Rating: R (for sexual situations, language, and violence, including torture)
Disclaimer: All of the materials borrowed from Buffy the Vampire Slayer belong to Joss Whedon and to the entities and companies associated with their creation. I have borrowed them for creative and entertainment purposes only. No compensation has been or ever shall be received for the writing below. No copyright infringement is intended.
Feedback: Yes, but only if it's of the non-flamey variety:
Distribution: The Watchers Forum, The Mystic Muse, and my personal site (If you are interested in posting my story on your site, please contact me first for permission.)
Spoilers: BtVS Season 3's "Bad Girls" and "Consequences"
Author's Notes: (1) This chapter is mostly original material, although I'm still using the two characters that I borrowed from the Watchers virtual series. (2) I'm also continuing to use the alternating first-person points of view. (3) And thanks, as always, to Lilly for the beta read and edit!
Number of Chapters: 5
Story Premise: Buffy and Faith become involved with each another, but Faith's accidental killing of Deputy Mayor Finch threatens to split them up.
Summary for Part 01: Buffy finally succumbs to Faith's enticing sexual charisma but doesn't know how to handle the aftermath.
Summary for Part 02: Just as Buffy and Faith begin to realize that their feelings for each other are more than just lust, disaster strikes.
Summary for Part 03: In the wake of Finch's death, Faith and Buffy admit their true feelings. Their happiness proves fleeting, though, when Wesley's betrayal comes to fruition.
Summary for Part 04: When the Scoobies rush to Faith's rescue, they're shocked by what they find.
Summary for Part 05: Faith's recovery proves more difficult than anyone imagined.
Once Buffy and her mom left with the doctor to go see Faith, I turned to Giles and held up my laptop case.
"It's time for me to get with the hackin' and crackin'," I said.
"Are you sure?" he asked. "None of us have gotten much sleep, especially you. Perhaps you should rest first."
"No," I told him, shaking my head. "Tired as I am, I know I won't be able to sleep until I'm sure we have what we need from the Council files."
"All right," he said. "I believe that Reggie has set up a space for you…"
Giles led me away from the waiting area and down a hallway. Behind the nurses' station, there was a storage room, where a corner had been quickly converted into a small office. It had a metal table, a desk lamp, a few chairs, a network cord, even a networked printer. That was all I needed.
After hooking up my laptop, I got to work. The first thing I did was link up with the bot I had set into motion at the Council HQ. Within seconds I was downloading and extracting all of the data my bot had collected. While that was working, I activated my backdoor into the Council network.
I could already tell that they had started trying to cover their tracks. Huge chunks of the information related to Faith were missing, including all of the video surveillance. I chuckled smugly to myself. "Heh, heh…too late!"
This time, though, I wasn't searching for data connected to Faith. Now I was looking for something more on Quentin, but what? After winding through a labyrinth of financial records, I finally found something interesting: small amounts of money skimmed from various accounts that didn't end up back in the main fund. But where did it all go?
Just then my computer beeped at me to tell me it had finished downloading and extracting all of the Faith data from my bot. I scanned the directories and decided to start with the security footage. The video surveillance logs would be our best bet for proving the criminal actions of both Quentin and the Council. As I earmarked the recordings for Cell D4, where Faith had been held, I noticed a set of logs for what was called the 'Treatment Rooms.' I ran my finger down the list of dates and times and picked one of the more recent entries; then I cued it up and clicked the play button.
Unlike the hallways, the Treatment Room cameras were equipped for audio, so I could see and hear what was happening. Minutes into the video, my mouth dropped open, and I covered it with my hand. I must have said something like 'Oh my god…' How else can you react to something like that? I mean, I saw Faith when we rescued her, I saw the damage that the Council had done, but this was different.
I finally had to turn the sound off. I couldn't bear to hear Faith screaming.
Once the doctor had cleared us, Buffy and I quietly eased into Faith's room and over to her bed.
I had thought that Faith would look better, that everything would somehow seem less frightening once we had gotten her to the hospital. But the sight of her there...in the starkness of that room...it nearly made me lose my breath. Even slightly propped up, she was so pale, so still. If the doctor hadn't assured us that she was alive and stable, I—
You know, I try to comfort myself with the thought that slayers are somehow indestructible, invincible. If I didn't do that, if I didn't try to believe that Buffy could make it through anything, I don't think I could stay sane.
But seeing Faith like that...it made things all too real. This could have been my daughter. This could have been Buffy.
But it wasn't. I felt guilty for being grateful for that, but I couldn't help it. Buffy was my daughter, and she would always be first in my heart. But that didn't mean I wasn't concerned about Faith. I was. And not just because my daughter was in love with her. I cared about Faith, and I was appalled and disgusted by what the Council had done to her.
I knew Faith was used to dealing with monsters, but this time the monsters responsible for putting a slayer in the hospital weren't vampires or demons. They were members of the very institution that should have been protecting her. What they did to Faith...there was no excuse for that, no justification, and there would be no forgiveness. These people needed to be punished.
As soon as I walked into the room and saw Faith, I started to cry. She looked so…broken. Like a doll that had been trampled. I couldn't bear to think of what she'd been through.
"Oh god, Faith…I'm so sorry…" I cried over and over.
I felt Mom's hand on my back, and I knew she was trying to tell me with that touch not to blame myself, but how could I not? I was the one who had convinced Faith to tell the truth. If we had just done what Faith wanted and stayed quiet, none of this would've happened.
After a few minutes, I finally shook off the guilt fest. No matter how much I deserved a good blaming, it wasn't really going to help Faith. I needed to be strong for her now. So I pulled myself together and moved to the far side of the room, where I could stand next to her bed and be out of the way of any nurses or doctors who came in. Mom followed but stood closer to the foot of the bed, giving me a little space.
"Hey, you," I said to Faith, making sure I smiled as I leaned over to look at her.
I gave her a kiss on the forehead and then gently trailed my fingers down the side of her bruised face, avoiding the small tube that was bringing oxygen to her nose.
"Everything's gonna be fine now," I told her, trying not to notice how labored her breathing was. "We got you out of there, and now you can just rest and get better. Okay?"
As I straightened back up, I brought my hands down to Faith's left arm, where she now had a cast on her wrist. I kept my right hand at Faith's shoulder and slid my left hand under hers, lightly grasping her swollen fingers. With the cast in the way, it was the closest I could get to holding her hand.
I looked over at Mom, and she gave me an encouraging smile as she caressed the blanket covering Faith's legs. I guess we were thinking the same thing. We hoped Faith could somehow feel us there even if she wasn't awake.
We stayed there like that for I don't know how long, talking to Faith and touching her and asking her to wake up. At some point, Giles came in and stood vigil with us but on the other side of the bed. He didn't get to stay there long, though, because the nurse came in to check Faith, so he just moved to the foot of the bed and stood next to my mom.
The nurse activated the cuff around Faith's right arm and recorded her blood pressure and pulse on her chart. She checked the IV machine and then examined the IV in Faith's right hand. When the nurse started adjusting the oxygen tube draped across Faith's face, though, we all got a surprise: Faith woke up.
She let out a kind of groan and then opened her eyes. We all started calling out to her at once, and I guess we must have scared her because she completely freaked out. As weak as she was, she started fighting us off and trying to get out of the bed. I didn't want to hurt her, but I was afraid she was going to hurt herself, so I just grabbed her arms and kept calling her name.
The first thing I noticed was the pain. I was hurtin'...bad. But in a way it felt sort of...I don't know...far away, if that makes any sense.
I could hear people talking around me, but they sounded weird, like a tape being played too slow.
When I opened my eyes, I couldn't see real good, but I could tell I was on a gurney, and I could feel people holding me down. Their hands were on my arms and shoulders, and they were putting something on my head, and I knew they were gonna shock me again, and I couldn't let that happen. I shook their hands off me and pushed myself up on my elbows, trying to sit up. Pain was screaming through me, but I just screamed with it and kept fighting.
When I finally managed to sit up, I felt strong hands clamp around my arms. I started to panic then because I knew it was over and I wasn't gonna be able to stop them no matter how hard I tried. But then I heard something through the chaos. A voice calling my name. Buffy's voice.
I stopped and turned toward the sound. I blinked my eyes several times to get them to focus, and then I saw her. She was touching my face and telling me that I was okay, that I was safe, that I wasn't at the Council anymore.
I couldn't believe it. For days I had hoped for it, wished for it—shit, I had even prayed for it—but I don't think I ever believed it would really happen. Now that it had, I was kinda stunned for a minute. When it finally hit me, I just lost it. I just blubbered like a two year old. I grabbed onto Buffy and didn't let go. It hurt like hell to cry like that, but I couldn't help it. I was never so glad to see somebody in all my life.
But at least I wasn't cryin' by myself. Buffy was bawling her eyes out, too. She'd probably say this was a 'good cry,' but they all suck if you ask me. I don't know how long we cried, but it seemed like forever. We eventually stopped, though, and we pulled apart and looked at each other.
By then I was really short of breath, so it was hard to talk. Which is probably just as well because my brain wasn't exactly firin' on all cylinders right then. About all I could do was say Buffy's name in total disbelief.
She smiled at me and kissed me and then started saying a bunch of stuff to me. I tried to focus on what she was saying, but the pain was gettin' worse. It didn't feel so far away anymore. It felt like it was right on top o' me, like it was squeezin' the air out of me. I had to lay back against the pillows, and things kinda went fuzzy again. I think I remember the doctor, but that was about it.
When Faith first awoke, she was understandably frightened and disoriented. She fought back until she realized that Buffy was with her. She calmed somewhat, but by then her exertions had already taken their toll. She appeared to be in great pain and was struggling to breathe. The nurse immediately called for the doctor, cleared us away from the bed, and began emergency measures. I'm not completely certain what exactly she and the doctor did, it all happened so fast, but within a matter of minutes, Faith was out of danger and resting peacefully.
Dr. Merritt then pulled us aside to speak with us. He explained that Faith's air exchange had been compromised by the water she had previously inhaled. The tissues of her lungs were inflamed, and their ability to process oxygen was greatly reduced.
Compounding that problem was the fact that Faith's ribs were badly bruised; as a result, she was in an excruciating amount of pain. It quite literally hurt to breathe, he told us. She'd been on a low dose of pain medication while she was unconscious, but once she'd awakened, it hadn't been enough, especially not for her panicked initial reaction.
When the doctor finished his explanation, Buffy asked, "What did they do to her? How did she end up inhaling water?"
"You'll have to ask her," Dr. Merritt replied, "but I suspect water-boarding."
"Water-boarding?" Joyce inquired. "What's that?"
"It's considered to be an 'interrogation' technique, but it's pure torture if you ask me. The victim is strapped onto an inclined board. A hood is placed over his head, and water is poured over his face in order to simulate drowning. It's repeated, sometimes multiple times a day, to insure maximum stress and fear."
"That's horrible!" Joyce exclaimed.
Dr. Merritt nodded his agreement. "It's supposed to be non-life-threatening, but the truth is that it can be just as dangerous as near drowning because it can lead to pneumonia, particularly if a significant amount of water is aspirated."
"But you said Faith doesn't have that, so she's gonna be okay, right?" Buffy asked.
"Only time will tell," the doctor informed us. "I have her on antibiotics to fight infection and steroids to reduce inflammation, but what she needs now is rest."
Dr. Merritt made certain she received that rest by keeping Faith mildly sedated for the next 24 hours. During that time he transferred her to a private room with a bathroom so that Buffy and Joyce could stay with her. While Faith slept, Buffy and Joyce worked on gingerly untangling Faith's curly mane of hair. By the time Faith was strong enough for a group visit, they had returned her to some semblance of her former self.
We were so excited! Faith was finally well enough for a visit from all the Scoobies, including our newest member, Althenea. Faith hadn't actually met her yet—not while she was conscious anyway.
On the way to Faith's room, Xander and I tried to explain the whole Scoobies thing to Al, but she just wasn't getting it.
"Oh my poor, poor British friend," Xander told her as we neared Faith's door. "So deprived of culture."
We laughed for a moment but hushed ourselves before entering Faith's room.
When we got inside, we found Faith sitting up, with Buffy and her mom standing beside the bed. We gave Faith enthusiastic waves and hey's before filling in the small space around her bed.
After Faith had responded to the greetings, her eyes settled quizzically on Althenea, so I introduced them.
"Faith, this is Althenea Dimmons. She's a witch friend of Giles's. She helped get you out of the Council."
Althenea flashed Faith a sincere smile and said, "Call me Al."
As soon as Althenea spoke those words, Xander instantly began to sing his new favorite song from the past few days: " ' If you'll be my bodyguard, I can be your long lost pal! I can call you Betty, and Betty, when you call me, you can…' "
Althenea turned to Xander and held up her finger in warning. "Toad, Xander. Toad."
Xander wisely trailed off before singing the final words of the Paul Simon chorus.
Faith let out a small chuckle at Xander's antics but quickly sobered. "Thanks," she told us sincerely. "All of you. I don't know what else to say, but that." She ducked her head and stared at her hands. "I don't think I would've lasted much longer."
We all looked away, and the room fell into a long, awkward silence.
I didn't know Faith very well, but I knew that she hated being weak, hated being vulnerable. I could see that she blamed herself, as if she somehow should have managed to get herself out of there or at the very least should have held up better. Which is crazy! I mean, my god, it's a miracle she held up at all, especially since she didn't have her slayer powers.
When Faith looked back up, her eyes went straight to Giles. She held up her left arm, which was still encased in a cast. "I'm not healing. Did they…?" She had to stop and clear her throat before finishing. "Did they take away my slayer powers for good?"
"No," he assured her. "The drug they used was designed to be temporary. You should see your powers return within a few days."
Faith visibly relaxed and let out a shaky breath. Then she shot us a smirk. "Good, 'cause if this is what it feels like to be you 'un-chosen' peons, then it sucks."
We all laughed with her, glad to see a glimpse of the old Faith, even if it was a forced one.
It didn't take long for Faith's attention to waver, though. As the conversation progressed, she started to zone out on us, chiming in only when a question was repeated to her. When it happened for the third time, Buffy locked eyes with me, and I nodded in silent reply. I started up the see-ya-later's, and within minutes we had cleared the room.
After the others left, the nurse came and gave Faith some medication through her IV. Seconds later, Faith was drifting off to sleep. Mom decided to take a walk break, but I stayed with Faith.
A short time later, the nurse came back to take Faith for a follow-up CT scan. When the nurse spoke to her, Faith opened her eyes for a moment, mumbled an 'okay,' then closed her eyes again.
I asked the nurse if I could go with Faith. She told me that I could, but I'd have to leave the room when it was time for the actual scan. I thanked her and said that was fine, and we set out for the radiology department.
When we got to the CT room, the nurse let me come inside while she and the technician got Faith situated for the test. As they moved her from the bed to the scanning table, Faith started to wake up. She blinked her eyes groggily and tried to sit up. The nurse and technician carefully and gently pushed her back into place on the table.
"You just lie back and relax and go back to sleep," the nurse crooned to her, "and before you know it, this will be all over."
"I thought you gave her a sedative," the technician complained as Faith continued to resist their efforts.
"I did," the nurse insisted.
"We're gonna have to strap her down," the technician said.
I started to say something to them, but before I could, they had straps secured across Faith's legs and hips. When they went to pin down her arms, Faith shot up with roar.
"No…no…NOOO!" she screamed as she fought off their hands.
I ran over to help, but they wouldn't let me. They yelled at me to stay back. Faith was stronger than they expected, though, so I ignored them and jumped into the fray. I snatched the technician away and did the same for the nurse. Then I grabbed Faith by the arms and held her in place.
"Faith! It's me, you're okay!" I called out to her, trying to calm her down. She continued to fight for a while until recognition finally set in. When I let go of her, she grabbed my shirt with her right hand and pulled me close, complete panic in her eyes.
"They were strapping me down!" she cried out. "They were strapping me down!"
"I know, I know," I told her, "but they're not trying to hurt you, I swear." When her eyes darted toward the nurse and technician, I reached up and guided her gaze back to mine. "You're not at the Council anymore, and no one's gonna hurt you like that ever again."
She nervously glanced around herself, taking in the sight of the hospital's scanning room. When she realized where she was, she hung her head and then hunched over with her arms crossed over her chest.
"Shit," she whispered as the unwanted tears came. "God, Buffy…" she sobbed, "they fucked me up…they fucked me up so bad…"
I did the only thing I could do. I pulled her into my arms and held her. And then I cried with her.
By the time we finished crying, the radiology doctor was there. He checked Faith's vitals and conferred with the nurse, then gave Faith a second, heavier dose of the sedative. This time Faith went out and stayed out, and the technician was able to get his scan done.
When the scan was over, the nurse took Faith back to her room. Mom was there waiting for us. I pulled her into the hall and told her what had happened. After crying a little more, I asked her to stay with Faith while I went to talk to Willow and Xander.
Will and I were in her makeshift office, wincing and seething our way through yet another security recording when we saw Buffy come in. We'd been reviewing the video evidence Willow had compiled, including the one I called 'the nail in Quentin's coffin.' Will quickly paused the recording and minimized the screen so that Buffy couldn't see what we'd been watching.
When Buffy got closer, we could see that she'd been crying. We jumped out of our seats and rushed over to her.
"What is it?" Willow asked. "Is Faith okay?"
"No, she's not," Buffy wailed as she pushed between us and plopped into the chair I'd been sitting in.
Then she told us about what had happened in the scanning room—how Faith had had a total meltdown when they tried to strap her down for the scan.
Will tried to be reassuring. "It'll be okay, Buffy," she told her. "The doctor said she'd have reactions like this at first. You know, post-traumatic stress and all. But she'll get better. You'll see."
I was too angry to be reassuring. All I could think about was what I had just seen on that security tape. Before I knew it, I blurted out bitterly, "I'm not surprised after what that bastard did to her. He stood right there and watched, ordered it all, even did it himself!"
"Who? Travers?" Buffy asked. She grew grim and turned to Willow. "Show me," she demanded.
"Buffy, please…" Willow begged. "Don't do this to yourself."
Buffy flashed her own version of the 'resolve' face, so Willow had no choice but to give in. She sat back down in her chair and maximized her screen. She reset the recording to start from the beginning and then paused it.
"This footage is from the day we got her out," Will explained, "but all along, in all the sessions Travers has been at, he's asked her the same question over and over: 'Whom do you serve?' Faith never once gave him the answer he wanted, but every time she flipped him off, the punishments got worse. Are you sure you want to see this?"
"I have to," Buffy replied.
Willow sighed and turned back to her computer. Reluctantly, she clicked the play button.
On the screen, the guards dragged Faith into the electro-shock treatment room. She looked like they'd just beaten the crap out of her, and her hair was still wet, so they must've done that water-boarding thing on her earlier. As hurt as she was, though, Faith kept fighting and cursing. When they threw her down on the gurney and started strapping her down, that was when she really lost it. She was screaming 'no' over and over, in this frantic, hysterical voice that gave us shivers.
I looked over at Buffy. Tears were streaming down her face, and she held her hand over her mouth, but she forced herself to keep watching.
As the guards strapped Faith's head to the gurney and placed the electrodes at her temples, Travers and Dr. Stahl argued over the electro-shock setting. Finally, Travers pushed Dr. Stahl aside and activated the device himself, cranking it up to its highest setting.
Faith instantly went into a grueling, body-wrenching convulsion. As Faith strained and thrashed against the straps holding her down, a strangled and muted scream came through her clenched teeth.
It was obvious that Travers was letting the shock go on way longer than he should have because even Stahl looked desperate to turn the machine off. Travers wasn't done, though. He leaned over Faith and scowled at her. "Defy me, will you?" he taunted. "Your pain has only just begun! I will break you. I WILL!!!"
After that, Travers stood up and cut the power, and Faith's convulsions stopped. Travers stepped back, and Dr. Stahl rushed forward. As Travers calmly went about straightening his tie, Dr. Stahl hurriedly checked Faith's pulse and breathing.
"She's alive," Dr. Stahl said in a relieved tone. The guards seemed relieved, too, but Travers was back to being Mr. Stone-Faced Cold-Heart.
"When she has regained consciousness, chain her in her cell," he told them. "Use the collar position this time."
When Travers strode from the room, Willow stopped the recording, and we both looked over at Buffy. What we saw scared the bejeesus out of us. I mean, Buffy's always had those 'killer glares' that she gives demons, but this was waaayyyy beyond that. Buffy had murder in her eyes.
All she said was, "I'm going to kill that son of a bitch." Then she rushed out of the room.
Rupert and I were having tea in the waiting room, discussing the importance of procuring intensive, long-term counseling for Faith, when Buffy descended upon us. I assumed that she had come to speak with Rupert, but no, she bore down on me instead.
"I want you to get me back inside the Council, now!" Buffy said in a cold, hard voice.
"What?!" Rupert and I said in simultaneous reply.
"Do I need to get an American-to-British translator?!!" Buffy barked. "I want back in the Council, and I want it now!!!"
When Buffy's out-of-breath friends arrived on the scene, Rupert turned to them and asked, "Willow, Xander, what's going on? What's this all about?"
"She saw the video," Willow explained.
"And now she wants to kill Quentin Travers," Xander added. "Even more than she wanted to kill him before."
Buffy glared at Rupert and me. "Any other questions?"
"Don't you 'now Buffy' me!" she shot back. "Did you see the video? Did you see what he did?"
"Yes, I did," Rupert admitted, "and, like you, I want to see Quentin punished for what he's done, but you simply cannot take matters into your own hands."
Buffy shook her head then said, "That man deserves to die."
"But you don't," Rupert countered gently. He moved closer and dared to touch his slayer's shoulders. I was afraid she wouldn't let him, but she did. "Buffy, surely you know…if you go there to mete out vengeance against Quentin, it's only going to get you killed."
Buffy's eyes filled with tears, and her voice broke. "He should pay, Giles…he needs to pay..."
"I know, and he will, I promise you. But you must think of Faith. She needs you. Now more than ever."
"Besides," Willow added, "I-I-I have a better idea, a safer idea. One that doesn't involve you getting killed or rotting away in a British prison." When all eyes turned to her, she announced, "I call it 'Remote Revenge'."
CHAIR OF THE COMMAND COUNCIL OF THE WATCHERS COUNCIL
You can imagine how surprised I was to receive that email. It was accurately addressed to me: Benjamin Rayne, Chair of the Command Council of the Watchers Council. Its return address indicated that it was from Quentin Travers; its content, however, soon revealed that it hadn't come from Quentin at all.
The evidence contained therein was shocking to say the least. As Chair of the Disciplinary Committee, Quentin had been given free rein to handle the situation with Slayer Lehane. If we on the Command Council had known how cruelly disturbed he was, we most certainly would have removed him from all positions of authority.
Still, the email was very explicit in its instructions: take Quentin Travers and his lackeys into custody and be ready to negotiate at a video conference the following day. Failure to comply would result in an international, multi-media revelation, not only of Quentin's malfeasance but also of the Council's existence and operations.
With no other avenue available to us within the indicated timeline, we did as the email instructed.
Giles's brother lent us some equipment and allowed us to set up for our video conference in one of the larger consultation rooms on the first floor. After Faith's incident in the scanning room, we all agreed that she probably shouldn't be a part of the conference, so it was just me, Giles, Buffy, and Xander. Mrs. Summers and Althenea were staying with Faith.
When we reached the pre-arranged time, Giles and Buffy took their places in front of the video camera I'd connected to my laptop. I ran a feed from my computer to a large TV so that they could see what was on my screen. Once Xander gave me a thumbs-up from behind the camera tripod, I activated our end of the connection and sent a message to the Chair of the Command Council. Within seconds, the video link was established, and the stern face of Benjamin Rayne appeared on the screen. Behind him were a dozen similarly-sour-looking men sitting at a large conference table.
"Rupert," Chairman Rayne said evenly.
"Benjamin," Giles replied in kind.
Rayne let his gaze fall on Buffy but then turned away and addressed Giles. "I assume you have some sort of demand to make?"
"We do," Giles stated. "First, we want Quentin Travers, his guards, and Dr. Stahl punished for what they've done to Faith."
"Quentin, I understand, but the others…" Rayne said, "…well, they were just following orders."
"They beat and tortured an eighteen-year-old girl for days," Giles said savagely. "They are NOT excused by 'orders'!"
Rayne narrowed his eyes and then glanced away. After a moment he looked back and said, "Very well. Quentin has already been incarcerated in a psychiatric facility. He's apparently had a complete break with reality. He'll undoubtedly remain there for the rest of his life. The others will be disciplined. You have my word."
"Good," Giles said before continuing with the demands. "Second, we want the Council to leave us in peace. There will be no attempts to recall either Faith or Buffy…no retaliations against them, their families, or their friends…and no interference of any kind, particularly not in the case of Allan Finch's death. If you fail to honor these demands, we will release the evidence we've collected. You may have friends in high places, but you also have enemies, and I know who those enemies are. Do not test me."
"And if you're thinking you can get to my evidence stash here on my handy dandy laptop," I interjected as Xander swung the camera around to me, "think again. I've got multiple copies hidden on servers around the world, ready to deploy at a moment's notice. Face it, gentlemen, I've got ya by the short hairs."
When Xander swung the camera back, Giles asked Rayne, "So, are we agreed?"
"One more thing," Buffy said, cutting in. As she turned toward the camera, her expression transformed into that same ultra-scary look that Xander and I had seen on her face the previous day. Her eyes practically burned through the video feed as she slowly said, "If you do anything to hurt Faith or my friends or my family, I will kill you. That goes for all of you. I know slayers aren't supposed to kill humans, but in my book, none of you qualify, so my conscience is clear."
Buffy's threat made me shiver, and I'm her best friend! I could tell by the look on Rayne's face that he felt it, too. Satisfied that he'd gotten her message, Buffy signaled to me to sever the connection, so I did.
As soon as the link was broken, we all heaved a sigh of relief. Buffy turned to Giles and asked, "Do you think he'll keep his end of the bargain?"
"I do," Giles answered, "but it doesn't mean we're out of danger. The leadership of the Council could change. There's always the possibility that rogue elements could seek us out. Still, we've made our situation as safe as we can."
"Now all we need to do is get Faith out of here," Buffy said. "Get her home where she belongs, where she can get better. I'm not exactly sure how we're gonna do that yet, but we'll figure it out."
Xander snickered and gave me a nudge. "Can we tell 'em about the money now?"
Giles and Buffy looked at us curiously. "What money?" Buffy asked.
"You haven't been stealing again, have you?" Giles objected. "We'll have to pay all that back, you know…"
"We won't have to pay this back," Xander said with delight. "Tell 'em, Will."
I know I was grinning like the Cheshire cat, but I couldn't help myself. "Turns out Quentin's been a naughty boy in the finance department," I told them as Xander and I came out from behind the equipment to join Buffy and Giles. "He's been skimming from the Council funds for years. He has quite a hefty nest egg tucked away in the Caymans—or used to have, I should say, until I transferred ownership to Faith. I'll spread it out into a variety of U.S. accounts before we leave."
"How…how much?" Buffy asked in disbelief.
"Over ten million dollars."
After a jaw-dropping, eye-blinking moment of complete and utter shock, Buffy snatched me up in a hug, fortunately without her slayer strength. "You are a Goddess!" she told me. "A web-hackin', bad-guy smackin' Internet Goddess!"
"I helped," Xander playfully interjected. "If I hadn't kept Will fueled with bad British coffee and Cadbury Crunchies, she never woulda cracked it."
Buffy laughed and told him, "Of course, you helped. You always help." She pulled Xander into the hug as well. "Thank you both so much."
When Buffy released us, I shrugged and said, "I figured Quentin and the Council owed her, you know? Plus, she's gonna need a lot of help once she's back home."
"She is indeed," Giles said. "You've done a very good thing, Willow."
"Of course, with ten mil in the bank, we don't exactly have to fly coach," Xander pointed out. "What'd'ya say to a private luxury jet that we have all to ourselves?"
"That sounds wonderful," Buffy confessed.
After another day of recovery at the base hospital, Faith was well enough to travel home to Sunnydale. Thanks to Willow's confiscation of Quentin's embezzlement fund, we had been able to charter a private jet for our return trip to the States. With clearance from my brother, it would be allowed to pick us up right here at RMB Chivenor.
Fearing retaliation from the Council despite Benjamin Rayne's reassurances to the contrary, I had asked Willow to mask our travel plans any way she could. She had chirped a chipper 'no problem' and immediately proceeded to hack into the CAA (the Civil Aviation Authority). I must confess that there are times when Willow's abilities truly frighten me.
At any rate, as we waited for the charter to arrive, we were all gathered in the lobby of the hospital. Faith had already been discharged and was now dressed in a pair of jeans and a RAF sweatshirt as she sat in the wheelchair she'd been brought down in. Although her slayer healing was beginning to kick in, she was still bruised and easily exhausted and continued to be great deal of pain.
When we saw our motor escort pull up to the entrance, we began repeating our thanks and saying our good-byes to Reggie and Althenea and to many others who had assisted us in the rescue or had cared for Faith during her stay at the base hospital. Eventually we pried ourselves away and joined our escort.
Within minutes, we were at the airstrip. As the RAF airmen saw to our bags, we stood gawking at the sleek jet before us.
"Is that mine?" Faith asked in disbelief as Buffy helped her move closer to the aircraft.
"Nope, it's just a charter," Willow crowed. "But it could be. You're a bona fide millionaire, Faith."
Faith shot Willow a grateful smile but then shook her head. "Still can't believe it."
Buffy moved in front of Faith and gave her a warm kiss. "Believe it, babe."
As Faith started up the jet's steep and narrow steps, I stayed right behind her to make sure that she didn't fall. It took her a full minute or more, but she did it.
The climb wiped her out, though, and she was breathing hard as we walked through the cabin and claimed the couch at the back. Faith groaned as she sat down, and I saw her face twitch in pain.
"Do you want one of your meds?" I asked in concern.
Faith grimaced again but refused the offer. "Not yet. Let's wait till we're in the air."
I nodded in reply, and we sat in silence as the rest of the gang boarded the jet, and the crew prepared us for takeoff. Soon we were roaring off the runway and into the sky.
As cool as it was, it didn't take long for the excitement of the luxury jet to give way to exhaustion. Willow was the first to go, dozing off right in the middle of Xander's demonstration of the on-board satellite TV. Mom and Giles were next. With no one else to talk to, Xander settled into his seat and fell sound asleep. When she saw Faith stretch out on the couch and put her head in my lap, the flight attendant eased our way and asked us if we wanted the cabin lights dimmed. I told her yes. After doing so, she slipped out of the cabin and into the galley, allowing us our privacy.
I knew it wouldn't be long before Faith's pain medication kicked in, and there was something I wanted to tell her. I leaned down and smiled at her, then lightly stroked her cheek.
"I know I've already said it, but…I love you so much, and I am so proud of you. How you held on…it was just incredible. You are incredible."
Faith smiled back and said, "You know what kept me going?"
I shook my head.
"You," she whispered. "I knew if I kept thinking of you, they couldn't break me."
I swallowed down the lump in my throat and kissed her.
"That's us…" I told her, "…unbreakable."
It's been six months since we brought Faith home from England. Thanks to Willow, the Council has kept its distance—and its nose out of our business. And, due to lack of evidence, the Allan Finch investigation has been put into the unsolved file at the Sunnydale PD, where hopefully it will stay forever. Faith's got enough to deal with as it is.
She was pretty much a wreck at first, as you can imagine. Physically she was healing okay, but emotionally she was…like I said, a wreck…a sixty-car pileup on the interstate kind of wreck.
One day early on, she gave me a real scare. I went out to pick up some lunch, and when I came back, she wasn't upstairs. I looked all over the house and finally found her in the basement. She was sitting on the floor, leaning against the dryer. She was wearing only her robe, and her hair was damp as if she'd just gotten out of the shower. But what scared me was that she had a butcher knife in her hand. I could tell she'd been crying, but now she was just staring at the knife in her lap. I crept forward slowly and softly called out her name. When she lifted her head to look at me, my heart just broke. Her eyes were so…I don't even have a word for how hopeless and anguished they were.
"I can't live like this," she whispered.
I knelt in front of her and gently touched her bare leg. I didn't want to frighten her by lunging straight for the knife, so I said, "Faith, I know you're hurting, but this isn't the way. Please give me the knife."
She shook her head and gripped the knife more tightly. "I can't function…I can't even take a fuckin' shower without having a breakdown…I can't…I can't…"
Her voice cracked, and she started to cry again. When she pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs, I grabbed her fist. She didn't resist when I eased the knife from her fingers and set it aside on the floor.
"I can't do it, B, I can't…" she cried. "Why didn't they just kill me? God, I wish I was dead…"
All I could do was hold her and tell her everything would be okay, that she wouldn't always feel like this. And, luckily, time didn't make a liar out of me.
It took me a while to climb outta that circle o' hell I was in at first, but I finally did it. With help, of course. I couldn't have done it without Buffy…and everybody else. Annnnd as much as I hate to admit it, the thousands of dollars' worth of shrink visits didn't hurt, either.
I wish I could say that I was 100%, but I'm not. I don't think I ever will be.
But, hey…I'm better'n I was, and I'm slaying again, so I'm good—as good as I'm gonna get, I guess.
I still get triggered sometimes—the shower, the rain on my face, even an innocent pop of static electricity. I never really know when a flashback is gonna hit me. At least they're not as bad as they were. I can go a whole week, sometimes two, without having one.
Some of my memories are gone, though. Doc says it was the shock treatment that probably did it. Far as I can tell, most of what got zapped away was pre-Sunnydale, so no big loss there, except that…sometimes I feel…I don't know…disconnected or something.
Anyway, me and B are still together, believe it or not. And her mom and Giles and the rest of the gang—they're like my family now. More of a family than I ever had back home.
It's been weird, though…having people who care. Especially somebody like Buffy. I really thought she would've given up on me by now, but she hasn't. She's been pretty amazing, actually.
Back when all the Council stuff went down, she told me I was strong, that I could take anything. Truth is, she's the strong one. She's taken sooo much shit from me over the last six months.
And I've given her an out I don't know how many times. I've said, "Look—I'm damaged goods, and we both know it, so just go out there and find somebody who isn't so fucked up."
But she's never taken me up on it. Hasn't even considered it. Not even once. And that just makes me love her more.
Maybe she was right. Maybe we are unbreakable—together at least.
Hell, if we can make it through all this, we can make it through anything.
You know what? I think I just figured out what my next tatt is gonna be—and Buffy's first, if I can talk her into it:
F & B...
Yeah. I like that.