Xander was fairly certain that he was an idiot – he was also even more certain that the two women he was currently following would say exactly the same thing if – or more honestly, when – they realised that he was doing so. For a moment he worried about that but shrugged it off. He had been heading out of his and Anya's room to get a drink when he had heard Buffy talking quietly but urgently with Willow.
It wasn't that he had actually intended to spy or eavesdrop but the urgent conversation had stopped him from walking out and interrupting. Hearing that Buffy and Faith were heading out on their own, he couldn't help but worry.
He had slipped quietly back into the room when the duo's conversation ended and quickly pulled on some clothes. He had then made his way out of the room quietly, out of the Initiative, following the two women at a careful distance – not like he thought that he could help if the two Slayers were hurt but… he could get them help, right?
He sighed as he was briefly reminded of the time he had followed Buffy only to discover her hanging out in the arms of Angel. Boy, had that gone horribly wrong!
He had been following for about ten minutes when that thought struck him – nothing good could come of following, could it? It certainly hadn't then, that was for sure. Also, there was the fact that he was walking through Sunnydale without a weapon; and the only people who could help him if he got into trouble were up ahead and unaware of his presence. Smart.
Those two thoughts almost had him turning and heading back to the Initiative but that wouldn't work out either, would it? He could just as easy get attacked heading home. If he was to be attacked that night, he figured it was better for it to happen when he was (hopefully) within hearing distance of the Slayers.
He resolutely walked on, keeping one eye on the two women as the other kept an eye on his surroundings for potential danger or something that could be used as a weapon.
…Which was how he came to be standing outside the Vineyard, watching carefully as the women fought, his mobile phone in hand, ready to call for backup if it seemed the two were in over their head.
It was a rather the worse for wear duo who made it deeper into the Vineyard but they made it all the same – the injuries they had sustained appeared to only have spurred them on rather than slow them down any.
They left forty two dead Bringer bodies behind them – not that they were counting, but Xander was. As he followed cautiously after them, he wondered idly just who would dispose of the dead bodies. "Thankfully not in my job description."
He snorted at his whispered comment – he had helped bury more than one body in his time. Shame really that not all demons went poof when they were made nice and dead. Still, forty two bodies would be pushing it. He shook his head to clear the wayward thoughts and continued after Buffy and Faith.
Caleb stood in the main room, in the middle of a ritual that imbued him with the First's strength, when he became at least dimly aware of the sounds of fighting near the front of the building.
He smirked as he realised that the incredibly dumb blonde Slayer had finally picked up on his none-too-subtle hints and had brought everyone to the Vineyard. He frowned slightly as he realised the sounds of fighting were getting closer.
He scowled as the Ritual ended prematurely when his concentration snapped – he could steal added strength he had received but it was less than it should have been… While it might have taken them longer to take the hint, he hadn't expected them that night so he was caught on the hop and the Bringers that were meant to be here for this confrontation were not actually there.
Caleb's scowl turned into a smirk after a moment or two – as if that stupid bitch could possibly be a match for him and his boys - not when they had the power of the First on their side! On his own, he was stronger than any girl but with the Bringers… they didn't stand a chance!
The evil man headed in the direction of the approaching footsteps, surprised to realise that only the two Slayers had come. He rallied quickly though and smirked. "Come to meet your deaths, girlies?" He made a show of looking down at his wrist, even though he wore no watch. "You're a little earlier than I expected despite all the hints I've been dropping…" He shrugged. "Ah well, no can say I'm not flexible…" He attacked.
As Xander watched from a distance, he had to wonder just why he was still there – if the duo could take down forty two Bringers, they were unlikely to have a problem with Caleb, were they? He shook his head, feeling a little redundant as he continued to stand there. "Heh, maybe I can get a job with Travers now that I'm a 'Watcher.'"
He grinned at his own weak joke then clapped a hand over his mouth as he realised that he had spoken out loud. He relaxed after a moment though as the Slayers clearly didn't notice him or his slip-up.
The Slayers might not have noticed Xander's presence as they were lost in the fight with the ex-preacher but alas, the aforementioned man did. He looked up, his eyes narrowing as he realised just who it was: the pathetic excuse for a male who 'saw everything'.
The dark haired man rallied his strength and shoved the two women away. As he moved away, heading to the door, Faith grinned and relaxed. "That's right – run like the scared rat you are!"
Caleb wasn't running of course – at least, he wasn't running away. Buffy froze as she saw Xander ahead of him – ahead of Caleb – and realised the older man's intention. "NO!"
Faith had been grinning widely until she head the blonde's fear-filled scream. She blinked in confusion. "Uh, Buff… we want him to go, remember?" She looked back at the retreating figure only to realise that it was no longer retreating. Her eyes widened in horror and she cursed loudly as she realised that the evil man had pulled someone into his arms… worse, that that someone was someone she knew. "Xander!"
It took no time at all really… Buffy had snapped out of her shock in seconds - ignoring the ice in her veins where blood should be, she rushed forward.
Caleb smirked down at the boy in his twisted embrace. "You're the one who sees everything, right?" He snorted and tightened his hold around Xander's throat. "Guess I'll have to fix that."
Buffy was moving too slowly. She was moving as fast as she could, yet time had slowed down – for her it seemed. She could only run and watch in horror as Caleb's hand moved from her friend's neck, the thumb moving inward…
Xander had been scared when Caleb had grabbed him but not bone-deep scared. Buffy was there, she wouldn't let anything happen to him – he could see her running towards them even now. For a moment, he assumed that was why Caleb's hand was suddenly moving away from his throat – the ex-preacher was letting him got in favour of protecting himself.
He grinned as he realised that Buffy had saved the day for him again… only for an anguished scream to be torn from him a heartbeat later as Caleb's thumb pressed hard and deep into his right eye.
Buffy hadn't saved him this time.
Caleb almost purred at the sound of the boy's screams. "Nice. Real nice." He wriggled the thumb around, enjoying the screams and obvious pain immensely.
It was only the fact that the blonde was nearly upon them that caused him to release the other man but he couldn't hold back a wide grin at the popping sound his thumb made as it slipped free from the damaged eye. "That was fun."
He shoved the screaming idiot at Buffy, forcing her to drop the weapon she had raised to instead grab her friend and save him from even further injury. Caleb used the chance to rush past and head downstairs to the main room once more.
Buffy grabbed her friend, holding him as they both fell to the ground. Some part of Xander reacted to being 'safe' with his friend and mercifully, he blacked out.
Faith arrived beside them, dropping down beside them and cushioning the blow as they fell. "Fuck! Xander… what the hell is he doing here?"
Buffy was stunned. What was he doing here? He must have heard them in the Initiative somehow and followed – surely no one would have sent him here on his own and apparently unarmed.
The blonde scowled at the irrelevant thoughts – they had to go… Xander needed urgent medical attention. She stood up then, stooped to lift the unconscious man but paused… there was still the matter of the Scythe.
After a moment of indecision, she straightened and looked at the other Slayer. "Get him to the hospital, Faith!" It wasn't a request.
Not liking the idea of leaving Buffy to deal on her own, the younger woman started to object but the blonde was having none of it. "Faith, there's no time. I need you to take Xander to the hospital now… even if there's no one there who can help, I'm sure there'll be medical supplies that we can use to lessen the pain. Go okay? Please… I'll be fine but just go!"
Faith was still reluctant to leave the other woman – Caleb had been a challenge for them both… would Buffy be okay? One look at the older woman though, she stopped trying to argue. "All right, fine. I'll take him and come back here when I'm done. Though hopefully you'll be on your way back to the Initiative by then and that dickhead will be toast."
Buffy shook her head. "Oh, he'll be toast all right. Just head back to the Initiative. I'll see you there." After a nod from Faith, the younger woman lifted Xander carefully and headed out of the building. Once Buffy was sure they were gone, she took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and turned towards the room where she knew Caleb would be and started walking, pausing only briefly to lift a sword dropped by one of the Bringers.
As Buffy walked into the room that housed the Slayer Scythe, she experienced a sense of Deja-Vu. She shrugged it off and walked further in, stopping when she spotted Caleb, the Scythe behind him. "Aw, you've been trying to get it out of the black goo for me, I see. You really didn't need to. I can get it myself."
Caleb snorted as his gaze moved from the Slayer to the weapon briefly. "Over my dead body!"
Buffy smirked. "I was so hoping you'd say that." She charged at the man, sword ready…
Caleb was more than a little surprised when Buffy had appeared again – he had assumed that they would take the pathetic boy to the hospital so had been engaged in conversation with the First. He shrugged and sighed almost melodramatically. "I know you wanted her alive but she's really annoying… how about I put her into a coma?"
'Kennedy' frowned in thought then grinned in a much more evil way than the woman whose form the First had taken could ever have managed in life. "I will allow it." It disappeared then from view, not wishing to distract its minion.
Buffy rolled her eyes. She couldn't hear the First's side of the conversation but she got enough of the gist of it hearing what the dark-haired man was saying. "You really have no clue what you're dealing with." She advanced on him and swung her sword as soon as she was close enough.
Caleb jumped back and away from the sword just in time but his eyes widened for a second as the sharp blade sliced hair from the side of his head. "Bitch. You'll pay for that."
Buffy grinned almost ferally. "Doubt it. You'll pay for Xander though." She ducked easily out of the way as the man aimed to punch her in the face. The Slayer chuckled as this time he wobbled due to having put to much force behind the attack. "Sloppy."
She paused for only a heartbeat before reaching forward, the sword in her hand clattering to the ground as she shoved the man off to the side. Hard.
As Caleb was shoved to the ground, he let out an undignified and rather effeminate squeak. By the time he stood again, Buffy was standing in front of the weapon. He did his best to look unruffled, snorted loudly. "Oh, go ahead. – as if a weak girl like you could possibly get it out..!"
The ex-preacher paled slightly as Buffy reached forward and, with minimal force, pulled the Scythe out of the thick goo. If he hadn't known better, he would have thought she was pulling it free from something as soft as butter. "Well… damn."
Buffy smirked and looked at the man. "Now… where were we?" She grinned and advanced toward him, ready to take the hateful man out.
For the first time in this confrontation, Buffy could see that Caleb was looking more than a little unsure of himself. Good.
Before Buffy could use the Scythe and take him out however, the First reappeared in the room. This time the Slayer could see it quite easily. This time though, it wore the face of Spike. "Oh, I wouldn't do that, luv… you've got more important things to be dealing with right now… your pathetic little group of wannaslays for one… They're about to go boom!"
Buffy's eyes widened as she let that sink in. For a moment she just stared then shoved past Caleb, heading out as fast as she could.
Caleb growled and moved to follow her but the First moved in front of him, having taken on the guise of Kennedy once more. "Let her go, Caleb."
The man shook his head. "She's not leaving here with that!"
Kennedy practically scowled. "I said let her go. You can collect it off her later – once you're stronger. It'll be more fun for us both then."
A/N: I actually had this chapter all planned out before I'd even finished the previous one but no matter how many times I tried, I couldn't get it written. Finally, I got the inspiration necessary… and the story went off on a huge tangent. Poor Xander. :/