liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,
liz_marcs
liz_marcs

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Water Hold Me Down (Part 10)

I've fixed the link for Quiet Mountain Town from South Park so it should work now.

Just to recap: To Download songs from YouSendIt, click on the first option only. Do not ever, under any circumstances, click under the second option, even after you complete the download. If you do that, the song is removed from teh YouSendIt server and no one else can get it.

If anyone has trouble downloading the song or finds that the song is missing, please let me know ASAP and I'll fix it as soon as I can. If it's beyond the seven-day limit, I won't refresh it. However, I promise that I'll put together a soundtrack as the story approaches the end. I'll even include all the songs.

On a happier note, welcome back to nwhepcat,who has arrived safely in the Midwest.

Also, I just realized that this is probably the only part I'll have a chance to post this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Apologies to my non-U.S. readers, but family and free food wins. Plus, I won't have access to the Internet for three days. It'll resume Sunday.

Continued from Part 9.

 

 

 

The cool breeze blew through Faith’s hair, whipping her bangs into her eyes.

She had never been here before, but instinct-memory seemed to indicate that she was in the middle of a southern California winter. The house she was looking at wasn’t one of those McMansion dealies with all the toys, but one of those homes with real character that indicated it was older than the nice paint job would lead you to believe.

It was quiet. Normal. Nothing to see here. Move it along. The white picket fence ringing the property like a noose seemed to aggressively shove the idea in her face.

Zihuatanejo. Willow’s crazy-ass whisper trailed off into an off-kilter giggle.

“Get out of my fucking head,” she muttered. Someone needed to seriously up that girl’s meds because the Council’s pet wicked witch was piggybacking into her Slayer dreams again. She was gonna have to send Rupes a nasty message about that.

They should’ve killed Willow after the Devon Coven used her power to pull off the spell empowering all the Potentials. Would’ve been a mercy for the witch and would’ve made life easier for everyone else.

Faith blinked.

There was a now fight going on in front of the house between a vampire and “Harris?”

How…what…who…why?

When she and Rupes contacted him about the rise of the First, Harris made it clear as crystal that he was out of the game. Clear? More like he screamed it in their faces when he told them to fuck off and wished them both dead.

Yet, here he was fighting a fangface like he was some kind of expert.

She tilted her head and studied his moves. One thing for sure, he’d been training. He wasn’t even attempting to match the vampire blow-for-blow, which was smart since trying to fight strength-against-strength in a human-vampire match-up was a sure-fire way to get killed. He was going with the ducking and weaving, a good ol’ rope-a-dope tactic.

’Cept a vampire could easily outlast him even if he was in the peak of good health. Judging by the blood running down his face, the bedraggled nature of his clothes, and hidden injuries signaled by bloodstained blooms decorating the deep green turtleneck, he was not in top form.

The vampire left a small opening and to Faith’s surprise, Harris spotted it and took it. The vampire exploded into dust and Harris fell to his hands and knees breathing hard. There was no sign of triumph or victory on his face, not even a trace of relief. If there was any expression at all, it was just acknowledgement that the fight was over and that he could take a breather.

It was a surprisingly professional attitude, one she wouldn’t expect from a poseur like Xander Harris.

Do you see it? Do you see it? Zihuatanejo, Willow’s voice capered and hooted.

“See what?” Since she was stuck with Bitch Crazy’s voice in her dream, she might as well use it.

Zihuatanejo. Forget and forget and forget until real becomes realer and realest. See? See?

“No, I don’t frigging see,” Faith complained. The minute she finished saying it, she did see it.

Harris was wrong.

He was too young. He had to be something like in his 30s now and this guy didn’t look that old. It was hard to notice, since his hair was soaked with blood and his face obscured by streaks of red, but she got a sense of still-youth mixed with a dark, ancient taint.

No. Not her sense. Willow’s sense.

Zihuatanejo, the witch crowed.

“Stop it.”

There was a sharp crack of twigs breaking and Harris’s head snapped up. He got to his feet and warily looked around him as he clutched the stake. There was no panicked expression, just resignation to the idea that he wouldn’t be able to crawl away and lick his wounds.

The sounds of someone singing a lullaby caught Faith’s attention and she scanned the area for the source. She saw that a woman and an adolescent girl were now occupying the formerly empty porch. The woman, who actually did look 30-ish, danced around the girl as she wrapped the child in chains. The girl merely sat there with a frozen smile as the metal bonds piled up around her torso.

They forget. They hide. They lie, the witch muttered with a hint of dark glee. But they’ll remember, ohmyyes, they’ll remember in the dark.

A half-dozen vampires exploded from the shrubbery and converged on Harris’s spot. Faith was about to step forward, but stopped herself. Fuck him. Where was he when they needed him? Nowhere. Wouldn’t even lift a pinky to help. How many good people were dead because the prick refused to get off his ass?

There was a little bit of a scrum. Harris must’ve got in a lucky shot because another vampire exploded into dust, forcing the remaining five to back off and re-evaluate. Harris got knocked to the ground in the scramble.

The vampires circled like they weren’t at all sure what to do with a meal that fought back. Harris looked up, his face a mask of blood, and a ghastly grin stretching across his face. Faith smiled her own grim grin of recognition. Harris knew he couldn’t win, but the bastards were going to pay a price for taking him out.

In the background, the older woman was dropping the loops of chains around the girl at a faster pace.

Harris lurched to his feet with a scream and ran for one of the vampires. He was soon lost from sight as the others closed in on him. Faith could see that Harris was managing to keep his feet, but she knew it wouldn’t last. If it was anyone else doing the fighting, she might even admire the determination to see this through right to the end.

“Arrow boy! Turn around! Turn the fuck around! You’ve got to help him!”

Faith jerked around towards the source of the screaming to see a young woman beating against an invisible barrier. It took a moment for her eyes to register that it wasn’t just any young woman. “Holy shit. Me?”

And me! the witch sing-songed.

This younger version of her was literally throwing herself forward and hollering for someone, anyone—please, Jesus—to help Harris. Every attempt to move forward was thwarted and the younger Faith was forced to bounce back a few steps. In the background she could see the back of a dark-haired man who seemed to be shooting arrows into a high desert. He didn’t react at all to the commotion of the fight or the younger Faith screaming at him to just turn around and see what was happening.

The other Faith froze and leaned forward against her invisible barrier, leaving Faith the impression of a woman pressing herself up against a glass windowpane. “No, no, no, no, no,” the other her desperately repeated.

Faith followed her gaze and saw that Harris was now trapped in a headlock. Part of the turtleneck had been ripped away, exposing his jugular to the vampire who held him from behind. Harris obviously had gotten in one more lucky shot, since there were now four vampires instead of five.

Harris continued to struggle, but the end result was never in doubt. The vampire plunged its fangs into his neck and began feeding. The other vampires closed, blocking the operation from view.

“Xander!” the other her yelled, and once more beat uselessly against the barrier with her fists. The other her began to desperately scan the area and the other Faith’s eyes lit up with hope when she spotted Faith watching her. She darted forward with a question. “Can you get to him?”

Faith backed up a step. This other Faith really did look like she did when she was in her early 20s. Other her even still had that snot-nosed, fresh-faced look she had before Rupes broke her out of prison and dragged her sorry ass to Sunnydale to lead the war against the First with nothing more than a reject army of Potentials.

Other Faith shivered with the stress of not being able to do anything, her hands curled into claws. “C’mon, just yes or no. Not that hard.”

Faith’s eyes slid over to the feeding vampires. Harris was only a vague outline in the crush of undead bodies. Given the length of the feeding, he was probably already dead. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. “Why?” she asked.

Other Faith seemed dumbstruck. “Why? Did you just fucking ask me why?”

Harris’s body was tossed free of the knot of vampires. It tumbled boneless across the grass before collapsing and rolling. The vampires made themselves scarce as the corpse settled in a face-up position, one arm out flung, another crossed across its chest. There were multiple bites all over his neck, which meant a group feeding frenzy. His mouth was ringed with blood. The bruises on his face that rendered him nearly unrecognizable showed he’d been beaten pretty badly, so he was probably spitting up blood before they finally killed him. No way, no how were vampires going to turn such a useless piece of human flesh.

Still, she had to admire the fact that Harris’s face reflected nothing of the terror he must’ve felt as he died. All that was there was a blank, staring look, as if Harris had nothing to fear or look forward to in death.

Other Faith fell to her knees and stared at the body with a similar blank expression on her face. Her mouth was moving, “Eternal rest grant on to him, o Lord…” The only reason why Faith even heard the breathy whisper was Slayer hearing.

Real, realer, realest, the witch moaned. Forget in the day. Remember in the dark.

Faith scanned the landscape, wondering what the hell Willow was on about this time. The man standing with his back to them was still shooting arrows into the desert. The woman on the porch was almost done wrapping the girl in chains, leaving only her head free.

Other Faith gasped and Faith’s eyes immediately snapped to the corpse. The bruises were disappearing and the open wounds and bite marks were knitting together. Son of a bitch. They did turn the fucker.

Other Faith got to her feet and tried the barrier again, only to be even more forcefully repelled. She wildly looked to Faith. “Stop him. Stake his ass right now.”

“You can’t get to him, so what makes you think I can?”

“Haven’t you even tried?” other Faith asked.

Harris’s face crunched into a demonic vampire visage and he opened his yellow eyes. He got to his feet and began walking slowly toward the house.

The guy shooting arrows into the desert finally turned around and now it was Faith’s turn to be shocked. It was again Xander Harris, only this one looked about the right age. The still-breathing Harris’s eyes widened in fear and he desperately dove forward, dropping the bow in his hands.

Just when living Harris reached vampire Harris, the vampire turned snake fast, grasped the living Harris’s head in his hands, and twisted in a brutal, beautiful move. The snap of living Harris’s neck echoed to them as the vampire dropped the body to the ground and stepped over it without a backwards glance like it was trash.

The woman and the child on the porch didn’t even react. It was like they couldn’t see what had just happened, even though it happened right under their noses.

“Oh, Christ,” other Faith said. “At least try. You’ve got to at least try. What he’s going to do to them…”

“Don’t get your panties in a twist,” Faith said as she watched the scene. “Just a dream. Ain’t even happening.”

“I think you forgot the ‘yet’ at the end of that sentence.”

Other Faith’s fists were clenched with rage as she watched vampire Harris mount the stairs. She seemed strangely hypnotized as vampire Harris knocked the woman out and began removing the chains around the girl in time to a wordless, crooning tune. The dumb little shit smiled up at the vampire, like he was going to save her ass. When the girl’s neck and shoulders were free, vampire Harris dove in for the kill, sinking fangs in the girl’s neck and feeding until she slumped forward and her open eyes went blank.

Vampire Harris slowly pulled out like he was enjoying the sensation and swiped at his mouth with the back of a tattered sleeve. He reached down, picked up the unconscious woman and threw her over his shoulder. He began to whistle a jaunty tune as he vaulted the porch railing and began strolling to the back of the house.

“Just like Angelus,” other her whispered as she turned to Faith. “If he gets her somewhere out of the sun, she’s going to take a real long time to die. You have to do something.”

Do it. Do it. Do it, Willow chanted with high-pitched laugh.

Faith pursed her lips. Instinct told her she should, but whatever bad shit was going down Harris had brought it on his own head, that much was clear. What she didn’t get was why something with her face was taking this wicked personally, like she had some mission to keep Harris alive and breathing.

“Who are you?” she asked other her.

Other Faith’s jaw squared. “You just witnessed Cyclops getting turned, killing people, and then dragging Anya off for fun and games in the form of rape and torture and you’re worried about me?”

“That’s ’cause I don’t buy that you’re even possible,” Faith stated.

With a scream other Faith launched forward and shoved her. Faith stumbled backwards, but managed to keep her feet.

Other Faith stood there, eyes wide, mouth hanging open. “You can…you just…the barrier doesn’t work for you? YOU COULD HAVE FUCKING DONE SOMETHING AND YOU DIDN’T? YOU USELESS CUNT!”

Cunt, cunt, cunt, cunt. Can I have some more please? Willow giggled. It’s been soooo long since I had a salty lick.

Faith snarled as she charged forward. No one called her that. No one. The other Faith fell down under the rain of blows Faith landed on her. Other Faith tried to fight back, but she was too young and too inexperienced to mount a defense against an older, enraged Slayer. Faith kept punching down, ignoring the splatter of blood coming out of other Faith’s mouth and nose.

Other Faith began to crazily laugh. “Useless cunt. Johanna was right about you. Fucking let people die, do you? Fucking bitch. You’ll be next, just you watch.”

“Shut up!” Faith screamed.

“Do you think I'm afraid of you?” other Faith was coughing in pain, but still derisively laughing. “You're nothing! Disgusting! Murderous bitch! You're nothing! You're disgusting!”

“I. Said. Shut. U—”

Faith sat up in bed with the “up” still ringing in her ears. She fumbled for the nightstand and grabbed her Camels. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” she said as she fished a cigarette out of the pack. With a shaking hand, she flicked the lighter. Relief came to her in the form of sweet smoke pouring into her lungs.

Given the way she was shaking, smoking in bed was probably not her best move.

She put the smoldering butt in a nearby ashtray so she could throw on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. She stuck the cigarette back in her mouth and grabbed the ashtray, pack, and lighter before striding out of the room.

A freaky-ass Slayer dream complete with Willow the Wicked taunting her. Something pretty big must be going down. First she gets a call from Xander-fucking-Harris from some podunk town in California that was obviously a mooch for help. Then she gets a Slayer dream telling her that it was a justified call.

Fuck it. She wasn’t going. She’ll send someone else. If she went she was likely to beat Harris to death long before vampires got their hands on him.

YOU COULD HAVE FUCKING DONE SOMETHING AND YOU DIDN’T? YOU USELESS CUNT!”

“Why me? Why does it always have to be me?” Faith asked as she tromped down the stairs. She had to admit that the thing that freaked her shit out the most was that something with her face was actually pulling a Johanna on her. The C-word was Johanna’s big thing, especially after she’d crawled into a bottle and declared that she should’ve gone for that coat hanger after all.

As Faith hit the kitchen, Kallie looked up from her book. “You look awful,” the younger Slayer said.

“No shit,” Faith grumbled.

“You should sit,” Kallie said as she got to her feet and began fishing through the cabinets for instant coffee.

Faith shook her head and did as ordered while Kallie set water to boil and grabbed Faith’s mug from the cabinets. “Now what the hell would I do without you?” Faith asked.

“You’d probably find some other Slayer to be your hausmeri,” Kallie joked back. More than eleven years on, the lilting accent of Papua New Guinea still hung around the edges of her voice.

For almost every Slayer that walked through the doors of the Cleveland building, this place was nothing more than a combination safe house and resting spot. Almost everyone came here for only a short time to relax and get oriented before moving on. Aside from Faith herself, Kallie was the only one who walked through the doors and stayed. The sad thing was, Kallie was probably the only person in the Slayer or Watcher groups that considered this house a home. She wondered if she would ever feel that comfortable with any place or any situation.

“Look on your face tells me that there was a dream,” Kallie said as the water boiled.

“And then some,” Faith glumly agreed.

“Well?” Kallie prompted.

“When did you get so pushy?” Faith asked.

“The day you made me to push back,” Kallie retorted.

“Remind me never to do that again,” Faith said as she tapped the ashes in the ashtray. “I think I have to get my ass to someplace in California.”

Kallie placed the steaming black instant coffee in front of Faith. “That bad?”

“That bad,” Faith confirmed. “Everything was doubled. I had a younger twin. Harris had a younger twin...”

“Who’s Harris?”

Faith waved a dismissive hand. “No one important.”

“But important enough for you to dream about.”

“Trust me, he ain’t. My bet? Willow’s behind it.”

Kallie hissed in surprise at the mention of the witch’s name as her hand closed around the cross at her neck.

“Yeah, looks like the Wicked One is getting uppity again, so watch yourself,” Faith warned. “I’ll shoot off a top priority email to Rupert before I leave.”

“I’ll keep things here for you,” Kallie said. “Not expecting much business, so I should be able to handle whatever comes up.” She lifted the handset, punched in a code, and listened through the earpiece. “I’m connected to TravelNet. Where should I say?”

Faith glared at the sour smoke from her cigarette, feeling the weight of inevitability on her shoulders. “Find me closest airport to some burg called Zihuataneo. And book me on the fastest flight. Don’t sweat the ticket cost.”

***

Faith stood next to Cyclops and watched him shoot an arrow into the desert.

A cool breeze off the empty landscape tussled and tugged at her hair. She swept it out of her eyes in an irritated move.

“I don’t see nothin’ out there,” she commented.

Cyclops shot another arrow into the desert.

“Yo! Earth to Cyclops!” She turned to face him. “Earth to Cyclops! What the hell are you shooting at? Because I sure don’t see anything.”

He merely pulled another arrow from the quiver and drew on one of the nicest longbows Faith had ever seen.

“Hey, you even listening?” She reached out to shake him, but an invisible wall stopped her hand. She prodded at it before placing her palm against the flat surface. She looked up at him. “Xander?”

That’s when she realized that Xander looked wrong. There was too much gray in his hair, he was a little heavier than he should be, and he got a haircut somewhere along the way. The difference was subtle enough that you had to actually look at him to see the changes.

He shot another arrow into the desert.

“Can you even hear me?” she asked.

The sounds of a fight burst into her world and she spun around to see what was happening.

“Holy…Xander?”

The other Xander, the one doing the fighting, stuck a stake into a vampire and it exploded into dust. He collapsed to his knees and fell on all fours breathing hard. He looked like he’d been fighting for hours. There was a cut along his hairline that caused blood to drip down his face, making it seem like he wore a mask with streaks of red that ran down over his eyes and cheeks. His clothing was torn and dirty and she could see hints of blood blooming through the dark green turtleneck shirt.

Behind him was an old, large, gorgeous house surrounded by one of the most aggressively normal white picket fences Faith had ever seen. What a place like this was doing at the edge of an empty desert, she had no idea.

She looked back up at the older Xander and asked, “What the hell is going on?”

Older Xander shot another arrow into the desert.

There was the sound of twigs snapping. Older Xander didn’t react, but Faith turned around just in time to see Xander crawl to his feet. The fighting Xander was looking warily around, stake clutched in his hand.

The sounds of someone singing a lullaby caught Faith’s attention and she scanned the area for the source. To her surprise, a woman that looked like an older version of Anya and an adolescent girl were now occupying the formerly empty porch. Anya danced around the girl as she wrapped the child in chains. The girl merely sat there with a frozen smile as the metal bonds piled up around her torso.

“What the hell?” Faith asked.

A half-dozen vampires exploded from the shrubbery and converged on the fighting Xander’s spot. Out of instinct, Faith dove towards the battle only to smack up against the same invisible wall that kept her from touching older Xander.

She started screaming in frustration as the fighting Xander stumbled under combined blows. “You’ve got to help him! Turn around, goddamn it!”

Older Xander shot another arrow into the desert.

“He’s going to be fucking killed!” Faith helplessly pounded against the wall. “Anya! Do something!”

On her shout, everything snapped into slow motion and the sound muffled, as if reality was bending itself so she could get a good look. Older Xander was reaching for another arrow. Anya was twirling, her dress hanging suspended in mid-air as she dropped another loop of chain around the girl. Fighting Xander’s right arm arced and he got in a lucky strike, as evidenced by an attacking vampire’s slow-mo explosion.

Reality re-asserted itself and everything snapped back to real time. Anya was dropping the loops faster now and the child was almost buried up to her chin in chains. The remaining five vampires backed off, probably to re-evaluate the situation. Somewhere during to the retreat, Xander was knocked to his knees.

Older Xander shot another arrow into the desert.

As the five vampires circled ever closer, fighting Xander looked up. Faith could see a crazy grin stretching his face as he held the stake tight.

“No,” she whispered. She knew that look. That was the look of someone who knew they were going to die and had ceased to care. The goal wasn’t to get out alive, but to make every single one of the bastards pay for the privilege of committing murder. He lurched to his feet and with a war scream ran right at one of his tormentors.

She paced along the invisible wall, testing it with punches and kicks. “Arrow boy! Turn around! Turn the fuck around!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. “You’ve got to help him!”

Older Xander shot another arrow into the desert.

The other vampires finally decided to chip in and help their comrade under fire. Against all odds, Cyclops was still managing to keep his feet, but Faith knew it was a matter of time and there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it.

“Goddamn it! Someone get your ass in gear and help him!” Faith was throwing herself against the invisible barrier. “Please, Jesus. Give me an opening here! A way through! A fucking helping ear! Anything! Just turn the fuck around!”

Older Xander shot another arrow into the desert.

There was another explosion of dust followed by a final lunge from one of the remaining vampires. The crowd cleared away and Faith was treated to the sight of a vampire holding Cyclops from behind in a death grip. The neck of his turtleneck had been ripped away, exposing his jugular for easy biting.

Faith pressed against the barrier so hard that her nose was pressed flat against her face. “No, no, no, no, no,” she desperately repeated. Just like her first Watcher. Just like…

Cyclops was still putting up a struggle—Good for you!—but this was the end, no mistake. She wanted to turn away but couldn’t as the vampire holding him fast plunged its fangs into his neck and began feeding. The other vampires closed, blocking the operation from her view.

“Xander!” Faith screamed as she uselessly beat against the barrier with her fists. Someone. There has to be someone. I have to… she desperately scanned the area around her. It took a moment to register, but son of a bitch, there was someone standing on her side of the barrier looking right at her.

Holy shit. It kind of looked like her. With short hair. Looking older. With a really sour-ass face.

Fuck it. If that other woman was her in some way, she just scored herself some big league help. The woman probably just got there and thought that she might be a little late to save the day. Faith darted forward with a desperate question on her lips. “Can you get to him?”

The other her stepped back a step with a confused expression on her face, like she wasn’t all that sure what to make of someone who looked like a younger version of her.

Faith shivered as every nerve screamed that she had to do something before it was too late. “C’mon, just yes or no. Not that hard.”

Other Faith’s eyes slid over to the feeding vampires. Cyclops was only a vague outline in the crush of undead bodies. They’d been feeding awhile, but there was always a chance that maybe…

Everything shattered when the other Faith asked a single question. “Why?”

Faith was floored. “Why? Did you just fucking ask me why?”

There was a sound and Faith turned in time to see Xander’s body tumbling across the lawn. As his body settled in a face-up position, the vampires disappeared. Faith’s knees gave out with the realization that she failed to do her job and now Cyclops was dead because she couldn’t find a way through the barrier.

Her fault. All hers.

His features were practically unrecognizable, thanks to the beating he took, and there was blood everywhere, the sign of a feeding frenzy. There was no expression on his face and that seemed somehow wrong. She remembered back when she was strangling him, even with the light dying out in his eyes, they still had the fuck-you-I’m-going-to-live glint. She remembered how back then it pissed her off so much that she was going to make sure he was deader than dead. Funny how right now she’d sell her left tit to see some trace of that glint, or at the very least a middle finger stretched out from one of the limp hands as a final act of defiance.

She registered that she was mumbling something, but it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Just a string of meaningless words over a meaningless murder and near-murder that never should have happened.

She wasn’t entirely sure how long she watched when she noticed that the bruises were fading and the open wounds and bite marks were knitting together. That’s when it hit her: there was blood around his mouth. Oh, shit. They turned him. They fucking turned him. A Watcher who hung with Slayers and knew all the rules? That was big-time, Angelus-sized trouble.

And Anya, the kid, and older Xander were on the other side of the barrier with that thing. Faith launched herself at the invisible wall, but it seemed to push back harder this time, nearly knocking her off her feet. She wildly turned to the other Faith. “Stop him. Stake his ass right now.”

Other Faith gave her the what-you-talkin’-’bout-bitch face. “You can’t get to him, so what makes you think I can?”

“Haven’t you even tried?” Faith demanded.

Faith turned around and saw Cyclops—No, not Cyclops. Whatever the hell is wearing the bod—walking slowly toward the house.

Arrow-shooting Xander finally turned around and saw what was happening. Too little too late, Faith thought as she watched the older Xander desperately dive forward. When she saw that dumbass had dropped the bow in his hands, Faith knew he was toast. His last chance for survival got tossed away with his ability to pull a William Tell.

Just when the older Xander reached the vampire, the vampire twin turned snake fast and caught the living Xander’s head in his hands. In a smooth, deadly move, the vampire twisted. As the snap of a broken neck echoed and reverberated, the vampire dropped the dead body to the grass and stepped over it without a backwards glance. Faith crazily wondered if there was enough residual Xander in there that made the vampire squeamish at the thought of drinking his own blood.

Anya and the kid were still on the porch and acting like nothing was going on. It was like they couldn’t see what had just happened, even though it happened right under their noses.

“Oh, Christ,” Faith said to the other her. “At least try. You’ve got to at least try. What he’s going to do to them…”

“Don’t get your panties in a twist.” Other Faith was practically kicking back and gobbling the popcorn as she watched. “Just a dream. Ain’t even happening.”

“I think you forgot the ‘yet’ at the end of that sentence,” Faith snarled.

She turned back—Christ, I don’t want to see this—and her hands clenched into fists of helpless rage as she watched the vampire mount the stairs. Anya looked up with surprise and the vampire’s fist shot out, knocking Anya out cold. The vampire started crooning as he began to remove the chains from the girl.

The girl looked up at the vampire and smiled. With a sick sense of shock Faith realized how easily this same scenario could play out in reality. Xander was a Watcher. Xander helped. Xander had people’s backs. Everyone trusted Xander. If he got turned and approached any of them in human face, they’d never see him coming.

When the girl’s neck and shoulders were free, and the vampire lunged for the kill, sinking his fangs in the girl’s neck and drinking until she slumped forward and her open eyes went blank. When he was done, the vampire slowly pulled out like he’d gotten a little zing to the groin and wanted more. He looked down at Anya as he wiped his mouth with the back of a tattered sleeve.

He looked so like Angelus contemplating torture that it was frightening. Since she’d dealt with Angelus on a personal, in-your-mind kind of way, she knew that things were about to go real bad for Anya.

She wasn’t surprised—oh god, no, please no—as the vampire reached down, picked up the unconscious Anya, and tossed her over his shoulder like she was a rag doll. Mission accomplished, the vampire whistled a jaunty tune as it vaulted over the porch railing and strolled out of sight.

“Just like Angelus,” Faith breathed. “If he gets her somewhere out of the sun, she’s going to take a really long time to die. You have to do something.”

She turned to see that other Faith was pursing her lips into a bitchface, like she had to actually think about it. “Who are you?” the other her asked her.

Faith’s jaw squared. “You just witnessed Cyclops getting turned, killing people, and then dragging Anya off for fun and games in the form of rape and torture and you’re worried about me?”

“That’s ’cause I don’t buy that you’re even possible,” other Faith stated.

Faith saw red as she barreled towards the other Faith. She was going to make her go and do her damn job even if it meant beating the little bitch to a pulp. She landed against the other her and gave her a hard shove in the direction of the invisible wall.

Other Faith stumbled backwards and Faith’s eyes widened in fury when she saw the other her pass through the barrier with no trouble. “You can…you just…the barrier doesn’t work for you? YOU COULD HAVE FUCKING DONE SOMETHING AND YOU DIDN’T? YOU USELESS CUNT!”

Other Faith’s lips curled into an angry snarl as she charged. She rained blows down on Faith forcing her to the ground on her back. She tried to fight, but this woman was in a blind rage and just about the only thing Faith could manage was to prevent the other her from killing her.

The clock was ticking on Anya. Shit. It may already be too late. Wonder how many more people are gonna die before someone does something? Considering that the vampire had Xander’s body and memories, there was a very good chance he would never be caught.

Faith started crazy-laughing at the thought, forcing blood to spurt out of her mouth and nose. The kicker was that something with her face could’ve stopped it before it started. “Useless cunt. Johanna was right about you. Fucking let people die, do you? Fucking bitch. You’ll be next, just you watch.”

“Shut up!” other Faith screamed.

“Do you think I'm afraid of you?” Faith was coughing in pain. Even though she could feel every rib was broken, she was still laughing. “You're nothing! Disgusting! Murderous bitch! You're nothing! You're disgusting!”

“I. Said. Shut. U—”

Faith jerked awake and for a panicked moment checked herself for broken bones. At some point it finally registered that she as snug in her own bed. She looked over at Marie and allowed herself a sigh of relief that the other Slayer was still out cold.

Good. She didn’t scream, then. That would’ve been a lot of fun trying to explain why she went all scared little girl.

She reached over to the nightstand and felt along the top. Oh, shit. She forgot. She was on the patch and had tossed everything. Quitting just before Harris went among the missing was a just perfect illustration of her stellar timing.

She checked the clock and groaned when she saw it was 10:30 a.m., too early for her to be up. Given the dream she just had where she actually pulled a Johanna after watching Cyclops get turned, there was no way was she going to get back to sleep now. With a final look back at Marie, who was still asleep and mumbling something in French, Faith eased out of bed. She quietly pulled off her t-shirt and rummaged around for jeans and sweater. A walk would probably help her sort things out.

As she slid out of her bedroom, she wondered if she had herself a bona fide Slayer dream. It sort of felt like it, but it sort of didn’t. The closest she could come in her confused mind was that she was picking up on someone else’s Slayer dream and the wires got crossed. Is that even possible? Can we do that? She made a mental note to ask Tweedy once they got Cyclops back. Assuming they would get him back.

She passed Andrea and Lisa as they stood guard outside the kidnappers' room. Andrea at least looked bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, albeit unhappy about pulling sentry duty. Lisa was yawning her face off when she let out a sleepy, “Mornin’.”

“How they doin’?” Faith asked, grateful for any excuse to get her mind off the dream.

Lisa shrugged. “The zombie, Yvon? Yeah. Him. He’s going through all the legal papers we’ve got on Anya. Giles has been in there all night with them.”

“Yike. That smell.” Faith winced.

“Willow whammied him so you gotta stand in arms’ reach to get a wiff,” Lisa was yawning again. “Thank god. I was about ready to throw up all the way home.”

“Any idea how they took Andrew?” Faith asked.

Andrea derisively snorted.

Why wasn’t she surprised? Even Cyclops once admitted to her on a really long stakeout that he wasn’t too sure about Andrew’s story. He keeps adding things to it, he’d said as he sipped at coffee. I want to believe him, but every time I turn around there’s one more detail he ‘forgot.’ Don’t know what I believe, not matter how much I want to believe it.

If Cyclops was admitting to even her that there was a little doubt in his mind about Andrew’s story, you could bet that in reality Harris figured it was a big ol’ con. If Andrew couldn’t convince someone who wanted to believe Anya was a big hero, how the hell was he going to convince anyone who demanded that she be a monster?

“It wasn’t that bad,” Lisa said. “I think they’re coming around on her being really dead.”

“Here’s hoping, otherwise things are gonna get real fugly for them. I’m pretty sure B and Will have first dibs on ’em if they decide to get uncooperative,” Faith said. “Look, I’m going to motor. You guys need anything while I’m out there?”

“We’re good,” Lisa said.

“Well…” Andrea began.

“There’s plenty of coffee in the kitchen if we need it,” Lisa said with a glare at Andrea. “Save your money for some other time, ’kay?”

“I think we’re all gonna need a round of drinks when this is over,” Faith said. “I’ll buy the keg.”

“Yeah, and Buffy will card us before we get a sip,” Andrea complained.

“Good thing. You don’t wanna be a delinquent like me,” Faith said lightly. “Laters.”

She padded down the stairs feeling slightly better. A little dose of the morning normal was just the ticket. Bonus, it was late enough in the morning that the people who needed to be out and about for the day were already gone, but early enough that the night shift people like her were still asleep.

She swung into the kitchen to grab her boots and coat from the mudroom. She was halfway across the kitchen when she realized that Willow was sitting at the table. “Mornin’ Red,” she said as she passed.

Nothing.

Faith turned around, “Hey, I said…” and stopped.

Willow was sitting at the table staring ahead. She was pale and trembling as her mouth soundlessly moved.

Faith looked around and debated going to get Kennedy. “Willow?”

Still nothing.

Faith cautiously stepped forward until she was standing directly across from the witch. “Willow, you’re freaking me out.” She leaned over and snapped her fingers in front of Willow’s face. “Yo, Willow. You in there?”

Willow startled and her eyes focused on the Slayer. “Faith?”

“That’s the name. Don’t wear it out. You okay?”

“I don’t know,” she said in a small voice.

Faith’s gut clenched. “Overtired, right? Did you even sleep last night?”

“I had a nightmare,” Willow said dully.

Faith leaned on a chair because all of a sudden she wasn’t sure if her legs were going to hold her. “What kind of nightmare?”

“I was screaming and screaming and screaming.” Willow was talking in a voice that signaled a serious disconnect from reality. “I was in this room, see? And they wouldn’t let me out. Then I started laughing and laughing and laughing. I was so cold. Really cold. And these people came in and they…and they…”

“Unh, maybe I should get…” Faith began.

“They held me down and I started saying that he was here, he was here, he was here.”

“Who?”

“I don’t know. But I was happy about it because it was my big chance to get what I wanted.” Willow looked confused. “Not sure what I wanted, though.” She looked at Faith as a hand drifted up to her forehead and she began rubbing. “I kept hearing this word. In my head.”

“A word?” Faith asked.

“Zihuatanejo.”

“Zihuatanejo? What the hell is that?”

Willow looked around the kitchen. She was still trembling, but at least her mind seemed rooted back in reality. “I have no idea.”

Faith pulled out a chair and sat down in it. Two of them got a dose of nightmares on the same day, which was two too many for Faith’s taste. She wasn’t smart enough to figure this mess out and Willow didn’t look like she was ready to start plumbing the mysteries of the universe.

“I think we got ourselves a situation,” Faith said slowly. “You ain’t the only one who got visited by the bad sandman last night.”

Willow gave her questioning look.

“I’m thinking we’re gonna need to get G in on this,” Faith said.

TBC...here

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