Dawn's eyes darted around her, looking for an alternative way of escape. She couldn't believe this was happening. Surely there was some mistake. He wasn't really going to try something was he? Not at school, in broad daylight, with other teachers and students around. He wouldn't. Even if he was some sicko who got his jollies from messing with his students, he wouldn't be dumb enough to try it on her, would he? After all she was a fearless hero.
'If I'm such a fearless hero, why don't I bash him over the head and get out of here?' she thought as she stood there trying to hide her trembling.
"Uh sir, Mr. Roberts. I really think I should wait out by the road in case my sister turns up and doesn't know where I am." Dawn tried for polite reasoning.
The teacher's smile grew. "I suppose if your sister couldn't find you she'd probably assume you'd walked home. Which would be a really stupid thing to do, what with all the strange things that go on in this town. You may not even make it home alive."
If he would just walk towards her, away from the door, she could chuck her bag at him and make it out into the hall, but he wasn't budging.
"Okay. What do you want?" She asked defiantly. Annoyance hid the fear she was feeling, or so she hoped.
"Want?" He smirked.
"Yeah, what's your angle? If you just wanted to eat me, I'm thinking you would have done it by now," she said a lot more confidently than she felt. "So what, am I gonna be a sacrifice? Do you want to use me to raise your High Lord Whatshisface? Am I the bait to lure Buffy out, is that it?"
"Who's Buffy?" Mr. Roberts asked, both amused and confused by her little outburst.
"Oh like you don't know who she is. She's a Slayer."
"What's a Slayer, some kind of Thrash-Metal thing? I don't know the stuff you kids listen to today." Mr. Roberts folded his arms across his chest, looking like he was happy to relax while the young woman kept talking.
"You really don't know what a Slayer is? Boy, you demons really are backward here. So come on, I haven't got all day, let's get this started. Get your demon badness on so I can get to the being rescued part before I fall asleep from boredom."
"You know, I don't know if you are just completely crazy or if this is some elaborate attempt at getting me so confused I let you walk out of here before I've finished." He leapt forward; she squealed as he grabbed her by her upper arms and pushed her hard against the desk. "Let me make one thing clear, I am going to finish." He held her in place with a firm grip and looked between them at her shaking body. "You really are a delectable young thing Miss Summers, what was that you were saying about me wanting to eat you?" He moved one hand to her neck, stroking her there almost gently.
Dawn clenched her fists and shut her eyes as tightly as she could, trying not to think about the hot breath in her face. It smelled minty fresh, not usual for your average demon. "Please, please let me go. I'm sorry; I'll do whatever you want. Just please don't hurt me," Dawn whimpered, sniffing a little.
"There there, Dawn, don't cry. I don't want to hurt you unless I have to. This is about pleasure, not pain."
"What do you want me to do?" She asked in a small voice she barely recognized.
Mr. Roberts licked his lips and eased the pressure on her arm and neck, stepping back just slightly to give her the room to do what he wanted. "Just take your pants off," he told her, his breathing growing heavy in anticipation.
"O...okay. Just let me get my . . . " She kept up the tiny voice even as she brought up her right knee, smashing it directly into the sensitive area between the creep's legs. ". . . shoes off. Oh sorry, did that hurt?" His hands went to the area where she'd hit him and he leaned forward slightly, his eyes and mouth making surprised 'o's. She picked a heavy hard-backed book off of the desk she was pushed against and bashed the teacher over the head with it while he was still stunned.
"You bastard!" She shouted at him as she hit him again. "You shouldn't be a teacher. I'm gonna get you so fired." She started to turn back towards the door.
Mr. Roberts turned to look at her, still in a pain induced crouch. "It's your word against mine you little bitch. I'm a long standing member of staff here at McKinley high where as you're a little nothing who's still traumatized after her recent ordeal in California," he wheezed. She stood with her hand on the door knob listening to him. "Tell who you want, no one will believe you, and I will make this afternoon seem like a picnic once I'm done with you. They'll be finding bits of your body in all fifty states."
Dawn wrenched open the door and ran into the corridor, looked both ways, saw no one and ran towards the main exit. At the door she risked a glance behind her; no one was following. She left the school and walked back out to the road.
"Come on Buffy, where are you?" She was still shaking slightly, but it felt better to be out it the open again. She kept glancing anxiously over her shoulder which is why she jumped when a big black car pulled up in front of her and the electric window slid down.
"Hey Dawn, you look like you seen a ghost," Fen poked her head out of the back portion of the long car.
"Oh God am I glad to see you. You will never guess what just happened to me," she told her friend shakily.
Fen noticed the fear still shining in her friend's eyes. "What is it?" She asked, getting out of the car and coming to stand in front of her.
Dawn looked over her shoulder again. "It's . . . it's . . . I don't know. He seemed so nice, and he's handsome and funny and I always thought it was supposed to be the total losers who were slime bags."
Fen looked at her worriedly, not understanding where Dawn was coming from but realizing whatever it was, it must be pretty serious to freak her new friend out like this. She gently took hold of Dawn's arm and steered her towards the car.
"Come on. We can give you a lift home."
Dawn smiled gratefully and slid into the back of the car next to her friend.
Alex looked around the dimly lit barn admiring the changes already made.
"So this is what you do, or did before . . . I mean, this is your . . . craft."
Xander rubbed at his elastic. "Oh yeah, me and the wood are good friends. Me and the saw not so much anymore. That's why I got me some lackey's."
"I am not and never will be your lackey, Xander," Giles said irritably, still unable to find his glasses. He turned his harried expression to the deputy. "What can we do for you, Officer?"
"Whoa, Mr. Giles, I'm not here in a professional capacity so Alex is fine."
"Yeah Giles, so unclench from the British stick already." Xander grinned at him before asking Alex, "I'm just gonna grab another beer, you want one?"
"Uh yeah, a beer would be good." Alex shifted his attention when a young blonde man fell off a ladder on the other side of the barn.
"Ow! That hurt!"
"Andrew what on earth are you doing?" Asked Giles.
"I heard company I wanted to come down and say hi, but I slipped," Andrew explained as he stood up, looking at a little graze on his elbow. Deciding he wasn't going to die from it just yet, he looked up and smiled at Alex. "Hello, I'm Andrew Wells," he said formally and offered his hand.
"Alex Nichols. Pleased to meet you." They shook hands.
"Andrew would you please aid me in looking for my glasses?" Asked Giles much more pleasantly than he felt.
"They're probably on top of your head. That's where my Grandma's always were when she'd thought she'd lost them," Andrew rambled as he started to sift through wood shavings on the floor for the missing spectacles.
"Andrew, do they look like they are on my head?"
Andrew turned to look up at the older man. "No but if they were invisibility goggles then you wouldn't be able to see them, would you."
"But then, Andrew, all of me woul. Hang on a minute, are you saying your Gran had invisibility goggles?"
Andrew thought about it for a while. "I don't think so, but then I haven't seen her for like five years. My mom said she died, but she could have just turned invisible. Hey, do you remember when Me, Warren and Jonathan turned Buffy inv . . . Ow! Xander that's the elbow I just landed on," he whined.
Xander had re-entered the barn and pushed roughly past the blonde just before he could say too much. "Yeah, well you shouldn't be jabbering on with all your tall tales boring our guest."
Giles took one of the bottles of beer from between Xander's fingers and drank from it quickly. "Good God I needed that," he exclaimed. "Drowns the pain slightly."
"Are you hurt Giles?" Asked a concerned Willow, who had followed Xander into the barn. Kennedy came in right behind her.
"Oh no, I just meant the pain of listening to Andrew all day." He made his way carefully to the sawhorse and sat down again.
"So did somebody call the cops?" Asked Kennedy, looking at Alex.
Alex looked a little shy now with so many eyes on him. He cleared his throat, took a sip of the beer Xander had handed him and started to explain.
"I just came with some news really. There was quite a nasty animal attack in the woods near L'Hotel Alfonze, this morning. We're not quite sure what did it yet; there is a lot of conflicting evidence which is making it difficult to pin it down. It's not something you need to worry about, we'll get it before it can hurt anyone else, but I just figured the Badger and Bear preservation society should get a heads up."
"Thank you," Giles said simply, not wanting to talk about it with the young cop anymore.
"So you guys have absolutely no clue as to what did this?" Asked Kennedy, obviously feeling differently to the Watcher. "You haven't got a description of any kind, even an estimated size, maybe a paw print?"
"We have some stuff, but like I said, it's conflicting and I can't really divulge any of the information we have gathered, to you, I'm sorry."
"Hey, no big. We can find stuff out for ourselves," Kennedy assured him.
"I don't think it's a really good idea for you to go looking into this. This isn't a bunny rabbit with a hurt paw that needs saving, it's a dangerous animal, one that we think is probably rabid considering the amount of damage it's already done."
Kennedy just smiled at him innocently. "Sure thing officer."
"So do you know how many people this animal has killed so far?" Buffy asked as she stepped into the barn. She recognized the policeman from earlier, though she didn't know what he was doing here yet. She handed Giles his glasses and a saw without taking her eyes off of the newcomer.
Giles took them. "Uh, thank you," he said, bewildered as to how she came to have them.
"Uh that is, I can't . . . what makes you think it's killed anyone? Miss...?" Alex finally settled on. He couldn't help wondering just how many people were living here.
"Alex this is Buffy, Buffy this is Alex." Xander introduced them.
"I know it killed two people this morning up by that hotel. Have there been any more victims? Do you think it's living in the caves? Where are the caves?" She asked in quick succession, hoping that confusing him would make him blurt out answers.
He may have been confused by Buffy's inquiry assault, but he didn't blurt. "I'm sorry ...Buffy?" He looked at Xander for confirmation on her name, the carpenter nodded and smiled brightly back at him. "As I've already told your friends, I can't tell you any of that. What I can tell you is that your club could make our job a lot easier if you just kept out of it and let the animal control experts do their work. I'll tell you what; if you co-operate with this, then I'll have a word with the AC boys head office and I can probably get you all the wildlife statistics for the state of Ohio. That would surely give your research a boost," Alex offered with a charming smile.
"Yeah, thanks for that," Buffy said in total confusion, she turned to Giles. "What research? I thought we were a private school, for . . . private stuff?"
"We are Buffy," he told her, polishing the multitude of tiny inexplicable smudges from his glasses.
"Then . . .?" She asked.
"Uh, people . . ." Andrew said, but was ignored.
"Well Buffy, you remember how last week, some of us went on that little extra-curricular bear tracking exercise?" Willow asked.
"Not really," Buffy replied.
"Well that's cause we haven't had a chance to fill you in since you've only been back five minutes," Kennedy said.
"People!" Andrew said a little louder and was ignored.
"But I'm guessing something went wrong with your patrol," Buffy said to Kennedy.
"Hey, nothing that could have been prevented," she snapped back.
"I'm sure." Buffy's tone was sarcastic.
"Well if you think you could have done better maybe you should have stuck around instead of swanning off to L.A." Kennedy snarled.
"Kennedy, it's okay. What happened, happened. It could just as easily have gone wrong for Buffy," Willow assured her girlfriend.
The hammer hit Xander's makeshift bench so hard it split the plywood top down the centre.
"Andrew!" Shouted everyone except Alex.
"Will you listen?" He shouted back. "It's gone four o' clock and if all of you are here arguing and stuff, who's picking Dawn up?"
"Oh shit!" Buffy left the barn at a sprint to go and get the car keys. She'd been so busy moping about she'd totally forgotten about picking up her little sister. She wouldn't have taken the bus in case she missed them, so she was all alone at a new school, in a new town, where somewhere there was a Hellmouth, all because she was too self-involved to even remember her.
Alex stepped out of the barn before she'd made it into the house for the keys. "Hey Buffy. I can give you a lift, it'll be quicker."
"How so?" She asked already walking back to him.
He tapped the badge on his chest. "I can speed."
Fen's car was big, like real big. It was only one step down from a limo and it was so cool. The back had a big spacious seat which the two of them were now sprawled across comfortably sharing a bag of chips. There was a sliding screen which separated the car into front and back. Fen had closed it as soon as the chauffeur had pulled away from the curb.
Dawn had told her new friend everything that had happened with Mr. Roberts and now the blonde sat there with a stunned look on her face while they tried to decide what Dawn should do next.
"I can't believe it. I mean he's so good-looking. You wouldn't think he'd need to rape his students to get some," Fen said.
"I'm not making it up," Dawn promised with teary eyes.
"I know, I didn't mean to imply you did. And anyway, I've heard rumors."
"Yeah about there being some sicko on the faculty, but you know, I just figured it was urban legends striking again. Every school claims to have at least one perverted teacher. It's just when I heard the rumor I figured it would be some schlep like Mr. Eisenwern."
"Yeah, biology teacher who smells like a skunk that fell in a bait tank, and don't even get me started on his yellow ears. Ugh. But you know what I mean. You know someone like that is never going to get a date, so it's not surprising if they were to do something like this, but Mr. Roberts..." She shook her head in disgust. "What are you going to do? Are you going to tell your sister?"
"Nah, at least not yet. She's got enough going on at the moment, plus she really wanted me to have at least one year at a decent high school. I don't want to shatter the illusion for her. I can handle this."
"Are you sure? I mean he threatened you, and it was a pretty nasty threat. I wouldn't want to be taking any chances with that. Why don't you tell Principal Hayes, I'll come with you?"
"He only said he'd hurt me if I told anyone. If he thinks I haven't then he won't have reason to hurt me and draw suspicion on himself," Dawn said firmly.
"But he might come after you again. If he thinks you're scared of him, he'll just exploit it," Fen tried to reason.
"Then he'll find out that I'm not. I can take care of myself, Fen. My old town had a pretty rough element and it wasn't always possible to avoid it. Trust me, compared to them, dealing with Mr. Roberts is gonna be like spreading cream cheese on a hot bagel."
"I still think you should tell someone, but if you are determined to do it this way, then I'll help if I can," Fen promised. "I want to see the scuzbucket go down."
"He will. Oh this is my stop."
Fen tapped on the partition glass and the driver pulled into the lane to Sunset house. "Nice place!" She whistled through her teeth.
"And there's my brain dead sister," Dawn said, pointing Buffy out as she watched her walk to a jeep on the edge of the track and ". . . oh my God, that's Alex, he must have arrested Buffy, that's why she couldn't come and get me." Dawn jumped out of the car and turned quickly to say thank you to Fen for the ride, before shutting the door and starting up the track.
"Give me a call later, if you can!" Fen shouted out the window as the driver turned the almost limo around and drove away.
"Buffy, what is it? What happened?" Dawn ran over to the police Jeep.
"Dawn, oh thank God you're alright. I'm so sorry, we all just got caught up in something and well . . . I'm sorry. Alex was just about to give me a ride to come and get you," Buffy apologized all in a rush, seeing the drying tears at the corners of the younger girl's eyes and assuming it was because she'd been forgotten.
Dawn stared at her sister. "So you haven't been arrested? No bad stuff has been going on at all? You just got caught up chatting? I was stuck at school because you forgot about me. That's what you're saying, right?"
"Yeah, and I'm so sorry."
Dawn felt another flood of tears burning the backs of her eyeballs. She wanted to tell Buffy exactly what she thought about being forgotten and all the nasty little consequences of it. She didn't though, because she had a plan, and Buffy wasn't a part of it.
"Well thanks a bunch, sis," was all she said before storming past Buffy and Alex into the house.
"Teenagers can be hell to live with, can't they?" Alex said when the back door slammed behind her.
Buffy nodded. "Oh yeah." She turned to look at him over the hood of the jeep. "So is it a younger brother or a younger sister that inflicts hell on you?"
"Neither, I just saw a program on T.V. about it. Teenagers from Hell."
The cell was almost silent and peaceful, that is it would be if you could forget where you were, all the general background noise made by a couple of thousand women forced into living together in cramped conditions, and the soft whimpering noises Janey made as she slept.
The big envelope from L.A. had contained a Wolfram and Hart brochure. Full to bursting with glossy photographs displaying the shiny offices from various sun-drenched angles, which nearly managed to disguise the darkness it was built on. The photos were accompanied by many poetically worded captions telling you what they, as a company, could do for you. Be you an employee, a client or a demon from the dark dimensions. Or all of the above, Faith decided.
Tucked inside the front cover was a Wolfram and Hart compliments slip with a note written in Angel's beautiful, if old-fashioned script.
I thought you might like to have a look at our new offices, pretty grand compared to the Hyperion, I know, although the old girl had much more majesty going for her.
I know you have your heart set on going to Cleveland once your appeal is done with, but if you change your mind at any point I've just had an opening come up as head of Special Operations that I think you would be perfect for. The last guy and I had a difference of opinion, professionally speaking, and let's just say he's no longer within my employ.
If that doesn't suit, there's plenty more jobs available, just keep it in mind. No matter what happens, you'll always have a place to go.
See you in court.
'I can just see me working in a law firm. Wouldn't that be one up the ass for the losers back in Boston?' she thought as she stuck the note to the wall with her chewing gum. 'Little Faithy from the wrong side of the tracks is working in a top class, multi-million dollar law firm. Then again, it is an evil law firm; maybe they wouldn't be too surprised.'
She could think of at least one person who would have been proud of her as she flicked through the polished catalogue. The boss did all his business through Wolfram and Hart, that's why Gunn could get all his old journals. He'd probably instructed his lawyer to keep them safe until he found some way of returning from beyond the deep-fried grilling. The thought made Faith shiver in the warm cell. The idea of the boss finding a way back had lost a lot of its appeal over the years. Once it had been all she'd thought about. After all, if Angel could find a way back from Hell, then why couldn't Richard Wilkins III? On the one hand she'd hoped he would so he could save her from this miserable existence she found herself in. On the other hand, what if he was mad that she'd gone to Angel for help and turned herself in for Buffy? Would he think that was a betrayal?
She shook herself out of that kind of dismal thinking with a physical shake of her head. Things weren't like that anymore. True, things weren't all cotton-candy tasting yet, but soon enough hopefully, and then one way or another she'd have a place to go to.
She flicked through the brochure one more time to put off opening the other letter, but it wasn't long before not knowing what it said was even worse than whatever could be written in it. She picked it up and ripped the envelope open with her thumbnail and pulled the thin sheet of paper from inside.
She'd figured that Buffy would be the type to use some kind of pink, scented, girly type stationary, but this was white and smelled of, well paper. She took a deep breath and unfolded it.
She checked the name at the bottom before reading anything else and was caught between disappointment and fear when she realized the letter wasn't even from B. Instantly panicked that one of the Scoobies was writing to tell her Buffy was dead, she went back to the start and speed read it.
Hi, you're probably wondering why I'm writing to you, and wishing I wasn't, so I'll keep it brief.
I'm really sorry about what happened in the school basement. I never should have gone charging off and totally ignoring your orders. It was pretty obvious it was a trap and I was just stupid. I got people killed and I nearly got you killed and I'm sorry. I know I should have said this to you at the time, face to face, instead of putting it in a letter 2 months later. What can I say? I was ashamed of myself and I didn't want to think about it. I'm not usually that cowardly.
When you get to Cleveland I'll say sorry in person and hopefully we can start fresh. None of us can wait until you get here, especially Buffy, who has been going totally crazy recently. That's mainly why we all want you here, so hopefully you can sort her out. Plus you might liven up Boudenver; when we were the only people left in SunnyD, it was still livelier than this town. Some help on patrol might be nice too, seeing as Buffy's decided it's not her responsibility anymore and so I'm stuck with taking all the trainees out at night.
Okay, well so much for keeping it brief, anyway see you soon and good luck with your appeal.
Ps. Dawn says Hi and to say hi to Buffy to next time she visits.
"Damn girl, you're starting to sound just like your girlfriend," Faith said softly to herself as she read the letter a second time. She'd all but forgotten the deal with Kennedy and getting blown up. The memory of waking up in B's bed to find her sitting there waiting was much more prominent than what had put her there in the first place. Why would Buffy be visiting again though? Hadn't she told her friends what had been said? Did they think she was still here? Was she still here somewhere in L.A? What did she mean about Buffy going crazy?
Was that like 'Crazy in love' Crazy or 'Good boy, Cujo, let go of my throat' Crazy?
A noise from the other bunk made her look up quickly. Janey was facing her, still fast asleep but with her eyes a bit of the way open and doing that rapid eye movement thing which always looked wicked freaky to Faith. She looked back down at the letter, which was more of a note really, to avoid looking at her cell mate.
'It was nice of her to write. S'more than I woulda done in the circumstances.' Realizing just how true that once had been and then remembering she was a different person now, she scrabbled through the junk on her locker for some paper and a pen. Miraculously she actually found some fairly blank paper, but she had to make do with an eye-liner pencil to write with. She sucked on the end of it while she decided what to write back to Kennedy.
A strangled cry and a jumbo load of thrashing made her jump from her cot, the pencil falling from her mouth to the floor with a plop. She thought at first the young blonde was having some kind of seizure and she was about to leap on the panic button behind the door when she recognized it for what it really was, something she was more than familiar with although she was normally on the receiving end. Janey was in the middle of a wicked ass nightmare.
She covered the three steps to the other bunk and reached down shaking the girl firmly by the shoulders. "J."
"No, don't touch me, get off, get off." Janey sleep squealed and thrashed about harder.
"Janey, hey kid." Rougher shaking this time and a louder voice.
"I didn't mean . . . I didn't, please don't make me, I didn't mean . . . pleeeease."
"Hey, get it together kid, you'll have the screws in here thinking I'm killin..." Faith had been trying to turn Janey over so she couldn't bury her head in the hard pillow when the younger woman rolled over herself and lashed out a fist, catching Faith on the jaw and knocking her head back...hard.
Faith stepped back blinking and rubbing the back of her neck as she watched Janey slowly wake up.
"Oh God," she muttered to something only she could see, until the sleep cleared from her eyes and she saw the bruise already showing itself on Faith's chin and knew instinctively she'd done it. "No, no, no, not again," she sobbed, burying her head back into the bed clothes.
"J. Don't overreact," Faith tried. "Ya just got a lucky punch in, in your sleep. I'll let it go."
"Did I hurt you?" She asked in a small voice, muffled further by the blankets.
"Nah, see. Hardly felt it. It's cool."
Janey twisted her head around enough to look up at the Slayer, tears still in her eyes. She didn't look convinced. "I...I...never meant to. It just all happened . . . again, I saw it all, again."
She was still shaking all over, so Faith did the only thing she could think to do, even though it went completely against her nature and everything she'd ever believed in. She sat down next to the new inmate, who looked younger than Dawn and rubbed her shoulder gently. "You had a dream. A real doozy too, by the sound of it."
"It felt like I was there again." Janey relaxed a little under the gentle caress but the tremble hadn't left her voice.
"I get that. It might..." Faith was aware she was entering uncharted territory here. "I dunno; help if you talk about it, maybe."
Janey, hearing the compassion in the fumbled words, and having been sorely lacking in that of late, sat up and threw her arms around the Slayer's neck. Needing the comfort of closeness she'd always shared with her loving family but hadn't seen a spark of since this nightmare began, until right now. She sobbed quietly on Faith's shoulder.
Faith very nearly dumped Janey on the floor in shock. She'd just swam out of uncharted waters straight into shark infested seas with no warning. What the hell? Now what did she do? Vaguely she started to pat Janey on the back and tried not to feel claustrophobic.
"I didn't mean to kill him," Janey whispered into her shoulder. "I know no one believes me, but all I wanted to do was get him to leave me alone."
"Who's him?" Faith asked softly, changing her patting to rubbing motion so the kid felt less like a dog.
"Rik. The boy I . . ." her voice trailed away into nothing.
"How did he die?"
"I punched him, that's all I did, I swear. I punched him on the nose; I wanted to break it all over his stupid face for messing with me like that." Her voice was a well of confusion. "But I never meant to..." She swallowed hard. "I snapped his neck. One punch. Boxers punch each other all the time, right? And the guys at school, and they don't d-die," she sniffed. "I could see it in their faces, even the people who know me, my friends; they don't know how I did it. They all looked so scared, like I was some kind of freak, but he must have just had a weak neck, right?" She pulled back from Faith's shoulder to look her in the eye, but the Slayer was busy gawping into empty air. "Faith?"
The Slayer cleared her throat, the cogs in her brain turning fast enough to create sparks as things slipped into place and she recognized the sitch for what it was. The solution for beating the First may have been brilliant for their purpose and a shit-hot reward for the potentials that knew what they were getting into, but did any of them stop and think about how it would affect all the girls out there who had no idea what a Slayer was or could do? How many other girls were in Janey's position because they didn't have a Watcher to explain it all to them?
Faith had no love for Watchers what-so-ever, except for Giles, but she respected him for the man he was, not the title he held. She knew enough now though to admit that she would have self-destructed a lot earlier if her first Watcher hadn't been there to help when she'd been called.
Realizing that this responsibility now fell to her, for the time being at least, she just hoped she didn't screw it up. First though she had to make sure that this Rik jerk really hadn't just had a weak neck. She shifted Janey away from her, stood up and pulled her little locker away from the wall. She knelt down on one side.
"Get your ass down here, J. It's arm-wrestling time." The dark Slayer grinned encouragingly, even though this fish had left water all together and was pretty much just flopping about on ice right now. Thin ice. If she did this wrong . . .
Janey just sat looking at her, wary and confused.
"Well, come on then!" Faith chuckled and slapped a palm gently on her locker.
Great, she was already making herself look like an idiot; maybe she would make a good Watcher after all.
"Look it's simple. All I have to do is be alone with him." Dawn was sat against her bedroom door, speaking softly into her cell phone.
"It's too dangerous," came Fen's voice, all crackly thanks to the cruddy signal they got in the middle of nowhere.
"It's not. I've faced way more dangerous things than Mr. Pervert Roberts. Seriously, I can handle this."
"I still think you should tell someone. Your sister, or, I don't know, you said you live with a bunch of adults; surely one of them you can trust," her friend said.
"I trust them all, that's not why I'm not telling them. They just don't need this right now. Especially Buffy, she's so strung out already that's why she forgot me, and now they've got this new . . . " she'd been about to say demon. Fen was cool, but Dawn didn't know if she was that cool. "Guest," she improvised. "They're working even harder."
"I'm gonna be right outside."
"You can't draw too much attention. If he thinks I'm planning something he'll never give us a chance to catch him out, not to mention he might try and follow through on his threat."
"You don't sound very scared Dawn. It's not even me he threatened to chop up and I'm crapping over it."
"Well it's not exactly giving me a happy, but I can deal. And if it even looks like he's gonna pull a Sweeny Todd I'll scream at the top of my lungs, and then you and hopefully everyone else left in school will come running."
"Okay. If I can't talk you out of this, I can do it after fifth period, I have American history then." Fen sounded far from happy about it.
"That's great Fen, I really appreciate it. I better go now, see you in the morning." Dawn waited until her friend had said goodbye before ending the call and slipping the phone back in her pocket. 'Now for step two'. She rubbed her hands together nervously.
Alex had declined going back into the barn with Buffy and she figured it was all the bickering putting him off. She couldn't blame him. He cautioned her again about going after the dangerous animal and asked her to say "bye" to Xander for him. He gave her a beautiful smile before he left, which she couldn't see because it was buried beneath his bushy beard. If she had to make a guess, her guess would be that the sheriff and the deputy sheriff were closely related; she made a mental note to ask him next time.
With a bolstering sigh she entered the door of the barn herself. Everyone except Xander was moaning about Alex interfering. Xander was defending his new friend.
"All I'm saying is that he's just doing his job, you can't blame the guy for that."
"His job is to protect us from criminals, not demons he knows nothing about," Kennedy argued.
"He doesn't know it's a demon, does he. He thinks he's protecting us from some wild animal."
"The fact remains the same Xander; we can't have him meddling in our affairs. I'm concerned that the police here may be a great deal smarter than the police in Sunnydale," Giles said.
"Who - let's face it - couldn't find their tushies with both hands and a map," chuckled Willow.
"Unless they were, like, sat on a doughnut or something," Andrew agreed.
"The smarter they are the more dangerous they are," Kennedy pointed out. "We should be careful he doesn't find out too much. He's already warned Giles to behave, we don't want them snooping around."
"I agree, perhaps you could not invite him here again, Xander. Just to be on the safe side," Giles said gently.
"I didn't invite him this time, but I think you're all going crazy. This could be a good thing. Having a member of the sheriff's department on our side, he might share info with us if we're nice to him. He's not going to do that if he thinks we're being mean." Xander tried a different approach, he certainly wasn't happy to be told he couldn't have his friends over, like he was a little kid or something. Didn't they trust his judgement anymore? Did they think he would bring someone home without checking them out first? Alex was a nice guy, end of story; his profession didn't automatically make him a threat.
"That's nothing I can't get with a little hacker action, and on that note, I'd rather not have Alex around while I'm doing it," Willow replied.
"Buffy, what do you think?" Giles asked. The blonde Slayer had been standing in the doorway listening to the conversation.
She shrugged. "He seems like a nice enough guy, a bit hairy for my taste." She stretched her arms over her head and clicked her neck. "I'm going to grab a sandwich, then go out and kill this beastie. Don't wait up."
"What about us?" Kennedy asked before she could exit.
"Ham and salad okay for you?" Buffy asked genially.
"I wasn't talking about the sandwiches, B," Kennedy pointed out.
The blonde tensed. "My name is Buffy, got it? And if you want to patrol, go ahead, I'm not stopping you." She started to walk out. "Just stay out of my way."
"What the hell happened in L.A. to turn her into an even bigger bitch than before?"
Buffy heard Kennedy loud and clear from outside the barn. She waited for one of her friends to jump in and defend her; when there was only silence in reply she lowered her head and walked swiftly to the back lane away from the house. She wasn't feeling very hungry anymore.
Andrew had been allowed a beer to reward all his hard work on the renovating. He was exhausted with all the climbing up and down the ladder every time he dropped the hammer. The thing he found with beer though was that it went straight through him so he'd left the others outside and had gone upstairs to the bathroom.
The upstairs landing only had a little window at one end of it and was already in gloom, despite there being about another hour of daylight left. He'd reached the top of the stairs when he first heard . . .
He looked around but couldn't see anything that might make a noise. He continued on to the bathroom.
He stopped and checked around the floor for snakes, just in case. They were living in the wilderness, after all. There was nothing. He quickly stepped to the bathroom door and was about to push it open when . . .
He jumped and spun around. "If you're evil I just want to warn you I'm learning Kung-Fu," he squealed and turned towards the source of the noise behind him.
Dawn was standing in her room with her door wide open. "You're learning it from a book," she reminded him.
"Theory is important," he said sulkily. "What do you want? I need to pee."
"Ugh. Thanks for the excessive information." Dawn shivered with disgust. "Now get in here, I need your help with something."
"I need the bathroom," he told her again.
"That can wait, this can't. Quickly," she commanded, stepping to one side to so he could walk in.
With a loud sigh he did as she wanted. She checked over his shoulder to make sure no one was around before softly closing her bedroom door.
"So what do you want?" Asked Andrew again, jiggling from one foot to the other in respect to his bladder.
"Okay, what I'm about to tell you, you have to swear not to tell anyone," she warned.
"Okay," he agreed readily, hoping to hurry it up.
"Swear," she insisted. "Swear on something important."
"Okay!" he fought the urge to cup himself through his pants as he thought quickly. 'Ah got it.' "Okay, I swear on the brand new Babylon Season one DVD box set. How's that?"
"That's Xander's; you can't swear on something that isn't even yours."
"Why not? I don't want anything to happen to it, so it counts."
"Fine," Dawn said, shaking her head. "I know you brought lots of new camera stuff in L.A. I need to borrow some of it."
"Why?" The blonde teenager asked suspiciously.
"I'll tell you in a minute. First go get it. I need something small, suitable for surveillance and I need you to show me how to set it up."
"Yeah okay, but I'm going to the bathroom first," he told her before flouncing out of her room. She rolled her eyes.
Buffy twiddled her stake as she wandered up the lane. It was dark now and she'd been out for nearly three hours. Which was fine by her, she had no wish to get back to the house anytime soon.
She didn't know if Kennedy had brought out the other girls or not. The night before she had known they were around, she'd been able to sense them all over the place, almost as if they'd been following her. When she'd taken out the three hedgehog demons she'd been able to see Cici's foot peeking out from behind the bush. Other than that they had been pretty stealthy for newbies. Kennedy obviously wasn't doing too bad a job with them.
In fact, if Kennedy could just lose the attitude for five minutes, she and her might actually get along. The brunette's words had stung earlier.
'I'm not being a bitch, and what did she mean by - an even bigger bitch than before? Just because I want a little time on my own here doesn't make me one. You would have thought that everyone would be craving a little alone time after Sunnydale. It's not like this place is exactly a demonic party town right now either. We've got time to settle in and get used to the place. Training the new girls doesn't have to happen over night,' she mused as she walked along, kicking up leaves as she went. 'Ken's just got to learn to slow down. Fair enough she's been waiting to get Slayerized since she was, what, nine? Doesn't mean she has to fit the whole experience into a few short weeks. She should want to take it easy, learn her craft, before rushing in. She's just too impulsive and headstrong and it'll end in tears. Look what happened to . . .'
Buffy spun and kicked a low branch off a tree with a loud cracking sound.
"Slayers just aren't supposed to get along," Buffy said softly to herself, resuming her walk. "That's the mystical reason for there only being a Chosen One, not a Chosen Three or Four. I can't get along with Faith unless we're eating or sleeping together, so basically when we've got our mouths full and can't actually speak. It's no wonder I'm the same with Kennedy, except for the sleeping together obviously."
It wasn't the first time she'd noticed the similarities between the two brunette Slayers. Despite neither of them being able to pronounce her full name, they were both willful and stubborn and determined to do something once they'd made up their minds. At the back of her mind, the bit that knew her better than she knew herself so to speak, she knew she'd just described herself as well and probably every other Slayer that now walked the Earth. But there was something different about Faith, obviously, and Kennedy had that something too. The explosion at the school basement had proved that. Buffy wasn't thinking about the girl's foolishness in running in there without thinking. It was more her resolve to get in there and get the job done that Buffy admired. It was one of the things that had attracted her to Faith all those years ago in Sunnydale. Her attitude to get in there and get the job done, no matter what the odds. It was what she herself had done when she'd faced the Master back in her first year in Sunnydale. It was what made you a good Slayer, she guessed. Or maybe not a good Slayer, but a Slayer with durability.
She'd walked all the way up to the caves now and was standing staring up at the dark mouth of the one with the blood tracks leading into it. She checked the knife she carried in her boot, something she'd picked up from Faith, and then climbed up the side of the hill to the entrance.
"So here's where I go and be a good, durable Slayer then," she said before striding in. "Maybe a good Slayer would have brought a flash-light." Her voice echoed in the pitch black of the tunnel.
"Okay Kennedy, I get that we're Slayers and we have to patrol, but this is the second night we've just walked around Boudenver in the dark and found nothing." Alison complained as they all stomped along Old Town Road, past the McGee farm and onwards.
"Yeah and at least yesterday night we got to watch Buffy, tonight there's nothing but us out here," Miranda agreed with Alison.
"Yeah well, Buffy is being her usual difficult self, so we're gonna keep out of her way for tonight." Kennedy kept an ear out for anything monstrous but she had to admit there was nothing about.
"Yeah, what's her damage anyway?" Asked Alison.
"The official viewpoint is a broken heart," Kennedy responded, not adding that her own personal viewpoint was that Buffy was behaving like a total brat and needed to get over herself.
"You mean because her boyfriend died in 'The Big Battle?'" Cici used finger quotes. They had all heard about the Big Battle in extreme detail from Kennedy, Dawn and Andrew.
"Her boyfriend? I thought she was a lesbian. Isn't that what the redhead was babbling on about earlier?" Asked the new girl, Kate.
"The jury are still out on that one," Kennedy told her with a smirk. "She was seeing this vamp called Spike..."
"A vampire . . . don't we kill them?" Kate asked.
"Spike?" Alison laughed.
Kennedy laughed with her. "Yes, and yes he died on the Hellmouth, saving the world believe it or not. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be here today, but don't think that means it's alright to get friendly with vamps; it's not. Spike was souled, the rest of them are scum. You see one," she said determinedly, "you stake one."
Miranda asked. "Sold to whom?"
"I think Kennedy means that he had a soul," explained Cici.
"S'not like any of us has ever seen a vampire anyway," Alison said. It sounded like a grumble. "All we've seen are demons."
"You're right, there does seem to be a distinct lack of the fang club up here. Must be something to do with the Hellmouth's energy. I'll speak to Giles about it."
Kennedy had been wondering about that herself. In Sunnydale, vampires had been a dime a dozen, but here, the only three she'd seen had been the night before and Buffy had staked them before the other girls even set eyes on them. Willow had explained to her that the Hellmouth here had been dormant for several years but now was awakening; she believed that the power would only get stronger so in the future there would be vamps aplenty.
"Let's try up here." She told the girls leading them through a patch of trees away from the road.
"Okay so it's either one of these then," Dawn decided, looking between the two cameras Andrew had laid out on her bed.
"Yep. This one can pick up a pin dropping from the other side of the room, the sound head is so sensitive, but you lose on the size." He pointed to a regular looking camcorder, "And you'll only get an hours recording on it. Unless you want to fit a separate battery but then that will make it even bigger."
Dawn turned it over in her hands a few times. This would be the easiest to use, she knew, but... "It's too big. I think it'll have to be this one."
"Well you can fit that anywhere. The visual's okay as well. It'll pick things up really clear and you can get about three hours recording from one recharge. The only drawback is no sound. To get sound on this, you need to set a separate microphone on the person you want to record."
"I can't do that."
"I know, so you'll have to stay in shot of the camera."
"You know you should tell Buffy, right? You could get hurt or worse, and anyway how do you think Buffy's going to feel when she finds out you didn't go to her with something as important as this?"
"She'll get over it. It's not like she can actually focus on anything that doesn't have Faith's name in it anyway and by tomorrow it will all be over and I'll have dealt with it."
Andrew nodded but he wasn't very happy about it. If only he'd sworn on something he didn't care about, like the dishwasher. He could live without the dishwasher.
Dawn woke up the next morning with a herd of buffalo flying around in her stomach in little planes like the one Snoopy and Woodstock used. She rubbed it tenderly and wondered if it wouldn't be better just to stay home sick. Groaning, she pulled herself out of bed and padded to the bathroom she shared with Buffy.
Her sister still hadn't gotten back from patrol, unless she'd gone straight to sleep covered in vamp dust and demon goo. That was something the Slayer only ever did if she was too injured to stand up in the shower. She knocked lightly on the interconnecting door and when she got no reply, she gently pushed it open a bit. Nope, no half dead Buffy there. Which was good obviously, as long as she hadn't been eaten by something nasty and that's why she hadn't made it to bed.
Dawn had been so pleased when she learned that Buffy wasn't going to be battling the forces of darkness alone anymore, but then Andrew had told her last night that she had still gone patrolling on her own. It didn't make any sense. Her sister had said she was tired of being alone, of having to deal with the weight of the world on only her shoulders, but now that she could share the load she didn't want to. The younger Summers' doubted she would ever understand her sister.
She closed the door again and prepared to face her own battles.
Buffy was downstairs sipping orange juice when Dawn finally made it down the stairs dressed for school.
"Hey Dawnie. I'm sorry about yesterday. Do you forgive me?"
Dawn shrugged and poured herself some cereal. "I guess. You don't have to pick me up today though, so don't worry about it."
"What do you mean I don't have to pick you up? How will you get home?"
"Same way I did yesterday. Fen offered to give me a ride, plus we're going to the library to study straight after school so I'll be home a little late."
Andrew and Willow walked into the kitchen together. Andrew looked at the ground, uncomfortable with Dawn's lie. Willow beamed.
"There's my Dawnie. Getting with the studying already and it's only the third day of term," she said enthusiastically. "If you want to borrow the lap top to get on the internet you can. Maybe if you do well in your finals Giles will stretch to getting you one of your own for next year."
"Yeah thanks, Willow." Normally something like this would have had Dawn doing the Dance of Gratuitous Expenditure, but today it could barely raise a smile.
"Don't scare the poor girl with finals talk yet, Will." Buffy had noticed Dawn's tortured expression at the witch's offer and assumed it was down to exam fear. She could definitely relate. "Like you said, it's only the beginning of term."
Dawn stirred her cereal around a few times in her bowl before deciding she couldn't stomach it and got up to throw it away. Xander rescued it before the bowl tipped enough to unload the contents into the bin.
"Thank you," he said with a grin and sat down to polish it off.
She smiled at him. It was still strained. "I'm going to wait outside, Buffy, okay?" She left through the back door.
"Is she feeling okay?" Willow asked Buffy.
Buffy shrugged. "Didn't seem like it. Maybe there's a boy at school she likes. She's probably not even going to the library after school; she just wants to hang out." Buffy rolled her eyes.
No one noticed Andrew wince and walk through to the sitting room, where he stood staring lovingly at the Babylon 5 box-set in pride of place by the T.V.
"Come on Buffy, not everyone does that. I didn't do that; I was always at the library," Willow said.
"Yeah but so were the cute boys you liked too," Buffy reminded her with a smirk, shooting a look at Xander, who obliviously ate Dawn's left over cereal.
"Xander doesn't count. I already knew him before I even met the library."
"Okay, well you and Oz had plenty of smoochies in the library too. I'm just saying that studying time doesn't always lead to books. I'd better take Dawn." Buffy got up and walked out, missing Willow's wide eyed response to Oz's name.
Dawn was quiet all the way to school but when Buffy commented on it, she assured her sister she was fine in a very annoyed voice so Buffy just shut up and drove. She was sure Dawn would tell her if there was a problem, and she'd never been a morning person why should she expect her sister to be.
Dawn almost leapt out of the car when they reached the front drive of McKinley High; Buffy's shout of goodbye was lost in the slam of the door. She saw her sister's bemused look and she offered a half-hearted wave hoping that would satisfy her and she'd go. She did. She walked slowly down the drive and had only gone a few yards when a hand on her arm made her jump out of her skin. She spun around.
"Jeez Fen, did you have to scare the crap out of me?"
Fen didn't look much better than Dawn did. "Sorry. Quick let's got to the maintenance shed before we're seen."
Dawn nodded and they both hurried off.
Buffy pulled the car up in front of the house and got out just in time to run into Giles. He was sneaking out onto the front porch to drink a quiet cup of tea.
"Good morning Buffy. Did you sleep well?" He asked politely, lowering himself down on the top step.
She went and sat beside him. "Um yeah, I'm gonna get to that sometime today."
"You mean you haven't been to bed again?" He was concerned now.
She stifled a yawn as the conversation reminded her that in fact she hadn't. "I was out hunting the killer demon all night, and then I had to take Dawn to school. I'll make it there later."
"You know we can all help with Dawn's school run, you don't have to do it everyday," he reminded her before asking, "Any luck?"
"Nope, not a sausage. I checked out the caves where that Alex guy figured they'd been eaten, but nothing. I mean I can't be sure I checked it all 'cause there were miles and miles of tunnels and me being experienced in this type of thing forgot to take a flash-light. I didn't pick up any evil vibes though, or come across any leftovers. I did a sweep of the woods after and kept at it until an hour before dawn with nothing to show for it. I'm thinking either this thing's moved on already or Animal Control has it and are wondering what the hell they've gotten themselves into."
Giles allowed himself a chuckle at that. "Hmm, yes quite. Well Kennedy and the girls had no luck either," he reported.
He received no response; Buffy was looking down at her sneakers.
"You know, it's not impossible that you could offer these girls a great deal Buffy," he tried.
"I've given them everything I ca,n Giles. I've given them monsters, a short life expectancy and the full usage of my nearest and dearest. What else do they want?"
"They could learn so much about their powers, their skills, their calling, from you."
"I'm not a Watcher."
"No you're not, you are a Slayer, and as you have always pointed out to me, I have no real idea of what that is like." Giles rested his cup to the side and put his hand on his Slayer's shoulder. "I understand you want some time to yourself, to figure out what you want from life, and no one will disagree that you deserve it. However, if you are going out on patrol like last night, is there any reason you can't take at least some of the girls with you?"
"I wasn't patrolling last night, I was hunting. Something that needs to be done quickly, quietly and without a background of girl-chatter. These girls are too green to be out on a serious hunt. They've not even had any training yet, they don't even know what it is to be a Slayer," Buffy insisted quietly.
"Not even Kennedy?"
"Kennedy is enjoying being the big Slayer on campus; it would only get her back up if I started telling her what to do."
"I was thinking more along the lines of patrolling with you, or training with you. Like you and Faith used to." Giles noticed Buffy's flinch at her dark counterpart's name but didn't press that issue. One at a time. "Kennedy is being expected to take on a lot with you not interested in helping with the youngsters, and she is still rather green, as you say, herself. Maybe working with you one on one, tonight for example, will help boost her confidence and that will in turn help the new girls."
Buffy stood up and dusted off her ass. "Kennedy needing more confidence; are you kidding me?" Off his skeptical look she softened slightly. "I dunno, maybe. I'll think about it. Is the lecture done with now, 'cause I want to go for a jog."
"Yes Buffy, the lecture is over." The Watcher stood too. "I'm just asking you to think about it. I know that you want to retire from Slaying and the only reason you've been out the past two nights is to take your mind off of your problems with Faith. But with resources here in short supply it seems a shame to waste your, ah, comfort food." He disappeared back through the front door before she could refute his statement.
Shaking her head at know-it-all Watchers, she set off for her jog.
The bell had rung for home room five minutes before and there was ten minutes left as Dawn slowly made her way up the hall. Fen had left her in the maintenance shed just before the bell had rung so she wouldn't be late herself.
Dawn opened the door to her classroom and sauntered in as casually as she could manage with the way her heart was beating. She just hoped it didn't sound as loud to everyone else as it did to her.
She was halfway to her chair when Mr. Roberts looked up and saw her.
"Miss Summers, you did hear me yesterday didn't you, when I explained I will not accept tardiness from any of my students?"
"Yes Mr. Roberts," she replied meekly, darting the rest of the way to her place beside Fen and sitting down quickly.
"Dawn stand up when I am addressing you," he barked.
She shot up again, her face turning pink.
"You will come here for detention after school. If you decide you don't want to, we can always make it a Saturday detention, understand?"
She looked up at him. He wasn't smiling or anything but she could tell he was loving every minute of making her squirm. Well they'd see who had the last squirm, wouldn't they. "Yes Mr. Roberts."
He finally let her sit down and he got on with what he had been talking about before she entered. Two minutes before the bell rang Sethos walked through the door.
'Now what's he going to do? He can't ignore it, but will he want us both in detention together?' wondered Dawn. Fen gave her a look obviously thinking the same thing. 'Well he was late yesterday; he'll probably get a Saturday detention.'
"Sethos, late again. Be here after school for detention. If you don't turn up this time it will go on your permanent record, and I'll inform your father personally."
Sethos looked like he wanted to hit the teacher but he just said. "Okay," and sat down.
'Now what happens?' Dawn threw a panicked glance towards Fen who shrugged. 'If Sethos is in here with us,' she thought, 'there's no way he'll try anything.' She didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed. She'd put so much nervous energy into this plan she had to go through with it, but having Sethos there would be an easy out. 'Like he'll turn up anyway.'
Kennedy felt like a drill sergeant as her feet thumped along another narrow track through the trees.
"Come on you guys, keep up," she called over her shoulder to the five girls jogging behind her. Then she started the song again.
"We're all here from far and wide
To combat darkness and kick demon hide.
Vampires run and werewolves cry
'Cause when we arrive the fur will fly.
One, two. Three, four.
One, two, three, four."
"Do we have to sing the song?" Alison asked.
"What's wrong with the song?" Kennedy replied, turning and jogging backwards so she could face the girls while they spoke.
"I think it's a good song," Kate offered. Miranda immediately agreed with her, not wanting to upset Kennedy.
"It's not the song I have a problem with; it's just singing it while we're jogging seems a bit lame."
Kennedy gritted her teeth. "Then don't sing it."
"Oh come on, Alison. Join in, it's fun," a smiling, red-faced Cici said.
Kennedy turned back around and upped the pace a little. "Tell you what. Why don't we all have a go at making up a song?" She smiled grimly to herself. "This is compulsory; it builds team spirit and originality, which is needed in thinking up puns. A valuable weapon in the Slayer arsenal. Alison, you're up first."
Alison groaned loudly.
Buffy had been running hard for ages, mostly heading up the track she had patrolled the night before to see if there was any more clues to be seen in daylight. So far she'd found nothing new.
She stopped a mile above the caves and bent double, her hands on her knees, breathing hard. She was loving the feeling of her feet pounding the grassy track in rhythm with her heartbeat, but she had caught the crackling of twigs under heavy feet and it was harder to listen with the air rushing past her ears.
Crackle snap. There it was again. Something large was trying to creep through the trees towards her, but it wasn't doing too good a job at the creeping. She bounced on the balls of her feet a few times, bringing her head even lower between her legs and touching her hands on the grass. Looking between her knees at the trees behind her, she could make out a shadow moving, but nothing of its shape or size. It could be human, it could be demon, or it could be a real life bear.
Whatever it was, there was no mistaking it was coming for her. It shuffled about just inside the tree line, a pair of green eyes glowed from the shadows. The color wasn't particularly supernatural, but the fact that the eyes looked to be a good seven or eight feet from the ground probably ruled out human. Didn't rule out bear though.
Her upside down view point was starting to make her dizzy so she straightened back up and turned slowly to face her company. 'Do bears have green eyes?' She wondered. She figured probably not.
"Come on then, come out and play with the Slayer," she called into the dappled darkness of the woods.
She was answered with a growl. This still left her no clearer on the species.
"Don't make me come in there and get you," she tried next, wishing that she'd thought to bring more than a stake out jogging with her. She didn't even have a knife because it just kept falling out of her sneaker and looked stupid.
Another growl, deeper this time, somehow sounding angrier than the first.
She pulled the stake free from the back of her shorts. "Okay I warned you." She walked confidently towards the trees, the stake held high as a distraction. When she judged she was close enough she snapped her right leg out at the height she assumed the things kneecap would be.
"Okay, bears can't do that, except maybe in the circus," she grumbled as she struggled to get to her feet.
Whatever it was had grabbed her foot and wrenched it round, using it as leverage to fling her across the track into a tree on the far side. It had all happened so fast, the only thing she'd seen was a glimpse of matted black hair on a hand the size of a turkey plate. She looked at what had been her stake lying on the ground near her; now it was just three splinters of wood. She sighed.
Once she was on her feet she limped across the track once more, staying just out of reach, she hoped. She peered into the gloom, trying to make out what creature she was messing with when the hand snaked out again, this time catching her on the side of her head and literally bowling her off of her feet. She landed on the grass again, clutching at her side where it had smacked into the ground.
She was startled to her feet when the thing spoke. "Leave us Slayer. Leave us alone." The thing's voice sounded like it had way too many teeth in its mouth, which gave her the shivers; the things hands were bad enough.
"No can do, I'm afraid. I can't just leave you up here to eat people when you feel like it." She came closer to the trees again, her eyes watchful for any attack. "What sort of Sl...person would that make me, huh?"
"I didn't eat anyone," the creature insisted.
"No? So the head just fell off on its own did it?"
The thing sounded like it was chuckling softly. "Goorzar like to play, she get carried away."
"Right, that's it. Either you come out here and fight like a...well whatever you are, or I'm going to set fire to the trees." She crouched and picked up two sticks and rubbed them together threateningly.
A big, black-haired, gorilla type thing jumped out of the trees to land in front of her. It swiped with its huge hands at the twigs she held in her small ones, Sending them flying and making her hands sting like crazy. It roared the words, "Leave family alone or I kill you and eat your head!"
"Ow! Get a grip Mrs. Kong, s'not like I could have done it anyway." She backed up holding her sore hand close to her chest. The monster advanced.
"You would hurt Goorzar," it growled. It wasn't a question, more of an accusation.
Buffy held her hands up in supplication and looked into the face of the ape-demon which was at least two or three feet taller than she was. "No hurting, I promise, just wanted to ask you nicely not to kill any..." The thing's fist swiped again and she had to flatten herself quickly to avoid it. She gulped, "...one again."
"I no kill, they die. Humans fragile." Another fist swipe she rolled away from. "I take them to show Goorzar. Their hearts stopped. No my fault." Another swipe, this one catching Buffy on her left hip and sending her up into the air.
She landed on her feet awkwardly. Panting, she asked, "You expect me to believe that? I saw them, they were mauled."
"Humans fragile. They in my home, I no go in theirs. They kill me. I no kill them, they fragile hearts stop."
From what Buffy could figure out from her opponent, apart from the fact that she - if it was a she, - was feeling hard done by right now, was that she was slow on her legs. Her arms had a long reach and could bend like spaghetti, but a lot faster than spaghetti had ever hoped to move, and had big powerful meatball shaped muscles. Its legs however, barely shuffled in place. They just seemed to be there to hold the thing steady while its arms lashed about.
The next time the thing swung an arm in her direction, she rolled forward beneath its arc and shot her left heal into its shin. The things legs may have been slow, but they were as wide as tree trunks. It barely flinched from her kick, just roared and reached a huge hand down to trap the Slayer where she lay.
"You fragile human too?" It asked in its horrible voice.
"Oh crap." Buffy struggled, but the hand easily pinned her torso to the floor. "Now what?"
The trees shook and all the birds flew away when they heard what was coming, chattering to each other to warn of the impending terror.
"Every time you turn out the light.
We're right there giving demons a fright.
They can run and they can scream
Because they're all scared of the Slayers team."
"Good one Cici," Kennedy called over her shoulder as they carried on around the next twist in the track. "Your turn, Miranda."
They ran in silence for a few minutes while the black-haired girl racked her brains.
"Uh, okay, how about...
We are Slayers one and all
Demon armies are bound to fall.
Then we'll show them a thing or two
About not, uh, eating people...
...I think I kinda lost it there." Miranda's blush was hidden beneath the flushed cheeks caused by running.
"Never mind, it was still go..." Kennedy stopped in her tracks and everyone banged into her. "Anyone else hear that?" She asked as they righted themselves once more.
"Like the roaring, you mean?" Asked Kate, looking around.
"Yeah, exactly like that." Kennedy was pretty sure it came from through the bank of trees to their left, away up the hill a little.
"Someone else who probably doesn't like our singing," Alison joked, earning her a glare from the senior Slayer.
"Come on. Quietly." She made her way through the trees. It was pribably nothing, but maybe not.
The roar came again before they reached the track they could just make out through the leaves and everyone flattened themselves against tree trunks. When nothing crashed through the undergrowth, Kennedy signaled for them to move on again. They emerged on the track and followed it slightly up hill, around a bend and guess what? It wasn't nothing.
Kennedy took one look at the scene and launched herself at the big, dark-haired ape in front of her. She landed on its back but it barely seemed to notice. It swiped her off while its attention was still focused on the struggling blonde beneath its huge hand. She landed with a thump by its feet.
"Kennedy, you need weapons," Buffy called, still struggling.
"See you kill me, but I no allowed to kill you. That no fair," said the monster.
"Sorry dude, that's the way it works." Kennedy kicked out at the thing's ankle with both feet. "Are you just gonna stand there and watch?" She called to the other Slayers.
As if they had just been waiting for their cue, all four of them surged forward. None of them had weapons so they settled for annoying it as much as they could. They pulled at her hair, grabbing fistfuls of the coarse covering and pulling with all their Slayer strength. Soon she was annoyed enough to loosen her grip on Buffy and the blonde used one of the ape's retreating fingers to pull herself upright before biting down on it, hard.
The thing actually squealed like a pig, which wasn't anywhere near as scary as the roar that followed it. It shook Buffy away and lashed out at Kennedy with the same hand, but it couldn't reach the trainee Slayers pulling at her hair from behind. Angrily, the she-demon shuffled around on her slow but powerful legs but the Slayers always stayed behind her. It was frustrating her no end and she let out another roar.
Buffy and Kennedy were both laying a little way from each other watching, and they were both grinning. Finally Buffy realized the new girls couldn't keep that up forever and scrambled back to her feet, Kennedy hopping up right along side her.
"We've got no weapons, Buffy; I didn't expect to be attacked in broad daylight," Kennedy apologized.
"You're not the only one." Buffy admitted that she had been caught off guard too. "Follow me."
Puzzled as to why the blonde was running into the trees, she nevertheless followed, pleased not to be the one making the decisions.
Buffy jumped up at a sturdy looking branch not too high above her head and swung on it. It didn't break like she had hoped. "Ken, grab my legs and pull."
With a quick glance over her shoulder to make sure the girls were still holding their own, she complied.
Between them they managed to snap the branch off and Buffy dropped back to the ground and caught it in one fluid movement. She dropped it on the ground.
"Again," she commanded, jumping up at another solid looking branch.
They repeated the action and now they both had long, thick branches.
"Which side do you want?" Buffy asked as they dashed back to the track.
"I can only sleep on the left," quipped Kennedy.
Buffy grinned. "Good to know. I'll take right then. Hit it anyway you can."
She watched as Kennedy took a swing at the beast's back and Alison yelped as her fingers got in the way.
"Ooops. Maybe you kids should stand back a bit," she added as an after thought, although she noticed Kennedy didn't look too sorry about her mistake.
Between them they beat the beast down, both landing blows to her back and legs and ducking or rolling any time one of the massive hands lashed out. Soon she fell to her knees and they were able to beat it about the head as well.
"Kennedy, stop." The ape thing was now lying on her side in a pool of blood, but it was still alive and growling softly. Buffy just couldn't go on beating it to death; it felt wrong. "We have to kill it quicker," she muttered to the brunette Slayer.
Kennedy nodded and grabbed hold of the thing's head, preparing to twist and break her neck.
Then the demon spoke. "You must... Goorzar. She only a baby." A big hand was raised and the small Slayer automatically tried to flinch back, but the demon only wanted to clasp her shoulder as it urgently wheezed: "Please... look after Goorzar... please."
Kennedy found herself agreeing even though she didn't have a clue why. "Okay. We will." Then she twisted hard to the right. The neck snapped and the monster went limp. Kennedy jumped back, shaking.
Buffy put a gentle hand on her shoulder. "S'okay Ken. You did good." Everyone watched as the body turned mushy and sunk away into the grass, not even leaving any blood behind.
"Well that was interesting," Kate said.
"Definitely one of the easier ones," Buffy replied, thinking about the clean-up they wouldn't have to do.
"Wasn't easy," Kennedy said quietly, still looking at the spot where it had been.
"I didn't like that it could talk," Miranda said.
"We have to find its baby. It said it had a baby," Kennedy said, speaking only to Buffy.
"So let's start looking.," Buffy agreed. "Teams of two, spread out but don't go too far, we don't know how big this baby is. You see anything: shout." Buffy started to walk into the woods. "Come on Kennedy, you're with me."
"Considering how big mama monkey was, I'm thinking her baby is gonna be at least a twelve pounder," Alison said, walking into the woods with Kate on the other side of the track. Cici and Miranda went in another direction.
"You okay?" Buffy asked when they'd gone a little way.
"Uh huh," Kennedy answered with her head down; she still held the stick and was using it to poke into bushes.
"Thanks for the rescue."
"S'what Slayers do."
Buffy nodded. "You wanna tell me what's freaking you out?"
"Killing something with my bare hands. I know it was an evil something, but, you know; it has a baby. I just killed a baby's mother. With my bare hands," she said honestly, but not looking at Buffy.
"You did what you had to do; it's not always easy, I know."
Kennedy smiled a bit. "I guess I should feel better that it's probably an evil baby right?"
Buffy smiled back and was about to respond when a shout from Miranda interrupted them.
They all converged by the nest Miranda and Cici had found. It was a four foot by four foot dome shaped structure woven carefully with twigs, leaves and grass, set back into the trunk of a huge hollow tree. It easily would have been missed if not for the sad whimpering coming from inside.
"Anyone?" Asked Buffy, pointing at the hole in the side.
No one volunteered, so Buffy stepped up and was about to lean down inside, mindful of losing her head, when Kennedy put a hand out to stop her.
"I killed mommy, I feel kinda responsible for it."
"Can't we just kill it from out here?" Asked Alison.
"We need to know it's dead," Kennedy said before Buffy could and then she leaned forward into the hole, her arms held out in front of her in case it decided to attack.
"Aww, look at you," Echoed around the inside of the nest and filtered out to the rest of them.
Buffy and the new Slayers exchanged a glance.
Kennedy straightened back up, pulling herself back out of the hole and in her arms was a little ball of black hair that was whimpering and trying desperately to bury its head under Kennedy's arm. The Slayer herself had a very non-slayerish goofy smile plastered across her face.
The little bundle yelped out a word that sounded like "Mommy," and curled up even tighter in her arms. The other girls huddled around for a closer look.
"We should take her home," Kennedy said enthusiastically. "Let Giles study her, it could be very informative."
Buffy raised an eyebrow, but didn't say no.
They had gone over and over the plan at lunch time and all that was left was to sit and stew until after school. Providing Fen could do her part after fifth period before Mr. Roberts got back into the room, and then there would be no problems.
She would catch him out doing whatever nasty stuff he thought he could get away with doing and then she would take it to someone. Principal Hayes probably, and then the bastard would be fired.
She shifted in her seat, unable to concentrate on her English class because of all the stuff spinning around and around in her head. Sethos was in this class too although they sat quite far apart, so if she wanted to find out if he was going to detention she'd have to wait until afterwards. At least if she knew one or the other it might get rid of some of the uncertainty she was feeling. If he wasn't going to be there then it would be full steam ahead until it got to the point of no return.
She chewed on the end of her pen while the minutes ticked by. Only one class to go after this one.
Xander and Andrew were back in the big barn that was being turned into a dormitory. The one-eyed young man had spent the day up the ladder figuring it would be quicker for him to do that job, and Andrew had been painting the partitions a cornflower blue. Giles had begged the day off, insisting he had Council business to attend to which couldn't wait.
Xander had nailed the last of the prepared boards into the roof and was now sitting quietly by the door, sanding down the next bunch. He was often quiet now when he wasn't drinking, thought Andrew.
He looked over at him while he swept up the mess of the day and wondered again if he should tell.
Xander felt the young blonde's eyes on him for like the hundredth time and it was starting to make him uncomfortable. "I'm not your type," he said without looking up.
"Huh?" Andrew stopped and stared at him fully, as the carpenters words sunk he blushed a deep crimson. "I...I...I..." he stuttered in response.
"Spit it out Andy. You've been bugging me with these sidelong looks all day. What's the what?"
"Nothing." Andrew put his head down and kept sweeping.
"I know when you're lying. I can see it in your eyes, so just spill already."
"I'm not allowed to tell you," Andrew told him. "I promised."
Xander stood up. "Okay Andrew, you can keep your promise, but if this is the type of secret where someone is gonna get hurt.." he walked towards the blonde slowly until he was standing in front of him, "...someone I care about, then I'm going to do this..." He swiped the sandpaper he still held along Andrew's knuckles where they gripped the broom handle. "...across that fluff on your chin."
"Oww, okay I want to tell you anyway, but if Dawn gets mad you gotta tell her I didn't crack until you used the scratchy paper...on my face, not my fingers," he clarified.
"Dawn's in some kind of trouble then?" Xander asked.
"Uh huh, at school, but she wants to handle it herself, that's why she didn't tell anyone."
"What? Is someone bullying her?"
"Teacher trouble. Bad teacher trouble. As in - after school special gone terribly wrong - teacher trouble," Andrew babbled. "She wants to catch him in the act."
"Act of what, Andrew?" Xander asked very seriously.
Andrew explained the few details of the plan he knew, just enough to know that they had to stop it before it had a chance to go wrong, or for that matter, even began.
"Buffy and Kennedy still aren't back, Xander, what are we going to do?" Andrew looked like he might cry. "School finishes in an hour."
"That's okay, we've got time," sssured Xander. "Call Alex, his numbers on the fridge. Tell him exactly what you told me, but with less words. When Buff gets back do not tell her, we don't need her going all Slayer on this guy and killing him. If you can pull Giles aside and tell him though, that would be good. I gotta go." Xander sprinted from the barn to the new truck and peeled off in a cloud of dust.
Andrew stood nervously wringing his hands in the doorway before going to call Alex. On his way through the living room he noted that the Babylon 5 DVDs hadn't mysteriously combusted yet.
Dawn was shaking all over when she reached the door of her homeroom at two-forty-five that day. She figured this was good though. Made her look really scared about being alone with him, which the creep would hopefully try to use to his advantage. She passed Fen on the way through the main doors. They'd said no more than "Hi" to each other before Fen had gone to sit outside the staff office. They agreed this was the best place to wait because it was close enough to hear anything untoward happening in their homeroom but wouldn't draw suspicion. As a junior with a lot of electives, no one would think it was odd that Fen was waiting to catch a member of staff before they left for the day.
Dawn cleared her dry throat and let herself into the room. Mr. Roberts was already at his desk. Sethos wasn't there, at least not yet. She'd never gotten the chance to speak to him earlier.
The teacher didn't look up as he instructed. "Take a book from the pile and start copying from page one."
She did as she was told and made her way back to her usual seat. She allowed her eyes to glance over the bookshelves at the back of the room and was relieved with what she saw. So far, so good.
She opened the American History book and began copying from it, glancing at the clock, the door and the teacher more than her book.
Ten minutes passed like this. tThe only noises in the room was the scratch of pens on paper as Dawn copied and Mr. Roberts graded assignments, and the soft sound of the text book pages turning. Another ten passed the same way.
Dawn was just beginning to wonder if she should goad him into action because he didn't see all that interested in her at the moment. Was it possible she imagined the whole thing? Not likely, but maybe he'd decided she wasn't worth the bother; she had hit him pretty hard between the legs. That didn't mean she was going to let him get away with it though. He might not want to mess with her again, but he might pick on someone too scared to fight back next time.
She was gathering her courage to say something when he stood from his desk and wandered casually over to the windows. He stood staring out for a moment before he pulled a cord and the blinds slid shut. The glare of the sun was blocked out, but it wasn't dark. It was possible the sun had just been in his eyes and he wanted to get rid of it. He sauntered just as casually back the other way to the door and stopped in front of it. From her seat Dawn couldn't see what he was doing but there was no mistaking the click of the key being turned. Her breath caught in her throat.
Taunting her with his slow moving actions he came over to her and perched on the desk in front, smiling.
"So Dawn, obviously you liked our little game last night since you were dying to be alone with me again."
She didn't look up, but just kept scribbling in her notebook as she answered. "No sir, my sister was just late dropping me off."
"Well that's a shame, because I've been really looking forward to it all day." He was still smiling she realized when she chanced a look. "And I think you've got a little making up to do after yesterday's little performance."
"Yeah, and I'm thinking you're just asking for a repeat performance."
"Nowhere to run this time little Miss Summers." From his pocket he pulled the old fashioned key he had taken from the door and showed it to her. "You can run around and around this room all you like, but you're just putting off the inevitable. I will get what I want from you today, and I you can give it willingly." He leaned on the edge of her desk and leaned forward until he was totally invading her personal space. "Or I can take it."
'This is all very incriminating,' thought Dawn. 'But only if you're in this room, considering the damn camera has no frigging sound. I have to step it up a notch.'
"I'll scream," she promised.
"And I'll stop you. Any way I have to, do you understand?"
"Oh yeah, I'd like to see you try," Dawn taunted.
Mr. Roberts leaned back on the desk he was perched on and smiled at her. It reached his eyes, causing little wrinkles to appear in the creases. Her mother had always called them laughter lines. From the expression on his face the young student was expecting the teacher to come clean and tell her this had all been some elaborate joke, some scary initiation test she had now passed and could be let in on. She allowed herself to believe it when a warm chuckle escaped the smiling teacher and he looked at Dawn fondly.
Right up until he back-handed her across the face so hard she fell from her chair, taking it to the ground with her.
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