Ch. 18 – Eye of the Storm
“Careful with his head,” Dawn directed as Giles carried Ethan into the nearest room and placed him in the bed.
“Bring some more lights in here,” Kennedy called, running out to gather equipment.
Buffy looked to her sister. “Okay, Dawnie. Tell us what you need.”
The younger girl looked the patient over with uncertain fear in her shimmering eyes. “Get me bandages. A lot. And antiseptic. Um… Morphine for the pain. Did they leave anything?”
“I think the Doc had some in her bag,” Xander said. “I’ll go get it.”
“Find an IV stand,” Dawn continued. “One of the portable ones with batteries. And he’ll need blood… find a transfusion kit.” She looked around, panicked. “I don’t know his blood type. Testing kits. Where do they keep… I don’t know what to do.”
“You’re doing fine,” Giles spoke calmly to her from Ethan’s other side. “Concentrate on all the first aid we’ve learned over the years.” He glanced over at Willow. “He’s type A positive. If you can’t find that in the blood storage, bring as much plasma as you can.” She gave him a nod and ran from the room.
“You know his…?” Dawn whispered.
The Watcher smiled at her. “Our youthful misadventures ended with us sharing hospital rooms more than once. I remember because, when he found out, he bragged it was the only test in his life he’d ever received an A+ on.” Dawn laughed through her tears at the thought. “Good. Calm and steady now.” He picked a bandage from the large box that had been brought in. “Now, if we don’t plug all these holes first, it won’t matter how much blood we pump back into him.”
The girl nodded at him and took a deep breath. “We’ve got this,” she breathed out and they both went to work.
In the lounge, Spike leaned against a wall under a no-smoking sign. He took a long drag of his cigarette. Alone in the dark, empty room, Wood stared back at him.
“You’re just going to stand here a let them save that traitor’s life?” the demon hunter asked in a low rumble.
“Looks like,” Spike murmured.
“You promised justice for my mother. Now I’ll never have that. All because he betrayed everyone you care about and got me killed.”
“They say he did it for the Watcher.”
Wood’s eyes narrowed. “The one who actually did kill me. Seems like they’re both nothing but ticking time-bombs. Who knows when they’ll go off and wipe out the only family you’ve got.”
The vampire eyed him, unmoved. “You’re forgetting someone else who fits in that ‘possibly evil’ bunch. This is where I’m accepted, isn’t it? My family, you say. But only because they have that annoying ability to see past your mistakes, no matter how evil.” He ducked his head and mumbled. “Guess that’s what good really is, huh?”
“Good eliminates threats to the world,” Wood snapped. “Threats like the lying sorcerer. Hell, he’s ready to go. You could just slip in, take him out, and they’d think he was too weak to make it. You know he can’t be trusted. It’s the only logical course of action.”
“Logic doesn’t equal right, or the winning side. You might remember a bloke named Adam… Ask him.”
“You know, sooner or later he’ll go off on one of these one-man secret missions again. What happens next time when it’s someone you really care about who pays the price? What happens when he finally gets Buffy killed and you remember you could have prevented it all right here.”
Spike slowly dropped and stomped out his cigarette, then shook his head with a small smile. “Magic Man really has you brassed off at him. Played you like an accordion, dinnit he? Good try, but I ain’t doing your dirty work for you. As for the guy who’s face you’re stealin’… I’m doing right by him as best I can, lookin’ after these Slayers and Watchers. All I can do for him now.”
“You’ll regret this,” the First hissed. “I’ll make you all regret your whole existence.”
“Yeah.” Spike gave a dark grin. “But I can see that twitch goin’ in your eye. You’re never gonna forget this Slayer or this fight.” The First growled and disappeared. “Hey, I’ll save you a seat in the Big Bads Beat by Buffy support group.”
“His pulse is too weak,” Dawn cried. “I can’t get the bleeding to stop.”
“Let me deal with that one,” Giles took over on an especially deep wound. “He needs more blood. Squeeze the bag to pump it in faster.”
The young girl did as instructed. “Giles, what if we can’t save him? Maybe his only chance is if you…”
“We’re not considering that,” he stated, not looking up from his work. To Kennedy, who stood awaiting more orders, he said, “I’m going to need more sutures for this. And tell Willow we’ll need more blood bags.” She was out the door before he finished.
“He’s still unconscious and his breathing is erratic,” Dawn informed him.
“Talk to him anyway, Dawn. He’s a survivor. Tell him you know that. If anyone can talk his way off the Grim Reaper’s collection list, it’s Ethan.”
She bent to whisper in her patient’s ear. “Hear that? We’re doing everything we can, but you have to fight with us. You want to open your eyes and see me again, don’t you? Come on, Ethan. I want… I need you to stay here with me.”
Faith scanned the darkness from the hospital roof. She handed the binoculars back to the posted potential and moved to another position. Standing next to Xander, she smiled, “Surprised at you. Changing your mind and making the clutch speech to save Mr. Magic back there.”
“Didn’t do it for him,” Xander muttered.
“Then why?” she looked at him curiously.
Xander’s gaze remained directed into the silent darkness. “I did it for Dawn. If she hadn’t been able to save him, she would have blamed herself forever. I wasn’t going to let that happen.”
“Ahh,” Faith nodded. “So, guy got lucky.”
“If you want the truth, I am rooting for Dawnie and G-man to work their magic and save him now. I don’t want them suffering any more. Especially not because of him. But, if he pulls through, one day he’ll answer to me for putting all that on her.” Xander took a deep breath. “I know Dawn’s special. It doesn’t mean he gets to make her responsible for his sorry hide.”
The Slayer shrugged. “She cares about him. Sees the good in people. Isn’t that what makes her special in the first place?”
“Yes. But it irks me when it’s a weasel taking advantage of her that she cares so much about.”
Faith smiled. “You can be irked all you want, I just wouldn’t go trying to tell Dawn who she should and shouldn’t care about.”
Xander finally looked over at her with an unreadable expression. “I’m irked, not stupid.”
“Keep an eye out,” Faith grinned at him. “Buffy thinks the First might have used him to open the Hellmouth again.”
“The only one I’ve got, at your service,” he called after her as she moved on.
“That’s is,” Willow repeated. “We found those bags in the storage fridge down in the ER. It must have been the last place they evacuated. Every other floor has been cleaned out.”
Giles shook his head slowly as he paced. “It’s never going to be enough. For the first hour it was leaking out as fast as we were giving it to him.” He stopped and ran a hand through his ruffled hair. Catching a strange smile cross Willow’s face, he groused, “What?”
“Nothing,” the redhead tried to hide another smile. “It’s just… I suddenly got this overwhelming urge to return a library book.”
Giles glanced down at his tweed vest and trousers, and sighed. “We need a solution to the current problem.”
“That’s the last of it,” Dawn called from the bedside. “Even his bruises look pale, Giles.”
“I know. There’s just not enough.”
“Maybe a spell?” Willow asked. “A… a duplicating spell! Cast on his blood cells. It could work just like mitosis.”
The Watcher muttered, “And if we got it the slightest bit wrong, his own blood could burst all his arteries and he’d hemorrhage to death.”
“If it’s his best chance…” Willow argued.
Kennedy tapped on the open door. “Somebody call for a hero squad?” Behind her stood Molly and Amanda. “We’ve tested everybody. It turns out the three of us have his blood type. We’ve talked it over, and we’re all willing to help out. That is, if you need us to top him off.”
Dawn ran over to hug them all. “You guys are awesome.”
Giles smiled at them with pride. “Potential Slayers, and already heroes every one.”
Molly walked in and sat down by the bed. “No worries. Besides, we were promised all the biscuits we wanted.” She grinned at them. “Come on then. Mr. Ethan isn’t gonna refill himself.”
“Has he woken up at all?” Buffy quietly asked her sister.
“Sorry,” Dawn shook her head. “To tell the truth, this is the first he’s actually looked like he’ll make it. He’s not going to be doing anything anytime soon.” She gave a tiny smile. “Except not dying.”
“Yeah,” the Slayer ducked her head worriedly. “I’m glad to see you smiling again. I’ll take that to mean he has a good chance. Just… If he does say anything. We need to know if any Shakta Kahn escaped the Hellmouth.”
“Turak-Han,” the younger Summers mumbled and nodded. “It’ll be the first question. I promise.”
“Nothing yet?” Spike asked as he approached.
“No,” Buffy walked with him down the hallway. “If he remembers anything, we won’t know until he wakes up.”
“We can go check it out ourselves,” the vampire offered. “There’s still time tonight.”
She frowned. “Time for that means time for the First’s pets to show up here and try to repo a few of Its losses. No… I’d rather be not sure and ready for trouble than out looking for it while the girls are under attack.”
“Your call,” Spike agreed. “Likely a good one, too. The First wants Magic Man taken out in a bad way. Your Watcher, too. It’s been prodding for help from the inside.”
“You had a visit,” Buffy didn’t sound surprised.
“Gave me every good reason It could come up with. Made the poor bugger sound like all four horseman wrapped up in one mostly dead package.”
“Yep. I dozed off for a minute and woke up to mom telling me how he was nothing but an old scoundrel, and that Dawn was in love with him and he’d end up ruining her life. Best to save her from his unsavory ways now.”
Spike scowled. “That conjures images I didn’t need in my un-life.”
“I know, right?” Buffy stuck her tongue out in a disgusted expression. She let out a deep breath. “As much as I hate to admit it, seems like Ethan really did do us a favor. The First can’t control Giles anymore, we have the scythe, and Giles knows all Its plans. We’ve never had as much chance of beating It as we do now.”
The muffled sound of an air-horn came from the roof. A few seconds later a loud crash echoed out of the room down the hall. “Buffy!” Dawn screamed.
Slayer and vampire didn’t even look at each other before they were sprinting towards the trouble. Both hit the door jamb hard, nearly tumbling into Ethan’s room. The outside window was completely shattered all over the floor. Dawn was half draped over her patient, trying to protect him from any further injury. And Giles was precariously pinned between the hospital bed and the Turak-Han trying to go through him so it could rip its main target to shreds.
Spike hurried to help Giles drive back the super-vamp. Even working together, they couldn’t hold its strength. Both were shoved into the bed, making it scoot along the floor with an earsplitting sound. Ethan jostled violently. With no fear of the brutal fight just inches away, Dawn climbed all the way onto the bed, attempting to hold Ethan steady with her whole body. She knew, the more he was tossed around, the more of their patchwork would be undone.
Buffy ran away from the fight, to the corner of the room where the scythe had been set down. Scooping it up, she spun toward the fray. Giles and Spike pushed together with all of their combined might. They watched the wooden point of the scythe appear through the monster’s chest. The Turak-Han’s eyes went wide and Spike gave a little farewell wave as it disintegrated into dust, leaving only Buffy staring back at them.
She twirled the weapon around her hand with ease and grinned, “That will teach him to pick on someone his own scythe.”
Spike shook his head and tried to hide his smile from her. “Guess that answers the Hellmouth question, hey Pet?”
“Yeah. I wonder how many more got out with him.”
Dawn was frantically checking Ethan for more bleeding when she suddenly lowered her ear to his lips. With tears in her eyes she looked up to her sister. “Two. He said two.” Turning back to his face, his eyes still too swollen shut to see, she whispered to him. “You’re awake. Don’t worry. I’m here to take care of you.” She leaned to hear him again and smiled. “You can have one now and one when you get better.” Then she carefully placed a gentle kiss on his bruised cheek.
Seeing this, Buffy closed her eyes and shook a disturbing thought out of her head. She turned her focus to the guys. “Two means there’s another one out there. Spike, send a message up to the roof to expect another visitor. And Giles,” she handed her Watcher the scythe. “I think it’s story time.”
“When was the last time you slept?” Buffy asked her sister.
“I don’t know,” she answered irritably from Ethan’s bedside. “When did you?”
“Dawnie, you need to take care of yourself, too. The sun’s as high as it can get, which means no more uber-vamps today. The girls are rotating shifts so they get enough sleep. Ethan’s stable and doing good. It’s time to look after yourself.”
Dawn gazed down at the hand she was holding. She felt a slight squeeze before it went limp again. “I’m afraid to leave him,” she admitted exhaustedly. “What if…?”
The Slayer smiled at her with understanding. “That’s why we moved him in here. There’s another bed right there. You don’t have to go anywhere.”
“He might wake up again.”
Willow walked in, her arms full of books. “I’ll sit with him. Giles and I still haven’t found out any more about the scythe. You’d think what the First told him would give us more to go on, but you know how the ancients were about leaving notes.” She glanced back and forth between the sisters. “I’m going to be sitting up and going through all these books anyway.”
“See, Dawn,” Buffy gestured at Willow. “He won’t be alone. And you’ll know as soon as anything happens.”
“All right,” the girl nodded as she reluctantly released his hand and trudged toward the welcoming bed. “But nap time for you, too. I saw you nodding off in the hall.”
“I will as soon as Faith wakes up for the next watch. I promise.” Buffy crossed the room and pulled a blanket over her already sleeping sister. “Can I help?” she whispered to Willow.
The redhead yawned as she sorted the books around her on the floor. “That’s okay, Buff. I know the research stuff isn’t your thing. But, hey… Maybe you can find out if my laptop made it in the great exodus. I’ve got some files on there that might help us.”
Kennedy had found a comfortable chair at the nurse’s station. She leaned back with her feet up on the desk and her eyes closed. The bandage on her arm itched, but she felt content with a belly full of juice and cookies. It was probably all in her mind, she imagined she could feel her strength coming back as she relaxed to let her body rebuild its blood supply.
“You took a shot,” a soft voice was suddenly beside her.
Kennedy’s eyes shot open and she quickly moved to stand. “Mr. Giles? Is something wrong?”
“Don’t get up,” he waved her back into her chair. “Everything’s fine. In fact, your hard work helped save Ethan’s life.”
“Owed him one,” she dismissed the praise. “Did you need something?”
He propped a hip on the desk and gazed down at her. “I just wanted to let you know I understood. Willow’s a very beautiful woman. Who wouldn’t take a shot given the opportunity?”
“Mr. Giles, I don’t know what you think happened, but you were gone. Willow needed someone help her get through what happened. You don’t have to worry. She’s great and I admit I would go for it given the chance. But she’s completely in love with you. You don’t have to worry about me or anybody.”
Something about the way he was looking at her made the girl want to retreat. “Oh, I know I don’t have to worry,” he murmured smoothly. “How can a little brat like you ever hope to compare to me?”
“I’m… I’m not trying…”
“You could never understand the power she holds within her. You can never hope to comprehend what she’s gone through. Things your pampered little nightmares would run in terror from.”
“What do you think--”
“Silence, Child! Willow belongs to me. Heart, body, and soul, she is mine. The only way you will ever even look at her again is if I no longer walk the planet. Do you understand!?!”
Kennedy cocked her head, contemplating him for a moment, then leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes again. “Pretty sure I do understand. Had me going for a second there. Hey, by the way, you might want to try another tactic. Finding someone around here who doesn’t actually like Mr. Giles, the real one, is gonna be pretty impossible. And anyone who’s still shaken up by what you made him do isn’t the one to be sneaking up behind him with a stake.”
“You will never get another chance to be with Willow while he’s still alive,” the First tried one more time.
“Guess it wasn’t meant to be,” the Potential sighed contentedly. “But there are plenty more girls out there for me. And anyone who really looks at those two can see they belong together anyway. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m kinda a big sap for that kind of thing.”
The First roared, “You’ll all die here! Destroy him and I will spare you.”
Kennedy shrugged, her eyes still closed. “Not dead yet.”
Fuming with rage, the First vanished.
“This is useless,” Willow groaned, letting her head fall onto the desk in front of her laptop with a thud.
Giles came up behind her and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “We just have to keep looking. Remember, it always felt like we looked through the entire library before we found the answer to any riddle.”
“Yeah, well… ‘Scythe forged by magick before time began’ seems to be pushing it. Two days, Giles. I don’t know how much more axe history I can take.”
He smiled down at her. “Nothing on the interweb thingy?”
The redhead glared up at him, knowing he got it wrong on purpose just to annoy her. “No,” she answered in a very putout tone. “Because you need a phone line to get onto the internet, which I don’t have. And you need power to run a computer, which my laptop battery will run out of in approximately ten minutes. And so, here we are, back at useless.”
“I’ll have you know,” he returned to his seat, “I was doing research just fine before those infernal boxes were even invented.”
“Yeah,” Willow teasingly stuck her tongue out at him. “Back when this thing was being forged in the next room.” She picked up the scythe. “I wish I could at least sense something about the energy Buffy said she felt when she held it. That might narrow down what kind of magick it is for us.”
“Maybe if you opened up… Tried to touch it with your own.”
“It’s too scary, Giles.” She shook her head. “What if it’s more than I can handle? What if it’s dark magick and takes me back to the bad place, the one with all black hair and veins?”
He smiled understandingly at her. “Willow, you’ve restored my soul twice since then. I think you’ve proven--”
“That’s different! It’s too big a risk.”
“All right. Then we keep looking.”
“Anything?” Buffy walked in, followed by Spike who was munching on something.
“No more than what we already knew I’m afraid,” Giles sighed.
Spike pointed to Willow’s computer screen. “What’s that?” he asked around a mouthful.
“Oh,” the redhead glanced at it, “Just a list of ancient symbols for scythes and axes.”
“That one there…” Spike stopped to empty the crumbs from the bottom of a bag of graham crackers into his mouth.
“What about it, Spike?” Giles asked impatiently.
“I seen it before, haven’t I?”
“Where?” Buffy asked, also growing impatient.
“Over at Restfield. It’s all over some weird old crypt out there. Shaped like a pyramid. Always thought it must have been some rich nutjob. Rumor in the underworld was it’s cursed. Any vamp who tried his luck gettin’ in never came back.”
“I know the place,” Buffy announced. “It’s worth checking out.”
“Agreed,” Giles nodded. “It’s unlikely to be a coincidence, given its proximity to the scythe’s hiding place.”
Spike took one look at Buffy and preempted her next statement. “We’re goin’ with you.”
“Spike, I can--”
“Not with another one of those monsters out there. You’re not going alone. And you might need Watcherman to figure out some gobbledygook when you find it.”
The Slayer put her fists on her hips. “And what if Cha Cha Boy comes here while we’re all out taking a stroll?”
“We’ve put the wards back in place,” Willow informed them. “I modified them to let Spike and Giles through and to work against the Turak-Han. We should be okay for a little while.”
“Settles it,” Spike started toward the stairs, tossing the empty bag behind him. “We’re off.”
“Oh, Spike…” Giles grabbed his jacket and followed. “Perhaps it’d be best to leave the food for those who need it. Don’t you think?”
“Relax,” the blond vampire dismissed. “There’s a machine full o’ sweets upstairs. Besides, my snack stash was raided and pumped into a big sack of trouble, if you recall.”