Critical Care by All4Spike

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Chapter Notes: This plot bunny took hold of me on Saturday morning and wouldn't let go. I typed all day, checked it today, and here it is. Something completely new for me.
Please note: it has no connection whatever with my 'Coincidences' 'verse.
Spike really hated hospitals.


The only good reason for going anywhere near one as far as he was concerned was to nick some supplies from the bloodbank in the basement when he was in the mood for the good stuff and he hadn’t got the cash for Willy’s top shelf.


Until tonight, that is.


The smells were really getting to him. He’d come to the conclusion that whatever decade you were in, hospitals always smelt of sickness, pain, fear, desperation and death. The memory of shit and piss and vomit constantly lingered in the air despite the harsh cleaning chemicals and air fresheners that made his eyes water and prompted him to thank his lucky stars that he didn’t need to breathe.


Except that to find her, he had to. He didn’t know where they’d put her so he was having to methodically scour every floor one by one, breathing deeply and searching out the merest whiff of her scent.


He dodged into a store cupboard to evade an orderly pushing a laundry trolley then snuck up the stairs to the next floor.


At last! Following his nose, the vampire traversed the deserted corridors of the top floor until he came to the double swing doors marked ‘Critical Care Unit. Quiet please’.


He peeked through the small round window and stood for long minutes observing the woman monitoring the screens at the nurse’s station. The moment she turned away to reach for something he was through the doors and past her, never taking his eyes from her back as he crossed unerringly to the third door on the left around the circular lobby and slipped silently into the dimly lit room where her scent was strongest.


“Oh love.” He murmured sadly. “What have you gone and done to yourself?”


She looked so tiny lying there, connected to wires and tubes and softly beeping machines. Her face had already lost its warm golden tan and her hair was lank and greasy, straggling untidily over the starched white pillows.


One thin arm lay outside the rigidly straight sheet, a gizmo clipped to one finger and a plastic tube strapped to the back of her hand.


Pausing for a moment to check the nurse was still oblivious to his presence, he crossed to the bed and sank into the uncomfortable plastic chair conveniently positioned for visitors.


He hesitantly stroked down her bare arm and gently raised her hand, cradling it in his much larger rougher palm. He gazed at her sleeping face and started whispering, “Sorry it took me so long to come to see you, love. Thing of it is, I didn’t know. They didn’t tell me.”


He paused for a moment to calm his frustrated anger and dispel the catch in his throat before continuing, “I waited for you, you know, after you and soldier boy blew up my home. I figured one of you would be back to dust me eventually, but then when you didn’t come I reckoned you were off snogging the returning hero and had forgotten all about me. Didn’t need my cold comfort when your ‘real’ boyfriend had come back to you.”


He shook his head and sighed. “What I didn’t expect was for Dawn to come calling at one in the morning to rant at me and cry on my shoulder, complaining that the Scoobies wouldn’t let her visit you.”


Was it his imagination or had an eyebrow twitched? Gaining confidence that she might be able to hear him which meant he wasn’t making a complete ass of himself, he explained, “Bit told me all about what had happened. How you’d got hurt that same night after the Ninja wonders had flown off into the wild blue yonder. That although the Scoobies knew you’d hit your head, they couldn’t figure out why you wouldn’t wake up.”


Yes, that was definitely a minute movement of her right eyebrow.


“Can you hear me, love? I think you can. Can you try to squeeze my hand if you can hear me?”


The slightest quiver of her thumb made him grin happily. “I knew it! Come on, Slayer rise and shine! Time to wake up and tell those bloody Scoobies off for upsetting the bit.”


Another twitch of the eyebrow and a more definite flicker of the thumb.


“You want me to tell you about little sis?” He chuckled. “You’d be right proud of her, love. Willow conjured up some kind of papers giving her a durable power of attorney so the bit wouldn’t be taken into care, which is good, and so she could take charge of your treatment. Thing is, she also decided that Dawn shouldn’t come visiting ‘cos it would upset her too much to see you like this, and as far as the medical staff goes, her word is law.”


He shook his head. “They really don’t know her very well do they? She finally got fed up with whining and pleading and being ignored, and charged over to see me demanding that I should come and check you were still alive. She was so scared that you’d died again and the Scoobies were trying to be kind by telling her you were in this stupid coma. Now I can go reassure her that you’re still in there and it’s just a matter of time before you wake up, can’t I pet?”


A definite squeeze of the hand that time.


“Right, I’ll just go do that then…”


As he went to release Buffy’s hand it clamped tightly around his fingers.


“Oh, right. Not ready for me to go yet then.”


He spent the next couple of hours talking about everything and nothing. He drifted from topic to topic guided by eyebrow twitches and hand squeezes that informed him which subjects he should drop and which he should expand upon, but the most consistent interest was always shown when he mentioned Dawn.


Eventually his senses informed him that sunrise was looming and he quietly warned her, “Gonna have to go in a minute, love. Sun’s coming up soon and I’m gonna have to stop at your house on the way to the crypt to give little sis the news before she goes off to school…”

When the grip on his hand briefly became so fierce he winced, he hesitantly suggested, “You want me to sneak her in to see you tomorrow night? Could be risky if we’re caught..”

A gentle pressure reassured him that he was right. “Right then. Risk is worth it.” He stood and leant over the bed, smoothing the pale forehead and brushing a stray strand of hair back. He murmured to himself, “Gonna have to bring you your good shampoo, too. Whatever stuff the hospital uses has ruined your pretty hair…” He bent to kiss her on the forehead and gently disentangled their fingers. “Really gonna have to go now, love…”


At a frantic wriggle of that right eyebrow he chuckled, “I’ll be back tomorrow night, Slayer. Count on it. I’ll get the bit here somehow so she can see you for herself…” Taking a deep breath he deliberately added, “I promise, all right? And you know I always keep a promise to a lady.”


One emphatic twitch made him chuckle again. “So you’re not a lady. Pfft. Don’t worry, love. I won’t hold that against you.”


As he crept out, Spike didn’t notice the knowing look his retreating figure received from the nurse responsible for the only patient currently in the unit. As soon as he had disappeared into the stairwell she quietly got up and checked on her patient. The girl’s blank expression appeared more peaceful somehow, her heartbeat was noticeably stronger and the frighteningly low blood pressure had lifted a touch.


She quietly said, “You like that young man, don’t you, sweetie?” There was no apparent reaction, but she had treated enough coma patients over the years to accept that some were far more aware than they appeared. She considered for a moment and then made a decision based on over twenty-five years of nursing experience. “Don’t worry, dear. I’ll make sure he can come back.” She recalled part of the quiet monologue she had heard through the monitoring speakers and patted the poor limp little hand adding, “And I’ll make sure whoever’s here at the time lets your sister in too…”


She went back out to check the read-out from the machine monitoring the young woman’s brain activity and smiled with professional satisfaction when she saw the increased frequency of the jagged spikes that denoted conscious thought which populated the scrolled record during the young man’s visit.


She was quite aware of the standing instructions that Ms Rosenberg, Ms McClay, Ms Jenkins and Mr Harris were the only people permitted to visit Ms Summers. Although as she was the night nurse she hadn’t met any of them personally, she noted that the record showed that for the first couple of days after the young woman had been admitted to the unit, her friends had taken it in turns to sit by her bedside from dawn to dusk, constantly talking to her and urging her to wake up.


When they’d reluctantly accepted that any possible recovery could take an extended period of time, their visits had slowly tapered off until now the poor girl was lucky to receive one visitor a day to sit silently beside her bed for ten minutes at most before they abruptly remembered something more important they had to attend to… somewhere else.


That odd young man with his crudely bleached hair and his disreputable leather coat had been the only one recently who had sat in there for more than a few minutes and had actually made the effort to communicate with the patient, resulting in a small but definite improvement in her condition.


Using a special code developed by her fellow nurses to transmit vital information to each other without bothering the attending doctors, she made a minute notation on a corner of the patient’s chart informing the relief nurse of an unauthorised male visitor, and suggesting that he should not be prevented from returning whenever he wanted and warning that he could be bringing a friend who should also be allowed in.


****



Spike stood back by the door as Dawn stumbled over to the bed and collapsed into the green hospital chair. “Oh Buffy,” She gasped, “You’re really not dead.” She leaned forward until her forehead rested on her clasped hands on the sheet beside her sister’s motionless arm, and cried with sheer relief.


“Take her hand, niblet.” Spike quietly suggested when the sobs began to subside. “She can hear every word you say and she can feel you’re really there if you hold her hand.”


Clearing her throat and sitting up straight, Dawn mopped her face with a tissue from the side table and wiped her damp hands on the sheet then tenderly took her sister’s hand between hers.


“I had to sneak out,” She began indignantly. “Willow kept saying I couldn’t come, but she’s not the boss of me, however much she’d like to think she is.”


She darted a startled glance at the vampire and exclaimed, “She moved! Her hand! It kinda squeezed mine…”


Spike nodded and smiled. “Yeah, she does that. Means she can hear you and understands what you’re saying. Gentle squeeze means ‘tell me more’ or ‘I agree with you’, hard squeeze means she disagrees with you or she doesn’t wanna talk about that.” He approached the other side of the bed and pushed a machine over slightly to get closer. Stroking the smooth, slightly clammy skin of the Slayer’s forehead he added, “Watch this eyebrow too, pet. When she gets brassed off it twitches.”


For more than an hour Dawn spoke to her sister. She cried and she laughed as she related the events since Buffy’s hospitalisation, from her own unique perspective.


When she reluctantly accepted it was time for her to leave so Spike could get her home in time for her to catch a few hours sleep before school, she took bottles of shampoo and conditioner from her backpack and placed them in a prominent position on the side table so the nursing staff would find them the next time they came to tend their patient.


Beside them she placed one tube of facial moisturiser and one of hand cream explaining with a little gulp, “Just ‘cos you’re in a coma’s no excuse to stop looking after yourself, Buffy. You’d just hate it if you woke up and found your hair all skanky, your face all dry and flaky and your hands all rough and scratchy…”


While Spike peeked out of the door to check whether the coast was clear, Dawn put her coat on and settled her backpack on her shoulders. She whispered, “I’ll come back when I can, Buffy. They don’t really care what I do as long as I go to school regularly and get my homework done and they sometimes see me eating something, so it shouldn’t be too hard to sneak in a few times a week…” She took a deep shuddering breath as she leant over and kissed a pale cheek. “Try to wake up soon, Buffy. I really miss you…”


****



The weeks passed slowly with Spike doing a short early patrol and then spending the remainder of each night beside the Slayer’s bed. He talked up a storm, relating every detail of the night’s patrol, telling mocking tales about the Scoobies and selected reminiscences from his murky past as the hand holding his became firmer and more confident, and the twitching gradually spread to include the left eyebrow as well.


Every night he optimistically expected her hazel/green eyes to open and focus on him, but every morning he had to go away disappointed.


Every few days he managed to sneak Dawn in for a brief visit. This was how the Slayer learned about the disruption of the Harris/Jenkins wedding and how Xander had inexplicably jilted his bride at the altar after a vengeance wish of Anya’s had come back to haunt her.


Dawn wept for Anya who had vanished without a trace after she had been left broken and humiliated by having to haltingly explain to a packed hall how her fiancé had deserted her and consequently the wedding was off. Nevertheless the teenager joked that Buffy had been lucky to miss the event because she had got out of wearing one of the most vile green bridesmaids’ dresses that had ever existed.


When Spike had reluctantly explained to Dawn that her thoughtful little floral gifts were being removed every day according to hospital rules, she resolutely switched to taking small bottles of aromatherapy oils with her and smearing a few drops on the corner of a pillowcase in an attempt to freshen the hospital’s lifeless antiseptic air for her sister, which also made the nights easier on the vampire’s senses.


One night, Spike had been hurt fighting a demon and after he’d patched himself up as well as he could and made it to the hospital a bit later than usual, he didn’t have the energy to think of something to say. After a few minutes awkward silence he started singing quietly.


It wasn’t a classic tune, not even one of his personal favourites, just something that had stuck in his head since he’d heard it on Dawn’s radio the night before. He wasn’t making a very good job of it as he couldn’t remember most of the words and he kept going back and repeating the inane chorus every time he forgot what came next.


Eventually he gave up and fell silent, completely lost for inspiration.


A few seconds later a kindly face peeked around the door and quietly urged, “Don’t stop!”


Spike jerked upright and turned to face the intruder. “What?” was all he could come up with in his surprise.


“The singing. It was getting to her more than any of the talking has been in the past few weeks. Our girl must really love your voice.” The nurse slipped completely around the door and gestured towards the tiny figure in the bed. “She’s always better after you’ve been here, her sister too. The others don’t seem to register on her radar.” She sneered dismissively, “When they even bother to show up any more.”


Spike’s eyebrows went up. “You know I’m not supposed to be here… You’re not gonna chuck me out on my ear?”


The nurse made a dismissive gesture. “Oh believe me I would have that first night, if it hadn’t been so painfully obvious how much you love her. Especially when it became clear who… or should I say what… you are.”


Spike was shocked again. “You know…?”


The nurse nodded wisely. “Oh yes. I’ve lived in this town all my life and served this community all my nursing career. I know exactly what goes on out there after dark. It’s impossible not to when you are faced with the bloody consequences every day.” She stepped forward and indicated a little black device in the centre of the bedhead. “Microphone. It monitors any sounds the patient might make so we can catch them quick if they have a nightmare, or they’re in pain or if they get sick.”


“You heard every word?” Spike was desperately trying to think of anything incriminating he might have said.


“Don’t worry, young man. It makes no difference to me that you aren’t exactly human. You care deeply for this young woman, that’s good enough for me.”


“Uh… thanks, pet…”


“So anyway, after you’d left that first night there was no denying the fact that you had done your girlfriend here a lot of good. Same goes for her sister. There’s always a marked improvement after she’s been too.”


Spike regarded the woman steadily for a few seconds and decided he liked what he saw. A traditional nurse, one to whom her patients’ wellbeing was more important than the petty rules of a hospital that considered the bottom line and their ability to avoid being sued were more important than the treatment of an individual patient. “What’s your name, pet? I’d like to know who to thank for a bit of good old human kindness.”


The buxom nurse pushed her cardigan aside to display the name-tag clipped to her tunic. “Ruby Davies. Call me Nurse Ruby, everyone does.”


“Then I’m honoured to know you, Ruby, pet. Name’s Spike.”


Ruby grimaced disbelievingly, “Spike?”


Spike rolled his eyes. “You can call me William, pet. But don’t let that get around… Got my reputation to think of.”


Failing to disguise her amusement Ruby nodded. “Uh huh. Your reputation.” She gestured at Buffy again and urged him, “Sing, William. She loves it. Her brain activity really perked up for those few minutes you were crooning to her. Try something a bit more inspirational though. We want to encourage her to wake up, not sink deeper into sleep.” She slipped back out of the door to resume her post.


Spike turned his attention back to the figure in the bed and took her hand again. He grinned as he asked, “You fancy my singing then, do you Buffy?” The emphatic squeeze of his fingers confirmed the nurse’s diagnosis.


“So then…” He mused “Inspirational… Not my usual style, I have to say…” He pondered for a few minutes then suggested, “How do you feel about that ‘Amazing Grace’…?” He flinched from the pain when he was forcefully dissuaded from singing that particular classic.


“Trying to think when I was last inspired by a bit o’ music, love...” Then a flash of inspiration came to him and he sat back in his chair, bringing Buffy’s hand to rest on his thigh as he kicked off his boots and propped his feet up on the edge of the bed. “You might know this one, Buffy love. I’ll try to do it justice, but you haven’t heard it sung right ‘til you’ve heard fifty thousand English footy fans singing their hearts out fit to bust. Enough to reduce the toughest hooligan to tears on a Saturday afternoon at Anfield Stadium…”


He threw his head back, closed his eyes and started singing softly:

“When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone.
You'll never walk alone.”



He sat in silence for a few moments, moved by the song which brought back vivid memories of the last time he had heard it ‘live’, at a Liverpool v Man U match over thirty years before.


Abruptly becoming aware of just how appropriate the familiar lyrics were to his Slayer’s condition, he looked up and saw a single tear trickling down her temple into her hair.


“Oh love… I didn’t mean to make you cry… you know I can’t stand it when…” A gentle squeeze reassured him. “Ah, Dawn’s explained this… happy tears, right?”


He leant over to rest his head on the pillow beside hers and whispered directly into her ear. “That’s all you need, love. A little bit of hope in your heart. I know life’s been tough lately, but if nothing else, I can promise you you’ll never be alone. I’m not like those others. I don’t give up when the going gets tough. I hang on. One day… a long time from now… your own personal storm will end and you’ll be going back to that golden sky, but until then you can count on me, love. You’ll never walk alone.”


Anything else he said would come as an anticlimax, so he pulled his boots back on, shrugged into his coat and bent to kiss his Slayer goodbye. “I’ll try to bring Dawn tomorrow, love. Be good.” He sniggered. “And if you can’t be good, be careful.”


He emerged from Buffy’s room and crossed to where Nurse Ruby was examining the read-out. “How did I do, Jewel, pet? Do you think I helped?”


The stout middle aged woman gaped at him in bewilderment. “Jewel?”


Spike rolled his eyes. “Ruby… Jewel… Both precious, pet.”


Flushing slightly, Ruby cleared her throat and lifted the length of paper in her hand to show the vampire. “See this section here? That was what was being recorded while you were singing…”


Spike looked at the read-out but all the wiggly lines meant nothing to him. “Sorry pet, I can’t read squiggle. You’ll have to interpret for me.”


“Then I’ll make it real simple. Yes, you helped. You help every night with the talking, but the singing? Getting pretty close to a miracle cure. I don’t know whether it’s the song you picked, or that lovely deep honeyed voice of yours, but you keep it up, my lad. I want to hear you singing to our girl at last once every time you visit. Understood?”


****



Dawn lay on the bed, her head resting beside Buffy’s on her sister’s pillow, her hands gently massaging hand cream into her sister’s slowly flexing fingers. When she’d asked if it would be all right, Nurse Ruby had helped them shift Buffy’s unresponsive form over slightly to make room, assuring them that the physical contact with her sister could do nothing but help Buffy’s recovery.


She babbled happily about events at school and a boy in her English class she had taken a fancy to, having exhausted the topic of the Scoobies after her usual complaints about Willow’s bossiness, praise for Tara’s kindness, snide comments about Xander’s self-pitying drunkenness and sad tears for poor Anya’s continuing absence.


She had touched briefly upon Willow’s insistence to Giles in a recent phone call that as Buffy showed no improvement there was still no need for him to fly back over. She had insisted there would be no benefit in him just sitting idly by, waiting with all the rest of them for a recovery that was looking less and less likely. Dawn couldn’t believe how easily Giles had accepted Willow’s argument, but of course he wasn’t aware of the fact that there was in fact real progress being made in Buffy’s recovery. Of course she couldn’t butt in and say that, or they’d start demanding to know how she knew and both her and Spike’s nocturnal visits would be put in jeopardy.


“I know you’d like Giles to come to see you and do the talk therapy thing too, Buffy, but you understand why I couldn’t tell him, don’t you? They’d stop me and Spike from coming, and then where would you be?” Taking the rare opportunity of the vampire being out of the room on a trip to the basement for supplies, she whispered conspiratorially, “You really like Spike, don’t you? I mean like like.” Receiving a gentle pressure to her fingers she grinned smugly. “I knew it. He really loves you, you know. It’s so obvious, the way he’s here every night helping you. It’s not like anyone’s paying him or anything, Hell, they don’t even know!”


She smoothed the soft skin of Buffy’s right hand down and laid it back on the sheet and transferred her grip to her sister’s left hand. Applying the first smear of cream she started the therapeutic massage she had been doing for weeks. She had already dripped her chosen aromatherapy oil on the corner of the pillowcase, applied moisturiser to Buffy’s face and flavoured lip-gloss to her lips and brushed her hair. Smirking, she whispered, “You know, if you want to keep him after you’re better, I’ll be perfectly okay with it, right? He’s always been good to me and I think he’s really good for you. Xander will bitch about it, but it’s none of his business who you date. He’s just jealous that you never pick him. Willow will moan, but only for show. When she realises how you feel about him she’ll be okay with it. Tara will be happy with it as long as you’re happy…”


She broke off when Spike reappeared. “It’s getting late, bit. Gonna have to get you home. Lost track of the bloody time somehow and it’s gonna be tricky getting you in before sunrise…”


“Oh, okay. I’ve got to finish this hand first, though… and we’ve got to sing our song before we go…”


“Finish the cream while we’re singing, pet. Time’s getting tight.”


It was probably because they were singing that Spike didn’t hear disaster approaching. He had no warning at all before Xander Harris burst in, utterly disrupting the peaceful healing atmosphere of the room.


“Dawn!” He exclaimed. “Thank God! Here you are! Willow was so worried…” The young man then took in the other occupant of the room beside the patient and started shouting, “What’s he doing here? You know you’re not supposed to be in here, Dawn… and did you know it’s the middle of the night? Willow got up for some reason and discovered you weren’t in your bed and called me in a panic. I’ve been searching all over town for you! When I found he wasn’t in his crypt I had this horrible thought… and here you were all the time, with him! You know we don’t want you seeing him, he’s evil and a bad influence…”


Ignoring Dawn’s indignant protests, he noticed for the first time that Spike was holding Buffy’s hand, and charged forward. “Stop touching her, you filthy pervert! Let go of her hand! You have no right…”


Nurse Ruby had followed Xander into the room and was fruitlessly trying to get him to calm down and go back out of the room, but he was ignoring everything but his own anger.


Reaching Spike’s side at last he abruptly realised that Buffy was lying right there in front of him and made an effort to lower his voice, although it still dripped with venom as he totally ignored her and addressed Spike, “Let. Her. Hand. Go.”


Spike rolled his eyes and raised his hand loosening his fingers and making it abundantly clear that, “I’m not holding Buffy’s hand, you stupid git, she’s holding mine. If you want me to leave you’re gonna have to convince the girl to let me go.”


Xander was completely floored. “But… but Buffy’s in a coma! Willow said she’s never going to wake up, she’s been out so long without responding to any stimulus. How… I don’t understand. How can she be holding your hand… and did I hear singing as I came in?” He finally stopped yelling and raised his hands as if in surrender. “Okay, will someone please tell me what the frilly heck is going on in here?”


Nurse Ruby took charge.


“Dawn, sweetie. You get up now, dear and tidy up your sister’s things. William, you…” Spike held up his trapped hand and shrugged, his smug smirk firmly set in place. “… sit right there and carry right on with what you’re doing.”


She turned to Xander. “I don’t know who you are, young man, but you just don’t come charging into a Critical Care Unit and start yelling. Come with…”


Ruby!


Dawn’s surprised cry caused all heads to turn towards her. She was staring wide-eyed at her sister, whose eyes had disturbed the tape laid loosely across the lids and were open, though obviously unfocussed.


Ruby bustled forward and started speaking comfortingly to the Slayer as she carefully dampened a cotton swab and washed her eyes, moistening and soothing them. “Oh, what pretty eyes, you have Buffy dear. William did tell me, but I had to wait until you opened them…”


Spike yelped from the sudden pressure to his fingers. After a quick appraising glance at the vampire Ruby continued speaking to Buffy. “Are you awake now, sweetie? Do you know where you are?”


“Buffy?” Dawn’s querulous voice was the only response. “Buffy, can you hear me?”


The Slayer coughed and tried to clear her throat. Ruby flew into action and within seconds a second swab was moistening Buffy’s lips and a couple of ice chips were slipped into her mouth to moisten disused tissues.


Her first word was a bit hoarse but it was clear enough. “Xander.”


The young man smugly pushed forward. “Yes, Buffy? It’s wonderful! You’re awake! Just wait until I call Will… What can I do for you? Do you want me to throw out the evil dead, ‘cos he’s not supposed to be here…”


“Xander…”


He quivered like a puppy eagerly waiting for a stick to be thrown for him to fetch.


“Go.”


“Huh?”


Buffy licked her lips and tried again. “Xander. Go.”


“Oh, right. Okay Buffy, we’ll go now. I’ll chuck the bleached wonder out, get Dawnie home where she belongs and I’ll be back in the morning with Willow and Tara…”


Buffy croaked again and managed to shake her head from side to side. “Spike. Dawn. Stay.”


“Huh?” Xander took in Spike’s delighted smile and scowled. “Just what has he been telling you? You know you can’t trust him…”


“Song.”


“Oh!” Dawn grinned excitedly at Xander. “We hadn’t finished our song.” She made shooing gestures. “Go on, Xander, go and wait out there with Nurse Ruby. She’ll explain what’s been happening and we’ll be out in a minute as soon as we’ve sung Buffy’s song. We were about to leave anyway ‘cos the sun’s gonna be coming up…”


“Don’t be long, Dawn, William. I’ll have to inform the doctor that Buffy has woken up and he will want to come and see for himself immediately. Then tomorrow there will be all sorts of tests. He really had begun to think she was never going to wake up.” She smiled fondly. “Of course he didn’t know about the nightly talk therapy or the song therapy…”


It only took a couple of minutes for the grinning pair to sing their song and take their leave, promising faithfully to come back at sundown the following day. “I won’t let them stop us, Buffy.” Dawn declared confidently. “We’ll be here if I have to learn to do a ‘will be done’ spell to escape Willow’s clutches…”


Going out into the ward foyer, Spike and Dawn rejoined a chastened Xander, who pleaded for one more chance to see his friend before they left her to the tender mercies of the medical profession, just so he could convince himself he wasn’t dreaming.


Ruby held the door open and Xander stood there, gazing at the Slayer who was now blinking in the low light, trying to get her eyes to work properly. “Buffy…” He murmured in wonder. “You’re really awake. We were so scared…” He took a deep breath and asked, “I don’t understand though. Why would you want him around?”


Her meagre store of strength almost exhausted, Buffy had one more contribution to make to the conversation before she fell into a natural healing sleep. She turned her head towards where the vampire was standing leaning against the door frame regarding her adoringly, and smiled. She met his eyes and whispered huskily, “Every night he saved me.”


The End
Chapter Endnotes: ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ Written by Rogers and Hammerstein for the 1945 Broadway musical 'Carousel'. Gerry Marsden and his Pacemakers performed the song in Liverpool clubs during the birth of Merseybeat. "The audience would just stop, stand and listen. It had this immediate effect," says Marsden. Released in October 1963, YNWA was the Pacemakers' third consecutive number one. It quickly became the anthem of Liverpool Football Club.
Oh, and I don’t know if I’ve got the medical stuff anywhere near right either. Apologies if I’ve got it all wrong.
Nurse Ruby is based on my Aunty Ruby who spent her whole working life as a nursing auxiliary. A precious jewel indeed.


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