Summary: This is a sequel to my story A Creature I Don't Know which can be found here: s/8467907/1/A-Creature-I-Dont-Know
A/N: I strongly recommend a good understanding of season 5 to follow this: Listening to Fear especially for this update.
Disclaimer:Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, 20th Century Fox, UPN and WB Television Networks own the television shows, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel". Dark Horse and IDW own the Comics. No copyright infringement is intended, no money is being earned by myself. The title of each chapter, and the story as a whole, come from K's Choice songs/Album titles. (Given that I had soundtrack for the first I thought I should have one for the second).
Thank you all for your kind words and support for my last story. I hope you enjoy my continuation of it. I would love to hear your thoughts on my thoughts. Many thanks.
6. Until I'm Fine
Faith walked into the hospital room with Willow. So far she had managed to find excuses to avoid going into Joyce's room; she had to cover slaying, she had too much homework. For her though, the only reason she needed was because she didn't like hospitals. Aside from all the time she'd spent locked in a bed there was the fact that the last time she'd seen her own mother was when she'd be laid bare on the gurney.
The numerous STDs and fun little drug habit she'd picked up from her job hadn't helped; but it was the alcohol that eventually killed her.
Willow had dropped Faith's birthday present in front of her and then swiftly picked it back up once she knew she had the girl's attention. Willow had smiled at the power she had with such a small gift. She didn't realise that such simple things as friends and small gifts were still a novelty to Faith. Willow had told her she'd get her gift with the others: in Joyce's hospital room.
Faith didn't want to see the woman so frail, so ill, so bereft of life. Willow simply took her hand and told her that she needed to be strong. Someone had to be strong.
"Care package!" Willow smiled as they walked into the small room. "Special delivery for the Summers girls."
Willow dropped a large gift bag on the table across Joyce's bed, Faith simply slipped into the corner. She didn't want to see Joyce like this. She couldn't she Joyce like this.
"Now let's see what I have in this sack of mine. Oh, I feel just like Santa Claus." The only person who was sharing Willow's enthusiasm was Dawn though. Faith watched as the girl poked about the bag as Willow babbled on. Dawn needed this, she shouldn't have to see her mom like this. Any distraction was important.
"Beer hat!" Willow smiled at everyone, though clearly rapidly losing confidence. "See, it's got cup holders and straws that go straight to your mouth and you can fill it with other things than beer... and somehow when I was in the store this seemed like the most important idea and now there's this whole part where I'm crazy..."
"It's perfect. Thank you, Willow." Joyce smiled up at her. "You're so sweet."
"Let me see, who's next? Dawn, I believe I have something in here for you."
Faith drifted into the room as she watched Joyce's hand head to her temple. "Headache?" She and Buffy asked her in unison.
"A little one." She nodded. "A biggish little one. I'm fine. Now go on, what else is in that sack of goodies, Willow?"
"Alright. Dawn, to keep you busy..." Willow pulled a book out of her bag and passed it to the young girl. Faith smiled when she spotted it was an introduction to spells book.
"Wow, cool. Thanks Willow!"
"You got her a book of spells?" Buffy sighed as she watched her sister retreat to the chair in the corner to start her new book. "The girl who can break things by looking at them now has a book to teach her how to, you know... break things by looking at them."
"It doesn't actually have the spells. It's just history, anecdotes, stuff like that." Willow shrugged before delving back into her bag. "Oh Buffy. Here. I have this for you." She passed her a textbook.
"Homework? Ugh. I don't believe in tiny Jewish Santa anymore." Willow smiled apologetically before passing Buffy yo-yo to go with it. "The book is just in case you get a chance to look it over. And Faith," she spun round to face Faith and passed her a small neatly wrapped parcel. "your birthday present."
"Oh my god I completely forgot." Buffy looked at her girlfriend.
"Don't sweat it, B. You've got stuff-"
"I'd rip it in half and then put it in bed with me."
"Mom?" Buffy looked at her mother, searching for anything to say that she had been in control of what she'd just said. But there was nothing there.
"I think I'll take a rest now." She managed a half smile by way of a return.
Faith indicated for Dawn to follow her into the corridor and left Buffy to take care of her mom.
"She seems... She's gonna be fine." Willow smiled at Dawn as she and Buffy left the room after them.
"What was she talking about? I mean, that was weird."
"It's okay." Buffy reassured her sister. "The doctor warned me about it. I should've told you. It's just the... it's the thing in her brain, it sort of... presses on something and it can make her say weird things."
"Does she know she's saying it?"
"Not really. I guess it's sort of like a flash. You saw, the second after she said it, she was normal."
"And after the operation... no more pressing." Willow smiled.
"Your mom will be back to telling you to tidy your room and do your homework just like that." Faith added.
"Is that right?"
"Hey, Santa and birthday girls don't lie. What did the birthday girl get anyway?" Buffy asked Faith taking the unwrapped gift from her hand. "Is this Harry Potter?"
"In Latin!" Willow smiled proudly.
"You read Harry Potter?" Buffy frowned at her girlfriend.
"Well Red got me the original when I... When I..."
"…was in hospital."
"Why were you in hospital?" Dawn asked Faith, oblivious to the awkward conversation surrounding her.
"You remember when I was in the wheelchair?" Dawn simply nodded. "Its all to do with that."
"But people get better!" Willow said quickly trying to move the conversation on. "Like your mom will."
The conversation might have continued that way, forced positives to placate the young girl but the four of them were distracted by a family passing them in passage. They might have continued that way had the man not accosted Dawn.
What is this thing? There's no facts...
Faith looked around the field, her arms crossed across her chest as Giles examined the meteorite more closely. She didn't want to be out in the cold, in the middle of night with the others – she needed to be back on Rovello Drive. Joyce was being released into Buffy's care while she waited for her operation. Buffy needed help.
Dawn needed help.
She shook her head and picked up speed so she was walking besides Giles and Willow. She caught the tail end of their conversation and smiled at Tara, "Stargazing, huh?" she mouthed at her.
Tara blushed a little before replying, "I know stuff."
"About stars?" Faith frowned in mock sceptism.
"Erm, I don't think this is a star!" Giles interrupted them and drawing their attention to the smoking boulder and small crater blocking their path.
"We have meteorite." Willow nodded, leaning in for a closer look.
"Is it hot?" Anya asked her, "'Cause if there's radiation you'll go all sterile."
This last adage made Xander, who had been inching closer, back away.
"It's not hot." Willow told her, not looking away from the rock. "It's... broken. And... sort of... hollow. It's hollow." She turned round to face Giles repeating the word 'hollow' a couple more times.
"So we're all thinking the same thing, right?" Anya asserted.
"Festive pinata, delicious candy?"
"Something evil-crashed to earth in this. Then it broke out and slithered away to do badness."
"Slithered?" Faith interrupted the conversation around her. "Slithered? Must it have slithered I mean last time there was slithering I didn't fair so well."
"There are no tracks." Tara explained, pointing around them. "There is, however…" She broke herself off and grabbed Willow's hand before wandering into the direction she'd been looking at.
"We don't really know about the 'slithered' part." Giles tried to reassure Faith as they followed the girls.
"Oh, no." Anya nodded, "I'm sure it frisked about like a fluffy lamb."
"Neither of you are helping." Faith told them.
"There's no pulse." Willow said, once they had all caught up to the body she and Tara were kneeling before.
"The space lamb got 'im."
"I don't see any marks on him." Faith sighed, ignoring Anya, kneeling besides Willow. "Didn't we see this guy earlier?"
What is this thing? There's no facts...
"He was at the hospital, a mental patient." Willow nodded, before explaining to the others, "They released him today."
"Xander, what are you doing?" Giles scolded the boy as he watched him prod the body with a stick.
"Just making sure; things in this town have a tendency not to stay dead. You all remember Buffy's Dead Man's Party!" Xander explained as he continued to poke the man. He inadvertently knocked the man's jaw. "Oh god," Xander covered his mouth from the smell he'd caused. "Next time I get impulses to be manly, stop me."
"Yeah, poking dead things with sticks is the definition of manly." Faith nodded at him, pulling her shirt to cover her mouth and nose as she leaned in closer. She took the stick from him and investigated the man's mouth. "Yeah," she managed to get out before she dry heaved against the nearest tree. "The slithering lamb choked him to death with that nasty black stuff." She stood up and wiped her mouth. "Any one tell Buffy I nearly dropped my dinner and I'll kill you."
"How's your manly high road treating you?" Xander smiled at her. "I'm voting research." He announced raising his hand in the air after receiving a very cold look from Faith.
"I was going to suggest exploring a little further… heading into the woods a bit ...," Giles trailed off. "Research is a much better idea." He nodded.
"A Queller demon?" Faith frowned, holding Giles' cell phone to her ear as she looked around the hospital ward.
She had left the others to the books and found Spike. She'd pulled out Giles' wallet and asked him how much it would take to buy his mildly heightened sense of smell for the night. After negotiating prices and the assurance that nothing wooden and pointy would be driven anywhere into his chest Spike agreed.
After a couple of wrong turns Spike had eventually lead her back to the hospital she had been so keen to avoid. It was at the Mental Health Ward where she could send him back into the night - the smell was so bad that she didn't have to put up with any longer. Besides, he'd asked too many times if he could eat the dead patients.
"Yep. That's our perp." Willow asserted from the other end of the phone line. "It's a sort of a scavenger that can be summoned to kill-"
"Yeah. How did you-"
"A mildly heightened sense of smell." Faith sighed looking around the ward once again. "And I've also got five stiffs here in the Mental Ward of Sunnydale Memorial. Shit." She suddenly slammed Giles' phone shut, cutting Willow off, and ran.
Faith ran until she was facing down Buffy's front door. She didn't know what she was expecting to find. The chances of a slithering creature from out of space deciding to invade this one house in particular were slim to none. But then again the changes of Mrs Summers, out of all the people in the world, to get a brain tumour – a brain tumour that made her act crazy – were very small too.
She knocked on the door, praying that she was just being paranoid and overprotective. She knocked again.
She knocked again.
Finding no answer she ran in. She found Buffy besides Spike and the creature in the dining room.
"You alright?" Faith asked, helping Buffy up.
Buffy simply ran past her and up the stairs, leaving Faith with Spike and the monster.
Sorry this took so long. Its coming though. Many thanks, Circus