Length: 20-30k words
- *ShadyKat* my beta (and sometimes beater) extraordinaire. She rules. *whispers to group, ‘she’s so bossy!’*. She absolutely rules. *nods* Yes.
- Elaine, wow, I love her fic. And I think she should write more. *stares pointedly*
- And Rach, ok, haven’t seen her for awhile, but I still love her.
- Vic, for the loan of Maya and Marie.
Disclaimer: Joss etc owns Buffy and co. New Line, Wes Craven etc own Freddy and all things Nightmarish. I’m nobody. Don’t sue me, I’m poor. All I own is Taz, Annie and Sharlie, I don’t even own Maya or Marie, they’re on loan from Victory Thru Tears.
- Fèic is said ‘feck’, it’s Irish. You can guess what it means.
- I’m not actually crossing Buffy with one of the movies, just using the whole concept of Freddy Krueger. I’m disregarding Nightmare on Elm Street 6 (because it’s the best comedy I’ve ever seen) and New Nightmare (because it would kill my brain to work that into this fic).
- I’m setting this in season 3, pre Bad Girls (although Wes has arrived). I’m also using the Nightmare 3 version of Freddy (since they change him with every single movie), what I mean by that is that he uses people’s deepest darkest fears to scare them or plays their emotions against them. I may switch from 1st person to 3rd at times.
- And another thing, if something reads wrong it’s because I wrote this in 1st person, then decided that 3rd was better. Some parts were re-written completely, some I just changed the tenses, if you find errors, point them out to me, I want to put this on my site and not look like a complete moron.
- Aside from the violence and the character death, the warnings I give are mentions of things that have happened off screen/in the past. This is not a deep fic delving into those topics.
Points of reference in nightmares for those who haven’t seen any Freddy movies:
- Red and green (the colours of Freddy’s sweater)
- 1428 Elm Street (ooky looking house)
- The boiler room (sometimes located in the basement of 1428 Elm Street, but it’s actually where Freddy died, before he got toasted he took kids there and killed them)
- Fire (because he burnt to death)
- Screech of metal on metal (Krueger dragging his blades along the pipes in the boiler room)
Date Published: 3 Nov 2002 • Updated: 15 Aug 2003 • Chapters: 8 • Words: 24,503
To die, to sleep—
To sleep, perchance to dream, ay there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause; there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
Buffy removed her coat and reluctantly took a seat. “Grass is green?” she responded half-heartedly.
“Close, but no chinchilla.” Faith’s grin got bigger. “We’re going on holiday. An all expenses paid trip to…” She paused to glare at her Watcher who was pouring over a thick and dusty book. “Where was it again, Wes?”
“Springwood, Ohio,” Giles replied before the younger Watcher could open his mouth.
“Geez, break out the champagne,” Buffy said sardonically. “That’s exactly where I wanted to go for my Easter Break.” She paused to glare at both the Watchers. “Which, by the way, has only been going for a whopping two minutes, so thanks for spoiling it while it was still in its baby stages.”
Faith sprawled back on the table, ignoring the reproachful looks from both Giles and Wesley, and eyed Buffy. “Why don’t you just drop out like me, become a lady of leisure?”
“Right now that’s tempting,” Buffy said. “But Mom would wig.”
“Ladies, if I could have your attention?” Wesley coughed delicately, then opened his mouth to continue.
“There’s a demon in Springwood that needs our urgent attention,” Giles informed them. “At the moment we don’t know exactly it is. All we do know is that it’s killing teenagers while they sleep.”
“What’s the body count?” Faith asked.
Giles handed out some computer print-outs. “Willow was in here earlier, she managed to… um, take this off… a, um, net site?”
Buffy and Faith exchanged amused grins. Giles and computers did not mesh.
“It seems to have a cycle, not at all regular. The deaths started in 1984. They seemed to centre around a girl named Nancy Thompson, she lost her three closest friends and her mother, but after that it did end. Then it started again in 1985, although that might not be connected, the deaths were attributed to Jesse Walsh.”
“So why do we have a file on him?” Buffy asked, flicking through the wad of paper in front of her.
“He too claimed to have had nightmares, and I find it rather coincidental that he lived in the same house as Nancy Thompson. The next batch of deaths were in 1987, once again, Nancy Thompson was involved, this time she and her father died along with at least three other teenagers. The deaths started again a year later, then again in 1989 and they seemed to have stopped for good then.”
“Let me guess, they’ve started again,” Buffy deduced.
“In a big way,” Faith answered scanning the page. “Jesus, look at this, it looks like a year’s worth of Sunny D’s obits.”
“Do we have any idea at all what’s doing this? Vague descriptions from any of the survivors? Any off-the-cuff comments that might help us pin this down?” Buffy stared at the list of names in front of her. Despite the fact she hadn’t known any of them, and that some of them died when she was still in kindergarten she felt guilty.
“Sadly all media coverage of this has been hushed up. If you read the obituaries for every victim it says that they died in their sleep. The reporters seem to latch on to any ‘normal’ explanation, self-mutilation for attention, drugs and such like,” Giles supplied.
Wes finally pried himself from the thick tome in front of him. “I’m currently looking into demons that have to feed on teenagers, then go into a state of hibernation.”
“And how’s that going?” Faith turned her grin on Wes.
He coughed delicately and polished his glasses. “I’m sure we’ll know more once we get to Springwood tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Buffy asked in horror.
“Yes, the Council believes it may also have a Hellmouth, so they have asked us to look into it immediately.”
“Hold up.” Buffy held her hand up to emphasise the point. “We are going to Ohio. We, as in not the Royal ‘we’, but as in all of us, are going tomorrow?”
“I will not be coming,” Giles answered. “I will stay with Willow, Xander and the others to ensure the safety of everyone here on the Hellmouth.”
“Cool.” Faith winked at Buffy. “Just the two of us, kicking back and living large.”
“I will be your chaperone.” Wesley gave Faith a reproving glance.
Faith rolled her eyes. “Like I said, kicking back, living large. We can tie him up and throw him off a bridge if his screams get on our nerves.”
Wes ignored Faith’s slight, but then it was an easy thing to do having heard them almost every day since he came to Sunnydale, and fixed her with a stern look. “It’s not a holiday. We are going to Springwood to slay a demon.”
“Yeah, Faith.” Buffy imitated Wes’s tone. “How dare you think of fun even if it is Easter Break?”
“Oooh, I’m sorry. I forgot we’re supposed to be miserable the whole time,” she replied.
Buffy frowned, was that a slur? Just because she didn’t get off in a grunty way like Faith did when she slayed, it didn’t mean that she was a misery guts. “I guess I have to pack,” she said, brushing off her irritation. “And break it to Mom that once more I will be getting out of quality Mother-daughter bonding this holiday.”
“Bring her too! The more the merrier.” Faith suggested.
“What exactly did you slay last night?” Buffy asked. “And how many times did it bash you on the head?”
Faith grinned even wider. “Take the S away from Slayed and you got it.”
Giles and Wesley immediately became engrossed in the books in front of them.
Buffy raised her eyebrows. “I so don’t need details.” She picked up her bag and coat. “I’m off to pack. If you want a free feeding before we go, I suggest you follow me.”
Faith hopped off the table. “Lead on, you Mom makes the best food.” She then paused. “You’re only inviting me to deflect the major wig-out your Mom will have when she realises that you’re leaving for Ohio tomorrow.”
“Busted,” Buffy admitted. “That and the pleasure of your company.”
“Well, since you asked so nicely and the only other option was staying here while Wes lectures me…” Faith followed Buffy out of the library.
Giles watched the two of them leave, then turned to Wesley. “Good luck.” He said with a wry smile.
Notes: I love *ShadyKat*, my beta. Wow, does she crack that whip. *cowers* I’d recommend her to anyone who needs a beta, except for if she worked for someone else I’d have less of her time to monopolise, so if anyone asks Kat (aka BBß) to beta for them, I will have to hit them with Rach’s famous Spikey Stick. Yes.
Buffy glared. “You’re taking up most of the back seat and still you’re able to poke me.”
“Well, you look as if you could do with a good poking,” Faith replied with an evil grin.
Buffy’s glare intensified. “Well, it’s not my fault you’re double dosing on the Slayer Pokage allowance.”
Faith snorted loudly. “Well, you could always join in next time I find a hottie.”
“Oooh! Pencil me in,” Buffy deadpanned.
“I think I’m having a bad influence on you,” Faith commented.
“Ladies!” Wes coughed nervously from the driver’s seat.
Buffy and Faith exchanged a look. Wes had freaked out every single time Buffy responded Faith’s innuendoes.
“Right, we’re here,” Wes announced, pulling up in front of a motel, that was in Faith’s opinion, possibly the most disgusting building in the entire United States.
“Yuck, this place looks worse than my motel back home,” Faith commented.
“Yeah, you can tell that the Council are paying for this,” Buffy agreed.
“The Council has limited monetary means,” Wes said stiffly.
“And yet those retreats they have seem to kick ass,” Faith pointed out.
“Yeah, but only if you’re English and boring,” Buffy grinned.
Wesley glared. “I enjoyed those retreats, thank you very much.”
“Case closed.” Faith winked and Buffy grinned even wider. Wesley hopped out of the car and slammed the door in reply.
“Something I said?” Faith wondered.
“He’s so sensitive.” Buffy climbed out of the car and stretched.
“Urgh, I hate travelling.” Faith fished out a packet of cigarettes and quickly lit up. “Too many ‘No Smoking’ signs.”
“Those things will kill you.”
“Yeah, heard the same about demons and yet we still go looking for them.”
“I can’t argue with that,” Buffy said, leaning on the car. “In fact, good logic, give me one.”
“Give you one?” Faith responded with a smutty smile, moving closer to her. “One, what?”
Buffy rolled her eyes at the blatant innuendo. Surprisingly, she was finding it amusing to be around Faith, not irritating. Not only that, it was more fun responding. She smiled back at the younger girl and slid her hand across her stomach and into Faith’s pocket.
“Cigarette, Faith. What did you think I meant?” she purred in sugary tones.
“Cigarette, naturally.” Faith grinned, and moved even closer. “But while your hand is down there…”
“Buffy, Faith?” Wes walked towards the car with a nervous look on his face.
The Slayers jumped apart, both somewhere between relieved and highly irritable.
“We have a slight problem,” he continued, then noticing the cigarette in Faith’s hand he glared. “You are not supposed to smoke.”
“Yeah, that’ll work, now say pretty please,” Faith sneered, taking a pointed drag on her cigarette.
“So, what’s the problem?” Buffy interrupted. “Aside from Faith’s disgusting little addiction,” She realised she was still holding Faith’s cigarettes and quickly jammed them in her pocket.
“Well, the manager is very reluctant to rent rooms to two teenagers. In fact, this is the only place in Springwood that would even consider it.”
“Balls, the Council is just tighter than a dophin’s butt,” Faith commented in a low tone to Buffy.
“And…?” Buffy prodded, trying to fight the smile from Faith’s quirky analogy.
“He’s only willing to rent out one room to the both of you… and it’s not a very nice room,” Wes replied.
“What’s his problem? Does he think we’re gonna trash it? We’d never…” Buffy tailed off as she remembered the amount of damage two slayers could do to a place. And spending a week sharing a room would not be the most harmonious idea imaginable.
Wes looked rather upset. “No, not that at all. As you know, a lot of teenagers have ‘died in their sleep’ recently. He doesn’t want his motel to be a crime scene.”
Faith exchanged a look with B. “Did he say what it might be, the killer?”
“Not at all. He refused to be drawn on it.”
“So what are we doing?” Buffy asked, wrinkling her nose a little at the crumbling exterior of the motel. “Please tell me we’re going elsewhere.”
“I’ve had to put down a sizable deposit so we can stay here.”
“Nice,” Faith grinned. “Quite the little entrepreneur, isn’t he? Well, let’s go settle in,” She grabbed her bag and hoisted it onto her shoulder, playfully slapping Buffy’s ass. “C’mon roomie!”
Buffy reluctantly followed.
“I hate to agree with you, B, but this room is disgusting. It makes my room back in Sunnydale look like the Ritz,” Faith said, frowning at the mould on the walls.
“I am not staying here,” Buffy stated firmly.
“Could be worse,” Faith said cheerfully. She slung her bag on the bed. It wobbled alarmingly, then with a crunch of metal and a boing of old springs, the bed collapsed.
“I’ll swap rooms with you,” Wes offered.
Buffy’s face lit up, while Wes’s room wasn’t much better, it was marginally less mouldy than this place.
“No, it’s fine. I’ll just drag the mattress on the floor,” Faith replied, a little surprised by Wes’s offer. She made a mental note to be nice—or at least, not so blatantly horrible—to him for at least an hour.
“Has everyone got their cell phones?” Wes asked for the fortieth time in seven minutes. His nervousness was severely testing Faith’s new vow to be nice.
“Yes, Wes. We do. All two of us,” Buffy replied.
“Then I’ll see you both in a couple of hours. Call me if you need anything,” he said.
“Urgh, look at this place,” Buffy commented as the Slayers set off towards the town. “Why do towns with bad things in them have to look so pretty?”
“That’s a bad thing?” Faith asked. “The scenery is good. And it makes a change from Sunny D.”
“But if you could be anywhere but here, where would you be?”
“The land of eternal Christmas.”
Buffy raised her eyebrows. “There’s an answer I wasn’t expecting.”
“Well, I’ve noticed that people get all sappy and sweet around Christmas, but I don’t really get it. I figured if there was a place where it was always Christmas I could stay there until I got the hang of it,” Faith replied.
“I don’t think such a place exists. But there is a place in Disney World where it’s always New Year’s Eve. Maybe we could head down there some time, you know, a Slayer trip that doesn’t involve killing,” Buffy offered, surprising herself. For someone who normally didn’t seek out Faith’s friendship, she had been enjoying every second of her company since the meeting in the library yesterday.
“New Year’s Eve is another thing I don’t get. I mean, I love the ‘drinking yourself senseless’ part of it, but the actual concept… it doesn’t make any sense. Why are we celebrating a new year? For almost everyone on the planet, present company excluded, they have made no effort to avoid an apocalypse, so why congratulate themselves on a job well done?”
“Cynical much?” Buffy grinned at her.
“Better than being optimistic. Optimists are a bad thing, they let us pessimists know exactly how much fun we aren’t having.”
Buffy snorted. “You’re really chirpy today.”
Faith grinned. “Yep, hours cooped up with Wes will do that to a person. So, anyway, where do you think we should go for this recon stuff?”
Buffy shrugged. “I don’t know, I’ve never been good at this undercover stuff. What are we supposed to do, just walk up to the first teenagers we see and say, ‘hey, any of your buddies die? They did? Tell me how?’”
“Yeah, not only subtle, but sensitive too. Great approach,” Faith suddenly got a burst of inspiration. “But I got a better one. We go to the local funeral home and attend every funeral, on the way out we interrogate every single teen we see.”
“Or, we could get on the phone to Willow, see if she knows how to raise the dead, we could just ask them how they died,” Buffy suggested.
“Holy fuck, we’re morbid.”
“It’s part of the job. Did you get a Slayer’s handbook? I bet it’s in there.”
Faith laughed. “Slayer’s handbook?”
“Kendra had one. I feel swizzed.”
“Me too. Only I’d never say ‘swizzed’.”
Buffy flipped her hair, and strutted forward, sticking her tits out. “I’m big bad Faith, I feel fucked over.”
Faith grinned. “Suddenly, I’m almost pleased that you’re here.”
“Easy tiger. Don’t go overboard on that enthusiasm.”
Faith snorted, then grinned sweetly at an old couple who are glaring daggers at them. “You know, the people of this town seem as anti-teen as the motel manager.”
Buffy turned to look at them, walking backwards she gave them a smile and a cheery wave.
Which was when someone bumped into her and knocked her on her face.
“Elegant, B,” Faith commented offering her a hand up, but her eyes never left the girls that had knocked Buffy down.
“Rude much?” Buffy muttered, more annoyed that her best jeans had dirt over the knees than the actual pain of hitting the asphalt.
Faith continued to stare after the girl. Buffy turned to look, and realised why Faith was staring. One girl’s hair was a toxic shade of purple, the other was a brunette with orange streaks in her hair.
Faith snapped her fingers very quickly as if trying to think of something. “Baz? Kaz?”
“Jazz?” Buffy suggested having no idea what Faith was doing, but noting that ‘az’ sounds seemed to be the theme. “Pizazz?”
Faith shook her head, and pushed some hair out of her eyes. That’s when they noticed the blood on her arm.
“Faith, you’re bleeding,” Buffy pointed out.
She stared down at her arm, then touched the blood. “No, I’m not,” Then her face lit up. “Taz!” She bellowed.
Purple Girl stopped walking and turned to face them. “Who the fèic are you?” She asked in a thick Irish accent.
“You don’t remember me?” Faith asked. “Guess not,” she added before Purple Girl could answer. “I’m Faith Lehane. We were at…”
Taz walked towards the Slayers, her brunette friend following closely. “That freaky summer camp about four years ago.”
Buffy turned to Faith incredulously. “You went to summer camp?”
Faith shrugged, a little embarrassed.
“It was an art camp, for your information. I was in the painting and drawing bit, Faith was doing the performing art bit,” Taz supplied.
From what little Faith had told Buffy about her family, she wouldn’t have thought they would have been able to afford (or care enough) to send her to summer camp. Her parents didn’t seem the nurturing type.
Faith read Buffy’s surprise correctly. “Won the place. Competition at school. Mom let me go, one less mouth to feed for two months.” She turned to face Taz again. “This is Buffy, by the way. Buffy, meet Taz. I have no idea who the other one is.”
Buffy grinned at them both. “She’s great with the tact, isn’t she? Hi.”
“I’m Maya,” The brunette supplied.
Faith cut in exasperatedly. “Well, now that we’ve got through the touching reunion and the cheerful introductions, you two wanna tell me why I’m wearing Taz’s blood?”
Taz and her friend exchanged furtive looks. “Cut my arm,” she said shortly. “Accident.” As she spoke she rolled down her shirt sleeve, not before Buffy noticed the small circular cigarette burns all over her forearms.
“Hey, maybe you two could help us out,” Buffy said. “We’ve heard some spooky tales about this town, don’t suppose you guys know the truth behind the legend?”
Yet again Taz and Maya exchanged looks. Maya finally replied. “Do yourself a favour. Get the fuck out of town. Believe me, you don’t want to know about the truth behind the legend.”
“Look, we know something bad is happening in this town, that’s why we’re here. We want to stop it,” Faith said.
“Stop it?” Taz snorted. “Are you God? “Because nothing less than God can stop this.”
“And if some of the rumours are true, even he might have his work cut out,” Maya added. “Besides, you’ll think it’s nuts.”
“I need coffee,” Maya said finally. “There’s a diner not far from here.”
Taz tucked her arm through Maya’s and they began to walk.
As the Slayers followed Buffy was convinced she heard Taz say, “They’ll think we’re fèicing nuts,” in a low voice to Maya.
Faith decided the diner had a funky aura. It was so dark and lifeless in there that it almost seemed to be without colour. There were only a couple of other people in there beside the Slayers and Taz and Maya, most people were listening to the radio.
“Let me guess, four coffees, black with plenty of sugar,” the waitress said, then glared at Taz and Maya. “And if you pull that ‘come on baby light my fire’ shit again you’re out.”
Taz shot her the finger and Maya apologised profusely.
“Light my fire?” Faith asked as the waitress retreated without waiting for anyone to confirm her guess.
Taz shrugged moodily. Maya sighed. “Accident with a lighter.”
“That’s the second ‘accident’ you’ve mentioned since we met,” Buffy noted.
Taz snorted. “Oh, there’s lots of accidents around here. People falling asleep with lit cigarettes and getting toasted, girls accidentally strangling themselves with their bed sheets, guys falling asleep at the wheel… Except…” She tailed off as the waitress slammed the drinks down on the table.
She gave Taz a final warning look before stomping off again.
“Service with a smile, that’s what I like,” Faith commented with a grin.
Taz and Maya eagerly reached for their coffee, dumping huge amounts of sugar into it.
“You think she’d get me some milk?” Buffy asked. “I don’t like black coffee.”
“The blacker the better. Pure caffeine,” Maya replied, reaching in her bag. She brought out a jar of coffee granules and spooned a load into her mouth, wincing as she washed it down with her coffee. She handed the jar to Taz who repeated the process.
Buffy glanced at Faith, wondering if all her friends were so strange, and if this was one of those crazy rituals that gangs have, only on a small scale? Like a tiny-tot version of jumping off a high cliff into the sea, or driving cars at each other to see who pulls away first?
“Do you guys want?” Taz offered the jar.
Buffy winced. “Um, no thanks.”
Maya rolled her eyes. “Tomorrow they’ll understand,” she said to Taz.
“Understand what?” Faith asked, looking as honestly baffled as Buffy felt.
“You won’t get it.” Taz grinned, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “Besides, what’s your interest in this?”
Buffy glanced at Faith, wondering if they should tell them the truth. Taz and Maya seemed to want to tell them, but were very defensive, as if they were worried what their reactions would be. Buffy raised her eyebrows, Faith nodded slightly.
Buffy smiled at them. “This is where you think we’re making stuff up. We’re Slayers.”
Maya looked baffled. “That’s like a girl gang or something?”
“Hardly,” Faith replied. “It means we kill bad things. Our home town is full of nasties, demons, it’s our job to kill ‘em.”
“So what are you doing here?” Taz asked, looking interested, and possibly hopeful.
“The people we work for realised that something bad was happening here and told us to come here and stop it,” Buffy replied. “And I gotta say, you’re taking this news very calmly. Most people start laughing if you throw the word ‘demon’ into everyday conversation.”
“So why don’t you tell us what’s going on here, and we’ll stop it?” Faith added. “Please. Because we’re gonna stay here until it’s dead, so you giving us a heads up would help no end.”
Taz got out a pack of cigarettes and lit one, waving cheerily at the waitress. Maya quickly helped herself to one too.
“Weren’t you anti-smoking when I last saw you? You said you’d rather die than smoke,” Faith commented.
“Turns out I’d rather smoke than die,” Taz responded. “Two years ago my Dad got insomnia, the doctor told him to stop smoking because nicotine is a stimulant. Hence mine and Maya’s new habit. I envy anyone with insomnia.”
“So what is it that is killing everyone?” Buffy asked in a low voice. “Is it some kind of demon that only comes out at night? Vampires?”
Maya laughed mirthlessly. “Vampires? I wish, there’s millions of books and films about them, if it was vampires we could deal.”
“Plus, they need an invitation to get in,” Faith added. “So what is it?”
Taz rolled up her shirtsleeve and showed a badly-dressed wound. The same one that bled all over Faith. Four shallow slashes. “I dreamt this.”
“So something is making your dreams come true… well, your nightmares?” Buffy asked. “Did you make a wish? Or is there a kid in a coma somewhere?”
Maya turned, her back facing Buffy and Faith, and Taz helped her lift up her shirt. She too had four gashes on her back, they look a few days old.
“I don’t get it,” Faith said, Buffy murmured much the same sentiments.
Maya straightened her shirt and turned to face them, reaching out to take Taz’s hand. “There’s this guy in our dreams. He has four razors on his right hand, like Edward Scissorhands only less cuddly. Whatever he does to you in your dream happens in real life too.”
“So dreams are coming true?” Buffy asked.
“No. Yes. Urgh. No.” Taz inhaled deeply on her cigarette. “Last night I fell asleep. It had been four days since I slept. He chased me through the boiler room, and eventually he caught me, I woke up, but not before he slashed my arm,” She pointed to her forearm. “Right here. The pain woke me up.”
“Same with my back,” Maya added. “I was…” She tailed off, holding up one finger to indicate that all present should shut up. She tilted her head, listening to the radio in the background.
“…rash of deaths in Springwood has escalated. Two more teen suicides have rocked the already fraught community. Once more, Charlotte James and Michael Biggs passed away last night. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families. With us we have teen psychologist Samantha Loomis to give us insight into…”
“Sharlie…” Taz gripped Maya’s hand tightly as their eyes filled with tears. “That fucker got Sharlie.”
“We gotta find Annie.”
Buffy and Faith stared at them in shock, not understanding a single thing that was going on, but knowing that not only was it bad, but it had just got worse.
Buffy and Faith followed the girls, not really sure if they should be going with them or not. This seemed like a time when strangers shouldn’t be welcome. They had just lost a friend. But Taz told them to come back to her house where they could talk freely.
“This is Annie’s house,” Maya explained as they reached a huge house that seemed to be roughly the size of Sunnydale High. “About her parents, don’t speak unless spoken to. Be as polite but short as possible.”
“Got it,” Buffy replied, while Faith stared wordlessly at the grand house.
On the doorstep Taz rubbed her face, straightened her hair and made sure that her wounded arm was covered, then she pushed the bell.
It opened almost five minutes later. A stern, formal looking woman stared down at Taz. “Yes?”
“Hi Mrs James. We’ve come to see Annie, we heard about Sharlie… uh, Charlotte. I’m really sorry. I think Annie might need us,” Taz said, visibly trembling.
The stern woman glared at Taz. “She’s already at your house, or so she said. Not that I approve, believe me Ms McDonald, I will be having words with your father.”
“Right,” Taz adlibbed. “Annie’s at mine. Forgot. See, I had to go collect my friends, they’re visiting from, uh, out of town and then I couldn’t remember…”
“Stern words, Taryn,” Mrs James closed the door in their faces.
“Jesus,” Maya muttered. “The woman loses her niece and still the only thing she can do is threaten to whinge to our parents.”
“Uh, what just happened there?” Buffy asked, losing patience with the girls. While they may have lost a friend, she and Faith were no closer to finding out what killed her or how to stop it. “In fact, what’s happening full stop. I’m still missing a lot of back story here.”
“That’s Annie’s mum. Sharlie is Annie’s cousin, if the news report was anything to go by Sharlie died last night. She was killed by the same thing that gave me and Maya our lovely slashes. He’s killing us one by one. And it really gets his rocks off to scare us nearly to death before he ends it. We’ve all been trying to stay awake, but we slip every now and then. I guess Sharlie didn’t wake up in time,” Taz said in a flat matter-of-face voice, but she had to wipe her eyes when she finished speaking. “Because I was the first of our group to have nightmares Annie’s mum blames me. She’s convinced herself that I’m on drugs and passing them on to everyone else. I think she used the phrase ‘group psychosis’.”
“Let’s get to Taz’s. You’ll get more story there. Besides, we have to see if Annie’s ok,” Maya said firmly.
Taz lead them to the basement door. “We can talk in here.”
They followed her downstairs to a converted art studio with sagging couches and faded bean bags at one end, wondering if they would ever get a straight answer out of Taz or Maya.
Maya stopped dead, staring at a blonde crying on the shoulder of a redhead.
“Maybe we shouldn’t be here,” Buffy said softly.
“No, stay,” Maya instructed. “If you’re planning on staying in this town it’s best you know what you’re up against.”
Taz turned to the blonde. “Annie, are you ok?… Urgh, stupid question.”
The redhead answered. “Annie threw a complete shit attack. Her mom called it a tantrum and nearly called a doctor to sedate her!” Her eye fell on the Slayers. “Who the fuck are they?”
“Faith Lehane and Buffy Summers,” Faith replied. “Hi.”
“Awesome. Perfect time for a social call. Nice to meet you,” the redhead sneered.
“Marie, be nice. They said they’re here to help,” Maya cautioned.
“Really? Great. Do you have a way that we can all stay awake for the rest of our lives? Because if you don’t, you’re no help. In fact, you’ll just end up dead, just like Sharlie. Just like all of us,” Marie snapped, getting to her feet. “We’re fucked, no two ways about it.”
“We’ll stop this,” Buffy assured her. “It’s what we do.”
Marie snorted, but added no further comment.
“Of course,” Faith continued. “It will be a lot easier to stop if we know what we’re dealing with. So far all we’ve been told is that someone’s trying to kill you in your dreams. Now I understand that someone has died, and that you’re not in the mood to share, so maybe we should just go and—”
The blonde stood up. “You wanna know what killed my cousin? Fine, it’s a man who died back in the seventies. Child killer. The parents of the kids he killed roasted him to a crispy critter. And now he’s just a little bit pissed off about it. He’s hunting us all down in his dreams. How about I give you his MO? He’s got four straight razors attached to a glove he wears on his right hand. Blood really gets his juices pumping. I saw Sharlie die last night, he slashed her throat and threw her out of an upstairs window in this old house that he takes us to. Except her parents and the news report say that Sharlie threw herself through a glass shower screen. He likes to make it look like suicide!” She snorted. “As if Sharlie would have killed herself. If her parents gave a rat’s ass about her they would have known that.”
Marie reached out and took her hand. “You saw? You didn’t tell me.”
Annie shrugged, then seemed to run out of steam and crumpled back on the couch.
“And this has been going on since the eighties?” Buffy asked. “Why does he keep needing a time out?”
“Glad to see you’ve done a bit of homework,” Marie sneered.
“Shut up, Marie,” Maya said tonelessly. “It’s not their fault.”
“And it’s not my fault that Krueger died,” Marie retorted. “My parents didn’t toast him, but still he’s trying to kill us, so excuse me for not caring where the blame lies.”
“Krueger?” Faith repeated.
“Freddy Krueger,” Taz expanded, speaking up for the first time. “I don’t remember exactly when he died, since the nightmares and all the kids crying ‘Freddy’ every time there’s a death all archives have been pulled. It’s all been covered up. I guess they thought if people didn’t know or remember him he would disappear.”
“Ah, the see no evil, hear no evil approach,” Buffy replied. “Marvellous idea.”
“We should tell Wes,” Faith said decisively. “He’s at the library, this might save him a lot of time, if he knows what’s doing this it will make it easier for him to find a way to kill it.”
“Tell Wes?” Buffy snorted. “I don’t think so, I say we call Willow and Giles and ask them to research.”
“Who exactly is Wes?” Marie asked in an acid tone.
“He’s… a friend,” Faith said finally, remembering her vow of being nice about him. “He’s the brains—” another snort from Buffy, she ignored it. “—of the operation. We hunt demons, he tells us how.”
“That would actually be Giles,” Buffy corrected. “Wes tends to scream like a girl.”
“Jesus, B. Give the guy a break. He’s here, he’s researching. I’m calling him, you can call your little Scoobies if you have to, but just so you know, they’re gonna worry. You want that? Them a million miles away, worrying about you when they should be worrying about themselves on an unguarded Hellmouth?”
“Nobody’s calling anyone,” Marie said firmly, turning to look at her friends. “I’ve told you all before, telling people just makes them think you’re crazy. Look at all your parents. They all think you’re nuts, every time you have a nightmare they get a little closer to calling the men with white coats and big doses of sedatives. Mine are cheerfully oblivious and I intend to keep it that way.”
“Look, Marie, we’re here to help, and the only way we can help is to tell Wes. He’ll research, Buffy and I will kill this Krueger guy and you can all sleep easy in your beds.”
Marie stared at Faith levelly. “Don’t tell me fairy stories, they make me sleepy.”
Notes: Yes, a good part of this (the part about Taz) has been directly ripped off from Nightmare 4, I apologise.
So much more real to me closer than reality”
Black Lab, “Keep Myself Awake”
The Slayers left Wes researching at the library while they headed back to the motel to grab some food. They sat on Buffy’s bed to eat as Faith’s bed was still broken.
“So what do you think it is that’s killing everyone? You’ve been playing this game longer than me.” Faith stretched out on the bed and grinned, but it wasn’t a happy grin.
“Some kind of demon?” Buffy replied, also baffled by the concept of a demon that could kill in dreams. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s like with vampires, some demon took over his essence and has all of his rage and memories and is looking for revenge. Or more likely, glad it’s found a host that feels justified doing all this killing. Who knows? We’ve got to kill it.”
“Before it kills anyone else,” Faith added. “This Krueger guy killed Annie’s cousin. Can you imagine that?”
“No, I really can’t,” Buffy said. “I’ve lost people before, but no-one I was close to. I have huge guilt over people who I don’t even know. Every time I stake a vampire I wonder if I could have saved them, if I was nearby when they were dying. I couldn’t imagine losing someone I cared about.”
“It’s horrible,” Faith replied in a tight voice. “That feeling that you could have done something, and knowing no matter how much damage you do to the bad guys you can’t bring her back…”
Faith stopped abruptly and stared at the wall, and Buffy realised that Faith was talking about her first watcher. Maybe this was an opportunity to bridge that last gap between them, the final gap that made Faith feel like an outsider. None of the Scoobies knew she had a Watcher before Giles and that she had watched him die. As she opened her mouth to tell her about Merick, Faith grinned widely at her. “You know, I think that mouldy patch has grown bigger while we were out.”
A knock on the door startled them. “Ladies, may I come in?”
“Come on in, Wes,” Faith yelled, not moving.
Wes strode in, then gave them a quick lecture about inviting people in without answering the door first. For all they knew he could have been a vampire, or been bitten by one.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Yes, Wes. But it’s only just getting dark now. No vamps out yet.”
“And besides, if you had been bitten you’d still be in the morgue now. That must be a rush,” Faith mused. “Being dead, surrounded by morgue attendants, then jumping up and scaring the shit out of them.”
“Yeah, have you seen that bit in Blade?” Buffy replied.
“Ladies…” Wes said in a strained tone.
“Oh right. Boredom. Right there with you,” Buffy said.
“B, give the guy a break,” Faith said sitting up then smiling at Wes. “Share the details.”
“I’ve found it incredibly difficult to dredge up any information on this Krueger character. However, I emailed Willow and she had a little more success. She found an online journal of a girl who had nightmares about him, she was writing under a pseudonym and her journal was coded. Willow managed to break the code and contact her…”
“Not hungry, Dad,” she replied, not looking up from her canvas.
“That’s not the point. I never see you anymore. You’re always either down in your studio or out with your friends. Even if you’re not hungry you will spend some time with me.”
“Can’t it wait? I’m in the middle of something.” Taz sloshed some more paint on the canvas. She hated being interrupted while painting.
“No, it cannot wait!” Her father thundered down to her. “Would it kill you to tear yourself away from that damn canvas?”
Taz considered pointing out that ‘that damn canvas’ was supplying a scholarship to one of the best art schools in the country, but regretfully set down her pallet. She stared at the painting as if seeing it for the first time.
“Oh holy mother of god…” She murmured. It showed Freddy in all his horrific glory standing outside 1428 Elm Street.
“I’ll be right up,” she called to her father, suddenly eager to be away from her painting.
“Mrs James called me today,” Her father said conversationally.
Taz silently cursed Annie’s meddling mother. Then quickly added all the parents of Springwood. If they would just open their minds a little maybe some their kids would still be alive.
“She said that you were acting rather strangely,” he continued, taking a sip of wine. “She’s convinced you’re using drugs, Taryn.”
Taz pushed her food around her plate listlessly, not bothering to correct her Dad’s inability to call her by her nickname. “You know I’m not on drugs.”
“I know that,” Peter McDonald agreed. “I know exactly what is causing your behaviour.”
“You do?” She asked hopefully, abandoning her food and taking a large sip of her juice, she winced at the bitter taste. If she was in Ireland she could have Club Orange, even England had 5-Alive, both were by far superior drinks.
“Yes, you forget that I’ve had insomnia before. Sleep deprivation can do strange things to you.”
He overrode her objection. “And all this cutting yourself is just a plea for attention, I see that now.”
“Dad, I’m not…”
He reached out and pushed up her shirt sleeve, showing her latest wound. “Yes you are. And it’s going to be alright. I’m going to help you. We’re starting family counselling sessions on Saturday.”
Taz took another sip of her juice, wincing at the thought of having to talk about her mother’s death for the next eight weeks—or however long counselling took. “Daddy, I’m not cutting myself. I’ve told you, the nightmares—”
“The nightmares can’t hurt you,” he said firmly. “And as soon as you get a good night’s sleep you’ll understand that.”
Taz was about to retort when a wave of dizziness washed over her. “I need some coffee,” she said thickly, noticing that things were starting to get blurry.
“No coffee, Taryn.” Her father reached out and stroked her shoulder. “You need sleep, now I wouldn’t usually give sleeping pills to a minor but…”
“Sleeping pills?” She gazed muzzily at her juice, it now had a cloudy look to it and she remembered the bitter taste. “You drugged me?”
“Because I love you.”
“Put that on my gravestone you fèicer!” She snapped with as much force as she could muster, staggering to her feet and lunging for the door to her studio.
She stumbled down the stairs, heading for her phone. She managed to find Faith’s number. It rang twice before connecting, but instead of Faith’s voice all she heard was the screech of metal against metal and a dark chuckle that chilled her to the bone.
“Daddy drugged me, drugged me, drugged me,” She babbled, hoping that Faith could hear her. “Dream with me. Help. Drugged me. Dream.”
The phone suddenly became too hot to hold, she dropped it to the floor and it burst into flames. “I’m dead,” she muttered.
As she fell to the floor she caught sight of her painting. Sharlie was now in the foreground, waving to her. “Come join me, Taz.”
She tried to keep her mind on anything but Freddy as she slipped into the dream world. “Nice things, nice things, nice things.”
“That was very weird,” Faith commented, staring at the phone. “Taz just called, she was babbling like a loon. She sounded really scared.”
“What did she say?” Buffy asked.
“She said something about being drugged and that she wanted me to dream with her,” Faith replied. “Wes, you got any sleeping tabs?”
He shook his head. “But I do know a bit about hypnotherapy.”
“Time to learn more,” Faith decided. “Put me out. You two can watch me and take notes or something. I’m going to meet the man of Taz’s dreams.”
Buffy snorted. “That was a pun so lame even I wouldn’t use it.”
“Sleep now, pun later.”
Taz opened her eyes fearfully, then breathed a sigh of relief. She wasn’t in the boiler room or the house. She was in the butterfly garden, her most favourite place in the whole world.
It was the one place that all her troubles seemed to fly away, the butterflies were so delicate and beautiful. She was safe. She moved closer to get a better look at a butterfly that she’d never seen before. Not that she was an expert, she had no interest in their names or breeds, she just wanted to look at the amazing little creatures.
A large purple butterfly. Taz was in heaven. She reached out to touch it but as she did another butterfly landed on the branch next to it. This one wasn’t pretty at all, it was red and green and the edges of its wings were scalloped into points that looked sharp enough to cut.
She watched in horror as it killed the beautiful purple butterfly.
She drew back knowing exactly where this dream was leading. She bumped into something solid.
“Taryn,” he said almost lovingly.
She whirled round to face Freddy. “Leave me alone. I never did anything to you!”
He lunged for her, she ducked under his arm and she took off at a run for the door. The butterflies followed her. If she could just get outside… She didn’t know what her logic was, but living long enough to reach the door seemed just fine to her. She opened the door and ran through it… straight into 1428 Elm Street.
“Wake up, wake up, wake up!” she yelled desperately as she ran.
She went to the living room door, as she got there the door slammed in her face, down the hall all the doors were slamming.
She was trapped. Krueger now stood between her and the stairs. She flung herself against the nearest door and started pounding on it but it was no use, she was caught. Her luck had run out.
Krueger walked to her slowly, taking his time, knowing that she had nowhere to go. It may be Taz’s dream, but it was his domain.
“Wake up, wake up, wake—” Her instructions were cut off as he grabbed her by the throat and picked her up.
Taz wheezed, feeling her throat begin to collapse, she kicked out at him ineffectually.
As he raised his blades Taz said a silent prayer and hoped that her mother would be there to take her to the afterlife.
Krueger paused. “This is new,” he commented before disappearing.
Taz fell to the floor gasping for breath and clutching at her bruised neck.
As she looked up, she realised it wasn’t quite over yet. The butterflies all resembled the ugly red and green butterfly that had killed the purple one.
And they were swarming like angry wasps.
Faith opened her eyes, preparing herself for the worst. Taz had briefed her on what the dreams were like. Spooky house, fine. Ugly guy with razors on his hands, ok. Boiler room, whatever.
But she wasn’t in a spooky house, no ugly razor guy was present and she was fairly sure there wasn’t a boiler room anywhere near her.
She was in a place far worse.
She was in her stepfather’s apartment.
“Hello, sugar,” the voice chilled her to the bone.
It was exactly as she remembered it—despite her many attempts to block it from her memory. The carpet was threadbare and stained, there were empty fast food containers all over the floor and there was a thick smell of sweat in the air.
Her stepfather was also mostly unchanged. He was wider than she remembered, but then four years was a long time. He smelled worse, but the leer in his eyes when she turned to look at him was exactly the same.
Faith felt short of breath. “Stay the fuck away from me,” she hissed in a low tone.
“Oh, baby, not pleased to see Daddy?” He asked.
“The only way I wanted to see you again was as a horribly mutilated corpse.”
He moved closer to her, so she backed up a little more until her back was firmly pressed against the wall. She knew from months of Slayer training that she was trapping herself but she couldn’t seem to fight the fear that was paralysing her.
“Stay back,” she snapped. “I’ll kill you, I swear to god.”
“God isn’t listening.” He chuckled and moved closer to her, running a fingertip down her arm. She shuddered and stared at him. Something wasn’t quite right—well, nothing was right, but something was more wrong than it should be. He didn’t chuckle like that. If it was possible, that laugh was dirtier than her stepfather’s had ever been. And she knew that he would never wear a sweater that was red and green. He never moved from his place in front of the TV, so clothes weren’t important, she’d never seen him in anything other than dirty jeans and a stained vest.
She lashed out, her fist connecting solidly with his cheekbone. He retaliated with a blow to her stomach, she doubled over, severely winded. But when she looked up again her stepfather was gone. Instead stood a man horribly mutilated by burns, he was wearing a red and green striped sweater, a battered fedora hat sat atop his head and most horrifying was the glove that adorned his right hand. On each of the fingers there was a straight razor blade. It was a truly lethal looking weapon.
“So you’re him then?” She gasped. Strangely her fear was subsiding. While this guy had a malevolent aura, he did not strike the personal note that seeing her stepfather had.
She felt her rage bubble up that he had managed to get inside her head and pick out the thing she feared the most. All of a sudden she exploded and kicked Krueger hard between the legs. As he doubled over she came in with a roundhouse kick to his head.
But his recovery rate was faster than hers and he reached out and caught her ankle before her foot touched him. She toppled over, twisting her leg awkwardly as she did. And then as he leant over her, raising his blades, she suddenly kicked out with her good leg and caught him under the chin.
She used the few seconds that he was disoriented to get to her feet and put some distance between them. But once more he came after her and she found herself cornered. Krueger didn’t seem to be even phased by her attacks on him and her leg hurt like hell. She wasn’t even able to do much damage to him, finding herself wholly occupied with defending herself.
She looked around the room desperately hoping for something to use against him or a way to escape. There was a window to her right, it appeared they were three floors up.
I’m a Slayer, I’ll bounce, she told herself firmly as she flung herself out of the window. Krueger made a grab for her, his blades tearing into the skin on her arm, but wasn’t able to find purchase.
As she fell out of the window she realised that she was a hell of a lot higher up than three floors.
And she wondered how on earth she would bounce if there didn’t seem to be any ground beneath her.
Buffy’s eyes snapped open. She hadn’t meant to fall asleep, but the pendulum was so hypnotic and Wes’s voice had seemed so soothing. She blinked several times and rubbed her eyes, clearing the sleep from them.
The room was empty. “Hrmm,” she said. “Nice of Faith and Wes to desert me.”
She stood up and stretched her arms out, hearing her bones pop and crack into place. She was kinda hungry, and decided it was time to raid the nearest 7-11.
She opened the door and stepped through it.
Right into the hallway of a house.
“Weird,” she commented, but wasn’t entirely wigged. She had years of experience living atop a Hellmouth, so far this was no freakier than anything else she’d had to deal with so far. She had seen a cemetery appear almost on the grounds of her school campus a few years back, this was no big deal.
She turned to see the source of the voice. Faith was just coming out of a room to her left. “Faith, what’s going on? Since when was there a house attached to our motel room door?”
“Don’t worry about it, B,” Faith said in a throaty tone.
“Ok. But just so you know, it’s gonna make it really difficult to go for snacks if the house stays there.”
Faith laughed and walked slowly towards her, smiling coolly.
Buffy backed up a little, smiling nervously at Faith. “Hey, personal space! We have an entire hallway, why are you giving me a lap dance?”
Faith smiled again. “Maybe because I want to,” she said, using the same husky tone. “Maybe because you want me to…”
“Faith…” Buffy held up her hands to stop her, but Faith caught them and pinned her to the wall, hands above her head, leaning into her, the younger Slayer’s hips pressing against Buffy’s own.
“Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about this,” Faith smiled.
Then she vamped. “I know you have.”
Buffy froze for several seconds, her mind buzzing with many thoughts, mostly flashbacks of the pain that killing Angel had caused her, although her mind was quick to point out that Faith still looked hot as a vampire.
Then her mind snapped into Slayer mode, and as Faith started lowering her fangs to Buffy’s throat she head-butted her. The vamp staggered back, allowing her to free her hands and get a few lucky punches that forced her to retreat even further, giving Buffy space to escape. The only way not blocked by Faith was the stairs, so she tore up them, trying not to think about her fellow Slayer wearing a new pair of fangs.
But heavy footfalls let her know that Faith was following closely behind her, she stopped dead swiftly kicking out, she was rewarded by an almost comic “ooof” and the sound of Faith falling downstairs.
“Sorry,” she whispered, then continued up the last few stairs to the top, unnerved by the silence. Vampires could take a hell of a beating, why wasn’t Faith getting up?
She turned and looked downstairs.
Faith was gone.
“Father, let me out!” Wes pleaded, hammering on the cupboard door. He wasn’t entirely sure how his father had found him in Ohio, but he did know why. His father had told him that he knew Wes was failing as a Watcher (just like he always knew he would), and that he obviously needed a form of encouragement.
He had berated Wes for a good few minutes before using the age old punishment of locking him in the cupboard. Wes was scared of small spaces, he couldn’t remember if he had always been scared of them or if it had started because his father was apt to lock him in the cupboard.
Right now he didn’t care. He was finding it hard to catch his breath and he was trembling. The air in there seemed too warm and it was pitch black.
Suddenly the door opened and, with a flash of light, a girl with purple hair flew into the cupboard, landing on top of him before slamming the door. There was a sound of hundreds of metal objects slamming into the door, the wood splintered and sagged but held. The girl burst into tears.
“Who’s there?” She asked through her sniffles. “Maya? Faith?”
“I’m Wesley,” Wes supplied, somewhat comforted that there was someone else present, even if it was only a girl who was crying. More so, she was Irish, and for some reason he found that soothing.
“You’re English? Wait, Wes as in Faith’s friend?”
“Yes. And you are?”
“Ah, the girl who called us.”
“Please tell me that someone is still awake,” she said, fighting back the tears. “Someone has to be out there to bring you out. This is scary shit, if you die in here you die for real.”
“The dream world.”
“Big time. You don’t think this could happen in the real world? I’ve just been attacked by metal butterflies.”
“So, he’s not really here?” Wes asked.
“He who? Freddy? He’s here, he’s always here.”
“My father,” Wes replied shortly.
“That fucker,” Taz snapped. “He does that, plays with your fears. Whatever you’re most scared of he’ll be it,” She reached out and patted him awkwardly. “He was a monster for Sharlie, she saw a monster movie when she was a kid and never really got over it.”
“What was he for you?” Wes asked, knowing it was a personal question, but feeling that he had shared something personal and needed reassurance that everyone else had a weakness somewhere.
“He was my Mum,” the girl replied bitterly. “I said something horrible to her the day she died, I didn’t realise she was sick!” He felt her shrug in the darkness. “Anyway, we need to get out of here, he’ll find us and I really don’t like the idea of being rats in a trap.”
Once more the door swung open, their heads snapped up towards the light, Faith smiled down at them. “Wes, it’s killing me not to make an ‘in the closet’ joke here. Oh, and for the record, Taz is my age, I think she’s a little young for you.”
Taz glared at her. “Fuck off, Krueger.”
Faith smiled. “I see he’s pulled that shit with you, pretending to be someone else. Well, would he be an injured me?” She gestured to her bruised and grazed leg, and her arm with its four slashes. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”
“What happened?” Wes asked, climbing out of the cupboard.
“Fell out of a window,” she replied shortly. “And he kicked my ass.”
Taz looped an arm around Faith’s waist and helped her walk.
“Anyone got any bright ideas how we get out of here?” Faith asked. “Because I’ve just about had my fill of Wonderland.”
“Get the fuck away from them, Faith.”
All three turned to see Buffy at the end of the hall, holding a badly fashioned stake that looked as if it once was a chair leg.
“B? When did you arrive in the fucked up version of Disneyland?” Faith asked.
“Back off, vampy,” Buffy replied, moving towards them.
“She’s really Faith,” Taz supplied. “See, she’s bleeding and all.”
“A fact that is disturbingly comforting,” Wesley added.
“What? You’re all talking scribble!” Buffy said.
They stared at her as she became transparent and finally disappeared.
“She’s awake,” Taz said flatly. “Lucky cow. Let’s just hope she wakes you up.”
“Can’t we wake ourselves up?” Faith asked, as they hobbled to the front door of the house.
“Maybe you can, but I’m drugged.”
“What did you take?” Wesley asked.
“Take?” Taz was outraged. “Take! I didn’t take anything! I was bloody tranqued by me own Dad.”
“Hey, you wanna calm down? You don’t want to go reminding him we’re still here,” Faith said.
Taz still looked pissed off. “You wanna know why we’re still alive? It’s because he’s found someone else to torment. Someone is dying right now.”
Wesley looked as if he was going to be sick. “There’s no way you can know…” he said softly.
“No, but if you listen to the news tomorrow you’ll know for sure,” Taz replied in a flip tone. “You two look horrified, try living with this for as long as we all have with…” She tailed off as Wes began to look transparent and vanished.
“See you on the other side,” Taz said flatly to Faith.
“I’m not leaving you,” Faith replied firmly. “If she wakes me up I’ll just knock myself out again.”
“WAKE UP!” Taz bellowed right in her face.
“No! Now! Wake up!” She started dragging Faith towards the door, her eyes never leaving the hallway behind them.
“What?” Faith looked over her shoulder, knowing what she would find.
Krueger was walking slowly along the corridor, taking his time, a sadistic smile playing on his face. Faith looked back towards the door, but it suddenly seemed twice as far away as it had before. She realised that her perception wasn’t fucked, the hallway had stretched.
“We have to wake up,” she panted.
“Oh really, you think?”
Faith came to a halt and slapped Taz hard across the face.
“Ok, no making with the funnies while death stalks us. Got it,” Taz said, rubbing her face.
“Wake up!” Faith yelled.
“It won’t work, I’m drugged!” Taz yelled back, trying to drag the Slayer along the hall once more.
“Yes, Taryn,” Krueger agreed almost conversationally. “But I don’t want you.” He turned to Faith. “I want her.” He used one of his blades to point.
He raised his blades high and slashed.
Faith sat up in bed, gasping loudly.
“Jesus, you’re hard to wake up,” Buffy commented.
“My name isn’t Jesus,” Faith replied muzzily, rubbing her face and checking for mortal wounds. She winced when her fingers found the slashes on her arm. Faith reached for a pillowcase to wrap around it, ignoring Wesley’s chastising look. She had been this close to being cut into ribbons by him when she woke up… “Taz?”
“Do you think she’s awake?” Wesley asked.
“Her father drugged her,” Faith said dully. “I woke up and just left her there.”
Faith’s cell phone rang and all three of them stared at it stupidly. Taz’s number flashed up on the screen. Faith picked up. “Taz?”
“Um, no,” Replied a male voice. “I’m Peter McDonald, her father. Taryn is missing and I was wondering if she was with you since your number was the last one she called.”
“I thought you drugged her,” Faith replied coldly.
“What? How did you—look, it doesn’t matter… she sleepwalks.”
“Brilliant. You drug a girl that is not only quite terrified of sleeping, but one who sleepwalks and you don’t keep an eye on her. I bet you’re real proud of yourse—”
Buffy snatched the phone. “Hey, I’m Buffy, another friend of Taz’s,” she said. “We met Maya, Annie and Marie today, I was wondering if you could give me their numbers and addresses.” She gave Faith a warning look and began to write down the details that Mr McDonald was giving her. “Thanks,” she said and hung up.
“I’m going to get the first aid kit that’s in my room,” Wes said. “Those cuts on your arm look nasty.”
They watched him go, then Buffy turned to Faith. “Look, I agree with you, it was downright wrong of Taz’s dad to sedate her, but you shouldn’t have had a go at him. You could get her in more trouble.”
Faith sighed deeply. “I’m just anti-fathers at the moment.”
“Something in your dream?”
Faith stared at the wall and fought to keep her voice neutral. “Something like that. What about you? What was he for you?”
“You,” Buffy replied.
“Me?” Faith turned to face her.
“As a vampire.”
“Your worst fear is that I would be a vampire?” Faith asked.
“I don’t know about that, I’ve never thought about my worst fear. You know, living on the Hellmouth, it’s hard to find just one thing that stands out against all the other creepy stuff.” Buffy shrugged. “Maybe he was you because you were in the dream too and he knew what you looked like.”
Faith winced. “Believe me, he’s not bound by rules like that.”
“What did you see, Faith?” Buffy asked softly.
Faith bit her lip. The reason she never talked about her past was because it was exactly that. Her past. Bringing it up again would only force her to relive it, and she had promised herself that she would never feel as powerless as she had done back then. However, she’d just been forced to see a being that looked and acted exactly like her stepfather, so that rule appeared to be null and void right now. And Buffy had seen Faith as a vampire, not Angelus but Faith, in her dream, meaning, at the very least, she cared about her, so maybe it was time to start trusting her. “I… I saw…” she took a deep breath.
“Back,” Wesley announced walking back into the room and taking a seat.
Faith turned to Wes. “Bandage fast, we need to find Taz,” She held her arm out and he quickly started with bandages and antiseptic.
“I think we should try Maya’s house first, they seemed close,” Buffy suggested.
Faith snorted. “Close? B, they’re dating.” She winced as Wes dabbed her cuts with antiseptic liquid.
“Really?” Buffy replied, looking a little stunned. “She told you that?”
“Nope, just a vibe.” Buffy looked a little sceptical, so Faith added, “I have great gaydar.” She turned her attention back to her arm. “Nice bandaging, Wes,” she said approvingly. “Let’s go.”
She got off the bed and immediately winced, clutching her leg.
“What happened?” Wes asked.
“I told you, I fell out of a window, I landed badly on this leg… not before I busted it trying to kick Krueger’s face into next week.”
Buffy looped an arm around her waist and helped her stand. Wesley offered his arm to assist, and was surprised that Faith took it.
“Jesus!” Faith complained from the back seat. “We’ve been driving round this fucking town forever. How the fuck can a crazy Irish girl with purple fucking hair go fucking missing in a town this fucking small!”
Buffy turned in her seat and reached out to touch her shoulder reassuringly. “We’ll find her. She’s survived a long time without us, she’s strong.”
They had already called Maya on their way over, who told them that if she’d seen Taz, either in the real world or in the dream world, she would have called Annie and Marie and vice versa. She then got caught sneaking out to meet them to go look for Taz and was now grounded and firmly locked in her room. That much she’d managed to tell them before her parents strode in and confiscated her cell phone. They heard her yelling to them to find Taz and wake her up before the connection was severed.
“How close were you and Taz back then?” Buffy asked, keeping an eye on the road. She had been burning to ask this ever since Faith had mentioned that she had great gaydar and that Taz and Maya were dating, for reasons she couldn’t fathom.
“At the summer camp?”
“She was my best friend. My first friend, actually,” Faith replied, her eyes roaming the dark streets, looking for a flash of purple hair. “See, when we got there, they had this big introduction evening, and one of the counsellors told everyone that I had won my place at the camp, and it was fairly snotty there, so I was immediately labelled white trash and picked on no end. They said I was on a free ride—that from a girl whose Daddy paid her way into my drama group! After that, Taz sought me out and talked to me, made a special point of sitting with me at meals, sneaking into my lessons if she thought I needed moral support. I was convinced she was setting me up, it was about two weeks before I caved and talked to her.”
“So why didn’t you stay in contact?” Buffy asked.
“We wanted to,” Faith paused. “I really wanted to, but I knew she lived in Minnesota at the time, can you imagine the cost of calling there? My parents would never go for it, and I couldn’t let Taz do all the calling, so I thought it would be easier if I told her I didn’t want to.”
Buffy squeezed her shoulder. “I’m sure she’ll understand when you tell her.”
“If we ever find h—” Faith’s reply was cut off as Wes slammed on the brakes and both Buffy and Faith were hurled forward. Wes threw out his arm and stopped Buffy from flying through the windscreen.
“What the…” Buffy shut up as her attention turned to the road ahead. Taz was tottering along the road, being pushed over and thrown around by invisible forces.
“Fuck,” Faith muttered, opening her door.
“Amen to that,” Wesley agreed, offering his arm once more as Buffy tore up the road, trying to catch Taz. “She just flew out in front of the car,” he said in a shaky voice. “If I’d have hit her…”
“You didn’t,” Faith replied, moving as fast as she could to Buffy and Taz. “She’ll be fine. We’ll all be fi…” She tailed off, staring up the road, a huge truck was driving towards the spot where Taz now stood frozen.
“Watch out!” She screamed.
“Buffy! Taz!” Wesley began hauling her along the road with much more vigour.
Everything but the truck seemed to slow down to Faith. Buffy running in slow-motion towards Taz. Buffy reaching her, and trying to drag her out of the way, but unable to move her. Taz screaming at the top of her lungs.
“Why isn’t the driver slowing down?” Wesley asked in a low voice.
Faith didn’t answer, watching in horror as the lorry sped towards her two friends, Taz unable to move, and Buffy unwilling to leave her.
Finally Buffy appeared to admit defeat, leaving Taz’s side, a cautious eye still on the quickly-approaching vehicle. She stopped, turned, and took a run-up at Taz. Her plan succeeded in the nick of time, she knocked Taz off her feet and they both tumbled into the ditch by the side of the road in a tangle of limbs.
The driver sped past Faith and Wesley, close enough to make their clothes ruffle. Faith paused long enough to hurl her favourite curses at the driver, using a string of profanities so extreme that Wes turned rather red. However, he managed to add a decisive “Arsehole!” when Faith finished, Faith nodded approvingly.
Wesley, for his part, was wondering how on earth he would explain to the Council that on his first day of chaperoning the Slayers that one had injured her leg falling out of a window and the other had possibly broken her leg by jumping in a ditch. He was mightily relieved when Buffy appeared, one arm around (a finally awake) Taz helping her up to the road.
When they reached Taz and Buffy, Faith seemed torn who to go to first. She paused a few seconds, then hugged them both tightly. Then just as quickly, she let them go and limped back. “Don’t tell anyone I just did that,” she cautioned. “Life and death situations and all that. I’m not the fuzzy, huggy type.”
Buffy looked surprised and mildly amused, Taz’s face was too beaten up to read any expression.
“Let’s get you to a hospital,” Wes offered softly.
Taz promptly burst into tears. “No hospitals, they’ll sedate me, and I’m so tired already.”
“You need medical attention,” He replied. She was covered from head to toe in bruises, cuts and scrapes, her clothes were torn from being thrown across the asphalt so much and her hair was matted with blood.
“No! No doctors, no hospitals, no adults! They just don’t understand!” she said forcefully, then added as an afterthought, “Not my Dad either.”
Buffy and Faith exchanged a look. “Why don’t we just take her back to the motel and patch her up?” Faith suggested.
“A Starbucks run wouldn’t hurt either,” Buffy said.
Wes was torn between what he knew was right and what the Council would say was right. He decided that the Council, in its infinite wisdom, had got it wrong from start to finish with both Buffy and Faith and it was now time to take a leaf out of Giles’ book. “I’ll go get the car.”
Taz winced before Wes even touched her with the antiseptic. He drew back. “I can still take you to the hospital,” He offered. “I’m sure they wouldn’t hurt you as much as I’m going to have to.”
“I’m fine,” Taz replied tightly. “Really, the pain is good, it will wake me up. And besides, it’s the smell that freaks me out.” However, she tightened her grip on Faith’s hand.
Buffy was out on a coffee run. There was not Starbucks in Springwood, so she had gone to convince the motel owner to give them a kettle and a huge jar of coffee. She had muttered before leaving that it would be too much to hope for that he owned a coffee maker.
Buffy marched back into the room and set about finding a plug, after several loud crashes and a huge sigh of annoyance Faith tentatively asked if anything—other than the obvious—was annoying her.
“The damn manager,” Buffy snapped. “He said that I couldn’t have the kettle unless he saw my boobs!”
Taz snorted loudly, Faith laughed out loud and Wes turned bright red.
“So, what did you do?” Faith asked between chuckles.
“Well, I showed him, didn’t I?” Buffy replied. “It was that or no caffeine. I’m sure the Council would agree that sacrificing my dignity to save lives is a small price to pay. I mean, I’ve already died once, run a sword through my then-love-of-my-life and I’ve been expelled. I’ve not even graduated yet.”
Even Wes couldn’t keep a straight face watching Buffy rant and slam the kettle around.
“You did the honourable thing,” Faith told her in mock solemnity, while Taz nodded in approval.
Buffy glared at her. “God! You actually believed me? You genuinely thought I’d flash my boobs to a fat, smelly, sweaty guy who hasn’t had a wash since the bubonic plague was sweeping England? Jesus!” She found a socket for the kettle and plugged the base in, then stomped towards the bathroom to fill the jug with water. She paused, “For the record, I bitch slapped him across the office.” She slammed the bathroom door so hard it cracked.
“Maybe we should call her Huffy the Vampire Slayer,” Faith suggested in a low voice to the other two.
“I heard that!” came the response through the bathroom door.
“You were supposed to!” Faith winked at Taz.
Not for the first time, Wesley wondered what he had let himself in for.
Notes: Ok, so Taz woke up after she was drugged. Now, don’t go bitching at me because of what you’ve seen in films. I’m a genuine insomniac, have been ever since I was a kid, and every so often I’m allowed sleeping pills, and really they only help you get to sleep, not stay asleep. My theory on why it took Taz so long to wake up was because she was exhausted. I once slept for fourteen hours after staying awake for four days, so no biggie.
Notes: Thanks for the feedback I’ve received on this. You all rock. And thanks to my Beta (she’s a nightmare, this chapter took about 100 re-writes, if she sent it back just once more I was going to hire a pack of mercenaries to hunt her down and torture her until she decided it was tolerable as it was), also, thanks to Kara Olsen, the cowardly flamer who thinks it’s ok to be rotten to people about disabilities. It’s always nice to know that no matter how bad I feel about doing something wrong, there’s always someone lower on the morality ladder.
“Still convinced they’re not dating?” Faith asked conversationally as she and Buffy watched Taz dash out the door at high speed. For the previous three hours they had been trying to convince Taz that it was too early to call Maya, at 8.30 they finally agreed that it was a reasonable time. Faith had lent her some money and she had gone to the nearest payphone.
Wesley was on a breakfast run and then would be going to the library to use the internet to learn more from the journal that Willow found the previous day.
“I was never convinced they weren’t dating,” Buffy replied. “I just didn’t notice they were.” She stretched and began walking around the room, feeling a little sluggish from lack of sleep. “So where did you get your ‘great gaydar’ from?” She asked with a grin.
“Ah, you know how it is, some things you get free with the package.” Faith took a sip of coffee, made a face and set the mug back down. “I think that mug has been there all night. Yuck.”
“Package?” Buffy asked, intrigued.
“Yeah, like you can whittle really good stakes—bad example, since I can’t. Guess that didn’t come with the Slayer package for me.”
“So this is a Slayer thing?”
Faith sighed. “You missed the point, B. But I can’t blame you for that, you are blonde. It’s a person thing. You’re a Slayer and you can whittle stakes and I…” Faith tailed off and looked for a slightly warmer mug of coffee.
Buffy took a few minutes to process what Faith had just said. Faith had gaydar because she was…? When Buffy remembered Faith’s constant innuendoes, it seemed kinda obvious that she might be gay, but somehow she had still not really noticed. Then she flushed, several times she had responded to them. She quickly thought of something to say, something that sounded casual and non-wigged. “What about you and Taz? Did you two ever…?”
Faith snorted. “Me and Taz? No. Actually, I didn’t realise back then that Taz was gay. And even if I did know… probably not. Not then.”
“But you would now, if she and Maya weren’t together?” Buffy persisted.
Faith stared at her. “What’s with the big old questions, B?”
Buffy paused in her circuits of the room. “Just a funner version of Twenty Questions, F. See, when two people are friends they show interest in each other’s lives, they ask questions and share details.”
Faith snorted again. “Is this how you and Willow bond?”
“Nope. Willow’s a big talker, mostly she’ll share details without being forced, but with you it’s like getting blood out of a stone. And don’t think I’m not noticing how far you’re going to get out of answering the question.”
“Fine. But I get to ask you questions in return.”
“That’s kind of how it works,” Buffy told her.
“No, I wouldn’t be after Taz if she didn’t have a girlfriend.”
“Jesus, B! It’s like being with a four year old, if your next question is ‘why is the sky blue’ I’m going to knock you unconscious, and given our current location and situation, that’s a fairly serious threat.”
Buffy processed the threat for a few seconds. “Hrmm. Ok, well, I won’t ask that then. So, I’ll return to my previous question of why?”
“Why?” Faith laughed. “I don’t know! Um, maybe her hair, I like to drink a lot and I couldn’t face waking up with a hangover and the first thing I saw being such a toxic shade of purple. I don’t know, B. Why don’t you want Xander? It’s one of those things that you just know but don’t know why!”
“Is there someone else?”
“Hey! When’s it my turn to ask questions? You’ve asked loads already,” Faith protested.
“Ask away,” Buffy replied, quickly storing up her questions for another time.
Faith stretched and thought. “Well, I’ve asked before, but you boinked the undead, what was that like? I mean, was it really cold? Was it good? Does he have tricks that mortal men don’t? Did he bite you?”
“That’s like four questions,” Buffy pointed out, blushing furiously.
“B, you’ve dug around in my brain, this is payback.”
“Ok. Ok. It was good, nice…”
“Good? Nice? B, he was your big love, I don’t think he’d be too flattered if that was the best description you could think of.”
“Ok, it was absolutely amazing, and yes, it was very cold to begin with.” She fought the blush, determined not to invoke more questions from Faith. “It was kinda like when you hop into a swimming pool in the middle of summer and the cold hits you instantly, but then he began to warm up.”
Faith’s eyes lit up. “More details?”
“You want the really ooshy details?”
“Well, not every thrust and grunt, but some more would be fun.”
“He was very gentle with me, and it was amazing. No, he didn’t bite me. And I don’t know if he had any tricks that mortals don’t since he’s the only one I’ve ever been with.”
“So you didn’t do the dirty with Scott, then?”
Buffy was saved from answering any more of Faith’s inane questions by the return of Wes and breakfast. “I didn’t know what you wanted,” he said without any preamble. “So I got a little of everything.”
“Go, Wes!” Faith said approvingly.
“Hope you got a receipt,” Buffy added, helping herself to a blueberry muffin. “Otherwise the Council won’t reimburse you.”
Buffy and Faith exchanged amused looks. This was the closest they had been to seeing Wes curse in everyday life.
Buffy patted his shoulder. “But on the plus side, it’s very yummy.”
The door opened once more and a very pale Taz walked in.
“Yummy breakfast?” Buffy offered.
Taz stumbled over to bed and sank down on it. “I can’t do this anymore,” she said softly, her face in her hands.
“What?” Faith asked.
“Losing friends,” Taz replied. “Annie died last night.”
Given Taz’s track record, all three expected her to cry, so they were quite surprised when she merely picked up a cup of coffee and sipped it as if on auto-pilot.
“Taz, that coffee’s three hours old,” Wes said, taking it from her.
Faith stared at Buffy who was making some bizarre gestures with her eyes towards Taz, who was staring at the cup that Wes just took from her. Faith finally understood when Buffy mouthed ‘hug her’. She tentatively put a hand of Taz’s back and patted her awkwardly.
Taz shook her off. “Look, you guys have been great, really. I mean, you saved my life, and that’s a hell of a lot, but right now I need Maya.” She stood up. “I’m going to see Maya.”
“I’ll drive you,” Wesley offered.
“You’re exhausted, Taz, and upset,” Buffy pointed out. “We won’t stay, unless you want us to, but let us give you a lift.”
“Fine,” she replied listlessly.
They stayed in the car when Taz got out at Maya’s house. Maya was waiting at the end of the drive for her. When Taz reached her they embraced, sinking to the ground, overcome with grief.
Buffy felt her own eyes fill with tears. She blinked them back. “Let’s go.”
“B, you ok?” Faith asked.
“You don’t look fine,” Faith told her bluntly.
“Faith…” Wes cautioned, glancing at them in the rear-view mirror.
“There wasn’t anything we could have done,” Faith added. “I didn’t see Annie at all while I was dreaming, how about you?”
“I only saw the two of you and Taz. I didn’t even see Freddy in his true form,” He replied.
“I should have gone back to sleep,” Buffy said softly. “I should have been there.”
“B, first rule of slaying, don’t die. You told me that. You didn’t die. I feel bad that we couldn’t help Annie, but we did manage to save Taz, you saved Taz, and all three of us here are still alive.”
“And after we saved Taz I should have gone back to sleep,” Buffy said stubbornly.
“B, none of us knew this would happen—”
“Well it’s a fair assumption! After what we saw him do to Taz I should have known!” She snapped.
“Buffy, I’m your—” Wes paused, knowing how the girl would respond if he used the word ‘Watcher’, “—chaperone, I’m in charge of the both of you, I’m fully trained to do this. Do you think I’m not feeling guilty that a girl has died?”
“How the hell am I supposed to know? You’re so damned British I wasn’t aware you even had emotions!”
As Wes pulled up outside the library she hopped out of the car and started walking away, Faith quickly walked after her, leaving Wes in the car. He saw Faith catch up with her, then clearly heard Buffy say, “F, I’m storming off, it has less of an impact if you come with me!”
Wesley sighed deeply, wondering why he hadn’t just let Giles accompany the girls. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he wasn’t cut out for this. Whether that thing last night had been his father or not, the words still hit home. His father would have certainly told Wesley that he was making a complete pig’s ear of the whole operation. While failures could have their good days, there was no changing the fact that from the beginning of their lives to the end, they were still failures.
“C’mon, England,” Faith opened his door, breaking him out of his reverie. “Let’s go hit the books. B’s gonna come back when she’s less volatile.”
“She said that?”
“No, but she’s big with the loyalty. She’ll be back.”
Wes got out of the car and locked up, as he did so he heard Faith mutter, “I’m no good at this.”
“I can assure you that you are,” he replied, not caring if he was supposed to hear or not.
She stared at him, as if weighing up the pros and cons of pretending he hadn’t spoken or jumping in with both feet. “I mean the girly shit,” she said finally. “Kill a demon, fine. It’s this hug-and-share-and-learn-and-grow crap I can’t deal with. She needs someone like Willow here to do the hugging thing.”
“You’re not Willow,” he told her firmly. “But that’s a good thing. Buffy doesn’t need a replacement for Willow, she already has the real thing. And I doubt I’m mistaken when I tell you that Buffy is glad that you’re here.”
“Whatever,” Faith replied emptily, taking a bag from Wes and heading towards the library.
Wes hurried to catch her up. “Not ‘whatever’. She considers you a friend, and that is certainly not a ‘whatever’ situation.”
Faith stared at him, the corners of her mouth twitching as if she was fighting a smile. “For a suit, you’re not bad at this girly stuff,” The smile won out. “Maybe you could give me some pointers for talking to B?”
“I think you’re handling it just fine,” he said as they entered the library.
Faith followed him, still smiling. As stuffy, slightly anal and overly British watchers went, Wes wasn’t so bad.
“Is there anything else you need, Mr Wyndham-Price?” The librarian asked with a big smile.
Wesley paused to read the name on her badge. “I think we’re set, Ms Jarrett.”
“Oh, call me Suzie,” She smiled even wider.
“Suzie, then. I think we’re set.”
Suzie smiled again and Faith began to wonder how her face muscles dealt with the strain. That was one big-ass smile. Finally, she bustled off, smiling over her shoulder at Wes.
“She’s crushing on you,” Faith told him in an undertone.
Wes choked on his coffee. “What? She’s not. I mean, well, she’s twice my age! No, she’s not.”
“I don’t get it,” She stared at him appraisingly. “I mean, you’re ok. You wear a suit well and you’re less tweedy that Giles, but still, you’re so Wesley.”
“Faith, research,” he said regaining his composure.
“Not that it’s not handy,” She continued. “She’s letting us drink coffee in here, and use our own books and has given us unlimited access to the net, but all the same… it’s just not natural.”
Wesley passed her a book from his own collection. “Chapter nine deals with sleep demons. Simply marvellous author.”
“Are you going to ask her out?”
“The author? She’s been dead since the thirteenth century.”
“Wes! We’re bonding here, stop making with the funnies, it’s weird enough that someone finds you attractive, let alone you develop a sense of humour.”
“Chapter nine,” he repeated, opening his emails.
She sighed deeply and opened the book. Silence reigned for a few minutes.
“So, where are you going to take her?”
Buffy took a seat under a big tree and rested her face in her hands. What she really wanted was to clear her head before she went into the library and started researching. All she could see was Annie’s face. She’d only met the girl yesterday and now she was dead.
She hated the fact that she hadn’t been able to save her, and the guilt almost felt physical, pressing down on her from all sides. Something that Taz said last night had been bothering her.
“Sometimes I think about killing myself. Not because I want to die, I really want to live, I have so much going, Maya, my friends, an art scholarship, even my Dad when’s he’s not drugging me. But I really don’t want to die in the dream. I just get the feeling that if you die in there your soul isn’t freed. You’re trapped in his world forever, and that’s even more scary than what he might do to me before I die. I’m a Catholic, and I’ve been brought up with the idea that suicide is a sin and you go to hell for it. That’s fine. Hell can’t be worse than that kind of dream.”
Not only had she not been able to save Annie, but Annie’s soul was trapped in one of the most scary places Buffy had ever been to, and she had already visited a hell dimension.
Buffy looked up and saw a flash of purple hair, flanked by a brunette and a redhead, Taz, Maya and Marie. Buffy sighed inwardly then waved and got to her feet to meet them.
“Hi,” she said softly on reaching them.
“Our parents have told us to get out of the house and get some fresh air. I can’t get Krueger out of my mind, you said you were going to find a way to stop him. We’re going to help you,” Taz informed her.
Marie glared. “And wow, look how simple it is! All we gotta do is plonk our asses down under a tree in the sunshine and Krueger’s gone! Who’d have thunk?”
Buffy winced, but said nothing to defend herself.
“Marie, shut up,” Maya told her sternly. “She saved Taz last night.”
“But not Annie,” Marie pointed out. “Which begs the question why? Why was Taz good enough to save but not Annie.”
“Shut up!” Taz snapped at her. “Annie wasn’t there when we were.”
“Oh, so when Fluffy here said that she had come to Springwood to stop Krueger and save us, what she actually meant was that she’d only do it when it suited her? When she was asleep and fighting for her life, she might as well save someone else who was there too.”
“I’m sorry,” Buffy said weakly.
“Oh, well that’s ok then,” Marie sneered. “It’s fine that Annie’s dead because Buffy’s sorry. Yay. I feel better now.”
“Marie, shut the fuck up!” Taz grabbed Marie by the arm and frog-marched her away from them.
“No, she’s right,” Buffy said. “I fucked up, and I’m really, really sorry.”
Maya tentatively put a hand on her arm. “Marie’s just hurting over Annie. Annie was her big unrequited love and her best friend, she doesn’t really blame you. You saved Taz last night, and I, for one, will be forever grateful to you.”
“It’s my job,” Buffy replied tonelessly. “And I messed up.”
“Saving a life is messing up?” Maya asked. “Because I really don’t think so. Annie was one of my best friends, but I don’t blame you, and like I said, Marie doesn’t either, she’s just hurting. If you weren’t here she’d be lashing out at Taz or me for not dying last night. Except for the fact that Taz would be dead if you weren’t here. Don’t blame yourself, blame Krueger.”
Buffy processed what Maya was telling her, it seemed to make sense, but the guilt didn’t lessen. “I should get inside and start researching,” she said finally, then paused. “Thanks.”
“We’ll be there in a second, we just need to calm Marie down,” Maya told her.
Faith slammed the book shut, then sneezed loudly as some dust shot out of the book and up her nose. “Bless me,” She muttered.
“It’s bad luck to bless yourself,” Wes informed her.
“That’s ok. I figure given the lack of luck we’ve had a little more bad luck couldn’t hurt. You reach a point where there’s just no more hopeless to have,” she replied, taking another book.
“Hey guys, what do we have?” Buffy asked, walking up to the table.
“Well, we have a starter of nothing, a main course of zip, with a double side order of zilch with nil sauce, rounded up with a dessert of sweet fuck all,” Faith responded.
“Sounds yummy,” Buffy took a seat and took a book. “Can the seating plan extend to three more? Taz, Maya and Marie are on their way.”
“There’s plenty of nothing to go around,” Wes said.
Buffy stared at him, then turned to Faith. “Did he just make a funny?”
“Uh-huh. That’s about the fourth time. It’s getting downright freaky being here,” Faith replied.
“Ah!” Wes said.
“Ah?” Buffy and Faith responded. Faith quickly added, “That was a good ‘ah’, right?”
“No! Don’t you do that! Thank you, ah—” Wes hit a few buttons on the computer in front of him. “Bugger.”
“Not a good ‘ah’,” Faith concluded. “Another virus?”
“No, just a random crash,” Wes replied.
“Wes and the computer are not getting along very well,” Faith told Buffy. “The server for his email is down, so we called Willow who told him a way to get around it, but the computer isn’t taking orders very well. We’ve tried everything, rebooting, swearing, poking it with a pen and frowning disapprovingly but nothing so far.”
Buffy blinked. “You poked the computer with a pen?”
“Well yeah, I was going for blue, but Wes said that red is the colour of correction.”
“No, I made that up. I used black.”
Wes sighed as the computer made various beeps as it rebooted. He pointed to a dot on the monitor. “See, this is where she poked it.”
Buffy turned to Faith. “What did you do with the real Wes?”
“It’s the effect of true love, it brought out the best in him,” Faith replied, skimming a page in her book.
Buffy goggled. “Please don’t tell me you’re macking on your Watcher.”
“Oh no, Suzie behind the counter is. Wes is taking her to the movies.”
“I’m not,” Wes interjected.
“Then to dinner, then back to his motel room for a bit of down and dirty.”
“Again, I say I’m not.”
“We’d better wear earplugs tonight.”
Buffy flipped a page. “You know what? Reading this boring dusty book seems more appealing that listening to this conversation.”
“Marvellous idea. Faith, research,” he said sternly, but smiled at her.
“Ok, I’m done with demons, I’m gonna find out what Krueger was before he died. I’m getting nowhere, I want a new topic. Buffy can take the demons.”
“You wanna say demons any louder?” Buffy hissed.
“Ah, it’s ok,” Faith assured her. “Wes told Suzie that he’s a horror writer and we’re his research assistants.”
“Wow,” Buffy said to Wes. “She must really like you if she bought that.”
“Great theme song,” Faith commented as she headed off to the news archives.
When she returned, laden down with several large books filled with newspaper clippings, Taz, Maya and Marie had already arrived. Wes had given Maya and Taz a book each and they were reading them, their mouths hanging open, looking a little stunned by the content of Wes’s books. Marie was curled up in a chair reading a Harry Potter book.
“Don’t think you’re gonna find any answers in there?” Faith commented, not seeing the warning looks from the others.
Marie stared up her, her green eyes narrowed, “Well, I’m one of those people who doesn’t want to die in the middle of a book. I have seven chapters to go and only after I finish them will I bother to read anything else.”
Faith opened her mouth to comment again, but this time she saw Maya shaking her head emphatically, and shut it again. “Right. Ok. Let me know how it ends, I always meant to read those books,” she said softly and took her seat at the table again.
“You know the archives have been pulled on him,” Taz commented, noting Faith’s books.
“I’m not looking for how he died, I’m looking for what he was like before then,” she replied. “I wanna know if he was the type to invoke a demon, or if this was pure chance.”
“Knock yourself out,” Taz replied, her attention returning to the book in front of her.
There was several minutes’ silence, aside from the odd ‘yuck’ or ‘eww’ from Taz and Maya who, while were almost used to the idea of demons, were not quite so used to some of their methods of breeding, eating or fighting.
“Ah!” Wes said rather triumphantly.
“Virus?” Buffy suggested.
“Crash?” Faith added. “Or better yet, a good ‘ah’?”
“No, no and yes, a good ‘ah’,” Wes replied. “Faith, pass me the Draconim Compendium.”
Faith looked helplessly at the books around her.
“The one that you said looked like a dragon vomited on it,” Wes added obligingly.
She located the book and handed it over. “Actually I said it smelt like a…” she tailed off as Wes held up one finger to silence her.
“This is good, right?” Maya whispered.
Faith nodded. “Hope so.”
“Definitely a positive vibe,” Buffy added. “He’s wearing Giles’ smug face.”
“I can assure you, this smug face is my very own,” Wes muttered absently, searching the pages of the huge tome in front of him.
“And once more with the funny. This is getting creepy.”
“A-ha!” Wes said in the same triumphant tone.
“Now that’s definitely a good sign,” Faith said knowledgably “He’s not said ‘a-ha’ the whole time we’ve been here.”
Wesley gave her a tolerant smile. “Willow emailed the diary of a girl named Alice Johnson to—”
“Crazy Alice?” Maya asked. “She’s a local legend around here too. The only person in the world who faced Freddy twice and lived. Nearly drove her crazy though, she took her son and high-tailed it out of here back when I was still in kindergarten.”
“Yes, most probably, this is her journal. Mostly it contains her personal reactions to the deaths around her, but she did mention that once when she was facing Krueger he referred to ‘soul food’, and then at the end of her diary she also wrote that she saw souls being released when she defeated him.”
Wes paused and took a sip of his coffee, the others stared at him expectantly, even Marie’s interest was piqued and she was leaning forward, although she was trying to maintain a bored expression.
“There is tell of a demon, a Krakhlahn, that will inhabit a host, but can only survive on a diet of human souls. This demon is very picky about who it will choose to be its host. It would rather be an intangible entity than trap itself in the ‘wrong’ body. Once it chooses a host it’s stuck with it forever.”
“Hrmm, a classy demon, standards and everything. I bet Cordy’s sorry she missed this,” Buffy commented.
“If the demon’s that elitist, why did it pick Krueger?” Faith asked. “I mean, there are hundreds of murderers all over the States, what made him so special?”
“Well, if you think of the way he was conceived anything’s possible,” Maya commented.
Wes, Buffy and Faith stared at her. “What do you mean?” Wesley asked.
“Everyone around here knows the legend… but of course you’re not from around here, so you obviously don’t know,” Maya sighed. “In a nutshell there’s an abandoned hospital around here called Westin Hills, it got closed back in… when was it, Taz?”
“Eighty-seven,” Taz supplied. “Right after another Freddy fiasco.”
“Right, so it was closed. But before that it was a mental institute, not one of the cozy ones with finger painting and the Disney Channel, more like hundreds of nutbags locked in a tower at one end and left to rot. The story goes that a young nun named Amanda Krueger was locked in there over a long weekend, either a joke or just a mistake, the maniacs had their fun with her, and when they she was let out she was pregnant. Guess who the baby was.”
“They called him the bastard son of a hundred maniacs,” Marie supplied, joining the conversation for the first time.
“Well, that would certainly bump up his points on the evil scale,” Buffy said. “So, how do we kill old crackly?”
“The Krakhlahn is impossible to kill,” Wesley replied.
“Well, that’s inspiring. Glad I stopped reading for this,” Marie commented.
“Back off, Red,” Faith snapped. “He’s my Watcher and only I get to dis him, ok?” She turned back to Wes. “Something inspiring would help no end right about now.”
“However, you can draw the demon out of the host, leaving the host mortal once more.”
Faith flashed a smug look at Marie, who glared back at her and returned to her book.
“Sounds like a plan,” Buffy said. “How do we do that?”
Wesley sighed and stared at the page in front of him. “We need and Urn of Ylliano.”
“I’ve heard of him, he opened the Olympics back in ninety-six, sang that boring song in Italian.”
“Doubtful,” Wesley replied. “If that was him, he was looking remarkably spry for a man of twelve-hundred years.”
Faith grinned at her. “Yeah, Ylliano is the guy who invented that spirit drink that’s about seventy percent and tastes like peppermint essence.”
“That would be Galliano,” Wesley smiled slightly. He had always found the Slayers to be tiresome when they played dumb for Giles, but now he was involved he actually found it amusing. “And I would point out that you are too young to drink, Faith, but I fear it would only encourage you.”
“Hello, tired people here,” Marie interrupted. “Very tired. Are you going to tell us how to get this vase or whatever or are we going to play word games for the rest of the day?”
“Shut up, Marie,” Taz and Maya chorused.
“No, she’s right. I apologise,” Wes smiled slightly at the surly redhead. “Ylliano was apparently rather fanatical about Krakhlahns and made an Urn that would essentially suck the demon out of the host, very powerful magic.”
“You’re telling me that we’re facing Krueger, and all we’ve got is a supernatural vacuum cleaner?” Faith asked.
Wesley ignored her and carried on. “Unfortunately the urns are extremely rare. I suggest you all go and stock up on coffee while I try various sources to obtain one.”
“Well,” Marie decided, standing up. “I’m glad I was here for that. It was just like a history lesson, boring as hell and nearly as deadly, I felt my eyes closing several times and we’re still no better off.” She stomped out, hastily followed by Maya and Taz. Taz threw a hurried “sorry” over her shoulder as she left.
“I think he means we’re cramping his style and he wants to ask Suzie out,” Faith said to Buffy, getting to her feet.
Wesley sighed. “Just go.”
“I’ll even get you a donut on the coffee run,” she replied, shouldering her bag.
“Any preferences?” Buffy offered. “I’m craving chocolate.”
“Jam please,” Wes answered, then paused. “That’s jelly in American-speak.”
“Gotcha. And what would Suzie like?” Buffy asked.
“Probably not what you could buy in the local diner… although we could probably get some chocolate sauce if you want,” Faith added.
“Please go,” Wesley replied, his face turning rather pink.
Faith grinned at him, “Let’s go, B. I think we’ve hit out quota for embarrassing Wes today.”
Wes watched them leave the library, smiling slightly. There was no doubt his father would consider this a failure, for the Slayers to feel comfortable enough around him to have a joke with (or at) him, but strangely, Wes didn’t care.
“You know,” Maya commented. “It’s around now that it’s so hard,” She dumped another sachet of sugar into her coffee and stirred it listlessly. “In the morning it’s ok being awake, because you’re supposed to be awake. But around now, the sun’s really up and it’s just getting warm and it’s been a long morning…” she tailed off with a yawn.
Buffy sipped her coffee tiredly, trying to ignore the glares that Marie was giving her.
“I’m next, you know,” Marie said.
“What?” Taz asked, dozily, her head snapping up. In the light streaming through the window she looked more beaten up than she had earlier. Especially in comparison to Faith who had almost healed up perfectly, she still limped, but there was no pain in her leg, and the cuts that had been so vicious last night were mere scratches.
“I’m next,” Marie repeated in much the same tone as one would use to comment on the weather. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but whoever sees a person die, dies next. Annie saw Sharlie die and now she’s dead, and I saw Annie die.”
“You didn’t say anything,” Maya said softly, reaching out to touch Marie’s shoulder.
Marie shook her off. “What was the point? We’re all going to die, but it occurred to me that if I’m the only one who noticed the pattern, I might as well impart it before I die.”
“You’re not going to die, Marie,” Faith said firmly.
“It’s very sweet of you to say so, but fuck off,” Marie snarled. “We’re not friends, you don’t owe me the way you owe Taz.”
“It’s not about owing anybody,” Faith replied. “We’re trying to help.”
“Like you helped Annie?”
“Marie, we all miss Annie…” Maya said in a placating tone.
“Yeah, but you and Taz didn’t have to watch her die—be murdered,” Marie glared at her. “You know what her parents think happened? They think she drowned in the swimming pool. Why doesn’t anyone remember that Annie was captain of the swim team? That she broke every record in the history of Springwood High and in most of the state? It’s not fair! It’s their fault! If her parents had just cared about, just a little, she wouldn’t have been locked in her room that night, she’d have been at my place staying awake with me! And take a moment to think about that—they locked her in her room, the door to the pool house is always locked, Annie passed through two locked doors last night and nobody thinks that’s suspicious!”
Maya, who was closest, reached out and put her arm around Marie who, surprisingly, not only let her, but clung to her, crying softly. “I want to kill that bastard. You should have seen his face, he held her underwater for so long, then brought her back up just long enough to catch her breath, and he did it so many times… it went on for what felt like hours, he cut her and the swimming pool turned pink… when she finally died you should have seen his face. I saw her soul go into him and he just looked… I don’t know, like it was the big O for him.”
Maya stroked her back. “It must have been awful for both of you.”
“The worst thing is I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything to help her and no matter which way I looked she was dying right in front of me even when I closed my eyes,” Marie wiped her eyes. “And after awhile I just started wishing she would die. Just so she would be free… Imagine that, I wished my own best friend dead. I loved her so much. I never saw anything but Freddy when I first started dreaming, not the way Taz saw her Mom or you saw that guy who beat you up for being gay. See, my worst fear was watching Annie die and not being able to do a thing to help her.”
“We’re going to stop him,” Faith said. “And you’re going to watch as we give him back every bit of pain he’s inflicted on this town.”
Marie wiped her eyes again. “You’d better. ‘Cos I don’t know how long we can take all this.”
“We will,” Buffy assured her quietly.
They left Taz, Maya and Marie at the diner and agreed to meet them later. When they returned to the library, coffee and donuts in hand, they saw Wes talking to Suzie, blushing furiously and trying to regain his composure.
Faith smiled wickedly at Buffy. “C’mon, B.”
“Wesley!” Faith smiled brightly at him. “I managed to get the whipped cream and chocolate body paint, but the handcuffs were slightly harder to get. Had to bribe a police officer. You have to give them back by six tomorrow afternoon.” She turned to Suzie. “You’re a lucky, lucky woman,” she said in a serious tone.
Buffy snorted loudly, both Wes and Suzie turned red and Suzie began stammering about sorting the returns.
“Faith,” Wes said in a warning tone. “What have I told you about sharing your delusions with the public? The doctors told you not to. You’ll only get sent back to the hospital if you keep this up,” He turned to Suzie. “I apologise, all that time in the hospital has made her rather…” he pulled a face.
Buffy laughed again, and Faith looked rather dumbstruck that Wes had responded to her taunts. “I’ll go research,” she said.
“Thanks for the backup, B,” Faith muttered as they walked over to the table.
“I was too busy being stunned that Wes has a sense of humour to back you up,” She grinned. “And besides, the look on your face was priceless, I wish I had a camera.”
“Oh, B, you know you don’t have to think of excuses to take pictures of me. I already know that you’re hot for my bod.”
“Desperately so,” Buffy agreed. “It’s so tragic that you don’t want me. I’m going to cry in the stacks, see you in five, ok?”
“Sure, you want a tissue or something?”
“I’d need a sheet to mop up the tears I’ll cry over you.”
“Hrmm. Why don’t you go stand in a bathroom and cry into a sink? That would save a sheet.”
“That’s a good plan. I’ll save my tears and have a good cry when we get back to the motel.” Buffy took a seat at the table.
“It’s the Slayer in me, I’m very resourceful,” Faith grinned.
“Thank you for that, Faith,” Wesley said, taking a seat in front of the computer and nodding in Suzie’s direction. “That was very embarrassing.”
“I aim to please.” Faith shrugged easily. “So, did you get a date?”
“I’ve said before that she’s twice my age. I was merely asking if I could book the computer for the same time tomorrow.”
“Bet she said yes,” Buffy said with a grin.
“Providing the two of you are on your best behaviour,” he replied sternly.
“Me?” Buffy asked indignantly. “I didn’t say a word! I was a mere spectator in the humiliation of you and your girlfriend!”
“You’re a Slayer, B,” Faith pointed out. “You’re the only person who could have hit me and lived to tell the tale. Wes is in a snit because you didn’t knock me unconscious before I jumped in handcuffs a-blazing.”
“Hrmm. I’ll bear that in mind,” Buffy replied.
“So how’s it going? Found a vase of Galliano yet?” Faith asked Wes, who was beginning to look bored.
“I’ve spoken to the Council, who are also looking. Really all we can do is wait. Perhaps the two of you would like to take this opportunity to train?”
“I’ve got a better idea. I want to dream, I want to hurt him,” Buffy replied.
“B, dreaming is suicide. I don’t think it’s a great idea.”
“And how many people are trying to stay awake in this town? It can’t just be the girls that we’ve already met,” Buffy replied.
“He’ll kill you.”
“No he won’t. Last night he wasn’t really aiming to kill us, he was playing. He was holding back, I could tell just I could last year with Angelus.”
Wes looked puzzled. “That’s true. He had ample time to kill me but didn’t.”
“And I got away far too easy,” Buffy replied. “I basically kicked him in the gut and got away. If he’s immortal then why did that slow him down so much? Faith, you fell out of a window, didn’t you? If it was all about death, why did you land on ground instead of spikes or something?”
“Well, there’s a pretty visual. Cheers,” Faith responded, but looked thoughtful. “Let me guess, more research?”
“Afraid so,” Wes said.
“Well, at least we know what we’re researching,” Buffy reluctantly reached for a book.
“Maybe we just taste better when we’re scared,” Faith suggested, after several minutes’ silence. “Have you ever seen IT? That clown thing was a shapeshifter, and it said that the kids tasted better when they were afraid.”
“Ooh, I’ve seen that. Didn’t that Richie kid look just like Oz?” Buffy said. “Only really talkative. Like an alternate universe Oz.”
“Yeah, now you come to mention it, there is a—”
“Research, please,” Wes said in a tired tone. “As soon as we find out more about this demon I promise you can have a conversation about every horror film ever made—even write your own script if you want—but until then—”
“Research,” The Slayers chorused.
Silence presided once more at the research table. Albeit momentarily. “Wes, apparently IT is in the top ten of all time horror movies, to which demon did the director sell his soul to achieve that?” Faith asked.
“I would assume it was a Trekhon-Nacia,” Wes replied tiredly. “Now, please…” he gestured to the book in front of her.
“Teflon-Nasty. Got it. Was just checking. I’m gonna write my own script and subscribe to the Teflon’s mailing list,” She hurriedly turned a page in her book. “Right after I read up on Krakhlahns.”
The Slayers hushed once more, but it wasn’t long before Buffy squealed. “Oooh!”
“You ooohed?” Faith asked.
“Well, I was reading through the print out of Alice’s journal,” she looked a little sheepish. “It seemed to be easier reading than those huge books, and she mentions that a friend of hers called Kirsten said that she thought Freddy got power from fear.”
“Really?” Wes asked. “Hrmm,” He took a book and began flipping through it. “A-ha! The Krakhlahn is sustained by a diet of on souls, but negative emotions such as fear, guilt, hate, and sorrow give him immediate power to use in the dream.”
Buffy looked annoyed. “I believe that is the sound of my thunder being stolen.”
“So it’s like souls are a basic four-cheeses pizza and fear, hate and all that are a double order of pepperoni with pineapple on top?”
“That’s a disgusting combination,” Buffy said with a frown. “And hello! Useful Buffy found it, not Wes!” She turned her glare on Wesley. “So easy when I’ve done the groundwork!”
“I was impressed,” Faith told her. “And pepperoni and pineapple is a great combo.”
“Despite the Faith-speak, and the horrific combination that has put me off pizza for life, that was a fairly good example.”
Faith took a half bow in her seat. “Thank you, my adoring public.”
“I got it right first,” Buffy crossed her arms and pouted.
Wes smiled at her. “Yes, you got it right, I expanded and Faith interpreted.” There was no change in her expression. “If I buy you a donut will you stop sulking?”
“I’m not sulking,” she said, a smile slowly crossing her face. “And it had better be chocolate.”
“How come she gets a donut and I don’t?” Faith asked indignantly.
“You both get donuts,” Wes got to his feet. “Now, let’s go before Ms Jarrett reappears and the two of you embarrass me. Again.”
“We’re taking a break?” Buffy asked.
“Yes. I’m beginning to get cabin fever from being in front of this computer for so long,” Wes answered, gathering up his books. “If we make it out of here without either of you terrorising Ms Jarrett or myself, I’ll pay for your lunch.”
“What a gent,” Faith commented in a sardonic tone, shouldering a bag of books. “Only buys us dinner if he wants something.”
“We should tip off Suzie, let her know that under all that Englishness, he’s still just a man,” Buffy agreed.
Wes sighed loudly.
“Nice going, B, you just lost us a free feeding.”
Buffy smiled winningly at Wes. “Have I ever told you that you’re a very nice man? And Cordy’s right, you do wear a suit well.”
“Be quiet, exit the library and lunch is yours,” Wes replied in a tired tone.
Buffy winked at Faith. “I bet he gets a receipt,” she said in a low voice.
“I heard that, Buffy.”
“You know what? I think I want my jacket,” Buffy said, as they walked to the diner. “It’s getting chilly. I’ll just go get it.”
“We’re nearly there. I’m sure it will be warmer inside,” Wes pointed out.
“You can have mine if you want,” Faith offered. “I’m warm enough.”
“No, I’ll go get mine,” Buffy insisted. “It, uh, has a letter from my Mom in it. I’m all homesick and stuff.”
Faith and Wesley exchanged a look. “Can’t it wait, B? I’m hungry.”
“Go to the diner, order up and I’ll be back in a second, I’m a speedy slayer,” Buffy replied. “Honestly.”
“Be quick,” Wes instructed.
“Will do,” Buffy turned on her heel and sped off towards the motel.
Marie took a sip of her coffee and wandered around her room, unable to really focus on anything. She kept picking up objects and putting them down again. She yawned widely and set her coffee cup down. She was so tired. According to the clock, she had managed to get about forty minutes sleep the previous night, before that it had been days.
She yawned again, and looked at her bed, it was so tempting. Instead she went to the bathroom and poured a glass of water down her neck, her best method for waking herself up. She stretched and returned to her room. She was beginning to have second thoughts about blowing off Taz and Maya. They had gone to Taz’s house and she had been invited, but declined, worrying about having to talk about Annie again. She regretted sharing so many details with them, especially with Buffy and Faith there. It wasn’t that she didn’t like the girls—to be honest, she didn’t care either way about them—it was just that they were invading her space. Taz was all hyper and dying (she smiled a little at the twisted pun) to share every moment with them, Maya genuinely believed that they could help and didn’t mind them being around, but Marie felt that they were just in the way.
Marie took a seat at her computer and logged on to the internet, her heart twisting a little on seeing her wallpaper. It was a picture of the four of them, taken at Annie’s annual Halloween party. The flash had been a little off and Taz’s hair looked pink rather than purple, but Marie loved the picture. Taz had demanded that since there were five of them, they go as the Lost Boys and Star, so they all had eighties hair and were wearing lots of leather, denim and chains. Taz and Maya were sharing a secret smile and Annie had her arms around Marie, resting her head on Marie’s shoulder. Sharlie was on the other side, playfully poking her cousin in the ribs.
Marie logged into her email account and began re-reading all of the mails she and Annie had sent back and forth, fighting back the tears. A couple of days ago, she had been this close to telling Annie that she loved her, but had chickened out at the last minute.
The screen began to blur, not just from tears, but from tiredness. Marie’s head nodded a couple of times, unable to fight it she fell asleep at her computer.
“You know, she’s been gone a long time,” Faith commented worriedly.
Wes checked his watch for the hundredth time since Buffy had left to get her jacket. “You’re right,” He agreed. “It doesn’t take twenty minutes to get to the motel and back again.”
“More like five tops,” Faith pulled on her jacket again and Wes signalled that he wanted the check.
“You go, I’ll settle up and follow,” He decided.
“I’m on it,” She practically bolted from the diner.
Wes waited impatiently for the waitress to bring over the check, finally just leaving what he assumed would be enough for what he and Faith had ordered, and the number of the motel written on a napkin if it wasn’t enough. He realised that he was worried, not of how the council would react if something happened to Buffy while he was in charge, but worried about Buffy.
His worry increased when he got a terrified call from Faith on his cell phone.
“Wes, she’s asleep! I can’t wake her up.”
Notes: Yes, IT really is in the top ten over here. WTF, world?
Notes: Damn this chapter gave me hell. It fought every step of the way. I’ve deleted and re-written this chapter more than I have any other (including Chapter 6, that of the million re-writes), and that’s before my ß (to be known now as the Bossy, Brainwashing, Bribing, Beater/Beta) gets her grubby little hands on it.
Kat, I have two phrases for you:
“Plus, saves the hassle of accessorising. A rosary goes with everything.”
“And bad hair days? Thing of the past, hide it under a wimple.”
Marie was in hell. Quite literally. Hell, in her opinion, was a bad place emotionally, it was a place where all your fear, guilt and pain came out to play and never called for a time-out.
She was in his boiler room. Except it wasn’t. She was surrounded by pipes leading to a huge furnace that she could hear roaring in the background, but one wall was flat and clear, and currently being used to project a movie. No matter which way she turned, the wall was right in front of her.
The movie playing had started with the title ‘I let my friend die’, followed by credits of ‘Staring Frederick Krueger, Joanna ‘Annie’ James… and introducing Marie Varnden.”
Marie whimpered, as the movie played on a loop, watching herself do nothing as the girl she loved was tortured and murdered by the sadistic son of a bitch.
As the film started for a fourth time she tried to run for the stairs, but found herself faced with a wall again.
“Fucking stop it!” She screamed.
The picture changed, Annie was in the foreground, blue and water bloated with gashes running down her arms and back. She stepped out of the wall, materialising in front of Marie. “How could you do it to me, Marie? How could you just let me die?” She pleaded. “I thought you loved me.”
“I do,” Marie replied, knowing that it wasn’t really Annie and that Krueger was just fucking with her, but unable to ignore the face of the woman she loved, even if it was distorted by death.
“I don’t think so. Taz would never let Krueger kill Maya. You let me die because you knew I’d never want you! That’s not love. But I’m glad, I’d rather be dead than your girl.”
The tears fell down Marie’s face. “Shut up,” she whispered. “You’re not Annie.”
“See, you don’t even know the girl that you claim to love,” Annie sneered.
“You’re not Annie!” Marie screamed again. “Annie’s dead.”
“And it’s all your fault.”
Buffy wove through the labyrinthine corridors. This time she had seen the house from the outside and she knew that physically there was no way on earth that the house could contain the maze that she was fighting through, however, she was in the dream world, which meant logic was null and void.
She was certain she heard a muffled scream below her. Which made no sense, because after entering the house she had gone straight down to the basement, remembering that it was one of Krueger’s favourite haunts. However, there was a window further along the hall, she rushed towards it and looked out. It appeared that she was about twenty or thirty floors up.
She sighed, deeply pissed off with Freddy. He knew she was looking for him, and that was obviously why he was playing these mind games with her.
She heard another yell and set off towards it. This time it seemed to come from above.
“Damn you to hell, Krueger!” She yelled in frustration.
She heard a giggle in response and turned to see a young girl standing in the corridor with her. The girl was about six or seven and had long blonde hair, done in ringlets and fancy ribbons, she wore a white dress and white patent leather shoes. She looked like a doll. Except dolls weren’t a faint bluish colour that came with death.
“Where did you come from?” Buffy asked with a touch of surprise.
“I’ve always been here,” the girl said solemnly.
“Where’s Freddy? Did he bring you here?”
“He’s going to be cross.” The girl giggled, as if this idea appealed to her very much. “He liked the other one. Her mind was more fun.”
“The other one? Faith? Taz? Who?”
The little girl giggled once more and abruptly turned and walked around a corner. A corner that had not been there only moments ago.
Buffy sighed and set off after her, she turned the corner and found herself outside the house. The girl had found two others, who looked much the same as her and was now playing jump-rope with them, chanting as they jumped.
“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you
Three, four, better lock your door
Five, six, grab your crucifix
Seven, eight, better stay up late
Nine, ten, never sleep again.”
Buffy rubbed her forehead, hating the feel of this dream, it was so out of control and random, not like the dream from the previous night, yet she felt that Krueger was carefully controlling her.
“I’m gonna kill you, Krueger!” she yelled out, once more stepped inside the house, then in an undertone she added, “as soon as I find you.”
“I’m gonna kill you, Krueger!”
Faith shook Buffy roughly. “Wake up, B!” She yelled loudly in Buffy’s ear. She turned to Wes. “Maybe I should slap her?”
Wes nodded. “But go easy, with your strength you might just knock her unconscious instead.”
Marie jumped as she heard another voice faintly yell Krueger’s name.
Annie also looked around. “Someone else is here,” she commented conversationally. “You wanna see her die too?”
“Stop it!” Marie screamed. “You wanna kill someone? Kill me!”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Annie asked, morphing into Freddy, a process that scared Marie more that she could stand. “I have a new toy now.” Freddy gestured behind him, the wall now showed Buffy running along a corridor yelling in frustration that it seemed to be endless with no turns or doors off.
“Buffy,” Marie whispered.
“You know, this is your fault too,” Krueger said casually. “If you hadn’t pushed your guilt onto her, she wouldn’t be here proving herself.” He smiled, almost lovingly, at her. “But don’t think I’m not grateful.”
With that he turned and leapt into the wall.
The room turned pitch black, leaving Marie alone in the dark.
Buffy flinched at Krueger’s sudden appearance. “So you’re Freddy?” She asked, regaining her composure. “My god, you’re ugly. You have the kind of face that not even a mother could love.”
Krueger smirked. “That’s true. My dear mother couldn’t wait for me to be born before signing the adoption papers.”
“Awww. You wanna take a moment to cry here, or should we just fight?”
“I’m going to split you in two,” Krueger replied.
Buffy made a show of yawning. “Like I’ve never heard that before. Let’s just jump to the fighting, you’re not good at this punning stuff.”
She ran at him, making sure that she came nowhere near his blades. She grabbed his right wrist and forced his finger-knives away from her as she kneed him in the groin. It was a cheap shot, but unarmed, it was all she had.
Krueger barely even flinched as she ministered punches to his face. He grabbed her by the throat and flung her away from him. As Buffy flew through the air she pondered the wisdom of jumping—unarmed—into a dream where Freddy was obviously in control.
She went straight through the wall behind her, she did not crash into it and it did not crumple, it merely disappeared when she touched it. She landed on a metal walkway with steps leading down to a boiler room. Even if Taz hadn’t mentioned it, she would have known that she was now on Krueger’s home ground.
She shivered, despite the heat in the room, rusted metal pipes covered the walls, steam hissed out at irregular intervals. Below her the pipes twisted and turned making a veritable maze. Beneath the sound of the furnace she heard moans of pain, screams of terror, and the thing that upset her most of all was the sound of the girls’ jump-rope chant.
“This is where he takes us.” The little girl from before stood in front of her, a single tear rolling down her cheek.
Buffy looked around for the ‘he’ in question. Freddy was gone again. “How long have you been here?” Buffy asked.
The girl looked around. “Forever. He keeps us.”
Buffy thought back to Taz’s words, I really don’t want to die in the dream. I just get the feeling that if you die in there your soul isn’t freed, and wondered how many other souls were trapped in there.
The little girl looked terrified. “I have to go now.”
Buffy heard a screech of metal on metal that set her teeth on edge, she turned to see where it was coming from, and when she turned back, the girl was gone.
Buffy got to her feet, considering trying to find the little girl, but reluctantly dismissed the idea. The girl wasn’t alive any more, finding her would do no good. The best thing to do would be to hunt down the bastard that caused the girl’s death and take out her anger on him.
She started down the steps to the main part of the boiler room, keeping a keen ear out for any sound that might lead her to Krueger.
(damn it, b! wake up)
Buffy flinched, she had heard Faith’s voice, not from somewhere around her, but from inside her head. Outside the dream, she deduced.
She tried to ignore the voice, she wasn’t going anywhere until she had faced Krueger again. Her anger was growing with every second, the fact that he was playing with her and avoiding her, the fact that there were little children stuck in this damn world forever, the fact that his very existence violated everything she considered ‘good’, the fact that two of Taz’s friends had died by his hand in as many days, it was all too much.
The second she found him she was going to unload all of her anger and guilt on him by way of violence.
She heard a scream of terror to her right and turned down an alleyway, between some scaldingly hot pipes, towards the noise, wondering idly if this was another one of Krueger’s games.
The sound of pounding feet coming towards her led her to believe it wasn’t. Krueger was either coming for her, or chasing someone towards her. Either way, she was going to need a weapon. She looked around for something suitable, her eyes lit up on seeing a length of broken pipe that would do.
She picked it up and swung it experimentally. Perfect. Light enough to swing, but heavy enough to do some damage.
(wake up, now!)
“Damn it, Faith,” She whispered. “Give me a few more minutes.”
The heavy footfalls no longer seemed to be coming towards her, so she cut to the side, trying to follow them. The walls of pipes and the roar of the furnace disoriented her, her own footsteps sounded as if they were coming from far away.
She heard another scrape of metal on metal and wondered what was causing it, however she didn’t ponder long as it was followed by a scream of fear and the words, “Kill me or let me go, but stop fucking with me!”
She recognised the voice instantly, it was Marie. She urged herself to move faster and find Marie before Krueger caught her. She heard Krueger laugh and it chilled her to the bone.
(buffy, wake up)
The tight passageway of pipes seemed to open out at the centre of the boiler room and she hurried on. Without warning someone slammed into her just as she reached the open and they both tumbled to the ground, Buffy’s length of pipe clattering off to the side.
Buffy very nearly hit the other person before realising it was Marie—who didn’t seem even slightly surprised that Buffy was in the dream with her.
“We’ve got to go. He’s coming.” Marie scrambled to her feet. “He’s going to kill us.”
Buffy reached for her weapon once more, then got up. “He’s not going to kill anyone,” she said firmly.
“Yeah?” Marie looked doubtful. “Tell him that,” she said, staring over Buffy’s shoulder.
Buffy whirled around, comforted by the heaviness of the pipe in her hand. Krueger walked towards them, no urgency or impatience in his step, he rested his finger-knives against a pipe as he walked making the now-familiar screech that set Buffy’s teeth on edge.
“Go,” Buffy said over her shoulder, then she turned her attention to Freddy. “You know, I’m getting the feeling you don’t like me much. First off, everyone got a better nightmare than me, we all sat around last night comparing notes and I had a really boring tale to tell…”
Krueger chuckled and continued his unhurried pace towards her.
“Second, we have one little fight and you disappear on me. I’m hurt.”
“You will be,” he assured her.
“Now you’re getting the hang of this punning stuff,” she said with mock pride. “I’m going to take credit for that.”
She moved towards him swiftly, both hands on the metal pipe. She aimed for the heart but he dodged sideways just as she slammed it into him, using it like a very heavy stake. As the slayer, she had seen some pretty disgusting things, but the sight of Krueger with a length of metal straight through him, with trails of black and red ichor oozing out of the edges of the wound made her shudder. From the whistling sounds of his breath she presumed she punctured—or possibly removed—a lung. She pulled on the pipe, trying to get it free for a second attack but the end was caught in the pipework behind Krueger.
“Very gross,” commented Marie from behind her.
Krueger laughed, looking amused by his own predicament.
“But obviously not good enough,” Marie grabbed Buffy’s arm and began dragging her away. “Waking up would be good now. Preferably before he gets over the jollies of being in pain and comes after us for vengeance.”
“He enjoyed that?” Buffy asked, following Marie. “Yuck.”
“Very. But I thought you were used to stuff like this. Taz said you’re a superhero,” Marie said over her shoulder, leading Buffy through a maze of pipes and metal walkways.
“Do you know where we’re going? And superhero isn’t quite right, Faith and I have the strength to fight demons, the downside is a short shelf-life.”
“I’m pretty sure I know where we’re going. And besides, it doesn’t matter anyway, as soon as he gets over the ooey-gooey thrill of being impaled he’ll use his mind to trap us.”
“I hate this stuff,” Buffy decided. “As soon as Krueger’s dead I’m going to rob a bank and Faith and I are going to Disneyland.”
“It’s good to have a goal, why Disneyland though?”
“Just an idea Faith had.”
(buffy! wake up now)
Buffy paused, hearing Wes’s voice in her head. “They’re trying to wake me up,” she told Marie. “Take my hand, I’ll try to stay with you. It might be easier if I’m anchored to you.”
“Don’t leave me,” Marie said softly.
Buffy smiled, it was the friendliest thing Marie had said to her since they met. “I won’t.”
“Damn it!” Faith shook Buffy roughly, wondering if she was damaging her sister Slayer. It probably wasn’t a good thing to be shaken by a Slayer for almost half an hour. However, any damage she might be doing was better than the alternative, better that what Freddy might do to B if she remained asleep for much longer.
“Wake up, B!” She yelled in frustration.
“I have an idea,” Wes picked up the kettle from the floor and moved towards the bathroom.
“Coffee only really works when she’s awake,” Faith said to his retreating back, then turned back to Buffy.
Wes reappeared seconds later, with the kettle full to the brim with cold water, he reached past Faith and emptied it over Buffy.
Buffy reacted instantly, bolting upright her eyes open. She whimpered in pain, and then suddenly Marie appeared on top of her.
Wes and Faith stared.
“Well, that was certainly unexpected,” Wes commented.
Buffy had expected a far more severe telling off than the one Wes gave her. She had thought that he would drone on for hours and hours about needing to be told about every slaying venture she went on. However, it was not the case. What she actually got was a full-on guilt trip. Faith walked Marie home and Wes used the time to point out how worried he and Faith had been about her, and what would have happened if they hadn’t come to find her and she hadn’t been so lucky?
Her surprise took away any smart comments she was considering making. She was prepared to tell him that while Faith may have accepted him as her Watcher, she never would, but listening to him all resentment fell away. He and Faith hand been worried about her, it wasn’t about her not telling him what she had planned to do, it was that she’d put herself in mortal danger.
She found herself apologising, which Wes accepted with more grace than she had expected. Moments later Faith walked back into the room. Buffy wondered if she’d been lurking outside the door, waiting for Wes to finish his lecture before coming back for fear of being dragged into the middle of it.
“Marie says thanks,” she said without any preamble, sinking to her knees and peering in the kettle. “Should there be white bits floating in the water?”
“I bet Marie didn’t say thanks,” Buffy said with a grin. “And I say new water, who wants bitty water?”
“Ok, but she did say you were cool,” Faith replied, getting to her feet. “I guess coffee would be good now?”
“I’m going back to the library,” Wes answered.
“We only just left,” Faith pointed out. “We didn’t even get lunch, thanks to Huffy.”
Buffy opened her mouth to respond to the taunt, but realised that, given her behaviour, she was getting off lightly if that was all Faith was going to say to her. “I guess I’m buying lunch, huh?”
“Hell, yeah!” Faith nodded. “I’m all for a free feeding. But I have to ask why Wes is going back to the library. My only possibly guess is Suzie.”
Wes fixed his Slayer with a glare. “I refuse to respond to that. Buffy brought someone out of her dream with her, which seems to confirm my suspicion that we could take the Urn into a dream with us.”
“Hadn’t actually thought about that,” Faith commented over her shoulder as she filled the kettle. “I was just thinking the Urn would be the plan. Full-stop.”
“So you’re hitting the library again?” Buffy asked. “You look beat, you need sleep.”
Faith stared at her. “Do you have a memory problem? Not half an hour ago you just battled a demon in a dream.”
“I didn’t mean alone. I meant that Wes should sleep with one of us—”
Faith snorted. “And I got a nasty look because of that ‘young and cute’ comment about Giles.”
“I meant dream,” Buffy amended hastily.
Faith just gave her a knowing grin.
“Mind. Gutter. Separate them. I’d never sleep with Wes, he’s so… Wesley.”
“I am still here you know,” Wes pointed out.
“And Buffy’s very appreciative,” Faith replied.
Wes sighed pointedly.
“I’ll stop,” Faith said.
“And I’ll just continue teasing about Suzie,” Buffy added.
“And I shall ignore you both.”
“Seriously though,” Buffy smiled. “You look exhausted.”
“I’ll sleep after I get back from the library,” Wes replied.
“Maya, honey, are you going to bed?”
Maya yawned and smiled at her Mom in what she hoped was an innocent way, making sure the covers were right up to her neck, hiding the fact that she was still wearing her day clothes. “Sure. I’m really tired.”
Her Mom gave her a sceptical look, Maya’s parents had been very worried about her sleeping habits and had been paying close attention to her. Especially after the deaths of Annie and Sharlie.
“Night, honey,” Mrs Hansen shut the door behind her and Maya listened carefully for the tell-tale snick of the lock.
Maya rolled her eyes and hopped out of bed. She pulled some boxes out from below the bed until she found what she was looking for. Her box of supplies containing a coffee maker, several bottles of water, pots of granules, caffeine pills and several cans of coke. She emptied three pills into her hand and downed them with some water, fighting waves of dizziness.
She then grabbed her cell phone from the charger and dialled Taz.
“Greetings and salutations.”
“Hey Taz,” Maya yawned and stretched. “I’m just about to sneak out. They’ve locked me in.”
“Ok, I’ll leave the studio window open.”
“See you soon.”
“Is gra liom thu.”
“I love you too,” Maya grinned into the phone then hung up. This was an almost nightly ritual for the two of them, Maya would sneak out of her window and down the porch, then walk the couple of blocks to Taz’s house where she would crawl through the window leading to the art studio in the basement.
But not tonight, Maya realised as she tried to open the sash window. Her parents had obviously been in her room during the day while she had been at the library and they had nailed it shut.
“Damn it,” She growled angrily, pulling her phone out of her pocket and hitting the redial button.
“Problems?” Taz asked, foregoing any preamble.
“They’ve nailed the window shut. How the hell am I supposed to get out now?”
“Gurriers,” Taz sighed. “But it’s ok, I’ll just talk to you all night. We won’t sleep.”
“Maybe I should smash the window. I could be out before they managed to unlock my door.”
“And then they’d hop in the car and drive straight over to my place,” Taz replied. “I bet they think we get up to all manner of lesbian delights each night.”
“To be fair…” Maya smiled. “It did start that way.”
Taz sighed again. “I wish that’s all you were sneaking over for.”
“Faith called today. She said someone found the Urn, it’s being couriered over from… well, somewhere, it should arrive tomorrow.” She yawned. “Maybe tomorrow night everything will be back to normal.”
Maya yawned in return. “Then we can get up to ‘all manner of lesbian delights’ as you put it.”
“And we can substitute the post-coital cigarette for a post-coital snooze.”
“Sounds wonderful.” Maya dropped to her knees and dragged out her coffee maker and plugged it in.
“Damn, I think my battery is going dead. I’m looking for my charger now.”
Maya yawned again. “Ok.”
“You sound exhausted.”
“Three days since I’ve slept,” Maya replied, washing coffee granules down her throat with a sip of coke. “My parents think I’m on drugs. I wish. What I wouldn’t give for some speed.”
“I know the feeling. Just…ay…ake…” The line began to crackle, distorting Taz’s voice.
“Ba…ery… alk… oon,” The line went dead.
Maya swore softly, cursing modern technology. Taz’s room was a tip, not to mention her studio, it could be hours before she found her charger and if she called the land line Mr McDonald would get in a mood and probably force Taz to try and sleep.
She sipped her coke, waiting for the caffeine to kick in, although she didn’t hold much hope, she was exhausted. She helped herself to a few more caffeine pills, noting the warning that stated it was unwise to take more than eight a day. She, Taz and Marie took at least two every hour, not to mention the amount of coke and coffee they consumed. So far there had been no real symptoms except for Marie complaining that she got strobe lighting effects for about ten minutes if she sneezed, which had amused Taz no end.
She fought another yawn and decided to get up off the floor. It was harder to fall asleep if she was on her feet. She rubbed her eyes, a little dizzy and moved towards the window, still considering smashing it if Taz didn’t ring back soon.
She was so tired she could barely stand, there was a faint ringing in her ears and her bed looked so inviting. She stretched again and began to recite nursery rhymes attempting Taz’s Irish accent. Maya had been keen to learn Irish from her girlfriend, but Taz told her it was pointless until she had mastered the accent.
“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you… Three, four, better…” She trailed off. Speak of the devil and he will appear, and she sure as hell didn’t want to give him any more incentive to appear in her dreams.
She suddenly became aware that her heart seemed to be pounding far too fast and it was making her dizzy. She wondered how many caffeine tabs she had downed in the last few minutes—certainly far more than she had ever taken in one dose before.
A dizziness overtook her and she stumbled towards the bed.
“Just until I feel better…” she murmured, her eyes closing.
Buffy flicked through a magazine idly, keeping one eye on Wes and Faith. Wes had returned from the library with the good news that the Council had managed to locate an Urn of Ylliano and that it was being shipped to them, hopefully it would arrive the next day.
Faith had then suggested that they go out to celebrate, Buffy’s treat. Wes, to Buffy’s dismay, hadn’t discouraged her, so she raided her savings and took them to the nicest restaurant Springwood had to offer. She had kept her receipt though, it was doubtful the Council would reimburse her, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.
Faith stood up and stretched, making Buffy jump. “This is no good. Wes is in the land of nod and I’m wide awake. I dozed for a couple of minutes, but just can’t get to real sleep.”
“REM sleep, you mean,” Buffy shut her magazine.
Faith looked alarmed. “You actually listened to Wes when he was talking about the stages of sleep.”
“There was nothing else to do.”
“You wanna try getting to sleep? I’ll keep watch,” Faith offered.
“I’m also wide awake. Guess that’s yet another downside of sneaking off for a snooze while you went to lunch. Don’t worry, we’ll keep an eye on him, if he even whimpers…” Buffy gestured to the jug of cold water beside her.
“Admit it, you just want to chuck the water over him, nightmare or not.” Faith took a seat on the chair opposite Buffy.
“Just as payback for doing the same to me,” Buffy replied.
“B, he saved your life. And Marie’s.”
“I know,” Buffy shifted and stretched. “These chairs are not comfortable.”
“They’re not supposed to be comfortable, nobody is actually meant to stay in this roach-infested hell-hole long enough to sit on them.”
“I’m bored. There’s no TV here, wanna play snap or something?”
“Snap?” Faith asked with arched eyebrows.
“Ok, so I don’t have any cards and that game is so boring that it’s more fun being bored than playing… but I don’t hear you coming up with any better ideas.”
“I have plenty of suggestions. It just so happens that they all involve nakedness and whipped cream,” Faith replied.
Buffy grinned back. “And Wes is here, nothing turns me on like having a Watcher doing his job and watching.”
“You’re wicked gross.”
“Believe me, it’s your influence. How about twenty questions?”
“Sure. I’ll go first,” Faith agreed cheerfully. Then her face hardened. “What on earth possessed you to run off and face Krueger without telling me? Don’t you trust me?”
Buffy goggled. She hadn’t realised that Faith had been so worried about her. “I do trust you…” She shrugged. “To be honest I don’t know why I didn’t tell you at least. Maybe I thought you might talk me out of it.”
“See? And Marie would be dead.”
“I would have talked you out of going alone, I would have dreamt with you,” Faith stared at her levelly.
“I’m sorry, Faith.”
“So you should be,” Faith responded. “Ok, done that. What’s your question?”
Buffy thought and finally came up with something that had been bothering her for months. “Have you ever had any pastels in your wardrobe, even as a kid?”
Faith snorted. “That’s your question?”
“I’m starting small and working up,” Buffy grinned.
“Never. Although I wore a pale blue dress in a play at that camp I was at with Taz. Does that count?”
Buffy looked unimpressed. “Not really. I’m disappointed, I would have loved to see a picture of you as a kid in a silly frilly dress.”
“Does that mean there are pictures of you in silly frilly dresses?”
Buffy sighed. “Yes it does. Ok, my next question is—”
“Hey! My turn!”
“You asked if I had pictures of me in a silly dress,” Buffy replied.
“No, I repeated your question. I’m asking now. Ok, if Wes and Giles were the last two men on the planet, which one would you bone to ensure the human race continued?”
Buffy looked stunned, blushing slightly. “I can’t answer that!”
“Sure you can.”
“But Giles is my Watcher and Wesley is… Wesley!”
“You have to answer, or I don’t answer anything else. Ever.” Faith crossed her legs and grinned widely.
“No buts, B.”
“Urgh,” Buffy rested her face in her hands. “If there was an apocalypse I doubt my thoughts would be about… um, procreation.”
Faith stared unblinkingly at her.
“Giles,” Buffy answered finally.
“Wicked gross. He’s like a father to you,” Faith teased.
“The fate of humanity rested on it, it wasn’t a fair choice. Right, my turn. Who were you before you got called? I mean, what did you do, where did you live, what were your friends like etc?”
“That’s about a hundred questions at once, is that fair?”
“Unfair was asking me to choose between Wes and Giles.”
“Fine,” Faith got up and retrieved her cigarettes from her jacket pocket. She opened the window and lit up, breathing out smoke into the night air. “I lived in Boston with my Mom, where—or even who—my Dad was, nobody, not even Mom, knew. She hooked up with this guy called John, a fat, sweaty asshole. We moved into his apartment, I doubt love entered the equation, we were broke and he kept her in enough booze for her to float through her days in a drunken haze. So she never noticed that John would rather hop on me than her to get his jollies. I didn’t have any friends and I really wasn’t anyone except ‘that weird poor girl who liked to sing’ before I got called. Which is why I haven’t mentioned it until now.”
“My god…” Buffy said softly, getting up to put her hands on Faith’s shoulders.
Faith shook her off, turning to face her. “I don’t need a big hug, B.”
Buffy raised her hands in a surrender gesture. “I’m sorry… I just…”
“I’m not gonna cry in your arms and sob about how scared and helpless I felt,” Faith said firmly, but not angrily. “See, all this happened before I got called. I didn’t have any super powers to get me through it, and I didn’t know that I was going to be a Slayer and would be expected to save the world, but I still dealt. I survived, as a person, not a Slayer, and I’d say that makes me pretty strong. Things like that make or break a person, and I didn’t break. I’m not saying I’m glad that it happened, I’m saying I’m glad that I was able to deal with it.”
“I… I don’t know what to say,” Buffy said gently. She had thought that Faith’s upbringing might have been less than Disney-esque, but hadn’t realised it had been so hard for Faith.
“Don’t worry, nobody knows what to say about stuff like this,” Faith took one last drag on her cigarette and pitched it out of the window. “My question is… why the hell haven’t we woken Wes up?”
“Let her go!” Wes commanded, pulling a cross from his pocket and standing behind it, wondering if Krueger was repelled by religious objects.
Freddy smiled at him sadistically and batted it away easily, then used a blade to trace Maya’s cheekbone with just enough pressure to draw blood. Maya squirmed in his arms, desperate to escape.
“If that’s what you want.” Krueger smiled again, showing his fire-blackened teeth. With a quick movement he grabbed Maya around the neck and flung her away from him. Then he turned his attention to Wesley. “I’ll give you a head start,” Krueger offered, clicking his blades.
Buffy turned towards the bed where Wes was thrashing around a look of terror on his face. She and Faith rushed over, and started shaking him. “Wes, wake up.”
Faith fetched the pitcher of water and was just about to throw it over Wes when he woke up.
“Are you ok?” Faith asked.
“Maya,” he said worriedly. “She’s asleep.”
Buffy strode over to where her phone was charging and started dialling.
“Are you really ok? He didn’t cut you or anything, did he?” Faith asked Wes.
Wes looked surprised by her concern and sat up and tried to see his back. “He tried to grab me but didn’t quite catch me.”
Faith peered at his shoulder. “He shredded your shirt, you’ve got four scratches, aside from that I’d say you were lucky. Which is good, because I’m only just getting used to you, it would be downright mean of you to get offed because then I’d be on Watcher number four and that would be unacceptable.”
“Got it,” he said, a hint of a smile on his face.
“Damn it!” Buffy snapped.
Wes and Faith turned to look at her.
“Maya’s phone is out of order and her cell phone is off,” She explained. “I’ll try Marie.”
“You do that, I’ll try to sleep. How about hypnotising me?” Faith asked Wes.
Buffy’s phone rang just as she was about to dial out again, she answered as Faith and Wes swapped places, Faith lying down on the bed and Wes sitting beside her talking in a soothing voice as he searched for the pendulum to aid the hypnosis.
“Guys…?” Buffy said softly, tears brimming in her eyes.
Wes turned to look at her.
“Marie just called, she lives opposite Maya. There’s a fire… from what she can see, it looks like it started in Maya’s room.”
Thanks: To taKydahS, she who is overburdened with grey matter. Also, adyka—one of my multiple personalities.
Notes: This chapter is very flicky. Couldn’t help it.
Taz looked broken, to Faith. There was no other word to describe the emptiness in her eyes and her indifference to everybody in the room. Marie had to keep digging her in the ribs to remind her to drink her coffee. The fire had consumed the Hansen household at an alarming rate, starting with Maya’s room. Her parents and brother, Rick, had managed to get out. Mr Hansen had nearly died trying to get his daughter out of her room, but the door had stuck. Marie had said that no doubt the report tomorrow would explain that Maya fell asleep with a cigarette in her hand, it was as regular an excuse in Springwood as ‘gangs on PCP’ was in Sunnydale.
Taz had gone to Maya’s house out of gut instinct where she had found Marie standing outside, watching the fire fighters battling against the blaze. No questions needed asking. Accidents did not happen in Springwood. Eventually Marie had managed to drag Taz away from the scene and back to the Slayers’ motel room. On arriving, Marie had voiced her concern, in a low voice to Faith, that Taz had now given up, apparently, she hadn’t cried, just stared in shock at the house. She hadn’t said a word since Marie found her.
Marie, on the other hand, looked positively fuming. Her green eyes glittered dangerously and she listened attentively to everything Wes said. “So, we just wait, stay awake and pray this Urn appears tomorrow?” Marie surmised. “Then what? We dream, open the Urn and suck the demon out of him then kill his mortal body?”
“Well, in an easy and simplistic world, yes,” Wesley replied.
“And we can definitely take the Urn into the dream with us? We’re gonna look really stupid if that part of the plan doesn’t pan out. And really dead,” she persisted.
Wes smiled slightly. “Yes, we definitely can. I tested the theory earlier, I put a cross in my pocket before I fell asleep and when I started dreaming the cross was with me.”
“Go Wes,” Faith commented. “Glad you’re here. Brains aren’t mine and B’s strong point.”
Wes looked rather flattered, but Buffy hit her on the arm. “I resent that.”
“This should be easy then,” Marie said with only a hint of her usual sarcasm.
“Fingers crossed,” Buffy said, taking a sip of her coffee and leaning back against the wall. On discovering the wall was not only bumpy but damp, she leant against Faith instead.
Faith took the coffee cup from Buffy and took a sip, they were sharing, as were Taz and Marie due to a shortage of cups in the motel. “We could sleep in shifts if you want,” she said. The offer was open to anyone, but really focused on Taz, who had a glassy look in her eyes. “I’m getting dozy, if anyone wants sleep with a Slayer on duty, speak now.”
“I’m fine,” Marie said around a yawn. “I’m tired, but not zonked. I was asleep for quite a long time today.”
“Ditto,” Buffy reclaimed the coffee.
“I shall lose myself in my books, see if there’s anything else that might help,” Wes said.
Only in Springwood could just over an hour be considered a long time to be asleep, Faith thought. “What about you Taz?”
“Don’t care. Asleep, awake, who gives a fuck?” She replied tonelessly. “Maya’s dead, I’m in hell, what difference does it make if I have a pulse?”
Everyone opened their mouth to respond, but Marie got there first. “What difference does it make? A hell of a lot! We care about you and I can’t stand to lose another person that I care about.”
“You don’t know what I’m going through,” Taz responded in the same bland tone.
“Oh, what? Because you and Maya were together? Because she loved you back you miss her more than I miss Annie? Don’t belittle my grief just because yours is new.”
“It’s not about that!” Taz snapped, finally showing emotion. “It’s because you haven’t even noticed that anyone’s dead. Sharlie, Annie, Maya—who cares who you claimed to love when you just keep acting as if they never existed!”
“Oh, so it’s because I’m not turning myself into a weeping puddle of self-pity? Grow up, Taz. Everyone deals in different ways, just because you’re falling apart doesn’t mean that I have to.”
“Ok, let’s all calm down, shall we?” Buffy interrupted hastily. “Faith, why don’t you and Taz go out for a cigarette or something?”
Wes opened his mouth to object to the cigarette part of that suggestion, then quickly closed it deciding it wasn’t worth the bother.
Faith got to her feet and held a hand out to Taz, who after a few seconds’ consideration took it and allowed herself to be shepherded out of the door.
“Bugger. I think I left a book in my room,” Wesley tactfully left, giving the girls a modicum of privacy.
“She’ll be ok,” Buffy said to Marie. “She’s just in shock I think. It wasn’t about you—or Annie, and she probably didn’t really notice what she was saying to you. When the grief subsides a little, she’ll be heartbroken that she said that to you,” Buffy paused, musing on the weirdness of the situation. Maya had said much the same to her about Marie only yesterday—was it only yesterday?—it felt like years ago, when in fact it was only about twelve hours ago—and now she and Marie could have a conversation without sniping, and Maya was gone.
“I know,” Marie sighed. “Doesn’t stop it hurting though.”
Buffy didn’t know what to say, she had never lost anyone close to her. She patted Marie’s arm awkwardly.
“Ireland,” Marie said suddenly.
Buffy blinked. “Huh?”
“I’ve picked my goal. You know, like how you want to take Faith to Disneyland, I’ve decided that I want to go to Ireland. Taz is always talking about it, how pretty and peaceful it is. I need a goal to look forward to after all this happens. Ireland.”
Faith dug her battered pack of cigarettes out of her pocket and offered the pack to Taz. When Taz didn’t make a move to take one, she lit one herself and took a seat on the bench next to Taz.
“I don’t have anything to say,” she told the stoic girl beside her. “There are no words that can make this ok. Losing someone, especially someone you love, is horrible. Horrible doesn’t even get close to covering it. All I can say is that we’re going to kill the fucker and give Maya, Annie, Sharlie and anyone else the peace they deserve.” She paused to inhale on her cigarette, then passed it to Taz who took it with trembling hands. “I could say that I’m sorry that she’s gone, but they’re just words and they won’t help you. All I can say is that time helps, and when Krueger’s dead—and it will be a painful death, I assure you of that—you can have time and peace to deal with all this.”
“I know all this,” Taz said softly. “I’ve already lost my Mum, remember? Now I’ve lost Maya, I’ve lost everything.”
Faith reached out and tentatively squeezed Taz’s shoulder. “Not everything. Marie’s still here, you’ve got Buffy and me, even Wes. We’re still here for you. You’ve still got your Dad, and your art. Taz, I know it hurts, but not everything is gone.”
“Yes it is,” Taz replied stubbornly.
“Taz, everything is only gone when you die. I hate to sound heartless in the face of your grief, but you’re not the one who died, and if you face Krueger like this, you will be next. I know you’re in pain, but you can’t give up. We still care about you, Marie especially, she can understand your grief better than anyone else here.”
Taz buried her face in her hands, burning her purple hair with the tip of the cigarette. “I was horrible to her.”
Faith confiscated the cigarette and flicked it away before Taz could injure her face with it. “She’ll understand. She already understands. So why don’t we go back inside?” She stood up and offered Taz her hand.
Taz stood up unaided then flung herself at Faith, hugging her tightly. “Thanks, Faith. You’re a good friend,” She whispered.
Faith patted Taz’s back, still unsure about the rules of hugging and girlyness and a little baffled. Since when had she been good at this girly shit?
“Six thousand, nine hundred and thirty-two bottles of beer on a wall…”
“I swear to god, keep that up and I’ll break a bottle over your head.” Buffy smiled good naturedly at Faith.
“Making with the butch, B,” Faith winked at her. “I like it.”
“I’ll keep going as long as you stop singing,” Buffy offered.
Marie, Taz and Wesley nodded in tired agreement.
“While we admire your upbeat attitude,” Wesley smiled. “Your singing could be referred to as caterwauling.”
“Not could,” Marie added. “It is.”
Faith stared around the room. “You guys are just getting irrational because you haven’t slept for days,” She decided.
“While that is true,” Wes conceded. “Your singing is not helping our state of mind.”
“Or eardrums,” Marie added.
“Can I just point out that I won a scholarship to a performing arts camp with my voice?” Faith asked in mock offence.
“And I’m guessing you haven’t had a lesson since then?” Buffy asked.
“Fine, I’ll shut up.” Faith glared at them all. “I’ll just sit here and sulk.”
“That works for me,” Buffy smiled agreeably at her, then yawned. “Has anyone noticed that the sun is up now?”
Wes checked his watch. “Not long until we get the Urn.”
“So who stays awake?” Taz asked, speaking up for the first time. “You know, just in case.”
Everyone exchanged looks. Nobody had thought of that. Wes cleared his throat and nodded at Marie, “Perhaps…”
“No way. I want to see him die,” Marie responded quickly.
“Me too,” Taz quickly added.
“And we have to be asleep,” Buffy said, indicating herself and the other Slayer that she was leaning on once more. “Sacred duty and all that. So I guess that leaves you.”
“No,” Wes replied firmly. “Buffy, while you may not accept me as your Watcher, I am responsible for the both of you, and I cannot stay awake if you dream.”
“Plus,” Faith added around a yawn. “You’re my Watcher,” This earned her a smile from Wes and a “suck up” from Buffy.
“Someone should stay awake,” Wes said.
“Who’s bringing the Urn?” Faith asked. “Is it being fed-exed or is someone from the Council bringing it?”
“With something as important as this, naturally it would be…” Wes trailed off as he caught Faith’s train of thought. He smiled. “Someone who is employed by the Council to help the fight against evil and would be obligated to do what we ask.”
“Guess we’re all set then,” Buffy said.
“Lucky us,” Marie agreed, a hint of apprehension in her voice.
“When the Council asked me to courier a sacred item they never—”
“For heaven’s sake, man, pull yourself together. I’m only asking you sit in a room and watch us sleep,” Wes overrode the man’s protests. “I’m not asking you to kill a demon, honestly a five year old could handle this…”
“Check out Wes and Wes Junior,” Faith muttered with a grin. The four girls were standing to a side of the room, watching in amusement as Wes talked John Fields, the agent for the Council, into babysitting them as they slept.
“It’s kinda like watching Giles and Wes, when Wes first arrived,” Buffy agreed. “Wow, when we get back, we’ll just have two Gileses. That’s not going to be any fun, they won’t fight any more.”
“Maybe we can take him home,” She indicated Fields. “Then both Giles and Wes can feel smug and superior.”
“Hrmm…” Buffy considered it. “I don’t think he’s really British.”
“Why?” Faith asked, lighting a cigarette. “Ooh, he must be, he just glared at us.”
“Yes, but he doesn’t have a British sounding name, Giles, Wyndham-Price, he’s just Fields, and his first name is John, how boring is that?”
“I’m McDonald, but I’m Irish,” Taz pointed out, joining the conversation for the first time, since John Fields had walked through the door. “McDonald is Scottish.”
“Yeah, but that’s your Dad’s name and it’s still Gaelic. Your Mum’s name was O’Something, wasn’t it?” Marie poked her in the ribs.
“Yes, that’s exactly what it was. Linda O’Something.”
Marie smiled at her, obviously glad that she was beginning to get back to her usual stuff.
“I thought the urn would be prettier,” Taz commented.
“And bigger,” Buffy agreed.
The urn in question was about six inches tall, and was very roughly made. It looked very much like a terracotta garden ornament made by a clumsy toddler.
“Wes is so going to win,” Marie nodded back towards the argument taking place.
Only moments later, Wes did win the argument. He walked towards them looking pleased. “Mr Fields has volunteered—” at this point, Fields snorted and Wes pointedly ignored him, “—to watch us sleep. I believe we’re ready to begin.”
The four girls took seats on the floor and Wes set the hypnosis pendulum on the bedside cabinet.
“Is anyone else feeling nervous?” Marie asked. “No, it’s more than nerves, it’s abject terror. It’s a mad swirling sensation in my stomach. I feel dizzy and sick and horrible and I’d fell just a little bit better if someone else felt it too.”
“Right there with you,” Taz took her hand and squeezed it.
“You can stay awake, if you like,” Wes offered.
“Nope, I wanna see him die,” Marie replied firmly, and Taz nodded in agreement.
“We should probably hold hands,” Buffy suggested. “Last time we tried this group sleep thing we were all scattered to the four corners of insanity.”
“Ok,” Wes took a deep breath, and set the pendulum swinging. In one hand he held the urn, the other was held in a death-grip by Faith. “Focus on the pendulum…”
Faith and Wes opened their eyes to find themselves in the basement of the house. They had never been there, but it was a safe assumption, having heard Buffy’s description of the place.
They looked around in alarm. “Where’s B and the others?” Faith asked.
“I don’t see them. How could we get separated? We were holding on to them.”
“I let go. I must have,” Faith’s fists clenched in anger at herself. “Damn it.”
“It’s ok,” Wes assured her. “We’ll find them. At least Taz and Marie have a Slayer with them.”
“If anything happens to—”
“It won’t,” he cut in sharply. “And the best thing we can do is find them, not imagine the worst,” Although his mind was also whirling with dire scenarios featuring Buffy and the girls.
“This basement is far too large for this house,” Wes commented, as they set off looking for stairs.
“I don’t think Krueger’s big on logic. Do you think we should chance calling their names?”
“I’m sure he already knows we’re here. All of us,” Wes replied. “I just don’t know if our voices will carry to the others. This place is enormous.”
“B! TAZ! MARIE!” Faith bellowed loudly.
“Maybe we should get out of the basement and try again.”
“Ok,” Faith began looking around for a set of stairs, although it was difficult, they were particularly closed in where they were, in a dank tunnel-like area, surrounded by steaming pipes. “We’re like rats in at trap here.”
The hurried onwards again.
“Why teenagers?” Faith asked after a short time. “I mean, you said when Krueger was alive he liked little kids.”
Wes shrugged. “I have no real answer for that. The Krakhlahn doesn’t actually have a preference for his victims. My theory is that Krueger wanted to punish the people who killed him, their children were teenagers by the time he was given the power to do so, I should imagine the Krakhlahn got a taste for it. Teenagers generally have a lot of insecurities and resentment. Children aren’t so complex, they get scared, but their range of emotions aren’t as wide as teenagers.”
“So why not adults either?” Faith persisted.
“I should imagine that’s because their imaginations are limited by adulthood. They would not believe that Freddy existed. What are most adults scared of? Getting found out that their taxes aren’t up to date, that they will fall behind on their mortgage, that they won’t get a promotion…”
“So teens are a nummy treat because they have the emotions of adults, but the fear and open-mindedness of children?” Faith asked. “Nice. I can’t wait to kill this thing. So how did Galliano get into the slaying gig?”
“While I’m impressed by your questions, I’m wondering why you’re suddenly so interested,” Wes replied.
“It keeps my mind off what could be happening to B and the others,” she answered. “I think it’s this way to the stairs.”
Wes smiled tightly and followed her. “Ylliano was tormented by the demon, in much the same way as Krueger has been terrorising this town. Ylliano had a great deal of power and worked on the theory that he could draw out the demon and kill the host.”
“Genius,” Faith nodded approvingly. “Some people are so lucky, the rest of us have to try the trial-and-error approach.”
“Actually, that was his approach. What he hadn’t counted on was the nature of the demon when it was outside the host.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means when he drew out the demon, it jumped into his wife.”
“I thought you said it could only pick one host, not jump from body to body.”
Wes smiled, glad that his Slayer had been listening. “That’s true. But it won’t stop the demon jumping into another body before it dies. When the demon dies, the body it’s inhabiting dies too.”
“That final kick in the teeth to its enemies. Nice.”
“Ah. Stairs,” Wes said, as the tunnel of pipes suddenly opened out.
“We’ll be fine,” Buffy assured Taz and Marie. “And I’m sure Faith and Wes are fine, we just have to find them.”
“What happened? Why aren’t they with us?” Marie asked.
“I don’t know. I must have let go of her hand,” Buffy replied, trying to make her tone light and imply that this was a minor hiccup, not the disaster she was imagining. “But they’ll be safe, they have the Urn.”
“And we don’t,” Taz said, her face pale.
“We’ll be fine. You and Marie are incredibly strong to have lasted this long against him. And I’m here, I’m a Slayer.”
The two girls looked unconvinced. Buffy decided to change the subject. “So where exactly are we?”
They looked around. “Nancy’s room,” Taz answered. “Don’t ask me how I know, but I do. We’re on the second floor, my guess is that they’re in the basement, he really likes it there.”
“Well, they’ll be coming to find us, so we might as well meet them half way,” Buffy suggested.
“If they’re together, they might have got separated,” Marie said.
“I’m sure they didn’t. Let’s try and stay positive,” Buffy replied.
“So, we’re headed to the basement?” Taz asked. “I’m desperately trying to find the happy in that.”
“The happy,” Marie said, squeezing Taz’s shoulder, “is that we’ve got front row seats for Krueger’s painful demise.”
“Right,” Taz looked unconvinced. “Let’s go.”
Buffy led the way. The door creaked loudly as she opened it, the rest of the house was strangely silent. Buffy sighed, the sound amplified by the eerie silence. “Check it out, super hallway. Roughly the same length as the average highway. I hate this house.”
“Amen to that,” Taz muttered as they began the long trek down the hall in search of the stairs.
With an explosive crash, the door opened aided by a sharp kick from Faith. “Oh, you’ve gotta be joking me,” she said in disbelief.
“What is it?” Wesley asked from behind her.
“In the words of Cordelia, behold the weirdness,” She glanced back to the boiler room behind them, down the stairs they had just come up. Then she gestured to exactly the same thing on the other side of the door.
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Wes snapped in exasperation.
In any other situation, Faith would have laughed.
“Damn it! I’m sick of this,” Marie cursed. They had decided that they weren’t getting anywhere, the hallway appeared endless, so they all started opening the doors that lined either side of the hall. And they had come face to face with a brick wall every single time.
“This place is like Hogwarts on acid,” Taz complained.
“Speaking of, I didn’t finish Goblet of Fire,” Marie interjected. “I said I didn’t want to die halfway through a book, Taz, have you read that one? What happens?”
“That’s a good omen, Marie. You’re not going to die,” Buffy told her sternly.
“I’m sick of bricks,” Taz complained, opening yet another door.
“Think of it this way, Krueger’s obviously scared of us, that’s why he’s trying to wear us down with these cheap party tricks,” Buffy said, trying to be upbeat, and force her mind away from the thought that…
“Or maybe he’s just keeping us from the others while they’re in danger,” Marie said.
“Thanks, Marie,” Buffy sighed and kicked the wall in front of her in frustration. Instead of getting a stubbed toe her foot went straight through, the bricks remaining where they were, just incorporeal. She hiked her foot back into the corridor quickly, alarmed at what might be on the other side. “Guys, come see this,” she said, sticking her arm through the ‘solid’ brick wall.
“Trippy,” Taz commented, and Marie nodded in agreement.
“Shall we go for it?” Buffy asked. “If you don’t want to, I’m sure there’s still time to wake up.”
“I’m here for the whole show,” Marie replied.
“Me too,” Taz agreed. “This fucker killed our best friends. I say let’s go through this wall.”
“We don’t know what we’ll find on the other side,” She cautioned them. “But this hall goes on forever.”
“Let’s do this,” Marie said. She reached out and took Taz and Buffy’s hands.
“Ok,” Buffy nodded.
They took a deep breath and then jumped forwards.
“Go us,” Faith said with a sigh as she hauled herself out of a window, aided by Wes. “We finally got out of the basement.”
“And into the garden,” Wes replied, glancing around.
“At least we’re out of the basement.”
“The house too,” Wes sighed deeply. “Why do I get the feeling that Krueger’s avoiding us?”
“Or deliberately keeping us from B and the others.”
Wesley opened his mouth to reply, but was cut short when a scream rang out from inside the house.
Faith ran for the door.
“Hey!” Buffy yelled. “Come and fight me you big bully!”
Krueger gave no indication that he had even heard her. His left hand was firmly clamped around Marie’s throat, his finger-knives raised for the kill. Taz was staggering uncertainly to her feet, having been thrown across the room.
When they jumped through the wall, they had landed in Krueger’s playground. The room was lined with pipes that spewed out steam at irregular intervals, the floor littered with broken toys and it was as hot as a furnace in there.
She strode over and grabbed his wrist before he could hurt Marie. “Let her go.” She snapped her elbow into his face. While this did not do any particular damage to him, it did surprise him enough to make him let go of Marie, who crumpled to the floor.
Buffy let go of his wrist and grabbed him by the neck of his sweater, throwing him across the room and away from the other two girls. “Find weapons,” she said over her shoulder, Krueger was already getting to his feet as she advanced on him. He swiped out with his blades, she threw out an arm to block them, but miscalculated and they scored down the skin on her forearm. She yelled in pain, but managed to punch him solidly in the jaw with her other hand.
Krueger wove his gloved-hand under her arm, aiming for her stomach. It was only Taz grabbing Buffy’s shirt and hauling her backwards that saved her from serious, if not fatal, injury. The two girls staggered backwards and fell.
Marie advanced with a length of pipe and swung it like a baseball bat. It connected with Krueger’s skull with a solid thwack and he crumpled to the ground.
“Good timing,” Buffy managed to say as she and Taz scrambled to their feet.
“Oh god,” Taz muttered. They followed her gaze, Krueger was already getting up.
Buffy kicked out, aiming for his head, but Kruger reached out and grabbed her leg. He gave a quick tug and she lost her footing and fell again. Before she could get to her feet again, he sprang forwards, landing over her, his blades raised for the kill. Suddenly he bellowed in rage and pain and jerked away from her.
Faith stood above her, a small smile on her face. “Hey girlfriend,” she said calmly. “Time to tag me in.”
As she leant down and pulled Buffy to her feet, Krueger began to get up again. Marie advanced with the length of pipe again, she swung but Krueger reached out and blocked with one hand. The other wrapped around her face and pushed, his eyes on Faith the whole time. Marie flew a good twenty feet before hitting a wall and crash-landing on to Wes.
Taz rushed over to help them both while the Slayers assumed fighting stance.
“Are you ok?” Taz asked, dropping to her knees, next to Marie and Wes. Marie rubbed her head gingerly and her fingers came away bloody. “Feel kinda oozy,” She muttered.
“Stay awake,” Taz said firmly.
Marie laughed hazily. “Can you fall asleep in a dream?”
“Wes, you ok?”
Wes groaned. “The Urn has been smashed,” He reported.
Marie’s glazed expression slid away at this announcement. “What? So what do we do now?”
“We need to wake up,” Taz decided. “Just fighting him isn’t enough,” She gestured to where the Slayers were attacking Krueger, and thoroughly getting their asses kicked.
“You’re right. We need another plan,” Wes decided, getting to his feet.
Taz put an arm around Marie and helped her stand, worried by the trickle of blood flowing down her neck from the impact of hitting the wall.
“Buffy, Faith, fall back. The Urn is broken,” Wes called to them.
It was easier said than done. Krueger was a lot stronger than anticipated and the two Slayers were having a hard time avoiding serious injury, let alone getting the upper hand of the fight.
“B, go. I’ll follow in a second,” Faith gasped between punches. “I mean it, go!” She added as Buffy opened her mouth to protest. As Buffy reluctantly joined Wes, Taz and Marie, Faith grabbed Krueger’s sweater and flung him away from them, giving herself a couple of seconds’ breathing time before attacking again.
She ran at him, but he was ready, he grabbed her by the throat and threw her against a wall. Her head connected solidly with the wall and she gasped in pain. Her eyes closing hazily. Krueger smiled as he advanced.
“Faith!” Taz called in alarm.
Faith looked around muggily, as if searching for the voice.
Buffy, acting on impulse, picked up a shard of the Urn and moved towards them. “Hey ugly!” She yelled. “You don’t want her. Everyone knows that blondes are more fun!” She ran towards him, holding the shard like a stake.
“Buffy, no!” Wes shouted. “Don’t!”
It was too late, she drove the shard into his chest, straight into his heart.
Faith focused on the action and a sudden clarity came into her eyes as she remembered Wes’s words about an uncontained Krakhlahn. “B, move!” She cried, forcing herself to move forwards.
She reached Buffy and pushed her aside as some kind of purple light began to flow from the wound. “What?” Buffy asked as she stumbled backwards.
Krueger gazed down at the wound and pulled the shard free, seemingly amazed that somebody had finally struck a fatal blow.
Faith launched herself at him, wrapping her arms around him, making sure she was the closest to him. She dimly heard Wes yell, “Faith! Don’t!” then she felt the demon enter her, it was like being ripped apart slowly, atom by atom. The force threw her across the room again and she idly decided that if she lived she would need a nice vacation.
She heard Wes order Taz and Marie to kill Krueger’s body while it was in a weakened state. Then she felt cool hands on her face.
“Faith? Are you ok?”
She opened her eyes and saw Buffy kneeling beside her.
“Peachy,” she replied with a gasp of pain.
“Faith,” Wes knelt beside her and took one of her hands. “You have to force the demon out of yourself before it expires. It is possible, you have to try. We don’t have much time.”
“What’s happening?” Buffy asked.
“The Krakhlahn jumped into Faith, it has only a few minutes before it dies. If it dies while still inside Faith…”
“Faith, get that demon the fuck out of you!” Buffy snapped.
“How?” She asked, biting into her lip. She felt oddly disjointed, one second she felt like she would die from the pain, the next she was overcome by a gentle floating feeling and the idea that a nice snooze would fix everything.
“Close your eyes and imagine it, give it a shape and a colour if that helps, then imagine pushing it out of yourself,” Wes advised, when his Slayer hesitated, he added, “it won’t jump again. It’s deteriorating rapidly, it doesn’t have the energy to posses another body.”
“Faith, you can do it,” Buffy encouraged, stroking her face.
Faith tried, imagining herself physically pushing the demon out of her mind. “I can’t,” She gasped, exhausted after only a few seconds.
“You can,” Wes and Buffy urged.
She thought she might have heard Buffy say, “You’ve got to, what would I do without you?”
She tried once more and felt a pain so intense she imagined it felt the same as having hooks in her skin in one inch intervals and having them simultaneously yanked. “Love you, B,” She whispered.
Then there was blackness.