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Chapter Seven: Buffy
Fan Fiction: Never Look Back
Chapter Seven: Waiting Game
SATURDAY, JUNE 8, 2002, 1:53 PM (GMT)
Buffy Summers drew spirals on the plate with her fork, idly redistributing leaves of lettuce and cherry tomatoes. The clock on the wall said it was nearly two and the angle of the sun also hinted 'afternoon', but her stomach still insisted it was only six a.m. and she hadn't been out Slaying in a couple of days. Her body liked to binge when she'd been burning energy, but since Wes had disappeared everything had been hurry up and wait. The thought of a full meal made her faintly nauseous.
Speaking of waiting, she mused to herself, where the hell was everyone, anyway? The only one she'd seen since leaving her room an hour ago was Xander, and he didn't count; she'd seen the faint lavender tint in the brown of his eyes, and knew he'd taken the Orbs out of storage. Through trial and error (and an awkward patrol that had left them trapped underground together for several hours) they'd discovered he needed much less sleep when 'invulnerable'. It was just like him to use an artifact of Power just to avoid a few hours of Z's; of course, if Dawn figured it out, she was going to kick his ass for that 'nap' speech earlier.
Hmmm. Now that would be fun to watch.
"Whatcha thinkin' about, Buff?" the object of her idle thoughts asked, dropping carefully into the chair across from her. He was much more careful with furniture now that he could break it with hardly a thought.
She sighed and dropped her fork onto the plate with a clatter, then propped her chin up in one hand and looked across the table at him. "Just that I'm really bored," she said. "Did you get a hold of Wesley?"
"Nope," he said, with a careless shrug. "I must have called his room a dozen times. Ethan's, too; Giles told me what his usual aliases were, and sure enough, he's registered under one of them. Anyway, neither of them is answering."
"Figures. We come all this way, and we're stuck doing nothing? We could have got a full night's sleep and then caught a plane." Dawn was the current master of pouting and sulking in the Summers household, but she had, after all, learned it somewhere. Buffy hadn't had much reason to practice it lately, but she felt somewhat justified indulging now. Besides, it gave Xander the perfect chance to do what he did best: cheering her up.
"Aw, come on, Buff." He widened his eyes and gave her an encouraging smile. "You can't tell me you weren't dying to know what they serve on Red-Eye flights. And 'Dracula 2000'? You know you didn't get enough chances to mock that movie when it first came out."
"Don't fuck with an antiques dealer," she quoted sternly, then let a smile tug at the corners of her mouth. "You know, we ought to get Giles to say that next time he patrols with us. He used to have antiques in his shop, right?"
"If not, I'm sure he did when he worked at the museum," Xander answered, bending his attention to the remnants of his own lunch. Club sandwich, 'chips'-- what did Brits call potato chips anyway, if 'chips' was what they called French fries?-- and a milk shake; he was a bottomless pit when it came to food, no matter what time it was.
"You want my salad?" she asked him, pushing her plate away with her thumbs. "I'm not really hungry; it's still morning to me."
"You sure?" He dipped a 'chip' in the little catsup bowl, then popped it whole into his mouth. "You haven't eaten much since yesterday morning."
"Slayer metabolism, I'm fine." She scowled at him. "And don't talk with your mouth full, it's kinda gross."
"Ma'am, yes ma'am," he mocked, with a half-salute and a mischievous grin. "So, does that mean your grocery bill's gonna go up, or down? Now that Dawn's all Slay-gal, I mean."
"Oh, God, I don't know." She covered her face with her hands, trying not to slip into those worries again. "From what Faith says, every Slayer's different, although I don't know how seriously I should take her comparisons with Wes. It's not like he got his powers the normal way."
"'Course not," Xander said, cheerily. "Since when did any of us ever do things the normal way? I mean, look at us. Two Slayers, a justice demon, two Wiccas, an Elemental mage, a part-demon Seer, a demon Champion, and then me. An 'empowered human', I think Giles said." With each person named, he ticked off another finger, until nine of them were raised, all but one thumb. "And all of us but Groo were 'normal' humans at some point during our lives. Pretty cool, huh?"
She laughed, and lowered her hands, crossing her arms on the surface of the table. "Somehow, I doubt you were ever normal, Xand."
"Yeah, well." He shrugged. "I think it was the clown that did it. I mean, clowns are just evil, you know? It traumatized my growing psyche at a vulnerable point in my childhood." His voice got more theatrical as he went, and he pressed a hand to his heart for good measure.
"It certainly did nothing for your sense of humor."
Buffy and Xander both looked up and found Giles looming above them, looking grumpier than usual.
"Hey, G-Man," Xander greeted him. "You look surprisingly un-rested. What's the what?"
The older man sank into the empty chair at Buffy's left. "I had another dream about Faith. I rather suspect I'm only getting the echoes of what Wesley's seeing, and none of it's pleasant. How are you faring, Buffy?" He turned his face to her with the question, and she could see the dark circles under his eyes.
She shook her head. "Not good, Giles. Lots of darkness and dread. I get the feeling that whoever's stalking her means to kill me, too, but I'm not getting any clear images."
"And hey, that's what I'm here for, right?" Xander joked. "I'm like Death repellent when it comes to Slayers."
"Xander," Giles growled, the lines on his face deepening into a frown.
Buffy shot her friend a look-- Enough, can't you see he's stressed?-- then laid a hand on her Watcher's arm. "It's okay, Giles. We'll get to her in time. But we gotta find Wesley first. He's not in the hotel, and neither is Ethan."
"I hadn't expected them to be," he replied, with a sigh. "It is midday, after all. Once Willow and Tara awaken we can try a location spell..."
"I thought you said we could do that mystic Slayer thingie," she objected. 'Once they awaken' meant more time waiting, and every minute they waited was a moment they weren't rescuing. The idea of Faith in Council hands made her skin crawl whenever she thought about it, and the idea of Wes on the loose and possibly captured, too, made it worse. They'd been careful to keep the truth of what had happened to him from being public knowledge; if the Council found out, there'd be hell to pay. And he'd be the one to suffer for it.
"That 'mystic Slayer thingie', as you so charmingly put it," Giles admonished her, "requires the presence of Dawn, and I rather doubt she'll be up before they are. When you... came back, the magics identified you and Dawn as one and the same-- you count as one Slayer, mystically speaking, and I can't make it work when you're apart. In fact, that's part of the reason we had so much trouble last year. Did you think I'd begun training both of you at once simply for the sake of convenience?"
"Calm down, Giles, and have some coffee. You're not much fun before caffeine in the morning." Xander waved at one of the wait staff, then snagged Buffy's plate and took her up on the offer of the salad. He speared three cherry tomatoes on his fork, then pulled them off one by one with his teeth and ate them with an exaggerated display of enjoyment.
Giles sighed, aggrieved, and Buffy couldn't help but smile at both of them. They might be sitting in a hotel restaurant in London, but they made it feel surprisingly like home for her. "So, can I call up to their rooms, then?"
"In another hour or so," Giles answered, with an apologetic glance. "I understand your impatience, but they need time to rest if we're to expect much from them." He blinked then, green-hazel eyes puzzled behind the glasses he still wore when he couldn't be bothered to put in contacts, and glanced at the empty fourth chair. "Incidentally, why isn't Anya here? I wouldn't have thought she'd need more sleep."
"Justice call," Buffy informed him, then paused to smile at the woman who came to take Giles' order and refill their water glasses. "Mmmm, thirsty." She took a long sip when the woman left, then set the glass down, tracing a finger around the rim. "She said it wouldn't take her too long. Something about a teenager who got scorned the morning after-- it was like eight on the east coast when she left. Um, an hour ago? Something like that."
Xander made a face. "I really wish she would stop doing that. I know she hasn't killed or maimed in like forever, not since she went back to being a demon, but sooner or later she's gonna get stuck. That boss of hers, D'Hoffryn? Not a nice guy, from what she says, and I can't imagine she's making him happy."
"She's a big girl," Buffy said. "And you know she'd kick you if she heard you say that."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Nobody appreciates me anymore." He faked a pout of his own, giving the remnants of the salad the full brunt of his puppy-dog look.
"Of course not!" A fourth voice joined their little group, and Buffy looked up to find Cordelia Chase in full Society Woman mode, dressed as richly as she could afford and armored with make-up and a light floral perfume. "It's your job to appreciate us, didn't you know?" She flashed perfectly white teeth in a quick smile, then sank into the empty chair.
"Morning, Cordelia," Buffy greeted the other girl. "It looks like England agrees with you. Where's your better half?"
Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Still in the bathroom. I swear, he's nearly as vain as Angel sometimes; he's having trouble with his hair today. Where's everybody else?"
"Abed or abroad," Giles informed her, warming his hands around his coffee mug. "We'll give them another hour, then call everyone down and perform a locator spell. If all goes well, we should be able to reach Faith sometime this evening; I rather doubt they have taken her more than a few hours from the city."
"I hope you're right," Cordy said. "Wes was-- you didn't hear him. He sounded calm on the phone, like nothing could touch him, and he always gets reckless when he's like that."
"Sounds like someone else we know." Buffy glanced at Giles, remembering times when Giles had acted that way. Was it a Watcher thing, or just something that happened when the alternatives were so bad that you stopped caring what happened to you? She'd been pretty crazy herself a couple of times. That last moment with Glory came to mind, for example.
"I think all of us are like that, sometimes," Xander spoke up, looking remarkably introspective. "That night when Jack O'Toole..." He trailed off, then shook his head dismissively. "Given the choice of being reckless or letting myself get scared into paralysis, I think I'd pick the danger pretty much every time."
Cordy snorted. "Like that's news. I'm surprised I don't get more visions on your behalf, the way you rush into trouble. It's a good thing you got those Impervious things, although I wouldn't be surprised to find that there was something weird about you already. You've always healed up pretty fast from all those Slayage catastrophes."
Buffy glanced up at the clock again, losing track of the others' conversation. 2:17 and 30 seconds, 2:17 and 35 seconds, 2:17 and 40 seconds... "Has it been an hour yet?" she sighed, slipping back into Bored-Buffy mode.
"I'm afraid..." Giles began to reply, then trailed off into silence. As his voice failed, a heavy chill settled in Buffy's veins. "Oh, dear Lord..."
"I hate when he says that," Xander muttered, in the sudden quiet.
Whatever it was that was weighing her down, Giles obviously felt it, and it was bad. To Buffy, it felt like half her body had suddenly gone numb, a subliminal awareness of other suddenly vanished without warning. Something had happened to Wesley or Faith, then, or maybe both. "Forget the hour, I'm calling now," she said around the sudden lump in her throat, and pushed her chair back. "We are not going to be too late."
"And what if we already are?" Cordelia asked, eyeing her and Giles with a worried expression.
"Not gonna happen," Buffy repeated, firmly. "There's a Prophecy, remember? And we're all gonna fulfill it."
"I hope you're right," Giles said, then repeated himself in a quieter voice. "I hope you're right."
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