Xander and Anya were both breathing normally. Xander was lying on his back with his mouth open, snoring quite happily. Willow sighed with relief before she carefully removed the darts and moving on to check on the others.
Angel was a difficult one cause he looked dead, since technically he was, and he obviously hadn't combusted, Willow had to assume that he was okay. Again she removed the darts and threw them away before turning to the other prone figure.
Karen was another matter. Karen hadn't been darted.
She lay on her side, her head rested on a stone, blood running from a small cut on her temple where it had impacted with her skull. Her eyelids were fluttering, though, so Willow gently put her hand on the woman's shoulder and whispered to her. "Ms Kochanski....Ms Kochanski are you okay?"
*Oh please be okay.* Willow needed help, she couldn't tail the kidnappers on her own or for that matter drag a vampire into a sheltered spot before dawn without someone to help her. *A vampire.....shit what about Browne?*
Her embarrassment at forgetting all about her other vampire ally died, however, when she realized Karen was conscious again.
"Giles...," a hesitant voice whispered, Willow saw brown eyes looking back at her dazed. "Willow....what happened, where's Giles? Did we win?.....Why does my head hurt?"
"Oh, well." Willow fluttered a little at having to break the news but at least she wasn't on her own anymore, even if the someone else was the newest least experienced member of the team who also had a head injury. So calmly, she answered, "We won with the vamps cause these Watchers intervened but they were after Buffy, so they shot the other guys full of drugs with tranquilizer darts and they took Buffy and......Giles."
"What?" The principal remembered a battle, a lot of guys in black, a heavy Englishman falling on her, followed by pain. "Knocked out again huh? And now he's passing it on to his nearest and hopefully dearest. Poor Rupert."
Gathering her strength Karen sat up, her head spinning a little and aching, but seemingly not broken. "Ok you should be telling me to lie down, but I can't so don't. You're saying Watchers?"
"Yeah, they were English, or at least some of them were, so I assume Watchers." Willow watched in concern as Karen struggled up to her knees standing and offering the High School Principal her arm. "Are you sure you should be getting up straight away like this?"
"I don't have any..." Karen swayed a little as she stood up. "...Choice, they have Rupert now but I'm gonna make damn sure they don't keep him." She let go of Willow's arm and with the fingers of her right hand tentatively probed the wound. "I'd like to say ow, then we'll go get our friends back."
"Darn tootin," Willow said absentmindedly before slapping her hands to her forehead. "Browne! I know he's a vampire but I forgot about him again."
"Oh....ok." Karen watched Willow rush off towards a tree she suddenly realized was were it hadn't been before. "Gosh poor tree, ow!" But gritting her teeth and proceeding on the basis of one foot in front of another Karen followed the Wiccan.
"Will you fuckin' snap you bastard!" Browne had been whittling away at a foot thick tree branch for long enough to be extremely pissed off. It was playing hell with the edge on his blade and not getting him very far. "Wait till I get me 'and's on those Angrez dogs I'm gonna show em where Moses bought the bloody beer."
Engrossed in his woodcarving in was only at the last second that the vampire heard Willow coming up, her feet loud enough on the loose soil and gravel. "Hey you ok in there?" she shouted. He felt the most intense relief at hearing her voice.
"No I fu...." Browne suddenly remembered Willow's age and her being the quiet one. "No luv I'm not h'actually. I've a fu.....a bloody great big 'ole in me back and I'm a little bit sort of trapped at the moment."
"Oh right, and there I was thinking you were in there for the fun. We're in trouble James, the Watchers knocked everybody else out and they....." Willow caught a glimpse of the tear in the back of Browne's jacket and went pale. "Oh that looks bad, want me to try some dark mojo, blow the tree up? I got some neat stuff in the van."
"Yeah....." Browne had a mental image of what happens to vampires when trees blow up near them and repressed a shudder. "I fink maybe not eh, but tar very much for the offer."
He watched Willow's face fall and sighed before an idea for how the Wiccan could help occurred to him. "An axe."
"Is there an axe in the van?" Browne suddenly remembered that he'd packed the van, he'd brought spades to dig the trenches but no axe or chain saw or for that matter industrial wood cutting laser stolen from a secret laboratory. *Got to get to that one of these days, still I suppose there's always swearing.*
"Bugger, I am so bloody gormless sometimes, I mean fightin' in a wood it was almost certain some poor blighter would get a tree on their 'ead's but do I think to bring an axe, no I......"
"Hey!" Willow's raised voice snapped Browne's attention back to her. "Buffy's been kidnapped and so has Giles so could you do the cussing and the feeling sorry for yourself later Mister?" She looked around them searching for a weapon. "There has to be something we can use."
"Would a Kukri do?" Karen was gently dabbing at her cut head with a handkerchief whilst her free hand held out the war knife hilt first. "Giles never thinks I'm carrying enough weapons, I mean it's not like he ever lets me get near enough to vamps to go hand to hand but oh no I gotta pack enough stuff to fight a war everywhere I go."
"Well hand to hands okay in theory but a face full of dust, not always such a good thing." Willow took the blade and leaned in amongst the branches. "This help?"
"Now we're talking." Browne took the Kukri with a smile and settled back in his fox hole checking the branches to see which to cut first. "Little appreciated fact about Johnny Gurkha ever since we give em bayonets and nice shiny rifles they don't use these fings much in battle anymore but what they do do with em is clear brush and cut branches to make fires and shelters if they're out in forests or jungle."
"Oh I didn't know that, and I'm really glad you chose now to share." Willow glanced at her watch, four hours to go till sunrise. "While you're hacking a path to freedom is there stuff I can do."
"Get the van as close to here as you can. I need some claret in me quick and we gotta shift our chums can't leave Angel to burn and the others for any passin' nasty to scoff."
"Sure." Willow looked around at the scattered vampires and vampire remnants. "And guns not a healthy thing to leave lying around either. Anything else?"
"Your magic stuff Willow," Karen broke in, strength gradually returning to her voice. "Janus needs to get asked to get his ass in gear and bring our Slayer back tonight. I seem to have some blood here I can spare if you need to bargin with him."
"Ok." Willow longed to get her friend back but had a but all the same. "You certain our Buffy's the best person to deal here? She's apt to get.....grrrrrrrr when she gets mad these days. Spike isn't exactly Mr Non-Violence either. And we're not gonna be fighting vamps here."
Karen stood straighter and let her School Principalness shine through. "I know that Willow, but what I also know is this: these guys have taken Rupert and a Buffy and I don't think it's so they can all go to a nice church social and bond, I think it's so they can hurt them, hurt them for breaking with the Council and for being who they are. Don't forget what happened not so long ago over Faith."
"That Watcher getting killed, I guess they are gonna be sore about it, and it's not like Buffy and Giles were even in town but they're still humans. Ok I shot one of them..." Willow realized she had two people staring at her like she'd grown a second head, a green one with red horns. "Only in the arm, guy was gonna stake Angel and I couldn't let him kill a friend."
"You did right." Karen got over the shock and pictured the way things were probably going to go. "They are not going to get our people out of this country, we are going to get them back. And if they hurt Rupert, then heaven help them because it won't be Buffy or Spike or Browne they need to fear, it'll be me."
"Well Windy this is a mystery isn't it?" Albany looked the now ungagged Watcher firmly in the eyes as he spoke. "Your turned Slayer isn't turned, and oh look, she's got a scar that you never mentioned before. Anything you'd like to say at this juncture that would stop me having Jason hit you?"
The three vehicle convoy was stopped in a layby three miles down the road from the scene of Buffy and Giles's capture. Wesley was still sitting in the same seat as before, with a taciturn Jason, a pissed looking Albany, and a couple of the Initiates propping their wounded friend up on the benches running down either side the vehicle. All of them were alternating glances between Wesley and the two newly acquired and deeply unconscious prisoners.
Wesley knew he had two choices, make up some implausible lie or tell the implausible probable truth. Either course of action was liable to result in a punch on the nose but on reflection the latter was most likely to give Albany serious pause for fear. He rather hoped his theory was right as the other spoke of a terrible betrayal
*If Giles had cured her he would have told me, wouldn't he? Buffy doesn't have a scar and hasn't gained one to my knowledge so...oh dear.*
"Spit it out sunshine!" Jason snapped losing patience with Wesley's thought processes. "We're all ears to take in your words of wisdom."
"Well this is just a theory, you understand, but if you read my reports about my tenure on the Hellmouth..." He cast Albany an enquiring look. "I take it you did bother to read them?"
"Yes of course and what a hero you were Windy, distracting the Eliminate whilst Buffy killed Balthazar." Albany smiled as he remembered the laughter and incredulity that had greeted each despatch. "How many of those vampires did you kill again? Three wasn't it? And let's not forget your shouted instruction to drop that light in with him. Then there was your single-handed...."
"Do you want to hear my theory or don't you?" Wesley knew the meaning of fear but was beginning to prefer it to the meaning of sarcasm. "You recall my report into events two months or so before the Ascension, when we had the extra Willow problem?"
"A vampiric version of the gifted young Wiccan, Mr Giles waxed so lyrical about drawn in from an alternate version of earth." Albany put his fingers to his lips deep in thought. "I believe I may be getting the drift but please do go on."
"Some accident has drawn an alternate world's Buffy Summers into this plane and that is the girl that you hold prisoner, not the Slayer Vampire who you were sent to capture." Wesley knew the power of fear like a personal friend and now threw some into the mix. "And of course if the Slayer is still in this world she'll come looking for her Watcher."
"Eh?" Jason looked between the two toffs and scratched his head before addressing himself to Marcus. "All due respect sir, but you've got to be takin' the piss. Are you seriously going to believe that twaddle?"
"It would make sense, if it's happened once it could happen again." Wesley breathed a sigh of relief to himself as Albany spoke then grimaced as the Watcher added, "Of course we'll have to torture our new found friends a little to find out the truth, but I'm sure Windy won't mind watching.....eh Winders?"
"Now hold on, you can't do that. For all you know this girl has never done a...." Wesley began only to be interrupted by another voice. A weak pain-filled American accented one.
"That's not Buffy." Riley gasped out the words despite the pain. "I work at her college, for fucks sake, five days ago she didn't have a scar, this has got to be a different person. The Limey's right."
"Thank you for confirming that young fellow me lad, nice to see your still concentrating." Wesley gave the sleeping Slayer an appraising look. "Alternate world's Slayer, did we leave our girl under that bloody tree? Did the vampires kill her?"
*Oh I really hope not,* Wesley thought to himself, paling at that possibility. *Two Buffys, a marvelous idea, one of them can still rescue me. Buffy was always so good at that, though the sarcasm may be extreme. I wonder if it was her night off?*
"Of course maybe she's not here at all, perhaps she went through to the other side...oh dear you know something chaps, I think we'd better ring the airport."
Jason reached for his cellular. "I take it we're not going 'ome then till we find 'er."
"Not yet old chap, not yet." Albany got up to talk to his other drivers. "I'd rather not be hunted across the world by a young lady who is effectively SuperVamp. A seat on the Watcher's Council is all very well but it's hardly worth dying for the privilege."
*So that's what he's getting out of this!* The two other Watchers in the vehicle exchanged a sly glance. Wesley almost regretted what might have been if he'd stayed in Travers good books, but then reflected that he couldn't be a shit all his life.
Jason on the other hand felt the envy that came to him every time one of the toffs got promoted due to the success of a plan he'd drawn up and smoothly carried out. *A seat on the council, we'll see about that mate!*
After all, he was the Council's Watchdog, the man who kept a secret watch on the Watchers. Travers would have his report to look at, too.
"Great stuff, tastiest claret I've ever got on the outside of." The pigs blood was cold but Browne didn't care, it was unclean to his occasional faith but that didn't matter either he was out from under that bloody tree and as the new blood flowed through his veins his body was healing. "Me weapon's is dug out and I'm feelin like me old self again. God 'elp those bloody Watchers!"
Willow had helped him considerably. He had a bandage now covering the wound and protecting it from dirt. It was still possible for a vampires wounds to become infected, and though gangrene couldn't kill a vampire, it could disfigure or weaken it considerably. Browne quite frankly didn't want to spend the remainder of his unlife trailing round a nasty whiff and thus felt very grateful to the Wiccan.
Now, however, Willow had another task she stood in the center of a Pentagram, a bag of the blood in her hands.
"You certain this is a good idea?"
Karen was certain. Karen knew Willow was certain but also appreciated her concern, there was a risk in all such magical ventures. "Willow, who would you rather have running this Buffy or Browne?"
"If there's an h'implication there I resents it!" Browne didn't really but it paid to keep up appearances. "Are you h'implin' that I'm a war mad sod who shouldn't be left in charge of an operation that involves not killin' people?"
"Yes." Karen nodded playing along. "But when we need something blown up, you're the vamp were sure to call."
"That's all right then, it's good to find I'm appreciated."
"I'll cast the spell." Willow opened the nozzle of the blood bag. She had the penknife in her pocket but was hoping Janus would be generous to a frequent flier and not ask for her to sacrifice her own blood again.
*Okay time to think Latin.*
"Janus, he who knows, I call upon thee keeper of the gate. Open a path for they who are lost to us! Let them pass from the other world into this. Janus....."
The blue light appeared slowly swirling like some giant whirlpool in the sky and thunder rolled above it.
To Be Continued...