Caught in the Crossfire
Joyce was startled out of her sleep by the door slamming below. [Hmmm? Buffy? What's going on?] Joyce thought; her mind still slightly muddled by sleep.
Getting out of bed Joyce pulled on her robe and walked out of the bedroom and down the hallway. “Buffy is that you?” Joyce called out and as she reached the stairs she saw the lights on downstairs in the living room. As she headed towards the living room Joyce saw a young woman with her back to her kneeling by the couch. “Excuse me!!! What do you think you’re…?”
The words froze in Joyce's throat as she saw Buffy lying on the couch bleeding and unconscious.
Faith ignored the footsteps she heard from the stairs, worrying more about Buffy's broken ribs and whatever it was that knocked her out.
“Mrs. S, call Giles and tell him to get over here!”
Faith took out a small knife and cut the remains of Buffy's burnt and cut shirt off to give her better access to her ribs. Opening her bag, Faith pulled out bandages for the cut and to wrap Buffy's ribs. When Faith didn't hear Mrs. S moving, she stood up and whirled around, “Mrs. S! Joyce!!!” Faith yelled, trying to get Joyce's attention, “Joyce, look at me. Go and call Giles now, tell him to get his friggin' tweedy butt over her now cause Buffy's hurt, k?”
Faith saw Joyce nod and move towards the phone, satisfied she went back to tending to the injuries she could see.
Giles heard the phone ringing and finally reached over to answer it. “Yes??” Giles asked sleepily.
“Giles, it's Joyce.” Giles eyes popped open. “It's Buffy, she's hurt and Faith is here and she said…”
Giles interrupted Joyce's frightened babble. “Joyce, calm down. Buffy will be fine and I'll be there in 5 minutes. Ok?”
Joyce's quiet voice answered, “Ok.”
Ten minutes later Giles walked into the Summers' home and saw Buffy lying on the couch and Faith tending to her. Joyce ran over to Giles and he held her as Joyce clung to him.
“Joyce dear, it'll be okay. Let me go take a look at Buffy.” Giles cupped Joyce's cheek, “Buffy will be fine Joyce; she's the Slayer.” Giles walked over and saw the wrap on Buffy's ribs and the bandage on her stomach, “Was that all Faith?” he asked.
Looking up Faith masked her concern quickly; “Yeah, the cut and her ribs were it except for those burn marks on her clothes and body. Any ideas what she run into G-man?”
Giles kneeled down and checked Buffy's eyes, noting their slow reaction to the light and her ragged pulse. “Damn!” Giles whispered. “She seems to be suffering from shock. Those are electrical burns on her…most likely she was ambushed by the Initiative…again!”
“Again?” Both Faith and Joyce asked at the same time.
Sighing, “Yes, again. Buffy ran into some problems last night with the Initiative. It seems they've changed their minds about her and tried taking her in.” Giles took off his glasses and started cleaning them.
Anger raced thru Faith, “Why the FUCK didn't you send backup with Buffy then? Christ G-Man!!! You knew they were after her and you didn't do anything??” Faith yelled as she started to pace back and forth.
Joyce kept silent, no less angry than Faith, but she'd have a few 'words' with Giles privately.
“There was nothing we could do. The rest knew about the attack and we felt they would back off before trying again.” Giles replied patiently.
“Well look at what you thought now!!” Faith started to yell again. “Buffy's…”
“And yelling at me won't do anything Faith!” Giles replied angrily. Fear for his Slayer and his own anger at the attack overriding his British reserve.
“All we can do for now is watch her and let her Slayer healing fix the damage from the tazer rifles. We'll keep a watch on her in shifts. I'll…”
“No!” Faith replied quickly cutting Giles off. “I'll watch her Giles,” and Faith stalked off over to Buffy and sat down on the floor next to the couch.
Joyce raised one eyebrow, “Good. Then we can talk…won't we ‘Rupert’.” With that Joyce walked upstairs for the bedroom leaving Giles alone.
[Bloody lovely] Giles thought as he headed up the stairs expecting a few choice words from Joyce. As he turned Giles missed seeing Faith tenderly trace her fingers over Buffy's face or the fear on Faith's features as she looked down at Buffy.
Gabrielle stopped as she saw the sun break over the horizon and shaded her eyes with her hand.
Quietly she glided into their lair, a house that was no longer needed by its owners and soundlessly walked up the stairs towards her lovers bedroom. As she stood in the doorway Gabrielle saw Xena sleeping soundly on the bed. Moving as quietly as a gentle breeze, Gabrielle slowly crept towards the brunette lying so still, [this time I'll surprise her!!] Gabrielle thought.
Just as she started to lean over her lover, Gabrielle squeaked in surprise as she felt her love’s hands tickle her. Before she could blink Gabrielle found herself held flat on her back looking up into Xena’s laughing blue eyes as she straddled the blonde bard, before the warrior captured her lips in a gentle kiss. Frowning Gabrielle looked up at her mate “You know Xe, I STILL can’t figure out how you do that to me after all these centuries!”
Xena's face quirked into a grin “I have many talents.” She proudly announced as she stroked the blonde’s hair; Gabrielle purred at the caress [I’m one of the luckiest beings on the planet.]
The warrior asked, “How'd everything go tonight, any problems?”
Gabrielle's face went serious; “It went well until The Slayer ran into that reject from a Frankenstein movie. She went all out on that thing and she didn’t even put one dent in it. She’s even stronger and faster than you were when you were Mortal, and that thing just shrugged it all off.”
The warrior frowned, “Maybe I was wrong then about her...”
The bard shook her head, “You weren’t wrong. She just can’t do it all by herself, she’s going to need her friends if she's going to defeat it. I’ve Seen it, if she tries to face the monster alone, she’ll die. Only if she has her friends help her can she win.”
“So what happened then? Was the Slayer hurt?”
“It got in a few blows before those soldiers showed up again, out for her blood. Mix and match disappeared, and those rifles the commandos were using hurt her, but only after she took out three of them. I took out the other two soldiers and dropped her off at her house, but that's now what was interesting Xe...”
“Oh?” Xena asked as one eyebrow went up.
“There other Slayer was there; dark hair, tall...very cute.” [I wonder what she'd look like...] “Hmmm, did you say something?” Gabrielle asked when she saw her lover staring at her waiting for an answer.
“I asked if the other ‘cute’ Slayer saw you?”
“Oh, no. I made sure of that. But she does seem to be attracted to your Slayer, though.”
Xena thought about what Gabrielle said, “That is news. Was the Slayer ok though?”
“Yes, maybe a broken rib, and a cut. She should heal in a day or so I'd think.”
“Good, good…” Xena then looked thoughtfully at the bard beneath her, “So how do you know that from just seeing this other Slayer once that she likes my Slayer?” When Gabrielle didn't respond, “Ahh yes, your vaunted “love match” ability again?” Xe teased Gabrielle.
“Ha! Ha! Ha! You know I'm always right about these things. We bards have that talent you know.” Gabrielle answered haughtily, before sticking her tongue out at Xena, who laughed at her lover’s face, before becoming serious again.
“But will she accept the ‘gift’ when it's time Gabrielle? That's what worries me, if she doesn't...” Xena’s question trailed off as Gabrielle reached up and put her forefinger on the warrior’s lips, hushing her. “All will happen as it is meant to or not, Xe.”
“Yes. You don’t have to ask love, just let the things run their course,” Gabrielle replied as she kissed Xena hungrily, rendering any more conversation unnecessary for some time.
Back in the Initiative Complex, ADAM reviewed what he had seen last night, to wring as much intelligence from it as he could.
ADAM activated his radar as the smoke obscured his normal vision.
Moving back he placed some distance between himself and the incoming commando squad.
Interesting odds, radar shows there are 6 of them, all closing in on the Slayer. Let's see what she does.
ADAM watched as the Slayer took out 3 of the commandos quite efficiently, but the other 2 are still combat effective.
Suddenly the sixth entity on ADAM’s radar launched itself, not at the Slayer, but at the two surviving commandos, destroying them with a terrible speed and efficiency. ADAM watched as the creature picked up the fallen Slayer and disappeared into the night.
2 Hours Later….
ADAM spoke softly to himself, “Targeting the Slayer directly would not distract her. However if one of her ‘friends’ were killed, projections show a 92% probability of success at eliminating the Slayer.”
ADAM turned back to the console as he downloaded the information and picture into Hostile 225's target files. When he was done, he opened the enormous steel door to allow the beast within to begin its hunt. As it walked out of the complex ADAM’s lips twitched in a pitiful attempt to smile.
“Very good then. Very shortly the Slayer will no longer be concerned about what I might be doing, as Hunter 001 will have given her good reason to focus on her family and friends. By the time she finds a way to deal with him, it will be much too late to stop me.”
That night, Joyce stepped out of the food court and headed towards the exit. Her steps quickly brought her to her car, which was parked close to the mall’s entrance.
As she fished them out of her purse, her keys slipped from her hand. As she bent down to grab them, Joyce felt burning agony as something tore her back open. Screaming in pain, she dropped flat to the ground, in an instinctive attempt to escape whatever was attacking her.
She scrambled under the car next to her and she saw two large furry feet standing next to her car. She nearly screamed again as she watched the creature pick up her car and throw it across the parking lot, crushing several cars.
She froze as still as a mouse watching a snake, [oh my god oh my god oh my god] were Joyce’s only thoughts as she watched the beast start towards her hiding place.
Then Joyce heard screeching tires and police sirens coming closer. Closing her eyes, she heard something snarl and gunshots as an off duty cop pulled out his service revolver and opened fire.
She closed her eyes hearing the screams of the police trying to stop the rampaging horror, shooting it at point blank range as it charged into their midst and began tearing them apart.
She jumped as a hand touched her shoulder; when she looked up she saw a young woman kneeling on the ground beside the car she was under, looking at her.
“Let’s get you out of here before tall, dark, and furry gets back.” the young blonde said to her.
The woman moved her hand and held it in front of Joyce; hesitantly she put her hand in the blondes as she heard even more gunfire and screams.
The blonde stood only about 5' tall, but Joyce felt safe with her near.
“O-o-okay, now what?” Joyce asked as the wounds on her back began to burn.
The blonde smiled at her disarmingly, “Now we get you to the hospital. Now hold on to me and stay low. Okay?”
“Okay,” Joyce answered nervously. Looking at the blonde, Joyce suddenly realized who the blonde was when she heard a loud snarl and before she thought about it, she looked around catching a glimpse of her attacker for the first and last time, as the enraged beast hurled itself at her, it’s bloody jaws and claws reaching for her.
[It looks like a werewolf…] was her last thought before she fainted.
Gabrielle tossed Mrs. Summer’s limp form at the Bacchae that had accompanied her, an instant before she hurled her smaller frame at the snarling monster trying to tear The Slayer’s mother to bloody ribbons. An instant before she hit the beast, she shifted to her true form. After a short but savage exchange of blows, she sent her larger foe flying, putting it through the windshield of a truck.
“Nuh uh-uh!” Gabrielle said as she waved her finger at it. “Naughty puppy. We don't eat MY friends for dinner.”
“Sharra, get the woman to a hospital, before she bleeds to death. I’ll take care of fang-boy here.” Gabrielle said over her shoulder as she watched the enraged creature literally dismantle the vehicle in its efforts to get free. Sharra nodded reluctant acceptance of her Elder’s orders, before moving at her best speed to carry out her task.
Once free, instead of continuing the battle, it began to sniff the air. [Oh, no you don’t] the blonde Bacchae thought as she charged the monster [No snacking on Joyce on MY watch!]
As soon as it spotted her move, it snarled and leaped, eager to dispatch the pale creature that dared come between it and its prey. And the battle began in earnest.
Gabrielle found herself forced to fight a hit and run battle, as her foe seemed invulnerable to all but the most powerful blows, while having strength enough to make any mistake she made fatal.
As the creature tripped her Gabrielle pulled her legs up and in front of the creature launching it into the air and slamming into a fuel truck. The creature stood up and roared its anger and pain before picking up a pickup truck and throwing it at her.
Gabrielle jumped and flew to her left, easily dodging the car and letting it crash behind her.
As she landed, she looked up in time to see the next blow coming, but not soon enough to avoid it. The strike blasted the breath from her lungs, as the power behind the strike sent her flying for at least thirty feet.
She rolled to one side, even as it’s clawed foot slammed down on the pavement she'd landed on, hard enough to crack it [Damn, it's quick!]
She slashed at it, continuing her hit and run tactics, trying to wear it down. But nothing she did seemed to really slow it [Damn thing acts like it doesn't care whether it lives or not, just as long as it can kill its target!]
As Gabrielle dodged one of its swipes, her foot hit a spot of the beast's blood, causing her to slip. As she caught herself, she felt rather than saw the next blow coming.
Unable to move fast enough to avoid the strike, the blow sends her through the outer wall of the Sunnydale Mall, half burying her in bricks. As she starts to claw her way out of the debris, she looks up just in time to see the werewolf throw a medium-sized van at her. [This one is going to hurt when it hits.]
For a long moment, the beast stands ready, waiting for the pale creature to rise and attack again. When it doesn't return, it howls in triumph before renewing the hunt for its primary objective.
Continued in Chapter 6