Return to Caged Angels Chapter Twenty

Caged Angels

Author: Onyxsundrops
Rating: R
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters, other characters are my own.

Willow closed the spare bedroom door with a slight click and tiptoed down the hall to her own room. Once she and Tara had returned from their picnic, the blonde had gone to lie down and left the doctor with her thoughts.

Closing her cellular phone and tossing it onto her bed, Willow sighed and flopped down on the mattress next to the device. She had been trying to reach Giles for the past hour and had left several messages, none of which have been returned. The redhead knew Giles was not childish enough to be avoiding her, but she also knew that he could be forgetful enough to have turned off his phone and forgot it was off.

Worrying her bottom lip to the point of irritation, Willow stopped biting the sore flesh and grabbed her notepad from the nightstand. The once blank page had been covered with random words and thoughts within the past hour, and the doctor had to take a moment to figure out her own writing. Despite her poorly written notes, one word clearly stood out in the sea of scribbling - Patience. She remembered the uncertainty that had covered Tara's eyes during lunch and reminded herself for the millionth time that her every question would not be revealed over night.

Knowing this, there was still some part of her that wished human lives were told like storybooks where you could skip to the end. At least then she would know more about what was going on and how to help... if she could. She knew that in life there are things that people are simply too powerless to determine the outcome of. So helpless that they just become another piece of the ever growing puzzle of people who just accepted what life had given them.

As a doctor, was she also just another piece? Doctors treat, they heal, and they try to help even when there is little or no hope. So why did she still feel so helpless and like she wasn't doing enough?

It would take time for Tara to finish peeling back the dark shadows to remember herself, Willow just hoped that it wouldn't be too late.

Giles followed Dr. Christianson down the long corridor that housed the many patients that Pines View deemed the most unstable. The screams and loud, incoherent muttering bounced off the bright white walls, testaments of the tormented lives behind closed doors.

He had observed the younger doctor's practices for the better part of an hour and had not seen or found what he was looking for; evidence of foul play. Christianson's actions were those of any typical doctor whose profession had fallen into a routine. He skimmed over patient charts, administered medication and left his patients after a quick visit.

Despite what he had seen so far, Giles knew that a one day tour throughout the hospital would not reveal every secret about the institution. He knew that he was there to help Willow and possibly find any connection between Tara's past, Pines View, and what it meant for his protégé.

As they continued down the hallway, Dr. Christianson stopped abruptly. Giles, still lost in his thoughts, bumped into the young man.

At the end of the hall, two orderlies were half dragging, half carrying a young man toward a room off to the left. The patient's drug induced appearance was ghostly; dark circles surrounded his squinted eyes contrasting the chalky whiteness of his lips. It was a familiar look in psychiatric hospitals, but Giles still felt a pang of sadness at the sight.

"That's our guy," Christianson said, looking down at his chart as he and Giles started toward the room.

Even with the patient's current state, the orderlies stood guard on either side of the open door.

"Josh Clark," Dr. Christianson said, looking through the sheets of paper clipped to his chart, "Admitted four years ago. No next of kin. Showed signs of severe schizophrenia and was admitted by the state. This one's a real fruitcake." He smiled back at Giles, his lips wavering a little when the other doctor did not smile back, obviously not finding the situation amusing.

"Three weekly injections of Prolixin to control his outbursts and this is what you get." Giles studied the man sprawled across his mattress as Christianson finished.

The older doctor's brow crumpled, "Has he ever shown signs of improvement?"

"No," Christianson frowned as if Giles had just asked the most idiotic question he had ever heard, "We don't usually monitor patients on this floor for improvement." The statement surprised Giles who waited for the doctor to finish, "They're what we like to call 'lifers'; only one way out." He said, scribbling some notes on his chart and nodding to the orderlies, signaling that he was finished.

"So," Giles paused, barely attempting to keep the annoyance out of his voice, "Why bother with medication if it's hopeless?"

"We're not animals, Doctor Giles," Christianson said, not liking the tone of Giles' voice. "Despite your disapproval of our practices, this is still a hospital. We do what we can."

Christianson's attention was drawn to the man behind Giles who had just rounded the corner. A quick head motion and the doctor excused himself, leaving Giles with his thoughts.

Giles busied himself by looking around at the other rooms housed by the long corridor. He shot a glance toward Doctor Christianson and saw him talking with an older man down the hall. Their conversation was hushed; however, Giles could sense by the way the older gentleman kept looking up at him that their exchange involved him.

After a few moments, Christianson's visitor left. He stood, watching the older man walk away until he seemed to manage enough resolve to join Giles outside his patient's now closed door.

"Is there a problem?" Giles asked, hoping that his visit wasn't over before he found what he was looking for - something he had yet to figure out.

Christianson shook his head, "Nothing to worry about." He motioned to the still present orderlies, "Shall we?" He asked, directing his question to Giles who nodded and followed the younger man to the next door.

Whatever Christianson and the stranger had talked about, Giles knew it was important. He also knew that he would have to change his judgmental mindset if he was going to find out what it was.

After five or so minutes of "casually" touring Paula's small house, Donnie had come up empty-handed in his search for Tara. The young man surveyed the living room with distaste. If his sister wasn't here, she was definitely close.

"Can I get you boys something to drink?" Paula asked. She had already unpacked her grocery bags but needed an excuse to busy herself in the kitchen and to escape Donnie's scrutinizing eyes.

Once again, she recognized the similarities between the McClay men. Being the only other male in the household had given Donnie tremendous power over everyone that wasn't his father, especially Tara and the decisions that impacted her life. And Paula knew that he had used his power to every advantage.

"Got any beer?" Donnie asked, scrunching his nose when Paula listed her selection of beverages, beer not included. Ricky, who had silently stood in the corner since arriving at Paula's house, was satisfied with a glass of water. His cousin, on the other hand, declined anything that wasn't beer.

Paula had a good view of the living room from the kitchen and deliberately took her time getting Ricky's drink. Not because she didn't like the young man, she simply needed more time to gather her thoughts.

How would she approach the topic of her daughter's whereabouts? A distracted look kept her mind in the past as she automatically reached into the cabinet for a glass. What was it that made her want to search for her daughter after so many years? It was a question she had been asking herself for the past couple of weeks. Was it forgiveness, a need to find closure that drove her?

Several nights ago she had gone through her old stuff and found that there was nothing left of her daughter's life that she could still touch. Smells on clothing that had once lingered had adapted to its environment. Even pictures, the few she had, seemed to have lost their familiarity.

But there was hope, wasn't there? The young woman she had gone to for help was her only shot at finding something - anything. Paula knew that her choice in help was odd; an attorney turned impromptu PI.

The police were so often burdened with missing person's cases that it was hard to decipher which person needed to be found the most or meant the most and to whom. From Robin's public profile, Paula guessed she had ties with the local authorities and could perhaps speak to the right person or find as much information as any detective.

Donnie's voice interrupted her concentration; his footsteps heavy against her kitchen floor.

"So," he paused, waiting for her full attention, "We were wondering if you've heard anything strange on the news lately or in the newspaper."

Paula walked past the young man to hand Ricky his glass water, "Strange how?" She asked, not understanding what he was asking.

"Typical stuff," Donnie said, not wanting to spell out what he was truly asking. "Big city and all, there has to be something going on."

"Just the typical stuff, like you said," Paula shrugged, facing Donnie who blew out an exasperated breath and ran a hand over his face. "What brings you here, anyway? Besides sightseeing? Does your father know you're here?"

Donnie sensed the suspension in her voice and decided to stop beating around the bush. "How's my sister?" He didn't expect the puzzled look on Paula's face; instead he expected to see a glimpse of panic at having been caught.

"Tara?" The perplexed look never left her face as she stared at him, "Well, I haven't seen her in... god, who knows how long. I wrote to her when I left, but she never responded. Is she here? In Seattle, I mean."

Ricky quickly glanced at his cousin before focusing back on the white kitten that had entered the room a few moments ago. Donnie watched the older woman, looking for any sign that she was lying. He didn't find what he was searching for.

"No. No, she's not," Donnie answered, hastily, "It's time to go. We have to go." He grabbed Ricky's glass and set it on the counter top.

"Then why did you ask-."

"We have to go," Donnie repeated, motioning for Ricky to head toward the front door.

The force of the door closing shook the wall. Paula stared at the solid wood. She hadn't been able to bring up the subject of her daughter, but she had discovered something else; something that could help her.

Donnie was here looking for Tara and if she found Tara maybe she would find Nadia. Paula suddenly remembered the pretty redhead who had come asking questions about Tara. Her minds eye could picture the young woman's face but her name escaped her.

A hint of a smile appeared on her face, the first in along time. If she could find the first piece of the puzzle, she hoped the rest would come easily.

Her eyes twitched beneath their lids. Heavy. The light above flickered.

Was she dreaming? Were the plastic restraints on her wrists a figment of her imagination?

Tara opened her eyes, squinting against the brightness of the room. Once her vision became clear enough, panic rose in her throat. The strangled sound of her own voice frightened her, "Willow?" She called out, hearing the name echo against the white walls.

The blonde struggled frantically against her restraints and stopped suddenly at the sound of voices outside her door.

"You did the right thing." The voice that responded sent waves of fear through Tara's body.

"Yeah... I know," Willow's face appeared in the small window of Tara's door. Their eyes briefly connected before the doctor walked away.

Tara continued to scream the redhead's name even after Willow was out of earshot.

What had she done? The blonde twisted her fingers, clawing at her restraints until she realized she was gripping Willow's bed sheets so hard her fingers bruised her palm beneath the thin material.

She blinked back the fading images of her dream, breathless. Tara had many dreams about Pines View since leaving but none as real as what she'd just experienced. And Willow had never been in her dreams before. The doctor's presence unnerved her.

Struggling to figure out what Willow's appearance meant Tara pushed herself up until her back rested against the headboard.

The idea that Willow would send her back there, subconsciously or not, made her question what the doctor was thinking. She had noticed how crestfallen Willow's features became during their sessions when she couldn't remember details. Would she give up on her? Would she find out that she'd put her career on the line for an unraveling string of lucid and confused thoughts.

If she got better, Willow wouldn't send her back. Why couldn't she remember? Why was it so hard to remember? Frustration became resolve. She would try. She wouldn't go back there... no matter what.

Continue to Caged Angels Chapter Twenty-Two

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