Giles' glasses lay discarded and smudged on the table top and he pinched the bridge of his nose as he considered his next words.
"I'm not sure what else to say; Angel and his friends have extensive resources now available to them and they are employing every one of them to find her, and of course the Watcher's Council will do all we can." He accepted a glass of scotch from Xander. "If I had known you were planning all of this, I would have rung to inform you sooner, but Willow assured me you wanted it to be a normal night." He looked over at Buffy sitting to his right. "And I wanted to be here, in case..." He didn't finish.
She met his eyes briefly. "It's okay, you weren't to know." She went back to fiddling with a bendy drinks straw.
He sat and watched her until Willow broke the silence; well, it would be silence if it wasn't for the pounding music in the next room and the background of chatter. English chatter mostly, for once. This lent a surreal back drop to his return which he could have done without tonight.
"So she just took off? Just like that?"
"So it would appear. Angel seemed to think she just needed a little space, some time to regroup, but then when she failed to show up at the hotel or the airport... Well I don't know what she's thinking. Maybe..." He didn't have a maybe though, or he did, but it wasn't one he wanted to share in front of Buffy. For instance, maybe Faith never had any intention of returning with him in the first place.
"But...but..." Willow looked to Buffy, but the blonde didn't look back, so she turned back to Giles. "...didn't she have to come here? I mean, what about her parole? Won't they be kinda pissed at her? Will they...?" She looked back down at her hands.
Giles sighed deeply, and now he retrieved his glasses from the wood and used the bottom of his untucked shirt to clean them. On the opposite side of the table he heard Xander shift in his chair. The wooden legs scraped across the polished stone jarringly. Already scuffed again, he realized; too many feet tramping in and out.
"We haven't told the authorities. At present there is no need for anyone else to be informed, and I believe we can find her before that need will arise." He took a swallow of his scotch, relishing the burning flavor and hoping there was more. He felt a great need to get mind bogglingly rat-arsed once this was over. Damn, he still had the lads Pryce had sent over to deal with yet. He hoped Xander had finished the other barn to be used as a dormitory. They couldn't very well put the boys in with the girls and expect trouble not to ensue.
"How long do we, does she, have?" Buffy looked as if she was trying to recreate a favored balloon animal from the plastic straw.
"Well, her parole officer will be coming out here Monday to evaluate the, uh, school and to assess how well Faith is fitting in here. If she's not here..." To say it would look badly was a gross understatement, but he didn't think he had to point this out. "But I have fa... I see no reason why we can't find her in that time with Angel's law firm heading the search from L.A.; and we still have plenty of contacts through the Watcher's Council, and Faith is somewhat, uh, noticeable," he finished, a little uncomfortable with his choice of words. However he noticed it coaxed a tiny smile from his Slayer, which warmed him far more than the scotch.
"Okay," Xander's beer bottle scratched the table top as he pushed it away from him and scrubbed a hand through his hair. He pulled at it and then released it in favor of rubbing beneath his eye patch elastic irritably, just over his ear. Giles wondered if it caused him a lot of bother, and then chastised himself. The loss of an eye would render the itch of elastic unnoticeable, most probably. "So what? We find her and try to reason with her. Or we find her and drag her back here kicking and screaming. Either way we have a week to do it."
Giles nodded at the boy. Not a boy anymore, he had to keep reminding himself of that. Willow and Buffy had always been more grown up than their ages should have allowed. It was Xander who had lagged behind, but not anymore. They'd all be twenty-three in the coming year.
"And how exactly are we gonna accomplish this plan?" Xander asked, his voice tired and exasperated.
"As I said, with all our..."
Xander interrupted, "No, not the finding part. Not even the reasoning part, Buffy could do that, or maybe Angel, not me though." He started to chuckle nervously, before squashing it by swallowing. "I meant the dragging while she kicks and screams. She's a Slayer and she's Faith. It might not be as easy as we want it to be."
Giles looked sideways at Buffy who didn't react at all.
"Does this mean we're assuming Faith is...um," Willow steepled her fingers in front of her, and Giles could see the tips going white as she physically tried to compress her words into something manageable. "Do we think she's off the wagon?"
"Wagon?" Giles asked perplexed, his attention on the grinding of Buffy's teeth which was clearly audible above the din from the next room.
"The, uh, the, you know, sanity wagon," Willow finished nervously.
Everyone flinched as a plastic straw was ripped into two halves.
"Sorry," Buffy muttered, trying to poke both ends back together.
Giles took them gently from her. "That's quite alright, Buffy, we have more straws."
She nodded and concentrated on digging her thumbnail into the already scarred surface of the table.
Giles turned his attention to Willow. "No, we have no reason to believe that, and jumping to those types of assumptions will do a lot more harm than good," he told her firmly.
Willow looked chastised even though he hadn't meant to make her feel like that. He tried to clarify his thoughts a little.
"Angel may be right in that Faith just needs some space to adjust to life on the outside, so to speak. She could well turn up at his place at any time, in which case he will talk with her and see that she is put on a plane to Cleveland." He replaced his glasses before he continued, feeling defeated. "And if that hasn't happened within the week, then well, it will be out of our hands."
"Which means?" Buffy asked quietly, not looking at him.
"I don't know for sure," he admitted. "But if the shows on television have any truth in them, then there will be a warrant put out for her arrest, and if caught, she'll go back to prison."
"But surely, after all her hard work to get out she wouldn't risk that?" Willow asked, distressed. "I mean, would she?" She looked at Buffy, who gave a barely perceptible shrug.
"This is Faith we're talking about, right?" Xander said. "Which means that she's probably out there right now, having the time of her life and not even thinking about the trouble she's causing."
"Xander, not now."
Xander turned his head the better to see Buffy, and answered her. "I don't mean it in a bad way..." Off of everyone's looks he amended his words. "I don't mean it in a she's gone crazy, cue big cackle-ly laugh way. I just mean she's been cooped up for months and she's probably out there just letting off a little steam. She'll be back with her tail between her legs when she runs out of, uh...steam. That's all."
Giles could see that Xander was trying to genuinely help, but he could also tell from Buffy's posture and expression that he wasn't. He looked around for another source of inspiration, but Buffy spoke first.
"Yeah, that's probably it. She's just out there partying somewhere, making the most of being young, free and single, I get that." She stood up.
"Buffy..." he began.
"No," she cut him off, "I mean it. It's okay. She has seven days until she's in any trouble, right? So why are we worrying yet and why are we all sitting in here sad and mopey? We have our own party to go to." She smiled at them; it made Xander flinch away.
Willow stood up too. "Buffy, you don't have to do this. You have every right to be upset and we're right here with you, or for you. Whatever you need," she promised.
Giles nodded along with Xander.
"Well what I need is for you to get your butts out there and enjoy this party I made you slave over. Come on you guys, I've been driving you crazy for ages about Fa..." her voice broke just a little. She swallowed. "...Faith. So this is my reward to you all."
"It's almost like you planned it," Xander joked weakly.
Buffy's face darkened again, if only for a split second. "Well, like you said, it is Faith. You can never be sure if she's going to play by the rules. Better to prepare for every eventuality, as Mom would say."
"What about you?" Willow came over to stand by her best friend, taking hold of one of her hands. "We can't leave you to be in here all sad and mopey by yourself while we have fun."
"Who said you're gonna?" Buffy said with a grin, strained but real. "That was hard work ordering the rest of you around, I need a party too. Besides I need to check out these Watcher-wannabes, a wheat from chafe kind of deal, ya know."
Giles smiled and got to his feet also. "Are you sure, Buffy? You don't have to do that tonight if you don't want to. I believe Dawn has the hostessing covered and..."
"Giles, seriously, all of you: stop overreacting. On a scale of one to ten this is... I'm fine, trust me." With a flick of her hair, she pasted on a bright, beaming smile and pointed to it, whether as reassurance or instruction Giles wasn't sure, and opened the door to the living room. "Let's get this party started!"
Giles hesitated along with Xander and Willow only long enough to give each other raised eyebrows and unsure smiles before following Buffy through the door.
Faith shifted in the seat, cracking her neck first one way and then the other. Driving sure as hell made the muscles go stiff. How long had she been doing it for now? Three, four hours?
Faith checked her new wristwatch. Huh, that couldn't be right. After shaking her wrist she checked it again. The hands hadn't moved. A loud honking made her realize where she was and she grabbed at the wheel with both hands and jerked the car back into her own lane.
She'd barely been driving an hour and half; how was that possible? She wondered how far she'd gotten; she hadn't passed a sign in a while. She wasn't even entirely sure which direction she was traveling in any more.
After getting rid of the creep she'd been more concerned with how to get the car in gear and actually moving than anything else. It was harder than she remembered it being.
After ditching him, she'd changed her mind about heading to Vegas. She didn't have the kind of money you needed to enjoy a place like that. Besides, the guy would get picked up by someone sooner or later and Faith just knew that he was the kinda jerk that would try and rape a chick only to call the cops on her when she got the upper hand. That meant there could be an APB out on his car any time in the next twenty-four hours, and he knew where she'd been heading.
This was assuming he got picked up of course. "'Cause it would be so bad if a schmuck like him had to walk a few hundred miles to find water," she said grimly.
She'd done the guy a favor. She hadn't killed him. That was where the favors stopped. She wasn't going to feel bad for breaking his arm and shoving him out of his own car. Not after what he had wanted to do to her. He was lucky she'd opened the door for him first instead of pushing him straight through the metal and glass. Okay, so she may have broken a couple of toes too. He should have laid still like she told him. If he was gonna wriggle around like that while she was trying to get his pants off then it wasn't her fault. Asshole was lucky she hadn't broken the whole foot. S'not like they were important toes; it might hurt a bit but he could still walk, kind of.
She looked at the suit pants she'd stolen laying on the passenger seat. They were nice, well-made and all. She could probably sell them, make a little extra. She bit gently at her lip while she considered it, then shook her head.
Balling the pants up in one hand she threw them out of the window. She didn't need nothing from him. Well except his wheels. Maybe if he managed to walk this far, he'd find them again. It was almost like she'd done him a good deed. This was way more than scuz like him deserved.
Or maybe not. Maybe he did deserve more. The back of her brain had been itching ever since she'd left him howling over nothing in the roadside dust. What if it was some innocent chick that picked him up and gave him a ride? What if he took out his frustration at Faith on her?
Faith wondered if Slayers could get ulcers.
She should have finished him off, or no, just broken both of his arms so he couldn't do shit but just sit there. She should have broken his collar bones, that hurt like hell. Then he wouldn't have been able to do a thing.
Damn, what if she'd just saved her own neck to get someone else's cut?
Frowning, she warred with her own mind. She'd been sporadically going over and over this since she'd dumped his ass out. This time she nearly turned the car around. If it had only been an hour and a half then it was only the same again back. She could go back, knock him out and stick him in the trunk. Then what? Drive him into a town and leave him somewhere, at a hospital maybe, because Faith was damn sure that if she saw him again he would need a hospital. Even more than he already did.
She slowed the car with a series of kangaroo jumps and was set to turn it around and head back the other way when her eyes caught a large sign looming out of the dusky kinda darkness.
She couldn't make it out from back here, so she pressed the accelerator and jumped forward a few times, cursing as she did so.
She'd never heard of it. She blinked at the sign again. There was another smaller sign just underneath, handwritten.
Real people? As apposed to puppets? Her tummy gave a growl. She was real people. She blinked again. Her anger at the sleaze back on the road was slinking away when faced with the idea of some food.
It had been a while since she'd eaten. She yawned and for the first time noticed she was tired too.
Turning in the seat she looked back over her shoulder like she would be able to see the bastard walking up the road. When she didn't, she stretched, hearing tiny pops coming from all over her body. Feeling a little less stiff, she drove forward again.
What were the chances of Angel or Giles or anyone looking for her in Tonopah, Nevada? Figuring not very high, she started looking out for the diner.
Xander looked up from his paper plate of munchies to catch Giles' gaze across the room. The English man gave a slight nod in return. They both looked to Willow, whose eyes darted to Buffy before giving them a surreptitious thumbs up.
Xander gave her a little smile and circulated. They were enjoying the party as instructed, but that didn't stop the three of them from preparing for a complete Buffy melt-down and the fallout that would come with it.
Buffy's moods had been way with the swingy for months now, even back when they were still living in Sunnydale. Recently, with the whole Faith thing, the household were used to going from bright and shiny to duck and cover in the time it took to finish a sentence.
He watched her now over the rim of his drink as she laughed and chattered with Vi and the girl-Watcher. She seemed perfectly happy, but whenever the attention was away from her for a second her face would fall and her fists would clench and her eyes would go to the door. Every time she looked she was disappointed and it made Xander's chest hurt.
He had never been a fan of Faith coming back there to live. He had his reasons and that was good enough for him. Seeing Buffy like this though, just made him determined to find Faith and haul her to Boudenver by her hair if necessary. Of course it would get his butt kicked so hard he would never be able to sit down again, but right now, it seemed more than worth it.
Xander was working his way over to talk to Willow about locator spells when he saw Buffy take a break from her mingle to go stand alone by the dip table. They didn't usually call it a dip table, they usually called it a coffee table, but tonight it had gone up in the world.
He changed his destination from Willow to the dip table. "I think the custom is to eat it once you've finished dipping," he told Buffy, grabbing a chip himself.
She looked from her overfilled Dorito to him. "Not hungry, just needed to get away from..."
"Everyone?" He asked gently.
"Just for a minute," she promised. "I'll come back out swinging in a second."
He gave a soft chuckle. "Please don't. Swinging Watchers will cause breakages and I have enough to do what with Giles' list an' all."
She seemed mildly interested. "Giles gave you a list?"
"Uh huh. As long as your arm and still growing." He took another chip, dunked it in something that promised to cheese and bacon, and crunched it up. "There's a lot to do and it all needs doing at once."
"Well you shouldn't let him put it all on you. He should pay someone to do it." Buffy's tongue flicked out and licked up some dip from her Dorito.
"He does." She had confused face, so he carried on. "I get bed and board, plus a little something Giles likes to call a retainer, which for some reason makes me think about dentistry, but it doesn't stop me taking it."
Buffy looked shocked. "I didn't know you were actually getting paid. How come I'm not getting paid?"
He looked at her incredulously. "Buffy, when was the last time you worked anywhere?"
She thought about it, taking more little licks of her chip. "The high school about six months ago, what's that got to do anything?"
"Well you haven't gotten a pay-check for six months and yet there is still food on your table and money in your pocket." His point sunk home and he grinned. "If anyone should have complaints about this, it should be me. All you do for your money is kill a few beasties and save the world now and again," he teased.
She smiled a little and finally ate the Dorito. It made Xander feel good to cheer her up.
"So how far behind are you with the fixing up?"
He groaned, the good slipping away a little as he contemplated it. Way, way too far. "A lot. The shower block isn't done which is going to mean the bathroom being extra busy this week."
Buffy groaned and he understood her pain, even as a guy. With the houseful they already had it was sometimes ten in the morning before he could get a shower. With the new arrivals it would be ridiculous. He made a mental note to set his alarm for earlier.
"Is their sleeping room set up? 'Cause if not, you know Giles is going to hit the roof." She was right. Giles had been nagging him about it for two weeks straight, even from England.
"It's done," he assured her.
She wasn't assured. "Are you sure? All we've seen you do is hide in the training barn all week. When did you get time to finish the boy's room?"
All the rest of the time when he hadn't been in the training barn. He knew Buffy had been preoccupied with her Faith stuff all week, but it stung a little that she hadn't even noticed he was never around. Didn't she miss him at meal times?
Xander shrugged. "I dunno, I found time."
There was a Dawn squeal from the other side of the room and they both looked over. She was talking to the self-professed leader of the young Watchers, Reece. Obviously, he'd said something mildly funny to get that kind of response.
"Dawn flirting should come with yellow police tape to keep the surrounding area safe for passers-by," Xander said, wishing really that he could send her to bed with some warm milk like they used to do when the adults were playing.
"No," Buffy argued with him. "Dawn flirting should just be banned, case closed."
"I don't think she'd like that idea all that much." Xander unhooked some tiny hairs that had become caught in his elastic strap and rubbed at the scalp beneath. "Unfortunately."
Buffy didn't seem too worried. "We'd be doing her a favor in the long run."
"What do you mean?" But he thought he knew where this was going.
She lifted one shoulder and let it fall again. "Relationships suck."
"Not all relationships suck. Sometimes it works out." Xander put a hand on her shoulder and felt her tense under it.
"Name one," she challenged.
"Pacey and Joey," he answered, quick as a flash.
"A real one, and besides it still early days for them."
Xander gestured across the room with his bottle. "Will and Ken seem to be doing okay."
"Again I hold up the early day's card. Give them time and it'll all come crashing down."
Xander frowned at her. "I get why you're cynical about your own relationships." Hell, he was too. About his own and Buffy's most of the time. "But it's not like you to be this way about other people."
"I'm not, not really," she promised, leaning her butt against the dip table and staring down at her feet. "I just... Is it ever going to work? How many Mr...Miss Wrong's do we have to go through before...?" She looked up at him with oceany eyes.
"Faith is a Miss Wrong now then?" He asked carefully.
"Well she's not Mrs. Fucking-Right at the moment, that's for sure."
Xander flinched at her angry tone. He'd never heard Buffy curse like that before, well maybe a little over Angel, and maybe Giles too when Buffy had been really pissed at him, but it wasn't something he was used to. It killed him to hear her so torn up, especially over Faith.
"Sorry," she muttered at his reaction and wiped a hand across her eyes. "She just gets me so..."
She didn't have to finish; he knew what she meant. Sometimes he'd wanted to throttle Anya because of the things she said and did, or the way she said them and did them. Other times they made him as hot as the good kind of hell. Either way she could always push his buttons. Love was indeed the wackiest of beasts.
Watching Buffy wipe at tears she hoped no one but him could see, Xander reached a decision. He'd wanted to wait until it was all done, to maximize the surprise, but it would have to do. His friend needed cheering up, and as sure as his name was Alexander Lavelle Harris, he was the man to do it.
"Buffy, would you come outside? I want to show you something." He held out his hand to her.
She looked at it. "Is this a come on?" She asked with a sniffly chuckle. "Are you taking advantage of my vulnerability, Xander?"
He chuckled back, his hand still waiting for hers. "Only if you want me to." He winked his good eye.
She put her hand in his. "Then what are we waiting for," she winked back.
He choked literally and metaphorically. "I was kidding." He laughed nervously as he tried to wrench his hand free from Buffy's. A few people looked over so he stopped moving abruptly and lowered his voice. "Kidding!"
"Jeez Xan, take a pill. So was I," she laughed at him.
"Don't do that to a guy Buffy, you could have given me a heart attack." He started to lead her into the kitchen. His pulse was still racing a little and he had no idea why.
"Well thanks for making me sound like such an attractive proposition. You started it."
Uh-oh, now she sounded offended. If this was how he cheered up women, maybe his name wasn't Alexander Lavelle Harris.
"Hey of course you're an attractive proposition and I'd love to, you know, but I have this little fear of taking advantage of you. What with all your exes still being in love with you and having supernatural strength. Well except Riley, but I don't think I could take him either."
Okay so this blithering wasn't helping if the increased pressure on his fragile man hand was anything to go by.
In the back garden he pulled his hand free with a grimace and a "Ye Gods." Resorting to a tried and tested argument, he said: "And anyway, you started it."
Buffy stood in front of him, not looking very happy, but at least the tears were gone. So score one for team Xander.
"So what did you want to show me?" She demanded.
The very male part of him that was constantly sat on by living with a bunch of girls had the urge to grab his crotch and thrust, but correctly surmising that this would land him flat on his back before he could blink, he squashed it. He bet Faith could have gotten away with it though. He nodded towards the dark training barn instead.
"You're gonna show me your big secret?" She sounded skeptical, which was not the attitude he wanted from her for this. Maybe he should wait for a time when he hadn't just inadvertently pissed her off.
"Don't you want to see it?" He asked, hopefully.
"I want to stop with the double entendres, but that's obviously not happening." Buffy walked towards the barn. "Did you bring a flashlight out?"
"Don't need one," he said proudly, walking quickly past her so he could reach the door first.
Again she looked skeptical, and this time it made him smile. The last time he'd let anyone in here but Andrew, it had been nothing. Nothing at all; just a big, open dusty space. He pulled the key free from his pocket and slipped it into the lock.
"Ta da!" He announced as he threw open the door.
Inside it was pitch black.
"Impressive," Buffy mused sarcastically. "I haven't seen darkness that dark in like forever. You've excelled yourself Xander."
"Okay for a stylin' move like that one would have been, I actually have to fit the door sensor and not just will it there," he grumbled as he went in and groped along the wall for the light switch. It was one of the little things he had wanted to get done before he showed her, but never mind.
Xander heard Buffy's footsteps echoing as she walked in behind him. His fingers found what he was looking for and he flipped a few switches.
Electric light flooded the big barn and he turned in time to catch Buffy's mouth dropping. Oh yeah, that's what it was all about. He still had it.
Dawn looked away from her fascinating conversation with Reece and another of the boys, Peter, when Buffy and Xander re-entered the party from the kitchen. Her sister was looking way brighter than she had earlier, thank God.
"Buffy," she called over.
Buffy gave her a smile from across the room and signaled that she'd be there in a minute.
"So that's your sister then?" Reece asked, checking the blonde out. "The legendary Buffy Summers."
"Uh huh," Dawn enthused "The one and only."
"She's as off her head as the books say," the other guy, Peter, laughed.
"Hey!" Dawn snapped. She wasn't sure she liked him too much anyway. Where Reece was full of charm and wit and knew loads about demons, Peter just thought he was full of charm, was snide instead of funny and didn't really seem to know all that much about why he was here.
"I'm just saying darlin'." Peter said smoothly. "No need to get your knickers twisted. I'm sure she's lovely under that eccentric veneer."
"Don't mind Pete, he doesn't get to socialize with women much. He's a bit out of practice." Reece led Dawn over to the dip table, shooting a wink at Peter behind her back. The slightly shorter young man scowled after them.
Kennedy came down the front stairs and went to join Andrew, Alison and another of the new guys -- boy not much taller than herself with neatly combed blonde hair and glasses that sat crookedly on his nose.
"Andrew, didn't you say you were putting Goorzie in your bedroom?"
Andrew nodded at her. "Uh yeah, why?"
"Well I just went in to see her and she's not there."
"Oh God. Buffy's going to kill me if she ruins things." Andrew looked around desperately, hoping to spot the baby demon before anyone else did.
"I think things are already ruined," Kennedy reasoned.
Andrew swallowed. "I guess, but we still have to find her. She could be anywhere!"
Kennedy agreed and the two went off to look.
"Who's Goorzie, another Slayer?" The English boy asked.
"Nah she's our pet demon." Alison looked around for a distraction. She was really missing Miranda and Cici right now, and Kate of course. She sighed; Anthony was a nice enough person, but he was hardly party material.
"Gosh," he spluttered into his soda. "You have a pet demon. That's very...um..."
"Giles!" Buffy startled her ex-watcher. "Did you see what Xander's done to the training barn?" She let go of Xander's arm and nudged him instead with her elbow.
Giles turned to them. "Ah, no. Is it bad?" He asked with a smile.
"Only in the sense that bad means really, really cool. You have to come see it." She grabbed his wrist and was obviously prepared to tow him along if he resisted.
"One minute Buffy." He halted her. "First let me introduce you to Miss Naomi Ramstock." He turned to a tall girl, about Kennedy's age, with long hair the color of white gold. Buffy had to look up to get a good look. The girl was definitely striking and Buffy had the sneaking suspicion that the hair color was real. That wasn't fair. "Naomi, this is Buffy Summers. my Slayer."
Buffy and Naomi shook hands. "It's nice to meet you, really, but I have to show Giles something." Buffy apologized. "We'll be right back."
"Of course, Miss Summers," Naomi said politely. As Buffy dragged Giles away, Xander smiled widely at Naomi. "I'm Xander. Slayerette."
They shook hands. "It's a pleasure to meet you Xander. I recall my father mentioning you after a trip to Sunnydale."
Xander blushed. "Really? I was worth a mention." Remembering the last time the Council had traveled to the Hellmouth, his enthusiasm waned. "Oh wait, it probably went somewhere along the lines of 'That foolish young man will get himself killed, if the Slayer doesn't.' Am I right?"
"Actually..." Naomi began, but a cry from Buffy made her pause.
"Xander, come get your praise!"
"I have to go," he said. "But I hope you enjoy your stay. It's a tourist town you know."
He backed away and when Naomi was standing alone once more, another of the new Watcher trainees joined her.
"Alright Nay." He looked around the busy room. "I'm starting to think this idea was stupid. Any chance your parents will fork out for an early ticket home?" The dark-haired lad rubbed at the tip of his nose, still checking the room out furtively.
"I believe there is no chance whatsoever." Naomi told him, slight amusement in her tone. "In fact if my father finds out that you lied to get the money out of him in the first place he'll probably make you pay back every last penny."
"I didn't lie! I just used my imagination to create an opportunity."
"So what are you going to do now? If you've changed your mind about 'The Plan'," she made finger quotes. "I'm pleased, but what next?"
"I haven't changed my mind about the plan, have I? I just think it's going to be riskier than I reckoned. This place 'ent as big as I thought. It's gonna be harder to not get noticed is all."
"Then why don't you come clean? What have you got to lose?" Naomi gave him a pointed look. She'd known this had never been a good idea, but he was her best friend so what could she do?
Her best friend turned on her suddenly, eyes colder than they had been a second ago. "Why are you here?" His voice was harsh and his expression was more so.
Naomi wasn't perturbed by his change of demeanor. "Because of my family's destiny, as well you know." She smiled softly. "And because it would break my father's heart if I denied it."
"And that's the same reason I can't come clean, as well you know," he returned softly, relaxing a little. "I've got a destiny too, en' I. Just a tad different from yours."
Naomi sighed deeply. "Then what?"
"Dunno." He looked around again. "I'll think of something."
"Hello you two. Is this your first visit to the States?" Willow bustled up, slightly annoyed that Giles, Buffy and Xander were off somewhere together with out her, but too polite to rush off after them and leave all the guests. On top of that her girlfriend had gone missing too. She looked around for her again now. "How long does it take to find a demon?" she wondered aloud. "I'm Willow, by the way," she added with a fixed smile, as they stared
"Is that some kind of conundrum?" Naomi asked, elbowing her companion in the ribs to get him to stop staring. "I'm Naomi Ramstock."
"You are Willow Rosenberg?" The lad asked in surprise.
"Uh huh," Willow confirmed nervously. Why was he staring like that? Did she have something in her teeth? Goddess, she hated social functions like this one, especially when everyone she held near and dear had gone AWOL. "And you are?"
"Craig," he bit his lip, "I mean, oh sod it, I'm Craig." He couldn't remember the name he was supposed to be using. He grabbed her hand and shook it vigorously to cover his gaffe.
Willow grinned at him. "Are you sure?" she teased. "If you'd like a minute to think about it..."
He smiled back, a full-on toothpaste commercial type smile which made his Creosote eyes sparkle mischievously. "I'm sure." He finally released her hand. "I can't believe you're Willow, and like actually here, y'know."
"You've heard of me then." She chuckled at his reaction. Now she knew how Buffy felt sometimes. Hero worship didn't suck.
"Are you joking? You tried to destroy the world. Of course I've heard about yer!" Craig yammered on.
And sometimes hero worship did suck. "We don't really talk about that." Willow looked around for a way out.
"Well no I don't s'pose it's something you're proud of, but still... I'd really like to hear about it some time. I've heard the stories, y'know, but..." Craig finally paid attention to the elbow nearly puncturing his spleen. "What?" He snapped at Naomi.
"I think we need to let Ms Rosenberg breathe for a minute Craig, why don't we get some more drinks?" Naomi took a hold of his arm.
"But..." he started.
"Actually I have to find the others anyway, but we'll talk later, okay. Although maybe not about ending the world. Giles might not like that." Willow slipped away, giving Naomi a grateful smile as she did. 'Whew that boy was intense.'
"Is this you being subtle?" Naomi asked her friend once Willow was out of ear shot.
Craig smiled at her. "I don't know what came over me, I just... Wow, Willow Rosenberg. My dad is not going to believe this when I write to him." He spotted Mr. Giles coming through the kitchen door. "Bugger, I better make myself scarce before I make things even worse."
Giving her upper-arm a little squeeze Craig walked away. As he passed the dip table, he picked up a bowl of chips and walked casually past their hosts, out into the kitchen and through the back door.
Taking his stolen crisps out beyond the girls' dormitory, Craig began looking for somewhere to hole up for a few hours out of the way. There were plenty of barns to choose from; the hard part was choosing one that he wouldn't get found in.
After peeking in a few dark windows, he settled on what looked like a garage. The people who lived here were throwing a party so there wasn't much chance of any of them needing a car.
Quietly he opened the door, pleased it wasn't locked, and let himself into the shadows. He could make out the shapes of several vehicles, but it was too dark to suss out details. Picking one in the middle, he felt his way around it and got in the passenger seat. So far so good; he started eating the chips. Now he just had to pull off the grand plan and everything would be gravy.
Dawn cornered Xander by the stereo at the same time as Willow did.
"Is she okay?"
Xander kept his voice low as he pretended to peruse some CD cases. "At present Hurricane Buffy is hovering harmlessly off the coast, but don't let this lull you into a false sense of security. She is still very powerful and could sweep through here and blow the crap out of all of us." He paused while he thought about that. "I'd like to change the 'blowing' metaphor for Dawn's ears but I can't think of a better one."
Willow was studying Buffy from their corner; she was joking around with Alison but about what Willow had no idea. "She seems okay."
"Appearances can be deceptive," Xander explained. "I'd suggest keeping away from her if weapons get involved; no mention of the F word at all unless she is restrained and ...Be careful of her humor," he held a finger up, "it is strange and and if misunderstood, will possibly lead to eruptions."
"I thought she was a hurricane a minute ago? Hurricanes don't erupt," Dawn corrected him.
"Do you think Buffy cares about little things like? If she wants to erupt she will."
Willow nodded, conceding his point. "How did you make it out alive?"
"I had a state of the art, fully functional training barn to give her," he admitted with a little pride. "If you don't have the same then I suggest you heed my advice."
"You two are so strange." Dawn was staring at them like they'd grown more heads. "She's just Buffy." Spotting something that made her eyes light up, she excused herself. "Reece and Peter are heading outside. I'd better make sure they don't get lost."
Xander and Willow watched her go. "Is it me or does that girl show no fear over imminent Slayer insanity?"
Willow was frowning. "I think living with Buffy for so long has given her immunity. I'm worried about her."
He shook his head. "Those kids know better than to mess with the Slayer's little sister; she'll be alright." He said the words to reassure her, but deep down he wanted to go out there and make sure Reece and Peter knew it too.
"Not Dawn," Willow said. "Buffy."
"Oh." They both looked over to her again. She was still standing with Alison, although it looked like the hit of happiness the training room had given her was starting to wear off. "She'll be okay. She has us."
Willow nodded but he wasn't sure she'd heard him. "We have to find Faith."
Faith looked around the small room.
It wasn't much, but it was still better than a lot of the places she'd slept. It had a bed, a tiny bathroom with a shower stall, and the very best thing - no bars on the window, no locks slamming closed and no crying or whimpering or screaming... She cocked her head a little, listening to something carried her way on soft night breeze, and smirked. Well not crying or whimpering or screaming in fear and terror anyway.
She dropped her bag by the foot of the bed and kicked off her boots. A shower would be good and then sleep. It was still early, not even nine yet, but the last twenty-four hours had taken its toll on Faith and she was about beat. Celebrating her freedom could wait for another night.
She'd found the diner easy enough and was pleased to see it was still open despite it being dark out. She didn't stop right away; first of all she'd driven through to the other end of town.
This place was, or had been, a mining town with plenty of evidence of that left around to amuse the tourists. At the far end of the main road was a turn off leading to the perfect example. Posters flapped in the gentle wind declaring tours of abandoned shafts filled with prospecting ghosts. It sounded like a hoot to Faith, but right now she was interested in it for more practical reasons. Turning off, she'd jerkily pulled the car away from the road, cursing as it bumped and scraped over ruts and fallen branches as she did so. When it was firmly wedged out of sight of the main road between boulders and bushes, she cut the engine and climbed out.
Locking the car up soundly Faith walked back the way she had come and checked on one of the flyers.
The tours didn't start up until ten in the morning, meaning that if luck was on her side for once, she had until nine - nine-thirty to get back to it and get gone. She'd need the ride in the morning for her plans sure as hell did not include spending the rest of her life in a one horse town in the middle of the desert.
The meal at the diner had been good, probably because she was starving and she'd have happily eaten the towns one horse if it came grilled with a side of fries. It hadn't come cheap though. Faith had some money from her work in the laundry, but if she wanted it to last until she ended up where she was going then she had to be careful.
"Slayer's gotta eat though," she justified the cost as she finished stripping off her road-dusty clothes and entered the shower. She hissed in pleasure as she did.
If the meal had been expensive, the room was more so. Apparently, according to the motel guy at the front desk, it was a busy weekend in where-ever the hell she was, which meant the prices were hiked way up.
She'd done her best, but the guy had to be gay because he hadn't lowered them for her.
Faith knew she wouldn't be able to spend every night in a motel, not if a plain little place like this in the middle of nowhere was asking that much. She hadn't thought about that when she'd skipped out, had she?
"Story of my life," she told the shower head, spitting out water as it got in her mouth. "I wouldn't be me if I started thinking things through."
No, but she'd probably be someone who was curled up in bed with the honey of her dreams. Wasn't that the person she wanted to be?
Yeah, but she wasn't that person, that was the whole point. She'd gone back to prison believing by the time they let her out again, she would have made peace with her demons and be a better person for it. Only then would she deserve to be the person that Buffy snuggled with at night, or in the morning...afternoon...evening...
And damn it, she'd done her best. She'd been the perfect little prisoner. Kept her nose clean, helped out her fellow inmate and it had all been for shit. They'd let her out too soon.
Maybe another six months and she'd have come to terms with what she'd done to Lolitta. Namely: one broken arm, four broken fingers, a fractured hip, broken jaw, five teeth out, one badly sprained ankle and a serious concussion. Oh and her nose had needed completely rebuilding, but on that score Faith figured she'd done the bitch a favor. Any cosmetic assist Lol could get had to be a good thing.
Janey had pointed out over and over the past week that Faith was better than she had been or else the Italian-American bully would have been dead.
Faith didn't buy it. The fact that, even if just for a second, she'd wanted to kill Lol, meant nothing had changed, and Faith wasn't going back to Buffy until she had changed.
Finishing up in the shower, she dried quickly and got into the bed naked. Damn, but that felt good to be between clean sheets and a comfy mattress. Mixed with the day's exertions and her full stomach; it wasn't long before she was asleep.
Andrew rounded a corner and suddenly came upon Dawn and some of the new Watcher potentials standing behind the girl's dormitory.
"Dawn, have you seen Goorzar? I've been looking everywhere."
"No, uh Andrew this is.." She began, gesturing to Reece, Peter and Rajiv.
Andrew looked to the people he was being introduced to. "Are you guys smoking? That's like, really not a good idea. If Mr. Giles finds out..."
"Then don't tell him and he won't," Reece countered. He stood nearly a head taller than Andrew.
Andrew didn't like to be dominated, but he had plenty of practice in it. Averting his eyes from the taller boy he looked to Dawn. "You're not smoking too are you? 'Cause Buffy will make you eat a pack if she finds out and..."
Dawn held up her cigarette free hands. "I haven't touched one," she assured.
"Well, that's..." Andrew swiftly glanced around him. Everyone was staring his way. "...Okay then, I guess. I have to find Goorzar now, but I'm gonna come back this way and I want to see all of these, these...cancer sticks put out. Have I made myself clear?"
Peter took a last drag on his cigarette. "Piss off, pillock." He drawled wearily and flicked the stub at Andrew's knuckles.
Andrew jumped back and pulled his arm to his chest even though the butt had glanced harmless off of his hand without burning him.
Andrew glared at Peter, who was looking the other way and sniggering, then to Reece who offered a shrug and wore the makings of a smile.
"I'm gonna go," he said quietly.
Dawn was about to go with him but he'd already disappeared by the time she'd finished glowering at Peter. "That was..." she began.
Reece smacked the jerk on the back of the head, cutting her off. "Be nice, you little shit," he warned.
Rajiv flicked his own cigarette away. "So Dora, do you know where we can get something a little stronger to smoke?" To Dawn he sounded like Spike had, when Spike wanted to sound bad.
Dawn shook her head slowly. Apart from Reece, who let's face it, was way out of her league and that little kid Anthony, who looked about fourteen, all these guys were asses. So much for the Trans-Atlantic affair she'd been planning.
Craig didn't know how long he'd been sat there in the dark. Probably not long. Possibly ten or twenty minutes. He could still hear music coming from the main house and every now and again snatches of conversation drifted past the garage.
The car seat was quite comfortable compared to them bloody seats on the plane and he was just starting to drop off when he heard a rattle from somewhere nearby.
He jerked himself upright. Snakes? It would be just his luck to come all this way only to wind up dead from a poisonous worm. He opened the car door, wanting to run like hell and get up on something high, but he hesitated before putting his leg out. Didn't they attack movement? He shuddered as he imagined twin needle-like teeth piercing his skin. No one knew he was in here. If his foot got bit then he wouldn't be able to walk and he'd die in here over night. They'd find his body in the morning all purple and bloated, and ...that.
He gave himself a full body shake and only just stopped short of slapping a hand to his cheek to calm himself down. His foot was almost on the floor when the rattle came again, except it was more of a clatter. He withdrew his leg, pulling his knee to his chin and hugging it. "Crikey it's a bloody mutant snake an' all. Bleeding Hellmouths," he muttered.
He nearly messed himself when he was answered in a low, raspberry-blowing growl. "Goorzie Bad Girl!"
He'd slammed the door shut again in his fright and now he sat all hunched up on the seat, shaking a little. "Snakes don't talk, not even mutant snakes. I don't think they do anyway." He rolled the window down part way. "Who-who's there?" He called out.
The rattle came again, making Craig flinch, followed by a shuffly-slithery noise that took him back to the snake image and caused him to tighten his grip on the door handle.
Five minutes must have passed and the sound of his heart beat was loud in his ears and he was sweating and his chest hurt from trying to hold his breath and if this was that bloody Peter taking the piss he was going to forget his motto of being a lover and not a fighter and knock his teeth down his piggin' throat.
Licking his suddenly chapped lips, he decided making a dash for it was the only thing left and he let go of the door handle long enough to disengage the lock and then grabbed at it again, ready to push the door open.
Before his courage peaked enough to make the move, two leathery hands gripped the half open window and a monstrous head was pulled into view.
Craig fell back across the seats with a shriek. From outside the car the monster shrieked back accompanied by loud bangs as its feet continuously hit the metal from the outside.
This went on until the young impostor realized the thing was laughing. Big, noisy hiccups supplemented a gravelly giggling sound and the occasional high pitched squeal. It was still a scary sound, especially in the dark when he could only make out shapes and shadows, but he felt it was definitely made from amusement and not malice.
Just what the hell was it?
"Shhhhhh," he tried to shut it up, becoming conscious of the amount of noise they'd made when he was supposed to be hiding. A wave of genius flashed through him and he fumbled around above his head until his fingers located a little tiny button and flipped it over.
The over-head light came on and Craig got his first good look at Goorzar. He jumped back from the leathery face with the squashed up nose and slightly elongated jaw housing a healthy amount of horse teeth. Or at least they looked like horses teeth, which was tons better than sharks teeth, he realized with relief.
Goorzar's wide, pale orange eyes stared back at the boy. She was temporarily quiet while she studied him, mouth wide open to better catch his scent.
"What are you?" He asked.
When he spoke she pulled herself up. Her long, thick fingers hooked over the half open window and she squeezed herself through the eight inch gap. Shoulders, knees and elbows dislocated themselves with no pain or discomfort and then flowed back to make proper shaped limbs once more.
Craig was fixated on the process, only becoming concerned again when he had a lapful of the demon. "So what are you?" He asked again.
She hooked her fingers into his shirt pocket and snatched up the bowl of chips he'd nicked with the other hand, or paw. A Dorito went into her mouth and she sucked it noisily. Satisfied she'd sucked all the goodness out of it, she took it out of her own mouth and gently tried to push the soggy crisp into Craig's.
"Ahhgerroff!" He told her, laughing and trying to keep his mouth closed at the same time.
Hiccuping, she pushed the offering up his nose.
Kennedy crawled out from beneath the stairs. No luck in there either. They were running out of options. She was beginning to think Goorzar had run away and maybe it was time to form a proper search party. Buffy would just have to deal.
Her head banged into something and she looked up. "Willow!"
Kennedy jumped to her feet. "Have you seen her?"
"You're still looking for Goorzar?" Willow didn't look happy. "You've been at it half the night. Don't you want to spend some of the party with me?"
"Of course. It's just; she's out there somewhere all alone," Kennedy reasoned anxiously. "We have to keep looking."
"Sometimes I think you love that demon more than me?," Willow pouted playfully. "She gets all the hugs and snuggles and belly rubs, while I cook for you and wash your clothes."
Kennedy smirked. "Andrew does all that." She put her arms around her girlfriend, pulled her closer and kissed her. "Your duties are way more important. Some might call them, vital even."
Willow leaned in to initiate her own kiss. "Ten more minutes of looking and then come do the party thing, 'kay?"
Kennedy smiled. "Anything for you, baby."
Of course the next kiss cut into that ten minutes considerably, but Andrew was a man on a mission. He'd find her.
Andrew coughed a little as he walked away, for effect more than from second-hand smoke in his lungs, but he did it discreetly which totally spoiled the 'effect' he was going for.
Peeved, he made his way to the woodshed. None of them really went in there anymore. It had been freely given to the Pixies and as such was their property. It was one of the few places left to look though, so he hoped they didn't mind him visiting.
He knocked gently and nibbled at his knuckles nervously waiting for an answer.
Slowly, and creepily, the recently re-erected door swung inwards.
"Hello," he called out softly. "Goorzar?"
A Pixie appeared half way up the door, like a tiny purple Spiderman. "Yaw groot bastie esell heere, Biggar."
"She's not here," Andrew translated. "Oh, okay, sorry to bother you. I'll be..." He was already backing away. Not all of the Pixies had gotten over their dislike of the new tenants. Sometimes they threw things really hard.
"Aye, ess en thaa carriage dweelling."
"Uh, where?" He wondered if there was a Webster's Pixie to English dictionary on sale.
The pixie pointed his tiny arm and Andrew looked that way. "She's in the garage?"
"Iss." Andrew knew that meant yes. "Yaw aarving aah cellebrahshun?"
He was lost again. "I, ah..."
In the little light coming from the house he could still make out the tiny guy's intense concentration while he tried to come up with the right word.
"Aarving aah jiig." It mimed putting something to his mouth; its other hand was still gripping the door. "Booze." It said in perfect English.
Backing away, Andrew raised his hands in appeal. The Pixies weren't supposed to find out about the 'Watchers Selection Week' and the trainees were all over the place. He'd be in deep doo if he let the cat out of the bag.
"No, no. No party. Just a gathering for some friends. We would have invited you, but y'know, you're kinda mauve and way too many people judge on first impressions and we didn't want to put you through that. Sorry, I've got to go now."
As he turned, Andrew heard the door click shut behind him and breathed a sigh of relief.
There was a window set into the door of the garage. Not a big one, only about half a foot square, but through the haze of dirt on the pane, Andrew could now make out a light. He peeked in, but other than that it probably came from a car, he could discern nothing else.
Holding his breath he tried the door. It should have been locked, but the handle turned easily. It was easy to forget about security when you were the only people around for miles.
He hesitated before pushing the door open though. Goorzar was pretty smart for a baby. She could feed herself with a plastic fork, and play catch, and between the pair of them, Kennedy and Andrew had her fully potty trained. The difficult bit had been to get her to not eat the toilet paper after she'd used it, but they persevered and she'd gotten it in the end.
Andrew didn't think she'd have been able to open the car door and put on the light herself yet though.
So who else was in here, and why? Were the Watcher's Council jerks in here smoking? They had better not be if Goorzar was in here. He would tell Giles then, however bad-ass they thought they were.
With a determined expression he pushed the door wide and stepped in, flicking on the light as he did so.
Sitting in the one normal car they owned was Goorzar, but she wasn't alone. It was one of the guys from England, but Andrew could only recall seeing him prior to the doomed surprise party. He didn't remember being introduced to him.
The guy looked up, startled when the light came on, and Andrew got a good look at his surprised expression. Dark eyes had widened comically and his mouth hung open the same way...until Goorzar pushed something into it making the boy splutter. He leaned out of the open window and spat it out.
Andrew relaxed a little when he realized the kid was laughing. "Goorzar! What are you doing in here? I've been looking for ages for you."
The guy had the car door open now and the little demon jumped out and scampered to him and leapt upwards. The wall caught Andrew before he could go over backwards and he rested there struggling not to drop the excited bundle of fuzzy hair in his arms.
"Obviously likes you." Andrew looked around Goorzar to the guy. He was out of the car and leaning against it now, still wiping his mouth on his shirt sleeve and occasionally spitting bits out. "Why does it have to suck them until they disintegrate?"
Andrew hugged Goorzar to him. "She's a she, not an it."
Craig nodded. "If you say so. So what is she?"
Andrew hesitated. They still weren't entirely sure. All Buffy and the girls had given Giles to go on was that the mother demon had been big and hairy and pissed off, with huge hands. If Andrew had to guess he'd have gone with a Bonabopenta, but no one was interested in his knowledge. Everyone just assumed if he knew something it was evil.
Except this boy didn't know about his past, and he was asking. "I think she's a Bonabopenta." Goorzar had hopped down and, hooking a paw into his jeans pocket, tugged Andrew to the car.
The guy was laughing. "Isn't that Spanish for bird or something?"
"No. It's a type of bi-pedal demon found in Africa. I don't know how her Mom got all the way over here." Goorzar had pulled him so he was face to face with the stranger. He tried to pull her hand away so he could step back a little, but she had a grip like a vice when she wanted to. Feeling uncomfortable, he changed the subject. "You shouldn't be in here. You should get back to the party."
"I...Well the thing is mate, I'm not really in the mood for a party. Long flight an' all that. I jus' wanted a touch of peace and quiet."
"Oh." Andrew thought about it. "Well the guy's dormitory is done. I could take you over there if you like and you can get settled in."
The boy's eyes lit up and he broke into a big smile, which made Andrew feel absurdly pleased with his simple suggestion. "That'd be pucka mate. Thanks."
Andrew smiled back shyly. "That's cool," he hazarded. What did pucka mean? He was being offered a hand, so he shook it.
Or tried to; the boy pulled his hand closer, making the blonde tense, and then he rotated his palm, squeezing, and then pulled it backwards until just their fingertips touched. Andrew tried to keep up with the secret handshake but it was difficult when you didn't know how it went.
"Pleased to meet ya. So where's this bedroom?" Craig started towards the door. He looked down when a paw gently clasped his hand. It made him smile. "So has she got a name?"
"Yeah, it's Goorzar. It's not particularly pretty, but it's what she came with and we didn't like to change it." Andrew explained as he led the way out of the garage and across the back yard.
"Came with? So she's like a Cabbage Patch Doll?" Craig chuckled.
"No doofus." Andrew thought he should be offended on his baby demon's behalf, but he could tell Craig was only joking. It was obvious he and Goorzar had already taken a shine to each other. "Her mother was killed in a tragic slaying accident and we adopted her."
"What, she got caught in the cross fire like? That's harsh."
Andrew frowned and leaned closer to the other guy. "Well no, all the fire was aimed at her, but we don't want to upset Goorzie, so we don't talk about it." He whispered in Craig's ear, glancing at the demon in question to gauge how much she'd understood. Not a lot by the way she was snuffling happily at the grass as she walked along next to them.
Craig leaned in also and whispered back. "Fair enough mate, my lips are sealed."
Walking around the back of the dark training barn, Andrew saw that the three Watcher potentials were still standing around but he couldn't make out Dawn. Good, he didn't want her to hang around with them.
Craig didn't even spare them a glance; instead he kept looking down at Goorzar with eyes full of amazement, and then back up to catch Andrew's eyes, grinning like an idiot. Andrew was grinning like an idiot too. It was nice to see someone else get so much pleasure out of being with Goorzar.
At the boys dormitory Andrew stepped ahead and opened the door. Reaching around on the wall he found the light switch and the room was suddenly very bright. It was smaller than the girl's room, because not many of the potential Watchers would be picked to stay here. There were ten beds, but only a handful of them were made up and ready to go.
"You're the first in here, so I guess you get first pick." Andrew moved aside to let the other boy in, but Craig remained hovering in the doorway with him.
"Great, I, ah..." He carefully pulled his hand free from Goorzar's.
"Oh, do you have stuff?" Andrew suddenly thought. "We could go get it now before you, you know, go to bed. Is it still on the minibus?" He was already walking back to the house.
"Ah, nah, don't worry about it. I'll get it later, I just wanna lay down," Craig called after him.
Andrew wandered back, a little disappointed. "Okay then. Well I guess..."
"Hey Craigy, that your new girlfriend?"
Peter. He was lounging a little way off, watching them with a smirk.
Andrew tutted. If he thought a lame insult like that was going to worry him, he didn't know what Andrew has suffered through in school. Well until the flying monkeys; after that he'd gotten a little respect. Kind of.
Craig didn't look to be handling it quite so well. Nervous, dark brown eyes met his. "Don't listen to him; he just likes to think he's clever." His gaze dropped to the ground and Andrew watched as his tongue nervously darted over his bottom lip. "I mean I hardly even know you..." Craig was trying for a smile, but it came out awkward.
Andrew groped around for Goorzar's paw. "Don't worry about it. We're cool." He tried to back up a step while appearing not to move. Which was impossible. "You should get some sleep, you'll look good in the morning, I mean, feel good, better, you'll feel better...in the morning." Andrew looked around him; Peter was still watching with a smirk. So this was uncomfortable. "Um..." And now his smile was weird too. "Goodnight."
For once it was Andrew dragging Goorzar along. His face was hot and his heart was all pitter-patter and his palm felt slick against the hairyness of Goorzie's. Maybe he was getting sick, he had coughed a few times last Sunday.
The young man stopped pulling Goorzar through the kitchen and spun to face Kennedy. The baby demon gave a squee of delight.
"Hey, uh, hey."
"You found her then." Kennedy dropped to her knees and Goorzar climbed onto them for a cuddle.
"Uh yeah," Andrew stood with his hands clasped in front of him, thumbs restlessly fiddling with each other. He glanced over his shoulder once, looking through the back door and out into the night.
"Andrew, are you okay?" Kennedy laughed, watching him.
He snapped out of his weird spell when he registered her amusement.
"Yeah, so I'm going to go to bed now, um, will you get Goorzie settled in?" Kennedy nodded and he continued. "Her teeth need brushing again, she's been eating Doritos." He hurried up the back stairs before she could respond to that.
The small Slayer chuckled after him, picked the demon up and carried her to the sink. Sitting her on the edge with a command of "Stay!" She bent to retrieve a chewed brush and a half empty tube of toothpaste.
Kennedy ran the brush under the cold water faucet. "No. We can't keep going through a tube a week, let me," she said when Goorzar tried to squeeze the tube in her hand.
Goorzar hiccuped and opened her mouth wide. She loved the taste of the paste and delighted in blowing the froth at whoever was unfortunate enough to have the task. Kennedy set to brushing the large flat molars on either side of her jaw, top and bottom. Her front teeth were bigger, but conical. They sometimes gave her the look of a braying Donkey.
"Do we have to do that in here? Isn't this why we have a garden?"
Kennedy answered Buffy without looking away from Goorzar. "You're not doing it and no, the garden just came with the house."
"I'm not wiping demon spit out of the sink again." Buffy's tone was frosty, but Kennedy knew that the older Slayer had never had to clean up after Goorzar.
She and Andrew actually enjoyed all the little chores that came with looking after her. The girls and Xander were usually happy to help too. Only Giles, Rona and Buffy had as little to do with the baby as possible.
Buffy started again. "Who knows how many germs live in that mouth. Demons have different saliva to us, you know. Just because it doesn't poison her doesn't mean it won't poison us."
Kennedy finished up, put the toothbrush away before Goorzar could start gnawing, and turned to the blonde. She was leaning against the kitchen table, arms crossed over her chest, lines marring her forehead as she reasoned out her argument.
"I know what this is about Buffy. Do you want to spar or something? It might make you feel better than picking on poor, defenseless Goorzie." Kennedy crossed her own arms. She didn't want to spar, she wanted to spend the last few minutes of the rapidly winding down party with Willow, but she could see that Buffy was coiled tight with hidden emotion and she knew this was what her girlfriend would want her to do.
"No I'm fine... I just," Buffy huffed a little, "I didn't think my retirement would involve watching a demon have her bed time teeth done."
Kennedy laughed and Buffy allowed herself a smile too.
Kennedy picked Goorzar off the sink and carried her to her bed-box. Passing Buffy, she said: "Give Auntie Buffy a kiss goodnight," and leaned towards the blonde.
Buffy jumped onto the table and scooted backwards on her butt. "Don't even dare!"
Kennedy laughed again and settled the baby in her box. Goorzar blew a raspberry against her pant leg and pulled her blanket over her head. "She's getting too big for this box," she began and, without a breath, finished with, "so Willow's going to do a locator spell for Faith tomorrow."
She didn't turn around in the pause that followed.
"I guess that's the first place to start," came the flat reply.
Now Kennedy turned around. Buffy was sitting cross-legged, looking down at the table top, pushing around some colored strands of paper which had earlier been let loose from a party banger. "Or you could just let her go."
Buffy didn't explode like she half expected; instead she let loose a wintry chuckle. "And where's the fun in that?" She held up a hand to Kennedy's answer. "I need some air; I'll see you in the morning."
Kennedy let her leave. She didn't know what else to say anyway. If Buffy still wanted Faith after this then, well, Faith must be some kind of wonder-god in the sack. Arms went around her waist and she leaned back against the warm, safe body of her lover.
"Where do you think she is?" she asked.
Willow leaned her chin on Kennedy's shoulder and spoke softly in to her ear. "Who, Faith? If I had to make a guess, I'd guess somewhere with copious amounts of drugs, sex and scary music." She kissed gently across Kennedy's shoulder and up her neck.
"Then as Buffy's best friend don't you think it's your job to kick her ass until she gets over this useless obsession with her?" Kennedy responded angrily. She calmed a little when Willow ran her tongue around the shell of her ear. "What do we do? Look for her forever?"
"Faith has problems. Buffy loves Faith. Buffy wants to help Faith deal with those problems." Willow went back to teasing the soft skin just below her ear and Kennedy wrapped her own arms around Willow's. "With a side dish of snuggles."
"But it's not as simple as that, is it?" Kennedy turned in her lover's arms as she asked her questions. "Maybe Faith doesn't want her help?"
"Maybe Faith doesn't know what she wants," Willow countered. "If I had problems I didn't know I had, wouldn't you want to help me?"
Kennedy kissed her. "You know I would," she breathed when they broke apart again.
"Even if it meant combing the country for me?" Willow asked.
She nuzzled Willow's neck, eyes closing as she breathed in the essence of this powerful woman. "If it meant combing the world."
"Then you know why we have to help Buffy help Faith."
"Okay, I'm convinced." Taking a step forwards, she caused Willow to take a step backwards and when the table halted them, Kennedy leaned forward and kissed Willow forcefully on the mouth. "We don't have to help right now though do we?" More kissing. "Because I was thinking we could move this party upstairs, just the two of us." Her hand started sliding up from Willow's waist.
Willow had to stop kissing to giggle and she lightly pushed at Kennedy, who pouted. "Not in front of the demon."
Kennedy looked over her shoulder. "She's asleep."
Willow gave her a rueful smile and extricated herself from Kennedy's embrace. Kennedy wasn't very happy about it and sighed dolefully as she moved back a little. "She's outside."
Willow pressed some pretzels and an unopened bottle of wine into her hands. "Go on up. I'll be as quick as I can; I just want to see if she's okay."
Kennedy nodded. She got it, she wasn't stupid after all, and it was partly Willow's great big heart that had drawn the then-potential to her in the first place. That and the freckles. She just hoped that Buffy realized how lucky she was, even without the 'dark Slayer'.
With one last kiss she said. "I'll be in bed, waiting." Smiling, she went up the back stairs with the snacks and the wine.
Buffy, still in her little blue dress, worked hard on two punch bags simultaneously, hitting one with a flying kick as she jabbed out fast at the other. The only light was in the corner where she was working, and her shadow danced across the wall with her. No music was playing and her grunts of exertion sounded loud in the large barn.
For ten minutes Willow and Xander had been stood just outside the door watching. They didn't know if she was aware of they're presence or not. Both wore grave expressions as they scrutinized her for cracks in the armor.
"Do you think we should...?" Willow gestured through the door and looked up at her oldest friend, unsure.
"She needs to work it out of her system," he said quietly. "You know that." He looked down at her with a gentle smile.
"What if she can't?"
He sighed a little. "Then I'll take first shift, you take second." He gave her a little of the Xander twinkle. "I've got things I can do anyway." He thought about the shower block. Giles had been badgering him about it on and off all evening.
She smiled back. "Okay," she looked back to Buffy and her face scrunched up with compassion, "but if she talks to you, try and remember that she really likes Faith, even though you don't," she said.
"Hey, I think now is exactly the right time not to reme..."
She silenced him with a look. She knew what he meant. She even agreed with him.
But her look plainly said, 'Don't go there. It's not worth it.'
"What? It's not like I think she's as bad as Angel," he whispered in return.
She acknowledged that with a smile. "Come get me if you need me," she told him, ready to go. "Ooh, but knock first, okay?" She finished brightly and scampered off.
Xander stayed in the doorway, his reserved-for-Willow's-cuteness smile playing lightly on his lips. He could hear the murmur of two conversations coming from the dormitories, but he was either too far away or the voices just weren't loud enough for him to make out what they were about. He let the soft noise roll over him as he sipped at his beer and watched Buffy spin around the punch bags. Plumbers could wait.
He didn't see the scouting party of little purple people climbing the side of the boys dormitory not ten feet away, but if he had he probably wouldn't have thought much beyond 'cute'.
Back to Fiction page ||
Site Updates ||
Site Updates ||