"I... need... to... get... to Faith!" Buffy wrestled with the pixies pinning her down, but every one she shook off pounced back onto her before she could remove another.
"Buffy what is it?" Willow was hesitating on approach, looking from the window to the door as if expecting to see the other Slayer in one or the other.
"It's Faith." Buffy was too busy struggling to explain any further. "Get off of me."
Another pixie went bouncing across the carpet. "Wiy yow Scurridge!" He jumped into the Buffy-fray again.
"Buffy!" As Xander shouted Buffy saw him drop to his knees by her side, worry and confusion clear on his face as he tried to pull Pixies from her clothes. "Ow!" His yelp made Buffy's eyes go wide and as he pulled his hand back blood dripped from a set of tiny teeth marks on his ring finger.
Willow went running, planning on shouting for help from the landing. As she neared the doorway a web of purple covered it so quick that it wasn't until she had taken a step back again that she could see what it was made of.
"You might think it was possible to get a little blasé about this stuff, but this is definitely something even we don't see every day," Willow said wryly.
There was a pyramid of pixies blocking the doorway.
Faith closed her eyes as vampire remains exploded over her, but not before she'd seen the second threat lunging down. How many frigging vamps were nesting here anyway? Her stake continued its upward trajectory, her thrust hard enough to dispose of him too. Except the second vampire caught her hand, obviously not a newbie, crushing it painfully and stopping the stake from penetrating more than a millimeter into his chest.
"Is that how you're greeting old friends these days?"
The gruff voice stopped Faith from leaning forwards and shoving all her weight behind her stake and she looked up, shocked, into the dark broody face of the last person she wanted to see.
"That's not much better," Angel frowned. "I just saved your life, you know."
"I had it covered." Faith leaned back against the wall again. "Can I have my hand back?"
"Are you going to use that?" Angel nodded to the stake still pressing into his coat, piercing his skin.
"Well yeah." Faith gave her first real smile in days; she even managed a chuckle which hurt her throat. "But probably not on you."
He smiled back and released her hand. She tucked the stake into her jacket.
"So, how've you been, A?" She shifted along the wall, wincing less than she had been earlier, and patted the floor beside her.
He looked at the offered spot distastefully before folding his long coat beneath him and sitting down. "Better than you by the looks of it."
"Yeah well," she looked away, "you could say I had a rough night."
He gave her a good long look over while she stared into the distance, taking in her beat up appearance, the malnourishment and exhaustion evident in the gauntness of her face and body.
"Yeah well you think you've had it bad?" he said lightly. "I've had to deal with Buffy all week."
Faith turned back to him, dreading the answer to what she was about to ask, because neither answer was going to be good for her. But she had to ask: "Is she, like, really pissed off then?"
Buffy, having made it up to her hands and knees, was inching her way to the bedroom door, and there were about fifteen Pixies holding onto her pant legs and sleeves, digging their heels in. Slowly she dragged them along, but it was very slowly. How the hell could things this small be so darn strong!
"Okay, I just want you all to know," Xander was saying from a safe distance, "whichever one of you bit me, isn't getting any more free beer."
"I need to leave," Buffy panted. "Right now! And you are not making that easy." She swatted at a Pixie riding on her head but he easily evaded her hand.
"You're holding me prisoner?" Willow was asking the Pixies standing on one another's shoulders in the doorway.
They all nodded, a couple said 'Yas'.
"In my own bedroom?" she checked.
There was shrugging and a few more 'Yas's.
"Right, you asked for it." Buffy flipped herself over onto her back trying to knock the Pixies off or squash the ones that didn't move fast enough.
They scattered like a ripples in a puddle, all shouting at her, except for one little muffled 'Yeep!'
Buffy scrambled to her feet and a dazed Pixie was revealed, swaying slightly and rubbing his face. Ten Pixies threw themselves at Buffy's head, taking her screaming back to the floor.
Giles, along with everyone else in the living room, had been in a stand-off ever since the Pixies had first appeared, but at the first sounds of a struggle above them, he ran for the stairs by the front door only to come face to face with sharp knitting needles after only a few steps. Two of the little beings were hanging by the their feet from the ceiling fan. Even upside-down they looked pretty menacing and their needles were certainly just as sharp.
He tried to swerve around them, aware that both Kennedy and Vi were also on the move. His feet became caught in something and he looked down to see what. He was already falling as he spotted the bright pink wool wrapped around his ankles.
He swore as he hit the floor and his glasses bounced off of his face.
Vi had gone running for the stairs at the same time as Giles. She managed to get closer, but more of the Pixies were waiting for her four steps up on the mini square of landing between the living room and the right turn to the upper floors. They were barring her way, holding high a bunch of needles, waving them around and jeering her. She couldn't jump over them without a run up, so cursing, she backed into the living room again.
Kennedy went for the back stairs, hoping everyone else was too busy concentrating on the front to notice. As she was about to dash through the open kitchen door it was slammed shut, smacking her in the face and landing her on her butt a few feet away. She sat there shaking her head in a daze.
Goorzah had gotten over-excited the second chaos has erupted and was now jumping up and down on Andrew and Dawn, preventing them from doing anything but clutch at the bruises she was inflicting in her animated joy.
Hearing the noise from downstairs spurred Buffy on and she forced herself to flip upright despite the Pixies still clinging to her. She made a slow motion run for the bedroom door yelling:
"You guys need to get to Faith. Go! She's somewhere near and she's in trouble!"
There was no answer from downstairs and Willow and Xander didn't seem to know what to do for the best.
"No way is she getting away that easily!" Buffy yelled. It came out muffled as she was tackled to the floor again. "If she thinks getting her ass killed will save her from facing up to her responsibilities, she's got another thing coming!" A Pixie landed in her mouth, only just scrambling back out before she bit down angrily. "Ow, MY LIP!" The slayer howled.
"I don't know if she's pissed off, as such." Angel reached into his deep pocket and pulled out a bag of blood. "Do you mind? I haven't eaten since lunchtime, didn't think it would look good drinking this while walking around...and around." He grinned at her. "Did you think walking in circles would get me off your tail?"
Faith's nose wrinkled and she ignored his question seeing as she'd had no clue she was going in circles anyway, or that he'd been on her tail; she'd just been walking. "No, go ahead. I don't suppose you got a fancy way of putting some of that inside me have you?" She couldn't seem to stop shivering.
"Only the old fashioned way and somehow I don't think you'd like it." Angel changed and bit into the bag, turning away from Faith before he drank it down. When he turned back, Faith was looking even more grossed out and she'd gone pale. "Sorry, I didn't think it would bother you so much."
"S'okay, I was queasy before you started slurping away, it's just, I'm hungry and seeing you eat is making me hungrier and you're eating blood so now I'm gonna puke." Faith swallowed hard.
"I'm sorry. I'll finish it later." Angel quickly hid the blood-bag.
"No Angel, I mean now I'm gonna puke - move!"
He was up and out of the way as Faith fell onto her elbow, leaning over and retching hard.
Her empty stomach had nothing to give but acid and bile which made her throat sting.
It had been a couple of days since she'd had a decent meal and her fast-working metabolism hadn't slowed down. The evening's slayage had maxed her hunger and coupled with the blood loss she was feeling really shaky and out of it.
And on top of all that she didn't know how to feel about Angel showing up. Was she pleased or was she pissed? Both? Neither? What did it matter now? He was here either way. She had to admit it didn't totally suck having someone there; she just would have preferred it not be Angel seeing her when she was so messed up.
It was his turn to look grossed out although he smiled when she looked up at him. "Are you okay?"
Faith spat before answering. "Yeah, just been one hell of a week." She sat up again against the wall. "Anyway, what do ya mean you don't know? Either she's pissed at me or she's not."
All of a sudden the panic flowed out of Buffy a lot quicker than it had built up and the struggle went out of her just as quick. She didn't know what had just happened to put Faith in enough danger that Buffy could feel it, or even how she was able to feel it, but that mattered less than the deep down knowledge that Faith had survived it.
She slumped on the carpet with several Pixies still hanging from her and started to cry. Relief and frustration, a weird combination at any time, both working to bring on the waterworks she'd stubbornly held inside all week.
The Pixies couldn't have jumped off fast enough. All but the ones blocking the doorway were on the bed again in five seconds flat, most lying with just their heads peeking over the edge so they could watch her.
Xander dropped to her side again and Willow, after harrumphing at the pyramid, also joined them on the floor.
"I'm okay," Buffy sobbed with her hands over her eyes. "She's okay now."
Xander and Willow looked at each other uncertainly.
"How did you know she wasn't before?" asked Xander.
"I don't know."
"But, but she's okay now?" Willow asked, just as confused as Xander.
"Yeah, I think so." Buffy scrubbed at her face with the back of a hand and sat up, fixing her bloodshot eyes on the Mawther still standing on the brass frame of Willow's bed. "What the hell was that about?"
Beryan looked back calmly. "It was not my doing. Perhaps your Faith was speaking with you telepathically. It can cause alarm when you are not used to it."
"Not Faith. I mean why did your soldiers attack me like that?" she demanded, getting to her feet.
"They thought you were trying to leave."
"I was trying to leave." As she took a step closer to the end of the bed a Pixie rose up threateningly in front of her. She gave it her best glare and it shrank back down to the quilt. "Why were they stopping me?"
Beryan drew herself up to her full eight inches. "Because we don't want you to leave, Giglet."
All three girls in the dormitory had stopped any movement. They all had crossbows pointed at places where they could do the most damage. Rona had two, one pointing in each ear. Alison had one pointing at her nose and Naomi had four of them all trained at her throat; every time she gulped she felt them pricking her soft skin.
"Can we help you?" Alison asked, tilting her head back further.
"Yas, waalk tow tha baak oof tha room," said the little menacing guy holding onto her scarf.
"Because theen aye woon't shoot thees stick up yowr nosel."
Alison thought about it for a few seconds before nodding her head, something she instantly regretted when something sharp stabbed her nose. "Good answer." She turned slowly towards the back wall, briefly making eye contact with Rona, and walked towards the end of the room. "Here?"
"Yas." The Pixie with the crossbow stayed, but all the other beings that had been clinging to her clothing jumped off and disappeared.
"Now yew." The voice right by her ear made Rona jump, she'd been so engrossed in watching what Alison was doing.
"Me now what?" she asked defiantly.
"Baak wall, oveer theer."
Rona had to turn her head to see that he was pointing to the same wall as Alison, but a bed away so they wouldn't be next to each other.
"Tell me why first," she insisted, not moving.
"Becaase he saaid so," said the Pixie on her other shoulder, pricking her earlobe with his crossbow bolt.
When she still didn't move there was the click-snick of the tiniest safety catch in the world being released.
"This is ridiculous!" she spat. "You're six inches high!" But she went and stood where they wanted her to anyway, shaking her head. As before with Alison, every Pixie not aiming a weapon at her jumped off and ran away.
Naomi looked down at the voice by her feet. She'd been wondering when they'd get around to her. "Yes?"
There was a stout Pixie looking up at her. He was a little taller than the others and wore an official costume, whereas the rest of them wore only trousers that fell to just below the knee.
"You know who we are?" It shouted up at her, its English far better than the rest too.
"You're Piskies. We have you in Britain," she told it.
"We're all British, yow silly Giglet." It sighed like he didn't know what to do with someone so stupid.
"What do you want from us?" Naomi asked, sounding a whole lot more confident than she felt. She'd heard Piskies were a peaceful race, which didn't fit into her current view of them, but more importantly she'd heard they'd been extinct since the early twentieth century.
"Don't want the Slayers." The uniformed Pixie told her gruffly. "Just you. Been told to take you gently, Giglet, but I don't mind if you fight." He pulled a small shiny sword from a scabbard tied around his waist. "I don't mind at all."
"She's not going anywhere," Rona called from her place by the wall. "This is crazy. If you've got a beef with her, sort it out now so we can get on with what we're supposed to be doing tonight." The needle-like tip of whatever these guys were using as bolts jabbed her ear again and she shook her head irritably.
The Pixie on her right shoulder was smacked by a couple of braids and nearly fell off.
Alison burst out laughing and then yelled in pain as her nose got pierced for her. She grabbed the Pixie on her scarf tightly in her fist, yanking him away, as her eyes watered madly.
"Frikking hell," she cried as the Pixie bit her hand.
As Naomi automatically turned to see what was going on, the little soldier at her feet yelled: "Don't shoot!" to the four Pixies aiming for her throat. She felt relief for a second that at least he didn't want her dead - yet - but it was short-lived as out of nowhere six tiny grappling hooks embedded themselves in her clothes and she was yanked from her feet.
The boy's dormitory had been in chaos ever since Reece had been knocked out.
Peter continued to yell as cocktail sticks were shot into him from all sides and Rajiv had knocked him to the floor, yelling at him to get under a bed or something as he dove towards Reece.
The self-confessed and uncontested leader of the Watcher cadets was out cold and the thing that had done it was still swinging in the doorway on a length of string, cackling madly to itself.
Rajiv shook his head hard; now was not the time for hallucinations. When he looked again the thing was still swinging and still cackling. He started sweating. This was bad!
Think man, think! Running a shaky hand through his dark hair he yelled, "Shut up!" at Peter who was still whining, and grabbed Reece's shoulders. He started dragging him further into the room.
Miley would just have to wait a while and not get eaten by the purple thing hanging in the doorway.
Suddenly the thing hanging in the door was the least of his worries as more purple things started coming out of the woodwork.
"Okay, that is definitely the last time I do anything that's got red spots, I promise, just..." Rajiv vowed to any deity listening as he watched the swarm of purple heading his way, trying to keep his panic in check. "...just, please let me come down...like now."
He blinked rapidly, almost hugging Reece's upper body as his prayers weren't answered.
"What's happening?" Peter shouted from under a bed.
"I have no idea, man!" Rajiv yelled back.
The purple things had started pulling on Reece's feet hard enough to pull him away from his grip. He tried to keep hold of him, but it was futile and the other Watcher was pulled entirely away, his head bouncing on the floor as it slipped from Rajiv's arms.
"Reece!" He started to get up and give chase when a... something... smacked him on the head and made him fall back again. Slightly stunned, he looked at the object as it hit the floor and rolled away. It was a tennis ball, or at least it looked like a tennis ball; his mind was currently unraveling fast!
Peter rolled out from under the bed at the shout of Reece's name; he'd mostly gotten the cocktail sticks out of himself but was still looking pale. As he saw Reece being dragged away, his first thought was to go grab him, but on seeing what was doing the dragging he stopped up short.
"What?" Rajiv asked, looking from Reece to the tennis ball to Peter. "You mean they're real?" he gestured at the small purple beings. "Thank God for that."
"Don't go thanking him yet." Peter ran forward and grabbed one of Reece's wrists, trying to pull him back through the doorway he was being carried out of fast. "They're evil little blighters."
"I thought they were alright, yuh know, just helpers an' that." Rajiv, sanity back intact, went to help Peter.
Before he could, a Pixie jumped high off of Reece's chest and head-butted Peter between the eyes. He fell back into Rajiv who landed back on his arse with Peter on his lap.
"See," Peter said woozily as his lights began to go out.
By the time Raj had untangled himself, Reece was gone and he and Pete were surrounded by the Piskies.
Buffy stood with her hands on her hips.
"Why can't we leave?" she demanded again.
Beryan remained silent.
"Do you think you can stop me if I really want to leave?" she demanded next.
"I believe I just did, Buffee."
Okay, well she had her there, except last time she hadn't been ready. Now she was ready she bet she could leave just fine if she wanted to. Buffy looked down at all the Pixies lying on the bed. They looked pretty scared of her anger, but none of their bright indigo eyes left her for a second. If she so much as feinted towards the door they'd be all over her again in a flash; and she hadn't enjoyed it all that much the first five times.
She looked to Willow: "I thought you said they weren't evil?"
"We are nawt eevil; we are simplee protecting ourselves," said Beryan.
"You attacked me and you're keeping us hostage., not to mention you once set killer plants on us. I think it's us that need protecting from you," Buffy fumed.
"I haave not acted without counsel, Buffee. Wee haave been watching the Watchoors all week. They haave not changed. They are still cruel. They are still conceited and arrogant. They are still stupid and vain. They still lie and they still sneak around. They caannot be trusted!"
Something really weird was going on at Sunset Camp tonight, and Craig didn't have a clue what.
As far as he knew still no one had left on the werewolf patrol and there was shouting coming from all sides; he could even hear Goorzar squealing from somewhere deep in the house.
When he'd first heard the baby demon he'd been concerned for her, well mostly for Andrew, and then he'd heard a muffled scream coming from the girl's dorm and he knew Naomi was in there. He'd nearly gone running to the rescue.
Common sense, or something masquerading as it, took over. Everyone else was busy with who knew what meaning this was the perfect time to do his little bit of burglary.
Ignoring the shouting now coming from the boy's dorm, he stood up and looked through the window to the magic room. There wasn't enough light to see inside but he could just make out the broken catch sticking up into the air. Bingo, he thought he'd spotted that Friday.
Carefully he felt around the bottom of the window, trying to get his fingers to grip the edge. The first couple of attempts to pull it upwards made his fingers slip on the old wood and he worried about splinters digging into him, but it didn't happen and on the third attempt it started to slide jerkily upwards. More from will-power, he was convinced, than any physical accomplishment, he got the window high enough to squeeze through and silently boosted himself in; he had learned a few things in his year at the Watchers Academy.
Jumping down from the desk, which thankfully hadn't tipped or rattled, he was soon standing in the Magic room. He took a minute to get his rapid heartbeat under control before pulling a candle stub from his pocket and only then realized he hadn't thought to steal anything to light it with.
Damn. He couldn't put the electric light on. No matter how busy the rest of the house was, a light suddenly going on in a locked room might give something away.
He went back to the desk and searched around for a box of matches; surely there would be some. Thirty seconds later his fingers closed around a cheap plastic lighter, even better. He was calm now and his hand didn't shake at all as he lit his candle stub.
Once the flame was flickering brightly he lifted it high and turned around on the spot as he let his eyes run over every shelf.
"Now the hard bit," he murmured to himself as he set to work finding what he needed.
Reece opened his eyes, against the wishes of his headache, and looked up at the clear night sky. He was pretty sure the stars he could see were on the outside of his head, but that begged the question of: What on Earth had happened to him?
The last thing he could remember was being in the dormitory, upright and stationary. So now that he was outside, on his back and yet somehow moving along, he could only conclude that he'd been out cold for a few minutes at least.
It would have been nice to get up and see what was going on, but the way his arms and legs were seized made that an unlikely occurrence. He could do nothing at present but lay there as he was, supported on all sides by whatever had attacked him and taken to wherever they wanted him to go.
"Peter?" He called out, hoping that at least he wasn't being carried off alone. "Raj?"
He ignored the foreign voice. "Rajiv, are you there? Pete, did they get you too?"
Something sharp and multi-pronged stabbed him in the cheek, drawing blood. "Ay saaid shaad aap."
Sighing impatiently, Reece shut up.
He was being carried into taller grass now, going at quite a steady pace and he still had no idea what he was being carried by. Aside from a flash of purple seen flying towards him in the doorway, it could have been ghosts. Except a ghost would probably just...
Ghosts were a mystery even to the Watchers Council, they were there, and they weren't there. Reece had no idea how one would act, he'd never met one, but traditionally they haunted a person or place. They did not knock a person out and carry them into the woods. Which he noticed with some alarm as dark tree branches came into view overhead, was exactly where he was being carried.
Reece knew there were only a couple of wooded areas on Sunset Camp. The front drive was edged on both sides by trees and tangles of vegetation before it reached the spacious grassy front garden. There was another area to the north and east of the property where gradually the land became immersed in forest. He'd been that way on a patrol with Kennedy earlier in the week and she had told him that further on, as it became hillier, there were caves and tunnels that were largely unmapped.
As he was taken further into the trees; they were blotting out the stars completely now. He had little hope his destination would be somewhere he wanted to go, but please, he prayed silently, don't let it be unmapped caves. Rarely ever did good come from people being lost in caves.
His prayers, for once, were apparently being answered. A few minutes later he was dropped to the ground. Trying immediately to jump up and turn on his attackers, he found he couldn't. He managed to sit up and watch as four or five beings wrapped rope thicker than their waists around his ankles and up his legs.
"Piskies," he sighed; he should have known.
'Wherever there was trouble you would find a Piskie,' his grandfather used to say. Of course the old boy hadn't always been right, for example there had been no Piskies around the night he'd been blown to pieces by the explosion at the Council.
A lasso fell over his head and shoulders and was pulled tight from somewhere behind him, causing him to fall backwards. He spat out leaf mulch as he was turned over and fought against the beings trying to pull his hands behind his back. It was futile and soon his wrists were tied as securely as his ankles.
"What exactly is it that you want?" he demanded of them.
"Yow oot!" A Piskie standing in front of his face answered in his ancient Briton dialect. Reece could remember his Granny reading to him from a fairytale book when he was small; she'd always translated the dialogue into Piskie speak because it made him giggle.
"Me out specifically?" he asked.
"Naw yow seelf-importas dundlehead, aal yowr unreamed kith."
"Who do you think you're calling filthy, you short-arsed Drazac-croony!" His Granny hadn't taught him that one. The punch he received on the tip of his nose as a reply made his eyes water, but he smiled anyway; he loved languages.
Before he could show-off his Piskinese anymore, he had an apple shoved so hard into his mouth that it stuck into his teeth and wedged his mouth open wide. He wouldn't be calling for help then, by the looks of it.
The Piskies disappeared from sight.
Trussed up as he was, Reece couldn't do a lot. The apple in his mouth made him wonder if he was to be cooked. Although as far as he knew the little creatures weren't cannibals, he was certainly no expert and maybe they were different here than in Britain. They were certainly acting like the little savages the old boys talked up to be tonight.
A muffled moaning sound behind him had Reece wriggling around until he could turn his head enough to see what was causing it. Twigs and leaves caught in his hair and stuck to his face and his mouth was starting to ache from the apple but eventually he could see...
Miley. So that was worth the effort.
Anthony Milestone, three feet away and tied in exactly the same manner as Reece was, was trying to get his attention by whimpering around his very own apple. When he succeeded the boy didn't seem to know what to do next and slumped back to the ground, his glasses askew on his face, breathing heavily through his nose.
Reece would have laughed at him if he could have, as it was he made an amused sound deep in his throat and gave Anthony a sideways nod of the head in greeting.
'Now what?' he wondered.
Faith shifted her leg so that she could look down at the bite marks. "I thought the son of a bitch was gonna try and rape me, but it turns out my neck just wasn't good enough."
"May I?" Angel gestured at her thigh and Faith hesitated. It was kinda high up, only an inch or so below her panties.
This was Angel though; if she couldn't trust him to do right by her, who was she gonna trust? She started moving her legs further apart so that he could get a good look at the fang marks, teasing, "You got a tight grip on that soul of yours?"
"I think so." He gave a small smile and then bent forward to look at the wound.
"There's not a lot of light," she said, trying to hide her discomfort. Discomfort at needing help, anyone's help, and discomfort at Angel peering at her like a gynecologist with a wonky eye.
"I can see fine." He looked back up to her face, "He tore the skin quite badly, that's why it hurts so much, but it's already healing over. There won't be any infection; vampire mouths are pretty clean compared to humans."
"Yeah, says the vampire."
Angel huffed a laugh. "If you're not convinced you can pour a little holy water over it, that'll kill any vampire cooties."
"All out of holy water. So why did he go for, ya know, there? I thought the neck was the big thing with you guys."
"It's tender, succulent, the blood's hotter." Angel explained. "Can take longer to kill someone if you do it right. You said he wanted to turn you?" She nodded. "Well if he had enough restraint, he could drink for longer with less risk of taking too much, plus, well," he shrugged sheepishly, "it's not the worse place to spend time, if your victim's a woman."
Faith laughed; she could believe that.
"So, what happened?" Angel asked, his tone becoming more serious than before as gestured at the dark room. "Did you come in here looking for a fight? But you know better than trying to take on a nest alone, especially at night, which means this has to be about something else, am I right?" he asked, his voice going softer again.
"I was tired, Angel," Faith said truthfully. "Just really, really tired."
"Well we all get tired Faith, but that doesn't mean we get to give up."
"What?" Faith didn't understand, why was he going all shrink on her?
"You can't throw it all away just because things are a little tough right now," Angel said gravely. "And anyway, you've done the hard part now, right?"
Who was talking about giving up? She'd just wanted a place to crash until the morning. And things were tough, hella tough and no, the hard part wasn't done now. The hard bit was just starting - now, when she was out and free and could do whatever she wanted instead of stuck in a box living by somebody else's rules.
Yeah, now was definitely the hard part.
"...and I thought you were serious about Buffy. That's why I had Gunn help Giles sort out the parole conditions," Angel went on. "If I'd known you were just going to screw her around I..."
Faith used the wall to drag herself to her feet and looked down on him. "You what, wouldn't have helped me? Shoulda known you were only doing it for your precious Buffy. Giles too, I bet."
She felt defeated more than angry, but she knew she didn't sound that way. She'd really thought that... It didn't matter. She could manage fine without him anyway. Sure he'd helped her a few years back, but then she'd helped him get Angelus back in the box and so they were even now, right? Time to move on.
"Faith." Angel stood slowly to face her, like he thought she might bolt like a rabbit if he moved to fast. Well he was wrong, she was gonna walk away. She turned to do just that. "Faith," he tried again. "You know I would have helped you; that's not what I..."
"Forget it Angel, I know exactly what you meant. You wouldn't have had your lawyers working so hard to get me out if you'd known I wasn't gonna go to Cleveland and be a good little doggy for your girl. What, did you hope I'd keep her amused or something? That'd I'd be your stand-in?" Off of his look of confusion, she shouted: "Well why else would you want me to go there? I mean I get Giles' reasons. He wants another Slayer with some experience on the Hellmouth; that and those stupid tests he wants to do. But why you?"
"Faith, what's wrong with you?" Angel's dark eyes were full of concern. He looked like he wanted to put a hand on her shoulder; she stiffened and he thought better of it. "I had Wolfram and Hart help you because I believe, just like everyone else who knows you, that you can do more good out here than you could in prison, and that you're working hard to deserve your second chance. Or you were," he finished with a sigh.
Faith looked away at the scattered boxes on the floor. "I still am."
"I didn't do it for Buffy; she didn't even know about it, remember?" He reasoned with her.
"Yeah whatever." She had to get out of there. She needed something to eat, some water would be good too - her throat still felt like shit.
"I thought you wanted to go to Cleveland," Angel wasn't shutting up; it was giving her a headache. "In fact I know you wanted to go to Cleveland. Know how I know that Faith? You told me!"
She was feeling dizzy again since she stood up; she swayed slightly. How dare he come here lecturing her about doing the right thing? She was doing the right thing! Or at least she had been; she wasn't sure now what the right thing was that she was doing. Everything had been getting fuzzier as the week wore on. She shook her head to try and clear the gathering fog. If he wasn't gonna get gone, she'd leave. Yeah, that sounded like a good plan. She always had good plans, 'cept the one about going to Vegas.
"So what happened, what changed your mind?" Angel asked her. "Did you decide that maybe you're not in love with her after all?"
Now who was he talking about? It couldn't be Buffy; everyone knew she loved Buffy. When had she thought it was a good idea to tell everyone she loved Buffy? Actually it was Buffy that told everyone; Faith had just gone along with it because no one was believing her denials.
"It's okay if you did, you can't force yourself to have feelings that aren't there, but there are better ways to deal with something like that than running away or getting yourself hurt," he went on, still in that same irritating half-lecturing, half-concerned voice.
"Really?" she asked sarcastically, turning to face him fully. "Then how come you didn't use any of them?" That shut him up. "I mean, you decided you didn't love her anymore and then you just took off."
"I still loved her, leaving was just the right thing to do," Angel said quietly.
"Yeah, why? Because it was for her own good right?" Anger burned away some of the fog in Faith's mind. "I bet she didn't see it like that at the time though, did she? In fact she probably thought you were a selfish prick at the time."
"So is that what you're doing Faith? Running away for Buffy's own good? Because I think you know that's bullshit. I had no choice, you do. We may have things in common, you and I, but Buffy isn't one of them."
Well of course he didn't think so. He was Buffy's one true love; of course he thought he was special. She was just a bit of... of tension release - something to make the last few days in Sunnydale bearable, something other than the First that Buffy could focus on. Which was fine, good even, Faith didn't need to be tied down to anyone...
...hang on she'd forgotten her point and he was staring at her waiting for an answer.
"Screw you, Angel."
There. that was an answer. A damned good one, too. She sniggered to herself. Time to go now, while she had the last word. Always leave them wanting more.
She turned again, almost tripping over the empty boxes lying around.
No, she wasn't listening to another lecture, she was outta here. Food and then bed, or a gutter would probably cheaper. She'd feel better once she'd had some sleep.
She shuffled through the almost pitch black room, heading for the slightly lighter darkness of the doorway.
It was blocked when she got there. "Faith you're not leaving, at least not alone."
"I don't need a wing-man, A," she told him wearily as she tried to push past his bulky outline.
Angel didn't move, even when she started pushing harder. She twisted and stuck a shoulder into his chest, trying to heft him out of the way. He swayed backwards ever so slightly, but that was all.
She stepped back feeling even more lost. Should she hit him? Her question wasn't a moral one so much as a 'Am I gonna stay on my feet if I take a swing at him?' one.
"You're not leaving," he repeated. Faith groaned; great, he was gonna start talking again. "You've got no money and no place to go."
"I'm doing fine," she lied.
"You came in here looking to get yourself killed; I wouldn't have said that was doing fine"
"I wasn't looking to get myself killed." She looked up at him, feeling that flame of anger again. "What the hell makes you think that?"
"You came into a nest on your own at night with one stake. That spells suicide and you know it Faith; and it's not like it's the first time you've tried to escape from your problems this way."
Angel fell backwards through the doorway into the corridor wall, blood dribbling from his nose.
Faith swayed a little from the force of her punch, but kept her feet, something she'd be thankful for after she was done shouting:
"How fucking dare you use that against me. I came in here to sleep and when I got jumped, I slayed. I didn't go looking to get dead and I certainly wasn't looking to get turned into a Vampire. That was your deal; and I don't need your condescending bullshit to know it was a stupid fucking deal to make. Whoa." She put a hand on the wall as she swayed again. "Head rush," she explained. "Where was I?" Where am I might have been a better question; her head was spinning like the fruits on a slot machine. "I'm not gonna make your mistakes Angel, not even the Buffy ones."
Angel falling back into the corridor had cleared the doorway and Faith stepped through and made her way towards the kitchenette.
She was walking into it as Angel, having moved wicked fast, grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her back. Turning in his grip, she struggled. It was a weak effort and as she pushed him back against one wall of the narrow corridor, she fell back against the one opposite.
"You can't stop me!" she insisted, panting and blinking to rid her eyes of the dancing black dots that seemed to have taken up permanent residence. "You can't stop me from walking out this door."
Angel sighed, glancing up at the ceiling in despair. "Faith, you're still not wearing any pants."
"Huh?" Confused, she looked down to see what he meant; the black dots gathered together and attacked.
Nothing much was going on in Willow's bedroom now. Xander sat on the chair while Buffy and Willow sat on the floor against the wardrobe. The Pixie pyramid was gone, replaced by the closed door and a few Pixies standing guard in front of it. Every five minutes a couple of little folk would disappear out of one of the windows and others came in. All the new ones reported quietly to Beryan in their native tongue before heading to whichever part of the room she told them to guard.
The three prisoners still hadn't been given a reason for why they were being held; at least not a good enough one as far as Buffy was concerned.
"Willow," Buffy whispered. "Can you teleport out of here?"
"Not really," she whispered back after thinking about it.
"Why not? I thought you could do that stuff by just tapping your heels together now."
"Oh no, I could do it, I think, I just don't think it would be the best idea."
"Why not?" Buffy whispered again.
"Because I'm not supposed to be using Magick for personal benefit," Willow reminded her.
"This isn't personal benefit; it's for everyone's benefit," Buffy hissed.
"But they're not hurting us," Willow pointed out. "And they've promised they're not going to kill the Watchers, it goes against their beliefs. I think they just want to teach them a lesson."
"And you believe them?" Buffy asked sceptically.
"Xander?" she quietly asked for his opinion.
He appeared to be deep in thought about something as he regarded a close group of Pixies guarding one of the windows in case Buffy tried to jump out of it.
"You know, I think that's Gawen over there," he mused.
"So?" Buffy followed his line of sight, but she didn't know which one he meant.
Most of the Pixies looked the same to her. She could tell boy from girl by their clothes and the girls tended to have just slightly longer hair, which didn't mean they had a lot of hair, just more than the boys. Individuals were still hard to pick out though. She knew Elowen, but Buffy hadn't seen her tonight.
"So I'm just wondering if he'd go get me a beer," Xander answered her. "Do you think he could get it in through the window without breaking the bottle?"
Buffy looked at him ,waiting for the punch line, except apparently there wasn't one. "I don't really care," she told him, leaning back against the wardrobe again.
Xander shrugged. "It'd probably just make me need to pee anyway." He twisted on the chair to face her and Willow again.
"How long have we been in here?" Buffy asked next. It felt like hours, even longer than the time she'd been cramped on the plane flying out to Los Angeles.
Willow looked at her watch. "An hour and ten minutes."
Buffy looked at her in surprise. "You're joking; is that all?"
"Unless my watch stopped."
Buffy sat in silence watching the Pixies for a while; she couldn't believe it had only been that long and she couldn't believe Willow didn't think being held captive in their own house didn't count as worthy of Magickal assistance. They didn't know what was going on in the rest of the house, she didn't even know if Dawn was okay. The noise from downstairs was almost cut off by the closed door, but a disturbance could still be faintly heard.
There was nothing she could do about it though, so Buffy just had to put faith in Willow's belief that the Pixies weren't out to kill them all. Plus Dawn had a couple of Slayers down there; maybe they'd do a better job against these things than she had.
And thanks a lot Xander, now she needed to pee!
Tonight was turning into a total nightmare as far as Kennedy was concerned and they hadn't even left the house yet.
After being almost knocked out by the kitchen door she'd sprung back to her feet and barged into it, shoulder first.
It barely moved, either in the few moments it had taken her to get her act together they had barricaded it shut, or there were fifty of the beings on the other side of the door pushing against it.
With a grim smile, she pulled the swing door towards her. Still nothing.
Or they could have locked it from the other side with the key that was always kept in the door. They should probably rethink that in future.
Realizing there was no escape from the room that way, Kennedy turned back to see how everyone else was doing. Giles was nowhere to be seen; maybe he'd managed to get up the stairs. Vi had obviously given up on the stairs, and having used her run up to run for the front door instead, was being held off by Pixies holding their long thin spiky knitting needles. For every inch she gained a new spot of blood appeared on one of her ankles. If she backed up the Pixies on the landing jabbed at her through the banisters. She was saying 'ouch' a lot; and 'jeepers' for some reason.
"Vi, be more aggressive," Kennedy called to her, wincing a little at the shrill battle cries the Pixies were letting loose with. "Or at least be a little aggressive."
"Okay." Vi kicked out at the Pixies around her feet. They all moved too fast to be kicked but she managed to get a step closer to the front door without being stabbed.
Kennedy scanned around again; there were more than seventeen Pixies in here now, she was sure of it, counting was a little hard though with the way they moved so fast and kept going behind furniture.
Speaking of, Andrew let out a squeal and jumped from the couch with a Pixie attached to his ass. Kennedy would have laughed if in the next instant Dawn hadn't jumped up with her own ass-attached Pixie.
"Sit down!" Kennedy instructed, thinking fear of being squashed would make them let go.
"What, so it can bite harder?" Dawn took care of the problem herself by reaching around and wrenching the thing from her behind. She made a face as it came free with a mouthful of pants.
Andrew was trying to copy Dawn, but without the oomph so Kennedy sorted it for him. Grabbing a heavy book from the coffee table next to the couch, she brought it around in a hard arc. The Pixie didn't see it in time and let out an 'Eek' as it was flattened against Andrew. Andrew yelled in surprise and pain as the little guy slid to the floor and lay there unmoving.
"Kennedy!" Dawn snapped at her.
Kennedy looked up from the motionless figure lying on the carpet. "What? They're attacking us!" Even so, she'd expected him to jump down before he could be spattered to Andrew's ass. What a bad way to go!
"Kennedy!" It was Andrew shouting at her this time and she looked to him to see what was so urgent.
"Okay," she breathed when she saw.
She'd pissed off the Pixies that was for sure. A bunch of them were lined up on the central coffee table and all of them were holding their frigging needles like javelins, poised to throw. "Down!" she shouted.
Before anyone could even respond to her command, Kennedy shoved Andrew hard enough to send him flying over the back of the couch, where he stayed. Dawn was complying even as Kennedy threw herself over the young woman, covering her body with her own.
A Pixie, probably the one who was still standing on top of the TV, shouted: "Fire!"
Half a dozen points of pain flared over Kennedy's back, a couple of the needles fell to the ground, a couple more became caught in her thick black sweater like they were trying to knit some more, but the last couple were thrown hard enough to stick an inch or so into her flesh. Kennedy shouted in pain and flattened herself further into Dawn.
There was a guttural shriek from somewhere in the room, but Kennedy had to wait for the throbbing in her lower back and shoulder to calm down just a bit before she could tackle the next problem.
"You okay?" Dawn was lying under her, looking up scared.
"Don't know yet," Kennedy admitted with a grunt, "but that's six less knitting needles they've got now." She pushed herself off of the younger girl and turned around to see what was going on.
Goorzar was going on.
Scratch that, Goorzar was really going on! Kennedy winced twice in quick succession as Dawn used her distraction to pull the needles free from her back, but her eyes never left the baby-demon.
Goorzar was leaping around the living room on a rampage, but at the moment it was difficult to tell if it was an angry one or a joyous one. In a wide sweep of her already quite long arms she brushed all the Pixies on the table to the floor, along with several newspapers and a half full mug of cold coffee. The mug hit the floor after the Pixies, splashing several of the dazed little ones with the sludge-colored drink.
Goorzar jumped onto the now empty table, looking wildly around for more havoc to cause. Directly above the baby demon two Pixies standing on the blades of the ceiling fan, took aim with their long, sharp needles. Chances are they wouldn't be able to penetrate her thick fur, but Kennedy wasn't taking any chances with her baby. She dove towards the wall and smacked the button to turn on the fan. At first the blades moved lazily, doing nothing but throwing off the Pixies aim, but within a minute they were going pretty fast and both Pixies were lying flat and holding onto the edges to keep from being thrown off altogether.
The fan ruffling Goorzar's hair set her off again and with another screech, she took off around the room batting at any Pixie that wasn't quick enough to scarper. For all that she wasn't fast enough to catch the more excitedly she gave chase.
Dawn had the presence of mind to pick up the splatted Pixie from the floor by the couch before Goorzar spotted him, but it seemed like the demon only wanted live prey anyway.
"Is it okay?" Kennedy asked, as Dawn looked him over.
"He seems to be breathing."
"Good." She didn't want to be responsible for starting a feud with the Pixies, but then considering what was going on tonight, it was possible the Pixies were starting one anyway.
Goorzar was going for the Pixies surrounding Vi now and a new wave headed towards Kennedy and Dawn. Grabbing a cushion from the couch, Kennedy brought it around in a swift motion, catching the charging Pixies by surprise and sending them flying back across the room.
As soon as they landed they rushed her again.
Her pant legs were being tugged on from behind followed quickly by her sweater, before tiny hands could grab her ponytail Dawn was swatting at her repeatedly with a cushion of her own.
"Thanks," she grunted, knocking more Pixies back on their butts.
A gust of wind made Kennedy look up to see Vi running out of the front door. Good, she'd made it out. The door slammed behind her. Goorzar was jumping around with several Pixies hanging onto the long hair of her back. She was shrieking even louder than before as she tried to shake them off. As Kennedy ran over to help her there was a loud thump and a squeal from behind. Dawn had been swarmed by the Pixies and was now face down on the floor.
Kennedy stopped between Dawn and Goorzar for the time it took to decide Goorzar was better able to defend herself, and while taking a step back towards her best friend she noticed the kitchen door was open again. When had that happened and more importantly why? Behind her the front door flew open again too and Kennedy was once more caught on the spot, looking back.
Vi stood in the doorway looking flustered: "Why am I running outside? What's outside?"
Okay that was a good point, except: "It's better than being in here?"
"Well let's get all of us out there then!" Vi ran further into the room, heading for Andrew who was still behind the couch. "How did Andy get knocked out?" she suddenly asked.
Crap, he must have hit his head when she pushed him. This was fast turning out to be another full moon Kennedy didn't want in her history books; was she lunar-cursed or something? If she was maybe Willow could break it for her when this was all over.
Willow, always present in the young Slayer's mind, surged to the front as Kennedy thought of her. Was her girlfriend okay? They'd seen nor heard nothing from the upper floor for a while, their own battle drowning out any sounds that might float down the stairs. If Giles had made it up then maybe he had gotten caught up in a similar fight in one of the bedrooms. A quick glance at the wooden stairs showed several armed Pixies still protecting them.
Willow could look after herself, Kennedy assured herself; she was the most powerful person in the house when she let herself be. And besides, she had civilians to keep safe from the Pixies unprovoked madness.
"Just get him outside as quick as..." Kennedy trailed off as she saw Vi go down to her hands and knees as five Pixies jumped from the bookshelf she was passing to land on her head.
"D, you okay?"
"Peachy," Dawn grunted as she struggled with her own set of six inch purple guerrillas.
It was impossible to fight them, Kennedy realized. Not only were they outnumbered, even with the Slayer speed she and Vi possessed they still weren't as fast as the Pixies. The only one having any luck was Goorzar, who was now doing somersaults over by the front door; the Pixies were getting dizzy and letting go of her hair. As they fell to the floor she was scooping them up in her hands and flinging them away.
"Git tha laas onen staanden, laads!"
Kennedy turned sharply to the voice, and so spotted the Pixie on top of the TV pointing straight at her. A flying Pixie hit the side of her head so hard that it bounced straight back off again. What the hell...? Pain blossomed out from the impact point just above her left ear. Another airborne little guy flew unerringly in her direction. They could fly? Since when? She ducked it and started across the room to see where they were coming from. Another flew up from behind an armchair; Kennedy ducked again but this one caught a hold of her ponytail and kicked its tiny feet right between her shoulder blades. It hurt way more than it should in proportion to its size.
The sound of big feet capering around let her know Goorzar was on the move again as Kennedy rounded the arm chair just in time to see a Pixie leave a spring-loaded ladle and mousetrap hybrid.
'Huh,' Kennedy thought, giving it a good look, 'that's actually pretty cool.'
Two Pixies stopped in the act of winching the makeshift catapult back to a ready-to-go position and looked up at her guiltily. Kennedy kicked the contraption, sending the Pixie just climbing into the bowl of the ladle flying in a completely different direction to the one he intended.
Vi shouted in pain and Kennedy looked back towards her, realizing that Goorzar had used her as a springboard to get up on the bookshelf where more Pixies were about to jump onto the Slayer.
"Goorzar, NO!" The Slayer was already running as the bookcase started to tip forwards; the Pixie bounced against her back, pulling her hair with every step.
As the Pixies on the bookcase jumped to get away from the demon, Goorzar kicked off of the bookcase to jump after them. The heavy piece of furniture was rocked back against the wall and Kennedy was there to steady it before it could fall forwards again and squash Vi and Andrew.
"Do you get the feeling we're not winning," Vi panted as she got shakily to her feet, now Pixie-free. They'd probably deserted her thinking Goorzar was doing their job for them.
"What's going on?" Andrew asked as he woozily came around.
"Frenzied Pixies," Vi helped him up.
"Dawn!" Andrew spotted her still struggling on the floor and went to help.
There had to be a way to gain the upper hand, to get control of the situation. Right now the Pixies had the power; Kennedy just had to work out how to take the power from them.
What was it though? What was driving them? And what could she take away from them?
At the moment the Pixies didn't seem to have any definite plan of attack, just a ferocious desire to immobilize the humans - the bigger humans.
The little leader on the TV was shouting more difficult to understand instructions to his troops and Kennedy knew another assault was about to begin. Andrew already had them hanging from him as he tried to pull some off of Dawn. They hadn't bothered about him when he'd been unconscious though.
Goorzar knocked over the standing lamp in the far corner of the room, sending it crashing to the ground and breaking it. Pixies fled from her, hiding under furniture until she'd passed.
More knitting needles flashed over by the stairs - still guarded by three or four Pixies - and just as Kennedy's ears caught what sounded like foreign counting, a Pixie came flying up from behind the armchair proving they had the ladle catapult up and running again already.
"Dawn, Andrew - Play dead!" Kennedy shouted over the general confusion.
"Huh?" They both asked in unison. A catapulted Pixie landed on Andrew's head and he smacked at it, ending up hurting himself in the process.
"Just do it!" Kennedy shouted, really wishing she had a tennis racket to hand right now so she could volley a couple of those Pixies right back where they came from.
Dawn and Andrew shared a strained look before both of them dropped to the ground and lay as still as they could. A few moments later most of the Pixies jumped off of the pair. Some ran behind the arm chair, others went behind the TV and the rest scattered under various items of heavy furniture. The ones left behind stopped attacking and simply sat down on the motionless twosome; knitting needles were chucked to guards, but they just rested them across their knees in a non-threatening manner.
"So we all just lay down until they go away?" Vi whispered in Kennedy's ear.
"Maybe, you got any better suggestions?" Kennedy whispered back, her eyes darting around as she tried to see what was going on everywhere at once. "Did you see where Giles went?"
"No, I saw him fall over and then that was it. You?"
"No. Maybe he got up the stairs." Kennedy looked over at them and suddenly had bigger things to deal with. "What the hell?"
In spaced out rows of seven, and four deep, purple bowmen advanced towards the Slayers. The bows were three inches big and roughly made, but they looked perfectly serviceable to Kennedy. As did the cocktail sticks they were using as arrows.
"I think now would be a good time for us to do the laying down thing," squeaked Vi.
"They won't actually shoot," said Kennedy, wanting to believe it. Seven tiny arms pulled back as seven bows were tilted upwards. "Okay, I agree."
The Slayers dropped down behind the couch as seven sharp cocktail sticks stuck into book spines above them.
There was an 'Eek' followed by a splat as something hit a wall with some force and Kennedy risked popping her head up in time to see seven more cocktail sticks fired into Goorzar.
The demon stopped, looking shocked, and then she rose up on her stubby but powerful legs and ROARED, making Kennedy think twice about rushing to her rescue.
Hearing the spine-tingling noise from downstairs, Buffy was on her feet in a second. Willow was less than a second behind her.
"What the hell was that?" All the hairs were standing up on Buffy's body.
The Pixies looked at each other, scared, but they didn't stand down their guard.
As Goorzar leapt on the remaining archers, they fired their arrows into her chest, but it didn't slow her down at all. She smacked her big palms into them, knocking more than a few senseless. The rest scattered, but she caught them, grabbing them two or three at a time and throwing them into the walls with enough force to knock them out.
The sound of splats and growling overtook the rest of the noise in the living room.
Kennedy stood behind the couch watching and silently cheering her on as Goorzar dashed around the room with much more purpose than she'd shown before.
The Pixie on the TV was now screaming instructions at his soldiers trying to get them to attack the 'Biggars' again. Kennedy grabbed a book from the shelf behind her and raised it to throw at the small leader. As she let fly a cocktail stick went through the skin between her finger and thumb, ruining her aim and stinging like a bitch. Not all of the Pixies were running, some were still up high enough to be safe from Goorzar's wrath and they were obviously still on the attack.
Dawn and Andrew were pretty vulnerable just lying out in the middle of the room too, but they realized it before she had to shout at them to move. The Pixies guarding them had realized how much they resembled sitting ducks and had already disappeared under the armchair, so the 'dead' were able to crawl to safety without distraction.
When all four of them were behind the couch, Kennedy looked over the top again and watched Goorzar going berserk.
"Where's Giles?" asked Dawn, worried.
"Don't know," Kennedy muttered. "But he's not in here, so he's probably safer than us right now."
"Are you scared Goorzar might hurt us too?" Vi's voice was all trembly. Kennedy could almost understand - that roar had been pretty frigging loud.
"Goorzie would never hurt us!" Andrew said adamantly.
"Just don't go painting yourself purple before she calms down." Kennedy watched as Goorzar, missing the Pixies guarding the stairs because they all hopped up a few steps, ripped the wooden tread completely free and brought it down hard on their new refuge. Luckily for them they all jumped over the side just before wood hit wood.
"Oh girl, that's coming out of your allowance," Kennedy murmured with a small grin.
She might as well be amused now; because she was gonna catch hell for that when Giles saw it. Kennedy and Andrew lived in constant fear that the proprietor of the camp would grow so sick of the baby's accidental (usually) destructive behavior that he'd follow through on his threat to make her live permanently outside in one of the sheds.
Every Pixie was now either out of sight, unconscious or playing their own game of dead except for one. Goorzar fixed her deep orange eyes on the leader as he jumped up and down on top of the TV in anger - shouting gibberish at Goorzar and his defeated army.
Goorzar reared up again to her full height of two foot and opened her mouth wide.
"No more roaring, Goorzie," Kennedy said calmly and firmly.
She didn't know if she would be listened to or understood, or if the demon had reverted back to a completely wild state in the last five minutes never to be tamed again. She had to try though and as luck would have it, Goorzar heard, understood and turned her head towards her. The imminent growl turned to a kind of long drawn out crooning sound which sounded to Kennedy a lot like: "But Moooom!"
The Pixie leader, realizing it had just had a lucky escape, took a flying leap from the TV. But Goorzar wasn't stupid and moved fast enough to pluck him out of the air. The captive bit one of her thick fingers and she shook him roughly before leaping over the central coffee table and heading for the stairs. From there she climbed up onto the banisters and jumped expertly up into the big old window above the front door.
Perching on the window sill she held the Pixie safely in her big fist and every time he shouted at her, she flicked his head with her long fingers making him curse. The dust in the window, which was really difficult to clean and so wasn't cleaned all that often, made the young demon sneeze several times, surprising her into almost falling and covering her prisoner in slime. As the little Pixie shouted at her in disgust and fright, she recovered her balance with ease and hiccupped; clearly she was enjoying her game.
"Here Andy, take a look at this," Kennedy grinned, gesturing Andrew up from where he was still hiding behind the couch.
Andrew poked his head up enough to see that the melee was over and then stood up properly so he could see what Goorzar was up to.
"See I told you she was Baby Kong!" Andrew, who had been saying this all along, grinned happily at her.
Kennedy chuckled. "As long as she doesn't decide to eat him I think we have the advantage at last." She looked around at the mess in the living room. "Until Giles comes back and sees this anyway."
Giles had struggled for all his worth as he was bound shoulders to toes, but there were two of the little bleeders wrapping balls of the baby pink wool around his body at high speed and his struggles were in vein.
As he tried to call out to let someone know what was happening, a third ball of the fuzzy wool was pushed into his mouth causing him to gag. His glasses, having fallen from his face, were nowhere in sight.
When he was completely secured he was hoisted into the air on what he imagined was the creature's equivalent of 'one, two, three', and carried, as far as he could tell, towards the front door. Before they reached it however they stopped and he was carried back the other way again coming to a stop behind the sofa.
He tried to spit the wool out, still hoping to call for help, but it was soft and stuck to the roof of his mouth and his tongue in a truly horrible way that set his teeth on edge.
He now regretted not making time to look up the Pixies since Xander had, in his own way, introduced him to one. He'd made a note to himself on the plane to Los Angeles, but there just hadn't been the time yet.
He remembered vaguely of hearing, when he was a little boy, something about a race called the Piskies which lived at the bottom of the garden and played tricks on people for forgetting about them. He and a friend of his had lain in wait on summer nights in the hopes that they would catch a glimpse of one of these fairy creatures, but they never had from what he could recall.
He'd asked his father for an explanation once, as small boys do, but the old man had 'ummed' and 'ahhed' and in the end had told young Giles that in actual fact Father Christmas had died many centuries ago and it was now his ghost that delivered the presents.
Giles, after spending several months trying to figure all of that out, had made up his own mind that Piskies were just a myth, like Father Christmas and Peter Pan apparently were; and that he shouldn't ask his father for advice when the man was trying to work.
Piskies, he now realized, could very well be the same thing as Pixies. This, on the one hand, excited the little boy in Giles, but on the other hand threw a bucket of icy water in the pit of his stomach. If this was the kind of trick they played on people that had forgotten about them, well...
Thought was interrupted as Andrew came flying over the back of the sofa to hit the bookcase and slide down unconscious. The Pixies, or whatever they were, moved fast enough that Giles was in no danger of being hit by the falling man, but if they were able to knock the chap out and throw him across the room, then that made their 'tricks' even more worrying.
The living room appeared to be in chaos, with everyone shouting at once; even the bloody demon was shrieking at the top of its voice, but Giles could make out frantic whispering from his captors, the ones by his ears at least. He couldn't make out the words they were using, although the accent reminded him of the people he'd met in the West Country while on school holidays. Whatever it was they were talking about, something was clear - they weren't happy about it!
Maybe their arms were aching from holding him for so long? He didn't bloody care what their problem was, but hopefully it would cause them to make a mistake and he could… what exactly - wriggle to safety like a bloody caterpillar?
Suddenly they were on the move so fast it was a wonder they didn't just make off with his clothes, leaving him behind. Through the swinging kitchen door they took him and then through the back door and out into the night.
As he was skimmed along only seven or eight inches from the ground he wondered what on earth they could want with him. As Giles understood it, these things had been living in harmony with Buffy and the rest for over a month. What had suddenly changed to make them so violently hostile and, again, why choose him as their target?
It was cold out here; he hadn't put a coat on yet and the air had an icy edge to it. The night sky was devoid of any protective cloud cover, leaving him a clear view all the way up to the full moon.
Eric Thomas was feeling real weird.
He'd known for nearly a month that he was going to turn into a werewolf tonight and that was sure weird enough but he'd expected it to be bad-weird.
It wasn't every day he could jump from his bedroom window and run off down the street without even slowing down. Normally after an argument with his parents he had to sneak out, but not tonight. Heh, no not tonight.
He felt kinda bad about scratching his dad though, he hadn't meant to do that, it was just, well, he didn't like the feeling of being restrained at the best of times and that feeling was ten times more powerful now he was a wolf. He hoped he hadn't hurt him too much though, because that would suck.
He'd also been told, by the nice lady who had come by the hospital that he wouldn't be able to think like he regularly did. That he would think only werewolf thoughts and be driven only by werewolf desires. In other words that he'd be a savage beast.
He didn't feel particularly savage right now. Well, maybe a little.
The scent of a rabbit had him changing direction abruptly, cutting across the road and taking the back lane leading to the old train tracks. He didn't know how he knew it was a rabbit without seeing it, he just knew! Wow, that was kinda cool. Normally rabbit hunting took a lot more time and patience. Now he'd noticed the first scent, the other one hundred assorted fragrant trails that crisscrossed the rough ground back behind the town became obvious to him. The only drawback was that he couldn't carry a rifle with four paws, or fire one for that matter either.
Reaching the old train tracks that were half buried by long grass and weeds, Eric slowed his run to a steady jog and snuffled along the rusted metal. A bird, startled from its roost in a pocket of weeds, flew up right in front of him. The shock made the new werewolf sit back fast on his haunches, but shock soon gave way to delight and he took after the bird, giving little 'ruffing' barks of pleasure as he gave chase.
The bird, having wings whereas Eric didn't, got away easily. Unconcerned, he continued to follow the tracks deeper into the woods. There was plenty more game out here somewhere and half the fun had always been the hunt; that didn't change just because he was a different species for a while.
A hulking black shadow hidden in the trees watched as Eric passed by. A muzzle, shorter, more pug-like than Eric's, but no less powerful lifted to scent the breeze of his passage.
Silently the shadow followed the young wolf through the woods.
Faith slowly regained consciousness. Her eyelids flickered enough to be aware of faint light, but they closed again almost immediately. She lay still for a while aware only of her own breathing, the softness under her and the dryness of her mouth.
She didn't know if she drifted back to sleep again or not, but the next thing she was aware of was a cool wet cloth dabbing at her cracking lips. At first she pushed her head back away from the sudden sensation, but then relaxed once more, opening her mouth she touched her tongue to the cloth, so thirsty.
The cloth went away and Faith willed her eyes to open, but they refused for the time being. The cloth came back, this time placed over her forehead, cooling her burning brow.
"What year is it?" she croaked, hoping the joke wouldn't backfire on her.
"It's just been a few hours," Angel's voice was low, soothing, totally different from earlier.
"I feel like shit!" Her own voice was getting stronger now, but her throat still felt raw. "Where am I?"
Well that was better than a hospital. She croaked out: "Where?"
"You're still in Indiana."
Faith hadn't known she was in Indiana in the first place, but Indiana/Indianapolis? She supposed it made sense. How many States had she jumped in the past week anyway?
"Okay." She opened her eyes properly and Angel came into focus. "What happened?"
Angel shifted a little on the bed, as he reached over to a cabinet and picked up a drink container with a bendy straw sticking out of the top. He held it in his lap as he spoke. "You fainted. My guess: because you're malnourished, dehydrated, exhausted, and obviously experiencing blood-loss from where you were attacked. On its own I don't think you would have had any trouble recovering from that, but with all the rest of it too..."
Angel looked at her directly. "Whether you went looking for it or not, you could have died."
"Yeah well, it's lucky for me you were there then, isn't it?" Faith focused on the drink in his lap, wondering if it was blood or something she could stomach. "What's in there?"
"Good." She pulled herself up against the pillows. Angel went to help her, but she waved him off. "I'm alright, feeling better already."
He sank back to the bed and when she was comfortable, he handed her the paper cup. "Just sip it to start with."
She nodded, fighting the urge to drain the cup the second the cool water entered her mouth. A cup of coffee had been the last thing Faith had drunk and that had been mid-afternoon, not long after she'd left the cemetery behind. It seemed like even longer ago than it was. The burning of her throat slowly cooled with the passage of the water and when a few minutes later the straw was only sucking up air, the pounding in her head had lessened too.
Angel stayed quiet while she drank, sitting on the bed, staring out of the gap left by the mismatch of the curtains.
"Got any more?" Faith handed him back the cup.
"You should eat something first." He stood and walked to a table against the far wall, picked up a big Happy Burger bag and brought it back to her. "It's not the healthiest option, but there aren't many salad bars open at this time of night."
"Rather have this anyway." She delved into the bag, pulling the contents out one by one. A couple of quarter pound cheeseburgers, a big bag of fries and a chocolate donut; not bad choices for someone who only ate liquid. "Thanks."
Ripping the wrapper off of one of the burgers, Faith tucked in, finishing it in just six bites.
"I got you a coke too." He put it on the cabinet for when she was ready. "And I sent someone back to find your pants. They're fine; I put them over on the chair."
"Thanks," said Faith again, still chewing. God, had she ever been this hungry? "I appreciate it. You didn't have to, not after what I said to you." She started unwrapping the other burger as she spoke, "I don't even know where that came from, I just..." Shaking her head, she bit into the burger.
Faith put the burger down but took her time finishing her mouthful.
Finally, she began, "You're the one who believed in me Angel, who thought I could be better than I was. No one else, not B, not Giles, not even me - just you. Buffy could turn around tomorrow and say she never wants to see me again and the only thing that would stop me from screwing up would be letting you down. Do you get that?" She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "So yeah, finding out you don't believe in me any more was kind of a bummer."
Her eyes opened again as Angel took her burger-greasy hand. "I still believe in you."
"Didn't sound like it," she mumbled, pulling her hand away. She went back to eating her burger to cover her embarrassment.
"Why did you run away, Faith?"
Faith finished her second Quarter-pounder and pushed a handful of fries into her mouth.
Angel sighed. "I can't make you go to Cleveland, but you know what will happen if you don't?"
"Yeah," Faith smirked, although she wasn't really feeling it. "They hunt me down like a wild dog, lock me in a cage and throw away the key."
"And is that what you want?" asked Angel.
"Maybe it's what I need," Faith shrugged. "Maybe, I don't know; maybe I don't deserve this second chance just because you think I do. Would another lawyer have got the same result Gunn did?" she asked seriously. "I feel like I cheated, and I know I haven't changed as much as Giles thinks I have. I'm still capable of stuff that... that I don't want to be capable of." She thought about the blood all over her prison sweater.
"Another lawyer probably wouldn't have been able to find anyone to translate the Mayor's journal, so maybe you did have a better chance with Wolfram and Hart behind you, but that doesn't mean you cheated anything. Everything the Judge and Jury heard was true and they were the ones who made the decision to cut the charge from murder to manslaughter, not us," Angel explained patiently.
"But wasn't his journal full of demons and stuff?" Faith had been wondering that since the trial. She hadn't heard any mention of demons in court, but hardly anything the Boss had been running was natural.
"They didn't care about the demons, all they were interested in were the deaths of Allan Finch and Lester Wirth, and they turned a blind eye to the rest or assumed the Mayor was insane as well as criminal," Angel smiled, adding, "Which didn't hurt your case at all."
Faith finished the fries and reached over for her coke. She drank half of it before setting the cup back down and resting back against the pillows, feeling better by the minute.
"I hear what you're saying, but for all the translations and Gunn's fancy talk I still murdered Lester in cold blood. I knew it was wrong and I did it anyway because the Boss asked me to, and I don't know if five years in prison and helping to save the world is enough to make up for that."
Faith chuckled softly as she continued, "Maybe if I'd saved the world on my own or something, I'd be more sure about things, but right now..." she trailed off, staring into nothing over Angel's shoulder. "I don't know."
"This is about the inmate, isn't it?" he suddenly asked, catching her off guard.
Faith's eyes moved sharply back to Angel's face. "Which one?"
"Machinelli. The woman you attacked the day before..." he began.
"I didn't attack her, she came after us!" Faith exploded, rising half out of the bed in anger.
"Say that again," Angel snapped.
"I said: she attacked us!" Faith snapped back. "Stupid bitch wouldn't quit!"
"Janey. Lol stabbed her in the back - and I mean that literally," she emphasized before muttering, "I knew you'd be like this!"
"And then what did you do?" Angel was almost leaning in her face now, "Hit her?" he asked with a dark, goading chuckle.
"Hell yeah, what else was I supposed to do, Angel? I couldn't let her get away with that! Janey may be a Slayer, but she's just a kid too, doesn't even understand her own strength yet. She'd have let Lol kill her if I hadn't stepped in; and they had no intention of letting me get out of that bathroom alive either, just so you know." Faith fumed, throwing the bed covers back and swinging her legs out of the bed. "And I didn't do anything she won't recover from."
"So someone pushed you as hard as they could, stabbed a young girl right in front of you and was going to murder you in cold blood and yet you let her walk away?" Angel sounded surprised. "Why?"
"What else was I supposed to do, I couldn't kill..." Faith trailed off, staring at Angel.
"The only person who thinks you should still be locked up is you, Faith," said Angel quietly. "The sooner you realize that, the clearer things will be."
"She didn't walk away though, did she?"
"No but she's walking now," Angel told her. "A little uncomfortably, maybe," he added. "But walking."
"How do you know all this?" Faith asked, mystified.
He flashed her a cryptic smile and she rolled her eyes.
"Fine, don't tell me. Tell me instead how long you been following me without me knowing?"
"Just since this afternoon actually. Well, yesterday afternoon now. You were spotted in a bar two nights ago." He started pulling something out of his coat pocket.
"So that chick in the bar was working for you? The first one, I mean, the blonde shrink?" she thought about it a second. "Or was it the foxy European Vampire Bond-girl? If it was her, tell her I want my bag back."
Angel had been looking confused the whole time she was speaking. When she'd finished he said, "It was Agent Fryer, from Texas. He took these from across the street." He handed her some big glossy photos.
She took them and gave them a good look. Yep that was her walking across the parking lot of the place in Ogallala heading towards the entrance of the motel and that was the Vampire bitch that had gotten her drunk and tried it on. She didn't look so much like Halle Berry now Faith was sober but she was still wicked attractive.
"You'd vanished again before I arrived," Angel went on. "Then I got a call from Fryer saying he'd picked up your trail here - it didn't take me long then to find you." He tapped the side of his nose.
"You followed the smell of my blood?"
Angel nodded, smiling a little. "It's a useful talent."
"It's a nasty talent," Faith corrected as she stood up from the edge of the bed, testing her legs.
Angel shrugged. "Buffy never liked it either."
She knew he was waiting for a reaction to that, but she didn't give him one. Instead she concentrated on stretching a little, first one arm and then the other, one leg and then the other. A full stomach, a nap in a comfy bed and she was feeling as good as new. Well not as good as new, but better than she had in a few days at least.
She walked to the chair her pants were draped over, pulled them on and fastened them before turning back to Angel. He had stood up when she had and although he looked just as casual as he had a moment ago with his hands in his coat pockets and a smile on his face, Faith knew he was deliberately standing between her and the door.
"Are you leaving?" she asked as she climbed back onto the bed and snagged the chocolate donut she'd put to one side earlier.
"I, ah, no?" he stammered, probably feeling a bit stupid now, which had been Faith's intention.
"Good then." She grinned at him as she bit a chunk from the donut, chewing it up and washing it down with a mouthful of coke. Her throat was feeling much better since she'd eaten too.
He sat back down on the edge of the bed, his hands still in his pockets. "Your parole officer will be in Boudenver tomorrow."
"Yeah, that came round fast."
"Buffy spoke to her on the phone Thursday evening."
The donut stopped halfway to Faith's mouth. "Really? What did she say?"
"The parole officer or Buffy?" Angel asked.
Faith shrugged, "Both."
"I don't know."
"Really," Faith repeated mostly to herself. She took another bite of her donut but didn't really taste it as she chewed. Buffy wouldn't have ratted her out, would she? No way, not unless she was really angry. She thought back to Buffy's visit to the prison and knew there was a high chance that Buffy was really angry. "Shit."
What if Buffy didn't even want her in Boudenver anymore?
This wasn't exactly a new question; Faith had been asking herself the same thing pretty much since she'd learned her new release date. It had been a pretty big factor in Faith's decision to run in the first place if she was honest, to avoid the rejection she was scared was coming her way. It hadn't occurred to her at the time, at least not on a conscious level, that she was sealing the deal by running.
"What's the point of going there now?" she wondered aloud.
"Did you mean what you said?" Angel asked, "About being okay if Buffy never wants to see you again?"
Faith's loud sigh had a tired air of amusement. "No, I don't know, probably not." Angel wasn't looking too happy with that so Faith added, "I'm not going to start killing people to mask the pain or nothing, A, I just... What do I do?"
"Your place at Giles' Slayer-school isn't subjective to Buffy's feelings for you or vice-versa," Angel explained.
"You're welcome there whether you and Buffy decide to have a relationship or not."
Faith could just imagine how comfortable that would be! She and Buffy weren't exactly good at getting along whatever their situation and it was pretty much to be expected that if they weren't screwing they'd be scrapping. Could she live with that? Could she live without trying?
Something else occurred to her as she looked up at Angel sitting passively in front of her. "How come you're so cool about me and B having a," -she made finger quotes- "'Relationship'? I heard you wanted to hang Spike out in the sun for touching her."
"Spike is..." Angel sighed so deeply it sounded almost like a growl. "Spike!" he finished with a weary shake of his head. "And I've had time to get used to the two of you together."
"I haven't," Faith sighed. "I didn't let myself believe I'd get out until I was actually out of those gates and then... and then it was all too freakin' much, ya know?"
Whether he knew or not, Angel nodded along.
"I didn't know what to say to her, I still don't know what to say! She's got it into her head that I love her, maybe she's right, but I don't know how to do that, not up close anyway.
"I spent years telling myself I hated her just so I wouldn't have to deal with the other thing and... and I never thought I'd have to deal with it, not even when I went back to help with the First. Didn't even cross my mind. I only kissed her because I wanted to mess with her and then it all just got way out of hand." Faith chuckled but her eyes implored Angel for help in understanding it all.
"Don't you want her to love you back?" he asked gently.
"Sure I do, I guess, but I'm just gonna screw it up. I'm already screwing it up! And what about the others?" Faith asked, finding it easier to keep going now she'd started to talk. "Willow, Xander, Dawn? - It's not like they think they're in love with me - they shouldn't have to put up with my shit again, too."
"I think you're underestimating them, Faith. I'm not saying it'll be easy, but they'll accept you once you've worked through your issues with them. And as much as Buffy loves her friends, she isn't ruled by their opinions - I'm living proof of that."
Faith rubbed at her left shoulder, still sore from the fight, considering all that he'd said. Eventually she looked him the eye again. "So what you're basically saying is 'Cut the bullshit and get your ass to Cleveland?'"
"Well that was what I was basically saying about six hours ago, but then you went and almost died on me and I figured you had some stuff to get off your chest, what with you punching me and all," Angel smiled, "Now I'm saying: I have a car, can I give you a ride someplace?"
Faith opened her mouth to accept, but hesitated, changing her mind, "Uh, no thanks."
Angel's face fell. "Faith, I understand you still have concerns, but whatever happens between you and Buffy, you have to be in Boudenver when your parole officer gets there!" he snapped in exasperation.
"I know that Angel, I'm not stupid," Faith hopped off the bed and popped the last chunk of the donut into her mouth.
Angel was looking at her like she clearly was stupid.
"Fine," she said when she got to the door, "If it'll make you happy, give me a ride to the bus station, but then I'm on my own again, got it?"
Walking out of the motel room into the night, she left the door open for Angel to follow her. She'd take that ride, seeing as she had no idea where the nearest Greyhound station might be around here, but she hadn't roughed it across half the country just to take the easy way out on the home stretch.
Rona and Alison both seemed to shout the trainee Watcher's name at once as they saw her fall to the ground.
Pixies came out from under the beds to try and engulf them as the two of them ran to her. Naomi was being carried to the door and it began to open as a Pixie pushed on it from the outside.
"Help?" Naomi asked, trying to stay calm as she craned her neck to see where she was going.
"We're trying," Rona promised, jumping over knitting needle-wielding soldiers. They stabbed them upwards, but she sailed cleanly over the top and landed by the door. There was a frustrated "Yip!" from the other side as she slammed it closed.
Rona looked down at the halted Watcher-kidnappers in front of her. "Put her down right now," she said.
"Naw," came the simple reply and before she could argue further, a woollen knitted noose landed over her head and shoulders.
Rona struggled but it was quickly pulled tight and she could only watch as the door started to inch open again. She was pulled back a few feet nearly hard enough to land her on her ass by several Pixies hauling on the rope.
"You're tying me to the bed?" she shouted angrily after twisting around to see what they were doing.
"I got it!" Alison called out.
Rona watched her dodge a couple of Pixies on the ground as she dashed towards her. Something metal in her hand flashed, reflecting the bare bulb hanging from the ceiling; Rona couldn't make out what it was until Alison was diving towards the knitted rope and snipping through it.
Tiny little travel scissors!
"Sweet!" Rona praised Alison's quick thinking as pulled the loosened noose over her head and dropped it onto the Pixies at her feet.
Alison had landed on the floor after her dive, the scissors still held out in front of her as she slid along the scrubbed wooden floor. "Nay's halfway out the door!" she squealed as a dozen Pixies attacked her with the long thin needles.
"Damn," Rona watched Alison get repeatedly jabbed for a split second, as long as it took to make up her mind that the wounds were meant to annoy and distract not kill the other Slayer, and then she went after Naomi.
Catching up with her just outside the door, Rona grabbed both of Naomi's legs by the ankles, reversed and pulled her back into the dormitory. She smiled grimly as all the pixies carrying Naomi shouted their surprise at being suddenly yanked backwards off of their feet.
"How do you like it?" she asked as she hauled Naomi and several Pixies all back through the door before the little devil-imps could get their balance back.
"Not much!" Naomi admitted.
Rona smirked as she made it past the threshold and turned slamming the door shut again.
Naomi used the time she had before the Pixies regained their feet to bounce to her own. "That wasn't much fun," she panted as she brushed herself off, not realizing the grappling hooks were still embedded in the back of her sweater.
Rona checked on Alison, dismissing Naomi now she was free; Naomi was cool enough, but she wasn't a Slayer. The younger girl was rolling around on the floor writhing in pain and making some agonized yelping noise as the Pixies attacked her. Tears streaked down her cheeks despite her eyes being tightly shut and she apparently couldn't catch her breath.
"Make them stop!" Alison wheezed.
Rona looked harder. The Pixies weren't even using weapons on her now; they were just using their hands. At first she thought they were pinching her really hard or something, but then she realized...
"Ally, they're tickling you!" Rona shouted in disgust, gruffly kicking the other Slayer's feet that were writhing together on the floor.
"I know," Alison wept. "And they won't stop!" She squealed as one of the imps used both of his tiny hands to attack her left side, the soft spot below her ribs.
"Oh dear!" Naomi felt herself being pulled over backwards again.
Rona turned just in time to see her hit the floor again. "Naomi," she sighed angrily, "would you cut that out for just a minute?"
As she was lifted six inches from the ground again, Naomi rolled her eyes. "I'm hardly doing it on purpose."
"You know, the only stuff I know about Watchers I learned from the stories the other girls in Sunnydale told all the time," Rona told her as she leapt over Naomi to slam her body into the door, preventing it from being re-opened. "I thought they were exaggerating just how hazardous you guys are to our health, but I spend five minutes with you..." she trailed off as she realized there were a bunch of Pixies in front of her, all with tiny bows and arrows pointing her way. "And look what happens!" she finished with a shake of her head.
"Move away from the door." It was the General-type that had threatened Naomi earlier.
Rona didn't see the point of asking "Or what?" 'Or what' was pretty clear to her. She looked around for inspiration, but came up with nothing. The dormitory was pretty bare anyway and with her back pressed against the door, she couldn't reach anything from the beds or their lockers.
Naomi was laying calmly in the Pixies hold, staring up at her Rona and waiting for the Slayer you save her again.
Alison wasn't being tickled anymore as all the Pixies in the room were watching, waiting for Rona to step away from the door. Alison lay on the floor at the foot of the beds, looking worn out and still giggling occasionally although she was trying hard not to. Rona met her eyes for a few beats and shifted her head just slightly before she turned her glare back on the mini-archers.
Alison took some deep breaths to calm down and slowly sat up, stretching her neck. "You'd better do as they say," she began, getting just as slowly to her knees.
"Your Kith makes sense Warrior," the General told Rona, right before the lights went out.
Well they went out for him and all the archer-Pixies and several of the Pixies who had been tickling Alison, as she snatched a blue blanket from the bed on her right and chucked it over their heads.
There were shouts of confusion coming from under the blanket which only got louder as Alison darted forward and started smacking the blanket with a cheap foam pillow from one of the vacant beds.
"I meant drop a bed on them, not a blanket!" Rona wanted to go help hit them a few times, but couldn't leave the door. Naomi was still being held and the critters holding her would probably dart out the door the second she left it unguarded.
"We'll have to work on our face code sometime then," Alison grinned as she kept on whacking away.
Peter and Rajiv were doing their best to defend themselves as tennis balls and hazel nuts bounced off of them in a constant assault; in other words, they were ducking down between the beds and covering their heads. Peter was glad they were no longer lobbing cocktail sticks at him, but when all was said and done, this was just as shit!
Where were they getting all the tennis balls from? He looked up enough to answer his own question, the little buggers were catching them again as they rebounded off of him and Raj! They were the size of beach balls in ratio to the bastard's size but they caught and threw them again perfectly. The hazelnuts were even easier for them to manage and Peter got thwacked on the forehead by one before he could duck his head again.
"We gotta get out of here, raise the alarm, innit." Rajiv flinched as a projectile hit the back of his head. "Like before they kills us!"
"Be my sodding guest," Peter gestured towards to the door as he tried to get himself under one of the beds again. He wasn't risking getting carried off like Reece just to save everyone else's arse; he couldn't see any of them running to his rescue!
"Okay," Rajiv started to get to his knees.
"Raj, are you stoned?" Peter grabbed his friend's wrist, trying to pull him under the bed too although there wasn't enough room for them both. "Did you see what happened to Reece?"
"Yeah they took him!" Rajiv pulled his wrist from Peter's grasp. "And now they're gonna do who knows what to him. We need to, like, get him help or something, I don't know man..." he ran a shaky hand over his face.
"Fine." Peter slammed his hand down on the rough wooden floor in annoyance before pulling himself back out from under the bed. A hazelnut narrowly missed his eye almost making him change his mind, but the following tennis balls bounced off of him softly enough to lend him courage. "Although I don't bloody see how getting carried off too is going to help him."
He was in a starters crouch now between the beds, squinting his eyes as he tried to ignore the objects still hitting him. Rajiv scrambled up quickly, surprised he'd managed to convince Peter.
"What?" Peter grinned at him. "You think I don't want some of the credit for saving his arse? Can't let you look too good mate." He winked at Rajiv.
"Like you could stop me," Rajiv snorted with a smirk. He nodded in the direction of the door, wincing as a tennis ball landed a direct shot on his nose, "Ow! On three?"
"On whatever you like mate, it ain't going to help us get out the door." Peter was pretty sure that as soon as they tried to leave, the Piskies would do to the two of them exactly what they had done to Reece.
The only reason he and Raj were still conscious right now was because they were staying put and looked defenseless. As soon as the two of them went on the offensive, they'd be demobilized fast. It was a stupid plan, but he didn't want everyone back home finding out he'd been cowering under a bed while Rajiv had made a heroic attempt at saving everyone's favorite cadet; better to go down screaming with him.
Rajiv counted quickly to three, his head nodding on every number, and both trainees took off from their crouch positions.
Peter was surprised they made it even half way across the floor, but it took that long for the Piskies to realize and change their aim. He took a ball to the balls before the projectiles started flying towards their faces again. He grunted in pain but managed to keep going straight through the mass of Piskies; they were all too quick to be trampled, but it broke them up enough to leave a clear shot for the door.
He and Raj reached the open door at the same time. Peter saw what was waiting for them and checked his sprint, "Watch out!" he tried to grab his friend's shoulder too late and Rajiv's foot caught on the trip wire across the exit and he fell to the grass outside.
"Shit!" Peter jumped over him, grabbing the collar of Rajiv's jacket as he tried to get him on his feet again. "Get up!"
"I can't," Raj grunted, "They've got my effing legs!"
Peter almost slid over on the damp grass as he turned to see. The trip wire, which was actually pink wool, was being wound around Rajiv's ankles, tying his legs together all the way up to his knees.
"For Christ's sake!" If Peter wasn't still being pelted with hard objects he'd be laughing over his mate's predicament. "Come on," he insisted, still trying to drag Rajiv to his encumbered feet.
A Pixie swinging out of the doorway on a length of string flew into Peter's face. Swatting at it angrily he let go of Raj and stumbled backwards. By the time he'd recovered Rajiv's arms were restrained by the pink wool too.
"I'm done for, man," Rajiv yelled rather dramatically, "Save yourself!"
"You're a bleeding nutter, you are!" Peter dodged a flying hazelnut and catching an airborne tennis ball, threw it back with all his strength and knocked a Piskie flat on his arse, "Have that!" he congratulated himself.
Leaning down, he patted an increasingly pink mummified Rajiv on the back of the head. "I'll be back," he promised in a knock-off Austrian accent, and then took off across the grass towards the house.
A shower of cocktail sticks followed him but as they all missed Peter didn't even realize. It was only two hundred yards to the back door of the house, he could see the light coming through the kitchen windows and he put on a fresh burst of speed. The sooner he got to the Slayers, the sooner one of them could deal with this and he could take a fag break from all this action adventure shit.
He was halfway across the back lawn when he tripped on something and stumbled to his knees. Were the little buggers out here an' all? He wondered, scrambling back to his feet and looking around at the dark ground warily. Peter started for the house again a little slower thinking he must have tripped on something benign like a flowerpot.
A few steps away from the long rectangles of light falling on to the grass from the windows something cracked against his knee.
"Argh," he went down in a heap on the damp lawn, clutching his bashed knee and was hit again across the back. "Bastards!"
Wrenching away the thing the pest were using to hit him with - a tree branch, not long but thick and solid enough to hurt - he flung it as far as he could away from them and pushed himself back to his feet - third time lucky...
Peter stopped running again as quick as he started and steadied himself as he took in the Piskies latest move.
Just inside the nearest rectangle of light, a line of Piskies held up their bows. All the arrows were pointing at him, of course, but they didn't look sharp enough to be concerned about. He stepped closer trying to see what they were made of.
Out of the corner of his eye he spotted another Piskie, almost hidden in the darkness beyond the reach of the kitchen light, suddenly dart along in front of the row of short-arsed archers. In his wake there was a fitzspr noise and the bulbous ends of the arrows sparked into flame.
"Bollocks!" Peter stepped backwards.
"Fire!" A voice shouted from the darkness.
Peter started to panic again as ten lit matches were fired expertly in his direction. Most went out as they hit him, and he jumped around patting at the ones that singed his clothing.
"Fire!" Another wave was fired.
A match struck his face burning his chin for just a second and Peter could definitely smell singed hair.
"Geet tha ball alight!" he heard from somewhere.
A match stuck in Peter's collar and caught his jacket on fire. One slap of his hand put it right out, but he'd had enough of this bollocks now. If they were going to start lobbing burning tennis balls at him...
Sod that game for a handful of monkeys. He'd get into the woods, skirt the house and try and reach help from another angle he decided as he ran from the house and the evil, insane Piskies.
For coup central, Willow's bedroom was strangely calm now; almost too calm, the back of Buffy's brain added. That wasn't unusual - her life was all calm, storm, calm, storm, as soon as one disaster was over they were repairing the hatches ready for the next time they needing battening down.
The commotion from downstairs had ceased, and only the murmur of conversation could be heard now. To avoid Buffy tearing apart the room, Beryan had sent a couple of her scouts to check out what had caused the fearsome roar. Whatever they'd reported back to their little purple chief had caused her to frown deeply. When Buffy had taken that for a sign of badness, Beryan promised that everyone was unharmed. Once again Buffy had to rely on Willow's faith in the Pixie leader and reluctantly settled back down.
Now they appeared to be waiting, although for what Buffy wasn't completely sure.
"Do we have some kind of estimated time this little hostage situation is going to end?" Buffy asked. "I mean, staring at Will's walls - great entertainment, really, but sooner or later you're going to have to feed us unless you don't count starvation as harming us."
Beryan was busy talking to her lieutenants and didn't answer her.
"We'd die of dehydration first," Willow said helpfully.
Xander had moved to sit on the floor against the wardrobe with them. "Will, why do you not have a TV in here?"
"'Cause when Kennedy and I come to bed we have better things to do than watch TV."
Buffy raised an eyebrow at her friend while Xander asked, "What could be better than..." he grinned, "Never mind, I get it."
"I meant sleeping," Willow said, not blushing at all. So changed from the shy, babbling sixteen year old that blushed at even the simple thought of kissing someone.
"Course you did, Will," Buffy smirked, "Because sleeping with Kennedy is way worthier than watching TV."
Xander made a groaning noise deep in his throat.
"Not sleeping with, sleeping next to," Willow clarified.
"So sleeping with Kennedy isn't better than watching TV?" Buffy teased her.
"Yes... no... I mean..." Now Willow seemed to be going a little red as she tried to answer without giving away too much.
"Maybe you should describe such an occasion in detail and we could tell you whether the answer should be yes or no," offered Xander, still grinning.
"Xander!" Buffy laughed, amused by his audacity. She found herself glancing at Willow, wondering if she'd answer.
"What, I'm bored?" Xander defended himself.
"So I should describe my sex life to relieve your boredom?" Willow asked.
"See what happens when you don't have a TV in your room," Buffy said. "Now you have to entertain us."
"You want to hear all the sordid details too?" Willow asked, clearly a lot more taken aback by Buffy's interest.
"Well not all the sordid..." Buffy gazed nonchalantly over at the Pixies pretending to keep an eye on them, before giving up and turning to her friends again. "I'm as bored as Xander, so sue me for wanting the time to pass a little quicker."
"You're not bored, you want sex tips!" Xander cottoned on, sitting up straight and pointing a finger at Buffy. "You want sex tips!" he repeated even louder. Buffy smacked him hard on the knee, "Ow."
"What possible use would I have for sex tips, Xander? I'm never having sex again!"
"You came to me for advice on sex?" Willow squealed, looking like she might cry with joy. Suddenly Buffy was engulfed in a big hug. "The student becomes the teacher!"
"Huh?" Buffy was bemused.
Willow pulled back, "We'll have a big talk, 'kay? I'll tell you everything you want to know, plus there's a lot of websites I have bookmarked that you might find interesting. I keep them in a private folder because some of them aren't exactly Dawn-friendly, or they're too friendly for Dawn's eyes, but I'll give you the password and you can peruse to your heart's content."
"Can I have the password?" Xander asked.
"Not after what happened to my book on medieval witchcraft," Willow scowled at him.
Buffy looked at Xander, her curiosity outweighing her embarrassment of a moment before.
"Will, I told you, it wasn't what you think. I was researching and eating a cream donut at the same time and obviously it's true what they say about men and multi-tasking. The cream dripped and I didn't clean it up properly, the next thing I knew: pages stuck together."
"Ew Xander." Buffy stared at him in mild disgust, feeling no guilt at making Xander the sacrificial lamb that steered the conversation away from her need for sex-advice. Which she didn't. Need, that was. She'd been serious about the abstinence.
"I'm telling the truth!" he insisted.
She turned sharply at the voice by her right knee. She'd almost forgotten the Pixies were even in the room for all of ten minutes. Now she smiled down at her little friend, Elowen, "There you are," she said affectionately.
Okay, so she had thought they were friends, but that wasn't the friendliest of greetings, unless you were Cordelia Chase and calling someone a moron was as close as you could physically get to an endearment.
"Gud mornen?" The young Pixie tried again when Buffy's smile dropped.
"Oh," Buffy clicked. "Well yeah, I suppose it is a good morning for someone on the winning side of this little siege."
The Pixie looked unsure; long sentences were still a little beyond her, so Buffy smiled again. Elowen perked right up and then ran off.
"Is it morning already?" asked Buffy.
Willow checked her watch, "Yep, it's nearly one."
Elowen reappeared, dragging behind her a fire scarred rectangular tin. She pulled it right up to Buffy's knees and then stepped back, pointing at it.
"Fore yew an' yaw kin, Bottom Pie," she explained proudly, doing a little curtsy before taking off again back to the main pack of Pixies by the windows.
"Pie?" Xander peered into the tin.
"Breakfast I guess," Buffy peered in too. "Obviously they do consider starvation to be harmful."
In the tin was a loaf of bread, or at least that was what it looked like. She gave it a prod. It was still warm and kinda soft. Buffy pulled a chuck off the top and held it up for inspection. Baked right into the bread were chunks of pork and potato, the aroma was delicious and Buffy's mouth started watering as she regarded the tasty-looking morsel.
"They'd consider poisoning us as harmful right?
"I'd have thought so," said Xander, "And besides it looks like they're all eating it."
Buffy nodded, popped the chunk into her mouth and started chewing. "S'good," she said with her mouth full.
Angel pulled the Viper into a parking space along side the bus station and jumped out, looking around for the closest entrance.
This place was perhaps nicer than most of the bus stations he'd been in, or at least it looked nicer - all glass and metal gleaming under banks of light poles arranged attractively to show off the almost new building and ensure that little of the area outside the terminal was left in darkness.
The smell was the same as bus stations everywhere though - need, hunger, loneliness and desperation.
It was strange how things changed. Angelus had enjoyed coaching inns - it was so easy for people to get lost if they were half way there already. Angel hated the modern equivalent of the same.
He wished Faith had just let him drive her all the way to Boudenver. Not just to avoid having to spend time in this place, but because that way he could deliver her right to Giles' doorstep.
He didn't know what was going through her mind right now; she hadn't opened up again in the car like he had hoped she would. She'd talked, about ghost horses and batty old women mostly, but she never touched on anything personal even when Angel did his best to probe.
Maybe she'd talked enough to make peace with her current demons, or maybe she wasn't getting on a bus to Cleveland and she didn't want him figuring that out by something she said.
As he thought this he realized he was still standing alone on the blacktop of the parking lot. Faith was still in the car. He couldn't see her through the tinted windows, and so he walked around to her side and opened the door to find her going through her pockets.
"Everything okay?" he asked.
"Uh, yeah, just give me a minute, need to find my money." Faith didn't look up at him as she continued searching her person.
Angel stepped back to wait.
After only a few seconds more Faith sat back in the low seat, running a hand through her hair, she admitted, "Guess I'm a little short."
Angel could see the money in her hand amounted to about twelve dollars, probably just enough to get her to the other side of town.
She stuffed the money back into a pocket and slid gracefully from the car; obviously she was feeling better. Her clothes were filthy though and he wished he'd thought to suggest a shower and a visit to the Laundromat before leaving the motel.
"S'okay, I can hop on the bus without paying, done it a million times before," she smiled at him as she straightened her jacket out and flicked her hair back. "Just knew you wouldn't approve."
"Faith, I can give you the price of the ticket," he told her, already reaching for his wallet. He didn't carry all that much cash these days, didn't need to back in LA, not with the unlimited company credit card, but he had a couple of hundred dollar bills that should cover her fare.
"No, it's not fair on you." Faith shied away as he held them out to her. "Besides, like I said, I don't need it."
"I want to do it," he promised her. "Besides what if you get caught without a ticket? It'd take a long time to walk to Boudenver, longer than what you have to spare." He watched her closely.
She thought about it for long enough to worry him, and then snatched the two bills out of his hand, rolled them up and stuck them in the breast pocket of her jacket.
"Okay, but I'm paying you back, you know, one day," she smirked at him.
He ushered her towards the automatic glass doors of the main entrance and they walked together in silence. Angel still had no idea what she was thinking.
At the doors she stopped and placed a hand on his chest, right where she'd shallowly stabbed him earlier. "Wait here; I'm gonna go get a ticket."
If he had a heart beat, it would have gotten faster. "Why don't I come in with you?"
"Mirrors." She pointed through the glass doors and he could see that she was right, the interior walls were reflective.
At this time of the morning it was possible that someone might notice his lack of reflection, but he would prefer to risk that than let her go in alone.
"Jeez Angel, I'll come right back out here and wait for the bus with you, okay." She'd sensed his hesitation and wasn't happy about it.
"Okay." There wasn't anything else he could do, if she thought he didn't trust her, that would just give her more reason to run again.
She nodded and walked towards the doors which opened for her with a quiet swoosh. He watched her walk in, look around for what she wanted and then walk purposefully towards the ticket booths on the other side of the building.
As he waited, his fingers fiddled with the cell phone in his pocket. His phone hadn't rung since Frayer had called in the early evening and he wondered if Buffy had finally given up on him having any useful information.
Before he knew it, Faith was coming back through the automatic doors, a ticket in her hand.
"Buses are this way apparently," she said and began walking towards a far corner of the building. "I got lucky, there's a bus going my way in a few minutes."
"That's good." He couldn't read the ticket in her hand.
"Yeah, I gotta transfer in Columbia, but this time of the morning that won't be too much hassle. Might even manage to get some sleep."
Columbia, that sounded promising, at least it was in the right state. Unless she lying to him, of course.
They rounded the corner and six or seven Greyhound buses came into view. Faith checked her ticket as she walked closer.
"You know, I really don't mind driving you there, Faith," he tried again. "I could even stay a few days, help you settle in, make sure Xander doesn't give you a hard time."
She gave him a look which clearly said she wouldn't need help to deal with Xander. He wasn't so sure about that, but he didn't pursue it.
They were at the buses now and she gave them a quick look over before heading to the one she needed. Together they stood by its side.
"Faith," he began a last ditch attempt. "Please don't..."
"Dude, give it a rest, okay.?" Faith delved into her pocket, pulled out some cash and handed it over to him. "Your change, so you don't think I'm keeping it for getaway cash. I'm doing what you want, I'm going... home," she grimaced, "Or something. Point is, I can't turn up with you because then everyone will think I'm only there because you made me go. Me and B included."
He took the change from her. Knowing she was right didn't mean he had to like it but what choice did he have. Right now he was having doubts as to whether she would go back without him, so it stood to reason that everyone else would too.
"Can I at least see the ticket?" he asked, with a smile.
"No. You're just going to have to trust me." She winked at him and started backing towards the steps for the bus. "Keep it real, Soulboy." She cocked her fingers at him with a smile before turning and boarding the bus.
From the blacktop he watched her take her seat and only a minute later the bus started pulling out. She gave him a quick wave, which he returned, and then she was gone.
He had no idea if he had just done the right thing by letting her go or if he'd just given her the chance to take off again with no leads to follow. He looked at the change in his hand; there was a hundred and forty dollars.
He could phone Harmony, get her to find out all the destinations from Indianapolis that cost sixty dollars... or he could get in the Viper and follow the bus; Faith was sat in the middle, she might never notice...
...Or he could trust her.
He pulled his cell phone from his pocket and scrolled through his contacts to find Buffy's number. Before he hit send he thought better of it. No point in pissing Buffy off for no reason. He scrolled for a different number instead and hit dial.
"Hey Wes, it's me," he said when the line was picked up. "Yeah I found her; she's on a bus to Cleveland right now."
"No, I trust her, she'll be alright," Angel answered Wes's uncertainty. "I'll be back in the office in the morning."
Eric was in his element. Actually he was in an element he never knew existed, but he wanted it to be the one he stayed in from now on.
All around him the fresh night smells were like an aromatherapy bath for his mind, all swirling together like a, a stir fry of different creatures waiting for him to eat. Not that he wanted his meat fried and/or with mixed Chinese vegetables. Nope he would definitely be ordering his steaks rare in the future, he decided, the blood from his last rabbit kill still tangy on his tongue. He savored it as he ran further from the town.
A part of his brain was telling him it might not be the best idea to overdo it too much on his first night out. He should probably head home and get some sleep. His mom was gonna be mad enough at him in the morning, without being too tired to go to church as well.
That was the human talking though, or what he was thinking of as the human logic, but he didn't need to listen to it or be tied to its principals, not until the moon went down anyway. It wasn't even as if he was tired; in fact he felt like he could run all night if he wanted to - so why shouldn't he?
His long legged gait took him fast through the woods.
As he came upon the old quarry, more rabbits dashed in all directions and Eric chose the one heading away from the train tracks back into the brush.
The rabbit disappeared into a burrow before Eric could sink his teeth into it, but that was fine, he was bored of bunnies now. There was bigger game in the area, somewhere, and now he wanted a piece of that!
Stopping in a clearing with the moonlight shining down on him, Eric threw back his head and howled in exhilaration.
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