Chapter 6 – So You Thought this was a Boat Show
“DUCK-!” Willow screams.
“- RUN !” Xander bellows half a second after.
Tara briefly wonders what a duck-run is before her panicked brain propels her body into motion.
Only the awkward angle of her hunched back and wide stance of waddling legs as she does her best impression of a running duck save her from being impaled by the series of knives a ( female? ) demon is currently vaulting at her.
Willow utters ancient incantations as her hair turning black at the floating tips. Whatever she’s chanted freezes the snarling demon in place as Anya darts forward to pluck formerly deadly projectiles out of the air.
Xander takes the opportunity to leap on the motionless demon’s back and grasp her jaw in his hands. In that single second, he can’t help but notice how small her almost-human face feels cupped in his large, calloused grip.
“PTB, please forgive me.” He whispers before breaking the hellish thing’s scaly neck with one fluid twist.
After a shaky Scooby victory dinner of pizza and donuts Xander excuses himself to the front porch and invites Willow to go with him.
“I can’t do this anymore, Willow. I will never abandon you, but things are changing for us. Don’t tell anyone, but Anya and I..we’re…I guess you could say….”
The former Zeppo awkwardly palms the back of his neck.
“Were engaged, and we’re trying for a baby. With Anya in a delicate condition and me about to be a dad, we can’t afford to keep taking these…risks. We might even have to move away for a little while, at least until the baby is older. Please understand, Willow, I have to protect my family!”
The party grows understandably awkward after that.
Lately, the most powerful witch on the side of good was…
Lonely, abandoned, and utterly alone.
Xander and Anya are constantly busy with packing and the classifieds and all the hassles that come with a cross-country move, just a tad too busy to take call after call from a weeping Willow.
Tara was at work, where personal calls were strictly verboten unless someone was dead.
Physically, not just inside.
Even without school Dawn is gone most of the time, hanging out at the Tit to make heart eyes at the young skater Willow still can’t bring herself to completely trust.
When Willow calls to check in, she (disturbingly) can't tell if it’s her imagination that hears Lincoln’s voice mocking her in the background, even when Dawn claims to be at the library with her new bald friend Alicia, who turns out to be a serious student despite her...unconventional fashion choices.
The depressed redhead was fully aware that staying home with no company but her dark thoughts only ever led to despair. Which could only ever lead to the further relaxing of her already-shaky grip on the wispy hope clinging somewhere deep inside.
Amongst the recently-depleted Scooby gang, patrolling alone is strictly forbidden according to the rules she herself had made.
However, the longer she thinks about it, the more going out to protect the innocent seems like a great use of her otherwise wretched time.
It seemed, very possibly, one of the better ideas she’d ever had.
Even if it was the warm glowy pill-haze talking.
After all, just because the world had lost its greatest hero didn’t mean that it wasn’t still in need of one.
She stakes four newly-risen before things start to get out of hand. The pharmaceutical drugs in her system are starting to slow her down significantly, and the slimy demon she happens upon among the dew-soaked gravestones is quick, quick.
It’s a bloody desperate struggle as they end up clawing at each other in pure human cat-fight fashion, yanking hair and gouging at eyes.
Willow finally stuns the hellish beastie with a cheap uppercut to what she thinks might be a vagina.
Her opponent writhes in pain beneath her as she straddles its goopy torso, pinning its arms to its sides with powerful thighs before murmuring a spell guaranteed to implode the head of her enemy in 30 seconds or less.
“You kinda suck at this, white hat. Best hire the dark Slayer to get the job done right. She’ll do it, for a fair price. Hell, even her pet zombie could…”
The creature’s venomous rant is cut off as its head swells like a balloon before exploding into bloody chunks of hair and bone that splatter onto everything in sight.
Except Willow’s Hello Kitty sweater and pink jeans, which remain magically clean as she sits stunned atop what remains of an unholy corpse.
When Willow gets home Tara is horrified to see her mangled hair and rapidly swelling lip but reacts as usual, with gentle first aid and a blessed lack of nagging about exactly why the redhead had stumbled home so late and battered.
Willow wouldn’t have been able to explain right then anyway. Her head is so swimmy she’s almost sure what she’d heard had been a hallucination.
Yet she had to know for sure.
Time for some hardcore research (and not a few bribes) for new information.
What dark Slayer?
A zombie? Had Faith began to dabble in the dark arts and become some sort of slutty evil necromancer?
Willow had to know. Previous experience had taught her that involving others only complicated things. No more dragging those she loved into her morally questionable, dangerous shenanigans.
Once she’s calmed down enough to actually attempt an explanation as to how she looked like she"d gone 3 rounds with Tyson, she becomes a liar on top of everything else. Little matter, with all the atrocious sins already staining her prematurely weathered soul.
She'd become the kind of person she hated the most, the smooth-faced liar who gave little-to-no thought to the lives a whopping fib said to an innocently trusting face might destroy. A woman who could fake tears and still accept the tender affections showered upon her battered frame without any outward sign of her deception, or any hint of the guilt gnawing at her mind.
Lips split and bruised are kept sealed by the single thought that clangs around inside her head like a particularly catchy snatch of music.
With a bit of slightly rough rustling through the tangled branches of the demon grapevine, Willow harvests some wild rumors.
They say in the demon bars and back alley hideouts that there’s a dark Slayer in the North currently killing whole tribes of demons like so many flies, assisted by a zombie slave that obeyed her every command.
This creature, the Buffy, was purported to have been a Slayer who’d been killed by none other than Faith herself. The gruesome details varied from source to source, but all agreed that the murderous Slayer had then performed some sort of ritual to bind the Superzombie to her disgustingly virtuous whim. The two had supposedly wiped out nearly half the Northwest’s demon population in a genocidal rampage that had the Underworld in a whirlwind.
The first spark of hope Willow’s felt since the failed resurrection ignites in her chest. It mingles strangely with the guilt she already feels having had a hand in providing the ever-unscrupulous Faith with an undead killing machine. And stranger still with a rapidly dawning, horrible truth;
that she just might have to kill whatever abomination it was that she’d created of their beloved martyr.
Faith jerks awake to her own name being screamed so loud that the neighbors probably would have been pounding the wall in protest...if they’d dared. Everyone in the building hated how noisy the two oddballs in 32G were, yet none had the guts to call them on it after an incident involving a certain blonde, a complaining neighbor and a severed finger. So the Chosen Two’s closest neighbors suffered in tense silence.
The alert brunette makes her sleepy way down the hall with supernatural speed and stealth, crossbow notched and ready.
Buffy is sitting up sitting up in bed tousle-haired and sniffling. At the sight of her former enemy she outstretches both arms hopefully in the disheveled brunette’s direction.
A slayer’s muscle density equals dead weight. Only Faith could lift her so easily from rumpled blankets to check her for wounds.
“Shhh, B, you’re alright now, goddamit,” Faith hushes, knowing it’s not so much what she says as how she says it. Anything to keep the little weirdo from loosing that deafening screech again.
Sometimes Buffy forgot that the humans they protected and lived alongside needed sleep, and much more of it than Slayers did. Faith did her slapdash best to be considerate to their neighbors, despite all appearances to the contrary.
The tired brunette lets her knees give out so they land sitting heavily down on the bed. Buffy squirms backward in her lap until they’re face to face and begins to sign urgently inches from unfocused eyes.
Faith doesn’t understand these sign, or has forgotten, or can’t read properly due to their proximity and the trembling of Buffy’s hands.
She has to look it up before she finally understands.
Faith has to grasp Buffy’s sweaty palms to stop the almost compulsive signing. Sleepy brown eyes fill with involuntary tears at how much those ten icy little fingers quake.
She has to think before signing an answer, not because of hesitation but because the signs don’t come as naturally to her.
‘Faith will protect B. B is home. I will keep B safe.’
They fall asleep curled together in the closet.
“Hello? Willow? I can barely hear you, bloody cursed connection…” Giles’ voice crackles before coming in clear again.
“Yes, Willow? What is it? Are you well?”
“Giles, I think…” Willow stops for a second and tries to continue breathing normally through her rapidly tightening chest. She gives the comforting orange prescription bottle beside her on the bureau a longing glance before continuing bravely on.
“I have reason to believe my resurrection spell went more kaflooey than I thought. I might have…we might be…”
The anxious witch sucks in another huge breath Giles can hear all too clearly despite the fuzzy connection before the world stops around him at the next 10 words.
“I think I might have turned Buffy into a zombie.”