A Two of a Kind Love
by Pat Kelly
Cordelia, Buffy, and Willow were sitting at one of couches at the Bronze. They were looking all around the building. The stage, the bar, they were trying to memorize every inch of the place. This was probably going to be their last time in the club.
"I feel like we should be taking Polaroids," Cordelia said.
"Especially you, because you're leaving and all," Willow said. "And for us to come here would be a long walk. Cause of the absence of a car."
"No I meant cause it's probably gonna be demolished. Not that I don't think�"
"It's okay, Cordy. I know what you mean. Doesn't look too hopeful," Buffy said.
"I'm sensing a lot of negative energy, and I don't like it," Willow said trying to pull them out of their thoughts.
"Can you blame us?" Cordelia asked.
"I don't even think I'm gonna go."
"Not go?" Willow was speechless.
"Ascension. Mayor becoming a demon. Snacking upon populace. I was planning on fighting him. Remember? And you might want to get out why you have the chance, Cordelia."
"Hey I may not be able to make much of a difference, but I'm gonna stay till it's over. Besides if you die, I won't have anyone to call and brag to about my movie success."
Buffy and Willow smiled at her, as Xander walked over. Cordelia stared at him for a minute, and then looked at her friends apologetically. She got up and walked away.
"So, what were you talking about?" Xander asked quietly.
"Nothing to do with you Xander, but maybe we should have been," Willow said angry. She was still mad at him for what he did. She knew he could be a jerk, but he had crossed the line this time.
"What we were talking about," Buffy said matching Willow's tone, "was graduation and fighting the Mayor."
"The Mayor? What, you guys didn't hear?"
"Guess who our commencement speaker is."
Their faces went from sad to sullen in less than a second.
"Siegfried?" Willow asked.
"One of the tigers?"
"Come out of the fantasy, Will."
She glared at him. How dare he shut her up because she was upset.
'Can I hit him?'
'It'll be okay, Will. I swear.'
"I don't believe this," Buffy said.
"Lends credence to my whole "I'm gonna die" theorem, doesn't it?"
"The Mayor at graduation? A hundred helpless kids to feed on. Got any other surprises for us?"
The Mayor got Faith an expensive and very luxurious apartment on the better side of town. Almost like a suite, it had a large half oval-shaped window, a plush purple bed, art statues, a coffee table, kitchen, and stereo system.
He was tidying up the main room, and Faith was in one off to the side.
"And everything went smoothly with Mr. Wirth?" he asked.
"Not if you're Mr. Wirth."
He giggled. "Well, that's swell. You know how I feel about loose ends. And the big day is so close; you can smell the excitement in the air. Say, are you ever coming out of there?"
"I don't know."
"Aw, come on."
Faith entered in a pink and white dress, barefoot, and somewhat shy.
"Wow, aren't you a vision."
"I feel wicked stupid in this."
"You look lovely. Perfect for the Ascension. Any boys that manage to survive will be lining up to ask you out."
"It just isn't me, though."
"Not you? Let me tell you something. Nobody knows what you are. Not even you, little Miss Seen-it-all. The Ascension isn't just my day. It's yours too. Your day to blossom, to show the world what a powerful girl you are. I think of what you've done, what I know you will do," he caressed her face, "no father could be prouder."
"I hope I don't let you down."
"Impossible. Now come on, change back into your street clothes. I'll buy you an Icee."
Buffy and Willow were in her room. Willow was lying on the floor staring intently at her laptop. Buffy was slipping on a gray long sleeved shirt walking around the room, trying to tie back her hair.
"So, you told your parents to split, huh?" she asked Willow.
"Uh huh." Came the monotone reply.
"How'd they take it?"
"Well, I handed them their suitcases and made them go. I just didn't want them here when�"
"That was the right thing to do. I should tell mom to go too."
"You sure she didn't mind me over here last night?"
"No way. Hey, you almost done? It's almost time for school."
"Yeah, I just want to see�why are you in a rush to learn all of the sudden?"
"Learn? What's that?" She smiled. "No, I found something in the newspaper. I want Giles to take a look at it."
Willow slammed the monitor down on top of the base of the computer.
"I'll never find a spell to stop the Ascension," Willow said in frustration.
Buffy knelt down beside her. "Hey," she said softly, "we'll figure something out. Okay?"
She brushed her hand over Willow's hair, and kissed her reassuringly.
"Let's go find out how to kick some demonic mayoral ass," Willow said.
In the library, Giles and Wesley were fencing. Buffy stood to the side, holding up a newspaper that read: PROFESSOR FOUND MURDERED. Willow, Oz, and Xander were sitting at the table.
"You sure?" Giles asked.
"One of her pieces. I recognize the brush work."
Giles took the paper and held it in one hand, reading while parrying Wesley's light attacks.
"Brutally stabbed. Mr. Wirth, visiting professor of geology. There's nothing in here that bellows motive."
"Random killing, perhaps? Fit of rage? Everybody does seem to be going a bit mad, lately. Faith has something of a head start," Wesley said.
"Doesn't read. I think its homework," Buffy said.
Giles stopped sparring. "The Mayor wanted the good professor out of the way."
"Which leads to the question, how come? I'm gonna destroy the entire city, but I take the time to kill harmless Lester first?"
"Tying up loose ends?"
"What could an old geologist have to do with the Hellmouth?" Xander asked.
"The same way a happy go lucky ordinary Clark Kent type Mayor has something to do with it," Oz said.
"Lester had something or knew something," Giles said.
"Then I wanna know too. The Mayor's trying to hide. I say we go seek," Buffy said.
"Ah. By attempting to keep a valuable clue from us, the Mayor may have inadvertently led us right to it."
"What page are you on, Wes? 'Cause we already got there."
"We're several pages ahead actually," Willow said.
"Yes, well. You will go tonight. Look over his apartment. Anything of note, report back here."
"I just love it when you take charge, you man, you," Buffy said.
"Uh...was that a yes? I have trouble keeping track."
"Be careful. If Faith should show up," Giles said.
"I don't think she'll show. Been there, killed that. She's not much for follow-up."
"Nonetheless, keep watch. Faith has you at a disadvantage, Buffy."
"Cause I'm not crazy or cause I don't kill people?"
"I hear you. I can't kill her, fun as it may sound. I can make her cry uncle, though, and I mean to."
"Don't let your feelings about Faith interfere with your work," Wesley said.
"Stopping Faith is my work. Take a beat to love the synergy."
"Faith is a footnote. Our priority is stopping the Ascension."
"I vote for giving Faith a smack or two," Willow said.
"Oh don't worry. She'll get more then a smack," Buffy said.
Outside of the school, the Mayor and Snyder were walking through the rows of chairs set up for graduation. A sign was hung over a stage that held a podium that said, SUNNYDALE CLASS OF '99.
"Kids are here. Parents off to the side there. We'll go up, they'll play the processional, and then you'll give the address." Snyder said.
"It all looks wonderful."
"As long as nobody makes any trouble."
"Oh, stop worrying. You just make sure the kids show up. Anybody who doesn't feel like coming to graduation, well, they'll just have to live without a diploma."
"They'll be here, sir."
"Call me Richard. You've done a great job here. I know things are, well, different here in Sunnydale. We've both seen all sorts of things. What's important is that we keep it under control, and that's what you've done."
"I believe in order."
"Sunnydale owes you a debt. It will be repaid. Yessir, we'll mark that invoice paid in full."
Back in the library, they were looking over the pages from the books of Ascension that Willow had stolen.
"None of these demons seem better than the others," Buffy said.
"You know maybe we'll get lucky and one of the demons we'll be allergic to something," Willow said.
"I'm afraid that -" Giles started, but stopped short as the Mayor casually strolled into the library, and ran his hand over the check out counter.
Everyone quickly huddled close together, and Buffy hid the newspaper and pages. Giles stood up, stone-faced.
"So, this is the inner sanctum. Faith tells me this is where you folks like to hang out. Concoct your little schemes. I tell you, it's just nice to see that some young people are still interested in reading in this modern era. So, what are kids reading nowadays?"
The Mayor walked to the table and picked up an open book.
" 'The beast will walk upon the earth and darkness will follow. The several races of man will be as one in their terror and destruction.' Aw, that's kind of sweet. Different races coming together?"
"You never get even a little tired of hearing yourself speak, do you?" Buffy asked.
The Mayor went and stood toe to toe with Giles. "That's one spunky little girl you've raised. I'm gonna eat her."
Without thinking, Giles grabbed Wesley's sword from the table and thrust it through the Mayor's chest. The Mayor staggered back but regained his balance.
"Whoa! Well now, that was a little thoughtless." He pulled the sword out. It was covered in blood. "Violent outbursts like that, in front of the children? You know, Mr. Giles, they look to you to see how to behave."
"Get out," Buffy said.
The Mayor took out his handkerchief and slowly wiped the blood from the sword.
"I smell fear. That's smart. Some of your deaths will be quick, if that's worth anything. Well, see you all at graduation." He tossed Giles the sword. "You don't want to miss my commencement address. It's going to be one heck of a speech."
Later, at night, Buffy and Willow walked into Lester Wirth's apartment. They went immediately to the boxes on the table.
"You sure you want to be here?" Buffy asked.
"Oh yeah. After the Mayor�I kinda don't wanna be alone right now."
"I know we're getting close to showdown, and I know what you're thinking. I won't let Faith�do anything to you."
Willow smiled. "I know."
"Can you make any sense of this?"
Buffy shuffled through a notebook, and handed it to Willow.
"Geology isn't my strong point, but there's lots of references to lava beds and stuff."
"Well, let's get this stuff back to the library."
Faith slipped into the library through the cellar behind the stacks. The idiots that were watching from the outside were right. There was nobody in here, but she'd have to make it quick.
She walked over to Giles' office door. It was shut, but unlocked. Faith thought that was kind of idiotic to not lock the door, but even if it was, she could've broken it anyway. She could hear the tea maker, and see the freshly made tea sitting in the pot.
She took a vial out of her jacket, and popped off the lid. She thought about adding just a few drops of its contents into the pot, but quickly dumped the entire thing out. She smiled, and turned to leave. She heard faint footsteps.
She quickly ran up the steps and waited in the cellar. The footsteps belonged to Wesley, who went immediately to his forgotten briefcase on the table. He noticed the open office door, and looked perplexed for a moment.
Shaking it off, he simply went over and shut it, and then left the library. Faith grinned and made her way out; Giles car was still in the lot. He was coming back soon to spend the rest of the night researching.
Oz and Xander came into the library behind Giles carrying a stack of books.
"We're bringing more books into an already book-infested library. Go figure," Xander said.
"These are from a contact in London. Whether these volumes will be of use�" Giles trailed off.
"Hey, I'm about to look for a way to stop the Ascension by praying to Elvis. Anything's worth a shot." Oz reassured.
"Yeah the King seemed to have all the answers," Xander said.
"Not to mention all the weight," Oz said.
They set the books down on the table.
"I think the tea is just about ready. Excuse me," Giles said.
"You know, one day their gonna find something wrong with tea. Like it causes hemophilia or the tendency to influence marriage between cousins. If you really think about it, all Englishmen are equivalent to American hicks." Xander stated.
"Right down to the bad dental hygiene," Oz said.
Giles walked into the office trying to shake off the sudden headache that had occurred in the last five seconds. He poured himself a cup, and took a light sip. Immediately, he felt soothed. He walked back to the table.
"I wish I had more time to defend my honor and my country, but I don't. So if you two are quite finished -"
He stopped talking suddenly, and he felt his legs give out. He felt sharp stabbing pains all over his body. He fell, and Xander and Oz immediately got up.
"Oh God, I just kidding, Giles�" Xander said. Oz rushed to the phone and dialed 911. "What happened?"
"Buffy�" Giles said.
"We'll get her, just, don't move."
"The paramedics are on their way. Stay with him. I'll try and track down Buffy and Willow," Oz said.
"I'm not going anywhere."
Buffy and Willow were walking in the direction of the library.
"I hope some of this stuff helps," Buffy said.
"It will. Faith wouldn't just kill for�"
"For fun? I don't know."
They both were quiet after that. They walked for another block or two before Oz's van whipped around the corner and came to a screeching halt beside the sidewalk. He jumped out and opened the sliding side door.
"What is it?" Willow vocalized the question they were both afraid to ask.
"Giles. Hospital." They looked at one another and hopped into the van.
Faith watched, and saw the color drain from Buffy's face as she closed the door, and the van sped off.
In his office, the Mayor placed the Box of Gavrock on his desk as Faith entered, smiling.
"He's dropped, boss."
"The look on her face..." She closed her eyes, picturing it. "It was a good time."
"Well, that should keep her occupied for a spell."
"The Ritual of Gavrock. I have to ingest several of the inhabitants of this box."
"You're wicked gross."
He chuckled. "Well, you don't have to watch. Just, you know, go home, take it easy. It's a big day tomorrow."
"You gotta give me something to do. There's no way I'm sleeping. Don't you need anyone dead? Or maimed? I can settle for maimed."
"You little firecracker."
Her high on her success suddenly faded, and she sank into the chair in front of his desk. "My mom used to call me that when I was little. I was always running around."
She looked down at her feet and then back up at his concerned expression. "Tomorrow, at the Ascension and all that, am I going to get to fight?"
"If everything goes smoothly, you won't have to. But how often do things go smoothly?"
"So you'll still need me in there."
"When I was a kid, a couple of miles outside of Boston there was this quarry. And all the kids used to swim there and jump off the rocks. And there was this one rock like forty feet up. I was the only one that would jump off it. All the older kids were too scared."
"Not you though." He smiled at her.
"Nah. I could do it easy."
"Get some rest."
"Good luck with your spiders there."
Oz, Buffy, and Willow rushed down the third floor hallway of the hospital and saw Xander sitting in a chair.
"Where is he?" Buffy asked.
As Xander pointed to the room across the hall, they saw Cordelia running down the hall towards them.
"How -" Willow started.
"Xander called me."
"They're not letting anybody in," Xander said.
Buffy watched as a doctor headed into the room, and rushed to get in front of her.
"Sorry, family only," the doctor said.
"He has n�I'm his daughter."
The doctor regarded her for a minute, and then they both went in. Giles was strapped to the bed, and an IV was coming from his arm. He looked sickly. Buffy stood over him. His eyes were closed, but his face was clearly strained.
"What's wrong with him? And why is he tied -"
"I can tell you what, but I can't tell you how. Your father's nerve endings are shutting down. He's been having periods of convulsions and spasms. I�there's nothing from the description that your friend gave me, that I can see, that would have caused this."
"If we don't figure out how to treat him, he will slowly become paralyzed, and the way his body seems to be cutting it's connection to his nervous system�"
"He'll be a vegetable?" The doctor nodded. "No, he can't. He�"
"I'm sorry. I'll be back later to check on him."
She left, and Buffy looked down at Giles, who was weakly opening his eyes.
"Hey." Buffy smiled down at him with tears welling up in her eyes. "How are you feeling?"
"Can't� feel�my legs."
"It's just your imagination. You're going to be fine."
"The Ascen -"
"I'll deal with that. You just relax okay? I'll get my mom to come by, and you can have someone to talk to."
Buffy came out of the room, and wiped the tears from her eyes. Everyone stood up.
"Okay. We need to find out where Faith is, and I mean now."
"Why?" Willow asked.
"Best bet is she did this to Giles, and he hasn't got much time. I'm hoping she knows how to help him."
"What's wrong with -"
"His brain's gonna shut down, and if it does�"
"Permanent resident of the hospital," Xander said.
"But he won't be Giles, he -" Cordelia was panicking.
"That's why I need you guys to find out where Faith lives. I need to get Wesley, he'll work on the Ascension, and I need to get mom."
"We'll do it, Buffy. Giles will be fine," Willow said trying to stay positive for her.
Buffy wanted to break down, Willow could see that, but she couldn't afford to. Not while Giles' life was in her hands.
Buffy and Willow were looking at the library's computer. Willow was trying to work as fast as possible to find Faith's address. Wesley was looking at Mr. Wirth's notes, and the others were looking in books.
"How close are you?" Buffy asked.
"Just a few more minutes. What are you going to do?" Willow asked.
"Anything I have to do."
Buffy walked over to the book cage and started going through weapons.
"Fascinating," Wesley said.
"What?" They all asked.
"It seems our Mr. Wirth headed an expedition in Hawaii, digging in old lava beds near a dormant volcano."
"I'm not fascinated yet," Buffy said.
"He found something underneath. A carcass, buried by an eruption."
"And?" Xander asked.
"A very large one. Mr. Wirth posits that it might be some heretofore undiscovered dinosaur."
"Could be what he's changing into. Explains the kill, anyway," Oz said.
"Great. So all we need is a million tons of burning lava. We're saved," Buffy said, grabbing a knife. It was the one Faith had used to kill one of the Gavrock spiders. Buffy had grabbed it before they left the school that night.
"I found it!" Willow called.
"Good. I'm ready to go."
"Buffy, I understand your attachment to Giles, however�" Wesley started.
"No, I don't think you do. He's�he's important to me. More than I ever thought he would be. And, he's the only reason I still listen to you. So, don't get in my way."
"The Council's orders are to concentrate on..."
"Orders? I don't think I'm gonna be taking any more orders. Not from you, not from them."
"You can't turn your back on the Council."
"They're in England. I don't think they can tell which way my back is facing."
Wesley looked to everyone else for support.
"Hey, Wes, I'm sorry you can't get your mind around this, but Giles keeps us together. I can be a real ass sometimes," He looked at Cordelia, "and get on his nerves, but he always forgives me. He's like the dad I wish I had," Xander said.
"He's right. We're um, God I can't believe I'm saying this, like a family, and he watches out for us. Even for me," Cordelia said.
"He's the most understanding and caring man we know," Willow said.
"And seeing how most Watchers turn out like mindless drones, surprisingly, he actually came out of it with a mind of his own. Gotta save it," Oz said.
"Wesley, go back to your Council and tell them, until the next Slayer comes along, they can close up shop. I'm not working for them anymore," Buffy said.
"Don't you see what's happening? Faith poisoned Giles to distract you, to keep you out of the Mayor's way, and it's working. You need a strategy."
"I have a strategy. You're not in it."
"This is mutiny."
Buffy was quiet for a moment. "I like to think of it as graduation."
She walked past Wesley and over to Willow, who handed her a slip of paper with the address on it.
"Good luck," Willow said, and kissed her quickly.
In Faith's apartment, she was reading a comic book while music blared. Buffy was behind her, by the door. She turned off the stereo. Faith turned around, and smiled.
"Thought I'd stop by," Buffy said.
"Is he dead yet?"
"No, and he won't be. Because you're going to give me the cure."
"Faith, I have zero patience left. Give me the cure, and I can walk out of here."
"Not that easy, B. You think I'd let the guy stick the boss with a sword and get away with it? I ain't handing it over. How far are you willing to go?"
"As far as you."
"You ready to die?"
"Are you? F?"
"He hasn't got much time. Ready to cut loose?"
They stepped up close to one another. So close, that there was no space between them.
"Okay then. Give us a kiss."
Buffy punched her jaw, and the fight began.
In the hospital, Joyce was watching over Giles. The paralysis had moved up past his waist.
"You can't die on her. You're the only father she's got now. Maybe ever had."
"Not getting tired are you? I'm just starting to feel it," Faith said standing behind Buffy. She had her arms around Buffy's neck, choking her. They had moved the fight up to a raised level by the window. They were standing behind an indoor pipe.
Buffy head-butted her, and flipped her over onto her back. Faith jumped back up quickly, and kicked her in the stomach, and forced her back into the wall. She rushed up and grabbed Buffy by the shirt, and Buffy grabbed hers.
The forced each other through the window, and they landed on a lower roof, glass shattering around them. While Faith was recovering from the fall, Buffy handcuffed Faith's wrist to hers.
"Stick around," Buffy said.
"Oh! Here!" Willow exclaimed throwing a notebook down.
"Something about the demon?" Xander asked.
"The villagers near the volcano site made reference to the legend of Ollokai. It might have something to do with Olvikan."
"Think I saw him in this book. Picture too," Oz said.
They all gathered around Oz, absent Wesley, who had left.
"Come on Olvikan. Hey," Xander said.
Oz found it, and Cordelia started unfolding the long centerfold containing a picture. They all drew in a breath.
"Ideas anyone? Maybe last wishes?" Xander asked.
In the Mayor's office, one of the Gavrock spiders was pinned, unmoving, to his desk with a knife. One's legs were already sticking out of the Mayor's mouth. He chewed and swallowed. A vampire looked on, uncertain.
"My god, what a feeling. The power of these creatures. It suffuses my being. I can feel the changes begin. My organs are shifting, changing, making ready for the Ascension. Plus these babies are high in fiber. And what's the fun in becoming an immortal demon if you're not regular, am I right?"
A second vampire ran into the room.
"We don't knock during dark rituals?"
"Sir, there may be trouble. At Faith's."
"What's the matter? All that killing and you're afraid to die?" Buffy asked holding Faith's arm.
Faith spun Buffy so she could get leverage to use her legs and managed to snap the handcuff chain. They were facing off. Faith held a length of pipe. Buffy pulled out Faith's knife.
"You're about to get it back."
They exchanged blows, Faith dodging the knife. They moved to the edge of the roof and Faith held Buffy at the edge.
"Man, I'm going to miss this." Buffy broke Faith's grip and plunged the knife into Faith's abdomen. She quickly pulled it out, and they both looked stunned, as Faith looked down at her stomach. "You did it."
Faith threw Buffy away from her, and a small vial fell to the ground of the roof.
"You killed me."
Faith climbed onto the low wall at the edge of the roof and looked down. She saw a pickup truck coming close, with a large crate structure in the back. "Shoulda been there, B. Quite a ride."
She fell backward off the wall and landed in the hay bed of the truck. Buffy scrambled to the wall and saw Faith's body, unmoving, ride away.
The Mayor stood in Faith's apartment, looking out the broken window. Two vampires were with him, frantically searching around trying to find any trace of Buffy or Faith.
"There's nobody here." A vampire said.
"No." The Mayor turned around and started to walk towards the bed. "Why would she take the fight outside? My Faith doesn't like to be cooped up. Find them."
"But sir, the Ascen -"
"Find them!" He yelled. They scrambled out of the apartment. The Mayor looked and sounded like he had snapped. "Faith's a good girl. She can handle anything they throw at her. She'll be all right�she'll be all right�she'll be all right."
Buffy had taken a ladder down off the roof and to the ground. The shock at what had happened to Faith got lost in her need to save Giles. She noticed the small vial on the roof, and quickly swiped it, leaving just as the Mayor and his helpers had arrived at the apartment.
She ran as fast as her legs would take her, her adrenaline pumping, all the way to the hospital. By the time she made it up the three flights of stairs, and to Giles' room, she was panting. Her mother was sitting in a chair at the side of the bed, and got up quickly, as she saw her daughter.
"How is he? Where's the doctor?"
"Breathe honey. The doctor said the paralysis has moved up to his chest. The pain has lessened, but it's sped up. They don't think -"
"I have the cure. I need to give it to him."
"What? Are you sure?"
"No, but what other chance has he got? Is the doctor coming back soon?"
"Okay, listen mom. I need you to leave town."
"But I'd miss your graduation."
"That's pretty much the plan. It'll be too dangerous, and I don't know what's gonna happen."
"I'm not going to leave you to face -"
"You stay, you'll get me killed. I have to do this, and I'll feel better knowing your safe. Please trust me on this."
Joyce was trying to find something else to say, but she couldn't. The look of determination faded, and her face softened.
"You come back me, you understand?" She was determined not to cry.
"I will, mom. I promise."
"I love you, Buffy."
"I love you too. Now go. And hurry."
Joyce nodded, and left her daughter alone with Giles.
"Ideas, ideas�" Willow wondered aloud to everyone in the library. She wanted to go to the hospital and see Giles. She wanted to find Buffy. But she needed to concentrate. If Buffy was helping Giles, that meant she had to, they had to, work on the Ascension.
If they didn't, they'd all be dead and all their efforts for Giles would have been for nothing.
"Well, we know what he's�" Cordelia started.
"A really, really, really, really, big�" Xander continued.
"Might wanna add a few more ' really 's in there," Oz said.
"Snake-thing," Willow said. "How do we kill him?"
"Poison mice. Snakes eat mice," Cordelia said.
"Sure that'd work. Maybe if we could get a couple billion," Xander said sarcastically. Cordelia eyed him. "Can I talk to you?"
She didn't respond for a second, and then nodded slowly, and they went into the office.
"What about you, Oz?" Willow asked.
"We attack the Mayor with humus. He'll never see it coming."
"Okay," Xander began, "what I said to you before, was wrong."
"At the extreme end of the wrong scale. I wasn't thinking."
"That's a shocker."
"I deserve any remark you throw at me right now, but�I didn't mean what I said. It kinda sounded like you were making an excuse to leave me and I know all about the horror stories of guys who have been dumped by you, and�"
"Is there a point to this?"
"I'm sorry. I really am."
Cordelia was being cautious. Should she believe him? Let herself get sucked in again? "You mean it?"
"I've never been more serious. And that's the truth."
She studied his face as she walked closer to him. He didn't appear to be lying. She hugged him. Didn't kiss him, though. No, then it would be too hard to leave.
"Do you understand why I have to go?"
"I'm getting there. Just don't disappear forever, okay?"
"No, I won't. I've got friends to come back to."
Xander smiled at her, and she smiled back. They left the office just as Willow exclaimed, "I've got a plan!"
Buffy was arguing with the doctor. She wouldn't let her put the solution in the vial, into Giles' IV.
"I have no idea what substance is, or where it came from. Maybe if you knew what it was it would be different. If you let me run some tests -"
"He doesn't have time for tests! This could be his only shot!"
"He could also die from it."
"He's already dying! And if this could have saved him -"
The doctor's pager beeped. "There's a new arrival coming up from the ER. Just�don't�" She lost her train of thought as she ran from the room.
Buffy looked directly at Giles face. She leaned over him, and grabbed his hand.
"Giles I need you to listen, okay? I know it's getting harder for you, but you've gotta help me out here. See you're�well, you probably know by now. I got this little vial from Faith. I killed her for it, Giles. I killed a person for something that might not even work.
"But it has to. I'm not going to let you die. The doctor�she doesn't want to use this�even though it may save your life." She started to plead now, crying freely, blurring her vision. "I need you tell me you're okay with this. Just tell me I can use it, and that's all I need. You don't want to leave me, do you? You promised remember? So give me something, anything. Please."
In the background, she could hear people scrambling to get a patient into the bed next door, but she was blocking it all out. After a few seconds, when her hope was fading, she felt his hand squeeze hers. Very weakly, but she could feel it.
"I'll take that as a yes."
She rushed over to his IV bag, and uncorked the vial. She needed a syringe. She went over to the desk against the wall, and searched the main drawer.
She tore off the paper covering, and opened the tube end of the syringe. She poured all the liquid from the vial in and sealed it back up. She injected the syringe's contents into the IV's rubber bung. She watched it mix with the sugars and the nutrients, and watched it travel down the tube, into his arm, and into his blood stream.
She didn't see or hear the person behind her, but she felt the hit on the back of her head. She collapsed and turned to see the Mayor reach down for her. He grabbed her by the neck, and dragged her to the next room.
Faith was in the bed. Her face bruised, red splotches all over, and she was pale. The doctors had gone. She was on life support, and there was nothing more they could do. She was in a coma and had a good deal of brain damage. It was near impossible that she would ever wake up.
"Do you see what you did to my Faith?" he seethed through clenched teeth, pulling her closer. Buffy made no attempt to struggle.
"Oh, you'll have to do better than that young lady. You're a killer now. How does it feel? Cold blooded murder, Miss Summers, and you will pay."
He dragged her back into Giles' room.
"And we'll start with your mentor. Are you close?"
"You don't wanna do that."
"Oh it's only the beginning. Then I'll kill you. And your friends. And I'll eat you."
"There's one problem with that," she said, using both her arms to elbow him in the chest. "You're still human." She kicked him into the window, and he chuckled.
"And I'm still invincible. No matter." The orderlies ran into the room. "It's only a few hours away. Better get ready. You wanna look nice for the occasion, don't you?"
He strolled casually out of the room, and one of the orderlies became frantic. Buffy looked at Giles, who had begun to move.
"So, what do you think?" Willow asked her friends.
"I've heard worse plans," Xander said. "I could get in though."
"It seems more effective then Oz's plan anyway," Cordelia said.
"Humus is deadlier then people think," Oz said.
"Well, we'll use that as a back up. I just have to see what Buffy thinks." The phone rang, and Willow quickly picked it up. "Buffy! Thank God, you're okay�He is? Yeah, we'll be there. K, Bye." She hung up, and headed to the door.
"They're okay!" Willow said happily.
Buffy and Giles were talking. The doctor marveled at his recovery. The feeling had nearly returned to his entire body. He wasn't ready to walk yet, and he was still really tired, but Buffy had saved him just in time.
"I was so worried that I was too late," Buffy said.
"Yes I think I owe you a good deal of thanks."
"You don't owe me anything, Giles." She looked down at her lap.
"Why are you being so hard on yourself, I never lost faith in�"
She choked trying to hold back the laugh that wanted to come out. She stood up, and pulled back the curtain that allowed them to see into the next room. Giles turned his head, and saw Faith lying there.
"I did that to her. She could be like that forever."
"I had no choice, right? I mean at least it wasn't for nothing. You're fine, and you're gonna get better and�"
She trailed off as the gang entered the room.
"Hey, G-man! You had us worried for awhile. When they letting you out of this joint?" Xander said immediately.
"I wanted to get balloons and a little bear for you, but�" Willow said to him.
"It's perfectly all right, Willow. However, I will hold you to that."
"Full recovery, right?" she asked. He nodded. "I'm glad."
She turned to Buffy, who looked directly at her. After a moment of silence, Buffy hugged her tightly.
'Thank God you're here. I need you here.'
Willow looked at Buffy's face, understood, and then pulled her into a hug again. After a few more moments they turned and faced Giles.
"Have you made any progress on the Ascension?" he asked.
"Ooh, yeah! Here's the plan�"
In his office, the Mayor was giving last minute instructions to his group of vampire fighters.
"No snacking. Just kill. Feeding is crucial in the opening minutes to sustain the change. Remember, fast and brutal. It's gonna be a whole new world come nightfall. Don't wanna weaken now. And boys? Let's watch the swearing?"
"It could work," Buffy said, smiling at Willow. "But if it's gonna happen we need to move and we need to move now. Xander, Oz, get the stuff. Willow, Cordelia get the people."
"Let's not forget that it's standard in an Ascension for an eclipse. Vampires will be a factor also," Giles said.
"I factored that in too," Willow said.
"Then I suppose -"
"No, don't even think about it, Giles. You're staying right here. You just got your life back, and I'm not gonna let you risk it. You need rest," Buffy said.
"You're right, I just wish I could be there."
"We'll think of you. If we're not too busy," Cordelia said.
"Thank you, Cordelia."
"Let's move out," Buffy said.
"Army base here we come," Xander said.
They walked out, and Buffy and Giles looked at each other one last time.
Buffy got about five steps down the hallway, when she stopped in front of Faith's door. Willow jogged back to her.
"You coming?" she asked.
"I'll wait for you downstairs."
Willow walked away, and Buffy entered Faith's room. She looked at her damaged face, and wondered if it would heal, or if the brain damage was as extensive as she was told. She shook it off, and leaned down.
She kissed Faith's forehead, and started to lean up again, when she thought she heard her. But her eyes weren't open, and her mouth hadn't moved. Then she heard it again. It was faint, but she could make out two simple words: 'Kill him'.
"Thank God Giles already packed his books," Willow said later at the library.
Larry, Oz, Jonathan, and Xander were bringing in the last bags, and stacked them in the corner.
"Is that it?" Buffy asked.
"It's enough to do this several times," Oz said.
Cordelia walked in. "We're all set."
"Okay, thanks guys," Buffy said to Larry and Jonathan. "We have about forty-five minutes till the ceremony. You should get situated."
They left, and the gang was left alone in the library. Their gowns and caps were on the library table. They all went to grab them, and all helped each other zip them up. Willow grabbed Buffy's cap, and situated it on her head.
"This is it," Willow said. "We're gonna do it."
"If you think we are, then we are." Buffy kissed her, and turned to Xander. "I'm counting on you to coordinate."
"I won't let you down, Buff."
She grabbed Faith's knife off the table. It was still covered with blood.
It was time. The students were sitting in the yard, parents off to the side, and Snyder was at the podium.
"And now a special guest speaker, Richard Wilkins III."
The Mayor stepped up to the podium, and looked to the students.
"Well, what a day this is. A special day. Today is our centennial. The 100th anniversary of the founding of Sunnydale, and I know what that means to all you kids. Not a darn thing. Cause today, something much more important happens. Today you all graduate from high school.
"Today all the pain, all the work, all the excitement, is finally over. Now what's a hundred years of history compared to that?"
"My God, he's gonna do the entire speech," Buffy said to Willow, who was sitting next to her.
"Man just ascend already."
He had been talking still. "It's been a long road getting here. For you, for Sunnydale. There's been achievement, and joy, and good times. And there's been grief, there's been loss. Some people who should be here today," He looked at Buffy, "aren't. But we are.
"Journey's end. What is a journey? Is it just distance traveled? Time spent? No. It's what happens on the way. It's the things that shape you. At the end of the journey, you're not the same. Today is about change.
"Graduation doesn't just mean your circumstances change, it means you do. You ascend, to a higher level. Nothing will ever be the same. Nothing." He cringed down in pain. The changes were beginning. And the students started to look around. Especially at the now blocked out sun.
"And so, as we look back on the events that have brought us to this day, we...must all..." He screamed. "It has begun. My destiny. It's a little sooner then I expected. I had this whole section on civic pride, but I guess we'll just skip to the big finish."
His skin, his clothes, they all tore. His body contorted, and changed, and face started to become more reptilian. Finally, he shed his human skin, and took on a demonic snake-like form. He was sixty feet long, and his huge mouth opened, and roared, animalistic and raw.
The students watched the demon snake Mayor and he eyed them. The parents were trying to rush out of the courtyard as fast as possible. Buffy yelled in the midst of her class.
They threw off their gowns and caps to reveal hidden assortments of weaponry. Bows and arrows, maces, axes, swords, from Giles stockpile of weapons; and flame-throwers care of the local army regiment, and Xander's soldier memories.
"Flame units!" Buffy called out.
The front line raised their flame-throwers, and pointed them at the demon snake.
"First wave! Fire!" Xander directed.
The flames burst out, and distracted the demon, but their efforts appeared only to agitate it. They continued this way, wave after wave of fire, doing their best to hold it off until the right time. They didn't go unpunished though. The snake quickly ate a young girl, and side swiped Larry with his tail, sending him flying in the air, and snapping his neck.
From behind all the students, the Mayor's vampires came forward towards the unsuspecting kids. Oz turned around sharply, and saw them coming.
"Xander!" He yelled.
The guys in the back row turned around, and were all armed with flame-tipped arrows. Some hit their mark instantly torching some vampires. Some didn't, and the remaining still came forward. Off to the side, a group holding stakes and crosses, led by Cordelia, went to face off with the vampires.
Still over on the stage, Snyder was yelling up to the demon snake Mayor. Buffy watched, wide-eyed.
"This is not orderly! This is not disciplined! You're on my campus, buddy, and when I -" He was cut off when the snake dipped down, and ate him.
"Fall back!" she yelled to everyone.
Back by the vampires, Cordelia successfully staked one, however, they weren't going to last much longer.
"Go! Get to the -" Buffy said to Willow.
Willow nodded. "Good luck!" She ran off, and Buffy went to get closer to the snake.
"Xander! Take 'em down!"
"Hand to hand!" Xander yelled.
The rest of the students dropped their weapons, and they all converged on the vampires. Buffy ran directly beneath the snake, and made sure it saw the bloody knife in her hand.
"Hey! You remember this? I took it from Faith. Stuck it in her gut. Just slit it in her like she was butter. Wanna get it back from me? Dick?"
She took off into the school, and it followed. It crashed through the wall, and in through the cafeteria, through the hallways, and lounge. Buffy kept ahead of it, and went through the doors of the library and out the window on the far side.
She ran out, and stumbled by the bushes, where Willow was waiting to push down on a trigger. She did, and inside, the bags of explosives in the library blew up, engulfing the once Mayor, and the entire school in flames.
They watched, transfixed for a moment, and then got up.
"Who would have thought I, me, would be the one to blow up the school?" Willow asked.
"I knew you had it in you," Buffy said.
They wrapped their arms around one another's shoulders, and went to find their friends and fellow graduates.
"I have to admit. I'll miss the library," Giles said, later. They were all in his house and it was the day after the explosion. The fire trucks and policemen were there through the night, and no one would tell them anything. On some level, the police were glad to remain ignorant of the situation.
"I know I will," Willow said.
"We all will. Of course we never it used for the traditional reason. Well, not me anyway," Buffy said.
"It's your option. Freedom of choice is cool thing," Oz said.
"Yes, choosing illiteracy is a wise choice," Giles said with a hint of sarcasm.
"Are you sure they didn't knock something loose in the hospital? That seemed to almost be a sarcastic remark at my expense."
Xander came in just then, and walked over to his friends.
"She's gone," he said.
"Are you okay?" Buffy and Willow asked at the same time.
He grinned at them. "Yeah, I am. I'll miss her, but she promised to call once she got settled. And maybe I can even visit."
They smiled at him.
"Oh, Xander?" Giles asked.
"I just wanted to clarify something. Inbreeding and hemophilia were most common among the royal courtiers of centuries ago. Not in this modern era or among the modern everyday British population. And it wasn't just English royalty. It was also the Germans, the Russians; well you get the idea. The next time you wish to make a jibe at my country, try to be better informed."
Xander stood there, dumbfounded.
"You know I've learned a very valuable lesson," Oz said.
"That good eventually triumphs over evil?" Willow asked.
"That town names are misleading? Buffy asked.
"Never mess with a Brit."
"That's an important lesson too." Sometimes Buffy just couldn't understand Oz.
They all stared at the speechless Xander for another minute, before Buffy turned to Willow.
"Let's go do something fun. I've got three months until college, and I intend on wasting every second of it."
"But we�prepare�" Willow began to protest.
Buffy picked her up. "You are not thinking about college right now are you?"
She kissed Willow long and sweetly. "Are you?"
Willow wrapped her arms around Buffy's neck. "Strangely, not anymore."
"That's what I thought." Willow started to reach her fingers for the side of Buffy's neck. "Please, no."
"Do you want me to drop you?"
She thought it over. "I'll risk it." Buffy was extremely ticklish. She started to laugh, and was trying to keep her balance. "Big Bad Slayer can't stay up? Come on, you gotta carry me."
Buffy practically stumbled to the door, and had to turn so Willow could reach the knob to open it.
"Good job. You passed."
"What do I get?"
"You'll have to carry me home to see."
"Rosenberg, sometimes I don't know why I put up with you. Remind me quick."
"Cause I'm so loveable, silly."
They walked out the door, and the three left in house, stared after them in amazement.
"They certainly are unique," Giles said.
"No�" Oz started.
"They're two of a kind." Xander finished.