Xander hit Tay's hand out of the way when she went to reach for his arm "Don't you *touch* me" he hissed "Don't you touch me *ever* again" he backed away from her.
Tay pouted "But you enjoyed *so* much last time"
Xander ignored her "Where is *she*? Where's Buffy? What have you done to her!"
Tay had conducted a quick search of all of Xander's usual haunts but had not found him. So now she had come back to Xander's apartment, figuring that he had to come home sometime. Tay used the key she had to gain entry to the apartment. As soon as the door closed she was greeted by the sight of Xander sitting by himself on the couch.
Xander looked up when he saw her enter "Hey… Buffy" Xander stood up "Where have you been?"
"I had-" Tay broke off and paused dramatically "I had some bad news" she said. Tay walked over to him and Xander stood up "I was over at Giles'" she continued "He called from London" she drew in a shaky breath "Something happened"
Tay nodded slowly "He found her… found me… my body" she sniffed "She's dead."
Xander closed his eyes and exhaled deeply before opening his eyes and looking back at Tay "S-she's… dead?"
"Oh Xander!" Tay threw her arms around his neck and pressed herself close to him "What are we going to do?"
Xander pulled back a little so he could look directly into her eyes "If Ren's dead," Xander said evenly "I have one question" he pushed her away roughly "Who the hell are you?"
"What makes you think I'm not Buffy" Tay said, moving quickly towards Xander and managing to get hold of him before he could get away.
Xander looked directly into her eyes "Because she would never had done what you did." Xander said, "Tara hypnotised me. I remember what you said… you *used* me… you *used* my body to-" Xander shook that memory from his mind "And-and Buffy would never have done that to me. Where is she!" Xander struggled to get away but Tay had a firm grip on his wrist.
Tay smiled and waved her hand and suddenly Xander saw the small camera on the wall above the door "Buffy's everywhere" Tay said "She knows *everything*"
"W-what… I-" Xander was silenced by lips being forced onto his, he tried to pull away but a hand gripped his head hard from behind.
Then Tay pulled back, letting go of Xander "Buffy knows *everything*"
Xander made a bolt for the door but she was quicker and by the time Xander got anywhere near the door Tay was standing in front of it, blocking his exit.
"Sorry honey" Tay shoved him backwards and Xander hit the floor "But you're not going anywhere."
Xander scrambled back towards the wall "I don't understand! Why are you doing this?! *Who* *are* you?!"
"Well of course you don't understand honey. You're not supposed to. And as for why I'm doing this… well…" Tay walked towards him and Xander looked up at her "My name is Tranquillity. Tay for short. I believe you knew my sister Serendipity *very* well"
Xander's eyes widened "Sisters? I-I didn't know-"
"You broke her heart" Tay interrupted "Did you know that?" Now that wasn't very nice of you was it?"
Xander tried to get to his feet but pushed him back down again "I didn't-" Xander began.
"Oh I'm afraid you did" Tay said. She smiled "And you still feel guilty for that don't you" Tay knelt beside him and pushed him further back against the wall he had scrambled back towards "I saw your little face when your read the letter I sent saying she wasn't coming back" her eyes glittered "You miss her more than you admit even to yourself"
"You-you sent it?"
"Uh huh" Tay moved her hand that was against his chest so that it was gripping his jaw "And like I said. You miss her. You know, since I've been Buffy, I've noticed the way different ways you've looked at me and I've got to tell you I don't think the real Buffy would be too happy with some of them"
Xander gasped in pain when Tay increased the pressure on his lower jaw. Tay grinned and continued "I know some of those looks were because you were remembering times past" Tay grinned "But that's enough of that" she sighed "Look at this, you started to distract me from what I came here to do"
"And-" Xander grimaced as Tay stood up and not releasing her grip, she hauled him up at the same time "What's that?"
"I'm going to kill you" Tay replied "And your little girlfriend is going to watch" Tay grabbed hold of the back of Xander's sweater and then released her hold on his jaw. She moved to behind him and manoeuvred him so that he was in front of the camera.
"Buffy doesn’t have much long left herself" Tay continued "Just long enough to watch you die before her eyes.
Xander tried to twist away but Tay caught hold of his arm and held him in place "Why are you doing this?" Xander asked as he still continued to struggle.
"Because I can" Tay replied. She let go of his sweater and grabbed a handful of his hair, pulling his head back. She let go of his arm and held out the now free hand in front of her and suddenly a knife materialised from nowhere in her palm.
Tay leaned towards him and whispered in his ear "Say bye bye."
Ren was about to walk through the door but then something to her right caught her eye. She backed back out onto the hallway again and went to investigate two flat cables that ran across the floor from underneath one closed door and underneath another.
Ren frowned and knelt on the floor by the cables and gave them both a slight tug but there wasn’t much give in either direction because the doors were closed. Crawling across the floor to one of the doors, Ren reached up and opened one it, pushing it open slightly. She pulled again on one of the cables and she felt something give and the cable became slack in her hand.
Buffy was barely able to move. She could feel whatever Tay had injected her with invading her system. Buffy couldn’t speak and found the only thing she could do was keep her eyes open, no matter how much she jut wanted to close them and let this whole nightmare be over.
Buffy watched in horror as she saw Tay haul Xander to his feet and thrust him in front of the camera. She saw Xander look up in to the camera then suddenly the screen went black. Buffy blinked a few times before realising that she was not seeing Tay and Xander anymore and that she was no longer being *made* to watch the TV.
But then Buffy found her attention being drawn to something again. To a person standing in the doorway and staring at her in shock.
"Holy shit!" Buffy!"
Buffy blinked a couple of times and then tried to respond but she found herself unable to speak.
"Buffy?! What the hell" Ren hurried over to the bed. She took in Buffy’s bedraggled state, the bruises along the jaw-line and the cuts and bruises that hadn’t healed on Buffy’s face "Buffy?" Ren gently tilted Buffy’s face towards her and looked into her eyes "Buffy, can you hear me?"
Buffy tried to speak again but what she was trying to say never came out so she nodded instead. Buffy stared up into the blue eyes that were the same as her tormentor Tay, but yet not. Buffy saw nothing of Tay behind these eyes.
Ren began to examine the chains that held Buffy. She put her hand on one of the manacles and closed her eyes and felt the magic that was in them. But magic she knew she could dispel if she had Buffy’s help. Only problem was that Buffy was in no fit state to help.
Ren tilted Buffy’s head towards her again and then noticed Buffy was trying to tell her something "What?" Ren realised Buffy couldn’t speak and that the blonde girl was wanting her to look at the TV. Ren turned her head towards the set and saw the blank screen. Frowning she turned back to Buffy who was giving her frantic looks "What? Buffy, I don’t understand."
"Look Buffy" Ren continued "I have to have your help to get you out of here, OK? But to do that I have to heal you and from your current position and the way I’d have to do it I don’t see it happening easily" Ren looked at one of the manacles around one of Buffy’s wrists "To heal you I’d have to get one of your hands out and there we have a catch 22 seeing as how I need your help to break them in the first place" Ren looked back to Buffy who was still sending her frantic looks "Buffy, I don’t understand what you want to tell me, but as soon as I heal you, you can all right?" Ren paused "Now the only way I can see to do this is to completely mangle your hand to get it though the clasp. It’ll be painful but only for as long as it takes for me to heal you. OK?"
Buffy looked at her for a few long seconds before giving her consent. She bit her lip and closed her eyes when she felt Ren crush her fingers together and the sounds of the bounds snapping were audible. Ren then pulled her hand up slightly so she could crush the bottom half and then slowly but surely Buffy could feel her hand being pushed through the manacle.
Ren kept hold of Buffy’s hand went it was free then she climbed onto the bed and straddled herself over the Slayer, sitting on her hips.
Buffy looked up at her as Ren placed Buffy’s hand flat against her chest over her heart, holding it there with one of her own hands. Ren then placed her other hand over Buffy's heart. She looked at the blond girl "You remember when I healed Xander this way?" she asked and Buffy nodded as much as she could "Then you remember it’s going to be painful?" Buffy nodded again, urging her to hurry with her eyes. Ren took the hint and closed her eyes.
Buffy saw the faint reddish glow appear around the two places where she and Ren touched before she felt the wracking pain travel through her body. She screwed her eyes shut, trying to distance herself from it, but it was too powerful and she couldn’t get away from it. It was like needles pricking into every part of her body and it seemed to go on forever.
But eventually the pain ceased and Buffy's eyes flew open, she pulled her now healed hand away from Ren and drew in a deep breath "Xander" she said quickly "She's going to kill Xander"
"Oh Jesus" Ren began to help Buffy with her other wrist restraint.
"Ren you have to go now!" Buffy cried "They're at his apartment. You have to go now!"
Ren fell backwards when they managed to free Buffy's other wrist "I can't stop her by myself!" Ren replied as she got up and began to help Buffy with the clamp on her left ankle "She's stronger than me"
"But you can distract her!" Buffy said as they struggled to free her "Stop her before she kills him please!"
"You don't understand Buffy!" Ren said as they got Buffy's ankle free and started on the other "She's too powerful. Her magick is too strong. I *can't* do it by myself. It's going to take two us to help Xander."
"Fine. We'll kick her ass together" Buffy said as her last appendage finally became free.
Buffy and Ren raced from the apartment building. Buffy tried hard to keep up with Ren, the fact that she wasn't wearing any shoes didn't help matters. She followed Ren through and out of the building and then saw the other woman getting into a car parked over the other side of the road. Just as Buffy got in and had managed to shut the door, Ren peeled away from the curb.
Ren pointed to the glove compartment "My phone's in there" she told Buffy "Call the police and tell them to get over to Xander's place. They won't be able to do much but it might distract her a little."
Buffy pulled out the phone and then had to brace herself as Ren ran a red light. Buffy quickly pulled on the seatbelt and then looked at the phone. She was about to dial when the noticed the small screen indicating something important "There's no signal!" she cried.
"There's no signal!" Buffy repeated, bracing herself against the dashboard again when Ren turned a corner, almost crashing into another car. Buffy's attention was then drawn to something that fell out of the still open glove compartment and onto the floor of the car. Buffy reached down to pick it up and looked at it, an idea forming in her head "You sister told me a little about your history" Buffy said to Ren "Something about taking a south path and not being able to heal like you?"
Ren quickly flicked her eyes towards Buffy before concentrating on the road again "No, she can't heal like me. She's more like you" Ren said.
Buffy looked at the handgun she now held "Then if I shoot her, it'll slow her down right?"
"You know how to use it?"
"Sure. Point. Pull trigger. Bang" Buffy replied "Bye bye bitch."
"I don't know about 'Bye bye'" Ren responded.
"Oh *I* do" Buffy spat out. She looked at the phone again "Still no signal" she informed Ren.
"We're here now anyway" Ren said, driving up and onto the pavement and coming to a screeching halt out side the entrance to Xander's apartment complex.
Buffy shoved the gun into the back of her jeans and jumped out of the car after Ren and they both sped towards the entrance. They got through the doors and ran towards then up the stairs.
Ren reached Xander's apartment first and kicked the door open. Buffy pushed past her and hurried into the apartment, ready to confront Tay. But Tay was no where insight.
However, Xander was.
Severely beaten and lying face down in a pool of his own blood.
"Oh God. Xander!" Buffy cried. She rushed over to him "Oh God!" Buffy sank to her knees and quickly put her hand to his neck "I can't feel a pulse" she sobbed and looked towards Ren who had knelt opposite her
"Let me" Ren brushed Buffy's hand away "There is one" she said after a few long seconds "It's weak, but it's there" she gingerly rolled Xander over "Jesus Christ" she exclaimed as she saw the extent of his injuries. What was left of the sweater Xander had been wearing was matted with blood so much you couldn't even tell the original colour. Ren ripped the sweater open so she could see the wounds properly and saw there were two seriously large knife wounds to his abdomen, and the blood was still flowing freely from them.
Buffy sobbed and pressed her hands to his stomach, trying to stem the flow of blood "You have to do something" Buffy looked at Ren through her tears "You have to make him better!" she pleaded.
Ren brushed away her own tears "I can't" she said, "He has to be conscious. We have to get him to a hospital."
"We don't have time to wait for an ambulance!" Buffy cried "He won't make it"
Suddenly Ren felt another person in the room. She turned around and saw her sister leaning against the wall.
"She's right" Tay said "He won't make it. 'Cos not one of you is going anywhere"
Buffy reached into her pocket and pulled out the gun. She flipped back the safety catch "Ren move!"
Ren fell to the side and Buffy aimed the gun and fired. Tay cried out when she felt the bullet enter her stomach and she sank to the floor. "Ren get him out of here!"
"No!" Ren snatched the gun from Buffy before she had time to react. She thrust her keys at Buffy "You go. She's mine."
Buffy didn't have time to argue, and while Tay was taking her time getting to her feet again she quickly took the keys from Ren and swept Xander up into her arms. Buffy hurried to the open door but it suddenly slammed shut in her face.
Tay was on her feet, her hand clutched over her stomach "I told you that you weren't going *any*where"
Ren fired off another shot at her sister, but despite her injury Tay managed to dodge it, and did a dive roll to her left.
Meanwhile Buffy had hitched Xander in her arms so she could kick at the door. Buffy kicked at the hard at the door again, not paying any attention to the gunshot she heard ring out behind her. Buffy had one aim now. To get Xander, who was slowly dying in her arms, out of this place and to hospital. Buffy yelled out with a mixture of frustration and grief as she kicked at the magic strengthened door again and a sudden rush of adrenaline went through her when she felt the door give a little. Buffy kicked again and the door came off its hinges. Not looking back, Buffy ran.
Tay looked up to see her sister standing over her. Tay looked at the gun Ren was aiming towards her and then she looked into her sisters eyes and smiled "You're not going to shoot me" Tay said as she slowly got to her feet, her hand still pressed over her wound.
Ren backed away slightly but still kept the gun trained on Tay "And why not?"
"Because I just messed up the trigger mechanism" Tay grinned as Ren then proceeded to check out this new found information and tried to fire the gun, and found her sister was right.
Ren threw the gun to the floor and faced her sister off "Xander's going to be OK" she said as they began circling each other.
"Don't lie" Tay replied "You know as well as I do she was carrying a dead man out of that door"
Ren lashed out with her fist at her sister but Tay blocked it easily and caught hold of her sister's fist, managing to twist her sister's arm up and around her back and she forced Ren face forwards into the nearest wall "Poor little Buffy, having to watch her boyfriend die in front of her. Not quite how I'd planned it but I think it still has the same effect, don't you?"
Ren pushed herself back off the wall with her free arm and kicked her sister hard in one of her kneecaps. Tay hissed with pain and stumbled backwards, releasing her grip on Ren at the same time.
Ren dashed to the kitchen before her sister had time to react. She flung open one of the lower cupboards below the sink and reached behind one of the pipes. She sighed inwardly with relief when she found what she was looking for, glad that Xander hadn't moved them. Ren grabbed hold of the two small vials of liquid just before and strong hand grabbed hold of her hair and yanked her backwards. Ren found herself being thrown forward again, her head connected with the counter top before she was pulled to her feet. Ren quickly shoved one of the vials into her back pocket before reaching up and smashing the other against the side of her sister's face.
Tay let go of Ren's hair immediately and screamed in pain as the contents of the vial began to sizzle on her flesh, starting to eat away at it. Ren clasped both her hands together and dealt a double fisted blow to Tay's head. Tay crashed to the floor and Ren kicked her hard in the face for good measure before jumping over the sprawled form of her sister and rushing from the apartment to the sounds of approaching sirens.
Buffy swore as her bare foot slipped off the accelerator pedal yet again. She slammed her foot back on it and ignored that honking horns that told her she had ran yet another red light. Even going at this speed she knew she wasn't going to make it to the hospital for another few minutes and she didn't even dare guess how much blood Xander had lost.
Ren's car was only a two-seater convertible, so she'd had to strap Xander into the passenger seat. Except with Xander being unconscious he hadn't wanted to stay there so Buffy was now driving with Xander half slumped into her lap.
Buffy was trying to hold back her tears, knowing it would be impossible to drive anymore if she completely broke down. Buffy took one hand of the wheel and touched her fingertips to Xander's neck, trying to find a pulse. Buffy choked back a sob when she couldn't find one.
She put her hand back on the wheel as she sped round a corner "Don't you die on me Xander Harris!" she began to sob "Don't you dare" Buffy spotted the turning for the hospital and she cut across the other line of traffic and kept her foot on the accelerator until she came to a screeching halt in the ambulance bay by the emergency room.
"Some help here!" she yelled to a paramedic who was standing by the entrance "Please!" Buffy jumped out of the car and rushed to the passenger side where the paramedic who helped her get Xander out of the car quickly joined her.
They both carried him into the emergency room and upon entering the paramedic quickly called for assistance.
Everything then became a blur for Buffy as Xander was taken from her and placed onto a trolley. She started to follow after him as they began to wheel him away but the paramedic who had helped her held her back.
"But I want to be with him" she said between sobs "I want to be with him" she shoved the paramedic to the side but by then Xander had been wheeled away and Buffy hadn't seen where to.
"Where'd they take him?!" she spun around and addressed the entire emergency room "I wanna be with him! Someone tell me where he is!"
"Miss please" the paramedic took hold her arm firmly "He's in the best place"
Buffy pushed him away again and broke down. She sank to her knees and the tears flowed freely and her chest began to heave with her sobs "I don't want him to die" she cried "He can't die. I love him so much" Buffy wrapped her arms around her chest before finding herself being pulled into strong arms. Buffy turned to see who it was and flinched instinctively when she looked into familiar blue eyes.
"It's OK" Ren said as she held Buffy "He'll be OK"
Buffy began to cry again and Ren helped her to her feet "Sshh" Ren tried to comfort Buffy through her own tears "They'll fix him and it'll all be fine."
"What happened?" Buffy asked "Did you kill her?"
Ren sighed "No" she sniffed "But she won't be going anywhere for a while."
"Will she come here?"
"I hope not" Ren replied "But if she does I'll be ready" Ren pulled Buffy to her and held the other woman in a tight embrace "Xander's not going to leave us" she said "As soon as he comes round I'll get the doctors out and make him all right"
Buffy sniffed against Ren's shoulder "Thank you" she said "Thank you so much. If you hadn't been-"
"Sshh" Ren said again, rubbing her hand soothingly on Buffy' back "It's going to be fine."
"We're engaged" Buffy mumbled , her sobs subsiding a little "I thought you should know"
"Oh… I… engaged?" Ren felt Buffy nod against her shoulder "That's nice. I'm glad."
"You don't sound it" Buffy said, pulling back from Ren.
"I'll get there."
Buffy felt someone tap her on the shoulder and she turned around to see a young female doctor standing before her, the name badge she was wearing read 'Dr Megan Elliott'.
"Excuse me" Dr Elliott said gently "But we're going to need some details about the young man you came in with."
"He's going to be OK isn't he?" Buffy asked, her eyes brimming with hopeful tears "Please tell me he's going to be OK"
Dr Elliott hesitated "I'm afraid it's to early to tell yet" she replied "The injuries he sustained-"
"But he's going to be OK?" Buffy asked again.
Dr Elliott hesitated again and Ren put her hand on Buffy's shoulder "Please" Ren asked "What are his chances?"
"Not good" the Dr Elliott replied "He lost a lot of blood. If he hadn't arrived when he did it
would have been pointless for us to even attempt a transfusion" she paused "But even then he's still bleeding internally. We have the best doctors trying to help him."
"Has he regained conscious?" Ren asked "I can help if you'll let me-"
"No" Dr Elliott replied "He hasn't woken yet. Are you a doctor?" she asked Ren.
Ren shook her head "But I can help. I can-"
"I want to see him" Buffy interrupted, wiping away her tears "Please."
Dr Elliott shook her head "I'm afraid not"
"Please, we need to know the moment he wakes up" Ren said, taking hold of Dr Elliott's arm "Please tell us."
Dr Elliott looked at the women who were both clearly upset about their friend "OK" she agreed "I'll get someone to let you know. But we need some details about your friend first. This was a vicious attack. The police have already been informed. Hospital policy" she added.
Buffy turned to Ren "I'll talk to them" she said "Can you call Willow?"
"Sure" Ren said "What about Rupert?"
"I don't think Giles is in the country" Buffy said "Please, just call Willow" and Buffy began to walk off with Dr Elliott.
Ren wiped away her tears and ran a hand through her hair. She felt in her pocket for her phone but then realised it was in her car. She walked up to the reception desk and spoke to the tired looking nurse behind it "Payphones?" Ren asked and the nurse pointed to her right. Ren smiled in thanks and headed in the direction the nurse indicated.
She only had to go to the end of the corridor before she came to a row of about five phone booths and each one had someone using the phone in it.
Ren noticed a sign informing her there were more available phones on the next floor. Ren looked for the stairs, she didn't find them but she saw a sign that indicated where they were. Ren began to follow the signs and was about to make her way up the stairs when someone grabbed her from behind.
Ren spun around quickly and came face to face with her sister.
"Is he dead yet?" Tay spat in Ren's face.
"You bitch" Ren drew back her arm to hit Tay but felt herself flying backwards instead and she landed on her back.
The only two people who were in the corridor took one look at the menacing, scarred face of the darker haired woman and bolted. With lightening speed, Tay was at her sister's side, hauling her to her feet by her hair. She dragged Ren through a nearby fire exit and proceeded to throw her sister down a flight of stairs
"You fix me you bitch" Tay pointed to her face, which was blistered and red raw because of the vial of liquid Ren has smashed against her face "Look what you did!" she stood at the top of the stairs, shouting down at her sister. Tay leapt down to her sister's side "Do you know how long this is going to take to heal" she kicked Ren as she tried to stand. Tay lifted her top to expose her wounded stomach "And as for this" she went to kick Ren again but her sister blocked the blow and caught hold of her foot, pulling Tay to the floor beside her.
Tay reached up quickly and grabbed Ren by the throat by both hands, and shoving her backwards so she was pinned to the wall. Ren gripped her sister's wrists and tried to pull Tay's hands away. She then drew her knees up and kicked Tay in the stomach.
Tay yelled in pain as she went backwards but she never let go of Ren and both women went tumbling back and down the next flight of stairs. Ren felt her head hit the floor hard and she hissed in pain as Tay tightened even more the grip she had on her throat.
"Fix me!" Tay spat again.
After talking to Dr Elliott, Buffy went back to the emergency room waiting area and took a seat. She rested her forearms on her knees and hung her head. She took a few deep breaths and then raised her head. She stared straight ahead blankly. She just wanted to be numb. To be able to just shut down completely and not think about anything. But she couldn't. Not when Xander was fighting for his life.
Buffy hugged her arms around herself and began to rock slightly. Tears began to prick at her eyes again and she drew in a couple of shaky breaths. She looked around for Ren but the other woman had yet to return. Buffy sighed and closed her eyes, feeling her tears begin to run down her cheeks. Buffy raised her hand to scrub them away when she heard a frantic voice coming from behind her. She opened her eyes again and saw a woman approach the nurse's station.
"I think someone should call security!" the woman said anxiously "There was this woman and she-she attacked this other woman. Just threw along the corridor like she was nothing!"
Buffy was alert. She stood up and hurried over to the woman "Did one of them have blue hair" Buffy asked.
"Yeah" the woman replied "She was the one who got hurt"
"Oh no" Buffy paled "Which way? Where did it happen?"
"By… by the stairwell"
Buffy knew where she meant and took off down the corridor. She ran as fast as she could but when she arrived by the stairwell there was no one in sight. Then Buffy saw the slightly open door of the fire escape and Buffy's instinct's kicked in.
Tay continued to choke Ren "Heal me!" she cried "You can do it. I bloody well know you can!"
"I'm not going to do anything to help you!" Ren yelled back
"Then I'll just have to help myself!" Tay slammed Ren's head back against the wall hard, stunning her sister and then took one of her hands from around Ren's neck and slammed her palm flat against Ren's forehead "I always have to live in your little goody two shoes shadow and I'm sick of it" Tay said and a bright green light shone from where Tay's hand connected with Ren's head "Well now I'm going to get something back and leave you with nothing" the green glow got brighter and Ren was immobilised allowing her sister the freedom to do what she wanted "And I was saving *this* little present for Christmas" Tay continued as the green light changed to a blue one "But I guess you'll just have to have it now!"
Just as Buffy pushed open the door to the fire escape she heard an ear-splitting scream. Recognising it as one of the twins, Buffy stuck her head over the railing and saw Tay standing over an unconscious Ren. Seeing Ren's evil other half obviously revelling in the pain she'd cause, rage coursed through Buffy's veins and she leapt up and over the railing, travelling downwards fast. She felt her bare feet connect with Tay's upper back and the force of her landing sent the other woman to the floor. Buffy leapt backwards onto one of the steps and just as Tay got to her feet again Buffy sprang forward, raising her feet and smashing them as hard as she could into the base of the other woman's spine.
Buffy grabbed hold of a handful of Tay's hair and hauled her to her feet. Buffy then slammed Tay face first into the wall "How does it feel to be on the receiving end?!" Buffy cried, slamming Tay into the wall again "Huh? How does it feel?!"
Tay tried to twist away from the Slayer's grip but Tay had nearly drained her energy resources on her sister only moments before. She cried out when Buffy let go of her hair to deliver a blow to her still wounded stomach.
"Come on tell me!" Buffy yelled as she landed a left cross on Tay's jaw. Buffy went to hit her again but Tay managed to block it and then landing her own blow on Buffy, sending the blonde backwards. Buffy stumbled over Ren's outstretched legs and fell backwards. As Buffy put her hand on Ren's foot to push herself up, she felt the outline of a familiar object. Buffy twisted around and pulled out the knife that was inside Ren's boot. Suddenly Buffy felt herself being grabbed by her collar and pulled backwards.
"I'll tell you how it feels" Tay hissed as she slammed Buffy into the wall "It feels good"
"Really?" Buffy jabbed her elbow back, catching Tay in the ribs "How does this feel?" Buffy managed to twist around and she plunged the knife as deep as she could into Tay's abdomen.
Tay yelled out and staggered backwards but Buffy kept hold of the knife "Feel good?" Buffy said "Now you know how Xander felt!" Buffy lunged at her again but Tay side-stepped and Buffy ended up behind Tay.
"Yeah Xander screamed real good" Ren said cruelly as Buffy spun back around to face her "And not just when I ripped open his stomach."
Rage coursed though Buffy again and she lunged at Tay again, only just missing the other woman with her weapon but still managing to take Tay with her as they tumbled down the next flight of stairs.
As they hit the next landing Buffy was the first to react and straddled Ren's hips. "You won't win" Buffy said coldly "Evil never does" she raised her hand with the knife and plunged it towards Tay's heart but Tay caught hold of Buffy's wrist just as the tip of the blade made contact with her chest.
"I wouldn't say that" Tay replied and she flipped them both over and managed to twist the knife so it was aimed at Buffy.
Buffy looked into Tay's eyes "But it's true" Buffy said.
"Drop the knife."
Buffy's eyes flicked to the security guard who stood half way up the flight of stairs they'd just fallen down. His gun was aimed at Tay's back.
Tay never lost her hold on the knife and turned around to glare at the guard "Do you *mind*? I'm *busy* here!"
"Drop the knife!" the guard pulled back the safety catch "Now!"
Tay's eyes narrowed and glowed red. The guard's eyes widened and he immediately fired off a shot, hitting Tay square in the forehead.
Tay slumped onto Buffy, the knife falling limply from both their hands. The guard moved a little closer, still keeping his gun trained on Tay.
"Miss" he asked Buffy "Miss are you all right?"
Buffy looked up at him, relief evident in her eyes "Do you think you could shoot her again just to make sure?" Buffy scrambled from underneath Tay.
"I don't think she's going anywhere" the guard said and he was quickly joined by one of his colleagues who then went over to Tay and turned her over. He felt her neck to try and feel for a pulse. He sighed and shook his head. He looked at her other wounds and then looked back to his colleague.
"You're right" he said "She's not going anywhere" he stood up and went to help Buffy to her feet "Are you OK?"
Buffy turned to look at Ren who was being helped down the stairs towards her "Ren-"
"She took it Buffy" Ren said weakly and she grasped hold of the guard next to her as her knees buckled "She took it from me"
Buffy went to Ren's side "What Ren? What did she take?"
"Everything" Ren's voice was barely audible "I can't help him" she sniffed "Xander's on his own."
Buffy's eyes widened "What did she do Ren" Buffy demanded "Why can't you help him?!"
Ren looked at her with sad eyes "She took my power. I can't heal" tears began to roll down Ren's face "Then she gave me something back."
The guards and police who had arrived on the scene had wanted to question Buffy and Ren but Buffy had told them that they didn't want to be away from Xander any longer and they had said they'd speak to them later.
She had spoken to Dr Elliott who had informed her that while Buffy had been gone Xander had been taken into surgery.
That had been about twenty minutes ago and now Buffy was sitting in relative's room. It was only now what Ren had said was now sinking in.
Ren couldn't help anymore. She wasn't able to.
And Buffy had no idea what she was going to do now.
She could only wait.
Amidst all the feelings worry and grief over Xander that were threatening to overcrowd her mind was Buffy's indecision of whether she was happy or not that it wasn't her who got to deal the final blow to Tay. On the one hand she was just glad it was all over and that it didn't really matter who killed her because she was dead. That was it. On the other hand, Tay had put Buffy through so much, tormented her and beat her, caused her emotional pain as well as physical and that wasn't even getting started over what she had done to Xander. Buffy had wanted to be the one to end Tay's miserable life. To make a clean break, to end the cycle.
Whatever Buffy finally decided on in the end she knew that she wasn't going to get anymore nasty comeback surprises from Tay. She had made sure herself that the bitch was dead. Ren agreed as well.
Buffy looked across at Ren. The other woman was lying on her back across the span of four chairs and she was staring blankly up at the ceiling. Buffy had given up trying to get her to talk. Ren just refused to acknowledge Buffy was even speaking to her. She just drifted off into her own little world.
A short time later there was a knock at the door and it opened slowly and Willow poked her head through the gap.
Buffy then remembered having telephoned Willow amidst everything, just telling her friend to get to the hospital because Xander had been hurt. She didn't know if Willow had realised who'd called her, but seeing the shock on her best friend's face when Willow spotted her, she guessed Willow had come because of Xander.
Willow gasped and she pushed open the door fully and then her attention was drawn to the other woman in the room and she did a double take.
"Wha… I don’t understand-" Willow kept looking between Ren and Buffy.
Buffy smiled weakly at her friend "Hey Will"
Willow took one long look at Ren and then turned her attention to Buffy. Her brow furrowed "Buffy?" she said hesitantly.
Buffy nodded "I think you'd better sit down Willow ."
Ten minutes later, Willow was staring at Buffy in shock after hearing her friend tell her the whole story.
"Oh God Buffy. I-I can't take this in. This… this is just so much" Willow put her hand over her mouth" "I can't believe we didn't know."
"She fooled you" Buffy explained "She said something about it not being the spell you thought it was. She said she had my aura and she said" Buffy paused and ran a hand through her hair "She said she tricked Xander. Did something to his mind" Buffy said "You couldn't have known."
"But we *should* have" Willow said "We should have *known*" Willow whispered "Oh god Buffy. She was with us for so long. The way she was… she was so… *you*" Willow looked at Buffy guiltily "I'm *so* sorry Buffy… we should… *I* should have-"
"It's *not* your fault" Buffy said "She had everyone under her spell" Buffy took Willow's hand and squeezed it comfortingly "Tay's the only one at fault here" Buffy said "And she's dead. She's paid the price for what she did."
Willow looked across at Ren who had been silent the entire time she had been there "How did Ren know? How did she know where to find you?"
Buffy shrugged "I don't know" she said "I'm just so glad she did"
"What wrong with her?"
"This is where it gets worse" Buffy said.
"How could it get *worse*?"
Buffy took a deep breath "Ren won't be able to heal Xander when he wakes up" Buffy said slowly "She's can't do that anymore"
Willow's eyes widened "She can't? What? Why?"
"Tay… before she died… she did something to Ren" Buffy paused "She made her human again. She's been like that" Buffy pointed to Ren "Ever since."
Willow's eyes widened even further and she looked across at Ren again "She did what? Human? But that's not possible-"
"Willow, I saw some of the stuff Tay did. The magic stuff… she was *strong*, she was-" Buffy broke off and blinked back tears "Xander never stood a chance"
Willow put her arm around Buffy's shoulder. Buffy leaned into the embrace and rested her head on Willow's shoulder and began to sob quietly.
"We're supposed to be happy" Buffy whispered "Why did it all have to go wrong."
"But it won't be wrong for long… right?" Willow tried to comfort Buffy "The doctors will fix him. He's *Xander*, nothing's going to happen" Willow twisted in her seat and wrapped her other arm around Buffy, pulling her friend closer as Buffy's cries became louder. Willow's own tears now began to flow freely "It's going to be OK" she said, hugging Buffy closer "It's going to be OK" Willow repeated. She looked across at Ren and Willow now noticed the other woman was crying silent tears.
Willow closed her eyes and sniffled "Xander's going to be just fine."
Four hours later, Willow still held Buffy, half dozing, in her arms. Ren was still lying across four seats and was staring up at the ceiling.
Buffy and Willow turned their attention to the door where a man in surgical scrubs stood.
"What is it?" Buffy asked, as the man came into the room
"Are you Miss Summers?" he asked Buffy. She nodded and he continued "I'm Dr Woods. I operated on your fiancé"
"Is he all right?" Buffy asked, disengaging herself from Willow and standing up "Please tell me he's alright."
Dr Woods hesitated "I think you may want to sit back down."
Buffy's eyes widened and she gripped Willow's hand "Oh god. No… *no*" Buffy sniffed "He's not-"
"No" Dr Woods replied quickly "But-" he broke off and looked at the three women "I've already relayed this to his mother. She's only just arrived and she's with him now. I spoke with Dr Elliott and she told me that you were here-"
"Please just tell me" Buffy pleaded.
Dr Woods hesitated "As you know when he arrived, Alexander had lost a lot of blood. If he hadn't been brought in when he had he would have died. Luckily we were able to provide him with some. But-" he paused "His internal bleeding meant it just… kept coming out again"
"I know" Buffy said "That's why Dr Elliott told me you had to operate. I want to see him."
"You'll have to talk to his mother I'm afraid. I think she wanted only family" Dr Woods replied.
"But I *have* to see him" Buffy cried "I'll go talk to her. Make her-"
"Buffy" Willow placed a hand on her friend's shoulder "I think the Doctor wants to tell us something else"
Buffy looked up at Dr Woods "Is there something else?"
"I *do* think you'd better sit down" Dr Woods replied.
"Just *tell* me" Buffy said "Please."
Dr Woods turned and closed the door to the room. He turned back to Buffy "The surgery went well" he said "We managed to stop the bleeding and repair the damage done to his abdomen"
"But that's good" Buffy said "He's going-" she broke off when Dr Woods lowered his gaze "What?" she asked "What's wrong?"
"It appeared that Alexander, as well as sustaining the wounds he did to his abdomen, also sustained extensive damage to his skull. Whoever attacked him, beat him severely around the head."
Buffy paled "What are you saying?"
Dr Woods drew in a deep breath and then exhaled "Alexander hasn't regained consciousness. He's in a coma."
Buffy paled even more "But-but he's going to wake up… right?"
"I'm afraid it's too early to tell yet" he replied "We have more tests to run-"
"What are his chances?" Willow asked as she gripped Buffy's hand.
"Like I said, we have more tests to run and currently he is breathing by himself-"
"Just tell me" Buffy pleaded "Is he going to wake up anytime soon?"
Dr Woods shook his head "Realistically… there's only a forty percent chance he'll ever regain consciousness" he paused "I'm sorry."
Buffy just stared at him "No" she said "No. This… this isn't *supposed* to happen. You're supposed to come in here and tell me he's going to be all right!"
"Buffy" Willow said softly "Getting angry isn't going to help Xander" Willow turned to Dr Woods "I'll look after her"
Dr woods nodded "Again… I'm sorry" he said before he left.
Buffy turned to Willow "I have to see him" Buffy said "I can't just sit here with him out there"
"OK" Willow said, brushing away her own tears "Did you want me to come with?"
Buffy shook her head "No, I… I want to do this by myself."
Willow hugged Buffy tightly "Give him my love" she said.
"I will" Buffy said as she pulled back from Willow "Can you call my mom?"
Willow nodded and Buffy smiled gratefully before leaving the room.
Buffy enquired at the nurse's station as to where she could find Xander now within the hospital. The nurse recognised her from earlier and told Buffy where he was.
Buffy could feel herself getting number as she walked along the corridors. She knew what people must think of her. She didn't know what she looked like walking around in bare feet and she hadn't even looked in a mirror for over a week. She had realised the cuts and bruises on her face had gone when Ren had healed her, but it still didn't change how dirty and tired she felt.
Soon though, she found herself outside Xander's room. The door was closed and half-closed blinds covered the window that faced the corridor. Buffy pressed her face to the window and tried to peek through, trying to get a glimpse of Xander. But she couldn't make anything out. Buffy stepped back and then she heard someone call her name.
Buffy turned around and saw Xander's mother. Buffy smiled weakly "Hey."
"What happened to you?" she asked "Did you get in the same fight as Xander?"
Buffy shook her head "No" she said softly, feeling tears pricking at her eyes again "I got out lucky."
Mrs Harris placed a hand on her shoulder "Come and see him" she said.
Buffy looked at her hopefully "I thought you wanted only family" she followed Mrs Harris to the door "The doctor said-"
"The doctor also said Xander needed to hear familiar voices" she smiled sadly at Buffy before opening the door "It'll help him."
Buffy smiled gratefully and followed the other woman into the room. Her smile faded though when she saw Xander "Oh god" Buffy put her hand to her mouth.
Xander lay covered with a blanket up to his chest. His arms lay on top of the covers by his side. He was hooked up to more machines than Buffy cared to count. Buffy walked up to one side of the bed slowly. She reached out tentatively and touched his cheek. Buffy looked sadly at the bruises that covered his face and jaw line. His head was bandaged and there was a dressing on his cheek where Buffy remembered him having a deep gash.
Buffy couldn't believe how still he was, save for his breathing there was no movement at all.
"I'll leave you two alone" Mrs Harris said and she left.
Buffy didn't think she had any more tears left, but soon she felt them rolling down her cheeks. She took one of Xander's hands in hers and squeezed it tightly "Xander honey, it's Buffy" she sniffed "I don't know if you can hear me or not.. but… oh god Xander… look what she did to you."
Buffy brought Xander's hand to her cheek and held it there "It's really me" she whispered "I never went anywhere. Not far anyway" Buffy drew in a shaky breath "It was all Tay's fault. She did this. Did this to us… to you. I know what happened. I know everything. *Nothing* is *our* fault. Don't just stay wherever you are because you think I'm mad at you. I'm not" Buffy kissed Xander's palm "I'm not mad at you. I want you to come back. I love you."
Buffy set Xander's hand back down but didn't let go of it "I love you Xander" she bent down and placed a soft kiss on his lips "Please wake up" Buffy pulled back half expecting her words to be magical and that Xander's eyes would flutter open. But they weren't and they didn't.
Buffy brushed away her tears "Please Xander… "
Buffy turned around and saw Willow standing in the doorway. Her face was streaked with tears. "Hey" Buffy smiled weakly.
"I-I couldn't keep away" she sniffed "He looks so peaceful" Willow said as she joined Buffy.
"He always does when he's sleeping."
Willow smiled a little then it faded "Except he's not sleeping, is he?"
Buffy looked back at Xander "No" Buffy brushed away a tear "Willow, what am I going to do if he doesn't get better?"
"Don't say things like that" Willow said "We have to think positive" Willow put her arm around Buffy's shoulder and Buffy turned into the embrace "He's going to be OK Buffy" Willow murmured.
"Could you please keep telling me that?" Buffy pulled back. Willow smiled sadly and nodded. Buffy turned back to Xander and reached out to brush her fingers over his lips "Please wake up Xander. I need you… please"
But Xander didn't respond.
~*~ END ~*~
Read the sequel Aspects of Love
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