Sacramento – Mansion Foyer – Continuous
“Did she just say she wants to stay? Here?” said one of the ten vampires that now clustered around the double doors that led to the former mayor’s office.
The closest one, who had his ear pressed to the keyhole, shushed him and replied, “Quiet. The boss is talking.”
Sacramento – Mayor Wilkins’s Office – Same Time
“Well, I must admit this is not what I was expecting at all.” Wilkins pocketed his Blackberry and continued. “So you say you want to stay here?”
Faith nodded. Wilkins, in turn, nodded to Dark Faith. “My Faith informs me that you helped the slayer’s former band of freedom fighters to defeat thirty vampires.”
“That was before I knew you were still alive,” Faith responded. “In my reality, you were killed a long time ago. Since then, I’ve spent eight months in a coma, two years in jail and another three years taking orders from a couple of incompetent blondes.” She crossed her arms. “I’ve had enough. I’m done playing by the rules. I’m done feeling sorry for who I am. And I’m done with all this sacred duty crap.” She paused, taking a second to catch Wilkins’s eye. “I just want to come home.”
“Well,” Dark Faith said, “been practicing that speech for a while?”
Faith turned to her. “I went over it a few times on the car ride up. It was a six-hour drive here. I had to find some way to shut out Giles and the junkyard gang.”
Dark Faith took a threatening step forward.
“Do you think we were born yesterday? You may look and sound like me, but you’re not. And whatever your little plan is, it won’t work. I designed the security in this place myself, and your little glamour, or whatever the hell Willow cooked up, isn’t going to fool us.”
“You don’t wanna trust your own guy’s magic…fine. You can trust my fist on your face.”
“Girls…” Wilkins warned. “Don’t make me separate you two.”
Both Faiths held their defensive stance while the former mayor continued. “You make a compelling argument. But at this point, I’m going to need a little more than just your word.”
“There’s a bomb in my back pack,” Faith replied.
“We already know that,” her counterpart responded, her tone still hostile. “It showed up on our scanners. But it doesn’t matter. Our security system is magically enhanced. If it was armed, the moment it got inside the mansion, it would have triggered the alarm system.”
“Well, here’s something you don’t know,” Faith replied, “Willow set it up so that it wouldn’t set off the alarm. The clock started ticking the moment I stepped through the front gate. And unless you do something, in about…” She checked her watch. “…thirty-eight minutes, this whole place is going to be a crater.”
Sacramento – Red Van – Same Time
Willow’s eyes went wide. “I don’t believe it,” she muttered.
“I do. She’s not sticking to the plan,” Xander answered. Robin sat silently, with a look of frustration and disappointment on his face. “Just perfect,” Xander added.
“Shh,” Giles chastised them, still trying to listen in.
Sacramento – Mansion Foyer – Same Time
The vampire holding Faith’s bag quickly looked down at it and gulped. He placed it gently on the floor and lifted the flap, revealing a large explosive device with a timer counting down from 37:46.
The whole group took several slow steps back before increasing their pace. Within seconds, the foyer was completely empty except for Faith’s bag.
Sacramento – Mayor Wilkins’s Office – Same Time
Wilkins took a moment to ponder Faith’s statement before turning to Dark Faith. “Get it.” The dark slayer nodded and left the room.
“So…” Faith began. “How’s Blinky?”
He kept his eyes on her for a long beat, but then responded, “Excellent. He doesn’t look a day over fifteen. I was actually thinking about getting him a playmate.”
“I was thinking of a clownfish,” he replied. “I’ve always loved their coloring and the –”
“It’s here,” Dark Faith called from the doorway. She walked further into the room and set the bomb at Faith’s feet. She turned to Wilkins, “Want me to call Murray to disarm it?”
“I’ll do it,” Faith answered.
“No way!” her counterpart responded. “You’ll probably set it off.”
“Did I take a bunch of stupid pills in this dimension? First, it’s the lame comebacks, and now this. Really, why would I tell you about it if I was just going to set it off anyway?”
“Disarm it,” Wilkins commanded Faith, causing Dark Faith to frown.
She wasted no time. She pulled the bomb out of the bag and began moving her fingers through a cluster of wires that protruded from behind the timer. She found a yellow wire and ripped it out of the clock. The timer immediately stopped.
Faith stood up and smiled triumphantly. “See. Told you I could do it.”
The former mayor smiled back at her.
“Yes, you did.” He glanced at the other Faith. “Faith, I want you to show our guest around. I believe she’s earned it.”
Watchers Council – Hallway – Same Time
“Miss Allister?” Jackson, the record clerk, called out, making her turn around. “There’s someone in the library to see you.”
“Who?” Rowena asked.
“I was told not to say anything,” he answered.
Before Rowena could ask another question, he darted away. She let out a deep sigh and walked two doors down from where Jackson had emerged seconds before to see Giles sitting there.
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
“I heard you’ve been having a bad day,” he said casually. “Willow called and asked me to give a rah-rah speech. Her words, not mine.”
Rowena smiled and began to shake her head as she walked into the room and closed the door behind her.
“I appreciate the gesture, but really, I know you’ve got your family at home.”
“Actually, my family is at Becca’s Books right now. One member is tending the cash register while the other one is hell on wheels in her walker,” Giles replied with a grin.
“Just like her old man, eh?” Rowena teased.
“I’m not that bad…anymore,” he said, adding the last word softer than the others. “Besides, I can use a little grown-up interaction. I can only play patty cake so many times before my mind turns to Jello.”
“Well, there’re lots of grownup issues going on here to enjoy. No shortage, I can tell you that.”
“And I think I have precisely what you need,” he remarked.
He rose from the table and walked over to the library shelf that sat against the wall.
As his hand reached up for three volumes to pull down, Rowena said, “I’m not sure how the protocol of Brell demons is going to…” She trailed off as she watched Giles reach behind the books and pull out a bottle of scotch.
“You were saying,” Giles remarked, giving the bottle a small shake.
“What the hell. Set me up,” Rowena said, walking over toward him.
He turned to the concessions table to find it vacant and did a double take to the floor where all the cups now lay, still not picked up. He looked back at Rowena with questioning eyes, although he said nothing.
“Yeah, I, uh, I had a little tantrum earlier. Here,” she said, quickly picking up two unbroken glasses and putting them back on the table.
Giles unscrewed the cap and began to pour.
“If you ever need rum for your cola someday, be sure to check out the Specbet demon volumes,” he told her.
Rowena just smiled and shook her head as she took her glass.
“Cheers,” she said, holding it up and clinking her glass against his.
Sacramento – Mansion Hallway – Moments Later
“All this room, you could open a hotel,” Faith said. She walked beside the alternate version of herself through a light green hall in one of the wings of the mansion. The other Faith ignored her. “What? Not that talkative? Well, you’ll get used to me.”
With that, Dark Faith grabbed Faith’s arm and shoved her face-first into the wall with such force that it left a crater in the plaster. She held Faith in that position and said, “I don’t have to get used to anyone. You’re not staying here. This is my house, and no matter how much sympathy you get from the boss, that in no way translates to me. I’ll humor him, for now, but eventually he’ll see it my way. And if not, I’m sure you’ll agree that a place like this can be very dangerous. Accidents are bound to happen. You want to get out of this alive, you stay out of my way.” She loosened her grip and continued walking.
Faith removed her face from the wall and followed after her alternate self with a look of pure hatred upon her face. They reached a door at the end of the hall with a numeric keypad. Dark Faith punched in a number code and opened the door and Faith walked inside the room.
“You wait here,” Dark Faith commanded, before slamming the door in her counterpart’s face.
“Ma’am. Yes, ma’am,” Faith said to the closed door.
Sacramento – Weapons Workshop – Moment Later
“Good, you got it,” Dark Faith said, as she approached a short, brown-skinned demon, with large round spectacles and a name tag that read “Murray.”
“What is it?” the demon asked, as he examined the bomb that had once resided in Faith’s backpack. He poked the timer several times with his finger, before picking it up and shaking it several times. “It looks like an alarm clock.”
“It’s a bomb.”
Murray dropped the device on his crowded workbench and slid his chair back. “And you were going to let me sit here and fiddle with it?”
She ignored him. “I need you to figure why the alarms didn’t go off when it came inside the mansion.”
He rolled his chair back to the desk and looked down at the bomb. “Was it armed?”
He moved to a small cabinet and took out several jars of herbs. “I’ll run some tests,” he said hopefully. “See if there’s anything magical at work here.”
“Good,” she replied as she headed to the door. “Call me if you find anything.”
Sacramento – Mansion Hallway – Moments Later
Dark Faith exited the workshop to find an empty hallway. She looked up and down in both directions, but saw no one. “Crap!”
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
Giles was smiling at Rowena when he looked over his shoulder and his expression turned into a full-fledged grin. He rose and Rowena turned around to see Buffy enter the room.
“Hey Giles. Ro,” she said with a nod.
“How’s Dawn?” Giles asked.
“As well as can be expected,” Buffy answered. She turned to Rowena. “How are you holding up?”
Rowena paused and looked between the two of them. “When did you get here?” she asked Buffy. “And why don’t you seem shocked?” she added to Giles.
“Buffy and I met in the lobby earlier. About five minutes after Willow called, Buffy called me to say she had landed here at the Council. I was just on my way out the door, actually, so it’s lucky that I caught her call.”
“Huh?” Rowena answered.
“I came with Al,” Buffy explained. “She dropped me off with the delivery, which, by the way, is being all locked up safe in the Coven Room as we speak. I guess Al did some funky magic password-y stuff so no one but her can get into it, or Willow, when she eventually wakes up.”
Rowena threw her hands in the air.
“See?” she told Giles excitedly. “This is exactly what I mean. Buffy’s been here what? An hour, maybe two? And I’m just finding it out now?”
“It’s not a big deal,” Buffy told her.
“It is a big deal, a very big deal,” Rowena said. “He’s not even a member of the Council, and he knows more about who’s here in the building than I do! Good lord of mercy!”
Giles took Rowena by both arms.
“Calm down, dear,” he told her. “You’re blowing every small detail out of proportion right now. Buffy was cleared, as was I, when we entered the building. You’ve done your job, making sure security is in place. Now you need to let others do their jobs. You’re being far too critical of yourself at the moment, so take a step back…and if need be…have more scotch.” He spoke the words dryly but then began to crack a small grin, which, in turn, made Rowena smile.
Sacramento – Faith’s Office – Same Time
With a loud crack, the numeric lock of the office’s door broke apart, allowing the door to swing open. Faith hurried in, quietly closed the door behind her and took a look around the room.
At first glance it appeared very much like a martial arts studio. One of the four walls was covered completely by a series of mirror panels, which stood opposite a wall of weapons. To the left of the weapons on the wall, opposite the entrance, was a sliding glass door that opened to a third floor balcony. The final wall was left empty except for a space in the corner where a small desk with a computer sat.
Faith moved toward the wall of weapons and examined them with an expression of deep longing. The collection ranged from daggers to crossbows, all of which looked extremely expensive. She moved down a line of broadswords, running her fingers over the shimmering steel. As she reached the end of the line, she stepped back and admired the collection a final time, before turning to the desk.
Faith sat down and quickly activated the computer. She paused as the screen asked for a password. After several seconds, she smiled and said, “Bullwhip.” The computer whirred with approval and brought her to a files page.
She spent several moments searching the computer until she found what she wanted. She had just enough time to print and pocket the pages just as the door began to open. She quickly rushed over to the wall of weapons.
“So I see you’re making yourself right at home,” Dark Faith chided. She closed the door and stepped toward the wall of weapons, in almost a protective gesture.
“I was just admiring your collection,” Faith said, edging her way toward the door. “It’s very impressive. Must have cost a fortune.”
“I wouldn’t know,” her counterpart replied. “They were all gifts of appreciation…for all my hard work.”
Faith tensed. “I’ll bet.
The dark slayer continued, “One for every person I’ve killed.”
With that, Faith stopped completely. She glanced down at her watch, then eyed the weapons on the wall. “You know, I used to think I couldn’t get any lower. No wonder I tried to get Angel to kill me.” She paused, regretting her words. “It’s not too late, you know. You could change this. You don’t have to hate the world…and yourself. I mean, I turned my life around.”
“What life? The one you claim to be trying to escape from?” Dark Faith responded. “Have you seen this place? It’s paradise. Why the hell would I want to give this all up?”
“Because it’s going to destroy you,” Faith replied. “You have to deal with the guilt someday.”
“I don’t feel guilty!”
“Yeah, okay, and the circles under your eyes are the result of hours of joy and happiness. Just look at yourself. When was the last time you slept?” Dark Faith didn’t answer. “Look, I got out early, but there’s always a chance that you could turn it around. Go be a slayer or, I dunno, volunteer at a soup kitchen, just do something, because this place will only make you sink deeper. And then I can’t even help you.”
“That’s a touching speech,” Dark Faith said, wiping a fake tear from her eye. “Really. You should be a motivational speaker.”
“See!” Faith exclaimed. “Even your insults suck. Can’t you see the problem here?”
Before Dark Faith could respond, the sound of a phone ringing pierced the room’s awkward silence. Dark Faith reached into her pocket and pulled out her cell.
Sacramento – Weapons Workshop – Same Time
“Hey Faith, it’s me. You know? Murray,” he said, holding a small cordless phone to his ear. “I don’t think this thing you gave me is a bomb.” He fiddled with a dial on the side of the device as the voice on the phone spoke to him.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure,” he replied. “There’s no trigger or explosives. All the magic tests came back negative. It looks like someone duct taped a car battery to an old clock radio.” He stopped and turned the dial, causing the sound of loud percussion instruments to fill the room. “And here’s the worst part. It only picks up salsa stations.” He paused but got no reply. “Faith?”
Sacramento – Faith’s Office – Same Time
Dark Faith glared at her counterpart with the phone still in her hand. “Where’s the bomb?”
Faith leaned against the wall as casually as she could manage. “You know I can’t tell you that.”
“I thought as much. But I can take a guess,” Dark Faith replied. “You never could get around the alarm. Which means the bomb’s not in the mansion. It’s somewhere else on the grounds.” She flipped open her phone and managed to dial two numbers before the phone rocketed out of her hand.
Dark Faith turned to the wall behind her to see her phone pinned to the wall by a hunting dagger. She faced Faith and said, “Impressive.”
“I think it’s more impressive that I avoided your hand,” Faith quipped. “Now, the way I see it, you’ve got two options. Either you help me take down Wilkins or we fi –”
Faith ducked quickly as the hunting dagger came flying back at her head. The weapon missed her by mere centimeters and went crashing into one of the mirrors behind her. The resulting collision shattered the glass, covering the floor with pointed shards. “Right, so option two it is.”
Faith shot up quickly and sidestepped the charging Dark Faith, tripping her in the process. The dark slayer tumbled to the ground with a loud grunt. Faith moved to a defensive stance as Dark Faith rolled to her feet, an angry expression on her face.
They stood opposite each other beside the wall of mirrors, until Dark Faith gave a quick glance to the wall of weapons to her left. Quickly, she darted toward the wall. Faith sped after her, grabbing her right wrist before she could grip the handle of a long, double-edged sword. She twisted the arm backwards into Dark Faith’s back and pushed her into the wall.
Dark Faith forced her head against the bridge of Faith’s nose and pulled her arm free. The force of the attack sent Faith reeling back to the center of the room. Seizing the opportunity, Dark Faith pulled the sword off the wall and closed in on Faith.
“You know the difference between the two of us?”
“There’s just one?” Faith said, as she regained her footing and eyed her opponent’s sword.
“You’re not willing to kill,” the dark slayer answered, ignoring Faith’s question. She took a step forward and raised the sword to the height of Faith’s chest. “I, on the other hand…” She took a quick swipe at Faith.
Faith leaned back, allowing the sword to pass in front of her. Dark Faith made several more swipes, but all to the same effect.
“Yeah, well, about killin’ me? You gotta hit me first,” Faith said, as Dark Faith missed once more. “One of those minor details.”
“You know what I do all day?” Dark Faith said as she readied herself for another swipe. “I train for fights just like this.” With that, she swung the sword down at Faith’s head.
Faith reacted instantly, stepping forward. She grabbed the hilt of the sword with both hands, using all her strength to stop its momentum.
“You know what I do all day?” she asked sarcastically. She kicked Dark Faith hard in the chest, ripping the sword from her hands in the process. “I train against other slayers.”
Dark Faith recovered quickly, kicking the sword out of Faith’s hand. She sprang forward and tackled a surprised Faith to the ground, punching her several times in the face.
Sacramento – Sunlit Street – Same Time
“Where are we, Larry? Is everyone in position?” Xander called into a handheld radio as he circled to the back of the large red van, which was now parked a quarter mile down the street from the Wilkins estate. Behind him, Oz and Robin leaned a large piece of sheet metal against the passenger side door of the vehicle.
“Pete and I are in position. So far we’ve seen a few patrols go by. About ten demons total. When should we attack?” asked Larry’s voice.
“Wait for my signal. We don’t want to give ourselves away too soon. Xander out.” Xander swung open the back door of the van. He looked inside to where Amy, Willow and Giles sat in a circle. “Everything ready? We need to set up the van.”
Willow looked up at him, her eyes a glossy black.
“We’re good,” she said, passing him a black bag.
Sacramento – Faith’s Office – Same Time
With a loud crash, Faith went flying onto the metal barrier of Dark Faith’s third floor balcony. She barely had time to stand before her counterpart advanced with a left cross. Faith ducked out of the way and kicked Dark Faith hard in the chest.
Dark Faith fell backwards from the strength of the kick and leaned against the railing for support. She quickly stood up and charged. The two slayers traded several blows, until Dark Faith gained the upper hand and pushed Faith against the edge of the balcony, holding her tightly by the throat.
“Where’s the bomb?!” Dark Faith bellowed.
Faith smiled. “Even if I told you, you wouldn’t have enough time to stop it. Your boss is going down.”
Dark Faith looked over Faith’s shoulder at the ground below.
“Tell me, or you’ll be the one going down.”
Sacramento – Mansion Gate Security Booth – Same Time
“I give up!” Ted said, as he slammed his newspaper onto the security desk. “This stupid thing is not possible.”
Fred peered over the top of his book and looked down at the puzzle.
“There’s a five in the top right box in the third grid,” he said. He leaned in and pointed out the square with a long red claw.
Before Ted could respond, a low beeping sounded from behind the console in front of them. Both demons looked down at the security station.
“Is someone at the gate?” Ted asked.
“No,” Fred replied. “And there are no problems with the grid. I don’t think it’s coming from the console. It’s something else.”
Both demons rose from their chairs and began sweeping the small room for the source of the beeping. Ted scratched his head and looked down at the desk. He noticed Faith’s crossbow and knelt down. As he closed in on the weapon, the beeping became increasingly more audible.
“Hey Fred?” he asked. “Do crossbows usually beep?”
Sacramento – Faith’s Office Balcony – Same Time
Dark Faith tightened her grip. “Last chance.”
Faith looked angrily into her opponent’s eyes and spat, “Go to hell.”
Before Dark Faith could respond, a loud explosion rocked the building. She turned to see flames rising from a pile of burning rubble where the security booth and gate used to be.
Faith, taking advantage of the distraction, grabbed Dark Faith’s hand and pried it from her throat. She punched the dark slayer squarely in the jaw and took a step away from the railing.
Dark Faith regrouped quickly and charged once again. Faith was ready for the attack and ducked out of the way, at the same time sweeping the dark slayer’s legs.
Dark Faith went flying forward over the railing, falling to a concrete slab three floors below.
Faith stood up and backed away from the edge of the balcony. She clutched her ailing throat and said, “You were due.”
Without another word, Faith entered the office and headed for the door.
Sacramento – Mansion Driveway – Same Time
The red van, driven by Oz, hurtled through the remains of the front gate and came to a stop on the right side of the massive fountain. The large piece of sheet metal was now secured tightly to the back door of the van.
Xander hopped out of the passenger side door with a backpack over his shoulder and sprinted towards the front door. He removed two small charges from the bag and began placing them just above each side of the front door.
Behind him, Oz pulled the van around the side of the fountain and positioned the vehicle so that the sheet metal caught the afternoon sun.
Quickly, Oz and Robin exited the van each with a sword in hand. They took up a defensive position around the vehicle as a group of demons approached. Robin reached for a radio on his belt.
“We’re in position. Attack.”
Sacramento – Mansion Wall – Same Time
Larry and Pete jumped down from their place on the wall, each with a crossbow in hand. They were quickly met by a patrol of demons. Larry fired his crossbow, hitting the lead demon in the chest. He hurried to reload the weapon, while Pete took aim at a second demon.
Sacramento – Mansion Driveway – Moments Later
“Xander, how much longer?” Robin yelled, as he ducked under the club-like arm of a large gray demon. He thrust his sword into the demon’s gut and kicked the creature away.
“Just a few more seconds!” Xander yelled. He went back to setting the timer on the second bomb. His fingers raced over the buttons of the explosive as he programmed a twenty-second delay.
“It’s set! Everyone back in the –”
Xander was unable to finish the sentence as an orange-skinned demon hit him from behind, knocking him into the door. His forehead slammed into the hard wood surface and he fell to the ground with a groan.
The orange demon stepped forward and took position over Xander, grabbing him by the shirt. Above them the timer ticked down to fifteen seconds, while the demon raised his huge fist.
Suddenly the demon’s eyes went blank and his grip on Xander’s shirt loosened. The creature fell sideways onto the marble steps, a large arrow sticking out of his back.
Larry lowered his crossbow and rushed over to help Xander to his feet. They raced away from the door as the timer reached five seconds.
“Everyone down!” Xander yelled, as they rounded the side of the truck.
The second explosion collapsed the frame around the door and created a large hole in the front face of the mansion. The light reflecting off the sheet metal shined through the hole left by the bomb, dusting several vampires who had been congregating at the back of the foyer.
“Get the van ready to go,” Xander ordered Oz, as Robin finished off the last of the demons. He clutched the backpack on his shoulder. “I’ll be right back.”
Sacramento – Mansion Foyer – Seconds Later
Xander climbed over the rubble of the former front door just as Faith entered the foyer through a side hallway. He removed a backpack from his shoulder and tossed it to her. Faith quickly opened the bag and looked inside at what looked like a bunch of sock balls covered in tar. She looked up at Xander, a confused expression on her face.
“Sticky bombs. A little trick from Saving Private Ryan,” he explained. “They should stick to him.”
Faith nodded, and Xander turned to leave. “Hey wait. Take this,” she called after him. She pulled several printed pages from her back pocket. “Make sure Giles gets this.” He took the paper. “And Xander…don’t wait too long to blow it.” Xander hesitated for a moment before nodding. He turned and exited through the hole.
Faith shouldered the backpack and moved towards Richard Wilkins’ office.
Sacramento – Mayor Wilkins’s Office – Moments Later
Slowly, Faith pushed open the door to her former boss’s office. She quietly closed it behind her and turned to find Wilkins at his desk.
“You’re under attack,” she said simply.
He stood up and rounded the desk. “So I gathered.”
“Shouldn’t you be a giant snake by now?” Faith said sarcastically.
“In due time,” he answered as he moved towards her. “And I don’t appreciate you using that tone. This is my house after all.” He moved within three feet of her. “Now, where’s Faith?”
“I’m right here.”
“You know who I mean,” he replied bitterly.
Faith took a moment before answering. “She’s dead.”
Wilkins’s eyes flared in anger. He raised his arm and quickly moved to strike. Faith caught his wrist and held it high above her head creating an open target on his chest. She landed a powerful sidekick that forced him back several feet.
“I’m sorry,” Faith said. She removed Robin’s Colt from her waistband and pointed it at Wilkins’s chest.
He stood up slowly and straightened his shirt, tucking it in where it had come away from his pants. He let out a loud chuckle.
“You know, you really had me fooled. I don’t know how you did it.” His face hardened. “But I’ll find out. After you’re dead, of course.”
“I didn’t trick you, Richard,” Faith replied. “This isn’t something I ever wanted to do.” The gun dropped slightly.
“Because…you saw what was happening to me. You loved me…but you didn’t stop it. You could have…but you didn’t. Power meant more in the end, more than I ever did.” She steadied the gun once more.
He contemplated this for a moment and looked right into her eyes.
“I would have let you stay.”
Faith held his gaze for several seconds. “I know…but some things are worth more than power.” Without another word, she emptied the clip into Wilkins’s chest. He backpedaled several steps from the force of the shots, but quickly found his footing.
Faith watched with mild surprise as the bullets fell from his chest and the wounds healed themselves.
Wilkins smiled as his face began to morph. Faith took a step back as the former Mayor’s body expanded outward in horrific fashion. When the process concluded, she looked up in awe at the sight before her. The demon’s head grazed the ceiling and its tail whipped around the room, knocking over bookcases and cabinets.
With lightning speed, Wilkins shot towards Faith. She quickly rolled out of the way, bounced to her feet and ran behind the demon, towards the back wall.
Sacramento – City Street – Same Time
Giles moved toward the front gate of the mansion as the modified red van sped off the former Mayor’s property. He hurried to the driver’s side window, where Oz sat, and said, “Where are we?”
Xander popped into view just over Oz’s shoulder and said, “Bombs are in. Blow it now.”
From the back, Willow and Amy held hands together and chanted.
“No!” Robin called from the passenger seat. “Faith is still in there.”
“Yeah, and so is the giant snake demon,” Xander replied. “If we blow it now, we know we’ve got him.”
“You can’t just forfeit a person’s life,” Robin countered, his voice growing angry.
“She knew the risks.” Xander turned to Giles. “Blow it now or risk him getting out.”
“We wait,” Giles said quickly. “I’m sorry, but I refuse to lose another slayer to this war.”
Sacramento – Mayor Wilkins’s Office – Same Time
Faith barely dove to safety as the former Mayor’s jaw came crashing down on her former location, flattening his mahogany desk. She jumped to her feet and tried to catch her breath, looking around the room for some form of escape.
Wilkins shook off the attack and found Faith’s location in the corner of the room. He quickly brought his tail down on her position. She was unable to dodge the attack and it swept her into the crushed remains of the mahogany desk.
Faith cried out in pain as she rolled off the pile, revealing a large piece of wood cutting into her right leg. She backed up against the wall and pulled the wood out, then looked up to find her former boss holding position above her.
Slowly and with much difficulty, Faith stood up. She gripped the wood tightly and waited.
Wilkins closed in, cutting off any means of escape. He opened his jaw one more time and shot down at Faith.
With no time to spare, the bloody and bruised slayer moved out of the way and plunged the piece of wood into the snake’s neck. Using it as leverage, she pulled herself onto Wilkins’s back and held on tightly as he whipped around the room, trying to dislodge her.
Faith wrapped her legs around the demon’s neck and reached into the backpack Xander had given her. Quickly, she began sticking the bombs to the back of his neck as he continued his attempts to throw her off.
Sacramento – Mansion Foyer – Same Time
Slowly, Dark Faith climbed over the pile of plaster, brick, and terra cotta that had been the front wall of the beautiful Sacramento home. She made her way over the wreckage and moved toward the large rosewood double doors that opened into Richard Wilkins’s office.
As Dark Faith reached the entrance, she was knocked backwards when both doors shot open, impacted from the other side. The dark slayer fell to her back and watched as her counterpart soared through the air and landed in the rubble of the former front wall.
Both slayers instantly rose to their feet in defensive stances. Faith glanced to the opening in the wall behind her. She took one last look at Dark Faith before limping through the hole.
Dark Faith moved to follow, but stopped as Wilkins plowed through the doorframe of his office. She looked up in confusion and uttered a faint, “Boss?” before Wilkins snapped his enormous jaws around her, swallowing the slayer in one bite.
Faith continued to run for all she was worth.
Sacramento – City Street – Same Time
Across the street, Giles saw Faith sprinting, as fast she could on her leg, toward his position.
“NOW!” he yelled, as Faith continued to run toward the dilapidated front gate.
Willow and Amy ceased their chanting and looked out just in time to see the mansion explode in a bloom of fire and smoke. They both exited the van to get a closer look.
Xander and Robin dove aside as a large chunk of concrete flew across the grounds and landed where the two had been standing. Everyone else took several steps back as smaller pieces of debris flew in around them.
“Is everyone okay?” Giles called over the scene.
“Just dandy,” Faith replied. She plopped down next to the van and began examining the gash on her leg. “I’m getting too old for this.”
Robin moved to her position. “Here, we’ve got some medical supplies in the van.” He opened the side door and retrieved a small box. “You look terrible.”
“Thanks. Let’s see how good you look after taking on a giant demon snake.”
“Are you sure we got him?” Xander asked, approaching Faith.
“I’d say so,” Oz called, as he looked down at a large chunk of steaming snake meat on the pavement. “He’s cooked.”
“It’s over,” Willow said, moving to Oz’s side. “We won.”
With that, they each turned to look upon the wreckage. For several seconds they stood, motionless, as if transfixed by the flames.
Finally, Robin spoke, “We should probably go before the police come and arrest us all.”
“Right. Let’s go,” Giles replied, ushering the group toward the van.
Sunnydale – Barracks – Later that Night
Faith hobbled through the barracks entrance, using Robin’s shoulder for support. They reached a free cot near the door, and Faith sat down, pulling her injured leg onto the bed. Robin moved to a cabinet and retrieved some medical supplies. He set them down on the bed and cast a sideways glance toward a bed at the end of the room.
“Go ahead,” Faith said, watching his eyes. “I got this. See how she is.”
Robin hesitated for a moment before rising. He walked the length of the room and took a seat next to Cordelia’s bed.
Faith watched him for a moment, then turned her attention to her leg. She removed a thin, blood-soaked bandage and began to clean the wound. She winced in pain as she dabbed it with an alcohol swab.
“Here, let me help you,” Robin said, returning to the bed.
Faith looked up at him and then over at Cordelia. “How is she?”
“She’s sleeping,” he replied, as he opened a new swab and turned his attention to her leg. “This is really deep. Are you sure you don’t want us to find you a doctor? We could make it to L.A. in less than two hours.”
Faith shook her head. “No, it’s fine. I heal fast – benefits of slayerness. As long as the bandage is tight, I’ll be fine.”
Robin nodded and began to unroll some gauze. Faith leaned her head against the wall and closed her eyes. For several minutes, neither of them spoke.
“I want to thank you, Faith,” Robin said finally, as he finished treating her leg. “I’m reasonably sure we would all be dead if you hadn’t agreed to help.”
Faith smiled. “Kind of hard to refuse, what with all the pep talks.” She caught his eye for a second, then quickly looked down.
Robin picked up on the awkwardness and changed the subject. “So, what’s on tap now? What are you going to do?”
Faith rolled her legs off the side of the bed. “Right now, I’m going to find Giles.” She stood up, putting very little weight on her right leg. “There’s a lot that needs to be done.”
“What was on those pages?” Robin asked, standing up.
“Names,” Faith answered. “The Mayor was planning some serious sh…” She caught herself. “He made a list of targets, most of ’em politicians, who he was gonna make vampires. I’m guessing he wanted to make a foot hole. Take over the government, starting with California.”
“Did the list say who he got to?”
“No. Which is why we’ve got a lot to do.” She moved towards the door just as Willow came in.
“Faith,” Willow said, stopping abruptly. “I was just looking for you.” She took a small step backwards. “I was just talking with Giles, and we wanted to thank you for all your help.”
Faith peered at her. “Well, you’re welcome.” She paused. “Now, why do you look like you’re about to wet yourself?”
“I, uh…” Willow took another step back. “I wasn’t completely honest with you before…when I said I couldn’t undo the spell.”
Faith took a step forward. “Are you saying you could’ve sent me home three days ago?”
Willow looked positively petrified. “Maybe.”
“Yes,” the terrified witch squeaked out. “It’s just that we were desperate. You were our best shot at beating Wilkins and proving to the Council that we’re not crazy and now that you’ve helped we finally have some hope that we’ll make it out of this and –”
“Willow, stop talking!” Faith shouted over the witch’s rant. She spoke very slowly. “When can you send me back?”
A tentative smile worked its way across Willow’s face. “How about right now?”
Faith grinned. “Get your stuff set. I’m gonna talk to Giles first.”
“So you’re not gonna kill me?” she asked.
Faith sighed. “No, but if you stall any longer, I might.”
“Oh, right,” Willow said before she scurried away. Faith simply smiled.
Sunnydale – Garage – Moments Later
“Okay, you’ll stand here,” Willow said as she finished drawing a pentagram on the floor with a red sand-like substance, with Faith, Robin, Oz and Giles looking on. Willow placed a candle around each point of the pentagram and continued. “I’ll say the enchantment, and Eyrishon will break the spell.”
“It’s that simple?” Faith asked skeptically.
“We built a fail-safe into the spell,” Oz answered. “In case something went wrong and we needed to undo it.”
Willow glanced over to Giles, who seemed to be biting his tongue. “There were so many possibilities, we needed a fallback.”
Faith looked down at the pentagram. “Okay, so here’s a question. If this breaks the spell, what happens to all the stuff I brought through…like my bike or my bag or…”
“The money?” Robin asked.
Faith smiled. “Yeah, that too.”
Willow scratched her head. “I guess it will be sent back with you.”
“Boy, is Chase gonna be pissed when that money disappears,” Xander called from the doorway.
Faith looked up as Xander stepped into the room. “Come to make sure I don’t change my mind?”
Xander hesitated. “I just…I wanted to say good luck…and to apologize for never really trusting you.”
Faith grinned. “And…”
Xander considered his words before matching her grin. “…and to make sure you didn’t change your mind.”
Faith clapped him on the shoulder. “Well, Xanman, at least you’re honest.” She stepped towards Willow and Oz. “Willow, it’s been great, but next time, keep me out of your spells.”
Willow nodded very uncomfortably. Faith turned to Oz. “Oz, nice seeing you again. As always, I enjoy our great sentence-long conversations.”
“Likewise,” Oz replied.
Faith moved toward Giles, who held out the photograph she had given him. The slayer took it and handed him a folded piece of paper. Giles opened the paper and looked down at it, very confused.
“It’s just an address?”
Faith smiled. “For a bookshop in Cleveland. The owner’s name is Rebecca Montague. Look her up.”
Giles looked up to Faith with a smile. “Thank you.” He leaned forward and pulled her into an embrace.
After a moment, Faith pulled away and turned to face Robin. She looked up at him, then paused.
“What? Don’t I get a hug?” Robin teased.
Faith smiled and embraced him. “Take care of yourself, Ace. And your lady too.”
“You too, Faith,” he responded as they broke apart. “And say hi to me for me.”
“Will do,” she replied, as she backed into the pentagram. She turned to Willow. “So now what?”
Willow took a step forward and began. “Permissum alica exsisto infractus.” A swirl of blue light surrounded Faith.
Highway – Night
With a loud crack and a blinding flash of light, Faith, followed by the disassembled remains of her Shadow Saber, appeared on the barren highway just in front of the gas station Faith had visited three nights before.
Faith’s bag hung securely over her right shoulder as she examined the wreckage of her former bike, which was now spread out in pieces, covering the right lane. She quickly began to clear the road, pulling the larger pieces to the shoulder.
Once the road was clear, Faith limped toward the gas station. As she approached, she reached into her bag and retrieved a mostly full, somewhat squashed pack of Parliaments. She stopped and leaned against the concrete wall that made up the side of the convenience store. She quickly maneuvered the least crushed cigarette out of the package and raised it to her lips.
Before it reached her mouth, Faith stopped. She pulled the cigarette away and examined it for a moment. Taking a deep breath, she crumpled both the cigarette and the pack, tossing them into a nearby garbage can.
Without hesitation, Faith reached back into her bag and retrieved her cell phone. As she turned it on, a voice message popped up that said, “You have one hundred and fifty two messages.”
Faith began to chuckle and hit the button.
“Faith,” Robin’s voice came over the speakerphone. “Call me when you get this.”
The phone beeped, and Faith pressed the button again. “It’s me again,” Robin’s voice said. “Give me a call tonight when you stop.”
After the next beep, Rowena’s voice came up.
“Faith, Robin told me what happened. Please call when you get this. Doesn’t matter what time. If I don’t answer at home, page the Council. I’ve…I’ve broken protocol and put your time away down as vacation so…try to get back in the next seven days, okay? I hope we see you soon.”
The next message came from Willow.
“Hey Faith, you promised me we’d go see Underworld: Evolution, since my girlfriend won’t go a-and I refuse to listen to Andrew recite every line of dialogue, since he’s seen it a dozen times already. Don’t forget, I’m gonna hold you to it and I refuse to wait for the DVD version…But seriously, call me, o-or call Robin, just…call someone, okay? We’re all worried about you.”
Faith’s grin widened, and she looked like she was on the verge of tears. She sniffed dramatically and pressed a couple more buttons on her phone.
She quickly scrolled through her phone book until she reached Robin’s number. She clicked the name and took a deep breath as the call connected.
Watchers Council – Robin’s Apartment – Night
As the phone rang, Robin picked it up and, without saying hello, simply said, “Faith?”
Highway – Night
“Hey Ace,” she said softly as a grin tugged at her lips. “Tell the gang…I’m comin’ home.”
Fade to Black
End of The Night in Question
Next on Watchers…
While the rest of the Council searches for the escaped vampire Skye, Andrew’s attempt to take Tracey on vacation gets derailed when duty calls the two of them to the swamps of Florida.
Click here to read “A Road Trip to Remember” now!