Part Three: Chapter Three
Faith slowly became aware of her surroundings. Buffy's warm bare back pressed into her chest, the crown of her head tucked under the brunette's chin. Unsure why she'd woken up, Faith nuzzled her nose into the other slayer's soft hair, tightening her arm around her. Buffy let out a sleepy sigh and pressed back into her embrace. Faith's body felt well stretched and totally relaxed, but still she couldn't fall back asleep. Confused, she opened her eyes, expecting to see the room dimly lit as it had been before she'd fallen asleep. Instead, there was a peculiar brightness, dull green and emanating from the floor. Faith blinked. What the hell was that?
The realization hit her full force and Buffy almost rolled out of bed, propelled off Faith's arm as the slayer leapt to her feet on the bed. "What's going on?" The blonde cried, half asleep.
"Get up!" Faith ordered her hysterically. "That alarm thing is going off!"
"What?" The blonde bolted upright, her horrified gaze settling on the glow that had overtaken the floor.
"Just get dressed!" Faith practically leapt into the leather pants she'd discarded only a few hours earlier.
"Where are you going?" Buffy yelled, struggling into her own clothing.
Faith was halfway out the door, yanking a shirt over her head as she ran. "To get a ride! Meet me outside!"
"So you have no way of knowing how long the stone had been lit before you noticed it?" Giles asked, urgently flipping through one of his books.
"No." Faith confirmed, her body rigid with tension.
Still clothed in the pajamas he'd been wearing when Faith had practically banged his door down, Wesley laid a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Well, we're all still here so there's still time."
Faith shrugged his hand off, too primed for a fight to accept his reassurance. Giving him a small nod of apology, she turned to Giles. "How long's this going to take?"
"We just need a few more minutes." Willow told her nervously, helping Giles make a circle of ash in the center of the library floor.
Buffy sat motionless on the stairs to the stacks, her arms across her stomach. She watched their preparations with little interest, her usually animated face blank. To the casual observer, she appeared unmoved by the palpable anxiety in the room. But Faith could see the way her fingernails bit into her biceps. She recognized the rigidness of her girlfriend's posture and the stillness of her frame for the signs of distress they were. Leaving the watchers and Willow to their work, she sat down beside the other slayer. "Hey," She murmured, bumping Buffy's shoulder with hers.
Buffy nodded in greeting, watching Giles and Willow review the incantations they were going to say.
Casually, the brunette draped her arm on the stair behind her girlfriend. "So, what do you think, we got time for a quickie?"
Letting out a started laugh, Buffy slapped the other girl's thigh with an open palm. "Is that all you think about?"
"No," Faith's hand snaked onto her hip, pulling the blonde against her side. "Got ya to laugh though, didn't I?"
Buffy laced their fingers together and attempted to smile. "You ever think I'm laughing at you?"
"Don't care, so long as you're laughing."
It looked like the others were almost ready to begin. Buffy turned to look at the other slayer. "I hate this."
"I know you do." Faith stood up, as Wesley gestured for them to come closer. "But it's gonna be fine. You just be ready to patch me up when it's over. Maybe shower me with sexual gratitude…"
Rolling her eyes, Buffy followed her to the center of the room. "I'll keep that suggestion in mind."
"Ready?" Giles asked, giving them both an encouraging glance.
Buffy hesitated, glancing at Faith before looking back at her watcher. She shook her head. "No, I'm not."
"Buffy," Willow frowned, "We're kinda out of time."
"I know that. I don't want her to do this." Buffy said. "I'll fight him myself."
"He wants to kill you." Giles replied gently.
"That's my point. This is my fight!"
Beside her, Faith took a step back. "You think I can't handle one crappy demon on my own?"
"That's not it!" The smaller girl protested, turning to face Faith.
The other girl shook her head angrily. "I'm a slayer too, B."
"Faith, I know." Buffy reached out to touch her, but the brunette shrugged her hand off.
"If you did then this wouldn't be an issue." The two slayers stared at one another in tense silence before Faith spoke again. "You know I did manage to keep myself alive for several months before I even met you."
"Technically you were on the run from Kakistos," Buffy began, knowing she had said the wrong thing when she saw her girlfriend flinch. "Wait, that came out wrong."
"Think it finally came out right." Faith muttered, turning on her heel and moving to stand at the library counter.
Buffy's face crumpled but before she could follow, Giles stepped into her path. "I'm afraid we've tailored the spell to draw the demon together with Faith. We don't have time for a change of plans."
The slayer stared past him for a moment at Faith's rigid back. She wanted to go around Giles and explain herself to her girlfriend. It wasn't that she didn't trust Faith. She just didn't want her getting hurt! What was so wrong about wanting to protect her?
"Buffy," Giles's stern voice drew her gaze back to him.
The blonde sighed. "What do I have to do?"
Willow held out the still glowing crystal. "Take this. You're going to sit in the circle."
"We'll be able to focus in on your life force." Giles added, gesturing for her to enter the circle. "Then we'll read the ritual incantations, drawing the demon to Faith."
Buffy looked back at the other slayer but the brunette wouldn't meet her eyes. Sighing, she stepped over the ash and sat down on the floor.
"Whatever happens," Giles warned, "You cannot leave this circle."
"What happens if I do?"
Wesley stepped forward, waving some foul smelling herbs over the now seated blonde slayer. "The ritual will end, allowing the demon to return to wherever it was when we called it here."
"Are we ready then?" Giles looked to each of them for confirmation. "Alright. Willow, if you'll begin."
The young witch began to chant in an ancient language neither of the slayers could understand. Giles joined her and the two began walking around the circle of ash. Wesley joined a moment later, their three voices rising and falling together in what might have sounded like a soothing melody under different circumstances.
Faith drifted closer. She was angry that Buffy didn't think she could handle this on her own. Wasn't she out every night, patrolling and kicking undead ass? Hadn't she been the one who slayed Kakistos? She'd even had her power taken away by a bunch of British pricks and kept on patrolling without dying. Faith hadn't been slaying as long as Buffy had, but she had the same slayer line flowing through her veins. She was every bit as good as Buffy! It hurt, knowing that the other slayer doubted her. But… it was Buffy's life on the line right now, Buffy who'd be snuffed out of existence if this went wrong. She forced herself to look at the other slayer.
Buffy stared back at her, clearly upset and wishing they had time to talk. Faith couldn't bring herself to smile, but she shrugged a little, pulling her stake out and gripping its reassuring weight.
The blonde nodded back in what she hoped was a supportive manner.
Between them, their friends continued around walking around the circle. Wesley's voice faded, then Willow's, until finally only Giles remained speaking. The glowing crystal in Buffy's grasp became warmer, until it was almost unbearable to hold. Light filled the room, leaving them straining to see one another until finally, Giles spoke the final word of the incantation.
A ripping sound roared through the library, forcing them to cover their ears in a futile attempt to block it out. Willow fell to her knees, squeezing her eyes shut against the blinding light, her screaming lost in the deafening roar.
As suddenly as it began, it ended. Willow struggled back to her feet, reaching out for Giles as he sat up from his prone position. "Buffy," She pointed toward the circle, frightened. The blonde slayer was slumped over, the softly lit stone on the floor next to her open hand.
From their left, Wesley muttered a curse.
"What is it?" Giles asked, struggling to focus his dazed thoughts.
"It's Faith." The younger man said grimly. "She's gone."
Given the ferocity of the incident in the library, Faith had reasonably expected that there was a world of pain coming her way. In reality, the feeling was more of a bone deep numbing. She was completely senseless, unconnected to any part of her body, but disturbingly conscious of the lack of sensation. She was a mind without a body, floating free, aware that she was moving although she couldn't hear, see, or feel anything. Mercifully, this lasted only seconds before she was abruptly reacquainted with her own body as she toppled backward onto her ass.
Leaping gracefully to her feet, the slayer tensed for an attack. The demon must have stunned her when he arrived, she thought. But where were the others? She whirled in a frantic circle. Where the fuck was Buffy?
"I'll get it." A female voice surprised her and Faith wheeled in the direction of Giles's office. A thin woman with dark hair and eyes looked back at her, startled. "Oh, umm, can I help you?"
Bewildered, Faith shook her head and darted through the library doors. "Jenny? Who are you talking to?" Giles's familiar voice asked from behind her before the library doors swung shut.
"Just a student I guess." The woman's voice drifted through the door as Faith stood in the hall. Peeking around the corner, she watched as Giles strode from his office toward the weapons cage. He looked slightly off. Faith narrowed her eyes. What was it?
"Okay," Jenny said, as she drifted after Giles. "So this Master guy tried to open the Hellmouth. But he got stuck in it, and now all the signs are reading that he's gonna get out, which opens the Hellmouth, which brings the demons, which ends the world."
"Yes," Giles agreed, collecting various weapons in his arms. "That about sums it up, yes."
The Master? Faith leaned back against the wall, struggling to figure out what was going on. The Master was dead, wasn't he? Buffy had killed him. Buffy had killed him and she'd died in the process… Faith's brown eyes widened. That had to be what was going on! Buffy had died fighting the Master and their demon was going to make sure it stuck this time.
Giles and his companion were still talking, but Faith completely tuned them out. Instead she was studying the surrounding library, trying to match it against what she knew the library should look like. The pieces were starting to slip into place for her, but they did not make a pretty picture. The spell had gone wrong. Instead of bringing the demon to Faith, they had somehow brought her to the demon. Which put her almost two years in the past. But that couldn't be, could it? Her gaze fixed on the table and chairs she spent so much time sitting at. There were eight chairs. Just last week she and Buffy had broken one of them sparring. There should only have been seven of them!
Jesus. Faith felt dizzy. She was in the past. Shoving her hair out of her face with both hands, she took a deep breath. Focus, Lehane. The first thing she had to do was find Buffy. Turning on her heel, she hurried down the hall, her mind still racing. Rounding the corner, she slammed into a warm body and found herself tumbling to the floor.
The other girl went stumbling backward, smashing her back into a row of locker. "Ouch," A familiar voice groaned.
Faith stared up, stunned. The face was a little fuller, the hips and shoulders less defined, but there was no mistaking her identity. Standing over her in a beautiful white dress and her usual leather jacket was her girlfriend. Or at least, a younger Buffy who would someday become her girlfriend. "I'm sorry!" The blonde winced, extending a hand down toward Faith. "Are you okay?"
"Five by five." She muttered, letting Buffy yank her to her feet. She felt the slayer connection between them spike in intensity at the physical contact and quickly released the other girl's hand. Buffy looked down at their palms, taken aback. "Damned static electricity," Faith blurted, "Sorry." Quickly, she maneuvered around Buffy and darted down the hall.
A moment later, Buffy's heels began clicking once more as she hurried around the corner toward the library. Faith doubled back, resuming her post outside the library door. She had no idea what this demon's plan of attack was or what it was capable of. Trailing Buffy seemed to be her only option at this point. Carefully, she peeked back through the window into the library.
Buffy stood with her hands on her hips, her back to the doors. "So, I'm looking for a kid, huh? And he'll lead me to the Master?"
Giles immediately protested, "Buffy, I'm not gonna send you out there to die. Now, you were right. I-I've waded around in these old books for so long, I've forgotten what the real world is like. I-it's time I found out."
The young girl's voice was gentle. "You're still not going up against the Master."
"I've made up my mind."
"So have I." Faith didn't need to see her face to know Buffy was giving her watcher a stubborn look. It was amazing really, seeing this younger version of her girlfriend. She had so many of the same mannerisms and yet she wasn't quite Faith's Buffy either.
"I made up my mine first!" The watcher exclaimed, agitated. "I'm older and wiser than you, and just... just do what you're told for once! Alright?"
"That's not how it goes. I'm the Slayer."
Giles leaned closer, his eyes wild. "I don't care what the books say. I defy prophecy, and I am going. There's nothing you can say will change my mind."
"I know." Buffy agreed, turning to go. Faith's brow furrowed in confusion as she watched. Suddenly, the blonde whirled around, decking her watcher in the face. Giles landed on the floor unconscious and Jenny immediately moved to his side. In spite of the gravity of the situation, Faith stifled a smile.
The young slayer plucked a necklace off the table and quickly placed it around her neck. Looking down at her watcher's prone form, she reached for the crossbow. "When he wakes up tell him... I don't know. Think of something cool, tell him I said it."
The woman looked back at her, still cradling Giles's head. "You fight the Master, and you'll die."
"Maybe," Buffy agreed, checking the bolt in the crossbow. "Maybe I'll take him with me."
She turned toward the doors and Faith slipped into a neighboring classroom, easing out of sight just as Buffy entered the hallway. She waited until the blonde had gotten several yards away before quietly following her. Faith couldn't follow too closely or Buffy would catch on. At the same time, she was afraid to fall too far behind. Who knew how this demon could manipulate the situation? Maybe he'd attack Buffy now, wounding her so the Master stood a better shot at finishing her off.
On the lawn in front of the high school, Buffy allowed a child to take her hand. From the unpleasant buzz in her skull, Faith knew the boy was a vampire. She wasn't sure how he fit into the story and she mentally cursed future Buffy for being so tight-lipped about her past. The slayer and her small guide gradually made their way across the town as Faith trailed half a block behind, trying to stay out of sight. They came to the sewer's entrance and the brunette was forced to stay further back, relying only on their slayer connection to let her know which direction the blonde had gone in. It was harder down here. Her senses could detect demons and vamps, some close by and some at greater distance. It was like several songs were playing at once and she was trying to concentrate and follow just one of them. Luckily, Faith had plenty of practice being tuned in to Buffy. She walked silently, her boots carefully avoiding debris as she followed turns seemingly at random. As she rounded a final corner, she was surprised to see the vampire child standing before her.
"You're already too late." He intoned, staring up at her with his deceptively innocent face.
Faith broke into a run as light flooded the tunnels. Her slayer senses were going wild; three vampires were suddenly very close by in addition to one she'd already detected. Behind her, shouting began, accompanied by the sounds of fighting. She knew that Buffy had drowned, resuscitated by Xander after only a few moments in the water. She hesitated, expecting to see Angel and Xander arriving any moment. Where the hell were they? This wasn't supposed to happen. She ran backward, looking down the tunnel until she spotted them. Angel was furiously grappling against two vampires while Xander was perilously close to losing his fight with a third. On the sidelines stood an imposing figure with long hair and pale, disfigured skin. There was the demon she was after, and it looked like his method of choice was preventing Buffy's friends from reaching her.
"There's nothing you can do." The child said gleefully, slipping up beside her soundlessly.
"We'll see about that." Faith spared a moment to backhand his small form, sending him toppling into the sewer wall.
At the noise, one of the vampires glanced her way. Their eyes met and Faith's breath hitched in shock. He still wore the same wire-rimmed glasses although he'd lost his trademark three piece suit. His movements were fluid, lacking the clumsiness he so frequently exhibited in their training sessions. The recognition was obvious on his ridged face as it transformed into a malicious grin. Wesley took a step in her direction. Taking advantage of his distraction, Angel rammed a stake cleanly into his back.
Faith swallowed hard, shaking off her shock. Somewhere in the sewer, Buffy needed her. Turning from the scene of her watcher disintegrating, she ran toward the source of the light. It led her to a large cavern, full of dimly glowing candles. She spotted Buffy's small form lying face down in a puddle of dirty water. Her discarded jacket lay several feet away.
"B!" Faith called desperately, dropping to her knees beside the prone girl. Grasping Buffy's shoulders, she rolled the young slayer over, pulling her into her lap. Blood oozed from a rough bite mark in the blonde's neck. Her carefully curled hair fell away from her face in a wet mess. Faith glanced toward the cavern's entrance. Still no sign of Xander or Angel. She gently pulled Buffy, stretching her limp body out on the floor.
Looking down at her pale face, Faith felt a rush of anger. She was not going to let Buffy die like this! She wouldn't let some demon come back here and snuff out the other slayer's life before she'd even begun to live it. Carefully, she tilted the blonde's chin upward and pinched her nose. She pressed her mouth down over Buffy's lips and forced a deep breath to pass between them. She inhaled and breathed again.
Releasing Buffy's face, the brunette placed her palm flat between the other girl's breasts and interlocked her other hand atop it. She gently compressed, counting off each compression desperately. "Come on, B!" She said pleadingly. "You can do this!" She had so much still to live for! Buffy was only sixteen. She hadn't been to a prom; hadn't learned to drive. She hadn't had time to really become the amazing slayer she was meant to be. And she hadn't met Faith.
Switching back to breathing, she again pressed her mouth over Buffy's cool, unmoving lips. "Come on, B. You ain't leaving me yet. We didn't even finish our last fight!"
Her hands began compressions again. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty, breathe, breathe again. Come on, Buffy! Please, please let her wake up. Another thirty compressions and then she was cradling Buffy's face, blinking back tears. One breath. Two. Breathe, B, damn it! Breathe. The sound of running steps in the tunnels alerted her to the fact that Angel and Xander were making their way in. Taking one last look at the younger Buffy, Faith climbed to her feet and ducked into the shadows. Seconds later, Angel and Xander entered the chamber, immediately darting toward Buffy. Xander began CPR while the vampire looked on helplessly.
From her position, Faith watched as the demon from the tunnels drifted in behind them, seemingly invisible to the two men. He wore an almost gleeful smile as he watched the scene in front of him. A pained moan drew her attention back to the trio on the ground. Xander had stopped CPR and the two men were kneeling over Buffy's still form. This wasn't right! They were supposed to save her! Faith took a step from the wall, ready to throw herself on Buffy and keep breathing for her forever, if that was what it took. But the blonde suddenly sucked in a deep breath.
"Buffy!" Xander cried joyfully.
The slayer hunched to her left and coughed up a stream of dirty water.
Faith's attention was drawn again to the intruding demon as the thing let out a guttural wail of disgust. Before her eyes, the demon began to shake rapidly, before finally bursting into flames and disappearing altogether. She felt a familiar numbness sink into her body and turned for one last look at the people from the past. Buffy was climbing to her feet with Xander's assistance. Her dress and hair were dripping wet but she had a look of determination that Faith knew well. Moments ago she'd drowned and come back to life, leaving enough room for the next slayer to be called.
Faith's vision went black as the sounds of the world faded. Free of her body, she flew through time, headed for the present.
"Giles! She's waking up!" Buffy's eyes fluttered open, her vision blurry. What the hell was going on?
"Buffy?" Giles was calling to her. "Can you hear me?"
"Huh?" She croaked, blinking again as her eyesight cleared. Giles, Wesley, and Willow crouched a few feet away, all staring at her in concern. "What happened?"
"I'm afraid you passed out." Wesley replied.
"Oh," The slayer pressed a hand to her temple. She had one hell of a headache. "Did we get him? Is it over?" When she got no response, Buffy looked at her watcher. "Giles?"
He shook his head gently. "We're not sure."
"What do you mean?" Ignoring her headache, the blonde climbed to her feet quickly. She glanced around the library as dread centered in her stomach. "Where's Faith?"
Her three companions exchanged glances before Willow answered her softly, "We don't know."
Buffy stared back incredulously. "You lost Faith?"
"Well, only in the… technical sense." Wesley moved to the table, picking up an open book.
"It appears we may have misinterpreted the incantation." Giles winced as Buffy's furious gaze landed on him. "Instead of bringing the demon to Faith, we may have sent Faith to the demon."
"What?" Buffy shouted, rushing toward him.
Outside the circle, Willow flung her arms open. "No! Buffy, you can't leave the circle!"
The slayer stopped moving. "Why?"
Still frantically flipping through the book he held, Wesley frowned sympathetically. "We're still not sure where Faith is exactly. If she is in fact in the past, breaking the spell could have disastrous consequences."
"Such as?" Buffy gritted her teeth.
"Permanently trapping her there." Giles replied despondently, picking up another book and joining Wesley at the table.
Buffy wavered at the edge of the circle for a moment before dropping back to the ground, defeated. Faith was stuck somewhere in the past and it was all because of her! Who even knew where Faith was? She could be anywhere from 1981 to 1999! Maybe she and four year old Buffy were getting hit by a truck right now. Or she could have traveled to last year and become a snack for Angelus. Sharp tears stung the slayer's eyes and she turned her back to the watchers, folding her arms around her legs. If only she had insisted on facing the demon herself! This was her fight, not Faith's. And now the other slayer was probably being mauled by hyena possessed students or attacked by twenty kids turned into demons by Ethan Rayne's costume shop. Faith could be killed in Buffy's past. Buffy had been killed in her past!
Her mind raced through the endless possibilities for her girlfriend's demise. Trapped in the burning Hemery gym; eaten by the Sunnydale swim team; taken out by Drusilla alongside Kendra; attacked by Amy's mom or possessed by baby demons in eggs. If Faith got eaten by the swim team, she was going to destroy this demon. Brushing the gathering tears from her eyes, Buffy concentrated on the anger instead of the wild panic blossoming in her chest. She'd find the demon and tear it limb from limb… assuming it had limbs. And then she'd beat it with its own arms until it agreed to send her into the past to get Faith back.
"Buffy?" Willow called gently.
The slayer looked back at her friend, still plotting her revenge internally.
The redhead smiled gently and cocked her head toward the door. Faith strolled into the library, smelling like sewer and shaking bits of sludge off her person. "Hey, B." She grinned.
Leaping to her feet, Buffy bolted from the circle and hurled herself at the brunette, almost knocking Faith over as they collided. "You're alive!" She cried happily.
"So are you!" Faith teased, but her arms tightened around the blonde all the same. Her hands moved over Buffy's back, reassuring herself that she was really looking at her Buffy. Everything appeared to be as it should be, she thought gladly, smiling into Buffy's hair as the blonde squeezed her hard enough to make her ribs ache.
A throat cleared from over Buffy's shoulder and Faith looked over at the Watchers. "You were able to defeat the demon?" Giles asked.
"Something like that." Faith managed to answer as her gaze landed on a beaming Wesley. She'd defeated the demon trying to kill her girlfriend. She just hoped she could save her watcher too.
The slim vampire stepped up behind their prisoner, squeezing his shoulder hard enough to make the man wince. "We did, Mr. Mayor."
Making a soft tsk tsk sound, Mayor Wilkins pulled some hand sanitizer free of his pocket and rubbed it over his hands liberally. "You see, Allen," He glanced over, "May I call you Allen?" When the man didn't respond, he continued, "The thing is that I simply cannot have two slayers running all over town, mucking up my plans. Not when I'm so close to the big day."
The man struggled in Mr. Trick's grip until the vampire released his hold.
Standing now, the mayor walked over to his window to gaze out into the bright morning sun. "I have a lot of preparations to complete during these last few months. I need every member of this team to be working to his full potential. Now, I've put a lot of faith in you, Allen-"
"Gettin' visions from the powers that be ain't really an exact science!" The prisoner spat with an angry Irish accent. "And I don't recall signin' up to join your team. I guess bein' kidnapped's made my memory a little hazy. And don't call me 'Allen!'"
"My goodness!" Chuckled the mayor. "He's feisty!"
The man glowered back.
"Well, I appreciate your candor." The mayor said thoughtfully. "I was a little concerned that you might be less than cooperative. Fortunately, we've got a few ideas on how to make your visions a little more reliable."
The prisoner rolled his eyes. "You can't make the powers send me more visions."
"Of course not." Mayor Wilkins agreed. He turned from the window and seated himself behind the desk once more. "Did you know that there are hundreds of seers, all across the country? Each one sees just a little bit, through a narrow connection to the powers." He smiled broadly. "What we can do is widen your connection, so you'll be tapped in to the feed a little more."
"Like a TV," Trick interrupted pleasantly. "Just constantly playing visions."
"Now, don't worry." The mayor hastened to reassure their captive. "I'm told that after the fourth or fifth day, it won't even hurt anymore."
The man began struggling violently against his bounds.
"Oh, dear." The mayor tutted. "Mr. Trick, it looks like our guest is a little upset."
Still struggling, the man's human face distorted to reveal blue skin and long spikes.
The mayor looked at his watch then back at his henchman. "My goodness, it's nearly time for the ribbon cutting ceremony! The zoo is finally done remodeling the hyena exhibit after all that nasty business…" He trailed off, noticing that neither Mr. Trick nor their captive had moved. "Well, never mind that. Mr. Trick, can you please escort Mr. Doyle back to his room?"
Licking his lips affirmatively, the vampire wrangled the frantically kicking Doyle up and out of the office.