Part 5: Waiting

It was dark and cold; and worst of all she was lost.  There were moans coming from all around.  Shadows stalked her every move.  She knew she wasn't alone evil lurked just beyond her line of sight.  Somewhere, lost along her with her, was Glory; she just hoped she wouldn't find her.

"Witch," a moan whispered from the dark.

"Witch," another followed.  "Witch!"

The voices around her were soon all saying the word, and they were coming closer and closer to her. "Witch!  Witch! Witch!"

"Stay away from me!" she cried, unable to hide the fear in her voice.

Willow took a step back into the dark, clutching tightly onto herself.  Her head jerked left to right as the voices passed from one to another. They gathered so close, she could feel their breath on her skin.

The red head felt herself run into something hard and she froze.  For a moment, she had thought that maybe she had found a wall or a tree, but then she felt the heavy grasp of a hand on her shoulder.  She jerked around to see who touched her. She found herself looking into a large pair of eyes belonging to a thin green body hanging over her.  Before she could stop it, a scream rang out from deep within her throat.

Willow gasped deeply, trying to keep her heart from pounding right through her chest.  The bright lights hurt her eyes as she scanned the room.  She was lying in a soft bed, wherever she was, and there were medical machines along the walls.  There was also a television hanging from the one in front of her.

Where was she?  Why was it so bright?  Was someone talking to her?

"Willow?" a voice said, jerking the young woman back into reality.

The witch's eyes widened when she saw her old friend sitting in the chair next to her bed, holding her hand in one of her own and stroking Willow's head with the other.  "Buffy?" she said weakly, her throat hurting as the word passed through.

"Shhh," she told her gently.  "The doctor said you shouldn't speak."

Doctor?  She remembered doctors.  So that's where she was, a hospital.  But how did she get here?  And how was Buffy here?  No.  She couldn't be in a hospital if Buffy was here.  She had to be-

"Am I dead?" Willow asked the woman beside the bed.

Buffy's face became as kind as she had ever seen it.  "Oh, no.  You're not dead," she said as she gave her friend's hand a good squeeze.  "Neither one of us are."

The witch's eyes began to water as she forced herself up and wrapped her arms around her old friend's neck.  "Oh, Goddess, Buffy," she sobbed.

"Hey, you're dehydrated enough," the slayer said with an emotional laugh.  "You've got to be water saver girl right now, okay?"

The two friends moved away from each other, both mirroring the other's tear tracks and goofy, happy smiles.  Buffy was alive!  Her best friend was alive and kicking and sitting right here beside her.  How is that possible?  There were so many things that Willow wanted to ask, but she felt so weak and she didn't quite know why. A gentle tapping came from the door and both women looked to see who had come.  Tara stood there, her face bright as she focused in on the red head.

"Tara!" she cried loudly and the other woman seemed to just appear in her arms hugging her.  "Oh, baby, I missed you."

"I missed you too," the blonde answered, hanging tightly onto her.  "If I had known you were going to do that spell, I wouldn't have left for that retreat."

"No, I should have told you.  I'm so sorry."

As the two women tried to apologize for nothing, Buffy stood to slip out the door.  Willow caught the movement, and called, "Buffy?"

"I'm just going to tell the others that you're awake," she told her, only telling a half truth.  She also wanted to give the two some privacy.  Tara understood this, and thanked Buffy silently with her eyes.  Without another word, the slayer exited the room, and left them to get to know one another again.

**********

Spike stood leaning against the wall in the windowless Emergency Room waiting area watching the other Scoobies.  Anya had somehow contorted herself into a curled up position in one of the uncomfortable chairs and was now sound asleep.  She hadn't been too pleased about having to leave Jessie with Joyce, but Harris needed her right now so she would suffer through it.

The Watcher had claimed another one of the chairs and, like the demon girl, had drifted off to sleep after a couple of hours had passed.  His head was resting on his balled fist while his other hand held the Time magazine in his lap so it looked as if he might start reading it again at any moment.  Even in his sleep Giles seemed like he was trying to learn something.

Dawn had sprawled out on the only couch as soon as they had arrived, and was now snoring rather loudly to the annoyance of the nurses and a few other people in the waiting room.  Spike had pulled off his duster earlier and placed it over the girl for covering.  She was now snuggling the leather close to her as she rolled on the couch to face the other direction.

Harris, Glenda, and the Slayer were all taking shifts waiting for Willow to wake up.  Buffy had been on watch for the past two hours, and he had just sent Tara to go relieve her. After all, the slayer needed her rest too.  So that just left him and the Whelp awake in the waiting room for the moment.

Spike eyed the boy as he came over to the coffee tray set up next to the vampire.  He had to wonder if the brick-layer was really a drinker of the stuff because he took a sip of it and made a bitter face from taste.  Normally, this would have been a source of amusement for the vampire, but that sodding soul of his was causing him to take pity on the kid for having such a rough night like the rest of them.

"Think I saw the nurse hide that fake milk crap in the cabinet there," he told him, nodding towards the cabinet that hung overhead.

 Xander glared at him for a moment as he held the white, smoking cup in his hand.  Spike knew that he was the last person that Xander wanted to speak to after this night, but he was past the point of caring now.  Surprisingly, instead of biting back at him with some stupid comment that only the Whelp himself seemed to get, he reached into the cabinet and said, "Thanks."

A tense silence passed between the two as he poured the white powder into the cup.

"You know, you're luckiest thing on this planet," the young man said coldly to the cup.

"Yeah?  How?" Spike asked with a raised eyebrow.

The brown haired boy looked over at him, his eyes hard.  "Because somehow you got Buffy to care enough about you to make me promise not to stake your sorry ass."  Xander placed the cup on the counter before turning fully to face the vampire.  "I want to make something very clear. You don't deserve them, Buffy or Dylan, but by some atrocity against nature, you got them.  If you do anything, anything, that hurts them, I will make sure that once I'm done with you there won't be enough of you left to fit into an ash tray."

The bleach blond snorted at the threat, but could understand where it was coming from.  Besides, with the look in the boy's eyes, he wondered if he really should take the threat lightly.

"What's this?  The big brother talk?" Spike asked, holding his face even.

"No," the carpenter answered as he picked up his cup of coffee.  "This is the 'best friend who has access to lots of sharp wooden objects' talk."

At that moment, the two came to silent agreement much like Spike and the Watcher had a long time ago.  They didn't like each other; there was nothing to be done about that because that ship had sailed a long time ago and was sunk off the coast.  They did, however, understand each other.  Xander was the best friend who wanted the best for Buffy.  Spike was the father of her child and cared for her as well.  If nothing else, they could at least try and be civil to one another because neither one of them was going anywhere for a long time to come. 

Harris was the first to break the gaze they were locked in, instead choosing to look over at his sleeping wife who snorted loudly and shifted in the chair.  Spike bit back a smile as the boy shook his head.  Then something the brick-layer said struck the vampire.

"What makes you think that Buffy cares anythin' about me?  She just told you that 'cause she wants me around for Dylan."

Xander glanced over his shoulder at the curious vampire and brought the cup up to his mouth to cover a smile.  "Yeah, sure," he muttered lowly to himself before walking back over to sit next to Anya.

Spike kept his eyebrow arched as he considered what he had just said to him.  Buffy cared?  No, it couldn't be.  A side of him jumped at the thought that she might actually care, but the other logical, side said that she only kept him around for Dylan.  Still, maybe-

"Xander!" Spike heard Buffy's excited voice say from the entrance way.

Harris looked up from the seat he had taken next to Anya.  Buffy's face was literally beaming and the vampire could clearly make out the tear tracks that ran down her cheeks.

"She's awake," she said like a small child who had just found that Santa had paid them a visit.

Without a word, the boy shot out of his seat and took off down the hall that the slayer had just come from.  Anya shook from the force of his movement and nearly fell to the ground before she woke up enough to catch herself.

"What's going on?" she asked sleepily, yawning and rubbing her eyes.

"Willow's awake," Buffy repeated.

"Good," the ex-demon said laying her head back into the resting position.  "Now maybe I can go home and get some sleep in my bed."

Spike shook his head as the girl drifted off back to sleep.  "Always thinkin' of others, ain't she?"  Buffy snorted before she came to stand by him on the wall.  He had to ask, "Don't you want to be back there with the others?"

The energy that was built up around her began to die as she drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly.  She was returning to the calmer woman he had watched her grow into over the past two years; a woman who was becoming more and more like her own mother while keeping a flare that was distinctly Buffy.

"She's alive," she told him quietly.  "Willow's alive."

He smirked as he reached over and smoothed down her blond hair on the back of her head.  "I noticed, love."

"No, I mean, she's alive!  She's really here, with us."  She shook her head.  "You don't understand.  I even don't even understand."

"I get it, Slayer," he told her.  "Red's my friend too, remember.  Well, sort of, anyway."

Buffy chuckled at the comment.  "Yeah, she always did kind of like you, I guess.  More than rest of us anyway."

"Hey, now.  The Nibblet's always liked me."

"Yeah, but Dawn's only been around for two years, so that doesn't count."

Buffy jerked her hands up to cover her mouth like a child who had said a bad word in front of an adult as Spike felt a shock of confusion hit him.  "What are you talkin' about, Slayer?  I've known Dawn as long as any of you lot."

"Nothing," she said quickly.  "I-I'm just tired and not thinking straight.  You know, it being such a long night and all."

He studied her for a long moment, knowing full out that she was lying to him.  She was hiding something, something big, and it involved the bit.  

Buffy swallowed hard as he stared at her, but she was careful to avoid his gaze.  Frantically, she searched for another topic to keep his mind off what she had just said.  "So, um, what is it that you wanted to tell me earlier?"

"Slayer, what about the bit?"

"I asked you first," came her lame reply.

"Buffy," he said in a much gentler tone.  She knew it wasn't really that he wanted to know the secret, but had more to do with trust. Still, she couldn't tell him.

"Don't ask me," she said weakly.  "Please, don't."

He frowned deeply at her and sighed. "You want to act childish, fine.  You keep your secrets, I'll keep mine."

The bleach blond pushed away from the wall and started to walk away, but not before he caught the hurt expression that crossed her face. 

"Spike," she called, causing him to stop half way across the room.  He looked over his shoulder at her, and, for a moment, he thought that she might actually tell him what she was keeping to herself.  But then that stubborn bitch look crossed her face and instead she said, "Where are you going?"

His eyes narrowed ever so slightly.  So much for the more mature woman he thought she was becoming. 

"To call Joyce and let 'er know Red's awake," he said rather coldly, thickening the lower class English accent more then usual, before heading out of the waiting room all together.

*********

The young man was leaning against the counter, smiling politely at the nurse who was giving him directions to the cafeteria.  He wasn't actually listening to the woman at all, but listening to the couple who were arguing rather loudly in the waiting area.  He knew it was them; he recognized them from the picture he was given when he agreed to come here. 

Neither one of them may look that tough, but he knew otherwise.  He had seen what they had done to those scout groups and Lang; they were not to be taken lightly at all, especially if they were working together.

The man watched from the corner of his eye as the bleach blond said something to the young woman before storming away.  She sunk back against the wall, all the joy she had been displaying a moment ago disappeared along with the vampire.  He thought the blonde was going to start crying but, after a moment, she collected herself enough to start to wake the others to tell them the news of their friend's return.

As the others began to stir, he thanked the nurse and hurried off in the direct she had pointed out for him.  They were not his concern.  Right now, he had to tell Marie to call the boss and tell him what was going on.

**********

Travers poured the dark liquid into the glass and watched as the artificial light playful danced in the bourbon as it fell.  Things had been hard these last few months, since the project had seemingly come to a screeching halt now that Lang was gone.  As much as he hated to admit it, she did serve a purpose, one that had now, unfortunately, been shifted into his hands.

The old man snorted as he took a sip of alcohol.  He knew for a fact that the vampire and slayer had been back in Sunnydale for nearly two months. That infuriating ex-Watcher hadn't even so much as reported it to the council that she was a mother, let alone of a damphyr.  Really, what kind of Watcher had they bred in Mr. Giles?  Any Watcher, whether current or formal, would have been begging the Council for information or help as to how this happened.  Mr. Giles, however, had not.  Infuriating, really.

While Travers took another sip of the drink, the intercom came on.  "Mr. Travers?" Lindsey's voice called out.  "There's a message for you from some woman in Sunnydale."

The tips of his lips curled up ever so slightly as he struggled not to sound too excited to be already hearing back from her.  "What does she have to say, Lindsey?" he asked carefully.

"She says that she's there.  That everything is working out just like you said."

"Good," he said, placing the glass on the edge of his desk.  "Thank you, Lindsey."

The intercom switched off and Travers poured himself some more of the drink.  Things might have been down for the past couple of months, but they were starting to look up now.

**********

The End of the Interlude

**********

Okay, not the best but they were important scenes and had to be put somewhere.  I mean, they had to find out about Dylan and Spike, not to mention I couldn't very well leave poor Willow in the Shadow World.  So, what's next in the story?  Well, let's see.  Remember the wolf dream from the first story?  And let's not forget that sweet little kiss on the porch.  Oh, and is that the great master of hair gel I see on the horizon?  Find out in the next story in the series, Crawling in the Dark.