Chapter Twenty-Two: Something Wicked This Way Comes
Chapter Twenty-Two: Something Wicked This Way Comes
Dawn was exhausted.
Mayhem had immediately erupted throughout the house as soon as the casualties from the raid had arrived.
The stunned teenager had seen her sister for a whole of two seconds, pale and flustered, calling out orders, before she had disappeared out the door to take the worst of the injured with Anya and Willow to the hospital. Not a single word had been exchanged between them. Her sister had been there for a mere instant to unload the wounded and then had vanished, leaving the rest to contend with the panic and chaos she had left in her wake.
Immediately Dawn knew Xander had been one of those wounded. His absence and Anya’s quick departure had told her as much. Though she had specifically asked him to skip the heroics and miss out in the night’s foray, Dawn did not have the luxury to get upset. She didn’t have the time.
The entire night Dawn had raced around the kitchen and dining room, tending to the wounded. It was a task she had gladly volunteered to do when she had thought Willow and Anya would be there to guide her. Never had she expected to take on the bulk of the responsibility. The teenager hadn’t anticipated having to delegate tasks, or to prioritize the severity of injuries to determine the order of care. Dawn had never thought she would have to be one in charge, to have other girls look at her for help and for answers. The last part scared her most. It was the first time she could really relate to her sister, which eased some of the bitterness she was feeling toward Buffy for dumping this on her.
Dawn had to admit though that she hadn’t done it completely alone. Andrew had been there to help, finding her what she needed in their makeshift infirmary, remaining surprisingly focused. She had to give the spaz some credit for his composure during the insanity.
Spike had been there as well, helping her with the worst of the injuries. A few of the girls had needed stitches, which Dawn had happily allowed him to step in and take over. The irony of a vampire actually keeping anyone from bleeding to death hadn’t been lost on her either, but Spike was better at suppressing his hunger than she was at keeping down her lunch. She was still a little squeamish from the whole experience.
Though she had been grateful for the vampire’s unexpected medical know how, his robotic manner throughout the ordeal concerned her. She had expected Spike to dole out his usual sardonic encouragement, to tease the girls for being wimps while making them feel safe. Instead, he had remained silent, his movements completely mechanical. It was like he hadn’t been fully there with them, as though his thoughts had been somewhere else. It made her wonder what had happened at the vineyard.
Giles had also stayed behind, volunteering to watch over the rest of those who had been left out of the raid. He had spent most of the night in the living room with the girls shaken by the state of their fellow Potentials. His self-appointed task had been to counsel them, to comfort them. Miraculously, he had managed to get most of the girls to calm down and attempt sleep. Dawn had last seen the Watcher stepping out onto the back porch, tumbler of scotch in hand, no doubt searching for some alone time. The distraught look in his eyes kept her from intercepting his exile, leaving him to his self-imposed ostracism.
Now, hours after the initial pandemonium, Dawn was still at her post. She was patching up a scrape on Amanda’s arm as the weary girl sat on one of the kitchen stools. All the others had already been taken care of since their injuries had been slightly more urgent.
“There we go,” Dawn said as she finished wrapping the bandage around the other girl’s arm.
“Thanks,” Amanda quietly responded, slowly standing up.
“No problem,” Dawn shrugged, cleaning up all the first aid supplies. “How are you feeling?”
“Like I got hit by a truck,” Amanda solemnly replied. “But at least I made it out alive.”
Dawn nodded dejectedly.
She had heard earlier about what had happened to Molly from Vi. Many of the girls she had treated were still in shock over it. With the adrenaline having finally worked its way out of their systems, many of them had broken down into tears as she had cleaned their wounds. She could still hear the soft sounds of muffled crying permeating into the kitchen. Between the loss of their friend and coming to the realization that they may actually not survive the apocalypse, Dawn couldn’t blame them for the tears. They were scared and so was she.
“You going to sleep?” she asked Amanda as she helped her up from her seat.
“Yeah. I think I saw a free spot somewhere on the floor,” she answered with a sigh.
As Dawn began to feel bad for not having better accommodations to offer the girl, Andrew came in from the other room.
“Here,” he said handing her his sleeping bag. “You can have mine.”
Amanda gave him a small smile. “Thanks,” she softly said. “But aren’t you gonna need it?”
Andrew shrugged. “It’s okay. I don’t think I’m gonna be able to sleep anyway.”
Dawn watched silently as Amanda stepped into the dark hallway, heading to bed.
“That was nice of you,” she said to Andrew as she continued to put away bandages and gauze.
The boy shrugged. “Like I said, there’s no way I’m sleeping tonight.”
Heading to the fridge, he pulled out a carton orange juice. Dawn noticed as he slightly struggled to pour himself a glass as his hands were a little shaky.
Stopping what she was doing, she came up beside him, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “You okay?”
Bringing the quivering glass to his lips, he took a giant gulp. “Yeah,” he replied with a deep exhale. “I think.”
Andrew nodded, head hanging low as if he were ashamed. “Totally,” he admitted.
“Me too,” Dawn also confessed quietly.
They stood there for a few seconds in silence, staring at the floor, neither knowing what to say.
“Are we gonna make it through this?” Andrew wondered.
Dawn sighed. “I know what happened tonight looks bad…”
Andrew released a cynical snort at the statement. “Bad is running for your life from psycho Goth Willow,” he countered. “But at least Jonathan and I had a chance. This is hopeless.”
“Don’t say that,” Dawn irritably responded, snapping her hand back from off his shoulder, upset at the nerve of Andrew’s cynicism. It was an unfair shot at Buffy and everyone else who were trying so hard to defeat the First. “I know you’re scared, but if we think that way we might as well give up now.”
“Easy for you to say,” he said huffily, crossing his arms. “You’re the Slayer’s sister. She’ll protect you until the end. You’re not the one who’s….”
He stopped, his voice catching in his throat, his gaze falling to floor.
“Not what?” she prompted, still annoyed.
“Expendable,” he finished.
Dawn was caught off guard by the statement. “Andrew you’re not…”
“Yes I am. No one wants me here. The only reason Buffy hasn’t kicked me out is because she knows I have nowhere else to go,” he argued. “I’m not a warrior. I don’t have any super powers. I don’t even have a potential mystical legacy that could one day give me super powers. If Slayers and vampires couldn’t stop Caleb and girls that got weeks of training can’t make it out alive, what chance do I have?”
He had her there.
Dawn wanted to argue the virtue of optimism in the face of adversity but couldn’t bring herself to do it. Even she was beginning to have doubts. The magnitude of the evil they were fighting, the devastating outcome of this battle, and everyone’s odd behavior had her really questioning their chances at defeating the First. There was also this foreboding feeling Dawn couldn’t shake, as though something was off about their whole operation and it would lead to very bad things to come.
“I don’t have super powers either,” she countered. “Not to mention Buffy’s already sacrificed it all for me once. I don’t know if she’d do it all again,” she dismally added, remembering back to the night the First had come to her in the form of her dead mother to tell the frightened teenager her sister wouldn’t choose her. “My chances are just as good as yours, Andrew.”
“Well at least people don’t treat like the resident Jar Jar Binks,” he retorted. “Except, you know, without the racist undertones.”
Dawn sighed at the Star Wars reference, more so at the fact she actually knew what he was talking about. “Well, you are an annoying tag a long,” she admitted.
Andrew’s jaw dropped. “I so am not.”
“Yes you are,” she assuredly countered. “You chase after everyone in the house to get them on film or you bug us to settle your childish fights with Anya.”
“Well fine!” he surrendered with an exasperated snivel. “No one likes me and I’m practically Uber Vamp chowder. Happy?”
Sadly, Dawn wasn’t. She watched as he sunk down onto one of the kitchen stools, his shoulders sagging and head hanging low. She did feel bad for the dweeb. He didn’t have a friend in the world.
Feeling empathy for the household pariah didn’t catch her off guard. They did spend a lot of time together. She couldn’t really relate to any of the other teenage girls in the house since Dawn wasn’t a Potential and Buffy always seemed to direct him her way to help out with research and other duties because no one else could tolerate him like she could and…
Suddenly Dawn’s eyes widened as the epiphany struck her.
‘Oh my God, Andrew’s my friend,’ she realized.
Her mind raced in the search for anything to refute the possibility that at that very moment this sci-fi enamored, annoyingly tactless social outcast was probably the best friend she had. Unfortunately, she came up empty.
Dawn wasn’t sure to laugh or cry at the startling insight.
Before she could begin to pity herself for her pathetic social life, she noticed Andrew started to get up from his seat.
“Where are you going?”
He shrugged. “I figured you wouldn’t want me bugging you all night.”
Dawn frowned at the explanation, her compassion returning for dork.
“You can stay,” she casually offered, taking a seat next to him. “We can play some DnD to pass the time.”
The boy gave her a suspicious look. “Are you serious?”
“You know you don’t have to humor me. You can go to bed if you want,” he reasoned, not wanting pity.
“First of all, I can’t go to bed because Faith is in my bed,” she said matter-of-factly.
Andrew tilted his head in confusion. “I thought Faith went to the hospital?”
“Nope. Apparently too many inexplicably injured people at the hospital would raise questions, especially if one of them miraculously recovers in half the time of the others,” she clarified. “So she’s up in my bed recovering and Principal Wood is watching over her.”
“He so has the hots for her,” he commented.
Dawn snorted. “No duh.”
“You think it’s weird that his mom was a slayer and now he’s dating a slayer?” he wondered. “Kind of Freudian, right?”
“Eww,” Dawn responded, repulsed by Andrew’s theory. “And they’re not dating. They’re just all flirty with each other.”
“Semantics,” he countered with a wave of his hand..
“Whatever,” she dismissed. “I’ve got better things to worry about than Faith and Principal Wood’s budding romance.”
Andrew nodded understandingly. “Like Spike.”
“What about Spike?” she warily asked.
“You know, tonight’s whole Night of the Living Dead routine,” he argued. “I mean the zombie living dead, not the vampire kind.”
Dawn nodded grudgingly. “Yeah, he was out of it,” she agreed.
“I thought the First reactivated his trigger or something,” Andrew reasoned. “But when he didn’t try to kill me again, I knew that couldn’t be it.”
“It’s what happened at the vineyard,” Dawn explained. “For Spike to be this broody again, it had to have been something pretty bad.”
“All signs do point to catastrophe,” Andrew surmised.
Dawn released a ragged breath. “Definitely.”
They stood silently again as their conclusion regarding the night’s events and behaviors revealed an unknown and ill foreboding future.
It was Andrew who once again broke the silence.
“I had this same feeling at the end of the Fellowship of the Ring,” he stated. “Gandalf sacrificed himself, Orcs kidnapped Merry and Pippin, and Boromir was dead. Everything was going wrong, like they had failed.”
“Did it still work out in the end?” she asked, her tone forlornly hopeful.
Andrew frowned. “Well, yeah,” he immediately replied. “You couldn’t expect any less from the fantasy genre.”
“Oh,” she whispered, nodding at the geek’s odd sense of logic.
Noticing Dawn’s dejected countenance, Andrew quickly backtracked. “But who knows, maybe life will imitate art in our case,” he said, placing a hand on Dawn’s shoulder.
Andrew reciprocating the reassuring hand on shoulder move confirmed Dawn’s suspicions of his friend status. It actually made her feel better.
Oh yeah, they were definitely in Friendsville.
“Speaking of Hobbits, you up for some fantasy board gaming or what?”
“I promise I’m not humoring you,” she vowed. “I need a distraction from tonight’s insanity. I still can’t shake the bad vibes.”
The mission was beginning to unravel and Dawn knew it would soon become evident to others as well. Her feeling of unease was made worse by the fact that she couldn’t do anything about it, partly because she wasn’t privy to what had actually happened. The only thing she knew for certain was the ominous cloud that surrounded everyone who had been involved. Thus the need for a distraction and ergo the role playing board game.
Andrew accepted her explanation. “Okay, I’ll go get it but only if I get to be the sorcerer.”
“Sure,” Dawn replied and watched him race out of the kitchen to find the board game.
She wondered if she was doomed to forever make friends with vampires and immature fanboys.
‘If we do survive this apocalypse, I’m really going to have to get out more.’
Faith awoke to find herself in an unfamiliar bed.
Slowly sitting up, she looked around. Posters of teenage boys she didn’t recognize and a picture frame with a photo of the Summers’s women on the bedside table told her she was in Dawn’s room. Or that Buffy was in some serious need of redecorating.
How had she ended up here?
The last thing she remembered was the retreat from the vineyard. After that it was all pretty hazy.
The Slayer continued to groggily look around. She was alone and it was dead quiet.
Swinging her legs off the edge of the bed, Faith got up and stretched, deciding she had to find anyone who was still awake. She needed to fill in a few of the gaps in her memory and to find out what had happened to the others. Plus, standing in the sickly sweet pubescent room was conjuring up feelings of teenage angst she had thought long ago reconciled.
Stepping out into the dark hallway, her bare feet lightly padded the carpeted floor as she searched for a conscious adult.
“Hey? Anybody up?” she whispered as she neared the stairs.
Faith decided her odds were better downstairs, maybe in the kitchen.
Heading down the stairs, the Slayer expected to see the living room packed with sleeping Potentials. Instead the room was empty.
“Hello?” she called out a little louder, completely thrown by the house’s apparent vacancy.
Where were all the girls? Did Buffy relocate everyone? Had Caleb come after them after their retreat?
Racking her brain for possible answers, Faith came up with nothing.
Marching into the kitchen, she took in a sharp breath when it too was empty.
A sudden sinking feeling began to grow in the pit of her stomach. Where was everybody?
“Hello?” she yelled in the dark, not caring anymore if she woke anybody up.
Frustration grated at her nerves, her patience waning. “Where are they?” she asked aloud. “I swear if they left me here…”
A loud thud coming from the living room silenced her.
Immediately she jumped into a fighter’s stance, anticipating some sort of attack. Yet her slayer senses remained quiet. Not even a blip despite the eerie state of the house and the absence of all its occupants.
Slowly she approached the door that lead out of the kitchen. Pushing it slowly open, Faith inspected the hallway.
Gradually, with fists raised and one foot in front of the other, she progressed toward the living room.
Whatever had caused the noise was gone when she entered the room.
“What the fuck is going on?!”
Suddenly she felt a tickle at the back of her neck. Spinning the Slayer caught a shadow in the corner of her eye. Faith wasn’t as alone as she had thought.
Her eyes scanned the dark room as she continued to turn around, never keeping her back to a wall for longer than a second.
“Whatever you are, you might as well come out,” Faith reasoned. “I’m getting bored of this.”
She waited for a reply, or a noise, or anything that would giver her some answers. Was she being played? Was it the First?
Another voice broke her train of thought.
“She is not prepared.”
The hoarse unearthly voice surrounded Faith, making it difficult to pinpoint the direction of the source of the ominous message.
Faith continued to circle around in a spot at the centre of the room, waiting for something to pounce.
“Who? You talking about me?” she asked, figuring she might as well run with it since this thing wasn’t willing to come out and play.
“Our sister,” the voice answered.
The Slayer’s brow shot up in disbelief. Did she have a demon sibling she didn’t know about? Sadly, Faith had heard stranger things.
‘Plus mom was a total skank, so who knows?’
“Uh, I don’t have a sister,” she replied, hoping for more answers.
The voice grew angry. “Sister is not prepared! It cannot be hers yet!”
“Okay. Okay,” Faith said, wondering what rabbit hole she had fallen into where she was reassuring some ghost that their sister wasn’t ready for ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ was.
“Who is our sister?” she asked.
Instead of the voice, another thud sounded behind her. Spinning around to face the demon, the sight before Faith was the last thing she had ever expected.
The moonlight through the window illuminated a woman, of African origin, barely clothed and with grey mud smeared across her face and body, crouching low to the floor. Her dark eyes bore into Faith’s.
“Uhh, hey?” the Slayer lamely greeted, unsure what to do.
“Our sister must be purified,” the woman said, unfazed by her encounter with the Slayer.
Faith rolled her eye. “Okay, this is getting old. Who must be purified? What’s her name?” she asked with annoyance.
“She is not ready to have it.”
The Slayer threw her arms open in exasperation. “Who the hell are you talking about?!” she implored, taking a step forward.
The other woman’s body shifted, and in an instant, she sprang forward, pouncing on Faith. The Slayer was trapped, unable to free herself from the demon woman.
“What do you want?” Faith pleaded, her face less than an inch away from the woman’s.
“You must stop her before it is too late.”
With the message relayed, the woman sat up, still astride Faith, tilting her head back to release a deafening scream. Throwing her hands over her ears, Faith watched as the woman’s hair and color lightened and she morphed into a familiar blond haired slayer.
Then everything went black.
Faith’s eyes shot open, her breath erratic as her heart raced a mile a minute. She wasn’t on the living room floor anymore and the phantom woman was gone. She was staring up at a white ceiling. She could see the posters on the walls; her hands her clasping a soft comforter. She was back in Dawn’s room.
The dull ache in her head and soreness of her body confirmed she was no longer dreaming. Groaning, she sat up. Soulful brown eyes instantly met her own.
“Hey,” she meekly greeted.
Getting up from the chair he had been sitting in for the past few hours, Robin was quickly by Faith’s side. “How are you feeling?”
The Slayer dismissed his concern with an indifferent laugh. “I’m cool. You should’ve seen me two weeks ago. Now that took some serious recovery time.”
Wood tilted his head in confusion. “What happened two weeks ago?”
“You know, the usual vampire versus slayer thing. Long story,” she said, brushing off his worry. “I’m okay, really. Just a little beat up.”
Wood looked at her doubtfully. “You sure? You were tossing and turning just before you woke up. Were you having a nightmare?”
Faith shrugged. “I guess except it wasn’t really your typical nightmare. More like a trippy, cryptic dream.”
Wood nodded as though it made perfect sense. “A Slayer dream.”
The Slayer’s brow quirked with skepticism. “That’s usually B’s thing.”
“Maybe this is the first time you were ready for it, or maybe it was for you and not Buffy,” he proposed. “All I know is that my mom used to get them all the time.”
Faith’s gaze turned toward the Summers’s family portrait on the bedside table. The dream wasn’t meant for Buffy because it had to be about Buffy. Faith knew she was out of her league and needed to talk to the other Slayer or Giles. Whatever the message was, she knew it wasn’t something that any of them could ignore.
“Where is everyone?” Faith asked, changing the subject.
Wood sighed. “Buffy and Willow took a few girls and Xander to the hospital. The rest are downstairs asleep.”
Faith nodded, a few images of the past night coming back to her in flashes. She remembered Xander being hurt and she could recall helping Buffy with Kennedy until she herself had slipped into unconsciousness. After that all she could remember was the dream; the woman’s near black eyes boring into her soul as she compelled Faith to stop their sister from taking the unspecified ‘it’.
‘Definitely need to talk to Giles,’ she internally resolved, which would have to wait until morning.
“Why aren’t you in bed?”
It was out of Faith’s mouth without much forethought. When Wood broke eye contact, casting his eyes down with mild embarrassment, her eyes opened wide, grasping how suggestive her innocent question actually was.
“I mean your bed. I mean, why aren’t you in your bed?” she stumbled to clarify. “What are you doing still up?”
He smiled at her awkwardness. “I couldn’t sleep.”
“Oh,” Faith responded as she shifted in discomfort.
Wood cleared his throat. “Faith, about earlier…before you went to the vineyard,” he began, unsure how to broach the subject of their quarrel.
“You mean when you asked me to talk to Buffy so you could come with,” the Slayer offered, knowing exactly where this was going. “And I said no.”
“You were pissed,” Faith stated.
Wood nodded, laughing a little at her directness. “Yeah, I was,” he admitted. “But I was wrong. I shouldn’t have asked you to do that. You were right. It was Buffy’s call to make and I’m sorry.”
“No biggie,” she said, shrugging off the whole incident.
Wood, however, didn’t think the issue was so easy to dismiss. “But it could have been. I know how delicate your relationship with Buffy is, how you’re only now healing. You told me as much. I shouldn’t have imposed. I was just feeling so useless.”
Faith stared at him for a minute, observing the shame on his face. She couldn’t recall the last time someone had felt genuinely sorry for something they had done to her, even to go as far as ask for her forgiveness. No one had ever respected her enough to think she deserved an apology.
“You’re not useless.” she corrected. “We didn’t know what we were up against. We couldn’t leave the newbies we left behind unprotected. So you were part of the insurance policy.”
Faith felt his hand gently clasp hers, squeezing it supportively. His touch gave her instant goose bumps. “I get that now. I heard what happened…what happened to Xander.”
The Slayer exhaled loudly in response. “Yeah, Caleb’s not our typical bad guy. Got the bruises to prove it,” Faith confessed. “Can I be straight with you?”
“I was relieved when you didn’t come with,” she said, watching his face for any sort of anger or betrayal.
Expecting outrage, Faith was surprised by his bemusement. “Why?” he wondered.
The Slayer inhaled deeply, feeling uncharacteristically nervous, as though she were confessing a grave sin. “It wasn’t safe and I…I mean…I would’ve been distracted with you… after we almost…Man I suck at this.”
As though reading her mind, Wood grinned slightly. “I think what you mean is that you would have been distracted by what you almost started on the porch last night.”
Faith’s scoffed in indignation. “What I started? You were layering it on so thick you coulda been icing a cake.”
“Me?” he asked, matching her level of incredulity. “You were the one invading my personal space with that ‘would she, wouldn’t she?’ psych out.”
“You got me a Yankees hat!” she heatedly rationalized. “You deserv—“
Without warning or pageantry, Wood leaned forward and kissed her.
Faith automatically froze when his lips touched hers. It felt very foreign to her that his kiss wasn’t like all the others she had experienced. It wasn’t harsh or demanding or a total grope fest. It was soft and tentative. She’d never been kissed this way before.
Slowly he drew her into the embrace, his hand touching her face, his lips gently separating her own. With the shock receding, Faith finally surrendered to it.
As she kissed him in return, it felt as though the world had disappeared, as though nothing outside of the two of them particularly mattered at that moment. The more she allowed herself to truly feel the emotions evoked by this kiss, this man, the more Faith realized that this was more than just a crush or a potential fling. She didn’t feel ashamed or indifferent; she felt special, as though one day she could be loved. That revelation would have normally sent her packing but the usual urge to flee was completely absent. The Slayer wanted her turn to be loved and this time she actual thought it possible.
Inching forward to be closer to him, Faith suddenly flinched as pain seared through her bruised side, causing her to break from the kiss. She sucked in a long breath through her teeth and held her side.
“What is it?” Wood asked with instant concern. “What’s wrong?”
Faith smiled sheepishly. “Still kinda tender,” she explained as she shifted to ease the discomfort. “Guess the slayer healing hasn’t fully kicked in yet.”
“You need to rest,” he rationalized. He moved to get up to allow her to attain said rest, when her hand flew to grab his arm.
“Uh, you should stay,” Faith stated, loosening her grip on him the instant she realized she was still holding his arm. A warm flush filled her cheeks when he looked at her puzzled.
Clearing her throat, she explained.
“It’s jammed packed downstairs and I bet there aren’t any beds left. I know I wouldn’t be psyched if I had to sleep on the floor. So you can bunk here,” she offered. “Or, you know, whatever. It’s up to you.”
Wood hesitated for a moment before nodding in acceptance. “Okay. But only because I know you’d be disappointed if I didn’t.”
Faith balked at his self-assurance. “I’m just being nice by giving up half of this bed. Do what you want.”
Wood smiled. “Don’t worry. I will,” he said as he scooted down the bed, reclining beside her.
The Slayer slowly shifted to one side of the bed to give him room. Wood, chivalrously over the covers, took Faith in his arms and held her close. Resting her head on his chest, she closed her eyes.
“Let me know if I hurt you,” he whispered, not wanting to inadvertently inflict any unnecessary pain on her battered body.
“Don’t think that’ll be a problem,” she said with a hint of a smile tugging her lips, not referring at all to any physical pain he could cause her.
As Faith began to fall into undisturbed sleep, the menacing dream that had shaken her into consciousness had now taken residence at the back of her mind. It was now lost in a sea of thoughts that revolved around the newfound feelings for the man beside her.
Unfortunately, when the memory of the dream was to later resurface, it would be too late.
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