"I'm sorry, sir. There's simply nothing more that can be done for her."
"You don't understand - we're willing to try anything. Experimental treatments, drug trials, anything at all."
"I understand, Mr. Giles, but we've exhausted every possible avenue of treatment. Jenny's cancer is malignant, aggressive, and it's simply spread too far and too fast to be treatable any longer."
"I..." Giles' composure began to slip. "I can't...oh God please. Anything."
"I'm so sorry, sir. All I can advise is that you and Jenny enjoy the time that you have left together. Take her home, make her comfortable, be with her."
"How," he tried to clear the lump in his throat. "How long?"
"Well, these kinds of predictions are always a little uncertain...but I'd say no more than a month. Six weeks at best." The doctor placed a comforting hand on Giles' shoulder. "Again, I'm so sorry. I wish there was something we could do."
Giles gratefully clasped the doctor's hand. "So do I. So do I."
As Tara and Gunn left to look for Spike, Giles returned to the cave from the brief walk he'd been taking through the forest. As he entered, he carefully navigated around Buffy and Willow before stopping. "Dear," he asked Willow. "Is she okay?"
"Um, I think so. The doctor says it's just a concussion."
Willow debated, unsure if she could share what they'd witnessed in the jungle - indeed, unsure if she'd even seen it herself. "Animal attack," she finally blurted. "Knocked her into a tree."
"It's amazing she wasn't more badly injured," Giles said. Suddenly he stopped and shook his head with a small grin. "I'm sorry - we haven't really talked since the crash, and you likely haven't the faintest idea who I am. Rupert Giles." He extended his hand.
Willow reached out to shake it. "Willow Rosenberg. And my unconscious companion here is Buffy."
"Pleasure. I-" he trailed off, staring wide-eyed at the mouth of the cave.
"Mr. Giles? Are you okay?"
"I...um..." he trailed off as he walked away and left the cave.
"Weird," Willow muttered to herself, wringing out the wet towel and placing it back on Buffy's head.
"Anne? Is it really you?" Tara took a step toward her and she started violently, turning the barrel of the tranquilizer rifle in Tara's direction. Tara raised her hands. "It's okay, Anne. It's okay, it's just me. Tara. You know me."
"I-no, you can't be here. I'm alone here. All alone. The farthest man from home."
"It's really me, Anne. Let Spike go and we'll talk, okay? I'll go with you - wherever you want."
Faith's head bobbed as she looked frantically around her. "Fine. Fine. But you - you come here, and then I'll let him go."
"Okay, Anne. Just don't hurt anyone." Tara slowly approached, hands still raised, until the barrel of Faith's rifle was pressed into her stomach.
"Go," Faith told Spike. "Now."
"Don't have to tell me twice."
"Spike," Tara said, keeping her voice as calm and level as possible, "please tell Willow that I'm okay, and that I'll be back soon. Tell her not to come looking for me. Nobody else, either. I'll be back when I get back."
"Sure, blondie. I'll tell her. Let's go, Gunn." The two of them disappeared into the jungle as fast as their feet would carry them.
"Tara...I need...I need to blindfold you."
"I'm taking you back to my place. My safe place. I don't want you to know where it is. You could tell them, if they ever caught you."
"'Them' who, Anne?"
"Them. The ones that whisper."
"Okay, Anne. Whatever you need to do."
Tara fought down her fear and tasted acid in her throat as Faith wrapped a dark cloth around her eyes and stuck the gun barrel into her back. "Walk," she instructed. "Slowly."
"Giles, old boy," he whispered. "You know this isn't real, right? You've gone right off it. Turn around and go back to the cave."
For a moment, the rational part of his mind very nearly won out - but then he saw it again. Saw her again. Gesturing, beckoning him to follow her. And at that point his rational mind checked out, and he followed. She led him through the forest, keeping a consistent distance away no matter how fast he walked. When she began to grow farther away, his pace increased to a run as he struggled to keep her in sight. Winded, he was nearly ready to give up the chase when she finally stopped. He approached her hesitantly, not wanting the make the illusion - if that's what it was - disappear.
Tears in his eyes, he extended his hand. "Jenny?"
She smiled at him, that same smile that had swept him off his feet all those years ago. The emotion behind that smile nearly staggered him. "Jenny?" he asked again, desperately.
With another smile, she raised a hand and pointed. His gaze followed her until he saw something sticking very slightly out of the ground. He turned back to ask her what it was...and she was gone. He ran to the spot she'd indicated, hoping she'd appear again when he got there. She didn't, but he stared in fascination at what was there. A hatch - one that had been very recently cleared of the debris that lay in piles around it. There was not much to the hatch - at least not much that was visible. A solid piece of what felt like Plexiglas or possibly bulletproof glass made up the window, which was dark, and the rest of the hatch seemed to be steel, or something similar. He looked back up and out at the forest around him.
"Is this what you wanted me to see, Jenny? Is it important?" He sat down to rest his knees, and began to ponder how such a thing could be opened when no latch or handle was apparent.
"It is. Who's this?"
"You don't know me. My name's Adams."
"Alright. Is there something I can help you with, Adams?"
"No sir. But I believe I can help you."
"I'm calling from Australia. I'm the owner of a small hotel in Queensland. I was clearing one of my rooms earlier and found a loose floorboard."
"Is there a point to all of this?"
"Getting there. Under the floorboard was a pile of envelopes. Unsent letters, all addressed to a Rupert Giles, in Los Angeles."
"Who were they from?"
"Well, I didn't open them, understand, but the return address was here in Australia. The name reads J. Calendar."
Giles was silent for a moment. "They can't possibly be for me. The only J. Calendar I ever knew was my wife, and she's never been to Australia in her life."
"I...don't know what to say, sir. Should I simply dispose of them, then? I've already talked to all of the other folk with the last name Giles that are listed in the Los Angeles phone book, and none of them knew a J. Calendar."
Giles thought. "Where in Queensland are you? I'm flying to Sydney in a week, and I'll have enough time while I'm in Australia to come there and collect the letters from you."
"Yessir. I'll give you our address. Have you got a pen?"
Tara breathed a sigh of relief when the cloth was finally pulled from her eyes. The trip had taken almost a full day, she figured, and she was exhausted.
"Sit." Tara turned and found the chair behind her, taking a careful seat.
"Okay, Anne. I'm sitting. What are you doing here?"
"What am I...what are you doing here?"
"I was on a plane-"
"The one that crashed? Same one as that...as Spike?"
"Yeah, that one. So how did you get here? You left on that research trip, and I never heard from you again after that."
"Drusilla. That's how I got here."
"You've been here five years? Holy shit, Anne..."
"Why do you keep calling me that?"
"Because you never liked it when I called you Faith. Anne, are you okay?"
Faith laughed, not a nice laugh but rather one tinged with madness. "Fine, fine. All fine. The farthest man from home."
"You said that before - what do you mean?"
"Did you ever go to college?"
"Never mind. What...have you - have they taken any of you yet?"
"Has who taken...I don't understand what you're asking, Anne."
"Then they haven't. You'd know."
"Who are you talking about?"
"Others. There are others on this island. They'll come for you. They'll take you. Or you'll get sick. Everyone's gone."
"That whole team you came with? You're the only one still alive?"
"No. I don't know. Maybe. How's your dad?" She looked at Tara with a burning intensity in her eyes. "They'll come for you. Keep yourself safe. Everyone in your group - keep them safe, keep them together. Do everything you can - but they'll still come for you. If there's anyone you don't know - if you hear them - then shoot. Better that than to disappear."
"Anne, you're not making any sense. What do you mean, if I hear them?"
"Doesn't matter. You'll know. You'll see. All of you. Do you still live on the farm, Tara?"
"You need to go. Need to leave here."
"LEAVE! Right now! Don't bring anyone back here, and don't come here yourself. I'm safe from them, and I'm safe from being sick - but you're not. Go. Leave." She picked up a different gun - one that Tara doubted fired tranquilizer darts - and pointed it at her chest. "Go, Tara."
"Fine," Tara raised her hands. "But nobody's going to disappear, Anne, and no-one's going to get sick. Come to our camp sometime, and I'll show you. Ok?"
"Go. The place where I met you is due east. Don't come back. You'll bring them."
Tara turned and climbed up the few steps out of Faith's enclosure, tears glistening in her eyes. She got her bearings in the bright sun and started on her way.
It was better than a day before she made it back. She brushed past everyone standing outside the caves and made her way straight to her sleeping bag. Willow ran in after her. "Tara? Tara! Where have you been?"
"Willow - it's okay. I just need to sleep, and I'll tell you everything in the morning."
"But Spike said somebody took you, at gunpoint, and-"
"Can - can we not do this now? I'm tired. I'll tell you everything in the morning. I just need to sleep. Please."
Willow stared at her for a second, hurt. "Fine. Tomorrow." She turned and stormed out of the cave, just in time to catch Spike's third recap of the events that led to Tara's disappearance.
"And I'm telling you, they knew each other! Like they was old girlfriends or somethin'. It was weird."
Willow walked off into the jungle, not wanting to listen to any more.
Spike, after retelling his story for a fourth time, found no-one seemed to be interested in hearing it anymore. Bored, he wandered off into the jungle to clear his head. He'd been walking for a few hours and night was beginning to fall when he spied an object laying in the tall grass. Cautiously, remembering his experience with the booby-trapped bear, he pulled a branch from a nearby tree and poked at the object a few times. When nothing happened, he walked closer and put a hand gently on the objects side. He jerked back when he heard something rattle, but when nothing swooped from the trees or the ground at him he put a second hand on the object and flipped it over. He burst out laughing.
"Ha! The bloody drink cart actually survived? Please, please tell me there's..." he opened the bottom of the cart and pulled out a can. "Nope," he muttered, tossing it aside. "Nope, nope, nope, YES!" he pulled out a can of beer. Cracking it open, he sat down and leaned back against the cart. He took a long pull from the can and sighed with pleasure. "Aaahhh...there is nothing a beer can't make better." When he'd sucked it dry, he crushed the can against the cart.
Standing, he looked back toward the camp and down at the cart again. A gleam in his eye, he dug a shallow hole in the ground and stuck all the cans into it, covering them over with dirt and leaving the empty cart there. Chuckling, he headed back to camp.
"He took the bait?"
"Yes, sir. But he said he was already booked on a flight to Sydney. If he was coming here anyway, then why did you need me to tell him about some letters that never existed?"
"The business meeting he was planning to attend in Sydney will be cancelled tomorrow. He needed to take that flight regardless - and thus, your phone call."
"Why is it important he take that flight?"
"The wisest thing for you, and for your business, is to forget this meeting ever occurred. Take this rather generous cash payment and forget that you ever met me. Clear, Mr. Adams?"
"Crystal, sir. Never heard of you. Not curious about nothin'."
"Good man. Take care, Mr. Adams - we'll have our eye on you."
Cordelia, in the midst of a coughing fit while Tara looks on in horror.