Buffy watched as Winston put a little glamour on them, so that the new slayers wouldn’t be seen carrying weapons as they marched after her through Sunnydale in the middle of the day.
“I’ll pick up Giles and meet you at the back of the school,” he said when they’d been sufficiently disguised as a group of visiting teenagers. Buffy rolled her eyes at his description.
“Yeah, because making a class trip to the hellmouth is on every school’s list of important experiences,” she said with laugh.
He left with a wave, arriving at the agreed-upon staging area in the rear of the school just as Wesley drove up with Faith. Buffy walked to the car to make introductions and talk about the plan.
She’d worried briefly about Faith and Winston’s ability to work together, but as it turned out, the only awkwardness was between Faith and Giles. He had only his memories of what she’d been like years before to go on, in spite of Buffy having filled him in as to how differently it had gone in her time, and he was visibly unsure of how to respond to seeing Faith again.
When Giles fumbled for words as he tried to thank her for coming, Faith grinned and said, “Don’t hurt yourself there, old man,” Which did nothing to change his opinion of her, and he moved as far away as he could get without looking foolish. Buffy rolled her eyes at both of them, and stepped on Spike’s foot when he couldn’t hide a snicker.
“Can we all behave like grown-ups for at least for now?” Buffy asked in exasperation. Without waiting for a response, she quickly filled Faith in on the plan. She’d just finished when Xander arrived.
“So, you’re my bodyguard?” he said, before an image of the two of them from years ago made him want to bite his tongue.
Faith looked him up and down, smiling when he blushed. “Looks like,” she said. “Seems there’s a little more body to guard than there was back when.”
“I was a boy then. I’m not a boy anymore.” He met her eyes with his own challenging stare, neither of them aware of the amused onlookers.
“I can see that,” she said, licking her lips lasciviously.
Bloody hell! Where did all that come from?
I think they had a very short thing back in the day. It didn’t go well for Xander. She might have tried to kill him or something.
Looks like he’s up for trying again. This could be fun to watch.
Buffy just shook her head at him and waved the slayers over to meet Faith. She’d already split them into two squads, one for Faith and one to be taken over by Mel as soon as Buffy and Spike were needed to get Winston to the hellmouth. So, the introductions were very short, just a “This is Faith. She’s been a slayer for five years. She’s going to take squad A when she’s finished getting Xander in and out. You’ll have plenty of time to get to know her later. All you need to know right now is, she knows more than you do, so listen to her.” She paused. “Except for Abby and Amanda. They go to school here, so they might be the experts on how to get around.”
Spike shot Faith a quick look to see how she was reacting to Buffy’s speech but she kept her face expressionless. If he hadn’t heard her heart rate go up, he would never have known she had any reaction at all. She took a quick glance at the two girls Buffy had pointed out and smiled briefly.
“Are we all ready?” Xander was moving from foot to foot, clearly anxious to do his part. He had a crossbow and a sword, causing Faith to lift an eyebrow.
“Isn’t keeping you in one piece my job?” she asked with a smirk.
“It is. And I’m counting on you to do it,” he said. “I just like to be prepared…”
“If you’re ready, go on ahead,” Buffy said. “As soon as that alarm goes off and the kids start leaving, the First is gonna know something’s up, so we need to be in position and ready to go in.”
Xander nodded and headed for the building. “What if the door’s locked?”
“Not a problem,” Faith said, holding up one boot-clad foot.
Buffy looked at Winston, who nodded. “I’ll give her one shot at it first,” he said quietly. “Then it’s going to be open.”
Faith’s foot seemed to be more than adequate, and she and Xander quickly disappeared into the basement of the school. Knowing the students would be running out only the front and side doors, Buffy moved her girls into position, ready to go in as soon as it was clear enough. Spike stepped up beside her, saying, “Why don’t I follow them, just in case? Can start checking it’s clear as soon as they’re on the way out.”
“Okay. Just be careful. We don’t know what Wood might do if he sees you prowling around his building.”
“Got it, love. Get your troops ready to go.” He entered the building, and Buffy turned to the new slayers, reminding them to go in pairs and to clear all the classroom floors before they started on the basement.
Xander and Faith made it to the control box without incident, but before he could pull the switch, a Bringer appeared, wielding a big knife.
“All yours,” Xander said as he opened the box.
Anticipating a normal human girl, the Bringer swung the knife at Faith, only to find her no longer there, but gripping his arm and twisting it behind his back.
“You have to behead them to kill them,” Xander said calmly, as if they discussed how to dispatch supernatural creatures every day.
Faith nodded, shoved the Bringer off balance and pulled out her sword with one motion. She removed its head quickly and shuddered.
“Man, that’s one fugly bad guy.”
“Just wait till you meet his friends,” Xander said as he pulled the switch and alarms and bells began ringing all over the building. “Oh look, here comes one now.” He pulled out his own sword and put his back against the wall. Faith squared off against the snarling Turok-Han that had appeared behind her.
“Holy shit,” she gasped. “Wes wasn’t lyin’ when he said it was mean and ugly.”
“And fast and strong. And stakes kinda bounce off,” Xander offered helpfully.
“Huh.” Faith tried to stab the Turok-Han, but it laughed off the wound in its side and knocked her to the ground. Only her slayer strength and speed allowed her to kick it off and roll out of reach, only to find it already on her again. Giving a credible growl of her own, she tried to pin its arms, but quickly realized that it was too strong.
“Little help?” she grunted, surprised when instead of Xander, Spike pulled the snarling vampire off her and shoved it away.
“Take its head off,” he said, blocking the Turok-Han’s exit from the room. Faith obeyed immediately, whacking through its neck with one swipe of her sword. “Don’t even try to do anything else. Unless you can’t reach it, then start taking off body parts if you need to. That works for me.”
Faith shook her head. “Sounds like we needed to bring a guillotine with us,” she growled. “All these things need their heads removed.” She glanced at Spike. “How does Buffy handle them?”
Spike smiled. “The first one she ever fought, in our time, she took its head off with a piece of wire. She doesn’t recommend it, though. The first couple of times she fought it, she came out of it pretty battered.”
He nodded. “But alive. Not sure how she survived, but she did, and she got smarter and figured out a way to kill it.” He shrugged. “Now she’s got the scythe, so it’s a lot easier.”
“That’s that fancy axe she doesn’t let go of?”
He nodded. “That’s the one. She didn’t get that in our time until almost the last minute, but once she had it, it changed everything.” He looked at her calmly. “Something happens to her, it’s yours,” he said. “Something happens to you, she wants it to go to Mel.”
“You’ll meet her later. She’s going to have Buffy’s squad when we go in with Winston. Just got her powers, but she’s got a good head on her shoulders and she’ll make a decent head slayer.” He stopped and cocked his head, listening. “They’re comin’ in. Get Harris out of here and then find Buffy. She’ll tell you what to do next.”
“Where are you going?”
“To clear out the room Winston needs to use.” He whirled and disappeared in the direction of the stairs.
“Okay. Let’s get you out of here.” Faith pushed Xander in the direction of the door through which they’d entered, passing groups of slayers splitting off into pairs as she did so.
She left him outside to join Giles and Wesley and assist them in guarding against Bringers, then returned to the building to find her squad of slayers.
Spike paid no attention to the other slayers spreading out around the building. His ears told him that they were encountering resistance of some sort from time to time, but it didn’t sound as if anyone was being hurt badly. He made his way to the principal’s office and stepped in, snarling at the startled secretary to “get the bloody hell out of this building!” as he entered. Without checking with her boss, she bolted out the door and to the nearest exit.
Spike continued on into Robin’s office, halting when he saw him holding a crossbow.
“You need to get out of here,” Spike said, as calmly as if there wasn’t a weapon dangling from the hand of the man who hated him. “I wasn’t kidding the other day when I told you to get whatever you cared about out of this room.”
Robin didn’t respond to his words, just saying, “I’ve been thinking about what you said about my mother.”
Spike lifted an eyebrow. “And….”
Robin raised the crossbow, but swung it slightly to the right, putting a bolt through the chest of a Turok-Han that had been reaching for Spike, who spun around and removed its head while it was still snarling at the bolt.
“And I decided you were right,” Robin said, rearming his weapon. “She wouldn’t have been very proud of me for doing the First’s work for him.”
“Good for you,” Spike said. “Now get outside. If you want to help, find the watchers; if you don’t, just make sure nobody goes back into the building until somebody tells you it’s safe.”
Without another word, Spike turned and went to find Buffy.
Where are you?
Just checking the last classrooms on the main floor. Ready to start clearing the basement and moving toward the hellmouth.
On my way.
He found her quickly and glanced around at the dusty basement.
“I take they aren’t all hiding down in the hellmouth?” he said wryly.
“Nope. But the girls are getting pretty good at this working together stuff. One squad will spread out on this level watching our backs, and the other will follow us into the sub-basement. Winston’s ready anytime we are.”
“No time like the present. Let’s go get our wizard.”
They glanced out the door to find Winston waiting impatiently. Behind him, Giles, Wes, and Xander had formed an arc to prevent anything from sneaking up on them. Blood on Wes’s sword indicated it had seen some action.
Spike looked at Winston with an amused question, but didn’t say anything when Winston shook his head. A few piles of ashes around the door indicated he’d also had something to do.
Once they’d entered the building, Winston breathed a sigh of relief.
“I appreciate all the extra concern,” he murmured. “But I am perfectly capable of setting fires from time to time without wearing myself out. They were getting on my nerves.”
Spike laughed. “No worries, mate. We’ll let you set fire to as many ugly buggers as you want to.”
“Is the pathway clear?” Winston asked, all business now that his time was near.
“Yeah. I think the good principal is having second thoughts about how his mum would feel about him working for the wrong side. Once he gets his kids away from here, I wouldn’t be surprised to find him out there with the other brave, but foolish, humans watching our backs.”
“Let’s do this then.” Winston took the by-now familiar wide hallway to the sub-basement and the hellmouth.
Buffy’s squad of slayers, led by Mel, spread out behind them, still checking for lurking Turok-Hans or Bringers. The occasional shout of triumph made it clear they were still finding them. As they started down the steps, Buffy signaled for Mel to follow them.
“Faith’s squad is going to keep the basement clear. And Giles and Wes are guarding the door. You and your girls need to stay behind us and make sure nothing gets by us or escapes.”
“Escapes?” Mel looked incredulous as so far everything they’d faced had been trying to kill them.
“Sooner or later—probably sooner—the First is going to figure out what we’re doing, and it’ll try to get its minions to move away from the hellmouth. We want to shove them all in there with it.”
“So, don’t slay them?” Mel seemed disappointed and Spike laughed.
“Spoken like a true slayer,” he said. “Slay away, luv, just don’t worry if they retreat from you in this direction. It’s where we want them to go.”
“Got it. Kill ‘em or drive them into the hellmouth.”
Winston neared the bottom of the steps and stopped. Clustered around the bottom were enough Turok-Hans to give even him pause.
“I hope no one minds if I thin the ranks a bit before we step in,” he said. Without waiting for a reply, he pointed at the snarling group and set them on fire. All of them. When there was nothing at the bottom of the steps but piles of ash, he smiled. “That’s better.”
He stepped into the large area, Buffy on one side and Spike on the other. The slayer squad behind them spread out in a line to prevent anything from getting up the stairs.
As they advanced toward the hellmouth, the flames Winston continued to throw out ahead of them drove the waiting Turok-Hans back. They retreated to the safety of the hellmouth, in spite of the exhortations to “Get them!” coming from an open, roaring maw hovering over the big hole in the floor. They continued to fall back, diving into the hellmouth as soon as they were close enough. The occasional brave one would try to sneak past the flames and Winston’s lethal bodyguards to get behind him, only to find himself facing sword-wielding slayers arguing over who was going to kill him.
Once there were no more Turok-Hans visible, Winston nodded to Spike and Buffy. “I’m going to be busy now.”
“Got your back,” Spike said.
“Go for it,” Buffy added. They each faced away from Winston, watching carefully for any sign of danger to him.
For his part, Winston looked from the hellmouth to the ceiling and pointed at a spot right over it. The slayers in the school basement had been warned to avoid that area, so there were no issues with them, just surprised shouts as the floor disappeared and the shaft of fire went up and through that ceiling and into Robin Wood’s office. His desk came crashing through, falling all the way down into the hellmouth, but Winston never took his eyes off the opening he was creating. As he broke through the roof of the building, clay tiles rained down into the hellmouth as well.
The ray of sunlight that fell through was cheering, but hardly enough to close a hellmouth. Making a grasping motion with his hand, Winston seemed to be pulling the light down into the room, focusing it on the hellmouth. Snarls and roars from below the floor faded when the sunlight poured into the hole as if it was a stream of golden water. It kept pouring in and gradually there was nothing but silence below. As pieces of the rim began to crumble into the hole, so did the edges of the hole in the ceiling as well as bits and pieces of debris from the roof.
Spike and Buffy had not had much to do, as the slayers behind them were intercepting any remaining Bringers that attempted to get to Winston. They had only the occasional Turok-Han that preferred facing them to becoming a torch. When pieces of the ceiling began to fall in, Buffy looked at Spike with wide eyes.
“Isn’t this how…” she began, stumbling when the floor rocked under her.
Spike cleared his throat loudly. “Um… Winnie? Not to criticize, but we did promise we wouldn’t destroy Wood’s building….”
With a full-body shudder, Winston lowered his hand and both the sunlight and the crumbling around them seemed to stop. Only a normal amount of light was visible through the large holes leading to the open sky. He stood bent over, hands on his knees, taking deep breaths until he stopped trembling, then raised his head and stood up slowly.
“I hope that got them,” he said. “I couldn’t have kept that up much longer.”
“Oh,” Buffy said, eyes wide. “You mean you could have hurt yourself? Or died?” She looked horrified that she was relatively unscathed and that someone else might have sacrificed himself.
Spike, on the other hand, just studied Winston’s face. “Is that right, Winnie? You might have died if you didn’t stop?”
Winston exchanged a knowing look with Spike, then nodded. “Yes. Let’s go with that, shall we?” He looked around what was basically an underground room. “What can we seal this with? Or could we just seal off the staircase?”
“I’d rather seal the hellmouth,” Buffy said. “But I’m not sure how to do it. Spike pulled down the whole city, but that probably isn’t a good plan this time.”
“Xander Harris to the rescue.” They whirled to see Xander standing with Faith. “I can have a cement truck in here tomorrow. Maybe two or three cement trucks. We’ll pour it in there until it won’t go any more.”
They all stared at him.
“What? The company I work for is going to be back here tomorrow, trying to repair the roof and the floors. Nobody’s going to notice a few extra cement trucks backing up to the basement door.”
“You have hidden depths, Harris,” Spike said, beaming at him.
“All right. Let’s get out of here, and make sure everyone’s accounted for.” Buffy threw one last glance at the hellmouth, which now appeared to be just a large hole in the dirt floor, then led them up the stairs. “I wonder if I should leave a few girls behind just to make sure nothing crawls out of there?”
Spike assured her he hadn’t heard a sound from the hellmouth, even when he was standing close to it. And Winston just rolled his eyes when she asked him if he thought there were any Turok-Hans left.
With the exception of a few stray Bringers that were easily and quickly disposed of by the eager new slayers, they was no sign of what had gone on under the new school building. If, that is, you didn’t notice the hole in the roof, or try to enter the room below it. Xander went to find Robin and let him know that the building was going to require some repairs, and he should probably send the students home rather than allow them to go back inside.
Robin nodded and turned away to let his deans know to tell the students school was out for a few days. He watched Xander putting up hazard warning tape on the doors, then his gaze flickered briefly to Spike and Buffy, then to Winston. He shook his head but didn’t ask them what happened, just went back to his job. He frowned briefly at the sight of so many teen-aged girls leaving with Buffy, but it was obvious from the weapons they were carrying that they weren’t his students, so he just sighed and turned away.
“I guess he’s going to be okay with it,” Buffy said as she watched him turn his back on her small army of slayers.
“Not got much choice, does he? His building has a big hole through the middle. Someday we need to share with him how bad it could have been.”
“Someday,” Buffy agreed. “But not anytime soon. We’ve got too much to do now to worry about talking to him. I’m grateful he decided to play on the right side at the last minute, but he’s not high on my list of people to make friends with.”
“I wouldn’t mind making friends with him,” Faith said, frowning when Buffy choked and coughed. “Something you need to share?”
Buffy shook her head. “I’ll share it later, I promise. When we have a chance, I’ll catch you up on anything I think you need to know from how things went in our time. But right now I’ve got to get these girls back and then meet Giles for a recap.”
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