liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Water Hold Me Down, Part 42

All previous parts can be found here.

Continued from Part 41.

He said these are just some sorry kids
They ain't the ones
Right or wrong black or white
Cross the line you're gonna pay
In the dawn before the light
Live or die by shades of gray


Faith was freakin’ exhausted. Slayer she may be, but Slayers needed sleep, too.

Too bad she had more shit on her plate. Too bad she was the only one who could clean off the plate.

First order of business: find out what the hell happened with Junior and Haley.

Second order of business: Find those last two vampires, find out how many more were planning to take on a Harris, and then dust their asses.

Then, and only then, was she gonna grab herself a well-deserved snooze.

Faith steeled herself in anticipation of Harris’s expected comments about the property damage to his fence and the torn up grass in the front yard as she got out of the van and turned to help Haley and Rupert out. She was surprised when the most Harris did was take it all in with a sweeping gaze, before turning without a word to help his wife out of the front passenger seat.

When they entered the hall, Faith immediately spotted that one of the spindles had been ripped out of the staircase banister going up to the second floor. She had to hand it to Haley. The girl knew how to spot a potential weapon even when it wasn’t so obvious. Not every Slayer had that instinct, and Faith was relieved the kid at least had that much going for her.

Harris barely glanced at the broken woodwork and again held his tongue. To Faith’s surprise, he steered Anya into the living room, rather than haul her upstairs to bed. When Anya put up a weak protest about being tired, Harris mumbled something about wanting to find out what happened before helping Anya to bed.

Upon hearing this, Haley’s shivering picked up in intensity, which prompted Faith to sling an arm around the girl’s shoulders. She wasn’t much for kids; never was, but she often found herself feeling bad for the really young Slayers, especially if they ended up in the Council’s clutches because bad shit went down.

Maybe feeling bad was the wrong way to put. She felt responsible. She had the brain fart that made ’em Slayers. An older girl might have the gumption to tell the Council to buzz off if they decided they didn’t want to play. Girls as young as Haley? They usually didn’t have the ability to do it, even if they thought signing on the dotted line was a bad idea. Haley definitely didn’t have the backbone to tell her and Rupes to stuff it if she didn’t want to go. If she turned ’em down, it would be because she was following her parents’ party line, not because she made the decision for herself.

Faith hoped that in the end Haley would go for the training, much as she didn’t like the Council or the idea of Slayers that were on the young side. The girl was too soft to survive without some toughening up and experience with the facts of the Slayer life. Had her parents been straight-up suburbanites, it would be less of an issue. But Haley’s parents weren’t exactly what anyone in the know would call normal upper middle-class WASPs. The girl had strikes against her even without the whole Slayer deal.

Harris installed Anya on the couch and he carefully tucked a blanket around her. Haley curled up in an overstuffed chair all by her lonesome. Faith took possession of a piece of floor against a wall while Rupes settled on another chair. Harris paused a moment, his confused eyes pinging between wife and daughter.

“Haley, come over here and sit on the couch with us,” Harris said.

“M’good here,” Haley mumbled.

Harris frowned, but didn’t push. He leaned over, kissed Anya on the cheek, and then muttered something about getting a chair from the kitchen so he could sit next to his daughter.

Harris went off, leaving the quartet to the oppressive silence. He returned, placed the chair carefully next to Haley as if loathe to be the one to break up the maudlin mood, and silently settled into place. He reached over and grabbed Haley’s unresisting hand in his own.

Faith’s eyes traversed between the others, waiting for someone to speak first.

Rupes cleared his throat and started with the obvious question. “What happened?”

Still more silence.

Well, this is going well, Faith thought.

“Haley? When did you get home?” Harris gently asked his daughter.

Haley shrunk into herself and whispered, “Uncle Xander brought me home.”

Harris shot his wife a surprised look. Anya looked like she wanted to hide under the couch. Now Harris cleared his throat. “Where did you go? We were looking all over town for you and—”

“The old dance hall.” The kid’s lips started trembling and she burst out, “They’re dead!”

Harris sat up straight and stared in confusion at his daughter. Faith felt her gut clench with the certainty that this conversation was going to go worse than she thought.

“Who’s dead?” Rupes shot the question at her.

“I’m so, so, so sorry,” Haley burst into tears. “You and Mom hated each other and I just wanted to get away and I thought if maybe I got away for a little while you wouldn’t hate each other any more and I don’t know why sneaking out the window seemed like a good idea and I didn’t know I could climb down that tree but I did and I don’t think I could do that before and—”

Harris was out of his chair, and kneeling on the floor. He pulled the kid out of the chair and had her in one hell of a bear hug so the kid could sob into his shoulder. From the way he bit his lip, Haley was probably clutching him a little tighter than was comfortable. Faith chanced a look at Anya and could see that she looked like she was fighting back her own tears by force of will.

“I know this is difficult,” Rupert’s infuriatingly calm voice broke through. “But we need to know what happened.”

Harris glared at Rupert over his daughter's shoulder while he continued hugging Haley close. “You’re a cold son of a bitch. Can’t you see—”

“What I see is we still got a problem,” Faith interrupted. “Two vampires escaped from our fight before we could dust ’em. That means that if they got buddies, you can expect another attack ’cause these guys were after something. They kept coming after us no matter how many we dusted and they didn’t scram until they realized we had a second Slayer in the house. Now, I got my suspicions on what they were after, but I don’t wanna say until Haley gives us the scoop, mostly ’cause I’m hoping that something she says will prove me wrong.”

Harris turned that glare on her.

Faith added, “If I’m right, we’ve got a real problem and those vampires aren’t going to give up the hunt any time soon.”

“Oh?” Rupert asked.

Faith’s answering grin had no humor in it. “You remember why I ended up hopping a plane to get here. That Slayer dream was a bitch-and-a-half, and not just ’cause Willow invaded it.”

Haley had calmed down enough to hear Faith’s last comment, and she turned her red-eyed, watery gaze toward her.

Harris looked a little worried. “Wait. Mirror-me didn’t call you in? You came here because a Slayer dream told you to get here? And Willow was mixed up in it?”

Faith’s head thunked back against the wall. She might as well come clean. “I had this dream back in Cleveland where there was two of you and two of me. Only one Anya and Haley, though. Willow kept up this commentary track and gave me the name of the town. Anyways, in this dream, you were shooting arrows into this desert, don’t know why, while Junior was fighting these vampires in front of your house. Meantime, this younger version of me was doing her damnedest to get to Junior, but couldn’t because of this force field thing kept her away. She was going ape about it.”

Harris’s expression was slowly shifting into scared. Faith didn’t dare look over at Anya.

“While all this going on, the wife over here was wrapping your daughter up in chains and singing a happy tune while she did it,” Faith continued.

Harris’s head slowly swiveled around until he had Anya in his sights. Haley looked like she wanted to bury herself in her father’s chest.

“The vampires then kill Junior and turn him. He gets up and starts making for your wife and kid while this younger me goes out of her skull, telling me I had to stake him.” Faith made sure to pay particular attention to Harris’s expression while she told the next part. “Anyway, you notice that he’s going for the fam, and you run to intercept. He grabs you by the head and snaps your neck, leaving you dead dead. Then he gets on the porch, drains Haley, and knocks Anya out. Then he picks up Anya, flings her over his shoulder, and heads out of sight whistling like it’s all in a day’s work.”

Harris’s eyes were now tying to burn twin holes into Faith’s forehead. Haley was clinging to her father, her wide eyes fixed on Faith.

“Anyway, that’s when this other me goes nuclear and she attacks me because I didn’t do something. Dream ended with me giving her the beat down while she’s swearing and screaming that I’m useless as a Slayer. Well, more like useless, period.”

“Oh, god,” Anya’s broken voice said.

Faith debated a little before adding, “Still wouldn’t have come if it wasn’t for something else that happened before that.”

“What happened?” Harris sounded like he really didn’t want to know.

“I got a call from a Xander Harris from Zihuatanejo, California,” Faith said.

“I didn’t call you,” Harris was emphatic. “So you had to have seen the other one on the video.”

“Didn’t see anyone,” Faith corrected him. “The video on the phone was off. Don’t gotta tell you that if I saw his bright, shining face, I would’ve hung up before he got a word in edgewise. Caller I.D. told me the town, but I didn’t know who it was until he said his name. First he asked for Rupes and seemed shocked when I said he was back at the homeland. Then he asked for someone else. I forget the name. Then he honed in on the fact he was talking to me. He sounded like he was on the verge of feaking out. He hung up on me when I told him to fuck off.”

Harris frowned. “Freaking out? That doesn’t sound like the guy I know and loathe.”

Haley looked up at her father with cartoon-ish surprise.

“Hate to say, but right there with you,” Faith nodded. “He doesn’t seem the panicking type. If anything, I’d say he doesn’t panic enough, which I never thought I’d say about anyone, but there you go. Still would love to know how he tracked down the phone number, given he ain’t a local in any sense of the word and the phone ain’t under my name, but track it down he did. So, you might say the one-two punch of phone call followed by dream pushed me to take a closer look at what was going down out here.”

Rupert cleared his throat. “I became involved when I was told that there was someone in Zihuatanejo looking for me, someone who was causing a significant amount of damage to the fabric of reality. I was further told that I was the only one this individual would listen to.”

“That’s working out well for us,” Anya commented harshly from the couch.

“Yes. I do believe my source was in error on that,” Rupert uneasily agreed. “Young Xander has not shown any particular inclination to heed my words.”

“Seems to think the sun shines out the ass of his precious ‘Giles,’” Faith said. When everyone looked at her like she was nuts, she added, “Hey, it’s the truth, like it or not. And I should probably point out they seem to have a mutual fan club going.”

Harris snorted and rolled his eyes. Haley frowned in confusion.

“There is that,” Rupert winced. “When Faith called to inform me that you had a doppelganger, I thought it best to have the Coven transport me directly here via a spell. The rest you know.”

Harris looked down at Haley. “Not really.”

Haley didn’t seem to want to meet his gaze.

“Haley, you have to tell us what happened,” Harris said gently. “There’s a reason why Faith had her Slayer dream. There’s a reason why Giles got sent here. And there’s a reason why vampires attacked you. We need to know if we’re going to stop them.”

“I don’t know why,” Haley said quietly.

Harris chucked a finger under the kid’s chin and made her look up at him. “You might’ve seen something. Or heard something. I know it’s hard, honey, but if you don’t tell us, we’re stuck.”

Faith studied her hands. He wasn’t screaming at her to spill, but he was trying to get her to do the right thing and tell them what happened. The guy loved his kid that much was obvious. It was just as obvious that he didn’t want to hear the answer any more than the kid wanted to give it.

Haley took a deep shuddering breath. “Joey, and Tommy, and Bethany, and me went down to the beach.”

“They said they didn’t know where you were when I asked them,” Harris said. “Did they know where you were when I asked?”

Haley nodded while the tears started leaking out of her eyes again. “I was in Tommy’s basement with Joey and Bethany when you talked to him. I could hear you, but I was afraid you’d be mad at me, so I stayed where I was.”

Harris let out a sharp exhalation of breath as he gathered his kid up in another tight hug and started rocking her back and forth. “I wasn’t mad at you. I promise. I was very mad at me.”

“We weren’t mad at you,” Anya echoed. She shot a glare at Faith. “This isn’t your fault, honey. Mommy and Daddy were upset, but we didn’t mean to make you think we were mad at you.”

Awww, hell. The Harrises were killing her. Seemed easier to hate the two of them when they weren’t bucking for good parents of the year. Faith thought it was damn unfair that some kids had all the fucking luck.

“I wasn’t going to run away. Honest. I just wanted to go somewhere and hide awhile to think and everything. So we all went together because I didn’t want to be alone, either,” Haley was crying again, but she seemed to be concentrating on trying to keep it together enough to tell them what happened. “So we were just walking around and Joey thought it would be kind of fun to break into the old dance hall and explore it before it got torn down and stuff. We’d never been inside before and we just wanted a look. We didn’t mean for anything bad to happen.”

Harris loosened his grip on his daughter so he could look down at her. From the pale look on his face, Faith could see that he knew where this was going. Haley had said ‘they’ were dead. Three guess whom she meant.

Faith swallowed hard. Oh, yeah. This is going to be a whole hell of a lot worse than any of us thought.

“So we go in and look around the first floor. Then we went up the stairs to the second floor, and…and…and…” Great, big sobbing breaths made the kid incoherent.

“There were vampires?” Rupert asked.

Faith resisted the urge to launch across the room and slap him.

The kid was still sobbing as she nodded.

“How many?” Rupert asked.

“Lots!” Haley screamed at him. “Lots and lots and I tried to fight them because that’s what I’m supposed to do! And I couldn’t do anything!”

Harris had gone really still. If Faith didn’t know any better, she’d think someone had turned him into a statue. She could hear Anya crying on the couch.

“They knocked me out, okay!” Haley yanked herself out of her father’s grip and was screaming at Rupert. “They hit me really, really hard and I don’t remember anything. I didn’t do anything.”

Harris reached out and pulled Haley back into a hug. “Maybe your friends aren’t dead,” he sounded like he was grasping at straws. “Maybe they escaped.”

Haley was sobbing hard. “Uncle Xander said—”

“What?” Harris interrupted.

Haley forced herself to calm down, but what she said was still broken up by deep breaths. “I woke up on the sidewalk and Uncle Xander was bending over me. He had this cut on his forehead that was bleeding really bad. He said he got me out, but that Tommy, Joey, and Bethany were dead. He said they were dead before he got there.”

Harris let go of the kid and collapsed into a slumped position on the floor. His head shook back and forth slightly as he stared at the carpet.

Faith looked at Rupert and to her surprise she saw he was watching Harris, of all people, with something that looked like sympathy. Faith’s eyes tracked over to Anya and she saw that her attention was also focused on Harris, except instead of sympathy, Anya looked openly terrified.

Oh, shit. There’s more to his reaction than just getting slammed with bad news, Faith thought. Faith’s mouth felt dry as she asked, “Then what happened?”

“We ran back here, but Uncle Xander couldn’t keep up.” Haley sounded a little like a robot, which was no surprise now that she just admitted out loud that her friends were dead. “So he told me to run ahead and get help and that he’d meet me back here.”

“Were the vampires following you?” Harris asked hollowly.

“No,” Haley said quietly.

Faith frowned. Something didn’t sound right. Those vampires were after Harris. She’d make book on it. And someone who looked like Harris just stole a meal out from under their collective noses. They should’ve been on him before he got too far.

“Haley, I need you to back up a little,” Faith found herself saying.

Haley looked scared that she’d have to again go through the whole thing about her friends being dead. Harris still looked lost in his own head. Rupert expectantly watched the girl.

“When you woke up with Junior bending over you, was it dark out?” Faith asked.

Haley shook her head no.

“How far away is this place?” Faith asked.

“A little under three miles,” Harris answered absently for Haley.

“When I started hauling ass here, it was dusk,” Faith said almost to herself. “My dream said he got into a one-on-one fight before a second wave of went after him.” Faith looked at Haley. “When I got here, he looked like he was just recovering from a fight. Was there a fight in the front yard before we got massively attacked?”

“And why weren’t we summonsed as soon as you got home?” Rupert added.

Haley quickly glanced at her mother before looking away.

Harris may have seemed like his brain wasn’t in the room with them, but he sure as hell noticed that. “Haley?” he prompted.

“I passed out,” Haley mumbled. “I passed out and I don’t know what happened.”

Now that was a lie if Faith ever heard one. Slayers didn’t just pass out when the adrenalin was still pumping unless something happened to make them pass out. Passing out for no reason wasn’t the way the ol’ enhanced bod was wired.

Harris may be stupid, but he sure as hell wasn’t an idiot, because Faith could see that he wasn’t buying that little fairytale. His head slowly swiveled until he was looking dead on at Anya. Anya was pale and she stared back with wide eyes.

Guilty as fucking charged, Faith angrily thought.

“Anya?” Harris’s voice was dangerous and low.

“Don’t be mad,” Haley tearfully pleaded as she reached out to stroke her father’s arm. “It’s all my fault. Really. Don’t be mad, please?”

Harris wasn’t even hearing her. “Anya, what did you do?”

“I didn’t want her to be hurt,” Anya whispered.

“Dad, please,” Haley begged.

Harris was not about to be swayed. “How did you help her ‘pass out?’”

Tears were streaming down Anya’s face. “She was beat up and hurt. You don’t think I’d let her out there, do you?”

“That still doesn’t explain why we were not contacted,” Rupert interrupted the battle of wills.

“I knew it,” Harris said in a low voice. “Hoping I was wrong, but I knew it.”

“You were going to turn her over to them!” Anya yelled. She immediately winced and grabbed her head with a moan.

“Dad, please, it’s okay. I’m okay,” Haley clutched her father’s arm.

Out of instinct, Harris wrapped an arm around his daughter’s shoulder and said in that furious baritone, “Not your call. Not my call. Haley’s call.”

Faith’s eyes snapped to Harris. Son of a bitch. He actually means that.

“She’s twelve,” Anya argued back.

“She’s also a Slayer in a vampire town,” Harris said evenly.

“You lied to me,” Anya accused.

“So did you,” Harris answered through a clenched jaw.

“Please stop,” Haley said in a very small voice.

Harris snapped out of it and looked at his daughter. His smile was tight as he tucked a lock of hair behind the girl’s ear. “Tell me truth about what happened,” he gently said.

“You’ll be mad,” Haley mumbled.

“No I won’t,” Harris reassured her. “But we have to know the whole truth, otherwise we can’t do anything, okay? We have to get those vampires, and that means you have to tell us everything.”

Haley threw her mother a guilty look.

Christ, Faith couldn’t take it. She had to say something. If Anya got nailed to the wall for doing something bad to the kid, so much the better.

“Haley, we need to figure out the timeline about what happened when,” Faith said. The others startled at her intrusion into the not-so-happy family affair. “It all sounds a little off to me on account that the sun was still up when you guys made an escape and the fact the vampires showed up out of nowhere. Vampires can do lots of things and they can do them wicked fast, but tracking a blood trail? Especially if it’s someone they don’t know all that well or if it’s the first time they got a whiff of how someone’s blood smells? Even that takes time and things went south way too fast. So you gotta spill on what was going on.” Faith then turned her eyes to Anya and added, “Same goes double for you.”

Harris frowned at her, like he wasn’t entirely agreeing with her, before saying, “Faith is right. We need to know everything.”

He might not agree, but damn if he isn’t going to use it to find out what Anya did to the kid, Faith thought.

Haley looked down and mumbled something fast and low to her father. Faith only heard because of Slayer hearing. Next thing she knew, she was on her feet with clenched fists and glaring at Anya. Anya was clutching the blanket looking for all the world like she expected to be killed.

“It’s okay, honey,” Faith heard Harris say behind her. “Thank you for telling me. This isn’t your fault. Okay? I want you to remember that, no matter what.”

Faith looked over her shoulder and saw that Harris was staring very hard up into his daughter’s face. Rupert frowned, but he obviously hadn’t heard what Haley said.

Harris kept his eyes locked on his daughter and his voice calm. “Now, I want you to tell me what happened next.”

Haley looked at her mother before fixing her eyes on the carpet. “I woke up and heard fighting. Then mom came in the kitchen where I was and said we had to go. But I heard this roaring and stuff and I went to see what was going on. Then I saw this vampire biting Uncle Xander and, I don’t know, something happened. I kind of went blank because I had to do something. I-I-I-I think I hit mom. I’m not sure because it was all fuzzy. Then I remember breaking the banister so I’d have a stake and I ran out. I staked the vampire with Uncle Xander then I was going to go after the other vampires, but Faith stopped me.”

Harris looked back at Faith with a questioning look on his face. “Is that normal?”

“What?” Faith startled.

“What Haley said happened to her before staking the vampire,” Harris elaborated. “Is that normal?”

“Was for me,” Faith said. “Only time it ever happened, though. I don’t know why. It’s like this film falls over everything and next thing you know, you’ve got your first kill.”

“Depends on the Slayer, really,” Rupert interrupted. “The older a Slayer is when making her ‘first kill,’ as Faith delicately put it, the less likely that is to be the case. There are several theories on the whys and wherefores of it, but this is not the time or place to discuss them. It’s not a great surprise for a Slayer as young as Haley. Suffice to say, I have seen and heard of this before.”

“Hunh,” Faith said with a shake of a head. “Didn’t know that. Thought I was all screwed up when it happened to me. The first-post-Slay freak-out I know is normal, but not the first-pre-Slay black-out. Mightta been nice to know before now.”

“It’s something we’ve only recently determined, thanks to the fact that we now have multiple Slayers who can compare experiences,” Rupert said by way of explanation. “For whatever reason, previous Watchers never mentioned it. Perhaps, like you, they were concerned there was something wrong and hid that information in an effort to protect their Slayer. When the experience didn’t repeat,” here Rupert shrugged, “they probably thought the point of mentioning it was rather moot.”

“See, honey?” Harris quietly said to the kid. “Nothing to worry about.”

Faith settled back onto her patch of floor. Ripping Anya’s head off wouldn’t be conducive to open communications. Harris may be pissed at his wife, but Faith figured he’d draw the line at homicide.

“Be that as it may,” Rupert adjusted his glasses. “Faith does have a salient point about the timing.”

Faith could feel her eyebrows rise in surprise. Rupes is giving me credit for brains? That is new.

“If I understand it, Haley and Young Xander flee from this old dance hall while the sunlight is strong enough to prevent the vampires from following them. Haley is then sent on ahead to summon help and she ‘passes out,’” Rupert continued.

Harris glared at Anya.

“Faith leaves her position at dusk and runs here, am I correct?” Rupert asked.

“’Cause of my dream. Junior was wearing the same outfit I saw in my dream and I realized that we was all running around in circles,” Faith elaborated. “So, yeah, that’s about right. Started running here about dusk because I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to be elsewhere.”

Rupert nodded. “You show up here, Young Xander and yourself engage in battle, he nearly gets killed, but Haley recovers in time to stake the vampire attempting to kill him and two vampires escape.”

Faith sat up. “There were two waves of six.”

Rupert blinked. “Pardon?”

“I show up, Junior is on the ground on all fours looking wiped. I scream at him to get in the house, about a half-dozen vampires show out of nowhere. While I’m fighting my guys, Junior gets knocked silly.” Faith shook her head as she realized, Shit. I am right. “After I dust my guys, I turn around and spot two mooks trying to haul Junior away, so I dust ’em.”

“What?” Harris sounded shocked.

Haley looked around. “That’s not normal?” she asked in a frightened voice.

Rupert was blinking very quickly. “Not if they were planning to merely kill him, no.”

“Are you saying they were trying to turn him?” Anya was now glaring at Harris.

Harris closed his eyes like he was in pain. “You know what happens when you get unlucky with vampires.”

“There’s more,” Faith said.

“More?” Harris’s face told Faith that he was near the breaking point.

“There was a second wave of about a half-dozen after that first one,” Faith said.

“Oh my god,” Anya said.

Rupert sat straight up. “A second wave?”

“Yeah. Junior kept warning me that there were more coming, but I thought he was talking crazy, especially since he was loopy from getting knocked around,” Faith said. “I was hauling him over to the house when they jumped us, only these guys were armed with tree branches and things. Nearly brained me but good before I had a chance to put up a fight. The second crew, that was the crew that almost killed him.”

Two waves of six? Here? Why?” Harris looked like he wanted to curl into a ball until everything went away. Hell, with that many fangs after him, Faith didn’t blame him.

Haley was gloomed onto her father again, although the nature of her stance was a little different. She looked upset, but this time there was an element of protectiveness in it, rather than the element of someone who wanted to be protected.

“Even if Young Xander didn’t engage in one-on-one combat before your arrival, the timeline of events does seem rather crunched,” Rupert said. “As for motivation, it could be any number of things.”

“So, the big question is, did he get into it with one vampire before I showed,” here Faith looked at Anya, “not that a yes or no answer is going to make the conclusions we’re jumpin’ at any different.”

Anya swallowed and looked nervously around.

“Anya?” Harris asked.

She shook her head and looked like she was going to turn on the waterworks again. “I was going to sneak out the backdoor with Haley while he was fighting one vampire in the front yard, yes. And no, Faith wasn’t here yet.”

“Well, that cements it. They knew where to find you even before Junior snatched Haley out from under their noses,” Faith hauled off the floor. “We better nail these guys before they get their act together and try again.”

“You’re going to protect us,” Anya stated cynically.

“My job,” Faith evenly replied. “’Sides, they nearly killed someone who wasn’t you or Harris over here. I’d put money on a serious case of mistaken identity because they showed up here. You’re just lucky that Junior was here instead, so by the grace of god and all that crap.” She turned to Harris. “Where’s this old dance hall?”

“I’m going with you,” Haley said.

“No,” Faith, Anya, and Harris chorused.

“It might be good for her,” Rupert said. “Xander, Anya, I understand you want to protect your daughter, but surely you understand—”

“She’s had enough hell for the past 24 hours, so not a chance,” Harris snarled.

“Dad!” Haley protested.

“Shocked and dismayed that Harris and me are in agreement, but I’m down with the no,” Faith said. “She’s still got some healing to do, she ain’t slept at all, and she’s too emotionally charged over this.”

“But—” Haley began.

Faith interrupted Haley. “You’ll get your chance, but I need to go fast and deadly on this one. You’ve got some training and growing to do before you can keep up.”

“But—” Haley tried again.

“Listen to Faith,” Harris said. He gave his head a shake. “Did I just say that?”

“Yes you did,” Anya said.

Harris glared at Anya in response while Anya shrank into the couch cushions.

“Harris,” Faith warned through her teeth.

“I should be there!” Haley yelled.

“You wanna make it to the big 1-3, kid?” Faith shouted back.

Every eye was on her now. The expressions ranged from Rupe’s irritation, Harris’s resignation, Anya’s terror, and Haley’s broken-hearted realization that she just lost the argument.

“You need training, you need experience,” Faith emphasized. “I got it covered. You may think you gotta do this, but you really don’t. It ain’t gonna change a damn thing for anyone living or dead if you tag along. This is a classic bad situation. You come along, I’ll be worrying and watching out for you, which means I might get distracted and we’ll both buy it and those bastards go free, maybe even drum up more trouble once they’re done licking their wounds.”

Harris once more pulled Haley into a loose hug and his head rested on the girl’s shoulder. Haley was staring at her feet.

“First rule of Slaying,” Faith held up a finger. “Don’t die.”

Haley looked up at her.

“Best advice I ever got, best advice I can give. Hell, it’s kept me alive for 17 years, so there you go,” Faith said with some embarrassment. “You don’t need to be dying today. Maybe someday, but someday ain’t here yet. With any luck, it won’t get here for a long, long time.”

Harris’s eyes found hers and he mouthed, “Thank you.”

Faith didn’t bother to look back at Anya. She didn’t think she could take a ‘thank you’ from that direction without resorting to violence.

“Yes, it does appear we need a plan,” Rupert murmured.

“What’s this ‘we,’ paleface?” Faith asked. “Location of old dance hall or whatever it is. Now.”

Harris shot his wife a glare. “Let me get Haley to bed, and I’ll tell you what you need to know.”

Faith glanced out the window. It was dark already. She could probably wait a half-hour or so. She nodded her ascent.

“I’m sorry,” Haley said softly as the tears started up again. They were less hysterical this go-round, but Faith figured Haley was going to be in the crying/not-crying cycle for the next couple of days. She couldn’t imagine what she would’ve felt if she lost buddies in her first time out as a Slayer. Hell, she never lost anyone close to vampires, period. For that, she was damn grateful.

“Honey, oh honey,” Faith could hear Anya whisper to herself. Woman probably didn’t dare get anywhere near the kid now that the truth was out about what she did.

Harris buried his nose in Haley’s hair and shushed into it while the kid made a vain attempt at drying her face. While Rupert, Faith, and a tearful Anya looked on, Harris finally stood, took Haley by the hand, and silently lead her out of the room.



Continued in Part 43



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