Five by Five -- by Five Chapter 5
As Faith listened to Willow as she began reciting the ancient spell that would release their souls from their bodies and allow them to connect and then enter the Void, she almost had second thoughts. But before she could say anything, everything began to blur – her sight, sounds, even her thoughts became unclear.
And then she was overwhelmed by new feelings, by sounds that weren’t there, and visions of grayness and fog and pinpoints of lights that danced towards and away from her -- swirling, fading and brightening.
Then she “heard” herself ask herself if she was okay.
‘Why would I ask myself if I was okay?’ Then she realized it must have been Willow.
‘I’m fine.’ She tried to say, but wasn’t sure if she was communicating.
Then she said, or was it Willow? ‘Good. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it. It’ll take a little time, but soon you’ll be able to tell your thoughts from mine.’
Faith decided, instead, to concentrate on what she thought she was seeing/not seeing and hearing/not hearing. But the more she concentrated, the more confusing everything seemed to be.
Again, another thought came to her. ‘Don’t try to take in everything at once. Just let yourself float along. I’ll be guiding us. By the time we locate Alti you’ll be just fine.’
‘How will we know when we find her?’
‘See all those lights? Those are the souls. See how they’re just drifting around? That’s because they’re just waiting. If you see one that is moving in a straight line, that will probably be Alti. She will have a destination. When we see one moving like that, we’ll try to get as close as possible, which is kind of dangerous, but it will be the only way to tell if it’s really her.’
‘After we determine that it is Alti, then we’ll destroy her.’
‘Well, I haven’t quite got that part figured out yet.’
‘A comforting thought. So, this is heaven?’
‘I don’t think so. I’m not really sure, but it might be like a bus station. The souls are just waiting until they go somewhere else -- heaven or hell, or maybe into a new body. Of course, I’m just guessing.’
As Spike continued to fan the mystic smoke over Faith and Willow’s body, he heard the door to his crypt open, and heard Buffy calling his name. He kept quiet, hoping she would think he wasn’t there, and would leave.
“What in GOD’s name is that stench?” He heard her yell out, her voice sounding quite near the ladder. “Spike? Are you down there? ‘Cause if you are, you’d better not be doing what I think you’re doing!”
“Bollocks!” Spike said under his breath. “Always the Slayer around when you don’t want her.”
But he was trapped – he couldn’t stop fanning the bowl of smoldering herbs and powders, otherwise he would have gone up to head her off. But he could only sit where he was as Buffy climbed down into the pit.
“Now before you say anything . . . .” Spike started to say.
“I should have known you’d be involved with all this.” Buffy interrupted. “What the HELL were you thinking?”
“Hey! They came to me for help because you refused.”
“Of course I did! Don’t you know how dangerous this is? And do you HAVE to keep fanning those God-awful fumes?”
“It’s what keeping them alive, or connected, or something. Willow gave me specific instructions about all this. And, yes, I do know how dangerous it is. But since they couldn’t count on you . . . .”
“Don’t EVEN start up with me about that. You should have told them no, plain and simple!”
“And then what? Let them go out and find someone else? Someone who might not be as concerned about them? Someone who might take advantage of them in their – helpless state?”
Buffy paused, trying to think of another argument.
“Then couldn’t you have at least have found someplace other than this damp, moldy, rat infested hole in the ground?”
“It was the best we could do, under the circumstances. And now, if there’s nothing else, you can go.”
“Oh no. I’m staying here, just in case. You never know when someone, or something, might come barging in, starting trouble.”
“Fine. Stay. Just don’t go messing around with their bodies, or even go inside the circle of candles. I don’t need them blaming me for something you’ve done.”
Buffy pulled over a chair and sat next to Spike. After a few minutes of them glaring at each other, she asked, “Let me to do that for a while. I might as well do something while I’m here.”
“Sure.” He said passing the bowl to her. “I could use a break. Just make sure to keep the smoke going in their direction.”
As time passed, if it really did, Faith began to relax and found herself becoming more in tuned to this new experience. After a while she noticed something odd.
‘Willow, do you see that one over there? It’s not moving.’
“I don’t know. Over there, somewhere.’
‘Oh yeah, now I see it. Oh, oh! I don’t think I like that.’
‘Because it is moving, toward us, straight, directly toward us.’
“I’m going to try moving away from it, at an angle.’
‘Now all the other lights are moving pretty fast except that one.’
‘That’s because we’re moving a lot faster, but it keeps coming straight at us. I’m going to try something else.’
‘Now everything is back like it was except now that one is moving away from us.’
‘That’s because I’ve changed our movement to look like all the others – circles and dips and all. But we’re going to follow after it. Try not to lose sight of it just in case I do.’
‘What good would that do? I can’t tell one direction from another.’
‘Well, just tell me if you don’t see it.”
“I don’t see it! It just flashed and then disappeared!”
“I saw it too, I think it must have left the Void. Well, we’re just going to follow it out.’
Before Faith could protest, they were suddenly floating over a small village. As they descended down she could see that it was not very advanced. There were no power lines, no paved roads, and the buildings were barely better than log cabins. Then she noticed that what she thought were horses, weren’t. They were about the size of horses, but they seemed to be a cross between cats and -- something else.
The riders were human, almost. They had two arms, two legs, a body, and a head. But the details were different – the skin had a bluish tint, and they all had curly dark hair, almost fur, on their heads. Their eyes seemed to be farther apart. The noses were smaller and flatter. Their ears were unusually large. The mouths didn’t seem to have any lips. And they only had three fingers, with a thumb.
‘Where are we?’ Faith asked.
‘I think we’re on another world.’
‘You mean like another planet?’
‘That’s what it looks like. I guess souls are universal, they can go into any body anywhere in the universe.’
‘Weird, and a little disturbing.’
‘We can sightsee later, right now we need to find Alti. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s taken over one of the bodies.’
‘That’s what we have to find out.’
‘How are we gonna do that?’
“I don’t know. Look for some kind of unusual behavior. She’s evil, so just look for someone being evil.’
‘And just how will we know what’s evil and what isn’t? We don’t know anything about these people.’
Willow “pointed” at one of the beings, a particularly large and muscular one. He, or she, had just grabbed another, smaller one and was punching him, or her.
‘That’s evil on any world. That has to be Alti.’
‘So what are we going to do?’
‘Just what Alti did to you, and what she did to that big fellow -- take over that body she’s beating on and fight back.’
Again, before Faith could protest, she was inside the mind of the doubly frightened being, who appeared to be a “him.”
Faith was aware that Willow was trying to calm him, telling him to let them take over his body to fight the big creature. Before he had a chance to reply, Willow was in control.
By now, the smaller one was almost unconscious. Willow blocked the pain messages and tried to get the body to fight back.
‘Willow!’ Faith said suddenly. ‘Let me do the fighting. I’m the Slayer, not you.’
‘But this is a male, how can a Slayer fight in a male body?’
‘The body has nothing to so with it, it’s all in the mind, just like you still have your witch’s powers when you’re outside your body.’
Willow relinquished control, and just as the big creature that was Alti grabbed the smaller one by the throat to hold it steady for a killing punch, Faith grabbed the hand around her throat and twisted the thumb, breaking it and breaking the hold.
Alti screamed in surprise and a little pain, but before she could recover, Faith drove her fingertips into the soft area of the throat, choking Alti, causing her to cough up blood.
Faith jumped up with a spinning back kick that caught Alti along side her head, whirling and staggering her. Faith followed the kick with four hard punches to the lower back, knocking Alti to her knees.
Faith grabbed Alti’s head and twisted it, trying to snap her neck. But the creature’s neck muscles were too strong, and Alti was able to grab Faith’s forearms and throw her over her head to the ground.
As Faith kipped up to her feet, Alti kicked her in the chest, hurling her back several yards. Alti then jumped the distance, trying to land with both feet on Faith, but she was able to roll out of the way, then kicked out, knocking Alti’s legs out from underneath her.
Alti fell flat on her back, and Faith brought one heel down hard on the already damaged throat, causing more blood to gush from the lipless mouth.
As Alti tried to get to her feet, Faith got behind her, grabbing the huge head by the furry hair and jerked it backward. She felt a small pop, then wrenched it to one side then the other, and then back again.
There were snaps and cracks with each yank. Then there was the final, loud break and the body went limp as the creature died.
Faith stood up as she released the dead creature, then looked around as she heard what only could be cheers and applause.
‘I think we just disposed of the neighborhood bully.’ Faith said.
‘That’s great,’ Willow said, ‘But Alti’s gone and we have to go after her or we may lose her in the Void.’
Faith felt them beginning to leave the body.
‘Faith, we have to go, NOW!’
‘We can’t, not right now.’
‘Because if we do, this creature will die. Can’t you see how bad he’s hurt? If we leave now, he’ll die for sure.’
‘But how will staying keep him from dying?’
‘Because of my Slayer’s accelerated healing, that’s how.’
‘Well -- how long will it take?’
‘I don’t know, a few hours, a day. He’s hurt really bad.’
‘You realize we may not find Alti again, don’t you?’
‘That’s a chance we’ll just have to take.’
‘Don’t tell me you’d rather save the life of some creature billions of miles from Earth than to go after Alti?’
‘A real kick in ass, isn’t it? I never would have believed myself.’
‘Looks like there’s hope for you yet.’ Willow said, a bit of respect, and affection, in her voice.
‘Yeah, well, just don’t let it get around. I’ve got this reputation, you know.’
They felt the creature being carried into a one of the larger cabins and placed on a bed. His wounds were being washed and dressed.
Slowly and gradually, Willow and Faith let the creature’s mind take back control of his body, but Willow still kept him from feeling too much of the pain. But he was too weak to do anything but rest, and eventually fell asleep.
Sometime the next day Faith decided that he was healed enough that they could leave.
‘You know,’ Faith said, ‘If he tries to tell them he was possessed by some thing that talked to itself and caused him to fight like he did, he may be committed to some kind of asylum, for life.’
‘Or they may think he’s a superhero and put up a statue to him.’ Willow answered. ‘Are you about ready to go home?’
Once again, they were in the grayness that was the Void. As they traveled homeward, Faith still couldn’t understand how Willow was able to navigate her way.
‘Must be a witch thing.’ She surmised.
Then without notice, Faith found herself lying down, back in her own body. She slowly sat up as Willow did the same. Looking around she was surprised to see not only Spike, but also Buffy, Dawn, and Xander.
“Quite an audience here. How long were we gone?” Faith asked, her voice sounding a bit hoarse.
“Since yesterday. You guys okay?” Buffy answered.
”My throat’s a little sore from breathing all that smoke.” Faith said. “I can’t believe that thing’s still burning.”
“Magic.” Willow said, equally hoarse.
“I think all of us have sore throats.” Xander said.
“I feel fine.” Spike said, but was ignored.
“I think I need to pee.” Faith said.
“Me too.” Willow agreed.
“Can it wait ‘til we get home?” Buffy asked.
“So what happened?” Dawn finally asked, unable to keep her curiosity contained any longer. “Did you kill Alti?”
“Yeah, kind of.” Faith told her and then coughed, and grimacing at the pain.
“Let’s get you two home before you do anymore talking. We’ve got some throat lozenges there, then we want to hear all about it.” Buffy said.
After hurried trips to the bathroom and throat drops, Willow and Faith decided they were hungry, so Xander ordered pizza.
“Come on, you guys,” Dawn whined. “Tell us! What happened?”
“You want to tell them?” Willow asked Faith, “Or do you want me to?”
“Go ahead, this was your trip, I was just along for the ride.”
Going into as much detail as she could remember, Willow told about their voyage into and through the Void. And about following Alti to the other world, what the beings there looked like, and going into the body of one to them to fight Alti. Faith added some description about the fight and killing the creature Alti had possessed. But when they came to part about the decision whether to chase after Alti or stay, Willow looked to Faith.
“Can I tell them?” She asked, as the others looked on, puzzled.
Faith looked like she was very much uncomfortable, but finally said, “Sure, why not.”
“Well, we were going to leave to go after Alti, but Faith wouldn’t let us. She said if we did that poor being we were in would die from his wounds, so we stayed until the next day until he was well enough to finish healing on his own. She had to be sure he would live before we left.”
Everyone looked at Faith, each with surprise on their faces.
“It’s no big deal.” Faith told them, trying to blow it off. “We can go after Alti any time.”
Then without warning, Faith found Buffy’s arms around her, and after a few seconds, tentatively and briefly, returned the hug.
“I knew there was good in you.” Buffy told her. “You don’t know how happy I am you finally let it out.”
“Yeah, well, I couldn’t let the guy die.” Was all Faith could think of to say. And then she grudgingly allowed herself to be hugged by Xander and Dawn. Willow just put one hand gently on her upper arm, smiling knowingly.
“God!” Faith said, trying to act the part. “It was only one little thing. Lighten up!”
“No.” Buffy said to her. “It was a big thing. Even though you took a life to save a life, you fought evil to protect the good. That’s always a big thing. And it’s important to keep that in mind -- it’s what keeps us civilized. And I’m proud of you.”
“We all are.” Willow added.
“Yeah, well, whatever.”
There was an awkward silence, then Dawn asked, “You’re not going to leave right away are you, like you did last time? ”
“I was thinking about it.”
“Can’t you stay the night? You can have my bed, I don’t mind bunking in with Buffy.”
“Stay. Please.” Buffy said quietly.
Faith took a deep breath. “I don’t know.”
“Willow makes a killer breakfast.” Dawn said, trying her best to persuade her. “And you can sleep as late as you want.”
Faith hesitated, then finally said, “Sure, why not. I guess it couldn’t hurt anything.”
“Great! I’ll go get some clean sheets right now!”
Faith looked at Buffy. “But don’t think this makes us Buds, we still have issues, you and me.”
“I know.” She replied. “But at least for tonight we’re -- five by five.”
“By five.” Faith added. “But just for tonight.”