All the Stops: Gathering Ch. 2bybadgirl298©
Faith stood up on top of her regulation metal bed to watch the sun set through the small window in her little cell. She’d been tossed into the solitary section that was reserved for the more dangerous criminals several months ago. Though, she was far more dangerous than they would ever now. Given the circumstances, she was a model prisoner. She’d only given some black eyes, broken a couple of arms, and knocked someone’s teeth out since she’d been incarcerated. All were in self defense, she’d exercised monumental restraint.
The sun finally set leaving a purplish black glow in the night sky. She gave a wistful smile as she recalled her summer days in Boston. She’d leave their pitiful apartment behind to go down to the lake with her friends and play all day. At night, they’d all run into the water to swim at sunset. The water seemed steamy compared to the chill in the night air. She loved to drift there on her back, staring up at the star spattered sky and imagine a day when she’d be free of that small town. Little did she know that one day she’d be staring at the same sky wishing herself back home.
Reluctantly, Faith climbed down , inadvertently catching a glimpse of herself in the small mirror on the cement wall. It was cracked in the middle, presenting two sides of her face. She walked forward and traced her image with her hands. Ancient eyes in a child’s face. She looked harsher somehow. More rumpled by the world. Faith ran a hand down her body, she was supple with added muscle. She was in the best physical shape of her life because there was little else to do in this place but sculpt her body. She enjoyed escaping her cage for a few hours so she could forget herself in the movements of her body as she boxed or lifted weights.
She raised her arm, staring at the small cobra curled on her bicep. She’d allowed another girl to do the homemade tattoo to commemorate her birthday. It was a painful gift but one that she cherished nonetheless. In many ways, she thought she resembled the snake. Coiled and ready strike at those who would harm it. To others, it appeared a dangerous but beautiful animal.
Faith crossed to her bed and hopped up on it, letting her eyes drift closed. She wanted her consciousness to slip away so she could lose herself in world of her own making. Every night, she visited warm, safe places. Places like that lake from long ago. The apartment the mayor had bought for her. Or even the Summers’ household. She’d often felt safe there. Maybe, in the end, that’s what made it so threatening. Faith had an instinctive fear of safe things. They could always be taken from you.
“Pssssst!” She heard from the hallway. Faith peered through the bars and into the shadowed hallway. It was lit by one anemic lightbulb.
“Who’s there?” She demanded.
“Angel.” The voice said again as it drew nearer.
“Angel?” She stood up, moving to the door of her cell. “It IS you!” She said in a hushed whisper. “Why are you here? What’s wrong?”
“I’ll tell you in the car. But now, you have to come with me. I’m busting you out.”
“Busting me out? But I still have ten more years to do.”
“I know. I need you to come with me now. I don’t have time for questions. Reinforcements are on the way.”
“ I thought you wanted me to work on my redemption. That’s why I’ve been here a year, to make amends for–“
”I know. But there’s something else that needs your attention right now.”
“Again?” She groaned.
“We’re all tired of it, but it keeps happening.”
“B isn’t up to the job?” Faith asked in disbelief.
“She’s up against a hellgoddess.”
“Figures. God damn Hellmouth. Why doesn’t she just move?”
“Well, I’m not living apocalypse free these days either. Who knows, maybe this happens everywhere. Even in places like Milwaukee.” He rummaged around in his pockets. “But we should be going. We’ve got to get you out.”
“How did you ever get in? This place is seriously secure.” She whispered.
“Turns out that Willow is packing a lot of power these days.” Angel said, his eyes lighting with admiration. “ She has a sleeping potion you place in a thin glass bottle. You throw it at someone’s feet and they fall to the floor asleep! A ha!” He produced keys from his leather jacket and fit one into the lock on her door. “Maybe I should offer her a job.”
He unlocked the door and Faith was free. She stepped into the hallway and took a deep breath. “They’ll be looking for me now.”
“No, they won’t. Giles called the Watcher’s council and an. . .understanding was reached. They said that they would ‘take care of it,’ whatever the hell that means.”
“It means they’re going to do something shady. And why would they help me anyway? They were trying to kill me the last time I saw them.”
“That was before a hellgoddess started making trouble. It seems that they’re kind of attached to living in this dimension. Ergo, you have become useful to them.”
They looked around, seeing the coast was clear. “Alright, Angel, let’s get out of here.” They made their way down the hall. In the guard booth, the corrections officers were slumped over their donuts and coffee. They hadn’t even had an opportunity to draw their weapons. Faith smirked as she and Angel walked right through the inner gate. A series of slumbering guards littered their path. Faith walked behind him, that’s when she noticed several bullet holes in his coat. “They shot you?”
Angel gave a sinister chuckle. “Yeah, the guys in the watch towers did. Freaked them out when I didn’t die.” He smiled in a very Angelus-like way. “Being a vampire rocks.”
“Ohhhkay. Are you feeling alright, Angel?”
“Epiphany,” he said, as if that explained everything. Faith mentally shrugged, filing it away for later consideration. He looked back over his shoulder at the holes in his back. “But I really liked this jacket.”
“It’s a damn shame to ruin leather.”
“At least Spike got the worst of it.”
“Evil undead guy who kidnapped Willow once? William the Bloody?”
“Used to be. He can’t bite anymore.” Angel chuckled again. “He’s defanged. I’ve known about it for a year and it’s still funny.”
“I see. Did he get bullet holes in his jacket too?”
“No, he left his in the car.” Angel explained. “He said he wasn’t getting any ‘bloody holes in his coat for a bloody stupid vampire slayer.’”
Faith laughed, liking the vampire’s principles, despite herself. “He doesn’t sound half bad.”
“Yeah, well, you haven’t met him yet.” *************
Giles swirled the brandy around in the snifter he was holding. He still couldn’t believe he was going to do this. Especially in a place called “The Necromancer’s Nightclub.” He crossed his legs and then ran a hand down the crease, calming himself with the meaningless gesture. It was a gross understatement to say that he was not looking forward to this meeting. He sat further back in his chair and watched the crackling fire in the hearth. Holding out a hand, he was surprised to not feel any heat from its welcoming glow.
“It’s spirit fire, Ripper.” Ethan Rayne said, taking the adjoining chair. He looked Giles up and down, noting the tweed. “You didn’t have to wear your costume. You could have just hung a sign that says ‘Sedate Librarian’ around your neck. It would have been more subtle.”
“At least I don’t look like a lounge lizard.” Giles gestured to his companion’s shiny silver shirt and outrageously tight black jeans.
“You really have been spending too much time with those books of yours, old chum.” He raised his hand and an identical snifter full of brandy appeared in it. “What are we drinking to?”
“The end of the world?”
“Another apocalypse?” Giles nodded and Ethan raised his glass. “Here’s to the end.” Then, he took a sip of his brandy.
There was no point in trying to play down the significance of what was going to occur even though Giles was loathe to admit that he needed help. Ethan would see straight through it. “A hellgoddess is planning to open up portals to other dimensions, letting them bleed into one another so that we can all suffer and die horrible deaths.” Giles took a drink.
Ethan was even fazed.“A hellgoddess you say? Goes by the name of Glorificus?”
“You know her?”
“Of her, yes. The demon world’s all aflutter. You’d think she was the Messiah of the demon set.”
“That follows. Hell on Earth must feel like a holiday to them.”
Ethan nodded in agreement and then smiled nastily. “ I don’t imagine your girl’s much of a match for her. She probably wouldn’t even last a couple of rounds. So, why did you ask for a meeting? Did you want to say goodbye?” One elegant eyebrow rose. “Or did you want to kiss and make up?”
Giles set his jaw, ignoring Ethan’s deliberate taunt. “I’ve come to ask for your help.”
Ethan’s clever veneer of bored social politeness and quiet disdain was broken.“My help?”
“Your help.” Giles confirmed. “You’re right, Buffy’s not a match for Glory. We need every advantage. Including your magick.”
Ethan made a noise of disgust. “Why me? Don’t you have a little witch capable of performing magick in your exclusive little club?”
Giles didn’t even want to discuss her. Ethan would never be allowed near Willow unsupervised. “Yes, but she doesn’t have access to the same forces you do.”
“I don’t do green magick anymore, Ripper.”
“You never did green magick. You always played with forces you didn’t understand.”
“Experimented. And of course, I started small. Everyone does. “ His eyes drifted his snifter. It was evident that he was speaking to himself. “But it deceives you, it merely builds a hunger in you, a tolerance for the magick. You’re forced to dig into the darker stuff. . .and once you’ve tasted it. . .” He broke off, coming to himself. “Why should I help you?”
“Other than the fact that you owe me? The last time we met, you turned me into a Fyarl demon.” Giles scowled at him. “And why a Fyarl? Paralyzing mucus and the desire to crush things? Why not something more--“
”Listen to yourself. It only lasted a few hours. Nothing more than a gag really. Your intrepid little Slayer saved you, didn’t she? No harm done.”
“Yes, I suppose she did.”
“Meanwhile, I was sent off to a government correctional facility for naughty sorcerers.”
“Naughty?” Giles said, sneering. “Try criminally insane. And just how did you escape?”
Ethan’s mouth curled into a wicked grin. “Chararde demon sold me a translocation spell. All I had to do was wait for their magickal barriers to weaken on the night of the full moon and I was free.” He made an airy gesture then turned a discerning eye on his old friend. “How did you know where to find me?”
“The Watcher’s Council alerted me that you were in the vicinity. Apparently, they’ve been tracking you for several months. But they didn’t know how you obtained your freedom.” Giles looked him in the eye.“Will you help us?”
“No. I have no reason to, Ripper.”
“Other than saving your own wretched hide?” Giles said lightly. Ethan merely smirked at him. “I suppose I can make you an offer that someone as greedy as you can’t refuse.”
Giles could have sworn he saw dollar signs appear in Ethan’s eyes. “How much?”
He looked at his old friend and then at the occupants of the sorcerer’s bar. Several were looking in their direction. “Not here. We don’t know who’s listening.”
“Outside?” Ethan asked and Giles nodded. In the parking lot, the Watcher opened the trunk of his car and pulled out a satchel. Ethan looked inside, mesmerized by the stacks of hundred dollar bills. He was so intent. . . he never saw the chloroformed handkerchief that Giles put over his mouth. His old friend lost consciousness and slumped in his arms in a matter of seconds. Without much effort, he threw Ethan’s prone form in the trunk and closed the lid. Giles laughed. “I knew he’d fall for the old magick money spell.” He got in the car and started the engine, then sped off into the night.
Inside the trunk, the “money” lost its luster, turning back into stacks of rectangular paper. ************
Dawn sat on the grand staircase of the Hyperion Hotel, watching all the effort below in misery. Wesley and Gunn practiced some new broadsword maneuvers. Buffy meditated in the corner of the room. It was something she did more and more often, usually before patrolling. She sat Indian style on the floor, listening to some inner voice that guided her.
Anya and Xander were choosing their weapons. Xander was trying to talk Anya into leaving the frying pan behind in favor of a mace. Fred was eating tacos under a folding table in another corner of the room. Cordelia was making sure that all their supplies were in order. They still had to stop at The Magick Box to collect the troll’s hammer and the Dagonsphere.
Just then, Angel and Spike walked in with Faith. She stood behind them, looking around the room uncertainly. She had wronged nearly everyone in the room. Wesley stopped his swordplay, watching her with caution. Xander’s eyes darkened as he stepped back, the last time he’d been near her she had tried to choke the life out of him. Everyone turned to look at Buffy.
The blond Slayer could feel everyone’s eyes on her. She knew that the way they would treat Faith would be based on her example. She went to the other Slayer, eyes locked on her. Spike and Angel stepped aside. A muscle in her jaw twitched but she presented her hand which Faith shook. “Welcome back.” Was all she said.
“Thanks.” Faith said tightly. It was clear the Buffy wasn’t ready to deal with any of their unresolved issues. Faith would play along. Follow her lead and deal with the present situation. She just hoped that they both lived long enough to work through some of their stuff. She no longer wanted to bear the burden of all of this guilt. “So, you guys gotta plan or what?”
Buffy managed a ghost of a smile. “If you can call it that. Mostly, we’re trying to stay out of her way so we don’t get dead.”
At that, Dawn jumped to her feet and ran from the room. No one noticed but Angel.
“It’s that bad?” Faith asked.
“Worst thing I’ve ever faced. Come with me.” She ushered Faith over to the counter where all their plans were laid out. The two Slayers looked over the materials and then they began plotting. They devised several scenarios for different possible situations they could find themselves in. Wesley had contributed too, mentioning the timing and nature of the ritual she wanted to perform. He kept a distance between himself and Faith.
“How’s it coming?” Giles strode in and tossed his keys on the counter. He looked over Buffy’s shoulder.
“Where’s Ethan?” She asked.
“In the trunk.” Everyone stared at him, shocked. “What? I didn’t have enough rope to tie him to the roof.” *********
Angel knocked on the door.
“Go away, Spike!”
“I’m not Spike. It’s Angel”
She scowled at the door. “I don’t want to talk to you. Go away!” She could here him turning the doorknob. “Don’t come in here!”
“Why not?” Angel asked.
She frowned. “Because. . .because–“
”You obviously need to talk to someone. I’m here to help. Know what my business motto is?”
“We help the helpless.” Angel eased open the door and walked in to find her sprawled on the bed, her eyes were red from crying.
“I’m not helpless.” Dawn crossed her arms. “That’s the problem. I’m the all- powerful, mystical Key thingy.”
Angel sat down on the edge of the bed, sitting beside her legs. “Yes, I know you’re special.”
“Special? I’m dangerous. Everyone’s looking for me. The Knights. Glory. Her minions. And Ben.”
“Ben is Glory.”
She looked at him as if he were insane. “Whatever.”
“Talk to me. Maybe I can help you.”
“How? By leaving town? That’s how you ‘helped’ Buffy.”
Angel winced. “Yes, I did leave her, but I had a good reason. Though, she has nothing to do with us.”
“Us? There is no ‘us’, Angel. You didn’t even bother talking to me when you were with Buffy.” He voice became hushed. “Except for when you were. . .you know.”
“Evil?” Angel lowered his eyes. “I’m sorry for–“
”Don’t.” She held up a hand. “That wasn’t you. Actually, it didn’t even happen. The monks just planted those memories.” She expelled a breath. “Let’s not talk about that. All I mean is, I don’t think you can help me. You don’t know what it feels like.”
“To feel guilty?”
“I don’t feel–“
”Liar. Yes, you do. Your sister said that she was trying not to die and you went running out the room. You feel guilty. You think you’re responsible for Glory’s actions.”
“I am. She’s doing all of this to get to me. If I weren’t–“
”It’s not your fault. You’re innocent in all of this.”
Dawn looked away. “How do you know that? We don’t even know what The Key. . .what I’m used for. I could be this terrible force that–“
”No. You’re not. I’ve looked at everything Wesley has on The Key. It says that people have wanted to use your power for evil. But they’ve also wanted to use it for good.”
Dawn met his gaze. “What are we going to do? What if we can’t stop her?”
Angel’s heart twisted at the fear on her face. “We have to.” His face tightened. “And we will.”
“What are you doing in here?” Angel turned to see Spike in the doorway. “Is he bothering you, little bit?”
“No, he was talking to me.”
“Well, I’m here now.” He glared at Angel. “You can go. DAWN doesn’t need you.” There was a challenge in his eyes.
“I was just about to go anyway. If you ever need to talk, Dawn, you can–“
”Call me. Because I’ll always be there for her.” Spike said. Dawn merely gawked at the vampires, fascinated by the undercurrent of tension between the two of them.
“Goodnight, Dawn.” Angel brushed past Spike, leaving in a whirl of black. ***********
Willow popped open the trunk of Ben’s car and pulled up a chair. Inside, Ethan slept peacefully. He was lying on his side, arms and legs akimbo. Under his head was an open briefcase which had spilled rectangular pieces of paper all over the trunk. She reached in and shook him gently. It probably wasn’t a good idea to startle a wizard who used black magick. “Ethan, wake up.”
He stirred and mumbled something unintelligible.
“Ethan?” She applied a bit more pressure.
He rolled over and his eyes fluttered open. Then, he tensed. “What the hell. . .?”
Willow smiled. “Hi.”
“You’re Ripper’s witch.” He accused.
“Actually, I’m going by Willow these days.”
“Does Ripper know you’re here?”
“No, he told me that I’m not supposed to be alone with you.” Willow’s tone let it be known that she didn’t think he was that great of a threat.
“Did he now? I guess he’s right, I’m a very bad man.” Then, he remembered. “Bloody hell. He put me in this trunk.”
“How did you think you got in there?”
“I thought I might have gone on one of those black magick benders.”
“Oh.” She thought about that for a moment. “Actually, Giles was going to put you on the roof of his car, so, I think you got the better deal.”
He glared at her and then climbed out of the trunk. She stood up and stood behind the chair. “Of all the. . .! When get my hands on him I’m going to–“
”Sit down.” Willow said. Against his will, Ethan promptly sat in the chair. “You’re not going anywhere.”
“Well, well, well. Look’s who’s swimming in the dark side of the magick pool.”
“More like wading.” Willow corrected.
“Of course.” Ethan’s tone was snide. “And did you tell dear old Mr. Giles about your new ways?”
“That’s none of your concern. We brought you here for a reason. You’re going to help me defeat Glory.”
“And what if I say no?”
Willow sat on the edge of the trunk and pretended to think. “I guess I could always trap your energy. I could use you like a walking battery for my spells.”
Ethan was taken aback. “Wading, you said? I think you meant diving in the deep end.” He shook his head. “ No one knows about you, do they?”