Greater Good Part 15/27: Outside, Lookin In
Later that evening…
“You ready?” Xander was annoyingly calm as he waited for the anxious redhead to respond. Willow could only shrug uneasily as she tried to assess everyone’s reactions to the inquiry. She was surprised that Anya, Dawn, Faith and Andrew didn’t seem at all bothered by the drastic plan.
“I don’t know. I mean, you think Buffy will forgive us for this?” She asked.
“Gotta say… not caring, Will,” Xander said frankly. “Look, all I know is Giles is hurting down there. He’s alone, depressed, and refuses to eat. All of which aren’t the wholesome ingredients in the recipe for a happy, peppy Watcher. He’s suffering, Will, needlessly.”
“But is this the best way to go about this?” Willow squeaked. “I mean… I don’t want Giles to suffer either. Down with suffering, ok? But Buffy’s not really singing the happy, happy, joy, joy song either. She’s hurting too.”
“Believe me, I see that. And I know Buffy’s not ready to forgive him but I can’t watch as they both tear themselves apart over something they had no control over. I can’t watch her shut us out… shut him out.”
“But we don’t know how she’ll react. She might do something rash…”
“Oh, right… like say, running off alone and unarmed to challenge the local chapter of Our Lady of the Omnipotent Evil, headed by one insane super-preacher Hell bent on destroying Sunnydale?”
“Sometimes I really don’t like you.” Willow sighed in frustration. “Ok…so, we’re way past rational thought in Buffyland. But what about Giles? What’s he’s going to do? Or how about Spike? What …”
“Fuck Spike!” Xander’s bark startled Willow.
“Not taking requests at the moment, stud.” The blonde vampire strutted nonchalantly into the kitchen and hopped up to join Dawn on the counter. “But if you’d care for a rain check, I can mark you down for Thursday?” Everyone but Dawn and Faith shot him nasty glances which he ignored, choosing instead to focus his attentions on the younger Summers. Dawn graciously offered him a cookie and he politely accepted the treat. With a little nibble, he offered the gang a sociable smile.
“Look… I bloody well know most of you hate me.” He looked to Xander, “Or wants me dead… of the more permanent variety. I admit it… I bollocksed up the whole mess. But I want to help here. I just want Buffy to be happy. We need the cocky, quick-witted Slayer at her best before the wrath of the First makes its next appearance.”
“That’s it? A simple ‘I did a bad thing’ and we’re all supposed to trust you now? News flash, Deadboy, we don’t trust you. We don’t like you. We never liked you.” Xander took a threatening step towards Spike and Andrew shifted nervously as he suddenly felt caught in the middle of a fight just waiting to happen.
“I gotta second that,” Willow nodded. “You aren’t giving us any real reason for a big ol’ group hug.”
“Excuse me, I don’t mean to intrude in on your expressions of hostility but we’ve all gotta work together to save the world and all.” Andrew said shyly. “Don’t we need everyone to be in their happy places by the time the… um…”
“Manure hits the oscillating fan,” Anya suggested. “I agree with the wormy little nerd… but this plan seems dim-witted and quite absurd to me,” She concluded.
“Well, yeah… it’s my idea!” Xander said, not missing a beat. “But we don’t have time to wait for things to come around and right themselves. We need these two back to normal, or as normal as they can be now. Back in the teamwork sense… back in the Watcher and Slayer sense.”
“There’s no telling if this scheme will do that,” Faith grumbled. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m at one with reuniting the old duet but we’re talking about two very different people than before all this went down.”
“What do you think?” Willow glanced over at Dawn who was swinging her legs from side to side as she crunched on another chocolate chip cookie, listening attentively to the ongoing discussion.
Dawn’s eyes darted between Xander and Willow and then to the basement door, displaying her concern for the man shut away within his own self-inflicted prison. She nodded resolutely and jumped off the counter. She pointed to herself, motioned upstairs then pointed to Willow and Xander and waved toward the back of the house.
“You’ll get Buffy, then?” Willow asked and Dawn nodded.
“I’ll get the nail gun and boards,” Xander smiled. “You think you can whip up a little speedround barrier spell, Will?”
“I’ll try,” she said unsurely. “But you better give me a little head start with your tooling around.”
“I wanna help,” Anya said eagerly.
“Me too,” Andrew agreed.
“Me three,” Spike slipped off the counter and awaited their orders.
“You’ve done enough, Spike,” Xander growled. “Just stay outta our way.” He left out the back door and Willow gave the vampire uneasy shrug.
“What’d ya expect?” she asked with a hint of sympathy.
“Right. I’ll gather the girls and keep them occupied for the moment, run through the details we’ve gathered on this preacher guy,” Spike sulked as he headed toward the living room.
“Not so fast,” Faith interrupted. “I got dibs on the brats. We’re having a little girl’s night out. Taking them downtown for a little R&R.”
“As if!” Spike chuckled. “And Buffy ok’d this little excursion when?”
“B’s too busy brooding over her ol’ man. Besides, didn’t think to ask. My bad!”
“What bloody rat-trap, stink-hole is still open around here?”
“The Bronze is still rockin’. Can’t keep a Hellmouth hangout from partying to the end.” She offered him a coy smile. “Care to join us?”
“I think not. Guess I’ll make a few passes through the usual hotspots. See if there are any nasties about,” he’d be damned if he wasn’t getting in on the act to reunite these two. Besides, he needed to keep a watchful eye on what went down. No telling what might happen. Good or bad, he was going to be right in the thick of it to control the situation.
“Anya… you and Andrew can go loot any leftovers you might have missed at the hospital. If all goes well, we’ll need meals for two vampires.” Willow hoped.
“Dinner for two… got it.” Andrew smiled proudly. He was finally making himself useful.
“Why do you always stick me with the nerd?” Anya whined.
“Because of your unending patience, Anya,” Willow humored her with a smile and watched Anya’s face light up with the complement.
“Really? Thanks. I’ve always thought I was a patient person. Especially seeing as how I haven’t always been human. It takes a special kind of being to…” Andrew gently cupped her arm and guided her along with him as he made his way out to the living room, nodding appreciatively as Anya continued flattering herself. Willow and Dawn were left alone in shadows of the dimly lit kitchen.
“You think this will work?” Willow asked. She was pleasantly surprised to see the young woman do something she’d missed seeing her do. Dawn smiled.
“Wait up, Sunshine!” Faith jogged up to Spike as he marched toward the front door. He quickened his pace, not in the mood to face any more unfriendlies. The dark Slayer kept up as he left the house and strolled down the path. “Offer still stands. Could always use another heavy in the ranks. You sure you’re takin’ a pass?”
Spike paused to light up a cigarette and noticed Faith admire the crutch as he inhaled a deep swallow of smoke. He offered her one, much to her excitement, and gave her a friendly smile as he lit it.
“Rather be alone at the moment.” He took another puff.
“Can’t say I blame ya, B doesn’t seem to be singing your praises.”
“That’s alright. I happen to have a lovely singing voice.”
“Gang seems frosty.” Faith gave the vampire an inquiring look. “So I’m guessin’ you and G aren’t so touchy-feely?”
“Actually, we’re mates from way back,” Spike said in a sarcastic tone and let out a weak snicker before his features saddened. “It’s complicated.”
“No… not really. Cat’s outta the bag and into the frying pan.” Faith took a smooth breath of smoke and held it for a moment before slowly sighing it out. “You turned him, didn’t you?”
He cocked his head sideways, surprised at her seemingly insensitivity.
“What? You expect me to be all shocked and stuff?” She smiled. “Please… I took a turn down nemesis road. Luckily, it didn’t work out.”
“Difference is I claimed it as a righteous deed, done in the best interests for the safety of those Slayerettes. When all it really was…was revenge, pure and simple.”
“Rumor has it that he tried to snuff you?”
“Just doin’ what he thought was best for Buffy.”
“Sounds good on paper but won’t hold up in court. Believe me, I know.” She smiled. “Hey, not sayin' I'd give you a gold star or anything. Just sayin' I can see where you were coming from. Besides, it kinda worked out to benefit the brats. Vampy G is workin’ it. He's a handful.”
It was strange, but Spike somehow felt better. Knowing someone could understand the whys and how-tos of the complex situation. But he still felt bad.
“The other night, with you're little episode of tempt the Watcher... wasn't his fault. He didn't mean to hurt you. It's the hunger.”
“Yeah, I know the score. Took a while and a few bumps and bruises, but I finally got it figured.” She stretched out her arms as she continued. “Curtain goes up…story opens with a wigsome welcome. Everyone’s tossin’ ‘round polite but suspicious looks like they’re goin’ outta style while you try to warm up to your new surroundings. So you lay back and chill, while they try to work you out, see what makes you tick. You break a few badies, pass the gang initiation… everything’s five by five. You’re hanging out, cuttin’ it up and livin’ it large with your new best bud. Next thing you know, Wham! Wicked trouble and you find yourself on the outside, looking in, wondering what gives as they act like you never existed. Alone again and you go to a bad place...” Faith stopped to take in a long drag of the cigarette then dismissed her current thought with a frustrated wave. “Won’t bore you with those shitty details. Point is, you wake up one day and realize that you were given the short straw from the get-go, remembering the golden days when you saw them together, Watcher and Slayer mentally fucking each other with every innocent word and teasing look.” Faith paused to toss the spent cigarette butt to the concrete path, flashing the vampire a self-conscious grin as she worked to collect her rising temper. “It’s always been about them. There’s no coming between those two.”
“Yeah…well, haven’t got a choice.”
“Sure you do…” her coy smile returned. “You can go Bronzing with me and the girls.”
“Thanks again, but I’ll pass,” Spike tossed his cigarette and headed down the front path of the Summers’ home.
“Suit yourself. If you change your mind, you know where I’ll be,” she said.
“Outside, lookin’ in?”
“Catchin’ on now, Sunshine.”
An hour later…
As was the recent trend, Dawn found Buffy hidden away within the serene setting of her bedroom, lying quietly on her cheerful, fluffy bed. But her face didn’t reflect the carefree feelings the room tried to instill in her. Her older sister looked so tired and aged beyond her years. Dawn knew she probably mimicked the same outward appearance, both having suffered so much and struggling to conquer the sinking feeling too strong for either of them to ignore. But Dawn felt she knew how to fight back and this dirty little trick was the first step in healing the raw wounds left by recent heartaches. She had to have hope that the key to winning the impending war was to bring together the old gang, particularly the Slayer and her Watcher. The easy part was to physically bring them together. The difficult part was for the old friends to work things out on their own.
“What’s wrong, Dawn?” Buffy jolted upright, sitting at the ready for any bad news or cause for alarm. Dawn tried to dissuade her sister’s tenseness with a calm wave as she took a seat on the bed.
“Are you ok?” The urgency in Buffy’s voice made Dawn sad. Her sister was incapable of relaxing. She offered a reassuring nod and started to scribble on her whiteboard. The game was afoot.
Dawn displayed the message and waited for the Slayer’s response. “Spike needs you in the basement.”
“What for?” Buffy’s tone was immediately agitated.
“He has news about the preacher guy.” Dawn hoped that Buffy wouldn’t ask too many questions. She already felt her hand cramping from trying to write faster to keep her from having to wait.
“Why the basement? He can come here if he has news.”
Dawn rolled her eyes as Buffy flopped back to the mattress, stubbornly refusing to go near the room that housed her ex-Watcher. She quickly sketched out another message and poked a finger to Buffy’s back to get her attention.
“Just go!” Dawn slapped her hand on the board and pointed a demanding finger to the door.
“This better be important…” Buffy leisurely got to her feet and headed out into the hall with Dawn following closely behind.
As they made their way toward the basement, Buffy found it odd that she wasn’t being bombarded by snooping questions from Potentials and non-Potentials alike. Everyone was gone and the house seemed almost abandoned.
Dawn noticed Buffy hesitate when they reached the door so she quickly turned the knob and entered into the foreboding space, motioning for her sister to follow her. The door remained open behind them, giving Buffy a ridiculous sense of relief. After battling endless demons and monsters and coming back from death twice, she failed to understand why going to the basement, her very own basement, caused her so much anxiety. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. She knew the cause but would never admit to it. So she moved onward, watching as Dawn passed the first support beam. At that point, she pulled a u-turn around the beam and took off running. By the time Buffy realized what was happening, Dawn had already made it up the stairs. She flashed an impish grin, gave a little wave, dropped the whiteboard on the top most step and slammed the basement door closed before Buffy managed to close the gap.
Buffy tried the knob and, as she'd suspected, it was locked. She glanced down at the whiteboard, barely able to make out the message scribbled there in the near black of the candle lit space.
“Get over it. I did. P.S. Sorry and don’t kill me.”
Buffy tried the door again and was stunned by the sound of the nail gun firing along with the echoing noise of hammers working on the opposing side of the door. They were barricading her in.
“What is this?” she yelled.
“You’re under arrest…” Xander’s muffled voice called out as he worked. “You have no right to remain silent and are found guilty of pigheadedness in the second degree, sentenced to time off for bad behavior.”
“What?” Buffy was furious and pounded against the door. “This is stupid. You know I can bust through this.”
“Yeah…well…I’m using a very powerful spell to keep you in there until you’ve come to your senses,” Willow’s timid voice barely carried through the door. “So don’t try anything.”
Buffy tried the door again and considered smashing it to bits as well as her so-called friends. “This is ridiculous… why are you doing this?”
“We’ll be back in a little bit, Buffy. And we’re sorry it came to this.” Willow said, following up the apology with some unrecognizable words and the Slayer knew the witch was working the majicks to keep her held captive.
Buffy pulled her fist back, ready to send it crashing through the door when an irritating little voice from within her asked why she needed to run away. Everyone else was moving on, why couldn’t she? It was a question she couldn’t answer and there was only one way to find out. With a deep sigh, her fist relaxed and she let her hand drop to her side.
They were alone.