Faith frowned when she heard the scream, caught for a split second between running - she so didn't need this shit right now - or charging to the rescue, 'cause that was what a Slayer did.
A high pitched pleading of "No please, no, no...", made up her mind for her. She knew that voice.
Her shoulder met the flimsy wood of the door as her hands pulled apart, snapping the handcuffs and the door's lock at the same time.
The first thing Faith's eyes settled on was the prone body of Tony before swiveling to take in the rest of the small room.
With one hand tangled in Janey's hair pulling back her head and the other holding a small but serviceable knife to the skin of the young Slayer's face, Lolitta grinned at her. Janey's other cheek was already dripping blood from a nasty looking slice.
"Well look who's come out to play," Lolitta drawled. "I guess the odds are finally high enough."
Faith stood motionless, weighing up the situation. "We'll played, bitch," she snarled. "But I warn you now, you're gonna lose."
"Faith, no!" Janey whimpered, but Faith ignored it.
"Tough talk, for someone so weak, Faithy." It was one of the minions as Faith had started to think of Lolitta's constant companions.
Lolitta took a step back, dragging Janey with her as Faith pivoted on the spot and knocked the speaker unconscious with a snap kick to the head. The woman lay sprawled in front of the door. Only Max and Janey spared her a glance. Faith and Lol kept their eyes on each other.
"Let her go and we'll walk out of here," Faith's voice was low, but still echoed around the tiled bathroom.
"No Wilkins, you don't get it. Even if your little buddy here walks out..." Lol sliced the blade quickly across Janey's chin, causing the girl to whimper again. "...which, let's face it, is unlikely, you ain't. Max."
Max went from a standstill to a charge at Faith with a broken chair leg raised high above her head. Faith caught the metal pole as it came down and twisted her body to the right, pushing Max off balance as her charge was checked so abruptly. She brought a knee up, smashing it into Max's wrists, forcing her to lose her grip on the pole before shoving the bigger woman away into the wall and turning to face Lolitta once again.
The knife blade was now poking into the skin of the Janey's throat, a tiny bubble of blood forming around it.
Snarling, Faith attacked…
They were surrounded. Buffy could see more vampires still than Slayers. There just didn't seem to be an end to their numbers even though wet dust coated the grass.
'How long have they been recruiting?' she wondered. 'Have they been here this whole time? Were they here before us maybe and we just never realized? No wonder the area seemed so devoid of vamp activity, it's because they've all been whiling away the hours waiting for tonight. Has there been hundreds of victims in Cleveland that we missed because we were too busy concentrating on the Hellmouth?'
Buffy stopped speculating long enough to dust three more vamps that had come too close to the truck Willow and Cici were doing something magic in. So much for only being here as back-up. There were no subs tonight; they were all on the court.
'We really have to start getting more Slayers trained and out to other places. It's not doing anyone any good to have them all cooped up here,' she thought as she continued to kick and punch her fangy foes.
Buffy swiveled to see Miranda getting chomped on by one of the undead uglies.
"I don't think so!" Buffy went to charge over but the vamp dusted before she got there to reveal Kennedy behind the now even more terrified Miranda.
Miranda was looking pale and shaky and was staring straight ahead of her in shock.
"Miranda, get in the back of the truck," Buffy yelled, ducking a flying lunge and straightening back up as the vampire sailed harmlessly over her head, bowling into another and taking them both to the soaking ground.
Miranda stayed put, not even blinking and Buffy thought it was too late; the vamp had taken too much. As she waited for the young Slayer to fall to the ground, Kennedy scooped her up from behind and deposited her in the back of the truck, quickly inspecting the wound as she did so.
A female vampire with Farrah hair jumped onto the side of the vehicle to take advantage. Without looking Kennedy kicked her backwards onto Buffy's stake.
Kennedy jumped back down as Buffy coughed.
"Thanks for that," Buffy spluttered, turning back to see who was next on the dead list.
"No problem." They fought back to back.
Moments later, Buffy only just dodged a tooth attack on her neck by sitting down fast. "I'm really wishing I brought the scythe." She kicked her attacker backwards while she scrambled around trying to get up again.
"Well why didn't you bring the scythe?" Kennedy had been wondering that anyway.
"'Cause I'm a moron," Buffy grunted as she staked.
Kennedy side-stepped a kick and swept the vampire's other leg out from under him. "Do you really think a moron should be responsible for the..."
"You are not having the scythe, Kennedy," Buffy calmly overrode her.
Kennedy plunged her stake into another undead heart, grinning.
Max was up and coming for her before Faith reached Lolitta, which in retrospect was probably the only thing that stopped Janey from getting her throat slit.
As Max barreled into Faith they both tumbled to the ground. Faith landed on the bottom, with Max sprawled across her and they began rolling around, both trying to gain the upper hand. Faith was a great deal stronger than the other woman but Max's weight was still pinning her to the scummy tiles on the floor.
Lolitta had to back-step again to keep out of the way of the struggling women. She kept a tight hold on Janey's hair but her knife hand flayed while she sought her balance.
Janey tried to take advantage of the situation and reached up to grab Lol's wrist, but Lolitta wasn't stupid. She lifted her hand higher out of the young girl's reach and spun her around by her hair.
Janey felt her nose break as it impacted with the wall and blood sprayed across the tiles.
Faith couldn't get up with Max on her chest but she lashed out with a foot, catching Lolitta on the ankle. Even as Max landed a hard punch to her cheek she kicked again. Lolitta howled but Faith still heard the quiet snap of her ankle bone.
She could see that Lolitta had let go of Janey completely now and was clutching her ankle as if that would make the pain go away, but Janey wasn't taking the opportunity to finish her off. Instead she was looking in one of the grimy mirrors in shock. Her crooked nose looking wicked screwed, blood still leaking fast from her nostrils.
Faith managed to finally kick Max off of her and jumped to a crouching position just as Lolitta recovered enough to hop a step forward and bury her knife up to the hilt in Janey's unaware back.
"NO!" Faith's shout drowned out Janey's scream.
Willow's chanting sounded eerie to Cici, even if she was one of the good guys. The front of the truck wasn't really the best place to be conducting magical rituals either. The smoke from the dribbly green candles made the interior of the cab almost unbearable, even if it wasn't choking her like normal smoke would. She would have to ask Willow why that was when this was all over.
Stuttering at first, Cici read through her part of the Latin spell, thankful for the first time ever that her school actually taught Latin and so it was relatively easy for her. Though not a single one of the phrases she was currently reading had ever been on the syllabus.
She sat back as Willow's eyes flashed black and her voice went deeper than she'd heard before.
"Admitto Circumretio Abludo Icere Iectum,
Cici was aware of something green rushing outwards from somewhere between the witch and herself. It continued growing larger nearly as fast as light, taking no heed of the doors of the truck or anything else in its way. If she squinted and turned her head to the side she could see it still expanding beyond the battle raging outside the vehicle and into the trees.
She was aware that she couldn't really see anything, there was nothing there to see, but she knew it was there just the same. She was feeling it on some deeper level than plain sight or touch would allow.
"I'd never realized Latin could be so fascinating," she remarked.
Willow sighed heavily before looking up at her. Her eyes and voice were back to normal when she spoke. "That should stop anything rising tonight, with any luck. The net will block any energy trying sneak out while we're not looking, or are looking, or at all."
"So we're safe?" Cici asked, relieved.
It was short lived. Willow scrunched her face up a little. "From anything climbing out of the Hellmouth, yes, for as long as the spell lasts anyway - which will probably be a few hours...hopefully. From the bloodsucking fiends outside - no."
Cici nodded slowly and turned to look out of the window. "I suppose I should go and help." She didn't sound too sure about it.
Willow tried to make her feel better about it. "I'm going to help too." She buzzed down the driver's window and after a moment's concentration she held her hand out into the rain and muttered. "Deflagro!"
A fire ball shot from the tips of Willow's fingers and headed for the nearest vampire, only to sizzle out in the rain before it reached its target. Willow quickly buzzed her window back up.
"Or not," she apologized.
Cici gave her a smile and reached down to pull a sword out of the weapons bag at her feet. They had taught fencing at her old school too, though the swords they'd used there might as well have been made of cardboard compared to this one.
"Here goes nothing," she told Willow and left the dry safety of the truck.
Faith was on her feet as Janey sank to her knees. She was moving forward as Janey's hands gripped the sink, knuckles white. She was letting fly with a full Slayer-strength punch at Lolitta's head as Janey's chin came to rest between them on the dirty ceramic.
Lol just happened to turn from viciously grinning at the younger Slayer in time to see the fist coming and with a little cry of alarm she fell backwards, the only thing that stopped her head from leaving her shoulders.
The punch grazed her cheek and she yelled. "Max!" as she tried to duck back out of the way of Faith's wrath. The look on the Faith's face was chilling her to the bone.
Max was behind Faith and grabbed her around the neck, trying for a choke hold, but Faith was too pissed to play nice. She rammed her elbow into Max's stomach, causing her to instantly lose her hold and double over. Faith followed that up by spinning around and kicking the bigger woman in the teeth, more than a few fell to the floor covered in blood.
Max's voice was distorted now but Faith didn't care to listen anyway. With another kick to the stomach she sent Max flying into the wall and followed up with a fist to the side of the head. Max slid to the floor unconscious.
Faith spun back to Lolitta in time to see her making her way around the fallen guard to the door. She leapt across Tony herself to land in the way.
"Going somewhere?" She asked as Lolitta looked up, a scared snarl on her face. "I thought you wanted to play?"
Lolitta lashed out, hoping to catch Faith by surprise with the sudden attack, but she hadn't reckoned on Slayer senses and speed. Without even looking at the fist coming towards her, Faith caught it . . . and crushed it.
"Uh uh uh." Faith scolded. "We don't want any nosiness, do we?" Without waiting for an answer she punched Lol in the jaw, shattering it and effectively ending the scream. "That's better, don't you think?"
Lol shook her head making moaning sounds and trying to back away, but Faith had a tight grip on her upper arm, keeping her on the spot.
"You broke my friend's nose." She head butted Lolitta hard in the face and smiled. "Turnabout's fair play, right?" She head butted her again, loving the fact that all the large woman could do was gurgle and moan her pain. It was better than using a gag, 'cause then you couldn't hear anything.
Faith didn't even look over at Janey as she said. "I think you might have killed her too." She punched Lol hard in the gut. "Oh this doesn't look very good for our villain now, does it?" She wrapped her hand in the front of Lol's shirt and used it for leverage to batter her head into the wall tiles before pulling her close again. "But then again, the villain is supposed to die, right?"
Lol just stared back, wide-eyed and petrified.
On the other side of the room, unnoticed by Faith, Janey's breathing was coming quick and hard and she had to stop it before she passed out or hyperventilated. She concentrated on the cool ceramic under her fingers, rhythmically squeezing and letting go until she managed to calm herself down.
She could hear the fight going on behind her but she couldn't pay attention to it yet. She needed to sort herself out first and do something about the burning fire sensation in her lower back.
Not bothering to get to her feet yet, she gingerly reached around with one hand and felt for the handle of the knife. She winced in pain as it dug in deeper as she fumbled with it for a good hold and her other fingers clenched the sink even tighter.
"This is going to hurt like a mother," she muttered to herself before gritting her teeth and pulling sharply.
The blade slid out cleanly and Janey stifled her scream by biting her lip until it bled. It wasn't important; her mouth was already full of the taste of blood from her broken nose.
Kneeling there a little longer she listened to Faith's taunts and knew she had to act now or it would be too late.
Swearing under her breath all the way, she slowly and unsteadily pulled herself upright and turned to see the action.
Shocked one too many times, she turned again, oblivious to the fiery pain in her back and vomited into the sink.
Alison and Kate had somehow managed to get cornered between the church wall and a bunch of vampires.
"Do you think it will be like this all the time?" Kate asked in her soft Irish lilt as she hacked and slashed with her sword, only doing damage with every third stroke or so, it seemed.
"You mean like a new monster, or monsters, to fight every week, monotonously, for the rest of our lives?" Alison grunted, slamming her stake into a vampire's chest. Her eyes went wide when it didn't dust.
Kate brought her sword around again and beheaded it in a smooth swing.
"Probably." Alison coughed as dust went up her nose. "And thanks."
"You're welcome, although I was aiming for this one." Kate slashed again at a vamp on her other side.
Alison laughed and darted forward, slamming her stake in again. This one dusted just like the manual said it should. "Score," she coughed.
"At least we get to go home for the summer," Kate said, looking on the bright side. "That's something to look forward to."
"Doubt I'll bother," Alison responded with a little shrug. "Look out, here's another."
"Faith: stop! Stop. Faith! Get off of her!"
It took a few more punches and kicks before the red haze lifted enough for Faith to make out who was calling her. She ignored it anyway and shoved the semi-conscious Lolitta up against the wall again and resumed punching her all over. She was deliberately staying away from her head to keep her in the game for as long as possible.
"Faith!" Hands clutched her shoulders and tried to drag her backwards, but she turned and pushed Janey back. Janey tripped over the still out of it guard and landed on her butt, bringing fresh pain from her stab wound she never could have imagined and never wanted to experience again.
For a second it was a contest to see whether she would pass out or throw-up first, but once again she got it under control and bit by bit got to her feet.
Moving towards, well it wasn't a fight anymore; the bully couldn't even stand up. Faith had to keep lifting her up to punch her. Janey tried again. "Faith, leave her alone. You'll kill her!"
"She killed you!" Faith ground out between blows.
Janey got an arm around the dark slayer's neck and started to forcefully pull her backwards. "No she didn't. I'm here. How can I be dead if I'm talking to you?"
"Dead people talk all the time," Faith assured just as Janey managed to pull her off balance. Lolitta was sliding down the wall again and Faith aimed a kick at her head, smacking it back into the tiles and finally knocking her out.
Once Lolitta was slumped on the floor unconscious, the fight left Faith in an instant. She stared at the bloody, broken mess she had caused.
She took a step back, bumping into Janey who released her but stayed by her side. "She had it coming." Faith insisted but her words were weak and hollow. She shook her head from side to side. "She pushed and pushed and..."
Faith took another step back and tripped over. She fell on her ass on the other side of Max and looked at her. Max's forehead was still bleeding from being run into the wall and her arm was lying at a funny, sickening angle.
"I...I...They..." Tears made tracks in the blood on Faith's face; none of it was her own. Still on her ass she scooted backwards until her back met the wall and her gaze darted frantically between Lolitta and her two lifeless lackeys.
Janey squatted down next to her painfully and put a hand on her arm. "Faith, it's okay."
Faith shook her head slowly. "No it's not." She pushed the blonde away roughly. "How in the hell can this be okay?" she shouted through her tears.
Janey backed away - getting pushed hurt - and stood up. She went quickly to the door and locked it. Although if anyone had heard the fight they obviously weren't very interested. Going back to the sinks she wet a paper towel and crouched down next to Faith again.
At first when she reached out to wipe at the blood on Faith's face, the older Slayer jerked her head back angrily and Janey thought she was about to get punched herself. Which, seeing the damage Faith was capable of, wasn't a nice thought at all. Then Faith lowered her shoulder, went back to staring at Lolitta and allowed Janey to clean her up.
"Guess I'll be around for a while after all," Faith murmured.
Janey just carried on cleaning.
Vi took aim with her crossbow and high-fived with Kennedy as her target poofed. Rona just smirked at them as she sliced through a vamp's leg sending it screaming to the ground. As it tried to get back up she used her axe to chop off its head.
Buffy grinned as she parried a vamp's punches. "Oh to be a young slayer again," she called to Willow who was busy tending to Miranda in the bed of the truck.
Willow chuckled, then applauded as Buffy finally tired of playing, caught the vamp by the hair and twisted his head off. "Then again, you probably couldn't do that as a young slayer," she reasoned.
"Maturity does have its perks," Buffy agreed as she lifted a charging vamp high into the air and upside down. She held him like that while she carried on talking. "Not the wrinkles and that, but y'know, staying in being all responsible gave me plenty of time to watch wrestling with Xander." She pile-drived the vamp into the ground, snapping his neck, then leaned down and staked him. "Okay I admit I was reaching with that one," she continued off of Willow's look of confusion. "But you try coming up with a new witty one liner every time you kill something."
The rain stopped and Buffy looked upwards. "Finally." Then she realized that nothing had taken advantage of her distraction. "Hey where did they all go?"
Willow stood up in the back of the truck. "I don't know, maybe we killed them all. You know, deader."
Kennedy, Vi and Rona came over grinning.
"Did they run off?" Buffy asked them.
"Didn't see any runnin'," Rona said, hefting her axe over one shoulder.
"I think we got them all," agreed Vi.
Cici was suddenly thrown into view from the other side of the truck and all four slayers rushed to help, but before they could get there a vampire jumped after her, only to find itself impaled on her rather large sword. It didn't kill it, but it did stop the vampire from getting any closer to her.
Her muscles, already well defined from years of horse riding, were standing out as she used all her extra strength to keep the sword blade upright.
Buffy reached the pair first and pulled him up and off the sword and thrust him to side without looking. As she pulled Cici to her feet they heard the whooshing sound of him exploding by Kennedy's hand.
Alison and Kate came running up to the truck. "We saw Miranda get bit. Is everyone okay?" Alison asked, sounding panic-attacky. This was unusual for her, as far as Buffy knew.
"I'm fine." Miranda sat up weakly and looked over the edge of the truck. "It just hurts."
"You were lucky. He only got a mouthful." Willow beamed at Kennedy, "Thanks to my girl."
Kennedy smiled back, feeling uncharacteristically shy.
Janey didn't know how she had managed to get her mentor back to their shared cell without arousing suspicion, but thankfully she had.
After cleaning the blood from Faith's hands and face, she'd stripped the prison grey sweatshirt from Max's still unconscious body and made Faith put it on over her own. That managed to hide the bloodstains on her top.
Faith had followed her instructions quickly and without question, without even seeming to realize she was.
After cleaning herself up Janey checked Tony's pulse. It was strong even though he hadn't come around yet, so at least Lolitta hadn't killed him like she'd threatened. She used the keys hanging from his belt to unlock the metal bracelets still attached to Faith's wrist's and hid them in the top of one of the toilets. T.V. was educational, despite what her parents said.
The corridor outside the restroom was deserted, but that wasn't surprising - at this time of day no guards had any reason to be down here unless they were escorting prisoners to the Governor's wing, and that wasn't a common occurrence despite both her and Faith going that day.
At the gate at the end, Janey waited nervously for it to be unlocked, expecting at any moment to be questioned on why they weren't with a guard.
It was Ruby who opened the gate and ushered them impatiently through, she didn't look all that suspicious as she slammed the gate closed, probably because she didn't much care.
Faith nearly blew it all in that moment. When Ruby turned from re-locking the gate Faith was still standing in front of her, mouth opening and closing, the words she wanted to say stuck in the back of her throat.
"I..." she managed.
Janey stood there worrying, wanting to drag Faith away but not wanting to draw attention to them.
"Come on. Spit it out Wilkins if you got something to say. Otherwise get out of my sight, the pair of you," Ruby ordered.
Faith looked down at her feet and then away across the room before looking at the guard again. "Uh...nothin' I guess."
After that little heart attack they'd made it back to the cell without further incident.
Which was where they were now. Faith sat on the floor against a wall, staring into space, bruised and cut knuckles flexing constantly.
Janey was sat on her bunk watching Faith watch nothing.
"Okay, well I'm cold and wet and just about ready to go home," Buffy decided, looking around at the others.
There was a chorus of agreement.
"A few of us should probably stay here to guard the Hellmouth," Willow said. "I don't know how long my spell will bind its power and we don't know how many vamps survived."
There were a few groans to that. "Do we have to?" Buffy asked. She held up her hands before anyone could answer her. "No, no, I know you're right. The last thing we need is to go through all this just to have the demon Lord Thing rise as we drive off. How many do you think, Will?"
Willow shrugged. "Doesn't have to be many. If you see anything, just call the house and we can all come back out."
"Okay, well I'll stay," Kennedy offered. She grabbed a bag of weapons out of the back of the truck and pulled a crossbow from it.
"Me too," Rona said, leaning on her axe. "Call me crazy, but it's actually nice to feel a little cold and wet for a change after a couple of months of scorching heat."
"You're crazy," Buffy dead-panned.
"I never was a So-Cal chick like you; I'm not scared of a little weather," Rona responded.
Buffy chuckled, not rising to the bait. "Fair enough."
"I'll stay," Alison offered. "I could get used to this monster fighting." She twirled a stake between her fingers and dropped it. "And I obviously need the practice," she continued off of everyone's smirks.
"I'll stay too, then," Kate said, pushing her wet, disheveled curls out of her eyes.
"Are you sure?" Buffy asked. "You don't have to. We only really need four of us, one for each side of the church."
Kate nodded. "I'm sure. If this is my calling, then I might as well embrace it. If a job's worth doing and all that; and I know this one is."
Buffy smiled at her. "And I think you'll be great at it," she told the Irish girl sincerely.
"Well B...uffy, you might as well go back to the house," Kennedy said, catching her slip just a second too late. She didn't mean to do it. "Like you said, four will be enough and you are retired." Busying herself with loading her crossbow, she nonchalantly added. "Go and polish your scythe or something."
Her voice betrayed her smirk.
Buffy glared at her but a smile twitched at the corners of her mouth. After an inner debate on whether to make something out of it she just nodded again. "Okay, thanks. I will."
Willow shook her head at her girlfriend and gave her a goodbye kiss. Kennedy grinned and shrugged.
Vi and Cici jumped into the back of the truck with Miranda, who was still looking a little pale and shaky and Willow got in the driver's seat.
Buffy turned back to Kennedy before she got in the passenger seat. "Kenny, don't so anything rash. Any more than you can handle, phone straight away, okay? I think we've nipped the demon in its bud, but just in case - Be careful."
"Understood," Kennedy said with a little nod and began directing the other three girls to where she wanted them.
"So are we going to talk about it or just sit here in silence until the dinner bell?" Janey finally broke the half hour silence.
"There's nothing to talk about," Faith answered in a low voice not looking at the blonde.
"Well you could have fooled me."
"I'm a good actress."
"Faith," Janey began quietly. "What you did in the bathroom wasn't avoidable..."
Faith started laughing but there was no humor in it.
"...Not beating Lolitta to a bloody pulp, that was going too far, but if you hadn't done something...I'd be dead by now, and so would that guard. You saved our lives and as far as I'm concerned that's a good thing."
"If it wasn't for me your life wouldn't have been in danger in the first place," Faith countered.
It was Janey's turn to laugh. "You really think Lolitta and her cronies only turned homicidal because of you? Get over yourself."
Faith looked up shocked.
"Maybe it wouldn't have been me if she didn't have a grudge against you, but it would have been somebody else, most likely someone who wasn't a slayer and couldn't handle getting stabbed in the back."
"J, shit, I forgot." Faith jumped to her feet and made her way to the blonde's bunk. "How is it? Let me look."
Janey stood and turned, allowing Faith to lift her shirt to inspect the wound. "Hurts like a bitch, but I'm still...ow...here."
Faith looked at it carefully. "It's not deep, you're lucky it was only a small blade, and it didn't go anywhere important..."
"Tell that to my skin," Janey grimaced around a strained smile as Faith gently ran a damp wash-cloth over it to clean up the blood.
"I thought that bitch was supposed to be some kind of professional killer. I could stab someone better than this."
"I'm totally glad she couldn't," Janey said, sitting back down once Faith had finished.
Faith slumped back down on her own bed and drew her knees up to rest her chin on them, her arms wrapped around her shins. "I lost it there, J. If it hadn't been for you, I'da killed her. Who's to say I didn't anyway? She musta lost enough blood. How can I go to court tomorrow knowing I'm still capable of that? I should be locked up."
"I don't care if you killed her," Janey said fiercely. "She had it coming."
"Janey, she's human... I've crossed that line once, I can't do it again."
"No she's not." Janey remembered back to her sedative induced nightmares. "She may not be a vampire or a, a monster in the fairytale sense..." she paused while she thought about that sentence. "...Or real sense. But she wasn't, isn't human. A human being doesn't kill people for fun, only a monster does that."
Faith shook her head, smiling darkly. "People used to say that about me once."
Janey didn't have an answer for that.
Faith started to get up. "I guess I should go and tell someone I've been a bad doggy again and still need to be caged. Gunn'll need a head's up too. Damn, he's gonna be pissed at me."
"Faith, no! You have a chance of being released tomorrow. Wasn't it you who said that you could make more amends for your past on the outside than on the inside? That hasn't changed. If you feel so guilty for kicking that scum-bucket's butt, get out there and make amends for it by helping the people who need it."
Faith smiled genuinely, a little surprised by Janey's outburst. "Anyone would think you wanted rid of me."
Janey smiled back. "I do."
A loud, insistent buzzing sound startled them both.
"That's not the dinner bell," Janey observed.
Faith frowned. "No, it's a shake. They must have found them. Guess it's out of my hands now." She looked down at the stolen sweater. Her own blood-splattered one was still beneath it. Providing they didn't do any strip searches there was no reason anyone would know. "You don't say a word, got it," she told Janey who was looking scared stiff all over again. "They find out you tried to hide it, you'll be in as much trouble as me.
"Get to the back of the cell!" Yelled a guard from the other side of the door.
Both Faith and Janey did as they were told and the door was opened.
Two guards, Ruby and some new young guy, came in. The guy started pulling the cell apart, probably looking for whatever kind of weapon could do that much damage. Faith could hear similar going on all the way down the halls, mingled with the inmates' disgruntled protests and the guards barked orders.
Ruby stopped in front of them. "You girls have anything you wanna tell me?" she asked.
"About what?" Janey shot back.
Faith turned her head and glared at her, but she had to admit the kid had a pair on her.
"Seems we've had some attacks in one of the restrooms. Lolitta, Max and Sadie were beaten up and unconscious and so was one of the guards, Tony. Ring any bells?"
Faith looked at Ruby confused. She'd seen them in that very corridor, hell she'd been the one to let them out of the corridor when they were alone and unsupervised and had no reason to be down there together. Why was the guard playing dumb?
Tentatively she shook her head and fiddled with the waistband of the ill-gotten sweatshirt.
Ruby's eyes dropped to Faith's hands and took in their battered appearance before meeting her eyes again. "No, neither has anyone else, surprise, surprise."
The male guard had finished ransacking the cell and was stood by the door waiting for further instructions from Ruby. He hadn't found anything. Faith had stopped keeping stuff she wasn't meant to have the day she and Wesley had jumped from a window together.
Ruby shook her head in resignation at the other guard and waved him out of the cell. "You hear anything you think I'll wanna know, come and tell me. Personally I think that psycho waste-of-space finally picked on someone she couldn't handle. You believe in karma, Faith?"
Faith couldn't answer because she was too busy fighting the urge to grin, or laugh, or do a little happy dance, or maybe all three.
Ruby continued. "Anyway, good luck tomorrow, although I doubt you'll need it with Wolfram and Hart running things, the bastards." She winked at Faith, whose mouth dropped open, and turned to Janey. "There's plenty more Lol's in here, kid, watch your back, yeah?" And then she turned and left.
Faith turned to Janey as the cell door slammed shut and was locked - standard procedure for any cell that had already been checked - her eyes wide and mouth still hanging open.
"Did that shit really just happen?"
Janey looked around at their messy cell. "Yep. I guess you can't go own up now, can you. Not unless you want to make her mad."
Faith nodded. "Besides it would be rude or something, right?"
Janey grinned and Faith grinned back.
Slowly it disappeared. "But what if it happens again, J? What if I lose control like that and there isn't someone there to stop me? Maybe I shouldn't be getting out."
Janey groaned. "Not again."
"Okay, maybe I should be getting out, but maybe I shouldn't be going back to the Scoobies. Not until I know I can control it. I've put them through the whole psychotic slayer thing once; I don't wanna do it again."
"You can control it. They were bullying you for how long before you snapped, and then you only snapped because they were holding a knife to my throat," Janey replied, exasperated.
"Yeah, well what if I enjoyed snapping?" Faith almost whispered. It wasn't something she wanted to admit, even to herself, but she knew she had to. The joy of rage, of feeling bones snap because she said so, even the red haze that descended blocking out everything but the feel of fist meeting soft flesh. If she ever wanted to be better, she knew she had to face up to it, and damn it, she did want to be better.
"So go get some therapy," Janey said simply.
Faith chuckled. "You make it sound so simple."
The blonde shrugged. "And you make it sound so hard. Slice it down the middle and it'll be like everything else that's worth it." She looked hard at Faith. "If it is worth it, that is?"
Faith nodded. "It is."
"Well then concentrate on getting out tomorrow, and then worry about what you're going to do next. If you don't want to go see Buffy and her friends, then no one can make you."
Faith lay back on her bunk and stared up at the grey stone ceiling. Not go and see B, was that really an option, and if so, was it one she could even consider?
Mellusa stood in the trees. An umbrella held over her head to stop the drips as she watched the proceedings in front of her.
So there really was now an army of Slayers. She'd heard the rumors of course, but it sounded impossible. With her years of experience she should have known that there were very few things that were impossible.
She wondered how they had managed it, and who had managed it. Surely the Watcher's Council would never have had the means to change the world in such a way.
Either way, it was good to finally know for sure. It wouldn't have hurt to learn this another night, but no mind. In a hundred years she would have chance again to raise her beloved, and meanwhile, she quite enjoyed being single.
More annoying was the loss of all her vampires. She had spent months amassing her own army, going so far as to sire many of them herself to be sure to have enough for the sacrifice. She wasn't keen on the company of other vampires, uncouth and undisciplined most of them, but they were useful from time to time. Tonight, even if the Slayer's hadn't intervened, Jupitus would have needed the blood of fifty undead to complete his raising. Not that her minions had known their role, they just followed her blindly. Well they had until they were dusted.
Her human features were at the fore now and when she smiled it truly was beautiful. Her trip to this tiny little place didn't have to be a complete waste. There was an old friend who lived somewhere in this small corner of the world; she would find him and pay him a visit. He would be glad to see her, she was sure.
"But first," she decided, "one for the road." She made a simple sign in the air with her fingertip and walked forward.
Kate was pacing back and forth along the west wall of the church trying to keep warm and regretting a little that she'd offered to stay. The rain may have stopped but her clothes were still damp and the temperature out here was cold after midnight.
She sensed someone behind her and spun around quickly, stake raised, but it was just Alison doing her own pacing along the north wall. Allison laughed at Kate's nervousness and Kate smiled back.
"Only a few hours 'til sunrise," Alison called over buoyantly before disappearing back behind the church.
Kate nodded. It wasn't that bad really, she supposed. After all she had a mission here, a destiny, which was more interesting that studying for her exams and baby-sitting her little brothers. Not that she didn't miss the hyperactive terrors, but there were other...
A hand covered her mouth from behind before she had time to think of screaming, another pulled at the collar of her wind-breaker - tearing it. Kate's eyes went wide as she felt the twin pricks in her neck and she tried to struggle, but she was held fast.
Her struggles calmed as her blood was pulled from her neck; her eyes glazed over and her head lolled to one side. She could hear a ringing in her ears and was looking for the light as the last of her life force was sucked from her.
And then she was gone.
Mellusa gently laid the body onto the wet grass and closed its eyes.
"Pleasant dreams little one," she whispered to the corpse, after licking her lips.
She walked back into the trees and under the cover of them; she waved a hand and became visible once more.
"Mmm. It's been too long," she said to herself as she walked, "since I last tasted the blood of a Slayer. I will not leave it so long before the next time."
The kitchen was the only room in the house still lit. Buffy and Willow were staying up in case Kennedy phoned for back-up, but so far there had been no alarms. They sat drinking cocoa and talking quietly.
"So you didn't know the spell had worked when you yelled at him?" Buffy asked.
"Well no, but I was kinda preoccupied with my eyebrows at the time," Willow shrugged.
Buffy licked foam from her upper lip. "I get that. Totally understandable."
"And he was being such a butthead about it." Willow shook her head slightly. "I want to help him through this Buffy, but he won't let me."
Buffy sighed. "I know. I tried to talk to him last night, but he just kept shutting me down."
"So what do we do?"
Buffy half-smiled. "I guess we just have to keep trying until he breaks."
Willow nodded. "And what about you? Still want to go to L.A.?"
Buffy chuckled. "No. Well yeah, but I won't. I can't."
"Why not? Apocalypse averted again. Maybe we can get you on one of those really fast planes in the morning and you can zoom there in time for the appeal."
Buffy considered it for a split second, and then shook her head. "She doesn't want me there, Will. I have to face the fact that if anything is going to happen it has to be on her terms, at least until she gets here; if she gets here. If I go being all clingy girl-friendy now she'll probably just head for the hills without even giving us a chance. I can't risk that."
Willow smiled. "Well I think that's very mature, Buff. Let her come to you and see what she's missing."
"That's the plan." Buffy took a sip of her cocoa. "I just wish I knew if she was actually coming or not. I mean I think she is, I've got this feeling in my gut, but I'm pretty sure the medical term for it is 'wishful thinking.'"
Willow smiled sympathetically. "I guess it's just a case of waiting and seeing."
Buffy nodded. "And that's the part I'm not liking. As soon as Giles calls with the verdict I can brace myself for her arrival, or I can go get that Intra-Air season ticket."
"Huh?" Willow's brow scrunched.
Buffy smiled softly. "Never mind. Anyway let's talk of happier, if no less confusing things. How goes your love-life."
Willow grinned. "Great actually, so I'm kinda just waiting for the anvil to drop on one of us."
"And she's okay with you looking for Oz?"
Willow nodded vigorously. "Totally one hundred percent. Unless she's a really good liar." She frowned. "Is she? A really good liar, I mean?"
Buffy shook her head. "I don't think so Will. She doesn't seem like the type to lie about something like that. I mean if she was pissed about you looking for your ex, I think she'd just come out and say it."
"Yeah me too, and it's not like I want to rekindle anything; I'm happy with Kenny. It's just if Oz is out there somewhere, nearby, I want to see him. He's still Oz, ya know?"
"Yeah I know. It's the same with Angel. I may not be in love with him anymore but he'll always have a piece of my heart." Buffy smiled softly. "So how are you getting on with finding him? Made any more progress now that you don't have to hide it?"
Willow shook her head and got up to make more cocoa. Her socked feet slipped a little on the newly polished floor making her smile. "Not so much. I'm pretty sure he's in the area, or at least this part of the country. 'Dingoes Ate My Baby' played a gig at a club in Detroit a month back and Oz played a couple of guest sets on lead guitar. There was a big woohoo about it on their website."
"So that narrows it down some then. Can't you do a locator spell? We can do it now, while it's quiet." Buffy accepted her fresh mug from her friend, looking up all eager.
Willow shook her head. "I already tried, I think the wolf charms he wears are maybe blocking it and anyway there will be no more spell-casting tonight."
"You have a magic curfew now?" Buffy smirked. "Wow, Giles really is getting strict."
Willow laughed. "No I'm just all tapped out for one night. The binding spell took a lot of energy and with the few mis-casts..."
"Or not," Buffy added.
"...or not, I'm pretty drained. I can only use energy I've created myself, that's safe. It's when I start drawing on power that doesn't belong to me that things have a tendency of going bad. It's all about balance and respect for my gift. Because it is a gift and for a long time I didn't see that. I thought I mastered the power; that I could bend it to my will, control it, but it was the other way around. Now I respect that this was a gift that some higher power gave me to help me help you fight evil. If anything good is to come from my power then I have to work with it. Not as its master or as its slave, but as its... equal isn't the right word, but I'm tired and can't think of another one."
"Oh...You realize I only understood about half of that right?" Buffy asked.
"That's okay. I don't understand it all myself yet, but Giles is helping a lot."
"Yeah, he is pretty cool, isn't he?" Buffy agreed with a fond smile.
"Always been the one saying it." Willow slid her feet over the cool tiles under her chair.
Buffy giggled. "It's nice, don't you think, that I met you and Xander and then we met Giles and he's been like this big guiding light for both of us."
Willow frowned. "Yeah, I kind of marred it by trying to kill him that one time though."
"I've punched him a few times, I mean only when I had to but still, I bet it pissed him off."
Willow grinned at her best friend, but it quickly turned back to a frown. "Maybe Xander would be better if he had a big guiding Giles light?" She pondered.
"But he does," Buffy countered.
Both women fell into silence, thinking about Xander.
After a while Willow said: "Maybe he doesn't know it yet."
Xander sat alone in the training barn painting the dorm barn shutters and re-painting the ones Goorzar had messed with the day before. With four of the girls still out at that Pleasant Creek place the dorm wasn't being used tonight, but it would be nice to get them fixed on tomorrow.
He knew the others were back, he'd heard the truck pull up anyway, but Dawn still poked her head in the door to see if he wanted to come in and hear of the adventures with her and Andrew. He hadn't so she'd gone back to the house without him.
Finally he finished the last one and propped it against the wall to dry. He reached into a cooler he'd placed in the corner out of the way and grabbed a beer. He opened it and looked at it for a long time before swallowing any. Putting it on his workbench he picked up a can of white paint from the floor and prised the lid off with a screw driver.
Taking the can, a paint brush and his beer to the far wall he began to paint.
"Buffy, shh, you'll get us in trouble," Willow giggled.
"I'll get us in trouble? It was your idea," Buffy giggled back.
"I'm not the one saying wheeee every time."
"Sorry, I think one of those green cocktails is still lingering," Buffy apologized, still laughing. "One more time?"
Willow nodded and they both rushed to the end of the hallway.
"As long as Dawn doesn't see, or I'll never hear the end of it," Buffy panted. "On three..."
After the count of three the two of them ran a couple of steps before letting their momentum slide them across the polished floor, clutching each others shirt sleeves. Their legs got entangled as they flew through the kitchen doorway and landed them both in a giggling heap on the floor.
"I think I broke something," Willow wheezed when she could breathe again.
The day had dawned bright and clear and Faith could testify to that in court if she had to because she'd been awake and staring through the bars of her window when it had happened. She just wished she was going to court over something so simple.
The van had come and taken her away to the courthouse where she'd been frog-marched to a tiny featureless room by an obviously overworked guard. She wasn't in there long before Gunn appeared.
"Nervous?" He asked.
She tried to smile, it looked scary. "It's not like I haven't done this before, but it didn't matter then. I knew I was going to prison, this time I have no idea how it's going to go down."
"Just relax, answer the questions you're asked, try not to piss anyone off and you'll be fine."
She didn't believe him but she'd done as he'd advised, apart from the relaxing part.
Angel and Giles had both done their parts and made her sound way better than she deserved to. She'd have to buy them both a beer if she got the chance. The shrink woman had stood up and said a bunch a stuff Faith didn't understand, but Gunn had whispered in her ear afterwards that he thought the judge was impressed.
Faith just figured Gunn was impressed; she was a nice looking lady.
The district attorney had stood up and asked loads of questions and then brought in his own people to take the stand. There was only two and only one was a shock.
Steve, her ex from how many years ago. He took the stand and muttered about how she'd always been bad, how she used to steal and lie and do anything she could to get what she wanted, no matter who got hurt in the way. Which was exactly what she had been like back in Boston between her mother dying and her Watcher taking her in. So had every other kid she'd run with back then. Up on the stand thingy she was watching Steve do it right now. She almost laughed, but Gunn shot her a warning look and she settled for biting her lip.
She wondered how much he was getting paid for standing up there. She wondered if it had only been enough to buy coke instead of the good stuff he liked, certainly looked like it with the way he kept rubbing his red nose. She wondered when he'd last had a bath and what dead body he'd robbed his ill-fitting suit from. Mostly she wondered how he hadn't ended up dead yet.
Then it was over and the jury had left the room to decide on their verdict and Faith didn't realize it was possible to sweat this much with out dying of dehydration. She scanned the small amount of people up in the gallery for the hundredth time. Lorne was up there and so were Fred and Wesley, plus a smattering of people whose idea of good entertainment was watching peoples' lives go down the pan.
Faith really thought she would have come, even though she'd told her not to. Since when did Buffy do as she was told, especially by her? 'Guess she really took what I said to heart,' she thought looking back down at her moist hands. Which was good, right? Still, it brought up more questions about what to do next if she was to walk out of here.
She'd had no contact with Buffy at all since she'd told her to go home to Cleveland and get on with her life. Maybe she'd done just that, maybe she'd already moved on, met someone else, and forgotten about her. She'd done it once before.
Big question: Could she go back to Cleveland just to watch Buffy hanging off some other guy or girl she didn't know? She didn't have time to think it through because the jury was coming back.
Her heart rate picked up. Crap, this was it.
The Judge had been talking for ten minutes already and Faith was trying to follow it, she really was, but it wasn't easy. The jury had found her not guilty of murder, but apparently that wasn't enough to let her go.
"You made some very poor decisions that not only ruined your own life, but also those of others, and for that you must still be held accountable and complete the remainder of your sentence..."
Faith's face fell and she wanted to slump back in her chair but she couldn't because she had to stand up. Although why she had to behave now was beyond her. It was over; she could do what she liked.
"...However, I am lessening the charge to manslaughter by coercion and re-sentencing you to five years imprisonment, with a further three months added due to your little sabbatical. Time already served and good behavior to be taken into account".
The Judge stood from his bench and gathered his papers, and almost as an after-thought he added, "Court dismissed."
Everyone hurried to politely stand as he swept out of the room, except Faith who finally gave into the desire to fall back in her chair.
"So that's good then, right?" She asked Gunn when he turned to smile at her. "I mean my time got dropped from twenty years to five so we did good." Her voice was flat.
"Yeah, I'd have said it was okay," Gunn dead-panned but he was still smiling.
Faith nodded to herself. "Only five more years, I can do that. Hell I nearly done that already, same again won't be so hard," she convinced herself.
Gunn was looking at her like she was a little crazy and he still hadn't lost that grin. It was starting to annoy her.
"Faith, what are you talking about? We won. In fact we got the jackpot." Seeing her confused look he did some quick calculations in his head. "You're free as of a week next Tuesday. Or on parole anyway."
Faith's jaw had dropped and hit the desk with a thump, or so it felt. She stared at her lawyer, a slow grin growing as she said with her usual finesse...
"You've gotta be shitting me."
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