Previously in Chutes...
Doyle was beginning to feel wary of his rescuers. He hadn’t gotten away from the Mayor just to be someone else’s pawn. “Am I prisoner here?” He demanded.
“Of course not,” Giles reassured him. “I’m merely suggesting you might like to help us defeat him, whatever his plan is. You must want some retribution for what was done to you.”
The seer considered that. Having his connection to the Powers cranked up felt like his skull was being torn open, 24 hours a day. Retribution sounded quite nice. “Okay,” he agreed. “I’ll help. What do you need me to do?”
Part 4, Chapter 4
Buffy timed each movement of her body with perfect precision. Spring had come and the evening was warm, as the last traces of daylight filtered through the trees. The grass was soft and damp beneath her bare feet. She breathed deeply, eyes closed, body perfectly attuned to the environment. She’d begun doing Tai Chi again recently. It had always been something she and Angel did together, but with all the stress the Scoobies had been under lately, she’d needed the calm it brought her.
Their research, as well as the quick B&E she and Faith had committed, had clued them in to the Mayor’s plans. An ascension. The transformation of a human being into a demon. It turned out that their Mayor had actually been the Mayor for like a century, posing as his own son repeatedly. Buffy wasn’t sure how no one had noticed this before. Maybe the high death rate had something to do with it. People got sacrificed, possessed, eaten, or turned into vamps all too frequently. Those that didn’t, well, they weren’t sticking around to vote in the next Mayoral election. So Richard Wilkins went on and on, suppressing his natural age and planning to ascend. Buffy could almost understand the urge to live forever. Anyone who lived on the edge of death like she did would get it. Life was precious and far, far too fleeting. What she didn’t get was the urge to become a demon. She couldn’t stand it when her skin got dry. There was no way she’d ever want leathery demon hide. Gross.
Research these days was heavy on the frustration and light on the information. They had no idea how to stop ascension, and this fact weighed heavily on everyone’s minds. Their secret weapon, Doyle, wasn’t exactly performing his duty. Sure, he had lots of visions, and Buffy and Faith raced all over Sunnydale saving the unfortunates he’d seen, but the Powers had been silent on the Mayor front. Zip, zero, nada.
That left Tai Chi.
“Buffy!” Her mom called from inside the house. “Dinner!”
Opening her eyes, the slayer exhaled, letting her limbs relax. She headed inside, remembering to wipe her feet on the way in. Joyce was getting a little annoyed with the Buffy-shaped footprints she kept leaving in the kitchen. “Smells good,” she commented.
“Thanks,” Joyce smiled. “It’s just lasagna.”
As if on cue, the doorbell rang. Buffy shot a grin at her mom. “You said the magic word. Faith’s here.”
When Buffy swung open the front door, her girlfriend smiled at her from the other side. “Lasagna?”
The blonde laughed, leaning forward to get her hello kiss. “How did you know?”
“I didn’t,” Faith shrugged, stepping inside. “I just smelled it now. But damn, do I have good timing or what?”
“Faith,” Joyce called from the kitchen. “If you’re going to eat me out of house and home, come in here and set the table!”
Bounding into the kitchen, Faith greeted Buffy’s mother with a wide smile. “You’re letting me off light, Mrs. S. You could have me doing any chores you want around here for a piece of that lasagna.”
“More like a pan,” Joyce commented dryly, but she smiled. “If I got you to do all the chores, what would Buffy do?”
The blonde, who’d been sneaking cucumbers from the top of the salad bowl, dropped her hands innocently. “Who me? I’m sure I could find something to keep me busy.”
“I’ll bet,” Joyce shook her head, “but since Faith wasn’t the one who put a scratch on my Jeep, I think we’ll leave the chore distribution as is.”
Faith walked by Buffy, elbowing her softly as she passed on her way to set the table. “Told ya she was gonna notice that, B.”
Buffy frowned, picking up the salad bowl and adding it to the table. “Doesn’t anyone care that it was scratched while I was defending the town from evil?”
“No,” her mother said, joining them at the table with a steaming, huge pan of lasagna.
Harrumphing as she sat down, Buffy threatened, “Next time I’ll just let the world end. At least I’ll be off the hook for the car.”
“Okay, dear,” Joyce said agreeably. “That sounds fair.”
The blonde stuck her tongue out.
Faith watched their interactions with a happy grin firmly in place. It was hard to remember why she’d ever been afraid of Joyce finding out about her and Buffy. After a lengthy lecture on respecting her house rules, and never hurting her daughter (on pain of being run over with the aforementioned Jeep), the older woman had been nothing but supportive. She happily made enough food to feed two slayers, invited Faith to attend the opening of a new artist at the Gallery as Buffy’s date, and even introduced her as Buffy’s girlfriend to her colleagues. Joyce was flying the PFLAG these days, and both slayers were relieved about it.
The shrill ring of the phone interrupted their conversation, and everyone looked up. “I’ll get it,” Buffy offered, stepping away from the table. She picked up the cordless phone and clicked it on. “Hello?”
Giles was on the other end. “Buffy? We’ve got something.”
The blonde’s eyes met with Faith’s. “We’ll be right over.”
“So what does the box of Grablock do exactly?” Buffy asked, trying to follow the two animated watchers. The gang was gathered in Giles’s living room, ignoring the tea Doyle had helpfully prepared, but demolishing the cookies.
“Gavrok,” Wesley corrected automatically, at this point so used to Buffy’s penchant for misremembering names that he didn’t even think about it, “and we don’t know exactly. But we do know it’s the last step the Mayor must take prior to ascending.”
“So,” Buffy clarified, “get the box, prevent the ascension.”
“Okay,” Faith added confidently, “then we’ll get the box.” A simple snatch and grab operation, a little mojo from the watchers and Willow, and poof, no ascension. Faith was seeing no downsides to this plan.
Doyle, who had been listening quietly to the meeting, spoke up. “It’ll be tonight, at the docks. He’s sending his heavy hitters.” He cast a concerned look at the two slayers.
“We can handle it,” Buffy assured the group. “I’ve been waiting for some payback on that suit guy who attacked me.”
“So have I,” the half-demon replied. “I want to come with you tonight.”
Buffy looked skeptically at the newest addition to their group. He looked drastically improved over the weeks he’d been staying in Giles’s guest room, but it hadn’t been that long since he’d been held prison by the Mayor and his goons. Demon hybrid or not, he’d been tortured. That kind of thing seemed like it would take a while to recover from, and she was concerned about Doyle getting hurt. Looking to the Watchers for help, she said, “It’s too dangerous. We can handle it.”
“I know you’re just trying to keep me safe,” Doyle replied kindly, “but does it look like I need protecting?” He concentrated for a moment and then blue spikes split his skin. He grinned at her, a smile in his red eyes.
Buffy looked at Faith, who shrugged. “Good enough for me.”
Seeing she was outnumbered, Buffy let it drop. She turned to Willow. “You guys will be ready to make with the mojo?”
The redhead nodded. “We have a few ingredients to pick up, but we’ll be ready by the time you get back.”
“Sounds like a plan then,” Buffy said. “Let’s show the Mayor who he’s been messing with.”
Things were not going to plan, Buffy thought, not at all. She raced through the darkened streets of Sunnydale, the box they’d come for in her arms. The courier’s dismembered hand dangled limply from the box, smacking wetly against her jacket. Faith and Doyle ran with her, trying to outpace the vampires who’d given chase. “B!” Faith shouted to her left. “This isn’t working!”
“What would you suggest?” Buffy huffed back.
“We gotta stop, pick a few off!”
The blonde nodded her agreement. The trio turned a sharp corner and then came to a stop, ready to ambush their pursuers. No fewer than a dozen vamps were chasing them. The odds were definitely not in their favor, but they didn’t have many options ahead of them now. Doyle was in game face, his demonic side revealed. Faith stood at the ready, her stake raised. Buffy was unfortunately clutching the box for dear life. Why did she always get the crap end of the stake?
“Thin the herd, and then we run,” Buffy instructed quietly.
The other two nodded, and in the seconds before the first vampire rounded the corner, Faith grabbed her in a bone-crunching hug, planting a firm kiss on her lips. “You look so hot when you’re running for your life,” she whispered in response to Buffy’s incredulous look.
Buffy smiled in spite of herself. Poor timing aside, Faith was really sweet sometimes. She placed her back against the building behind her and held the box firmly. As the first vamp cleared the turn, Faith jumped him. She rode his back as he crashed to the street, and the two grappled for dominance.
Doyle took the next vamp, his beady red eyes glittering furiously in the moonlight. He stuck out a foot that the running vamp was unable to avoid, causing the vamp to trip and skid on his face.
Knowing it was her turn, Buffy braced herself, and stepped out just as the next vamp came barreling around the corner. Unwilling to drop the box, the slayer slammed it into the vampire’s face, using his own momentum to deliver a skull crushing hit. The vamp sank like a stone.
The rest of the vamps didn’t have the decency to arrive one by one. They rounded the corner as a group, immediately launching themselves at the slayers and their demonic backup.
Buffy kept a vice grip on the box, using it to block punches and break noses. She managed to dust one, noticing as she did so that Faith and Doyle were holding their own. Between them, they’d managed to dust another four of them. From the corner of her eye, she saw the one in the suit, who Doyle had told them was called Mr. Trick, watching the fight from the background.
A fast kick caught her in the temple, dazing her enough to loosen her grip on the box. The vampire, not realizing her hold was loosened, yanked with all his might.
The box clattered away, coming to a rest some feet away with the lid cracked. One of the vamps bent to retrieve it, only to scream in horror when a black shadow jumped from the box to his face. Skittering shapes poured from the box, quickly leaping upon another two vampires. Buffy had no idea what those things were, but she knew they had to close the box before more got loose. The remaining vampires were fleeing now, with Mr. Trick in the lead.
Buffy eyed the box desperately, trying to figure out how to close it without being overrun by those things. Before she could move, Doyle ran past her, snatched the box up, and slammed it closed. He dropped it again with a scream as one of the things latched on to his shoulder. The slayers raced to him, Faith using a length of board to smack the spiders away from their path. The three vampires had stilled, their faces bloody messes. Buffy had only her stake and she didn’t want to use it, but she didn’t see another way of getting Doyle free. She slammed the pointy end through the large, hairy spider, spearing Doyle’s shoulder in the process. The spider screamed shrilly. It was easily one of the worst sounds she had ever heard.
“B!” Faith shouted, still pounding on the encroaching spiders like a game of demonic Wack-a-mole. “Gotta move!”
Buffy retracted the stake, shaking off the twitching spider, and snatched the closed box up from the ground. With her free arm, she dragged Doyle to his feet. With Faith in the lead, they took off down the street, hoping the vampires didn’t follow.
They made it back to the library without further incident. The gang had been waiting tensely for them to return. They leapt to their feet as the slayers plowed through the doors, with an injured Doyle half dragged along by Faith.
“What happened to him?” Wesley asked, rushing to help them.
“Some kind of bite and then a stake to the shoulder,” Buffy said regretfully. She held the box out to Giles. “Some of these things escaped and one was on him. I had to take it out.”
“What are they?” Giles asked, as he gingerly accepted the box.
The blonde shrugged helplessly. “Demon spiders on steroids?”
“Ah,” the watcher crinkled his nose in distaste. “Yes, well, we’ll take care of that.”
“They scattered down by the docks,” Faith pointed out. “What about the ones that got loose?”
“The spell should eliminate all traces of these creatures from our dimension,” Giles said confidently. “Willow, if you’re ready?”
The redhead nodded, quickly following him into the office, where they spell was set up.
Cordelia cleared space on the table, allowing Faith and Wesley to lay Doyle flat.
The Irishman grimaced in pain as Faith tore the fabric of his shirt. The slayers both stepped back, allowing Wesley room to examine the wound. Faith noticed that Cordelia stayed close, slipping her palm into Doyle’s. She’d suspected there was something brewing between them. Cordelia’s acidic personality was slightly less so whenever she spoke about Doyle, and Faith had observed the man’s eyes lingering on Cordy on more than one occasion. She didn’t think the pair would act on things anytime soon—there was a big age difference between them. But there were definite sparks. She nudged Buffy’s hip, nodding her head toward the scene.
The blonde nodded, smirking. Buffy agreed with Faith’s theory. She didn’t have a problem with their age difference. It was hard to find that stuff important after you’d dated a guy over 200 years your senior.
“I think he needs a hospital,” Wesley said, nervously. “This wound is deep.”
Cordelia’s glare whipped toward the blonde. “Way to go, Buffy! Why don’t you just stab him in the heart next time?”
“Cordy,” Faith chastised, slipping her arm around Buffy’s shoulders. It was obvious the blonde felt really bad about having stabbed Doyle. She didn’t need an additional guilt trip.
Buffy leaned into her hold a little. It had been a rough fight, and she was generally opposed to stabbing friends, even for their own good. If they could really avert the ascension though, it would all be worth it.
“It’s okay,” Doyle told Cordy, through gritted teeth. “She had to do it.”
Oz stepped forward. “I can drive, if you want to go to the hospital,” he offered.
Wesley helped Doyle to slide off the table and stand shakily on his feet.
“I’ll come with you,” Cordelia said immediately, sliding under Doyle’s good shoulder.
“Thanks,” he shot her a crooked grin.
Wesley’s voice was apologetic as he said, “I’m sorry we can’t go with you. We should stay here to see this thing through.”
“Don’t worry,” Doyle assured them, “I’ve got Cordelia. I’m sure she’ll stand over the doctors and make sure they’re doing everything right.”
“You’re damn right I will,” the cheerleader responded. “Let’s go, Oz.”
“You did do the right thing, Buffy,” Wesley assured her.
“Course she did,” Faith chimed in, giving Buffy a final squeeze before letting her go.
They had just begun to clean up the table when the gentle creak of the library doors drew their attention. Striding in to the library was Mayor Wilkins. He smiled menacingly in the face of their obvious displeasure at seeing him. “I think you’ve got something that belongs to me,” he said.
“Hmm,” Buffy pretended to think, “do we have anything of his, Faith?”
“No, I don’t think we do,” Faith assured her. She shrugged, glancing at the Mayor. “Must be some other slayers that beat the crap out of your sorry excuse for henchmen.”
Shaking his head, the Mayor looked to Wesley. “Children these days! They’ve got no respect for authority.”
“I don’t see any authority worth respecting around here,” Wesley remarked.
“Well,” Wilkins said indignantly, “I can see where they’ve picked up their attitudes.” He directed a sneer in Faith’s direction. “You’d do well to change your tone, young lady.”
“Thanks for the tip, Mr. Rogers.
Buffy tried and failed to mask a snort at Faith’s comment, earning her a glare from the Mayor.
Deciding to cut to the chase, Buffy stopped smiling. “You’re not getting the box back,” she said.
The Mayor smiled his creepy smile. “Oh, that’s where you’re wrong,” he answered. “Boys!”
At his call, two vampires stepped through the library doors to flank him. “Now girls, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. Either way, I’m leaving with that box.”
“I don’t think so,” Faith replied. “We know all about the box, and your whole ascension gig. Bottom line?” She smiled dangerously. “It’s not happening.”
Throwing back his head, the Mayor let out a delighted chuckle. “You think you can stop my ascension? The wheels are already in motion. I’ve been working towards this for longer than you’ve been alive, young lady. I will not have my plans derailed by some bimbo and her pathetic group of do-gooders.”
“Who do you think you’re calling a bimbo?” Buffy asked indignantly. “Just because I’m blonde, that does not make me a bimbo!”
As she finished speaking, the library flooded with a bright green flash of light. They all blinked for a moment, trying to adjust to the normal light once more.
Once Buffy could see straight again, she grinned happily at the Mayor. “You know what I love about you evil types? You love to talk. You just stood here flapping your gums while my Watcher destroyed your precious box.”
Giles stepped from his office then, dropping the now empty black box to the floor and kicking it toward the Mayor.
Wilkins flushed red with embarrassment and annoyance. “This won’t do at all,” he said, shaking his head in disappointment. Glancing at his henchman, he ordered, “Kill them.”
The two vampires charged into the room, and Buffy and Faith leapt on the defensive. Their watchers skirted the conflict, moving toward the counter, where Giles had two swords stashed.
The Mayor watched in fury as first one vamp, then the other, was dispatched by the slayers.
“You think this is over?” He asked.
“Unless you’re going to take me,” Faith scoffed.
Unseen by them, Wilkins had reached inside his jacket, producing a small dagger. He held it now. “Oh, I wouldn’t dream of it,” he assured Faith, just before he threw the dagger directly at Wesley.
It hit his chest, and the young watcher looked down for a moment in shock. His sword clattered to the floor, and he sunk to his knees.
Faith didn’t even spare a second’s thought for the Mayor. She ran right for her fallen watcher, dropping to her knees and pressing her palms desperately against his chest. “Wes!” She screamed in horror.
Buffy stood her ground, looking at the Mayor with cold fury in her eyes. Without so much as a warning, she whipped her wrist outward, sending her stake spiraling at the man. It struck his shoulder, in what should have been an extremely painful stab wound.
The Mayor remained calm, grinning eerily.
“What the hell?” Buffy sputtered, looking at the smiling man.
“Impervious to harm,” Wilkins confided happily. He reached for the stake and quickly tugged it out. Peering past the stunned Buffy, the Mayor sighed. “You’d better do something about that. Almost impossible to get blood stains out of the floors.” Turning his back, he strolled toward the exit, his usual calm demeanor back in place. At the doorway, he paused, turning back to look at them once more. “I’ll see you soon.”
Wesley was rushed in to surgery immediately, leaving a bloodstained Faith crying in the waiting room. Buffy held her tightly, rubbing her back. She knew all too well how it felt to hold your bleeding watcher in your arms. It was horrible, terrifying, and she knew Faith would be wracked with guilt. You could never anticipate all your opponent’s moves, no matter how good you were, but Faith wouldn’t see it that way. She would blame herself. Buffy stroked her girlfriend’s back, hoping that she was helping Faith in some way. “He’s going to be fine, Faith,” she said quietly. “You’ll see.” Over the brunette’s head, Buffy gave Giles a pointed look.
“He will,” Giles jumped in immediately. “He’s a healthy young man. A little knife wound is nothing he can’t handle.” He wasn’t just saying that. The council wasn’t exactly known for turning out tough stock, but in the months he’d been in Sunnydale, Giles had seen changes in Wesley. The man was stronger than he’d realized, better than he’d realized. He’d done wonders with Faith, where Giles hadn’t even though to intervene on her behalf. Giles realized with surprise that he’s grown to rather like the young watcher, in spite of a rocky start.
Faith sniffled, sitting up. “He’ll be okay,” she repeated, as if to reassure herself.
“He will,” Buffy agreed, brushing some tangled hair from Faith’s face. Her thumbs gently brushed tears from the brunette’s cheeks.
The brunette nodded, trying to pull herself together. She wiped her tears on her sleeve. After a moment, she said darkly, “I’m going to kill Wilkins.”
“Impervious to harm, remember?” Buffy pointed out.
“Actually,” Giles said, “that’s temporary. An effect of his dedication spell. It’s supposed to last until the ascension, but since he won’t be doing that…”
“It’ll wear off,” the blonde finished.
“At least until he tries this again,” her watcher said.
“He can do that?” Buffy had been hoping this ascension was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and that once he’d missed the window, it was closed for good.
“With the box of Gavrok destroyed, he’ll have to find a substitution for that ritual, but yes, I believe he can try again,” Giles answered.
They all thought about this for a few minutes. “Then we need to deal with him before he gets the chance,” Faith suggested.
Dismayed, Buffy looked at her girlfriend. “He’s human, Faith.”
“Is he?” Faith challenged. “You’ve seen his history, B. He should have died four times over by now. He’s been using sorcery to keep himself alive, and he’s pledged to become a demon.”
“I know…” Buffy said, still feeling uncomfortable with the idea of eliminating the Mayor.
“We can discuss it further later,” Giles interjected. The surgeon was walking toward them, finished with Wesley. The three of them jumped to their feet, turning frightened faces toward the doctor.
“He’s going to make it,” the doctor said immediately, relieving them all of their fears for the worst.
“Oh, thank God,” Giles murmured.
Buffy grinned, throwing her arms around Faith and kissing her cheek. “I told you he’d be okay.”
“You were right like always,” Faith said, a hint of her usual sarcastic self back in her voice. She looked at the doctor. “When can we see him?”
“He should be in recovery soon,” the surgeon said. “I can send a nurse out to get you. You are family, right?”
“His niece,” Faith lied with ease.
“Brother,” Giles added.
“Uh,” Buffy paused, “busted. Niece’s girlfriend.”
The surgeon smiled. “Well, for now it’ll be family only.”
“Of course,” Buffy agreed. “I’ll wait out here.”
They thanked the doctor, sitting down again to wait for word that they could see Wesley. “Couldn’t think of a lie that fast?” Faith teased.
“Well, I was going to go with other niece, but he just saw me kiss you…”
“Good point,” Faith agreed. “This isn’t West Virginia.”
A nurse walked toward them. “You’re the Wyndham-Price family?” She inquired.
They all nodded.
“You can see him now,” the nurse said. “Just for a few minutes though.”
“Thank you,” Giles said, standing to follow her.
Faith looked at Buffy.
“Go,” the blonde told her. “I’ll wait for you.”
Nodding, Faith leaned closer to press a quick kiss to the other slayer’s lips. “Okay.” Standing, she followed Giles through the doors to recovery.
One chapter left! :)