The gang assembled their weapons and such and were assigned tasks. Giles delegated in his usually haughty English manner, and the mission to retrieve Faith got underway. Buffy was raring to go, unable to think of anything but having Faith in her arms again. She felt desolate without her.
“Right, we have everything ready. Let’s make our way out to the car everyone.” Giles gestured for the gang to exit his small apartment. “Buffy, can I just have a quick word with you?” He motioned for her to hang back.
“Giles, we should hurry.” Buffy didn’t really feel like standing around to chat, leaving Faith to endure whatever the council would do to her.
“Don’t worry, we’ll meet Angel in plenty of time. I just wanted to make sure you know that. . .well, Faith may be. . .the council obviously aren’t pulling any punches with this, so. . .” he stammered, not finding the words.
“Don’t say it, Giles,” Buffy said, halting him with her hand. “Faith is gonna be fine, ‘cause if she isn’t. . .” she took a shaky breath, “I don’t know what I’ll do.” A salty tear rolled down her cheek without her apparent permission.
She didn’t want to stop to think about the possibilities that Faith may be in more trouble than she or the gang could handle. Her heart felt like it had stopped beating at just the memory of all the blood that had been left behind at the cabin. She swallowed back her tears and squared her shoulders as Giles rested a hand on her arm.
“Of course. I’m sure she’ll be fine, Buffy. I just wanted you to be prepared for the worst.” Giles frowned at the small and delicate looking slayer.
She looked more fragile right now than he had ever seen her before. Obviously he had underestimated the degree to which the slayer connection affected the chosen two.
“I’m not gonna prepare for anything other than bringing her back home, safely,” Buffy declared and turned on her heel, resolved that they would all return from the clutches of the council.
Jumping into the backseat with Xander, Buffy wrapped her jacket around herself almost protectively. Xander noticed that it was in fact Faith’s denim jacket that Buffy was wearing. The sleeves were a little too long, it was fraying around the edges, and probably hadn’t seen the inside of a washing machine for quite some time, but the blonde girl seemed to be clutching onto it for dear life.
He knew the two girls had become friends over their time together, and the slayer-thing between them was obviously strong. But the way Buffy was acting, like her world was about to crumble to nothing, was slightly baffling to say the least. Xander didn’t think it would be prudent to ask about it. He could see the sorrow in Buffy’s eyes, and that told him she cared for Faith very much. He realised he would have to leave it at knowing that much for the time being.
“Let’s go get us our slayer back,” Xander rallied, punching the air enthusiastically. He winked at Buffy as she smiled a little at him.
“Yeah, let’s go get our slayer,” Buffy said quietly, looking out of the window as Giles started the engine and headed out of his drive.
The journey was a fairly quiet affair as the old car stuttered its way towards LA. Willow and Giles went through a few spells, with Xander butting in now and again just to make sure he wasn’t being forgotten. Buffy mainly just looked out of the window, the events of the past few days swirling around in her head.
Things had moved so quickly from attraction, to realising she was falling for Faith, to kissing, and then to almost sex. She felt warm in all the right places just thinking about it all. Her body seemed to be on fire for the sultry brunette, but not just that. . .her heart was too. She longed to be close to her.
She realised of course, that even though things had advanced at a quick rate for her over their time in the cabin, that things had been steadily building towards them getting together for quite some time. It just felt like they belonged together. Completed each other. It caused her chest to constrict at the possibility of it all being taken away from her. Of Faith being taken away.
“You ok, Buff?” Xander quietly asked her, noticing her sad eyes staring out at nothing.
“Huh?” Buffy turned her head to look at her friend. “Oh, yeah. I guess.” She didn’t know what to say. Couldn’t put it into words without revealing her heart, and who had hold of it.
Not that she didn’t want her friends to know. After all Willow already knew now. But she wasn’t ready to deal with it at the same time as focusing all her attention on knowing she was going into battle to save Faith. She would deal with telling them later, once she knew Faith was going to be ok.
The gang reached the turnoff that Angel was waiting at for their arrival. It was early morning now and the darkness seemed to be creeping in all around them, blanketing the way ahead where there weren’t as many lights as there were behind them. Where there weren’t as many people.
Giles stopped in front of Angel’s car and got out. Buffy also left the vehicle, wanting to be in on whatever was said between the two men. Angel made his way over to her watcher.
“Giles,” Angel nodded his hello. “Buffy.” He took a step towards her, his arms twitching, like he was expecting a hug. But Buffy didn’t really feel like massaging his ego right now, so she just smiled a little at him and wrapped her arms around herself, staving off the cool chill in the air.
“If we’re sure of what we are all doing,” Giles began, “then I think we should get underway.”
“Of course,” Angel nodded. “Buffy? Are you ok?” Angel frowned at her in his usual broody manner as Giles made his way back to the car.
“Am I ok? Of course I’m not ok,” Buffy snapped. “Sorry, I just want to get her back.” Buffy turned to head back to the car.
“Wait.” Angel lightly held the small blonde by the arm. “I just. . .I haven’t really spoken to you for a while, so. . .” He looked to be racking his brain for something to say.
“Angel, can we please catch up after we get Faith back? I don’t wanna waste any more time.” Buffy looked down at his hand on her arm, but he wasn’t letting go.
“You’ve become close to Faith haven’t you, Buffy?” Angel furrowed his brow even more.
“What do you mean?” she said coolly. “Are we friends? Do I care about her?” She removed his hand from her arm; well aware of the direction the conversation was going. “Yes, Angel, we are and I do. I care about her a lot, but we can talk about this later. Please, let’s just go.” Buffy didn’t want to discuss her relationship with Faith with her ex-boyfriend right at that moment. She could see the jealousy in his eyes, so turned away and got back into the car.
“Are we all set?” Giles checked.
“All set.” Buffy closed her door and sighed, weighted with her anxiety.
Angel’s car drove off in front of them and they followed. The landscape became ever darker as they moved away from the main roads and onto what was more or less a desolate dirt track. After about 20 minutes of driving, both drivers killed their headlights and nudged them forwards, even slower than they had been going.
Buffy could feel the tension building inside her. Her muscles were twitching and she was preparing herself mentally for what lay ahead. She just hoped she could keep her cool and not lose focus. This was a mission she couldn’t fail at. If she did, then she had no clue what she would do, or how she would react. It wasn’t something she wanted to even imagine having to deal with.
The vehicles slowed to a stop, not far from a dark shape on the near horizon. Squinting, Buffy could make out that it was a large barn. There were at least two windows with hazy, broken light peeking through. And there was a van parked at the side of it. The van Faith had been taken in.
“Right, this is it. You all know your roles. Please, be careful.” Giles unbuckled his seat belt and quietly opened his door and stepped out.
“Guys, I just wanted to thank you for coming. And. . .if things get too rough, leave. Promise me you won’t do anything heroic. That’s my job,” Buffy said, smiling at both her friends then stepping out onto the dusty road they had stopped on.
The two groups organised themselves into their positions, readying themselves for the confrontation. Willow was going to stay near the cars with Fred, casting a strong protection spell and keeping aware of any spells coming from the council that she may have to deflect. Angel and Gunn were going into the cabin along with Buffy. Giles and Xander were their back up.
They all had weapons of some sort, ready to deal with everything, demons and humans. They had agreed to keep violence to a minimum, no killing if at all possible. After all, the council henchmen were human. Even if they were involved in an illegal kidnapping, Giles didn’t think killing them would help their task in convincing them to leave Faith alone.
Edging their way forwards, Buffy slid into slayer-mode. Every inch of her body in tune with her surroundings, as the chill of the air bounced off her prickling skin. She trusted Angel with his abilities, but she was a little more wary of Gunn. She didn’t know him, but if Angel trusted him, she supposed it was best to go with that. She knew she would keep her eye on him though. She didn’t want any of them fucking up.
Giles and Xander crouched down a few steps behind them, ready with their weapons in case they needed to halt any escape. She looked back into the murk of the night and took a slow breath, working out her own escape route, clenching her jaw as she slapped down the thought that she may be returning alone.
As they neared the dark mass of the quiet barn, Buffy picked up the tingle that told her Faith was there. Inside. So close to her, yet she couldn’t just run in and hold her. She stopped and revelled in the soft caress of the sensation down her spine for a second. Angel looked in her direction, his eyes questioning. Buffy nodded, and motioned for them to continue.
Before they could get much closer however, one of the big doors on the left hand side of the barn flew open and a handful of men filed out. Four to be exact. They must have seen them coming, or had some kind of spell that Willow hadn’t detected that would alarm them to intruders.
Without hesitation Angel and Buffy ran forwards. Gunn rolled to the side, firing warning shots at the council members headed towards them. They were armed. Two with small firearms, and two with swords. Gunn must have decided not to risk the two with firearms getting any closer. With well aimed shots he injured the men enough to take them down; they fell to the floor.
Buffy reached the first of the fallen two and kicked his gun away; Angel took care of the other guy. The two with swords kept up their advance, swinging their blades with ease and skill through the stifling black of their surroundings. Buffy had her own short sword to hand and wasted no time in jumping into battle.
The two foes were defeated with apparent ease. Even being aware of Willow’s spell it surprised both Buffy and Angel. But they didn’t stop to question the outcome. Moving forward with stealth, Gunn following close behind. They reached the doorway to the barn.
There was a small amount of light coming from inside, but Buffy couldn’t hear anything above the beating of her own heart. Hesitantly she peeked around the door into the large space of the barn. The light didn’t filter to the back of the room, but with her enhanced eyesight, she could make out the shape of a body on the floor, but there was nothing else. There didn’t seem to be any more henchmen waiting to pounce.
Gesturing to Angel who was close beside her to follow, Buffy crouched down low and entered. She took every step with caution, her senses super-aware to every movement and sound around her. Then she heard it, the faint whisper of her name carried on the slight breeze blowing through the barn. It was Faith. The body on the floor.
* * *
She had the urge to rush forward, seeing the brunette lying on the cold hard floor of the barn, not moving, not reacting. It sent a shiver down her spine, but she stopped herself from rushing in. She couldn’t risk being led into a trap. Angel stopped behind her, watching her back as Gunn kept vigil at the door.
She called out softly. “Faith?” There was no answer. No whisper back. “Faith? Baby, talk to me,” Buffy called a little louder, sure that Faith must have heard her.
The prone slayer shifted a little. Buffy caught the movement despite the gloom around them. She could tell that Faith was trying her best to sit up, but she was obviously weak. Buffy felt her heart constrict, her chest tighten as tears welled in her eyes.
“Faith, don’t move. Just tell me, if you can, how many there are?” Buffy crept forwards with every word, glancing all around her for an attack.
“F-four,” Faith groaned out quietly.
Buffy looked back at Angel, he shrugged. They had already incapacitated four of them.
“Baby, is it safe for us to come in?” Buffy was only about 15 meters or so away from Faith and could now see that the brunette was shackled to the wall behind her.
“Yeah,” was Faith’s soft response.
Buffy quickened her pace towards the obviously injured girl, keeping her wits about her. She took to her knees next to Faith, who was doing her best to raise her head, but wasn’t being very successful.
“It’s ok. Don’t move, baby. I’m here,” Buffy soothed, gently touched the other slayer’s head, sweeping her dark hair away from her face so she could look at her. Their eyes sought each other out, sinking into each other’s depths in the shadows.
“B,” Faith whispered, and focused on the pretty blonde in front of her.
“I’m right here. Are you ok?” Buffy looked the younger over.
“Yeah, just beaten,” Faith said, her voice cracking as she fought to stay awake.
Angel moved back and spoke to Gunn, telling him to get Giles and Xander to tie up the council members outside. Then he shuffled slowly towards Buffy again, standing behind her as she allowed tears to fall from her pale eyes. He was more than a little shocked at how tender Buffy was being with Faith. At the soft words, and the fact that she was calling her baby. He wasn’t quite sure what he had missed.
“Buffy, we should get her out of here as soon as we can in case others come. I doubt it was meant to be this easy.” He gently touched her shoulder.
Buffy nodded slowly as Faith closed her eyes, her chest rising and falling slowly as she lay bound to the dirt streaked wall. Buffy moved to check on Faith, looking over her body, then lightly touching her neck and back to ensure she had no major injuries there. Then she checked on the chains. She pulled them a little but they were not going to budge.
“Angel, go and see if one of them has keys for these.” She pointed out the shackles and he left the barn to go and check.
Sure that the beaten slayer didn’t seem to be bleeding or seriously injured, Buffy sat down next to Faith and took her hand, squeezing slightly as she felt the fingers within hers twitch.
“We’ll get you out of here, Faith. I’m sorry I took so long.” She wiped her nose on her sleeve and jumped a little as Faith spoke quietly.
“It’s ok. You. . .you shouldn’t have risked it,” Faith said weakly, coughing. The pain she was in was obvious.
“Of course I risked it. How could you ask me not to? I would never just leave you, Faith.” Buffy reached out and caressed the bruised face of the brunette, who did her best to shift her weight back so she was lying more on her side and looking up at Buffy. “I love you, Faith. And I wasn’t about to go losing you,” Buffy confessed her love softly and quietly but she could tell that Faith had heard her perfectly.
The younger girl smiled despite her bruises. She felt more than just saved in the physical sense. Her whole body felt like it was humming from the inside out. Faith had never felt anything like it. It was pure, uncompromising, and whole, and coming straight from Buffy. Buffy loved her and she felt like she was flying.
She wished she could sit up and wrap her arms around Buffy. She wanted to thank her, to kiss her. She wanted up off the cold hard floor, but she was in a great deal of pain.
“Buffy, you know I. . .” Faith coughed again, her broken ribs instantly quieting what she was about to tell the girl leaning over her. She wanted to say it. That she loved Buffy too. She needed to, but her words were caught in her throat as pain swept through her body.
“Shh, don’t try to speak, Faith. You can tell me later, when we get you safe.” Buffy’s heart was almost beating out of her chest at what she was sure her friend, or girlfriend rather, was about to say to her.
Dipping her head towards Faith, Buffy captured her lips lightly with her own. She kissed her delicately, not wishing to cause the other girl any more pain. She just had to make sure she was really there. She just had to taste her lips and feel their closeness on a physical level.
Brushing her lips over Faith’s, the older girl gently brought her hand up to rest over her heart. She could feel it beating beneath her fingers; pounding through Faith’s soft skin in a signal to Buffy. A signal that filled her whole body with a warmth she had never felt before. It filled her entirely, and pulled her deeper. Deeper in love with the beautiful brunette.
“Buffy, we’ve got the. . .” It was Angel, with Xander and Giles following close behind. “keys.” They had all witnessed her kissing the other girl.
She pulled away from Faith, but not abruptly. Smiling at the worried look on the injured girl’s face, she turned towards her captive audience and gestured for the keys hanging limply in Xander’s hand.
“Stop gawking and pass me those,” Buffy called, pulling herself to her knees. She spoke softly to Faith. “Now let’s get you out of here.” Wasting no time, Buffy bent down to release her fellow slayer.
She could feel three pairs of eyes boring into her neck but she ignored it. Her concern right now was for Faith. She would deal with everything else once she knew there was no more immediate risk. Giles moved forwards to help her, and she felt a stray tear splash from her eye as he smiled gently, placing a fatherly hand on her shoulder before setting about helping her.
Buffy looked down at the girl she loved, and nothing else seemed to matter. Everyone else would just have to get used to it, because she wasn’t about to leave her life incomplete again. Not now she was pretty sure that Faith felt the same. Their hearts were entwined and nothing was going to jeopardise that. Nothing.