House of the Setting Sun: The Pilot.
Okay, this is the sequel to "No Time To Choose". It's called "House of the Setting Sun" and it's in episode format. You know the drill, teaser, acts one, two, three and four. It's written as a story though not a script, cos I write stories not scripts. Think of it as a virtual spin off type thing, or think of it as a load of rubbish, your choice, I'll bear no grudge.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. If you don't feel free to let me know how you think it could be improved.
Yes this is the same series as "Slayers" on Buffyworld, but that was only ever a working name. This is the same, but with revisions.
Disclaimer : All characters are owned by Joss Whedon and the rest of them.
Spoilers : Buffy seasons 1 – 7 / Angel seasons 1 – 5
Rating : R for violence and sexual situations
Pairing : Buffy/Faith and Willow/Kennedy mainly,
other relationships may spring up.
The sounds of Bette Midler floated across the hall, down the stairs and into the kitchen.
Xander looked up at the ceiling in despair.
"She just hit repeat again." He groaned.
Dawn was sat at the table with him, she took a second out from idly flicking through a magazine, to sympathise.
"I know! Who even likes this song anyway. It's so 80's retro. I even offered her my Avril Lavigne CD, but she threw it at me."
"Now come on Dawnie, it's not like she actually aimed for you." Willow stood at the stove making pancakes.
"No but she took the head clean off the cactus plant I brought her. S'not like it ever did anything to her. Just sat there trying to cheer her up."
"Well they say "Say it with flowers", but what does a cactus really say. "Hi I'm inhospitable and spikey and my closest relative is a camel." Xander helped himself to the heap of pancakes Willow had just placed in front of him.
Dawn was about to do the same, but froze with her hand to her mouth.
"Oh, do you think that's why she didn't like it. Do you think it was too painful to have a reminder of, y'know, Spike around." She finished with a whisper.
"Spike was related to a camel, then I'm a monkey's uncle." Xander grinned as he poured a thick layer of syrup over his breakfast.
Dawn just looked pained.
Willow sat down next to her and patted her hand.
"I don't think that's it Dawn. I think your cactus was just an unfortunate bystander."
"I know that's not all she's sad about, but it's been a week since we moved in here and she seems to be getting worse instead of better."
"I know, I'm worried about her too, but she'll be okay, you'll see. Now eat your pancakes." Willow started to tuck into her's.
All three sighed with relief as the music began to fade away, but then groaned loudly when it restarted.
"Again with the repeat. Why can't she wear headphones!" Xander grumbled.
"Xander, give her a break. It's not like she doesn't deserve one." Snapped Willow.
"Will, we've all got pain." Xander sub-consciously rubbed at his face where his eye patch elastic ran. "But we don't all foist it on the rest of the house at seven-thirty in the morning."
"No, some of us foist it on the rest of the house at one-thirty in the morning. That's why you're Mr. Grumpy Pant's, you've got a hangover." Willow grinned at him to soften the reprimand slightly.
He smiled back sheepishly and held up his hands, pretending to hold something. "Okay Will, you're right. This is a break, I will make sure she gets it."
"Yeah, well I love my sister, but I'd rather hear Xander slur his way through – what was it again – Hey ya, hey ya, shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it, hey ya."
Xander grinned and danced in his seat as Outkast's latest tune played in his head. "Hey yaaaa." He crooned.
"It would be better if you could learn the rest of the song, though." Dawn added. Willow nodded.
Upstairs Bette went back to the beginning again. Xander stopped dancing and dropped his head in his hands.
Looking up again immediately, he asked. "Who is it anyway, who's she singing about. I guess the dead undead counts, what with him saving the world an' all, but…"
"I don't think it's him." Willow interrupted.
Xander waved his hand in the air as he continued. "Precisely and that only leaves one contestant who, despite recent good works, hardly fits into the category of…"
"…Hero. And everything I would like to be. An' I can fly higher than an eagle. Cos you are the wind beneath my wiiiiiiiiings."
Buffy stopped singing and snivelled a little. She searched her pyjama sleeves for a tissue, and not finding one used the sleeve itself. Wailing along to the final chorus, she sat up and looked around her bed for the remote to her stereo. Cursing herself for feeling compelled to chuck it when she finished with it and creating this hunt every few minutes.
She located it, hit the 'back' button and lay back again, chucked the remote away and waited patiently for the first few chords.
She smiled slightly when it started and took a deep breath ready to sing.
BANG! Her bedroom door flew open and smacked into the wall hard enough for the handle to create a dent. Buffy jumped and cursed. Kennedy stormed in, complete with bed head and pillow creased face. She glared angrily at Buffy, who glared back, and then went to the stereo. She pulled the plug from the wall.
"Hey!" Shouted Buffy.
Kennedy ignored her as she ripped the plug from the cable and left the room, taking the plug with her. She pulled the door closed behind her with another bang.
Buffy sat up and stared at her stereo, willing a new plug to appear. It didn't happen. Huffing, she lay back down and quietly began to sing.
"It must have been cold there in my shadow…"
Willow stood outside Buffy's door, plate balanced in one hand, the other poised to knock. She hesitated, not really sure why she'd volunteered for this job. She didn't entirely believe what she'd told Dawn earlier, but with Slayer accuracy surely if Buffy had been aiming for her sister she wouldn't have missed! Deciding to hope for the best, the best being not decapitation by a plate brimming with breakfast-y goodness, she sighed and went to knock.
"I know you're out there Willow, just come in already." Buffy said from the other side of the closed door.
Willow jumped, the contents of her plate wobbling precariously. She gave a self-conscious giggle and let herself in the room.
"How did you know it was me?" She asked, her eyes flickered around the dark room before landing on Buffy.
"I could hear your brain ticking away as you tried to come up with reasons not to come in." Answered Buffy.
Willow raised an eyebrow and made her way to the bed. "Mind if I…" She gestured to the bed with the plate.
"Throw pancakes at me? Sure why not, after everything we've been through I think we can survive a food fight." Buffy made a great effort to drag herself up until she rested with her back against the pillows. She cleared a space on her messy bed and pointed to it. "Sit."
"So how did you really?" Asked Willow again. She set the plate of pancakes on Buffy's knees and handed her a fork.
"The bottom of your slippers make a scratchy noise on the carpet and you were shuffling your feet out there for quite some time." Buffy explained, setting her breakfast and the fork aside.
Willow looked down at her fluffy pink pig slippers. "Way to rat me out guys." She pouted at them.
Shifting on the bed she began studying her friend in the gloom. "You're not eating your pancakes. I made them special. Funny shapes just for you."
Buffy smiled dolefully. "Just not hungry, I guess. They look good though." She added in an overly perky tone.
Willow picked one up and began nibbling at the edge. "They are good. Full of sugar and butter and milk and other things that fill you with energy and make you want to leave your dark and gloomy bedroom and go out and say, I don't know, be a part of the human race again." Willow hid behind her pancake, peering over the top at Buffy so she could see the attack if it came.
Buffy didn't attack, she just sighed despondently. "I'm not up to human race stuff yet Will. I'm still recovering from the battle…" Willow looked at her, doubtfully, but she soldiered on. "…And we agreed it would be cool if I just had a rest, took things easy for a bit." She shrugged. "I'm just getting my head together, I'll be back to all action Buffy soon, I promise."
Willow looked at her kindly. "No one's saying you have to go out slaying. Kennedy and the girl's have got that covered, but you should get out of this room at least. Just come downstairs and be with your friends. It's like you've been hibernating ever since…" Willow trailed off and looked at her hands.
"Not true. I came shopping with you guys in L.A." Buffy replied, choosing to ignore the direction Willow had been heading in.
"Yeah, and that in itself is worrying. All those clothes shops and you brought four outfits and…and you've been living in one of those ever since." Willow gestured to Buffy's stripy pink pyjama's.
"And I leave the room, I've left the room lots since we moved in." Buffy pouted.
"To go to the bathroom, or to raid the fridge in the middle of the night. I saw you duck back in here last night Buff, when I was helping Xander to bed. I would have appreciated a little Slayer strength help to be honest."
"Sorry." She said sincerely. Her brow creased with concern. "Is he okay? That's like three times this week, isn't it."
"No the first night, he managed to put himself to sleep, in the bath. Which gave Ken one hell of a scare when she climbed in, half asleep, to take a shower." The corners of Buffy lips tugged upwards slightly. "The second time he just passed out in front of the T.V., but last night he wanted to party. I was up getting a glass of milk so luckily I was there to stop him from recreating the Bronze in our living room He still woke Dawn and obviously you, though."
"I was already awake. I've been a night person for so long it's hard to adjust."
"Well lounging around in bed all day every day, won't help with that." Stated Willow firmly.
Buffy looked away, at the drawn curtains. "I know. I'm just not ready."
"Maybe talking about it would help?" Willow asked. "I mean you haven't yet. Talked I mean, about any of it. 'Cause I'm here y'know. We all are, if you want to."
"Thanks, maybe later." Buffy snuggled back down under her covers, effectively ended their conversation.
Willow patted her shoulder through the bed clothes and stood to leave. "I'll see you later then. Try and eat some pancakes, you'll feel better."
She opened the door to go and noticed the cactus Dawn had brought, on the shelf. It wasn't difficult to spot, it was the only thing on the shelf. All of the rest of Buffy's stuff they had brought in L.A. was still strewn around the floor in boxes. The top three inches of the plant lay behind it, wedged between it's body and the wall. Willow shook her head at it.
Buffy's voice came muffled from deep in the bed. "Oh yeah and tell your girlfriend, she owes me a plug!"
The small car hurtled down the road with Kennedy behind the wheel. Xander clung on to the armrest, his knuckles turning white with nervous tension.
"Hey Ken, remember about my lack of depth perception and the fact that I only have one eye, well I still drive better than you."
Kennedy turned and gave him a smile. "Bite me."
"It must be a Slayer thing, Buffy's terrible at it too." Dawn called from the back.
"I am not a bad driver, you are just all wusses." Kennedy explained, looking in the rear view mirror at Dawn, while she negotiated the next couple of bends.
"Dear Gods woman, look at the road!" Xander cried, his feet scrambling for an imaginary break pedal.
"Relax, Xander, there's nothing out here but us. I bet there's not even another car on the whole of this road, ever. We never see any." Kennedy slowed the car marginally to avoid a lump of dead something in the road.
"I wasn't caring about other cars, it was the sign you nearly took out, and what is that?" Xander, Kennedy and Dawn all peered out of the windows at the dead something.
"It doesn't look like you're average road-kill, that's for sure." Said Dawn.
The mass was a hot-pink, with a green stripe over the top, there was a smaller lump sticking out of the side that may have been a head, or a very big boil. It didn't move at all, it just steamed slightly.
"If you'd knocked the sign for the town over, we would have to call this place Bowled Over, not Boudenver." Said Andrew, chuckling.
"Er, Supernerd, try and focus." Dawn dug her elbow into his ribs.
Andrew rubbed where she'd elbowed him and whined. "Don't call me that, you know I don't like it, and what's so fascinating about a dead Maritima demon. We've seen much worse stuff than that."
Three heads swivelled towards Andrew, and three sets of eyes showed surprise.
He shrugged it off. "What, as much as you all might like to forget it, I do have some knowledge in this area. I used to be a …"
"Yeah Andy, we know." Dawn cut him off. "if you were an action figure. "I used to be a super villain." Would be the line you said when someone pulled your cord."
"That would be sooo cool. I could come with all these accessories, like a set of demon pipes and an invisibility gun and stuff." Andrew sat back again, grinning.
Xander shook his head at Andrew in mock horror. Kennedy began to pull away again.
"Hey where are we going? Shouldn't we do something about…that?" Asked Xander.
"Like what? We didn't kill it, we don't have to deal with it. It ain't gonna hurt anybody now it's dead…"
"It wouldn't hurt anyone anyway. They only eat fish." Supplied Andrew from the back.
"…And my job description says Slayer, not highway clean up crew, so unless you wanna step out and do the job, we're leaving it to the crows."
Xander looked at the thing for a few more seconds, taking in the size and general sludginess of the deceased demon, his nose wrinkled as the smell of the thing started to come through his open window. "The birds."
Kennedy nodded at his good sense and sped off again.
"What do you think killed it? Do you think maybe Buffy was out slaying last night?" Asked Dawn, hopeful that her sister was finally getting back to normal.
Kennedy shrugged. "Didn't see her out and she was still sobbing in her room when I got in from patrol."
"Buffy wouldn't have just left it like that, if she had got it, she'd have buried it." Said Xander.
"Yeah if she could stop wringing her hands and wailing long enough to pick up a shovel." Kennedy slowed slightly as they entered the town's main street.
"Hey, she's going through stuff, she'll be back on top soon." Snapped Dawn.
"Yeah well she better make it soon, or else this whole Slayer revolution we've got going is gonna pass her by."
"You wouldn't even be a Slayer if it wasn't for my sister so you should watch what your saying."
Kennedy pulled up in front of the store. "It was Willow who made me a Slayer, not B, and anyway all I'm saying is, she needs to get over it. Okay, so she fell hard for Faith, but Faith shot through, which shows just how much she doesn't care about Buffy. Buffy has to think about that. Yeah, okay so Faith is pretty hot, but she's not worth the state our fearless leader has worked herself up to. Buffy's losing it, and it's annoying the rest of you as much as it is me, so don't pretend otherwise."
Dawn looked ready to argue, but Xander stepped in. "Buffy will deal in her own time and us arguing about it isn't going to speed that up, so lets just get some groceries and wood and get on with things." He got out the car and the others followed.
The shadows flickered in the candle light as it burned low. The figures around the candle, sat with bowed heads as the one that was obviously their leader chanted low in a thick Cornish accent.
"That which, she slayed the last
Let rise again and slay her fast
From flesh to dust
From dust to flesh
Use these words to squash our pests."
One of the lesser figures looked up at their leader.
"Thick doon rhyme, mawther."
"It will do, sonny." Came his reply.
"We're not exactly spoilt for choice here, are we." Moaned Kennedy, as she looked over the shelves. They were well stocked, but dull.
"Well it's not exactly K-mart but we won't go hungry." Dawn started shoving tins into her basket.
"How long do you think Xander will be?" Asked Andrew. "Ooh, Oreo's." he grabbed a couple of packets.
"Dunno, however long it takes to buy wood I suppose. I've never done it." Said Kennedy, also grabbing items off of the shelves. Every now and then she'd look to the front of the store where three people were gathered around the counter, whispering up a storm with the shop keeper.
"I still think you should have gone with him Andy, to help him carry it." Chastised Dawn.
"I would have, but when I carry the wood on my shoulder like Xander showed me, it leaves a dent, and it doesn't go away for days. Remember I showed you."
"Oh, oh yeah." Dawn felt her ears grow hot and she busied herself grabbing some fresh fruit off a stand.
Kennedy smirked. "Oh he showed you, did he?" She drawled, but before Dawn could give her a sarcastic answer, her attention was dragged back to the front of the shop.
"No he just…What is it?" Dawn also peered up the front.
"They're talking about us." Kennedy voice was barely audible to her companions.
"Huh what makes you say that?" Asked Dawn, while Andrew tilted his head to one side, as if it would make him hear better.
"Come on!" Said Kennedy, she grabbed the basket off of Dawn and stormed to the cash register, plonking the basket on the side, she started:
"If you have something to say, say it."
The two old women and one old man who were stood at the counter looked at each other in alarm, then they looked at the shop keeper who was also an old man. Then all four looked at the three shoppers.
"Say again now, darlin." The shop keeper drawled, a nervous smile betraying his casual answer.
"I could hear you talking about us."
"Well how could you hear that." One of the women, with a bright shock of ginger curls asked, before being jabbed in the ribs by the other woman, who had nice grey curls which were much more becoming for a woman of her age.
"Doesn't matter how, all that matters is that I did. I heard you saying to him, that you couldn't be having with all these strangers poking around."
"Now why would she say that." Said the man who wasn't the shop keeper. "This here's a tourist town."
Dawn rolled her eyes. "This is a tourist town?"
"Well yeah, of course it is. Y'see they come for the lake and then stay for the hospitality." The old man opened his mouth to laugh, showing the three teenagers a healthy set of gums and not much else.
Kennedy pointed her finger at him. "No she definitely said that and then you said "Don't pay them no mind, they'll be upping stakes and heading back to the city soon enough." And then she said…" She jabbed her finger in the grey haired lady's direction. "…Just as well, we don't need them sort around here." I want to know what you meant by that."
All four looked at her blankly. The shop keeper shrugged too.
"Uh Kennedy maybe we should leave these nice people to it and go wait for Xander by the car." Andrew began tugging at her sleeve.
"I heard them say it." She was adamant.
"Well maybe you're hearing things, Lass." Said the shop keeper.
Kennedy clenched her hands into fists and was about to storm out, but Dawn stopped her.
"Hang on you have to help carry the shopping." Dawn smiled sweetly at the shop keeper. "That is if my associate hasn't just soured our chance of eating in this town."
The ginger haired lady moved aside and to let Dawn get to the basket. "Of course not dear, you go ahead."
The shop keeper started to run up the goods. "Just remember, nobody likes being accused of things." He told her, while shooting a nasty look at Kennedy, in fact they were all giving her bad looks the youngest Summers noticed.
Kennedy stood and stared blankly at the wall behind them like she hadn't realised she was on the receiving end of some frozen attitude. Andrew smiled nervously at everyone.
When the shop keeper had finished. He handed the bag to Dawn and gave her a grandfatherly smile. "There you go. Have a nice day now."
Dawn smiled back, Kennedy took the heavy bag and stormed out of the shop with out looking back. Andrew and Dawn followed her.
All was quiet within the shop for a few seconds, until Ginger haired lady broke the silence.
"Ooh that is a feisty one, how did she hear us anyway."
"She probably didn't." Replied the old man. "She was just paranoid, these city types are always paranoid, it's working with all that money. Makes 'em a little crazy."
Grey-haired lady stepped onto her soap box next. "Well it's not right, whatever their like. You can't have a house with a dozen girls and only two boys living there, it's perverse. And did I tell you what I saw the other night. Well, that cheeky one that was just in here, I saw her strolling around the church yard with a bunch of the young lasses with her, and I think there was some violence and most likely vandalism, going on too. Obviously I didn't like to get too close but what else would they be doing in a grave yard in the middle of the night."
"It's the city, it stops people being decent." Said the old man.
"And all them girls only seem to come out at night. Where are they going you wonder. It's true, as soon as the sun sets they're out roaming the streets. Their parents should do something." Said the ginger haired lady. "Goodness knows what they're up to."
"Probably out street walking, that's what they do in the city." Revealed the old man.
The shop keeper smiled at them all, but kept quiet. It was amazing the gossip you heard in a small shop in a small town. Much better than city gossip, definitely.
Willow decided she liked gardening. She was out in the fresh air, with the sun on her back and the wind in her hair. In fact gardening made her feel positively poetic.
She also liked it because it made her feel connected to things. The Earth, Mother Nature, the elements. It reminded her of her time in England, the time she'd spent pulling the flower through the earth from Paraguay. Even though this morning's gardening was being done in a non-supernatural way, with a cut-sized trowel and mini spade, it still helped keep her in tune with where her magic came from – her connection to the planet she called home.
She sat back on her heels for a minute, cast the small spade aside and wiped at her sweaty brow. Doing it this way was definitely more strenuous though, she mused. Smiling to herself, she wondered if she could convince Kennedy to take a nap with her after she got back from town. It wasn't normally that hard to talk her girlfriend into that kind of thing. The only drawback might be that Kennedy actually wanted to sleep, to make up for what she'd missed the night before. Willow sighed, now Ken had taken over the patrolling, and what with having a much wider area to patrol, she wasn't getting home until three most nights, and this morning she had been rudely awoken with Buffy's tribute to 'Beaches', which had not left her a happy little Slayer.
Willow looked up at the window to Buffy's bedroom, but the curtains were still shut tight. She caught movement out of the corner of her eyes and turned her head towards it, but there was nothing there. Chuckling at herself for being so jumpy she carried on working at weeding out the flower garden, every now again casting glances at the three new Slayer's that were working on digging a vegetable plot. She could hear them whispering but couldn't make out the words.
"Yes, well I heard she's averted seven apocalypses." Said a young blonde girl, as she dug her spade easily into the soil and lifted it to loosen the earth.
"Shouldn't that be apocali?" Asked another girl. Her hair was black, so black it looked to almost have a blue sheen in the bright glare of the sun.
The blonde shrugged. "Dunno, but if saving the world sends you doolally, then you can keep it." She continued to dig effortlessly.
"Come on Alison, Doolally is so not a word, and if it was, she's not. I heard her sister Dawn say that she took some hard hits in the big battle and she was just recovering." The girl with the black hair responded, waving a packet of seeds around as she gestured.
"Well I've been here since the day after they moved in and she hasn't left her room once, that's not recovering, that's reclusing, Miranda." Said Alison.
"I heard her boyfriend died in the big battle." Said a third girl, she had been quiet up until then, studying a hoe. "That's got to send you slightly…doolally, was it?" She flipped her long auburn hair over one shoulder and gave the gardening tool another curious look.
"Yeah well, her last boyfriend was a vampire…" Began Alison.
Miranda's mouth opened in shock. "No…really? But she's a Slayer."
"Yep really. So I'm thinking she must have been pretty crazy to begin with. Cici, are you going to use that thing or just admire it all day."
Cici looked up from her examination. "Well I assume this bit goes in the ground." She flicked the metal head with her fingers. "But I'm not sure what happens after that." She said with an apologetic expression.
Buffy was pacing around her room, again. Everyone thought she'd spent the week lounging around in her bed, but really this had been her main activity. Her room was not large, approximately the same size as her bedroom back home had been.
"Gotta stop thinking like that." She chastised herself. "This is home now, whether I like it or not."
It didn't take long to pace around it. She started off by the door, marched up towards the window, took a sharp right, and marched round the foot of the bed, then another sharp right until she hit the wall, about turn and reverse the order until she reached the door. It took about thirty seconds. She had done it a few thousand times a day since they'd moved in. Trying to spur herself into some sort of action, trying to make up her mind what she wanted to do next and wondering what she had done so wrong to end up like this.
She knew her friends were concerned for her and that she needed them around right now, to anchor her, but she couldn't bear to see them looking at her pitifully. Thinking of her as the poor, broken hearted, wrecked Dumpee, she had become, but she wasn't ready to let go of her anger and pain at losing the person she loved either. Which meant she couldn't go down there and mingle and pretend to care about every day life like they wanted her to.
She snarled in frustration and flopped down on the bed, reaching under her pillow, she pulled out a worn, well creased sheet of paper. Reading it brought tears to her eyes as if by magic. No matter how all cried out she felt, one look at the letter brought on a fresh wave, but she couldn't help it. It was the only thing she had left connecting her to Faith and she hoped with each re-reading to be able to stop caring, to see the words for what they really were, but it hadn't happened yet.
With the letter still in her hand, she got up and started pacing again. She would go after her if she had a clue where to begin. If she had one clue of where to start looking for the rogue Slayer, she'd be out there right now, searching until she found her and was able to beat her into a senseless pulp for doing this too her. For turning her into another notch on the belt, that she so hadn't wanted to be. For finding new ways to hurt her, even though she hadn't wanted to.
Even when she was angry Buffy knew she couldn't lay all the blame at Faith's feet. She had pushed the other woman into committing that night, even though she knew Faith was reluctant. Faith had said she had plans, had said she had places to be, but Buffy had at least expected her to be there in the morning.
She didn't know why she expected that, Faith's departure was true to form. Yet Buffy had seen the love in Faith's eyes, she knew they felt the same way, so why was Faith still running.
Buffy slammed her hands into the sides of her head in frustration at the stupidness of it all.
"Damn you. If you want to throw away the best thing that ever happened to either of us, then far be it for me to get in your way. I've got better things to do with my time than mope over you, Faith."
She flung the door open and stomped out into the hall and down the stairs.
"Jeez, alright, no need to push, I'm out." Faith stumbled slightly as she fell out of the van. Slayer agility managed to keep her on her feet, despite the fact her hands were cuffed behind her impairing her balance.
A woman dressed in a guards uniform jumped out the back of the white van with the words "Northern California Women's Facility " emblazoned on the side. Another guard, a man this time, came around from the drivers door and grabbed her by the arm and started propelling her towards the doors of the large, imposing court house.
"Hey, don't touch what you can't afford, jerk-off." She growled.
He ignored her and pushed her up the steps to the door. Despite her verbal challenges, Faith went with them as meekly as she could.
Willow looked up towards the back door to see Buffy standing there gazing around.
"Hey sleepy head." She called.
Buffy offered her a weak smile in return, and continued to look out across the garden as if she hadn't seen it before. Which, Willow surmised, she probably hadn't unless she'd bothered looking out of her window at all.
Deciding to leave her to it for fear of scaring her back upstairs, the witch returned to the garden. She'd finished the weeding, handfuls of Ground Ivy now surrounded her on the lawn. The tiny blue flowers were pretty, but to leave it in the ground would have meant certain strangulation for all the new plants she'd brought. It had taken some hours, but it was a job well done and it did look a lot better. There were already some flowers in the patch, and Willow had brought some more to add to it. Not only would they look pretty, but she hoped at some point she'd be able to grow most of the plants she needed for her spells.
She looked around for the little spade she had set aside earlier, but couldn't see it. She began to crawl up the garden, searching for it in the ankle high grass, when all of a sudden something stung her on the ass.
"Ouch!" She swatted at her butt with her hand, but felt nothing there, but a burning sensation under her shorts. Before she could get to her feet, she was stung again on the ankle. She whirled around wildly, again exclaiming her pain, but there were no insects hovering around that looked like they might want to attack her.
She looked down at her bare ankle as was surprised to find a little tear in her skin. There was a trickle of blood flowing from it and she wiped it away, wondering what could have caused it.
Before she could wonder long, there was another flash of pain across the thigh of her other leg. She tried to jump up and away and was horrified to find she couldn't. Whatever was stinging her, or biting her was holding her in place.
"Oh Goddess." She squealed, when she looked down and saw the leafy green tendril wrapped around her leg.
She gripped the Ground Ivy with both hands and pulled as hard as she could until it snapped, then she scrambled to her feet. Spinning around intent on making a dash for the door, she was startled to see a lovely flowering Foxglove suddenly rear up and gnash it's petals at her, threateningly.
With a squeal she fell backwards, onto the garden and screamed "Buffy!"
Buffy was already halfway there before Willow shouted. She'd watched her friend start acting strangely and when she'd heard the red-head say ouch, she'd assumed she had caught her finger on a thorn or something, but when she began thrashing about, dancing with the flowers, Buffy decided it was time to get over there and help bring her best friend down from whatever mind bending drugs she had taken.
When she saw the Foxglove waving around in front of her like a dancing cobra, Buffy was about to accuse Willow of slipping more of the same drugs in her pancakes and therefore peer-pressuring her into a life of narcotic dependence and cop dodging, but decided that would take to long and settled for kicking the plant and it's pot, high into orbit.
"Buffy." Willow squealed again as she felt another sting or bite, this time to her left shoulder.
Buffy wasn't sure what was wrong, but she grabbed the hand Willow was waving around wildly and yanked her best friend to her feet.
A succession of pops was heard as one by one, little sucker pods left Willow's skin and fell back to the earth.
Buffy pushed Willow out of the way as another snaky arm of Ivy, left the ground and shot though the air towards her. The Slayer moved aside and grabbed it with both hands, immediately it began to wind around her fists, binding her to it.
She grunted in effort as she ripped it apart and flung it away. Spotting a pair of secateurs left by the rose patch, she flipped out of the way of the Ivy, which this time was creeping for her feet, and snatched them up.
Willow had run off, and Buffy could see three girls off to the side watching her, but she remained focused on the weeds. Inching forward, with the secateurs held out in front of her, she advanced on them.
"I think it's time I cut you down to size." She told them and then lunged. Snipping with superhuman speed, she soon had the tendrils in small pieces.
Some of them continued to move feebly and she watched them until something stung her on the ankle. She looked down and saw a milky green pod stuck to her ankle.
"Damn, forgot about you suckers." She pulled her ankle away and lifted it to stamp down hard. The pods her foot squashed, burst open, spraying a greyish fluid over the ground. She carried on stomping until the nameless plant pods were all destroyed.
"Buff, move aside." Said Willow, coming up behind her.
Buffy stepped to one side and watched as the witch pulled a steaming substance onto the weeds and plants.
"That a witchy brew." She asked.
"Nah, just boiling water. It works on most garden pests, so I thought y'know, worth a try."
They both watched as the Ivy ceased it's creepy movement and the sticky quashed pod plant shrivelled up and turned a sickly yellow.
"Guess it worked." Buffy looked up at the three girls. "You okay?" They all nodded silently. "Well, good. It's probably best if you stay away from this bit for a while." They all nodded again. Buffy gave them a bemused look and turned to help a limping Willow back into the kitchen.
Xander whistled as he walked down yet another alley. This town had four main streets and only half a dozen shops, but in alley ways it out-shone Sunnydale by miles. The man behind the counter at the grocery store had told him the lumber yard was behind the tavern and to his right, but despite following those instructions to the letter, so far he hadn't found it. He was getting the feeling he was wandering around in circles. He was also getting the feeling that he was being followed, hence the whistling. A casual demeanour was everything when it came to switching from surprise-ee to surpriser, which is what he intended to do as soon as whatever monster was following him, showed itself.
He came to another split in the alley way. Down one he could see the main street again. That was where the car was parked, that was where he had entered this maze. So, opting for the other alley he resumed whistling.
This one was narrower than the first and despite the bright sun overhead, the path remained in shadows. He could hear whispering behind him, or was it above him he wasn't sure, but whispering meant more than one monster. Unless it was a monster with multiple identity issues.
'Okay,' he thought, 'two monsters are harder than one, but I'm a pro at this, I can handle it.'
On that thought, he spun around to face his shadowers and was startled when four or five figures jumped from the low roof of the adjoining building and landed in front of him. Before he could defend himself, he was being pelted with hard missiles.
"Hey!" He shouted as one struck him on the right ear.
"Shut up wolf." One of his four and a half foot attackers told him.
"Wha…Wolf?" Xander questioned. Another…stone, was it?...smacked him in the chest and he fell back a few paces.
"We know what you are, and we don't want your sort here." Another cried.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Xander insisted, he was getting worried now. His adversaries looked like children, he had a hunch they were children, the children of Super bowl champions if they're throwing arms were anything to go by.
"Course you don't wolf." Another boy hurled a stone the size of a…rock and caught him on the forehead.
Xander grunted in pain and dropped to his knees. His hands flying to his head encountered wet blood from a 'rock' sized gash. "Wha…?"
"We knows its you." Another assailant told him. "Georgie shot a wolf inna eye on Friday, and we never found no body, and now here you are." The boy who said this looked no older than ten to Xander, but he still swore to himself he'd beat him black and blue when the chunk of wood he threw caught the one eyed man squarely across the side of the head and almost knocked him out.
He curled his body up in a ball, too dazed to do anything else, and just waited for the shower of projectiles to stop.
"Hey what do you think you're doing."
Xander shakily removed his hands from clutching the back of his head, when he heard the shout. His tormentors laughed and began to run away, one of them kicking him in the stomach as he left. He let out a quiet "oof" and lay there trying to catch his breath.
He saw Kennedy jump over him and give chase and Dawn knelt at his side.
"Are you okay?" She asked, touching his shoulder.
"No." He groaned. "But I will be." He let Dawn help him to his feet.
Kennedy jogged back to them. "Lost them in the alleys." She shrugged. Placing one of Xander's arm's around her shoulders, she began making her way back to the car. "Do you know what they wanted? They just looked like kids."
"They wanted a good kick up the ass, is what they wanted." Xander responded.
"Willow, you're bleeding right though your shorts, now just pull them down so I can patch you up."
"No Buffy, I can do it myself." Said Willow, nervously inching away.
"Stop being such a baby. We always patch each other up after fights." Buffy moved around the kitchen after Willow.
"We don't normally patch up each other's…behinds." Willow finished delicately.
Buffy shrugged. "So, what's the big?"
"There is no big…but why don't you just start with my back. I'd appreciate that a lot more."
Buffy sighed in exasperation, but relented. Willow lifted off her top and held it against her chest, while Buffy looked at the six round, quarter-sized marks, adorning Willow's shoulders.
"They look okay. The sucker's didn't draw blood or anything. In fact they just look like little hickies." She finished with a half giggle.
"Great, so my girlfriend will think I'm cheating on her with my herb garden, I wonder if they cover that in couples therapy." Asked Willow sarcastically, then flinched dramatically as Buffy whipped her shorts down, her underwear went along for the ride. "Buffy, what are you doing?" She squealed.
"First aid." The blonde responded. She quickly swabbed at the nasty cut on Willow's left buttock and then just as quickly examined it. "It looks like teeth marks. The skins been lacerated in two lines, they're quite deep, but I doubt you'll need stitches, hold still."
Willow tried not squirm as Buffy rubbed a little antiseptic cream onto her butt and then covered it all with a big band aid, but she could honestly say she had never felt so uncomfortable in her entire life. Well, she conceded, she probably had, but she couldn't think of it right now.
"There," she said, "that wasn't so bad was it." Buffy turned away, while Willow pulled her shorts and panties back up, and pulled her t-shirt over her head.
"Puft." Willow stalked to the cupboard to put the first aid kit away. "Easy for you to say. You weren't just molested in the kitchen by your best friend."
"Molested, hardly. I don't see what you're bothered about, it's not like it's Xander doing it. Now that I could see as embarrassing, but it's only me." Buffy disappeared for a second into the living room. When she came back, she was carrying a fluffy cushion. She put it on one of the wooden chairs at the kitchen table and sat down on the chair next to it. "For your sore butt." She explained.
Willow remained standing, an awkward look on her face. "But it's not really all that different, is it?"
Buffy looked up, confused. "Huh? What?"
"You and Xander, me and Xander, me and you." Willow said cryptically,
"What, you mean like best friends? What's that got to do with your…Willow were you worried I was checking out your ass?" Asked Buffy, trying to hide a smirk.
"No, of course not. The thought never entered my mind, well not really, not for more than a second anyway and even then I didn't really think it, it sort of thought me, but you gotta admit it's a good thought, I don't mean good as in good, good, but y'know a worthy one, cause if it was Xander doing the first aid, you know he'd be checking out our butts…"
Buffy held her hands up in surrender. "Will, you're giving me a headache, stop already."
"Sorry." Willow cringed. "Are you mad at me?"
Buffy pouted. "Well I'm a bit disappointed, that me looking at your ass is such a big turn off, but I'll get over it."
Willow sank down onto the cushion Buffy had got for her. "No, no, no Buffy, it's not a turn off, of course it's not, it's just that y'know it's wrong and weird and a…a little disturbing, but if y'know if you want…"
"Okay, Will, let's stop there, before you say something that really will become disturbing. I was only messing with you." Buffy laughed. "But you get all cute when your flustered and I couldn't resist."
Willow's blush gradually receded and she said. "You're mean."
Buffy nodded her agreement.
"But you're out of your room, so I'll let your meanness pass for now. So what do you think caused the flora to get all violent."
Buffy shrugged. "Dunno, I was going to ask you. I mean, I don't think it's normal. I know you can get Venus fly traps and that, but I've never seen a whole flower patch rise up and get nasty."
"Makes you rethink ticking the box marked 'shrubs', doesn't it." Agreed Willow.
Willow smiled at her. "Well you certainly seem happier, what happened?"
Buffy looked down at her hands, her smile fading. Willow kicked herself for making the dark cloud come back.
"Sorry Buff, we don't have to talk about that, we can carry on talking about the attack of Eden."
"No it's okay. It's simple in fact, I'm just not giving her what she wants."
"What Faith wants?" Willow asked, mentally walking on egg shells.
"Yeah. She always wanted to hurt me for having the stuff she didn't, in fact she always wanted to hurt me period. As much as I sit up there and tell myself her going is just a mistake, just something she had to do, I know the truth."
"And what is it?"
"She told me that night that she had wanted me right from the start, that she liked me and it hurt her that I didn't give her a second thought, and she's right I didn't, not really. I was too caught up in senior year and Angel and you guys. It wasn't that I didn't feel the same way back that messed her up, it was the fact that I didn't even notice how she felt about me. I couldn't even take time out of my own life to see what was right in front of me, a friend who needed my help."
"I don't see how that's your fault, Buffy. You did all you could to help her, if that wasn't enough, then maybe at the time nothing was." Said Willow, comfortingly.
"No that's not true. She was drowning. In life, in love, in Slayerhood. She couldn't cope and she reached out to me. As the one person who should have been able to understand how she felt, the one person who could make it better. Faith has issues going back way further than since we've known her, I don't even pretend to know what most of them are about either, but I know a big one is trust. I don't know how many times she's been let down by people she's loved, but she told me once she knew she could rely on no one but herself. How sad is it, that a sixteen year old girl feels like that. And then she loved me and I let her down too, because I couldn't see or didn't want to see that I was the only one who could pull her out of the black hole of her life. I wasn't prepared to invest the time and energy it would take to truly be friends with her, to truly get to know her, and she knew that."
"So why has she gone now. If you're everything she's ever wanted why run when she gets you."
"Because I want her now. Oh Gods Will, I want her so much it's killing me. I never even thought I really would. I mean, I knew she made my tummy all fizzy when I thought about her, but I didn't expect it to turn into this all consuming monster. I don't go a second without wishing she was here, without wishing I could wake up earlier that morning and handcuff her to the bed or something, without wondering where she is and what she's doing. If she even felt a half of this all those years ago then maybe it explains some of why she went crazy, 'cause I can feel myself going the same way. That's why she went. She's tried so hard over the years to punish me for letting her down and she's never really managed it. It's only ever made me more angry with her and has driven us further apart, but this time it's perfect. She's got what she wanted…Me, and I haven't got what I want…her." Buffy wiped at the tears that were falling once again. Willow put her arm around her best friend and let her sob.
Faith paced back and forth in the little holding cell. She hated it here. At least in her own cell she had her newspaper clippings of Sunnydale, and a Polaroid picture of Buffy, Xander and Willow that Angel had sent her, apparently from Cordelia's apartment. Cordelia was still in coma land so wouldn't be needing it.
The cell door opened and Faith spun to face it. "Gunn." She greeted, smiling grimly.
"Faith, how you holding up?" He asked.
She shrugged. "So when do I meet my fancy new lawyer, heh, I can't believe I'm gonna be represented by Wolfram and Hart, makes a nice change from them wanting me dead."
"I'm you're new lawyer, didn't Angel tell you." Gunn said.
Faith's shoulders slumped, obviously disappointed. "No, I thought I was going to get a real one, but I guess as this whole thing is phoney anyway, it makes sense."
"Hey, I am a real lawyer. The best at W H, for that matter, so you better show some respect." Gunn chuckled when she looked confused. "Let's get you out of here first and then I'll explain, it's a long story. And stop sayin this is a phoney case. It's not, in fact you've got a very good case for getting a reduced sentence, or even immediate parole."
"But I did it, everything I was sentenced for. So how can you get me out without telling a bunch of lies."
"Extenuating circumstances and a whole lot of evidence against the late mayor of Sunnydale, that was never brought to the original trial. All you gotta do girl, is stay positive and say what I tell ya." He smirked. "And if all else fails, Wolfram and Hart have been getting the bad guys off for centuries, one more won't kill us."
She smiled and slugged him playfully on the arm. "Okay I trust you, what happens today."
"Probably not a lot. We're just going in there to state your new case. I'll do some talking, you'll answer some questions, the judge will want some character references and then we wait and see what the judge says. He'll hopefully give us a date for a retrial. Thing is you're in for murder two, so they can't just rap you on your knuckles and send you home. We need to prove it was never murder in the first place."
"Who's gonna speak up for my character?"
"Well Angel for one."
"Angel is here…Does Buffy…?"
"Buffy still don't know where you are, now can you stay focused. If we play this right you can get back to your shortie and won't have to bug your lawyer with questions about her."
"But is she okay?"
"No idea, they moved up to Ohio about a week ago." Gunn offered her a bundle of clothes from under his arm. "Fred went and picked these out for you. Last time you went into court in you're work uniform…," Faith looked down at herself, it was true, leather pants and tight black workout vest – perfect Slaying gear. "… you're not doing it again this time. You gotta make the right impression."
Faith took the clothes gingerly. Fred was a nice girl, but they hardly had the same taste in clothes.
Gunn turned to go. "Come out when you're done and we'll get down there."
Faith quickly stripped and pulled on the new clothes. They weren't too bad. A long black skirt and a white pinstripe shirt, with sleeves ending at her elbow. Definitely more conservative than what she normally wore, but if it did the job… She let herself out of the cell and went to join her new lawyer.
Andrew had taken shot-gun so Xander could sit in the back with Dawn, who was holding a cloth to the gash on his forehead.
"How are you feeling now?" Asked the young blonde man.
"Same as I was when you asked thirty seconds ago." Said Xander groggily.
"I'm sorry, but I'm worried, you look real bad. I still say we should take you to the E.R." Said Andrew, peering back over his seat.
Xander did look bad, besides the cut on his head, the right side of his face was a dark purple colour already and he had lots of other scrapes and bruises where ever skin was visible. He was holding his left arm firmly against his chest to save jarring it.
"The nearest hospital is Cleveland and that's nearly an hour away. By the time we got there I'd be fine."
"I can get you there in half that time." Offered Kennedy who was in the driver's seat.
"No." Yelped both Xander and Dawn.
"He'll be okay, once we get him home, the bleedings almost stopped already, and his arm isn't broken, just twisted I think." Continued Dawn.
"Oooh look at that creepy old castle." Said Andrew.
They all looked to where he pointed out the window. There was a steep hill off in the distance with a derelict building at the top. Andrew was right, even on this sunny day it did look a bit creepy.
"It's not really a castle. It's just a big house. Castles have turrets and stuff." Said Dawn.
"It's got turrets." Countered Andrew, defending his castle.
"Nah, I think they're just chimneys." Xander agreed with Dawn.
"It looks like my step-father's house." Said Kennedy, "But a bit smaller." She added
Everyone looked at Kennedy. "Huh." Said Dawn.
"What do you think was their problem, I mean I know kids can be a handful but when I got there, they were really laying into you. Did you take away their ball or something?" Asked Kennedy to change the subject. The house disappeared around the next bend.
"No I was just walking."
"You must of done something, that was a real lynch mob, they had going." Kennedy maintained.
"Honestly, one minute I was walking, trying to find the wood yard and the next minute I'm being jumped by four little delinquents who wanted to cause me some serious hurt. They kept calling me wolf." He added. "Which would be quite a cool nickname if I wasn't getting smacked upside the head with rocks at the time."
"Wolf, why would they call you wolf. Were you howling in pain." Dawn chuckled, but stopped when Xander glared at her.
"I don't know and right now I don't care. I just wanna get home. I need a drink."
"Well we're nearly there." Kennedy told them as she swung the car into their lane.
Suddenly she slammed on the breaks causing everyone to lurch forward.
"What is it?" Asked Dawn.
"It's a wilderness." Said Andrew.
"Huh?" Dawn looked through the gap in the seats to see out the windshield. "Oh."
"Is this the right lane?" Asked Xander also looking.
"I think so, it's the one we came out of, I'm sure." Said Kennedy puzzled.
The lane was blocked by a thick tangle of trees, bushes and wild flowers.
"Yeah, this our lane, there's our mail box." Said Andrew pointing to a red rectangular box on top of a stick, that reached about four foot high. It could barely be seen poking out of the vegetation.
"How long were we in town?" Asked Xander.
"Not long enough for the house to do a sleeping beauty on us, I'm thinking." Replied Dawn.
"So what do we do?" Asked Andrew.
Kennedy jumped out of the car and went around to the trunk. Pulling out the swords that were stashed there she handed one to each of them as they followed her out.
"Play explorer." She told Andrew
"Cool." He said.
Buffy had calmed herself down and Willow was making them both some tea.
"So where is everyone, anyway. I came down to hang with my friends, as per instructed, and you're the only one left." Buffy asked, while she sat fiddling with a folded up piece of paper.
Willow wondered what was on it. The paper had materialised out of Buffy's sleeve as soon as they'd begun talking. At first she presumed it was a tissue, but she inspected it now over Buffy's oblivious shoulder and it was definitely a piece of folded A4 paper. Deciding to leave it 'til later, she answered Buffy.
"Uh, well Xander and Dawn had to get out of the house before Bette Midler drove them crazy, so Andrew suggested they all went to the store for groceries, and Kennedy offered to drive cos, well you know how she loves scaring the crap out of everyone. Xander's gonna pick up some wood so he can make a start on renovating the barns. I told him no beer until he's at least brought the wood. I put s spell on the fridge so every time he goes to grab a beer, he gets a glass of milk instead." Willow started giggling at her own mischief."
"Great to see you're using your powers for good now, Will." Said Buffy sarcastically, but she was smiling too.
"I am. Drunk Xander is no good for anyone, especially himself, and milk is good for teeth and bones." Willow pouted.
"No I definitely agree, a good plan if somewhat dastardly." Agreed Buffy. "So that's four of our happy household accounted for, well six including us, but I'm pretty sure we arrived at the back of beyond with more refugees than that."
"Yep. Giles took Rona to Africa, to work with a big spiritual guy, and now he's in England sorting out Watchers stuff, apparently he'll be bringing home some more Slayers any day now."
"Watchers stuff, that's pretty vague."
"That's what I thought, but that's all he said. Uh, Robin's back in Beverly Hills, recuperating. He told Giles he'd speak to his Watcher, well his mom's Watcher about rejoining the council. He's pretty old now though I think, so I doubt he'll be able to do much watching." Willow thought about that a moment. "Actually maybe that's all he would be able to do, watch that is. Anyway I heard Giles say he wanted to round up as many of the old council as he could, y'know, so they had a starting point for the new council."
"Great a new council." Groaned Buffy.
Willow shrugged. "With Giles at the head it might not be so bad. Um, most of the new Slayers scattered once we reached L.A. as you know. Spending four weeks in the big city really broadened a lot of their horizons, but they know where we are, more or less and the majority of them promised to get in touch when they settled somewhere. A lot of them didn't want to go home, too many questions I think. Vi did though, she's gone to see her folks in – wherever she was from. She told them she had gotten into this really cool school in Ohio and they jumped at the chance of their daughter getting a first rate, private education, so we should be seeing her again soon."
"Oh really, what school?" Asked Buffy, wondering for the first time where she was going to enrol Dawn.
Willow giggled. "Here silly. I designed this really cool letter on the lap-top and printed out a few dozen of them, and Giles signed them all. That way if anyone discovers we're not a real school, we both go down for fraud, stops people from getting loose lips." She nodded sagely.
Buffy regarded her friend silently for a minute, "You telling me we have to keep this in the family, Don Rosenberg." She eventually asked, straight-faced.
Willow poked her tongue out. "And that's makes up all of us for now. Letters like the one that went to Vi's family will go to all the new Slayer's parents. We have no way of knowing how many Slayers were activated when the spell was cast, but I've got a feeling we're going to be seeing a lot more than those three out there."
Buffy looked out of the window to the back of the house. "Those three little girls are Slayers. I thought they were like gardeners or helper-outers or something." Said Buffy, taking an interest in them for the first time.
"Buffy what have you been doing in that room, they've been here all week. Alison has anyway, Cici and Miranda arrived the day after."
Buffy laughed. "Cici?"
Willow mocked her laugh. "Buffy?"
Buffy scowled and looked back out of the window. "Are you sure they're Slayers, they look a little young…and skinny."
"They're fifteen and Slayers have high metabolisms, you should know that. Giles thinks only potentials of fifteen or sixteen will be called, because that's the age most Slayers have been in the past, obviously nothings certain but I hope he's right. Can you imagine having a load of three year old Slayers to look after, they'd tear the house down…or…or breast-feeding a baby Slayer…" Willow trailed off with a grimace at the thought.
"Ouch." Agreed Buffy also shuddering, then a thought occurred to her. "Willow, why would you be breast-fee…"
Buffy and Willow looked at each other and then jumped up and raced for the door. Getting outside they looked for the source of the scream.
Off to one side of the garden, along side a large barn had been a patch of beautiful, and more importantly, peaceful rose bushes. Now they were anything but peaceful as they trapped a new Slayer, Cici, within their stalks and gripped her with their thorns.
The other two girls were thrashing at the bush with their gardening tools, but were to scared of hitting their sister Slayer to be very effective. Buffy rushed over with Willow close behind.
"Stand still." Yelled Buffy.
The girl caught in the thorns thrashed for another second and then realised who had called her. She stopped dead and tried not to cry from the pain. Willow could see dozens of tiny lacerations across her body where the thorns had scraped her, or pricked her.
Buffy took a second to gauge the best way in and then dropped to the floor. Crawling forward on her belly she reached the base of the stalk where it sunk into the ground and yanked it hard. After a few pulls the roots came up and Buffy gently hauled the young Slayer towards her.
"Don't try to move 'til we get these off you." She said calmly and started snapping off the stems one by one. They resisted her strong hands, the stems trying to entwine around the girl's arms and legs and torso, even becoming entangled in her long hair, the thorns attempting to dig in deeper and cause more damage. Eventually though, the bush lay in pieces behind Buffy. No one needed telling not to go anywhere near it.
Buffy gave the new girl a once over. "You'll live, it looks worse than it probably is. Willow will soon have you patched up. You're hair's the biggest casualty, I think" There were leaves and stalks sticking out of it all over. Cici's hand flew to her head and her mouth made a silent 'oh'.
"I thought you were playing doctor today." Said Willow and then blushed as she put her more up to date version of Doctors and Nurses, eventually learned from Xander, with exactly what of hers Buffy had patched up earlier.
"I'm a bit tired. With all the gardening." Said Buffy, leading the way back in. "I think I'll go and have a lay down." She picked up the letter from the table on her way through to the back of the cool, still kitchen and started up the stairs.
"But Buffy, what about the psychotic plant life." Willow called after her, but she was gone. She turned to the new Slayers about to vent her frustration at her friend, but seeing the state Cici was in, that took priority.
Buffy looked out of her bedroom window. She knew Willow wanted her to help figure this thing out, but she just didn't have the energy. There were three Slayer's down there, let them figure it out.
She caught a movement off to the side of the garden, where the grass was longer and unruly. Not that any of it was ruly at the moment. She watched as the long grass was parted like the sea when a ship cut through the waves. Except this was the back yard and she couldn't see any ships. The waves spread out, until there was lots of little ones and then joined back up to one big one again.
'Snakes, a nest of them.' She thought, and shivered at the idea. At the crest of the big wave something sprouted out of the grass, it looked like a feather. So was it a bird, a very small, thin, fast bird that moved like a serpent. Okay the country-side was even weirder than she'd been led to believe.
While she was straining to see what kind of creature this was, or failing that what type of plant had dragged up it's roots to go on a killing spree, a faint voice came to her ears.
"Qui afore maad ses us lads, grab up tey banes."
"Aha, demon languages." Said Buffy to herself. Maybe that would shake the cobwebs away, a good demon kill. She shoved her window up and crawled out on the veranda roof as quick as she could, then running along it to the side of the house she jumped and landed in the long grass, where the snake demon had been a moment before.
"Gotcha." She announced as she looked around at the empty grass. She looked around confused. It had taken her barely thirty seconds to get out here, and considering she hadn't slayed for a month she thought that was pretty good going. So where was her demon.
"Come on, I gotcha fair and square, now come out and stop hiding." There was no answer but the wind in the trees above her. Feeling foolish she started back towards the house. Willow met her at the door.
"What was it Buffy, I heard you shouting."
"I thought I saw something, but I didn't, never mind." Buffy walked past her friend and back up to her room, closed the window and the curtains firmly and laid on the bed.
She picked up the letter again. "You're making me crazy, is this how you felt, chasing shadows all the time?" She wondered softly.
It was hot in the vegetation tunnel they had created, and the light was a creepy dark green. Insects buzzed around them relentlessly, no matter how many they swatted.
"I don't like this." Whined Andrew.
"Shut up and keep cutting, cry-baby." Kennedy told him. She was using her sword like a an axe, cutting anything in her path.
"But it's getting worse and we're actually underneath the grass now and…and I keep getting bitten." He slapped his cheek hard and looked at the bug now squashed into his palm.
"Yeah and you whining about it isn't going to help so just get a move on." Said Kennedy, not bothering to look back.
"Who died and made you the boss?" Asked Dawn, jerking her own sword back as it got tangled yet again in the green vines surrounding them.
"I'm the Slayer here."
"Yeah and I've lived with a Slayer my whole life, sort of, so that doesn't work on me."
Kennedy stopped cutting and turned to face Dawn. "Okay, how about the fact that I'm older than you."
"Only by a year, and Andrew's older than you." Dawn's hands went to her hips, heedless of the sword still in her fist. She nearly took Andrew's leg off with it. "So maybe he should be the leader."
Andrew looked bashfully around. "No it's okay Dawn, I don't want to be the leader, I just want to get out of here before it gets dark and I'm getting hungry."
"What is it with you two anyway. You've been joined at the hip all summer, and you're always protecting him." Said Kennedy, ignoring Andrew.
"We are not joined at the hip and if I stand up for him it's only because I think you're a complete bitch to him all the time."
"So, let him be a man and fight his own battles."
Andrew hopped from one foot to another, his colour rising as the girls argued about him."
Xander stopped cutting with his own sword and glared at Kennedy and Dawn. "Okay girls, can we stop this already. I'm bleeding again and I've already got a headache and I don't need you two, no make that all three of you, making it worse. So lets shut up and keep on trimming this lane. Besides, Andy has a point. It is getting worse." He checked his watch. "How long would you say the track to the house is?"
"About fifty feet, I guess." Said Kennedy.
"And it goes in a straight line, so you'd think it wouldn't take that long for four of us to hack our way through, would you?"
"Well three and a half, really." Kennedy smirked at Andrew, earning a glare from Dawn. She caught the glare on Xander's face as well and added. "No, I guess not."
"Well we've been at it for over an hour and we still can't see the house, in fact it's getting thicker every step we take." Finished Xander, while taking another swing at the bushes.
"Do you think we've veered off the lane, into the scrub? Cause that would suck." Kennedy admitted.
"Either that or the foliage doesn't want us getting home for some reason." Said Xander.
"Why would it want that?" Asked Andrew in a small voice.
"Why would it want anything? It's plants, and grass, and weeds and stuff. All it wants is a little sun and a little rain, and a horny bee to come along and impregnate it." Scoffed Kennedy.
"That's pollinate, Dumbass." Shot Dawn.
"I know, Butt-munch." Kennedy shot back with equal venom.
Dawn just thrust her hand, palm first into Kennedy's face and Kennedy's eyebrows raised in surprise.
"Oh you're mature." She drawled.
Dawn ignored her and turned to Xander. "It's probably Willow. I mean she's testing this increase in her power by doing all these white spells. Maybe one got away from her."
Xander shrugged. "Wouldn't be the first time." He admitted.
Kennedy looked at them annoyed, her hands on her hips. "Why does it always have to be Willow messing up every time something goes wrong. For people who supposedly love her, you sure ride her pretty hard."
"Well Xander's right, her spells do occasionally go kerflooie. Look at the Slayer spell she did." Said Dawn.
This time everyone looked at her in confusion.
"That didn't go wrong." Said Kennedy scornfully.
"Well it couldn't have gone right if it made you a Slayer, could it." The younger girl replied gleefully.
"Right that's it." Kennedy lunged towards Dawn who squealed and turned to run. The pair of them made a huge racket. Dawn's shrieks and Kennedy's shouted threats allowing the boys to more or less track their progress through the undergrowth. Which Andrew noticed with rising alarm was rapidly becoming overgrowth too.
"You know, I honestly don't know whether those to are worse when they're fighting or when they're getting along." Said Xander, breaking Andrew out of his creepy thoughts.
"It's good that Dawn has a friend closer her own age. At least 'til school starts anyway." Replied Andrew.
Xander began following the path made by the two teenagers thrashing. "Is that what you are?" He asked, keeping a straight face.
"Yeah, what else would we be." Andrew told him following.
Xander really hoped he was telling the truth. Having the big brother talk with Andrew would just be too weird.
"Do you think they're going the right way?" The blonde boy asked.
"No idea." Xander told him, continuing to follow the path of broken stems and crushed weeds.
Faith was led into a room with large windows set into the walls to the left and right of her. To the back of the room was a long sturdy table, made of oak or some other oldy-worldy tree, Faith suspected, although she would be the first to admit that a Southie kid like her didn't have much of an education in the way of trees and stuff. Behind the high, long table a set of double doors led through to wherever.
She looked around curiously at the rest of the room. It wasn't at all the grand court room she was expecting, in fact it was pretty disappointing. It wasn't much bigger than the basement back at Revello drive, with the big table dominating the room, even though no one sat at it yet.
She was led to a table off to her right, equally as long, but not nearly so grand as the first. The guard pointed out her seat and then he stood back a few paces and leant against the wall. A strange man was sat to her left and he nodded at her courteously before turning back to some folders in front of him. She gave him a half smile and a nod back before turning her attention to her right where Gunn sat.
He gave her a grin. "You okay?"
"Uh-huh." She assured him, but she could feel little nervous butterflies taking off in her stomach that she refused to acknowledge.
Gunn nodded towards the main entrance and Faith turned to watch the people entering. First came a woman in her early thirties, she was dressed in a cream coloured power suit, complete with high shoulder pads. It was all very eighties but she looked like she meant business and Faith's intuition told her the confident manner she carried herself to the far table with, was not just for show. She wondered who she was and how she could affect her case. If she was the opposing council Gunn might have his work cut out.
The woman made her way to the long table parallel to the one Faith was seated at. Once seated, she opened a large briefcase and disappeared under the lid. Faith's consideration of this woman was quickly forgotten when the guy following her, sent her spidery senses into a spin-cycle and she smiled broadly in response.
Looking up at the newcomer, she gave a low whistle and nodded appreciatively at the dark blue hand stitched suit and the Italian made leather shoes.
"Our boy cleans up quite nice, don't he." Gunn whispered to her.
"For someone who spent a hundred years living in the sewers and eating rats, yeah." She agreed. "Is Fred dressing him too?"
Gunn chuckled and went back to his notes. Angel walked to the table without looking at her, although he had a small smile playing on his lips as his enhanced hearing picked up his friends whispers, and the whistle of course. Sitting down opposite Faith he gave her a bigger smile and a little wave. She waved back not so subtly. He mouthed the words. "Are you okay?" And she nodded back with a smile of her own.
They sat in almost silence for a moment longer and then were asked to stand by an official in the corner which Faith hadn't even noticed.
A man, who couldn't look less like a judge if he'd actually tried, came through the back doors and took a seat at the big, high bench at the front of the room. Everyone else sat too.
Faith watched this new guy while he spoke a few words and a few words were spoken back by Gunn and the man on her other side. She didn't follow most of it, just caught her name a few times. The man up at the bench was old, like Grandpa old, and he was wearing Golfing attire, complete except for the hat. Faith looked at him incredulously. This was the guy that got to make or break her future, sheesh.
The judge guy was speaking again when there was a commotion at the main door. Everyone's heads turned to watch as a middle aged man with greying hair and glasses slammed through the doors in a hurry and scurried across the floor to the seat next to Angel.
Realising everyone, including the judge, was watching him he smiled around nervously at everyone. "Er, hello…sorry I'm late. You're damned U.S. passport people kept me for hours. Can you believe they thought I was shifty-looking when they were the ones carrying weapons." Suddenly remembering where he was he shot another embarrassed smile at the judge and sat down. "Do carry on."
The judge gave him a withering glance before continuing to speak, but Faith didn't notice, she was too busy trying not to burst out laughing.
"Go, Giles." She smiled at the Watcher and he returned it fondly.
Gunn leant over and whispered in her ear. "You're second character witness."
Faith had no idea why Buffy's Watcher would want to stand up for her in a court of law and say nice things about her, not if he wasn't forced to, but she was glad he was. Glad that even after all the evil stuff she'd done to him, he'd still bothered to look deeper and see the good in her. Even if all this came to nothing, it was nice to know people on the outside actually cared whether she lived or died this time around.
Faith was confused as she watched the argument go back and forth between Gunn and the District Attourney, who had been sat to her left. She knew most of what Gunn was saying wasn't exactly true, but the way he was putting it was almost enough to convince her that was how it had happened. She tried to follow as best she could knowing she'd have to answer questions about this at some point, and didn't want to screw it up by not paying attention.
Gunn was addressing the judge again. "Your Honour, my client was only sixteen when she arrived in Sunnydale. Now she may have been naïve to take that job at City Hall, but to my knowledge, naivety isn't a crime."
"No but murder is." The D.A. responded.
"I have statements from the people who were around my client at the time of Allen Finch's death, and they have convinced me that it was an accident, and I believe they will convince the jury of the same thing. I also have proof that the late Mayor Wilkins knew of Mr. Finch's death, and that my client was tragically responsible, and he chose to keep this information to himself for several months until his own death. I believe I can also prove that the second murder for which my client was convicted of, was in fact orchastrated by the late Mayor."
"Well there will be no jury to convince if you do not convince me first." The judge locked eyes with Gunn, who stared casually back. "So you had better start."
Three other people in the room also stared at Gunn, waiting to see if he'd be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat, or if all his fancy words would just come to nothing.
There was a soft knock at the door. "Can I come in Buffy?"
Buffy wiped away a lingering tear. "Yeah." She sat up on the bed and ran her fingers through her hair.
Willow entered. "Feeling better?" She sat on the edge of the bed.
Buffy shrugged. "What can I do you for?"
Willow looked worried. "Well for one, I've got three Slayers terrified to go out of the house in case the grass gnaws through the soles of their sneakers."
"And they're Slayers? Jeez what will they be like when they have to take on a vampire." Buffy scoffed.
"They're just scared Buff, this whole thing is still really freaky to them, let alone having Mother Nature out for blood. You used to get scared sometimes, remember?"
Buffy shrugged again. "I guess. What's number two?"
"Kennedy and the others aren't back yet, they've been gone over three hours."
"Well maybe they're looking around the shops." Suggested Buffy.
Willow smiled. "You really haven't been getting out much have you? There's only eight shops in town, and that's including a barbers, and the lumber yard, and the feed shop."
"Is that like a Denny's?"
"No, it's like a big shop that sells food for cows and horses and stuff. We're gonna get our chickens from there." Willow felt a little excited again at the thought of being able to keep chickens.
Buffy smiled too. "We're getting chickens?"
"Uh huh. For the eggs. Me and Xander wanted to get a cow too, for the milk, but Giles said no way. I think he's phobic." Willow grinned at her friend.
"Well we probably shouldn't get one until we've sorted out the flora problem. Cows are supposed to eat grass, not the other way around." Buffy thought for a moment. She scrunched her nose up. "They're probably not all window shopping then, could Xander be taking his time choosing the wood. Maybe he can't decide what colour he wants."
Willow frowned. "I think it only comes in one colour until you get it home and paint it."
"I don't know then Will, what time were you expecting them back. Three hours isn't that long."
"I was expecting them back at least an hour ago and that was allowinng for an hour in Boudenver, which I don't think they would need. I gotta admit. I'm getting a little worried. This is a new town after all, on a Hellmouth, or near it anyway, anything could have happened."
Buffy tried to reassure her friend. "I'm sure they're fine. They're probably just dawdling, or exploring. And plus they have Kennedy with them and she's doing alright on the Slayage front. Isn't she?"
Willow automatically started singing her girlfriends praises. "Oh yeah, she's doing great. Totally on top of it. I mean it's a bigger distance to cover. Boudenver is pretty widespread, despite the fact that it's year round population only numbers roughly between one and two hundred people. There are cabins all around in the woods and down by the lake, plus hotels and camping lodges and hunting lodges and ski lodges."
"That's a lot of lodges."
"From what we can gather, yeah. It's the perfect vacationing spot really. You've got the lake, the mountains, the scenery and it's only an hour's drive from Cleveland. Kenn's managing though, but it will be nice when she has some more help, so she's not out nearly all night, every night." Willow looked pointedly at Buffy, but she pretended not to notice.
"So getting back to the garden of evil, what do you thinks causing it?" Buffy changed the subject. She couldn't Slay at the moment, not as a profession so to speak. It wasn't like she'd never slay again, she just needed to take this chance to see what else she could do.
"Well either all those green protestors finally got their wish and the land is claiming back its own. Or it's a spell of some kind."
"Was it…Is it possible you might have inadvertantly caused this?" Buffy tried to phrase her question as nicely as possible. Since the Slayer spell Willow had cast in Sunnydale, her power was stronger than ever. She was controlling it well and working with the coven in England and Giles to learn how to fully understand her capabilities in a safe way. It scared Buffy a little though. She trusted her friend to do the right thing no matter what, but sometimes it seemed as if Willow could cast spells just by thinking about them and well everyone got in a bad mood sometimes.
Willow knew Buffy's fears and she knew that the rest of her friends, with the exception of Kennedy, shared them a little. She felt it a little bit herself, to a lesser extent. She had made things happen in the past, just because her emotions were wonky. It was different now though. She'd been doing mind exercises to help control her magic and one benefit of that was being able to shove it into a seperate bit of her brain. She didn't know how she'd managed that and when she'd asked Giles he told her it was to do with her subconscious not wanting it's host destroyed, so it had created a mental barrier, a kind of circuit breaker, to stop her from turning herself into a frog – 'cause, eek- while she slept, just because she was having a dream about frogs. Nightmare more like.
"No I'm sure it wasn't me. I haven't done anything that could even be misread as this. I could do a spell though, to see if anyone else has done a spell."
"Okay." Agreed Buffy. "That's a start. If we know it's a spell then we know we're looking for someone magically inclined, who isn't you, and we go kick their ass until they break it."
"The only flaw in the plan is that it may be residual. The magic. This place did used to be a Council retreat for goodness knows how many years. It's possible someone cast a spell once upon a time and we're getting the backdraft."
"This place belonged to the Watchers?" Buffy was clearly surprised.
"Yeah, didn't you know. It was an active headquarters until, like, twenty years ago and then the Hellmouth lost its oomph and it was turned into one of those retreats that Giles always moaned he never got to go to. It was like Summer camp for Watchers. That's how come we got it so easily, and cheaply. As Giles is the last remaining member of active Council personnel he just claimed it and we moved in before anyone could say otherwise."
"Hang on, you said something about the Hellmouth here losing it's oomph. Can they do that?"
Willow got off the bed and began clearing a space on the floor amongst the boxes. "Giles started to explain it before he left for England. Something to do with the seven year cycle of Evilness. As the earth shifts so do the realms of the Heavens and the Hells. The dimensions ebb and flow as constant as the tides blah, blah, blah." Willow shrugged. "Its interesting but he was in a hurry and I was unpacking. I wasn't really taking it in, but I'll speak to him about it as soon as he gets back."
"Then you'll explain it to me in short sentences with words of only one syllable, right?"
"Don't I always Buffy."
The two girls smiled at each other, then Willow told her to wait there and left the room.
She was back in a minute with a ball of lumpy purple wax. "Do you have some candles?" She asked.
Buffy thought for a minute, then stood and went through a box at the end of her bed. She pulled out some books, and some C.d's, a travel iron and a cowboy hat. "This is not mine." She held the hat in her hands, wondering where it came from.
"Actually it is, by default. Remember that night in L.A. when me and Dawn and Kennedy dragged you and Xander out to go dancing, and you and Xander decided to have a drinking contest, followed by a 'who can drown in their own drool fastest' contest. Then you both decided to show us how it was done and you were swinging Xander all across the dancefloor…" Willow waited until Buffy guiltily nodded. "Then that guy came over and asked if he could cut in, and Xander tried to punch him in the face." Another guilty nod. "But he got the first punch in and you kicked him in the…in the pants for hurting Xander. And his friends had to carry him out. Well this was his hat. When it fell off you wouldn't let him have it back. In fact you hit him with it I think."
Buffy's head had fallen into her hands, the hat discarded in front of her. "Oh yeah, I remember. I wish I didn't though. In my defence I did say about a thousand times that I didn't want to go out."
"Yes and next time I'll respect you're wishes." Promised Willow.
Shaking it off, Buffy looked back in the box and gave a little sound of triumph. "Candles – lemon scented. Will these do?" She pulled them out of the box and handed them to Willow.
"Perfect." The witch took them and placed them in a circle around her. With a simple flick of her wrist they all ignited. She spotted the plate she'd brought up earlier with the pancakes on. She tipped the uneaten breakfast into an empty carrier bag and placed it on the floor in front of her with the ball of wax on it. "This shouldn't take too long." She said, before closing her eyes and begininning a chant.
Right in front of Buffy's eyes she saw the waxy ball begin to change shape. It took her a couple of minutes before she realised it was melting. After another minute of chanting it was just a purple puddle on the plate. Willow opened her eyes and stared into it.
Buffy looked too, but couldn't see anything. She wondered if the spell had worked. "What do you see?" She asked softly.
Willow didn't answer, she just continued looking. She started to frown and she waved her hand across the plate saying "Arguo urere ui utum." The substance on the plate shimmered slightly but then returned to its previous position of just being a puddle of wax.
Willow quickly blew the candles out and rejoined Buffy on the bed.
"So?" Buffy asked.
"Well it's definitely a spell. Someones cast a net over this place and everything under it is affected. Why anyone would want to set killer plants on us though is a mystery."
"Well couldn't it be like you said a…a backdraft thingie. Maybe the last Watchers here played a prank on the place and we've activated it by moving here. I doubt it's personal."
"Well that's the bigger mysetery. It's been cast within the last twenty-four hours, I'm sure. The power is strong. Giles said to his knowledge no one has been up here for months, possible longer." Willow looked confused.
"Okay so tell me who it is and I'll go have a little word with them." Buffy put the stetson on her head and flicked the front up. "This town ain't big enough for the both of you."
Willow smiled, then grew serious again. "That's the thing, I don't know."
"Can't your spell tell you who?"
"No but it can tell me where and that's the mysterious part of the mystery."
"Why where are they?"
"They're here. They're here right now."
"And it's not you." Buffy checked.
"Ninety-nine per cent sure it isn't me. The only spell I've done in the last couple of days is the beer into milk spell, theres this whole bit with yeast but I'm sure that's not what's done this. The energy here, it feels like a curse and you need whole different ingredients for a spell like that."
"Okay, well that's kinda creepy then." Buffy looked around the room, half-expecting to see someone peeking out at her from the gloom. Willow was doing the same. In a fluid graceful movement, Buffy jumped off of her bed and went to the window. She drew the curtains back and the room was bathed in sunshine. She returned to the bed. "Better. Could it be one of the girls. The new Slayers?"
"Doubtful. As far as I know they have no magical abilty and anyway they're terrified, all of them, after what happened to Cici."
Buffy suddenly remembered something. "I saw something earlier, in the grass. Some kind of Demon, I chased it but by the time I got down there it was gone. I thought I was imagining it. Slaying withdrawals."
"It could have been that. If it was hanging around here, then maybe it wants to gloat over the curse. Which would make it pretty personal."
"Well we'll find it, somehow, eventually and then I can hold it and the new Slayer's can kill it. That should help them overcome their fear."
"And the spell wasn't a complete waste anyway, even if it didn't actually tell us much." Willow added.
"Well no, it got you to start unpacking." Willow ducked as a cowboy hat went flying over her head to hit the far wall.
Gunn was getting in his groove now. It felt like he had been doing this for years not just a month or so.
"Richard Wilkins the third, knew prior to offering Faith a job, that she had been responsible for his deputy's death. A man he claimed was a close personal friend of his."
"How can you be sure he knew." Interupted the D.A. "How do we know this isn't just more speculation on your part."
Gunn strolled to his desk and picked up a heavy, leather-bound book. "Because I have his journal here and its all there in black and white, well some of its in red and white." He corrected, thinking about the sections on the ascension which were written in blood. "Here take a look."
He handed the book to the other man and carried on speaking. "Now what sort of man does that, protects the murderer of a 'close personal friend'. I'll tell you what sort. A mad man. A man so insane in fact that he will stop at nothing to achieve what he wants – in this case greater political power. It's easy to believe after reading his diary that he wouldn't have stopped until he was bigger than the president. We're talking a guy with world domination pencilled into his 'to do' list."
The D.A hd been studying the book for a few minutes with intense concentration. Now he slammed it shut. "This is absolute rubbish. It's just some childs gibberish. Not a word makes sense."
"That's because its in code. Insane the man may have been but I never said he was stupid. Every word in this journal is written in code, even the labels to the diagrams. He knew the game would be up if anyone ever read it, so he made it next to impossible. Luckily for my client, Wolfram and Hart have a department which specialises in such things." He picked the book up and carried it to the judge's bench where he set it down for him to look at.
"Yes, Wolfram and Hart seem to have a department for everything." The judge grumbled while he flicked through it. "I have no trouble believing they have people who can turn nonsense into fact."
In fact it had taken quite a while to decipher the demon language it was written in, even with Fred, Wes and Angel in on it.
"This will have to be verified by experts outside of the Wolfram and Hart fold." The judge added.
"That's not a problem, keep it as long as you need. I have copies of the relevant pages. Once you get it translated you'll know what I know. That Faith was a scared, no terrified, young girl. With nowhere to live and no money to her name. She took a job that was offered to her by someone in a position of trust. Someone who offered to help her get through this dark time in her life. Someone who reached out to her. And she took that opportunity with both hands. What the Mayor grabbed with both hands was an opportunity to mould this confused and frightened teenager into a ruthless cold blooded killer. He wanted to take her guilt, and her pain and use them to his own advantage, and he did."
They were grouped together again now, silent except for the thrashing of swords and axes. The heavy duty trimming taking its toll on them all. Even Kennedy was disheartened now. The heat inside the green tunnel was intense and the mosquitos were taking full advantage of the four. She slapped at another on her arm and grimaced in disgust at the smear of blood it's squashed body left.
"Ugh, they're like minature flying Vampires." She wiped her hand on her damp pants.
"Makes you kinda glad Vampires can't really fly like in the movies, doesn't it." Dawn wiped her sweaty hair out of her eyes.
"Dracula could fly." Remembered Xander, then he remembered the rest if it. "Bastard!"
"Oh yeah I heard about you and Dracula. Willow said you two got quite close." Smirked Kennedy.
"It was thrall and we don't talk about it." Xander gritted his teeth.
"You were friends with Dracula? That is so cool." Andrew looked up from scratching his mosqueto bites to gaze in awe at the other man.
"We were not friends, it is not cool and we do not talk about it." Xander pushed ahead of the rest slightly, slashing wildly at the foliage.
"I'll tell you later." Dawn promised Andrew.
"What part of 'We don't talk about it' does no one under..." Xander shouted at them. He spun around to face them, tripped backwards over a vine and disappeared with a crash.
Kennedy stared at the space he had last been. "Huh?"
"Where'd Xander go?" Asked Andrew in a frightened voice.
Dawn shook her head at the other two and pushed in the direction he had fallen. After a few hacks with her sword and some under the breath cursing, she'd cleared a path out in to the bright sunshine.
Xander was laying on the lawn as he had fallen. "I found the house." He told the others as they followed after Dawn.
"So what the Hell happened then." Asked Kennedy. "We leave for an hour and the house decides it doesn't want to let us back in."
"Nah I think if the house didn't want us back in, it would just lock the doors on us. It wouldn't have to go to this much bother." Said Xander, still laying on the ground. The breeze out on the open lawn was Heaven compared to the moist, itchy heat they'd just experienced.
"What so it's just the outside of the house that doesn't like us. Yeah, that's less weird." Dawn was looking at Xander's sneaker, it didn't look quite right.
"Well this is Sunnydale." The carpenter began. "Except no, it's not. It's Boudenver. It's like our very own Hellmouth away from home."
"Yeah, aren't we lucky. Come on lets go see if everyone else is okay." Kennedy pulled his outstretched hand until he was on his feet.
Everyone started towards the house except Xander. "Uh guys!" They turned back to him. "I can't seem to move my feet."
Everyone looked at his feet. "Uh, Xan, don't be too alarmed okay, but the grass has tied itself to your shoelaces." Dawn pointed to them. "I sort of watched it happen, but I didn't know what I was watching."
"Huh?" Xander looked down and saw the thick, lush green strands wrapped in neat little bows around the laces of his sneakers. "Ye Gods." He quickly strained first one foot up and then the other until they came free with an audible snap. "I think it's time we got inside, now!" He said before sprinting for the house, with the others close behind.
"Please state your full name." The Judge demanded.
Faith stared at him evenly. "I just did- Faith."
The judge made an impatient noise. Gunn's eyes bored into Faith, urging her to co-operate. She just shrugged back. The D.A. hurriedly shuffled some papers around.
Finding what he needed, he looked up at the judge. "Wilkens, your honour, her name is Faith Wilkins. According to her records."
The judge peered at the Slayer over the top of his glasses. "Is that correct?"
"It's as good as any. Y'know, appropriate." Faith shrugged again.
"But is it the name on your birth certificate?" The judge insisted.
Gunn saw that Faith was about to shrug again and jumped up. "No Sir, that's the surname of the late Mayor. My clients employer. Shortly before my client turned herself in she was was in a coma for eight months, the result of a nasty fall. Mayor Wilkins had an account set up to cover her medical fees, and the account was in his name. This was only days before a gas explosion took his own life. The police took her name from the hospital records."
"Which still begs the question – What is your legal surname? And I warn you young lady, any more insolence and my patience will run out completely."
"I'm not trying to be insolent, y'honour. The only surnames I've ever had are the ones I've had to make up to suit some purpose. An' I'm pretty sure that ain't legal."
"Well what was your Fathers name?" The judge tried again.
Faith began to shrug and saw the judge's expression darken. She sighed instead. "I had three 'pops' before I could write my own name, and my real one…he wasn't about that much. He was just Dad to me. My mom used to call him a real f…"
The judge held up his hand and cut her off. "Quite." He pursed his lips. "Mother's maiden name?"
This time Faith allowed herself to shrug. "She couldn't remember her first name mosta the time." She started to fidget. The clothes felt all wrong and she wanted to sit down. The judge was staring at her like she was some kind of an idiot. It wasn't her fault her parents were useless jerks. This all was a waste of everyone's time anyway. It was wicked obvious the judge had made up his mind the second he walked in.
"Continue with your questions." The judge told the D.A. while he scribbled something in his book.
The little man stood from his seat next to Faith and walked around to stand in front of her, the bench between them. Faith thought that was pointless too.
"Miss…ah…Faith. How old were you when you arrived in the town of Sunnydale?"
"And before that you were living in Boston, yes? Could you explain your reason for leaving your home and family in Boston and travelling to Southern California?"
"I lived in Boston with my…" Faith hesitated only a second. "…guardian. When she was killed I decided to go visit with some friends of hers."
"And how did your guardian die?"
"She was…um…killed by a maniac with…" She had been about to say cloven feet. How crazy would that sound. She changed direction with barely a pause. "…with a nasty streak. He cut her up in front of me."
"I'm sorry Faith." The D.A. didn't sound all that sorry. "So you knew people in Sunnydale?"
Faith shook her head. "Not until I got there."
"So you travelled all the way across the country to visit with people you had never met. That's a pretty big undertaking for a grl of sisteen, don't you think?"
Faith frowned at him. "I was scared. I'd just seen what he did to my W…Guardian and I knew he'd do the same to me if I gave him half a chance. So I ran like Hell. She always spoke highly of these friends of hers, I figured if I could get to them they might be able to help."
"Were you in some kind of trouble in Boston, Faith?"
"Yeah, I just told you. Some sicko wanted me dead."
"No I mean before that. Was there a reason you and your guardian ran afoul of this man?"
"No just wrong place at the wrong time." Said Faith more or less truthfully.
Gunn stood. "Your Honour, according to the archives of the Boston Post and B.P.D. records, there was a spate of unsolved murders and disappearances in the South Boston area, at the time my clients Guardian was killed." He sat back down.
The D.A. turned and stared hard at Faith. "Do you know anything about these murders, Miss…ah…Faith?"
Faith met his stare. "What are you implying?"
"Miss, may I remind you that you are not here to ask the questions." The Judge intoned.
Faith kept her gaze on the D.A.
"I am implying that before you left Boston there were a number of unsolved murders, including that of the woman in charge of your welfare. These stopped about the same time you fled to Sunnydale. Where shortly after your arrival the murders began again. All this seems like rather a large coincidence, don't you think?" He looked smugly at Faith.
Who in turned, slammed her hands down on the desk and leaned over it. "If you're sayin' I'm responsible for those deaths in Boston, you'd a better start running. There woulda been a lot more if it wasn't for me."
She saw Angel and Giles whispering together on the far side of the room and she felt Gunn's hand on her shoulder. She shook it off but took the hint and changed her stance to a less threatening one.
"There is no evidence to suggest Faith and her Guardian were anything more than unlucky bystanders to the events in Boston. The bodies of the victims that the police managed to find could not have been done by someone of Faith's age, strength or stature. The victims were quite literally torn apart in some cases. The police believe it was some kind of gang warfare, but there is no proof of anything except that these were scary people." Gunn informed the Judge. "If anything, the events that transpired in Boston, go someway to explain the unfortunate decisions Faith made on arrival in Sunnydale."
The D.A. stepped forward again. "While losing someone close to you at young age is indeed tragic, it's no excuse for murder."
"And I'm saying she's not guilty of murder. Just that she got sucked up into a whole chain of nasty occurrence that lead her here. The girl's had a bad break from the word go, and while she's no more blameless than the rest of the human race for making some bad mistakes, her latter mistakes were vastly controlled by the influence of Richard Wilkins III. Is it fair to keep on making her the scape goat for other people's lack of humanity."
The Judge scribbled something down before looking up at the expectant court. "I think it's time we break for lunch. Reconvene in one hour." He stood and left the room.
Faith paced back and forth the small room she and Gunn had been taken to. An armed guard was standing by the door staring into space. Gunn was leaning over a table shuffling through pages of notes.
"So how do ya think it's going?"
Gunn looked up at the nervous Slayer. "Honestly?"
"Not good, huh." She went back to pacing.
"That little Boston twist could have been a problem but I have paperwork here that says bodies were still being discovered up to three weeks after you left."
"Yeah Kakistos didn't come after straight away. I'd have been dead before I reached Sunnydale if he had."
"Truth is Faith. Most people think you shouldn't be leaving jail anytime soon 'cause you walked away without a pass. They don't know you left to save the world from Angelus and the big Evil. It's stamped all over your files and the fact you came back on your own is only adding a little bit of wieght. We need to prove you should never have been in here in the first place…and threatening the District Attourney ain't gonna help."
Faith slumped against the wall. "I know, I know, but he accused me of killing my Watcher and even at my worse I wouldn't have been able to come up with the things he did to her." She thought about Wesley for a moment and felt sick.
There was a knock at the door before Gunn could answer her. "Yeah?" He called instead.
The door opened and Angel poked his head around it. "Mind if I come in?"
Faith nodded, eager for the distraction. The guard glanced at him before continuing his inspection of the wall.
Angel shut the door behind him. "How're you holding up, Faith?"
"Five by five. Thanks for being here."
He smiled at her. "No problem. Gunn, what do you think?"
"Well it's not good, but it's not terrible either. We know we've got what we need to make this work so it all depends on whether we tell it right. Faith needs to keep her head and answer the D.A's questions, without getting his back up. You and Giles have just got to tell it like it was – more or less. And hopefully Ms. Leighton will be our trump card."
"Ms Leighton?" Faith looked at him, remembering the unknown woman in the court.
"A pyschiatrist come social worker. She's here to tell the court you'd be better off outta here. That the prison system is just going to take what good is in you and destroy it. Much like the Mayor did for a time. You gotta convince her that's the truth though. She's got your records and my notes on you and she's sitting in today to get a feel for you, so make sure she gets what we're looking for her to get. From what I've heard she takes her job real serious and if she thinks you're trying to pull the wool over the Judge's eyes, she'll shove the whole sheep up your ass. Got it?"
"Got it. No fooling around." She turned to Angel. "What you got there, Chief?"
Angel looked at the brown paper bag in his hands as if remembering it was there. "Oh yeah, Giles nipped out and got you both a bit of lunch." He handed the bag to her.
"Cool, I had to cancel my lunch date due to imprisonment so this works out well." She opened the bag and pulled out two big cheeseburgers. "Alright, who'da thought Giles even knew what junk food was." She handed one to Gunn and bit into the other.
"I better get back. I'm not really suppose to be in here." Angel let himself out of the room while the other two tucked in.
"Next time I break out it's gonna be for one of these. Blow the apocalypses."
The guard looked at Faith a little funny, but didn't speak.
Willow was walking down the stairs with Buffy when Xander and the gang came rushing through the front door.
"Hey guys, what took you so long?" She asked leaning in for a kiss from her girlfriend. "Things have been getting weird around here."
Kennedy put her arm around her waist and together they walked towards the living room. "They're pretty weird out there too."
"I need a long, cool glass of something wet." Dawn announced, heading for the kitchen followed by Andrew.
Xander stood leaning against the door, panting lightly. Buffy looked up at him and saw the bloody gash on his forehead. "What happened?"
Xander grinned. "Hey Buff, nice to see you again. I was starting to think we'd accidently left you in L.A."
"Xander. Tell me why you're hurt or you'll wish you had left me in L.A."
"Jeez Buff. A little patience for the guy with the head trauma." Xander joked, then his face paled and his mouth dropped open. "Buf…"
"What? What is it?" She stepped forward thinking he was about to faint, but she couldn't.
"That happened." He stuttered, pointing to her top.
Looking down she saw the leafy greenness that was creating an intricate lattice work around her chest and stomach. Letting out a cry of surprise, she tried to pull them off, but as quickly as she snapped them, more curly strands of green wound around her fingers, binding them too.
Xander moved to help her, breaking the thin stems even as they slithered over his own hands. He guiltily wondered why he only ever got to grope Buffy when she was in danger, then fear took over as his hands became attached to Buffy's stomach by a covering of green and wouldn't that be a fitting punishment for still harbouring those kinds of thoughts after all this time.
Buffy's startled shriek had brought Kennedy and Willow racing back in to the hall. The young Slayer assessed the problem quickly and ran to the hat stand where she'd just dumped her sword.
Willow stood in front of them, mumbling then discarding incantations under her breath. She watched as her two best friends became enshrounded by the green tendrils. Buffy's struggles became limited as more of her body was encased in the plant. Xander was rooted to Buffy as the greenery crawled up his arms at an alarming rate.. The stood face to face, panic rising in both their eyes.
"Somebody do something." He ground out, trying to ignore the pain in his wrists as he tried to pull them free.
"It's magic, if I do a spell it may make it worse." Willow hopped from foot to foot.
"Kennedy?" Buffy squeaked, her teeth snapping at the leaves around her mouth.
"Just hold still." Kennedy told them. She was trying to find the best angle to strike from. The problem being it was now difficult to tell where Buffy ended and the plant began.
"Can't really do a lot else right now." Buffy mumbled, trying to keep the invasive flora out of her mouth.
Dawn appeared in the kitchen doorway. "What's going on? Oh my God Buffy, are you okay?"
Buffy tried to shrug sarcastically, but the gesture was lost under the tightening hug of the over-friendly pot plant.
Andrew peered over Dawn's shoulder. "What's up? Oh cool." Everyone turned and glared at him. "Or not." He corrected himself, then a light bulb went on above his head. "Hold on." He squealed and ran for the back door.
"Got that part covered." Xander muttered, staring dismally at where his hands were effectively stuck to Buffy.
Andrew ran back in struggling to carry a large green container. "Help me!" He panted, heading for the entangled pair.
Xander's eyes lit up when he saw what the blonde teenager had fetched. "Oh good boy." He sighed with relief.
Willow and Dawn cottoning on rushed to help Andrew with the cumbersome receptacle. Quickly they sloshed it around Buffy's feet and then up her legs.
"I hope this stuff doesn't disolve people." Dawn splashed some on her sisters stomach.
"Me too." Buffy squeaked, she was straining her head backwards trying to avoid a leaf aiming for her nostril.
"Kennedy we're gonna need the other bottle." Willow instructed. "It's by the back door, right Andrew?"
"Uh huh." He poured the rest of the first bottle over Buffy's back and what had been the main body of the plant. When it was empty the three of them began pulling at the strands, snapping them away. They still grew back, but not as fast as before. Little bits of Buffy were visable under the green. Soon Xander felt the pressure on his hands subside. He could wiggle them slightly. Kennedy reappeared with an identical container.
"Buffy shut your eyes. And you too Xander. And keep them closed until I tell you otherwise." Willow told her friends.
When they had complied, Kennedy dumped the entire contents of the second bottle over Buffy's head and the plant.
Everyone stepped back slightly as a high pitched whine emanated from the pair, followed by rising steam. Slowly the greenery turned brown and shrivelled up, falling away as it did so, leaving behind a drenched Slayer and a very relieved carpenter.
"So that's getting back to nature huh? You can keep it." Xander rubbed at his sore wrists.
"Was the plant screaming?" Dawn asked.
"Best not to think about it." Advised Willow.
Buffy was looking around her at the remains of the plant. "Not that I'm not grateful for the save, but did anyone bother to read the label on that stuff before you gave me a drenching."
Kennedy quickly scanned the label on the bottle she was holding. Underneath the name "Busta Weed" were a long list of ingredients. Kennedy grimaced as she read them. "I'd go take a shower if I were you." She said before she got even halfway down the list.
Buffy nodded and started up the stairs.
"Just as well your not a weed, huh." Said Willow. "Y'know, if you couldn't take care of yourself and you were a weed."
Buffy turned on the stairs and gave her friend a look that said: You're very strange.
"Yeah if we'd had to tip it over Andrew, there may have been nothing left." Agreed Kennedy, chuckling.
"Hey." Andrew frowned. "I'm the one who came up with the solution, when you two couldn't. Day-saver here – have a little respect."
Kennedy just laughed harder and followed her girlfriend into the kitchen.
Xander clapped the young man on the back. "Well done, let's have a beer to celebrate."
"I can have one of your beers." Andrew grinned, the affrontary already forgotten.
"Yeah why not. It's been a bad day, we deserve a little good cheer." Xander walked into kitchen followed by Dawn and Andrew. "I don't know why they call them creepers. That thing didn't creep, it ran." He said, reverting back to his flora-bashing.
"I think they're pretty creepy." Smiled Dawn, joining her at the table with a soda.
Willow agreed. "The whole days been pretty creepy. That wasn't our first plant attack." Willow was sitting down gingerly at the kitchen table.
"What's up sweetie?" Kennedy asked concerned.
"Plant bite, but it's okay." She assured her. "Apart from said creep factor."
"Yeah, our morning has been full of creeps too." Kennedy sat too. "There was some old folks in the store and they were whispering about us, but when I confronted them, they denied it.
"And Xander's got a cool and mysterious new nickname, haven't you." Dawn grinned at the one eyed man.
"You have, what is it?" Willow asked, frowning slightly as Xander went to the fridge.
"Yeah." His voice was slightly muffled as he rummaged around for the beers he knew were in there somewhere. He'd left the ones he'd brought in town back at the car. "Got jumped by some big, mean, psychotic pre-adolescents. They called me Wolf. Which is a cool enough nick-name, but considering the man-sized beating those little brats were handing out to me, I don't think it was a complimentary thing."
"That's weird." Willow's frown deepened when she saw Xander pull two beer bottles from the fridge.
He passed one to Andrew, then took a seat at the table and opened his own. He held it in his hand while he was still talking. "I reckon they would have mashed me down to burger patty if Kennedy hadn't scared them off. It was weird, I mean they had some serious rage towards me. Then with the whole having to hack our way home like jungle explorers and being eaten alive in the process." He scratched at some mosquito bites on the back of his neck. "I really need this." He took a big swig from his bottle and nearly sprayed it across the room. "Will! Enough already! You are not the mom of me! Turn it back!"
After a brief argument Willow agreed to turn Xander's beer back into beer.
"Just as long as you know I'm only doing it under protest." She pouted.
"I don't care." He told her, draining the bottle.
Buffy came down the back stairs. "Showers all yours, Xander."
"Yeah I guess I did get splashed by that stuff quite a bit. I'll go get cleansed and then we'll Scooby up." He disappeared the way Buffy had just come.
Buffy sat at the table in his place and played with his empty beer bottle. She felt a bit weird being down here with all of them, She'd pretty much kept to herself in Los Angeles, unless company was forced upon her and since arriving at their new home, she'd barely left her bedroom. Everyone was smiling at her and she felt a little paranoid, like she'd been the topic of conversation before she entered. Even though she had clearly heard Willow and Xander arguing about beer. She smiled back nervously. "Hi guys, so whats the plan?"
Kennedy shrugged. "We were waiting for you B… I mean, Buffy." She hung her head. "Sorry. That just slipped out."
"It's okay, it's just a name." Buffy smiled and held back the anguished shriek she wanted to let out.
"Talking about creepy." Began Andrew.
"We were?" Buffy looked confused. "You think my name is creepy?"
Everyone laughed and then realised they were laughing.
"Uh sorry, no Buffy's not a creepy name." Stuttered Willow.
"Its actually the opposite of creepy. Which is probably why the bad guys fear it so much." Added Kennedy, helpfully.
"Yeah. It gives the bad guys the creeps, because it's not creepy, or something." Dawn smiled brightly at her sister.
Buffy and Andrew shared a look of perplexity, which Buffy found creepy.
"I was talking about things today being creepy, you know, the discussion we were having before you ruined Xander's "I'm glad to be alive" celebratory beer." Andrew looked pointedly at Willow.
"I'm not going to feel guilty for trying to protect his health." Willow's voice rose at being unjustly criticised.
"Um, okay guys. We've just watched the first showing of this, we don't need a rerun straight away." Dawn's head bobbed, the way it did when she was saying something she was sure was going to turn the flames on her.
"She's right, you guys." Buffy backed her sister up. "What was it you were going to say Andrew."
"Well Willow said we were looking for someone, possibly a demon, around here who did a spell on us. To make the plants go all evil. So I was thinking about the stuff that's happened today that has been weird."
Buffy nodded at the young man encouragingly. "Go on."
"Well first there was the dead Maritima demon on the road, it didn't look like it had been dead that long, but I don't think it could have cast the spell, they're not known for being particularly bright."
"You found a dead demon in the road? What did you do with it?" Asked Buffy.
"Left it, it was road kill. Not our problem." Kennedy told her.
"You didn't hide it, or bury it or anything. What if someone sees it."
"Buffy, it was big and it was stinky and I forgot to put my regulation Slayer shovel in my pocket this morning. If you care so much, you go out there and bury it."
Buffy hung her head. "I was just saying." She said quietly.
"Number two." Continued Andrew. "The rude people in the store that were muttering about us. Maybe one of them was a witch, or a wizard."
"But what I felt was here, somewhere in the house, or very near it, when I did the spell. If you saw these people in town and it took you that long to get through how did they manage it quicker?" Wondered Willow.
"Magic." Offered Dawn. Willow had to admit it was possible.
Buffy looked thoughtful. "If the demon thing I saw earlier was responsible, then I don't think it was human shaped. It was low to the ground and it kind of slithered, or appeared to. I didn't actually see a lot, I more heard it." She admitted.
Andrew cleared his throat. "Third. Xander getting the smack down from a gang of miniture thugs."
"Xander got beaten up by midgets?" Asked Buffy.
"No, little boys. Really pissed off little boys." Said Kennedy.
"And them calling him wolf. That's got to mean something." Andrew looked around the table. "And then there's the creepy castle."
"There's a castle too?" Buffy was beginning to wish she'd just stayed in her room. All this information was bringing on a migrane.
"Well it wasn't really a castle, more like a big old mansion place on a hill." Supplied Dawn.
"But it had turrets." Added Andrew. "Do you think this witch, or spell-casting demon could be living there. Its not far away."
Buffy and Kennedy both looked at Willow.
"It's possible. I still say whoever cast the spell was here when I did my spell, but that doesn't mean they don't live there, or in town, or anywhere really."
"So we're back to square one on the knowledge front?" Asked Kennedy.
"Nothing new there. Just means we go back to grass roots – sorry wrong choice of phrases there – and check everywhere." Said Buffy. "We've got five Slayers here. We can cover all the bases."
"I'll go get the other girls. Where are they?" Dawn stood up and chucked her empty soda can away.
"Upstairs in their bedroom. I told them to stay inside until we had this sorted." Willow told her and Dawn left to go fetch them.
"Okay so we need this place checked from top to bottom, then we need this castle- come-mansion checked out and…do you think we should go into town and check things out?" Buffy started to plan.
"Unless we're prepared to knock on every door and do a monster related questionaire. I don't think it will help." Said Willow. "But if you want to do that, I can soon whip one up on the computer." She smiled.
"Can you break the spell yourself Will?" Was Buffy's next question.
"Eventually I would be able to, but the simple release spells I've tried so far this afternoon obviously haven't worked, I need to do some research and try a few things." She stood and walked towards the little office she had set up. "Which I will begin now. I will break it Buffy but it might take a while."
Buffy looked at Kennedy. "So we'll just cover those two locations and hope Will comes up with something soon. If all else fails we'll try her questionaire thingy." She smiled at the brunette Slayer.
Kennedy stood and stretched. "Okay, so we'll start with round here."
"Well I was thinking we could split up, y'know, you take one team and do this castle and I'll do around here. It will be quicker."
Kennedy stared hard at her elder. "And you won't have to leave the grounds right? What are you so scared of out there, Buffy?"
"Nothing." Said Buffy annoyed. "Nothing at all. It's just you're the Slayer now Kennedy. I've done my time and it's your turn."
"And it's that easy?"
"It is for me."
"So you just can't be bothered now. You've had a little heartbreak and now the world can all just go to Hell." Kennedy goaded.
"Kennedy, don't even pretend to know what I'm thinking. Maybe when you've done seven years on a Hellmouth you can critisise me, until then just shut the Hell up. If you don't like being the Alpha Slayer then blame Faith, 'cause it should be her job anyway."
"So if I'm the Alpha Slayer, can I have the Scythe." Kennedy changed tack.
"No." Buffy stood, preparing to put an end to this conversation.
"Why not. I don't think you should get to keep it if you're not even gonna use."
"The Scythe is…is special. It's not just another weapon, it's powerful." Buffy explained.
"So you don't trust me with it."
Buffy smirked at her. "No I don't. I don't trust any of you newbies with it. Kennedy, you stay alive long enougth to earn the right to wield that Scythe. I'll gladly pass it on to you. Until then, you can keep your mitts off."
The three news Slayers came down the stairs with Dawn and Xander and Buffy turned her attention towards them. Andrew, from his place still at the table, breathed a sigh of relief. He'd thought they were about to start fighting, and he so didn't want to be sat in the middle of a Slayer brawl.
Faith was getting seriously fed up. She'd been answering this idiots questions for thirty minutes straight, stirring up more and more bad memories.
"So tell me again about the night Allan Finch died?"
Faith took a deep breath. "A friend and I were walking down a dark alley, on our way to the Bronze, which is a night club in Sunnydale. It wasn't the smartest thing to do 'cause there were some nasty types in Sunnydale, but y'know what its like when you're young. We thought we were invincible. So we're walking down this alley when all of a sudden this guy jumps out at us from behind a dumpster. It scared us both bad. He jumped at my friend and she managed to shove him away and I just kind of ran at him and knocked him over. I was holding a stick, I was gonna smack him over the head with it, but then he just collapsed and he was bleeding and then that was it. It was horrible." Faith hung her head and the tears in her eyes were not forced. Every night she saw his face again. It was like being back in prison had reopened the nightmare theatre.
"The stick you were holding just happened to go through his heart, with enough force to kill him."
"Do you really think that if I wanted to off some guy, I'd stake him or whatever it's called. That's for people who believe in the things that go bump in the night. I thought he was gonna rape us and I wanted to smack him hard enough to keep him down while we ran away. That's all."
"And what was your reaction when you realised you'd killed him?"
"I went crazy for a couple of days, wouldn't you? I denied it completely, and when it wouldn't go away I tried to blame my friend for it, and when that didn't work I tried to run away. Except the Mayor had sent a little retrieval party out to find me. See he knew what I'd done and he wanted revenge, but then he met me and decided I'd be more use to him alive than dead. I guess you could say I was head hunted or something." It hurt to talk about the Mayor like this. However much of a bastard he may have ultimately been, he had been good to her. She felt like she was betraying him.
"So you took the job he offered willingly?"
"The answer to that would be yes because I didn't really think I had a choice. By the time he had told me his proposal, I already knew to much, if you know what I mean."
"You didn't mind the unpleasant tasks he had you preform?"
"Well to start with they weren't all that unpleasant. Just fetching and carrying. I'd go meet people, pick up important documents for him, make exchanges. Stuff he couldn't have his regular boys do 'cause it was all a bit delicate. Stuff that could hurt his public persona, y'know. Plus I got a wicked cool new uptown apartment out of it, and I got money, and he wasn't too bad a person when he was happy with me. I guess I learnt to keep him happy."
The D.A. pulled a face and chose his next words carefully. "Was there some kind of sexual relationship between you and your employer."
It was Faith's turn to pull a face. "Wash your mouth out. He was old and it wasn't like that. He was more like a dad to me, more than my dad ever was. He treated me with respect."
"But only when he was happy with you?"
"Well you don't reward a disobediant child, do ya? He expected the same respect back that he gave me. If I didn't, or if I didn't do as he asked, or I messed something up because I didn't try my best, then he'd get mad."
Giles and Angel shared a look at the other table. Neither had been aware just how attached to the Mayor, Faith had become. Of course the young girl they had known back in Sunnydale would not have seen the manipulation for what it was. She would have just been happy that an adult saw the specialness in her that her parents hadn't. That someone wanted her for more than just sex. It maybe that he wanted her just for the violence, but even that would have been unique for the girl, after having lived in Buffy's shadow for months. Both men felt a little guilty that they'd let the Mayor get his hands on her before they could find a way to reach her.
"Okay guys and gals, hang on to your hats." Xander fumbled with some keys.
"Are you sure this is going to work? How long has this monster even been here? I bet it doesn't start." Kennedy jumped as the engine of the enormous truck they were in, roared to life.
"Au contraire, my little disbeliever. Me and Giles took this baby out last week. He wants to use it to clear all the dead fall from the back track when he gets back from London. That's gonna be a bigger job than he thought. So it's all juiced up and ready to go."
The truck lurched forward out of the shed and started towards the front track they'd cut a swathe through earlier. When Xander reached the edge of the overgrown undergrowth, he gunned the engine.
"Ready." He called over the noise, Kennedy, Miranda, Alison and Andrew all nodded and he eased the truck forward to the accompanying synphony of snapping branches and green stuff being ripped up by its roots.
"Mr Giles, you were one of the first people in Sunnydale to have any contact with Miss Faith. What did you think of her?"
"I thought she was a very spirited young woman. She was smart and capable for her age, but I felt she was scarred from previous trauma. This was obviously before she had explained the situation to me in full. She was a little wary for a while upon her arrival, but she soon put her demons behind her and became a valued member of the team."
"Team, Mr Giles?"
"Ah yes, I was the libarian at the high school and several of my students used the space to discuss things they felt of importance to the well being of the school and on occasion the town." Giles tried to remember a cover story Xander had once come up with, he smiled. "Ah yes, The Crime Club. They did some very good work. Stopping locker thieves and …escaped hyenas and such. Faith was an avid member for some time."
"Really?" The D.A, asked, looking sceptical.
"Oh yes." Giles nodded.
"When the …uh…accident happened involving the death of Mr Finch, were you aware of you're friend's role in it?"
"Um, she came to me soon after and told me about it. She didn't explain her involvment right away. She was scared and confused and didn't feel she knew me well enough to trust me. When she did tell me everything a few days later, I'm afraid I didn't handle it very well, plus a colleague of mine overheard us talking and went straight to the authorities." Giles didn't have to tell them he meant the Watchers council and not the police."
"You, yourself didn't think it might be a good idea to go to the police?"
"Of course, but I wanted Faith to trust me enough to take my guidance and go to the police with the truth, not have my associate run off half cocked screaming blue murder."
"So was it your influence do you think that encouraged Faith to eventually turn herself in?"
"No that came all from her. Once she'd awoken from her coma, she realised she was out of the Mayor's control and once again in charge of her own life and she went to L.A. to hand herself in. She knew she had done wrong and she wanted to make amends for it.
"Okay, skipping forward a few years Mr. Giles, it was to you and Sunnydale that Faith came when she escaped from Stockton correctional facility, yes?"
"And can you explain that? What was important enough in Sunnydale for her to turn her back on her own ethical decision and make an escape."
"Faith's other friends and I were in grave trouble, she heard that and she decided she needed to help. She's a very loyal person."
"What sort of trouble?"
'Come on old boy, think, think. Why didn't I reherse this part?' Giles scolded himself while smiling warmly at the D.A. "Ah… The Crime Club, They found evidence that some nasty so and so's were planning on taking over Sunnydale. When my friends intervened they were met with some very nasty threats, some of which were carried out when we said we were going to the authorities. People we cared about died. Faith decided she couldn't stand by and watch it happen. I'm not saying I applaud her decision to break out, but I will say I'm very glad she was there. I don't know if we would have got through it so well if she hadn't been."
"All of this sounds very far-fetched, Mr Giles."
"Yes it does rather, doesn't it." He smiled. "And of course, shortly after that the earthquake hit, the largest in this part of the world for over seventy years so I'm told and the entire town was in a state of panic. Faith stayed calm and helped us evacuate the town. I truly believe a lot more people would have lost their lives if Faith had remained in prison."
The judge spoke up this time, peering over his spectacles at the Watcher. "Tell me, Mr Giles, if Faith were to be released in the near future, and that's a mighty big if still at the moment, but would you be prepared to stand by her, help her stay on the right path."
"Of course. In fact I'm just about to open a private school in Cleveland. If Faith were to be released then she could come and live there and continue her studies."
Faith raised her eyebrows and smirked. 'Yeah right' she thought.
The Judge nodded thoughtfully and wrote something on his pad. Giles went to sit down with a smile on his face.
Angel stood facing the D.A. feeling like a little school boy about to get the cane. He was still more comfortable skulking in shadows than he was out in the open in front of people. Especially weasely little lawyers like this one. They always made his fangs itch.
The D.A gave him a bright, false smile. "I believe Faith was staying with you when she decided to confess her crimes, yes?"
"Yes, she came to me for guidance, when she woke up, from her coma."
"And can you describe what kind of state she was in?"
"She was distressed, upset. She could barely live with what she'd done. She just wanted to make it better, but she knew she couldn't."
"And so she handed herself over to the authorities. You visited her on a regular basis, yes?"
"When I could. I work kind of unsociable hours, but I went when I was able."
"And what is your relationship to Faith?"
"Uh, well, friends I guess. We knew each other back in Sunnydale. We hung out a bit."
"You hung out a bit. That's all? Yet she came to you in her darkest hour, and you gave up your valuable time to visit her, and now are possibly risking both your own and your company's reputation by speaking on her behalf."
"Things changed. I think I was the only person she knew in L.A. When she came to me, we talked, we got closer, she confided in me."
"And this was just after she tried to kill you in cold blood, yes?"
Angel sucked unecessary air through his teeth and he heard similar sounds from Giles and Gunn. He glanced over at Faith, but she was staring hard at her hands, palms flat on the table top, expressionless.
"I, ah, that was, it was a misunderstanding."
"Shooting at you with a longbow was a misunderstanding? Was she actually aiming for someone else then?"
"She wasn't trying to shoot me, not really. She was just trying to get my attention."
"And an arrow in the back is certainly going to achieve that." The D.A. chuckled to himself.
"It was a cry for help." Angel asserted. "She wanted my help but after everything she's been through, she didn't know how to ask for it. All she's ever been taught is violence. Afterwards she apoligised and I accepted."
"That's very forgiving of you Mr. Angel."
"I've learned to be, and anyway if she's as deadly as you are making her out to be, I wouldn't be standing here telling the tale, would I. She was a mixed up kid who needed a break. I gave her one and she's never done anything to give me reason to regret it." Angel turned to the judge. "If you give her one now, you won't regret it either."
The judge didn't even bother to look up as he answered. "I've yet to be convinced of that."
Xander slowed the truck down as they came upon another turn off. "This one?"
Kennedy stared hard at the map. "Think so."
"Well it wasn't the last two and if we go much further we'll be back in town." Decided Xander and swung the vehicle onto the new road. "So let me get this straight. You're pissed 'cause Buffy won't give you the Scythe?"
"No, I'm pissed off that I never get to climb into bed with Willow until four in the morning." Kennedy looked at the map again. "Take the left fork, it should take us straight there."
"Buffy's been there and done that. Except for the getting into bed with Willow part." Xander thought for a moment. "As far as I know. She just wants a rest." The trees gave way to a circular driveway. "Bingo. Let's check it out."
Xander switched off the truck and jumped out. Kennedy, Miranda and Alison followed suit. Andrew stayed put looking up at the house.
"Andy, come on." Xander held the door open while he waited for the blonde to jump out.
"Uh, don't you think someone should stay here and look after the truck. 'Cause, like, we don't know what might be around. We shouldn't put all our eggs in one haunted castle."
"Okay, stay here, do not go wandering off. If we don't come back call Buffy on your cell and tell her where we are, got it?" Xander slammed the door shut.
Andrew looked around at the dark, imposing forest. There was still at least two hours of daylight left, but the trees were already casting long, deep shadows over the front of the house. "No worries about me wandering off." He muttered to himself, and snapped the door locks down.
Xander and the girls made their way to the steps leading up to the grand entrance door.
"Buffy doesn't want to rest, she just doesn't want Slaying to cut into her sitting around and moping time. It's not healthy, mark my words, if she doesn't snap out of it, in six months she'll be shuffling around in her nightdress and curlers, trying not to trip over her forty-three cats, and I am not a cat person…"
Xander shushed Kennedy mid-rant as they reached the front door and he put his ear to it.
"Should we knock?" Asked Alison sotto voce.
"I'm thinking that's not the best start to a trespassing mission." Xander muttered, looking up at the house.
All the windows, and there was a lot of them, were dark. Some had broken panes, or shutters hanging off the wall. Some were even open, frames probably wedged that way long ago.. None of them looked welcoming.
"So what do we do?" Stuttered Miranda. In the four days Xander had known the young Slayer she had never once stuttered.
Xander put his finger to his lips and slowly reached for the door handle. They all tensed as he rested his hand on it. He mouthed one, two, three and began to turn it, giving a gentle push with his other hand as he did so. They all held their breath.
After a minute they let it back out again, panting slightly.
Xander looked bewildered. "Damn, who locks a deserted house. Where are all the useful homeless guys when you need them."
"Maybe it's not deserted" Said Miranda, hopefully.
"Maybe it's dangerous inside, and they locked it to keep the kids out." Suggested Alison.
Xander touched his now bandaged forehead. "The most dangerous thing around here is the kids."
Kennedy had jumped from the steps and was walking along the edge of the house. The weed choked gravel crunched beneath her sneakers. Finding what she was looking for she called back to the others. Xander, come give us a leg up."
"We can't do that, can we?" Miranda asked nervously.
"Don't see why not. Trespassings trespassing, whichever way we get in. Though the window just feels more secret-ops." Said Kennedy.
Xander shrugged and went to help her through the window.
The flames of a small fire flickered, making the rest of the room seem even darker than it was. Almost no natural light made it to this corner of the gloom.
"Haave yow gert it lads?"
"Yas Mawther." Several voices said at once, in the lilting tongue they were bred with.
"Good. Put tha jowders in tha fringle."
Several items were thrown on the fire, making it hiss and pop. The flames climbed higher.
"Mad-ley-moed, Mawther. Hubba bad." Came a voice, it's owner sounding scared and unsure of its place to speak.
"I know lad. Enough Skalling, I'm an old totle. Lets end this to-wance."
As their leader raised her hands, the flames grew higher and higher. The shadows on the wall grew until they covered the entire wall. The tribe bowed before their powerful leader.
Buffy and Cici made their way back into the kitchen where Willow was sat at her laptop.
"So how are you feeling?" Buffy asked the new girl.
"Okay, a little sore in places but I fell off my horse once into a bramble bush and it's not that disimilar."
Buffy smiled the smile of someone never quite spoilt enough to get the pony. It was still a touchy subject. "Well that's good." She turned to her friend. "Well Will, that's the whole house searched. I guess we do the grounds next. How many sheds are there?"
The red-head looked up. "Three barns, a stable block, oh and a woodshed."
"We have a stable block, does it have horses?" Buffy asked.
"Nope, unless it has ghost horses. Might be kinda funny trying to ride one of them." Willow went back to her laptop. Why people liked horses was a mystery to her. They were just arm eating machines.
"Ooh maybe Mr. Giles will let me have Pinochio stay here." Cici chirped, already excited at the prospect.
"Pinochio?" Buffy and Willow repeated, sharing a smirk.
"Ask him, he's due back tomorrow." Said Willow.
"Lets go Cici. We'll start with the stables and you can check it out for Pinochio." Buffy ushered the young Slayer out the door, while she talked excitedly about her horse.
The four walked quietly around the large house. There were a lot of rooms. Some had furniture still in them, some did not and were just empty, cobweb covered caverns. The main staircase was wide and long and still had a threadbare scarlet carpet running down it's centre. What was obvious was that a some point in the past, someone pretty wealthy had owned the place.
"I wonder why it was abandoned?" Miranda asked quietly.
"Could be any reason. Maybe the owners lost all their money in the wall street crash." Suggested Xander, opening a few doors down the second floor hallway.
"Maybe the owners died. They may still be here. This place is pretty out of the way. Maybe no one ever found them." Kennedy checked a few doors on her side of the landing. They all revealed much of the same emptiness.
"I don't want to find a dead body!" Alison pulled a face.
"You're a Slayer. It's going to happen sooner or later." Kennedy told her. "You might as well get used to it."
"But it's gross." The blonde girl grumbled.
They began to move up the second flight of stairs.
"Agreed, but unavoidable, I'm afraid." Said Xander.
They checked the doors on the third level. The two young Slayers becoming more confident the further they went without incident. Xander and Kennedy growing more nervous knowing that with less places left to check the more chance there was of some mad axe demon jumping out on them from a hall closet.
Eventually they made their way to the far end of the corridor. Here was another set of steps, narrow and plain compared to the previous two staircases. At the top was a simple wooden door. There was no sign on it saying "Beware all who enter here!", But Xander felt the really should be. He put one hand on the banisters and his foot on the first step.
"Well it was nice knowing you guys." He quipped, adjusting his eye-patch. Something Kennedy noticed he always did now when he was nervous.
"We're not really going to go up there, are we?" Squeaked Miranda. "That's the attic, up there. The killer always hides in the attic, in all the scary movies. Everyone knows you don't don't go into the attic in a haunted house. You 'll get got!"
"Miranda, you don't get killers in haunted houses, you get ghosts." Xander tried to reason with the frightened girl.
"And you think that's any better?" She asked.
Xander thought back to his run ins with the paranormal and had to agree it wasn't, but still. "It's the only place left to check." He was about to start the climb when Kennedy put her hand on his arm.
"There's nothing up there." She said. "We might as well go."
"How can you be sure?" He stepped back down to the landing, hoping he didn't appear to eager.
"This place is covered top to toe in dust. Look, even the floor. The only footprints are ours." The other three looked at the floor.
She was right, there were a lot of scuffed footprints but they all obviously belonged to them. One set leading towards and away from each door they had methodically checked.
"Plus," she continued, "the front door was locked, and so was the back 'cause we checked. Even if someone got in through the window like us there would be some evidence surely. I don't know candle wax drippings, or the scent of incense, maybe a bubbling cauldron. If there's anything up in that attic, besides the poisonous spiders and killer bees we'd probably disturb, then they're not flesh and blood and we can't do anything about them."
Kennedy started to walk back the way they had come. "Besides it's nearly dark and if I don't start patrol soon, I'll be even later curling up with my girl."
"Okay, come on, let's go." Agreed Xander, more relieved than he cared to admit in front of the girls.
They made their way down the two flights of the stairs and headed for the once plush palour room, and the window they'd entered through.
A figure stepped from the shadows under the stairs and watched them go. "Interesting." He murmured.
Buffy jumped when her cell phone began it's high pitched ring. She'd pulled her jacket on before leaving the house without even realising it was still in the pocket.
"Hello." She spoke into it. Wondering who on earth was calling her.
"Slow down. What do you mean, they went into the house and never came back? Where are you?"
Dawn and Cici both stopped poking into the dark corners of the barn to listen to the one-sided conversation.
"No don't go in, there's nothing you can do. I'll get Willow and somehow we'll get to you." Buffy started to leave the barn. "Though I don't know how we'll get through the wilderness without the monster truck."
"What? What is it? They're there. All of them. And they're okay."
"Well thanks for the heart attack, Andrew. Yeah, hurry back so you can help us. Did you know we have more outhouses than we have house." Buffy turned her phone off and put it back in her pocket.
"What is it? What happened?" Her sister demanded.
"Just Andrew getting scared of the dark. He thought they'd all been murdered in the ghost house but just as he was working himself into a frenzy they came out. They're gonna meet us back here, help us finish up before its completely dark."
"They better hurry then." Cici nodded towards the dimming sky.
"Well there's nothing in here." Dawn took a final look around.
"Right well that leaves one more barn and one woodshed." Buffy lead the way to the next barn.
"Surely nothing would be doing magic from the wood shed, there wouldn't be enough room, would there?" Cici tried to toss her hair over one shoulder, forgetting it was shorter now. The roses had done quite a job on it. Willow had done the best she could, but the young Slayer desperately wanted to go to a professional salon in Cleveland. Willow may have been a wonderful Wicca, but she was no hairdresser.
Buffy shrugged and put her finger to her lips as she pushed back the door to the last pitch black barn. It smelled strongly of musty hay and possibly musty cows too.
"Okay, it really is getting a bit dark for this. Lets go and get some flashlights and come back." Whispered Buffy and lead the way back to the main house.
Buffy, Dawn, Cici and Willow were just leaving the last barn as the big truck pulled up in front of them. Chunks of vegetation were caught up in its wheel arches, but otherwise it was none the worse for wear.
Xander shut the engine off and jumped out. The others followed suit.
"Find anything?" Buffy called, as her group walked over to join them.
"Not a thing." Kennedy gave Willow a hug. "How about you guys?"
"Nothing so far. We've checked everything but the woodshed." Dawn swung her flashlight around to point at the woodshed. It was a small rickety wooden structure a little way from the house. "Doesn't look big enough to hold a monster does it."
"Well let's get it over with." Buffy strode towards it, with everyone else close behind.
When they were still several yards away Kennedy spoke. "Hang on. Do you hear that?"
Everyone strained their ears. There was a chorus of "No's"
"Yeah." Said Buffy.
Signalling for the others to stay put, the two Slayers crept forward to the edge of the woodshed. From inside they could hear chanting. It was strangely mellifluous, spoken in some exotic demon tongue, but chanting was chanting.
Buffy and Kennedy met each others eyes and after three bobs of their heads they crashed into the door, sending it flying open to bang onto the inside wall. The pair rushed in, looking around in the small space, for anything that could chant. There was a tiny fire in one corner of the shed and it sent hundreds of shadows racing across the walls.
Buffy frantically searched, but she couldn't make out what were shadows and what was not. She could here scuffling coming from around the walls and it reminded her of the snaky type demon she had seen earlier, what if the shed was full of snakes. She shivered and looked harder. All the while the demon language flowed over them, seeming to come from every side.
(A/N Indicates flashback>>>>>>>> )
The wood shed was an eight foot by eight foot hole of chaos. Demon voices echoed all around the two Slayers, some shrill others gruff. Monstrous shadows danced across the walls, confusing Buffy even more.
The rest of the gang charged in behind them, wanting to help with the unknown foe. Andrew ran clumsily into Buffy's back and her flash light fell from her hand. It hit the dusty, straw-strewn floor and spun unevenly once before dying.
Andrew dropped to his hands and knees to retrieve it for her, muttering his apologies. Something smacked the back of his head, hard. Yelping in pain, his hand instinctively went to the sore spot and encountered a lump, a wriggling lump. His yelp turned to a girly scream and he wrenched it away from his scalp, tearing a lot of hairs out at the same time. In a panic, he threw the offending wriggly thing away from him as hard as he could.
Kennedy was standing a still as possible. The dark, shadow filled, smoky room was awash with vibration. Kennedy was poised trying to find the one that mattered. Something passed her leg so fast it made her pant leg flap slightly in its wake. Moving on instinct she lunged forward, and landed hard on the dirty floor. She sneezed as the dust cloud she'd raised from the wooden floor swirled around her. A blast of moist warm air hit her between the eyes accompanied by a rude noise sounding something like "thruuurprrrrrr."
There was a thwunk followed by the sound a cross bow bolt makes when it buries itself in a wooden wall. "Ooops." Said Dawn.
Xander felt the breeze of its passage and jumped backwards landing heavily on Willow's foot, who cried out in pain and surprise and shoved him forward again.
Through it all the chanting went on, a calm low murmur standing out against the chaos.
Buffy closed her eyes for a moment. The whirling shadows created by the fire were just serving to confuse her. With her eyes closed, her sense of hearing picked up and she tuned it into the chant. She couldn't understand the words, demon languages had never been her strong point, and if you believed Giles she could barely handle English. She started taking baby steps towards the voice, mindful of the fire being somewhere in front of her. Something caught her foot and tripped her, Buffy shouted in alarm and it mingled with another from somewhere by her feet.
"Yow gret big get – watch weer yaw a'goen!" Was followed by a series of prickling pains on her ankle. She reached down to smack at the demons claws before it managed to rip her flesh from her bones and something sharp and pointy clamped onto her finger hard! She screamed and shook her hand vigorously, after a few hard shakes it released her finger and she heard it thump to the ground. She sat on the floor clutching her sore finger to her chest.
Willow stood in the centre of the chaos and tried to get a feel for the magic being used. She couldn't understand the words but she could sense the spell, feel its power. She could tell by the energy it created that it was a reversal spell, most likely the one she'd been trying to emulate all afternoon. Her next question was 'who's doing the reversing and why?'
She searched the darkness in vain when she heard Kennedy hit the floor and curse, the pain from Xander standing on her foot caused her eyes to water and she ducked when she heard the crossbow bolt hit the wall, even though common sense told her it was a bit late for ducking, but when she heard Buffy scream she had, had enough. 'Trying to concentrate here, people!' She clapped her hands together,
As she pulled her hands apart a ball of bright light floated in between them, slowly it rose to the roof, illuminating everything and dispelling the shadows. Everyone raised their arms to their eyes and blinked rapidly in the sudden glaring brightness.
The sounds of frenzied scampering echoed around the small shed for a moment, but by the time everyone's vision had adjusted, the place was empty, save for a tiny fire and some lonely chunks of firewood.
"What the...?" Xander spoke for all of them.
Buffy was still sitting on the dirty, straw covered floor nursing her bleeding finger. Andrew was knelt next to her rubbing the back of his head and staring at the crossbow bolt that was sticking out of the wall mere inches from Xander's head. Not surprisingly that's where his attention was too. Kennedy picked herself up from the floor and wandered over to look at wet, red smudge on the wall. There were red drips underneath it. Willow went to investigate.
"Blood." She confirmed.
Dawn stood by the door still, sheepishly hugging her now empty crossbow. "Sorry guys."
The three new Slayers were huddled together outside, peering through the doorway. Miranda asked. "Did you get it?"
The gang were sat back in the kitchen. A quick search of the wood shed had turned up nothing more than a few spiders. Buffy's finger had been bandaged by Dawn, and was sticking out like a sore …well, finger.
Willow had set up some chemistry equipment that Buffy and Xander vaguely remembered from high school.
"Did you buy all those test tubes in L.A.?" Asked Buffy, staring at the bubbling liquids.
"Yes indeed-y, the Council paid for it." Willow grinned.
"And is it worth their money?" Xander grabbed a beer from the fridge and sat next to the red-head, joining Buffy in staring at the glass tubes of colourful bubbles. "If you didn't know it was blood it would be quite pretty." He coughed and took a mouthful of his beer. "Except I'm a man and I wouldn't notice things like that." He said in his most manly voice.
Willow looked at Xander. "Yes to you being a man, no to it being pretty, and yes to it being worth it. It's telling me its blood. Which is what I need to know. Hence the worth."
Buffy thought on that for a moment. "But we, you, already knew that."
"True, but I didn't know what kind." Willow explained.
"But you do now?" Xander looked at the tubes curiously, wondering how all he could see was bubbling red stuff and Willow could use it to unlock the secrets of the universe.
"Sort of." Willow's brow furrowed and she dipped something into one of the tubes.
"I don't think the Council would see that as worth their money." Buffy reached across the table for Xander's beer and stole a few gulps before replacing it. Xander was to busy scratching his ear to notice.
Kennedy came into the kitchen pulling on her coat. "I'm off to patrol. Who's with me?"
Xander looked up first, still scratching his ear. "Not tonight Kenn, I've had enough action for one day. I am but a lowly carpenter."
Willow looked up too and gave her a sweet smile. "I'm gonna have to pass too, baby. I have to get this analysed so we know what we're dealing with."
"What about you Buffy?"
"No thanks, I'm retired remember. Dawn's not going either, she's banned from patrolling until she learns how to put the safety on the crossbow." She ignored Dawn's pout.
"So you mean I'm doing it on my own again? All of it?" Kennedy was not pleased.
Buffy shrugged. "Why don't you take the girls? I'm sure they're as eager for action as you."
Alison, Miranda and Cici all looked up from the other end of the table in alarm.
"I don't know, Buffy. They haven't had any formal training yet. It might be a bit soon to send them out into the field." Willow cautioned.
Buffy took another sip of Xander's beer. "Kenn, what have you slain this week?"
Kennedy didn't even need to think about it. "Four vampires spanning five days and one butt-ugly thing with a drippy face. I think it was a demon, if it wasn't, I did the guy a favour."
"There you go then. It'll be a piece of cake. Kennedy can show 'em the ropes and the girls can get some good 'ole fresh night air. It makes Slayer's grow big and strong. Well strong at least. You'll love it. Have fun." Buffy waved them off even though none of them except Kennedy had headed for the door.
"You're not coming?"Asked Cici, not looking to happy with the idea.
Buffy allowed herself a second to bask in the glow of hero worship before reining it in. "You'll be fine with Kennedy. I want to stay and find our disappearing demons." She smiled at the girls as they filed out one after the other.
"Miss Faith, please stand up."
Faith jumped at the sound of the Judge's voice. It had been a long day. Even the bumpy and hard bunk in her cell was looking inviting. She stood up and faced the man behind the big desk.
"Miss, you were sentenced to life imprisonment due to the nature of your crimes. The death of Mr Finch, accidental or otherwise aside, you have already admitted to killing another man simply at the request of your employer. Obviously this can not go un-punished."
Faith's eyes and shoulders dropped.
"Do you have anything you wish to say?" The Judge asked, not unkindly.
Faith peered up at him again through her lashes. "Just that I'm sorry, and I know that doesn't make up for anything, but I am. I can't believe I did the things I did and I know that just because I was doing it 'cause the boss told me to doesn't make it any less my fault. Make me any less to blame for ruining those lives. If you think I should be locked up for the next twenty-five years and however many years you wanna toss on top for me skipping out, then that's not even half the sh…excuse me, it's nowhere near what I deserve." Faith's voice petered out, her throat feeling scratchy and raw, but she held the Judge's gaze until he spoke again.
"Well, it's just as well you feel like that, Faith, because if you had been harbouring any hopes of going home tonight, they would have been sorely dashed." Faith's gaze dropped to the floor again. "The appeal process can be long and arduous and there is no guarantee you will be successful."
Faith could hear whispering around her but was feeling too dejected to take any notice.
The Judge continued. "Mr Gunn, if you can indeed prove that Mayor Wilkins was responsible for all the crimes your client was convicted of, and, beyond reasonable doubt, that the death of Allan Finch was an accident, then she may have a shot at being out before Christmas."
Faith's head shot up at that, and she looked from the Judge to Gunn and back again. "Huh?"
"Even with Wolfram and Hart behind you, I think you may find this one Hell of a challenge. I set the appeal date for four weeks from today." He turned back to Faith. "Don't make me regret it. Dismissed." He stood and left the room.
In the background Giles and Angel stood up, all smiles. They went to hug and then realising what they were doing, they stopped, feeling self-conscious for a moment before grinning again and shaking hands.
Faith was still gaping at Gunn. "Huh?"
Willow frowned over her test tubes. "Well that's strange!"
"What's the strange?" Buffy yawned widely.
Xander sat back down at the table with a fresh beer. "And is it good strange or bad strange? 'Cause if it's bad strange can we pretend you haven't figure it out until morning."
Willow looked up at her friends. "It's human. The blood, it's human. There are a few cellular differences, but it's definitely more human than demon."
"But the blood was fresh, the freshest of the fresh and none of us were hurt. Despite Dawn's best efforts."
Dawn stopped rubbing her arm and scowled at her sister. Buffy smiled back at her. "Damn mosquitoes!" Dawn started scratching at her other arm.
"From what I can tell, it's like a different species of human, not species…um…more like a different sub-section of the human species. Does that make sense?" Willow tried to explain.
"None what-so-ever. How does that work?" Xander used the neck of his beer bottle to scratch under his chin.
Willow shrugged. "Like donkeys and asses, I guess."
"Yeah well they're making asses out of us alright." Buffy smiled grimly.
"Are they like apes?" Andrew scratched the back of his neck as he thought through his theory. "They're nearly human."
Xander scraped his chair back across the flagstones. "Do we have any bug cream? We all got eaten alive playing Dr. Livingston earlier." He carried his beer over to the first aid cupboard and set it down on the counter above it. Bending to his knees he searched through the medical equipment for something to take the bite out of his bites.
"I know how you feel." Willow's butt was still a little sore.
"Andrew we can't have apes living in the wood shed, you idiot. We'd have noticed them by now." Said Buffy.
"How? You can't even see the wood shed from your bedroom." Dawn sniped.
"Whatever." Buffy said amiably. She put her arms behind her head and stretched and boy, did that feel good. She held the position for a while, twisting her neck back and forth to work out all the kinks. A movement caught her eye and she snapped her head around making it click, but there was nothing there. "God, I'm so tired I'm seeing things."
Xander straightened up, having found no cream, and reached to pick up his beer. His hand came back to him empty. "Buff, if you want a beer you can have a whole bottle to yourself, you don't have to keep drinking mine." They had picked up the groceries on the way back from the creepy mansion. The car was still stuck the other end of the lane though.
"I don't want anymore, thanks, or I'll fall asleep right here."
Xander looked confused. That had been a full bottle, give or take a sip, if Buffy hadn't…aha, he clicked his fingers. "Okay Will, de-spell my drink. Come on, bring my beer back." He held his hand out expectantly.
"I haven't touched your beer Xander. Obviously your observation brain cells are inebriated or else you'd have noticed that while you are working on getting drunk, I have been working on our work!"
"Well where is it then?" Xander asked exasperated. "If you don't magick it back I'll just go grab myself another one."
"Be my guest." Willow waved her hand and the refrigerator door swung open.
"Willow that's cold." Grumbled Buffy, who was sat the closest to it. She leaned back in her chair to push the door closed again. She heard something that made her stop half-way. "Did anyone hear that?"
"Here what?" Asked Dawn looking around.
Clink – scrape.
"That. That noise." Buffy was looking around too.
Clink – chink – scrape – clink.
"I hear it." Xander followed the direction the noise was coming from; when he neared the back door he stopped and stared. At floor level, between the door and the wall, was a baseball sized hole. It was another thing on his 'Things to fix' list that he hadn't even looked at yet. Now he stared at it.
"What is it Xander? What's there?" Asked Buffy, straining her neck upwards to peer at the floor. She was too tired to stand with no good reason.
"My beer…It's my beer." Xander exclaimed as he watched the brown glass bottle disappear through the hole with a final through clinks. "It's running away."
"Okay no more beer for Xander." Buffy started laughing but it died on her when Xander wrenched open the back door and ran out into the night.
"Always said alcohol was for losers, but no one listens to me." Dawn's eyes were closed in ecstasy as she used a fork to scratch the elusive itch in the middle of her back. When she opened them again it was just in time to see Andrew disappearing out of the door after Willow and Buffy. "See what I mean?" She asked the empty kitchen before she followed.
Buffy caught up with Xander at the door to the wood shed. "What is it?" She asked again.
Xander was still trying to catch his breath after his mad dash. "In there…my beer went in there." He panted, pointing at the closed door.
Buffy looked at him like he was a couple of tea-leaves short of a tea bag and he gave her his 'I'm serious' look, gesturing at the door, still too out of breath to bother speaking.
Buffy's brow scrunched and she put her ear to the worn wood of the door.
…….."Brik tha cus my clan hath cast….Brik et noo an' brik et faus…Gut ee back…tha baistis a'goen…"
"I don't believe this, they're chanting again. What are they gonna set on us next, the house bricks." Buffy muttered angrily.
Everyone cast anxious looks back at the house except Willow who tugged on Buffy's sleeve.
"I don't think they want to hurt us."
"Yeah well tell that to your butt and my whole body." Buffy responded, pulling herself up to her full height of five foot three. "Whatever they want, they're gonna get a taste of Buffy the Vampi…Buffy the…Just Buffy."
"That's not particularly threatening." Andrew pointed out.
Buffy glared at him and he shrank away. "Get ready with your light thingie Will, as soon as I open the door. Let's see what twisted arm of the human race we're dealing with."
She pulled her leg back and kicked the door down. It hit the floor in a cloud of dust.
Buffy and Willow both ran over it, Willow clapping her hands as she did so. The light shot from between her palm and reached the roof at the same instant Buffy shouted "Freeze."
A dozen purple blobs stopped mid-scatter and turned to face them.
"Wow, who woulda thought that would work." Buffy gazed around in surprise. "I only said it 'cause I thought it would sound cool."
"That it did Buffy." Xander strolled over the felled door behind them. Looking around his gaze settled on the little fire they'd already put out once and the purple being behind it. "Whatcha cooking?" He sniffed the air. "Something evil?"
The thing behind the fire stood. It was bigger and fatter than the others, but still stood no more than eight inches high. It was humanoid, a female humanoid judging by the arrangement of its ragged dress.
"Come no closer. Stand where ee are and no more harm shall come to ee." She spoke in English but her accent was think and unfamiliar to the gang.
"Yeah, see that's not the way I envisioned this going." Buffy admitted. "I saw it more as a 'You don't move and I'll make your death less painful"."
"Girl you don't know what you are talking about." The purple being told her ominously.
"Really? Let's see." Buffy took a side step and kicked out at the nearest demon that wasn't a demon.
Before her foot could connect it jumped high in the air and landed on her foot. It scurried up her leg and climbed the rest of her body by grabbing handfuls of her t-shirt. She tried to shake it off and smack at her chest to dislodge it, but it was too fast and before she could get it off it was eye to very little eye with her and she found herself looking at a tiny little person face.
"I eent skeered ofa skallcock lik yaw." And it head butted her right between the eyes.
She staggered back dazed and it took the opportunity to jump off and scurry to its friends. That's when all the flora in Hell broke loose, or so it seemed.
The walls splintered and Rose stems burst through. The heads tattered and hanging off. They snaked and entwined around each other creating new walls of sharp thorns. Buffy started backing everyone out of the door, but a stinging prick made her stop and look behind. The roses had already covered the doorway, leaving no chinks that she could see in its armour. "Damn!" She was acutely aware of a sudden hissing noise, looking down sharply she saw the source.
The previously inanimate strands of dry straw were rearing up and hissing like snakes all around them.
"It's okay, it's just straw. It can't bite." She called out.
A strand shot forward and struck her on the ankle. "Ouch!" The sharp end had broken the skin and a little trickle of blood began to dribble towards her shoes.
"I stand corrected."
"What are we going to do, Buffy?" Dawn asked in a high pitched voice. Dawn had never been fond of snakes.
'Good question' thought Buffy 'Which I don't have an answer for.'
"Uh, excuse me." Willow called over to the purple figure once again chanting behind the fire. It stopped its chant and looked up at her. Willow rallied under its penetrating indigo stare. "Uh, hi. I'm Willow and these are my friends." She waved her arm about to encompass Buffy, Xander, Dawn and Andrew. "Um, we're sorry for being so, uh, rude or whatever, but if you guys need any help we'll be glad to make it up to you. If you can make the straw-snakes go away that is, like, now…please."
The tiny woman regarded her closely without saying anything.
"Uh Willow." Buffy spoke behind her hand to her friend. "We don't generally help the bad guys. Its something we deliberately don't do!"
"Buffy, I can't work out the reversal spell, but they must know it and I'm pretty sure that's what they were trying to do before we disturbed them."
"But they're demon's Will, doing magick to attack us." Buffy tried to make her friend see reason.
The little lady raised her right arm. "Stuffle tha sturridge!"
The straw snakes dropped to the ground, inert again. Dawn and Andrew both let out sighs of relief.
"We arr not daemons, Giglet." She said.
"Well you're not people. You're purple - people aren't purple." Buffy said matter-of-factly.
"Sayst yow, yow unreamd tookened-patticks." Said another of the non-demons.
Buffy looked suitably insulted even though she hadn't understood a word.
"I think they're cute." Dawn dropped to her knees in front of one. "Hey little guy." It flipped her the bird with a sneer. "Oh see, how cute was that?" She smiled at it.
Xander spotted his beer bottle the other side of the shed, still in the clutches of one of the little purple guys. Casually wandering up to it, he plucked the bottle from its grasp with an audible pop. "Mine I believe." He eyed the bottle for a second, then nodded and took a swig.
"We nee'd thaat fur oor wunded." It told him.
Xander squinted down at it. "Buy your own." He said simply.
The chanting leader spoke again. "He said we need that for our wounded. Ogrek cut his head badly when you're runt through him into the wall."
"Hey who are you calling a runt." Barked Xander, it had been a very trying day.
"Him." She pointed at Andrew.
"Well that's okay then." Xander was mollified.
"Uh if Ogrek needs his cut cleaning, we've got proper stuff back at the house. You don't have to use stinky old beer." Willow offered.
"Oggie doesn't need to bathe his head, he wanted a brew to dull his headache, but thank ee girl." The leader explained.
Willow beamed. "You're welcome. We're sorry. We didn't mean to hurt you."
"We didn't?" Buffy was lost and had given up any hope of catching up.
Willow ignored her. "You're trying to break the curse aren't you?"
The leader nodded.
"Can I help?"
The purple leader lady smiled for the first time, revealing a set of brilliantly white teeth. She was beautiful when she smiled.
"Thank ee girl. If you'd like to help jus' keep yaw tribe from interfering. I caan do tha rest meself." She went to sit back behind the fire. "Timsaw."
Another of the little people walked towards her carrying two tiny fistfuls of powders. He threw them on the fire and the leader began to chant. The rest of the room stayed silent while they waited. Five minutes later she looked up.
"All done." She told them
Buffy looked sceptical. "Just like that?"
"Yas. Goen smell ah flower, girl."
Buffy looked suspicious, but stepped carefully to one of the walls. Gingerly she plucked a tattered rose from the tangled bush. It didn't attack. Even more carefully she lifted it to her nose and took a little sniff. She sneezed but nothing tried to rip her throat out. She nodded at the others. "So far so good."
"Well that's great." Said Xander. "The next thing is. How do we get out of here?" They all looked around at the thorny walls. There was no way to get out without at least one of them scratching themselves very badly. Buffy cursed herself for not picking up any weapons before she left the kitchen but she'd been more concerned with Xander.
The leader barked an instruction at Timsaw and he scampered off and disappeared. A few seconds later he came back carrying, with ease, a pair of secateurs at least twice his size. He handed them to Buffy.
"Theeer yow go, Just Buffy." The leader said with a smile.
Faith was back in her cell. It wasn't home anymore like it had been for three years, but it was better than a lot of places she'd slept.
She sat on her bunk with her back to the wall staring out of the tiny, barred window at the night sky, thinking.
Today had gone well. According to Gunn it couldn't have gone any better and that was good. There was still no guarantee that a new jury would see what she did any different to the last jury but it was a step in the right direction.
She gazed at the Polaroid stuck to the wall by her bunk. It was a step closer to Buffy, she hoped.
Dawn and Andrew had gone to their rooms and Xander was in front of the T.V. with a beer, his eyes drooping. It had been a long day for them all, or maybe the quiet period they'd enjoyed since closing the Sunnydale Hellmouth had made them all lazier.
Buffy and Willow were sat once again at the kitchen table, but this time they had a visitor.
The purple leader woman was sat in front of them on the table itself. She was sipping from a thimble Willow had carefully poured cocoa in, and telling them her story.
"Firstly I am Beryan, Mawther of the Crow-an-wragh tribe, and second I'm sorry, I am. I'm a chuckle-head, I know." She said in her thick accent. "We were worried we would lose our home, yow see. One hundred and three years we have lived here, and they've not all been easy. The Watcher men tried to turn us out. They had forgotten about the ageless pact between themselves and the Piskies. We used to work together for the benefit of the Human races but as time went on they paid that no mind. They saw us as Bal, as pests, they tried to eradicate us. They put down magical poison, believing us dundleheads. They took away our source of food; they tried to stop us sharing their shelter.
"The contracts signed long ago, they said they had been lost. That they were no longer valid, that they would not pander to the needs of daemons. I said this made them Scadgan – the worst. We are not daemons; our blood is as pure as theirs. Naw oor blood iss purer because we dedn't turn oor backs on oor fellow races as they did.
"Yeah so I get it. You've got no love for the Council. I totally know where you're coming from on that, but why attack us? We didn't do anything. We didn't even know you were here." Buffy blew on her cocoa before taking a sip.
"We thought you were the Council. The past year, it has been peaceful. We didn't want a return to the dark days of living under the Watcher's regime of fear. I used to worry daily and nightly for the safety of my kith and kin. The grown learn to adapt to the hiding and whispering and the secret food missions, but it's the Bearn you have to think of. You can't keep them cooped up all day.
"So I decided a little scare would make them think twice about invading again. They were always so terrified of Vampires so I conjured one up. It was only supposed to scare you; no one was supposed to get hurt."
"But it wasn't a Vamp that came after us." Said Willow. "It was plants and stuff and straw turning into snakes and …stuff."
"Yas, I'm not sure what went wrong. It was supposed to incite the brethren of the last half life you took."
"But I haven't slain anything in weeks, unless you count…" Buffy stared off into space…
Buffy knelt up on her bed, the tears streaming down her face.
"Dawn, for the last time I don't want to listen to any of your crappy C.D's. Now get the Hell out of my room."
She chucked the offered C.D towards her sister and watched as it sliced the head clean off of Dawn's earlier cheer-up present. The cactus was in two halves, the C.D was embedded in the wall behind it. Dawn fled from the room crying. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
"Ooohhhh. I get it." Buffy smiled sheepishly. "But we're cool now right. The woodshed is yours forever if you want it but, I mean we had chicken for dinner, its brethren aren't going to rise up in the morning and peck our toes off are they."
The Piskie leader laughed. "No, we are …cool. There is no reason why my tribe and yours cannot live in harmony like before, but there is one thing. If you want the peace to continue you will take the woodshed and we will have the house, it is only fair."
"But…but…we can't…where would we…" Aghast, Buffy tried to figure out how the ten of them could all live in the woodshed.
The Piskie fell over onto its back, the thimble tinkling on the table as she dropped it, she was laughing hard. "Ha, ha, ha…You biggers are all dundle-heads."
The Piskie had gone home and now just Buffy and Willow sat at the kitchen table, nursing their second cups of cocoa and their various aches and pains.
They had been sat in a comfortable silence for a few minutes when Buffy decided she needed to talk. The offer had been made and she was ready to accept. She felt until she did, everyday would be like this. She couldn't move on until she learned to let Faith go and she needed help doing that.
She pulled a folded and crumpled piece of paper out of her pocket, smoothed it out on the table top and slid it across to Willow.
Willow looked at Buffy questioningly.
"It's from Faith; she left it the morning she, uh, left. I've been holding on to it, carrying it around like a comfort blanket, but it doesn't bring me any comfort. Read it, please. Tell me what you think."
Willow bent over the paper.
Sorry to leave you hanging this morning I wish I could be there when you woke up but I got things to do
I don't want you thinking last night was just another screw cos it wasn't which is why I'm writing this you were amazing B I never had it so good
I guess your wondering why I'm not there then well its simple I got things to do you can't be a part of that sorry but that's just the way it is maybe when I'm done sorting stuff out I'll be back but don't wait around cos in our line of work lifes to short.
You might not believe it right now but I'm doing this for both our goods so don't bother wastin your time trying to find me cos I don't want to be found that said if you need my superior slaying skill (ha ha) I'll no I'll be back
Anyway gotta go now take care of yourself B it was great catching up well everything
Say bye to the scoobs for me
Willow traced her finger along some of the crease lines before looking up at Buffy.
"So what do you think?" Her friend asked shyly.
"I think the girl needs to learn how to use a full stop."
"Willow." Buffy pleaded. She didn't know what she wanted her to say, just something to make her feel better.
Willow took Buffy's hands in her own. "I think Buffy that you have to do as she says. As you said earlier. You have to forget about her, move on with your life. We're in a whole new town, Hell a whole new state. We've all gotta put Sunnydale and everything connected with it into a little box and keep it somewhere safe. We shouldn't be carrying it around with us." Willow wasn't just talking about Buffy and Faith now.
"I get that, but Faith's not dead. She could come back at anytime. You read the letter; it says she'll be back one day. She says it meant something to her and I know she loves me. I can't put all that in a box."
"Buff, it says she might be back one day, not definitely. It seems to me that Faith was just trying to let you down gently with this letter. The operative words there being, letting you down."
"I don't know Will, maybe you're right, I just feel that there's something more too it. If that's all it was, why leave a letter. You know that's not Faith's style; there was something more on her mind when she wrote this. I just wish I knew what."
Giles trudged his way down the dark track. He cursed the cab driver for not driving him up to the house. The impertinent man had said there was too much foliage on the track and it might give him a flat tyre. As bad as British Rail, he decided, as twigs, sticks and sometimes entire branches crunched and snapped under his shoes. This was getting a little overgrown; he'd have to get Xander on it first thing.
He was walking across the lawn when his mobile phone began to ring. Blasted thing, he only kept it because he needed to be reachable twenty-four hours a day now that he was co-running the Council. He flipped it open and pressed a button, hoping it was the right one this time and he hadn't cut the caller off.
"Hello." He said. "Ah Angel, yes thank you for returning my call so late. I wondered if you had had a chance to speak to Mr Gunn yet about the matter we discussed." Giles walked slowly across the grass, there were a few lights on in the house and he didn't want to be overheard by anyone.
"Well its good she asks about her, hopefully it will keep her spirits up and make this next month less painful." He'd made his way around to the back of the house and was standing a few yards from the back door. The kitchen light was on, but he couldn't hear any voices. He kept his distance just in case.
"Yes I appreciate that Angel but you are not the one who has to watch her suffering another heartbreak, and she seems to be taking this one particularly hard….Yes worse than you." It started to rain heavily. "Damn!" He pulled his jacket over his head but it wasn't waterproof and was soon soaked through.
"I just think that if Faith would allow me to tell Buffy where she was then it would be better for the both of them. Faith needs all the support she can get and you know as well as I do that Buffy would give that unconditionally."
Giles cursed the rain under his breath; it was running down the inside of his glasses and getting in his eyes. He couldn't wipe it away for he had his bag in one hand and the phone in the other.
With a quick glance at the kitchen window to see if he could see anyone he ducked under the porch cover. Huddled there with his back to the rain he listened to what Angel had to say.
Giles answered in a whisper. "Yes I realise it is Faith's decision and I will not betray her confidence, but I personally feel that now a trial date has been set up there is no need to keep it a secret from Buffy any longer…"
Inside the kitchen Buffy sat with her head on Willow's shoulder, crying quietly. Willow stroked her hair and let her sob it out.
The blonde sat up sharply causing Willow to start.
"Did you hear that?" The Slayer asked her friend.
"No, no more hearing things." Willow begged.
"No I'm serious, there's someone outside." Buffy got up and tried to peer through the window but the rain was like a grey curtain across it.
"Maybe it's the Piskies. The shed was pretty torn up its probably leaking." Said Willow with a laugh.
"Let's find out." Buffy went to open the back door.
"No I promised Faith I would keep her whereabouts a secret until she said otherwise, but if you could please talk to her again when you visit. Buffy will want to be at that trial and if Faith doesn't let her…" Giles stopped talking into his phone and looked up at Buffy. "Oh dear."
Buffy gave him a look of confusion. He was talking about her and Faith. Who was he talking to and why? The look on her beloved Watcher's face showed quite plainly that he had been caught out at something. Something to do with Faith. She couldn't handle this right now. She turned and fled for the back stairs, taking them three at a time. She heard both Giles and Willow calling to her but she didn't stop until she was in her bedroom, Faith's letter held to her face stemming the flow of her tears.
Giles left in the kitchen with Willow removed his glasses and placed them on the table. He sighed wearily before speaking into the phone again.
"Angel – I'm afraid this conversation is no longer relevant. I will explain later. Goodbye."
Fade to black
...To Be Continued...