DISCLAIMER: Not mine, which is a shame because usually we're nicer to them than Joss was.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: When Lindsey got away from Buffy and Faith, Faith went back to Wolfram and Hart to talk to Wes about it, only to save him from a demon attack; the video Wes reviewed showed Angel staking Spike, but he refused to believe it, especially when Fred called to say the dust wasn’t Spike’s; and Buffy met Dr. Guerrero and witnessed Dana’s behavior firsthand…
It helped that Buffy could see Dr. Guerrero out of the corner of her eye in the observation window. She wasn’t scared of Dana hurting her, and the doctor’s assurances that the drugs the orderlies had administered would temper her more violent tendencies were more than believable, but that didn’t stop her stomach from doing the cha-cha as she let the door slip shut behind her.
“I’m not sure what you hope to accomplish,” Dr. Guerrero had said.
Buffy shrugged. “I just want to talk to her.”
That had been easier said when there had been safety glass between them. Now Buffy stood in the same room with the girl who had cut off Spike’s arms. With the opportunity staring in her face – or, more accurately, staring at the floor – she was unsure exactly how to start.
“What happens on Saturday?”
Though her voice was low, Dana enunciated clearly, leaving no doubt about what she had said. Giles had warned Buffy about how Dana lived with all these Slayer dreams, memories of other Slayers somehow manifesting themselves in her subconscious, and while Dana’s earlier statement to Buffy had obviously been directed specifically to her, Buffy didn’t know what this particular question was supposed to evoke.
She edged around the room, making sure to stay off the sheet. Dr. Guerrero had warned that Dana might perceive it as a threat to her safe domain, and the last thing Buffy wanted was for the other girl to think of her as dangerous. When she stood in front of Dana, she knelt down, putting them at the same eye level.
“Do you know who I am?” she asked.
Dana lifted her head, again meeting Buffy with eyes so dark they were nearly black. The glass had distorted how expressive they really were, which took Buffy by surprise. She had expected them to be dulled with incoherence, but Dana looked more alive than half the other Slayers Buffy knew. She could practically see the thoughts flying through her head and waited until Dana had settled on the one she wanted in order to answer the question.
“She who hangs out a lot in cemeteries. Slayer comma the.” She paused. “Buffy.”
It was a step in the right direction, making Buffy smile. “And do you know who you are?”
“No, that’s what you are. Do you know who you are?”
This seemed to stymie Dana, and her thin brows drew together in a frown. She glanced over Buffy’s shoulder, seeking out Dr. Guerrero’s gaze, but apparently didn’t find what she was looking for. “Slayer,” she repeated.
Maybe she was pushing too hard. “I flew in from Rome to meet you,” Buffy tried instead. “I wanted to make sure you got taken care of. I stayed here, you know. A long time ago. So I know kind of what you’re going through. Kind of.” She stopped, floundering for what to say next. Her gaze jumped around the room as she thought, but it was the sight of the destroyed bedframe that prompted her to continue. “Do you want another bed brought in? I can ask Dr. Guerrero—”
“Not safe. Not now.”
All of a sudden, she extended a hand to Buffy, her hospital gown falling away to expose her arm. Buffy’s eyes widened at the sight of the vicious scratches that marred her skin, before jumping to the bloodstains that ringed the sheet. Why had they let Dana hurt herself like this? If she was a danger to herself, she should’ve been in a straitjacket. But Buffy knew the answer to that almost as soon as she thought of it. Dr. Guerrero didn’t like them. She wanted Dana treated as normally as possible.
Buffy didn’t blame her.
“Not safe,” Dana repeated.
Hesitantly, Buffy accepted the outstretched hand, then gasped when Dana yanked to pull her onto the sheet. She fell forward, but was stopped from falling by Dana’s strong arms.
“Thanks.” She wasn’t going to try and pretend to understand what was going on, but at least it appeared that Dana trusted her. “You don’t think Dr. Guerrero is going to hurt you, do you?” she asked, crossing her legs to sit more comfortably. “Because she won’t. I’m not going to let anybody hurt you again, Dana.”
Again, her gaze slid over Buffy’s shoulder and remained there as she spoke. The similarity to Dr. Guerrero’s broad New England accent sent shivers down Buffy’s spine.
“If you think I’m going to let this change a thing, you don’t know me at all.”
“Well, you can certainly give Meryl Streep a run for her money,” Buffy muttered as she shifted to glance back at the doctor. She only caught a glimpse of her before the woman headed for the exit, leaving the observation room empty, and by the time Buffy turned back to Dana, the other Slayer was gazing at her in solemn expectation. “Look. I know you’re having…memories of other Slayers, and you seem to be pretty good at mimicking people you hear around you, but I kind of wanted to talk to you. I want you to tell me how you’re feeling.” On impulse, she patted the sheet. “Now that we’re both safe.”
Dana followed the movement of Buffy’s hand. Her hair fell across her face as she looked down, and the room itself seemed to stop breathing in those seconds while her broken mind tried vainly to work. Then her weight shifted so that she was leaning forward again, resting on the hand she splayed next to Buffy’s.
“Strong.” She looked up at Buffy through her hair. “You’re strong, too.”
“I know. We’re both Slayers.”
“No. Head and heart. Strong.”
The simple declaration stunned Buffy into silence. Before she had the opportunity to try and respond, the lock turned in the door, and both heads, dark and light, turned in the sound’s direction to see Dr. Guerrero standing in the entrance with an orderly behind her.
“It’s time for Dana’s medication,” she said.
Buffy blinked. “Oh. That came quick.”
“Time has a way of warping when you’re trying to get through to a patient,” Dr. Guerrero said with a smile. “This will give both of you the chance to get some rest. You can pick up with this in the morning.”
The last thing she wanted was to stop when it looked like she was finally gaining Dana’s trust, but she also knew that a schedule had to be kept if they wanted to keep Dana from getting violent again. When she tried to stand, however, Dana clamped a powerful hand around her wrist, stopping her from going.
“Not safe,” she said. Her eyes slid sideways as if she was listening to something, and then she added, “No more mind games. No more mind.”
Buffy didn’t need to hear the sudden British accent to tell her who Dana had heard the words from. She wouldn’t ever forget that scene in the church with Spike; it would always be etched in her memory and in that soft corner of her heart that only he had access to.
“We can’t wait, Buffy.”
Dr. Guerrero was starting to sound impatient, so gently, Buffy pried herself out of Dana’s grasp. “I’ll be back first thing in the morning,” she said. “I promise.”
As soon as she stepped off the sheet, the doctor and orderly were there, and she watched as they sank the needle into Dana’s arm, trying not to wince when the tip pierced her skin. Buffy waited until they were all out in the hall again before asking, “Why can’t I stay with her for a little while longer? If she’s medicated, she won’t be a threat, right?”
Dr. Guerrero’s smile was kind. “Because you’re exhausted. And Dana is saying things that are clearly getting to you. I really do think you’ll both be better off getting sleep.”
They began walking down the hall, heading toward the private wing where the other Slayers were staying. “She’s scared of something,” Buffy mused. “I just wish I knew what it was.”
“She trusts you. That’s a tremendous advantage. Maybe tomorrow, you can coax her to use her own words to try and communicate with you.”
“She’s even stealing your words, it sounds like.”
Dr. Guerrero chuckled. “Dana’s a sponge right now. She’s absorbing everything from everywhere. The medication is helping to keep her from overloading, but there’s only so much it can do.” They came to a junction and stopped. “I’ll make sure she’s monitored overnight. Everything she does, everything she says. If there’s anything at all that I think you’d be interested in, I’ll come get you. Okay?”
It was a good compromise and all Buffy wanted. With a smile and a nod, she left Dr. Guerrero to head for the private rooms, but the hopes that talking with Dana would distract her from Spike were gone. If anything, Dana had made it worse.
Faith better call soon, she thought. And if not, Buffy was going to start making some calls of her own.
The fact that Wes said little on the ride to his apartment suited Faith just fine. Her stomach ached from the slash marks that were still oozing, and her head hurt from the effort it took to block out the sight of the demon flying at Wesley. She didn’t need to deal with attempts at idle chitchat when she was feeling neither idle nor chatty. Sitting and staring out at the neon streaming past was more than enough.
He was out of the car and at her door before she could open it, and Faith hesitated before accepting his assistance. “It didn’t get my legs, you know,” she commented.
He didn’t move out of the way. “You haven’t let go of your stomach since we left the office, and you’re still bleeding. Factor in your jet lag, and odds are very good you won’t make it to my front door.”
The unspoken now stop being stubborn in his tone made her shake her head, but Faith took his hand anyway, oddly grateful for the unyielding line of his body as she climbed from the car. They didn’t speak as they navigated to his apartment, and she leaned against the wall as he unlocked the door.
“What did the cameras tell you about what happened to Spike?” she asked, closing her eyes.
“Not what I’d hoped.” He flicked on the light inside the doorway before turning back to her. He eased his arm around the small of her back again, guiding her over the threshold. “But Fred’s findings contradicted the visible evidence, so we aren’t done yet.”
“Too many fucking spies in that place,” she muttered.
“What do you mean? Lie down.”
Faith winced as she stretched out on the couch. “How do you think Buffy found out about Spike? She had a front row seat for his whole op. Complete with Angel commentary extras.”
Wesley’s hands stilled where they’d been pushing up her shirt. “She watched his surgery? How?”
“How else? The wonders of modern geekhood. Somebody sent her a laptop that was tapped into your security system.”
“But who would do that?”
“No clue. Someone who thinks plain brown paper isn’t just for jerking off any more.” She glanced down at his unmoving hands. “You want to get the show on the road here? Only got so much blood to spare.”
But his mind was already at work, thoughts visibly churning behind his bright blue eyes. It hadn’t occurred to Faith to wonder too much about who was behind Buffy’s surprise. She just figured it was someone at Wolfram & Hart who thought she should know. Considering the events of the past twenty-four hours, that was seeming more and more unlikely.
And it looked like Wes was finding it as suspicious as she was.
He swabbed the flowing blood with cotton that came from a first aid kit she’d never seen him retrieve. “I didn’t realize you were staying with Buffy.” His tone was neutral, but the way he kept his gaze averted belied the casual observation. “Andrew didn’t say.”
“Yeah, well, he wouldn’t know.” When he blotted an unexpectedly sore path of skin, Faith winced, closing her eyes. “B’s letting me crash with her while I figure out what comes next.”
“You’re still slaying, I see.”
“You know a better way to scratch that particular itch?”
She thought her comment would draw a reaction at the very least, but the room fell silent, Wesley’s hands slowing. When she finally dared to look at him, his head was bowed, his brows drawn together as his warm fingertips hovered along an injury she’d hoped nobody would ever see.
“I think that shower’s sounding better and better,” she said, trying to sit up.
His hand shot out and pressed her shoulder, and though she knew she had the strength to break away from it, Faith paused to meet the concern in his darkening eyes.
“What happened?” he asked.
“What does it look like happened? Something took a bite out of me.”
“But not today.”
Faith rolled her eyes and pushed his hand away. “What was your first clue, Sherlock? That fact that I’m not bleeding like a stuck pig from it any more?” Swinging her legs over the side, she stood and headed for the bathroom. “If you’ve got a shirt or something I can change into, that’d be great. I’ll get out of your hair once I’m all cleaned up.”
He wasn’t coming after her, but the quiet force of his voice was enough to drag her to a halt, her hand gripping the jamb of the bathroom door. “It’s not a big deal,” she tried again. “All part of being a Slayer, right? You win some, you…” The next made her choke. “…lose some.”
“It doesn’t look like it’s healing properly,” Wes said, maintaining that same even timbre. “Who took care of it for you?”
She blinked. Her eyes stung. “Nobody. Did it myself.”
“Did it happen in Rome?”
He wasn’t going to let this go. The tenacity that was going to get answers for Buffy and Angel was going to hound Faith until she spilled all the details he wanted to hear. “No,” she conceded. “Cleveland.”
When he didn’t press, she glanced back. Wes stood next to the couch, his fingers blood-stained, his features solemn. He looked like he was waiting for something, but for the life of her, Faith had no clue what it could be.
“Does it look bad?” she asked when it grew too unbearable.
After a moment, he nodded. “I think it’s infected. Has it been tender?”
“It was tolerable. Until I jumped that demon this afternoon.”
“It’ll probably hurt, but you should let me re-open it so that I can clean it out. Is it the only one?”
Her knuckles went white around the jamb, but she said, “No.”
Wesley frowned. “I don’t understand why you’d keep these injuries so secret. At the very least, you should have received medical attention, Faith.”
Something inside her snapped. “There wasn’t anybody else, okay? There was me, and there was Robin, and then there was this fucking huge demon that came out of nowhere. Only I didn’t see it. And I didn’t stop it. And then there was just me and the demon, and it was too late to fucking do anything.”
The jamb splintered in her hand, and she tossed the wood to the floor in disgust before whirling on her heel and marching into the bathroom. The door resonated behind her from the force of her slam, but it didn’t satisfy the aching hole that had returned to her gut. There was a reason she didn’t talk about what happened, and no amount of blue-eyed sympathy from the one person in the world who should care the least about her was going to make her do it.
She didn’t even bother turning on the cold water. Steam filled the bathroom and dulled her thoughts almost immediately.
This wasn’t the way Lindsey had wanted to do it. He’d wanted to get the information straight from the source, to be able to talk to Dana’s doctor and read her as she gave him the answers he needed. That would give him twice as much to work with. People were just as valuable as facts. Knowing Gemma Guerrero would have given him all the power he needed.
That wasn’t possible now. His cover was blown. What the hell was Faith doing out of jail anyway?
There wasn’t time to wonder about that. If he couldn’t get the information from Dr. Guerrero, he had no choice but to go to Dana’s file. It was just a good thing he didn’t have to worry about Watts’ security system.
The halls were dimmed and quiet, his footsteps equally so as he neared the office door. The low murmur of voices emanated from the nurses’ station yards down the corridor, but nobody looked his way, nobody noticed when he stopped, nobody paid any attention as he picked the lock and slipped inside. The darkness made him pause to get his bearings. He couldn’t turn the lights on. The tattoos might make him impervious to electronic detection, but they wouldn’t stop someone from noticing a light on in an office that was supposed to be empty. He was resourceful, not stupid.
He ignored the secretary’s desk and headed straight for the inner room. Dr. Guerrero’s sanctum. This would be where she kept the important documents, those that she feared most being seen by unwanted eyes. It intrigued him that Buffy Summers had shown up to deal with the Dana Jameson issue herself, but like the question of Faith, that was a problem for another day. When Angel finally realized he wasn’t nearly as big and important as he seemed to think he was.
With the inside door closed against the outside, Lindsey could finally indulge in some illumination, pulling out his flashlight to peer around the small room. Dr. Guerrero hadn’t been spoiled with accommodations. All the office contained was a desk, the utilitarian chair standing off-center behind it, and a wastebasket. Rounding the corner, he began testing each drawer, stopping only when he reached the locked one in the middle. That was the one he wanted. That would be the one that hid the files.
He knelt down, sticking the flashlight in his mouth to free his hands. The lock was simple, but if he didn’t want anybody to know he’d been there, he had to open it with finesse. It took skill. Attention to detail. Concentration.
The overhead light flooded the room. Lindsey blinked and almost dropped his flashlight as his head snapped up.
Gemma Guerrero blocked the doorway, dark eyes flashing as she regarded him with barely contained fury. “You’ve got five seconds to give me a reason why I shouldn’t kick your ass right about now,” she threatened.
To be continued in Chapter 6: Is It Safe Inside Your Head?…