The Hotel, Los Angeles
Angel wouldn't stop. He couldn't stop. Every second he rested was an opportunity for them to kill more people. His people. His city he had sworn to protect. But, he couldn't rush in head first. He had to be ready. He had to be on their level, to think on their level to prevail. That's why he had fired his crew. They were human. They couldn't understand what he had to do. And he didn't want them to. They weren't built to experience the level of evil that he needed to in order to take down Darla and Drusilla. He had to go it alone on this one.
He stood in the dank, pitch black basement that he'd spent so much of his time in over the last week. For the last three hours, he'd been training non-stop. He readied his fighting stance and eyed the four sand bag dummies surrounding him. Gripping his broadsword tightly, he swept it methodically back and forth, driving into each of the dummies, one after one.
He stopped mid-thrust as the door to the basement flew open. He didn't need to turn around. He knew who his visitor was. He sighed and lowered his sword.
"Well this is what the former champion of good spends his retirement doing, huh?"
"What are you doing here, Lorne?" he demanded, finally turning around.
He watched Lorne fumble for the light switch. A sudden unwelcome influx of light flooded the room. He squinted and groaned as he tried to adjust to it.
Lorne began to descend the basement stairs, "Well, peach pie, I got a mission for you. Unless you're too busy planning the death of every single person at Wolfram & Hart who you don't like. Oh wait, mission already accomplished."
"They're evil. I stop evil," Angel responded, tersely.
Lorne wasn't deterred by Angel's obvious bad mood. Other things were more important.
"Sure, Angel, your raison d'être is to stop evil. Evil demons that the human world isn't designed to deal with. Now you've added humans to your mission statement?"
"I did what I had to."
"The human world has its own systems in place to deal with its own. You crossed a line."
Lorne reached the basement floor and crossed to one of the work out benches off to the side. He took a seat and eyed Angel expectantly for a response.
"Lorne, I'm really not in the mood."
"Well you better get in the mood, sweet cheeks. I need your help. Well, a young woman will, come nightfall."
Angel half-listened as he carefully placed the broadsword back into his weapons cabinet, "Are you getting visions from the Powers now? Or am I missing something?"
"Sometimes when I'm reading people's destinies at the club, I...uh...channel surf."
Angel turned his full attention to Lorne and raised his eyebrow in question.
"Oh Angel, I don't think you're in any position to judge me right now – or anyone for that matter."
"Fine. Just get to the point then."
"As you know, Caritas is a haven for good and evil. Well the other night the latter belted out a number. One of your lawyer-buddies. Listening now, aren't ya?"
"You have my attention," Angel said, folding his arms across his chest.
"Good. The cliff notes version is that Wolfram & Hart are gonna kill a pretty young thing. Don't know why. Didn't get that far. All I know is it's happening tonight. Unless you stop them."
"Who is this girl?"
"I dunno. But, this is where she's gonna be," Lorne said, handing him a post-it note.
Lorne shrugged his shoulders.
"What does she look like?"
"Like someone who needs your help."
"Lorne, this isn't much to go on," Angel complained.
Is he withholding information? He would have had a visual when he'd read the lawyer, wouldn't he?
"What do you want? A mission file? You've worked with less. Are you in or not?" Lorne persisted.
"I'll take care of it," Angel said, as he started to head towards the basement stairs.
"Oh and Angel?" Lorne called in a sing-song voice.
"What?" Angel asked, pissed.
"Take a shower before you leave the hotel."
Angel turned his back and Lorne smirked as he watched him sniff his underarms as he headed upstairs.
Streets of L.A.
Angel stood on the rooftop of a 12-storey building watching over the alley below.
No movement so far. Nothing.
Just as he started to consider that Lorne had perhaps led him on a wild goose chase he felt something. Something that jolted him so powerfully that an ice-cold shiver shot down his spine. He tried to follow the feeling. He let it wash over him, trying to get a handle on it. He knew he'd felt it before. What the hell is it? He couldn't place it. It was eerily familiar.
And then he caught sight of a shadow rushing into the alleyway. He peered closer, employing his 20/20 vampire vision. A woman. He couldn't ascertain her identity. Two dumpsters blocked his view. Seconds later, thunderous crashes and the subsequent rapid fire of bullets shot through the night.
Before he could react, his vampire senses alerted him to something else. He followed the feeling and caught sight of a woman waving at him, shrouded in darkness on a rooftop just across from him. Lyla. They were here. The bullets were there's. Their army was descending on the poor defenceless girl below.
He sped down the fire escape with ferocious speed. He flew off the last two flights – he didn't have time for steps. He landed in between two Wolfram and Hart soldiers. Before they had time to react, he gripped both their necks and slammed their heads together. They crumpled to the ground.
He spotted the girl. She was feigning off four more soldiers. And, she was holding her own. What the hell? He watched, shocked, as she literally threw two of them off her. But, in all the chaos, it seemed she hadn't noticed another approaching her from behind with what looked like a tranquilizer gun. His finger was hot on the trigger.
Angel reacted instantly. He sped towards the girl and tackled her to the ground, removing her from the soldier's line of fire. They landed hard on the ground, he on top of her. He saw an axe in her hand. He grabbed it and swept it into the approaching soldier. His shrill screams echoed through the alleyway as it ripped through his solar plexus.
As Angel let out a sigh of relief, the overpowering feeling he'd felt on the rooftop enveloped him again.
He eyed the girl he still had shielded beneath him, protecting.
"Angel?" she choked out, winded from his tackle.
Angel couldn't believe it. His eyes went wide.
Agitated, she gestured for him to get off her. But he just continued to stare down at her.
"Angel!" she pressed.
Her commanding tone snapped him out of his haze of shock, "Sorry," he said, climbing off her.
He offered his hand to help her up. She took it and they stood facing one another. Neither of them spoke.
Buffy broke the tension and walked over to the dead guy with the axe in his solar plexus. She ripped it out of him in one powerful motion. She eyed the purple blood that coated the metal. Demon.
"How did you know he wasn't human?" she asked, turning to Angel who now stood right beside her.
Angel looked down at the guy, but wouldn't answer her. He seemed uncomfortable by the question.
And that was when she realized, "Oh, right, the blood. Sometimes I forget."
"What are you doing here?" they both asked in unison.
Angel spoke first, "Rescuing you."
Buffy scoffed. She and Angel exchanged a look of amusement at the absurdity of the notion.
"I don't need rescuing."
Angel nodded, "Oh, I'm well aware," he said, smiling.
"But you do," Buffy said.
The smile disappeared from his face instantly and his defences went up, "What?"
"Cordelia called. Said you needed a little help."
"I don't," Angel responded curtly.
"You're losing track of the mission, Angel."
Angel glared at her heatedly. Her words had struck a nerve. He fought to cool his temper so that he didn't say something he would regret later. But, then his thoughts were interrupted by...blood! He followed the scent. There was a rip in the sleeve of her jacket. Blood was oozing down the sleeve. He reached out and touched her arm gently, pulling it closer to get a look at the wound.
As he held her arm, he could feel her pulse quickening. He sensed her eyes on him. He knew if looked back at her at that moment, he might never be able to look away. He might never be able to let go.
He cleared his throat, "Looks like a serrated blade."
"I'm fine. It's just a graze," she murmured, also affected by their closeness.
He heard it in her voice. He let go of her arm and stepped back quickly. He took a deep breath to cool the sensations that had racked his body. He finally looked up at her, "It looks pretty deep, Buffy. I'll take you back to the hotel and get you patched up."
He led the way. Buffy trailed close behind, scanning the periphery for any signs of a follow-up attack from Wolfram & Hart.
Wolfram & Hart
Linwood paced angrily back and forth in the main boardroom. Lyla stood, listening to Linwood's never ending rant.
He spun around suddenly and addressed Lindsey who sat coolly in one of the oversized black leather chairs, "Give me the most recent report from the supernatural field ops division."
"Most of the soldiers we sent to welcome our visitor from out of town were killed. A couple survived and are in the infirmary downstairs. Other than that, all we know is that she is with him," Lindsey reported without reading his notes. He held a pen in his hand, twirling it around as he spoke.
"Unacceptable. Simply unacceptable!" Linwood yelled, "You're telling me that one woman destroyed an entire division of our special ops soldiers? Supernatural soldiers? They weren't even human!"
"Sir, she is the slayer." Lyla reminded him.
"Really Lyla? Well, thank you so much for that piece of new information."
"Also, Angel was an unforeseen interference," Lindsey piped up.
"Okay, okay," Linwood sighed, "Get her out of there, away from him. Kill her. She's causing great complications to our carefully laid out plans. The Senior Partners will not be very forgiving should they hear about this. They want Angel dark. With this Slayer around it ain't gonna happen."
"I have an idea, Sir," Lindsey announced, "Seems to me that we should use the tools we already have at our disposal."
"We got a hell of a lot of tools at our disposal," Lyla chided him.
Unfazed, Lindsey continued, "Simple. We don't do our own dirty work this time. We have Darla and Drusilla remove her from the picture. We make it personal. Between them, that is."
"What makes you think Darla and Drusilla will take orders from us? They massacred half of the department last time we tried to give them orders."
"Like I said, Lyla, we make it personal. I'm sure Darla has been dying to see the Slayer again. After all, she was the reason Angel did away with her in the first place."
Linwood stopped pacing. A malicious smile crept across his face, "Good. Make it happen. And if you don't we're all going to hell. Literally, of course," he threatened, just before he exited the room.
The Hyperion Hotel
Buffy sat in one of the armchairs in room 312 - Angel's apartment. He sat across from her, filling her in on the whole Darla situation. When he had finished he sighed and leaned back in his chair.
"Why didn't you call me?"
"Because, it didn't concern you," Angel replied, tersely.
He stood up and began pacing slowly. Then, abruptly, he spun around to face her, "And it still doesn't."
His words were cold. He wasn't pleased to see her at all. Angel knew she knew it.
What angered him more than the fact that she was interfering in his battle, was that her just being here knocked him completely off balance. It always had. Her presence cut at his heart. She reached a part of him that he couldn't afford to feel right now. He couldn't let her warm him. He couldn't afford to feel anything. He had to maintain his mental focus to best Darla and Drusilla. It was all or nothing when it came to them. He had to be ready, because there would be no second chances.
"It concerns me when I'm getting reports that Darla and Drusilla are rallying an army and planning a trip to Sunnydale," Buffy insisted.
"It won't come to that."
"You can't know that for sure."
"Buffy, that's not why you're here," Angel challenged.
Buffy stood in front of him, interrupting his pacing pattern, "You have a mission, Angel. Darla is just a footnote. You're way off track right now. You even fired your people," Buffy spoke sternly.
She stood only a few inches apart from him. As she looked up into his eyes she could almost feel the fire in his eyes trying to burn right through hers. The last time she had seen that expression from him was when she and Angelus had come to blows back in Sunnydale. Is this Angel or Angelus before me? Or is it somewhere in between? Cordelia had warned her about what to expect, but it was very different seeing him in person. He was on the brink Darkness was just waiting to envelope his soul and push Angelus forth. It was exactly why she had come, to try to reach him before he was too far gone.
"Buffy, I'm not Angelus. This is me, Angel, talking. I'm just doing what needs to be done. Darla is my responsibility," Angel told her.
Before she could respond, he strode past her and left the room. She followed him as he walked down the winding staircase.
Angel could feel her following him. He knew he was close to snapping. He was walking away to spare her that. But, her characteristic wilfulness had her pursuing him instead of taking the hint and staying the hell back.
"You're not gonna be the one to kill Darla," she called out.
That was it! In one swift movement, he flew back up the stairs and slammed into the railing. He held both her shoulders steady and spoke in a low warning growl, "Don't get in between Darla and me, Buffy. I'm warning you just this once. If anyone is going to kill her it will be me. Don't come to my town ordering me about and telling me how things are gonna be done. We're not together anymore. We live separate lives. Go home. I don't want you here."
Buffy was so shocked that she didn't even attempt to break his hold on her, "Who are you?"
"The only one who can stop them," Angel responded.
He let go of her angrily and descended the staircase.
With Buffy staring after him, slack-jawed, he grabbed his long back duster off the coat hook by the door and swept out of the hotel.
An incessant buzzing rang out through the club. It was well past closing time and the Host had been enjoying an after-hours sea breeze in his apartment with Dean Martin's Greatest Hits playing as he drank and smoked a cigar in his bathrobe and slippers. That was until someone had started ringing the door buzzer relentlessly for the past five minutes.
Who in the name of Caesar was at the door at this time of night? He rounded the bar counter and reached under it to press a button that opened the front door. Within seconds, Angel was standing in front of him, all dark and broody as had been the theme for the past few months.
"Well, Angel-cakes, to what do I owe this pleasure?" the Host asked, as he sipped at his sea breeze.
"You knew it was Buffy," Angel accused, angrily.
"Well, good evening to you too sweet cheeks. By the way I'm doing well. Thanks for asking."
"Lorne, don't waste my time. Why didn't you give me all the information?"
Lorne took a seat at a nearby table and motioned for Angel to do the same.
"Well?" Angel pushed, impatiently, as he took a seat.
"Let me tell you something, Angel. I'm not here to tell you want you want to hear. I tell you want you need to hear to follow your path," Lorne began.
Angel didn't reply. He just sat there as a deeply pensive expression spread across his face.
"Now listen carefully. The love-of-your-life has a part to play in getting you back on your path. She's here for a reason, whether you accept that or not."
"Lorne, I don't have time for this right now. I've got more important things to take care of."
"Like your girls? Angel, you don't have the luxury of being a slave to your emotions. You're a champion – well, you were. You need to wake up and smell the dark pit of a mess that you've gotten yourself into. Because if you don't...your girl is in a hell of a lot of trouble."
"You mean Buffy? What trouble?" Angel pressed.
Lorne stood up and walked behind the bar, disposing of his sea breeze. He paused, then turned to Angel, with a solemn expression on his face, "She's about to get a blast from the past of the undead variety."
Angel stared at Lorne for a few moments and then the realization hit him, "Darla. How long do I have?"
"You leave now and you just might save the girl. Right now, that's looking like a pretty big if. Angel, I can't guarantee this one."
Angel didn't reply. He bolted for the door.
Good luck Angel cakes. You're going to need it.
Streets of L.A.
Angel ran like he had never run before. The streets, the buildings and the people all seemed to rush by in a distorted blur as he rushed through the city back to the hotel.
Lorne's words flashed in his mind. Angel, I can't guarantee this one. If he hadn't been so obsessed with killing Darla then he would never have reacted the way he had to Buffy's attempt to help him with this battle. She had come to L.A. with only the purest of good intentions. She had taken time out of her life to back him up and all he could do was behave like an animal. He couldn't believe he had actually attacked her.
If Darla so much as touched her, she was dust. For good this time. For eternity. It had such an intense feeling of finality to it. He wasn't certain that he was ready. Despite all that she had done. Despite what she was about to do and despite what she had driven him to. Darla had always been the reason. She had made him what he was. They were connected on such a deep level that no one but them had any chance of fully comprehending it. And, when Buffy had pressed him to explain he knew there was no point because there was no way she could understand. He didn't want her to try, because his and Darla's relationship was twisted, perverted and evil. They had done so many awful things together, caused so much misery to victim after victim. Since he had been cursed, he'd battled against revulsion for himself and her and everything they had done together.
But, then they brought her back as human. For the first time in his eternal life there had been someone who could truly understand what he had gone through. What he was still going through. Why he lived the way he did now. Why he fought the good fight. For the first time in his eternal life he hadn't felt completely alone.
Then it had all been torn away.
He had tried for weeks to force himself to reach her level and rid himself of his feelings and regrets after her humanity had been ripped away from her by Drusilla and Wolfram & Hart. Was he truly ready to let her go? Because this time, death was forever.
The Hyperion Hotel
Buffy tossed and turned in Angel's bed, trying to rest up for the battle that lay ahead. There were many rooms in the hotel to choose from, but she felt safe in his bed. His scent was everywhere. At first it had been a little overwhelming. But, now it served to comfort her and to help her forget for a while how he'd attacked her earlier that day.
All of a sudden she was jolted awake by a sudden rush of adrenaline. Someone's here!
"Angel?" she called out, barely above a whisper.
She pulled the bedclothes up to cover her chest, as she was just wearing sweatpants and a skimpy black camisole top, because it had been ridiculously hot in the hotel. Why a vampire needed heating, she couldn't understand. It must have been for the rest of Team Angel. He probably didn't even notice it. After all he didn't have a body temperature. She remembered that his skin was always ice cold.
"Angel? Are you there?"
A shrill soulless laugh echoed hauntingly through the room.
Buffy froze. She squinted to force her eyes to adjust to the dark. And then she saw it. The figure of a woman standing by the door with a dagger clutched at her side. She took a step forward, closer to the bed. The moonlight coming in from the window illuminated her features. It was Darla.
Buffy vaulted out of bed and assumed a fighting stance. Frantically, she scanned the pitch-black room, trying to locate a weapon of some sort. Nada. How could Angel not have any weapons in his bedroom? He was always in danger. What was he thinking?
Buffy glared at the intruder, "Darla," she seethed.
"Slayer," Darla replied, a menacing grin creeping over her features.
"If you've come for Angel, he's not here."
"I know. I'm here for you."
"Good. Saves me the trouble of hunting you down."
"I knew you'd be here. With to save his soul. You don't get it do you, Buffy?"
"Don't get what? That you needed putting down a long time ago?"
"No, school girl, that Angel will always be mine. I made him, honey. We shared everything. You were never anything more than a rebound. We were together for a hundred and fifty years. No one knows him like I do."
"You knew Angelus, not Angel, Darla."
"Oh, how young you are, my sweet. They're one in the same," Darla stated. She relished the shock that registered all over Buffy's face.
"Angel's preparing to kill you, Darla."
"And, how long has he been preparing to do this? He can't kill me. He won't."
"But I will," Buffy said, assuming a fighting stance.
Darla rushed at her, knocking her off her feet and vamping out at the same time. They wrestled on the floor, Darla clawing at her and trying to stab her with her dagger. She managed to dodge the dagger and used all her strength to throw her off her and across the room. Darla was unexpectedly strong. She had only recently been re-vamped, so Buffy assumed that was the reason for it. Still, it was a little unnerving.
Buffy attacked, launching into a relentless series of kicks and punches. Darla managed to block most of them. And then Buffy spun into a brutal roundhouse kick that propelled her into the bedroom door. It gave way and Darla crashed through it. As Darla reeled on the ground and struggled to force herself to her feet, Buffy grabbed a sharp piece of wood from the destroyed door and held it as a make-shift stake. She strode towards Darla like a woman possessed. Let's finish this. Then, without warning, Darla threw her dagger through the air. Her speed was so great that Buffy barely saw it before it plunged into her solar plexus.
Stunned, she cried out involuntarily. She eyed Darla. She was getting to her feet! Buffy frantically reached for the dagger in her side. She had to pull it out. She couldn't win this fight with it buried in her side. It was incredibly dangerous; because once she ripped it out the wound could bleed out in a matter of minutes. But, there was no choice. Darla would kill her. As she gripped the handle, an awful iciness ran through her entire body, shaking her to her core. Her vision started to blur. She could hardly breathe and she had to use every ounce of strength in her just to keep her balance.
As Darla approached, all Buffy could do was hold the knife steady in her stomach. She eyed the wound. There was blood everywhere. She could feel that she didn't have long before she passed out. She had to act now or it would be too late.
"Wow. I can't believe in all my years as a vampire, I never killed myself a Slayer. I guess you'll be my first," Darla growled.
Buffy lunged at her with her makeshift stake. With little effort, Darla blocked it. Using her other hand, she grabbed the handle and ripped it out of Buffy's solar plexus.
Buffy screamed like she had never screamed before. The pain was unbearable, but she couldn't collapse, she couldn't give in to the dizziness that threatened to overwhelm her. She needed to throw up. She could feel it coming, but if she gave in she would die.
"Slayers bleed a lot, huh? Well, you are only a little better than humans. I bet you're gonna taste a hell of a lot better though."
Darla flew at Buffy, preparing to sink her fangs into her neck. Reacting instantaneously, Buffy mustered all her slayer-strength to punch her. Darla flew back, down the corridor and landed on her back. Buffy clutched at her side, trying to ebb the bleeding. She struggled down the winding staircase as fast as she possibly could. But, it wasn't fast enough.
She could sense that Darla was recovering from the fall. She tried to ascertain where she was, but the hotel was utterly silent with no sign of movement.
Suddenly, she was kicked from behind. She stumbled and fell to her knees, still clutching her stomach.
Darla seemed to appear out of nowhere. She stood in front of Buffy, looking down at her, smirking.
Christ. This is it. This is how I'm going to die. Light-headedness threatened to engulf her. She collapsed into a heap on the floor.
Darla moved in for the kill.
"I can't wait to see how you taste," Darla breathed, as she slowly moved towards Buffy's neck. She was enjoying the moment, savouring her victory over the slayer. Her fear and the smell of her blood were intoxicating. She breathed deeply and prepared to drink. But her fangs never made contact. She was grabbed from behind and ripped away. She skidded across the floor. She scrambled to face her attacker.
"Angel," she said, sweetly.
"Not gonna happen Darla," Angel warned.
"I see you've had your fill though. That bite scar is from you, no?" Darla replied, with a hint of jealously in her voice.
"This is about us, Darla, not Buffy," Angel growled.
Buffy gasped in pain as she tried to get up from the floor. In that moment, Angel turned to her and took his eyes off Darla. Just for a second. But, that was all Darla needed.
She ran at Angel with Buffy's stake. He sensed her attack and caught her wrist before she could do any damage with the stake. He squeezed her wrist tightly and glared at her.
Darla smiled triumphantly at the dilemma that he faced. He could take the time to kill her now or he could save Buffy. He couldn't do both, because she was losing too much blood. She would die if he didn't get her to a hospital in a few minutes. The choice was too cruel. But, he knew what he had to do.
"Can't kill me and save her, Angel. What's it gonna be, my love?"
Angel ripped the stake from her grip and threw her away from him.
"There will be consequences for this, Darla. Count on it. Now get the hell out of my sight!" Angel bellowed, his voice shaking from fury.
Darla was taken aback at his icy tone and ran out of the hotel.
Angel looked down at Buffy and examined her wound. He threw off his jacket and ripped off his sweater. He pressed the sweater to her wound, exerting pressure to stop the bleeding. She cried out and looked at him. He noticed that her eyes couldn't focus on him. She was slipping into unconsciousness.
"Buffy, everything is okay. You're going to be all right. You're going to be okay. I promise. I promise," he kept repeating.
Truth be told he was freaking out. He wasn't sure she was going to be all right at all. The wound was so very deep and she'd lost so much blood. He picked her up gently and carried her in his arms out of the hotel. He had to get her to the hospital fast.
Outside the Hospital
Angel stood outside the hospital. The doctors had ordered him to give them some space to do their work. He took a deep breath and tried to compose himself and muster rational thought. He needed to think. Buffy wouldn't be safe here. Darla, Drusilla and Wolfram & Hart could walk in at any time and finish the job. The sun would be up in a couple of hours so he couldn't stay to protect her. Damn it!
He kicked a lamppost just outside the hospital. It bent at his impact.
He turned suddenly. He could smell someone familiar. Lindsey.
"Show yourself," he demanded.
Lindsey emerged from the side of the building, slowly stepping towards Angel.
"How is she?" he asked with a sly smirk.
"You did this. You told Darla she was with me," Angel realized.
"She's a hindrance. She had to be removed," Lindsey explained, cool and collected.
"I'll stop you. You know that, Lindsey, I'd give it up now. It'll be a lot less painful," Angel threatened, a soulless expression crossing his face. He would make an exception to killing humans if Lindsey took so much as one more step. Part of him hoped he would dare to make a move, because he knew he had the power and rage to kill him in an instant. But, then again, that is what Wolfram & Hart wanted. They wanted him dark and killing a human would bring him right up close to that darkness.
"Sunrise is in two hours. Are you gonna protect her by bursting into flames?"
Angel flew at him, paralyzing him in his powerful grip around his neck. He whispered into Lindsey's ear, "Listen up boy, you can't imagine the things I could do to you. I could keep you alive for days, possible weeks in excruciating pain for every second of it. By the end, you'll beg me to kill you to stop the torment. Don't think for one second that I would hesitate to do it, because, honestly, you don't qualify as human."
Angel released him aggressively, "Make sure to tell your people that," Angel ordered as Lindsey clutched at his throat, trying to breathe properly. He didn't respond, he just turned and walked away slowly, constantly turning back around to look at Angel. He was nervous, believing for the first time that Angel would actually kill him.
Angel watched him go. His threat had made the impact that he wanted, but it wasn't enough. Lindsey was right, they would come for her and he wouldn't be here to stop them. With that thought in mind, he turned and rushed back into the hospital.
He burst into the hospital room. There was a doctor and a nurse inside the room. They turned to look at him, shocked at his aggressive entrance.
"Excuse me? Mr. Angel, is it?"
"We're in the middle of our exam. If you could please wait outside."
Angel threw a punch at the wall. Startled, the doctor and nurse spun to look at him.
"Listen to me. There are people coming for her. It's not safe for her to stay here."
"Sir, you cannot discharge her from the hospital in this state. She needs to stay here a few nights for observation."
"She heals fast. She won't need that long. Is her condition stabilized?"
The doctor and nurse stared at him in disbelief.
"Is she?" Angel demanded.
"Yes, her condition is stabilized. But, you can't remove her from here. Sir – "
"Listen, if she stays here, she'll die. Now, you're going to tell me what I need to know. I don't have a lot of time, so talk. Fast."
"So, she'll be safe here? You're sure the spell is working?" Angel asked.
"Angel, honey, don't worry, the girls just left. It's set. Of course it's working. Test it out if you want."
With that, Angel feigned as if to hit Lorne. An invisible force knocked him back and he struggled to maintain his balance.
"Okay. It's working. Thanks Lorne," Angel said, sincerely.
"Anytime Angel-cakes. I'm gonna head home now. It's been a long day."
"Sure." Angel said, staring upstairs, pensively.
Lorne noticed Angel's worry, "She'll be okay, Angel. You know how fast slayers heal."
Angel watched Lorne leave and then headed upstairs, into his apartment where Buffy lay on his bed. He looked at her lying there. She seemed so helpless. So peaceful.
"Angel?" she said, turning to him and opening her eyes. She had felt him enter the room.
Angel moved to sit on the side of the bed. He took hold of her hand and kissed it, "I'm so sorry, Buffy."
"It's okay, Angel. I was off my game. I've been off since Mum got sick, then with Riley leaving, well – never mind. I should have sensed her enter the hotel way before I finally did. She was a lot stronger than I expected."
"It's because she was just re-vamped a couple of days ago. She's at her strongest right now," Angel said. He froze suddenly as he realized what she had just revealed to him, "Riley left?"
"Yeah. I have a talent for driving guys away, it seems," Buffy replied, looking at him.
"Buffy – you and me. It wasn't – "Angel began.
Buffy cut him off, "I know. Let's not-" she let go of his hand, holding it up in a gesture for him to stop.
Angel didn't say anything as he reached in and gently hugged her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and they held each other. Neither of them spoke. There was no need. After what seemed like hours, but was really only seconds, Angel let go, and turned to leave.
"Where are you going?" Buffy asked. She tried to sit up, but it hurt too much.
Angel spun back around, "I'm gonna head to one of the other rooms and get some sleep" he told her.
"Can't you stay with me, tonight?" Buffy asked.
"Buffy I….I mean…we…uh…we can't," Angel struggled.
"No, I mean, can't you just sleep with me?"
"I don't think it's such a great idea," Angel told her. He couldn't believe he was actually saying those words, because of course he wanted to sleep next to her, to touch her, to hold her. But, she was vulnerable right now. Riley had left her. She just been attacked. He didn't know if he could trust that she didn't want more. And, more to the point, if she did want more, he wasn't certain he would try to stop anything from happening.
"I'd just feel safer with you next to me. I'm in no condition to fight right now. Stay."
Angel paused and just stared at her for a second, "Of course, I'll stay."
He took off his shoes, pants and his shirt and slipped into bed, next to her. She motioned for him to move closer and he obliged, enveloping her in his arms.