Short-ish part today so the characters can catch their collective breath. That, and the next part is fairly long and packed.
We're heading into the back end of the story (yay! only took 11 months to get here!) where threads start to get tied up in a messy bow. Don't panic. The story's more than half-over. When I mean the back end, I mean things are going to start getting resolved.
Transitional sections are always hard. They're so very much more quiet than what led up to them and really don't hint and the chaos that's coming. Still necessary.
Plus, I've always kind of wondered about this. How did the Scoobs explain themselves when faced with the emergency room and cops questioning them about what happened? We've only seen snippets in canon, most notably, Ted and Graduation Day Part II. But we've never actually seen any of them attempting to navigate the authorities when faced with tough questions about what happened.
Yes, feel free to giggle about the Clay Aiken song. It was tough finding a song that fit with this part and this came the closest.
All previous parts can be found here.
Would he walk on water
Would he run through fire
Would he stand before you
When it is down to the wire
Would he gave his life up
To be all he can
The 15 minutes between hanging up on Harris and him showing up looking wild-eyed in the emergency room intake were hell on earth for Faith.
She had to contend with two cops questioning her as she sat on a hard plastic chair in the hall between intake and the warren of curtained-off beds deeper in the bowels of the emergency medicine department. The to-ing and fro-ing of medical personnel and civilians walking the hall between intake and the emergency beds and worry over the fact that Haley was out of her sight and saying god knows what made it hard for her to concentrate.
Her hurried instructions about what to say to Haley seemed like a damn fine idea in the heat of the moment, but under the intense questioning of the cops, Faith realized she was too skimpy on the details. From the way these two were acting, Faith guessed they were having a “gang problem” big enough to put the local law enforcement on emergency footing. Considering the number of vampires she’d seen since she blew into town, there must be one hell of a murder/missing persons rate. The tense, alert stance of the cops in front of her told Faith one of two things: either the local chaos was something new, or there was a sudden increase in bad shit happening to the voting public.
The last thing she wanted to consider was that Harris was out there playing William Tell because he might not have had a choice in the matter. Much as she still thought he was useless, she had to salute anyone willing to put it on the line and fight back rather than lie back and take it. Maybe it was twelve years too late to do her a damn bit of good, but she had to admire his balls for trying even this late in the game. Sure, he went about it the stupid way by playing Batman and it was all doomed to fall into shit, but he still did it. Much as she’d like to deny him that much credit, she couldn’t do it.
Meanwhile, the cops continued pressing her to repeat her story with more details added and she was having a miserable time remembering which lie she told when. She was doing her best to keep the story vague, because she didn’t want to give a detail that could be directly, if inadvertently, contradicted by Haley or Anya.
She’d lied to enough cops over the years to know that much as she’d like to believe they were all donut-eating deficients, it wasn’t true. If she went in acting like they were all stupid, she was going to find herself under a very powerful microscope. It was best to assume that at least one of the boys in blue was smart enough to know that everyone lies about something when faced with a badge, a gun, and a smile until proven otherwise.
Just her luck, both her boys in blue were smart. They may be buying the big lie, if only because they were conditioned to believe it, but Faith could see that they didn’t think her story was adding up with what few vague details she bothered to supply. She figured the only reason why she wasn’t being dragged down to the local PD was because she had some bruises and was obviously not one of the perps that put the hurt on Junior, Haley, and Anya.
It didn’t help that she didn’t like cops on her best of days and that this was not her best of days.
“I’m not too clear on what happened or how,” Faith repeated for what felt like the tenth time. “Me and my boy were walkin’ around with Haley showing us the highlights and next thing we know, these dudes came out of nowhere.”
“And they didn’t tell you what they were after.” One of the boys repeated her answer back to her as he flipped through his notes.
“We didn’t exactly ask,” Faith said. “They were yelling something, but I’ll be damned if I could figure out what. Sounded foreign, like I said. And, like I said, it didn’t sound Spanish neither, cause I know a little, enough to get by and that’s about it. Can’t figure what language it was. Maybe French?”
The two cops paused to eyefuck her. She had pushed her luck with the French crack.
“Officer, I’m sorry.” Faith was pleased with her contrite sound. “It’s just…this whole thing has me all rattled. My boy is fighting for his life. My maybe someday sister-in-law got hurt. My maybe someday niece is all beat up. I’ve got no idea why these guys came after us and I’m afraid it’s gonna happen again. I’m being a bit of a bitch, ’cause I’m frustrated. I know you’re just doing your job.”
The cop with the notepad looked doubtful. The other cop was all tea and sympathy.
“We understand,” the cop without the notepad said. “But you’ve got to see we don’t have a lot to go on. We’d really like you to come down to the department and take a look at some pictures. Maybe if we could get our hands on—”
“You mean right now?” Faith asked.
The cop with the notepad looked her right in the eye and said evenly, “After you and Haley receive treatment, of course.”
Faith tried not to react. These new federal laws requiring all medical personnel to immediately turn over all medical information to the cops during criminal investigations was going to be the frigging death of her. Most cops usually didn’t take a look at the records until after questioning someone, but these guys were smart enough to find out the deal before they started talking to her.
Shit. They were viewing her and Haley refusing treatment as suspicious. This could get very ugly. She needed Rupes and she needed Rupes right now with a cover story that would get these two off her back.
“I just got a few bruises is all,” Faith said. “Haley looks ugly, but she’s acting like she ain’t hurt all that bad. Plus, she hates hospitals. She told me. I figure I’ll let her father deal rather than argue with her.”
Right on time, Harris showed up in intake and began bellowing that he damn well wanted to see his daughter and his wife. The show of crazy worry was enough to distract the cops and they were on Harris like a shot. They held their hands up and were trying to talk him down, but Harris was having none of it. After a few minutes, Harris stopped yelling and the cops agreed to take him to Haley.
As Harris swept past her, he glanced her way. The worry she expected, but the spooked expression was something else entirely.
Fuck it. Let him be spooked. He’s gonna be even more spooked before I’m done with him. Problem was, all she had were suspicions and nothing else. Without Junior filling in the blanks, the only concrete things she had was her Slayer dream, that incident in the cemetery where it sure looked like the vampires were trying to trap Harris, and the near-certainty that Junior almost got turned. It added up to a big zero without some facts.
While the two cops were occupied with Harris, Faith stood up and casually made her way down the hall and into the warren of curtained-off emergency beds to find Anya. After intruding on three people, Faith finally found her girl. Luck must’ve changed its mind, because, glory be, the only creature in with Anya was a nurse and she was on her way out.
“You shouldn’t be here,” the nurse stated firmly.
“Just checkin’ up to see how she’s doing.” Faith gave a curt nod at Anya’s bed. “Figured her daughter might like to know.”
The nurse frowned at her before relenting. “Make it quick. She’s in and out and she needs to have a doctor check on her.”
The nurse disappeared to follow up on the next patient in that way all emergency room nurses had as Faith walked over to Anya’s bedside. She leaned over and said, “Wakey, wakey, girlfriend. Time we had a quick chat.”
Anya’s eyes slit open with a soft hiss from her lips.
Faith smiled brightly as she stroked Anya’s hand with her left hand and her right closed around Anya’s wrist. “Know you’re all confused and shit, but I’m messaging you on the off-chance your brains are unscrambled enough for this to sink in.”
“Where am—” Anya shakily began.
“Hospital. You got yourself a nice concussion.” Faith’s thumb found the pressure point in Anya’s wrist, but she didn’t press into it. “I don’t know what happened and right now I don’t need to hear it. But we got ourselves a problem and you’re my little loose end.”
Anya’s bleary, unfocused eyes seemed to be searching for Faith’s face.
Well then, time to make her good and focused.
Faith’s thumb pressed on the pressure point while her left hand slapped over Anya’s mouth before the woman could scream. Faith leaned down closer so she could talk in Anya’s ear. “Now that I’ve got your attention, I’m going tell you a bedtime story. You better be telling this story to everyone you know outside our little club, otherwise, I just might remove appendages. Understand? Nod if you do.”
Anya was breathing hard against Faith’s hand as she nodded back against her pillow.
“That’s good. Cobwebs are clearing already,” Faith said. “You remember nothing. All you know is that Haley was with me and Rory. You don’t know where we were or what we were doing. You were home alone and heard a knock on the door and you went to open it. You don’t remember shit after that. It’s all one big blank and that’s all. Over and out. Do you understand? Nod if you do.”
Tears of pain leaked out of Anya’s eyes as she nodded.
“Don’t say as I say, and life will go real bad for you. Accidents can be arranged, especially in a vampire town, so don’t go fucking me, Rupes, or Junior behind our backs. Now, do we have a deal?”
Anya kept breathing hard.
“Did you hear me? Deal or not?”
There was a reluctant nod.
“Good, that’s good.” Faith let the pressure point go and removed her hand from Anya’s mouth.
Anya’s tense body immediately relaxed and she began gagging like she was going to toss her cookies, which was probably from a combination of the concussion, pain, and fear, not that Faith much cared.
“Glad we understand each other on a fundamental level,” Faith said.
Anya favored her with a weak glare.
“I gotta motor. I’m sure there are some people wondering where I got to. They won’t think too kindly of seeing me by your bedside. They might get the idea that I’m trying to coach you on your testimony.” Faith leaned down and gave Anya a sloppy, wet kiss on the forehead. “Ciao, until later.”
Faith strode out of Anya’s emergency room space feeling immensely better. She was on her way back to the hellish plastic chair when the two cops intercepted her.
“I thought we told you to stay put, ma’am.” Notepad cop was sounding very unfriendly.
“You didn’t tell me that. You just took off and left me there, so I figured I’d go looking for my boy and see what was what. Can’t find him. Don’t suppose you got the 9-1-1?”
The cops weren’t buying. “Ma’am, I think we need to find a quiet place so we can talk some more.”
Faith fought to keep her face neutral. Fuck. Harris said something.
Before she could respond, she was saved by the British the snit.
“Officers, I must ask you to cease your investigation immediately.” Rupert strode down the hall as he patted down his pockets like he was looking for something. “Your discretion is this matter is required under certain regulations of your government.”
Faith licked her lips and waited. This was going to be good.
Rupert stopped in front of the officers and drew out his wallet. “Ahhh, here it is. I was rather concerned that I had misplaced it in my rush to get here.” He flipped open the wallet and flashed a badge at the boys in blue. “Rupert Giles, field specialist for His Majesty’s intelligence service. No. I can’t tell you which branch as that is classified.”
The cops exchanged glances.
Rupert sighed and allowed the cops a closer look at his badge. Faith couldn’t see the shiny medallion, but she could see the cops thought it might be real.
“I must request that we all move outside so you may understand why my operatives cannot afford to be questioned about this ghastly business.” Rupert tapped the side of his nose. “Loose lips. You understand.”
Notepad cop’s eyes narrowed and he frowned, although Faith didn’t know if it was because he didn’t believe Rupert’s song and dance, or if it was because he hated that someone with seemingly more authority stomped onto his turf.
The other cop, however, seemed impressed that he might be involved in a real-life James Bond caper. Even so, he put up a mild protest. “You realize we can’t just drop it until we’re cleared to do that,” he said. “We’ll have to hear everything.”
“As much as I can reveal,” Rupert nodded.
“We’ll need to check your story,” notepad cop said.
“Understandable, understandable.” Rupert waved a hand to show he was completely on board with the idea. “My bona fides will be on your desks within the hour. Now, Faith, gentlemen, if we could adjourn outside.”
Giles had done his share of conning people in authority in his time, but he had to admit that this latest incident was the most nerve-wracking in his experience. He supposed that it was because he hadn’t had to pull off such a scheme in years. The knotty problem posed by Young Xander and the thorny issue represented by the Harrises did nothing to ease his mind.
They were stuck with what they were stuck with, however. Young Xander continued to dance on death’s door and the medical personnel were unable or unwilling to say that he’d make it. The police were suspicious of his cover story that Faith and Young Xander—pardon, Rory Harris—were federal agents working with him to crack an international smuggling ring and took a their time double-checking his story with his carefully vetted contacts in London.
He was also somewhat concerned that the Harrises would crack under pressure, but Anya continued to stubbornly insist that she remembered nothing, Haley was too upset and frightened to speak, and Xander didn’t know enough to say anything at all. The only good thing about the whole business as far as Giles was concerned was that Xander and Anya apparently still had the Sunnydale instinct to remain silent about vampires or demons in the face of authority. Given the amount of damage the pair of them could do with even a highly edited version of the truth, Giles was relieved.
It had been an excruciatingly long night and next day in the hospital. Long periods of boredom while they waited for news on Young Xander and received updates on Anya’s condition were relieved only by short skirmishes.
A running battle broke out between Xander and the medical staff as he fought off physicians that wanted to take a closer look at Haley. He was finally forced to give in by mid-morning or risk a visit from child protective services. By that time, Haley really did look more injured than she actually was, thanks to Slayer healing. The physicians ungraciously conceded that, in the case, the father did know best and dropped the subject.
Anya was making a recovery under the watchful eye of the medical staff. They were unwilling to admit her for a concussion and so moved her to a daybed to make sure no complications arose that would require more intensive medical care.
Then there was the issue of payment for Young Xander’s treatment. The hospital was required by law to render medical care, but that didn’t mean the hospital wasn’t going to do its best to get payment. This resulted in a heated discussion in the hallway between Xander and a hospital administrator, as Young Xander was not covered under his health plan and the cost for care was already running very high. Giles finally intervened and pledged to cover the exorbitant fees.
While the payment argument struck Giles as petty at first, when he asked for and got the latest running tab for Young Xander’s medical costs, he decided that he bloody well didn’t blame Xander for refusing to cover 100 percent of the expense. As comfortable as Xander and Anya seemed to be, it would take them several years to pay it off if they had agreed to it.
While Young Xander technically wasn’t a Council member, it appeared that he may have saved a new Slayer from certain death. Giles simply felt honor-bound to cover the bill. As it was, he would no doubt have to put up with verbal abuse from his twin over this fine how-to-do. The last thing he desired was a row over Young Xander not getting the best care Council money could buy.
Say what you will about us, Giles thought with grim amusement, our money buys quite a lot.
In between all these moments, Xander shuttled between the waiting room where Haley stayed with Faith and Giles and his wife’s bedside. His vague comments made it clear that he didn’t know what happened and he expected the full story when they made it back to the privacy of the Harris homestead.
Faith likewise shuttled between the waiting room and Young Xander’s hospital room. She dragged Xander with her several times, since the hospital staff refused to give her any information, but would willingly give it to Young Xander’s “twin brother.” Each time she returned, she’d catch Giles’s eye and give him a slight shake of her head. Not dead yet, but no notion of whether he’d make it either.
As for Haley, she remained pale and silent. When her father was in the room, she clung to him for comfort and would freely indulge in crying jags while Xander held her close and glared at Faith and himself over the top of his daughter’s head. In those instances when Xander had to be elsewhere, Haley gravitated to Faith. While the girl didn’t cling to the older Slayer, she did melt into Faith whenever Faith placed an arm around her shoulder and spoke to her in a voice too low for Giles to hear.
He wasn’t sure what surprised him more: the fact that Haley viewed Faith as some sort of parental figure, or the fact that Faith showed any compassion for the girl.
By mid-afternoon, the medical staff felt it best to discharge Anya. They’d done all they could do. She needed fluids and bed rest more than anything else, two things she could get more efficiently at home than in a hospital daybed. Once a follow-up appointment with the family primary care physician was settled, their unhappy group prepared to leave.
Faith, again taking Giles by surprise, put up a bit of fuss. She believed that one of their number should stay behind to make sure that none of the local vampires would attempt to finish the job they had started. The problem was, however, that none of their number could be spared. Xander’s first priority, understandably, was his injured wife and shell-shocked child. Giles needed to get the full report of what had happened and so couldn’t stay behind. Upon pointing these facts of life out to Faith, she frowned and muttered something about unfinished business, which meant that in her mind she couldn’t be spared for guard duty either.
Giles did agree that it was an unhappy situation, and so settled on a compromise. He called the local police department and requested that an officer be placed outside Young Xander’s door. It was not ideal, as an officer armed with only a gun was going to be ineffective against a vampire set on getting to Young Xander, but it was the best he could do on short notice.
As they broke out of the confines of the hospital into the dusky winter twilight, Giles’s mind remained worried, unable to escape the notion that the world was holding a waiting breath.
What the world would look like once it exhaled would be anybody’s guess.
Faith is wrong, he thought as he uncomfortably settled himself in the back seat of Xander’s van with Haley and Faith. The world hasn’t ended yet, but I fear we’re moving full steam ahead.
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