Act One Buffy pulled her wardrobe out of one of the boxes littering the floor and inspected it. There wasn't much. She hadn't been as enthusiastic as the others when it came to replacing their lost belongings. She picked a pair of cream cotton pants and a loose black sweater out of the pile and gave them a quick sniff. They were passable. Hesitating, she swapped the pants for a pair of blue jeans that wouldn't crease so easily and shoved them in her new duffel bag.
She went to the bathroom for her toiletries, passing Dawn on the way who was perched on the laundry basket outside her door.
"So do you know what you're going to say to her yet?" The young brunette asked.
Buffy had thought of little else all night, but she still hadn't come up with a final draft. Going back into her room with her tooth brush, she said, "I'm going to tell her she's an idiot."
Dawn scrunched her face up in thought. "But if she's such an idiot why are you bothering to go see her?"
"Because someone needs to point it out to her."
"Hello, it's called a phone." Dawn held a phone made of fingers to her ear.
"You can't tell someone they're an idiot over the phone, Dawn, it's rude. You have to say it in person, there are like . . . rules." Buffy looked around her room and decided to grab her walkman as well. It was a long flight to Los Angeles, which would go easier if she couldn't hear all the worrying little plane noises.
"Well just as long as you're not running all the way out there to make up with her or forgive her or let her off the hook for anything."
Buffy didn't answer.
"Buffy! She left you, remember? Disappeared without a trace. Left you miserable and alone."
"I know, but I have to see her so please just back off Dawn, okay?"
Dawn exhaled in frustration, but relented. "So you haven't forgotten about my enrollment meeting this morning, have you?"
Buffy paused for a second while she counted days in her mind before replying. "No, of course not. My flight's not until noon, we'll go this morning."
"Thanks. I would ask Willow, she'd probably make a better impression on the Principal anyway, but she's been in a bit of a state ever since Kennedy called last night." Dawn wished she didn't even have to enroll in another school. This would make three schools in three years.
Buffy nodded. "It's okay, I have time."
The phone started to ring downstairs. "Oh, Dawn could you get that . . . and if it's Angel don't tell him I know. I don't want him hanging up until I get to shout at him."
"Okay Kenn, no I'll be here. I'm just glad you're okay . . . So can you tell me what happened, what was it? . . . Oh yeah I guess, hospital corridor not really the place for an open discussion . . . And you're sure Ali is fine?" Dawn came careening into the kitchen and Willow held her hand up to keep the girl quiet. ". . . Well that's the main thing . . . Yep see you then - drive safely." Willow put the phone down and smiled at Dawn. "Everyone's okay. They're leaving Cleveland General now so they should be back in an hour."
"Cool," Dawn said, buttering toast.
Giles, his glasses discarded on the kitchen table, rubbed at his forehead. "That is good news. Did Kennedy shed any light on what we're dealing with? Vampire? Demon?"
"Nope. It was a bit busy and she didn't want to scare the other patients. She just said they got jumped and Alison got knocked out."
"Well we'll learn more when they get back, I'm sure." He put his glasses back on. "How's Buffy this morning?" He asked Dawn.
Dawn chuckled. "Well you and Angel are tying first place for public enemy number one." Giles winced. "I think Faith's number one and a half. I don't know whether Buffy is gonna hit or kiss her when she sees her, but either way I think it will be unpleasant and painful to watch." Giles coughed and Willow smirked. "She's taking me for enrollment though before she catches her flight."
"That's good. This Faith thing can't be upsetting her too much if she's still thinking about your education first," Willow said positively.
"I had to remind her."
Buffy came down the back stairs into the kitchen. "Dawn - scoot, go get ready. We have to leave now. If this makes me late I'll have to leave you at the school and go catch my plane from there."
Dawn looked horrified. "But the school is like ten miles away."
"So hurry up then." Buffy started pouring herself some cereal.
Dawn stomped up the stairs, muttering "Yeah she cares about my education, but doesn't give a flying Rathcalek demon about me."
Buffy shook her head at Dawn's muttered grumbles and rolled her eyes at Willow.
Willow beamed at Buffy. "Kennedy just phoned, she said everything's fine and they're on their way home."
Buffy didn't look up from the cereal she was pushing around her bowl. "That's good."
"Well the rest of us thought so." Willow was obviously annoyed that Buffy didn't seem to care about the health of her girlfriend and the new Slayers.
Buffy recognized the tone of voice and looked up sharply. "Sorry Wills, it is good and I'm glad they're okay. I've just got a lot on my mind."
Giles cleared his throat. "Buffy, I know I said this last night, in fact I spent most of last night saying it, but do you really think it's a good idea to go and see Faith after she expressly asked that you didn't find out where she was staying?"
Buffy scraped her chair back loudly and took her bowl to the sink, where she let it clatter into the bottom. "Giles, I'm going."
"But in the mood you're in you may just make matters worse," the Watcher tried to reason.
"I wouldn't be in any mood about it if someone had bothered to tell me where she was."
"Buffy, Angel and I…"
"Angel and you what?" Buffy cut him off. "Decided to go behind my back and keep secrets from me. Important secrets that affect my life, my happiness. Why do you two always do that?"
"Buffy we didn't do any of that to you. We did it for Faith . . ."
"Yeah and I expect Angel to take her side now that they're such bosom buddies, but you . . . I thought you were on my side."
"Buffy," Willow said softly.
Giles looked pained; he rubbed his forehead again and took a sip from his teacup. "I thought I was doing the right thing, and I still believe that, but I . . . I'm sorry I hurt you in the process."
Buffy sighed. "I know Giles. It's just that, I've been going crazy the past two months and that all could have been avoided, but . . . but I'm glad she felt she could trust you and I'm glad you helped her." Buffy looked back at Willow. "Tell Dawn I'll be out in the car and if she takes any longer I'll just go and enroll myself instead of her." She turned and went out the back door.
Faith pulled the rack out of the mechanical wringer and reached in for the sheet. Before she could lean back up someone or something had grabbed the back of her neck. She tried to force her head back up, but the something pushed forward and laid its body weight against her back, keeping her in the awkward position.
She let herself go limp and just hang over the metal railing, waiting for her chance.
"That's it Wilkins, play like a good girl and we won't have to hurt you."
'Oh for Christ's sake,' thought Faith, 'how did they even get down here?' It was Lolitta and most likely her two henchwomen as well. Only the women working the laundry should have been able to get into the hot, steam-filled room. Lol was obviously working someone for favors.
"What do you want, Lol?" Faith tried to keep her voice light and friendly, because she was hardly in a position to pick a fight.
"The truth. We hear you've got an appeal coming up. How'd you get an appeal, Wilkins, with your track record? Something ain't right. Either you're sleeping with the Governor, or you're telling tales to him. Nothing else would make him give a rat's ass whether you rotted in this place."
Faith sneered but it was hidden in the rack. "My lawyer found new evidence, that's all it is. The Governor can't keep me in here if I ain't supposed to be."
"Aww and you expect us to believe you're all sweet and innocent and you didn't kill anyone." Lolitta mocked her.
"I never said I didn't kill no one. What's this about anyhow? What's it got to do with you whether I'm in here or not?"
Lolitta dragged Faith up by the back of the neck and slammed her against the driers behind her. Faith could have stopped herself from being thrown anywhere, but let her momentum carry her backwards to where Lolitta wanted her.
Lolitta leaned close to her, and Faith's nose wrinkled from the smell of the woman's breath. "I don't care if you're in here, in fact I wish your ugly ass was outta here for good, and I don't mean through the gates. However I suddenly thought that you and me used to hang a fair bit before you disappeared and I don't want you getting any ideas about using stories about me as your 'Get out of jail free' card. You got it?"
Faith let them see her sneer this time. "Lol, everyone in here knows how dirty you are. Any shit going down in this place and you've got a finger in it. The screws don't need me to tell them that. You just got a problem 'cause I'm so much prettier than your ugly, skanky-assed self, but you don't wanna admit that in front of Igor and Quasimodo other there." She shut her eyes when the first swing came at her face, that one stung, catching her squarely on the nose, but the others she hardly felt at all.
Buffy pulled the car up outside the school's administration office. It had only taken them twenty minutes to get there and Buffy had relaxed a bit on the drive. She opened her door and climbed out. Dawn got out the passenger side.
"Have you got everything you need?" The blonde asked.
Dawn was nervous. "Uh, I think so. What exactly do I need?"
Buffy moaned in exasperation. "I don't know. Transcripts, books, a pencil?"
"Uh Buffy, you do know this is just an enrollment thing, don't you? I don't actually start classes until next week. I don't need any of that stuff and besides, transcripts get sent by the school board, don't you remember?"
"Well it never hurts to be prepared," Buffy answered distractedly, looking for the way in. Spotting the doors, she headed for them. A moment of clarity struck her over-heated mind. "Ooh I know, do you have that letter of recommendation Robin sent you?"
"Yep." Dawn pulled it out of her pocket and waved it around. "It arrived a few days ago. It was nice of him to send it all the way from New York. I'm kind of going to miss having him as Principal."
"Really?" Buffy was amused; she'd never realized Dawn had a crush on the freelance demon-fighter.
Dawn carried on oblivious to her sister's speculation. "Yeah, it was cool having someone who knew about the nasties. You tell any other teacher you've seen a Ghost Zombie . . ."
"Vengeful Manifest Spirits."
"Yeah them, and they either give you detention for smoking drugs in school time or they send you to some hokey guidance counselor . . ."
". . .For six months of heavy therapy."
"Yeah well this school isn't directly on top of a Hellmouth so you should be okay here." Buffy straightened her skirt and top before knocking on the door to the Principal's suite.
"You're right; it's at least half a mile from here. Everything should be fine," Dawn responded sarcastically before following her sister through the door.
A man with blonde hair watched them go through the door from the end of the hall. He studied them over the distance and for a second it looked like his nose twitched and his nostrils flared, but then he shrugged and walked back to the music room.
Willow and Giles were still sat at the kitchen table when Xander came down the back stairs into the kitchen, clutching his head with one hand and scratching at his chest with the other.
He stopped at the foot of the stairs. "Has the yelling stopped? Because if the yelling hasn't stopped then I'm going back to bed."
"The yelling has stopped, Xander. The loud lady has taken Dawn to enroll," said Willow. "What's wrong?"
Xander slumped down at the table with his hands in the same position, one to his head and one to his chest. "My head feels like I'm inside it trying to hammer nails into my skull."
"Well that's what happens when you drink that much beer," Willow told him, totally unsympathetic.
"But I only drank so much to try and make me forget about the itching - look." He pulled his pyjama shirt open to reveal a rash all across his chest accompanied by red scratch marks. He took the shirt right off and Willow and Giles could see it went all down his arms and back too. "I thought it was just mosquito bites but it got worse and worse. Willow, tell it to me straight: am I dying?"
Giles leaned back in his chair as far away from Xander as he could. "What is it? It looks awful. You should be quarantined or something until we can figure it out."
Xander perked up enough to play his favorite game of tease the G-man. "Aww come on Giles, where's the love? Gimme a hug." He opened his arms wide and leaned across the table towards the ex-librarian.
Giles nearly fell out of his chair trying to get away.
"Pack it in you guys. Xander, it's just Poison Ivy. You must have brushed against some yesterday. You had it when you were younger, remember?" Willow explained his problem, smiling.
"Oh yeah," he said sheepishly, and then scowled when Willow smacked his hand away from scratching his arm. "It feels worse now, though, I don't know . . . itchier."
Willow got up from the table. "That's because you're a man now and less able to deal with being ill than when you were a little bitty boy. Now just don't scratch and I can mix you up an ointment to clear it up."
"That was a dig. I know a dig and that was one." Xander looked from Willow to Giles. "That was definitely a dig."
"It was dug with love," she promised him.
Giles merely winced with distaste. "Put your shirt on and for heavens sake, don't come near me."
"It's okay Giles it's not contagious," Willow assured him. "I'd have thought you would have known that."
"Ha ha, something the G-man didn't know and I did. Well who's man of the house now then, huh?" Xander laughed.
"I am. You're the man who is living here rent free because you are supposed to be fixing it up, strange - I don't see any fixing so maybe I should start seeing some rent." Giles stood with his cup. "And anyway we don't have your stupid American plants in England. We have proper plants that know their place. I'll take the rest of my tea on the veranda." He walked out the back door.
"What's his beef?" Xander asked, frowning at the outburst.
"Buffy stuff, Slayer stuff. While you were sleeping the sleep of the recently beered up, the rest of us had a busy night." Willow shrugged, downplaying the tears and tantrums from Buffy when Giles revealed Faith's whereabouts to her and her own panic over Cici's call from the hospital saying both Kennedy and Alison were being treated for serious damage.
"I'm sorry I wasn't around to help," Xander told her sincerely.
Willow gave him a smile. "I wish you had been too, but there wasn't really anything you could have done. Go on upstairs back to bed and I'll bring this up when it's done." She shooed him from his seat and to the stairs.
"Thanks Will." He gave her a kiss on the top of her head before ascending. "Oh, you better make a triple dose, 'cause Andy's suffering too and he's moaning way more than I am."
Willow smiled at his retreating back and went back to her potion.
Marvin and Hank Arcane loved their little cabin in the woods. It was quiet and secluded, a couple of miles from Boudenver and completely off the beaten track. It suited them fine.
They hadn't always lived in Ohio. They were born and raised in New York City, but a few years back there had been some trouble and Hank had got the blame. Marvin loved his little brother and didn't want to see him in any more trouble with the cops so he'd moved the both of them, the last Arcane's in the family, to their cosy little cabin and they were happy with their lot in life.
The day was warm, even by summer's standards, and they were both outside, sans shirts, soaking up the sunshine. Marvin was chopping wood for the fire. No matter what time of year it was, the night always brought a chill to the air and a fire made it homely anyhow. He was on his last log when he called to his brother.
Hank had been sunning himself on a lawn chair and he was nearly asleep. His brother's call startled him awake.
"What?" He grumbled, sleepily.
"Go fetch me those logs. You sleep in front of the fire, the least you can do is help me make it." Marvin pointed the axe head towards a haphazard wood pile against the cabin's side.
"Naw. I'm tired. Get them yourself." Hank sank back down into the chair and closed his eyes again.
"A lad of your age shouldn't be so lazy, just 'cause of one sleepless night," Marv grumbled, but still he went to fetch a few more logs himself.
The twenty-two year old opened one eye to look at his older brother. "It's the howling, it makes me jittery, like all the hairs are standing up on the back of my neck."
Marvin nodded in understanding, as he set up the next block to cut.
Hank rubbed his stomach and burped. "An' I think I ate somethin' that didn't agree with me."
"Naw, you just gotta learn to chew your food." Marvin laughed at Hank. He was twelve years his senior and had pretty much raised him since their parents had been killed in a tragic hunting accident. "Okay get some sleep. We're going out to the McGee's tonight and I want you fresh."
Hank nodded and drifted back off to sleep. Marvin looked up at the sky, judging the time by the sun's position. Estimating they had about nine hours left of daylight he carried on chopping.
Willow was putting the finishing touches to the medicine for Xander and Andrew in the kitchen. Her computer room was already fully furnished but it would take a while before she was able to get a Laboratory/Magic room set up. She looked up with a smile when she heard a familiar voice call:
"Hi Honey, I'm home."
Kennedy strolled through the door with the three tired Newbies behind her. Alison's blonde hair was matted at the back with dried blood and a wad of gauze had been fastened to her head with tape. Giles brought up the rear, eager to concentrate on work related issues for a while and leave the emotional ones alone.
Willow left her preparation and came over to give her girlfriend a kiss and a hug hello. "Are you okay? What happened?" She turned to look at Alison. "Are you okay? Ouch, does it hurt?"
Alison shrugged. "Not as much as it did last night."
Kennedy grinned. "Yeah, Slayer healing is almost worth getting hurt for." She lifted her arm for inspection. Faint red lines marred her otherwise perfect olive skin. "See. Last night they were deep red lacerations, according to the doctors anyways, now they're just itsy bitsy scratches. It's pretty cool."
"Kennedy, what scratched you , can you give us a description?" Giles asked.
Kennedy fell into a chair and leaned back yawning. "Big, hairy, breath like an evil sausage factory, claws like Freddy. To be honest I only really saw the inside of the things throat clearly. It had a lot of teeth."
Willow's hand covered the tiny 'O' her mouth had formed. She looked worriedly at Giles, unable to voice her fears.
He did it for her. "A Werewolf."
Kennedy nodded. "Never seen one before but if I had to make a guess that's what I'd guess. Except it's werewolves. It's a pity Buffy couldn't be bothered to come out last night, she would have known for sure. I mean you guys have dealt with them, right? Sunnydale must have experienced Werewolves."
"Er . . . yes, um yes we did, once or twice." Giles looked at Willow, puzzled. Kennedy seemed very vague on the subject but surely anyone spending any amount of time with the redhead would know who Sunnydale's resident wolf had been.
Willow wasn't looking back at him; she was too busy looking at Kennedy, a look of abject horror on her face. She fell to her knees in front of the brunette and clasped the younger girl's hands, holding them out to the sides while she looked her lover over.
"You didn't get bit, did you? Oh Goddess tell me that thing didn't bite you!" she panicked.
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