The Magic Box was thankfully without any customers, and Buffy was able to explain the situation at length.
"So Giles, what do you think?"
He was sitting with her at a table, his glasses off as he thought it over carefully.
"It's hard to say for sure, but it's quite clear something's amiss."
"I just don't get it, nothing seems to make any sense."
"No, it doesn't. It's obvious that whatever we're dealing with is much more than a delayed reaction to stress, but as of yet, I've not a viable theory to comfortably replace it. Do you have any idea how long she's been gone?"
Buffy leaned her head back heavily against the chair:
"Not really. When I finally fell asleep, I pretty much passed out. I didn't hear a thing."
"All right, why don't you head back to the house? Perhaps she's already returned. I'll close up here and meet you there. Between the three of us, I'm confident we can get to the bottom of this."
"Maybe I should go look for her. She…"
His hand covered hers:
"Buffy, you look all in. Please just do as I suggest. Go home and wait for me, you're not ready for another confrontation so soon after the last."
"I'm merely half an hour behind."
She smiled and stood up.
"Okay. Thanks, Giles."
"I'll see you presently. And Buffy? Try not to worry, we'll get this all sorted."
She drove home with her head spinning. Why was this happening now? They'd been so happy, everything had been going so great. Faith had been relaxing into their life together, and had seemed so much more at peace. Whatever was going on now was just…Well, what exactly was going on now and how was she supposed to fix it when she didn't have a clue what was wrong?
She was grateful that she had Giles because she knew without him, she would have been bouncing off the walls right about now. He was her rock, and he always knew how to calm her down. He'd help them figure it out, just like he always did. Faith loved and trusted him now, he'd be able to get her to open up. All Buffy had to do was get through the next thirty minutes.
When she pulled into the driveway she sensed Faith, and the relief Buffy felt almost buckled her legs as she walked to the front door. There was finally some news of the good and things were starting to look up. She was all for that.
She went inside and found Faith staring at the television. The problem with that was that it wasn't on.
"Faith, you're back. God, I was all with the worried and…"
"Yes. Where did you go?"
"Out for a walk."
"Want me to draw ya a map?"
She stood up slowly, and Buffy found herself praying she didn't recognize that tone. Giles was right, she was nowhere near ready for Round # 2, not at all.
"Faith, what's wrong?"
"'Sides you askin' me the same question a thousand times?"
"Hey, okay. We don't want a repeat from before, right? Why don't we just…"
Buffy walked up to her intending to get them both seated on the couch, but as she got closer her Slayer sense screamed at her to be ready.
Faith lashed out, her boot connecting solidly with Buffy's chin. The impact sent her crashing into the wall across the room, her head hitting with enough force to smash a piece of the plaster inward as a picture crashed to the floor. She slid done to the floor, sprawled out and too dizzy and shocked to rise.
"Get up, B. Pretty sure I can make one of them Looney Tune outlines if I get another chance."
"Lookin' kinda dazed there, girlfriend."
"You…you hit me…What…"
"Always were kinda slow, so lemme spell it out for ya: I'm done bein' your bitch. Gave it a try, but turns out I like it better like it used to be."
Buffy shook her head as if that would help her make sense out of what was happening.
"What are you talking about? You…"
Faith moved casually and put the couch between them, her eyes never leaving Buffy's.
"Big surprise, yeah? Was tough to keep it under wraps, but I didn't wanna ruin it for ya."
Buffy's face revealed her shock and disbelief:
"…No…No, this isn't…you're not…"
"Gonna bawl, now, B? Guess it's tough to lose another lapdog."
Buffy struggled to her feet. She needed to restrain Faith until Giles got there.
"Wow, can see them wheels turnin' from here."
"This isn't you, not anymore."
Faith laughed again, her face colder than Buffy had seen it in years.
"C'mon, admit it – you're creamin' your pants 'cause I'm dancin' on the dark side again. Give us a kiss, B."
Buffy's temper flared:
"Already did, a buncha times and lemme tell ya…you are one hot bitch between the sheets and everywhere else too. Truth is, nobody makes me come like you do."
Buffy began moving then, but her reaction was anticipated. Before she'd taken two steps, Faith reached behind the couch.
"Better stand down, Slayer. Hate to have to snap your boy's neck like a twig."
Buffy froze, her eyes going wide as Faith yanked a bound and gagged Xander to his feet.
"See, knew you'd be a good girl for me. Not like ya wanna get Shaggy capped."
Xander's eyes were fixed on Buffy's, and he didn't look the calmest she'd ever seen him.
"So lemme fill ya in on the plan. First, could really go for a good fuck. Any chance you'd maybe wanna…Yeah, didn't think so. It's cool, not gonna be tough to find some look-alike to tear up."
Buffy was trying to decide if she could reach Faith before she…
"Answer's 'no'. Slayer here too, so better just settle down and listen."
Buffy forced herself to just stand there, her eyes flicking between Faith's and Xander's.
"What I was thinkin' was we need to get the whole gang involved. Figurin' to waste'em one at a time, make it really sting. Hey that reminds me…where's Dawnie hidin'? I got lotsa ideas how me and her…"
Buffy took an involuntary step forward, but stopped when she heard the muffled scream.
"Geez B, what's wrong with you? Now you're makin' me hurt Xander."
He was writhing in pain.
"Faith, please stop."
"Ah, don't worry. He's way tougher than he looks. Course everybody's got a breakin' point."
The snapping of his finger sounded like a gunshot.
"Guess that's one of his."
Xander's scream was muffled again, but this time tears streamed down his face.
"Begging already? I like that B, really gets my motor runnin'. Watch…"
"God, please stop! Please, Faith."
"Guess I oughta motor, don't wanna wear out my welcome. Shame though, I could keep playin' with this guy all day, guess all night too. Wasn't bad for a beginner and the way Anya talks it up, the boy turned into a real stud. Whaddya think, Xand? Wanna go with me and learn some new tricks?"
Xander said nothing and Faith laughed.
"He's the strong, silent type. Least he thinks he is."
He yelled as she grabbed his damaged fingers and squeezed, and after a few seconds of steady pressure, his legs gave way.
"Fun as this is, I gotta bail. Give my love to the rest of the gang, B."
With that, she shoved Xander at her, and by the time Buffy managed to untangle herself, Faith was long gone.
She sank back down to the floor, seeing nothing as she stared in disbelief at the spot where Faith had last been standing. The tears came as she untied Xander and saw the damage Faith had done.
When Giles arrived at the house, it was to find a badly banged up Xander being tended to by an extremely shaken Buffy.
"Good Lord, are you two all right?"
"I think he'll be okay."
"What happened here?"
Buffy stood up unsteadily, her eyes glistening with tears:
"It was Fai…It was Faith."
"Faith? Faith did this? Are you sure?"
Xander's voice came out all scratchy as he sat on the couch:
"Trust me Giles, I recognized the choking style."
"But why would Faith…Buffy, do you have any…Buffy!"
She snapped back to attention from wherever her thoughts had taken her.
"I know how upset you must be, but it is imperative that you maintain your focus. All our lives are at stake, including Faith's, so we must…"
"Did she say anything that might give us some indication of what it is that we're dealing with?"
Buffy started to sit down, then decided to pace instead.
"I don't know. She said lots of things…maybe when she was…"
Willow rushed to his side, her hands already gently examining his injuries.
"It's not as bad as it looks, Will. Well okay, it is, but I'm okay."
Buffy felt herself beginning to panic:
"Willow, where's Dawn?"
"At Janice's. You looked so upset earlier, I just wanted to check in and see if…What's going on?"
Buffy was pacing again.
"Oh Goddess, is she hurt too? Where is she?"
Buffy could still barely get the words out:
"Will, Fai…Faith did this."
Willow was completely incredulous.
"'Faith' Faith? Our Faith? Your Faith? Why?"
Giles removed his jacket.
"That is exactly what we must ascertain. If you would Willow, please access any and all files we have pertaining to any possession spells as well as any demons that…"
Three sets of eyes turned to her.
"I want all of you in Xander's car right now. Pick-up Dawn and then get Anya from 'The Magic Box'. Don't stop to pack and don't go home. Just get in the car and go."
They were stunned, and Xander struggled to stand:
"Buff, we can't just leave. We have to…"
"Xander, I'm not arguing. She's coming after all of you, and I want you someplace safe."
Willow tried next:
"We can't just take off, Buffy. We need to figure out what's…"
"We're not discussing it. The person we're dealing with is a killer, and she's not going to hesitate. All of you are going and you're going right now."
Giles' face was as stern as he could make it.
"We are most certainly not leaving. We love you and we love Faith. She's in trouble and we shall not turn our backs to her. We understand the danger very well and will take every possible precaution. Now Willow, if you would please…"
Buffy blocked Willow's path.
"Listen to me, I am not kidding."
Giles wasn't backing down:
"And neither are we. Faith is one of us, and we shall band together as we always do to get through this current crisis. Agreed?"
Willow and Xander agreed instantly, but Buffy was still not moving.
"No, not 'agreed'. This isn't a debate."
"Buffy, I am your Watcher, and I am not leaving."
"Yeah Buff, see my 'Resolve Face'? Not going anywhere either."
Xander finally made it all the way up, and although he looked unsteady, it was obvious he was determined:
"Faith owes me twenty bucks...no way am I leaving until she pays up."
Giles looked pointedly at Buffy:
"So then, I believe we're all in agreement?"
Again three sets of eyes turned to Buffy.
"Guys………Yes, we're all in agreement."
"Splendid! Now I believe, as Buffy stated, that our priority must be securing Dawn and Anya."
The Slayer was already moving.
"Will, you and Xander go pick-up Anya. Just grab her and go. We'll get Dawnie and meet you back here. Don't leave the car until you see me. Keep the engine running and stay in drive until I tell you to come in. Don't listen to anyone but me. If either Giles or Dawn tells you to come in, take off with no hesitation. Do you guys understand?"
"I think we've got it, Buffster. But what if Faith gives us the all clear, should we still leave?"
"Xander, surely another time would be better suited for joking?"
He nodded apologetically.
"Sorry, I'm just scared. I understand the plan, Buffy."
Willow was nodding too.
"We only come in if you tell us to. But wouldn't it be better to just leave Dawnie where she is? She'll be out of the way and a lot less likely to…"
Buffy looked ill:
"Faith…Faith mentioned her."
"Yeah, 'oh'. Okay, let's do this. Guys, please don't take any chances."
Everything went smoothly, and once they were all safely back in the spell protected house, Buffy called L. A.. Angel was full of questions, but unfortunately Buffy had no real answers to give him.
"You know what I do, Angel. We're researching it right now, and when we've got something…"
"You can tell me in person. Spike and I will be there tonight. Stay safe."
When he hung up, he delivered the bad news to everyone as they gathered around.
"Something's wrong with Faith. No idea yet what's causing it, but she's dangerous. I want everybody out of town now. Stay together and in touch with me. Wes, you and Fred take any research stuff you think you might need. Willow said she'll fill you in when you get settled. I need to find Spike and then we're heading to Sunnydale. I'll call as soon as I know something."
No one said a word as they gathered up their stuff and prepared to leave. Angel headed into his office to grab his coat and when he emerged, he found Cordelia waiting.
"Cordy, don't even think about it. Just go."
"I am going…to Sunnydale."
"Don't waste our time arguing with me, you'll just lose anyway. Let's find Spike and get going. If we can find him quickly enough, you'll need me to drive while you hide in the trunk."
"I understand how you feel, but…"
"Angel, she's my best friend. I have to go."
He knew there was no way to stop her, and with a slight smile on his face he relented.
After hours of research, they had nothing and Buffy was going not so quietly out of her mind. She couldn't stand just sitting around doing nothing while Faith was out doing who knew what, so she was currently attempting to make some coffee for the gang. It wasn't going all that well due to the fact that she'd just thrown the coffee machine into the wall. As she stood there watching it explode into a million tiny pieces, Buffy was prepared to go out on a limb and say that coffee wasn't going to be happening.
"So is the kitchen a safe place for us non-Slayer types?"
"Come in, Xander. I just dropped the coffee machine."
"And I see you dropped it all the way across the room and into the wall. I guess that could happen to anyone."
Buffy sighed and leaned heavily against the counter.
"How are you feeling?"
"Well, my throat's still a little sore and the splints Giles put on my fingers somehow hurt worse than the actual breaks. A few bruises are tender, but hey, no problem for a big, tough he-man like myself. Plus Will did a healing spell, so I should be all done with the screaming, at least for awhile."
The tears filled Buffy's eyes:
"……I'm so sorry."
He smiled as he walked over to her:
"It's okay, I didn't want coffee anyway."
"No, I meant…"
"I know what you meant, but it's not your fault. Heck, it's not anybody's, well except for whoever or whatever whammied Faith."
"Come on, Buff, Faith's my girl. Okay, technically she's your girl, but she's my friend. I know she'd never hurt me, we all know that. This isn't her."
Buffy finally looked at him:
"Can I have a hug?"
"For you, Buffster, I spare no physical comfort…Okay yes, I do spare some because not only would Anya not be happy, the real Faith would kill me. But hugs? Giving them away for free, so step right up!"
He held her tightly and she snuggled in.
"I love you, Xander."
"Aww Buffy…I'm getting all choked up again."
She laughed and pulled back so she could see his face:
"That's not funny!"
"Then why are you laughing?"
"Because you're being 'Xander'."
"There's no one else I can be…Wait, maybe I can do a hyena too, but that's not exactly guaranteed."
She smiled up at him, no longer looking so tired and alone.
"You've got no idea how happy you make me just by being you."
"Aww…really? Does that mean I can cop another feel?"
"What? I thought we were bonding here."
He grinned his best Xander grin at her:
"Gee, I thought my considerable expertise at being me would get me a lot more."
"It gets you my love forever."
"That's sounds pretty good. Okay, I accept your love and return it."
She gently linked her arm through his:
"Come on, let's see if we've got anything yet."
They headed back into the dining room and Xander made an announcement:
"Attention everyone, there will be no coffee. Buffy slayed the coffeemaker and just like with vamps, she turned it into dust. There are still cold beverages available, but you'd better hurry. I saw her giving the fridge her famous glare, and you know what that means…That's right, people: Buffy, the Appliance Slayer is in the house and she's taking no prisoners."
"All right, I believe I have something."
Giles was consulting a sheaf of papers as he walked into the living room.
"Well it's about time, you were on the phone forever."
"What? Oh yes, well patience is a virtue, Anya."
"And long distance is expensive, Giles."
Buffy broke in before they could get going:
"So Giles, what do you have?"
"I was able to locate an old friend. He's an extremely powerful shaman, and by reading Faith he should be able to determine what's affecting her."
"Great, so we just ask her nicely to tag along and not kill us?"
Giles looked up from his paperwork:
"But that's the beauty of it, Xander, we don't need Faith, merely a personal object of hers."
"Go Giles, go Giles!"
"And whilst I thank you for the serenade, Willow, there is one other requirement."
Anya piped up:
"I'll bet it's money and lots of it."
"There's no charge, Anya, but we do need the person closest to Faith in order to make this work."
Xander grinned big at that news:
"No challenge there, Giles. See the Slayer just itching to do something? She's our girl…woman…person."
Buffy knew there had to be a catch and of course there was.
"Just say it, Giles."
"I'm afraid, Buffy, that you shall have to be incapacitated for approximately two hours."
"What?! I can't be out of it for two hours!"
"I'm sorry, but there's no other way. You'll need to be placed into a meditative…"
Buffy was up and pacing:
"That's way too long…No, we can't take that risk."
Giles was nodding with understanding at his Slayer's words.
"Whilst I completely understand your misgivings, I believe this to be our best chance at helping Faith. Our usual methods are not…"
"I'm not leaving you guys alone for that long. Absolutely not."
They were all quiet then, trying to think it through, and it was Willow who spoke up first:
"Buffy, I did the 'Uninvite' spell on the house. Faith can't get in, and with the protection spell I've also got going, it's not like she can just set it on fire to drive us outside. As long as we stay in the house, we should be safe."
Buffy clearly wasn't happy:
"No, 'should' isn't good enough. Giles, I don't like this plan, there has to be another way."
His glasses were off as his hand rubbed wearily along his face.
"Yes, I suppose there must be, but we cannot seem to find it and we're running out of time. We cannot allow Faith to just roam the streets in her condition."
"Where would this reading happen?"
"He's arriving at Restfield Cemetery whenever we request."
Buffy was incredulous:
"In the cemetery?! Out in the open?! Giles, that's totally crazy!"
"I know it seems a tad eccentric, but he needs that setting to perform the required rituals. He'll erect a barrier to protect us, I assure you we'll be perfectly safe."
"Yes, Buffy. I shall need to serve as your anchor to this plane."
She brightened immediately as the idea came to her:
"Okay…Hey, this can work. We'll all go and he can protect everyone with the barrier thingy until…"
"I'm afraid not. The barrier can hold only you and your anchor."
No one spoke, not until The Slayer did:
"…Then the answer is 'no'. I can't risk everyone's life, we're going to have to find another way."
"Buffy, you have to!"
Dawn could remain silent no longer, and she ran over to Buffy fighting back tears.
"Dawnie, I can't."
"But it's Faith! We have to help her."
"And we will, just not like this. We'll have to find another way."
"But there isn't one!"
Buffy placed her hands on Dawn's shoulders and looked her in the eye:
"There has to be, because I'm not doing it this way. Dawn, I want to help her, you know I do, but I have to consider everyone. Faith would want me to."
"Guess we have to vote then."
Buffy turned to look at him:
"You said you have to consider everyone. The only way to do that is to have a vote and see what everyone wants to do."
Buffy was all done playing around.
"No, enough of this. We are not voting!"
Willow chimed in, her demeanor deceptively innocent:
"Hey, lady, this is the good old U.S. of A.. We've got this pesky thing called 'the democratic process' and…"
Buffy looked at the determined faces surrounding her and knew no one was listening to her. She spoke louder and more forcefully:
"You guys, we're not voting, so just stop with…"
Xander spoke as if she wasn't saying a word:
"Dawnie, may we have your vote, please."
"I vote do it!"
"Absolutely do it."
"And we ask the lovely Anya."
"Hmm…I'm assuming this will end badly just like every scary movie ever made. I mean, I'm sure the second Buffy's out of the house, we're all going to be at risk. It'd be stupid to vote 'yes'…"
Buffy smiled and jumped in:
"Anya's right. The risk is too big, and it's just dumb to…"
"…but I've done stupider things and I really like Faith. She always pays for lunch too. Okay, I vote 'yes'. We should all stupidly risk our lives to save her."
Buffy stood there with her mouth hanging open.
"Giles, how say you?"
He began cleaning his glasses.
"…although I fully understand Buffy's concerns, I do believe this to be our only real option. We've no idea what we're up against and could postulate until the Roman Catholic Church declares Lucifer a saint, yet…"
"So would that be a 'yea' or 'nay' spinning around in there?"
"It's a 'yea', Xander, and a very firm one at that."
"And my vote's hanging out with all of the cool kids' votes, including Faith's, because I've got her proxy. Also, in a strangely ironic twist, Buffy's vote doesn't count because she's clearly a Communist."
They all waited, and Buffy just stood there smiling against her will.
"You guys…are you sure?"
Anya leaned over and whispered to Xander, although not quietly enough:
"Are we going to have to have another ridiculous vote just to get Buffy to do the right thing?"
Buffy answered her before Xander could:
"No you're not, Anya. I just want us to be positive we know what we're doing."
Willow began stacking books:
"It's like Dawnie said, Buff…we have to. It's Faith, and we don't have any other choice."
Giles was already busy organizing papers to take with them.
"Buffy, perhaps you could get something personal of Faith's? I shall put in a call, and tell my friend we're on our way."
"Okay, just give me a minute."
As she turned to go, Anya's voice stopped her:
"Buffy, get that beautiful wallet of hers. You know the one with the reinforced change purse?"
"Anya, perhaps if it were you, an object related to money would be ideal. Buffy, however, will need to choose something a tad more personal."
"I'm on it, Giles."
She headed up the stairs to her bedroom with Willow following close behind. She began searching and after a minute, she held up an item.
"Will, Faith loves this shirt. Do you think…"
"It's perfect. Buffy…"
"Maybe I should take this ring instead?"
"The shirt's better. Buffy…"
"I guess, but who knows for sure? Maybe Anya's right."
She was moving around the room, and Willow could easily read the signs. Buffy was trying to avoid her, trying to avoid the subject that was foremost on both of their minds.
"I just hope leaving's not the big huge mistake I know it is."
"We have to take the chance, we're not finding what we need no matter where we look. Buffy…"
Buffy held up her hand as if to stop Willow.
"Don't, Will. I'm just barely hanging on as it is, and I don't think we can afford a big 'Buffy' breakdown right now."
"We'll get her back. Whatever this is, we'll fix it and get her back."
Buffy stopped walking, and the eyes that stared into Willow's looked nothing but scared:
"Before she kills someone? Before she hurts someone else she loves?"
Willow went to her and hugged her, and Buffy couldn't stop the tears from falling.
"God Will, what is this going to do to her? She already has so much guilt to carry…I'm going to lose her."
"No you're not. You love each other and you'll work it out. She'll have you to help her deal, she'll have all of us. We won't let her go, Buffy, I promise. We'll help both of you get through this."
They stood like that for some time, and Buffy eventually managed to compose herself. She sniffled and resisted the urge to wipe her face on Willow's shoulder. As they pulled apart, she grabbed some Kleenex from the nightstand and blew her nose.
"I guess we have to get her back first."
"Yep, that's the crucial part of the plan, for sure. You and Giles are going to find out what's going on, then the rest of us are going to help you get her back. Problem almost solved."
There was no way not to smile at Willow's cheery optimism, and Buffy felt almost hopeful.
"Will, are you absolutely one hundred percent sure that your spells will keep her out?"
"Yes. It's just like the spell I did to keep Angelus and Spike out, except I designed it specifically for a non-vampire. No one can lower it but me. Faith is not coming in."
Buffy still looked like she had questions, but Dawn's voice interrupted from downstairs:
"Come on you guys, Giles says hurry up!"
With one more quick hug, they headed back to the living room with Buffy clutching one of Faith's favorite shirts.
"I'm sorry to rush you, but I told him we'd…"
"No it's okay, Giles, I'm ready. All right, no one leaves the house for any reason. If she shows up, call the police. They can't stop her, but hopefully the attention will scare her off. We just need to buy a couple of hours, so don't try any heroics."
Giles shrugged into his jacket and gathered up some books and papers.
"I've what we need, shall we go?"
Buffy turned to Willow.
"Willow, if…if something happens, I need you to promise me you'll…"
"Nothing's going to happen, Buffy."
"But if it does, I need you to promise me you'll do whatever it takes to protect everyone…no matter what."
Willow knew what was being asked of her, and nothing in her wanted to make a promise like that. Not to Buffy, and not about Faith.
"Will, this isn't the Faith we all love, this is a killer who won't hesitate. If it comes down to that…you have to promise me. I won't leave if you don't."
"Promise me, Willow."
Willow looked at her then, her sorrow plain to see:
"Thank you. We'll be back as fast as we can."
Dawn's voice was soft and scared:
"This will work, right?"
"I think so, Dawnie."
"Be careful though, okay?"
Buffy hugged her.
"I will be, you too. Remember now – no going outside, no matter what."
"I'm not even going to look outside."
Buffy laughed and kissed her cheek.
"That sounds like…"
"Hey, I know!"
"We can all just pretend that Dawn has trapped us inside by wishing another dumb wish."
Dawn was instantly offended:
"Geez, I only did that one time and it was an accident."
"Those are always the best kind. Vengeance demons love when stupid…"
"Anya, perhaps Buffy and I should be going?"
"Yes of course, Giles, but I do have another suggestion to make."
Xander slid his arm around her shoulder.
"What's that, honey?"
"When Buffy leaves, the rest of us should pay close attention and if we hear any scary music, we should all huddle together. That way, we can't be picked off one by one until I'm the only terrified one left to be chased through the house."
They all stared at her.
"What? It's good advice."
Xander nodded and hugged her closer.
"It is honey, but it's also kind of scary to think about."
"Well scary or not, it's a real possibility, so…"
Giles took Buffy by the arm:
"Yes well, we must be off. We don't want to keep him waiting."
"You guys, please don't take any chances."
Xander grinned like he wasn't worried at all.
"No chance of that, Buff. You guys watch your backs and fronts out there."
Buffy was almost dragging her heels as Giles led her towards the front door.
"I promise, Buffy."
"Come along now, Buffy. Don't worry, all. We'll be back soon with some answers."
They walked out to Giles' car, and Xander shut and locked the door. His smile was gone as he turned to face them.
"Okay, anybody else having a major wiggins?"
They all chimed right in:
"Yes, I'm completely terrified and wishing I hadn't given up my demon powers."
"Yep, witch or no witch, I'm pretty scared."
"I haven't been this freaked since Glory."
Xander looked faintly nauseous.
"I've gotta say, this makes even maniacal clowns seem…"
The shrill whistling noise ended all coherent conversation.
Willow began murmuring a spell as she pushed Dawn behind her, and Xander grabbed a nearby battleaxe.
"Stay back there, An."
"No, no it's okay. It's just the teakettle."
Anya hurried into the kitchen and yanked it off the burner with a chuckle.
"Whoa, that was a terrifying moment. I mean, at first even I thought it was scary music, but…"
No one else looked relieved, and Willow asked the question on all of their minds:
"Who's making tea? I know for sure I'm not making tea! The only tea making guy isn't even here!"
Xander still held the axe at the ready.
"God Will, do you think…"
"I don't know, but if she's in the house…"
Anya rolled her eyes:
"Hello, people? Everything's fine. Giles put the kettle on, he said it would soothe and relax us."
Xander slowly lowered his weapon:
"And it's been a big help so far."
Anya was busy gathering mugs and assorted accoutrements.
"Don't be silly, we need to drink some before we write it off as a total bust."
Dawn and Xander sat down at the table while Willow helped Anya prepare the tea. It wasn't long before they were carrying the mugs over and sitting down too.
"Okay everybody, drink up and relax!"
Anya followed her proclamation with a huge sip, her smile faltering slightly at the taste.
"Well come on, people! It won't work unless we ingest it."
They all took a small sip and Xander leaned the axe up against his chair.
"I'll relax a lot better when we don't have a scary Slayer roaming around in the night."
Anya took another large sip and patted him on the arm.
"Buffy will be back soon, honey."
"I think he means Faith, Anya."
"That I do, Will."
Anya gulped down another mouthful:
"Oh. Well, mentioning her seems more than a little counterproductive if we want this horrible tea to work."
Dawn slid her mug far away from her.
"I'd rather be scared than drink this. How long have they been gone now?"
"Four minutes, Dawnster."
"Oh…it sure seems a lot longer."
Xander took a sip and looked into his cup as if he had no idea what was in it.
"Um…Unless this gets dramatically better the colder it gets, I think we'd better try another kind of stress relief."
"Sex sounds perfect, but what will Dawn and Willow do?"
Xander almost did an actual spit take:
"Gross! Willow, can I please get sent to my room…forever."
"An, I was talking about ice cream."
"Oh. That'd be good too."
Willow stood up:
"It's a great idea, Xander."
"Of course it is. I am, after all, the brains of this group."
"Why is that so funny?"
"You're the 'brains'?"
"Hey, I've got all kinds of smarts, Dawnie. You wound me with your…something mean."
"Xander, as much as I love you, I have to agree with Dawn. Willow is clearly the smartest…"
He beat Willow to the freezer and leaned back against it.
"Ladies, ladies, keep this up and you get no ice cream."
"Come on, Xander!"
"'Come on' nothing, you little traitor. I expect this kind of behavior from Willow and Anya, but from you Dawnster? You're my buddy, my go to girl, the Jerry to my Tom."
Anya tried to shove him out of the way.
"Please don't start with that crazy cartoon mouse and cat. We just want some…"
"First say I'm the mind behind the muscle."
Willow stood next to Anya.
"You do know we can move you, right?"
He smiled pleadingly:
"Come on Will, just play along."
"Fine, you're the brains."
"Thank you. An, Dawnie?"
Anya stood looking at her husband.
"It's ridiculous that we're all lying and you know it, but okay. Yes, you're the brains, Xander."
"Now was that so hard?"
He opened the freezer and began rooting around.
"So what kind do we have?"
"Well Jerry, thanks to my superior intellect, we are momentarily going to be digging into the most delicious ice cream known to both man and woman kind…kinds."
"There's fudge ripple in our fridge?"
"Yep, I hid it a couple of days ago…And here it is!"
He pulled out a Tupperware container that was clearly labeled:
"Willow Experiment. Do not open or throw away."
"See how clever I am? Hiding things right in plain sight never fails to...Wow, this sure feels light."
He sat it down on the counter and opened it up. The carton inside the container was empty except for a piece of paper.
"There's a note."
He unfolded it awkwardly, licking the chocolate from his fingers as Dawn tried to peer over his shoulder.
"What's it say?"
"'Nice try, Butt Wipe. Love and kisses, F'."
"Honey, I thought you said you hid it from her?"
"I did, An!"
"But you know how much Faith loves the stuff."
"Yes Dawn, which is why I hid it."
Willow tossed the empty carton into the trashcan.
"You definitely hid it, just not very well."
They all laughed, but the tension returned the instant they stopped.
"Willow, how long has it been now?"
"Almost nine minutes."
"Dawn, are you by any chance trying to imitate one of those irritating children who persist in asking if they've arrived yet? If so, you're doing a great job because I want to hit…"
Xander broke in before Anya could finish:
"I think the point here is that this is going to be the longest two hours ever."
"No it's not. I once slowed down time on this man who cheated on his wife and…"
"Ixnay on the cheatingay."
Anya stared at her like she'd grown another head:
"Willow, I can't understand a thing you're saying. What language are you…"
"She just means not in front of me."
Anya ruffled Dawn's hair, causing Dawn to roll her eyes in disgust at being treated like a five year old.
"Thank you for interpreting, Dawn, although why she couldn't have just said that…Anyway, don't worry. There's not much graphic sex or violence, certainly far less than will most likely occur in a few minutes when Faith somehow gets in here and kills us all."
The room fell silent as they contemplated the likelihood of that actually happening, and it wasn't exactly a farfetched possibility.
"Maybe we should try to do some more research. You know, something to keep our minds off what we can't stop thinking about."
"Whatever you say, Will. You're the brains again because I'm smart enough to relinquish my crown."
"Willow, can I run upstairs for a second?"
"Sure, Dawnie. I magicked the whole house, so it's all safe."
"Yeah, but it's still kind of scary and I really don't want to go alone."
Xander offered her his undamaged hand:
"I'll go with you. Every young lady sometimes needs a big strong man to escort her, plus I can scream like a girl if I need to."
Dawn gratefully took his hand.
"Thanks, I just want to wear Faith's lucky jacket. Is that dumb?"
Willow shook her head.
"Nope, I think it's a great idea."
Anya was nodding in agreement:
"Yes, Willow's right. It's never been proven there's no such thing as good luck, so there's no reason not to try and create some."
Dawn's smile was huge.
"Faith says good things always happen to her when she wears it, so I was hoping maybe…"
"Well come on then, Jerry, let's go change our luck."
Dawn was laughing as they started up the stairs:
"You do know Tom and Jerry don't get along, right?"
"That's the old school ones. You and I are the new 'T and J'."
Anya called out to them:
"And bring her wallet! That thing's bound to be lucky too!"
The minute they left, Buffy knew they should go back.
"I know, Buffy."
"Damn it! Could we have any worse choices to choose from?"
He reached over and patted her arm.
"All we can do is hope for the best. We've taken every precaution we can, but we need this information if we're to help Faith."
"…I know, I'm just scared."
"As am I."
They pulled into the cemetery and saw the shaman waiting. Giles had explained in great detail the difference between a shaman and a mystic and why he was best classified as a mystic, yet called a shaman. Buffy didn't really care. Shaman or mystic, he was offering them his help, and for that she was eternally grateful.
It only took a few minutes for them to get settled and begin the ritual. Buffy tried her best to follow his instructions, but she couldn't stop thinking about everyone back at the house. What if Faith somehow…
"Slayer! This cannot work unless you are here. You cannot allow your mind to wander, you must concentrate if I am to see the other."
She took a deep breath and tried to center herself.
"I'm sorry…Let's try again."
He started from the beginning, and he could feel her struggling to focus. He would have bet it was impossible, then he felt a surge of strength and her mind bent to her will and narrowed to only one thing.
"…You are her soul mate. It is destiny that you have joined. You have both tried to change your fate, fought each other, but it did no good. She is lost and faraway, yet still she reaches for you. We will move closer to her…I see her as you do…She is fire burning hot…an inferno. But you are water, sometimes deadly and stormy, but for her you soothe and cradle. She heats the water when it becomes too cold, you cool the fire when it burns out of control. It is as it should be. Think of her, leave to go to her and let her embrace you. Her soul is here now, see what she truly is and go to her. She is here."
Buffy didn't remember much after that, at least nothing specific. She could feel Giles holding her firmly, his love securely anchoring her and preventing her from just flying away.
She felt Faith all around her, over her, in her, and the feeling was so intense it bordered on pain. She could feel every ounce of the love Faith had for her, and it warmed and comforted her. They were merged, blended in a way that Buffy had never imagined was possible.
She wanted to stay there forever, she was going to stay there forever. She was happy, she was with Faith, and she was never going back…With an abrupt snap, Buffy returned to the cemetery.
"You are strong, Slayer. Your heartbeat sounds out your love. I must have time to understand what I have seen this night."
The dazed look had left Buffy's face, and her eyes were clear and determined:
"I need to get home."
"Your physical presence is no longer required. I may tell your father what I have seen? He may stay?"
"Sure, you can tell him everything. That's probably best anyway since he's the smart one. But what about…"
The mystic placed his hand on where she assumed his heart was.
"The barrier will remain in place. I give to you my word that no harm shall befall him. I will keep him safe."
"Don't worry about me, Buffy. I shall be fine."
"Okay. Thank you, uh…I'm sorry, I don't remember your name."
"I have no name."
The relief on her face was apparent as she got to her feet.
"Then not my bad. Thank you so much for your help."
He rose quickly and bowed deeply to her.
"It is I who give thanks for having been in your presence. It was an honor to be with The Slayer. You are The One."
"Yep, for now I am. You know, 'into each generation' blah, blah, blah. Plus we've got Faith too, so…"
"This you believe to be true, but you are wrong. You, and only you, are The Slayer. Throughout all eternity it will be you, and only you, who is remembered as The Chosen One. Slayers are legion, they will rise forever, but you are the legend. It is you who is The Slayer, and I will tell all I meet that I knew you. I have been blessed beyond measure."
Buffy was incredibly embarrassed, and Giles thought she looked just like the young girl he'd first met so many years ago. She was blushing and looked uncertain as to what she should do. She attempted an awkward bow in return, but she was clearly uncomfortable.
"…Um…Well, thanks again. Giles, be careful."
"And you. I shall be there as quickly as I can."
They watched in silence as she took off running for home, staring after her for several moments although she was no longer in sight.
"…You did not tell me who she was."
"I'm merely a Watcher. I don't see things as you do."
"She is so full of goodness. It glows within her, it is her. She is The Slayer. There have been none before her, there shall be none after her. She is The Warrior of the People, and they will always remember her and sing her praises."
"She is quite special, but…"
The shaman closed his eyes:
"There is no mistake…She is The Slayer."
"I don't doubt you, Buffy is a wonder."
The shaman looked at him then:
"Her love for you knows no bounds. She is the first being I have ever felt who trusted her anchor with no fear, no doubt. It never crossed her mind, not even as a flicker. You steady her, and she respects and trusts you above all others. I have never known such devotion before."
"…That's quite nice to hear."
"You are father and daughter. It is a soul bond that will never change."
"Yes, I believe that's true."
"Now I must center on the other Slayer."
His eyes closed again, his body relaxing as he sat there.
"So much pain…so much evil…Yet there is more good now. It moves its way through her soul fighting the darkness…and it is winning. She desires the light and she fights for it all the time. She is terrifying and she is inspiring…Her will, her courage blazes out of her with an intensity not seen before. She fights herself, what lives in her, and does not see the force of goodness she truly is. Still she tries to be what she believes she cannot. She does this for The Slayer."
He was levitating a few inches off the ground, and Giles knew to remain silent.
"Her heart is huge and has taken many forms. In all its guises, it has always pounded out for The Slayer and it always will. She fights her darkness for The Slayer, and now there are others she loves, and so she fights for them as well. The light I see moving throughout her being is the Slayer pulling her along to meet their destiny. The cost is high for her, the pain burns inside all the time, but she will not stop until she wins herself. She will never truly back down, never give in, not when The Slayer loves her."
He landed lightly, his eyes opening slowly. Giles looked at him curiously:
"Why are you smiling?"
"I cannot help but like her. She is…I have not the words."
Giles couldn't stop the chuckle that escaped.
"I understand that sentiment completely. Faith is…"
"Fuck Ripper, she's one complicated girl."
"I'd say that's spot on."
They laughed, and the shaman pulled something from his pocket.
"No, thanks. I gave them up a long time ago."
"Good for you. Things'll kill ya. I gave the patch a try…Biggest crock ever. It didn't do jack for me."
"Sorry to hear that. By the by, Vinnie, what's this 'no name' pretense?"
Vinnie took a huge drag, and exhaled a cloud of smoke.
"Ah ya know, 'Vinnie' don't fly so good with the tourists. Started with the fancy pants accent and the no name bullshit to give it some pizzazz. Tips went right through the roof."
"Clever. Listen, I don't mean to rush you…"
"Keep your pants on, Rupert, info's on the way. Boy, sure brought me some tough ones. One's the most conflicted being I've ever known with layer after layer to her, and she's the one I gotta read. Meeting the other's like meeting Santa or Merlin or Joan of Arc."
He shook his head in disbelief.
"Damn, The Slayer…greatest one ever! If I had kids, I'd be telling them that I met a legend, that I was in the mind of the most powerful force of good in any dimension. It's a little overwhelming."
"Yes, I suppose it would be."
"Probably shoulda got her autograph."
"I can arrange that, but Vinnie…"
He took one last pull, then flicked his cigarette aside.
"Okay, smoke break's over. Think I can give you what you want, but it's gonna take a bit. It makes it a lot easier that The Slayer sees her right on the money, cuts out most of the incorrect stuff the other one thinks is true. I need to leave for a little while, but I'll be back with answers."
"I'll be here."
"And for real, Rupert…thanks for the thrill of a lifetime. The Slayer. Who'd have ever guessed a nobody like me would get to meet her and help her? You know what? I think I'm gonna have some kids just so I can tell them about it. I'm only 358 years old. I still have time."
"Quite a lot, actually."
"All right, let me get in there and see what's got a hold of her."
"Thank you, Vinnie."
"It's my honor, Ripper."
As soon as she approached the house, she knew something was wrong. The kitchen door was wide open and the entire house was dark. Buffy fought down the rising panic, she had to be the Slayer now…it was the only thing that could help them.
She entered cautiously, turning her body sideways and crouching to present a smaller target. As she moved through the doorway she heard two faint clicks, and the sound made her freeze where she was. Seconds later a light switched on, and Buffy felt the panic returning as she saw the scene in front of her.
Dawn was gagged and tied to a chair near the entrance to the dining room, and a loaded crossbow was aimed right at her heart. It was wired to the pressure release cords that were now activated by Buffy's arm and leg, and she understood at a glance if she moved, her sister was dead.
"Hiya, B. Glad ya finally showed."
Faith stood up from her spot near the light switch, smiling for all she was worth. Buffy's eyes met Dawn's, and she could easily read the pain and fear in them. There was a slow stream of blood trickling down her forehead, and Buffy could see the bruise already forming.
"What did you do to her?"
"Me? Nothin', Baby Sis did it to herself. We were havin' a girl talk, then for no fucking reason she tries to head butt me. Was kinda cute and feisty, but ya can't just let that shit sail by. Gotta train'em when they're young, or they'll turn out bad…Trust me on that."
"Let her go."
Faith laughed and the sound increased Buffy's terror like few other things could. It was nothing like the laugh she'd grown accustomed to, this laugh was cruel and threatening, and Buffy knew what it meant. Her Faith wasn't here; there was just this dangerous monster who enjoyed killing and torturing anyone she could get her hands on, and right now her hands were on Dawn.
"Look, this is between you and me. Dawn's not…"
"B, I know who it's between."
"Okay, so then you don't need her. Just let her go and I promise I won't fight you. You can do whatever you want to me, I'll go wherever you want me to. Just let Dawn go."
Faith hopped up to sit on the counter and seemed to be thinking it over.
"Wow, sure know how to tempt me, don't ya, B? Gettin' me all excited just thinkin' about the things I could do to you…And ya promise not to fight back?"
"Yes, I promise I won't fight back."
"Is that 'cause deep down ya really want it, B?"
"Say it. Admit you really want it and I'll consider your request."
"…I really want it."
"Where do you want it, B?"
"…Deep down. I really want it deep down."
"Ya coulda sold it better, but wasn't bad."
"Then let Dawn go."
"Nah, fuck it. We're gonna end up doin' all that stuff at some point anyway. Let's keep Squirt in the game."
Buffy glanced at Dawn, then back to Faith.
"Where is everybody?"
Faith grabbed an apple and rubbed it casually on her sleeve before she put it back in the fruit bowl.
"Red's upstairs sleepin' one off. Had to tag her good so she'd stop tryin' to go all Hogwarts on me. Just lucky I was able to grab Xander in time 'cause she was definitely gonna do me some major damage. Anyways, she's bound and gagged, and lookin' kinda sexy. Not waking up any time soon though, so no help there."
Faith laughed again and leaned back casually on her arms.
"That boy's got some balls. Actually tried to take me on, so I had to teach him a lesson. Think it hurt me worse, but hard to say for sure with all the screamin' he was doing. One sec we're gettin' on like a house a fire, then there's this loud snap and he starts yellin'. Kept tryin' to pull his arm away from me, but I hung on. I like my guys to act like gentleman, ya know? Took awhile, but then he passed out."
Buffy felt like she was going to vomit, and the delighted grin on Faith's face wasn't helping anything.
"Now that one got a little ugly. Gave her a chance, but the bitch kept tryin' to warn Dawn that the 'Big Bad' was in the house. Didn't matter what I did, she wouldn't stop doin' shit to ruin the surprise. Finally got tired of it and took the bat away from her. Mighta hit her a little too hard, was a stressful sitch, but last I seen she was breathin'."
Buffy saw the tears filling Dawn's eyes and she knew it must have been bad.
"How did you get in?"
Faith sat up straight, her face alive with the fun she was having.
"Don't look so shook up, B. Busted some other parts as a demo and Willow ended up invitin' me in. I tossed the loser, he limped off, and next thing I know, there's fireballs and shit comin' my way. Red blasted a hole in the wall and smoked the curtains, but then Xand came in to see what was goin' down, and he helped me persuade her to back off. Bitch did manage to burn a patch in my jacket though, just glad it wasn't my fave."
Buffy's eyes scanned the room for the hundredth time, but she couldn't see anything that would help them. The bottom line was simple: if she moved, Dawn was dead. It didn't get any simpler than that.
"Lookin' kinda shaky there, girlfriend. Aren't ya havin' fun?"
Faith jumped down and moved a little closer. She was careful to stay out of reach, not that Buffy could have risked grabbing for her anyway.
"So B, where's Giles? Was hopin' to give him a 'Wesley Special'."
"I don't know."
"Want me show Dawnie what real pain feels like?"
"Then where's our Watcher?"
"The Magic Box."
Staying out of the path of the crossbow, Faith walked up to Dawn and unsheathed her knife.
"Gonna feel a little burn…a sting…a pinch…It's gonna fuckin' hurt like hell, Squirt."
"What?! No, stop! I told you what…"
"No, you lied to me. One more chance 'fore I carve her a Joker mouth."
Buffy's eyes were locked on the knife that was weaving dangerously all along Dawn's face.
"He's talking to an old friend, trying to figure out how to help you."
" Answer or she's gonna be grinning."
"…He's in Restfield Cemetery."
Faith nodded and patted Dawn's head.
"Got a little scary there, yeah, Dawnie? B was tryin' to get ya all sliced up."
Dawn looked scared, but she looked furious too. At least she wasn't panicking, not that Buffy was sure at this point just how much of a difference that made. Neither of them could move, but Buffy still had her voice.
"Faith, you have to fight this."
Faith smiled as she strolled back over to stand in front of Buffy:
"No B, I really don't."
She rammed her knife into Buffy's side.
"I'd rather just go for it."
The pain was intense, and Buffy knew she was in trouble. Faith stood there laughing, clearly amused by her predicament.
"Wow, bet it hurts like a bitch and ya gotta just stand there without movin'."
Buffy fought to remain still as she looked at Dawn. She was crying and wild-eyed like she couldn't believe what she'd just seen, and Buffy couldn't exactly reassure her.
"Alright B, think I missed all the major areas, so that shouldn't kill ya. Blood loss might though, plus it's gotta be some wicked pain. Gave a little extra twist goin' in and comin' out. Figured since we're doin' it, oughta do it right."
"Please let her go."
"Ya look a little rough, but you're still turnin' me on. Okay, tell ya what – beg some more and I'll consider it."
"Please…Please, I'm begging you…Please let Dawn go."
"Damn, where's your pride, Slayer? Could barely get the sentence finished ' fore you started beggin' like a pussy."
Buffy almost swayed, but managed to hold herself still.
"Nothin' else to say? That's cool, I'll just play with Dawnie for awhile."
"No! Leave her alone!"
Buffy was straining to hold her position.
"Just between us B, you're not gonna be able to hang on much longer. What's it matter if I carve her up a little 'fore you kill her?"
"Stay the fuck away from her!"
Faith's grin was huge:
"There's my girl! Don't look like much on the outside, but inside? There's nobody tougher. Gonna be a real shame when you do pass out."
Dawn was praying that someone would help them. Buffy was in so much pain, and Dawn had no idea how she was managing to hang on.
"Fuck, you're really sweatin' up a storm, Blondie. Is it hot in here? Feels pretty good to me, but what do I know?"
As hard as she tried, Buffy could no longer hold back her pain filled cries.
"Ouch, sounds wicked painful. Want some Tylenol or somethin'?"
"…Please…Please let her go."
"Not gonna happen. C'mon tough girl, just tough it out."
Buffy was starting to shake as her blood kept pouring out of her at a steady rate, and Faith leaned back against the wall watching the show.
"B, you goin' into shock? No clue how to tell, but all that blood flowin' out is kinda shocking to me."
The room was growing dark around the edges, and the waves of pain were starting to submerge Buffy in their depths. Faith grabbed a handful of blonde hair and yanked her head up.
"So what do ya think? Two minutes before you kill your sister?"
She ran her hand over the wound, causing Buffy to cry out.
"Whoa, watch it, B. Ya almost pulled back a little too far."
Dawn began yelling behind her gag, her eyes filled with hatred and fear. Faith continued "examining" Buffy's wound, her eyes never leaving her as she responded to Dawn:
"Hear ya loud and clear, Squirt. I'd be pissed too if I was you. Big sisters are s'posed to protect ya, not get you killed. Guess you got the short straw when it comes to family."
While Faith rambled on and tortured her, Buffy centered herself as much as she could and followed her Slayer thread. It was blocked by a thick barrier, and she felt frozen just being near it. It was solid, but Buffy gathered the last of her strength and pushed past it to reach out to Faith.
She seemed so far away, but she was there…Buffy could feel her.
"Faith, I can't hold on! You have to get Dawn!"
"…B…I'm lost…no way out."
"Faith, you have to get Dawn! Follow me!"
"Can't move…I'm lost…"
Buffy couldn't stay any longer, and she felt the connection sever. She stood there trembling violently, gasping and moaning in pain. She was fading, and she looked desperately at Faith.
She was back to leaning casually against the wall, smiling at Buffy with nothing but malice and an evil delight at what was about to happen.
"Hey B, how's it feel to kill your sister?"
And just like that, their time was out. Buffy felt her body collapsing, no longer able to follow her commands. She fought with everything she had to stay connected to the wires, but she was falling away from them anyway.
As she went down, she saw Faith moving so fast she was nothing but a blur. She leapt at Dawn, knocking her over along with the chair she was still securely tied to and snapping the ropes that had held it upright. The crossbow fired, but Dawn was already safely on the floor. Faith however, wasn't so lucky.
The bolt caught her in the back as she went down, and the cavalry arrived just seconds later in the form of Angel and Spike. They burst in through the front door and she was on her feet to meet their charge in the dining room. They tried to restrain her, but Faith fought like a Slayer possessed, and their efforts were hampered by their mutual desire not to kill her or hurt her too severely. She however, had no such restrictions, and the battle was brutal.
Buffy could hear the fight and she made attempt after attempt to get to her feet. She was finally forced to stop her struggles when Giles appeared at the kitchen door and began applying pressure to her wound while holding her still. Cordelia followed him and busied herself with grabbing Dawn, chair and all, and dragging her over to Buffy and Giles. She picked up Faith's knife from the floor and began cutting Dawn loose with it.
The fight was still raging, and Faith was more than holding her own until:
Spike grabbed onto the crossbow bolt protruding from Faith's back, and swung her around with it. Her scream was cut short as her jaw was met by Angel's best uppercut. Faith was finally down and out.
"Christ, been a long time since I fought a Slayer."
Angel was nodding, the blood running to his chin from his split lip:
"Yeah. Got no desire to ever do it again."
"Heard that, mate."
Angel called out:
"Is Buffy okay?"
Giles appeared in the doorway, cradling her in his arms.
"She needs to go to hospital."
"I'm going with you."
"Of course, Dawn."
Buffy struggled to speak:
"…Giles…everyone's up…stairs…Don't know if…"
"Shh…We'll find out. Cordelia…"
She was already there.
"Go, we've got it."
Angel picked up Faith.
"Spike, you help Cordy. I'll chain Faith in the basement."
"Make sure you got her. Bloody well almost took us both."
"I'll be careful."
Giles was already carrying Buffy out to his car as Dawn ran ahead to open the door.
Angel looked down at Faith, then back to Cordelia.
"I just hope she didn't…I hope no one's…"
Cordelia opened the basement door for him, then snatched up the cordless phone.
"Come on, Spike. I'll bring this in case someone needs an ambulance."
"Good idea. Just hope nobody's up there…"
"Dead. The word both of you are looking for is 'dead', and we're not going to know if we just keep standing here. Now come on!"
They headed up, both hoping with everything they had that they weren't going to find any bodies. Angel went quickly down the stairs with Faith, placing her on her stomach on Spike's bed as he chained her up. He needed to get the bolt out and treat her wound, and he was hoping she would remain unconscious for the entire procedure.
He kissed the top of her head and went back up into the kitchen to gather the supplies he was going to need. As the bowl filled with hot water, he brushed a tear from his cheek.
**Please, don't let her have killed anyone.**
He gathered his supplies and descended the stairs.