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Imperfections

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Giles was humming happily as he washed the dishes for dinner, and it was very clearly because of the retreat thing. It was weirdly sweet, Faith thought, if a little annoying, and she watched him for a while before going back to the stupid history worksheet. “My history teacher put fuckin’ cartoon animals on this thing,” she said with some annoyance. “What, are we in kindergarten?”

“Hmm. Language,” said Giles a little distantly, then, “I’ve always wanted to go camping with Jenny.”

This made Faith smile in that reluctant way she was starting to feel more and more accustomed to. There was still that small voice in the back of her head saying that this wasn’t permanent, but fuck it, she’d be happy with it while it was. “She back yet?” she inquired.

Giles shrugged. “At times, her lessons with Willow take a while,” he replied easily. “And we can afford to be a bit late to the retreat.”

Faith pushed down her nervous feeling. Jen could take care of herself.


“A spell,” Spike was saying to Ms. Calendar. “For me. You’re gonna do a spell for me.” He cast a glance at a shaking Willow. “Her too, if she can handle it.”

Willow wasn’t afraid. She wasn’t afraid. She wasn’t afraid. She reached out, grabbing at Ms. Calendar’s hand for some semblance of comfort. “Um, what kind of a spell?” she said in a small voice.

“A love spell!” shouted Spike. Willow flinched. Ms. Calendar squeezed her hand, hard, almost a promise. “Are you brain dead?” He walked towards the dresser, grabbing a bottle. “I’m gonna get what’s mine,” he muttered. “What’s mine. Teach her to walk out on me.”

Gripping Ms. Calendar’s hand, Willow’s eyes flitted involuntarily to Spike.

“What are you looking at?” Spike demanded.

Willow looked hastily away. “Nothing,” she said, voice trembling.

“You can do it, right?” Spike persisted, his eyes only on her. “You can make Dru love me again? Make her crawl?”

“I-I can try,” Willow stammered.

A terrifying expression of fury crossed over Spike’s face. He moved forward, pulling Willow up and away from Ms. Calendar to slam her hard against the bedpost. His hands were on her neck. “What are you talking about, trying?” he shouted. “You’ll do it!”

“Get the fuck away from her!” shouted Ms. Calendar in a tone of voice that was way scarier than Spike.

“Yes, I’ll do it,” half-sobbed Willow.

Spike let go of Willow, smashing his bottle against the opposite bedpost. Ms. Calendar all but ran forward, trying to reach Willow first. But then Spike was grabbing Willow again, thrusting the jagged end of the bottle up to her face and roaring, “You lie to me, and I’ll shove this through your face! You want that?”

“No,” Willow whimpered.

“Don’t you dare, don’t you touch her,” Ms. Calendar was shouting, hitting at Spike. He barely seemed to notice.

“Right through to your brain!” Spike yelled, shaking her.

“No, please, no,” Willow begged, and was horrified to realize that she was crying in front of Ms. Calendar.

Spike let go of her again, and this time Ms. Calendar pulled Willow in, holding her very tightly and murmuring incomprehensible words in a soft, soothing tone. Willow really wished that this kind of closeness was under different circumstances; sure, she’d missed Ms. Calendar lots, but she definitely didn’t want to die in this broken-down old factory.

“…but she didn’t—are you listening to me?” Spike shouted.

“Blah blah girlfriend troubles blah blah fragile masculinity blah,” said Ms. Calendar acidly. “Touch Willow again and you’re going to wish Angelus had killed you when you were stuck in that wheelchair.”

“Don’t make him angry!” Willow hissed, trying to stop shaking.

Spike stepped forward, eyes glinting. Then, unexpectedly, he burst into tears. “I’m so unhappy,” he sobbed.

“Oh my god, you are not serious,” muttered Ms. Calendar. Gently, she let go of Willow, pushing on her shoulders until Willow sat down on the bed. Walking over to Spike, she said carefully, “I really don’t think a love spell is the way to go here, Spike.”

“Yeah?” Spike gave her a reproachful, teary glare. “No one asked you, though, did they? You’ll do that spell for me or I kill your little witch over there.”

For the first time since they’d been taken to the factory, Willow saw Ms. Calendar falter. “Okay,” she said, her voice softer, more careful. “Then I’ll do that spell for you.”

Spike nodded slowly. “Damn right you will,” he said with drunken conviction, stepping forward and lifting a lock of hair off Ms. Calendar’s shoulder. Ms. Calendar flinched, but didn’t move, her expression careful and calculating.

Lifting his head, game face on, Spike said, “I haven’t had a woman in weeks.”

“And you won’t be having one now if you want that spell of yours done,” Ms. Calendar replied coolly, side-stepping Spike and moving towards the box of supplies to rifle through it.

“Get started, then,” Spike growled.

Ms. Calendar looked up and gave Willow an amused little smile, glancing over at Spike as though he was some kind of sad puppy trying to get out of a chair. “He’s not going to hurt us,” she said very quietly. “I’ve seen evil. This is just sad-post-breakup-guy, only with a little bit more fang and bloodthirst.”

“Are you sure?” Willow murmured.

Ms. Calendar’s smile stayed on her face, but it seemed a little strained. “Would I lie to you?” She looked up at Spike. “This isn’t going to be enough,” she said, this time loud enough for him to hear.

“What?” Spike stepped forward, moving to stand next to Ms. Calendar.

“Well, generally I can’t do a love spell without all the ingredients,” replied Ms. Calendar calmly. “Not to mention that Willow’s spellbook is still in the library.”

Spike nodded slowly. “Write me a list of ingredients,” he said finally, rummaging in his pocket and shoving a pen and paper at Ms. Calendar. “I’ll get the things, but if you’re lying—” He turned, coat flaring out, and strode over to the other side of the room, glaring at them both from a corner.

Ms. Calendar knelt down on the bed, scooting forward until she was next to Willow. “You okay?” she said softly.

Willow shook her head.

“We’ll be okay,” said Ms. Calendar, picking up the pen and beginning to write. “We’ve got a pretty kickass team on our side.”

Willow settled herself into the bed, lying down next to Ms. Calendar, and she felt Ms. Calendar’s hand absently card through her hair. She closed her eyes, trying to pretend there wasn’t a drunk, angry vampire in the corner. “Should I help with the love spell?” she asked tentatively.

Ms. Calendar shook her head. “I’ll be okay on my own, Willow,” she said. “You just—relax.” At Willow’s doubtful look, she laughed ruefully. “Yeah. Okay. I see the irony in that.”

Spike stormed over, wordlessly holding out his hand. Ms. Calendar neatly folded the list, handing it to him. “Don’t try to escape,” he informed them both. “Even if I don’t get you, chances are something else will.” He didn’t look too displeased by this concept.

“We’ll hang here,” Ms. Calendar replied, lying back in the bed.

“Don’t get too comfortable,” said Spike darkly. “Still haven’t decided what to do with the littler witch when you’re done with the spell.”

Willow felt a rush of cold fear at this, because it wasn’t like Giles or Buffy or anyone would think to look in whatever this place was. Not for a while, at least, and who knew how much time they had?

“Gotcha,” said Ms. Calendar, outwardly unfazed, but Willow noticed that her hands were trembling very slightly.


 

Giles had stopped the happy humming and started pacing. Behind him, he heard the sound of Faith snapping her pencil in half. “When are we going to look for Jen?” she asked him loudly.

“I don’t—” Giles exhaled, glancing up at the clock. It had been two hours since Jenny left, and there hadn’t been a single call. It was making him anxious and panicky, but he knew that he didn’t want Faith to worry. “Perhaps she and Willow are, are making up for lost time—”

Faith gave Giles a pointed look. “It’s Jen,” she said. “She knows you worry. She’d call.”

Giles leaned heavily against the counter, looking down at his shoes, and didn’t say anything. He couldn’t.

“We gotta go,” Faith persisted. “Check the school, at least—”

And that was when the phone rang, loud and shrill. Giles made a dive for it, grabbing the receiver and nearly toppling to the floor. “Jenny?” he demanded breathlessly.

No,” said Buffy heavily.

For one terrible, awful moment, Giles thought—

“Spike’s got Willow and Ms. Calendar locked up somewhere,” said Buffy.

Giles felt a confusing mixture of feelings. Not dead, then, he thought, but the Watcher in him reminded him not definitively dead, and certainly not unhurt. “Do you know where that is?” he managed.

“What’s going on?” Faith demanded, coming up behind Giles in an effort to listen in. Giles waved her off as best he could.

“We’re on it,” Buffy replied, and Giles knew her well enough to hear the thread of genuine worry in her voice, buried under authority and determination. “Spike wants them to perform a love spell for him, and he’s looking for the tools to get that done.”

“So Jenny’s alive, still,” said Giles. This didn’t comfort him at all. The last time Jenny had been taken by a vampire—

“I think so,” said Buffy, her voice softening. “Listen— Angel and I are going to help Spike find his ingredients. We’ll try and keep him away from wherever the place is for as long as possible, so you and Faith can go looking for her. Cordelia, Xander, and Oz are all on it too.” She hesitated, then, “I’m sorry you and Ms. Calendar can’t go camping.”

The excitement of vacationing with Jenny seemed distant, now. “Yes,” said Giles vaguely, and hung up.

“Tell me what happened,” Faith snapped, but Giles thought he saw fear in her eyes.

“Jenny and Willow were just kidnapped by Spike,” he informed her weakly. “Not exactly what one would call a formidable vampire, but—”

Faith looked at Giles, grabbed her jacket from where it was hanging on a kitchen chair, and shoved past him.

Giles reeled. He hadn’t expected this immediate of a response; he hadn’t actually realized how deep Faith’s affection for Jenny ran. Quietly, he followed Faith to where the door of her room stood ajar, moving to stand hesitantly by the doorway.

Faith was throwing weapons helter-skelter into a beat-up old bag, tucking a stake into the sleeve of her leather jacket as she muttered. Giles could hear the suppressed sob in her voice. “Fucking vampires always taking my Watchers, swear to god I’m gonna fucking kill this one before he can so much as—”

Faith,” said Giles. His voice broke.

Faith looked up, and stopped. She blinked hard. “Don’t you tell me to stop,” she said, her voice wobbling.

Giles shook his head, stepping into the room. Strangely, seeing Faith so distressed centered him in his desire to calm her down. “We can’t afford to be reckless,” he said as steadily as he could. It didn’t come out all that steady. “Not when Jenny or Willow might be seriously injured.” He sniffled, and felt a bit ridiculous for it, but Faith didn’t comment. If anything, her expression softened a bit. “Currently, Spike is with Buffy and Angel,” he said.

Faith pressed her lips together at Buffy and Angel. It reminded Giles ever so slightly of Ethan’s face when he’d seen Jenny for the first time, but now certainly wasn’t the time to press Faith about that. “But Jen’s not with Spike, then,” she said. “So he can’t hurt her.”

“That’s the idea,” Giles agreed. “You and I will take my car—I have some ideas as to where they might be.”

Faith nodded, tucking an extra stake into her jacket pocket. Then, to Giles’s surprise, she faltered, looking briefly away. “She’s gonna be okay,” she said awkwardly. “Really. Jen’s tough.”

Giles managed a flicker of a grin. “She is incredibly resilient,” he said with a soft kind of pride. Then, “You’re ready to go?”

“Sure am.” Faith tossed her bag over one shoulder, breezing by Giles—but she looked back, giving him an encouraging little smile.