Author: Lizbeth Marcs
Summary: Xander’s got a plan, but life keeps interfering.
Genre: Future fic, dark fic
This is it! The final part for your pleasure. I wrote a story that was less than 70 pages. Go me!
“Where’s the T person you mentioned?”
“Probably around the corner outside sneaking a smoke.”
“I don’t like this.” Xander suspiciously looked around. “Leaving the station unattended like that? Anyone could just jump the gates.”
“And this bothers you why?”
“On principle? It doesn’t,” Xander answered. “But as a practical matter? It seems out of place.”
“Please. We’re talkin’ a state employee workin’ the late shift. She don’t give a flying fuck if anyone jumps the gates,” Faith said as she slid something called a Charlie Card — which the locals bought from automatic dispensers in lieu of tokens or using actual money — into a slot. The gates opened and she pranced through.
“I dunno. It’s just I keep having a serious case of this-is-wrong-ability,” Xander said as he slid his Charlie Card into the slot.
“Look around you.” Faith gestured like she was a model on the Price is Right. “The station’s pretty open. If something was wrong, we’d see it.”
“And right now I’m seeing a missing T employee,” Xander said as he joined Faith.
Right on cue, there was a squeal of brakes and a flash of electric light as a grimy blue and white subway train rounded the corner and crawled into the station.
“See? Nothin’ to worry about,” Faith cheerfully said.
Xander glanced over his shoulder. With the exception of Faith and himself, the station was completely deserted. Faith was probably right. He was jumping at shadows because he knew that both Giles and Buffy were no more than a half-hour car ride away. He was fine when it was just Giles. He probably would’ve been fine if it was just Buffy, even. But the two of them together? The very idea was worrying.
The two-car train came to halt on the opposite track with a loud, rumbling screech that made Xander wince.
As the train opened its doors to disgorge the handful of passengers, a pair of chimes bonged from a speaker overhead and announced that the train had arrived at Wonderland, the last stop on the line.
Faith and Xander tensed as the passengers scattered. Xander knew that every plan had a certain amount of calculated risk. Spreading the bodies around the beachside parking lot of the station, even though they were mostly hidden, was one such risk. In the original plan, he and Faith would already be long gone using Bunny’s car. Unfortunately, he had let his fury get the better of him and he dove in for the kill before he had a chance to find out where her car was.
All he could do now was hope like hell that no one let the world know they had spotted a dead body by letting out a blood-curdling scream. If the cops suddenly showed, he and Faith would have to make a run for it. Getting embroiled in a murder investigation because the cops viewed the pair of them as potential witnesses was sure to attract the kind of attention that would be inimical to his and Faith’s long-term well-being. Needless to say, he was tensed to grab Faith and run while the train made its lumbering turnaround maneuver, which seemed to involve pulling out of the station, switching tracks, and then returning to the station down a different set of tracks located next to the platform where they stood.
Luckily for them, none of the departing passengers seemed eager to stick around, probably not a surprise given the lateness of the hour, nor did they seem to pay their surrounding environment any attention beyond the bare minimum of making sure they weren’t approached by questionable characters. Some headed for the beachside parking lot and went directly to their cars, none of which had a clear line of sight in the space between the Zipcar and Zoe’s abandoned car or the body on the ground. Other passengers crossed the catwalk over the tracks and headed for the parking lot located behind them, which faced the flat, blasted landscape of an empty street and another parking lot located on the other side.
When the train settled to a stop on the tracks in front of them, the double chimes sounded again and announced that this was the Blue Line inbound from Wonderland with a final stop in Bowdin, wherever the hell that was.
The doors flew open with a hiss, the train’s engine fell ominously silent, and the interior lights in cars slightly dimmed.
“How long is it going to just sit on the tracks like that?” Xander hissed in Faith’s ear.
“Probably a few minutes. Don’t worry. It’ll be outta here soon enough,” Faith hissed back.
A conductor stepped out of the train and began fishing around in his pockets.
“Okay. We say nothing unless he asks,” Xander whispered in Faith’s ear as he placed an arm around her shoulders and steered her toward the rear car. “But if he does ask, let me do most of the talking.”
As the conductor flipped a cigarette in his mouth in clear violation of the no smoking signs splashed all over the station, he spotted the pair of them walking down the platform. He looked up with widened eyes, unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth and unflicked Bic forgotten in his hand.
Xander tried to ignore him and guide Faith into the last car.
“Hey, you need me to call the cops?” the conductor called out to them.
Right on cue, Faith began to wail. “No. No police. No, please.”
“Go inside the car,” Xander told her with a glance at the inconvenient Good Samaritan.
As Faith did as she was told, Xander approached the conductor.
“Family trouble?” the conductor asked as he took in Xander’s bruised face.
“My sister’s dickhead soon-to-be ex-husband,” Xander explained.
The conductor strained his neck to get a glance through the window at the back of Faith’s bowed head and slumped shoulders, before looking back at Xander.
“It’s been a long time in coming,” Xander said. The worried expression on his face was real enough, at least. “She was too scared to leave on her own, so I flew out here to get her.” He let loose with a bitter laugh. “He and his dope-dealer buds caught us while we were sneaking out the door.”
“Fuck,” the conductor quietly swore. “You really should call the cops. You two look like you need a trip to Mass General. Especially you, with that eye patch.”
“This? Old motorcycle injury,” Xander said as he waved at the left side of his face. He realized with a sinking feeling that without the jewel, his dreams of getting a new eye would just have to go by the wayside for now.
“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t realize.” The conductor winced. “Either way, my point still stands.”
“My sister doesn’t want cops,” Xander insisted. “If she files charges, she’ll have to stick around for at least a day or two. She just wants out of his reach. Hell, it isn’t like she hasn’t filed restraining orders against the asshole before. He walked through them like the paper they are.”
The conductor studied Xander’s face. Whatever he saw there seemed to convince him. “Where are you going?”
“I-I-I don’t want to say,” Xander stuttered.
“No, I mean what stop.”
“Whatever stop that’ll get me to Logan. I’ve got reservations to get the hell out of this state on the first available flight on United,” Xander said.
“You need to get off at Airport,” the conductor said.
Xander grinned. “Okay, that’s an obvious, easy-to-remember name. Thanks for letting me know. I didn’t get a chance to look at the system map, and my sister’s on the verge of hysteria so I was afraid to ask her.”
“Okay, tell you what,” the conductor checked his watch, “I’ve got to wait here at least for another 3 minutes or so. I’ll stay right here and watch for sketchy characters. Once we leave the station, I’ll just leave this car closed and won’t let anyone in with you two until I get to Airport.”
Xander resisted the urge to hug the man. “Thank you,” he said with obvious relief. “Right about now, I’m getting neck strain from looking over my shoulder. But won’t you get in trouble?”
“This time of night on a weeknight?” The conductor paused to light his cigarette. “I don’t get enough passengers to fill one car, let alone two. Don’t worry about it.”
“I can’t tell you how much this means to us,” Xander gratefully said. “The fewer people who see us leaving Revere, the better.”
“Don’t mention it. And I mean that literally, because it could be my ass.” The conductor held up a finger. “But if I see anyone suspicious heading this way, I call the police. No ifs, ands, or buts. A bloody fight in the station, especially a domestic, is more than my job’s worth.”
“Thank you,” Xander softly said as he went to join Faith in the car.
Faith looked up as he passed through the door. “Well?”
Xander plopped down in the seat next to her, put the duffle bag on the empty seat on the other side of him, and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “We’re good, sis.”
“Mmmmm, I think I like that kind of good, clean family fun much, much better,” Faith purred as she slid a hand over his thigh.
“I gotta admit, I’m liking the idea myself,” Xander promised. “You deserve a reward for that Emmy-worthy turn at playing damsel. Maybe a little brotherly love will soothe the bruised ego.”
“As long as you promise that next time you’ll be the damsel I’ll call that a deal,” Faith said.
“Provided we get out of here okay and that there will be a next time,” Xander said as he glanced over his shoulder. Aside from the smoking conductor standing sentry outside their car, Wonderland may as well be a tomb for the quiet dead. He added, “I have some even better news, too. Our knight in a shining civil servant uniform is going to keep this car closed until we reach the Airport stop. So there’ll be no unexpected visitors.”
“Now that’s a hook, line, and sinker job,” Faith said.
“Okay, from here on out, the plan’s the same,” Xander said. “As soon as we hit the airport, we head for the north cargo area near Terminal E. In case we get separated—”
“Head for Lot C-49, DHL terminal, and wait by the custom crate holding our custom-built coffin built for two that locks on the inside,” Faith finished for him.
“Don’t wait. Get in the coffin,” Xander corrected her.
Faith studied him a moment. “You’d wait for me.”
“Well, yeah.” Xander uncomfortably squirmed. “I have to. It’s in the rulebook.”
“The rulebook you wouldn’t read even if you knew it existed.” Faith smirked at him. “Fuck it. I’ll wait.”
“Faith, please listen to me,” Xander said. “We’re cutting it really fine. That crate’s scheduled to be loaded into the cargo hold by 2 a.m., give or take. No matter what happens, make sure you’re in that coffin before then.”
Faith pulled away and crossed her arms. “I’ll wait,” she insisted with a glare at him,
Xander blinked at her like he’d never seen her before. Small defiances from Faith were nothing new, but it was always about stupid shit or because she knew it pressed his buttons. This was a defiance of a completely sort and he wasn’t entirely sure how he should react.
He should probably do something to make her follow his orders, or at the very least listen to reason. However, he knew from experience that nothing short of violence was going to get her to budge. Since he just told the one witness to their escape that she was running from a wife-battering asshole, he pretty much suspected that if the “brother” showed himself to be not much better a call to 9-1-1 would be made.
Besides, he wasn’t entirely sure that he wanted to change her mind.
“Fine. Have it your way,” Xander finally said.
“Goody,” Faith said as she settled back into the crook of his arm. “Now how are we gonna entertain ourselves on a 12-hour flight? ’Cause I got some ideas.”
“I’m sure you do,” Xander murmured as he kissed the top of her head.
“Pretty sure we’re gonna be starved when we land,” Faith remarked.
“So we’ll grab a few snacks before we hit up a few war zones,” Xander said.
Faith sat up and gave him a questioning look. “We ain’t gonna go straight to your pad Mozambique?”
“Estate,” Xander corrected her. “And ‘straight to Mozambique’ is a relative term. We’ve got to cross half the continent to get there. And since we’re passing through some nifty little wars along the way…” Xander’s voice trailed off into a shrug.
Faith made a face. “Why do we wanna mess with that shit?”
“To enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffet.”
Faith perked up. “Yeah? As in totally off the hook?”
“Off the hook, off the leash, and running wild,” Xander promised. “Sometimes when all that self-control would get to me, I’d swing through one or two to take off the edge.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Faith happily said as she settled back into the crook of his arm. “Now I’m gonna hafta do somethin’ extra special for you when we tuck ourselves into our deee-lux flight accommodations. I’m thinkin’ it’s a good thing we’re both really flexible.”
The conductor stuck his head into the car. “Okay, we’re heading out now. You two okay?”
Faith buried her face into Xander’s shoulder, probably to hide her beaming smile. “We will be,” Xander said as he composed his expression. He turned to the conductor with a suitably relieved, but somber look on his face. “Hey man, thank you for this.”
The conductor’s answering smile sad. “Yeah, well. I had a sister once, too.” Without another word, the conductor turned away and headed off down the platform to the first car.
“Shiiiiiiit,” Faith giggled. “We lucked into that one.”
The train shuddered to life. The lights briefly flickered before kicking up a couple of lumens in brightness. The double chimes bonged from the speaker in the ceiling and the automated voice announced, “This is the Blue Line from Wonderland with the last stop in Bowden. Next stop, Revere Beach station.”
During the announcement, Xander’s shoulders began to relax. True, he didn’t have the jewel in his hands, but it looked like they would make a clean getaway. While its loss stung, to say nothing of losing access to its varied magical uses, he still had resources to protect himself and Faith from the Council for at least a little awhile. Between the no-tracking spell, his ready access to cash and sheltered bank accounts in tax-free havens, and the numerous forms of fake identification he had for both them in his duffle, they could stay under the radar long enough for him to get his hands on some new, powerful object d’magic that would put a more comfortable barrier between them and a Council set on revenge.
As the doors began to hiss closed, a blur shot through the rapidly narrowing opening and flung itself into a seat on the opposite side of the train’s aisle.
“Hey guys!” it chirped.
There was a stunned moment of silence as the train jerked forward, and then began to crawl out of Wonderland station.
“Buffy?” Xander exploded with surprise, a split second before Faith exploded with her own, “B?”
Buffy was sprawled on the bench a little way down from Xander’s right near a door that faced out onto the outbound tracks. “Where were you guys? You were supposed to meet me at the Wonderland Ballroom. Well, actually, not there, but that narrow alley between the ballroom and the train station. Didn’t Bunny tell you? I was waiting by her car there.” Her bright grin slightly dimmed. “Speaking of which, where is she?”
Faith tensed next to him, and Xander tightened his hold around her shoulders to signal that she needed to wait. The way Buffy was seated meant that every single limb was essentially pointed in their direction. If they attacked now, all she’d have to do is sweep out a foot to knock them both off balance. In that time it took for them to recover, she could easily get a stake in her hand.
Once Buffy’s beloved Mr. Pointy made an appearance all it would take was one mistake to turn one or both of them into dust motes.
Buffy began to frown. “Also, you two also look really awful. What happened?”
Thankfully, Faith stepped into the breach while Xander furiously considered their options for attack.
“We got jumped,” Faith said. Clearly she was falling back on the story she told Bunny.
“Jumped?” Unfortunately, this news seemed to make Buffy even more alert than she already was. “When?”
Judging from the way Buffy was acting, she didn’t know. That was good news, at least. The bad news is that he and Faith would have to time their attack just right. It had to be at a point where Buffy was distracted or she dropped her guard. If worse came to worst, they could string her along until they reached Logan, then “get separated” from her somewhere in the passenger terminals, and simply disappear. Once they were out of sight, Buffy would have no way of tracking them.
A fight in the narrow confines of the subway car or flight across Logan airport to the DHL terminal. It was a hell of a choice, and both were fraught with peril. He was pretty sure they’d be able to manage one or the other. After all, it was two of them against one clueless her. Even so, Xander still didn’t like the odds, but they were the best odds he was going to get.
“On the beach,” Faith haltingly explained. “They attacked us on the beach and…B, she’s dead. I’m sorry.”
Buffy sat up and her chin trembled. “Bunny’s dead?”
The train began to decelerate as the double chimes bonged overhead and the voice announced, “Next stop, Revere Beach station.”
Xander faked a coughing fit. He put a little painful rattle in it for good measure. “The sand on the beach. I can’t seem to clear my throat,” he said in a trembling, raw voice. “Bunny pushed me down in the sand and dove into the middle of them to try and keep them away from me. They grabbed her and ran.”
“I tried to follow ’em, B, but my ankle’s fucked,” Faith helplessly waved at her left foot. “Harris may look like hamburg, but at least he can walk. He had to carry my ass down the boulevard.”
Xander suddenly realized that he had to at least mention the jewel. Even though they knew Buffy had it, Buffy didn’t know they knew. “We lost both a Slayer and the jewel in one night because we weren’t fast enough,” Xander said. “Buffy, I’m so sorry about this. You don’t know how much.”
The train jerked to a sharp stop. The double chimes bonged and the voice overhead informed them that they had arrived at Revere Beach station.
“Believe me when I tell you, it’s been a hard night all around,” Buffy quietly said. “As far as I’m concerned, one Mr. Xander Harris doesn’t have to apologize for anything. And before you beat yourself up too hard, I think you should know that—”
Xander interrupted her, since he already knew what her big revelation was. It was more important that he play his part to perfection, and that meant guilt. Lots and lots of guilt. If he could turn her into consoling-friend-Buffy, her guard would drop and he and Faith would have a better chance of getting the jump on her.
“Yes I do,” Xander insisted. “I was the one that found out that the long-lost Oblique Jewel was not as lost as everyone thought and then went off and blabbed to the Council about it.” He sniffed as he rubbed the back of his hand over his mouth and looked studiously Buffy’s feet. Damn. They were planted on the floor.
“You know once you found out you couldn’t let that go,” Buffy soothed. “I mean, the way you found out meant there was always a chance some big bad wanna-be had heard about it at the same time. For all the Council knows, some big bad wanna-be is still after it. It’s the only way to explain the ramped-up security.”
“I thought G said there was a leak,” Faith said.
Buffy raised an eyebrow, and Xander felt his hopes sink once again. With one little statement, Faith had managed to push Buffy back into business mode.
“Yeah, that’s what he told me,” Buffy agreed. “Not sure I want to believe it.”
The double chimes bonged and the automated voice announced, “Now leaving Revere Beach station. Next stop, Beachmont.”
“I’ll be honest, I think I like your theory more than Giles’s,” Xander said as the train pulled out of the station. “A jewel with that kind mojo would totally be on every big bad’s Amazon wish list.”
“I thought all it did was healing and protective shit,” Faith said with a frown at Xander. “Least that’s what Harris told me.”
“Well, yeah. That’s pretty much all it does. It’s like the Swiss Army knife of magical jewels,” Buffy agreed. “Except not the cheap kind you get in stores for $19.99. It’s more like the kind that you have to special order for $200 because it does everything short of doing your dishes and making your bed.”
Faith and Xander quickly exchanged what-the-hell looks. Quippy Buffy right after hearing about the death of a Slayer? Something was Not Right. Xander turned his gaze back on Buffy and tensed to spring so he’d be ready when she gave him an opening. He could sense Faith next to him doing the same thing.
“Sorry, sorry.” Buffy waved her hands. “Still loopy from the teleport. I haven’t slept for more than a day at this point.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty obvious,” Xander carefully said as he removed his arm from around Faith’s shoulders.
Buffy pinched at the chain that as hanging from her neck and lifted it up to her chin.
Xander’s eye got wide. “The jewel,” he said with near-reverence.
“It’s…it’s…” Faith shook her head. “Wow.”
“I’m glad you guys see its specialness, because I have to tell you that it’s lost on me.” Buffy frowned at them as she dangled the chain from her pinched fingers. “All this mess for one little jewel that’s not even the size of my thumbnail. I mean, seriously? This is what we’re fighting over?”
Xander cleared his throat. “Like you said, it’s the Swiss Army knife of magical jewels.”
“You can’t even use it as a weapon.” Buffy pouted as she let it drop. The jewel fell against her sweater and glimmered tantalizingly under the subway car’s industrial light. “It’s all blah-blah-blah protective, except you have to keep renewing the protective spells on a regular basis and fuel it by either killing someone or giving it a sliver of your soul every time you use it, so I’m thinking total bust. Then there’s the blah-blah-blah healing bit, but every one of those spells has a major drawback of some kind, too.”
The train began to slow. The double chimes bonged overhead and a voice announced, “Next stop, Beachmont.”
Xander took advantage of the interruption and forced himself to focus on what was important. The primary objective was to get away from Buffy in one piece. If they got their hands on the jewel — or, better, ripped it off her corpse — it would be a bonus. However, things were too uncertain, and Buffy’s mood too volatile, to be sure that they’d actually win if he and Faith tried to make a power play for it. He was not about to risk his hide or Faith’s on what could easily turn into a suicide run.
“Don’t look at me,” Xander bitterly said as his eye fixed on the jewel. “If you’re asking me whether it was all worth it, the answer is no.”
“He’s been like this all night,” Faith said, once again falling back into the groove she had with Bunny. “While the whole thing’s been a clusterfuck since Atlantic City, at least we got it now, right? Better us than the other side.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Buffy quietly said. “But with so many people killed or hurt, I have to wonder…”
“B? Could you please stop encouraging Harris to feel even more guilty?” Faith asked with irritation as she shifted in her seat, no doubt to improve her angle of attack if she had to make a move. “Could you at least wait until we get to London before you start with that shit?”
“It’s just that I look at you two and I’m beginning to get the idea just how much this jewel cost us,” Buffy said.
That’s when Xander knew.
He launched himself from his seat just as Buffy jumped up, grabbed a nearby floor-to-ceiling pole, and swung around it like she was a stripper going for a big kick-off of a finish. Her leading foot caught Xander square in the left cheek sending him flying down the aisle. He slammed into the front wall with enough force that his teeth clicked together.
Right, gloves off.
Xander brought out the game face and flipped to his feet just in time for the train to jerk to a stop and he was thrown off balance.
The double chimes bonged and the voice announced, “Beachmont stop.”
Xander righted himself and saw that Faith and Buffy were already trading blows in the middle of the aisle.
“You know,” Buffy said, “I’m not sure if you’re the smartest stupid vampires I’ve ever met, or the stupidest smart vampires I’ve ever met.”
Buffy and Faith did a complicated pas de duex that ended with Buffy’s back to him. Xander grinned as he launched himself down the aisle to take advantage of the situation. Just then, Faith ducked low and swung out a kick that was angled to catch Buffy in the back of her knees.
Buffy leapfrogged over Faith and clumsily landed on the other side. “On second thought, I’m just going to go with this: you’re vampires that are so smart that you’re stupid. Does that work for you? Because that definitely works for me.”
Faith spun around to face Buffy in full game face, just as Xander reached Faith’s side.
The train gave a hard jerk forward as the double chimes bonged and the voice announced, “Now leaving Beachmont. Next stop, Suffolk Downs.”
“Oh, crap,” Buffy declared as she stumbled a little in the wake of the train’s sudden movement.
Faith and Xander launched themselves at her in unison.
Buffy leapt straight up and grabbed the metal bars that ran parallel overhead down the length of the subway car and swung her legs forward in another kick. Both Xander and Faith ducked in unison to avoid the double blow. Buffy’s legs and feet sailed over their heads. Next thing Xander knew, he heard a thump and a grunt behind him.
As Xander spun around to prevent a potential attack from behind, he got tangled up with Faith as she also turned to look for the Slayer.
“This is fucking ridiculous,” Faith hollered.
“The aisle’s on the small side,” Xander agreed as he fixed a yellow-eyed glare on the grinning Buffy. “A shoulder-to-shoulder act down the aisle isn’t gonna work here.”
“I’m on point,” Faith said as her feral grin lit up her game face and she stalked a few steps in front of Xander. “Been waitin’ to put this bitch down for years.”
“So I’m guessing that joining hands and singing ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’ is out, hunh?” Buffy said. “How about ‘Kumbaya?’ I’ll totally go with that one if you’d prefer to go with that one.”
Xander paused and forced himself to take a mental step back and think. For all the tussling around the subway car, Buffy had yet to pull out Mr. Pointy. Either she had back-up waiting somewhere along the subway line or…
“Faith, wait,” Xander desperately ordered.
“Fuck that noise,” Faith snarled as she stalked closer to Buffy. “Bitchy here is keeping her wooden fangs sheathed. I ain’t about to pull my punches with an advantage like that.”
“You know what?” Buffy said as she slowly backed away from Faith’s advance. “The jewel? Soooooo not worth it.”
What happened next happened so quickly that time became a blur.
Buffy ripped the jewel off her neck and shouted, “Catch!”
Faith automatically reacted to the throw. Her hand shot out; either to slap the jewel away or to catch it, Xander couldn’t tell.
Xander surged forward to stop her. “Faith, no!”
The jewel came into contact with Faith’s outstretched open palm and she stiffened as if she were in shock. Xander desperately reached out to snatch the jewel away before it finished whatever Buffy had set it to do, but the moment his fingers came into contact with it, an electric jolt shot up his spine and he was nailed in place.
The train began to slow. The double chimes bonged, and a voice said, “Next stop, Suffolk Downs.”
Buffy staggered as the train made a series of jerks and she reached out to grab a metal pole to stop herself from pitching backwards. Her eyes were narrowed and suspicious, as if she expected the pair of them to drop the jewel and come after her.
“What the fuck?” Faith asked.
Xander desperately tried to move, but it was no good. From the neck up, he was fine. But from the neck down, he may as well have been a marble statue that had been crazy-glued to the floor of the train.
This was a fucking nightmare.
Buffy’s mouth dumbly dropped open as she straightened back up to her full height. “Hunh. It worked. I was so sure I cast that wrong.”
“The captive spell? You had to kill somebody to make this work,” Xander said.
“I didn’t kill anyone,” Buffy defensively said.
Faith, who was thankfully on his good side, hooted with laughter. “You gave up a sliver of your soul? For penny-ante shit like this? Sure you got enough to spare?”
The barb struck home and Buffy winced.
Xander’s yellow predator’s eye narrowed in thought. He could use that reaction to his advantage. He wasn’t sure how just yet, but he was very certain he could make her sorry for giving up even the sliver she did.
The train jerked to a full stop. The doubled chimes bonged and the voice announced that they were finally at Suffolk Downs.
“You know, this is total irony,” Buffy said in a shaking voice. “Giles had me teleported in because he was worried sick about Xander.”
Xander blinked. “What? You’re here because of me?”
“He told me that when he talked to you earlier, that your voice was shaking. How you kept stuttering, losing your train of thought, and how there were all these pauses in between words. Giles said he’d never, ever heard you sound as scared as you did tonight.” Buffy jerked toward them a couple of steps like she was a broken robot. “You way overplayed your hand.”
“A blowjob?” Faith looked as if she wanted to smack her forehead Homer Simpson-style. “We got fucking busted because the Head Asshole confused the sound of you getting a blow job with you being scared?”
Buffy rushed at Faith with her fist raised, but she stopped herself just short of throwing the punch. She whirled on Xander, “Giles was terrified for you. He was terrified you were going to die and he was willing to do anything to save you. God!”
The train jerked forward as the double chimes bonged and the voice announced, “Now leaving Suffolk Downs. Next stop, Orient Heights.”
“Will you just fucking dust us already?” Faith asked. “You got our asses in a sling. There’s no fucking point in subjecting us to your personal trauma and making our frigging eardrums bleed before you break out the stakes.”
Buffy threw up her hands and turned away.
Xander desperately thought. Buffy had them trapped. There was two ways this could go. Dusting, or resouling. Since the jewel was right now dancing to Buffy’s tune, he knew which horror Buffy was going to inflict on the pair of them. And he couldn’t assume that she didn’t know how to pull the pin on the jewel. After all, she knew how to use it cast the captive spell.
There was only one way out of this: get Buffy angry. Sure, he and Faith would be dust, but dust and nothingness was infinitely better than dealing with a pesky, whiny, little soul with its barbed tentacles constantly squeezing around his throat.
“When were you turned?” Buffy asked while her back was still with them.
“What gave us away?” Xander desperately countered as his mind scrambled for the perfect thing that would get Buffy pissed off enough to lose all perspective.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Faith asked as she turned her head to give him a yeallow-eyed glare. “Don’t fucking encourage her whiny ass.”
Buffy spun around and pointed at Xander. “Answer my question.”
“You answer mine first,” Xander shot back.
Buffy’s nostrils flared. “Was it here? In Boston? Or Providence? Maybe Providence, yeah. I could see it. I heard there were bodies all over that college there. Brown, right? Not Brown. The street near there. Sayer? Thayer? Rhymed with Slayer, that’s all I know.”
“Fuck me,” Faith groaned.
Xander steadfastly refused to answer Buffy or encourage Faith. Instead, he kept his yellowed, predatory eye on Buffy.
Buffy’s jaw began to work, like she was trying to stop herself from screaming. “Or maybe it was Atlantic City. There was a mess there, too.” She looked at Faith. “You couldn’t have been turned before then. No way. People saw you during the day there.” She fixed her troubled glare on Xander. “But you…maybe Atlantic City. Maybe before. In Africa?”
“Arrrrghhhhh!” Faith violently shook her head. “Always the drama queen who’s gotta strut the chickpain. Let it the fuck go already”
“I saw Xander in Rome a little over a year ago. He was on layover and he surprised me. He decided at the last minute to stay an extra day to hang out. He was alive then. I know that.” She looked up at him and her chin began to tremble. “But I don’t know after that. I talked to him on the phone after. At least once a month. And there was emails. At least every week. And he didn’t stay in contact with just me.” She looked at him as if she were trying to figure out not only when things changed, but how she missed it. “But Xander didn’t join us in London for Christmas, and the very occasional visits in Rome while he was on layover stopped. No one even questioned it because it seemed that his schedule got crazy busy over the past year. Besides, there were still phone calls and emails, so we thought he was okay.”
Faith glowered down at the jewel. “She’s never gonna fucking stop, is she?”
Buffy leaned against a pole and she looked very, very tired. “So all those times we talked over the past year. Who was I talking to? Him? Or you?”
Xander leapt at the opening Buffy left him and took his shot. “Every time I played with my food over the past year, I pictured in my head that I was playing with you.”
Faith shot him a jealous yellow-eyed glare. “Fuck you, Harris.”
Buffy’s laugh was brittle. “All of the Slayers and Watchers Xander worked with are still alive, so I’m thinking not so much with the play time for you.”
“Three Slayers dead in Africa,” Xander sing-songed. “Bunny just tonight on Revere Beach. I can’t claim credit for Zoe, though. I planned it, but that was Faith's beautiful fang work.”
“Zoe?” Buffy asked in confusion.
Faith seemed to finally catch on to what Xander was doing. “I invited her to help us out here in sunny Revere earlier tonight.” She licked her lips. “She tasted real good, B.”
“Notice she’s not asking about the little people,” Xander chuckled. “Guess they don’t matter because they’re not Slayers, hunh?”
“I’ve got two people in conductor-like uniforms and one almost-passenger I knocked out and dragged into a locked storage area back at that Wonderland place who’d disagree,” Buffy snapped.
Xander scowled as Faith groaned. He was right. He knew something was wrong back at the station and Faith had fluffed him off. Too bad he’d never get to say “I told you so” with his fists.
The train slowed down and the double chimes bonged. “Next stop Orient Heights.”
Inspiration struck, and Xander widely grinned to show off his fangs. “You got me. I’m a bad, bad boy. I’ve got Spike’s Slayer-killing record beat. Does this mean you’ll want me to get on you, now? I bet your frigid cunt has been begging to fuck another dead man.”
Buffy rushed at him as her hand reached behind her to pull out her hidden stake.
Xander kept his expression still. This was it. He did it!
Buffy suddenly stopped short with her hand frozen behind her back. Then she smiled and dropped her empty hand to her side. “Oooooooo. Nice. I see what you did there.”
“I guess this means more speech-i-fying,” Faith groaned.
Buffy doubled over in laugher as the train came to sharp stop. The double chimes bonged and the voice announced that they had arrived at Orient Heights.
“I gotta admit,” Buffy said between peals of laughter. “You two are good. No one caught on. No one. Then I saw you guys making out hot and heavy and my vamp-dar pinged. And making it look like there was an epic battle with casualties in that parking lot?” She calmed down and hiccupped. “Not only told me everything I needed to know, but gave me time to call Giles for a quick consult about my options.”
“No,” Xander burst out.
Faith’s head whipsawed between Xander and Buffy. “No, what?”
Buffy’s smile turned nasty. “Didn’t your sweetie here tell you? There’s only one way to destroy the jewel.”
“Buffy, don’t.” Xander hated the whining, pleading note in his voice as he dropped out of game face.
“Buffy, don’t,” Buffy nastily imitated him. “I can’t wait until Faith and Xander come home.”
“Come home?” Faith asked with horror. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
Buffy stalked up to them with a predatory gleam in her eye. “By the time they’re through with the pair of you, you’re going to be so repressed that you two are going to wish I had staked you.”
“What the fuck is going on?” Faith screamed.
The train jerked forward. The double chimes bonged, and the voice announced, “Now leaving Orient Heights. Next stop, Wood Island.”
There was no point in avoiding the subject now, especially since Buffy had brought it up. “The jewel can be used to resoul us,” Xander told Faith.
Faith’s head whipped around to face him as she dropped out of game face. “You said it would protect us from that bullshit.”
“The Swiss Army knife of magical jewels, remember?” Buffy nastily asked.
“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?” Faith yelled at him.
“Because the price of the resouling is that it destroys the jewel, and no one wants to do that.” Xander kept his eye on Buffy. “The Council won’t be happy.”
“I could give a damn about what Council wants,” Buffy sweetly said. “Lucky for me, the leader of the whole Council loves me. And Xander. And, hey, he even loves Faith, which is a case of no accounting for taste if you ask me.”
“You fucking bitch!” Faith hollered.
“Faith,” Xander snapped.
Faith stopped and watched him expectantly. The look in her eyes indicated that she was ready to follow his lead.
Buffy rubbed her hands as she backed a safe distance away. “Best of all? You can’t be unsouled. Ever. It’s permanent. Even a de-souling spell done with your permission won’t work,” she chirpily announced. “Yup. Faith and Xander will be crazy-glued in there like crazy-glued things. It so sucks to be you right now.”
Getting her angry wouldn’t do it that much was clear.
But there was always guilt, and Faith had shown him how way back in the beginning.
“Guess this means you finally get your revenge,” Xander calmly said.
“Don’t interrupt me,” Buffy said as she closed her eyes. “I have to concentrate.”
“You never did forgive any of us for yanking you out of heaven,” Xander calmly continued. “You must be thrilled the shoe’s on the other foot. Give me a taste of my own medicine, hunh?”
Buffy’s eyes popped open. “This isn’t about that.”
Xander frowned at her. “You sure about that? Because know what I see?”
“I don’t care what you see,” Buffy snapped at him. “You see wrong.”
“I see a Slayer who’s positively thrilled to be yanking the soul of one of her best friends right out of heaven,” Xander said.
Buffy shook her head. “I…you’re wrong…I mean…That’s not what I’m doing.”
Xander pursed his lips. “Soooo…you’re saying you believe the soul is in hell?” Xander nodded. “Could be. Could be. I’m not a very good person, you know. I’ve been faking the good person act for years.”
“You’re not a person at all,” Buffy furiously said. “Without Xander, you’re just another dead thing.”
Faith chose at that point to get in on the act. “Revenge. I should’ve known. I may not have helped yank her out of heaven, but I fucked her over plenty back in the day. Seeing a weak-ass version of me must get her panties all wet. I bet she’s leaking right now.”
“Stop it!” Buffy yelled. “This isn’t about revenge!”
“We all saw you after you came back. How much you hated everyone. How much you hated us,” Xander softly continued. “How you were dead inside. How part of you is still dead. Don’t bother to deny it. You never got your groove back, Buff. Part of you is still missing.”
“Shut up,” Buffy whispered. “I know what you’re doing and it’s not going to work.”
Xander could see he was getting to her. He just needed to keep pushing until he convinced her to take the other path. “What you’ll be doing to our poor, innocent souls will be worse than what was done to you.”
Buffy took a threatening step forward. “Stop it. I’m not listening.”
“You at least remember heaven, right? So you still have that slender hope that you’ll get to go back,” Xander soothingly continued. “But the souls? Our souls? They don’t even get that much, do they? No memory of heaven. None. Those poor, innocent souls will just have to make do mental pictures of our partying days for their version of heaven.”
“Xander and Faith didn’t do anything wrong,” Buffy’s voice rose. “They know that. They know how it works. All those lies? All those bodies? That’s all on you.”
“That’s right,” Xander agreed with a nod. “And not just the bodies. There’s also all the fun we had with people before we ate them. The way we played with them before throwing their barely recognizable corpses in the trash…they’ll know it all. They’ll feel it. No heaven for them. Ever. Not even a hope of it.”
Buffy’s face looked like it wanted to crumble into a hail of tears. She looked like she wanted to curl into a ball with her arms wrapped around her head and scream. All the certainty that she was doing the right thing, that she was saving her friends, was gone from her eyes. Now she was trapped with reality of the awful choice she’d have to make: lose her friends forever in a cloud of dust, or condemn them to hell on earth with no chance of parole.
If Xander still had a heart, it would’ve sung. Even if he lost the gamble, even if she went through with the resouling, he was still going to win. She’d spend the rest of her life wondering if she really was motivated by revenge, and his filthy little soul would suffer because she was suffering.
It was a cold comfort, true, but a pound of flesh was better than none.
Then Faith, his beautiful, smart Faith, threw fuel onto the fire. “Resouling’s gonna mean nothing but pain. I should know. I was in Angel’s head.”
Buffy’s head snapped up to look at Faith. “That wasn’t you,” she said in a cold voice.
“I got the memories, B,” Faith said with a shrug. “If it wasn’t me, then who was it?”
“Faith. Not you,” Buffy insisted.
“I’m telling you, B,” Faith jerked her head toward Xander, “you need to know he’s speaking truth to the power. When those souls come back, they’re going to go fucking crazy with guilt. I mean, bang your head against the stone walls until bits of broken skull stab your brain crazy. And they’re gonna scream, B. They’re not gonna stop screaming even when their throats start bleeding and they weep tears of blood. Those souls will be good and trapped, but they’re gonna keep throwing themselves against the bars of their cage until these bodies turn into bloody smears on the walls.”
Buffy opened her mouth to argue, but Xander beat her to the punch.
“You know it’s true. Remember Spike’s crazy days right after he ended up with a soul?” Xander asked.
“And Angel, B,” Faith shook her head, “Angel spent centuries goin’ two steps forward, three steps back. And he was in constant pain every step of the way. Even when he did good, he couldn’t escape all the bad shit he’d done. You really wanna do that to people you actually give a flying fuck about? You really wanna see us suffer like that?”
Xander heard the ‘us’ in Faith’s last question and he immediately knew that Faith had made a mistake. Buffy might want to spare their souls pain, but he was very sure that she wanted to punish the vampires even more.
Buffy’s face got hard and she slowly stalked up to them.
The train slowed, the double chimes bonged, and the voice said, “Next stop, Wood Island.”
She got within arm’s reach of their frozen bodies, and Xander desperately wished he could break the spell that kept him from reaching out and snapping her neck.
“Xander and Faith aren’t going to suffer,” she promised in a soft voice. “Because they’re going to have one thing that neither Angel nor Spike had when they first got their souls.”
Faith snorted. “What? A shitload of Council shrinks?”
Buffy lifted her chin. “Me.”
“And when they open their eyes 5 seconds from now, the first thing they’re going to see is me holding their hands telling them that the nightmare’s over and that it’s going to be all right,” Buffy quietly promised.
“You’re making a mistake,” Xander insisted.
Buffy grimaced as she said through clenched teeth, “I want my friends back you son of a bitch.”
“You fucking cunt!” Faith exploded as Buffy backed a safe distance away with a determined expression on her face.
The train slid to a smooth stop as double chimes bonged, and the voice announced, “Wood Island.”
Faith continued throwing invective after invective at Buffy, swearing bloody revenge, swearing to piss on her grave, swearing to put her in her grave. She then moved on to threatening to kill everyone Buffy ever loved in front of the Slayer’s eyes, soul or no soul.
Xander’s calm voice rose, knowing that he’d be heard over Faith. “I’ll never thank you for saving me.”
Buffy looked him right in the eye and began speaking in halting, stumbling Latin.
“Never, Buffy,” Xander said. “I’ll never forgive you for it, either, any more than you forgave them for yanking you out of heaven.”
Buffy’s voice rose in volume and her expression became serene.
“I’ll hate you for the rest of your life,” Xander swore.
The train jerked forward, the double chimes bonged, and the voice announced, “Now leaving Wood Island. Next stop, Airport station.”
“I’ll still hate you when you’re dust in your grave,” Xander coldly promised.
Buffy was practically shouting when the now-forgotten jewel shattered in his and Faith’s hands and drove splinters into their palms.
Faith fell silent, and Xander lost all power of speech.
Buffy reached the end of the spell.
And as the last train leaving Wonderland picked up speed and leapt forward through the night, Xander and Faith began the long journey home.
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