Everyone's screwed (but in different ways)
Disclaimer in part one.
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"--And this, this thing
you've done, is the very height of irresponsible, short-sighted, reckless, irresponsible--!"
Willow was cringing away from Giles as best she could while still staying seated in her favorite libary chair, unable to refute anything the angry man was saying. Xander, however, raised a tentative finger from where he was sitting on the other side of the table.
"Ah, point of order? You used 'irresponsible' twice in the same sentence just now. Maybe we should all calm down before any more rules of grammar get hurt. Or at least let me go get that thesaurus out of your office, if you really want to keep going...." With Giles' disapproving glare now focused on him, Xander's voice trailed off and he suddenly found some fascinating thing on the floor at his feet to study instead.
The librarian paused, took a steadying breath, and finally gave in to the need to remove his glasses and begin cleaning them with his handkerchief.
"Willow," he continued, although in a more moderate tone now that he'd take a moment to rein in his temper. "You are doubtless correct in thinking that the power of Faith's device would serve to magnify the effects of the spell you cast. What I'm not sure of is if you realize just how much
it magnified them." Replacing his glasses, he reached out to touch the silvery remains of the object on the table before him. Dull and completely inert, the thing was now nothing more than a curious paperweight.
"But, Giles," Willow finally ventured, peering up at him with a half-guilty, half defiant look on her face. "She's gone
. Faith is gone; isn't that a good thing? I thought you'd be, you know, happy? I mean, think of everything she's put us through."
Xander gave a quiet, wistful sigh that he probably thought no one could hear.
"Oh yeah," he murmured in a sort of dreamy, longing way. "She put us through all kinds
of things. Slayer-strong, super-endurance, really really limber
kinds of things...."
Giles ignored him; Giles worked very hard at ignoring him, and with an act of will made himself not pause to consider any of the images those words had brought to mind.
"Yes, Willow, Faith is gone. Gone from here
at least... which begs the question: where did she go?"
The red-haired girl frowned, clearly taken aback.
"Um... a hell dimension? Hopefully?"
"Doubtful." Giles picked up the device, considered it a moment longer, then placed it in a small box. He would send it to England, and let the Council's researchers examine it, but he was certain it was a lost cause. "Oh, it's possible, I suppose. Certainly she was sent beyond the bounds of our universe." Raising one finger, he scowled at the suddenly hopeful Willow. "However, it is very likely that she was sent to a place largely congruent with our world. A place with people and places largely similar to our own, though perhaps differing in many details."
Xander, who had managed to escape his lustful daydreams (for the moment), tilted his head quizzically.
"Uh, okay, I guess the question I have is--so what? What do we care where she went, so long as she's gone?"
Giles turned, and gave the boy a level look.
"Oh, there's no question that it is a favorable outcome for us, but what of that other world? Do we care nothing for their
fate?" Folding his arms across his chest, he stared off into space, as if looking into that other universe. "We've foisted our troubles onto them. We've sent them an unstable, uncontrollable, mentally-ill girl who happens to have all the powers of a Slayer. The inhabitants of that other world will have no idea what they face." His head lowered in introspection, Giles could only shrug helplessly. "Faith has killed before, and will very likely kill again. And we here are responsible for each and every life she takes."
Xander, for once, actually seemed to recognize the gravity of the situation, although Willow was still clinging stubbornly to her wishful optimism.
"No, no, it might not be like that at all," she insisted, doing her best to be her usual cute and disarming self. "Even if she isn't in an actual hell dimension, she might be in something that works
like a hell dimension for her. You know, like, um...." She jumped upright in her chair. "Oh! Like a place with nothing but plants! With nobody she can scare, or hurt, or kill, and nobody--" A sideways glance at Xander, and not a small amount of residual pain in her eyes for just a split-second "And nobody to do other
sorts of things with... that would drive her completely crazy in no time!" Ignoring both Giles' reproving look and Xander's fresh descent into wistful reverie, she nodded firmly.
"Yes, that's absolutely where she is. Some empty desert, or tundra, or, or... maybe a Waterworld
kind of place where she'll have to dogpaddle for all eternity. Wherever it is, she's going to be all alone and bored to death with nothing to do, forever and ever and ever...."
The little red sports car made a high, sustained screaming sound that sounded exactly
like a giant cat demon Faith had once killed, and it seemed to grip the road like a cat too, even as it hurtled through the night at over a hundred and fifty miles per hour.
"Are you shitting
me?" Faith asked, her voice incredulous. She put her face right up against the car window, made a frustrated sound, and fumbled for the button that rolled down the tinted glass. Icy air blasted the interior of the car, pulling an exclamation from the blonde girl behind the wheel. Faith ignored her and the cold both, sticking her head far enough outside for her to get a good look.
The city skyline she saw had about ten trillion lights; or at least that's the impression she got while staring at the incredible sight. Skyscrapers were everywhere, not just gathered together into one central mass like she'd seen in every other city she'd ever passed through. Here, there were clusters, and groups of clusters, and almost endless expanses of towering buildings, like a gigantic forest made of concrete and glass.
It made Boston look like some backwoods joke of a town, and she'd grown up thinking the streets and alleyways of that town went on forever.
"I thought I was in L.A.," she mumbled, pulling her head back inside the car before the chill air blasting past could finish freezing her ears and nose solid. "I mean, I know something happened to move me or whatever, some kind of teleport deal, but damn...."
Annabelle used a button on her side to roll up the window, then took a second to fingercomb the long blonde hair out of her face, all while effortlessly weaving her screaming car through the slower-moving vehicles on the highway.
"Are you sure you're okay over there?" she asked, giving the younger girl a cautious sideways look. "I mean, you are
bleeding all over the place," A second, longer look made her frown, as she noticed that Faith's wounds were not bleeding that much at all now, despite their severity. "Anyway, you're not making much sense. Teleport? L.A.?" She nodded out through the windshield, indicating the awesome skyline. "Hard to confuse Gotham for Los Angeles, especially given that they're on opposite sides of the country?" The tone of her voice rose at the end, making it a question, but Faith just shook her head.
"Never mind, I'm just hyper from the fight. Forget I said anything." She settled herself back in the leather seat, doing her best to ignore the pain from her various wounds. Her body was doing it's job just fine, and the wounds were clotting, already starting to heal. Even so, they hurt
, and would keep hurting for a few hours yet. Annabelle, meanwhile, seemed willing to leave the issue of her crazy talk alone, though not without a last, lingering look. Need to be more careful,
Faith told herself, all the while staring out at the amazing city blurring past in the darkness. She doesn't know about magic; no surprise there, most people don't
. Faith did a little sideways staring of her own, checking the other girl out as she drove with one hand and flipped open a phone with the other. God, she's hot. Smart too, I think, blonde or not. Sticking with her is definitely the best thing to do. Besides....
She closed her eyes, squeezing them tight against the sudden moisture that gathered there.
Besides, there was the way the blonde girl had looked
at her, back at the college. Looked at her with wide, shining eyes (green eyes, just like her
eyes); looked at her like she was something incredible, and beautiful, and.... Yeah. And the kiss had been pretty amazing too, both in and of itself, and as a promise of things to come.
The inside of the car was cold, despite the heater blasting away; it couldn't have been more than twenty degrees outside--more proof that she was a long way from L.A. For Faith, though, the world was suddenly a very warm and safe place, and she snuggled down into her seat with a smile of contentment. Someone wanted her, someone needed
Someone who happened to be a total babe; which she didn't mind at all.
"--Okay, how is he?" Annabelle asked of her phone. "Uh huh. Uh huh. Right. Then here's what we'll do. You take Bobby to the hospital, Mike and Drew bring the truck like we planned. Got it? Great. Let me know if you have any trouble."
She flipped the phone closed, which prompted Faith to wonder when the devices had gotten that small and streamlined; the one the Mayor had gotten for her had been the latest thing, and it was a lot clunkier than this. She didn't mention that out loud, though, instead going with:
"They won't call the cops on your boys? At the hospital, I mean. Usually they call the cops when it's a gunshot wound, or somebody who's really beat up bad." She knew that much for a fact; from both before and after being called as a Slayer.
Annabelle, however, shook her head with a impish smile.
"Not in this
town, nope. I own a couple of the residents at Gotham General; they take care of things like this for me, and I give them gift baskets full of my best quality stuff."
Faith's left eyebrow rose a tiny bit.
The blonde's smile turned absolutely wicked.
"Stuff. I have fantastic stuff. Once they have a taste, people will do almost anything
for more of my stuff."
Faith smiled back.
"I believe you," she said, and she wasn't talking about the drugs or whatever it was Annabelle was dealing.
When the girl abruptly downshifted and guided the car down the off ramp, Faith forced herself upright in her seat once more. Once off the freeway, and down amongst the smaller buildings that clustered at the feet of the towering buildings, this 'Gotham' place looked more familiar to her. If she'd landed here first, she wouldn't have given it a second thought.
"Where are we going?" she ventured, watching as they navigated the late night streets at a much more reasonable speed.
"Home," the other girl answered. "And by 'home', I mean where I'm setting up my lab. There's plenty of room for me and the guys to live and to make product both." She smiled faintly, her eyes on the traffic signal head as she slowed and signaled a turn. "There's room for you too, if you want to stay with me."
Faith didn't hesitate an instant, though she tried to sound casual, and not desperate.
"Sure. Sounds good." Annabelle nodded like she'd never doubted the outcome. For her part, Faith finally got around to asking something that had been clamoring for attention in the back of her mind. "So, what's the story on those assholes in the Bat costumes?"
The other girl scowled out at the city, shifted gears a little more forcefully than necessary, and did not immediately answer. When she finally did, her voice held sullen anger.
"Like you said, they're assholes in Bat costumes." She seemed willing to leave it at that, which of course Faith was not going to allow.
Annabelle blew out an exasperated breath.
"And they suck. Bad enough that the real Batman is out there, now these morons are trying to get in on his act. I mean, come on, having one crazy person sneaking around, hiding in the shadows and swinging from the rooftops is more than any sane person could believe to start with, much less--"
"Wait, stop, hold on." Faith wondered for a second if maybe the other girl was the crazy one. "Go back a sec. The real
They had just pulled up at a stoplight, so Annabelle had time to give her a long, disbelieving stare.
"Duh, yes, the real one." Her eyes wide, she gave a short laugh. "What, are you serious? You've never heard
of the Batman?"
Faith hated looking ignorant, but in this case there wasn't any way to go except to admit the truth.
"Never heard of the guy. What's his deal?"
The blonde shook her head in wonder, then turned away and guided the car on, accelerating smoothly.
"Wow. I mean, wow
; never heard of the Batman. Okay then, here's what everyone's heard. There's lots of different versions about exactly who he is, or even what he is, if you're a loon out there on the fringe, with the UFO's and the government conspiracy people. First of all, he's like, the world's most bad-ass fighter or something. Nobody, and I mean nobody can beat him in a straight-up fight. Secondly, he has all these amazing, gadgety toy things...."
They'd been at it for over an hour, and most of that had seen Willow off in the corner, bravely struggling not to cry, and Giles lurking in his office, trying to think of what to put in his report to the Watcher's Council. That left Xander as the main researcher at the big table, which didn't bode well for, well, anything. Not that there seemed to be any real chance of calling Faith back from wherever she'd gone; every text they'd consulted had been in agreement on that one.
For his part, Xander was just glad that Buffy was out on patrol. Any discussion of Faith inevitably got the girl upset, and there was nothing in this or any other world that was as unpredictable as an upset... Slayer?
"Um, random question that has just occurred to me?" He announced to the room in general. Willow looked up from the tome she was studying, and Giles stood in the doorway to his tiny office, leaning against the doorframe. Xander looked from one to the other.
"Buffy's the Slayer, right? Only when she died her 'activate next Slayer' mojo got activated, and we got Kendra, and then Faith." Willow just looked at him blankly, though Giles had a slowly dawning look of horror on his face. Xander watched him as he continued his thought. "So what happens now? If Buffy dies--ever--and Faith is in another universe... how do we get a new Slayer?"
Comprehension arrived in Willow's eyes, with tears close behind. As she began to quietly sob, Giles turned around and considered the half-finished report on his desk. The Watcher's Council didn't know it yet, but they were about to become very, very angry. They were also about to become unemployed.
"Well, shit," Giles said, in an almost conversational sort of way.
All things considered, it fit the situation perfectly.