liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Water Hold Me Down (Part 35)

I'll be incommunicado most of the day, so I won't be able to get back to comments right away.

I chose the live version of 'Goodnight Moon' because, well, it sounded creepier.

All previous parts can be found here.

For Part 34, click here.

There’s a shark in the pool
And a witch in the tree
A crazy old neighbour and he’s been watching me
And there’s footsteps loud and strong coming down the hall
Something’s under the bed
Now it’s out in the hedge
There’s a big black crow sitting on my window ledge
And I hear something scratching through the wall


“It’s gonna go wrong, ain’t it?” Faith asked.

Jack looked up at her with a puzzled whine.

She kicked at the rough ice on the edge of the sidewalk. Taking Jack for walkies was getting to be a habit for her. She felt bad for the dog and his situation, so she figured she’d give him an occasional break to show her appreciation for his help. It wasn’t any hassle. They only walked around the block and that was it. Jack’s personal bathroom was behind one of the bushes in the Mother House’s backyard, so the baggies in her pocket were only for show if she got nailed by the dog poop police. Besides, after that talk with G, she needed to get out and clear her head. Jack was just an excuse to do it.

This walk was different from their past ones. This time she unhooked the leash from Jack’s collar and stuck it in her pocket. She wasn’t sure what she expected when she did it. Maybe she expected Jack to take off. What she didn’t expect was for him to heel and pad along next to her as they ambled around the corner.

“Witchy-poo’s pretty convinced your buddies are going to try to fuck this up,” Faith said.

Jack dropped to his haunches and tilted his head in what Faith guessed was doggie thought. He finally huffed. It had a sense of “no way” about it.

“I think she might be looking for problems myself,” Faith agreed as she leaned against the wrought iron fence. “Guess it depends on how bad they want that revenge.”

Jack wrinkled his muzzle, the picture of a dog that wished he could talk.

Faith sighed. Another round of 20 questions it was. She hated this shit, but it as just about the only way to communicate with the vocally challenged.

“Tap your right paw there once for yes, twice for no,” Faith said by rote. “They willing to go to a hell dimension?”

Jack quickly tapped his paw twice.

“They willing to go if they get their revenge by fucking up Cyclops’s welcome home party?”

Another two-paw tap.

“You sure?”

Jack lifted his paw and hesitated.

“Three times for pretty sure, four times if you ain’t,” Faith wearily said.

Jack gave her three taps.

Faith shivered and rubbed her gloved hands together. “Wish I could say it was comforting.”

Jack tilted his head and waited.

“You ain’t exactly on the ins with those guys,” Faith elaborated.

Jack gave her the two-paw tap.

“Maybe a good thing we got this big mucky-muck on her way,” Faith mumbled to herself. She quickly added, “Don’t answer that.”

Jack huff-woofed as he got to his four paws and turned back to the house.

“We don’t have to head back just yet,” Faith said.

Jack circled around to face her.

Faith stuck her gloved hands in her jacket pockets. She was about to do something that would righteously piss off everyone in the house, but her gut wouldn’t feel right if she didn’t try.

“You might’ve noticed that I don’t got you on no leash,” she said carefully.

Jack wagged his tail in the doggie version of, “Thank you.”

“That’s ’cause you earned a little bit of trust from me, got me? You stepped up when you didn’t have to and it’s costing ya some with your buddies. I notice. The Witch herself notices, too,” Faith said.

Jack looked down at the sidewalk and his tail drooped.

“Guess you’re good an’ sorry you got mixed up in this, hunh?”

Jack gave her a clumsy one-tap.

Faith went to the closest stoop and sat down. As she shivered against the feel of cold slate through the ass of her jeans, Jack padded up to her and dropped to his haunches with a small whine. On vague instinct, Faith reached out and scratched him behind the ears.

“You’d be shocked how much I get you,” Faith said absently. “At some point, you just get so pissed off at how unfair life is and you blow a gasket good an’ hard. Maybe you mighta contributed to that, but it’s like the payback is three times what you deserve. You snap and everyone becomes a target.”

Jack interrupted with a whine.

Faith dropped her hand and gave the dog an amused look. “Guess I can’t blame you for going after Anya, Anyanka, or whoever the fuck she was. Ain’t like you knew she was dead. But sucking Cyclops into it was the wrong way to go about it. Should’ve gone right for her throat instead of slitting someone else’s.”

Jack looked away and was now staring at a parked car like he wished it would pull away from the curb so he could go chase it.

“Got more than you bargained for with them and their big ideas,” Faith agreed. She grinned when Jack answered her with a one-tap.

“I better clue you in on something,” Faith said.

Jack looked inquisitively at her; his floppy ears pricked upright with attention.

“This shit you pulled,” Faith began, “might result in some righteous karma coming down on your head. When you get involved with using magic to do dark deeds, seems it’s got a habit of making you pay sooner or later.”

Jack looked like he was thinking about that.

“What I’m tryin’ to say is that something got knocked out of whack somewheres, if I understand it right,” Faith tried to explain. “Now, I don’t know much about magic, but I’ve been hanging around the big kid’s table with Willow enough these days to figure out that using magic to kidnap someone and throw them in another dimension qualifies as the dark stuff. Don’t matter if the spell is good or neutral, see? It’s the intent. At least I think it is.”

Jack sagged and rested his muzzle on her knee with a soft whine.

Faith absently patted his head. “After this is over you’re gonna have to try making it right with karma somehow. Don’t know how, really,” She snorted. “You ever figure that out, you let me know.”

There was a soft huff from Jack.

“I guess the best thing you can do is, I dunno, start doing right after this is all over,” Faith said. “Maybe you’ll get spared the worst of it if you do. Although maybe me telling you might screw it up or something, because now the intent isn’t pure or some such bullshit. I don’t know much about how karma actually works, I mean the real kind and not the fake kind.”

Jack lifted his head, looked up into her face, and awkwardly nodded.

“Right. Glad I got that squared then,” Faith said. She took a deep breath. This was the part that might piss certain people off. “Something else before we head back.”

Jack’s doggie eyebrows lifted in a show of curiosity.

“We might get Cyclops back with no problem, but we might not,” Faith said. “Given the way things are going right now? I’m betting there’s going to problems. If Willow has any excuse to let loose on your buddies…” She let the thought hang.

Jack waited.

“No matter what, I want you to scram the second we get him back. Run as fast as your overgrown mutt paws can carry you,” Faith urged. “You came clean and you probably saved us a whole lot of headaches. Hell, if that dream was a real Slayer dream, you maybe saved Cyclops to boot. Consider this instant karmic payback, me warning you. After we get him back, just go and don’t look back.”

Jack gave a sharp bark and growled at her.

“Hey! I’m trying to help you out here,” Faith protested.

Jack gave a hard sniff, turned around, and started heading back to the house.

Faith hauled herself off the steps. “Yo! If I didn’t know no better, I’d think I stepped on your pride or something.”

Jack turned around and gave her the awkward one-paw tap.

“Fine,” Faith slumped. “Just tryin’ to pay ya back because of you helping us is all.”

Next thing she knew, a snout-shaped point pushed into her protected palm.

She looked down at him. “No hard feelings then?”

Jack looked up and wagged his tail.

“Still, promise me you’ll think about what I said, okay?”

Jack yipped.

“Fair enough,” Faith grinned. “Let’s head back so we can welcome our blue-blood witch. Well, not you so much, but I gotta be there.”

As they set their feet for the house, Jack fell back a few paces and head-butted her ass.

Faith couldn’t resist laughing. “Jesus! You were really quite the playa back when you were human, weren’t ya?”

Jack hopped forward and did some puppy-ish jumps—or as puppy-ish as any ugly moose of a dog was ever going to get—as he copped to the charge by barking cheerfully in response.

“You’re quite the mutt, Jackie,” Faith said with approval.


Xander spent the entire planning session afraid to open his mouth because that might spark a new round of accusations from other Xander that he couldn’t answer.

As other him sketched out the search plan, Xander kept stealing glances at Anya and found himself feeling very bad for her. When Anya saw those tracking maps other him had created, her face simply shattered. There were no tears and, worst of all, no recriminations. She stared with wide-eyed heartbreak at the physical evidence that other Xander hid his secret life from her. Xander thought she looked a lot like his Anya when he walked out of the wedding.

Xander decided right then that the worst thing about being in an alternate dimension was the way it held a mirror up to his face. A crazy, funhouse mirror, true, but he couldn’t escape the reflection because there was something too recognizable in it.

Things like Anya’s heartbreak.

Things like how he so easily caused it by not saying the things he should have said.

Anya remained pale and silent through other Xander’s presentation until he told her that she was stuck with the job of phone jockey.

“What?” she exploded.

“We need someone here in case Haley comes home on her own,” other Xander said.

“My daughter is out there, this town is crawling with demon problems, and you want me to stay home like a good little missus?” Anya’s voice rose in anger.

Xander instinctively tried to make himself invisible by hunching his shoulders and staring fixedly at the street maps.

“We need someone here to be communications central in case we have to call in from the field or to contact us if she shows up here,” other Xander said.

Anya angrily opened her mouth and Xander jumped in to interrupt.

“I don’t have a way to call in,” Xander said. “My cell’s back in Cleveland, not that it would actually work if I had it with me.”

After a beat, other Xander said, “Anya, give him your cell.”

“He doesn’t even know the town!” Anya yelled. “And he gets to help look for our daughter?”

“One of us needs to be here if Haley comes home on her own,” other Xander said. “I don’t think Faith, Giles, or my twin over here should be the ones waiting for her. Do you?”

“What about you? Why can’t you wait for her while I go out there and look?” Anya snapped back.

Other Xander had the sense to not answer that. His tracking maps did that for him.

Anya glared at other Xander while she waited for her husband to say something, but seemed to realize she wasn’t going to convince him. “Fine,” she snarled as she angrily left to retrieve her cell.

After an awkward pause, other Xander continued outlining who was going where and the potential dangers in each area. Xander noticed that he got the smallest area to search and that it was the closest to the house. He also noticed the waterfront location was a warren of streets, at least according to the map. Given the crowded conditions, his comparatively small assignment made sense. However, it was the only settled area that seemed to be free of other Xander’s notations of possible weirdness or actual badness. The fact that there was nothing there sent up a series of mental red flags. It wasn’t that there weren’t other white areas on the maps, it’s just that if this spot was as crowded as the arrangement of streets seemed to suggest, there should be something questionable going on.

Xander looked up and saw that Faith was trying to catch his eye. She nodded at the map and then purposely looked at other Xander like she wanted to say something. Xander shook his head no when Faith looked back at him. He really didn’t want to get into a debate over who was going to search what because, if things held true to form, the debate would turn ugly. He still too shaken by his fight with other Xander in the backyard and he really lacked the energy for another round.

Other Xander finished his plan and Rupert asked, “And if we don’t find her?”

Other Xander winced. “We’ll have to call in the police. I want to avoid it if I can. There’ll be questions about why she ran away. The police here may be blind, but they’re not Sunnydale stupid.”

“I don’t see the problem,” Faith said. “You and the wife got into a nasty fight and she took off. Simple. You can keep us out of it.”

“Except there are witnesses to him attacking me and accusing us of kidnapping,” Xander volunteered. He could feel other Xander glaring at him and tried to ignore it. “So if the police are at all competent, they’re going to find out about it and start asking every single one of us some uncomfortable questions. They’ll shove him and Anya under a microscope, which means they might find out about his midnight walks and that Anya was doing something that looks pretty questionable with Haley in the basement. Rupert will be in deep with INS because he entered the country illegally. Then we’ve got me, and I’m way too complicated to explain, especially if they take my fingerprints or run DNA tests and see I’m his exact match. If that doesn’t start a whole new round of questions, I don’t know what will. So we’re talking one can of worms, well-done and with ketchup.”

“Bunch of good points you got there, Junior,” Faith said. “Last resort it is.”

Other Xander mumbled something under his breath about how no one listened to him. Xander bit back the urge to point out that if he explained his reasons a little better, people probably would.

Anya finally returned with her cell phone and angrily thrust it at her husband. Other Xander did attempt to soothe her ruffled feathers, but she was having none of it, albeit with good reason, Xander thought.

While Rupert and Faith gave a fuming Anya their cell numbers, other Xander went back to his workshop to get weapons. He returned with stakes to spare, his compound bows, two quivers of arrows, and an older street map for Xander to use. Although this map was a year out of date, other Xander assured him that its representation of the waterfront was just as correct as the newer maps in Rupert’s and Faith’s hands.

Other Xander handed Rupert one of the bow set-ups and kept the other for himself. Although Xander’s hands itched with the desire to get his hands on one of those sets, he decided not to say anything. Both other Xander and Rupert had known hot spots in their areas and he didn’t, so he couldn’t take a bow from either one of them in good conscience.

Once they then programmed each other’s numbers into their respective phones so they could get in touch with one another if they had to and set the cells for vibrate, they got ready to leave. Xander was less than happy on finding out that other him would be driving him, since their two areas were contiguous.

As they moved outside, Xander noticed that Faith and Rupert were in a heated, whispered argument and felt a chill. He all but assured other him that Faith and Rupert wouldn’t snatch Haley out from under his nose, but given the intensity of their conversation he wondered if he was wrong about that. His threat about doing damage to the Council if they tried it was just that, a threat. He really didn’t see how he could fight an established Council, especially when he didn’t know where it actually was located. Faith and Rupert would have to be pretty dim to take him seriously.

Then again, other Xander took his empty ‘cooperate or else’ threat pretty seriously. He wasn’t sure if that said something about the way other Xander thought or if it said something about the way other Xander thought about him.

Oh, god. He really needed to stop it with the mental self-mutilation. It was pushing him a little too close to crazy flakes territory.

Rupert huffed and moved away from Faith to her rental car while Xander nervously watched. Faith looked a little too casual, considering she was in a heated argument just moments before.

“Xander? Older Xander, I mean,” Rupert called. “I have some questions about making my search more efficient. If you could spare a moment.”

Other Xander walked over and he was soon pointing at other areas on the map as Rupert spoke to him in a low voice. As soon as the two were engaged, Faith zipped over to Xander’s side and said, “We need to talk.”

“About what?” Xander asked.

“This area he’s got you going into. I don’t like it,” Faith stated.

“Yeah, it’s registering on my weird-o-meter, too,” Xander agreed. “But there could be a lot of reasons why it’s a dead zone.”

“Dead zone are the operative words, Junior.” Faith fidgeted. “That area’s not too far off the main drag into town. When I was looking for a place to set up shop, I drove along the waterfront road. Place is locked up tighter than a drum. Everything’s boarded up down there.”

“That can’t be right,” Xander said.

“I know what I saw,” Faith said defensively.

Xander quickly figured out that he couldn’t deal with this Faith in the same way he’d deal with his Faith. His Faith would’ve given him a cheerful ‘fuck you’ followed by a long list of reasons why she was right and he was wrong. Then, if he still wasn’t sold, she’d bet him a pitcher of beer she was right and remind him that he already owed her one. This always devolved into a half-hearted ‘your mamma’-type debate over who owed whom pitchers of beer since Xander had also won a few off Faith.

He didn’t think betting pitchers of beer that no one ever had any intention of actually buying was going to work with this Faith.

“Tell me what that area’s like, since you’ve seen it and I haven’t,” Xander said by way of changing tack.

Faith relaxed. “It’s your classic beachfront honky-tonk. Maybe some full-time houses down there, a lot of cottages, a few cheap-looking monster motels, a pier that’s seen better days, storefronts, food stands, and cheap thrills. You know the drill, right?”

“I get the picture,” Xander encouraged.

“Like I said, everything’s boarded up down there and the place looks abandoned. It even looks like they’re tearing shit up about three blocks away from the waterfront. Hell, I didn’t even see any parked cars around,” Faith said.

That still didn’t sound right. “Faith, this is southern California. Sure, places like that slow down in the off-season. I can see shut motels and even boarded up cottages, but something should still be open down there. You’ve always got some lunatics who don’t think California winters are real winters and there are always people who see dollar signs when they see snowbirds.”

“Junior, I know what a honky-tonk looks like in the winter. Jesus, we used to load up in cars and go hang at Hampton Beach in the dead of winter to smoke weed, pig out on fried dough, and play the arcade, and that’s in—”

“New Hampshire, yes I know,” Xander said.

Faith’s mouth snapped shut and her eyes reflected shock.

“Unh, I got the Hampton Beach speech before,” Xander coughed. “Some street carnival with rides pulled into Cleveland at the end of October and I was ranting about how no one would be stupid enough to go to carnival when it was so cold. I ended up owing you a pitcher of beer for that.”

Faith was still staring at him in a way that made him feel uncomfortable.

“Okay, fine. So you, I mean she, was right about the fake vampires being real vampires in the funhouse, but I’ll have you know that I won it back the following week about the gremlin starting fires on Halloween,” Xander babbled.

“You have a very weird relationship with your Slayer. You know that, right?” Faith asked.

“For the last time, she’s not my Slayer,” Xander protested. “She’s her own Slayer.”

Faith shook her head, but the surprise remained stamped on her features. “Whatever, Junior. What I’m trying to say is this joint is completely locked down. When I say there’s nothing down there, there’s nothing down there.”

“I’m not saying I don’t believe you, but let me play devil’s advocate,” Xander said. “You came into town during mid-week. Maybe they don’t get enough trade on a weekday. It’s Saturday. Something will probably be open.”

“Yeah, okay,” Faith slouched.

Xander wanted to kick himself. Even though she was warning him about something potentially bad, which he so didn’t want to hear, he needed her to say ‘fuck you’ and give him the list of reasons why he was wrong. As irritated as he got with his Faith whenever she did it, it was a little disconcerting to realize that he’d started counting on her to dig in her heels when she thought she was right.

Xander glanced over at other Xander and Rupert to see if they were still talking and ended up meeting Rupert’s eyes as the other man watched him and Faith. He had a little time, at least.

“Just the same, I’ll be careful, so thanks for warning me,” Xander said.

Faith nodded.

“But I have to ask, aside from the fact that it’s all boarded up and no one’s down there, you didn’t happen to pick up anything else?”

Faith’s eyebrows crunched low. “Like what?”

“I don’t know. Did anything in particular set off the ol’ Slay-dar? Something you saw or felt at the time but didn’t really register?” Xander asked. “I mean, you got the extra senses, a second eye, and you’ve already seen the area, so I’m really relying on you to give me the heads up.”

Faith grinned. “You’re a magnificent bastard, Junior,” she said with approval.


“You don’t gotta butter me up.”

“I’m not,” Xander guiltily said. “I’m just saying that if you’re uneasy, I’d like to know why. I may not be completely on board, but I’d rather be jumping at shadows because you’re jumping at shadows, than end up with something in the shadows eating me because I’m completely clueless.”

Faith was still grinning. “Fair enough. Nope. Nothing in particular. Not that I remember anyway. Just a case of the creepy-crawlies and the feeling I was being watched, but that’s pretty normal when you’re in the middle of abandoned property and no one else is around.”

“Great. You were creeped out,” Xander groused. “I’ll probably be looking for a bed to hide under.”

Faith reached out and grabbed his arm and said with an intensity that took Xander by surprise, “You run into trouble, you even think you might be heading into trouble, run. Then call for help. I don’t care if it turns out to be false alarm. I’m telling you, Junior, don’t be a fucking hero.”

“No danger of that. I’m a hide behind the Slayers kind of guy,” Xander weakly joked. “I’m just sorry I don’t have you down there with me so I can cower behind a trash can while you kick bad guy ass.”

Faith let her hand drop and she seemed almost embarrassed. “Forget it, Junior. I’ve seen you in action, so not buying that shit. Besides, I promised to keep you in one piece. I don’t want you making a liar out of me. You’ll trash my cred with your geek buddies.”

“Somehow I doubt your cred’ll be trashed with anyone, Faith,” Xander said. “And where is this coming from?”

Faith reached out and pinched the material of his turtleneck between thumb and forefinger with a frown. “Jumpin’ at shadows, like you said. Ain’t nothing. It’s all different now.”

“What is?”

“Don’t worry about it.” Faith’s hand dropped and she looked up into his face. “Just do as I said, okay? Don’t be a hero. Call for help if you get an itchy feeling in your big toe. You’ll be fine.”

Once more, Xander felt like someone was talking over his head about things he was supposed to know but didn’t. He was about to push Faith to explain what was going on when other Xander’s voice shouted. “Let’s go, you two! We’re losing the day!”

“Remember what I said,“ Faith told him before she headed over to join Rupert.

Xander turned to other him, unable to escape the sinking feeling in his stomach.


Lady Haversham was not what Faith expected. She was all set to come face-to-face with Masterpiece Theater. Instead she was watching this expansive, room-filling, good-natured woman swishing around the library like she lived there. Considering Lady Haversham was wearing slacks and not a long Victorian skirt, Faith found her ability to swish pretty impressive.

Willow nervously fluttered around Haversham like she was a student trying to impress a particularly demanding teacher. Coupled with G’s obvious respect for her, Haversham’s public face probably hid a set of iron balls.

“I must say, this is a unique situation,” Lady Haversham continued with her chatter, “I’m not saying it’s impossible, mind. No, I’ve certainly been around long enough to know that nothing’s impossible. I’ve heard stories of the truly gifted and wise visiting other dimensions to game the odds on their current predicament, but to actually do so is indeed rare. Your Xander has been given quite the gift.”

Faith exchanged looks with Buffy and saw her own doubt that Cyclops was seeing it that way reflected in the other Slayer’s face.

“Ahh, the could’ve beens, the should’ve beens, and the what ifs,” Lady Haversham said. “To actually see it. To see the great and wonderful things you’ve done or to see clearly the beam in your eye by coming face-to-face with the self is something that we could all use more of.”

“Unless you get blindsided by it when you ain’t ready,” Faith mumbled.

Lady Haversham regally swooped towards her. “Too true, my dear. Too true.”

Faith’s eyes darted around and saw she wasn’t about to escape Lady Haversham’s undivided attention. “I mean, I’m getting that it ain’t exactly a picnic for Cy—I mean Xander.”

“Yes. Usually such mental excursions, and I must admit that the majority of such stories center around viewing other realities with the inner eye, do not require the physicality of the person to accomplish this,” Lady Haversham explained. “It also requires intense mental preparation and the ability to stand back and view yourself with objectivity.”

“Well, that shoots Xander in the foot,” Willow commented. “Especially the objectivity part.”

Buffy began coughing to hide the nervous giggle.

Lady Haversham looked at Willow with amusement. “I daresay he’s hardly the only one in your circle of friends.”

The pointed comment found its mark and Willow colored with embarrassment.

“Still, one man’s weakness is another man’s strength,” Lady Haversham quickly dismissed her mild reminder. “Or a weakness could be a strength when the situation is right.” She looked at Faith, “Wouldn’t you agree my dear?”

Faith really wished Haversham would start bugging someone else. “Yeah, I guess.”

“Hardest lesson to learn, my dear. Even guessing at the truth of it is a step in the right direction,” Lady Haversham said as she patted Faith on the arm. It was enough to make Faith wonder what G said about her on the ride over.

Before she could ask, Lady Haversham had turned to batter Buffy with questions about what she thought of G’s plan to call some of the old guard and how she felt about working with Coven members on a regular basis.

“…I naturally will not be able to sit on the new Council myself, as my responsibilities with the Coven preclude that level of involvement,” Lady Haversham chatted. “But I have some rather intriguing choices in mind and I will be most grateful for your input as you will be on the steering committee.”

Buffy’s frozen smile all but begged for someone to step in and distract Haversham. Faith figured it was B’s turn to swing.

“I do, of course, understand yours and Faith’s hesitation over this state of affairs, given your tangled histories with Travers. Rest assured, I never liked that man, never liked him at all. I always said he’d come to a bad end. Pity it tragically cost all of us so dearly.” Lady Haversham threw an arm around Buffy’s shoulder and steered her out of the library. Buffy looked back at them with wide, begging eyes. Haversham didn’t seem to notice. “While the cause for stronger ties between the Coven and your Council is a heartbreaking state of affairs, I find it to be a step in the right direction. Don’t you agree?”

“Unh,” Buffy began.

Lady Haversham whirled around. “Faith, please stay put, if you would. I’m most interested to hear your impression of the situation and your thoughts on our kidnappers. You’ll do it, yes? There’s a dear.”

Before Faith could reply, Lady Haversham swept out of the library with an overwhelmed Buffy in tow.

After a long, blessed silence, Faith said, “Lady H. She’s, ummm…”

“Yeah,” Willow agreed.

“So we seeing the real deal? Or is there more than meets the eye?” Faith asked.

“More than meets territory.” Willow nodded so hard that Faith though her head would fall off. “She can be really, really scary.”

You think she’s a scary witch?” Faith asked with disbelief.

“She knows more than I do,” Willow grudgingly admitted. “And she’s better at knowing when to stop. Sometimes I get a little…well, sometimes I go overboard-y.”

Or maybe she doesn’t have the pride goeth before the fall thing, ’cause anyone who plays at being a flake don’t need to make herself look smart or dangerous. Faith thought it, but she was smart enough not to say it.

“Just, whatever you do, be as honest as you can when you talk to her,” Willow advised. “She’s got a habit of digging things out of you that you probably don’t want say.”

“She’ll just fucking adore Cyclops, then,” Faith snorted. “He’s got a habit of hitting the bull’s eye when he ain’t all tangled up.”

“She already likes him,” Willow said quietly. “She’s wanted to meet him for awhile.”

“How can she like someone she ain’t ever met?” Faith asked.

“What he did for me, well, that gets him a pass for life with Lady Haversham,” Willow said.

“So what exactly did he do?” Faith asked.

“Long story,” Willow mumbled.

“And I’m sick of all these mystery meat mentions with no fucking clue what’s what,” Faith said. “I already know G basically threw Cyclops in front of you when you went off the deep end and that he was able to talk you down. But if I’m going to be dealing with the queen of England, I’d like to know details in case she starts probing me about Cyclops. We’ve got time. So talk.”

Willow uncertainly tapped on the library tabletop long enough to make Faith wonder if she would say anything. “Okay. You better sit. This is a long-ish story,” she finally said. “And it makes everyone look really bad, especially me, so don’t go judge-y until I’m done.”

“How much story are we talking?” Faith asked as she grabbed a seat.

“Starts with me resurrecting Buffy after she got killed,” Willow said as she sat down.

Faith blinked. She sputtered. She coughed.

Willow watched with empty eyes until Faith found her voice.

“B died? Again? How? Why wasn’t I told? And I want the whole story and not some edited version,” Faith demanded.

“Buffy was in heaven for a whole summer, at least according to her,” Willow replied. “Which I really didn’t know at the time. I swear to god that I thought she was in a hell dimension. Unh, not ’cause I thought she belonged there, because I so did not, so stop looking at me like that. It was because she jumped into this portal that was opened by a hell goddess.”

The information dump so overwhelmed Faith that the most she could do was sit back and stare at Willow.

Willow fidgeted.

Today was apparently her day to be floored by everyone in Cleveland. Faith figured she should just stop being surprised and go with it. “Is this story going to get any more bizarre?”

“Buckle your seatbelts,” Willow solemnly said.



Continued in Part 36



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