her hands pulled in fistfuls of her dirty blonde hair.

The sound was so devastating, and so physically painful? Angel who had brought his hands up to his ears to try in a vain attempt to block out the piercing howl pulled them away only to see they were covered in blood.

He woke up not even ten minutes after he'd fallen asleep beside her and instantly rubbed at his ears, wanting to reassure himself that it had just been a dream. But dream or not, the blood was still there.