6.Grandview Village Square.
Standing by herself on the sidewalk, Willow watched as Faith drove Buffy to the local hospital. After all the excitement of being nearly kidnapped while driving from Fort Drum and people dying in the kitchen, Willow had insisted that Buffy take the paramedics advice and go for a check up.
Turning away from the road Willow walked slowly across Grandview’s village square; coming to a halt next to the town’s war memorial, which stood right in the middle of the square, Willow found herself distracted from her thoughts of babies and masked killers. Frowning, she stood and looked around the square; she could feel something not quite right. People were going to and fro, between the neat little lawns and flowerbeds, but she couldn’t see anything that would make her feel so distracted.
“A sorta presence…” Willow told herself, “…of course!” she smiled at her own foolishness, all the ninjas trying to kill or capture everyone had made her overly suspicious, “it’s the ghosts, silly witch!”
Moving her hand slowly away from the comforting bulk of the revolver Faith had given her that morning; she’d not even realised she’d been going for the weapon. Thinking she must be getting jumpy because of everything that had happened she tried to relax. Next she felt a little ashamed of even carrying the gun. Okay she’d killed people in the past, she’d tried to destroy the world but she’d never used a gun…except when she’d tried to kill Kennedy. Giving a heavy sigh, Willow told herself not to be a hypocrite. It was like Faith kept telling her; guns were tools just like Willow’s spells. Use them sensibly and everything would be fine; use them foolishly, well you had to take the consequences. Feeling a little better about herself and carrying the revolver, Willow asked the goddess to reveal all that was hidden from her eyes.
“Yikes!” Willow gave a startled cry which caused several people nearby to turn and look at her; she smiled apologetically before glancing skyward, “Very funny,” Willow told the goddess, “I can do without everyone walking around in the nude, thank-you, okay now you’ve had your fun, just let me see the ghosts, please.” A moment later everyone was properly clothed again and Willow could see the ghosts which were such a feature of Grandview.
There were several people in late nineteenth century dress walking around the square. A couple of Woodlands Indians sat in the middle of a lawn around a ghostly fire as they shared a long pipe. Looking down, Willow noticed a small boy go by with a hoop, there was even a cowboy, which made her frown a little; wasn’t he a little too far East? There were at least a couple of dozen ghosts in view from where she was standing.
“Hey!” Willow remembered not to cry out so loudly this time as she looked over to where a woman had just tripped and fallen. Her bags crashed to the ground spilling her shopping across the path. “Oh that was totally uncalled for!”
Willow walked towards where the woman had fallen; several people were already helping her to her feet. A black guy dressed in the style of the seventies had just tripped the woman up.
“Hey you!” Willow called, heedless of the people who now turned to stare at her, “Yes you! I can see you!”
The ghost looked at Willow as if he’d seen a…well, a ghost, before starting to walk away.
“Hey!” Willow repeated as she made off after the ghost, “Don’t you go sneaking off, I want a word with you!” Willow caught up to the ghost and stood in front of him, “That was totally unnecessary,” she wagged her finger under the invisible nose of the ghost, “now get outta here and don’t come back coz if you do I’ll totally banish your ass, buster!”
Dusting off her hands, Willow turned to go about her business only then noticing the small crowd staring at her, she made a small frightened noise at the back of her throat and wilted under the bemused stares of the town’s people.
“Oh crap,” Willow sighed, “now everyone thinks I’m insane-o-woman, I’ll never live this down,” she added as she realised that as she lived here she might as well start adopting cats now, these people would never forget this. “Nothing to see here,” she called as she started to edge away from the curious crowd, “I just forgot to take my pills this morning, y’know?” Willow rolled her eyes at herself, “Great, now everyone thinks I have to be kept medicated.”0=0=0=0
Standing by the door of her shop, Melinda Gordon had watched the red haired woman give the ghost a ‘damn good talking to’ and wondered what the hell was going on. Surely there couldn’t be someone else like her here in town, but the woman had definitely been talking to the ghost…no make that telling the ghost off. It hadn’t looked as if the redhead had given the ghost much of a chance to speak and the look of fear on the ghost’s face just before he vanished really sent the chills down her spine.
“Oh no,” Melinda whispered quietly, “not another evil to contend with?”
“What was that?” Delia, her friend and assistant called from across the shop.
“Nothing,” Melinda turned and smiled at the older woman as she walked back towards the shop counter.
“Are you okay?” Delia sounded slightly concerned.
“Why?” Melinda asked guiltily.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Delia came over to look into Melinda’s eyes as if trying to see what was wrong.
“No I’m fine,” Melinda smiled brightly as if to say ‘hey, look I’m fine’; I’ve just seen a woman yelling at a ghost, she told herself, of course I’m fine.0=0=0=0 Mercy Hospital, Grandview.
“What’s with the army girl look?” Buffy asked as Faith drove her towards Mercy Hospital.
Dressed in the pair of cargo pants she’d been wearing the day before and a t-shirt that said ‘Army’ across the front, sand coloured boots and a camouflaged jacket; Faith did indeed look like she shopped at the army surplus store.
“Yeah, sorry about that,” Faith glanced down at herself and shrugged, “I don’t actually have that many clothes with me.”
“Why not?” Buffy asked; she knew from Willow that Faith dressed quite nicely nowadays, apparently she’d given up the ‘slut-look’ some time ago.
“Look,” Faith signed as she drove up to the hospital, “I didn’t exactly have a lot of time to pack before I came here. I’ve got some outfits at Willow’s place but I’m here to tell ya now they ain’t the sorta clothes ya wanna be walking around smalls-ville in during daylight hours. Apart from these pants and a few t-shirts I ain’t got anything much to wear here, if ya see what I mean?”
“I see,” Buffy nodded, “when we’ve finished here I’ll take you shopping…”
“But…” Faith tried to explain some more but Buffy kept right on talking.
“…on me,” Buffy smiled, “I can’t have my bodyguard walking around like she shops at a thrift store.”
“We’re here,” Faith gestured at the hospital, “and thanks.”
“Yeah, well,” Buffy pushed open her door and started to struggle to get out of the SUV, “just thank your lucky stars it was me who noticed if…” Buffy paused; she had been about to say ‘Dawn’ but she’d not spoken to her sister since their final argument several years ago, “…whatever, you wouldn’t want to know…hey, can you give me a hand here, I think I’m stuck?”
“Yeah, sure!” Faith opened her door and jumped down onto the parking lot before running around the car to give Buffy a hand.
“Once upon a time,” Buffy said as Faith took hold of her hands, “I used to be able to jump in and out of this thing like…well like a very jumpy thing now I can hardly move.”
“Look, this isn’t working,” Faith pointed out, Buffy was still firmly stuck inside the SUV, “do you trust me?”
“What?” Now there was a question, Buffy told to herself, do I thrust Faith not to kill me, the answer came more easily than she would have imagined, “Yeah, of course.”
“Here, hold onto my arms,” Faith placed her hands under Buffy’s arms, “now hold tight.”
Lifting Buffy out of the car, Faith placed her gently on her feet again.
“Thanks,” Buffy smiled her gratitude, “that super-soldier strength comes in handy for more than protecting the nation, huh?”
“Yeah, sure does,” Faith forced a smile; still going with the ‘super-soldier’ story, huh? Faith asked herself; that story was too full of holes to be true, it didn’t explain half of what had happened in her life, but Buffy still seemed to be sticking with it.
Damn! Buffy thought, shouldn’t have mentioned the super-soldier gig; she’d caught the look Faith had given her. Perhaps Willow was right and Faith did know everyone was lying to her about her past. The question was, what would Faith do about it? Buffy doubted that Faith would do anything violent towards herself or Willow or anyone else, but…but she’d do something and that would be bound to cause heartache for someone.
“Reception?” Faith pointed at a sign.
“Yeah, silly me,” Buffy smiled and stepped over to stand next to Faith, she slipped her arm through Faith’s and pulled her close, “Hey, I need my strong, army buddy to make sure I don’t fall down or something, I’m such a klutz these days.”
“Yeah sure,” Faith said uncertainly, but she was quietly pleased that Buffy had called her, ‘her buddy’.0=0=0=0Village Java, Grandview.
Having lost the curious crowd that had been staring at her and after finishing her shopping, Willow crossed the square to the little town’s one and only coffee shop. Sitting down at a table in the warm spring sunshine she ordered a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin and tried to relax. Looking out across the square she sighed contentedly, Grandview was a really nice town. There were no monsters, the people were nice and if she hadn’t just made a complete fool of herself she’d be happy to spend the rest of her life here. As it was, now everyone thought she was one step up from the bag lady who muttered to herself as she shuffled along the sidewalk, she’d have to leave and live in New York. Failing that somewhere where people wouldn’t notice another crazy woman. Oh, she reminded herself, she couldn’t go back to New York, that SVU Captain had warned her and Faith to stay away from the city.
Distracted by a Revolutionary War soldier who was walking by the coffee shop, Willow didn’t really notice the bus until it had disgorged its passengers and driven away. A sense of something or someone familiar came to her. Looking across the square she saw a figure looking around himself in that lost, sorta vague way she had grown to know so well over the years.
“GILES!” Willow stood up and shouted, this caused every town’s person nearby to turn and look at her again, she was really making a name for herself today, in all the wrong ways.
For his part, Giles looked around until he caught sight of the insane redhead who was jumping up and down and waving outside the local coffee shop. Picking up his bags he hurried over to Willow almost being knocked down by a farmer’s pick-up truck as he crossed the road.
“Willow!” Giles smiled with relief as he came up to her, “Thank god you came to meet me, how did you know I’d be arriving now?”
“I didn’t,” Willow explained as she threw her arms around the tired watcher’s neck and gave him a really good hugging. “I just happened to be in town doing some shopping,” Willow left out the part about convincing the inhabitants of Grandview that she was totally insane, “What are you doing here?” Willow wanted to know as she gestured for Giles to sit next to her, “I didn’t know you were coming over.”
“You didn’t?” Giles looked even more worried than he had, “No one called you?”
“What’s up Giles?” Willow scowled.
“Can we talk?” Giles eyed the people around them suspiciously.
“Sure we can,” Willow gestured and a cloak of secrecy came down around them; anyone listening in to their conversation would now just hear two old friends talking as they caught up on old news.
“What’s up?” Willow asked quietly.0=0=0=0Mercy Hospital, Grandview.
Standing in the corner of the examination room, Faith watched the doctor do all his tests. Faith’d never even considered having children, the army was her life now and she couldn’t see how kids and a family would fit in. Anyway, from what she was seeing Buffy go through, being pushed and prodded, it all seemed like too much fuss and then there was all the pain and bloating and stretch marks and…
Shaking her head to clear it of nightmare visions of childbirth, Faith watched as the doctor took the blood pressure cuff from Buffy’s arm. The doctor then asked Buffy a whole stream of personnel sounding questions and Faith found her eyes drifting up towards the ceiling. Noticing little motes of dust float down from the ceiling tiles, Faith grimaced as her ‘ambush cramps’ started to take hold of her stomach, this had often happened in Iraq just before the insurgents sprung an ambush on her and her squad.
Reaching under her jacket, Faith started to pull the pistol from the holster on her hip, just as the first ceiling tile fell to the floor with a crash. Buffy screamed with surprise and the doctor shouted angrily as a pair of black clad legs appeared out of the hole in the ceiling. Faith’s gun was now free of its holster and she was bringing it to bear on the intruder. Centring her sights on the intruder’s chest, Faith’s eyes took in the gun he held in one hand and what looked like a taser held in the other.
The ninja guy was dressed in black from head to foot with only his eyes showing through his ski-mask; Faith shot him twice in the chest without further hesitation. Down went the ninja as the doctor threw himself across Buffy in an effort to protect her. Swinging to point her weapon at another ceiling tile that was just starting to fall to the floor, Faith saw a second ninja jump down into the room. Faith shot this man once in the forehead and once in the centre of his chest. The man fell against the wall knocking expensive hospital equipment over onto the floor and staining the wall with his blood.
Distracted for a second, Faith didn’t notice the third ninja until he’d jumped down through the first hole and advanced on Buffy taser held ready. Turning, Faith was just in time to see Buffy hit the ninja on the end of his nose with the palm of her hand. The ninja cried out in pain and alarm as he staggered back from his intended victim. Moving to her right a couple of steps to clear Buffy from her line of fire, Faith shot the ninja twice in the head. Pointing her pistol up at the holes in the ceiling, she moved to stand next to where Buffy still sat on the exam couch.
“You okay,” Faith asked not relaxing for a moment.
“Yeah,” Buffy nodded looking around at all the death and destruction, “you?”
“Don’t sweat it,” Faith glanced away from the holes in the ceiling and looked down at Buffy; she still had her dress up around her waist and her legs wide apart showing way more than Faith wanted to see. “Neat move there.”
“Thanks,” Buffy grinned at Faith, “and thanks for saving my life.”
“Don’t sweat it,” Faith repeated as if she did this sort of stuff everyday; just then two police officers burst into the room pointing there pistols at everyone.
“OH!” Squeaked Buffy as she tried to cover herself up, “Way too many people!”0=0=0=0Village Java, Grandview.
“Oh my god Giles,” Willow gasped in horror after Giles had explained what had happened to him in the last twenty-four hours, “and your poor slayer, that’s awful,” Willow was close to tears at the thought of the girl trying to save Giles and getting killed, plus there was the little business of someone trying to kill Giles, one of her oldest friends.
“This is terrible,” Willow continued, her voice petered out as a pattern started to form in her mind, she turned a steely stare on Giles, “As far as you know have any other members of the council or any other slayers been targeted?”
“Erm no, not that I know of,” Giles explained as he watched Willow closely, “What are you thinking Willow?”
“I’m thinking that this is personnel,” Willow explained, “I’m thinking that its only people from Sunnydale who’re being targeted…”
“But Rebecca…” Giles began.
“Collateral damage,” Willow pointed out, she pinned Giles with her resolve face as he nervously polished his glasses, “so far there have been attempts on Buffy and me, Xander can’t be found,” Willow explained to Giles’ puzzled look, “Robin said he’d disappeared a few weeks ago no one’s seen him since; now there’s been an attempt on your life…OH MY GOD!”
“W-what’s wrong?” Giles looked around expecting to see masked killers making their way across the square towards them.
“Faith…Riley!” Willow gasped.
“What about them?” seeing no killers, Giles focused his attention back on Willow.
“What if someone’s after them too?” Willow explained, “What if this is nothing to do with what
we are but who
“I’m not sure I understand,” Giles watched confused as Willow started to stand up.
His brain wasn’t working with its usual clarity; what with no sleep in the last twenty-four hours and people trying to kill him.
“Come on we’ve got to find Buffy and Faith,” Willow gabbed Giles’ arm and pulled him to his feet, “lets move!”0=0=0=0