City Street – Continuous
The Council truck’s occupants watched as the demons reached back inside their vehicle, each bringing out an axe.
“Why do I get the feeling they don’t want to swap insurance info,” Faith quipped. “Rona, what weapons do we have back there?” she called over her shoulder, her gaze never leaving the approaching demons.
Rona leaned over the back of the seat and rummaged through the rear compartment. “Couple of swords, stakes.”
“Pass ’em out,” Faith ordered. “Vi, you’re with me. Rona, stay here and protect these guys, okay? If we lose, you drive back to the Council. Got it?”
“Right,” the other slayer replied.
“I go with you,” Tram spoke up, reaching for one of the swords from Rona as she passed them forward.
“No, Tram,” Faith said. “You guys stay here. We’ll handle this.”
“Too many!” Tram argued, his voice rising in panic. “You need help.”
“Chill, dude,” Faith said.
“Yeah,” Vi added. “We’re slayers…it’s our job. You protect your family.”
With that the two slayers, brandishing weapons of their own, stepped outside into the snow before re-shutting the truck doors. Rona climbed over the armrest to sit in the driver’s seat.
Faith looked around, taking in her surroundings. The street was barren of travelers and the snowdrifts had been piled as high as five feet in some places along the street from the recent passing of a snow plow.
“We don’t wanna have to get all road rage on your ass,” Faith told the demons as both the slayers and demons walked closer to each other
The demon closest to Faith swung his axe and the Slayer ducked out of the way. But in doing so, Faith lost her footing on the icy street and practically fell face first. She turned in time to see him raise the axe to strike her head, but she rolled away with her sword and came back to her feet, covered in snow.
Vi, like Faith, found her footing less than stable. She slid slightly as they tried to keep the circling demons in front of them.
“Oh, this is just lovely,” Vi offered up, as she too had to catch herself from falling over. “We shoulda brought ice skates.”
“Too late now,” Faith muttered. She looked around and noticed a cleared stretch of asphalt at the intersection a short distance away. She began carefully backing up, leading the demons. Vi glanced behind her and saw the same thing.
“That’s right, big boys,” the perky slayer taunted, her ever-present hat snuggled on her head. “Let’s see if you’ve got what it takes.”
The strategy was only partially successful as three of the demons followed, their clawed feet able to grip the icy surface much easier than the rubber soles of the women’s boots.
The fourth demon headed for the truck and slammed the flat end of its axe against the rear window, shattering it. Sounds of the youngster’s screams could be heard through the snowy air, along with the sound of spinning tires.
Rona threw the truck in reverse, hoping to hit the demon before he could crawl inside. But the tires refused to get solid traction and the demon reached inside for the spawn in the back, his body half in and half out of the vehicle. Tram and his wife pulled their children back as far as they could to avoid the demon’s grasping hands.
Faith reached the plowed and salted intersection, her boots finally finding secure purchase on the ground. She planted her feet as two of the demons assaulted her, axes swinging. Faith dodged one and blocked the other with her sword, the metal shrieking under the onslaught.
Faith was driven to one knee, her sword twisting around and finding its mark in the abdomen of her attacker. Suddenly the ground before her was covered with steaming innards. Before Faith could pull her sword free, the other demon had recovered and was swinging again. Faith sucked in her gut, but the sharp axe cut through her thick parka and she cried out in pain.
“Son of a bitch!” she yelled.
Vi blocked another attack by the demon assaulting her and her face grew hard when she heard her companion’s cry. With a fierce yell, she swung her sword with both hands and neatly decapitated the demon. Before its body could even fall to the ground, Vi turned away and, with two steps forward, she plunged her sword into the third demon’s back, just as it had its axe raised to strike down at Faith.
Hearing the high-pitched trill of rubber on ice, Faith and Vi looked over to see Rona doing donuts in the middle of the road, trying to shake the demon free.
From inside the backseat, Kher and Shaznay beat the demon about the head and shoulders with a mag flashlight and a tire iron they had found under the seat. With the sway of the car and the continuing pounding of the spawn, the demon couldn’t work any further inside. Tram and his wife soon joined in trying to attack the demon with wooden stakes, but its thick skin prevented any injury.
“Wait here,” Vi told Faith as she ran toward the spinning vehicle.
The red-headed slayer paused when she was near the truck, moving her hands in a circle, as if timing the next pass. When the back end of the truck spun toward her again she leapt up, grabbing the roof rack. She held on and reached inside, grabbing the demon by the shoulder and tossing him out.
“Go!” Vi yelled.
Realizing she was free and now facing Faith, Rona put the truck in four-wheel drive and headed straight for her fellow, injured slayer, still standing in the intersection. Faith stood still, grasping her stomach, but stepped aside as the truck slowed down, slightly, as it passed her. As Vi climbed through the back window, Faith ran alongside and opened the door before hopping inside.
“Where to?” Rona asked.
“Back to the Council,” Faith said, holding her stomach with one hand as she closed the door with the other.
Go-Go Express Gas Station – Afternoon
“Look at all these people,” Andrew said, pointing out the windshield to the lines of people waiting for gas. “I thought for once Mr. Giles had given me a simple assignment. More gas for the generators, no problem. This is a madhouse.”
“Let’s just hope they don’t run out before we refill our tanks,” Xander pointed out.
“Hey,” Tracey called from the back seat as she pointed across the street. “Comics and Collectibles USA must be one of the few places on this block with power. They’re open.”
“Oooh, I wonder if they have the new copy of Blade of the Immortal,” Andrew wondered out loud.
“Why don’t you guys head over? Marsha can help me fill,” Angie offered. The sixteen-year-old slayer sat in the back seat, with Marsha next to her. “Just check back in about fifteen minutes. We might have moved up two car lengths by then,” she joked.
“You don’t mind?” Andrew asked.
“Nah, go ahead,” Angie nodded toward the shop as she opened her door to make her way to the driver’s side.
Xander, Tracey and Andrew stepped out and headed across the street.
Comics and Collectables USA – Moments Later
“Oh…” Andrew exclaimed. “They do have the latest Dark Horse Comics. I’m gonna ask if they’ve got #87, part three of Mirror of the Soul. Have you read that one yet, Xander?”
Instead of waiting for an answer, Andrew rushed off to check with the clerk. Tracey chuckled at his antics and headed for the graphic novel shelf.
Xander wandered around the store a bit, a small smile on his face, comfortable in the familiar surroundings. Eventually he made it to the counter.
“Find what you’re looking for, Andy?” Xander asked as Andrew clutched a comic close to his chest.
“Yep! Just in, they didn’t even have time to put it on the shelves yet,” he said, surreptitiously showing Xander the cover.
“Good job,” Xander said. “Let me read it when you’re done.”
“Sure,” Andrew said and glanced around. “Oh look!” he cried and pointed to a comic book carefully displayed in the glass case. “They have The Death of Superman.”
Xander laughed as the clerk helpfully removed the comic from the case and handed it to Andrew.
Andrew scanned the pages for a moment and then passed it to Xander.
“I can’t believe they even have that cheesy one,” he said.
“I know,” Xander replied.
“What a joke!” Xander and Andrew said at the same time.
“This has gotta be one of the worst gimmicks in the history of comics.” Xander said, holding it up to show Tracey.
“Nah, this is worse,” Tracey countered as she held up an X-Mutants #1 Special Edition, “and at a going rate of…oooh fifty cents.”
“Ah yes, the gimmick of ripping off someone else’s idea. Yeah, you win. That’s definitely worse,” Xander said to Tracey as he handed the comic back over to the clerk.
“I can’t believe you’re charging that price for it,” Andrew accused the clerk, nodding toward the Superman comic he returned to the display case. “You can get that for two bucks on Ebay.”
The clerk’s expression darkened, but Xander interrupted him before he could kick Andrew out of the store.
“Do you have an adult section?” Xander asked.
“Back shelf on the left,” he said. As the two men turned away, he added, “But you’ve got to be over twenty-one to purchase!”
Xander ignored him, but Andrew glanced back and gave the clerk a nasty look and a huff.
Tracey was already looking at the adult comics.
“Tracey!” Andrew said, shock in his voice. “What are you doing?”
“Oh chill, Andrew,” she said. “I’ve got a report for my Women’s Studies seminar due in a few weeks. I thought I’d do something on the history of women in erotic popular literature.”
“Sounds fun,” Xander quipped, wiggling his eyebrows as he picked up a graphic novel and scanned through it.
“Yeah, right!” Andrew said, his eyes bugging out as he glanced around Xander’s broad arm to peek at the book. “What does women’s…uh…is that possible, Xander? Um…what does women’s studies have to do with comic books?”
“The majority of people who read comics are men,” Xander said, putting down the book and picking up another. “And the better women are represented in comics, then the chances of changing men’s attitudes positively towards women increases. Am I close?” he asked Tracey.
“Exactly!” Tracey said, smiling in vindication.
Andrew’s mouth hung open as he looked at his friend. “How’d you know that?”
“Oh please,” Xander said. “With the exception of Giles, most of my best friends have been women. My female-positive attitudes had nothing to do with my love of comics.” He grinned and then opened a page to show Andrew a picture of a buxom blonde. “As this trite and yet amazingly clichéd illustration can attest to,” he added.
“Okay,” Andrew said. “But why are you buying…” he paused as he grabbed the book Xander was holding, “…Alraune #5 – By Rochus Hahn & Toni Greis; Dinah finds herself flashing back in time…to a period when she was an exotic aristocrat’s lesbian lover!”
“Not for me,” Xander said, grabbing the book back and heading for the counter. “For Willow. To take her mind off of her parents. Don’t let that scholarly exterior fool you, guys, she’s just as shallow as us. I’ve been buying her these ever since she came out. It started as a joke, but she actually liked ’em, so now if I see one I’ll pick it up for her.”
Tracey and Andrew laughed as Xander paid for the purchases.
“Next you’ll tell us she’s got a subscription to Playboy, too,” Andrew said, rolling his eyes as he rested his weight against the counter. Xander nervously shuffled from foot to foot and didn’t say anything as Andrew’s eyes widened. “No way!” Andrew exclaimed.
“I don’t know if she still does or not, but Will’s pretty…visual. She likes to look. In fact, we used to girl watch at the Bronze when Tara and Anya weren’t around,” Xander confessed with a chuckle as he remembered.
“Really?” Tracey piped in. Xander just nodded. “That’s odd. I mean, most women aren’t as visually stimulated, well at least not from what I’ve been taught at the college.”
“Oh yeah, Willow’s visual, believe me.” Xander smiled. “But before I say more and get myself into further trouble, let’s go check on the gas pumps,” he added, putting his coat back on and nodding the others toward the door.
Watchers Council – Slayer Rec Room – Afternoon
Becca looked up as Willow rushed into the room and looked around. She stood from the leather chair and quickly rushed to Willow’s side.
“What’s wrong?” Becca asked.
“Looking for Ro,” Willow said. “Faith took a hit and they’re bringing her in. The doctor’s not here and I might need her help.”
“A hit? What do you mean a hit?” Becca asked quickly.
“She got sliced with an axe,” Willow replied as she went to the phone.
“Oh, God,” Becca muttered. She turned and grabbed the nearest slayer to her, a slight girl around fourteen. “Go find Rowena and Giles,” she ordered. “And tell them to meet us in the infirmary.”
She turned back to the redhead. “I’ll wait by the garage,” she offered. “I don’t know much beyond basic first aid, but I’ll do what I can. How hurt is she?”
“I don’t know yet, but with any luck it won’t be bad and the doctor will get here ASAP,” Willow said, trying to hide her concern. She held a cordless phone to her ear.
Becca nodded and swiftly left the room, passing the Rosenbergs as they entered.
“Willow,” Ira began. “We’d like a word with you.”
“Not now, Dad,” she told him before facing the phone. “Dr. Becker, it’s Willow Rosenberg at the Council. Faith was injured on duty…a slice to the abdomen from what they’ve explained…Not yet, her ETA is about five minutes…Thanks, Doctor,” Willow said before hanging up.
“Is someone hurt?” Sheila asked.
“Yeah, Faith,” Willow said as she approached the doorway.
“Then take her to the hospital!” Ira exclaimed.
“We’ve got a fully-equipped infirmary right here, Dad,” Willow said distractedly. “Excuse me.” She left the room.
Ira and Sheila looked at each other for a brief moment before following their daughter.
Go-Go Express Gas Station – Same Time
By the time the three shoppers returned to the car, Angie had just pulled the Jeep up to the pump. Marsha hopped out and pulled the gas containers from the trunk, while Andrew used his debit card to pay for the fuel. Angie started filling the containers while Marsha grabbed at the bag from the comic store.
“Get anything good?” she asked.
“Hey!” Xander said. “Some of that stuff is not for young slayers!” He tried to grab the bag back from her, but her slayer reflexes were much quicker than his.
“Wow, Xander!” Marsha teased as she danced away. “I didn’t know you were such a perv. Lesbian comics?”
“Marsha!” Andrew said, sneaking up behind her and finally securing the book and the bag. “That’s not your property and none of your business. Besides, that one’s for Willow…Xander wouldn’t read stuff like that. He likes manly comics, like X-Men and Justice League of America.”
Xander gave Andrew a dangerous look and the blonde young man sheepishly handed the bag back to him. Xander grabbed it with a forceful snap.
“Sorry,” the gopher muttered.
“You bought that for Willow?” Marsha laughed delightedly, missing the looks between the two men. “Cool…now I’ve got something the next time she thinks up a nasty new chore for me.”
“Willow’s private life is none of your business, Marsha,” Tracey said.
“Oh yes it is!” Marsha said. “Willow’s my watcher, and that means I need all the ammunition I can get.”
“Willow is your watcher, which means she looks out for you,” Xander said. “She deserves your respect because she respects what you do.”
Marsha seemed about to protest, but she caught a glance at the disapproving look on Andrew’s face. She sighed. “Okay,” she finally said. “I was just joking…kinda.”
“Come on,” Xander said with a grin, closing the rear hatch after Angie stored the containers. “Let’s get home. It’s cold out here.”
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Afternoon
Becca was waiting at the service garage entrance when Rona and Vi arrived, supporting a protesting Faith between them. Willow soon approached, pushing a wheelchair with her parents trailing behind her.
“Guys, I’m okay,” Faith argued. “It’s just a flesh wound.”
“Let us be the judge of that,” Willow said, motioning for Faith to sit in the chair before pushing her down the hall. The group followed along as Willow spoke to Faith.
“What species were they?” Willow asked.
“Some ugly guys with sharp pointy objects,” Faith remarked as Willow wheeled her into the infirmary. “Never saw ’em before.”
“‘K, we’ll talk later, but for now let’s see what we’ve got.” Willow stepped away from the wheelchair and patted one of the infirmary beds.
Vi, Rona and Becca helped Faith to her feet and led her over to the bed.
“Becca, help her with her coat,” Willow instructed as she went to the counter and sorted through some medical supplies.
After sitting Faith on the bed, Rona and Vi moved away, giving them room to work. Becca pulled back Faith’s parka and gently removed it past her shoulders.
“Oh God!” she exclaimed when she saw the blood covering Faith’s sweater and blue jeans.
“Now don’t pass out and hit your head,” Faith teased. “Dr. Rosenberg can only handle one patient at a time. But seriously,” she added, “sit in the wheelchair if you’re gonna fall over.”
Becca shook her head. “I’ll be okay, but you…”
“Flesh wound. That’s all,” Faith repeated.
Willow turned back quickly to examine Faith and gave a slight nod. She stepped back to her supplies before taking them to the bed. Then she lifted up the sweater to expose Faith’s abdomen. She took a moment to examine the wound more closely. “Not so bad,” she pronounced. “You’ll live.”
Willow pushed Faith’s hair behind her shoulders and picked up a pair of large scissors. She began to cut away the garment so she had room to work. As she slipped the shredded sweater from Faith’s shoulders the Slayer shook her head.
“First my favorite pair of pants, thanks to an arrow in the butt, and now my favorite sweater. Man, I need to start buying two of everything,” Faith grumbled. Rona and Vi chuckled from the corner and Faith threw the bloody garment at them. “Hey, here’s an idea. Why don’t you two make yourselves useful and go get Tram’s brood? We just left them in the garage and they’re probably hiding under Xander’s camper by now.”
“Yes,” Willow said as she looked over her shoulder at Vi. “Get Tram and the gang back to the dorm rooms and have all the girls guard them. Remember, safety in numbers.” Vi nodded and took off. Willow quickly turned to Rona. “Can you call Brell at the restaurant?” Willow asked, handing her a piece of paper. She walked a few steps and took it. “Tell him what’s happened and we’ll call him at home later?” she asked politely.
“Sure thing,” Rona nodded and left the room.
“Becca?” Willow said, looking at the pale blonde as the two Slayers left. “Faith’s right. Sit down if you think you’re gonna fall down, okay?”
Becca nodded and continued to watch as the Rosenbergs took a step closer, taking it in with a mix of awe and disgust all at once.
“Hey, Becca,” Faith said. The woman finally moved her gaze from the still-bleeding gash to the slayer’s face. “I’m fine. This is nothing.”
“Nothing?” Becca said. “That’s a lot of blood for nothing.”
“Lay back,” Willow told Faith.
“Yeah, well, part of the job, y’know? In a few hours, I’ll be walking, and in a few days I’ll be able to run again. Healing is the added bonus for being in constant danger,” Faith said, trying to look down at her stomach as Willow began to clean the wound. She hissed slightly as the strong antiseptic began washing the blood away.
“Becca,” Willow said as she donned a pair of latex gloves. “Can you grab me a suture kit from the cart? I thought it was in here but it’s not. She’ll need stitches.”
“You can do that?” Becca asked, moving to do as Willow requested. The witch took the package and tore the plastic off.
“Oh sure,” she said, cheerfully. “Giles taught me how to stitch up a slayer a long time ago. Didn’t have to practice much on Buffy. She was pretty good at avoiding the sharp end of a blade, but there were a few times. And this is the first chance I’ll have to do you, Faith.” She smiled warmly at the slayer.
“Yeah, just make sure you keep your eyes on my cut and off my hot bod, Red,” Faith teased with a sexy smirk. “I know how tempting I am.”
“You wish,” Willow remarked with a smirk as she finished cleaning the wound. “I’ve sworn off brunettes, remember?”
“Looking for a blonde, huh? Or possibly another redhead?” Faith teased.
“Everything in control here?” Giles asked as he and Rowena entered the infirmary. Willow began to swab the gash area with a local anesthetic. Faith just nodded casually at the new arrivals before getting back to her conversation with Willow.
“Hey!” Faith remarked excitedly, making Willow look up briefly, “What about her? She’s a blonde.”
Faith pointed over the witch’s shoulder and Willow looked back for a brief moment to see a confused Rowena standing there. The witch then started to shake her head as she returned to her task of mending Faith, her cheeks growing crimson.
“Lookie there,” the slayer snorted. “Your face is starting to match the color of your hair.”
“Faith,” Willow began, holding up the needle, “It might not be such a good idea for you to harass me right now.”
Faith started to chuckle, but just as quickly as the laugh came, it subsided and Faith reflexively reached for her stomach with a groan. Willow slapped her hand away before it could make contact.
“Don’t make me laugh,” Faith told her. “It hurts.”
“Serves you right,” Willow told her.
There was a brief pause and the room was completely quiet as Willow began to stitch Faith’s stomach. With a smirk the slayer suddenly began to sing. “Willow and Rowena sittin’ in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n- OUCH!”
“Sorry,” Willow muttered, not bothering to look up, “Needle got away from me there.”
“Yeah, right,” Faith countered.
Robin quickly made his way through the human traffic to arrive at his lover’s bedside.
“You okay, Babe?” he asked, coming to the head of the bed.
“Just a scratch,” Faith declared again, wincing slightly as the large needle pricked her skin. She leaned warmly into Robin as he draped his arm around her. He peered at Willow’s work with a critical eye.
“Nice,” he complimented. “Probably won’t even scar.”
“Thanks,” she said, pulling off the rubber gloves. “Faith, I hereby declare you cured, but just for safety’s sake, lay here until the doctor’s had a chance to see you and the slayer healing kicks in.”
Willow stood up to see what appeared to be half the Council standing in the room.
“Okay, everybody except Robin and Faith, out,” she pointed. The group began to file outside as Willow brought up the rear.
“Hey Red?” Faith called out, making her turn. “Thanks,” she said sincerely.
“No problem,” Willow shrugged. “You make sure she stays put until the doctor gets in, okay?” she asked Robin.
“Absolutely,” he said, pulling a chair over and sitting down before stroking Faith’s hair.
Infirmary Hallway – Same Time
Willow closed the door behind her with a grin.
“What’s going on?” Rowena asked, taking a step closer.
The grin scurried away and Willow looked nervous. “The song? Just Faith being Faith,” she said quickly.
“No, the bloody gash,” Rowena said, pitching a thumb toward the closed door.
“Oh! That! Faith got sliced when some baddies ran them off the road. Tram and the family are back in the dorms again and Rona’s calling Brell.”
“Right then,” Giles said. “We’ll go check in.” He nodded Rowena down the hall.
“I’ll catch up, guys. I gotta…” Willow trailed off and pointed to her parents.
“Take all the time you need, dear,” Giles told her. “We’ll bring you up to speed later.”
Willow nodded her thanks and turned to her parents. “Okay,” she sighed. “Sorry about that. You wanted to talk?”
Ira and Sheila still looked flabbergasted.
“I’m not sure where to start,” Ira said, shaking his head.
Willow shrugged. “Depends. Looking to make more accusations that this is all in my head? As you can see, I was telling you the truth,” she added, pointing to the room.
“I was concerned for your well-being before,” Ira told Willow. “But now…”
“Now I’m terrified for you,” he told her sternly. “And I’m going to find a way to get you out of here, come hell or high water.”
End of Act Three