Tara finished her chant and then stared at the medallion in her hand. She was standing in the middle of a circle of chalk in front of the Magic Box counter being watched by Willow, Giles, Buffy, Ethan, Anya, Xander, and Dawn. They all frowned as nothing happened. "I thought when you summoned a demon it was supposed to show up." Xander said "Hence, summoning."
"I never understood why you kept this idiot around." Ethan said in reference to Xander
"Hey! I have a number of pleasant qualities."
"It's true." Anya said "He also has a large penis."
Everyone cleared their throat or looked away. "Anya, we talked about this." Xander said
"That you prefer when I call it-"
"No! I meant the talking about sex in public." Xander said
"Oh right, only acceptable in certain jovial social situations and clinical/academic situations where all body parts are referred to with medical terms. Which is this?"
"Neither," Xander said through gritted teeth
Liyanna descended the steps that led to the upper storage areas. "I do not understand Anyanka what led you to choose this human as your mate. Were none other available?"
"You know what, why don't we just all pick on Xander?" Xander said "Mark your calendars folks, it's pick on Xander day. Let's talk about his intelligence and his penis."
Giles rolled his eyes. "Shut up Xander. You are Liyanna?" He asked the demon
"I am she. Why have I been summoned?"
"We want to know if you granted a wish for Faith Lehane." Giles said
"I do not reveal such things." Liyanna said "Have you a wish to make?"
"You've been duped you clot." Ethan said "The witch fed you bad information to try to get you to make the slayer kill her watcher. Rose is going to turn the situation around and make him kill her. Unless we stop her the first rite will soon be done. What was her wish?"
Liyanna glared at Ethan. "Your purpose is to deceive."
"No it's not." Tara said softly "Please, we know you don't want the spell to happen any more than we do. We just want to stop Rose from doing this awful thing and save our friends."
The bullet went through Faith's shoulder and then fell to the floor of the church as her blood splashed from the ragged hole the bullet formed. The blood hit Wesley's face and flew past him to land on the altar. Fred shrieked, and at first Wesley thought it was just because of the gunshot and the blood. But then he realized the altar was glowing. Wesley dropped the gun and fell to his knees. He grabbed the chains and looked for some kind of release mechanism that would allow him to free Fred. Of course there was none. The altar continued to glow, but the glow didn't seem to be having a negative effect on Fred. However she was terrified and Wesley pulled her into his arms. She was shaking and couldn't even return his hug because of the constrictions on her movement. Faith was on her knees, holding her hand against the bloody hole in her shoulder. She gritted her teeth against the pain. Footsteps as Rose entered the room didn't distract the grievously wounded slayer or the terrified couple at the altar. Wesley finally noticed Rose as she walked over to the altar and pulled a red stone out of a setting. She slipped the stone into her pocket and then turned to face Wesley with a wide grin on her face. "It is done."
"What are you talking about?" Wesley asked, still holding Fred tight
Rose pointed at Wesley. "Wizard," She shrugged. "Close enough anyway." She pointed at Faith. "Sacrifice," Rose pointed at Fred. "Innocent who bled on the altar," Rose gestured all around them, indicating their location in general. "Hallowed ground," Rose grinned and her smile was so smug, so mean for the sake of meanness. "Check and mate Wesley." She said
"But… blood, I don't have any of Faith's blood in me."
"Oh yes you do, and that will make it so much worse. When the effects of her wish are reversed and she realizes what she did the guilt will be terrible. But when she realizes that what she did to you of her own volition was the catalyst for all of this…" Rose cackled. "Oh she won't be able to live with the guilt. You think you consider death a lot? She'll slit her wrists."
"You're wrong." Wesley said, angry and frightened "She's stronger than that."
Rose shrugged. She walked over to Faith and put her hand on top of the slayer's head, a glow emanated from Rose's hand and then Faith gasped. "We'll see." Rose disappeared.
Faith pressed her hand harder against her wounded shoulder. She shouted in pain and hunched over. "Christ! What happened?!" Blood flowed from between her fingers.
Wesley felt a pang of guilt. Faith had been under some kind of effect, and he had seriously wounded her. What kind of a watcher was he? There must have been a better way to stop her, one that didn't involve such a painful injury. Wesley looked at the altar and realized that was the least of his worries. The first rite was complete. The thing they thought gave them plenty of time to defeat their enemies was taken care of. Right now a man might be murdering his mother as the first step to complete the second rite. Wesley had no idea what the third rite was, for all he knew it could be a simple chant. He had messed up, big time. "Oh my God, what did I do?" Wesley asked "I just performed the first rite. I completed part of the spell."
Liyanna led Buffy, Giles, Xander, Angel, Gunn, and Cordelia through a graveyard toward a church in serious disrepair. Willow was resting in the magic shop while Tara and Dawn looked after her. Anya was there too, but no one deluded themselves that looking after Willow was on her priority list. Ethan had been invited on their expedition, but declined the invitation and elected to wait for them at the Magic Box. Anya was making sure he didn't touch anything he could use to cast a spell and they knew she would perform this task exceedingly well as she had no intention of letting more of her merchandise get damaged. Liyanna stopped. "The wish is no longer in effect." She touched her pendant. "It takes great power to counteract wish magic, dangerous power that could injure or kill the user." Liyanna quickened her pace.
The group burst through the door to the church and saw Faith on her knees holding a bloody shoulder and an altar that Fred was chained to with Wesley holding her while she trembled and cried. Angel dropped to his knees next to Faith and Buffy was right next to him, examining the damage. Gunn and Cordelia rushed to Wesley and Fred to see the extent of their friends' injuries. Giles and Xander shared a look. "What happened?" Giles asked
Liyanna put her hand on top of the altar. "The sacrifice has been completed. The wizard spilt the slayer's blood onto the altar." With inhuman speed the demon grabbed Wesley by the shoulders and yanked him away from Fred. She threw him against the wall. "You have no idea what you have done!" Liyanna screamed at Wesley "You have damned the entirety of your species with your actions! As we speak the witch is finding a man to do the second rite!"
Xander put a hand on Liyanna's shoulder. "Hey-"
Liyanna backhanded Xander hard enough to send him flying. Giles and Buffy ran over to their friend while Gunn made for Liyanna. "I'm sorry." Wesley mewled "It was an accident."
"That is no excuse!" Before Gunn made it to the demon she swung at Wesley, a hit that would have shattered his jaw had it connected. Buffy grabbed Liyanna's arm and pulled her away from the watcher. Buffy punched Liyanna in the face and Liyanna responded in kind while the slayer drove her elbow into the vengeance demon's ribs. Liyanna stumbled back and Buffy landed a spin kick to her head. Liyanna's face became veiny and grotesque. "I will have vengeance against that man for his crimes! That is my job and it will get done!" Liyanna said
"You did this." Giles said softly as he helped Xander to his feet "You enchanted Faith so that she would try to kill Wesley and forced him to act in self-defense. I don't understand why he didn't kill her. If he had that death would be on your hands. As it is Rose's success in completing her sacrifice lands at your feet." Giles stared at Liyanna with defiant eyes. "This was you."
Liyanna's mouth contorted into a sneer. "How dare you speak to me like that?"
"But for your interference we could have stopped that demented woman, now the ruination of humanity is but that much closer due to your actions. I will speak to you as I wish."
Liyanna shook. Most assumed this was with rage, but Giles knew that at least a part of it was guilt and some of it could have been fright. "None of this would have happened if the vampire had not interfered in the execution of my duties." She declared "The watcher is supposed to be dead and if he had been allowed to perish as he was meant to the sacrifice could not have taken place. Mortal interference is to blame for all of this and I demand the right to finish the vengeance I initially undertook. I seek retribution on behalf of those who have been victimized by the violent. That man victimized an innocent woman who trusted him."
"He did?" Xander asked "When did this happen?"
"It didn't." Cordelia said "That was Billy."
"Okaaay, who's Billy?" Xander asked
"He's a misogynistic demon whose touch and bodily fluids carry the power to infect any human man with a murderous rage against all women for a limited span of time." Angel said
"So Wesley got infected?" Buffy asked
Cordelia stood up. "Yeah, and he was so upset about it he stayed holed up in his apartment for a week and then just when he got the courage to come back to work this vengeance demon had to come along and send him to an alternate dimension as punishment for a crime that he didn't commit. And now, true to form, you've fucked up yet another human being. How the hell is Faith supposed to come back from this? You sacrificed her mental health for your cause."
Liyanna watched Cordelia, who was standing there with clenched fists and was shaking with rage, with cruel green eyes. "She is a perpetrator of unwarranted violent acts."
Buffy stood next to Cordelia with her arms crossed. "You seem to care an awful lot about the 'perpetrators' of your crimes, but what about the victims? Do you care about them?"
Liyanna shrugged. "Not really,"
"This is just an excuse for you to cause chaos." Buffy said "You leave hundreds of abusive bastards unpunished every day, why are you caught up in punishing one man?"
"Vengeance demons do not act to balance a cosmic scale, we choose our victims based on our own sensibilities. Anyanka was influenced by her experiences when she was mortal, and so she chose to target men who scorned women. I hurt those who have committed unwarranted violent acts, and I pick my particular pray by the smell of their blood. I can taste it in the air and it makes me gag. But when they die they rot and the smell dies. I cannot abide the scent of the bleeders when they join the circle. The others who are new do not have the residue on them."
"Did that make sense to anybody?" Xander asked "Who are the bleeders?"
Giles whispered the answer Rose had given him. "The children raised in blood."
Liyanna gave Giles a smug smile. "Your kind raise their children in blood."
"That's not true." Giles protested weakly "Not all of them."
"No," She conceded "You were spared. Your grandmother was a kind and thoughtful woman who was patient with her boy and taught him to despair of violence in the home."
Giles was taken aback by Wesley's laughter. The younger man held his ribs, the laughter obviously causing him pain. "Lucky you," He flinched at the aching of his body.
"They carry it from parent to child." Liyanna said "When I kill one of them a million screams are stifled. All that would come from them is eradicated. But the watchers know of my kind and they protect themselves. He was vulnerable. I sought to punish him for the sins of his forefathers and yours. You men who subjugated a strong and beautiful line of women."
"That is not true!" Giles insisted "The council may be flawed, but-"
"You halved their lifespans! You shortened their time and decreased the quality of it!"
"That's a lie! The council was founded to help the slayer!"
"It was founded to place a woman's power back into the hands of men! I will not be satisfied until your line has died and I will start with the children raised in pools of blood before working my way up to the lucky ones like you! I will end your abhorrent existence!"
Before anyone could respond to that Liyanna vanished. Giles was red in the face and Wesley was still holding his ribs in pain. Buffy turned to Giles and stared at him, trying to make sense of what she had heard. Xander was still nursing his sore face. Gunn helped Wesley stay on his feet while Cordelia wrapped her arms around Fred. Angel pressed a wad of fabric against Faith's leaking shoulder. "We need to get all of them to a hospital." Angel said
"Liyanna was supposed to be our ride back." Xander said
"Call Willow." Angel ordered "See if she has the strength to teleport three people."
"She's still very weak." Giles whispered, his eyes locked on Buffy
"Just call her." Angel told Xander
Tara prodded Wesley's distended abdomen. He was sitting on a table in the training room at the back of the magic shop. Fred was curled up on a couch while Willow and Giles discussed Faith's shoulder over the sedated woman. Buffy was talking to Xander and Anya while Angel talked to Cordelia and Gunn. Dawn was watching Tara's examination of Wesley. The watcher yelped involuntarily at her poke. Tara cringed. "I'm sorry. You're bleeding internally."
"That's just great." Wesley muttered "Really finishes off the day."
Wesley shook his head. "It's not your fault. It's mine."
Tara picked up a jar with an ointment that smelled of various herbs and began to apply some gently to the darker areas of Wesley's abdomen. "I used to think that too. I used to think that whenever bad things happened to me it was because I was bad. But that wasn't true."
Wesley felt some of the worst pain start to slowly subside. "No, you seem like a lovely person to me. I don't know you very well, but you possess a kindness and gentleness of spirit."
"Thanks," Tara continued to use magic on his injuries. "People never used to say things like that to me. My family hated me. They told me I was evil. I believed them because of course you believe your family. The words of the father are gospel to a young child." Tara said
"I know." Wesley whispered
"I don't think I'm evil anymore." Tara said "But sometimes I still catch myself thinking about what my father used to say to me. Sometimes I still believe him. It's hard… not to."
Wesley looked down at the floor and his face was red. "I understand that."
"So just because that demon thinks you're bad, and just because you happen to be related to some bad people, doesn't say anything about you. Because all of these people who are saying bad things about you are bad people. That vengeance demon is a murderer and the person who hurt you hits children. The people who do like you are heroes. So maybe their opinions should count for a little more? I mean, I could be missing something, but it seems to me that the heroes' opinions should count for more. I'm not a genius or anything, but it seems like that to me."
Wesley looked up at Tara and even though the smile he gave her was weak it was still there and it was very genuine. Tara put the ointment down and looked at Wesley's unblemished abdomen with a big grin on her face. "Look, good as new. You'd never know it ever wasn't."
Wesley pressed against the skin that had moments ago been a devastated landscape of excruciating injuries. He was amazed by the lack of pain. "Thank you so much." Wesley looked up and realized for the first time that almost everyone was staring at them. He blushed.
Cordelia walked over and poked Wesley in the gut. "Wow!" She turned to Tara and offered her a big grin. "We should offer you a job. Wes do we have the budget for a witch?"
"I think this one's taken." Wesley said, rubbing where Cordelia had poked him
"Yes, she is." Willow came over and put her arm around Tara. "Don't even think about putting the moves on my girl Cordelia." Willow gave Cordelia a joking glare.
"How's Faith?" Wesley whispered
"I got the bullet out." Willow said "She'll be okay once she wakes up."
"Does she remember what happened?" Wesley asked
"I don't think so." Willow said "I think the last thing she remembers is talking to that super evil demon that we're not going to mention by name because we don't like her."
"Vengeance demons aren't evil." Anya protested from the other side of the room
"This one is." Cordelia said
"It's not that black and white." Wesley whispered "She has her own code of morals that is in contrast to our morals. She probably views us in much the same way we do her."
"I don't care about any of that it takes all sorts crap. She tried to kill you twice and I don't take kindly to people trying to damage my Wesley." Cordelia shocked Wesley by pulling him into a hug. "Even you," She whispered into his ear so no one else could hear "Got it?"
Wesley hugged her back. "I'm okay Cordy."
Fred shifted on the couch and Wesley went over to her. As if she sensed his presence she opened her eyes and looked at him. She smiled. "Hey, are you okay?" She reached out and touched his face. "You were hurt before." She shifted and then leaned forward to kiss him.
"I'm all better now." Wesley touched her healed neck. "What about you?"
Fred put her hand on top of his, pressing it against her skin. "I'm fine. I think the drugs have worn off and the cuts are gone." She kissed him again. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yes, I am."
Faith opened her eyes and at first she was overwhelmed by the disorientation. It was dark and she had no idea where she was. 'Have you ever been blind?' She sat up straight and tried to find some sensation that gave her a clue where she was. She ran her hands over the soft comforter under her. She reached out and felt a nightstand. She felt for the lamp and then turned it on, revealing a room she recognized. Her breath caught in her throat. This was Buffy's room, she was in Buffy's room. The door opened and Faith jumped, a guilty expression on her face like she had been caught somewhere she wasn't supposed to be. Buffy came in. "You're awake."
Faith nodded. "What happened?"
"Willow said you might not remember." Buffy said, not answering Faith's question
"I remember the vengeance demon. I didn't know. I thought she was the victim of a vampire attack and I offered to walk her home. We were talking and I wi- said the W word and then the last thing I remember was her going all demon and saying done. Then I was somewhere else and my shoulder really hurt. That's all I got. What happened? Is everyone okay?"
Buffy hesitated. "That's all you remember?"
"The demon put you back into a coma. What was your wish?"
"That I could go back, make things right."
Buffy nodded. "We figured it was something like that. Once you were in a coma Rose kidnapped you and used your blood to complete the sacrifice. We rescued you before she killed you though." Buffy stared at Faith, like she was trying to figure something out. "You okay?"
Faith looked away. "I messed up again. You'd think I'd be used to it by now."
Buffy frowned. "You're not feeling sorry for yourself are you?"
Faith met Buffy's gaze again, and her eyes flashed with anger. "No."
"Good, because you shouldn't. Anyway it wasn't your fault. I'd tell you if it was. A lot of things are your fault Faith. A lot of really bad things are all you, but this wasn't. Okay?"
Faith hesitated and then nodded. "Okay,"
"You should get some more sleep." Buffy said "Willow worked her mojo on you but you still need lots of rest and fluids. Try to catch a few more hours and then come downstairs and we'll give you some breakfast." Buffy walked into the room and turned the lamp off. As she made to leave Buffy was stunned to feel Faith's hand wrap around her wrist. "What is it?"
The darkness wasn't total because some light leaked in from the hall, but it was dark enough that neither of them could read the other's expression. "Thank you Buffy."
Buffy gently removed her wrist from Faith's grip. "Go to sleep." She said, not unkindly
As Buffy journeyed down the hall to the living room she stopped when she saw Angel leaning against the wall. She knew he had heard everything. "I really appreciate it Buffy."
"I just want us to be clear." Buffy said "I did it for you, not her."
"I don't care if she feels guilty or not. After everything she's done to me she can drown in guilt for all I care. I did it for you, to make your life easier. I don't give a damn about her."
Angel flinched, but then nodded. "I appreciate everything." Buffy started to leave the hall but stopped when he kept talking. "You have so many people who care about you."
Buffy backed up and turned so that they were eye to eye. "Right, I'm so lucky."
"That's not what I-"
"I'm so blessed to have friends that love me enough to drag me out of heaven and force me to live in this drab horrible world. It's so great to have so many people you're responsible for that can get hurt and when they get hurt it cuts you up inside. I'm so very lucky Angel."
"I know this must be hard for-"
"No, you don't. When you came back you came back from hell. I was at peace, I was happy, happier than I had ever been. You got to have a second chance. I had someone unplug the console just as I crossed the finish line, thank you Xander for playing video games over here so I have that reference. You have no idea how hard this is for me. Then you tell me you want me to lie to Faith so that her suffering can be eased a little bit. She deserves to suffer, I don't. If you had any idea what this was like for me you would never have asked me to do that. Never,"
Buffy stormed off before Angel could get another word in.
Fred found that after spending so much time on the verge of consciousness or just plum asleep she was now unable to keep her eyes closed. Cordelia and Gunn had fallen asleep on the same couch in Buffy's living room. He was holding her hand and she was leaned into his chest, Fred wondered if this meant they had given up keeping their relationship a secret. Fred sat next to Wesley on a different couch and watched him sleep. She brushed his hair back and thought of the things that demon had said. Was Wesley going to be okay? She wondered. That uncertainty made her heart pound so loud she worried Wesley would hear it and wake up. She wanted him to be okay, she needed him to be okay. She put her lips on his ear. "I love you." She whispered
He was still asleep. Logic told her he hadn't heard her, but her heart told her that his sleeping mind had heard this statement and filed it away. She continued to watch him until breakfast time came and he woke up to her smiling face. "Hey," He said in the midst of a yawn
"Hey," She kissed him.