Chapter 16: Mission Matters
Buffy closed the door to the side exit and returned to the waiting room. “Oz?” she asked the girl sitting alone in the middle of a row of chairs.
“Calling Willow’s parents in Phoenix. The doctors are moving her to a room.” Cordelia watched the slayer pace the length of the waiting room for a couple of laps before asking, “Spike?”
“Still pacing and smoking. Any word on the others?”
“No.” After observing another lap, Cordelia stood up, making a decision. “I’m going back.”
Buffy stopped in mid-step. “What?”
“Oz and I rode in the ambulances with everyone else. I need to get my car.” She shifted her weight. “…And I can look around while I’m there.”
“If he’s there, the police will find him.” Buffy sighed. “Odds are, he isn’t.”
Cordelia sank back into her seat, looking guilty. “We didn’t even stop to look for him.”
“You had your hands full. I think he’ll understand.”
Cordelia frowned. “You think he’s still alive?”
“I think he was probably the mission. Part of it, anyway.” Buffy sat down beside her. “Cordy, vamps listen to the radio, too. If Spike could guess who the local relics expert was, don’t you think Angel could have?”
When Xander was released, he had a cast on his wrist and a worried expression on his face. He walked the corridors in search of his friends, desperately hoping he wouldn’t have to visit the morgue.
He was relieved to come across Buffy at a nurse’s station, where she was shifting between pleading and threatening tones in her conversation with a middle-aged woman in blue scrubs, ultimately trading assurances that she would make contact with Kendra’s guardian for information about the patients. Xander hung back until the conversation ended, afraid to risk their tenuous access to medical information by interrupting.
Buffy turned away from the counter and found Xander waiting for her with a comforting hug. “I still can’t get any information about Giles,” she whispered into his shoulder. “Oz and Cordy didn’t see what happened to him. We were hoping the police might find him in the library, knocked out or something, and bring him here. But at this point, we’re pretty sure Drusilla took him. …Did you see?”
“I didn’t, but…” Xander gulped. “Buff, I think it’s likely. I didn’t get a solid count of the vamps in the chaos, but I don’t think we dusted all that many of them.” He pulled out of the hug. “What’s the word on the others?”
“Kendra’s still in surgery. They can’t say for sure if…” She bit her lip. “Um, Willow’s been moved to a room.” She pointed down the corridor “122. Oz and Cordy are in there with her, waiting for her to wake up.”
Xander started in that direction, then stopped. “Robin… Did he…?”
“Internal bleeding, a bunch of cracked and bruised ribs, and some knocks to the head, among other things. He just came out of surgery, and they’re about to move him to a room.” Buffy pointed to the side exit adjacent to the nearby waiting room. “I have to go tell Spike. He’s probably burned through half a pack by now.”
“Drusilla told them not to kill him. I’m glad they listened.” Xander gave Buffy’s shoulder a quick squeeze with his good hand. “I’ll be with Willow if you need me.”
Buffy nodded, and they parted ways. She stepped outside to watch as Spike paced the distance between a bench and the wheelchair ramp to the parking lot, seemingly barely aware of the cigarette between his fingers. When he spotted Buffy standing at the door, he flung it away and rushed to her, a question in his eyes.
“He made it through the surgery,” she answered.
His sigh of relief was the only sound he made before he brushed past her to go back inside, grabbing her hand to pull her along behind him.
She let him lead her, and was surprised at how easily he found the room Robin was being settled into. She wanted to ask if he was following a familiar scent, or just got lucky, but the moment didn’t seem right for such questions. Instead, she waited silently at Spike’s side outside of room 126 until it was cleared of medical personnel.
The last person out was a young nurse, who looked at them quizzically, zeroing in on Spike’s worried eyes. “Do you know this patient? We went through his wallet for his insurance card and emergency contact information.” She glanced down at the clipboard she held. “But there was no phone number for the emergency contact. Just a name.”
“William Pratt,” Spike whispered. “That’d be me.” He stepped around her to enter the room without waiting for a response.
“Yes, that’s the name…” The nurse watched Spike go, then turned her focus back to Buffy. “What should I write down as his relationship to the patient?”
Buffy looked into the room behind the nurse, taking a moment to watch the vampire take up the hand of the unconscious human he’d helped raise. “Um, I’m not sure. I guess the closest description might be… Stepfather?”
The nurse turned to look at Spike, frowning.
“He’s older than he looks.”
“Uh-huh.” The nurse shifted her weight, and tried to act as if she didn’t find Buffy’s answers off-putting. “Do you know if there’s anyone closer we should call?”
“As far as I know, he’s the only family Robin has left.”
“No blood relatives?”
“Not exactly.” The words she’d exchanged with Robin only hours before rang through Buffy’s head. ‘It’s in the bloodline.’ Her gaze shifted from Spike to Robin. “But you can put two other names down. Buffy Summers and Kendra Young.”
“Young?” The nurse’s frown deepened. “The girl who came in with the abdominal wound?”
“Um, and what is the relationship?”
“I wish I could explain it.”
Buffy barely noticed when the nurse took her leave. Her attention was still fixed on the action inside the room, as Spike pulled a chair up close to Robin’s bed, settling in for a vigil.
She stood silently in the doorway as the minutes ticked by.
Xander stepped out into the corridor to look for Buffy, and was pleasantly surprised to find her lingering in a doorway only two rooms down. He draped an arm over her shoulders when he was beside her, and watched the monitors beside Robin’s bed for a moment before speaking. “Buff, Willow’s awake.”
Her shoulders sagged in relief, and she allowed herself to lean into his support. “Good. Is she going to be ok?”
“The doctor is in there with her now, shining a light into her eyeballs and quizzing her about her memory. She’s complaining that her head feels big, but when he asked her to name the president, she named the entire Cabinet. …Should I know who Madeleine Albright is?”
“Secretary of State. And yes, you should.” Buffy smiled. “She’ll be fine.”
“What about you? Do you need anything?”
“Right now, I’m giving some serious thought to a clean, simple ending,” she murmured, her eyes on the patient in the room before her.
Before Xander could question her meaning, a voice came from behind them. “Buffy! Are you alright?”
They turned around to find a very harried Joyce standing in the corridor, gripping her purse with a shaking hand.
“I couldn’t sleep. I turned on the radio, and I heard…” Joyce’s eyes were wide with a mix of terror and relief. “They said students had been admitted… I didn’t know…”
“One in surgery. One just woke up. Another unconscious, but stable,” Buffy reported. She gestured to the arm Xander had just dropped from her shoulders. “And a broken wrist.” She sighed. “The rain came just before we got our umbrellas up.”
Joyce frowned, not understanding the analogy. “But you’re alright? And it’s over now?”
“Mom, this wasn’t the big fight I was planning. This was a surprise attack.” She glanced back into Robin’s room. “And they got exactly what they wanted out of it.”
“What was that?” Xander asked. “Giles with them and the rest of us holed up here?”
“Xan, this was a huge win for them. Will’s in no shape for doing the curse. They can learn whatever they need to know to activate Acathla from Giles. And they’ve gotten Spike out of the way, in about the most efficient way possible.”
Xander looked over her shoulder to the two men in the hospital room, his brow furrowing as he caught the implication. “Oh. …You think that’s why she didn’t want them to kill him.”
“That’s the best reasoning I can come up with. It also explains why she wasn’t worried about Spike being in town.” Buffy followed Xander’s gaze, watching Spike watch Robin. Her voice softened. “Putting Robin in the hospital has probably been part of the plan since Spike came to Sunnydale. Drusilla identified Spike’s weak spot, and exploited it to get both of them out of the equation. She was able to take out my strongest ally without even touching him…” Her tone abruptly switched from thoughtful to authoritative as she turned back to her mother. “Mom, stay here. You’ve taken enough of a risk being out tonight. Xan, can you drive like that?”
He frowned at his wrist. “I should be able to manage.”
“Buffy!” Joyce struggled to keep her volume low. “You can’t mean that you’re going to…? After all your friends have been hurt?”
“That’s exactly why I have to. Also, they have my watcher.” She shifted her attention back to Xander. “Go get Oz’s keys. We’ll go back to the school on foot. You can get the van while I get the sword Kendra brought. When we get to the mansion, you’ll have to go in behind me, to get Giles, but stay out of the fight, ok?”
“Buff, you going in alone, against both of them, and whatever minions they’ve got hanging around…”
Joyce finished his thought for him. “You can’t.”
“I don’t have a choice!” Buffy snapped. “Xan, get the keys.”
“No need,” came a voice from inside the room. “The DeSoto is out front.”
The three at the doorway turned to face Spike, who was standing up from his seat at Robin’s bedside.
“Dru doesn’t know me as well as she thinks she does.”
Buffy acknowledged his decision with a nod. “Mom, stay with Robin. Xan, tell the others… We’re ending this. Now.”
Spike leaned over the bed to drop a kiss on an un-bandaged place on Robin’s forehead while Xander hurried back down the corridor. Buffy, uncomfortable with seeing this act of tenderness, pretended to have been looking elsewhere when Spike left Robin’s side to join her and her mother at the doorway.
He pulled one of the stakes from his coat pocket and handed it to Joyce. “If anyone shows up who shouldn’t…”
“Aim for the heart,” Buffy finished.
Slayer and vampire walked away without waiting for a response. Joyce watched them go to room 122 to converse in the doorway with their friends -their gestures indicative of a mild argument- before leaving with Xander and Cordelia, the four walking out of her line of sight with the decisive steps of soldiers ready for war.