This is a short(ish)chapter. Dedicated to moscow_watcher for reading and reviewing this fic recently and kick-starting the muse again. Also, I had kinda written myself into a corner in the last two parts, but rather than ret-conning or back-tracking, I've gone with it and moved the action (such as it is) on a few hours to compensate. And now I'll stop waffling and actually post it!
Title: Crimson Regret
Author: Shona aka Mara
Ratng: PG this part, 15 overall.
Disclaimer: Not my sandbox - I'm just playing here.
Summary: As Xander spirals deeper into depression, Faith struggles to find a way to help, despite what's going on around them.
Previously: After the ride out of Sunnydale, Xander has shut himself away from everyone but Faith forces him out of the hotel and onto patrol. With blunt honesty and the lubricating influence of Mescal, they come to an uneasy truce only to find on their return the hotel is on fire and Kennedy is missing. Willow is seen using magic and Xander tackles her only to trap them in the flames. Faith pulls them out but on recovering in hospital there are conflicting tales as to what actually happened...
The next time he wakes it's to a world filled with confusion. There's a brief panic when he doesn't know who he is, let alone where he is. He closes his eye, takes a few deep breaths, feels a tickle in his throat that is anything but funny, and coughs and chokes his way back to clarity.
He's alone, but he's not alone. He shakes his head in an attempt to clear it and immediately regrets it as the room takes a dizzying tilt. He reaches out and grabs the edge of the bed, feels something like a cot rail.
Hospital. That's it, he's in hospital. Again. He drops his head back onto the pillows and sighs.
"Can you walk?"
Xander blinks at the question. The room had been empty, he's sure of it. "Huh?"
"We need to get away from here." A girl with long brown hair and earnest eyes is speaking and for a moment he has absolutely no idea who she is. "Willow knows where we are, she'll be back. It's not safe here."
There's something really wrong with this picture, Xander knows there is, but he can't figure out what.
"Huh?" He repeats, stumbling as she helps (forces) him up and thrusts his clothing into his arms.
He's almost overwhelmed by the smell of smoke coming from the fabric but even so there's something else, overpowering it, something like ozone and spent matches.
"She'll be coming. We have to go. Now." She's tugging at his arm and he can't think (doesn't want to), he can only react and he's pulling on his jeans before he registers he's moving.
"Willow? But..." He sways. Safe from Willow? That's not right. Willow is safe. Safety is Willow. She would never...
In a flash of memory he's back atop King Man's Bluff. Willow, in all her (un)Happy Goth, black-eyed glory. Willow, trying to end the world. She's not safe. Nothing about her is safe and he's known since that moment that she's on a knife-edge. It wouldn't take much to push her over. To break her. To make her not safe.
"Kennedy." He breathes the name, remembers someone telling him the girl was missing. Remembers the fire, remembers Willow standing there, chanting some spell.
"No!" He's shouting and pushing away. He stumbles across the tiny room and the girl
(Dawn, she's Dawn. She's always been Dawn)
is begging him to calm down but he can't. He won't.
There's a tug at the crook of his elbow and a burst of sharp pain is lancing up his arm. He's glancing down, seeing the blood from where the IV needle had been. He's frozen.
Something is tugging at his memory, something he had seen earlier. Something to do with blood
(it's all because of you, you know that don't you?)
The memory is not coming but now Dawn
is manhandling him into the plaid button-down he'd been wearing on his abortive outing - not a date - with Faith.
The Vampire Slayer. A Vampire Slayer. His heart stutters and misses a beat. That's what he'd seen. That's what he to tell them all, to warn them. A vampire Slayer. One of them had been turned.
And Xander is suddenly hearing that voice again (if you'd said something, done something...) and he knows who she is.
He's turning to speak as the cool night air hits him and he realizes Dawn has led him right out of the hospital without him noticing.
She's leading him across the parking lot.
Right to where Kennedy is waiting.