The sounds of snarling filled the night air and raised hairs on everyone's neck. Willow rushed immediately to the cop Dawn had just shot in the leg, ignoring the fighting werewolves to the side of her. The cop held his leg and groaned in pain and she put her hand on his shoulder as some form of comfort.
Dawn stood frozen to the spot, the crossbow hanging limply by her left side, her other hand was raised to her mouth. What had she done now? Buffy was gonna kill her!
Miranda was crouched over the other fallen young man. The black-haired Slayer checked for a pulse and pulled her sweatshirt over her head and held it to the wound on his shoulder.
Kennedy quickly moved away from her friends towards the wolves, reaching into the bag at her shoulder for fresh darts for the gun. She kept her eyes glued to them as they tumbled over one another in a desperate attempt to pin the other down.
The noises they were making as they fought were creeping her out and she fumbled nervously in her bag, her hand coming out empty every time. She almost cheered when the sprawling scrap landed the bigger beast against a stone used to keep the gate from opening.
Stunned, it lay there trying to recover, slowly shaking its head back and forth. Hank wasted no time in leaping away from the dazed interloper and Kennedy cursed herself for being distracted. Hank looked at her, blood and drool dripping from his muzzle. She raised the gun and pulled the trigger, but all that happened was a quiet 'thwip'. She'd forgotten she hadn't found another dart.
Hank pawed at the ground, his yellow eyes flashing as he watched this funny-smelling human warily. He was filled with rage and hate and blood-lust for everything at the moment. Marvin wasn't there and that always made him feel bad. He wanted to kill this human without the fear for making him scared himself.
He backed up a little and Kennedy smiled grimly. She gave up on finding a tranquillizer dart and instead spun the gun around in her hands so she held the muzzle, the stock raised to head height.
"Come on then Fido, come and get it," she told the terrified Hank, slowly advancing on him. His growls grew louder and even fiercer as he watched her come closer. He wanted to pounce and rip her limb from limb but his brain was sending him messages about the pain of a gun. The holes in his abdomen a testament to the memo.
Willow turned around to see her girlfriend walking towards the werewolf, the tranquillizer gun raised like a club. "No!" She screamed out.
Kennedy didn't take her eyes off the wolf but Hank's head spun to the source of the warning and, seeing an unarmed human, saw the way to vent his wrath. He twisted his body and leapt at the witch, catching her by surprise.
Hank bowled the redhead over, but she just had time to fling a hand up and shout "Protect!" The wolf continued to snap and snarl inches from her face and she gritted her teeth and willed the magick to hold.
Kennedy gave her own cry of "No!" and rushed over. A police jeep pulled to a stop in the yard with a screech of tires, drowning her out. Xander jumped from the vehicle and rushed towards Willow and the wolf without a thought for weapons.
Willow lay there with her head pushing back against the ground. Despite the magick creating a barrier between her and the monster, she could still smell its rank breath and could feel the saliva drip across her face and throat. She wondered where Kennedy and the other Slayers were. They had swords; they should be chopping this things head off. She realized they were probably battling against the second werewolf, figuring her magick would keep her safe. 'Maybe it will,' she thought, 'but that doesn't mean it'll be safe for everybody.' She could feel the magick pulling her in, she knew she could blast this creature to smithereens with a flick of her wrist if she wanted to. She could feel the words she needed to say floating at the top of her mind waiting to be picked up and thrown at the werewolf, but she resisted. This thing was human for twenty-eight days of the month, she couldn't kill it. 'But someone else damn well can!'
Kennedy reached the wolf and grabbed the first part she could, his tail. She gripped it tight and tried to pull him away from her girlfriend, but Hank wasn't too keen on that and he took a second out from terrorizing Willow to turn and slash wildly across Kennedy's face with a paw. She fell back and felt the claws slice open her cheek.
Xander caught her as she fell back into him and he unceremoniously cast her to the side to get to his best friend, but he was too late. The other werewolf had recovered and he saw what was going on. He rushed in from the side, inches in front of Xander, and again knocked Hank clear.
Xander knelt at Willow's side. "It's okay. You're okay." He had to shout to be heard over the wolf fight.
She opened her eyes slowly and he watched as the black seeped out of them and they were green again. He stroked her hair, the black turning to copper under his hand. She gave him a tentative smile and asked. "Am I still Willow?"
He smiled down at her. "Yeah."
"That's real touching you guys," Kennedy said, climbing to her feet and gingerly touching the four gashes in her cheek, "but can we get to the killing now?"
"I . . . I . . . th-think its being d�-done f-f-f-for us," stuttered Miranda, horrified by the spectacle in front of her but unable to look away.
The bigger, heavier wolf was on top of Hank and had finally managed to pin him by the throat. Now he shook his head from side to side, driving his long canines in even deeper and pulling at the flesh.
When it ripped out a big chunk of Hank's neck, Miranda threw up everywhere. Dawn snapped out of the trance she had been in since shooting the cop in the leg and gave a heartfelt, "Ewww."
Alex came running up beside Xander. "What the hell is going on here?" He demanded angrily, pulling out his talkie to call for an ambulance. Xander nodded towards the dead werewolf and the very much alive werewolf. Alex swore and knelt beside Sam, who had sat up and was inspecting the bolt in his leg.
The live werewolf looked up from Hank's body and stared at the assembled humans. His jowls dripped blood onto the cracked earth of the yard and it mixed with that flowing from Hank's neck. His flanks heaved as he panted and his gaze fixed on Willow.
She stared back, leaning against Xander, unnerved by the animal's interest. Its tail shifted slightly from side to side and she blinked, her brow creased in confusion and still they held each others' gaze.
Kennedy grabbed the crossbow from Dawn's hands and swiftly loaded a bolt from her bag. "One to go," she said as she pointed it at the wolf.
"The tranq gun?" Said Xander, wondering where it had gone.
"No time," Kennedy started to pull the trigger, convinced the werewolf giving Willow so much attention was about to attack like the last one had.
"No!" Shouted Willow again and pushed Kennedy's arm down just as the bolt left the bow, it went 'thunk' into the dry earth and quivered there.
"What do you mean no?" Kennedy rounded on her angrily already searching for another bolt.
"It just saved my life," muttered Willow. The werewolf gave a whine and turned to run away.
Willow watched it thoughtfully.
Kennedy watched Willow just as thoughtfully.
Buffy sat impatiently waiting in the small room. Gunn sat at her side but he wasn't in the mood for talking. She gazed at the little windows. They weren't barred. Shouldn't prison windows be barred? Maybe they didn't worry too much about that when you were three floors up, which was how Faith had managed to get away the first time. Buffy smiled at the thought.
It felt like they had been sat there in silence for hours when the door finally opened and Faith was led in.
"Faith!" Buffy jumped from her seat and Gunn put a hand on her arm to stop her from rushing over. She took the hint and settled for bouncing excitedly on the balls of her feet.
Faith didn't look up from behind her curtain of hair until the guard had removed her cuffs and retreated back outside the door.
"Thirty minutes," he barked before closing it behind him.
"Thirty minutes? Is that all?" Buffy moaned, watching Faith as she hobbled to the table. 'Hobbling, why is she hobbling, and why hasn't she looked at me yet?'
"You should be grateful I could get us in at all on such short notice," Gunn growled. "And that you ain't speaking through a phone like regular visitors. Hey Faith."
Faith sat down carefully on the opposite side of the table. "Hey," she greeted them, looking up for the first time.
Gunn whistled through his teeth and Buffy gasped. She jumped back up from her seat too fast for Gunn to stop her and started around the edge of the table to the injured Slayer.
Faith put her hand up to stop her. "Sit back down B. You come around here and they'll strip search me and it ain't as sexy as it sounds."
Buffy blushed and moved quickly back to her seat. "They really do that?"
"You bet, and can you blame them?" Faith ran her hands down her body with a smirk, Buffy smirked back and then both Slayers winced as she aggravated her sore ribs.
"Faith what happened to you?" Buffy demanded.
"Pissed off the wrong people, you know me. Anyway, it's cool. It looks worse than it is."
"But how could anyone . . . I mean, why didn't you . . . You're a Slayer," Buffy whispered, as if Faith had forgotten.
"Thanks for the reminder B. Now I know that I'll just go back out there, break a few heads, get thrown in solitary and lose my appeal. Would that be your advice G?" She asked Gunn sarcastically.
Gunn just rolled his eyes.
Buffy looked down at her hands. "I hadn't thought of that," she admitted.
"Yeah anyway, it doesn't matter. With any luck I'll be outta here soon and that will piss them off way more than me handing out a beating. I've just gotta keep it in perspective."
Buffy looked more carefully at Faith's face, the bright purple bruises had a back ground of yellowy-green ones. This wasn't the first time she'd been attacked.
"Can't you tell someone?" She asked, desperate to be able to help her lover.
"Not the way it works."
"So you're just gonna keep taking it?"
"Like I said. With any luck it won't be for much longer and besides, I'll be fine tomorrow."
Buffy looked away so Faith wouldn't see the tears in her eyes. All day she'd been planning the lecture she wanted to give the brunette Slayer, but now seeing her like this - no, just seeing her at all - she just wanted to hug her.
Faith's voice made her turn back to the milk chocolate eyes she loved.
"So . . . you mad at me?"
"I think I have every right to be mad, don't you?" 'So that's where the lecture went,' thought Buffy.
"Oh yeah, why's that?" 'Here she goes,' thought Faith.
"'Cause you're an idiot."
"So I've been told." Faith looked away and slumped further in her chair, ignoring the pain.
"Well you are," Buffy assured her.
Faith looked at her again. "I'm mad at you too!"
"Because I distinctly remember telling you not to come looking for me, and yet here you are."
Buffy looked at her incredulously. "Faith, I don't care if you're mad at me for caring about you. I'm gonna do it with or without your consent."
"You couldn't just care about me from Cleveland?"
"It's been six weeks Faith. I've been going out of my mind. I thought it was something I'd done to push you away, but I couldn't work out what."
"I told you I had stuff to do, and I'm doing it."
"You also told me you loved me."
Faith glanced at Gunn, embarrassed. "I never said that."
"Well you certainly implied it. Was it all a lie? Was it just sex? I mean, you said you were horny after the fight; was that all it was? 'Cause if so, boy do I feel stupid now. I mean I should have seen the warning signs. Not like it's the first time someone's 'got some and got gone'. Not the second either, and I mean it's you, Queen of that damned motto and I still fell for it. You must think I'm sooo stupid . . ."
"Buffy!" Faith cut off her babble in mid sentence. "Buffy can we not do this now? It's not exactly the time and place for a heart to heart, y'know? Besides, I'm sure Gunn don't want to hear all the ins and outs of our . . ." She made a complicated motion with her hands and Buffy blushed.
"I don't mind," said Gunn with a grin and a shrug. Both Slayers shot him a glare and he went back to looking out of the windows.
"When then, Faith? When do you want to talk about what we mean to each other, if anything, and since when are you shy about sex? I think you're just trying to avoid the conversation completely."
"Its not that," said Faith, exasperated.
"Then tell me now. Do you want to be with me or not. If it was just sex you can tell me. I'm a big girl."
"It wasn't just sex, but I don't know what it means."
"What does that mean?" Stormed Buffy.
"You won't get it."
The two Slayers locked eyes.
The Slayers sat in silence, staring at each other. Gunn shifted uncomfortably and turned his gaze to another window.
Buffy pursed her lips and blew air up at her bangs, lifting it slightly. She relented with a sigh.
"Okay. So I'm forgiven?" Faith looked hopeful.
"Not by a long shot, missy, but we've only got twenty minutes left and I don't want to waste them arguing. There's more pressing matters at hand." Buffy glanced at Gunn but he was studiously ignoring them both.
"Oh yeah, such as?"
No sound came out when Buffy tried to speak, she cleared her throat and tried again.
"Yeah, we have a new problem, uh a big, big bad." Buffy peeked up from the fascinating table top to gauge Faith's reaction, but she was just sitting there waiting for details. "Uh really big . . . and bad. I, uh, can't handle it alone. I need help."
"It must be pretty bad to make you come out of retirement," Faith said.
How did Faith know about that? She must have been asking questions; which had to be good, right?
"You've got the Scoobies. They're in Cleveland with you right?"
"Um, yeah, but this is way too dangerous to involve them. It needs a Slayer," Buffy insisted.
Faith suppressed a smile. "Really B? Well you've got a few thousand out there. Take your pick."
"No, no I don't want them. I mean, they aren't as experienced as you. Jeez most of them have never even seen a vampire, let alone staked one," she grumbled more to herself than the woman sat across from her. In a brighter tone she added. "Looks like there's only one person for this job." She winked at Faith.
Faith grinned easily back. "Well I'm flattered an' all but I'm a bit preoccupied with a life sentence at the moment B."
"But you could . . ." Buffy whispered nodding her head towards the window. ". . . you know."
Faith looked towards the unbarred windows and then back to Buffy. "You serious?" She felt a little worried.
"You have to. This is important. The fate of my world depends on it."
Alex finished speaking to the ambulance driver and walked around to the back, Sam was just being loaded in.
"Told you to wait for me Sam. Look what playing hero gets you."
Sam looked up at the deputy through the back doors of the ambulance. "If I hadn't gotten here when I did . . . How's the kid?"
"He'll be fine. Lost a fair bit of blood, but the bite wasn't that deep, just large. He's already on his way to Cleveland General."
Sam nodded and laid his head back down, the shot they'd given him for the pain finally kicking in.
Xander came over to stand next to Alex. "Is he okay?"
Alex turned away from the doors when they were closed and surveyed the scene. "Yeah he'll be fine once they get that bolt out. Funny thing though," Alex scratched his head through his mane of dark hair. "The paramedic said the bolt was silver, said it might cause an infection if Sam doesn't look after it. Weird, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Xander chuckled nervously.
Alex went over to inspect Hank's body. "I've never seen the wolves so antsy before. I mean, they've come down to the farms before in the winter, but they've never been as bold as to come right up to the house. Must be the full moon," Alex laughed.
"Well that's when the werewolves like to play," agreed Xander.
Alex looked at him, still with a broad smile on his face. "Werewolves? You city folk sure have funny ideas about life in the country. You'll be asking next if Count Dracula lives in Mage Manor."
Xander thought for a second. "Mage Manor, is that the place outside of town on the hill?" On Alex's nod his face grew guarded. "He doesn't, does he? Of course he doesn't." He chuckled nervously but saw a way out running up; he called Giles over. "Giles, hey, this is Alex, he's the deputy sheriff barman in these parts."
"Oh hello," Giles offered his hand, automatically polite, but then hid it behind his back again because he was still holding his silver sword.
"Hi," Alex said jovially. "Are you Xander's dad?"
"Good Lord no, the very idea."
"Thanks Giles," Xander said.
"No I am . . . that is to say . . ." Giles noticed the wolf carcass for the first time. ". . . Too late." He went to study the body. "Oh dear."
Alex followed him, "Uh sir, I have to ask what you and your friends are doing, trespassing on private farmland after dark, with swords."
"Uh, we are with Xander," hedged Giles. Obviously Xander knew this young man, so hopefully he'd be happy with that.
He wasn't. "Yeah, but Xander was with me. He wouldn't have been out here if I hadn't been, so why are you guys?"
Giles thought quickly. "We, uh, we are members of an environmental group, sent here to study the local, indigenous species and we were out tonight tracking badgers." He received a sharp poke in his back. "Bear, we were tracking bear, when we came across the wolves." He removed his glasses and gave his boyish grin. "I must say, I never realized the local species were so virulent, it's been quite exciting."
Alex didn't look so thrilled. "Yeah so exciting two people have ended up in hospital."
Giles' face fell. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize. I fell behind from the group. Was it the wolves? Is it serious?"
"One got bitten pretty bad but he'll live. Might have a nasty scar," Alex told him.
Giles winced. He was going to have more than a scar; he was going to have a new persona three nights of the month. Another werewolf to look out for. Giles wiped his hanky across his damp forehead while Alex continued.
"The other injured party was my colleague."
"He didn't get bitten too, did he?" Asked Giles dreading the idea of a werewolf cop. That would just be the icing on the cake.
"No sir, he got shot by the young lady over there." Alex pointed to Dawn. She was standing sheepishly with Cici and Miranda but when she realized she'd been busted she slowly walked over.
"I'm so sorry Giles; it was like, a total accident. The we...wolf was on the cop and I shot it and then the other wolf came out of nowhere and suddenly the wolf wasn't on him anymore, but I'd already fired. I am so, so sorry. Please don't tell Buffy."
Giles groaned out loud, he'd been wrong - this was the icing on the cake.
Alex carried on, "I'm afraid sir I'm gonna have to arrest her."
"What?" Cried Dawn. "I said I'm sorry, it was an accident."
"I'm sorry, I have no choice. You shot a police officer in the leg with a crossbow bolt; a silver tipped crossbow bolt. Why are they silver anyway? Wouldn't they be too soft for hunting?"
Willow had wandered over to join the crowd. "They were like that when we bought them," she answered when no one else seemed ready to. "Weird, huh?"
Alex broke into a charming smile and offered Willow his hand. "Yeah weird. I'm Alex."
Willow shook his hand. "Nice to meet you Alex, I'm Gay." She smiled, eyes bright and mischievous and confident as her power took its time going back to sleep. The more she used, the more awake it seemed to get.
"That's a nice name," began Alex.
Kennedy came over and put an arm around her waist. "It's not her name," she said neutrally.
"Oh." Alex snatched his hand back quickly, completely embarrassed, then realized how rude that looked and stuck it out again to offer it to Kennedy. She shook it, smirking.
"Anyway, if the ladies have quite finished spraying around the testosterone, maybe we should sort this Jailbird Dawn thing out," Xander said, trying to save his new friend from further embarrassment. "Is there any way we can deal with it without a trip to the station? It's not like she meant to do it, Al."
"I get that Xand, and don't worry Dawn; I'm not going to put you behind bars for it. But this time you shot a cop; I can't just let you go home. You have to come down to the station and I'll ask you a few official questions and then you can sign some papers and go home to bed. It won't take any more than thirty minutes, but I can't let it go, my dad would kill me."
"Okay, well I'll go with you Dawnie, let's just think of it as life experience." Xander put his arm around the young girl ready to lead her to the police jeep.
Giles put his hand on the carpenter's shoulder. "No Xander, you've been drinking, it wouldn't be right."
"I'm not drunk, Giles."
"I never said you were, but I still think it's best if you stayed and helped the girls clean up and I'll go with Dawn to the station." Giles spoke calmly, but firmly, leaving Xander no room to argue. He stepped back, clearly miffed about it.
Giles led Dawn to the car with Alex. The deputy stopped him before he could get in.
"Sir, it might be good idea to leave the sword with your friends."
"Oh, oh yes, I suppose it would." Giles smiled bashfully and handed the long, silver sword to Cici, who was closest.
"The rest of you should get home now; leave the badgers and bears for another night." Alex advised the rest of them, and then he waved to Xander and drove away.
Buffy glanced at her watch. Time was running out and they were still talking in circles. She sighed.
"Okay, you wanna do the right thing, stick it out and I'm proud of you for it, but you don't have to do it alone. I can stay."
"It's not a B&B, ...B. You can't just book a cell with an ensuite for a few weeks," Faith chuckled.
"I know that moron, I mean I can stay in L.A., and then I can visit you as much as they allow, and I'm sure Gunn can arrange more meetings like this." Buffy shot a glance at the lawyer but he appeared to be tuning them out, he didn't acknowledge her comment. "We can see each other all the time."
"You can't stay, B. You're needed in Cleveland," Faith said sensibly.
"No I'm not, I haven't even been actively slaying since . . . well, for a while."
Faith smirked. "Uh huh, what about this new big bad that's about? Won't you be needed for that?" She couldn't believe Buffy had made up a monster just to get her to escape again. It was kinda sweet really.
"Bugger the big bad," snapped Buffy, She knew full well that Faith had cottoned on to her lie. "This is more important."
Faith's expression softened. She was touched, it was impossible not to be, but this was the worse thing that could have happened. She hadn't put herself through the last impossibly hard six weeks just to have Buffy follow her. She had to make the blonde Slayer see that there was nothing she could do to help Faith that she couldn't do better a thousand miles away.
"B, it's not that I don't appreciate the sentiment 'cause I do, but it's really not what I want. I'm stuck here cooling my jets and you're not, you don't have to be. You've got a whole new life and you should be living it. So go; live it."
Buffy leaned across the table and spoke earnestly. "I don't want to go home without you, Faith. It's only a few weeks until your appeal and then we can go home together."
"And what if I don't get out?"
"Don't say that."
"I have to say it. I'm thinking positively as much as I can, but I have to be realistic too. If my appeal is unsuccessful I could be, no I will be, in here for years. Maybe another twenty, maybe more because I skipped out. I've accepted that, you have to too."
Buffy placed her small hand over Faith's. "I won't accept it until it happens and then, if it does we'll manage . . ."
Faith shook Buffy's hand off. "What do you mean: 'We'll manage?' How will we manage? Are you going to move here, uproot Dawn and bring her back to Los Angeles or leave her behind with your friends . . . your family. Or do you wanna commute back and forth - buy a season ticket with Intra-Air - just so you can spend twenty minutes a week with a convicted murderer?" Faith ran out of steam and slumped back in her hard plastic chair.
Buffy let the tears spill from her eyes and said simply, "Yes."
Faith shook her head sadly. "No, you can't."
Buffy grabbed Faith's hand again and pulled it across the table, holding it tight so she couldn't pull it away. "Yes I can, Faith. If that's what I have to do to share a bit of your life then that's what I'll do. Dawn can either come with me or she can stay at the place in Boudenver; she's practically an adult now anyway. She'll be off to college next year and everyone else will probably be glad to see the back of me. I think I've been driving them all a little crazy since we moved in. I could get a place near here, or in L.A. I could work for Angel. If Harmony can find anyone to employ her, I'm damn sure I can, or there's always plenty of Doublemeat Palaces . . ." Buffy babbled on as she held Faith's hand, determined to convince her it could work.
Faith let her hand be held but she was shaking her head and looking to Gunn for help. He gave a barely perceptible shrug and carried on looking the other way.
"Buffy, no," she tried.
Buffy babbled on regardless. ". . . and it may not be another twenty years anyway. They might reduce your sentence because of all the help you gave in the earthquake." She shot Faith a wink, who rolled her eyes helplessly. Buffy turned to Gunn. "You did mention how she helped evacuate the town, didn't you?" Buffy winked at Gunn too. "Surely that will help. You did your civic duty, they shouldn't keep you locked up, and even if they do it's only twenty years, we'll still only be in our forties. Life begins then, right? And we don't have that pesky death sentence hanging over us now with all the new, uh new . . ."
"Buffy, No!" Faith shouted over the top of the blonde's babble.
Buffy pouted. "What do you mean No?"
"I mean no, we're not doing any of that. If my appeal isn't successful then this ends here. I don't want you waiting for me until I get out, I don't want you visiting me. You've got your own life to lead and I don't want to feel guilty because you're wasting it on me. I'm not worth it."
"Yes you are Faith, don't ever think you're not. You can't stop me from visiting you and waiting for you . . ."
"I won't accept the visits, I don't have to see you if I don't want to. I nearly didn't bother today, but I figured what the hell."
"But Faith, it will give you something to look forward to if you know I'm going to visit every week. It'll make it more bearable."
Faith smirked. "I can see you haven't lost any of the shine on your halo of superiority."
"I didn't mean it like that. I don't think I can come in here and wave a magic wand and make everything better, but I want to try." Buffy looked at their joined hands. Her index finger stroked lightly over Faith's palm.
Faith stiffened slightly before pulling her hand away again. "B, you don't get it. I don't deserve better than this, not unless the jury decides I do and you're not making it any better anyway. I get that you're trying to help but it's not . . . it's making it worse. So just go home and wait for the appeal. If it's successful I'll come and see you and we'll talk. Until then I just want to be left alone."
Buffy sighed shakily, they only had a couple of minutes left, there wasn't time for any more arguing. "Okay Faith, have it your way. I'll give you some space until the appeal, I get that you need to keep your mind focused on that. I'll see you at the court house, maybe I can get some of the gang to come, for moral support."
"No," Faith snapped, louder than she'd meant to.
"Okay, okay, just me and Giles then."
"No B. Just Giles, no you, no Scooby gang, just Giles. I don't want anyone else there."
"What do you mean? Of course I'm going to be at your appeal, silly."
"No you're not B, 'cause I don't want you there and it's my thing. There's gonna be enough people there makin' me crazy. I don't need another."
Buffy's voice was quiet when she asked. "What about before? I won't come in the room, I can just help you prepare. . ."
Faith's voice was firm. "I've got Gunn for that."
"So there's nothing at all I can do?" Buffy's voice was a hoarse whisper.
In contrast Faith sounded quite up-beat. "Yeah, sure there is. You can go home and start living that normal life you've been harping on about since forever and let me deal with things this end."
Buffy wondered why she had never started biting her nails before, the hobby was looking attractive all of a sudden. She studied them and decided they were too dirty to bite, plus they probably tasted of plane. She steadied herself to keep going.
"And after the appeal, if it's successful, will you come home? To Cleveland I mean."
Faith gave a calculatedly casual shrug. "For a bit. It's not like I'm gonna have a lot of options as an ex-con, but it's a big wide world out there, B, and Cleveland is only a small corner of it. And who wants to spend their life in a place called Boudenver anyway? I dunno, I might take the opportunity to have a normal life myself, do a bit of traveling, away from Hellmouths and supernatural shit. I don't think I know how to grow roots."
Buffy gave another deep sigh, it was surprising there was any oxygen left in the room the amount she had been exhaling and inhaling.
"Do I figure in these plans at all?" Buffy's eyes were shiny with tears but they hadn't started to fall, not yet.
Faith shrugged again and Buffy wanted to dislocate both her shoulders. "We'll see."
"Faith, are you deliberately trying to piss me off?"
"Not deliberately, no. It just happens naturally."
"You're being an asshole!"
"Look B, we'll talk if I get out, yeah? But I never promised you anything." Faith was refusing to make eye contact; if she saw Buffy start to cry she knew she would start bawling too and then they'd be in even deeper.
"No, you didn't."
Buffy's chair scraped back as she stood up. The buzzer above the door went off at the same time and the guard opened it to collect Faith. Buffy stormed to the other door and waited for it to be opened from the outside. When it was, she turned back to Faith, who was just being handcuffed. Faith had expected to see tears but Buffy's eyes were like dry ice - cold, dry and a little smokey. Faith felt a twinge of pain in her gut under her scar, but she knew it was psychological and didn't consciously acknowledge it.
"Good luck." Buffy said in as civil a voice she could muster right now.
Faith nodded. "Thanks for coming."
Buffy turned and walked out the door, throwing a "Whatever" over her shoulder in reply.
Dawn stood on the black spot the deputy had directed her to and sulked. This was so unfair. She'd probably have a criminal record now for life all because her sister was the wasn't even the Slayer now just an 'a' but still Dawn got dragged into these totally not her fault situations.
Dawn conveniently forgot that she had insisted on accompanying the others on patrol that evening and that her sister hadn't even been there. 'Things like this never happen to my friends,' she moaned silently. 'Unless they're hanging out with me of course.' On Alex's instruction she lifted the board with the numbers on higher and tried not to smile out of habit for the camera. The flash made her blink.
When she could see again with out black dots clouding her vision, the burly deputy was standing next to her.
"Well Miss Summers I think that's enough. I don't see this going any further, just as long as you promise to keep away from lethal weapons for a while." He gave her a pat on the shoulder and went to the counter to collect the official looking papers that Giles was signing.
"Fat chance of that happening with my life," Dawn muttered to herself.
"Thank you Mr. Giles. This will all stay on file for a while but I think it's safe to say it won't come back and haunt your Granddaughter," Alex told the Watcher, amiably.
"Granddaughter! Do I look old enough to be a bloody Grandfather?" Giles snapped. Dawn covered her giggles with her hand.
Alex looked discomfited. "I'm sorry sir, of course you don't I just assumed; and you did accompany Miss Summers in the place of a parent so I . . . was obviously wrong. Sorry." He gave an embarrassed, hairy smile.
Giles was not in the mood to be mollified. "If you must know, I'm Dawn's rakish Uncle, in an unofficial capacity." He told the young police man huffily. "And now if you've finished with us, I believe we should be getting home." He placed a hand on Dawn's shoulder and she allowed herself to be steered towards the door.
Alex's deep voice stopped them before they made it out. "One more thing sir."
They turned around to face him to find him more serious looking than he had been since they'd left the farm.
"People around here pride themselves on their hospitality. Boudenver is at the centre of a tourist area and we try to make visitors feel welcome, but I have to warn you that you and your friends already seem to be rubbing people up the wrong way." Giles looked like he was about to make a retort so Alex hurried on. "Now don't take offense because I don't mean any. Xander seems like a great guy and I figure any friends of his can't be that bad, so please just think of this as friendly advice from one neighbor to another. The folks who owned that camp before you were a bit . . . strange. They were up to all kinds of nonsense and upsetting folk and people didn't take too kindly to it. The folks that live in town have mostly been here their whole lives and so have their parents, and so the memories of the witchipoo crowd go back a long way and I wouldn't be surprised if they stretched aways into the future too. It's not your fault you've been saddled with their crack pot legacy, but if you want to fit in around here you might want to avoid little escapades like tonight's. Otherwise not only do you chance being eaten or arrested," he chuckled softly before continuing, "you also run the risk as being painted no better than the witch council."
"Watchers Council," Giles corrected automatically, biting his lip a second too late.
"Excuse me?" Alex asked.
"I said 'What Council?' Amended Giles with a smile. "It sounds most intriguing."
"Not really. Just a bunch of kooks. English like yourself, but I'm sure that's where the similarities end sir."
Giles nodded and turned to leave again.
"If you're really interested you could ask my dad about it. He's away at the moment at a sheriff's conference in Cleveland, but he had lots of dealings with them up there. Said they used to get up to some strange goings on."
'I bet they did,' Giles was thinking of the goings on he'd gotten up to whilst training to be a Watcher. "That sounds interesting; maybe I'll get a chance to speak to your father when he returns."
"Yeah, you do that, or Owen, the shop keeper. If you're interested in the history of your new place, then he knows everything about everything around here and he's usually happy to chat when the shop's quiet."
"I'll remember that," said Giles as he and Dawn walked out into the night.
Dawn looked around the empty street then back to her unofficial rakish uncle. "Uh Giles, how are we gonna get back to the house without a car?"
"Oh blast, I keep forgetting we're in the middle of nowhere. Call Willow on your mobile phone, will you."
"We could always go back inside and ask Alex for a lift home. I'm sure he'd do it, he seems nice."
"No!" Snapped Giles. Seeing Dawn's startled face he cleared his throat and tried again. "No Dawn, I've had quite enough of that bloody bobby for one night. We'll manage without the inquisitive arm of the law."
Dawn shrugged and hit her speed dial button for Willow's phone. "Oh and Giles, it's called a cell."
"Maybe in your foreign lingo" Said the Watcher irritably and Dawn giggled.
After Alex had left with Dawn and Giles, Xander and Willow took charge. Xander organized Cici and Miranda in dragging the dead werewolf away since it wouldn't do to have the local authorities inspecting it too closely and realizing it wasn't your average wolf. Together they dragged it a good distance into the trees on the other side of Old Town Road and covered it with stones.Back at the farm Willow ripped the hem of her shirt and held the wadded material to Kennedy's cheek. She had four long scratches reaching almost to her chin, but the young Slayer had moved fast and they weren't too deep. Besides, Willow knew scratches did not a werewolf make and with Slayer healing they wouldn't even scar.
Kennedy kept quiet and let Willow fuss over her cheek. She knew her girlfriend had something on her mind and she kept flashing back to the first wolf attacking her and the second just staring before disappearing in the opposite direction. Kennedy didn't know if that was what Willow was thinking about but it was certainly something. Willow fussed with her hands while she fussed inside her mind, as she did now, first with Kennedy's cheek and then with the scattered weapons. The brunette knew it was pointless to ask her about it now though, unless she wanted to spend the next couple of hours in a cold field trying to pick the needle out of the babble-stack.
The group came together again at the edge of the McGee property and Cici led them to where she and Giles had hidden the first drugged and bound werewolf.
The well spoken auburn-haired girl carefully separated some branches, mindful in case they they didn't, she pointed through them. "It's under here."
Where she pointed was a bundle of tangled netting and absolutely no werewolf. Cici gave a little gasp and looked around in alarm. "It was here I promise."
Xander picked up the netting and inspected it, feeling the rough rope mesh with his hands to make up for the poor light the moon allowed into the bushes. His fingers hit some frayed ends and he held them up for everyone to see.
"I guess your wolf didn't feel the need for a long snooze. It caught its forty winks and let itself out." He handed the useless net to one of the younger Slayers and pushed his way out of the trees onto the road. "Ropes no good, obviously, and what would we have done if you'd got it to the house before it escaped we'd have another attack on base like yesterday? We need manacles -or chains like we used to have. We should get some wire nets for starters. Something the beasts that go bump can't chew through . . . easily, anyway." He started trudging down Old Town Road towards town. "I'll look into it for you."
Kennedy and the others were back on the tarmac now and she called after his retreating figure. "Hey where are you going?"
"To the jeep, there's nothing more we can do here." He carried on walking.
"Aren't we going to look for the other two werewolves?" She asked.
"What's the point? They'll be long gone."
"So that's it. The werewolves run wild, nearly kill someone, and they just get away with it. What, we just accept that and go home for cocoa?" Kennedy asked incredulously. "Is that what a Slayer would do"?
Xander called back over his shoulder. "I'm not a Slayer."
Cici and Miranda, who had been surreptitiously following Xander down the hill to town, stopped and looked back at Kennedy when Xander said that, but she just threw her hands up in the air in defeat and they scurried after him once more.
Willow put a soothing hand on her girlfriend's arm. "He's right sweetie, if they were still about they would have attacked by now, and it's not all bad; we got one."
"We did not get one. Your werewolf hero got one, we got zilch."
"My what?" Willow chuckled nervously.
"It was a complete disaster. There are still two wolf monsters running around loose, one kid seriously injured, Dawn shot a cop and got arrested and you nearly got mauled because I wasn't prepared with a weapon." Kennedy's lower lip was trembling.
"All the more reason to cut our losses and go home," Xander called from where he and the younger Slayers were waiting down the road. "Let's just say that evil incarnate won the battle and you're regrouping to win the war, or kick its ass. Whatever."
Kennedy merely grunted in reply but she followed Xander with Willow at her side.
Once they were back in what passed for the commercial district of Boudenver, all two roads of it, Kennedy and the other Slayers went to get the car from the back of 'The Mouth' and Xander was about to retrieve the jeep from the alley beside Barnies.
"Do you think you should drive if you've been drinking?" Willow asked him out of nowhere.
He turned to face her. "Trust me Will, seeing you nearly get eaten by Whitefang's evil twin brother is enough to sober me up any day of the week." He grinned. "In fact it kinda sent me too far the other way and now I need a drink just to reach normal." He looked longingly up at the wooden sign above the bar. It would still be open for a few hours, yet and his night had been prematurely cut short.
He looked from the sign back to his best friend. Her eyes which had been black with power shortly before were now filled only with her familiar concern. How many times had he nearly lost that in the last few years? He shuddered to think how many and tonight another had been added to that number.
With all that they had already lost and with all the hell-raising adventures they still seemed to go through every day, how many more numbers did any of them have before their numbers were up? How much longer could he rely on that familiar, wide-eyed Willow-look to be there? He let out a big sigh and decided familiar was good right now. He opened the jeep door and climbed in. "Go jump in the car, I'll be right behind you." He promised her with a smile.
Marvin stopped cautiously when he reached the edge of the woods and sniffed the air. He didn't trust his senses and he stood there for a long time in the darkness. He couldn't think straight, his head was foggy from the drugs they'd shot him with and his human heart was overcome with grief and guilt over his brother's death.
He had led Hank to his death, however unwittingly.
When he was finally convinced he could smell nothing threatening, he broke from the trees at a run and without slowing he leapt through the wedged open window. He sniffed around the rooms of his home; the smell of Hank was still fresh and strong. Whining morosely he curled up in front of the fire and with his nose tucked under his tail he waited for the dawn.
The plane banked to the left as it left L.A. behind and Buffy used one hand to cling to the arm rest, the other held the little bottle of bitter liquid to her lips. She swallowed the vodka miniature in one mouthful and her lips curled in distaste, or it could have been in response to the avalanche of despair crashing down inside her. She signaled the stewardess for another drink and wondered if there was enough in-flight booze on board to get a Slayer drunk.
Behind and beneath her, L.A. was shrinking from view, but Buffy didn't look out of the window like she had on the flight in; there was nothing left there to look at. She wiped an escaped tear from the corner of her eye and cursed herself for caring. She watched the head rest in front of her while she waited for her drink. Her face was blank and emotionless belying the kaleidoscope of emotions playing inside.
The full moon shone brightly through the bars of Faith's cell, the beams falling across her face and making the tears on her cheeks sparkle. She had no concept of the time. It had been time for dinner when her visit was over but she had declined the tasteless slop in favor of going straight to her cell and there she had remained ever since. No one came near her door; most inmates didn't anyway, but even a vicious alley cat like Lolitta knew when to leave the mouse alone. Not that Faith was usually much of a mouse, but she felt like one just then. She felt caught by the tail in a trap made of her own good intentions and all she could do was watch her cheese walk away from her.
"It's the right thing to do. I'm doing the right thing, damn it Buffy. It's the right thing, it's the right thing." She buried her face in her hands, muttering into the night.
The tattered clouds drifted away from the moon to reveal a monstrously deformed wolf alone on top of a hill. It sat back on it's haunches and howled desolately at the pale globe hanging low over the forest. To an ear trained in wolf phonetics it sounded a lot like, "W-w-w-i-i-i-l-l-l-l-o-o-o-w-w-w-w-w."
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