Disclaimer: The only thing that's mine is the story itself. The characters, ideas, and everything else from Buffyverse all belong to Joss Whedon, who is a genius. Me? I'm just a simple fangirl who really loves to write, merely borrowing his characters and setting for the purpose of my own amusement. ;)

Thanks for clicking on my story! Reviews are greatly appreciated. Enjoy. :)

He remembered the last time he carried her to the emergency room. It wasn't a moment he was particularity proud of. After all, he had been the one to put her there in the first place. The thought of losing her, the thought of Buffy actually dying and knowing that it was his fault, would have been a terrible burden to bear.

But Buffy had survived, just like she always had. She was a fighter. She had already died once, came back, then faced near death again several more times. And Buffy still survived.

He wasn't sure if she would be so fortunate this time.

Angel felt a deep sense of dread as he rushed through the double doors of the hospital. He knew it was going to take much more than just a couple of pints of O- to return her back to normal, and that terrified Angel more than anything.

"I need some help here!" he shouted desperately.

A doctor and two nurses were ready and waiting with a gurney, and Angel carefully placed her on it.

"How long has she been out?" asked the doctor as he began to check her vitals.

"I-I don't know. She was unconscious when I found her." Angel looked down at Buffy on the gurney, his heart breaking at the sight of her wounded form. Her bruised body lay motionless. Her golden hair matted with blood. Her beautiful face battered and beaten. "Buffy? Buffy, please wake up," he pleaded, reaching for her hand and checking for her pulse. It was there, but just barely. "She's going to be okay, right?"

The doctor gave Angel a quick but sympathetic look. "We'll do everything we can. Let's get her to CT." He turned his attention to one of the nurses. "Lydia, get an OR ready. And page Dr. Drake. We've got a head injury."

Angel's head shot up. "Head injury? How bad is it?"

But the doctor ignored his question and began to wheel Buffy away. Angel rushed back to her side, not wanting to leave her. He reached for her hand again and listened to the other nurse as she rattled off Buffy's stats to the doctor. "You're going to be okay, Buffy," he said, hoping that some small part of her would hear him.

"Sir, I'm sorry, but you're going to have to wait here," ordered the nurse as she blocked Angel's path.

"Please, let me go with her. I need to be with her."

"Sorry, this area is restricted. We'll keep you updated."

Angel watched helplessly as Buffy disappeared behind the double doors. The ER was quiet now, and Angel stood in the middle of the room alone, silently praying for her to survive one more time.

It was the call Giles always feared he would get some day. As a former watcher, he had been taught to be prepared for the possibility. The life of a slayer was usually a short one, and most slayers didn't last a year. But Buffy was different. The odds had been against her since the beginning. She had never been a typical slayer, insisting on keeping a normal life and having no formal training before she was called. And yet, she survived. Buffy had beat those odds time and time again, and proven herself to be a truly gifted slayer. The possibility of her dying didn't seem real.

As he weaved in and out of traffic on his way to the hospital, Angel's words played over and over in his mind.

"Giles…it's bad."

The tone in the vampire's voice had said it all. Buffy might not survive.

"Damn!" Giles cursed, and slammed on his brakes as the car in front of him came to a sudden stop. He waited impatiently for traffic to move again, then slowly eased his foot off the brake.

Giles was angry at himself, angry for not being able to prevent this. It wasn't his fault, of course, and nobody would have blamed him, but he couldn't help but feel responsible. He was her Watcher, wasn't he? Maybe not in the official capacity anymore, but he still worked hard at training Buffy. He knew the vampire activity in Sunnydale had been escalating over the last few weeks. And not just the vampires, but the demon population as well. He shouldn't have let Buffy patrol alone. He should have insisted she wait for Riley. But he hadn't. Why hadn't he insisted?

The exit to the hospital was coming up, and Giles was grateful for the blue signs along the road, showing the way. He could barely concentrate on where he was going. He turned off on the exit and his thoughts wandered to Buffy again.

How could this be happening? Just a few short hours ago, Buffy had been smiling, joking even. It was so rare to see her smile these days, especially since her mother's death a few months back. But Buffy was resilient, showing the world that no matter what life threw at her, she was always one to bounce back.

Now she was in the hospital, the one place she hated the most, fighting for her life.

"Where is she?" demanded a panicked voice.

Angel looked up to see the tall form standing over him.


He really shouldn't hate the guy. He had never hurt Buffy. From what he had heard and seen for himself, Riley Finn was a nice, normal guy, and exactly what he wanted Buffy to have. But Angel couldn't help the pangs of jealousy he felt whenever he saw him, knowing that Buffy was in his life, in his heart, in his bed. Did he even know how lucky he was?

"She's in surgery," Angel answered in a low voice.

Angel heard a gasp, and looking behind Riley, he saw it was Willow. Next to her was the blonde girl, but Angel couldn't remember her name.

"Angel," Willow said, moving closer and taking the seat beside him. Angel noticed the puffiness in her eyes. "Is she going to be okay?"

Angel looked from Willow to Riley, then back to Willow. "I don't know."

"Wh-what happened to her?" asked the blonde girl.

Angel looked up and met her eyes. Tara. Yes, that was her name. "I found her in the cemetery near the Bronze. She was beaten up pretty badly. One of her attackers got away, but I killed the other three."

"Was it…vampires?" Willow asked.

Angel nodded.

"How did you find her?" Riley asked. "We searched every damn cemetery in this town, including the one by the Bronze."

"Just in the right place at the right time." Angel preferred not to elaborate. He knew she would be in a cemetery from Cordelia's vision. Angel searched every one he could find until he picked up Buffy's scent. The smell of her blood had been overwhelming. That was how he found her.

"I'm going to find out what's going on," Riley said and walked over to the nurses' station.

Angel had already tried that, and it had gotten him nowhere. Getting information out of the hospital staff was like trying to pull teeth. Until Buffy was out of surgery, he doubted they'd know much of anything.

Willow sniffled, and Tara handed her a tissue from the box on the end table.

"Thanks," she said, and gave her nose a blow. "I can't believe this is happening. Angel, how bad is it?"

Angel looked into Willow's worried eyes, and honestly didn't know how to respond. He knew Buffy was her best friend. How did you break news like that to someone? How could you say to someone that it was as bad as it could get? He couldn't get the image of Buffy unconscious on the ground out of his mind.

Before he had a chance to say anything, another familiar face rushed into the emergency room.

"Angel, how is she?" Giles asked, the panic obvious in his voice despite his attempts to stay calm.

Angel looked at Giles, Willow, and Tara all staring at him for answers that he couldn't give. They all wanted one thing: hope. He wished he could say that Buffy would be just fine, that Buffy would pull through and make it. But they hadn't seen Buffy. They hadn't seen her lying on the ground in a pool of her own blood. They hadn't seen her battered and beaten body.

He didn't know if she was going to be okay, and that scared him more than anything.

"They said something about a head injury," he finally said. "She's in surgery now."

Giles could no longer stand. He sank into the nearest chair and buried his face in his hands. Once again, he thought that somehow, this was all his fault.

Every time the door opened, eight pairs of eyes looked up expectantly. And every time, it would be anyone but the doctor. Buffy was still in surgery, and there was still no word on her condition.

"I can't take this anymore," Riley muttered and got up from his seat. He left the group and made his way over to the nurse's station again. He was determined to find out what was going on.

"No news is good news, right?" Xander asked hopefully.

Anya glanced at Xander and gave his hand a squeeze, her way of showing him that she was there for him. Xander gave her a weak smile. He felt numb. The news hadn't quite sunk it yet. Buffy would be just fine. She had to be. There was no other option he would accept.

Willow, who had gone looking for a pay phone ten minutes ago, walked back over to the group with a somber expression.

Giles looked at her expectantly. "Willow, did you manage to get in touch with Buffy's father?"

Willow shook her head. "I called his number but I got the machine. I think he's still out of the country."

Damn, Giles thought to himself. Of course whenever they needed Hank Summers the most, he was no where to be found. "What about her aunt in Illinois?"

Willow shrugged. "I don't know her number. I'm sure Buffy has it in her address book. I could find it."

"No, no," Giles said, motioning for her to sit down. "We'll worry about that later. We're Buffy's family just as much as they are. More so, even. Let's just see how Buffy is doing for now." They were Buffy's family, Giles thought. And Buffy was the closest thing to a daughter he ever had.

Willow sighed. She felt so helpless, and worried beyond belief. Buffy had never been this close to death's door, except for the time when she actually did die, but somehow this seemed so much worse. It was going to take a lot more than a little CPR to bring her back. "I keep thinking that this isn't happening. Like this can't be real."

"I shouldn't have let her patrol by herself," Giles said.

"Oh, Giles, this isn't your fault," Willow said, looking up at the older man.

"And Buffy patrols by herself a lot of times," Tara added.

Giles took his glasses off and began his nervous habit of cleaning them. "Yes, but I should have known how dangerous it was out there. Especially since she had the run in with those Mohra demons last week. Things have been getting worse in Sunnydale."

"Can you all keep it down?" Spike complained from the corner of the room. "I can't hear the bloody Top Ten."

"How can you just sit there and watch television?" Xander fumed as he walked over to the set and turned it off. "Buffy could be dying and all you care about are some stupid jokes on a late night talk show?"

"The Slayer will be just fine," Spike said with dismissive wave. He turned the television back on with the remote. "She's like that cat with nine lives. Nothing seems to kill her." If he couldn't kill her, no one could, the vampire reasoned, and killing slayers had been his specialty back in the day. Of course now he couldn't kill any humans because of the damn chip, but that was beside the point. He turned his attention back to the television and ignored Xander's glare. He wasn't about to admit he was just as worried as the rest of them.

Willow stared at Spike, wondering how he could be so cavalier about the situation, and so optimistic that Buffy would be just reminded herself that Spike didn't have a soul. Maybe he just didn't care.

Across the room and away from the group, Angel sat by himself. In L.A., he was the one running the show and calling the shots. But back in Sunnydale, he felt like an outsider again. He felt like even more of a stranger since all the new faces joined their little group: Anya, Riley, Tara, and…Spike? Not that Spike wasn't a familiar face, but he was still trying to wrap his head around the fact that Spike was now a friend rather than a foe. Things had definitely changed.

Angel looked up as the door opened again, but it was just a nurse leaving, her shift apparently over. He hoped they would hear word on how Buffy was doing soon. He could still smell her scent on him. Looking down at his clothes, he noticed for the first time the dark stain on the front of his shirt. Buffy's blood. He closed his eyes, seeing again the horror of Buffy lying on the ground. Blood everywhere. He involuntarily clenched his fist, feeling angry at the vampires who did this to her.

And then, he felt angry at someone else. Himself.

He should have never left Sunnydale, he thought, and not for the first time. Hadn't he made a promise to himself to always keep her safe? Buffy needed him, and where had he been? He had wanted to give her a chance at a normal life. But had it really been any better since he left?

He broke her heart last year, and she had suffered. He knew she had. There was pain in her voice when she answered the phone. He wondered if she ever realized he was the one who called all the time only to hang up after she answered. He had only wanted to hear her voice. He hadn't wanted to hear her pain though.

Then he heard about that terrible boy who took advantage of her, from Spike no less. He seethed, thinking of how wrong it was that another man had touched her so intimately and yet, didn't even appreciate her beauty. He'd have to fight the urge to kill that boy if he ever ran into him. Was his breakup with Buffy what led her into his arms? If so, he hated himself for it.

And then there was the tragedy of her mother's death. Angel had gone to Sunnydale when he heard the news, and it pained him to leave her again. He told himself she was in good hands. Riley would take care of her. The boy obviously cared for Buffy. So he left.

Now Buffy was fighting for her life. Buffy had needed him. If he had stayed in Sunnydale, he would have patrolled with her. Buffy would never fight alone, even though she always insisted she could take care of herself. He knew that, but someone had to watch her back every now and then.

Feeling someone staring at him, he looked up. For the second time that evening, Riley loomed over him.

"I spoke to one of the nurses. She's still in surgery, but so far, so good. I thought you'd like to know."

Angel felt the relief wash over him. He knew Buffy was still not out of the woods, but hearing the surgery was going well gave him some hope. "Thank you."

Riley nodded and started to walk away, but then turned around again. "Angel, listen, I uh…" Riley tried to collect his thoughts for a moment. The words were difficult to say. "I just wanted to thank you for getting Buffy to the hospital so quickly."

"Let's just hope she pulls through."

He hoped to God she would.