Digging aroundDisclaimer: None of the characters are mine, but belong to Whedon and Co.
The ride in the car was tense and uncomfortable, to say the least. “So,” Willow Rosenberg said, trying to for stern, but failing rather miserably, “you’ll be on your best behaviour or else!”
“Or else you’ll turn me into a giant panda and will send me off to China,” Faith LeHane replied flatly. “Yes, yes, I got it.”
Willow glared. Since Buffy had vanished into Glory’s portal, the Californian Hellmouth was short of a Vampire Slayer, and since there was a Vampire Slayer locked away in the L.A. city penitentiary for women it all added up to...
...a lot of upset people, since that was a solution that pleased no one, except for, possibly, Angel. However, since a pleased Angel tended to lead to a happy Angel who tended to lead to Angelus who tended to lead to much more unhappy and/or displeased people, it was unanimously decided that Angel’s pleasure wasn’t particularly indicative of anything, either.
However, at this moment Angel wasn’t in the car with Willow, so the whole issue with Angelus was academic. Faith the Vampire Slayer, conversely, was, and that made that issue anything but academic instead.
“You know,” Willow scowled at Faith’s crack, “you might be just a bit more contrite or something, yes? Since, supposedly, you were very regretful when Buffy came to L.A. to confront you and all.”
“Yes, yes I could,” Faith agreed, and then changed topics without any visible effort. “So why did Giles decide that a disappearance of some horses may be supernatural in origin? I mean, this is the Wild West, maybe there’s a perfectly ordinary reason why some horses are disappearing?”
“Ours not to reason why,” Willow snapped. “Well, yours, mainly. Me, I’ve come because-“
“Your girlfriend has decided it would be a good idea for your character,” Faith finished flatly. “Well, you know what I say: good for the two of you!”
“Sure you do,” Willow replied, flatly – she wasn’t liable to start believing anything Faith told her for a while yet.
“Ouch! That stings! Why do you sting I should want to lie to you, doubting Tom?” Faith asked her voice still flat.
Now it was Willow’s turn to glare. She – and the others – did hear from Wesley that for all of her regrets, Faith’s character hadn’t changed, shifted or developed all that much, and now, Willow could see that for herself.
“You know,” she began again, intent on telling Faith that her tricks wouldn’t work this time, but at that moment the car hit a bump in the road, causing a stop. “Oh. Uh, we’re here?”* * *
The ‘here’ part of where was quite simple, actually. They were up in the north Californian uplands, in a small semi-montane meadow with a small river running past it on the left side. Rough remains of a crude stone bridge were still spanning that smallish body of water. “Well! We’re here!” Willow repeated brightly, hoping for some reaction.
Nope, no luck of that. Faith was busy staring at some of the horses that were cautiously grazing around a small copse of trees, looking rather miserable as they did that.
“Right,” Faith said in a definitely Vampire-Slayer-takes-charge tone of voice, “I’ll start searching next to the river, and you can stay here and wait for me to figure out the next plan.” With these words she turned around and left Willow completely ignoring the latter’s indignation.* * *
It was about five to ten minutes later. Faith had disappeared into the shadows under and around the ruined bridge and was mutely swearing at something or someone, rather indistinctly. It didn’t sound anything like fighting, so Willow didn’t feel like going there to see if Faith needed a hand (and she probably didn’t). The horses too kept on grazing the scant vegetation around the copse, ignoring the more lush vegetation further out in the open ground. A bunch of birds covered in dark plumage flew in the sky, ignoring Willow and the meadow as much as everybody else did.
Throughout her young life, admittedly, Willow was often ignored, and she never liked that. Now, however, it appeared that the past had returned to stare her right in the face, even though it currently possessed no specific eyes...
Or did it? Willow couldn’t shake away the feeling that she was being watched. Or not watched, observed somehow, and she didn’t like it. Faith’s yells down by the river had died down to something that almost resembled conversation, and that was the decisive factor: Willow inhaled, then exhaled, and then got out of the car (why had she been staying in it, to begin with?) to see what was going on around here.
Or – she tried to, at any rate. As she began to walk, the ground in front of her exploded, and something resembling an ant, a mole cricket, and an antlion larva burst from the ground. Since it was about 3 meters long and possessed a pair of either mouthparts or front legs in a wicked-looking pincer shape, Willow opened her mouth and a emitted a long, loud, drawn-out, terrified scream.
Admittedly, a part of her brain was telling her to shut up and cast a spell, but neither her mouth – which was frozen in that stupid scream – nor the rest of her body (which just refused to gesture and move) refused to co-operate and so Willow just stood there, screaming as if she was an idiot-
A very, very large boulder smashed into the side of the monstrous insect, knocking it prone, breaking through its armour and spraying its yellow blood in a wide circle. Instinctively, Willow dodged it – a good thing too, because that blood appeared to be acidic as it ate away at their car.
Faith, however, was a Vampire Slayer on a mission. She just looked at the somewhat-crippled demonic insect, and promptly smashed its head with the blunt end of her stake. The demonic insect’s body shivered once more, and grew still.
“Well! That is that!” Faith said in a flat, matter-of-fact tone of voice. “Willow, we’ll be leaving now.”
Still shocked, Willow complied. Of course, the smashed-up remains of the insect that Faith had locked in the car’s trunk for Giles to study may have had something to do with it as well. In any case, as the two young women were driving back, Willow didn’t even realize that she forgot to ask what Faith has been doing all that time, but all-in-all, it was perfectly understandable...To be continued...