My Fears About Faith
The girl is trouble. You know that already.
We have a history of competitiveness, Faith and I. It didn't start out well, what with her trying to win - by stealing my boyfriend and turning evil. But now it motivates us to be better Slayers. Just because there are new generations to share the slayage doesn't mean we want to get out of shape or lose any of our edge- as Faith would say. Especially as we need those skills for training the Student Slayers. I'm not sure how, but at some point our desire to triumph over the other became a spectator sport. Friday afternoons.
Faith and I train together when we're trying to perfect new techniques or complicated manoeuvres. But for most of the week we spar with as many of the others as possible. Ironically, we spend more time individually training than we ever did as the Chosen Two. There's no way I'm letting the girl win!
Despite the years that have passed I still think of Giles as my Watcher. Obviously I don't need him as I used to, and he has a great big bushel of other responsibilities now. Anyone in the Department of Watchers can answer questions on mystical cults and ancient engravings. But Giles still takes time to speak to me personally when `integral information' transpires about whatever it is we're fighting. Occasionally he'll put me through my paces with some physical training, but for old times' sake. We don't see one another as much as we did, in the original library or back room of the Magic Box, but our connection is profound. We've lost and rebuilt trust on more than one occasion over the years and that has actually added depth and strength to our bond. I'm so glad it's him running the school. Aside from how happy it makes him and how good he is at it. I think having him always nearby makes all of us original Scoobies feel safe somehow. He's our touchstone or something.
Giles has kind of acted as Faith's stand in Watcher over these years. Whoever decided to pair her and Andrew initially, made a big mistake. I still suspect Spike may have made the suggestion for his own entertainment. Andrew badgered her and illustrated all his points by quoting comic books and movies she'd never heard of. It drove her insane. She in turn teased and bullied Andrew mercilessly. I actually felt kind of sorry for him. I know better than anyone how brutal Faith can be. Eventually she just stopped turning up for training and he whined at Giles until their already defunct relationship was officially dissolved. Faith doesn't do well with Watchers, she's had lousy luck with them. Not all of it luck I guess. So the past few years, I just kinda pass on what she needs to know, and Giles calls us both in when the world's in semi-annual peril. Faith is just a law unto herself and we've given up trying to constrain her. That never works. If there are limits, she has to choose them.
Since Wes has been back, if you can call it that, they've decided to give the whole Watcher Slayer partnership another try. Personally, I vie between thinking; ludicrous, and courageous. Could go either way. It didn't go so well last time, what with the torture and mutual loathing. Giles thinks it will be healing for them both.
They've got this interesting relationship, Faith and Wes, based on the reluctant empathy and respect they've developed. She's so grateful that he trusted her enough, to ask for help and spring her from prison. Even after she burned and cut into him and God knows what else. Faith also likes that Wes developed a dark side before he died. She commented to me, more than once, how fine he'd looked that last time in LA. If that comment isn't all the evidence Willow needs, that people change - then Parker Abrams was my one true love! Grosse. Anyway, I think, after going to such morally `ambiguous' places himself, Wes had more compassion for Faith and her past. Enough to give her another chance.
So, apparently how it happened was this. One day recently Faith's in his study shooting the breeze with apparition Wes. He starts showing her a chapter in some obscure book he thinks might be relevant to her but she keeps bugging him by refusing to turn the pages or intentionally turning two at a time. They actually end up laughing together. Wes comments that if he'd stayed her Watcher she'd never have retained such bad habits. She asks him if he will be again, all casual of course because nothing gets to Faith- according to Faith. If Wes was surprised he didn't convey it and agreed without hesitation. Although did add that he felt much safer knowing he didn't have a body for her to torment if she disagreed with his training schedule. I think he knew what a big deal it was for her to ask. I was shocked myself. Previously she'd never mentioned any inkling for structure or learning.
I of course, was quietly delighted when she told me. I was hoping that maybe this was a sign she was calming down and feeling more settled. Perhaps now she'd be safer, taking less risks or be more informed before she dove in. Maybe dedication to career could lead to dedication in her personal life? Ok, I'm delusional, I know. It's not like I want to settle down in some white picket fence 2.4 children dog cat and minivan lifestyle. When I was with Riley I thought I wanted that, and come to think of it he and Sam have boy, girl and baby on the way. It's terrifying when I think what my life could have been like. Forget Caleb, I could have ended up Mrs. Riley Finn, darning his socks in Iowa. I don't darn.
Now, I have the stability of home all around me. I live and work with all the people I love. My job is fabulous…come on, I get to spar, teach people how to slay and recount my achievements while they pay me for it! Also, I know I shouldn't like this but there's the status thing. Faith and I being the first new generation make us the ones they look up to, that they come to for expertise…expertise hah! Even though I didn't do it for long I'm the only living Slayer who's ever done the job alone. That along with saving the world a bunch of times makes people see me as a hero - at least within the confines of this school. Also, because the whole power share was my idea all the Slayers feel like they owe me some kind of debt, which is just weird. You should see them with Willow! They get all trembly around her. This stuff can never go to my head…much. I've got my boys reminding me of my failings; in battle, in relationships, in school. Xander, Spike and Angel. Through their teasing or mere presence, they remind me. So, my home, my community and my job all rock. But from love, I want something more.
I hate admitting this, I don't want to even think about it let alone say it but I want Faith to love me. Of course she loves me, but I mean in a building a life together as a partnership kind of way. I don't need a ring on my finger (although shiny jewellery always a plus) and I don't want her to stop being Faith. If she didn't go wild on the dance floor, curse at totally inappropriate times and intentionally aggravate and flirt with me then she wouldn't be the woman I'm crazy for. What I do need to change is her ability to let me in…during waking daylight I mean. And I want to talk about a future together and make plans without her flipping out and feeling like I'm placing restrictions on her - unless you mean the bondage kind, but those are stories for later.
Anyway, I really am digression girl aren't I? My point was that Faith and I mostly have our own training routines during the week so that come Friday we can compete. It started off with running a few miles and her goading that I'd never be faster. I couldn't let that go, come on, dare! When I beat her she suggested a crossbow competition and it just carried on from there. When she won more categories than I did I challenged her to a rematch the following week. It'll never end you see because neither of us can bear to lose to the other! We really keep in great shape for the competitions which also makes our bedroom time somewhat fabulous.
Gradually over the first few months people started watching the Friday challenge until it evolved into an experience for the whole school. Faith and I always spent a good part of the afternoon arguing over rules and conditions for each event. So Andrew and Xander delightedly took it upon themselves to create a weekly competition line-up and to spend copious hours debating the rules regarding girth of stake and height of heels. Bless them. Naturally some of the other Slayers wanted to join in, but that never worked because this thing is about me and Faith, see? I don't care enough about triumphing over the others. Also it's a first generation thing.
The competitiveness really riles us up in a libido way. I fucking love being faculty…I had a word with Xander and he now arranges for some sort of hand to hand combat to be the final event of the day. This usually involves trying to hold the other down on the mats using some specified technique. It's all about power and touching and winning and holding and being really really physical with a gorgeous brunette Slayer when you're already worked up. Told you, I love my job. Once that week's winner is declared, Xander efficiently ushers everyone out of the gym. Faith and I stay.
Whoever's lost then tries to regain supremacy. We wrestle for a while, all sweaty and vying for dominance. We've all kind of promised not to fool around in any of the public parts of the school. Faith and I have been caught a bunch of times. Not a good example and all that. So we try our hardest to resist getting it on right there in the gym. A couple of times we've both given in. But usually we hit the showers and start there. Sometimes we finish there too or sometimes we don't touch, just stare, admiring one another's naked bodies while we wash up. Nine times out of ten (unless she's jealous of some guy I end up having to rely on instead) we end up back in my room for a fast but satisfying fuck before dinner. I think they've reorganised the menu so that Friday evenings always involve an exceptionally large meal. Willow says this takes her back to her childhood.
But Friday night after dinner is often when things begin to unravel for Faith; for us. At least I've learnt not to watch. I used to try and participate or went along in case she needed rescuing. Many people pointed out that if she was going to self destruct I couldn't save her. It sank in eventually. Along with the betrayal I felt every time I tagged along on her escapades. Then, it was mostly my pain, my jealousy at whoever she was grinding against on the dance floor. My fear about what would happen to me the one time she couldn't handle slaying under the influence and lost a fight.
Thank God for Angel. He usually joins her. He tells Faith he's in the mood for a good cemetery dust up, because the Friday dinner pints of `blood on tap' have him all buzzed. Later he'll say he feels like dancing which is so blatantly a lie; have you ever seen Angel dance? Way scarier than Angelus if you ask me.
He and Faith still have a bond; the three of us have long resolved our jealousy triangle. Angel keeps trying to reach out to her, wanting her to let him in, but he says it's getting harder as the years pass. When he says this I get scared. Sometimes I curl up in his lap like old times. There will always be a beautiful love between Angel and I. He was my first and it was tortured and agonizing and spectacular. But now it's not romantic for either of us, just close. He knows how scared I am about Faith and he understands, he loves her too. But not in a getting down and dirty way. It's like they're partners on the journey to spiritual and moral redemption or something. Except Angel and I have been wondering of late whether Faith has veered off that road entirely. It's not like she'd ever kill someone innocent again or torture her friends directly. It's herself she's annihilating and I think that watching her, powerless to change her course, is far more agonizing than being cut with glass or shot with poisoned arrows.
I'm mad at Spike for providing Faith with a drinking buddy. After Friday dinner they go into the music practice room and line up 2 rows of shot glasses along the lid of an upright piano. Faith pours a bottle of Jack D into one line and Spike fills the other with vodka. (This is clearly not the most calculated method. The inevitable spillage on the piano has had Lorne freaking and Giles muttering about French polishing. I don't think he was referring to the manicure.) Faith and Spike then race who can down their procession of shots the quickest. This happens a few times over before they go out. Fortunately they both have supernatural constitutions. Even so, they're consuming enough alcohol to do a hell of a lot of damage. Once wasted one of them will suggest going slaying, demon hunting or some such thing. That's great guys, when you really don't have your faculties working for you, excellent time to confront huge scary danger! We always send a band of Slayers out after them. Honestly those two are more irresponsible than the students. And students are a big problem where Faith is concerned. In her frighteningly irreverent state she doesn't care an ounce about teaching or the school or setting a good example. I've seen her giving young Wiccas shots of Jack D, or ignoring an adolescent Slayer being taken advantage of on the dance floor. I know this isn't her, I know she's better than this; only she doesn't believe it.
Giles and Robin both care for Faith and won't do anything rash. She's not a student so punishment would most likely mean being given the boot. They know that if they fire her or impose stringent rules she'll leave and that could be the end. The thought of her leaving terrifies me. Would it be worse to be here without her or to have some time on the road together while I watch her self destruct? None of us know what to do. We've been trying for more than twelve years now and have almost run out of options. We were delighted about her bond with Wes, and him being her Watcher again. But since then her behaviour's gotten worse, similar to when I first got here. The girl is trouble. But she's also in trouble.
The People We Meet and The Battles We Fight
You know, a bonus in having this school is that we're centralized and everyone can find us. That's how we've got so many of our old contacts working here.
Such a cool thing happened a couple of weeks ago. Kennedy and her current team were in the foothills of Nepal hunting an unlikely gang of Polgara demons. They spoke to everyone they met in order to get leads on the direction the demons were travelling in. They asked this group of guys, one of whom spoke English - not that they hadn't been managing before. The new Slayers are from all over the world, the range of language skills between us is impressive.
So Kennedy starts questioning this guy in the usual vague way one inquires about demons. This dude immediately mentions Polgaras and seems to know a fair amount about them. He and Kennedy are having an excellent chat about mystical creatures in Southern Asia while the other girls organize their back packs. Along with bug spray and raspberry lip-gloss a number of stakes are scattered on the ground beside them. The guy leans down and picks one up. He examines the logo embossed on the stakes, recognising it from the website and says;
“Hey, do you know a cute redhead - goes by Willow?”
Kennedy grins at him and says “Yeah, I used to date that cute redhead.”
The guy says “Yeah? Me too.”
Kennedy doesn't know whether to give him a black eye or laugh. In-between giggles it finally dawns on her; “Oz?” She asks the dude whose face isn't laughing or angry, she's not really sure what he's feeling…big surprise there.
“The one and only.”
“Willow always said such great things about you. Her pez witch is one of the only things she has from Sunnydale. She loves that thing, keeps it in her jewellery box along with her crystals, she says it feeds them good energy or something.”
Kennedy thinks she might possibly see a flicker of a smile on Oz's face. He joins them on a successful Polgara hunt and when they get back to base, they call Will. Is this weird for you to hear? I mean Kennedy and Oz running into each other in Nepal, it's kinda freaky don't you think?
Will and Oz talk for a while on the phone and she persuades him to come back with Kennedy. Before they even get here, she's run her idea by Giles who loves it. Once Oz arrives we offer him a job teaching `Meditation and Self Control for Mystical Beings.' Thank God he learned that, right? I'm sorry but I have to admit to having a soft spot for Oz, despite his attacking people I love while all wolfie. He's made a lot of progress, you'll see. You're asking about Willow and Oz? I'm sorry for laughing, it's just that in her own words, `Hello? Gay now!' Or in Xander's words; `I had to date Anya, she was the only straight girl I knew.'
Will and Oz have a special bond but it's that affection that comes from shared memories and past. Like me and Angel - again, no romantic love. I did sit in on some of Oz's classes and have to say he is Mr. Chilled Out Zen Dude now. It's kinda freaky in all honesty because it wasn't like he was so uptight before.
After a week of being here Oz asks to meet with me and Giles. I drag Faith along with me as I'm trying my utmost to keep her out of trouble. It's actually having the opposite than intended effect, making her even more determined to cause havoc. It doesn't stop me trying though. What's my choice? Watch my baby obliterate herself and do nothing?
Before the meeting starts Willow, Xander and apparition-Cordy barge in to inform us of something. They're already speaking over one another. Giles looks at them disapprovingly for ignoring the knock before entering rule. Cordelia rolls her eyes. They take no notice of him and continue talking. She asks;
“Giles? Did you really say that Anya could teach sex ed? You didn't did you? I'm the guidance counsellor, I think it falls under my jurisdiction.”
Willow tries to step between the two of them since Xander keeps taking swings at Cordelia. His hand obviously runs right through her.
“Xander!” Will chides, “Have a little respect! You have to treat them as if they were corporeal.”
Xander ignores her, swiping Cordelia around the back of her head. His hand emerges through her nose.
“Let me tell you” he pipes in, “Anya would be an excellent sex educator. It's been a while but when she had an actual body she had outstanding knowledge in that department.”
“She'd need to, to compensate.” Cordelia sneers.
“Well from what I hear, you'd have no idea about that yourself. Although I have to concur…from experience.” Faith smirks. I give her a warning look but she knows I'm about to start giggling.
“Well,” Giles says, removing his glasses, “putting the, ahem, sex issue aside for a moment,” he clears his throat. “Why don't the three of you sit down?”
He gestures towards chairs for the three of them (not that Cordelia needs one, but as if and all that). He's still able to silence us, so Giles continues,
“I believe that Oz had something he wanted to say?”
The seven of us sit around the mahogany table in Giles' study (Oz berates him for having rainforest wood but Giles counters that antiques are exempt) and for a moment we all pause; thinking. There is an ease with which we lapse into bickering and goading one other. We could so easily be sitting round another table in another time.
“Freaky flashback” Faith says.
“Way freaky” Oz agrees, but he doesn't look freaked out in the slightest. This meditation lark looks good on him. I promise you, it's ok. Willow has no interest.
Oz tells us that since being here he's been having intense ominous feelings and can sense something dire is about to happen. He doesn't have a visual which obviously makes this task near impossible. Instead he depicts the sensation in extraordinary detail; the tingling he remembers before staking a vamp. Also tremendous fear and the feeling that everyone around him is so much bigger than himself.
Sensitive as always, Faith says; “Well, it's not much of a stretch is it dwarf dog?”
Oz just shrugs and says “Guess not.” He goes on to describe a smell that sometimes accompanies the feeling; of vinegar and fruit boiling, almost like jam being made.
“A marmalade demon?” Giles asks. He never did get the hang of the whole quipping thing.
By this point Faith has been quiet for all of five minutes which is highly unusual. Her forehead is crinkled as if she's in deep thought;
“B? Have you had any Slayer dreams lately?”
I don't remember any. Faith starts to describe one she's been having for a while. I ask why she hasn't told us (i.e. me) before now. She explains that she's had this really strong impulse to keep the dream inside, almost to hold it to her, which she knows doesn't make sense. Giles is of course fascinated by this stuff and encourages her to run it by Wes later. He reminds us that the emotions we experience during and after a dream are as important as the content itself. Faith just nods, not looking at us. She becomes suddenly intrigued with the buckle on her left boot. They're hot boots by the way.
Faith explains that in the dream she also feels small and like she's hiding; behind boxes or wooden crates or something. But she can see what's happening through the slats.
“I am terrified.” she says. “In the dream I mean, obviously.”
Something inside me fractures but I just keep encouraging her to describe what she's seen. Kid, vamps, adults dying; terror. In the dream she doesn't see the kid, she is the kid.
I wonder momentarily whether this is a Slayer dream after all. Usually we have them simultaneously and the content is identical - although more sex seems to occur in Faith's. Maybe this one is another of her nightmares about the past. Perhaps in sleep she's just replaced the fears of her childhood with the vampires of the present? But the last thing I would ever do is raise my question here. I'm the only one who knows about her nightmares. She'd be mortified if others found out; making her fragility visible. I sometimes wonder whether she even remembers during the day or whether those nights are locked away in some separate compartment of her brain. I guess I know already. It's the way she drinks, dances, slays and fucks to keep it all locked away in that disconnected part of her. Later, when we're alone, I decide not to ask Faith about the dream. This is such a sensitive issue and I've been tiptoeing around her. She been reactionary girl lately.
It turns out I don't get a chance to ask her anyway. We sit around the table in Giles' office trying to puzzle this out. Usually with visions, dreams and instincts there's a whole procedure that is followed. This is overseen by the department now referred to by the pupils as “The Eye.” With this number of Slayers milling around we need a methodology for differentiating the prophetic from the generic. Part of the meditation and spirituality programme (Oz at this point is blissed out in a corner of Giles' study) is about teaching Slayers to hone their instincts and distinguish for themselves. Once the prediction has been verified a team is assigned to it depending on the urgency and scope of situation. For apocalypsey scenarios the school goes into red alert and every one of us on campus works until the issue is resolved. It's really a lot less lonely these days, but also less challenging sorta.
For this, Giles decides that the extent of talents already in the room is enough to figure it out without going through procedural channels. We're all slightly startled by this what with Giles being order, structure and regulation guy. But he says;
“I think that together we've earned our stripes enough to do it for ourselves.” He chuckles and adds “It's kind of nice getting our hands dirty again-” he walks around the backs of our chairs while leafing through a book, “a reunion of sorts.”
A huge piece of paper is rolled out over the entirety of the table. Willow starts typing the information we have so far into her laptop, drawing links between connections. As she does this her words appear across the paper. Cordelia is standing over her criticising the organisational structure of her research. She's attempting to explain the superior usefulness of the Angel Investigations crime fighting database. She's really bugging Will.
“If this doesn't meet with your approval Cordelia, why don't you just take over?”
“Uh hello? Someone didn't see fit to bring me back with a body! Honestly, what is the point of returning if one can't enjoy earthly pleasures like jelly doughnuts, expensive silk against your skin, ghosts loofahing your back” luckily for her that comment is ignored when she adds “kissing Angel.”
Instinctively all eyes turn to me expecting an eruption of jealousy or violence of some kind. I just shrug and say,
“Guys? I'm liking this nostalgic gathering thing but this isn't ten years ago.”
Everyone sighs, relieved. Faith grins showing me those dimples of hers I'm so fond of.
“You sure Buff? If I'm not mistaken aren't we back in high school?” Xander taunts.
I nod. “Sunnydale High. The Hellmouth high school that refuses to die. Explosions, demons, decapitated principals, extra ancient vampires”
“And murderous cafeteria lunch ladies” Xander adds.
“We are doomed to spend the rest of our lives…” I look around me, “…and afterlives, in high school.”
Willow turns to Cordelia. “I'd have given you a body if I could. I'm working on it. But this is the most advanced spell I've ever even attempted.”
Giles pats her on the shoulder and looks over the information we've compiled. Only the Slayer hearing in the room then picks up what Cordelia mutters under her breath.
“Huh! I guess this must've been how Phantom Dennis felt. I hope he's ok. I wonder, how is Dennis?”
Then in an uncharacteristically loud voice from his meditation corner Oz shouts “Soon!” his voice resumes its regular even tempo, “Whatever it is, it's happening soon.” He looks across at Faith and says, “Terrified. The kid is terrified.”
Momentarily a look passes over her face that I've never seen in daylight. Then she is all business, trying to ascertain what we know so far and snapping at us to hurry. We spend about an hour back in Scooby research mode trying to make associations between the information we already know.
Cordy says, “I've never seen you so committed to research Faith, or to work of any kind actually.” One thing you could always say for Cordy; she's very observant.
Faith immediately gets her defensive look and says, “Yeah? Well at least to get my rocks off I don't need a gh--”
Fortunately she's interrupted when Giles suddenly proclaims; “Indeed!” looking up from the array of books across his desk. “There's a very rare and little seen demon whose natural habitat is the most easterly point of the Andes. It has always been said to give off a distinctive odour correlating to that of off fruit.”
“It doesn't really smell rotten to me.” Oz seems disappointed.
Willow says, “Xander, if you want a hot dog then go make one but we're in serious research mode now sweetie, remember that?”
Xander grumbles, “I'm still a bloody zeppo to you people, aren't I? No Will. The smell of cooked fruit and vinegar together that could be like a chutney or a relish factory.”
“Xander, that is inspired.” Giles looks genuinely surprised.
“I know where they are!” Faith immediately gets up and starts checking what weapons she already has on her person.
We all look at her expectantly saying; “Well? So? Where are we going?”
“B, go get our knives and the grade ten crossbow.” I immediately comply even though it's an order. I know this is more important to her than I understand and also sometimes it's kinda sexy when she tells me what to do. I am so not blushing!
By the time I've got back to Giles' office (all of three and a half minutes) Faith's described the location, saying she'll meet us there, and is already gone.
“And you let her?” I snap. I'm scared. She's particularly passionate about this and has been especially impulsive of late.
“And we were supposed to stop her how?” Xander asks.
He has a fair point. I'm the only one who's ever been able to stop her doing anything and even with me it's fifty/fifty. Our destination is some relish factory on the outskirts of town, surrounded by a load of abandoned warehouses.
I rush the others, who tell me, I'm nearly as bad as Faith. I saw the mood she was in mere moments ago. Her irreverence for her own well being mixed with her intense feelings about this particular situation mean I'm scared of the consequences. Both Oz and Faith are afraid of what their premonitions foretold. Whatever we're about to encounter is inevitably horrific and Faith's already on her way, to battle it alone. Of course I'm fucking hurrying everyone!
Oz says; “Ok, let's go.”
Xander places a hand on his shoulder saying, “Oz my man, we leave the fighting to the girls.”
“But we always fought in Sunnydale.”
“Yes, but that was when the world had only a couple of Slayers, now they're a dime a dozen.”
Normally I glare at him when he says stuff like this but I was too worked up to respond.
“And,” he continues, “that was before I became mad-eyed-Xander.”
Will and I pile into the Slaymobile, driven and named by Andrew. Alpha Team have immediately spurred into action. They consist of our top Slayers. It's a privilege as a student to be chosen in this role. Some second gens are there as well as our honorary vampire members. It's taken years of training but Andrew's actually a pretty speedy driver, even with Kennedy barking orders at him.
“Bloody `ell.” Spike says as he surveys the parking lot beside the relish factory. “She only took my fuckin' bike again didn't she? If she's damaged it I'll bite `er.”
“Screw your bike Spike, they'd better have not have damaged Faith.”
I jump out the van before it comes to a standstill. It's easy to hear in which warehouse the evil resides as it's clearly getting its ass kicked by my girl. Thank the Powers! The sound of fighting at least means she's still alive, which is a start. I'm inside before the others have parked the Slaymobile.
Faith is kicking and pummelling the non-life out of a couple of vamps. I haven't seen her like this since pre-prison patrolling days. It's not just about the kill. She's venting as much rage on them as possible, drawing out the fight before she stakes them. She's so wrapt in her attack that she doesn't see me, or the three vamps who've emerged from the shadows sneaking up behind her. They never reach my girl of course. One thing Faith and I can count on is having each other's backs in any fight. We combat comfortably and instinctively side by side. Nothing brings out our technique better than the potential peril of the other. We used to joke about it but we now teach a compulsory course in Synchronized Slaying. With so many of us it's important to stay connected to your fellow Slayers during battle in order to cover each other. Let alone the fact that the instinctive bond between those in the fight could be the difference between winning and losing. Fun? The course you mean? Faith and I demonstrating our combined fighting techniques out in the courtyard, focusing on the connection between us. Yeah, it's terrible, I feel sorry for me too.
As I land yet another roundhouse kick to the head of vamp number three I momentarily register the bodies of two dead humans in the corner. They look especially mauled this time. As if by way of explanation a werewolf bounds into the warehouse. It has a collar, can you believe that? The vamps had been keeping him as a pet or guard dog or something. They'd released it when we showed up in the hopes it would attack. I'd barely noticed the full moon outside. Amazing that Oz isn't even a little triggered these days. I guess the werewolf factor is what linked him on a psychic plain to this particular battle. He has this weird inherent connection to other werewolves. Like he had with Veruca. Agreed, let's not go there.
So one of the grade elevens, drunk on the power surge she's feeling from the Scythe, takes a swing at the werewolf. The rest of us simultaneously scream “NO!” She stops just in time, thank the Powers - that could have been nasty! Fortunately Andrew had the presence of mind (I cannot believe I now use that phrase and his name in the same sentence) to pack the stun gun. Angel takes aim and the werewolf is out like a light. I motion to the trembling grade eleven and she throws me the Scythe. As Faith stakes her two opponents I ram the pointy end of the Scythe through all three of my vamps.
“Vamp kebab Buffy. Nice!” Spike says with admiration.
“We're good!” I crow, “And at least we have a topic for our next class.”
I move to high five Faith. But she looks worse off than when we left, despite the battle being won. She glances over at the bodies.
“I, I got here just as they did it B. If I'd been a fraction of a second earlier I could've saved them. It's my fault. They're dead and it's my fault. I might as well have killed them myself.”
“No baby, no.” I move to take her into my arms but she steps away gesturing towards a pile of crates on the other side of the room. She's shaking. Her finger is pointing slightly to the right. I tentatively follow the direction of her hand, wondering if her fear is over a demon, extra werewolf or vamp.
Through the slats of a crate I see a pair of hazel green eyes. I move all boxes above knee level which are blocking my way. Looking down I see a child trembling in the corner, arms wrapped around his knees.
“It's ok.” I say. “You can come out now, it's over.”
At least I hope it's over, the others are doing a final sweep of the surrounding buildings.
“I'm Buffy” I say reaching down my hand to introduce myself. But the child just gazes up at me with haunted eyes - not actually haunted, I mean the terrified kind of haunted rather than the ghostly possessed kind. “You're safe now. You can come out.” I reassure him. He makes no move from where he's crouched. So I reach down and lift him out from behind the crates.
Faith is just standing there looking at us. I can still see her trembling, even from across the room. The boy is a little bigger than I originally thought, he's looks around nine or ten. His hair is soft brown, with visible strands of blonde under the light. He has one of those sort of spiky sort of messy haircuts. It, along with his exceptionally scrawny build has perfected the ragamuffin look. This obviously isn't helped by his torn and dirt laden clothes. God knows how long he'd been hiding there. I set the boy down on his feet and he immediately runs over to the mangled bloody bodies. He doesn't look appalled and I assume he's in shock.
“Mom? Dad?” he asks.
“Oh God. No!” Faith gasps loudly.
I am stunned too. I hadn't thought. Faith immediately runs outside. I want to follow her but I can't leave a child alone, especially not in here.
I walk over to him and say,
“Your parents?” like duh Buffy, so obviously his parents! He nods. “I'm sorry baby, they're dead.”
“They are?” his words are clear and unfaltering.
“Yeah.” I say “They are. I'm sorry.” What else do you say to a child who's lost his parents? It was bad enough when Mom died, you remember? Breaking the news to Dawn at school, that was one of the single worst moments of my life…that and all those times the world was about to end. But Dawn was a teenager and Mom died a natural unpreventable death. This is just a small boy looking at the vampire and werewolf ravaged bodies of his parents. Events, I now realise, he must have watched.
“You're safe now.” I tell him, knowing it's not much of a consolation. “You can come home with us, you'll be protected there, I promise.”
He's gazing at me, meeting my eyes directly almost as if he's trying to suss me out.
“Ok.” He says, placing his hand in mine.
Once outside I notice Faith and the motorcycle are gone. I experience a new wave of terror washing over me. But right now I have to take care of this child who, after some coaxing, tells us his name -- Toby. He sits between Willow and I on the way home. Our hope is to avert his eyes from the drugged werewolf on the seat behind us. We've wrapped Toby in a blanket with our arms across his back as if belatedly we can somehow protect him.
We get home to the Academy (I refuse to say school). Willow goes off to peruse police records in an attempt to find out more about the child and his parents. She also speaks to Giles who calls the Academy's contacts on the police force and social services. Giles agrees to keeping Toby with us until they have more information on who will become his guardians. Neither of them disclose to us what's discovered when scrutinizing police records and the internet.
While they're sorting out logistics, I take care of Toby. We go into the cafeteria which doubles as kitchen and post-Slayage snack bar. I make Toby cocoa and put some little marshmallows in like Mom used to. I go and sit opposite him at one of the tables, handing him the cocoa. He pauses for a long moment just looking at the baby marshmallows melting away. The poor boy is clearly in shock. Then he looks up at me and with what seem to be the beginning of his tears says;
“Thank you” as if I'd just given him the greatest gift in the world. I guess his mom used to make him cocoa too.
Once she's done researching, Willow joins us. There aren't any kids as young as Toby on campus. Generally we accept Slayers from age twelve onwards, although a few years back we had a nine year old witch with quite exceptional powers. She's now an a twelve year old witch with boy troubles. Will shows us to Toby's room, which he'll have to himself, but is on the same corridor as the dormitory housing our youngest pupils. Fleetingly I worry that Toby will be freaked out at all the weird stuff that goes on here. Then I figure that what he saw through the slats probably alerted him to the presence of supernatural beings and really that's the least of his problems right now.
While Toby is taking a shower, Willow agrees that I should definitely be the one to stay with him. He needs consistency after the shock and seems to respond to me. So I say;
“Will, I need your help.” I've said those words a fair few times, but haven't we all?
Willow being Willow says;
“Of course Buffy, anything. You know that.”
“I know.” I say taking her hand. “It's Faith. I'm really worried about her Will. She's falling apart anyway and now she blames herself for Toby's parents; that she didn't get there sooner.”
Willow tries to interrupt and reassure me but I press on;
“I know it's not her fault but she doesn't believe it. I'm really scared of what she might do. I know Faith will never be your favourite person and I understand why but Will I need you to help her. Maybe a locator spell or something to well, locate her. Take whatever and whoever you need with you, but you're the one I trust. Please?”
“Of course Buff. You don't need to convince me. We can all see what's been happening to Faith.”
I raise my eyebrows at her but know this is a conversation for another time.
“Buffy, I have an idea. It's a distance protection spell. I never use it because the ingredients are near impossible to come by. But one of the grade eight witches' mothers - don't you just love witchcrafty matriarchal lines…well apart from Amy's mom that is. Anyway she sent me a tiny vial containing essence of dragon's breath this morning. The girl wanted to thank me for not freaking when she did a super advanced potion that went super wrong. I was all like, no big deal you're talking to the chief geek of the Sunnydale Sunnydale High. And like, hello? I was spell go wrong girl during high school, well most of the time. Except when I re-ensouled your boyfriend which was a pretty amazing thing to do even if I do say so myself. But oh, sorry, you probably still don't want to be reminded of that.”
“Yep, little bit,” I say articulating with my thumb and forefinger. “The spell?”
“Yeah, sorry. Well I mixed up the protection potion the moment I got the essence of dragon's breath. I was so excited and thought I'd keep it on hand for our next scuffle with the Big Bad. I considered that today might be the day what with everything Oz said. I even had it on me tonight. So, all I need now is a merging charm to combine the potion with a locator spell. Then wherever Faith is she'll be unable to be harmed, even by her own self.”
“That's great Will, but assuming she's not already d…”
“Buffy, she's not. You'd know if she was. She knew when you died.”
I sigh, but know for sure that she's right.
“Anyway, I'd just bring her back.” Willow gives me a cautious grin.
I give her a bunch of pointers on how to talk to Faith in ways which least antagonize her. When they find her. I also insist strongly that if Faith gets back they'll get me up so I can see her…preferably sending her in to wake me. I imagine it and almost start to cry. But I can't. I have to be strong for Toby who comes in on cue looking adorable in one of Xander's old t-shirts which reaches below his knees.
Willow takes his laundry and returns with extra mattress and bed linen. When the bed on the floor is made up I ask Toby if he'd mind if I sleep in here with him. He looks at me wide eyed and asks;
“In case you need anything during the night, you can just wake me and I'll be right here.”
He gives me a curious look. The boy must be traumatized, and who could blame him?
“Ok.” He says moving from where he's sitting on the bed over to the mattress.
“No,” I say, “you've had a horrific experience, the bed's for you obviously. I'll sleep right here.”
“Obviously?” He crinkles his forehead.
Willow leaves to find my Faith. She kisses both our cheeks and ruffles both our hair. Yeah, she's a pretty amazing best friend. Talk about having gone through everything together.
I turn out the light but tell Toby I'll sit on his bed with him until he falls asleep, reminding him to wake me if he needs anything. I want to sing to him, I think it would be all comforting. But for some reason the only songs in my head are those ones from that day. Remember the evil singing demon who put that spell on us? I hadn't remembered those in quite a while. None of the lyrics I'd sung that day seemed very lullaby-like though. So while stroking his hair I end up humming “Where do we go from here?” It seemed appropriate for both of us but I didn't think Toby needed to hear the words just then. When I was certain he'd been asleep for a while I moved to the mattress and silently cried myself to sleep.