"I thought you said there was supposed to be someone here," said Angel, as he faced the completely empty wine vineyard.
Buffy stepped forwards, glancing around herself. "We're too early," she muttered. "The First hasn't gotten here, yet." She stepped into the center of the room, hearing her footsteps echo. "Not a single Bringer."
"That's good, isn't it?" asked Angel.
Buffy stopped, beside a drooping ceiling beam. "I don't know," she admitted. "Even Caleb tricked us like this, back in 2003, and the Doctor's way smarter. He might… have…" Buffy paused, and squinted at the beam. She reached up, stroking the wood with her fingers. "Did it always say that?"
"Say what?" asked Angel, coming forwards, and examining the beam.
The words Bad Wolf
were graffitied into the wood.
Angel shook his head. "It's just… graffiti," he said. "Kids, you know?" He blew some dust off of it. "Probably been there for years."
Buffy just kept staring at it. "Rose called herself that. When she saved Dawn. She said she was the Bad Wolf."
Buffy opened her mouth to reply, when she caught something out of the corner of her eye, then pushed Angel aside, as Faith leapt out at them from the shadows. Faith tackled Buffy to the ground, the Glove of Mynhegon falling from Buffy's hands on impact.
"So, didn't destroy the Glove after all, did you?" asked Faith. "Wanted all that power for yourself?"
Buffy took a deep breath, then surged forwards, rolling Faith off of her and just barely darting out of the way of Faith's next blow.
"Angel!" Buffy shouted, as she flipped back to her feet. "The Glove!"
Faith kicked out at Buffy, who managed to duck under the leg, then grabbed Faith's arm before she could take another punch. Faith thrust Buffy against a wall, and struck out at her, again, but Buffy ducked just before Faith hit her.
She rolled across the ground, then popped up on her feet. "I don't want to fight you, Faith!" she shouted.
"If you hadn't noticed," said Faith, grabbing Buffy's arm and twisting her around, "you're evil. I'm not."
Buffy yanked herself free, but stumbled backwards, into one of the wine barrels. "I'm not evil!" she protested, leaping up to her feet. "You just don't get what I'm—"
"Oh, I get it," said Faith, punching at Buffy, who ducked. "You found a cool new weapon, and you've hidden it here so your friend, the First, can get its hands on it. Mrs. Post worked it all out."
"Post is the one who's evil!" Buffy retorted, grabbing Faith's leg and flipping her through the air. "She's using you to get what she wants! You have to believe me!"
"Funny," said Faith, somersaulting to her feet. "But I don't." She punched out, and Buffy caught the punch in her fist.
"If I'm evil," Buffy said, her eyes locked on Faith's. "Then why am I not trying to hurt you?"
Faith hesitated for a long moment, her eyes flicking down to her caught fist, then back to Buffy. Then, with a renewed determination, she grabbed Buffy's hand and twisted her arm around. "Nice try," she said, and slammed Buffy backwards, against the floor. "But if you're not working for the First, then how'd you find out about this place?"
"Because I'm from the future!" Buffy shouted. "How did you
"Same way as you," Faith said, grabbing up a sword. "Your evil time traveling boyfriend. That one's a gloater, you know." She brought it down, and Buffy seized it between her hands, stopping it inches from her chest. The edge bore into her hands and she winced.
"Gloater?" Buffy said. That didn't sound right.
A growl, and Faith was bowled over by Angel, his face vampiric, his eyes focused and filled with love. Faith knocked him off of her, and dropped the sword, reaching instead for her stake.
"Oh, I'm gonna really enjoy staking you," she said.
She grabbed out at Angel's legs, hurling him over her head and slamming him into a wine crate, which shattered on impact.
Buffy leapt up, running forwards, but stopped as she heard Willow's voice call, "Buffy!"
The echo of two pairs of footsteps racing through the vineyard.
Buffy glanced up, just in time to see Post standing in the middle of the vineyard, her eyes gleaming in anticipation, as she slid the Glove onto her hand, and it fused with her flesh.
"Buffy!" Willow shouted. "It's a trap! This whole place is about to burn down! You've got to—"
"Get down!" Buffy shouted at Willow and Xander.
Willow and Xander both stared, speechless, as Post raised her gloved hand up to the sky, and shouted, "Ta hugan matmach mynhegon!"
And the rumble of thunder shook the vineyard.
Faith paused in her fight against Angel. She looked over at Post. "What's going on?"
"I told you!" shouted Buffy. "I told you she was evil!"
"Oh, I'm not evil," said Post, a gleam in her eyes. "It's only that, unlike Faith, I'm not an idiot." A bolt of lightning pierced through the ceiling of the vineyard, the wood smoldering with the residual fire. Then Post spun around, and pointed the Glove at Faith. "Ta vreem!"
Lightning shot out of the Glove, and Angel just barely managed to pull Faith out of the way in time. The wooden wall behind them exploded, showering splinters of wood down nearby, and Buffy felt her heart racing.
Oh, please, please make those splinters not have killed Angel! Please!
Buffy dove in after Angel and Faith, dragging them out from the shrapnel. Post spun around, directing her gloved hand at Willow and Xander.
"Ta vreem!" Post cried, and lightning shot out once more, Xander leaping on top of Willow and knocking her out of the way of the lightning.
The vineyard wall beside Buffy, Faith and Angel creaked, then collapsed into wood and flames, the fire shooting across the spilled wine and spreading throughout the vineyard basement.
Buffy began coughing, as she looked at the devastation surrounding her. And realized that Willow was right. This — all of this, from Angel not destroying the Glove, to this fight occurring down here, in the vineyard — really was a trap.
"The perfect tinderbox," Buffy rasped. "And we just lit a flame."
"What?" asked Faith. She coughed, then her eyes lit up, as she spotted something the flame had just burnt away. "Hey, trap door!"
Buffy's eyes widened, as she suddenly realized the true extent of the plan. Trying to find a Scythe that had been hidden in a basement made of wood. Trying to retrieve a weapon that could only be removed by a Slayer — by placing her and Faith here, and giving them an enemy to fight. Then burning everyone and everything else to the ground, to get the Scythe back. It was genius — even more ingenious than anything Caleb had thought up, back in her own reality.
Oh, this was going to be bad.
"Faith, don't—" Buffy started, but it was already too late.
Faith had pulled the Scythe right out of the stone.
"Hey, Mrs. Post!" shouted Faith, jumping through the opening, Scythe in hand. "Take this!" And she charged at Post, Scythe raised above her head.
Buffy glanced around, coughing, and spotted Willow passed out on the floor. Xander choking, barely able to breathe, clearly injured, but trying to make his way to Buffy, so he could save her.
"Angel," said Buffy, pointing at her friends. The friends who'd come to rescue her. The friends who'd come to save her from a trap she'd been too stupid to see.
(How'd they known? Who'd told them? Who'd have even known…? Oh, screw it, it was obvious, wasn't it? The one person who'd want them out of the way, while he took the Scythe for himself. The same person who'd told everyone else exactly where to find it. The one who needed no Bringers or Uber-Vamps to ambush them. Just made sure Buffy, Post, Faith, and the others were all here, at once, and let them ambush themselves.)
Angel nodded at Buffy, then darted forwards, dodging past Faith and Post, who were fighting, lightning-glove to Scythe, their moves almost too fast to make out, their bodies lost amidst the smoke.
Buffy tried to get to her feet, but there was too much smoke — no ventilation — and she couldn't breathe. Another sizzle of lightning smashed into a wine barrel, dashing it to pieces, the liquid fire spurting out across the vineyard. Buffy was too weak to dodge in time, and saw the flaming wine droplets rushing towards her, as if in slow motion.
Hands wrapped around her, pulling her away just before she was burned. Cool hands, comforting hands, hands that… through Buffy's oxygen-deprived brain… she thought were familiar…
A high pitched buzzing noise… echoing in her ears…
A voice she thought she recognized… except… she didn't…
It was warm… and the vineyard just wouldn't stop spinning, wouldn't stay in focus…
Buffy jerked up, air rushing into her lungs, the cool night air brushing against her face. She looked around. She was outside. How'd she gotten outside? Beside her, the vineyard was burning, huge chunks of burning wood crumbling as the fire consumed them, smoke billowing out from the wreckage.
She heard a twig snap, behind her, and spun around, just in time to catch a flash of black leather out of the corner of her eye, before it was gone. She got to her feet, steadying herself, then took a deep breath and ran back in.
Faith was still in there.
And Buffy had to get her out.--000--
Post was dead. Faith was pretty sure.
Not that she could see through all the smoke.
Faith coughed, clutching the Scythe in her hands. The Scythe that she could feel resonating power through her. The Scythe that seemed to make her feel as if it were hers, and only hers, as if it had been created for her.
"Faith!" shouted a voice Faith knew only too well. She looked up. B, of course. Running down the stairs, back into the building. How'd she managed to get out, anyways?
Faith tried to give B a snappy comeback, or even just rush out of the building herself, but the strength she thought she had was gone, the air had disappeared from her lungs, and she felt herself falling, the Scythe tumbling from her hands.
Buffy caught her. Gathered Faith up, tucking the Scythe beneath her arms, and brought Faith out of the flames.
And continued in her mission to change the future.--000--
Faith sucked air into her lungs, as she gasped back to consciousness. She grabbed at Buffy, as if frantically reaching for something real.
"Trap," she said. Then her eyes rested on the Scythe, lying on the ground beside them. She reached out for it, awe in her eyes. "To get that?"
"More powerful than a Glove," Buffy agreed.
Faith held it in her hands, measuring its weight and importance, feeling its raw power. Buffy let her.
"We've got to find Angel and get out of here," she told Faith. "The First wants that Scythe. It wanted us trapped down there, so we'd pull it out of the stone and then burn to death. There are going to be mega number of Bringers in about two seconds, and we've got to…"
Buffy heard the growl of the Uber-Vamp behind her before she saw it. She spun around and seized it by the shoulders, spinning it away from Faith and down to the ground.
"Faith, the Scythe!" she shouted, trying but failing to divert the vampire's attack.
Faith staggered to her feet, summoning all her strength, then hurdled towards the Uber-Vamp, who grabbed Faith's hand and tossed her away. Buffy punched the vamp in the head, and it turned around to snarl at Buffy. Faith kicked out at it, then sliced at the head with the Scythe.
The vampire dusted in the night air.
A rustle behind Faith. She spun around, Scythe in hand, and lunged forwards.
"Faith!" Buffy screamed, as she realized — too late — what was about to happen. "No!"
But it happened.
Just the way it had happened before.
Faith slicing at the mysterious stranger, assuming it was a vampire, and then watching, in horror, as the body didn't burst into dust. As the entirely human body slumped and collapsed upon the ground, the head tumbling off its shoulders.
With human eyes, that stared at Buffy and Faith as if in betrayal.
With human blood, gushing as it seeped into the ground.
Faith stepped away, her breathing growing panicked, the Scythe dropping from her hands and clattering onto the ground. "I didn't…. I… I… didn't know," Faith said. Her hands shook. "I didn't know!"
Buffy felt herself go numb, as she stared at the dead human body. The Deputy Mayor's dead human body.
"It happened again," Buffy breathed. "Just like last time. I couldn't stop it."
Faith grabbed the Scythe off the ground, then dragged Buffy away. "We gotta go!" she shouted. Buffy resisted, and Faith snapped, a little louder, "Come on! We gotta go!"
Buffy just stared at the dead body on the ground, her entire world feeling like it had just collapsed. She had known the future. Known exactly how to prevent it.
And it had still happened.
"The way it always happens," came a male voice to Faith and Buffy's right.
They jumped, as they spun around, and found themselves face to face with the man they'd just killed. Stepping towards them, his eyes fixed on Buffy.
"Faith," said Buffy, "give me the Scythe."
"Now!" Buffy screamed.
Faith handed her the Scythe, and Buffy braced herself with it, her eyes fixed on the First.
"I think you've missed the point of 'non-corporeal,'" said the First, gesturing down at his suit-attired body. "Not manifest. Nothing to kill."
"I can still kill your minions," said Buffy. "Now talk. What did you mean, 'the way it always happens'?"
The First's eyes gleamed in the moonlight. "You know exactly what I meant." It stepped closer. "Elizabeth."