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Part two of two

Episode Twelve: Fractures

by fiona

***
Finally Lydia had Rupert to herself. Willow had cast a sleep charm on Buffy, allowing the others to lead her home, and the Council had returned to their motel.
Now that they were alone, perhaps they could discuss - well discuss was probably optimistic; probably argue - his exclusion of her in his plans for Buffy. She was Buffy’s Watcher, after all. Now to find a safe conversation starter that wouldn’t immediately incur his rancor. She cleared her throat.
“What is it, Lydia?” He continued to sort through the mountain of books on the table in front of him, not even sparing her a glance.
Apparently her mere presence in the room was enough to anger him. But one must press on. Faint heart never won fair … gentleman. “I thought perhaps we could discuss how we should deal with Buffy.”
“Are we discussing, now? I thought that you would just do whatever Magnus wants you to, regardless of what is actually best for Buffy.”
“That’s not fair! I care for Buffy’s welfare as much as you do. Just because I don’t start behaving like a bloody stupid arse every time the Council enters the room, doesn’t mean I don’t have Buffy’s best interests in mind.”
He tore off his glasses and stood, glaring at her from across the table. “Oh, you have Buffy’s best interests in mind? Is that why you called the Council in the first place?”
“I didn’t call the Council. I called Magnus. But yes, it was because I had Buffy’s welfare in mind,” she replied, honestly confused. Why else would she have called?
“And you never thought that Magnus might inform the Council?”
“Naturally it occurred to me. However, I trusted Magnus to use his best judgement, and he obviously felt that the Council could help.”
He laughed bitterly. “Help. Of course. The Council’s first priority is always to help their Slayers.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“Lydia,” he said, “what do you think happened in the past when a Slayer has succumbed to the Crisis? Do you truly believe the Council dispatched their best physicians and searched for ways to cure them?”
“Well…” she floundered. She had never really thought about it. And now that she was, she didn’t like the direction her thoughts were going.
Rupert didn’t seem to have that problem, though. “The Council wouldn’t have cared one iota for their welfare. They would have just taken the quickest and easiest path. And if one Slayer isn’t performing as well as they’d like, might as well call the next one.”
“No. I don’t believe it. They could never be as cold-hearted as that.” Even as she said the words, her stomach turned to ice.
“Are you honestly that naïve?”
It couldn’t be true. Magnus would never be a part of something like that. She would have known if something like that had happened in the past. “If the Council was so evil, how could you work for them for so long?”
“Because I refused to see it!” Giles took a breath and continued, his voice calmer. “For years, I denied that they did anything but fight evil. Then I was assigned to Buffy. And everything changed. The Council always warned Watchers not to develop attachments to their Slayers. Because of their short life span. And because it would affect your judgement in sending her to battle.”
“It’s not a horrible idea”, Lydia reasoned. “Most Slayers don’t last for seven years.”
“No, they don’t. Buffy is special. She opened my eyes, challenged every decision I made. And through that, I began to see the Council for what they really were.” He wearily passed a hand over his eyes before putting his glasses back on. “When they forced me to perform the Cruciamentum on her... well, I'm sure you heard what happened. Fired, because I loved her.”
“Your judgement might have been affected. You might have tried to keep her from harm, and in doing so, hindered her performance.”
“Perhaps. But it was the Cruciamentum itself that finally made me realize what the Council was: a bunch of wankers who got off on controlling the lives of the girls unfortunate enough to be endowed with mystical powers. That’s all they are, Lydia.”
The Council had been her life for as long as she could remember. He couldn’t be right. Not completely. “I think you’re simplifying things a bit, Rupert. The Council’s main goal has always been to fight evil. I have to believe that all they do is to maintain that fight.”
“Well, I suppose we’ll find out soon. You now have us taking Buffy into the belly of the beast while she’s completely defenseless.”
“She’ll be fine, Rupert.” And Lydia honestly believed it. “They won’t dare try anything while we’re all there to protect her.”
“I hope you’re right,” he said, returning to his books. “Because if anything happens to her while we’re there, I will never forgive you.”
Lydia stared at him for a moment, reading the sincerity in his voice. Then she made her way out of the shop and, blinking tears from her eyes, willed herself to keep walking.
***
Normally when the Council traveled they were afforded suites or villas depending on the location. The villa that they had stayed in previously was still undergoing repairs from Giles’s terrorism on the Council when he was under the “influence” of Rayne’s water. Magnus still had his doubts as to whether Giles regretted his actions.
But owing to their last minute departure and an ill-timed convention of the Fraternal Order of the Moose, the only accommodations left within a fifteen-mile radius of the Hellmouth were at the Sunnydale Motor Lodge.
Not exactly the Ritz-Carlton, thought Magnus.
After Quentin turned in for the night, Magnus and Kim joined Niamh in her room to discuss the day’s events.
“Well, it might have been worse,” Kim rationalized. “At least we’re able to take her to England.”
“With her entire little troupe along for the ride.” Niamh sighed and shook her head. “Not to mention Rupert Giles. He may present a problem.”
“I doubt it,” Kim scoffed. “He has no power within the Council, and with all the time he’s spent here in America I doubt he has many allies left.”
Magnus knew better. “Never underestimate the Giles family, Myong. Were it not for the indiscretions in his youth, he could easily have been the head of the Council right now instead of Quentin, like his father and grandmother before him. There are a lot of members who’ve had loyalty to the Gileses passed down to them along with their legacies.”
Niamh rose gracefully and began pacing within the confines of the room. “We must proceed with caution. All of Miss Summers’s team should be watched carefully. And we should take some steps to ensure that they aren’t to be given any assistance with their research. I believe that Travers is sincere in his desire to help. Let’s take away any opportunity to do so.”
Magnus smiled. “I’ve already begun with that. I’ve sent Cousins and Pinneo to Tanzania on the pretence to help with the Hellmouth there, and I’ve packed Sheppard off to Hong Kong. That leaves only Watts and Armato in the Archives. Travers will not be able to assign an archivist to help Giles in his quest.”
“What about Lydia?” The question came from Kim, though Magnus had been thinking the same thing himself.
Niamh turned and leaned against the table. “Do you think she can be trusted?”
“She can,” Magnus asserted. “I’ve known Lydia since she was a small child. I know her better than anyone else, including herself. Her loyalty is to me. I’ve been expecting and planning for her to join us since it became apparent she wouldn’t be called.”
He smiled, the fatherly pride in him shining out. “I believe it’s time we bring her in.”
***
Yesterday, when Dawn saw Oz sitting in the living room drinking a beer with Spike, she had been very happy. She felt sure that where she failed to drag Spike out of his misery, Oz would be able to do something.
But that didn’t seem to be the case. Spike continued his downward spiral of depression, and he was taking Oz and Dawn right along with him.
They all sat at the kitchen table, glumly picking at their breakfasts. Dawn kept her eyes on her Nut ‘n Honey, mostly because looking up would make her want to find something to say, but also because she could hear Spike mushing his Weetabix into his blood and that always squicked her out.
The silence stretched on another eon, and she found herself counting the ticks of the clock above the table. 15… 48… 126… 208…
That was enough. She wracked her brain trying to find something inane to say.
“How’s Cordelia?” Thank God for Oz.
“Good. I think. She seemed really happy to be out with someone who, quote, ‘was female and not obsessed with fish-tacos.’ I’m still not quite sure what she was talking about.”
At least that got Oz to smile. “I’m surprised you phoned her.”
“Yeah, she wasn’t my favorite person when I was little. Or, at least, that’s the memory I have. But I didn’t call her. Apparently Willow did and told her I might need cheering up.”
Spike slowly stirred his Weetabix into his blood. Dawn knew she was the only thing keeping him from crawling into a bottle of Jack Daniels. She didn’t know what to do. Every time Spike got dealt a bad hand he always found a way. Bounced back. But there was no bouncing this time. Just a sucking hole where the middle of his heart used to be.
“You know,” Spike interrupted her thoughts, “being stared at isn’t as much fun as it looks.”
A glance sideways at Oz confirmed that he was also guilty. “We weren’t staring,” Dawn fumbled, “we’re just concerned.”
“No need. I’m fine.”
Yeah. He sure looked fine.
“What do you want to do today? We could have a SoapNet marathon? Or play Risk? Ooh! You can teach me how to cheat more in poker.”
Oz nodded in encouragement. “A valuable skill.”
“Why don’t you two do something. Go to Disneyhell or something. Take advantage of the sunshine.”
Dawn looked to Oz and saw her own uncertainty reflected back. “No. I don’t feel like limping around. Besides, it’s all hype. I think I’m ready for a nice day just watching the TV and learning to be morally ambiguous.”
“You could show them your cane and cut to the front of all the lines. You were looking forward to that before. I could use the alone time, anyway.”
“But I don’t want to leave you.”
“Dawn, you’ll be gone half a day at most. I think I can manage.”
“But - “ The phone ringing in the kitchen interrupted her. Her response was automatic. “I’ll get it!” She jumped up and ran to the phone.
“Hello?”
“Hello, Dawn.” Giles. Her stomach immediately tied in a knot.
“How’s Buffy?”
A pause. Pauses were never good. “She’s fine. Faith found her. Would you put Spike on, please?”
“Why? Whatever you’re gonna tell him, you can tell me.”
“Dawn. Please.”
“Giles, just tell me!”
Then Spike was standing in front of her, holding out his hand. There was no room for argument on his face. She handed him the phone.
“What’s wrong?”
He listened for a moment, his expression turning darker and darker. Oz stepped up behind her and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
“I’m coming back… She needs me… You’re not taking her anywhere without me … I don’t bloody care!”
Dawn couldn’t make out what Giles was saying, but she could hear his voice through the phone, so he must have been pretty upset. He wasn’t letting Spike get a word in edgewise, anyway.
Finally, Spike sighed. “Yeh. All right… I said, ‘all right’, didn’t I? You’d better bloody make sure nothing happens to her.” He turned away from her and Oz, but she could still make out the last thing he said. “Bring her back safe and sound, Rupert. And soon.” He placed the receiver back on the cradle and stared at it until Dawn’s patience broke.
“What’s going on?”
He turned and his eyes looked even more hollow than they had ten minutes ago. “They’re taking her to London.”
***
Over eleven hours in the air and an eight hour change in time zones made Willow a very woozy girl. She wasn’t quite sure how it worked; all she knew is that they left for the airport in Sunnydale at 9:00am and now it was somehow 9:00am in London, but a day later. And she still hadn’t slept.
Now in one of the Council’s dorm rooms, she threw her luggage on a chair and flopped onto the bed. Just a couple of hours. That’s all she needed.
The knocking on the door would have to stop first, though.
Maybe if she ignored it, whoever was there would go away.
Maybe not.
She rolled off the bed and onto her feet, cursing under breath as she trudged to the door. “What?” she asked crossly as she yanked the door open.
Niamh stood on the other side, the corners of her mouth twitching into a smile. “Did I come at a bad time?”
“Oh, no!” Willow gestured for her to enter. “I’m just a little sleepy is all. Aren’t you?”
“I slept on the plane.”
Niamh sat in one of the chairs, apparently settling in for a long chat. Willow had to suppress a groan. She adored Niamh, but she really wanted to sleep.
“So,” she asked as brightly as possible, “what can I do for you?”
“I really only wanted to catch up. We didn’t get the opportunity in Sunnydale.”
Willow sat cross-legged at the end of her bed. “I’m good. Things are crazy loco right now, but they usually are.”
“And your magic?”
“I have it under control. Mostly.”
Niamh raised an eyebrow in question.
“There was an incident with a sofa. But Harry Potter should come with warning labels if its spells are actually going to work.”
“You know that it isn’t the words themselves that are important, but your intentions. You could probably say ‘bibidy-bobidy-boo’ and have a pumpkin change into a carriage if that’s what you wanted it to do.”
“So I have to be careful of every word I say now?” Willow couldn’t help but feel disgruntled about that.
“Well, obviously when you’re just chatting like this or ordering chips at the pub you’re pretty safe. It’s when you’re actually thinking about magic happening that things can get sticky.” Niamh smiled and Willow felt reassured. “You’re a very powerful witch, Willow. You’ve done great things and you’ll do more. You just have to learn how to use your power without being afraid of it.”
“I’m trying. But the whole couch thing might have just been distraction what with the crazy water. The powers that Ethan Rayne used are still lingering on the air back home.”
Niamh nodded. “I could feel it.”
“And now, there’s a whole other distraction. I just wish I could figure out what’s causing the First Slayer to be all possessy of Buffy’s soul. Then we might be able to get her to vamoose.” She shrugged. “I guess we’ll find out soon. Nothing can defeat Giles and a mighty arsenal of books.”
“You seem certain that Giles will find an answer.”
“Of course he will. He’s Giles. He’s Answer Guy.”
“What if there isn’t an answer?”
“What?” She didn’t understand what Niamh was getting at.
“What if Buffy can’t be helped? There are some spells and magics in this world that are permanent. What’s happening to Buffy could be one of them.”
Permanent? That couldn’t be…
“No,” Willow shook her head. “Giles will find something. I don’t believe that Buffy will stay like this the rest of her life.”
“We don’t know much about The Crisis. There may even be a factor of time. None of the Slayers who’ve succumbed to the Crisis lived more than three or four months after their diagnosis. And they also had Watchers just as qualified as Giles researching their illness.”
“Why are you saying this?” Willow’s voice shook and she struggled not to cry. “What good do you think it would do? Buffy’s going to live. She’s the strongest person I know.”
“Of course she is.” Niamh leaned forward and patted Willow on the hand. “I just want you to be prepared. There are some things not even the most powerful witches can control. I’m sorry I’ve upset you.” She rose and walked to the door. “You look tired. Perhaps you should rest now.”
“Buffy will get better,” Willow insisted.
“I’m glad you have hope.” Niamh smiled kindly before making her exit.
The bed felt soft, and her body ached, but with the seed of doubt growing rapidly into a boulder in her stomach, Willow didn’t think she’d ever be able to sleep peacefully again.
***
The whiskey was cheap, the room dank, and the whole place smelled like stale beer.
It suited Spike’s mood perfectly.
Oz, however, seemed a bit uneasy. For a moment Spike felt bad for him, but then he recalled that he’d told Pocket Wolf several times that he didn’t need a babysitter and Oz had insisted on coming along all the same. Served him right.
He shot his sixth straight bourbon and indicated to the barkeep that he wanted another. The man behind the counter raised his eyebrows, obviously doubting that Spike could handle more liquor. “I’m not even feeling it yet, so just pour. I’m paying, aren’t I?”
The bartender scowled but poured the drink.
“Is this helping?” From anyone else the question might have sounded sanctimonious, but Oz just seemed mildly curious.
“A bit.” He downed the next shot and returned to his Scotch. “It’s been a great long while since I’ve been able to use my friend Mr. Daniels here to help ease my problems.”
“Huh.”
Spike waited for Oz to continue, then realized who he was dealing with. “What?”
“Do you miss it?”
“What? Being drunk off my ass?”
Oz nodded.
“Not really, no. Buffy would never stand for it, and I much prefer being in both her good graces and her arms. But as neither is available to me at the moment…” He lifted his glass to Oz before downing the rest of the Scotch and gestured to the barkeep to refill both bourbon and Scotch glasses.
“So, this is it?”
“Yup.” He slammed back another shot of bourbon.
Oz shrugged. He didn’t say anything, but Spike could tell he wanted to. He had never met anyone who could say so much without even opening his mouth.
“What?”
“Hair sticking straight up isn’t a good look for you.”
Was Oz implying what Spike thought he was implying? “Are you calling me …?”
“If the shoe fits.”
“I am not like Angel. This isn’t brooding. This is drowning my sorrows in copious amounts of alcohol. It’s completely different.”
Oz stayed silent.
“And maybe I’ve been a bit moody lately. But what of it? Under the circumstances I hardly think you can blame me for that.”
Nothing from the wolf.
“I mean, really, what do you expect me to do? She’s my life, Oz. She’s hurting and scared and there’s not a sodding thing I can do. Something’s making her go all Goneril on Dawn, and she seems none too fond of me either, so I’m forced to be two hundred miles away from her. We don’t know what’s wrong with her, so we can’t fix it. And now they’re taking her across the ocean straight into the lion’s den and I’m not there to watch her back.”
And still Oz just looked at him. But he listened, and Spike felt grateful.
“The thing that’s killing me the most? I miss her. I miss waking up next to her, bickering with her, sparring with her, the smell of her hair, the way her eyes roll when I say something arrogant, the way her nose crinkles when I put Weetabix in my blood. I just miss her.”
He fell into silence, swirling the Scotch around in its glass, but no longer wanting to drink it. He hadn’t felt this helpless and depressed since he saw Dawn lying in the hospital bed, wires and tubes snaking out of her. But he had Buffy then. And Buffy had him. How would he go on without her?
And that’s when it hit him. “Oh, my God.”
“What?” Oz stood up, alarmed.
“You’re right. I am brooding.”
Oz sat back down, rolling his eyes. “What are you going to do about it?”
Spike stood, tossing a few rolled bills on the bar. “Come on, let’s go.” Spike knew exactly what would make him feel better. And he would be doing the world a service at the same time.
“Where?”
“No more weeping for Spike.” He grinned. “Let’s go find some demons to kill.”
***
“So, am I stunning or what?” Cordelia twirled in front of Dawn, showing off the skirt she wanted to buy.
“It’s nice.” And it was - all purple and flirty. But shopping with Cordelia required a lot of energy and enthusiasm, neither of which Dawn could muster. She slumped in her seat and waited for Cordy to try on the next item.
“It looks gorgeous on you Ms. Chase,” gushed Adrienne, the boutique’s owner.
There was a “hmmm” from Cordelia before she went back into the dressing room, but Dawn couldn’t even bother to look up. However, she could feel Adrienne frowning at her.
Cordelia emerged a moment later back in her own clothes. She passed the skirt to the shop owner. “Can you put this on lay-away for me, Adrienne? I’ll be back at the end of the week. You have my information?” Adrienne nodded and took the skirt, her smile restored to her face.
“Where to next?” Cordy asked.
The mere thought of going to another store or mall made Dawn feel like throwing a tantrum. Cordelia must have picked up on that because when Dawn replied, “Could you please take me home?” Cordy just nodded and led her to the car.
The drive back to the apartment was made in near silence except when Cordelia shouted obscenities at a driver who cut her off and pointed out the spot where Hugh Grant was arrested for soliciting a prostitute.
A plan began to sprout in Dawn’s head. Something that hadn’t occurred to her, but would be an enormous relief if she could only get it to work. But to attempt it, she needed to be alone. She began to plan ways of getting rid of Cordy.
They pulled up to the apartment building and Dawn jumped out, but was annoyed to find that Cordelia had as well. “You don’t have to come up with me. I’ll be okay.”
“No, it’s fine. I want to see if Oz is back, anyway. I haven’t seen him in years.”
There was no sign or Oz or Spike in the apartment, and Dawn turned to bid Cordelia good-bye but found her settling onto the sofa.
“So,” Cordelia began, “I get the feeling that you’re a little depressed. Granted, I understand, but what makes Buffy going to London so bad that you’re a mere shadow of your shopaholic self?”
“She’s going to the Watchers’ Council. What do you think?”
“Oz said they were taking her there to cure her. That’s good, isn’t it?”
“You were there when she turned eighteen. You saw what they were like.”
“I also saw that Giles didn’t let anything happen to her. He’ll protect her, Dawnie. And if even half of what I hear about Willow is true, she has enough mojo to take on all those humor-deficient British folks.”
Dawn sighed. In her heart of hearts, she knew Cordelia was right, but could only think that maybe Buffy was lonely or in pain and needed her and there was nothing she could do about it.
In an uncharacteristic move, Cordy reached forward and stroked Dawn’s hair out of her face. “You look tired. Maybe you should get some rest.”
“It’s still early.”
“A nap then. I’ll stay here just in case.” Cordelia picked up a magazine, saw that it was the Financial Post, wrinkled her nose and put it back down again.
Dawn thought fast. “Maybe I am a little tired. But Cordelia, you don’t have to stay. Honest. I’m almost 16. I think I can handle it.”
“I’m not sure…”
“Spike and Oz will probably be home soon, anyway. It’s been awhile since Spike did the booze-hound thing and I don’t think he’ll be able to drink like he used to. He’s probably already drunk off his ass and Oz will have to carry him home.”
Cordy laughed and nodded. “If you need anything - anything at all - you call me.” Cordelia gave Dawn a small hug before heading for the door. “I need to get back to the hotel anyway. Whenever I leave for any amount of time, things go to hell, and the next thing you know it’s Cordy to the rescue.”
Dawn slid the deadlock into place after Cordy left. Finally.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor in the middle of the living room, she took the deep, calming breaths Willow taught her. Everything slowed and she found the peace within her. She became attuned to her surroundings; the quiet whirring of the air-conditioner, the smell of cheese from last night’s pizza, the soft carpet under her legs.
She opened her eyes. Nothing. She took another deep breath. London. Buffy. Buffy in London.
Something started. A crackle of energy. She concentrated a moment longer, then opened her eyes. A window had appeared. She practically collapsed in relief and joy. She managed to get her key working again!
She stood, ready to step through. She’d only go for a minute. Stop by, make sure Buffy was okay, and then slip back before Spike even realized she had gone.
The window crackled and the scenery changed. What? Instead of the hallway that Dawn assumed led to wherever they were keeping Buffy, a street now appeared. Maybe Buffy was travelling somewhere.
But another crackle and it changed again. And this time it really looked wrong; dirt roads and people in very old-fashioned clothes.. And crackled again to reveal gas lamps and cobblestone instead of pavement. Another crackle and people dressed like the high-school pictures of her parents.
The changes came quicker and quicker. It was like someone had a remote control and was surfing through images faster than she could make them out. But there! She saw Buffy for a moment before the image changed.
Images whirred by and she knew there was no way she could use her key safely. The energy expended trying to keep the window open was beginning to sap her strength.
With one last longing look she closed the window.
***
Faith walked silently. She had been quiet all night - during dinner, watching an old Simpsons rerun, and now patrolling. Xander could probably count on one hand the number of words she had said all night. He had a pretty good idea what she was brooding about, but past experience with Faith told him that discussion couldn’t be forced. He would just have to wait her out. Didn’t mean he couldn’t try, though.
“We could probably go home,” he ventured. “Pop some corn, watch some vid. I’ll even let you choose.”
“We should finish patrol,” she muttered. She shoved her hands into her pockets and scuffed her shoes through the cemetery grass.
They stopped to check out a mausoleum, then shuffled on.
Another tactic. “Buffy’s gonna be fine, you know. Like a Weeble. She might wobble but she won’t fall down. And the Council won’t be able to pull the sheep fluff over Giles’s eyes, so you don’t have to worry about them taking advantage of the situation.”
“I know.” Turning onto the street, she kicked a small rock and sent it clattering into the quiet night.
A small sigh escaped him before he could stop it.
Faith glared at him. “Am I boring you, Xand? ‘Cause if so I can do this on my own.”
Well, at least she was talking. “You’re not boring me, Faith. But the hiding behind the wall of unpleasantness routine has started to lose its fun. Talk to me.”
“The concerned Watcher routine is getting old, too. I told you, I’m fine.” She increased her speed and Xander nearly had to jog to keep up.
“Faith, come on.” She pulled ahead and kept ignoring him. Ever since the shooting he just couldn’t move as fast as he used to. “Faith, slow down.”
Almost half a block behind her now and tiring quickly, he was finished with the nice guy approach. “Faith, for Christ’s sake, will you quit acting like a five-year-old and stop already!”
Faith whirled around. “Xander, shut up! And leave me the hell alone!”
“No!” he yelled back, marching to her. “I won’t leave you alone. And whether you want to accept it or not, you’re never going to be alone again, so you can just drop the attitude.”
“You don’t understand,” she muttered.
“Look,” Xander soothed, “I know you’re scared. But Buffy’s going to be fine. Willow and Giles will storm the Council library and figure out what’s the what. And presto cure-o, Buffy will be better and back with us before you can say Eye of Newt.”
A long pause. Maybe he had gotten through. Then he looked in Faith’s eyes as she gave a bitter little laugh. Her eyes held a mix of fear, guilt and shame. “Xander, I wish that’s why I was afraid. Because that would be the kind of thing Buffy would be afraid of. But I’m not as good as Buffy and I guess I never will be.”
Her arms wrapped around her middle and she shifted her eyes to the ground. He wanted more than anything to just pull her to him, but he resisted. That would just send her running again. “Faith, you are just as good as Buffy. Being afraid doesn’t make you bad.”
“But I’m not afraid for Buffy. I’m afraid for me. Doesn’t that just make you proud?” she snapped.
“Faith,” he asked quietly, “what are you afraid of?”
“Nothing. Let’s just forget I said anything, all right?” She turned to leave but he reached out and held her wrist gently.
“Tell me.”
She looked as though she were about to argue again, but deflated. She looked so tired. “What if it happens to me?”
Oh, man. How could he not have seen that? No, he had seen it. A couple of days ago when they had first been searching for Buffy. But he ignored it, because he thought that’s what Faith wanted and that she knew best. Way to go, Watcher-boy. And now she was looking at him, shame still in the eyes, but also a tad of hope. And he realized, she wanted him to make it all better.
“It might.” The words slipped from his lips, knowing that he might be making it worse.
But she laughed. A real laugh, but with a tinge of bitterness in it still. “Gee. Thanks, Xand.”
“No problem. Look, I know it’s not what you wanted to hear, but the truth is, we don’t know what caused it. We don’t know why Buffy went all 40,000 BC, and we don’t know if we could prevent it even if we do find the cause. So it could happen to you.”
“Anyone ever tell you, you really need to work on your pep talks.” A frown line marred Faith’s forehead.
“I have better ones, but I thought honesty would work best here. And honestly? It could happen to you.”
“Thanks a bunch, Boss.” Faith sounded friendly enough, but he could hear the disgruntlement.
“I’m not finished. It might happen to you. But no matter what, I’m not going to leave you. You won’t go through it alone, and I’ll do everything in my power to bring you back.” He took her hand in his. “I promise.”
Faith blinked. And blinked again. And again. “Okay.” She let go of his hand and walked down the street.
God, had he just blown everything? He searched his mind for evidence that he had just ruined a year’s friendship because he had been too honest.
“Xander,” Faith called back. “You coming? I thought we were going to rent a movie?”
Or maybe he had done something right.
***
Giles hated Quentin’s office. No matter what age he reached, whenever he sat on the leather seats surrounded by the heavy oak paneling, he immediately felt like he was ten years old again, being sent to the Headmaster’s office for a reprimand.
The door opened and the man himself entered, chest puffed out with importance. “Rupert, thank you for seeing me.”
“It isn’t as though I were given a choice, Quentin. Watts was told that he wasn’t permitted to assist me in navigating the archives and that if I had a problem then I should speak to you.”
“Then I suppose your presence in my office indicates that you have a problem?” Quentin asked, dryly.
“You know it is nearly impossible to navigate the collection without an archivist.”
“I believe you’re exaggerating.”
“Am I? It’s not as though there’s any natural order to the library. It quite precedes the Dewey Decimal System.”
“The truth of the matter, Rupert, is that I don’t have the man power to devote to your quest. We’re quite understaffed right now. I had hoped that you and Lydia had spent enough time in the library that navigating it wouldn’t be too much of a problem.”
“You’re lying and you know it. I’m not sure why you are stalling us, or what you think it will gain you, but I assure you I will find the necessary books in the library and I will find a way to cure Buffy.”
Quentin sighed. “I’m not lying. Your paranoia is getting the best of you. Whether you wish to believe me or not, I do not harbor any ill will towards Buffy.”
Giles almost believed him. He seemed sincere, but there was the matter of his offering no assistance in the slightest. “And yet still, you would deny me the use of even one archivist?”
“Rupert, you know as well as I do that the Council does more in the fight against evil than simply assist the Slayer. The Hellmouth in Tanzania has produced a few impressive demons as of late, two of which have never been identified before. There is an influx of vampires in Hong Kong, so several Watchers and their Potentials have been sent there to handle the problem.” He looked pointedly at Giles. “If we could remove either Faith or Buffy from the Sunnydale Hellmouth, then our resources may not be spread so thin. Lydia was supposed to address that when she had established herself as Faith’s Watcher. Instead we have two Slayers on an inactive Hellmouth. Which is why I have Watchers spread all over the rest of the world trying to stem the flow of evil and the reason I can’t spare any personnel to help you in your pursuit.”
“The Hellmouth is not inactive. It is dormant. And may I remind you that it is the largest Hellmouth in the world. Demons seek it from every corner of the Earth as well as from every alternate dimension.”
“Perhaps they do. But if Lydia’s reports are anything to go on, they’re not seeking it right now. And regardless of whether there is demon activity in Sunnydale, it doesn’t give me more personnel in other regions.”
For whatever reason, Giles felt inclined to believe Quentin, but that still didn’t give him an archivist to help with the research. Despite his love of cross-referencing, it would be an incredible task. And time kept ticking away. They had been in London nearly two full days and still had found nothing.
Giles rose, realizing nothing more could be accomplished.
“Rupert, I’ll see what I can do. But honestly, I think you and Lydia will have to do the work on this yourselves.”
As he left, Giles wondered how in the hell he was going to help Buffy.
***
“Hank, how is she?” Giles stepped into the flat he had rented for their stay several hours later. He still hadn’t had any luck navigating the archives although he thought he might have a lead. The flat was tiny and barely had enough room for the three of them, but he was damned if he would spend even one night under the Council’s roof.
Hank emerged from the room in which they kept Buffy. “Still out of it. Willow was by earlier and put a sleep spell on her which put her out for a few hours. She’s just waking up now.”
“Why don’t you go and grab some supper. You probably haven’t eaten all day. I’ll stay with Buffy.”
Though he look like he wanted to protest, Hank nodded and grabbed his jacket. “I think I’ll run down to the curry place I saw a few blocks away. I’ll get some for Buffy. She always liked spicy food. Can I get anything for you?”
“No, thank you.” Giles watched Hank leave before cautiously entering Buffy’s room.
She sat quietly, half-heartedly tugging at her bonds. Dear Lord, she looked so helpless. A part of him yearned to release her from the chains, but he knew the moment he did that, she would be gone. And if she disappeared in a city the size of London, he may never see her again.
Locks of hair fell across her face, obscuring her eyes, and he hesitantly reached to push them out of her face. Her head snapped up, but the wariness ebbed away when she saw that it was him. Settling beside her on the bed, he clasped her hands in his to stop her from pulling on the chains. Despite the padding that lined the manacles, her wrists and ankles looked raw.
“Buffy, I hope you can hear me. I need you to hold on. Hold on as long as you can. We will find a way to help you.” He kissed her lightly on her temple and drew her into a hug. “I swear it.”
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