Faith felt a chill go through her, as if her heart were suddenly encased in ice. This couldn’t be happening, not now, not after they’d all lost so much already.
“Anyone else missing?” She demanded.
Dawn shook her head, a little wide-eyed at Faith’s take-charge tone of voice but the Slayer couldn’t let that bother her now.
The teenager gestured vaguely towards the left of the building, to where the fire was raging. It was Faith’s turn for the wide-eyed expression as she realised the fire was contained in that area. Almost as if something – or someone – was stopping it spreading. As she took in the scene, she gradually made out a sphere surrounding the flames. Almost like… magic.
“She’s doing that?” She asked in a small voice.
Dawn nodded mutely, apparently either to awed at what Willow was accomplishing or too cowed by Faith’s reaction to say anything more.
“Wow.” Faith was seriously impressed. She knew she shouldn't have been surprised; Willow was Mojo-Mama after all, but this? This was something Faith could see and respect. Everything else seemed like so much smoke and mirrors. She turned to Xander. “She’s… crap!” He wasn’t there and she hadn’t even heard him go.
Figuring there was only one place he would go – after all, no matter how uncharacteristically he’d been acting over the last few days, he was still Xander – she took off in a dead run straight for the conflagration in front of her. Somehow, instinctively, she knew he’d find Willow so she concentrated on heading directly to the area Dawn had pointed out. She was close enough to feel the heat from the flames when, with a sound she could only describe as thwump, the building exploded.
Whatever semblance of control Willow had been exerting was gone and the fire raged freely now.
Despite the searing heat, Faith could just about see two figures ahead of her. Forcing herself onward, into the flames, she found them sprawled on the ground. She couldn’t tell if the explosion had knocked them there or if something else had happened. Right at that moment she didn’t care – all that mattered was getting them out.
Fighting for each breath as the smoke threatened to fill her lungs and choke her; she tugged at Xander’s arm – noting the way he was sprawled across the much smaller form of Willow, almost as if he was shielding her from the fire. Faith succeeded in dragging him off of the witch but her heart sank further as neither of them reacted.
She couldn’t tell if they were unconscious or dead, all she knew was she had to get them to safety but how was she going to manage it? Carrying either one of them would not be a problem for a Slayer. Carrying both of them at the same time, however, well that presented a whole range of logistical complications.
A crash from somewhere above made her duck reflexively – just in time as a long, curved piece of wood swung at her head. She wasn’t quite quick enough to avoid it, however, and the end of it clipped just above her right ear, making her see stars. When her vision cleared, she saw to her horror that the curving wood – the stairwell banister Xander had clung to like a lifeline, she realised with a heavy nod towards irony – was now lying across the bodies. No! She wouldn’t think of them as bodies, not yet. She tried to move it, but as the smoke swirled around her and the flames grew ever closer, she knew she couldn’t do it. There was no way she’d be able to get them both out at once and with time being a crucial factor, she didn’t think she’d have the chance to come back again.
She had to make a choice, and she had to make it now. Which of them to save?