disclaimer in part 1
Buffy burst through the doors of the hotel at a run. She let the door slam behind her, then stopped on the sidewalk, her chest heaving slightly. Her eyes flew to the truck across the street, and she tried to slow her breathing, calm herself. She took a deep breath and smoothed her palms along the legs of her jeans. She closed her eyes, and took one more breath, before walking across the street to the truck. Cordelia leaned against the passenger's door, her arms crossed over her chest.
"So?" she said. "Was he there?"
"Technically, yeah." Buffy said.
"What does that mean, technically?" Cordelia asked.
"He wouldn't even talk to me," Buffy said. "Not even to tell me to leave." She sighed, her boot scuffing the sidewalk. "It was useless. I might as well not have come." She looked up and met Cordelia's eyes. "So you were right."
Cordelia frowned and pushed off the truck. She faced Buffy. "God, pity yourself much?"
"What?" Buffy said, her voice soft with disbelief. "You're attacking me?"
"Oh poor you," Cordelia said. "You tried to talk to him for two minutes, and he wouldn't answer you."
"Are you accusing me of not trying?" Buffy said, her anger growing by the second.
"Well, what the hell did you expect?" Cordelia asked. "We tell you he's LOST it. He's friggin' letting people get massacred. And you think it's going to be easy? You think he's going to be the same as you remember? Or just hear your voice and suddenly be cured?"
"No," Buffy snapped. "I didn't think that at all. But what-" She took a calming breath. "How am I supposed to help him if he won't even look at me, or even acknowledge that I'm in the room with him? I can't just yell at him for days on end while he counts the number of bricks in the wall." She paused. "Or I *could* but I don't see what good it would do."
"You MAKE him listen," Cordelia said. "You do whatever it takes."
Buffy shrugged helplessly. "If he refuses to hear-"
"When you came here ranting about Faith and calling for her blood, he didn't listen to you," Cordelia said. "You didn't just turn tail then."
"I didn't turn tail now," Buffy snapped. "I just...left the room."
"You gave up," Cordelia said.
Buffy opened her mouth to defend herself, then paused, thinking about it for a moment. Graduation. He had refused to drink from her to save himself, and she'd beaten him until he'd given in. Christmas. He'd wanted to kill himself, and she'd followed him up on that hill, begged him not to, refused to leave him even when they'd reached a standstill. Why was this different? Or maybe it wasn't this. Maybe it was her. When had she given up? With Riley? Or before. When she'd let Angel leave her? She met Cordelia's eyes, troubled.
"For God's sake," the other woman said. "Just go back in there." She stared at Buffy for a long moment. "Look. You know I'm not into this whole, Buffy and Angel circle of doom and pain that you guys have going. But if anyone can MAKE him listen. It's you." She paused, then said more softly. "And if you can't do it. Then he's lost. And there's no way to tell when, or if, he'll ever find his way back."
Buffy exhaled sharply. "Tell Gunn I'm going back in. This could...take a while." She glanced at the truck. "You guys should go. I'll call when it's over."
Cordelia arched an eyebrow.
"Hey. This was your idea. If you want to sit in the truck all night..."
Cordelia shook her hair back. "You'll need the number at my place." She pulled open the door and retrieved a small silver handbag. Gunn watched as she scribbled down the number on a scrap of paper.
"You sure this is a good idea?" he said.
"No," Cordelia answered flatly.
"All right then," he said and focused his eyes on the windshield.
She handed the number to Buffy. Buffy shoved it in her pocket and turned back toward the hotel. She started across the street. "Hey," Cordelia called. Buffy glanced back. "Good luck."
Buffy smiled grimly, and left them behind. She crossed the street at a trot and entered the hotel with purpose. Her hands curled into fists at her sides as she descended the stairs. She tried to think of the words to say, tension and anger beginning to heat her as the way he'd treated her sank in. Her jaw clenched. She reached the basement, wound tight, on edge. Almost eager to confront him again, to make him see her, hear her.
He wasn't there.
She spun in the empty room, at a loss again. She ran back up the stairs, and paused in the lobby. Which room had Cordelia said was his? She took the staircase two steps at a time.
The door to his room was open. She burst inside, and again was faced with emptiness. She faced his chair, the reading lamp turned off. She spun and faced the empty coat rack. Empty. She swore under her breath and darted back down the staircase, across the lobby, her heels echoing in the darkness, and down into the basement again. She saw now that the sword was also missing, the mace. She looked at the trap door in the bare floor. He'd gone down into the sewers. She spared half a thought to a call telling the others where she was going, but she'd already lifted the door, she was already climbing the ladder into the underground.
Her feet touched down on concrete, the tunnel stretching endless in either direction. There was no real hint at which way he'd gone. She turned left.
Spike held a rag to his bleeding nose, his head tipped back. The red-scaled demon sat on a crate across from him, one of his tusks chipped, a stream of black-purple blood oozing from a cut across his cheek. The two of them laughed, bending over with the force of their amusement. Spike tossed the rag away with a slight wince. "The look on your face when I caught you in the knees," the demon said shaking his head.
Spike cackled. "Wish I had a mirror." He slipped off his crate, and caught himself with his hand before he hit the ground, laughing even harder. "Mirror," he giggled to himself. The demon grinned and handed Spike a bag of blood. Spike finished the last of the whiskey he held, before propping his head up on the bar and staring at the bag of blood, bleary-eyed.
"These girls of yours," the demon said. "Darla and Drusilla." His light gold eyes narrowed. "I've heard of them. Everyone's talking."
"Been here yet?" Spike asked, the words slightly slurred.
The thing shook its head, taking a pull off the beer it held in its talons. "Naw, I'd have heard if they had."
"You think they'll be here, to show up here?" Spike said, sinking his teeth into the blood bag. He yawned, spilling blood across the floor, then sank his teeth back into the bag.
"Not tonight," the thing said. "But I'd lay odds they'll be here before they're done."
Spike drained the bag with a slurp and tossed it aside. "I'll be back tomorrow then," Spike said. "Maybe I'll see you. It was nice meeting-" He started to stand up, lost his balance and sat back down with a thump.
"You got a place to stay?" the demon asked.
Spike laughed. "A good place too," he said. "The backseat's real roomy." He stood up again, this time keeping his balance. The demon stood up with him, throwing his arm around Spike's waist, and supporting him when he tripped.
"Why don't you just come to my place?" he said. "Hang out. It's not much, but I've got room. And it's not like you'll be doing anything but sleeping off the hangover you're gonna have today."
Spike smiled and patted the thing on its scaly head. "Yeah, okay, Sammy."
They staggered toward the door, leaning on each other. "That thing you did with the ducking and the kicking," Sammy said, touching his sore chest with a chuckle. "You'll have to teach me that one."
"How 'bout that spin move you did?" Spike said. "How'd you keep your balance on that one?" He squinted against the spinning of the room.
"Luck," the demon said. They laughed, and stumbled out into the waning night.
Buffy rubbed at her face with a tired hand. She'd been walked the sewer for several hours, and she'd seen nothing bigger than a few rats scurrying along the side of the tunnel. She knew the sun had risen on the surface, and she had yet to see any sign of Angel. She wondered, not for the first time, if she should have gone the other way, or turned back before now. But she was committed to the turn she'd taken. If she allowed the doubts to undermine her resolve... She sighed. She'd had no sleep. And it looked like she wasn't going to get any. She had no way to track Angel. And she was wandering aimlessly in a strange sewer system. If by some miracle she did find him, he obviously had no desire to see or talk to her.
"This is all going so well," she muttered to herself. "I don't see how it could be going any better."
She heard the dim echo of what sounded like footsteps, the chatter of voices in the distance. The sounds grew louder with a sudden yell. Silence. The bright clang of metal on concrete. She ran down the tunnel toward the noise, taking another turn. The noises faded. She chased the silence.
She reached a junction where several tunnels converged, its concrete walls plain, unmarked. There were exposed pipes running near the ceiling, a series of drains and grates along one cement wall. It was empty. Her eyes caught on the sword at the lip of one of the tunnels. It was Angel's broadsword, stained with blood. She ran to it, picked it up, her fingers catching on the bright sticky redness smeared along the blade. Taking a deep breath, she entered the tunnel, her gaze sweeping the curved walls. She knelt beside a heap of discarded cloth that was crumpled against the side of the tunnel. The sword tumbled from her hand, and she grabbed the cloth, stood up with it. It fell into the long lines of his familiar black coat. She brought it to her face, inhaled. It still smelled of him. Her fingers ran over the slight roughness of the wool. She opened her eyes, her fingers clenching once, digging into the fabric. Kneeling again, she left it where he'd tossed it, laying it down on the concrete. She picked up the sword. It was too big for her, but she could manage. She tighted her grip on the hilt, sure now she was going the right way. That she was not far behind him. She followed at an almost run.