'The power of the Slayer and all who wield it.
Last to ancient first, we invoke thee.
Grant us thy domain and primal strength.
Accept us and the power we possess.
Make us mind and heart and spirit enjoined.
Let the hand encompass us. Do thy will.'
- The Enjoining Spell
Sunnydale. May 2, 2000.
At this point it was practically seared into her memory. Ever since their spectacular failure two nights ago, Buffy kept repeating the words of the enjoining spell in her mind, as if by so doing she could figure out what went so horribly wrong, despite her hopelessness when it came to all things magical.
She only really understood the basics; there were magical items of course - gourds, powders and other weird things - but the most important requirements for the spell were her three friends. Each of them were intended to add their abilities to the power of the First Slayer:
'Willow, the spirit.'
'Xander, the heart.'
'Giles, the mind.'
Despite how much it still hurt, she clenched her swollen fist. 'The hand.'
With everyone's powers combined into her body, and the added strength of the First Slayer flowing through her veins, Buffy should've had at least had a chance of defeating Adam. Instead, the fight went on, and on, and on, minute after grueling minute, and absolutely nothing happened beyond her butt getting thoroughly kicked. She'd never be able to put into words the despair that washed over her when it finally sunk in that the spell wasn't working. She expected to die in that hole in the ground.
What if it was all her fault somehow? She had been busy fighting - okay, not so much 'fighting' as 'distracting' - Adam as her friends performed the delicate spell in the next room. What if something she had done messed it all up?
Buffy flexed her aching fingers again. The ring and middle digits on her right hand were still badly swollen and tender. Unfortunately, they were not mending as quickly as her wounds normally did. Slayer healing didn't work so well when you suffered such a large and varied array of wounds, she supposed. Bones had been broken, muscles torn, and she had caught no less than four rounds from Adam's machine-gun hand.
Getting shot hurt a lot more than the movies made it seem.
If she hadn't been a slayer, she would've certainly died. As it was, it was a lucky thing that the underground lab hadn't been built to withstand the kind of destruction meted out when a Frankenstein terminator monster throws a slayer around the room like a rag-doll and then tries to blow her away with an arm-mounted missile launcher. Score one for government budget cuts.
Though admittedly, she could understand why the Feds might not have foreseen that particular scenario.
Even with a broken arm, Buffy had been able to drag herself out from under the mass of twisted metal and plastic panels that used to be ceiling. Adam was trapped further in, buried under the rubble but alive – no surprise there - and she could hear him struggling to dig his way out. With the lights destroyed, the facility was darker than a tomb on a moonless night. There was no time to try and finish him off, even if she had been able to do more than hop on one leg and bleed on him.
When she had rejoined her bewildered friends in the next room, it was just in time to see a vampire burst through the far door, his game-face covered in blood and his yellow eyes wild from recent kills.
Thankfully, "help" had arrived just in the nick of time... in the form of Spike.
Rescued by Spike. Now, there was a sad fact that bore repeating: Rescued. By. Spike. Ugh. She'd never live it down.
She reminded herself to thank him one day, and on that day she would stab him through the heart with the pointy end of her finest stake. She wasn't about to forget that the vampire had nearly gotten them all killed in order to get that chip out of his head. He had played a role in Adam's rise, however bumbling and inept his execution of that role had turned out to be.
Buffy shuddered and tried not to think of the hurtful words she had said to her friends. Maybe Spike had put the ideas in their heads - some of them, at any rate - but that didn't erase the fact that they had still given voice to them.
'It's all in the past,' they'd later said, but she could see in their eyes that it wasn't. Not really. She had been dismissive, and insulting, and angry; she'd called them all useless. You didn't just forget something like that.
Maybe in time.
There came a knock at her door.
She made no attempt to move from her spot on the bed. All the pain she had been feeling for the past two days had by this time dulled down to a nice, bearable ache. She didn't want to unsettle things by moving again. Instead she called out, "Yeah?"
Ugh. Even her voice sounded like it had been beaten to within an inch of its life.
The door opened and Willow's worried face peeked out from behind the door jamb. "How are you feeling?"
Buffy would've shrugged, but her shoulder was one of the many places on her body that hurt when she moved. "Great," she said with a sigh.
Willow frowned as her friend continued to stare lifelessly up at the bare, white ceiling. Without a word, she quietly shut the door behind her and joined Buffy on the bed, lying gently down beside her. Buffy was reminded of many highschool sleepovers past, except that they definitely weren't sixteen anymore. Willow's voice was tender and quiet, as if she were afraid that being too loud might cause Buffy greater injury, "Giles says he might know what went wrong... with the spell, I mean," she said.
Buffy wanted to say, 'Screw the spell. Let's all just leave and never come back. Let the army handle the problem they created,' but she didn't. All that came out of her mouth was, "Neat."
"He says if you're feeling better you should come over. Your mom even said we can use the car, provided you don't drive, of course."
The teasing remark went completely over Buffy's head. "Okay," she mumbled.
Willow's frown only grew and there was another long, awkward pause. "Oh, and Riley's out of intensive care."
Again, the slayer's response was less than enthusiastic. "Great."
The slayer blinked, she knew that tone of voice.
"Are you okay? Like really okay?"
Buffy shook her head. She had never felt less okay in her entire life. And then, for some reason that particular realization brought about even more distant memories: memories of Angelus' reign of terror, then the night she stabbed Faith in the chest, and finally the fight she'd had with her friends only days before; a fight that had her going after Adam alone. Had she actually succeeded in finding him then, she would've died.
She blinked away tears, hoping Willow wouldn't notice. Now she felt even less okay. Wonderful.
Never had she felt so alone, or so hopeless. With the help of her friends, Buffy had always won against anything the demon world threw at her. She had defeated the Master, Angelus, the mayor; things had always worked out, but not this time. This time it really was hopeless.
"Oh, Buffy." Before she realized what was happening, Willow was leaning over and hugging her tightly. Buffy yelped in pain like a kicked puppy.
Willow was off the bed in a flash. "Oh, God, Buffy! I am so sorry."
The last thing Willow probably expected was for Buffy to start laughing, but that's exactly what happened. It started as a chuckle, but quickly grew into real honest to God laughter that left her with tears running down her cheeks by the time she calmed herself down.
If Willow had appeared to be concerned for her friend before, she now looked like she was one step away from calling the local asylum.
"I can't believe you hugged me," Buffy said, still chuckling despite the pain coming from nearly every part of her bruised covered body. "I look like a prune that's been run through a meat-grinder."
Willow was actually smiling now. It was so good to see. "I'm sorry. I just wanted..." She stopped, as if to gather her thoughts, "You're not alone, Buffy. I want you to know that."
"And I meant what I said before, Will. I love you. I never should've said those things. And I should've been there for you." She was thinking specifically about her friend's relationship with Tara. A real friend would've been there for her, noticing the subtle changes in her best friend's behavior, offering support, instead of running off with her boyfriend and his military buddies. How bad a friend must she have been if Willow was afraid to confide in her after all they had been through together?
Buffy detected the slightest flinch in Willow's muscles, like she was thinking of hugging her again but quickly thought better of it.
"I love you too. Let's never fight again, all right?"
"Deal," Buffy replied, offering Willow the less bruised of her two hands to shake.
"Oh, Tara said she wants to help us this time. Anya too... for some reason."
That was the first good news she'd had in days, but did she really want to risk everyone's lives a second time? "I don't want people to get hurt because of this, because of me."
Willow placed a hand gently on Buffy's arm only after receiving an nod that it was okay to do so, "The people who love you are going to stand beside you, whether you want them to or not."
The old Buffy Summers would've run off on her own, like she always did, but Buffy didn't want that anymore. Being alone sucked. She sighed but smiled when she did it. Willow seemed relieved.
"So, we should really see Giles today," she reminded.
Buffy's stomach rumbled. "Do you think we could eat something first?"
Willow visibly perked up. "You're hungry?"
"Yeah." Buffy gingerly pushed herself onto her feet. Everything still hurt, but somehow she was actually feeling better, a lot better. "Maybe a sandwich... or three."
Giles hadn't raised his eyes from the enormous, musty spellbook on the kitchen counter even once since Buffy and Willow arrived. He looked in desperate need of a shave, and appeared to be wearing the same gray wool sweater she'd seen him in three days ago. Tara, Xander and Anya were already there, gathered in the living room, looking at least reasonably clean and well rested. "Well," Giles was saying, "the problem is, the enjoining spell requires the presence of the slayer."
Wow. Talk about stating the obvious. "Uh, hello," Buffy said, gesturing to herself, "Slayer. Right here."
Giles shook his head. "It's not that simple, unfortunately. To my knowledge, in the entire history of the slayer line there has never been an instance where more than one slayer has been active at any one time."
"But," Buffy said, deflating a bit, "I am a slayer; the oldest slayer in fact."
"Yes, but the slayer line no longer runs through you. When you died Kendra was called, and when she died Faith was called. Faith now embodies the slayer line, not you."
"So, if I died - again - you don't think another slayer would be called?"
"The Council doesn't appear to believe so... although, admittedly they've never been very forthcoming with information about such things, even when we were in communication."
Well, that was kind of a relief. Imagine what would happen if the council could create new slayers just by temporarily killing the active ones over and over again. Dying once was more than enough for one lifetime, Buffy thought. Then she supposed that if they had Faith, the Council could actually still do something like that.
Faith. Whenever she thought of her sister slayer, the first thing to come to mind was those haunted brown eyes of hers as she stood in that downpour in L.A. Buffy had hoped that over time she'd simply forget her, but four months on and the sight and the pain were still as vivid as ever.
A sense of dread fell over her. "So, what you're saying is..."
Giles sighed. "Yes. In order for the spell to work, we need Faith."
Willow crossed her arms, her expression turning decidedly sour.
Buffy fell into the plusher of the two easy-chairs. After her large meal, her body didn't ache nearly as badly as it had earlier. Sometimes she forgot that even slayer healing worked best when you helped it along. "I take it you don't mean we should pray."
Giles' eyes met hers for half a second, long enough to express his predictable annoyance, "No, I do not."
Buffy sighed. "So we're just going to, what, break her out of jail?" Images of getting shot at by security guards flashed through her mind. Like hell she'd go through all that just to break Faith of all people out of a place she so obviously belonged in.
"Something a little less dramatic than that, I think," Giles replied. He nodded in the direction of the living room table, "I have all the reagents for a teleportation spell right over there."
Buffy's brow knotted in confusion. In addition to a large glass jar of salt and several silk pouches of unidentifiable powders and stones, the required materials for a teleportation spell also apparently included a half-empty bottle of whiskey and an autographed copy of Queen's A Night at the Opera.
Willow had taken to pacing the length of Giles' living room. To be honest, the anger radiating off of her was actually kind of scary; even Tara looked put off by it. "No one needs Faith," she said, her voice oozing bitterness. "And don't jails usually notice when their dangerous inmates go missing?"
Tara spoke up for the first time, "There might be a way around that."
Buffy didn't miss how even now Willow's expression softened when Tara spoke. "What do you mean?"
"We could do a glamour spell. If someone were willing to take Faith's place -"
"Take Faith's place?" All eyes turned back to Willow, who's expression only turned apologetic at the hurt look on Tara's face. But even then she continued, "Who's crazy enough to want to hang out in a prison, pretending to be Faith of all people, all while Little Miss Unstable goes free?"
Tara blanched. "Well... um..."
"You don't know what she's like," Willow said, shaking her head dismissively.
"I would like everyone to keep in mind that there is nothing keeping Faith in prison," Giles said, matter-of-factly. "Any slayer would be more than capable of breaking out of such a place."
Buffy frowned. She hadn't ever really considered that. Why would someone like Faith just waste her life away behind prison walls? She had always been energetic, to say the least. Even when they had been friends of a sort, it was always difficult to keep the girl in one place for very long. And now she was locked up, constantly being told where to go, what to do, and how long to do it.
It didn't make sense. What was she planning? It had to be something, right? Angel must've lost his mind; he had no idea what Faith was really like.
Meanwhile, Willow and Giles were still arguing. "She should have armed guards on her at all times!"
"We're talking about a state prison here, Willow, not Azkaban."
Caught out by the question, Giles took off his glasses and began rubbing them with the hem of his shirt. "It's a, uh, magical prison... from Harry Potter."
The ticking of the grandfather clock seemed to echo off the walls as everyone went silent, and even Buffy couldn't stop herself from smiling. Giles read Harry Potter. She'd file that fact away in case she ever needed to blackmail him.
Xander was grinning. "You haven't read The Prisoner of Azkaban yet, Will? And you call yourself a witch."
"Hey!" Willow squeaked, suddenly defensive. "I read the first two books. It's just I've been really busy this year with school," she glanced at Tara, "and, you know, stuff. Besides, witches in popular fantasy books are always portrayed so inaccurately."
This room was quickly reaching critical-mass of nerdiness and Buffy had to wave her arms to grab Giles' attention, "So, let's say I agree to your crazy plan. How long is this all going to take anyway?"
"Well," he said, gathering his notes off the counter. "Before we attempt the enjoining ritual again, I would recommend waiting for at least a day after we perform the glamour and teleportation spells. Such spells are fairly draining experiences in their own rights."
"Wait," Xander said, "If you can do all that, why not just teleport Adam to the moon or something?"
Again, the whole room went quiet. Giles pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. "There are several reasons why we can't do that; the biggest issue being that some of the demon parts Adam was assembled from are immune to such magic."
Unfazed, Xander continued, "What if you just found a big rock and teleported it over his head?" He slapped his hands together for emphasis. "Then, boom, problem solved."
This time, the watcher frowned. Everyone watched him intently as he seemed to consider the idea, but eventually he shook his head again. "No. Firstly, teleportation is not instantaneous, nor is it completely silent. A demon like Adam would likely be perceptive enough to sense an enormous boulder appearing above his head and have time to get out of the way. Second, if we perhaps had an entire coven of witches here, then just maybe we would be able to teleport a rock massive enough to actually do some damage to him."
"Darn. And here I was hoping we could kill Adam in a completely anti-climatic fashion."
Willow smiled. "Arch-villain felled by giant rock. That would definitely be one for the history books."
"Well," Buffy said to Giles, "Why not call up all your witchy friends, tell them to get on their broomsticks and fly on over here? Then we could do it, right?"
Xander seemed surprised and pleased that Buffy was actually going along with one of his ideas, but Giles looked anything but pleased and Tara was gaping at her like she'd just insulted her grandmother.
"First of all Buffy, that's a horribly offensive stereotype, please refrain from saying such things in my presence again."
Both Willow and Tara nodded in unison.
"Sorry," Buffy mumbled.
Giles continued, "I've been unable to reach any of the covens back home, and," he added bitterly, "the Council would rather see Adam destroy half the country than stoop to providing us with aid. We cannot wait for help; the longer we sit here arguing, the more people will die."
Anya tilted her head, "Oh!" she said, eyes brightening, "That's a subtle hint that Xander should stop coming up with unhelpful ideas, right?"
Again, Giles sighed. "Not as subtle as I intended, unfortunately."
"So, that's it?" Buffy asked. "We bring Faith here, force her to take part in the enjoining ritual and then I go kick Adam's butt?"
Giles shrugged. Buffy wasn't sure if she'd ever seen him make such a gesture before in her life. He must've been really, really tired if even his British reserve was beginning to crack.
"But don't we need Xander for the enjoining spell?" Willow asked.
"Not necessarily," Giles said, barely stifling a yawn. "I believe Tara could fill his role adequately enough, and her magical abilities might also prove useful in prolonging the effects."
Xander slumped in his chair, "You know, this isn't doing much for my self-esteem."
Anya stood behind him, rubbing his shoulders. "It won't be so bad. Remember what happened to the girl in the movie we watched last night? She went to jail and really enjoyed herself." Her brow crinkled in thought, "Actually, come to think of it, all the prisoners seemed to like her - like, really like her - even the guards. Is prison really like that?"
All around the room, everyone's expressions ranged from somewhat horrified to enormously so. Xander quickly silenced her, his own face beet red, "Remember what we talked about, Anya? We don't speak to others about the movies we watch after midnight."
"But it's relevant to our discussion!"
Buffy frowned as Xander and Ayna bickered. She already knew far more about the sexual goings-on between those two than she'd ever wanted.
"You'd be there for three or four days," Giles was saying. "We might be able to work out some form of financial compensation for your time."
Anya gasped and shook her boyfriend's shoulders excitedly. "Take it! Take the money!"
"H – How much are we talking here, Giles?" Xander asked. He seemed to be seriously considering the idea. "I won't work for less than minimum wage."
"Minimum wage it is then," Giles said happily.
With her slayer hearing, Buffy could easily pick up the words Anya whispered into Xander's ear, "Honey, that's less than six dollars an hour."
"Still," Willow interjected, "That would come to over five-hundred dollars for four twenty-four hour days. That's not so bad, I guess."
Anya beamed in agreement, but then her expression suddenly turned horrified, "Wait!" she squeaked. "We can't let my Xander go in there!" Buffy let out a thankful sigh. Finally, the woman was talking sense. "He'll be surrounded by desperate women!"
Xander grinned as the revelation dawned on him; stuck in a clone of Faith's body and surrounded by women. Buffy put her head in her hands.
Meanwhile, Giles was rapidly losing his patience, "I do hope you both realize that life in a women's correctional facility is nowhere near as erotic as you seem to think it is."
Buffy's frown deepened. She also would've preferred to have gone through the rest of her life without ever hearing Giles utter the word 'erotic.'