Chapter Seven: All I Really Want
"I did it. I'm the reason she's here," Faith murmurs softly drawing everyone's eyes to her as she continues to stare at the small blonde lying on the hospital bed. "It's my fault she's like this."
Buffy moves with all of her innate speed. To the normal humans, Giles and her mother, she was one place then she is another. She grabs hold of Faith; her fingers tighten on the lapels of the brunette's denim jacket, hoisting Faith off the ground and slamming her into the wall with enough force to crack the plaster.
"What did you do this time? What the hell did you do?" She growls in a low hiss.
Faith's eyes harden as she glares down at Buffy. "Hands off B," she snarls. Her left hand slaps Buffy's right hand away a moment later her right fist crashes into the blonde's face.
Buffy staggers back the length of the bed, grabbing hold of it's foot, knocking it askew slightly, as Faith drops to the floor, her heels hitting the linoleum with a light thud. The two women settle into guarded stances facing each other. Eye's hard and sparks flying between the two of them.
"Keep your damn hands to yourself B," Faith warns.
Buffy takes a step closer to the brunette facing her. Her left fist dipping back to her side, her right hand clenched, index finger pointing straight at Faith. Before she can say anything, a staff nurse burst through the door. "What is going on here?" She demands harshly, her eyes taking in everyone in the room.
Instantly her keen eyes pick up on the damage and changes to the room, the cracked plaster, and the moved bed. Then there is Buffy and Faith, facing each other, looking as if, with each passing moment they are getting even more ready to kill each other. "Everyone out!"
Buffy= s head whips around to face reed thin woman. Faith straightens bringing her height closer to that of the old woman. Again, before anybody else can start speaking she begins. "This is a hospital room not center ice in Madison Square Gardens. I don't know if you noticed or not, but you're sister is in a bad way."
Buffy blanches at the comment. That is something she hadn= t thought of before, at least not seriously. Buffy wasn= t suppose to be staying here, she should have been back in her own reality not cluttering up this one.
"A very bad way."
"She's not my sist…"
"She's my niece," Joyce cuts in decisively. "They're just about identical. Born on the same day, only minutes apart, but on opposite sides of the country."
"It's uncanny," the nurse breathes out.
Joyce snorts lightly just before saying, "that's nothing. They both have the same name. Buffy Anne Summers. How's that for uncanny?"
The nurse blinks at that bit of information. At the same time Buffy slaps her hands over her face in an attempt to cover up the extreme color blossoming in her skin. She couldn't believe her mother is creating this spectacle. The only thing she is grateful for is that her friends aren't here to see the performance her mom is putting on.
Faith smirks at Joyce. At what she is trying to accomplish with her act. Establishing B= s bonafides before somebody starts asking a lot of awkward questions. Her only hope is that B picks up on it before she ruins everything.
A light smirk crosses her lips as Giles steps forward. "You're quite right. We should be going. Give Joyce a chance to reconnect with her...Uhm…" He flounders placing one hand on Buffy's shoulder and guiding her towards the door. A quick, meaningful look at Faith gets the brunette moving towards the door.
Buffy's glare sweeps across the room before it vanishes with a small shake of her head. She stops by the door, her hand grabbing hold of the handle as she turns her head to look over her shoulder at her mother. "We'll talk later," she mouths silently. With that, she pulls open the door and slips out of the room.
Giles catches the door as it swings close. He holds it open allowing Faith to exit the room, than stiffly follows her out into the corridor leaving Joyce alone with a daughter from another reality.
Faith whirls, aside from Giles, Buffy, and herself the waiting room, oppressive as all waiting rooms are, is empty of people, a fiery glare blazing in her dark eyes. She despises the accusation that drips from Buffy's words, even more because of the truth behind them. She is the one responsible for Buffy lying in a hospital bed, on the brink of death just a few hours ago. It doesn't mean that she likes hearing the recriminations coming from the blonde.
Especially when it's as much her fault. That if Buffy hadn't hung her out to dry she wouldn't be in the position that she is in. That if Buffy had simply stood by her, accepted her share of the responsibility for Finch= s death.
She had been in that ally right along side her. Had in fact been the one that tossed Finch into the dumpster.
But no Buffy wasn't responsible in the slightest. She didn't drive the stake through the man's heart. That had all been Faith. Faith had been the one to abruptly and, cut short, a human life.
"I'm sick of this bullshit," she snaps taking a step forward. "You looking down on me like I'm a piece of crap you might have to scrape off the bottom of your shoe."
"What are you going on about?" Giles inquires placing himself between the two slayers. His only hope is that neither one of them is riled up enough to go through him, to get to the other.
At the same time Buffy steps towards the brunette. Her own, powder blue eyes glittering in the fluorescent light. With an icy chill in her tone, she responds saying, "I've never treated you as anything other then a friend."
Faith snorts, a derisive sound that tells Buffy exactly what she thinks of her statement. "You've never treated me as anything other then extra muscle when you need it."
"I had you over for Christmas," the blonde points out angrily.
"Joyce invited me over, you just delivered the message. Than you couldn't get out fast enough."
"You're talking about stuff you don't have a clue over."
"Whose fault is that?" Faith demands in a harsh growl. "Friends talk, share things, hang, do stuff…"
"Oh, that's rich coming from Ms. Lets repress our feelings and not deal with anything until it spirals out of control."
"They don't commit murder in a back alley, then bail and dump all the blame on their friend," she finishes with a snare.
"You killed someone Faith, You gotta deal with it Faith. Sound familiar?"
Buffy blinks at the words. "That's not…" she stops, brushes the hair back out of her face. "You weren't dealing with it."
"I was dealing with it just fine," Faith counters.
"Please," Buffy breathes out softly. Derisively. "You were off in denialville acting like nothing happened and hoping it would go away."
"That is my way of dealing with life. If you have the shit alone long enough eventually it stops smelling."
"That's a way of dealing with a problem," Giles interrupts looking down at the younger girl. So far, the corridor outside the waiting room has remained empty but there is no telling just how long that is going to keep up. They need to finish this conversation in a hurry.
"What, shoving everything off on a friend," she draws the word out, "is?"
Buffy shakes her head, "That wasn't what I was trying to do."
"But it is," Faith breathes out feeling extremely drained. She sucks in a deep lungful of air.
"Faith," Giles starts softly placing a tentative hand on her shoulder. It is obvious; to him at least, that something serious is bothering the young woman. "Why don't you just start at the beginning. What exactly is it that you've gotten yourself involved in."
She looks up, doe caught in the headlights expression written across her face. With an exasperating sigh, she twirls away from his eyes that seem to know everything going on inside her head. Taking half a dozen steps away from him she runs her hands though her dark hair feeling a desperate desire to rip it by her roots. "The Mayor," she whispers without facing either person in the room with her.
"What?" Buffy gasps loudly.
"Bloody imbecile," Giles mutters. "What could have possessed you to do such an incredibly stupid thing?"
Faith whips around. Anger fueling her for a moment. It fades quickly as she shakes her head. "I don't know," she admits with an indifferent shrug. "Maybe I was pissed at you. You and your holier than thou attitude, all your little friends, you tame pet vampire boyfriend, looking down your noses at me. Telling me what a little piece of no good shit I am. Maybe I wanted to prove I'm as good as you, better even." She finishes with a tight laugh. With a defiant glare she continues to lock eyes with Buffy. "Or maybe, just maybe I was thinking I could get in. Find out some little... Morsel. Something I could bring back and say, ha this is his weakness. This is how we defeat him."
Buffy gives her head a sharp shake. She could almost see it. A day, maybe two, maybe that very night they fought on the docks. Faith; confused, angry showing up on the Mayor's doorstep. Unsure of what she's going to do, but putting on her hard, the world can't touch me, face that she always wore whenever she is afraid.
Giles sweeps his glasses from his face with his right hand. While Faith is speaking his thumb and forefinger press the bridge of his nose. As she winds down the ex-watcher slips his glasses back on. "Which one is it Faith?" He fumes. "It can't be both ways."
Faith growls, a soft sound from deep in her throat as she turns away from them. She paces to the long window overlooking the parking lot. She peeks out the clear glass at the cars down below. From the height she's at now full size cars look more like Tonka toys.
She lets her hand roll back on her shoulders to gaze up at the ceilings. A swift breath escapes her mouth. Finally, after several long moments Faith turns back around to face them once again.
"Don't you get?" She breathes out while maintaining eye contact with both of them. "I don't know why I went to him, just that I did." Her thick, dark hair sways from side to side as she gives her head a slight shake. "Everybody I thought I could trust," her eyes focus in on Buffy, "well they turned their back on me."
Buffy strides forward angrily. She had gone to Faith, time and time again. Repeatedly. Tried to help her, pull her out of the destructive state she fell in only to have the door slammed in her face time after time. "You shut me out," she gripes. "Every time... You told me you had everything under control. That you'd dealt with what you did." A grimace slips across her lips as she hears the last words that come out of her mouth.
Her expression hardens at the words. Razor-sharp daggers would be duller than the glare she directs at the blonde slayer. "That's right B, What I did. Me. All by myself. Alone in that alley, with nobody else…"
"That's not…" Buffy starts, but stops. Her head drops slightly, knowing the sound of insincerity when she hears it. Especially when it comes out of her own mouth. Looking back up her light blue, guilt ridden, eyes latch onto Faith= s dark, accusing orb. "You seemed so strong, like nothing could ever be capable of…" She's gives herself a shake. "Getting to you, hurting you."
"So you just hang me out to dry?"
"I didn't know what else to do," Buffy mummers quickly. "And that's not what I meant to do, hang you out, by yourself. It's just... I thought you could handle it. You said you didn't care, that it didn't matter…"
"We just…" She begins in a fierce whisper before stopping herself. Her dark eyes casting furtive glances around the otherwise unoccupied room. Satisfied that there is no one close enough to hear what they shouldn't. "You couldn't handle it, but you thought I could? What the hell have you been smoking?"
"There's nothing to be gained, aside from expanding the, gulf between you two, by continuing this conversation," Giles inserts reminding the two young women that he is still in the room. "Let's simply agree that we all butchered the events of the past week or so and move on." He looks first at Buffy then at Faith waits for their ascent, slight nods that barely move their heads. "While I would never have agreed to this course of action if I had been informed of it prier to its commencement I can= t deny the fact that it does give us far greater access to the Mayor then we had previously."
"Whoa, stop right there horsy," Buffy starts not believing the course of action that Giles is more than suggesting they take. "You can't be serious?" One look in his eyes confirms that he is. "It is like way to dangerous for Faith to continue with this... This... Wilkens isn't stupid."
"Which is why I have to keep it up," Faith informs the smaller girl. Her scowl deepens as some dark thought crosses her mind. "He's the one that put B here."
Giles eyes brighten fractionally. "Can you prove it?" He questions with a touch to much exuberance.
Faith shakes her head. "There's no one else though. He wasn't happy about her being here," she says but doesn't elaborate any further simply turning away for a moment. "He knows that I like her and he couldn't have that… Couldn't have my loyalties divided. Well he doesn't have to worry about."
Buffy frowns at Faith= s muttering. They definitely weren't anything she wants to know. She already suspected there is some kind of bond between her other self and Faith. The two of them simply hit it off, just clicked on their first meeting, but she didn't need to, nor did she want to hear about it. "If Wilkens realizes that I'm... I mean she's still alive what's he gonna do?" She asks fairly certain she, just like Faith and Giles, already know the answer.
"We have to get her out of here, secure her someplace safe, someplace Wilkens won't think to look for her." Giles mummers more to himself than either slayer, but with their superhuman hearing both Buffy and Faith have no problem listening to his mumble.
"You have someplace in mind?" Faith questions anxiously.
Giles nods as he answers the brunette saying, "someplace no one would ever think to look for her."
"This is insane," Buffy whispers in the dimly light, musty hall as she pulls the recently liberated hospital bed to a stop right before it runs into the back of Giles legs. "He's never going to go along with it. At least not while he's got that stick permanently planted…"
"Buffy," Joyce scolds cutting her daughter off before she can finish her statement. "I'm sure that Mr. Pryce will be more than accommodating once we explain the situation to him."
Buffy rolls her eyes, and Giles hand pauses for a brief moment before knocking on the thick oak door. A dull, heavy sound that hangs in the air.
"Once we put it to him, with the proper motivation, I have no doubt that he'll be amiable to going along with our plane."
Joyce eyebrows arch slightly as she stares at Giles back. There's a certain edge, an almost malicious quality to his voice that she isn't use to hearing from the normally reserved librarian.
Beginning to grow impatient waiting for his fellow watcher Giles once more raps heavily on the door. "I'm coming. I'm coming," Wesley's pinch voice announces from the other side of the door. "Just a moment."
Buffy taps her foot lightly as she waits for Wesley to open the door. A quick glance at her mother reveals that even she's beginning to show signs of her growing impatience. A little grin blossoms on the young blonde's lips and she suddenly hopes Wesley takes another few minutes to answer his door just so she could see her mom tear into him. Before anyone spots her secretive little smile she ducks her head so that she's looking at the concrete floor.
A loud clank, followed by sliding clink reverberates in the hall. A second later, the door parts slightly, a look of startlement flashing over his face. A bright, boyish but unsure smile crosses his lips. "Rupert, this is rather... Um, unexp…"
"Out of the way," Buffy mutters pushing the rolling bed forward. Nudging Giles out of the way, the bed hits the door forcing it all the way open.
"And Buffy," he adds with a grimace in her direction. "And another woman I've never met before." He finishes as Joyce steps past him.
Giles smirks lightly at the younger man's discomfort. "Joyce Summers," he informs his replacement.
Wesley nods at the information. "To what do I owe the pleasure of this completely unexpected visit? I assume it has something to do with whoever Buffy wheeled in a few moments before."
He nods at the comment while stepping into Wesley= s flat. "That's exactly why we're here," he confirms closing the door behind him. "A young woman that the Mayor's henchmen did their level best to kill. We needed a place they wouldn't think to look for her."
"So naturally you thought of me?" Wesley mummers smartly.
Giles rolls his shoulders. "It's no secret how we fell towards each other."
"No, it isn't. Which is why I'm surprised you would show up here."
"Desperate times call for desperate measures," Giles replies walking deeper into Wesley's large, but still extremely cramped flat. Bookshelves line the walls filled with impressive collection of tombs, volumes, and compendiums. "Willow will be doing a cloaking spell around the girl once she alters the hospital and police data bas. She can accomplish incredible feats with that contraption."
Wesley keeps pace with Giles as they make their way to where Buffy and Joyce have begun setting up the medical equipment, IV, monitors, and so forth. "So... Who is this woman that the Mayor felt threatened enough by to go to such lengths in order to silence?"
"This is the part that's going to be a bit hard to swallow," Giles informs the young man as he comes to a stop at the foot of the bed.
"I don= t see how…" He begins than stops as he gets his first look at Buffy who's diligently following the detailed instructions Willow gave her to hook up the heart monitor. Eyes wide, his head swivels back to Giles. "The man is bloody brilliant. He created doppelganger, a perfect clone of Buffy that could slip into our ranks to kill us while we are unaware of the switch," he blurts out in a rush. Then frowns for a brief second as he wonders aloud, "but then why would he... Of course! It so simple it= s obvious. I should have seen the problem immediately. Being a perfect clone of Buffy she would have an identical moral fiber making it near to impossible for her to obey Wilkens's orders hence he had to dispose of her." He finishes proudly, back stiff and a condescending smile that lights his eyes.
The three other people in the room all stare at him with eyes wide in astonishment. Giles is the first to recover from his dismay enough to mutter, "sometimes, seeing your mind at work is truly amazing."
"Yeah, too bad with that amazing mind he couldn't buy a clue," Buffy snipes at her watcher.
"Buffy," Joyce scolds a mothering tint in her voice. "Be nice dear."
Buffy glares at her mother. "Who?" She questions with a small frown dipping the corners of her mouth. "It's not like he's ever been nice to me."
Wesley frowns slightly as he removes and cleans his glasses during the verbal exchange between mother and daughter. Slipping his glasses back on he clears his through, then inquires, "then what exactly is going on?"
Turning slightly she faces Wesley. "She's me, only from a different reality…" She gives her head a small shake, still unsure whether she believes everything that has happened over the past several days. "Anya... Anyanka. The vengeance demon tried to get her necklace back. She tricked Willow into helping her do a spell. Instead of getting the necklace they got another me and Willow." She glances towards Giles with a smirk. "I can lecture people too. Only I didn't sound as dumpy as you guys when you do it."
Wesley ignores Buffy's remarks just like he's ignored people like her all his life. "Another you? And Willow?" Wesley inquires, a high pitch buzz like a wasp right on top of Buffy= s last comment.
"Wow. You actually do hear things when you listen to what others have to say," the tiny blonde gripes maliciously.
"And is this other you a slayer in her reality as well?" He questions, a tight pinch in his face squeezing his eyes together.
Buffy smiles much like a large cat would smile if they could. "Yep," she says with a small nod. "But you could say I'm the good twin."
Wesley swallows nervously trying not to think what this other Buffy must be like if Buffy considers herself the good one. "Why hasn't she been returned to her own reality surely even with your adolescent mid you must realize how vital her presence there is?"
Giles exhales softly, He should have expected this reaction from Buffy knowing how the girl despises the young man that took his place as her watcher. He hadn't wanted to bring either slayer on this excursion, both had their reasons to hate Wesley Wyndham-Price. Not the least of which is his betrayal of Faith. Which is in part the catalyst behind her reasoning for her seeking out Wilkens in the first place.
Unfortunately, they had need of somebody with the physical powers of a slayer to move Buffy and that meant either Buffy or Faith.
Perhaps the younger girl would have been the better option. She is definitely more adept at canceling what is going on inside her extremely thick cranium. At least until she reaches critical mass, at which point and time she explodes like a small nuclear warhead leveling everything in her wake.
"She decided not to return," Giles says before Buffy has a chance to jump down his throat.
Wesley gawks, his face closely resembling that of a Howler monkey. His mouth snaps shut for an all too brief moment. "And you allowed this?"
"I didn't really see where I had that much of a bloody option. By any measure of the word she's a grown woman capable of making her own decision. If she chooses to remain here that= s up to her," Giles fumes hotly.
"We'll see what the council has to say about that," Wesley declares turning in the direction of his phone only to stumble back quickly as he comes face to face with an irate Joyce.
"No. We won't," she announces.
Wesley stiffens under the older woman= s intense gaze. "She has a responsibility to that reality to protect and safe guard from the ever increasing forces of darkness just as your own daughter does here."
"Grow up," Joyce snaps at him causing him to give a small start. "I've known you less than five minutes and I can already see why Faith and my daughter don't like you. I don't like you," she announces taking a threatening step forward. "You're not going to call the council," she takes another step forward forcing Wesley to take a step back. "As a matter of fact you're not going to do anything other than allow this young girl to recuperate." She continues to advance as she talks causing Wesley to retreat. "If you think about doing anything else... Well I guess you'll find out where Buffy gets her sunny disposition from." Wesley back hits the wall and Joyce looms over him despite the fact he's several inches taller than her.
"Oh, I don't think that will be necessary," Giles muses putting his glasses back on. "Perhaps we should let him put a call in to the council. Allow him to explain how; a slayer under his watch could slip to the dark side. Worse, how it might be possible that he drove her there. I'm sure they would be more than interested in learning which. Of course people like Quentin Travers it really won't matter. As soon as he learns of it... I don't imagine he'd be in the most understanding of moods."
Wesley jerks his head from one side to the other. His face scrunched up tightly as he looks at Giles through squint up eyes. "I take there= s something else you have neglected to inform me of?"
"I'm informing you of a situation I just discovered at the earliest possible opportunity," Giles answers in a decidedly condescending tone. "After your, and the council's, botched attempted abduction of Faith she decided it was time to branch out. See if the grass is greener on the other side, so to speak, by going to work for Mayor Wilkens."
Wesley= s head snaps towards the bed and Buffy lying there. Realization seems to slap him in the face. "That's why Wilkens tried to have her killed," he begins turning back to face the older man. "She discovered Faith= s treachery. Somehow, Wilkens uncovered her discovery and tried to silence her before she could tell you. Only she still managed to import the vital information to you."
Buffy and Joyce exchange quick glances while Giles gives his head a vague shake before responding. "Faith actually explained everything that happened."
The last candle flickers out. Plunging the room into a dim semi-darkness. Gutted by a sudden wind that rises up in the room that is completely sealed to the outside. For a long moment, there's a vague sense of something settling over the room.
Willow slumps in exhaustion. Her body seeming to collapse in on itself. After casting the soul restoration on Angel last year she thought that was about as exhausted as casting a spell would ever leave her, but a few of the spells she cast over the summer, and this cloaking spell she just finished she's beginning to realize the soul restoration can very nearly be considered standard. Run of the mill. Ordinary.
Oz's strong hands steady her before she can fall to the floor. "You okay?" He questions with concern dripping from his voice.
Willow nods saying, "it just took a little more out of me than I thought it would. I think I just go home and sleep. Maybe until graduation? Do you think that'll be okay," she murmurs her voice fading as she falls asleep.
"No," Oz responds pulling her close to him. Stroking her hair softly as his gaze shifts to Buffy, the accusation clear in his eyes. "You sleep as long as you want."
Buffy holds his gaze, arms folded across her chest, for a moment before going to check on Buffy.
Wesley flicks on the lights. "Wasn't that interesting," he mumbles to himself. He glances at the old maple mantle clock sitting in the middle of his bookshelf.
"Willow's quite good for someone who's never received the proper training," he remarks unexpectedly, out of the blue. "Amazing to think the first major spell she cast was a soul restoration on a vampire with the added twist of a... Happiness clause for lack of a better term."
Wesley frowns unsure of what message Giles is trying to pass along. "You point being?" He inquires taking in the people filling his flat, a werewolf, a witch, two identical slayers-one from this reality one from another-and their mother. Along with the pair of them.
"I'm taking Willow Home," Oz announces as he lifts Willow's slight body.
Buffy stands up. Looking from Giles to Oz, she lets out a soft exhalation. "I'll go with. Still have to do my rounds tonight anyway," she finishes with a shrug.
Giles smirks lightly leaning his shoulder against the maple wall paneling as he watches the three youths make their way out of Wesley's front door, closing the wooden structure behind them. Once their gone he turns his full attention back to the young watcher watching him. "Just making sure you have a clear picture of what the consequences of telling the council will be."
Wesley shoots Giles a tight glare out of the corner of his eyes. "I remember our agreement. I keep what I know about there being a second Buffy to myself. You, Buffy, and the rest of her fawning sycophants keep your mouths shut about Faith's little foray into evil."
"I should be going as well," Giles says straightening up. Glancing at Joyce, he swallows nervously. "It wouldn't be any bother for me to drop you at your home," he offers politely.
Joyce shakes her head. "I'll be staying. I think it'll be better for Buffy if there's a familiar face when she wakes up."
A sharp rapping on the dark oak door alerts the head of the Watcher Council, Quentin Travers, of someone seeking an audience with him. He lets out a soft sigh as he glances at the heavy door. Placing a bookmark in the book he's been perusing for sometime now he closes the heavy tomb.
Leaning back, he glances around his plush office. The dark furnishing, bookshelves that line every wall; except where the tall liquor cabinet to his right, the wall closest to his heavy rosewood desk. An overstuffed, black leather couch sits directly across from him, against the back wall three feet to left of the only set of doors in or out of his private offices. A pair of dark brown chairs sit in front of his desk. A thick, shorthaired blue carpet covers the floor.
He takes in a slight breath. "Enter," he says. Like always his voice seems to boom across the spacious room despite the fact he doesn't raise the volume in the slightest.
The heavy door swings open slightly, just wide for Bradley one of dwindling four that the head of the Watcher Council trust completely, to slip through and swing the oak door to behind him. Bone thin, and with a quickly reseeding hairline, beady rat like eyes, with a nose three times too large for his square jaw face.
Not for the first time Travers mused to himself that it would take a very special woman indeed to see something in the man to make dating him seem worth while, but than they would come face to face with perhaps the coldest, most disinterested man on the planet. Bradley was simply one of those few people better suited to spend the majority of their life alone and be content that way.
"To what do I owe the pleasure Bradley?" Quentin inquires, his tone droll as ever.
"There may be a problem with the Trinmalth," Bradley answers unhurriedly as if announcing it was in eighty degrees and sunny outside.
"What?" Travers bursts as he starts out of his chair. Once again he's reminded that the man has ice water running through his veins. The Trinmalth The artifact that allows them to monitor the slayer where ever she maybe in the world, as well as alerting them to when a slayer is called. All right from here. And Bradley announces it might be on the fritz cool as the underside of the pillow. "What is wrong with the Trinmalth?" He asks regaining his composure. Straitening his jacket, even though it doesn't need it, he moves out from behind his desk.
Bradley steps forward, lacing his fingers behind his back and stops, his head swivels around to follow Travers as he heads towards the door. Bradley shrugs lightly just before falling in step behind the older man following him out the door. "For almost a day now the Trinmalth has been reading a secondary signature on the Summers girl. Like a reflection or a shadow of the original. At first we just assumed it is an affect caused by the area. It= s happened several other times in the two years she= s been there. Approximately five and half-hours ago, the reflection flickered in and out several times during a fifteen-minute time span before strengthening. At the same time another slayer, a fourteen year old American, Rosalita Kennedy."
Quentin= s face scrunches up slightly as he strides down the long corridors. "What a god awful name." He gives his head a reaffirming shake. "Is there a watcher close to hand or are we going to have to put one in place?"
"She already has a watcher," Bradley answers succinctly finding himself having a problem keeping up with the heavyset man.
Travers nods mildly surprised by the information. It is an oddity to hear of an American potential with a watcher in place. Four of the last six slayers called from that upstart colony had to be trained on the fly, including that wretched little Summers girl.
"Then," Bradley begins again as if he hadn't stopped, "about twenty minutes ago Summers's reflection simply disappeared."
Travers stops dead in the hall. Bradley takes another step further surprised by Travers sudden halt. "Someone's trying to hide her," he muses thoughtfully.
He turns to face Quinton, the overhead fluorescent casting a long shadow. "That was my thought as well," Bradley agrees.
Quinton scowls tightly. "Rupert and that damn Summers girl are up to something. I want that new girl, Kennedy, tested. Make sure she is what Trinmalth says she is."
Faith shoves the Mayor's office door open, a devil may care smirk plasters her face despite the anger building just below the surface. She slips through as if she doesn't have a care in the world, flipping her sunglasses to the top of her head as she pops the big bubble she had been blowing having a good idea as to how he is going to react and relishing the little torment she can inflict in him.
Wilkens winces slightly, more at the minuscule spray of saliva then the sound. "Faith." He begins, a mild tone of scolding coloring his voice as the raven hair brunette sucks the gum back in her mouth.
"What's up boss?" She asks kicking the door to with her heel.
He smiles indulgently as he stands up. "I thought we talked about popping bubbles, how unsanitary of an activity it is."
"Sorry about that," she apologizes with a shrug. With a little hop she plops down into the cushion chair in front of his immaculately kept desk. "This is that new blackberry flavor. It's wicked," she puts in with a devilish tint to her voice.
"That= s wonderful," he responds in that nearly childish way of his. "I'm glad that it meets with your approval, but unless I'm mistaken we've got a few things to go over."
"Right." Faith says chewing hard on her gum, resting her elbow on her thighs. Keeping her mind on anything except what she actually wants to think about is the only thing keeping her from doing what she really wants to do right now. "So what's on the top of our to do list? Or maybe it's whose at the top?"
He leans against his desk, partially sitting but not quite. He studies Faith for a long moment, trying to read his young assistant. She seems in far too good of a mood for the events that transpired today.
His slight grin never leaves his face, but for the first time Faith notices it never really touches his eyes. Not for the first time since being called she feels as if she is in a game of cat and mouse. Only difference being is that she's the mouse to Wilkens's cat.
"Well, unless I'm mistaken we had a little agreement in place concerning your new best friend, what…"
Faith rises to her feet suddenly cutting him off, "doesn't matter now," she says striding to the window to look outside at Sunnydale= s downtown district.
If she didn't know better she could have been pulled in by the sudden shock that blooms in his face as he stammers, "Why... What happened? You so had your heart set on having her on our team."
Faith shrugs noncommittally as she turns back to face him. "She ran into something bigger and badder than her. She managed to make it all the way to the hospital but that was all she had in her tank."
He continues to watch her intently. She wasn't acting at all how he thought she would. "Are you all right? I know the two of you were close," far to close for his liking.
"Life of a slayer," she answers. "Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug. Ain't nothing for it. Except maybe find the bastard's that did it and turn them into Kibbles and Bits," she finishes a gleam in her eyes. "I need to hit something. A lot and really, really hard."
"In that case I think I might have just the thing for you," he announces exuberantly seeing his slayer rise to the surface. After a moment of internal debate, he scoffs at himself.
Angel descends the stairs, moving from the second floor to the first in near silence, whistling softly to himself as he buttons up the cuffs of his black, silk button down shirt. Lifting his head slightly he gazes around the foyer.
The room is still as barren as the last time he came through less then five minutes ago when he went upstairs to change. For some reason, with a woman in the house he kept expecting things to change, to be redecorated while his back is turned; for even the slightest, the shortest of instances.
What he keeps forgetting is that the woman in question happens to be a vampire as well. That for the most part, as a race, vampires tend to prefer that things remain just as they are. Without the slightest bit of change.
"You're going out?" Willow's soft voice inquires from jus6t inside the archway leading to the kitchen. A small, pensive frown marring her otherwise immaculate features. After a second she pulls the corner of her bottom lip into her mouth to chew on it.
Angel swallows reflexively as his gaze settles on the little red head leaning against the white plaster. An extra bulky, white sweatshirt with Harvard printed across in thick red letters. It hangs loose on her petite frame. A pair of faded Levis clings to her legs like a second skin.
Her dull, green eyes are downcast, demurely as her toes trace tiny lines on the floor. Her pale skin is nearly luminescent in the moonlight a stark contrast to her fiery red hair.
He could feel his dead body begin to stir, come to life -- in a manner of speaking. No matter how much he would like to deny it he couldn't. She is a beautiful woman captured in the prime of her youth, innocent now that she had that she had shed the leather and dark makeup, almost two years younger then that of her human counterpart.
He gives a minute nod to answer her question. "I'm giving Buffy a hand on patrol tonight," he says stepping completely into the living room.
Willow frowns lightly at his answer. "I thought the other slayer"
"Faith," Angel supplies.
Willow shrugs unconcerned, "was suppose to start patrolling with…" She grimaces before saying, "Buffy. So that you would be able to…" She lifts her head to look into his, dark eyes, a nervous, uncertain light shines in her green eyes. "Keep an eye on me?"
Angel smiles at her, meant to be nothing more than a small reassuring gesture. Willow's face brightens like the sun breaking over the horizon causing Angel's own smile to broaden fractionally. "Something came up. I didn't get many details, but essentially Faith's out of the equation."
Willow walks forward casually, a very subtle sway to her hips. She couldn't allow herself to come on too strong, Angel would bolt like a startled rabbit right into the arms of his little blonde slayer. Not something she wants to have happen. She stops at the back of the sofa, looks down for a moment as she runs her right index finger along the back.
After a second or so she looks up, but still not in his eyes. "Aren't you worried that I might…?" Her eyes flicker towards the window and the darkness beyond. "Go out and be evil while you're not here?"
Angel reaches out with his right hand cupping her small, delicate chin. Lifting her head up so he can look into her eyes. For a brief moment fear stands out sharp in her green eyes but it vanishes in a flash replaced by desire, burning hunger. A feeling he can appreciate standing this close to her.
He swallows lightly, but maintains eye contact with her. "You're stronger than you realize," he informs her with confidence. "This is something you can do. Something that you need to be able to do. You have to prove that you can control yourself. To Buffy, to Giles. To everyone else, but most importantly to yourself."
"You make it sound so simple," she murmurs quietly.
Angel smiles at her, his finger stroking her smooth skin ever so lightly. "I have every confidence in you," he responds evenly. His grin broadens a little. Time seems to stand still for a moment before Angel turns, grabs his black coat and glides smoothly out the door.
Willow smiles as she stares after Angel. He had confidence in her. She couldn't believe it. He thought she could do it. For a brief moment she feels a sense of warmth spread throughout her body.
Then she stops realizing exactly what she's feeling, a low growl rumbling deep in her chest. This wasn't any part of her plan.
It's suppose to be Angel having these kind of feelings not her. Angel is the one that should be having all these conflicting emotions. He should be the one going through this emotional dilemma.
Another growl erupts from her as she spins on her heel mumbling to herself. She begins reconfirming, in her head, what she is going to do to Buffy, Angel, Willow, Giles, Buffy, Faith, and everyone else in this thrice slayer cursed town.
Buffy hums lightly as she steps into the bright, sunlight cafeteria carrying her hard plastic orange tray. An apple, a cartoon of milk and orange juice, along with a bowl of some noodle like substance make up the contents of her tray.
She looks over the large, cavernous cafeteria trying to find her friends, Xander, Willow, and Oz, but like the last couple of days their nowhere to be found. It feels to her as if they're trying to avoid and she can=t understand why.
She can't remember doing anything that would have seriously angered any of them. At least she didn't think she had, but then again, with how things are going this year, and how her friends are reacting to some of her decisions. While not as good as they should have been who can say what they'll take offense to, or have taken offense to.
Sighing she takes another wistful look around the cafeteria trying to find a friendly place to sit. Or at least a neutral place. She'd even settle for a seat at the geek table.
As her eyes graze over the room again she spots, against the far wall, what might be her only-pseudo-friend in the whole room, Cordelia Chase, sitting all by herself. Letting out small, despondent exhalation just before making her way over to the school's head cheerleader.
Reaching the table, she stops. "Mind if I sit down?" Buffy asks diffidently.
Cordelia glances up at the tiny blonde standing in front of her, a very tiny almost nonexistent smirk creasing her lips. She shrugs lightly as she looks back down at her own tray and the minimal amount of food there. "It's a free country," she comments.
Buffy begins sitting down placing her tray on the table. She looks at Cordelia, a little uncertain, but decides it would be better off if she simply asks Cordelia what she wants to. "You don't happen to know where Oz is?"
Cordelia glances at Buffy, a little frown turning her lips downwards. "Since knowing where Oz is would mean knowing where Willow is and knowing where Willow is would mean I know where Xander is and since I couldn't careless where Xander or Willow is I don't have the slightest idea where Oz is."
"Oh," Buffy breathes out. She picks up her apple, looks at it, brings it to her mouth to take a bite, but stops. Lowering it, she looks at Cordelia. "It's just that for the past couple of days it feels like they've been all avoiding. Like I did something to upset them. Only I didn't. At least I don't think I did but I don't know if I did and I won't know if I did until I can talk to them which I can't do because they're avoiding me."
"Okay," Cordelia starts in exasperation. "Just because you're sitting at the same table as me doesn't mean we're friends, doesn't mean I want to talk to you, and certainly doesn't mean I want to listen to you rattle on about how the freak squad you generally lead left you high and dry and now you= re whining about it."
Buffy takes a small bite out of her apple as Cordelia rants. She chews diligently for several minutes before swallowing. "Does that mean you don't wanna know about Faith switching sides and going to work for the Mayor."
Cordelia's head snaps up, her eyes wide. "What?" She gasps in a hard whisper. "Why are you sitting here? Why aren't you out there bringing her to justice? You're the slayer isn't that suppose to be your job?"
The tiny slayer smiles inwardly. This was part of the reason that she had wanted to find Willow and the others. She needed everyone to believe that Faith can no longer be trusted, not a very hard job with her friends.
Not that hard with her either she's ashamed to admit.
She had done the same thing with Angel last night. She had wanted to tell him what is actually going on, but both Giles and Wesley overruled her, so Angel's left in the dark. It is all part of the plan to convince the Mayor that he is Faith= s only source for love, caring, compassion, and understanding. In order to do that they need a very big, very public, very volatile break up to occur. Which meant that just about nobody could know.
Only those with an absolute need to know, knew.
She still isn't sure how Wesley fits in that category and not Angel. That didn't make a whole lot of sense to her. Wesley is far more likely to break if he were captured and question -- never mind tortured -- about which side Faith is on then Angel ever would be.
He took the news with his usual stoicism, but she could tell the information troubled him. At least she thought it was that that had his brows furrowed in his standard, overly pensive frown. Sometimes it could be hard to glimpse what is going on inside that head of his.
"I'm not sure," Buffy replies. "I just need to know if you've seen her acting weird, doing anything strange the past few, couple of days?"
Buffy's eyelids snap open like a pair of bullets shot out of a high power rifle. Everything is fuzzy, hazy everywhere except right in the center of what she= s looking at. The simple plaster ceiling is far way away from her.
It doesn't look familiar, but right now she doesn't think she'd recognize a lot right now. She could barely remember her own name, and she could simply forget about recalling the town she spent the night in. She thought there was a dale in the name somewhere, but it could have been vale or hale or anything that ended in an ale.
She thought she had been in a fight, but like everything else, she just didn't know. If she had been in one though it must not have been too serious. Nothing hurt.
She frowns at that realization. It isn't quite accurate. True, she didn't feel any pain, but she couldn't feel a lot of anything else either.
Trying to look around, to get some idea of where she is Buffy turns her head to the side, or tries to. Instead, her head just flops over, as if nothing is there to hold it up.
No strength what-so-ever. It's as if someone has drained every iota of mystical super human, even normal human-energy that she had, leaving her weak as a new born baby.
Only it is worse because she knows what she is capable of and this doesn't even register. Isn't even anywhere on the map. Not on the same continent or the planet. Maybe not even in the same galaxy.
There are bookshelves lining each and every wall. Her eyes shift ever so slightly trying to see more of the room then she can right now. An older, but still comfortable looking sofa dominates the center of the large room. Or she thought it did because that's the only thing she can see clearly.
As she lies there, Buffy lets her eyes slip close. She needs to find out where she is, what's surrounding. It's something she can't do and keep her eyes open. They're doing nothing but confusing her
Slowing down her breathing, Buffy calms herself. Slowly with the speed of a racing snail, she expands her other senses becoming aware of her surroundings. The first thing she notices her body, the slight burning sensation from a needle, an I.V. drip shoved into the back of her hand. There's something clamped to her right forefinger. Drugs, powerful painkillers saturate her system. No wonder, she muses silently, everything is so whacked.
Desperately with what little strength she has, one hand reaches across her body to the other hand and rips, claws weakly at the I.V. on the back of her hand.
"Buffy." A voice drifts up through the haze sounding like it is coming through a heavy layer of water. She ignores it or tries to but it comes again, "Buffy," a little more urgently. There's something familiar about the voice. Very, very familiar. A voice she has not heard in close to three years. "Buffy stop, please." Her mother's voice cries out as a pair of hands grab hold of her. Trying to stop her.
Desperately she continues to struggle to get rid of the I.V. trying to get her adrenalin pumping into her system she shoves at the hands touching her.
"You've been hurt. You need to stay in bed. Rest, get better." Again her mother's voice sounds like their head is stuck under water.
Buffy continues to at the hands, regaining some of her strength. She tries rolling away, to put a little distance between herself and her mother.
"Stop that right now," a different, almost manly sounding voice shouts roughly.
She crashes into the rail, her momentum tilting the bed over --Joyce makes a desperate grab at the bed, catches hold of the railing, but can't hold it up -- then sends it crashing to the floor. A sharp twinge, that she barely feels, jerks at the back of her hand. Unable to stop herself she rolls away from the bed. The room spins for a moment, just until she comes to a stop hitting the large antique roll back desk.
"Buffy," Joyce calls out rushing around the toppled bed.
"Careful," Wesley shouts. "That's a priceless antique," he continues as he closes in on her.
Buffy eyes dart around at the various voices coming from all around her. Her head is starting to clear and her body doesn't feel quite so sluggish. Just a little. With a sour grunt, she grabs hold of the top of the desk, her fingers digging runnels in the light cedar. "Back off," she growls with her head snapping up. "Or the roll-away buys it," she threatens seriously. Giving it a hard shake, she closes her eyes, squeezing them tight, tighter then ever before. Trying to get things straight in her head.
Her mother is here. How the hell did she find me? Buffy silently asks herself. There= s no way she could have found me, not here. Not...
Her thoughts falter as the last forty-eight hours come rushing back in a sudden burst, like a flood of images filling her head.
It isn't her mother. It's her mother, the other her.
She can still hear the woman's voice, somewhere, out there. Inching it's way closer to her. The same for the other, extremely familiar, voice. It continues to draw closer, droning on and on about some precious family heirloom.
"Shut up!" She snaps. "Just shut the hell up. Can't think straight with you…" Pressing the heel of her right hand to her temple, she tries to put events into some type of cohesive line: Patrolling, fight -- argument -- with Faith, the Bronze, another fight, hanging out with Faith, laughing, kissing, working for the Mayor, evil, a mistake, set up.
Pain pulses through her, intense. Like nothing she has ever felt before.
She drops back to her knees.
Everything hurts as a second wave of pain surges through her body. As a slayer, she's felt pain before. In fact she's dealt with it nearly every single day of her life.
"Wesley get the bed righted," Joyce orders reaching Buffy= s side. "It's going to be all right. You just need to give yourself a chance to heel."
"Get off me," Buffy growls trying to push Joyce away, but finds she lacks the strength for even that simple act. "I don't need your help."
A sad smile slips across Joyce= s face as she helps the young girl stand. "Yes you do." A low growl bubbles up from deep inside Buffy. Joyce ignores the animalistic sound. "I don't know what happened between your mother and you, why you seem to hate her? I'm not her. I'm not your enemy. I'm just trying to help you."
The words ring hollow to Buffy's ears. She's heard them, or ones close enough to them that it didn't make the slightest difference. Heard them the night her oh so loving parents brought her to the Wellmen Center.
If Merrick hadn't rescued her that night, swooped in, saving her from who knows what? A life spent in captivity. All because she thought she could trust her mom and dad. That they would understand and accept her. It had been foolish of her, but at the time she hadn't learnt how the world really worked.
Then a subtle thought tickles at the back of her head. Triggered by something Joyce had said. "I don't know what happened between your mother and you, why you seem to hate her? I= m not her."
She knew. She knew about Buffy, the supernatural, what had happened and she= s okay with it.
For whatever reason she didn't freak out, go ballistic, or overreact like her mother did. For the first time in nearly three years she allows the unquenchable hatred she feels for Joyce Summers to slack slightly. It didn't vanish, not even close, but she thought she might be able to separate what she feels for her mother, how she would react to her, and she= d react to Buffy= s mother.
All I Really Want - Alanis Morissette
Do I stress you out
My sweater is on backwards and inside out
And you say how appropriate
I don't want to dissect everything today
I don't mean to pick you apart you see
But I can't help it
There I go jumping before the gunshot has gone off
Slap me with a splintered ruler
And it would knock me to the floor if I wasn't there already
If only I could hunt the hunter
And all I really want is some patience
A way to calm the angry voice
And all I really want is deliverance
Do I wear you out
You must wonder why I'm relentless and all strung out
I'm consumed by the chill of solitary
I'm like Estella
I like to reel it in and then spit it out
I'm frustrated by your apathy
And I am frightened by the corrupted ways of this land
If only I could meet the Maker
And I am fascinated by the spiritual man
I am humbled by his humble nature
What I wouldn't give to find a soulmate
Someone else to catch this drift
And what I wouldn't give to meet a kindred
Enough about me, let's talk about you for a minute
Enough about you, let's talk about life for a while
The conflicts, the craziness and the sound of pretenses
Falling all around...all around
Why are you so petrified of silence
Here can you handle this?
Did you think about your bills, you ex, your deadlines
Or when you think you're gonna die
Or did you long for the next distraction
And all I need now is intellectual intercourse
A soul to dig the hole much deeper
And I have no concept of time other than it is flying
If only I could kill the killer
All I really want is some peace man
A place to find a common ground
And all I really want is a wavelength
All I really want is some comfort
A way to get my hands untied
And all I really want is some justice...