Chapter Twenty-Eight - Voices


Blip…Blip…Blip…the sound of the heart monitor echoed, breaking the would-be silence of the room. Xander lay in the hospital bed, bruised and bandaged, but alive. Yet, the sight of his unanimated features due to heavy sedation tugged at Buffy's heart as she sat looking at him in a chair a few feet away. With a sigh, she stood up and carefully sat on the edge of the hospital bed, entwining the fingers of her left hand in his right and began in a whisper, "Xander…if I could only…"

"Buffy…you okay?" Willow inquired as she walked in the room carefully.

The slayer, surprised, quickly removed her hand from his, although not quick enough, and said, "Yeah, I'm okay, but that's more than I can say for Xander."

Willow smiled softly as she walked towards his still form and tentatively kissed his forehead, "He'll be okay…he's Xander, nothing wounds him too long. He'll pull through, eventually."

"But when's the eventual, Will?" she asked, "Today…tomorrow…the doctor says he's going to make it, but how? How?! He can barely walk…that son of a - I can't believe Angel - " Buffy stammered in frustration, "God…why is it that when things seem bad enough as it is, everything just becomes even worse?"

"Buffy…Buffy…" hushed Willow as she took her friend into her arms, "Calm down…he's going to be okay…he's going to be okay!"

"How can you be so sure?" she responded pulling away from her friend's grasp, "How do you know?"

The redhead sighed as she fiddled with the buttons of her brown sweater before meeting her friend's passionate expression, "I don't know, but I can't imagine it any other way. He's going to make it and walk or no walk, we're his friends and we're going to help him no matter the cost."

"But, I'm not his friend…I - I'm just his ex-girlfriend that he can't even bare to look at," she replied as she grabbed her bag and reached for the door knob.

"That's not true! Buffy, Xander loves you …you know that!" Willow insisted as she grabbed the wrist the held the knob, "he told you so."

"He was obviously delusional. He used to…that I know for sure, but he hates me now…hates me for what I did to him! I hurt him and I never wanted to do that to him…ever. You can't take away pain, Will…you can forgive it and you can say you forget it, but it's there and it never goes away."

Having heard that, Willow backed away and asked as she folded her arms to her chest, "Where are you going?"

Buffy looked at her friend as she opened the door, "The sun's coming down soon and I've let it come down too many times. I'm going to end it now, that's where I'm going, The End. And I'm going to make damn sure that it's not mine, but if…" She glanced at Xander for a second, and continued, "But if something does happen, tell him I love him…tell him something that tells him I care."

"You're not ready!" she tried to insist holding back the door.

"No, I've been ready," Buffy said shaking her head and meeting her eyes, "I've just been stalling and looked what happened because of that. Angel dies tonight."

The door closed behind her and Willow stood looking at its gray paint for awhile, unsure of what to say or where to go, but finally, she whispered, "Good luck."

Turning to Xander, she pulled the chair against the wall closer to the bed, and clasped his right hand. It was virtually bandaged free, saved for the finger splint that was miniscule in comparison to his bandaged head, swollen eyes and cheeks, broken left arm, and the cast encumbering his barely mobile right leg.

"It's strange seeing you like this…I mean, you always broke bones when we were kids, but never this bad. The worst it ever came before was when Frankie Hertz beat you up when we were 7 and you had to get cast on your arm and a finger splint for your pinkie. And I thought you looked terrible then…no offense or anything. Xander…things use to be so much easier back then…we didn't have to worry about a vampire reeking his revenge on humanity, heck…we didn't even have to worry about the standing question of the opposite sex.

"Where have the days gone and why - of all people - did they lead you to this? Is it destiny? Fate? The course of the stars?" She glanced at his right hand that she held and recalled how he had told her once that he was contemplating on becoming a writer and although the idea seemed abstract at the time, it didn't seem that strange now. "Maybe it is destiny…maybe you'll one day write a book about all of this. Obviously, you're gonna have to change the locale and the names of the characters or Cordelia's probably gonna start thinking that she's the main character - maybe that's why nothing happened to this hand or maybe…maybe it's sheer luck? Whatever it is, I'll be there for you…I'll always be there for you like you've been there for me and she'll be there too. You know who I mean…no matter what she does or says, or more really, everything she does or says, tells me that she still loves you. I just hope that you haven't the slightest doubt about that."

"Um…Willow?" Giles interrupted as he prudently entreated on their privacy, "H -how is he?"

"Hey, Giles," she responded softly, "h - he's doing okay, I mean, he's still under some pretty good dosage of medicine cause of…y'know the pain and recovery and stuff, but other than that, he's okay and before you know it, he's probably going to make another joke about tweed."

The Watcher chuckled softly, "Well, we can't do without that, now, can we?"

"I'm gonna go and call my parents…they've been pretty worried about Xander ever since Buffy called me to come here. They're probably going to want to know what's going on - or well…what I can tell them happened," Willow said as she walked towards the door and she paused, "You do know where Buffy went to do, don't you?"

He swallowed apprehensively and nodded, "Yes…I know what Buffy is going to *attempt* to accomplish."

"Then you don't think she's going to - "

"What I think, Willow, is that Buffy will do what she has to do, when she has to do it, and whether it occurs now or later is up to Angelus. She will find him when he wants to be found."

"Oh," she replied and turned the knob.

"Why not use the phone in here?" he inquired as he wiped his glasses with a handkerchief from his pocket.

She glanced at the phone and then at him with a smile, "It's okay…I can use the one outside."

Rupert Giles sighed as he took in the still figure of one of his "Slayerettes," and sat in the chair last occupied by Willow. The room was a dreary as any hospital room could be and last he recalled occupying such a building was when Buffy had fallen ill…and prayed to God that such past incidences would not occur this latest duration spent here. Still, God only knew what havoc and destruction lay elsewhere, particularly pertaining to a certain slayer and her vampirical adversary.

"Well, Xander…it seems that wishes don't really come true as one would like and life's 'wicked hexes' are not soon to fade, but rather soon to grow and engulf the cursed, but I suppose we can't say we didn't - we didn't try. Although, I never thought all of our trying would amount to this and as annoyed as I seem to be at you at times, Xander, I wish this on no one, especially not on yourself. I probably wouldn't tell you this if you were conscious, but you're growing up…for the better - despite the abnormalities we're faced against - you all are. And I hope that - that within this spectrum of time, I've at least taught you something meaningful."

"Don't worry, Giles…you've taught us a lot," Cordelia said from behind him, "More than we'll ever let you know, but you've taught us a lot."

"That's very kind of you to say, thank you," he said standing up, "Now, if you'd excuse me, Cordelia, I'm going to get some tea."

"The sorry -excuse for a cafeteria doesn't have tea, but you could take their mock off of French Vanilla…it's great compared to their wannabe HazelNut stuff," she quipped. "You'd think with all the dead that come through here, they'd have enough money for some of the good stuff. Y'know Taster's Choice."

"Um…t - thank you," he muttered as he closed the door behind him wondering if he should have taught them the wonders of a good cup of tea, or at least, the brand names of good coffee. He continued under his breath as he walked to the cafeteria, "Taster's Choice, indeed…"

The stylish brunette eyed her former boyfriend carefully as she stood beside the bed and responded bluntly, "What can I tell you, Xander? You look terrible, and I …" She paused and exhaled, "I want you to get better - you have to get better - 'cause…well …I miss you. I know we did the whole 'we're friends again' thing, but I want to hang with you, insult you… like old times, except without all the uh…y'know trips to the closet. Although I'm sure Buffy's gonna stake out the vicinity to make sure there isn't a closet within a hundred-foot radius."

She laughed nervously at her own joke, "Seriously, though, about Buffy, I meant what I said before about how I saw a certain permanence to you guys. I really did see that, and I really hate to admit it, but I was always jealous because I knew that from the start. Not really, but sub-consciously. No matter what I did and no matter what was going, she was your number one priority. I could only be so lucky to find a guy that thought of me before anyone else and I'm glad she found you Xander, 'cause you're a great guy…when you're not making with the tried funny."

"Uh…Cordelia?" Oz said carefully as he walked into the room, "Your purse is ringing."

Her eyes widened, "Oh…oh…it's probably my parent's wondering where I am so late…um, thanks."

"You're…" he began, but she flew out the door before he could finish lamely, "…welcome, yeah."

He was about to follow her exit, but he turned to look at Xander. He let go of the doorknob and walked towards the hospital bed, sitting down on the chair that had been moved by Willow.

"Look, I know you have this quasi-antagonism concept with me, and perfectly understandable seeing as that Willow has been your bestest bud since forever, and obviously you kind of see me as the guy that's taking up a lot of her time. I know you don't think too much of me, and I pretty much don't know you enough to think much of you, but I do know that Will cares about you. I don't like seeing that expression that's been permanent on her face for this entire time. When she saw you coming out of surgery, I couldn't take that look away from her eyes, but you can. All you gotta do is come out of this all right. I'm not asking for me, Xander, far from, but I am asking for her, for your best friend."

Oz paused and was about to walk out, but he turned to glance at him, "Not that you can hear me any better now or anything, but…uh…Buffy needs you too and I know you need her. Couldn't do without the other, you know? Like I said, the last time we actually had a decent conversation, I know the feeling." He shook his head and chuckled softly, feeling strange talking to a sedated Xander, but he had to admit, as he walked out of the room, at least it enabled him to get a word in edgewise.

@~~`~~~

Buffy walked into the white hospital building and she couldn't believe that after all those hours she was coming back to where she had left. It was late and visiting hours had come and gone, but as she came to Xander's hospital room door she thought, hey, that's never stopped me before, so why should it stop me now?

Gently opening and closing the door, she looked around the room and found a single bright lamp glowing beside the bed, providing the only light for the curtain-drawn room. Placing her Slayer Utility Bag down on the floor, she sat at the edge of the bed once more and entwined her fingers in that of his right.

"Xander," she began as she pushed a wisp of her blonde hair out of her eyes with her free hand. "Last night, was the first time, in a long time, that I was truly afraid. I wasn't afraid of him and I wasn't afraid of the future that he represented for me. What I was afraid of, what plagued me the entire time I knew you were on that operating table, was that whatever my future was going to be, you weren't going to be in it. I need you, Xander, I need you to be apart of my life again. I - I love you."

Bring! Bring!

The phone beside the bed shrilled and Buffy instantaneously grabbed it before it could ring any further. It was nearly 3 and she wondered who could possibly be calling at this ungodly hour.

"Hello?"

"It's time…"