Psych Ward Blues by Shyfox

Disclaimer: Characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer belong to Joss...all other characters belong to me.
Subtext: Yes please.:-)
This is the sequel to Guess who's coming to dinner in my Sappho's Spell series.
The poem is written by my best friend, Mitzi Belyea.
Comments, questions, criticisms are as always welcome at shyfox30@hotmail.com

Psych Ward Blues


by
Shyfox

 

Did you ever wake up in the middle of the night,
And wondered where you were?
You need your one and only that can hold you tight,
And you reach for her.
But she's not with you.
You just wish this trip would end.
You know I've been there.
I don't want to go back again.

--Clint Black and Steve Wariner

Awareness came slowly to the young woman lying on the small, vynal mattress. She reached out blindly for the soft form that should be sleeping beside her, but her hand didn't go very far, as her arm was bound to the bed. Her other arm had been strapped down above her head, and she could feel her feet had been bound to either corner of the bed. She opened her eyes slowly, to discover it did her little good as she was greeted by the darkness around her. Her limbs tightened uselessly in reflex to the unusual circumstances in which she found herself in, but the bonds that bound her didn't allow for much movement. She fought back panic that wanted to arise in her at waking in such an unusual manner, and forced herself to stay calm as she tried to figure out what was going on.

She tried to remember how she had come to be in such a predicament, closing her eyes to shut out the oppressive darkness and letting her mind drift in search of the answers. She remembered kissing Willow before leaving the house...she had let her slaying slack off a bit since she found out about the baby, spending less time out in the darkness killing vampires and more time at home holding her pregnant lover. Giles had let it go for a short while, but he had finally reminded her of her sacred duty to slay vampires, and patrol the night, ensuring the safety of others while she put herself at risk...Okay, so there was a bit of her own sarcasm shining through, but she thought she deserved some at the present moment.

She had patrolled the usual haunts: the old tunnels, the cemeteries...all five of them, the park...the University of SunnyDale's campus, and had dispatched twelve vampires back to hell...all in all a pretty successful evening.

She was heading back home when she spotted a gray van stopping ahead of her in the street. Under the street lamp's glow, she noticed a strange logo on the side of the van. She couldn't make out what it was, so she had gotten closer to get a better look, her curiosity getting the better of her.

The next thing she knew, she heard a loud pop and felt a strange tingling pain fill her shoulder. Looking down, she noticed a dart sticking out of her shoulder. She was irate as she plucked off the offending item. Hearing the van's door opening, she looked up quickly to notice several men jumping out of the van and rushing toward her.

She panicked as she felt a strange dizzy feeling filling her head, and managed to knock the first two for a loop, but whatever they had hit her with was strong and it was affecting her fast. One guy managed to get a hand clamped around her mouth, so that she wouldn't scream, she supposed, and wrapped another arm tightly around her waist, lifting her off of her feet. A second guy grabbed a hold of her actively swinging legs, taking a shot in the groin for his trouble, much to her satisfaction. He groaned dropping his hold on her, but two more were ready to take his place and she was weakening quickly. A dark haze was dropping over her as she struggled to get a good look at her attackers, but their faces were all covered with masks.

She felt them carrying her to their van, the rough jostling as they moved increasing her dizziness as nausea erupted in her stomach. She remembered vomiting on one of them just before she had been tossed roughly into the van, scraping the skin off of the palms of her hands and biting her tongue as she landed roughly on her face. The darkness had conquered her then as she slid into a nice, safe oblivion.

She opened her eyes again, noticing that they had adjusted to the darkness. She was in a small room, not much bigger than a walk-in closet. The bed that she lay on had no sheets and it smelled faintly of old, stale urine. She shuddered at the thought of having to stay on this mattress until her need to pee outweighed her need for self-esteem. She could see a fraction of light coming through a small square that was either a very small window, or a peephole cut into the door so that anyone in this room could be observed from the outside. She didn't notice anyone looking in, so she carefully tested the restraints to see if she could get out of them.

After struggling for several long minutes, she realized the futility of her struggle and let out a sigh of frustration. She felt weak as a newborn puppy, and it angered her. Normally she could break a restraint like that in about two seconds flat. She was obviously still drugged. They probably had plans to keep her that way, too.

*****

Willow woke up the next morning feeling an emptiness wash through as she felt Buffy's empty pillow beside her. She felt an uneasiness start in the pit of her stomach, and she was unable to quell it as she got up and dressed. Maybe Buffy had gotten up already? Willow tried to calm herself, but Buffy usually slept in on the mornings when she had stayed out so late. Their spring classes hadn't started yet, so it wasn't like she had to be to class early. And she really couldn't remember her sneaking into bed last night. Feeling a panic start to rise up inside of her, Willow ran down the stairs, her eyes scanning every room for her wayward lover.

She ran into Joyce when she entered the kitchen, and her green eyes conveyed her panic to the older woman. "Have you seen Buffy? Did she come home last night?"

"You haven't seen her?" Joyce asked, her own worry starting to reflect in her eyes. As Willow shook her head, Joyce fought down her own panic. "Okay, now I'm worried...I mean, I know she's the Slayer and she can handle herself, but..." Her voice drained away as she allowed herself to imagine all of the terrible things that could have happened to her daughter.

"I'm calling Giles...and Xander." Willow said, her voice a little shaky as she tried to keep her growing sense of doom under control. "They can start searching her usual patrol area, and I'll hack into the police system and see if anybody fitting her description was entered into it. Don't worry Joyce...we'll find her." A quiet determination settled over the red head's face, and Joyce was compelled to believe her...just because Willow believed it so much.

*****

The loud clanging of the door opening stirred Buffy from the daze she had fallen into. She turned her head and watched as a short attractive woman flitted into the room. She had a cheerful expression on her face, a clear dichotomy to the atmosphere surrounding them.

"Good morning. How are you feeling today?" Buffy could tell by the nametag pinned to her blouse that her name was Rachel.

"As well as can be expected, considering I'm strapped to a bed." Buffy said, flexing her hands slightly, to emphasize her current condition.

"Well, you were quite a handful last night...started hallucinating and pushing some of the other clients around. It was necessary to restrain and sedate you." Rachel said, offering her a pleasant smile.

"I don't remember that." Buffy said, suspiciously. "Why am I here? What is this place?" She asked, even though she had a pretty good idea.

"You don't remember?" Rachel asked, a small frown crossing her face. Buffy shook her head. "You are in a Crises Stabilization Unit. You tried to jump off a bridge. A lifeguard saved you from drowning and brought you here. You've been here for the past few days."

Buffy shook her head, an expression of complete disbelief crossing her face. Why was the woman making up stories? Did she know why she was really here? Did she know how she came to be here? She decided it might be better not to argue too much, at least until she could figure out where she was and how she could get out of here. "Can you let me up? I really have to pee."

Rachel looked like she was mulling something over in her head, then she stepped forward and released the straps. Buffy rubbed the circulation back into her wrists as she watched as her feet were released. She sat up slowly, still feeling slightly dizzy from the medication that still ran through her veins.

"We will be going down to breakfast soon. You can rest in your room until then." Rachel said, leading the way to Buffy's 'room'. They passed several rooms on their way down the long empty hall. The linoleum felt cold under her bare feet, and she wondered where her socks and shoes had ended up. The room that she was led to was practically bare, holding nothing more than a bed, with bureau drawers built into the frame, and a small bedside table. Buffy sat down on the small bed feeling the vinyl crackle beneath her. Rachel looked at her with some kindness showing in her eyes. "Try to get some rest, Sarah. The bathroom is the next room over." Rachel turned to leave, as Buffy was still trying to sort through what the woman had just called her.

"Excuse me? My name is Buffy."

"Sarah." Rachel said, staring at Buffy strangely.

"My name is Buffy...Buffy Summers." Buffy enunciated clearly.

'Poor Delusional girl.' The nurse thought, sparing Buffy a look of pity. "Okay, Buffy. You want to be called Buffy now, I'll let the other's know, okay?" The woman backed out of the room, giving Buffy a weak smile, and Buffy shook her head in wonder.

"Oh my God, I have got to get out of here."

******

Did you ever wake up in the middle of the day
And wondered who you are?
You suddenly discover there's a price you pay for getting this far.
And it's a part of you, that you really don't have to spend.
You know I've been there.
I don't want to go back again.

The atmosphere of the crises unit was decidedly depressing, Buffy reflected as she walked around the large common room, keeping a close eye on the other's locked up in here with her.

They were a strange assortment: One guy was sitting over in a corner of the room talking to himself. She kept hearing him mumble 'Santa Maria help me to pee-a." Or something like that. Another older woman kept grinning at her toothlessly when she would glance over at her. 'Somebody stole my false teeth.' she complained. Buffy shrugged her shoulders in sympathy.

This one old guy wouldn't leave her alone. He kept following her around claiming, "I am the Mayor of SunnyDale, and I order you to let me out!"

"I can't let you out, buddy...I can't even let me out." She grumbled back at him. He got a confused look on his face and went away for a short while, though Buffy knew that he'd be back.

It was easy to lose track of the days in here. There were no Calendars on the wall...just a clock, high up near the ceiling which displayed the time. Every day the same thing happened at the same time. They went down to breakfast at 7:30 sharp every day...there was designated times to smoke and have coffee...designated times to sit in a circle and talk about why you were there...Buffy usually chose to pass when it came to her turn. It was absolute torture for the overly active Slayer. She knew she had been here for three days already, by the number of strands of her hair that she had plucked from her head. One strand for each miserable day that she spent in this place that was strangely reminiscent of that other place she had visited called Hell. They lay as silent reminders on her bedside table, she hoped that she got out of here before she plucked herself bald.

She had yet to see a doctor or a therapist, she supposed it was because it was the weekend. She only knew that because they had been allowed to watch a movie last night. Big thrill! Considering most of the people had talked through it. She really didn't want to see 'Ferris Bueler's Day Off' again, anyway.

When allowed she mostly stayed in her room, sitting on her bed and staring out through the small, barred window at the long wooden fence that seemed to surround the place. It was at least ten feet high. She guessed they didn't want anybody to try and jump over it...not that it would stop her if she was up to full strength. Her Slayer strength was non-existent, in fact, she felt weaker than a person her age should be. She thought it might have to do with the three little white pills she was required to take every day at seven in the morning. When she first took them she could barely stand...feeling a large amount of dizziness send her reeling. One of the techs usually had to help her on her way to breakfast to keep from falling over. As the day wore on she would feel herself start to get stronger as the pills effects wore off, but she was still no where near her Slayer strength. She knew she would have to stop taking the pills before she would even be able to think about getting out of this place. She hadn't figured out a way to do that yet, the Nurse would make her open her mouth after she had taken the medication, making sure she had swallowed them before she went on her way.

The scary part was, she was beginning to like how she felt on the stuff. She felt distanced from her problems in a way she hadn't felt since she was fifteen. There were no vampires in here, no real ones anyway, although one of her fellow inmates claimed to be one. She had quickly disproved this by pulling the woman forcibly into a bathroom and showing her the reflection in the mirror. The woman had screamed in her face, and for her trouble, she had found herself being thrown out of the bathroom, and landing with a thump on the common room floor.

What really troubled her about this place though, was the utter isolation that she felt. She was cut off from the outside world, away from everybody that she loved, and she found herself missing Willow with an aching intensity. There were a couple of phones for them to use, but every time she went to use one it was already being used by someone else, and the one time she had been able to use it she kept getting an annoying recording from some mechanical operator. "I'm sorry...the number you have called can not be completed as dialed." She had finally slammed the phone down in exasperation, her body sagging against the wall as she tried to keep the futile tears from falling. She wondered what her lover was doing, if she missed her, and if she had been looking for her. Of course, if she hadn't been so high, she would have known the answer to those questions almost instinctively.

******

For the past three days, Giles, Xander, Oz and Anya had searched the city of SunnyDale for any trace of the missing Slayer. They started very early in the morning, when the sun was just rising over the horizon, and didn't stop until very late at night. They searched any place from the burned down high school, to the sewers...encountering a few vampires for their trouble(which they staked with a minimum of trouble), but their searches were fruitless, and the futility was pulling at their souls.

Anya was the first to give up the search. "You know, if the Slayer really wanted to be found we would have found her by now." She said, grumpily, climbing up out of the sewer that they had been trudging through for the past three hours.

"Anya..." Xander called up after her, shaking his head at the outspokenness of his ex-demon lover. "Sorry about that...but she might have a point...It's not like Buffy hasn't disappeared before." Xander said, reminiscing about the other time Buffy had disappeared off the face of the Earth. After she had defeated Acathla and sent Angel's soul to Hell.

Oz and Giles were less likely to agree with Xander's statement. One, because they just couldn't stand the thought of going back and facing Willow empty handed. And two, because they really didn't think Buffy would just run off like that again. Especially not now. "Well...it is true we're not having much success down here...maybe my contacts will have better luck. And...I'll call Angel, if she turns up in L. A., he might be useful in locating her." Giles sighed, scratching a bit of muck out of his hair.

Xander and Oz shrugged their shoulders and nodded their heads wearily. The three men made their way to the ladder and started climbing up, their hearts heavy with their lack of success.

*****

Back at the house, Willow's internet search was proving just as fruitless. Her running bots all came back with negative reply's and Willow felt a surge of aimless anger rise up within her...making her want to pick up her laptop and shatter it against the nearest wall. The surge of rage both surprised and scared her, and she sank back in her chair, letting tears of exhaustion dot her cheeks.

Joyce came into the living room, carrying a cup of Chamomile tea for the young woman and found her crying. Her brow furrowed in sympathy, she put the cup of tea down on the coffee table, and rested her hand on Willow's shoulder in a comforting gesture. "You've been working hard...why don't you go upstairs and rest for a while."

Willow shook her head, more tears falling from her red rimmed eyes. "I can't...I can't rest until I know she's all right."

Joyce sighed, and knelt in front of her. "Willow, I know you're worried...I am too...but you also have to think about what all of this stress is doing to the baby." Willow met Joyce's eyes, worried guilt shining from the depth of her soul. "She loves that baby more than life itself...and I'm sure she would want you to be taking care of yourself now and the baby, so that when she get's back, you can take care of her."

"Do you think she's hurt somewhere?" Willow asked, watching Joyce wince as the subtext behind her words was brought to her attention.

Joyce inhaled slowly, thinking about what she wanted to say. She wondered if she should be straightforward with the young woman that sat inches in front of her, but she knew Willow was strong...she would have to be if she was to be married to her daughter...and she could see the steel in the young woman's backbone behind the startling green of her eyes. "I don't think she would ever leave you willingly. Wherever she is, I don't think she's there by choice."

Willow paled at the words, then nodded her head slowly, a determination rekindling in her eyes. "I think you're right. Which is why I can't give up the search...not yet." Joyce nodded in understanding, then stood slowly, still communicating her worry with her eyes. "I'll drink my tea, though...thanks." Willow said, smiling wanly at her as she took a sip. She waited until Joyce had left the room before she started scanning the internet anew, her fingers flying over the keyboard.

*****

Needless to say, Willow was not at all pleased when she was informed of the group's decision to stop scanning the city by foot. "Stop? How can you just stop?!" She asked, outraged as her friends surrounded her in a circle. "She's out there somewhere and she's in trouble. I can feel it." She pleaded with her friends, begging them not to give up the search. "You know, Buffy wouldn't just give up on you."

"She's not out there, Will. We've searched...everywhere...she's nowhere to be seen." Xander defended the group, feeling like Willow had just kicked them in the teeth.

"You searched the entire city of SunnyDale? Somehow I find that hard to believe." She said, sarcastically, her eyes shooting green fire at her hapless friend.

"What do you think we've been doing out there for the past three days, Will? Twiddling our thumbs?!" Xander shouted, exasperated. After all, he was just as worried about their missing friend as she was.

"That's quite enough, Xander." Giles interrupted their argument with a well arched brow. They were both getting a little out of hand, though he supposed that it was to be expected with the high amounts of emotion that were running about. He turned to face Willow, laying a gentle hand on her shoulder...unwittingly on the same one Joyce had earlier. "We're not giving up, Willow. But it's like looking for a needle in a haystack out there. We may be able to hunt for her better from here, where I can utilize the telephone to reach my contacts and find out if she's turned up someplace else."

"She wouldn't just leave, Giles. Our wedding is coming up...not to mention the baby. Why would she leave?" She read the look on Giles face quite clearly, although he tried to cover it up and she shook her head vehemently. "No. She wouldn't just abandon me like that. There has to be another explanation. If she left, it wasn't voluntary, someone else is behind this and I intend to find out who."

*****

The shrink's office, Buffy found herself sitting in, wasn't what she had expected in this kind of an office. There was no leather couch for a person to lay on, a perfect position to encourage them to spill all of their problems out to the all knowing Physician. Instead, Buffy found herself sitting in a hard leather lined chair staring at an empty white wall. "Well this place is as depressing as the place I was before." She had been led here earlier by a tech, and left sitting here with the door closed waiting for the Doctor. Who, from the plaque resting on the desk, appeared to be named Dr. Reynolds. She supposed if she had wanted to, she could have gotten up and left. But there was no point to it, really. The whole place was locked up tighter than a kettle drum. If she wanted to get out of here, she would have to borrow a set of those nifty keys that opened every door in this place.

She was just starting to contemplate how she would go about doing that, when the Doctor entered the office. They stood staring at each other for a moment, as if sizing each other up, then the man moved over to his desk and sat down, shuffling through a bunch of papers, until he seemed to find what he was looking for and spread a chart out before him. He was an older man, appearing to be about Giles age, with silver hair and a goatee. He looked up from the chart, and she met his silver-blue eyes unflinchingly.

"So, Sarah, it looks like you've been giving our people quite a handful." Dr. Reynolds, started off, his voice soft yet egotistical, though he tried to make it appear as congenial as possible.

"Why do you people keep calling me that? My name is Buffy." Buffy said, frustrated with the mistaken identity.

"That name is part of your illness, Sarah. A name you have made up to go along with your made up existence. It's time to stop living in your dream world Sarah, and start living in the real one. That's why you're here, so we can help you to make the transition. Until you let go of your fantasy, and embrace your reality I'm afraid we're going to be forced to keep you here."

******

Did you ever wake up in the middle of a dream that didn't come true?
You think you've got to give up on that scene and seeing it through.
You feel like breaking,
When you really just need to bend.
Well, you know I've been there.
And I'll never go back again.

 

She walked alone through a deserted part of town, where the street lamps barely lit a corner of the street, and the buildings were rundown, boarded up desertions of a former life. The burnt out sign of a once prosperous movie theater, hung precariously from one long chain, the other dangling across the sidewalk, like one half of a child's neglected jumprope. The street was lined with old trash that careless people had thrown away without a care of where it landed, and shattered glass, from windows that had been broken before they had been boarded, and old beer and soda bottles.

It struck her odd that she would be walking barefoot through all of this mess, but what really struck her weird is she couldn't remember how she had gotten here, or where here was.

The sound of a bottle breaking drew her attention to a darkened alley, the sound of a fight echoing clearly between the two close walls, and she found herself staring into the deep black that surrounded the alley ominously, as if she could determine what danger may lie ahead. She stepped warily closer, feeling the adrenaline start to rush through her as her heart pounded wildly in her chest. She knocked over a stack of crates accidentally, her nervous tension making her clumsy, and she heard a cat screech, disliking her for disturbing it's home. This threw her already palpitating heart high into her throat and she was left gasping for breath as the small, dark form of the feline ran across her path. She took a steadying breath, to settle her nerves, then stepped further into the alley, not sure what strange compulsion she followed as she entered the foreboding place. She could hear deep laughter up ahead, which was followed by a sickening slurping sound that made her feel queasy to her stomach.

As she rounded a stack of crates, she came upon the sight that was causing such a commotion. Three disfigured vampires appeared silhouetted by a trash can fire, their eyes glowing with an unnatural fire as they chewed down on a freshly caught, still wiggling, terrified female. The terrified teenager couldn't get a scream out past the pointed teeth that filled her neck from either side, so she made a strange gurgling sound instead, as blood flowed copiously down the torn throat. The third vampire was taking a bite out of the girl's wrist, sucking at the sweet blood that flowed from her arterial vein. The smell of fresh urine filled the small crowded space of the alleyway, and she wrinkled her nose as the scent hit her, knowing the young girl's bladder had just let go. The poor girl's eyes had sunk back into her head and she knew she was too late to save her.

The sight of them feeding filled her with rage, as she stepped forward out of the darkness and confronted them in the light of the trash fire. "Is this a private party, guys? Or can anybody play?" She heard herself ask.

It was kinda comical the way all three of their heads picked up at the same time. "Slayer!" She heard them snarl, and she unaccountably smiled at the amount of malice in their tone.

"Slayees." She grinned, and just as she was readying herself to fight them, the scene vanished from view, leaving her not so much in darkness, but in an empty void, vacant of anyone or anything.

She was beginning to wonder what the heck had happened when a voice entered the void.

"You must remember Sarah, that the name you have been using, you have chosen as a part of your fantasy world. A reality that in fact does not exist outside of your own mind. If you are ever to experience a happy life you will need to let go of the demons that haunt you." She found herself annoyed with the condescending tone the voice used...as if the voice knew better than she did about her own self.

"Ah, what would you know." She muttered to herself.

The void lifted and she found herself in a line of scared, ratty looking teenagers wearing what looked like old, worn out, cut up sheets. They faced a hideous looking demon, that had a big bulbous head, and an arm in the shape of a big hard club.

"You are nobody. You are nothing. You do not exist except to serve us." She could hear the demon speaking as he walked up the line, measuring the worth of each teen with hard eyes, probably estimating how many years of service he could get out of this pathetic looking bunch.

He stopped at what was apparently the head of the line, in front of a scared shaken teenager, who looked like he might've been the picked on class geek in high school. "What is your name?" He asked the boy, he asked in a hard growl, watching in delight as the young male tried to stutter out his answer.

"T.T-t-Tim." He was clobbered for his trouble and ended up in a painful heap, his breath seeping from him, as he wheezed in pain.

The demon walked up to the next teen and repeated the statement. "N-no one." The shaken male replied and the demon moved on satisfied.

This was continued down the line each teen answering with "Nobody" or "No one." until the demon came to where she stood, her eyes down cast as he stopped right in front of her.

"Name?" The demon asked/stated, confident in his success in cowering the teens.

That was until vibrant blue eyes lifted to stare unflinchingly into his and a wicked smile twisted the feminine lips. "I'm Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, and you are?" She asked him coyly, catching his arm as he swung it at her head. She broke it easily, taking him down to the ground as he screamed in pain. She took out his partner just as easily, then looked back at the petrified teens. "Anybody who's not having fun here? Follow me." She felt the familiar feeling of strength flowing through her for the split second before she was taken back to the void, and that annoying voice reappeared...draining her of her strength.

"You must let go of your dream world. You serve nothing from clinging onto it except further distancing yourself from reality."

"It's the only one I know." She whispered, the the unrelenting void.

She stood in sunlight, the roar of the ocean echoing in her ears as she stood in front of a herd of people, all here to help her celebrate the happiest day of her life. The vision in white walking steadily toward her made her breath catch in her throat. Her love's hair was shining red beneath the white veil, and the dress fit her perfectly, hanging loosely at her sides, and accentuating all of the right places.

She felt herself swelling with pride as she watched the envious looks from all the men around her. Knowing she had won the red-head's heart fair and square, and that she was the one who would be taking her home tonight, and for the rest of her life. She thought her Watcher looked quite handsome in his Tux, as he escorted her bride to her. He beamed with pride at the feel of the red-head's hand on his arm.

Her eyes locked onto the green one's as they got closer and she seemed to float inside them. It seemed as though her love would never arrive by her side, but before she knew it, Her Watcher was relinquishing her bride and she was taking both of the red-head's hands in hers.

She barely heard the words that she was supposed to say, but she didn't need to hear them to know what her heart wanted to say to the woman she loved more than life itself. "I...Buffy Summers, take you...Willow Rosenberg..."

The void was back way before she would have liked and she found herself cringing at the ear-shattering sound of the voice. "Why do you resist?! You must let this fantasy world go! Can't you see how it's destroying your life?!"

"Shut Up!" She shouted back at it, unable to take it's relenting tirade of her anymore. "Shut up, shut up, shut up! Get out of my head!" She screamed into the void, bolting awake as she sat up, shaking in her bed, sweat pouring off of her in rivulets. She felt her heart racing as she gulped in great breaths of air.

Feeling suddenly claustrophobic, she climbed out of bed and onto the desk, where she could get closer to the barred window. She grasped the steel frame with her hand as she stared out into the night sky, not sure what she believed anymore. She could swear she could picture her love's face among the stars, and her eyes filled with tears at the sight. "Oh, Will." She sighed, mournfully.

Willow, who was also unwittingly staring out of their open bedroom window at the same time, jerked her head up as she heard a soft whisper that seemed to be carried on the wind. "Buffy? Oh, Buffy, please be okay." She pleaded with her errant lover, hoping that the night would carry her wish to her.

*****

Buffy had her head resting against the steel frame girding her window, starting to fall asleep where she sat, when she was startled by a soft tap against the window pane.

"Buffy." She heard a very familiar whisper and jerked her head up to see the well-known, dark visage of Angel.

"Angel?" She gasped, in a broken whisper at the sight of him. "You're real?" She blinked at him, almost unable to believe that he was really out there looking back at her.

"Of course I'm real. Invite me in, Buffy." He urged her, wanting more than anything to burst right through the window.

"I'm not crazy." She whispered, mostly to herself as the realization sank slowly into her fogged brain. 'My Will...my Will is real...I knew she was real.'

A look of sympathy crossed the dark vampire's face. "Of course you're not crazy."

"How did you know? How did you find me?" Buffy wanted to pinch herself to prove she wasn't hallucinating, but she didn't want to look foolish if Angel was really out there. There's nothing worse than looking foolish in front of an ex-boyfriend.

"Giles called me. They've been looking for you for days. I guess they finally got desperate enough to call for backup." He explained, noticing the way Buffy sucked up every name that she recognized. "Cordelia kinda pointed me in the right direction." Angel said, choosing to leave out the part where she'd said the Slayer looked worse than a homeless person.

"I'm in L.A." Buffy reflected, something starting to come together through the daze she had been living in. Somebody had wanted to get rid of her so badly that they had drugged her up and shipped her off to a psychiatric ward in L.A., and were content to leave her that way.

"Yeah. Everyone is worried about you." Angel continued, unable to tell what the Slayer was thinking behind the shuttered blue eyes. "So, why don't you invite me in so I can bust you out of there."

"No." The Slayer said, quietly, shaking her head, as an inner fire started to burn deep inside her. The wheels in her head were spinning faster than those on a suped up Camaro, and a plan was developing within her head.

"What do you mean, no? Are you crazy?" Angel asked, in shock, wincing at the outraged look Buffy threw at him. "Sorry. Poor choice of words. But you can't be serious. There is no way I'm letting you stay in there."

"Angel, I don't exactly want to stay here, myself. But I can't just bust out of here, either. Some one went to a lot of trouble to put me here and I can't just break out of here and risk them coming after me again, not now, somebody could get hurt." Meaning Willow or her unborn child could get hurt the next time the guys in the van came looking for her. "I have to find out who's behind this, and I can't do that from out there. I think all the information I need is in here." She concluded, seriously.

Angel didn't like her logic, but he certainly couldn't fault it. Whoever did it just might try it again if she managed to escape. "Well then, let me help you in there."

"Sorry Angel, I think you'd be a little conspicuous once the sun came up. They don't even have a dust buster in this place." Buffy's dry humor breaking through the rage she felt. "Besides, this is a one woman job."

"Buffy...I want to help."

"You already have. You convinced me I wasn't crazy. And you can do me another favor. Tell Will and the guys that I'm all right, and I'll be home as soon as I can. Also...don't tell Willow where I am. I don't think she'd stop worrying if she knew I was trapped in a funny farm." She tried to joke, but Angel could see the deep worry and concern that shined in the deep blue eyes.

Although he hated it with every fiber of his undead being, he agreed to the Slayer's terms. "All right, but if you're not out of there by the end of the week I'm coming back, and next time I'll get some poor innocent sucker to invite me in." He told her seriously.

"Agreed." She said, drinking in the sight of him, the one grip she had on her own version of what her world was. "Angel...thanks for coming."

"Anytime." He grinned at her mirthlessly. "You get what you need and get the hell out of there...or I'm coming back with a vengeance." He told her before he disappeared from the window and into the night. But it was enough to know that he had been there. She was, and is Buffy Anne Summers. And she was going to marry the woman of her dreams...as soon as she got out of here, that is.

*****

"Melancholy"
they would say
peering down at
me
from their lofty perspectives
of freedom.
But
they could not know
that you were the vine
pinning me safely to the scorched earth."

Buffy listened as a girl in her therapy group recited the poem she had written. The short brunette that read the poem, sounded breathless, as she tried to recapture those infinite moments that she spoke of so eloquently. The poem reflected the girl's loneliness to her, the depression she had sank into after her lover had left her, reminded Buffy of her own lost feelings that being stuck in this place, apart from Willow, caused in her.

Buffy's struggle to reclaim herself had been threefold. The first thing she had to do was get herself off of the medication. Once she had taken the pills in the morning, she would request to take a shower...with the water running, no one heard her as she made herself vomit up the pills she had swallowed. Throwing up had never felt so good, she decided, as her long missing strength began to reassert itself in leaps and bounds. She could feel the vitality starting to reassert itself, her stamina and super healing, taking care of the withdrawals she was sure that she would have without it. She tested her newly refound strength by picking up her bed, the steel frame creaked as she lifted it off the floor with both hands, straining with the effort...then she let it down, careful to not make a sound so she wouldn't be disturbed. It wasn't long before she was trying it one handed, her arm straining with the weight of the bed as she picked it up, but she grinned exhilarated as the strength returned to her.

The second thing she had to do was lull the workers into a state of complacency where she was concerned, and she wouldn't be able to do that if she kept insisting on being called Buffy. She slowly pledged acceptance of her new life, or old life depending on how you looked at it, and started learning all she could about this person named Sarah. They said she had recently broken up with her boyfriend, fought with her parents all the time and tried to end it all by jumping off of a bridge. Didn't sound much like her, Buffy thought ruefully, but she supposed people could believe whatever they wanted to.

The third thing she had to do was learn the staff's routine...when they came on shift, when they took their breaks, she was even amused to discover that their were a couple of nurses who even fell asleep during the middle of their night shift.

All of this took a matter of days to do, she knew her time was running out...Angel would be back to get her if she wasn't out of here by tomorrow night...but she was pretty sure she was ready. It would have to be tonight.

*****

She watched unobserved as the Nurse on duty slowly fell asleep in the chair she was reclining in, in the Nurse's station. She stealthily stepped from the shadows in which she had hid, and crept over to the Nurse's station door, grabbed a hold of the handle, and hoping against all hope gave it a hard yank. To her deep surprise and satisfaction, she felt the lock break and the door opened with a clunk.

Also, to her great satisfaction, the Nurse slept through the noise. She shook her head at the dumb blonde bimbo sleeping in the chair, thinking that it was probably a good thing she was the one breaking in here instead of a real crazy person, she'd seen quite a few in here, and they could be mean. Her eyes flicked to the charts that were filed neatly on a bookcase. It didn't take her long to find what she was looking for...she found the name they had given her easily amongst the other clients, and took the chart down off of the shelf. Opening it up, she quickly read through it, not quite knowing what she was looking for, but knowing that she'd know it when she found it.

Dispite being prepared for anything she might find, she was actually taken off guard when she actually did. It was just unconceivable. How could the man be that vengeful? That hateful? That idiotic? It was printed in clearly typed, black letters in reference to the referring agent. Ira Rosenberg.

"I should have known." Buffy growled, forgetting to be quiet. The noise finally woke the Nurse, who Buffy could hear stirring behind her, and she turned to look at her.

"Hey! Wh-How did you get in here?!" The Nurse sat up with a start, surprised to see a patient in here staring back at her.

"Breaking and entering...at least that's what I've heard." Buffy said, calmly, closing the file, then looked back up at the Nurse, who was looking back at her wide-eyed. Getting a spurt of adrenaline urged energy, the Nurse sprang from the seat, intending to call security.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you." Buffy said, grabbing a hold on the little wire that connected the phone to the wall and giving it a tug, pulling the socket from the wall...plaster and all. "Whoops, guess I don't know my own strength. Not surprising, considering you people tried to brainwash me."

The nurse sank back in her chair in stunned shock over the little display of strength. "Sarah...I don't..."She started, nervously.

"DON'T call me that." Buffy almost shouted...forgetting her objective for the moment. "My name is Buffy Summers...you tried to take that away from me...you failed." Her eyes blazed with the anger she felt. Then she forced herself to calm down, taking deep breaths before she continued. "Now give me your keys."

"What?" Buffy shook her head at the Nurse's obtuseness, wasn't it obvious that she wanted to get the hell out of here?

"Your keys...give...them...to...me." She growled menacingly, towering over the badly shaking nurse.

"I...I can't do that."

"Oh, I think you better. You haven't seen me angry yet...I don't think you want to." She held her hand out to the shaking nurse, gratified when she felt the cool metal of the keys sliding into her palm. She shoved the keys into the pocket of her jeans, then grabbed the phone cord and tied up the Nurse's hands with it. "I'm sorry to have to do this, I really am, but I can't have you alerting anyone just yet. See, I'd love to stay and chat...I really would." Buffy said, mockingly. "But there's this wedding that I have to attend and my fianc´┐Że will kill me if I'm not there." Buffy explained, a small smile pulling at her lips. "Oh, and I'll be taking this with me." She indicated the file, then smiling one more time at the astonished face of the nurse, Buffy slipped out of the Nurse's station and used the keys to let her out of the Psych ward.

Getting out of a Psych ward isn't as hard as one might think. Once you've got the keys it's pretty much easy access. So it wasn't long before Buffy found herself standing outside in the pouring rain, with bare feet, no money and no form of transportation. She looked at the sky with an amused grin on her face. "It doesn't rain in California...but it pours." She said, laughing out loud, after a week and a half of confinement it felt good to be outside again.

*****

"You know, I will never get why you just left her there in the first place. Did she want to stay there, for some sick, twisted reason?" Angel went to answer Cordelia's question, but was interrupted by a low vibrant voice.

"Not exactly. It's not like it was fun day at the park." Buffy stumbled into Angel's office, resembling a drowned cat.

"Hey...Buffy. We were just talking about you." Cordy's mouth had a way of running away from her brain at times.

"Yeah...so I heard." Buffy muttered back, landing in one of Angel's chairs with a wet splatting sound.

"Are you okay? You look..." Angel started, then winced as Cordelia cut him off.

"Like a drowned rat." She broke in, with her usual tact.

"I'm fine. I'll be even better when I'm back in SunnyDale...although I could use a change of clothes and a ride. I'd go to the bus station...but..."

"No, that's okay, I'll drive you...Cordelia could you get Buffy something to wear?" Angel asked, his soulful eyes bearing into those of his secretaries.

Cordelia rose, smiling a little bit awkwardly at Buffy...then at Angel. "Sure...can't have her walking around looking like that. I'll see what I have downstairs." Angel sighed, as Cordelia departed, then smiled hesitantly. "Would you like anything to drink? Tea? Coffee?" he asked, as he handed the Slayer a towel.

"No, thanks...I'm kind of off of that stuff for a while. So...is Cordelia living with you now?" Buffy asked, she had noticed a bit of tension around them earlier.

Angel grimaced, his head turning in the direction Cordelia had disappeared in, before looking back at Buffy. "It's kind of complicated. She's been through a lot since Doyle died and..."

"Hey...you don't have to explain anything to me. I'm the one you found locked up in a Psych ward, remember?" Buffy said, holding up her hands to ward off his explanation, not sure that she wanted to hear it. Their relationship was better left in the past.

"I remember. Did you find the answers you were looking for."

Buffy's face turned momentarily hard at the question, and he could see something playing beneath the blue of her eyes, but she blinked it off moments later and her answer was rather short. "Yeah. I did."

Angel felt compelled to ask her more, but Cordelia returned with dry clothes and the moment was lost, for now anyway.

"Here...I know they're not the quality you were expecting...but.."

"They're fine. I guess I'll go change, and then we can get on the road." Buffy disappeared into the bathroom, and Cordelia gave Angel a long look.

"What?"

"So...has she said anything?"

"No. Whatever it is, it's very personal. If she wanted my help, she would ask for it."

"But.."

"Leave it alone, Cordelia!"

"Fine." She pouted, a look Angel usually found quite charming. "But the next time I get a headache because of her, I'm billing her for it."

*****

The ride back to SunnyDale was very quiet, neither knowing what to say to the other one. A lot of time had passed since he had left her to go to L.A. and a lot of things had changed in their lives. She had Willow now, and a new baby on the way, she couldn't imagine her life being any more full of happiness, and she fought with herself over whether she should tell Angel or not. On the one hand, she knew he'd be happy for her, and it looked like he was starting to be happy in L.A. On the other hand, she knew it was pretty big news, and she didn't know how he would react. Then on the other hand, if he found out from someone else he might be disappointed that she hadn't told him herself.

Buffy fought with the decision until they reached the outskirts of SunnyDale, then said in a really quiet voice. "Angel...I'm getting married."

The startled vampire almost swerved off the road at a very high speed. He applied the brake, then pulled the car over, feeling the need to be in a stopped car while they had this conversation. Buffy waited until the car had pulled to a stop, then looked over at him, wondering what his reaction was going to be.

"Married?" Buffy nodded her head, wondering why she suddenly felt tongue-tied. "Who's the lucky guy?" Angel finally asked, trying to make it light for Buffy's sake.

"It's Will."

"The guy's name is Will...well, congratulations." That went well, Angel decided, proud of his ability to remain calm during the conversation.

Buffy shook her head at him slowly, and Angel wondered what he had said wrong. "No...Angel...it's Willow."

"Oh." Angel said knowingly, a wry grin starting to pull on his bottom lip.

"Oh? That's all you can say? Oh!" Buffy looked at him wide-eyed, unable to believe he was taking it so well.

"Well...it's not like it's a big surprise. I've known how you felt about her, long before you did."

"Oh." Buffy blushed, a red crimson overtaking her face, she was glad the dark hid her face from view. "Was I that obvious?" She asked, playing with a piece of lint on Cordelia's sweater.

"Just to me." Angel answered somberly. "Are you sure you don't want any help with whatever it is that you're planning?"

"What makes you think I'm planning something?" She asked him, sending him her best innocent look.

"Because I know you." He answered simply.

"Thanks for the offer Angel...but I've really got to handle this one myself. I do appreciate everything you've done for me though." She reached for the handle to the door, intending to get out.

"Don't you want me to drop you someplace a little closer to home?"

"Nope. I've got it from here." The Slayer said, as she got out of the car. She didn't want Angel to know where she was going. "Tell Cordelia I'll send her clothes back to her." He could see the darkness that was rising up in her, even as she glibly spoke about the clothes. He had seen her like this only once before, when he had been Angelus and they had faced each other in battle. He felt a small wedge of pity in the deepest pit of his soul for whoever had pissed her off this much.

*****

Ira entered his office, shutting the door behind him to keep Sheila from disturbing his peace. He gave the low lit room only a cursory glance before sitting down at his desk, and flipping on the lamp that sat on his desk. It was almost time for his regularly scheduled call to the facility that was holding the damned nuisance his daughter had the nerve to be dating. Every evening he would kiss his wife and tell her he was going to get some work done in his office, then he would make the escape to his retreat, and at seven pm sharp on the dot, he would make the call. So far, the progress had been hopeful and Ira knew that it wouldn't be long before the person formally known as Buffy Summers ceased to exist and his daughter would come running home, begging for forgiveness. Then things would be as they had been intended.

Of course, his wife knew nothing of his plans. He didn't want to worry her pretty little head over it, besides she might not have agreed with his strict measures...women seldom knew the price a man had to pay to keep his family together. Having his daughter back home with them would be enough of a reward.

The Slayer watched him from the shadows for a while, wondering how somebody so smug could ever produce somebody as wonderful as Willow. She could feel her rage building again, and willed him to look up and see her so she could confront him.

As if reading her mind, Ira picked his head up slowly from the paperwork he had been going over and stared at a spot in the furthest corner of the room that he had previously left ignored. The blowing of the curtain by a strong breeze coming through the open window caught his attention. Especially since he knew that he had shut that window before he had gone down to supper about an hour ago, and hadn't opened it on his return.

The light from the street lamp outside, cast a reflection on a pair of shining, lethal blue eyes, and Ira froze, feeling caught within the power that emanated from the blue orbs.

Buffy stepped from the shadows that had mostly hid her, and smiled in predatory fashion at the look of fear that flashed over Ira Rosenberg's pale face. "Hiya, Ira. Did you miss me?"

"What are you doing here?" He asked, giving away his nervousness by the white knuckled grip he had on the pen he still held in one hand. "This is breaking and entering, you know."

"I seem to be doing that a lot lately." She grinned, mirthlessly at him. "But what you should really be asking me is...What am I doing here instead of that hellhole you had me shipped off to?"

Ira paled considerably at the question, and Buffy took a great deal of satisfaction out of his obvious discomfort. "How did you...?"

"Find out?" Buffy suplied, helpfully. "You know...they really shouldn't leave incriminating evidence in a patient's medical chart for everybody to see. It was quite careless of them, don't you think?"

Ira stared at her nervously, then reached out to grab the phone, but Buffy was alot quicker than he was, and she picked it up before he could even blink. "I wouldn't do that if I were you. Of course, I wouldn't have done half of the things you've done." She looked at him, disgust emanating from her pores. "We haven't finished our conversation yet, Ira. Not by a long shot."

"What do you want?"

"What do I want?" Buffy asked him back, mockingly. "Personally...the last week and a half of my life back would be nice, but I suppose that's really out of your hands. But what I really want, is for you and your wife to find some way to unconditionally and irrevocably love and support your daughter in whatever she decides to do with her life. Like any 'normal' parent would do." She growled at him, making him flinch back in his chair. "But, until you can, I want you to stay out of our lives. And I really don't want to see you on our wedding day. I rescind my earlier invitation. It would just be too much right now. I might actually be forced to kill you if you show up." Buffy told him quite frankly.

"And if I just decide to have you committed again, or worse?" Buffy let the question hang in the air between them like a poisoned dart zeroing in on her head, before she snatched it up and threw it back at him.

"I escaped this time, and I'll escape the next time. I'll tell your daughter all about this conversation and I guarantee you'll lose her...permanently." The once proud man broke as she spoke and she saw it in his eyes. Some miniscule part of her felt sorry for the man, and wondered if she'd go to such great lengths to 'protect' her own daughter.

"Why wait? If you told her all of the things I've done to you, she would never forgive me. I've already done enough to cost me my daughter."

Buffy wanted to hate the man, she really did, but all she really felt was tired. Exhausted to the bone. She didn't have the energy it took to hate. She sighed as she looked at him, and shook her head at his own stupidity. "Because no matter what you and Sheila did at that dinner, she still loves you both very much. And I really don't want to be the one to take that away from her."

They stared at each other mutely for a long moment, then Buffy sighed again, and walked toward the window. When she was sitting on its edge she looked back at him, measuring her next words carefully. "Anyways, what happens next is for you to decide. For Willow's sake, I hope you choose wisely." She finished, then dropped out the window, landing lightly on the manicured lawn outside.

By the time Ira reached the window, Buffy had already disappeared into the night. He stared pensively out at the dark night for a long while...then went back to the phone to call off the dogs. Buffy Summers had won.

*****

She didn't feel much like a winner as she tiptoed into a quiet house. She could see a light on in the living room, and she quietly crept inside, spotting her mother lying on the couch watching television.

"Hey, mom." She said, quietly, trying not to startle her. Joyce was off the couch like a rocket, and before Buffy knew it, she was being smothered in her mother's embrace.

"Buffy...where have you been?" Joyce asked, as she smoothed her hair back away from her face.

"It's kind of a long story. Can I tell you in the morning? I want to check on Will." Buffy said, too tired to get into any kind of a discussion tonight.

"Sure honey, I kind of made her go to bed...she was looking really wiped out." Joyce's expression showed just how worried she had been for the depressed red head. The call from Angel really hadn't helped lift her spirits any either. She knew Buffy would have a lot of explaining to do before Willow would be ready to forgive her for disappearing the way she had.

"Is she okay?" Buffy asked, worried.

"I think she will be now that you're back. You had us all worried for a while." Buffy could hear the slight recrimination in her mother's voice and winced inwardly.

She nodded her head, looking over towards the stairs, wanting nothing more than to be up them and in her bedroom, holding her red-headed lover. "I know. But I'm home now. I'll try not to do that again, for a while." She smiled a little, knowing that her crazy life wouldn't get less crazy just because she got married and had a child. She just hoped that she would have what it took to keep everybody together through whatever happened next time.

"Go get some rest, Buffy. I expect to hear all about it in the morning." Joyce said, giving her daughter a stern look, before directing her towards the stairs.

"Yes, mom." Buffy answered, and trudged up the stairs.

*****

It wasn't until she reached the top of the stairs and entered her room, that she realized she had still been battling with herself over what was real and what wasn't. The sight before her eyes was enough to make her realize just how confused she had still been. She felt tears start to well up in her eyes and a burning tightness filled her throat. "You're real." She heard herself whisper, as she let her eyes travel over the too pale form. Willow had dark bags under her eyes, and a frown covered her face even as she slept.

Buffy crept closer to the bed, careful not to make a sound, as if she was afraid that if she was too loud, Willow would disappear before her eyes and she would wake up back in the Psych Unit.

Hovering over her sleeping lover, Buffy laid a trembling hand on Willow's cheek, a shock going through her as she felt the infinite softness and a sob catching in her throat as she felt how real Willow really was. Her composure broke then, like a dam with too many holes in it, and she buried her head in the curve of the red head's neck, hot tears streaming down her face. "I knew you were real." She whispered in a soft litany, almost unable to believe it was true.

Willow woke at the sound, hearing the soft murmuring in her ear, even as her body responded, instinctively wrapping itself around the shaking form of her lover. "Buffy?" The word trembled on her lips, tears flooding her eyes as she felt her lover sobbing on top of her. "Oh, God. Buffy."

The sobs increased at the sound of her lover's voice and soon she was weeping uncontrollably, unable to stop the pent up emotions that streamed from her in an overwhelming gush. Willow held onto her tightly, whispering words of love and reassurance into the Slayer's ear. Buffy let each and every one of them fill the void she had been living in, crying out the pain she had felt without her.

After a while, the crying became less severe and the Slayer calmed into her lover's embrace. Willow kept up her assurances, her hands wandering aimlessly all over the Slayer's back and head as she felt the storm abating. "Do you want to talk about it?" Willow asked, gently, desperate to know what had happened to her lover in the time she had been gone.

"Soon." Buffy promised, her head still resting on Willow's chest. "Right now, all I want to do is hold you." 'And prove to myself that you are very real.' She amended, silently.

"Okay." Willow conceded, kissing her lover's head and moving the sweaty hair off of her forehead. "I'm here for you, Buffy."

It took a great deal of cuddling, and one very long, slow and gentle love making session before all of Buffy's fears could be swept back into one very small corner of her psyche, and when the sun came up and she was still holding the one she loved in her arms, staring as she slept peacefully, the sun reflecting off of that beautiful face, that last bit of fear in that one tiny corner disappeared without a trace.

She knew she would have a lot of explaining to do to her friends and family, and she intended to tell them most of what she had been through, leaving out only Ira's part in the whole thing, she didn't want to start her married life off in a lie, after all, but she knew they would be there for her when the story was over, and really what more could she ask for?

The end(finally) 

Does anybody sense a wedding in the air? Dum Dum de Dum.:-) The wedding you have all been waiting for so patiently is next, guys.:-) And you are all invited.:-) Bring your own champagne, though, 'kay?:-)

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Keeper of the Stars

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