Gethsemane IV - The Writings on the Wall
Disclaimer: I don't own anything; they belong to Joss & Co. I do own Callas,
the guards and the terrorists though.
Author's Notes: This part is a little slow, IMO. The next part will hopefully pick up and have lots of our fave Slayers in it. Just tell me if you've had enough and want me to stop!
The blonde was enveloped in a hug before she could even really register that it really was her friend standing in the doorway. The two girls hugged for what seemed like eternity, but what were only a few minutes in reality. Buffy pulled the redhead into the apartment and closed the door, a smile plastered on her face that didn't seem to be erasable. Willow looked at her best friend with a smile, she could still barely believe it, but her smile faltered a little as she saw Faith standing off to the side.
Faith was standing near the kitchen counter, not wanting to interrupt and not really wanting to be there. Willow had never ever liked or accepted her, and the brunette knew that all the pain she had caused the Scoobies only aggravated the redhead's feelings towards her, she'd hoped that she could be forgiven at least someday. Something that hadn't seemed very likely when she'd first escaped from prison to help them during the fight. Everyone had warmed up to her again, even Xander and Buffy's mom, Giles and Buffy herself. Everyone except Willow, who seemed to hate her with a passion until the last day they saw each other.
The brunette looked up and into the eyes of the witch; she didn't know what to say or what to do. This was Buffy's friend, not hers.
"Willow…uh," she started, nervously brushing a strand of hair behind her ear and stepping back slightly as the redhead advanced towards her with an unreadable look. Willow had always been jealous of their slayer connection and that she was threatening to take Buffy away. Faith wasn't sure that their newer and even closer bond would be much to the witch's liking.
Faith tried backing away even more but the counter kept her from it by pushing in her back, as well as Buffy's eyes. The blonde seemed happier than she had in years and Faith felt a pang of jealousy that it hadn't been her to make Buffy that happy. She stopped and looked at the redhead who stood less than two feet from her, speechless. But before she knew what was going on, there was a redheaded Wicca hugging her.
"Hey Faith," Willow said with a smile and pulled away from the stunned brunette.
"Uh, hey Red…ah Willow," Faith mumbled, still confused and shocked that the witch had hugged her.
"I missed that," Willow laughed and looked at Buffy who was still smiling like the cat who ate the canary.
"Missed what?" the brunette asked, pushing herself off the counter and walking a little closer to Buffy. It was weird, but nowadays she needed the blonde close to her to feel anywhere near alright. It had scared her at first, Faith had never needed anybody anywhere or for anything, but she knew that Buffy understood and didn't make a big deal out of it. They both needed each other and it had just become their way of life.
"Your little names for everyone."
Buffy snickered and pulled her best friend over to the couch, sitting down with Willow next to her. The blonde still had a hard time believing it; Willow was here right in front of her when all this time she'd thought her to be dead.
"Yeah, imagine this, though….She learned my whole name!" Buffy grinned and looked at Faith who actually blushed. She didn't think she'd ever seen anything cuter than the brunette blushing.
"You're kidding!" Willow exclaimed and watched the red creep into the brunette's cheeks as well. Things needed to be discussed, no doubt about it, but that didn't mean they couldn't just goof around for a few minutes. After all they hadn't seen each other in two years and they just deserved this. And Willow could see that Buffy knew as well that serious questions were to be asked and serious answers to be given eventually.
"Buffy…" Faith whined and pouted, making the other girls laugh even harder.
The blonde held out her hand and Faith slowly walked over to them, taking Buffy's hand in hers. She was pulled into the older girl's lap gently, leaning back against Buffy with half of her body and the other half against the arm-rest. Wrapping an arm around the brunette's waist to keep her from falling off, but also as a comfort for herself, Buffy looked at Willow with a smile.
"So, are you gonna tell us how you got here, and how you are still alive when we thought you were dead?"
The redheaded nodded and looked at the two slayers. They were so close to each other it painfully reminded her of Tara and herself, the way the little, subconscious touches just remind you the other person is there, the looks and smiles that are meant to portray all the love for that person in them. Two years ago she would've been jealous of the connection, of the closeness between the two, but now she thought it was nothing but innocent and sweet. Willow could sense that right now they were nothing but two people who needed each other to survive and therefore were closer than anyone else she'd ever seen; but that didn't mean there wasn't more that hadn't been acknowledged yet. It was definitely time to get them out of the dungeons.
"Well, there's this group of ex-slaves that call themselves the Freedom Fighters and we…Tara and I, I mean…we were the ones that helped create it."
"Wait, you put that bomb in the marketplace?" Faith asked curiously; she had never pegged the two witches to be very violent.
The redhead shook her head quickly, "No, that was never planned by the group. Some brainless idiots that live with us figured we'd appreciate them getting Callas pissed. It was a very irresponsible and stupid thing to do."
"Yeah, no kidding. Getting Callas pissed is just about the stupidest thing anyone can do," the brunette replied solemnly, rubbing her jaw subconsciously. And just as subconsciously, but still very noticeable to Willow, Buffy tightened her hold on the younger girl.
"But we do have those guys to thank for finding you. They were watching their little masterpiece and noticed that there were guards protecting two slaves, something obviously highly unusual and I overheard them discussing it when they returned to our place. They gave very general descriptions, it was more along the lines of them drooling over a certain brunette and having acknowledged that the other slave was blonde. Thank god I still had a picture of us from way back; they immediately recognized you two."
Faith chuckled and looked at Buffy mischievously, "I'm still hot!"
The blonde and the redhead looked at each other and burst out laughing, which caused Faith to pout once again, "What!"
"Anyway," Willow smiled, her tone of voice still holding amusement but neither of the two slayers failed to notice the seriousness underlining it, "we've had plans for a while now to storm the dungeons tomorrow and free some slaves. The attack on the marketplace was a dumb move on our part, because now Callas has heightened security in and around the castle, including the dungeons. But ever since we found out you're both still alive, our number one priority is to free the slayers, as they put it."
"You're just gonna run into the castle and take slaves with you? There's a lot of guards, I've seen them; hell half of them have probably beaten me one time or another. I don't know if a bunch of ex-slaves with no weaponry are gonna do much damage," Faith mumbled with a tired voice, looking away as she felt two sets of eyes stare at her intently.
"I know," the redhead continued, sensing that Faith felt more than a little uncomfortable, "some of us really don't agree with this plan. However, it has worked before, with some success. We've freed a total of maybe two hundred slaves so far; some of our members know how to fight and some of them are demons in exile that believe in our cause. And we do have weapons, a lot of them are stolen or handmade; of course they're not perfect, but definitely better than nothing."
Buffy shook her head, trying to think of all the reasons this was too dangerous. She'd just gotten her best friend back, she didn't want to lose her again. The blonde knew that Willow was a powerful witch and could probably do more damage than five sword-yielding guards, but the thought of the redhead in a 'prison' riot, which was basically what the attack would turn out to be, scared her. Faith had told her some stories about her time in prison, although few, since the brunette still didn't like to speak of her past, they still scared the crap out of her.
"Will, we're not even in the dungeons," Buffy finally remembered, feeling the sadness creep into her bones at the thought of being stuck with Callas until their death.
"What…why? You are slaves right?" the redhead asked perplexed; she knew from reliable sources that all slaves were kept in the dungeons.
"Oh yeah, we're slaves alright. Callas, he uh…he likes torture. A lot. And Slayers make better torture objects than the average human slaves since we can stand more pain and heal faster. I think he might just hate us as well," the older slayer responded quietly, looking away from her friend's eyes and tightening her hold on Faith, who, in return, did the same.
"Oh my god, Buffy. I'm so sorry, I had no idea. Are you…are you guys alright?" Willow's voice had changed to worry and she moved closer to the other two girls.
Faith looked up and blinked a few times with a yawn, before nodding slowly. The blonde gave Willow a worried look back and sighed; she didn't know if there really was an answer to that question. She was just about to say something, anything at all, when a head hit her shoulder a little harder than she would've liked.
"Faith?" she inquired softly, looking at Willow, who just shrugged.
"B…I think…I think I might be tired," Faith's words were slightly slurred, her head still resting on the blonde's shoulder. Buffy chuckled quietly and moved, so the brunette was lying back in her arms and giving the blonde a view of her face.
"Well, maybe I should bring you to bed, huh?" Buffy teased, but the brunette was too close to unconsciousness to even respond.
The older slayer stood up and picked up the other girl in her arms. She threw a glance at Willow, indicating to her she'd be right back and carried Faith into the bedroom. But the redhead hadn't missed the worry creeping over her friend's face as she looked at her.
"What are we going to do?" he asked and looked at the demon sitting to his right.
They were gathered around a long table, Callas as the Ruler sitting at the head end, the rest of them demons and vampires in high position of the court. Callas had called a meeting of magistrates and high-ranking army officials to discuss the situation at hand. The attack on the marketplace had definitely been unexpected and they feared the worst.
"Over a hundred people are dead, most of them common citizens, the marketplace is in shambles and it'll take weeks, not to think of money, to rebuild it. People are afraid, what are we going to tell them?" he raised his voice a little this time, nothing else seemed to work.
"I say we dispatch groups of guards and well-trained fighters to track down those terrorists and execute them all publicly!" one demon yelled and a few shouts of approval were heard.
"Gentlemen," his voice brought silence with it as he spoke and the Ruler continued, "there is no doubt that we have a problem on our hands. The terrorists are a danger to everyone's well-being and we have to take them down. Now, we are already know an attack on the dungeons has been planned; they have warned us of this and have no reason to lie. Security has been increased and slaves have been chained in their cells, since we know the terrorists are trying to free them. But what are we going to do to stop those people from attacking us again?"
There was silence in the room after Callas had spoken, there always was. Slight murmurs could be heard of demons discussing options, until a hand hit the wooden table with a loud thump. Everyone winced and looked back at their Ruler expectantly, if not a little afraid.
"You are all imbeciles! I ask myself what I pay you for; I have to do everything myself. Here is the solution, gentlemen: We contact some of our human adversaries and lock them in the dungeons as slaves. When the terrorists attack, we make sure they take at least one Trojan horse with them. Our adversaries will report back to us, giving us useful information, which eventually will lead to the capture of those freedom fighters."
Everyone looked stunned for a few seconds, trying to process the information, until the table was busy with discussion. The idea had been accepted, no one knew if this was because it really was an excellent idea or no one dared to undermine Callas. The Ruler separated them into groups to take care of the different aspects of the plan.
Sitting back in his chair Callas smiled satisfied as the room turned busy with demons working to meet his expectations. Those terrorists didn't know what was going to hit them.
"Yes, Faith?" the blonde asked, pulling the blankets over the other girl's body.
"I don't wanna miss this time with you."
Buffy smiled and brushed strands of hair out of the brunette's face, "You're not missing anything, babe. We've got all the time in the world, you and me. But right now you need some rest, we need you to be a big, bad slayer for when Will is gonna help us escape, alright?"
Faith sighed and nodded slowly, snuggling into the blankets. The blonde leaned down, kissing her forehead gently and smoothed out the blankets.
"Sweet dreams, F," Buffy whispered as she slipped out the door and the brunette was already asleep as the door clicked shut quietly.
Walking up to her best friend with an exhausted smile, Buffy dropped back into the couch with a sigh. She looked at Willow and smiled again, shaking her head.
"You guys are pretty close, huh?" the redhead asked, placing her hand on Buffy's to make sure her friend knew she wasn't upset about this.
The blonde contemplated this for a second, although there wasn't any doubt in her mind about the answer, she wanted to say this right, "Yeah, Will. I mean, she's been there every second of every day ever since we were taken. But it isn't just that, I mean, sure we'd be close because we wouldn't have a choice but to get along…but…with Faith this is so much more. I feel like half of me is missing when she isn't around, it's almost like I can't do anything without her around. It's scary at time, but she understands and she doesn't say anything and neither do I."
Willow nodded, she'd figured as much but she also knew there was more. The look from earlier, the worry that haunted her friend's face told her as much. And she wasn't disappointed, because Buffy continued.
"But I'm worried about her, Will. I mean, you saw her, she was falling asleep right here; that's never happened before. She's getting so weak, it hurts me to see. Callas, he used to switch back and forth which one of us to torture, but he's used her more than once in a row. She's still not healed from that and then she got hurt during the marketplace thing, not to mention the way the guards beat on her. I just don't think she can hold out much longer, Will. And I don't know what I would do if she died."
The redhead wrapped her arms around her best friend as Buffy started to sob. The witch and the slayer sat in each other's embrace, comforting the other and both were thinking the exact same thought.
Now more than ever was it time to get them out of the dungeons.
He gave them the hand signal and waived them forward. The fighters in his group ran past him and climbed up the huge stone wall that separated them from the dungeons. Checking the perimeter again for any guards he followed them as quickly as was possible and the pulled the rope up as he landed on the inside of the castle. It was pitch black and all of them that were pure human had a hard time seeing. Once again he thanked the PTB for making him a vampire and he looked around. His team relied mostly on his enhanced night vision and he wasn't planning on letting them down or getting any of them killed.
Waiting a few minutes hiding in the bushes next to the wall, he made sure that the other ten teams had had enough time to enter the courtyard as well. There were probably a hundred freedom fighters actively included in the attack on the castle, along with another fifty doing spells and creating distractions at various parts of the city to keep the guards away. If this was to go as planned they might have 50 more members by the end of the night, but more importantly two slayers.
Willow had entered the dreams of the two slayers and found out where they were being held. She was with the group doing a sort of invisibility spell for the teams that allowed them greater movement without being seen by any guards.
"Casca?" someone whispered and tapped his shoulder; the others were getting anxious and he didn't like it. If this plan was to work they couldn't just risk storming in and being seen, no matter how much these kids wanted to fight.
"Shh, we're going in when I say so," he hissed back and heard a unified grumble from the boys behind him. Humans, he shook his head and narrowed his eyes as he saw a guard walk across the courtyard.
Casca waited for the uniform to vanish and then urged his men on. The entrance to the dungeon was across the courtyard, more than a hundred feet away, but everything seemed clear. They ran across the sandy ground, holding onto the swords and other makeshift weapons, while he hastily kept looking left and right for any signs of danger. The first ones had already reached the heavy double doors that led to the dungeon, when suddenly there was a shout to their right.
"Hey! Stop!" A demon guard was quickly approaching them, hand on his weapon and Casca wasn't able to see whether that was a gun or only a sword. They knew that only higher positioned guards were given guns; the lower officers had to rely on medieval weaponry such as swords. So he drew his own sword and yelled at his men to get the door open as quickly as possibly while he'd fend off the guard.
The uniformed demon rushed at him with a yell and their swords hit each other with a loud clang. Casca blocked the hits from the guard easily at first, but the demon was larger and stronger than him and he knew there was no way he could win this. Dodging another swipe of the silvery blade he braced himself for his end as the sharp end of the sword raced towards his neck at almost lightening speed. He closed his eyes and expected to turn to dust in a second, when instead he felt drops of warm liquid splatter across his face.
The vampire opened his eyes and saw the headless corpse of the guard standing in front of him, still holding the sword until it fell onto the ground with a loud thud. He nodded gratefully towards his friend Jabe who held a bloody sword in his own hands and followed him back to the doors that finally swung open.
But instead of revealing the dark corridors leading along the cells they were greeted by a rush of at least a dozen guards storming out at them, wielding their weapons.
Casca shook his head as he realized they'd set foot right into a trap.
"Yes, F?" the blonde asked quietly, her fingers running undeterminable rhythms through silky dark hair.
"Do you really think they're going to free us?"
Buffy shifted slightly under the weight of the younger slayer's body against hers, never stopped her continuous stroking of Faith's hair, and contemplated the answer. She could tell Faith the truth, that she really didn't think those freedom fighters could get past all the guards and find them in here. After all, it was harder to break into the castle than the dungeons. But maybe it was better to allow the girl some hope, even if it was fake.
"Buffy?" the brunette's voice catapulted her out of her thoughts and she stared down into the brown eyes as Faith shifted and put her head on the blonde's lap.
"They're not going to come," Faith finally said to herself as much as Buffy and looked away with closed eyes.
"Faith…," the older slayer said and sighed. What was she supposed to say?
"Please don't lie to me Buffy," the brunette whispered and looked back into the blonde's eyes intently.
Swallowing, the older slayer shook her head and stopped both her hands on Faith's head, "No…I…I would never lie to you Faith. But I really don't know. Maybe they are really that good."
She was happy with her answer, because it was the truth and apparently so was Faith. The brunette snuggled deeper into her arms with a content sigh and Buffy could do nothing but to close her eyes and pray for the first time in her life.
"Come on, come on!" he yelled and split the chains holding the two slaves to the wall in two with his sword. The two looked confused at him, but recognition soon flooded their eyes and they smiled. The Freedom Fighters were after all no fairy tale.
The dungeon hallway was swarming with Freedom Fighters and guards fighting each other to the last stance. Blood was pooling on the uneven stone floor and running down the walls in masses, while frightened slaves were running around frantically trying to escape. All in all this escape attack hadn't quite worked out like planned. They had all walked right into a trap, the dungeons swarming with armed guards that had been waiting for nothing but their arrival.
Casca breathed heavily and looked around. At least there were torches lighting the hallway, giving the human fighters a step up from fighting outside in the dark. He and Jabe had been the only ones to survive entering the dungeons from their team; eight young men he'd been fairly close to had died. But they had still won that battle, the demon guards were still lying disassembled in the courtyard.
He wiped his hand across his sweaty forehead and left a bloody trail on his skin. The two slaves he'd just freed were already being taken out of the dungeons by one of their fighters and he hoped that they'd at least make it. He knew that they had managed to free some slaves, but the loss they were suffering was already greater than the new manpower gained. It was no use. And there had been no news from the team sent to free the slayers, the most important part of this attack. Jabe had gone with them and he truly hoped his friend was alright.
Shaking his head he fell into the battle with a roar and was immediately surrounded by angry guards wielding swords.
"Where are the slayers!?" he screamed at the beaten body of a servant under his hands. They'd planned to only kill guards and magistrates, not simple slaves that had to serve the Ruler. But things never went like planned and their team had to fight for their lives to even get into the castle, let alone to the upper levels where the slayers were being held.
Bloodshed was inevitable, but he shuddered at the sight of the blood dripping down the stone stairs into little rivers that streamed along the ground. And they still hadn't been able to find the slayers; the castle was like a goddamn maze with all its useless corridors and doors. The number of their team had diminished to seven already, which meant they were fairing a lot better than the guards.
Jabe spun around and sliced the head off a guard approaching him cleanly. The head bounced down the stairs, splitting open and spilling gray matter onto the pools of blood. The servant stared at him with big eyes and the fighter raises his sword to the neck of the slave dangerously. He was sick of playing games; the whole point of this attack had been to free the slayers and not engage in senseless battles.
"Tell me where the slayers are!" he yelled again, the servant wincing at the gruesome sight of the young man in front of him with the blood-soaked clothes, wild eyes and blood smeared across his skin and clotting his hair.
"I…I really don't know," the slave begged and was thrown down the stairs with a roar from his attacker.
More guards were rushing through the doors to their side, some with guns that were spraying the walls with bullets. The screams of pain were filling his ears and only barely did he escape the mace one demon was swinging at his head. He still couldn't believe they'd walked into a trap like this. After the first realization at the dungeons they should've just left, tried again another time, but Casca had insisted they try to free the slayers anyway. A stupid idea, as it turned out to be. And the invisible spells were turning out to be nothing but a waste of the witches' time; they only worked if the guards didn't know they were there.
Jabe had had enough, they weren't going to win. A better, stronger plan was needed. Possibly a full strength attack on the castle but not like this. Not with seven men that had all been wounded in one way or another. No matter how many demons they killed they just kept coming at them, sharp swords ripping the fighters open in and easy swipe. He wasn't going to risk any more of his men's lives, this wasn't a plan anymore. This was fighting for their life with no sign of winning.
"Fall back!" Jabe yelled and jumped down the stairs, still swinging his sword at anything that came at him that wasn't one of his men.
As they ran from the castle they thought they heard someone laughing, the evil laughter of someone that had won a fight he hadn't even known he was fighting. Jabe stopped and turned before they could reach the wall that surrounded the court. Up high on the balcony illuminated by flaming torches stood Callas, a blood-red cape waving in the breeze, his fangs glittering in the light.
"Carpe diem, my friend!" Callas laughed and Jabe thought the Ruler was looking right at him.
"Seize my ass, motherfucker…," the fighter muttered under his breath and vanished in the trees beside the wall.
It was time to leave.
"Majesty," a guard approached him and bowed as Callas turned to face him.
"Most of the fighters have cleared out, the live ones anyway."
The Ruler walked past the guard back into his throne-room. He didn't actually have a throne or a crown, but he liked the thought of having a room for a throne. Callas sat on the edge of the large, oak table that was surrounded by over a dozen chairs of the same material.
"Do you have good news for me?" he asked after watching the guards follow him back inside.
The demon sheathed a bloody sword and bowed again; something that was starting to annoy the hell out of Callas. Taking off his helmet the guard nodded and looked from the magistrates in the room back to the Ruler.
"Flavius and Lucas are gone, there are no bodies so we are not assuming they are dead," breathed the guard heavily and looked expectantly at the vampire.
"The Eagle has landed!" Callas laughed and nodded approvingly, but only received confused stares from his magistrates and guards alike.
Rolling his eyes the Ruler stood up and threw his hands up, "The Trojan horses have been taken into the city. Or to make it real easy: Our spies are with the fighters."
A general 'oh' rang through the room, which was followed by cheers as the realization hit the guards and magistrates. Callas's plan had worked. The higher positioned people immediately took seats around the table and looked expectantly at Callas who stood at the head-end.
"Anything else?" he asked, throwing a questioning glance at the guard before sitting down in his seat.
"The Slayers are safe, but we did find out some interesting news."
"The terrorists want the Slayers, they know they are alive and were looking for them in the castle," the guard mumbled, fearing an outbreak from Callas for having given bad news.
But instead the Ruler grinned and slapped his hands onto the table, "If they want the Slayers, that's what we'll give 'em."
Again he was greeted with dumbfounded stares from everyone in the room and Callas groaned. "What do you mean, majesty?"
"Oh, you'll see. Now that we have our Trojan horses in place…we present the Slayers on a silver platter, wait for the terrorists to attack and then kill them all. In public."
Cheers rang through the room once again and Callas leaned back in his chair with satisfaction. He was having way too much fun being Ruler.
She practically ran into the cave when she heard of their return. To say that she was praying was making an understatement and any fool could've seen that there was something she was wanting more than anything right now.
The redheaded girl stopped in front of the blonde young man and eyed him in disgust upon seeing the slime and blood covering almost every part of his body. But she ignored that for the moment, only throwing a cursory glance at the two unfamiliar guys standing behind him.
"Jabe! How'd it go? Did you find them?" she asked, her voice low and it was easy to tell that she was trying not to get her hopes up but had already failed miserably.
He shook his head, putting a hand on her shoulder in a calming gesture, "I'm sorry Will, but we couldn't find them. It was getting too dangerous so I ordered to abort. I'm really sorry."
She shrunk back from him, squeezing her eyes shut tightly to shut out the tears that were burning in her eyes. She had no idea why it hadn't worked; there'd been a copious amount of powerful spells and skilled fighters. But she didn't want to think about that right now, there was always time tomorrow to create another plan. Taking a few moments to compose herself the witch promised herself that she wouldn't give up, not until she'd freed her friends. Looking up at the fighter with a grim nod she saw the same promise in his eyes and smiled softly at him, before following his outstretched hand to look at the two guys he'd brought.
"These are Flavius and Lukas; they are some of the few slaves we managed to free tonight. Uh, they say they know some magic, I thought you might want to see what they know," Jabe explained and smiled as she nodded at him. He excused himself and left the big cave through a hallway to where the river ran underground to wash up.
Willow eyed the two men, smiled and walked up to them, "Well, welcome to the Freedom Fighter Headquarters. I'm sure you'll fit right in, if you need anything just let me know and we'll see about that witchcraft tomorrow alright?"
They both nodded and she walked away to find her girlfriend; there was definitely some need for comfort time. And if she hadn't been so upset and exhausted she might've noticed that their smiles weren't ones of happiness to be freed but more of pure evil.
...continued in Gethsemane V - Into the Hands of Sinners...