Giles and a few others come up from the basement to talk to the people assembled in the kitchen. They'd captured a Bringer and had been trying to get him to talk. "So?" Cordelia asked.
"Uh, the Bringer's dumb." Giles said.
"You were expecting, what, a Rhodes Scholar?"
"Dumb as in mute."
"Someone ripped out its tongue." Faith said.
"Oh, gross." Amanda said.
"I've been reading this old Turkish spell book." Willow said. "There's an old conjuration that the ancient Turks used to communicate with the dying."
"I believe I've read a translation of it." Giles said.
"There's a translation of it?!" Willow sighed. "Anyway…. The spell is used to communicate with people who can't talk. Um, like if a person was dying, this spell would let them say their good-byes or, you know, gripe about how nobody came to visit them. Would this help us with Mr. No-Tongue?"
"Yes, I think so."
"Good. I just need to get together a few ingredients."
"All right." Faith said. "Well, cool. While Willow does that, the rest of us can…."
"Aurelia!" Cassius called, walking into the house.
"Cassius." Giles said as the man walked into the kitchen.
"Hey. So, I think I've got a lead. Where's Aurelia?"
"She's not here right now." Cordelia said.
"When does she get back?"
"Uh…. while you were gone, we all got together and t-talked out some disagreements that we were having." Willow said. "Um…. and eventually, after much discussion, Aurelia decided that it would be best for all of us if she took a little time off, a little breather."
"You've been practicing that little speech for a while, haven't you?" Willow looked hurt and walked away. "So, Aurelia took some time off right in the middle of the apocalypse, and it was her decision?"
"Well, we all decided." Xander said.
"You all decided." Cassius shook his head. "You ungrateful traitors. Who do you think you are?"
"We're her friends." Willow defended. "We just want…."
"You're her friends and you betray her like this?"
"You don't understand…." Giles said.
"I think I do…. You used to be the teacher. You were so full of wisdom. Now that she's regained her memories, she's surpassed you and you can't handle it. She has saved your lives again and again. She's died for you. And this is how you thank…."
"Hey." Faith interrupted. "Why don't you take it down a notch or two? The time for speech-giving is over, bat boy."
"Is that right?"
"Yeah, that's right. Save your lack of breath."
"All right." Cassius punched Faith and walked out of the room. He walked out the front door and down the path toward the street. He paused, shut his eyes, and smelled purposefully. Finally he caught the scent he was looking for and walked down the street.
Aurelia was laying on Cassius's bed at the mansion staring into space. Cassius walked into the bedroom and sighed. "There you are." She glanced at him and then went back to staring. "I heard. I was over there."
"It's not like they were wrong."
Cassius rolled his eyes at her. "Aurelia, this isn't like you. You don't just…. Give up."
"I am now."
"You were right. Not about the giving up, but about the fact that Caleb is trying to protect something from you. And I think you were right. I think it's at the vineyard." She didn't say anything. "You were right."
"I don't feel very right."
"You're not fooling me."
"What do you even mean?"
"You're not a quitter."
"You were their leader, and you still are. This isn't something you gave up, it's something they took."
"And the difference is?"
"We can take it back."
"You mean no as in eventually?"
"You've always had problems with that word, haven't you?"
"You can get them back."
"Can, maybe. Should? I'm just so tired."
"They need you. It's chaos over there without you." Aurelia shot him a disbelieving look. "There's junk…. You know? Food cartons, sleeping bags not rolled up, everyone's very scared and, uh, unkempt."
She smiled slightly at his lie. "Sounds dire."
"I didn't see a lot. I came, hit Faith, and left."
"Really?" Aurelia perked up slightly. "I mean, not that I'm glad, but…."
"Say the word, and she's a footnote in history. I'll make it look like a painful accident."
That made Aurelia frown. "That's my problem. I say the word, some girl dies…. every time."
"There's always casualties in war."
"Casualties. It just sounds so…. casual. These are girls that I got killed. I cut myself off from them…. all of them. I knew I was going to lose some of them and I knew that they were all going to lose me and I didn't…. You know what? I'm still making excuses. For the last two hundred years I've cut myself off. And now…. Being the Slayer made me different. Being Aurelia made me different. But it's my fault I stayed that way. People are always trying to connect to me, and I just slip away."
"That's not your fault, Aurelia. It's Angelus' fault. He made it so you couldn't connect to people."
"I only ever cared for two people in all of my lifetimes."
"And Angelus took them both away."
"No. Angelus took one of them away. Darla took the other." Aurelia sighed. "Please, let's not go over the past."
"Oh, no. I need to talk."
Aurelia rolled her eyes. "Fine. The stage is yours. Cheer me up."
"Thank you. That really helped."
"I'm not trying to cheer you up."
"What are you trying to say?"
"I don't know. What I do know is that in 2,000 plus years there's only one thing I've ever been sure of: you. From the moment I laid eyes on you sitting next to your father looking like the little empress, I knew you were it for me. I'm not asking you for anything. When I say, 'I love you', it's not because I want you or because I can't have you. It has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I've seen your kindness and I've witnessed your strength. I've seen the best and the worst of you. And I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You're a hell of a woman. And you've always been the one, Aurelia."
"I love you too."
"You get some rest now."
"Will you just hold me?"
Cassius smiled and sat on the bed beside Aurelia. He put his arm around her and she curled up on him, cuddling up to his chest as he put his arm around her shoulder, holding her head with his hand. They had lain like this a thousand times before, but tonight it wouldn't lead to anything more. Tonight they would take comfort in each other and in the morning, everything will have changed. In the morning it would be the beginning of the End of Days.
Aurelia made her way to the vineyard in the early morning. She'd gently untangled herself from Cassius's arms and had gone on her mission to retrieve whatever Caleb was hiding there. She heard Caleb talking to someone beneath her in the cellar. Three Bringers came out from the shadows, but they were no match for her.
Caleb's conversation was interrupted by a Bringer being thrown down the stairs. Caleb turned to look and saw Aurelia standing at the top of the stairs. She put her hands on her hips and smiled. "Hey. Heard you got something of mine." She trotted quickly down the stairs to be on the same level as Caleb.
"Well, if it ain't the prodigal slayer?" Caleb said.
"Where is it? You know I'm going to find it sooner or later."
"No, you're not. I lay one hand on you, and you're just a dead little girl."
She shrugged. "Lay a hand on me…. if you can."
Caleb took a swing at her, but she ducked quickly and adeptly without losing balance. Caleb swung at her again, but Aurelia jumped into the air and did a forward somersault over him and he missed her again. He turned and swung at her, but she did a forward somersault on the ground this time, staying out of his reach. Aurelia stood and ran with Caleb in hot pursuit. She ran over the wine barrels, kicking the last one into Caleb's path causing it to bust and trip him. He started muttering something, but Aurelia didn't have time to listen. She ran away from Caleb toward the back of the cellar.
"You whore!" He yelled.
Aurelia stopped running and turned to face him. "You know, you really should watch your language. If someone didn't know you, they might think you were a woman-hating jerk."
Enraged, Caleb pushed over a wine barrel and charged toward Aurelia. She looked over in the back corner and saw an open hatch in the floor. It was glowing. She grinned, ducked under Caleb's punch, and slid across the floor into the hatch in the floor. Right as she slid in, the door shut, and wine barrels fell on top of it, holding the door down. She stood up and walked into the cave-like room under the wine cellar and stared at a rock. Stuck inside the rock was a shiny weapon. It had a wide, rounded blade on one end and a point on the end of the shaft.
Aurelia's eyes widened as she stared at it in awe and she smiled. She walked up to it slowly. Caleb opened the hatch and walked down the stairs into the room. Aurelia turned to look at him expectantly.
"So…. you found it." He said. "Not impressed. Cause the question now, girly girl, is can you pry it from solid rock before I come over there…." Aurelia grabbed the handle and pulled the weapon out of the stone one-handed with ease. She looked it over, ignoring Caleb. "Hmm. Darn." He exhaled worriedly. "Now, before you go hurting yourself with that thing, why don't you do yourself a courtesy and hand it over now?"
"You want it?" Aurelia hoisted the weapon up casually.
"You don't even know what you got there." Caleb stepped back.
"I know you're backing away."
"You think wielding some 2-sided doo-dad's gonna make a difference?"
The First showed up behind Caleb looking like Aurelia's original form. "Let her go, Caleb." He hesitated. "I said let her go."
"If I let her go, she slices me open with that thing." Caleb said.
"No, she doesn't. She hasn't got time. She has friends. And her friends are in trouble. Faith go boom."
"I'm not letting her out of here with that thing."
"Sure you are. Then you'll come back for it later…. when she's got her back turned."
Aurelia ran out of the cellar carrying the weapon as Caleb and the First watched her go.
The air was hazy with dust and debris from the explosion. Girls started moving amid the rubble, crawling around. Amanda grabbed a flashlight as she got to her feet. "Hey! Hey, Faith!" She yelled. "Anybody! Is anybody here?!"
"Me!" Caridad said, coughing as she stood up.
"Is anybody else alive?"
"I'm…." Vi coughed and called weakly, "I'm here!" Amanda and Caridad wemt to Vi, who was crouched in a corner. They helped her to her feet.
"Who else we got?" Caridad asked.
"Don't know." Vi said.
"You ok?" Amanda asked as she helped Vi walk.
"I think my arm is broken." Vi saw girls lying under rubble, not moving. "I guess I'm lucky."
"Where's Faith?" Kennedy asked, standing up.
"I don't know."
"Maybe we should get the hell out of this place." Caridad said. "They could…."
They started searching and finally, Amanda and a couple of other girls who'd survived pulled Faith's unconscious body out of the water.
Vi turned away at the sight. "Oh, God!"
"Is she alive?" Kennedy asked.
"Breathing. Pulse." Amanda said, checking.
"We gotta get her out of here."
"Which way is out?" Vi asked.
"There's other girls." Amanda said. "There's more than Faith. We don't even know how many of us are still…." The girls heard a distant growl and everyone stopped to look. "Alive."
"What was that?" Caridad asked.
"It could've been grinding metal." Vi said. "It could've been…."
"No, it was one of them." Kennedy interrupted.
"That's not possible." Caridad said.
"How'd it get in here?" Amanda asked.
"Plans?" Vi demanded.
"Run." Kennedy said. The girls ran out of the room where the explosion happened and tried to escape down the tunnels they came in through.
"No!" Amanda cried.
"Oh, no! It's blocked!" Caridad said.
"Oh, my God!" Vi sobbed.
"I told you this wasn't the way!" Amanda said.
"Cut the chatter!" Kennedy ordered. "Up and over! Wounded first! Let's go!" The girls climbed over the debris blocking the tunnel. With all the wounded girls, it was taking too long. Finally, when the last girl, Vi, came over the pile, a Turok-Han reached for her. The girls screamed and instinctively backed away as they watched it climb over the pile and move toward them.
"Group together. Form a circle." Kennedy snapped. "Nobody panic. It's all of us, one of him. We can take one of these things." As the girls stared at the Turok-Han coming over the pile of debris, another Turok-Han jumped down the steps beside them. "Remember the training. Everybody, get ready!" A Turok-Han snuck up behind Kennedy and grabbed her, knocking her down.
"There's another one." Amanda cried.
Kennedy managed to free herself from the Turok-Han that attacked her and backed away from it. "Move! Move! Move! Up and over!"
"Not that one!" Amanda pointed her toward yet another Turok-Han. "That one!" The girls all screamed as the three Turok-Hans advanced toward them. They grabbed one of the girls.
"Weapons! Over there!" Caridad called.
Kennedy ran to the weapons, but the Turok-Han had already begun ripping apart the girl they grabbed. One looked at Kennedy, snarling, his face covered in the girl's blood. It charged toward Kennedy who swung the weapon at the monster, but to no avail. The Turok-Han easily disarmed her, grabbed her by the neck, and lifted her off the ground choking her.
A loud crash echoed through the room as something fell from the ceiling, allowing light to enter the room from above. Aurelia jumped down through the hole into the room carrying the weapon she'd gotten from the vineyard. The Turok-Han dropped Kennedy and stalked toward Aurelia. Aurelia swung the weapon at the Turok-Han as it approached her and she used the pointy end to stake first one Turok-Han, then the other. The third Turok-Han approached her and knocked her down, but Aurelia tumbled forward, grabbed her weapon, leapt to her feet, and beheaded the last Turok-Han, turning it to dust before everyone's eyes. The girls who had been watching her stared incredulously at the sight of Aurelia in action.
"Get the wounded. We're leaving." Aurelia ordered.
"Are there more?" Kennedy asked.
"There's always more. Let's move."