Back to the Beginning:
SERIES RATING: NC -17
Faces of a Thousand People
Front line Assembly - Millennium
"Buffy?" Willow asked, kneeling beside her sobbing friend. Willow knew that things were stressed tonight, they all knew that on the other side of the country Faith was all alone, slaying vampires and her own demons. She looked over her shoulder, to see the others standing there looking at her expectantly. With a sigh, Willow set her hand on her best friend's shoulder and squeezed lightly. "What is it? Is it Faith?"
"I just miss her so much." Buffy choked out, shaking her head. "I know I just saw her, but still, she's not here."
"But she will be, I mean as soon as she can." Willow offered.
"I know, Wills." Buffy looked up at all of them, brushing her hair from her reddened eyes. "I know."
Balch watched as they lifted the unconscious Slayer from the floor of the hall, her head loosely falling back, and a low sad sound coming from her bloodied lips. Two men carried her out, past him.
"Put her in the house." He instructed and turned back to Unit Leader Osler. "How long will that tranquilizer keep her down?"
"Hard to say really." Osler offered, keeping his eyes on his clean up crew as they swept up the dust and broken items from the floors. "Maybe two hours, with her metabolism."
"Indeed. Right then, I had better begin the injections." Balch decided as he spoke.
"Couldn't hurt." Osler grinned. "Thompson, make sure you get that chalice and bag it for the lab mice back at HQ."
"Sorry for that mini meltdown Wills." Buffy offered as she leaned against the counter in the kitchen. Content that there was nothing seriously wrong with the Slayer, the others had left for the night, but Willow had stayed, wanting to just make sure. She ran her hand up and down Buffy's deceptively soft arm.
"You are entitled, Buffy. Honestly. I think we all understand. I know I do."
"Do you?" Buffy asked her softly, her hazel eyes questioning.
"Sure. You left her to fight a battle all on her own." Willow shrugged.
"It's not that." Buffy sighed.
"Something just feels off… I can't explain it better than that." Buffy shrugged, twisting the cap back on the water bottle before tucking her hair behind her ear.
"Well, it's nearly dawn in Boston, and if you haven't felt any thing, you know with that whole psychic-Slayer-network-bond, then I am sure she won." Willow offered.
Buffy grinned. "Well I am feeling nothing so." But Willow could sense the emptiness in her voice. It was the same lack of emotion that Willow had heard for months, since Faith had left. "I, I need to get out of here for awhile. Too much tension, something."
"Okay." Willow shrugged.
"Where did everyone go?" Buffy asked, as if she just realized there was no one else there with them.
"Um, you know, getting late, no major disasters to plan for. I think Giles went to get some sleep. Anya and Xander left together, but," Willow rolled her eyes, not knowing what was going on between her two friends. They seemed to be taking things pretty slow, Anya was, in her own words, 'making Xander sweat it out'.
"Right." Buffy smiled in agreement. "What about Jude?" Buffy asked, a twinkle in her eyes.
"Well, she, um, said that she, well," Willow stumbled, just the mental image of Jude at the mention of her name was enough to make her cheeks flush.
"You okay there, Wills?" Buffy asked with a wide grin.
"Yeah, fine." Willow swallowed deeply. "No."
With a grin and a wiggle of her eyebrows Buffy declared, "She's hot."
"She is! I was walking around in her body for a week, Wills. I know you are happy."
"Well," Willow hedged hesitantly.
"You have seen…" Buffy mock whispered.
"Willow Rosenberg! You have been dating an incredibly sexy woman for months and you have yet to seal the deal?"
"She is not Tara." Willow shrugged.
"No… no she isn't. Is that what is…" Again Buffy was just dangling sentences.
"No, maybe… No." Willow was stuck.
"Just," Buffy closed her eyes, and then sighed. "If she makes you happy, don't let fear hold you back."
Willow bit her bottom lip, nodding, still feeling a little embarrassed talking about lesbian sex with Buffy.
"And you want advice, let me know. Faith and I found a lot of places on that body that seem to be appreciated."
"Buffy! You did not have sex with Faith when you looked like my girlfriend!"
"Where have you been?" The voice asked from the darkness.
"I couldn't get away."
"Do you know how important-"
"Yes, I do, and I know arguing about it right now is robbing us of valuable time."
"You have some nerve."
"I know who is in control here; and that is not you."
"I could kill you."
"Right." She scoffed, tossing her long leather coat onto the back of the couch. "Let's get this started."
Out of a conditioned routine, Buffy locked the door to the large house behind her, and then walked slowly down the flagstones to the sidewalk. She threw a quick glance over her shoulder, taking in the Victorian; it's turrets and windows, most no longer lit. It seemed like everyone had left for the night. The house was empty most nights now, without Holburn, Dawn, or Faith living inside of it. Just leaving Buffy to the massive place alone. Over the months, since Faith's departure she tried to convince Giles to move in with her, but he protested, making it clear that though his apartment across town was small, it was what he wanted, and that he needed to have the privacy it afforded. Which Buffy knew meant he wanted to be able to have a social life and not flaunt it in front of the others. Giles always did have a secret side to him, and Buffy was accepting of that now. Now that she understood that for all the darkness and evil baddies they fought, having down time, having something normal like dating was important to ground them. She never really appreciated that aspect of her life. Sure those she dated over the years weren't all that normal; Two vampires, a drugged up Government agent, a prostitute, and her fellow Slayer, yeah, not all that normal. She thought, in those first few weeks with Riley that she could do normal, that it would be easy to have a double life, but it became impossible, and Buffy had long ago accepted that she wasn't normal, and could not have a normal relationship. She felt a grin appear on her lips. She didn't want normal. She wanted the passion, and she got that more from Faith than anyone else before, and possible ever. So if Giles was the only one of them who could have that normalcy, she would not begrudge him that. Not for her own selfishness, just because she was lonely.
The first month had been easy; she had just pretended that Faith was a dream. Her coming back, rebuilding the emotions that had always been between them, bubbling below the surface. The look of utter surrender she had seen reflected in Faith's brown eyes the first time they made love in that crypt. None of it had happened, or at least that was what Buffy told her self over and over again. It was better to believe it to be a heated hallucination, than to feel the pain of not having it now. So convincing her mind had been that it surprised her, when in the second month it hit her like a truck on the Sunnydale Expressway. It wasn't a dream, and her body and her soul were aching, needing to feel loved, wanted, and protected. She may not have completely realized it at the time, but Faith made her feel all of those things, and that was something she had never felt before. Angel and Spike were vampires, and no matter how much love or lust, no matter how much she might trust them with her emotions, or in Spike's case her body, she always knew that they were her sworn enemy. Riley, though strong and assertive, even on the wacky power pills was no match for her on her worst day. Only Faith could protect her, or defeat her. Only Faith was strong enough. Only Faith could make Buffy drop all of her control, all of her fear. Just the memory of giving herself completely to Faith made her body shiver, made her skin erupt in gooseflesh, and her breath pick up.
"God." Buffy huffed. "Just thinking about her gets me hot." She rolled her eyes at herself. Nothing good would come of getting so aroused she wouldn't be able to walk, not when the touch she needed to liberate the building pressure was across the country and she had no idea when, or if she would ever see Faith again.
Buffy had never believed the stories, the fanciful tales of what real true love felt like. She never believed one could miss something so very much after only having it for a short period of time. Now she knew. Love was all consuming, and changing. Faith had given her real love, and taken it from Buffy in return. Those dark eyes told her every time she looked into them. Faith loved her, completely. And knowing that, Buffy had never thought about her Faith even looking at someone else, so Buffy had been taken aback finding her in Boston, in the arms of some other blonde, completely mesmerized as she watch Faith dancing in a smoky club, someone else's hands on her strong body. Buffy's heart had swelled with jealousy, that she could not be the owner of those hands. There was no anger at Faith, she understood. There were times in everyone's life when they just needed to feel. Buffy had repeatedly been with Jane in the past, when she needed to feel, and her subconscious drew her to Jane, Faith's look alike. That was what Buffy watched Faith do in Boston. Find a woman that looked like her and allowed herself the release of being with her. At the time, when she first saw it, she didn't know that Faith referred to all of the women with Buffy's name, but when she did it pulled at her heart. Seeing the deep shadows under Faith's eyes, seeing her sneer instead of the smile that radiated with happiness. It was like Faith was torturing herself by chasing after Veronica, by chasing her past mistakes. Buffy would have loved Faith just the same if she had stayed in Sunnydale and let Veronica get away. The need for revenge, though understood by Buffy, was not a burden that she felt Faith had to carry.
Buffy kicked at a few random pebbles littering the sidewalk as she walked deeper into Sunnydale; recalling how full her life had been in those months since Faith left. It was as if the vampire population in town had been growing and she had missed it. There seemed to be more and more newbies to slay. Add that to the vagabond groups that appeared from time to time, and she was kept busy at night; her days were filled with checking in and checking out books in the school library. She would wonder, as she looked at the line of students all holding books in their arms, where the hell did they all get their books when she was a student. For all the time she and the others spend in the library with Giles, planning and plotting, there never seemed to be other regular students entering the sanctum. Had there been some unspoken rule that the place was off limits? Or was reading increasing in the town? There never came a real answer, only lines of students, all with their handy yellow and red library cards and books. It filled the hours when the sun was out, which kept her from thinking too much. And there was a lot to think about. Not just Faith and Buffy's breaking heart, but the piece of her that was slaughtered by Veronica's hand.
Some one created by monks using magic, something that had never really been, and yet when Dawn was killed, Buffy was still tortured, remembering all of the false moments. Dawn being brought home from the hospital, Dawn taking her first steps, the first time Dawn swiped Buffy's favorite cashmere sweater and preceded to spill an inhuman amount of ketchup on it. Dawn crying when they moved to Sunnydale, Dawn throwing a tantrum when Buffy got the larger of the two bedrooms in the house. Dawn acting like a Faith Jr. when the Slayer had first come to town. Buffy would wake covered in sweat from having dreams of remembrance, that her head knew were false, but her heart was convinced that they were real. So Buffy had begun sleeping less. Filling the hours of the day with work, nights slaying. When she wasn't slaying, she was training, waiting until exhaustion, before falling into bed, getting two hours of empty sleep. Keeping the thoughts at bay.
That is until Jude came into their lives. It was as though she wasn't there one day, and the next she was.
Red hair slipped through her fingers as Willow raked them through it for the second time in as many minutes. Her hands kept trying to fidget, and if they had their way she would be dialing Jude's telephone number on the cell phone that felt heavy in her jacket pocket.
Why can't I just call her to say hi? She mused, then answered herself; because you just said goodnight to her an hour ago.
There was something about this woman, a woman who was completely different than Tara, completely different than any woman Willow had even met before. From the first moment she caught sight of her on campus, taking in the strong and powerful gait of her walk, the sparkle in her honey colored eyes, Willow was intrigued. When this petite woman stopped a foot away from Willow, smile gracing her full lips, and quirked an eyebrow at her, the Wicca knew she was hooked.
Granted it was a little disconcerting that she found herself wanting to stand even closer to a stranger, that she wanted to run the back of her hand over the sculpted cheek bones, and feel the very short bleached blonde hairs on her head. That was completely unlike Willow, and she knew it. She would always be the nerdy Willow Rosenberg. Didn't matter that she was a powerful Witch, if she could harness enough power to end the world, when it came to people she was a nervous-nelly. She thanked the Goddesses on that day when Jude had taken her hand immediately and greeted her with a knowing smile and a rich voice, proclaiming that she had been looking for Willow.
That was another oddity. How many people had girlfriends who could see bits and pieces of the future? Willow grinned, recalling a few nights ago, in Jude's small apartment as Willow had the smaller woman pressed against the front door, kissing her with such passion that Willow was afraid her heart would leap out of her chest, and Jude had calmly whispered for Willow to relax, that they would not be crossing that line, would not yet become lovers. It was not time, yet. And Willow had relaxed.
Goodness it made being in a relationship and trying to surprise her impossible, but it made indoctrinating Jude into the Scoobies simple. They all agreed, especially Giles, that having someone who could actually see into the future on their side would be remarkably beneficial. Though Xander was the most grumblely out of the family, when Jude refused to give him that night's winning lotto numbers.
Jude made her smile, made her feel special, and Willow wouldn't trade that for the world. If she could just get over this feeling that she was betraying Tara by having feelings for someone else, then it would be a near perfect relationship. Well that, Willow chided, and if she could ever seal the deal.
She nearly leapt as her phone vibrated in her pocket as she reached the outside of her apartment building.
"Hey you." Jude's voice purred.
"I was just thinking about you."
"I know." Willow could hear the smile in her voice. "It will happen Willow, sooner than you think."
Willow closed her eyes, setting her forehead against the cold stucco wall.
"Yes. And it will be worth the wait."
"Mm." Willow grinned.
"Now take that bath, and go to sleep, you will see me at 8:06 in the Student Union."
"Want to save me the thinking and tell me what I will be wearing tomorrow?"
"It will just, um, come to you. Goodnight to you too."
"You are supposed to let me say it."
Jude laughed before hanging up. Willow sighed, and opened the door to the building.
Jude was nice, and Buffy was sure from the blush Willow sported in the kitchen that her friend really liked her. Buffy hoped so. Granted it wasn't like Buffy and Faith were together and in front of Willow all the time, still, Buffy wanted to know that Willow had moved on. Not that she would ever love just as she loved Tara, but she needed love and affection in her life just as much, if not more than the Slayers. Jude seemed, so far, to fit that bill. She was kind, attentive, and Buffy really liked her.
Sighing she stepped into Biltmore Cemetery, one that was rarely used anymore, having become filled to capacity some years before she even arrived in Sunnydale. Buffy knew that if she were looking for a freshly risen vampire, this was not the place, but to walk around amid the tombstones, to hear the wind through the trees, this would be the place. Thinking had helped calm her down slightly, so the need to beat the undead shit out of something was not as strong as it had been, so meandering through this place would be enough tonight.
"Please." Whispered across the wind that moved some of the maple and oak leaves on the ground; the sound catching her ears, and causing Buffy to turn her head sharply to the left. Someone was here. Taking three sharp, wide steps in that direction, she closed her eyes and inhaled. Earth, stone, grass, leaves, and death. Her nostrils flared, and she felt the low pain below her belly, and the blood in her heart sped up. The muscle pumped twice strongly out of time, raising the rate, and she felt the adrenaline and blood moving down through her legs, back up her chest, and out to her arms. Unconsciously her muscles tightened and released. The Slayer's eyes opened, looking through the shadows. Pulsing loudly in her ears the sound of one human breathing, and her eyes narrowed in on the figures. One human, one very much not.
With a light hop she was running towards them, her eyes narrowing, taking in the scene. The vampire was dressed simply, blue jeans and a warm looking brown wool sweater. Not the normal attire for a vamp, but after all the years, nothing surprised her anymore. The woman in his grasp was dressed similar, looking every bit the student that Buffy was sure she was. A large school bag was laying on the ground, clearly having been dropped when the vampire came upon her. His dead hands were on her shoulders, and his ghoulish face was leaning closer to his intended victims neck. But not if Buffy had her way. She pulled the stake from her back pocket, using her free hand, grabbed a handful of his hair, wrenching his head back away from the pale, pulsing neck.
"I don't think so." She growled out, pulling harder on his hair, her leg behind his, giving the leverage needed to topple him easily to the ground. She watched him fall as if in slow motion, his hands clawing at the air, but there was nothing to stop him from hitting the solid ground with such force that unneeded air was forced from his lungs.
"Where am I?" My voice echoed in the great hall. The tapestries hanging from the stone walls doing nothing to muffle the tin echo.
"Dreaming, Slayer." I craned my neck to see someone standing in the distance. Guess he was right. There was no way this hall could be real. I mean he was small from where I stood, I could pinch his whole body with my fingers, if I looked through them. From here I could tell he was dressed, head to toe in black. I looked down at myself. 'Not bad' I thought, liking very much the tight leathers, and the painted on black tank top. I especially liked the shine to my boots. So far, a good dream.
"Hate when people who I don't know call me that."
"I know." Flash of white teeth as he smiled.
"So, dream huh?" Closing my eyes I was suddenly standing beside him, taking in his expensive suit of black, smelling the low smoke of long ago smoked cigarettes on the skin and clothes. "And the purpose for this dream." I looked him over. Pretty good sized guy. Wide shoulders, dirty blonde hair.
"To show you, to teach you."
"Hmm." I sucked on my bottom teeth, fighting not to roll my eyes.
"All the world could be ours."
"Like I haven't heard that before." No chance, the eyes rolled.
"Not this tale, I assure you."
Water dripped from the rag he rung in his hands over the plain steal bowl. Shaking it once, Balch leaned back over the unconscious form of the Slayer. Gently he moved the cloth over her right sable brow, clearing the blood that was there from the cut on her forehead. Turning the cloth he moved it over her cheek, removing more dried blood and dust.
"She looks so harmless." A voice said from the doorway behind him, and Balch turned, while dipping the rag in the water again, turning the warm water a milky red.
"I wouldn't say harmless." He offered, taking her arm in his hand, moving to clean the deep gash in her flesh. He noted easily the muscles of her arm, the weight of it. "More young."
A snort was the reply from Osler. Shrugging Balch continued to clean her off, then he would see to that cut. He would hate for it to scar.
He watched as her eyes began tracking back and forth beneath her closed lids, and the heat of her skin increased, sweat suddenly building up.
Rolling my head back and forth, feeling the tingling in my limbs, vaguely my mind distinguish that they are bound by something. Something wet was on my arm, but I couldn't pull myself completely from the place where my mind had just been.
A voice in the distance, a dream voice calling me back to it, murmuring through my consciousness.
"She will betray you, they will all betray you, and then what will you be Faith? How will you handle that? Living without her?"
"I'd rather be nothing." My voice croaked.
"What did she just say?" Osler said coming closer, his hand on the butt of the gun at his side.
"I, I am not sure." Balch looked down on her in fascination. "I think she is dreaming."
"I hope so. If not you better get the serum ready. I would so hate to have to put her down again." The sarcasm in the Unit leader's voice was scathing.
"It won't come to that."
"Darn." Osler shrugged, and walked out of the room.
The cloth made a pass across her forehead. "I wonder what you dream about, Slayer." Balch mumbled to himself.
"Nothing… well I'm sure that could be arranged." He chuckled, as I felt myself reenter the dream world. He was sitting in a larger wooden chair in the center of the hall. Looking around I saw nothing else, no furniture, nothing. I paced five steps and then turned, tilting my head to the side.
"How are you able to bring me here?" I asked. No one had ever brought me into a dream, well accept B. And I knew for sure she wasn't here.
"Easy? Then how come I not dream-napped more often?"
"Some people forget to look for the things that they want. Instead they pine away wondering and hoping. All they need to do is look."
"Uh-huh." I crossed my arms. "So, big guy, what's on the agenda for this little dream? What's this story you plan on telling me? You know, the story that convinces me to join the dark forces?"
"Who said anything about dark forces?" his blonde eyebrow rose over his right blue eye.
"Maybe the whole you in black and in my head thing. Not normal what I would expect from a goodie two shoes." I snapped.
"Lines are drawn, but who are you to say, Faith, which side is good, and which is evil?"
"Generally if it involves killing, I lean to evil."
"But you kill demons, don't you?"
Willow looked at the bathtub, as it was filling with water, and sighed, knowing she wanted to slip into the warm water, feel it heat her from the outside in, but something else was also prickling at the back of her mind. She wasn't sure what it was exactly that made her lean over and shut off the water, or walk back into the main room.
She found herself sitting at the table, looking at the screen saver on her laptop. Her finger brushed over the touch pad, and the log in box appeared. Still not sure why she was bothering, Willow typed in the password, 'Miss Kitty', and blinked as the desktop that came up, and the flashing icon that told her that she had a message. Frowning she maneuvered the mouse and clicked the link. The muscles of her forehead relaxed as her eyes widened as she looked at the message that was displayed. It was from one of the council members she had befriended over the net after she returned from her too short stay in England. Both Giles and Holburn had encouraged her to contact the lower members of the Council, for research and to familiarize herself with the practices of the group.
Wanted you to know that something is happening. I don't have much information, but I know for a fact that T is in America, Boston to be precise. I know you were asking around last week about sightings and power surges there, and thought you might want to know. Everything has gotten pretty quiet here over the past twenty-four hours, and I am beginning to worry a little, I think something is happening, and they don't want the rest of us to know.
I know, just enough information to freak you out, sorry about that, but it is the best that I can do.
As an aside, that prophecy and ritual you sent me to look over, I did find some information on it. What you sent me was incomplete, well okay, not incomplete, but altered. On what you outlined to me, nothing would happen. The true ritual is slightly varied. So don't worry about whomever has the one you sent me. Nothing will come of it. Can I ask where you found it? I would like to do some cross checking.
Hope you are well.
"What the hell?" Willow mumbled sitting back in the chair.
"It's all ready. We had better wake him up."
"This will work, I mean are we sure?"
"Of course it will work. Are you kidding?"
"Do you think that we would just let it happen, casually? Please. Veronica was a fool. Always far too driven by her emotions."
"Lust, Jealously, you know."
"But the prophecy, the spell. She had everything to do it."
"No she didn't. Didn't you think it was at all odd that suddenly that Buffy and her friends came across this information? Didn't you? Things do not fall into our laps, ever."
"So why then?"
"To get Faith away, to keep her away."
The fist connected with her shoulder rather than her cheek, as Buffy moved back and twisted. It left enough of an opening for her to side kick the vampire, sending him flying across the grounds, stopping only when his body came in contact with a particularly large oak tree. He slipped to the ground, and she sprung at him, arm extended. His face slipped back to human form as she lowered the stake to his heart, and she blinked, recognition sparking inside of her brain. She had seen that face before, but could not place where. Internally shrugging she pushed the stake deeper inside of his chest, and he shattered into a whole host of dust particles.
Buffy stood straight, brushing some of the dust from her sleeves, and turned to face the would-be victim, who was looking on with her mouth open, clearly in shock.
"It's okay. You are gonna be"- SLAP. Buffy's head snapped to the side under the surprisingly strong power of the girl's palm. "Not the normal thank you I get." Buffy mumbled, looking back at the girl who was red with rage. "Problem? I sort of saved your ass."
"Saved?" The girl laughed. "Fuck you Buffy Summers. You think you are so great."
"Whoa. Do I know you?"
"Of course not. You don't know anybody. You just slink through the night killing." The girl tossed her brown hair over her shoulder.
"I don't kill."
"Jimmy sure as hell ain't alive."
"Listen, who ever you are. You obviously know I'm the Slayer, and you know this is what I do. I fight the good fight. I am out here every night slaying the demons so you can live another day of your boring normal life." Buffy's voice bit back.
"You think you are doing the right thing? Where were you when they turned him? Where were you to stop that from happening? And now he really is gone from me forever! Who do you think you are? Did you stop and think that maybe I wanted to be turned?"
"You can't be serious." Buffy whispered.
"Why not? Why did you decide to save me, but you let them turn Jimmy? What gives you the right to chose who lives or who dies?" The girl lifted her bag and began stomping away. "You aren't God!"
"But I'm the Slayer." Buffy countered, but no one was there to hear her.
"Yeah, of course I kill demons." I tapped my chest. "Faith, Vampire Slayer, ringing any bells for you?"
A soft laugh came from his chest, and I narrowed my eyes. Why did this guy seem so familiar to me?
"I know very well what you do, what you are capable of. I know the power of the Slayer rests in your hands. I know that the line could end with you."
"Could, but won't. When I die, another will be called. You can't stop that. Is this what all of this is about? You plan on getting me to do something?"
"It won't be me, Faith. It will be Buffy."
"Yeah, see I am not getting that." I walked closer to his chair. "Maybe I am a little slow, Mr. Vampire, but I am not getting your point. Maybe you want to tell me where your body is, and I'll show you a point of my own?"
"Ha! Good for you, Faith. What gave it away?"
"That you're a fang?" I shrugged. "You are taking way to fucking long to tell me what you want, which is a weird little habit you all have. Why you can't just come out and tell me what you want, I'll never know."
"Ah, I see." He stood up slowly. "Unfortunately I have to go."
"And without telling me anything, how nice." I sneered.
"How about this. What I am about to do, you can't stop it, and neither can, Buffy." His face twisted as he said her name. "What you can do is decide what side you are on. Will you let her betray you? Because she will, Faith. She will abandon and betray you just like she has done to the rest of us, and for that she will be punished."
And then he was gone. No puff of smoke, no lightening bolts. Just gone. I sat down heavily in the chair, tossing my leg over the arm, wondering when I would be let out of this weird dream.
The shadows were long, the four figures in the room standing at the edges, all dressed head to toe in black, just as the specter that stood in the center of the pentagram that was etched in the concrete floor. In each of their hands were held small cups.
Together the four began to speak. "Gathered are we, and from the four corners come gifts for those who will accept them."
"To those we offer dusted bones of a master," alone the voice in the north called out in the large warehouse.
"Water from a cursed font," came from the west.
"Earth from an unholy place," from the south.
"Herbs cursed," rang out from the east.
"And to solidify the union, the blood of the Slayer's child." The voice in the center added, before lifting the earthenware cup in pale hands. The air in the space began to crackle, unseen but felt was the electricity in the air. Taking one deep swallow of the liquid inside, fighting the urge to retch, the specter began to speak again. "With these offerings I beseech thee, upon taking into me the offering, I will become whole, the morning sun shall fall upon me, and I will feel only the warmth. I will not perish." The last drink, taking in the rest of the potion, and the electricity around them all arced, glowing tendrils of red and white began snaking around the body of the specter, the pentagram on the floor becoming low flames. "You shall curse me, and with your power I will reign as the day walker. Nothing will harm me. Not the wood, not the cross, not the consecrated waters, and not the sun. Unstoppable I shall be, and nations will fall before me, armies will tremble in my wake, and I will end the reign of the Slayer."
The girl walking away was getting smaller and smaller, and Buffy just watched her go, with shoulders slumped, a frown on her features. The stake held loosely in her hand was released by tired fingers, and penetrated the ground.
Did that girl, that stranger really believe that was what she thought? That Buffy was holding herself above everyone else? Slowly she sat down, her hands on the lush grass, feeling the realness of it. She was better, in a way. She has the Chosen One. This was what she did. Fought the darkness. No she couldn't stop them all, there would be some people that she couldn't save, and it wasn't like she ignored that fact. It was there like a neon sign. Every new vampire she dusted was another person that she had been able to save.
"I can't save them all."
I ran my hand over the polished wood of the chair, wondering what exactly that vamp had meant. Chose a side? I already played that game, and I lost. I chose wrong and learned my lesson, at the business end of a knife.
I doubted B would just betray me for the hell of it. I knew her, inside and out, and there was no way she would just up and do something, unless;
"Unless I was on the other side." I mumbled aloud, my voice bouncing around in this place and then coming back.
But why would I be on the other side. I wouldn't make the mistake I made before when I went to the mayor. There was no reason for me to go against her.
"Buffy, where are you?" I whispered, my mind calling out to her, wishing that she were asleep, so I could see her again, even here, in this weird dream.
The stone walls began to tremble, bits and pieces started falling, a dark black fog began bubbling up from the joints in the floor.
I jumped out of the chair, turning around swiftly, looking to see Him sitting here, a thin switchblade knife in his hand, using it to pick at the nails of his left hand. This was not fucking right, there was no way:
"I dusted you, asshole." I growled lowly at him.
"Did you?" His eyebrow raised, and he grinned handsomely.
This wasn't real, this was a dream. I closed my eyes, and saw in flashes my fists raining against his face, I watched the blood bubbling out of his cracked lips from shattered ribs piercing organs that were not really needed, I saw his face vamp, and heard the scream of pain as I forced the stake into his heart.
"Tisk, tisk." His voice rumbled and I opened one eye, still seeing him sitting there. He stabbed the knife into the arm of the chair. "All those nasty little thoughts." He frowned. "Here little girl, let me give you something more enjoyable to think about." He flicked his wrist at me, and I was thrown against the far wall. I felt it shudder under my weight.
I tried to open my eyes, but all I could see were memories. The smell of stale cigarettes, beer. The feel of springs poking through the mattress into my back as the full weight of him pressed down on me. His sweating face dripping onto mine. The pain of him thrusting.
"I can wake up at any fucking time now!"
The sun was coming up on another day that would be like none other. Standing in the open doorway, watching the line as it moved across the ground, the harsh rays of the sun's light getting closer and closer with each breath that it was not needed for him to take.
He could feel it inside of him the difference in this body, which was now more than ever a vessel for the demon. A demon who was hesitant, but he knew this would work. It had to. The sun moving up his feet, legs. Closing his eyes, the sun hit his face, warming the pale skin. Slowly blue eyes opened, and he was looking into the sun. A sun that he had not seen with his own eyes in four years; because in all the time that he had been forced to walk and feed, and hunt in the dark. Forced to because Buffy was too busy saving her friends, too busy dating and going to college, to busy not being there when HE needed her. Her own father!
Hank turned, smiling to face the others still inside of the warehouse. They could not come closer; they would suffer the pain and death of the sun. He extended his hands to her, and she came closer, allowing herself to lean against his cold frame.
"How does it feel?" She asked softly.
"Amazing." He smiled brightly, still becoming accustomed to the warmth on his black clothes.
"I'm glad." She looked up at him. "Did you see the other Slayer?"
"Yes, the spell worked just like you said it would." He grinned.
"And what did she say?"
"Well, I sort of"-
"You went cryptic, didn't you?"
"It just felt weird to come out and just say it." He shrugged.
"I know, though you aren't making this easy. You know the Council has Faith now."
"So you told me." He slipped his arm around her shoulder. "Tomorrow I will turn you, if you are ready." He offered.
"It isn't time, you know that." She smiled, swatting his arm.
"Okay, okay. I just feel so, I don't know, powerful, like I could take on the world."
"You can and you will." She smiled up at him. "I can see it all now."
She looked up at him, not bothering to hide the adoration in her eyes. It washed over her, the tingling of deja vu, but it was something she was accustomed to. This moment was perfect, just as she knew it would be, as she thought about it again and again over the previous months. It was only a matter of time before all of it came true.
With a sigh she smiled, remembering the day she had stood in the shadowed corridor, watching as the Slayer cried crocodile tears over the corpse covered by the bloody white sheet, her hands gripping it, refusing to let the orderlies take the body away. The powerful and proud Slayer had been shaking and crying, and only the dark one had been able to pry her whitened fingers from the cold body. She remembered again seeing the great Buffy Summers fall into Faith's arms as the body wheeled away, remembered the squeak of the loose right wheeled on the gurney. It mocked the squeaking sobs from the Slayer.
Yes it was only a matter of time now before she would see the Slayer crying again, before they all taught her a much needed and valuable lesson in humility.
As Balch knotted the thread he used to stitch up the deep gash on the Slayer's arm, he listened to the noises coming from the hall. Someone was coming. But, as he scrunched his forehead straining to hear, he could not for the life of him make out who was talking on the other side of the oak door.
With a defeated huff he turned his attentions back to the Slayer laying beside him. She looked worse for wear, but he was confident that with a nights sleep she would be healed. That is if they did not use what was in the small wooden box beside the bed.
"No, no, Daddy no." The Slayer mumbled lowly.
Looking closer, Balch watched as one tear escaped the corner of her right eye, magnifying her pours as it slipped along her cheek, to settle in the curl of her lip. He wanted to wake her, and moved to set his hand on her shoulder, as the doorknob turned, and the door opened behind him.
The burn was worse than the pain, probably because it all felt so familiar. I had thought that the years might have twisted my memories, but this was how it always felt in the nightmares that plagued me since I left Boston. All of it. His stink, the weight of him, the burning inside, and the deadening pounding of my heart. Why was this happening? I knew damn well that I had killed this soulless fucker, so how was this happening?
"Nonononononono." I groaned as he bit at my neck, and I could feel the fangs pressing against my skin.
"What, Faith? I thought you wanted this?"
I leaned away, staring up at B, who had somehow taken his place. Her skin glistened under a sheen of sweat; her breathing was ragged as she continued to rock her hips into mine, but the pain was still there, the feeling of Him inside me, around me, only he wore her face. What in the hell was happening? My body was still frozen, not moving against her.
"B?" I whispered.
She grinned, "Of course. Who were you expecting?"
"I dunno." I mumbled as she went back to kissing and biting my neck. Something wasn't right. Well hell, aside from this being some kind of fucked up dream, still it wasn't right. "B, stop, okay?"
"You can't be serious?" She laughed looking at me, her eyes were swirls of yellow, slatted just like a vamps. "You know you want me, Faith. You know you want this." She hissed the last words as her face vamped out.
"What in the world is going on in here?" Quinten Travers asked as he moved closer to the bed. He looked, seeing the Slayer thrashing on the bed, covered in a fevered sweat. Her face showing the signs of the battle she had raged against the vampires was contorted in pain, and something that vaguely resembled fear. He turned to glare at his researcher, Balch, who was sitting looking pale. That was when Quinten spied the closed walnut colored box beside the bed. "Did you begin the injections?" He snapped.
"No sir." Balch replied softly.
"Oh, and what made you decide to go against the Council's orders?"
"She won't heal as quickly with the serum. I am sure she will stay calm and listen."
"Listen?" Quinten barked. "Do you know what she will do to us, all of us, when she discovers why we are here?"
"I don't know, sir. Why are we here?"
"Wake her up, Balch." Quinten snapped.
He set down his finished cup of coffee, feeling a silly smile on his face. He enjoyed moments like this. The two of them, sitting at the kitchen table, having breakfast together. It made all of the past months seem like a terrible nightmare, now that they were here, together again. Sure, Xander knew a lot of the past few months couldn't be swept under the rug, and there was that little annoying fact that she had yet to allow their relationship move back to being physical, but still, he was happy.
"You seem rather pleased with yourself this morning." She said as she raised her right brow and sipped her coffee.
"Huh? Oh, no, not pleased." He stammered, trying to get his head back to the present.
"No? Happy then?"
"Very." He said softly, letting out all the stops with the thousand-watt grin flashed just for her.
"Really?" She set down her cup. "So, even though you broke my heart, and I'm again a vengeance demon, even though we are still living apart and you are clearly afraid to commit to me, even after that, you are still happy?"
"Sure." He sighed, "An, you are here, and you are giving me another chance. Of course I am happy." He sat up stiffly. "Wait, did you said afraid to commit?"
"So when words come out of my mouth you do listen to them. Golly, that is comforting. Can you turn that off and on at will?" She snapped.
"Anya, I love you, and what ever I have to do to prove that."
"Excluding marriage ceremonies." She added, standing and gathering her dishes.
"I, I, I"
"You, you, you. What?" She slammed the dishes into the sink. "You weren't ready? It was too soon. 'It isn't you Anya, it was me'."
"Well that is a copout, and pretty much bullshit. Xander Harris, I am over a thousand years old, I have heard the excuses before. Trust me. This was about me. Something about me made you decide not to marry me. Just admit it."
"No! That isn't true."
"Sure it is."
"No, it isn't." He stood, knowing his tone was slipping into indignant, but unable to stop himself.
"Really?" She crossed her arms, glaring at him. "Then prove it to me."
"Sir, I think that I have the right to know what is going on here." Balch said, standing, putting his body between the Slayer and the others in the room.
"Sir. I have watched this Slayer for quite awhile now, and even though record dictates that I see her as nothing more than a tool in the hand of the Council, I cannot help but find myself concerned that something is clearly happening here that will harm her." Balch said definitely.
"We want merely what is best for the world, Balch. You have an understanding of how unstable this girl is."
"Sir, she has done nothing but prove to us all time and again that her heart is in the right place, that she is fighting for the greater good. Whatever it is that you mean to do, if it is in fact true and just, I am sure that Faith will go along with it." Balch crossed his arms, watching Quinten's eyes moving around the room, the slight twitch in his lip.
"I will not allow her to refuse. She will survive what we want, and though it won't be easy, it is for the betterment of all." Quinten sighed.
"Buffy! NO!" The Slayer called out from behind them.
"Wake her up." Quinten stiffened, "After giving her an injection."
Balch turned back around, looking down at the Slayer. "betterment of all", "She will survive". He forced down a shiver at the thought that was coming clear in his mind. What he just now understood. If his thoughts were correct, it would not be for the greater good, but it would be another example of the Council attempting to bend fate to it's own will. And he knew from research that plans like this always ended badly.
The suede of the long skirt was smooth under her hands as Buffy straightened it while looking into the full-length mirror. She moved her hands up to the white blouse, making sure she looked presentable for a day in the library. With a slight tilt of her head she took in her face, noticing the darker than normal shadows about her eyes. She was getting too thin, and her sleepless nights were beginning to become obvious, even for a Slayer. Cupping the tight bun on the back of her head, making sure it was tight and would not fall out during the course of the day she sighed. Even trying to focus on the mundane thoughts of her real life, she couldn't. It was like a massive bell, vibrating, sending out the words and ricocheting them back to her. The words of the girl in the cemetery. She had heard them mumbled before, by some of her closest friends, but for some reason they were striking a cord with her now. She could feel the truth in them, and that scared her.
Buffy tried to reason that she was just tried, and that she missed Faith, and all of those things led her to feel depressed, not something some stranger had said to her in the cemetery.
Sighing again, she lifted her purse and jacket from the bed and turned to leave the bedroom. She stopped shortly down the hall. Closing her eyes as she turned to the closed door to her left.
"If I was God, Dawnie would still be here."
"How can I prove it to you?" He asked, looking at her standing in the kitchen. She looked hurt, and he hadn't even said anything yet. But Xander knew, what ever she wanted he would do.
"Prove that you would stand by me. Not them. But me, Xander."
"What do you mean?" He asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.
"It will happen sooner than you think. When I have to carry out a wish that pisses Buffy off. It's her job to take out things like me, Xander. If she did, or," She chuckled. "If she tried, would you defend me? Or would you do what you always do and blindly follow your goddess Buffy Summers?"
I felt the sting of her palm on my cheek, and looked up into the face of the other half of my soul. Part of me knew this was still a dream, but seeing her above me, the sneer on her lips, it was hard to tell my heart not to hurt, not to believe what my eyes were seeing. It was so easy for her to hurt me, she didn't even have to try really, she never did. That was why I fought against loving her so much in the beginning, and why I fought not to allow myself to love her when I first came back to the 'dale. This one little woman could destroy me without even trying. And seeing her above me, the rage in her eyes, it still cut deep in my soul, even knowing this was a dream.
"Oh, you don't want it now huh? Well how about this?" She asked, baring her teeth in a smirk as I felt a pinching pain in my guts. Looking down, between our bodies I could see the handle of the knife protruding, could feel the phantom pain that was a companion of mine for years.
"Dreaming of you stabbing me is getting old." I mumbled and closed my eyes, willing her away, willing it all away. "All of this is getting old." I said snapping my eyes open, seeing the room now empty. "I'm gonna wake up now."
There was no way not to do this, with a room full of accusing eyes, glaring at him as he stood over the Slayer. Building in the pit of his stomach was a knot of bile, as the syringe felt heavy in his hand, as he pulled back the plunger, filling it with the yellowish liquid. Balch's eyes dropped again to the Slayer's battered face. Just days ago he had watched enrapt at that face, flawlessly blushed as she acted out carnal fantasies that would be with him for the rest of his life. He was painfully amused at the turn of events in such a short amount of time. How she had gone from something to lust after to something, no, someone he wanted to protect with his very life. He knew that Faith was good, that she would fight on the side of light regardless of the consequences to her self. She would fight to the death. She understood and embraced what she was, the Slayer. A warrior for the Powers that Be.
Balch tapped this fingernail against the glass tube, to make the air bubbles rise, and slowly pressed in the plunger, fluid and air squirting out from the tip of the hollow needle. The tension in the room crept up his spine as he reached for her arm, running his thumb over the vein clearly visible in the crook.
"Don't." A voice croaked, and his eyes widened, as he looked down into the dark brown of the Slayer's.
"Faith? Can you hear me?" Balch whispered, and watched as her eyes focused on his.
"Give her the injection now!" Quinten ordered, and there was suddenly a rush of activity in the room behind him.
The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was a gigantic needle. That freaked me out, but a calm anger settled when I saw what was inside. I could hear B's voice in my head, telling me about the time Giles drugged her as part of the Cruciamentum. I knew I was awake, and that the Council was in the room with me, wherever the hell this place was. And if they were about to do what I thought they were going to, I wasn't going down without a fight.
No way in hell I was going to let them take the Slayer out of me. No fucking way. I wanted to scream, but a pathetic plea came from my lips, and I was pissed that the sound had come from me. I focused on the guy who was holding the needle. He looked familiar, in a Watcher-we-all-shop-at-the-same-discount-tweed-store-way. But he knew me, he said my name, and he looked sort of sad. I heard the commotion, and then felt my arms and legs being forced down against the bed by many sets of hands.
"No." I groaned, trying the lift my arms, but feeling the throbbing of snapped tendons and broken bones throughout my body I knew I was pretty much at their mercy. A hand twisted my left arm, exposing the thin flesh over the pulsing veins, and I sneered in pain and in the feeling of defeat.
"Don't hurt her."
I snapped my eyes to the man holding the syringe. He says that while holding that wicked looking thing? What the hell was going on here? This was all too much to process. Hell in the last twenty four hours I killed Ronnie, killed Him, got my ass kicked, saved the world, had freaky dreams, and woke up in a room surrounded by members of the Watcher's Council. This was becoming a little much.
"Wait a good god damn minute! If you all didn't happen to notice, I'm not eighteen." I snapped finding my voice. "You missed this little ship of opportunity, what a couple of years ago? Besides that, you knew I got out of prison, you even sent me a Watcher who did all the funny shapes tests and gave me a clean bill of health. So clearly you are all confused, or lost the script or something. It's a little late to be pulling this ritualistic bullshit."
"Are you quite finished?" I strained my neck to see Quinten Travers sitting off in the corner of the room, holding a cup of tea in his hands. The picture of calm authority huh? How come the cup shook a little when he lifted it to his lips? Why where his eyes moving about the room continually. Did we have a little scardy cat running the show here? Good. About time that they learned who was really in charge.
"Maybe… I mean I could think of something else to bitch about if you really needed me to." I replied, leaning my head back and taking a breath. I needed to think about what was happening right here right now. If I focused enough then I could figure out a way out of this mess.
"I think your point was taken Faith. We have been, remise perhaps? This should have been done on your birthday, but as you were in prison, well getting you out just to possibly kill you didn't make the most sense." He sipped his tea. "And well then you were busy on the Hellmouth, and the reports from Mr. Strand, well, he thought that postponing it would do some good."
"And then my first Watcher got a little friendly with the locals, HS got gutted, I got this all, I was there remember? No need for the flashy MTV montage to go over what happened."
"Is she always like this?" The guy pressing down on my shoulder asked. I glared up at him, in his fatigues and cocky attitude. Hell, he wasn't even using all his strength to hold me down. So he underestimated the Slayer mojo huh? Interesting.
"Afraid so." That dude with the needle again.
"Because you were aware of the Cruciamentum, and what it means and how it is preformed, well, we decided to up the ante." Quinten offered glancing over again at the Slayer. He could tell from her position that she was letting her body relax, and in doing so the men holding her had loosen their grips. He hoped, for all their sakes that Balch injected her, and that the men realized the amount of sheer power and will that lay beneath their fingers.
"You can't just test me, the test has to be harder, so I am more likely to fail. Goody. I know, why don't you just get those balls back from your wife or who ever has them and kill me? Hmm?"
"Well that wouldn't be fair, now would it?" Quinten smirked at her insult.
"Please, let me." Osler smirked, as he pressed his palm harder against her shoulder.
"Down boy." Balch quipped.
"Like you could even touch me, with out your little yellow piss in a needle."
"My you are a colorful girl. Might I finish?" Quinten quirked his brow, setting the tea cup down. He was afraid to drop the damn thing, the way the Slayer's eyes seemed to churn with darkness when they settled on him was unnerving to say the least.
"Knock yourself out Jeeves, I do happened to be held down here, not like I am going anywhere fast."
"Fine." Quinten snapped. "As I was saying, if you had been paying attention. We WERE going to test you."
"Were?" She grinned.
"Suspense is really not my thing."
"The determination and skill you displayed when battling Veronica, though unnecessary, was exemplary, and we have all agreed that you are indeed worthy of being called a Slayer."
"Ah, gee, thanks." She rolled her eyes, in a similar manner to Ms Summers. "You make it sound like you even have a sliver of control over who the PTB decide to call. Nice to know you all are just as delusional as the vamps I slaughter."
"Interesting choice of words, Faith."
She cocked her right eyebrow. "How 'bout these ones? Fuck the hell off?"
"Um," He stammered hearing the rage in those words. Yes, getting her injected would be for the betterment of them all. There was no way they could hold her, no matter how injured she was, and he knew without a doubt that when he told her what the Council really wanted of her, that she would not accept it lightly.
"So okay then, no test. What's with the drugs?"
"Would you stayed here and spoken to us if asked?" He was hedging, and knew it. Casting a glance to Balch, Quinten was sure he knew he was skirting the issue as well.
"Naw. Okay I get your point. So are we done here?"
"Not quite. There is something we need to discuss with you."
The Slayer sighed, closing her eyes. "I'm not gonna like this am I?" she asked.
Willow had a bad feeling. And not her, it's Monday and I might be late for class because I was busy emailing people this morning, bad feeling. It was something in the back of her mind, tickling at her, telling her that something just wasn't right. Just the idea of the Council and Quinten Travers being in Boston, where Faith was, and the dark Slayer being alone. Yep, Willow definitely had a bad feeling about this. She was weighing the pros and cons of skipping her morning lecture and heading over to Sunnydale High to tell Buffy, when a hand slipped around her forearm, and with a squeal she was pulled towards the narrow alley between two of the buildings.
Willow allowed some magic to bubble up, as she turned blackened eyes toward whoever had a hold of her. Seeing the short white hair, the golden eyes, she swallowed the power, and relaxed, letting Jude bring her to a stop in the morning shadows.
"I dare say that no, Faith, you will not like this." The man holding the needle beside me whispered. I looked up at him, the plain face, the worried eyes. Sort of funny that their triggerman was definitely having some doubts. Never a good sign.
"You may not like what we have to say first off, but you will see that it is for the greater good." Quinten said, and then all eyes turned to the loud knocking on the door. It was like everyone held their breath all of a sudden. Funny, but not in the ha ha sort of way. I dropped my head back to the pillow, and closed my eyes. I could hear the shift in the air as Quinten waved his hand to someone. The shuffling steps as someone went to the door. Flesh slipping on the brass of the doorknob, a faint creak of hinges as the door was opened. I felt myself grin. Got to love Slayer hearing.
"Hey." I whispered softly, opening one eye and looking up at the man who was still holding a needle that would make a linebacker nervous. His eyes opened a little wider, and slightly he shifted forward, after casting a glance at the uniformed guy on my other side. Luckily everyone was watching some other Tweedy walking towards Quinten with a sheet of paper in his hands. "What's your name?"
"Balch, um, Robert."
"Nice ta meet ya, um, Robert. How about you put that needle down. You don't want to use it, and I don't want you to either." I winked.
"Shaddup you." The uniformed guy pushed harder against my shoulder.
"Osler, leave her alone." Balch snapped.
"You and what army are going to make me?" So the uniformed guy was Osler. Cool.
"Listen boys, no need to fight over me, we can work something out." Yeah right. How about I work out kicking in all of your faces. I was totally awake now, and getting more and more pissed off.
"Shut up you bitch."
"Oh no you just didn't." I growled, starting to gather my strength to sit up and shut this fucker up.
"This, this-" Quinten stood up, the paper falling from his hand.
"Someone smack him." I fell back down on the bed. This was getting old.
"Something is wrong. Worse than we thought."
Willow shook off the small shiver of pain that lanced through her heart hearing those words. This was different. Jude was different. Tara was gone, and as much as she wanted her back, it wasn't meant to be this time, and Tara wouldn't want her to pine away the rest of her life. She swallowed and opened her eyes to see the light brown one's of Jude. Willow's arm was taking in deceptively strong hands and she was pulled between the buildings.
"I missed you."
"Really?" her voice quivered, giving away how much she doubted anyone could miss her. She was just Willow after all, nothing special.
"Willow, do you know how much…" Jude dropped her chin to her chest.
Watching the emotions playing across the expressive face of the blonde before her, Willow unconsciously tucked some hair behind her ear, wondering what Jude wasn't saying. She watched the normally stoic woman's forehead scrunch. The shadows between the buildings were playing on the plains of her face, making her appear even harder than she normally looked. This woman, so different than Tara in every way, and yet she still stirred something within Willow, made her crave her company, made her want to loose herself in her arms. Something she never thought she would ever want again. Funny how when you least expect it, someone comes into your life making you want to feel again.
"How much what?" Willow ventured wanting to know, thinking she had an idea of what the what was, yet part of her was insecure and afraid at finding out the what was nothing at all what she thought the what was.
A smirk was Jude's only reply as she leaned closer, smashing the air between them, her hands cupping the back of Willow's neck as their lips met. A sigh bubbled from up inside of Willow's chest, as a firm tongue traced her bottom lip, and her blood began to pump harder through her body, dancing in her stomach. Willow opened to the question, and all thoughts of Slayers, and Councils slipped away.
With a shift of her hips she felt how wet she had become and realized her hips were languidly pressing out a rhythm against Jude's. Her mouth was full of warm tongue, and her eyes slipped closed as hands moved from her sides to cup her bottom, pressing her even harder against the denim thigh that slipped unnoticed between her legs.
Willow's entire mind was focused on relieving the throbbing that was taking over between her legs. With every breath, every touch of their tongues she was getting wetter, and harder. She moved her hands up to cup the firm breasts that were against her chest. Jude's moan filled their mouths, making Willow's skin twitch. She moved her mouth away with a rough nip to Jude's upper lip, and pressed their foreheads together. Keeping her eyes closed, not sure she wanted to see as well as feel she pleaded,
"Goddess, tell me it's time."
"Oh it's time." Jude moaned, as her teeth nip at Willow's throat.
"Why do people always say that?" I mumbled, giving in for the moment. There seemed to be utter chaos, though comically controlled. A bunch of British guys simultaneously cleaning their glasses. I was convinced now that it was taught in the first weeks of Watcher school. I mean really. How fucking cliché. Rolling my head to the side, hearing movement close to me I watched Balch slip the needle into the drawer of the bedside table. He looked at me a slight twitching smile at the corner of his mouth. I knew I liked this guy.
"Sir, what about," Osler cleared his throat and then motioned towards me. I felt my eyebrows rise as I looked to Quinten, as did everyone in the room.
"Just, just leave her. She might as well know this too." He said, setting the paper down on his lap. "Those were the results from the lab. Testing was done on the chalice, simple procedure really. We wanted to ensure that all that we thought Veronica had tried to accomplish was truth, so we could record it in the annals. But, well." He grinned, but it wasn't a happy, 'wow today's a good day' sort of grin. More like, 'I am really pissed off but I can't yell and scream and kick my feet cause I am a crusty old Watcher' sort of a grin. "It appears that even if Faith had failed in her valiant efforts," that grin again, "Nothing would have happened."
"Sir?" Another nameless one asked.
"It seems the spell, the ingredients, were not what was needed."
"Seemed to me that she had everything she needed." I thought out loud.
"How did you know?" Balch asked, and I felt all eyes suddenly turn to me. Which, wouldn't be a bad thing, but I was trying to figure out a way to get out from under these dumb fucks who still had their hands on me holding me down to the bed. This was not a page in my fantasy book under bondage, I could tell you that right now. Too many tweeds, not enough blonde slayers.
"I had the spell, and the list." I frowned. "Why the hell does it matter how I know, I know. Is there some rule that the Slayer isn't supposed to know?"
"Whatever you had was wrong, I assure you. The ingredients were wrong."
"But they gave me the information, it said exactly what was going to happen."
"Perhaps this is what they wanted you to believe."
"I fucking doubt they would have lied to me." And I knew that was the truth.
"Really Faith? Buffy didn't even come to you."
"Yes she did." The Slayer snapped.
"We were watching you."
"She used a glamour." Balch watched as the Slayer rolled her eyes.
"So she gave it to you, that means, she knew. Faith you have to see that Buffy is unstable. Being a Slayer for as long as she has, it is giving her this idea that she is above all things." Quinten offered.
"No." It came out sounding like a growl.
"She always says she is the Slayer. She never calls you the Slayer, does she Faith?"
"Who gives a fuck what she says, or what – no why am I still here?" She struggled to sit up, her strength clearly returning, despite the many fractures and torn ligaments she was sure to have. The men holding her were clearly using all of their combined strength to hold her prone.
"My thoughts exactly." Osler snapped, and the room was filled with the sound of the crack of his dart gun. In a blink one dart was sticking from outside of her shoulder, she squirmed, and he shot another into her neck, and one into her leg.
"Mother fu-" The Slayer fell back against the bed.
"Was that really necessary?" Balch asked, noting his voice had cracked with fear.
"I think so. Why did you find it necessary to have her awake, have her bloody consent. We are the Council of Watchers, those that come and LEAD the Slayers into battle. Who gives a toss what she thinks or wants? She is a tool. She should have no input into our plans."
"Still." Quinten offered, moving to stand.
"What, you think that telling her that we were going to kill her, to activate another, and then kill that one to activate another would have gone over well?"
"We will be bringing her back." Quinten sighed.
"Doesn't matter. The fact is, she has no say. And." He cocked the gun again. "Neither do you."
The morning seemed to be going on as every morning before it. The electric teakettle whistled, she poured the boiling water into the large blue green mug, which had been a Christmas gift from Dawn a year before. Buffy dunked the tea bag three times, and like always found her forehead creased as she wondered when she had picked up Giles' fondness for tea. Then a toss of the bag into the small lined trash can, two sugar cubes and a shake of the powered white, well she knew it wasn't milk, but really didn't want to look on the back of the container and see what she was actually putting into her body. Ignorance did have its perks. Taking a sip, she hummed softly in contentment and walked out of the small office to the front desk. There were four students milling around behind the back stacks. She couldn't see them, but knew they were there. Knew that if she closed her eyes and really listened their youthful heats would pound out a cadence, if she sniffed the air the smell of cheap aftershave that wasn't really needed, and some dime store perfume would mingle in her sinuses, letting her know that there were two boys and one girl in this large room with her.
Buffy gripped the cup with all ten fingers, and rolled her head slightly. When had the changes first started, she wondered? When she had been called, when she woke that morning, laying in her bed in L.A., eyes closed she had smiled, hearing her mother humming a lullaby in the kitchen, as the sound of eggshells being cracked against a steal bowl added to the sounds she heard. Then hearing her father snapping the Sunday paper, and the sound of a hand striking flesh and her mother's teasing scolding of her father for getting frisky while she was trying to make breakfast. Fifteen-year-old Buffy had smiled at the playful happiness she was hearing from downstairs. Before, of course she jumped out of bed, frightened, knowing without a doubt that there was no way she should be able to hear what she had moments before been grinning about. Since she was turned her senses had all heightened, but it seemed that in the past year it had become even stronger. She made a mental note to talk to Giles about it, as one of the boys emerged from the rows of books, heading her way. Moving away from her mug, and towards the computer to check out the books, she did not look up until the three textbooks were shoved across the Formica counter.
Lifting her head with her smile plastered on, she felt the corner of her lip twitch, and the smile falter slightly. The young man standing in front of her, though completely human, still shook her. He looked exactly like the vampire she had encountered the night before. The one who had been about to turn the girl who had accused her. Maybe this kid was related to the vampire, which would explain the uncanny resemblance.
Buffy took the books, scanned them in, and then the student ID card she was presented with. "Here you go. Um, do you know some one named Jim?" She asked, pushing the books back to him.
"What? You mean my brother Jimmy?"
Internally Buffy sighed. Outwardly, she nodded.
"Yeah, he was murdered." The boy shoved the books into his backpack.
"Murdered?" She asked.
"Forget already Slayer?" The boy glared at her. "He was murdered by you." He spat out and then stomped out of the library. The doors swung back twice, in the wake of the force he had used in shoving them open. Buffy was still staring at the doors, wondering.
Is this my fault? Am I a killer? He was a vampire, I had to slay him. It is my job. It is my job. It is my-
Buffy turned to look at the girl standing on the other side of the counter, holding a book to her chest and looking at Buffy with something close to fear in her eyes.
"What?" Buffy mumbled, rubbing her temple slightly. She closed her eyes, and then opened them again. Taking in the mousy girl in front of her, smelling her fear, watching the pulse in her neck pound faster with every shacking breath she took. Buffy could suddenly feel the frailty of the young girl in front of her; it was like she knew exactly how easily the girl could break.
"Are you okay?" The girl asked hesitatively.
"Um, yeah. Sure." Buffy looked back at the doors, and then to the girl as she tried to smile, and take the book from her hands. Blinking twice she tried to swallow back the strange sensations coursing through her.
"You don't have to do this, you know." Anya said, with an edge to her voice, and she looked both ways before stepping into the street, making her way across.
"I know I don't have to, I like to." Xander replied.
"Why?" She asked, stepping up onto the sidewalk and turning south, to continue walking towards the Magic Box.
"Why what?" He asked, and she rolled her eyes at him. He had been doing this now for weeks. Walking her to work. Did he still think she was some meek little human thing that could be hurt walking the streets of Sunnydale? She was a demon again, and Anya knew that there was very little in this world that could hurt her physically. She still found it bothersome that she had this conscious, and emotions. D'Hoffryn never mentioned that she would have human emotions this time. It wasn't fair at all. She'd like to see someone else burdened with these feelings try to vivisect a cheating husband, or a wayward boyfriend. No, it just wasn't the same. It was hard work being a vengeance demon sure, but she didn't need a carpenter to walk her to work. It was sort of demeaning. Aside from being disintegrated by a powerful magic welding demon, or being decapitated by a moody Slayer, there was nothing that could actually kill her. But getting Xander Harris to understand that was becoming impossible. It used to be cute and charming, now it was bordering on smothering. Only a few more feet. She turned to say something snappish to Xander, when she stopped in her tracks. Closing her eyes she felt the air on the street change. Opening her eyes she looked up the street, from where they had just come from. She could not see what was making the ripple. But she knew they were there, somewhere.
"An? Yo An?"
"Did you feel that?" She shivered. Power. But that wasn't what was getting the reaction form her. No, it was that what she was sensing was new, and mythical, and not something one came across every millennium.
"What?" Xander asked, following her gaze.
"Forgot, you're normal. Never mind." She grumbled. She caught him shrugging from the corner of her eyes, and then paid closer attention when his shoulders straightened.
"What?" She asked. Her eyes settled on the man who stepped out of the Espresso Pump, just as Xander spoke again.
"I thought I just saw Mr. Summers. Weird, he's in Costa something Spanish." Xander said, pinching the bridge of his nose. Anya looked at the blonde man who was staring at the both of them, a contented grin on his lips.
"They really did it." She mumbled.
She ran her hands slowly up Willow's naked thighs, feeling the pale skin warming under her touch. The softness of her skin made a low moan of need come from Jude's panting lips. She had wanted this for so long. Months she had followed the redhead around campus, waiting for the perfect time to approach her, waiting for the moment she would have the witch under her hands. Even knowing it would happen, even knowing with the second sight Jude was cursed with how it would happen, and when it would happen, had not prepared her for the reality, for the sizzling power she felt under the surface of Willow's skin, or the taste of it in the back of her throat. Jude followed her left hand with her mouth, starting at Willow's knee, her tongue snaking out.
A low grown came from the redhead beneath her, as Jude twirled her tongue on the soft skin beside her glistening sex. Jude's eyes slam shut as her senses were overwhelmed by the smell of Willow's arousal, the trembling of her muscles.
"I told you, I didn't mean anything by it. Now go away. You following me around, raising your voice is certainly going to keep those two from buying those penis enlargement crystals." Anya exclaimed, after Xander asked what she had meant when she said "they did it" before she rushed into the store.
"You sell crystals that do that?" He gulped.
"Where do you think I got you the ones I slipped in your-"
"Right, I think I should get to work. See you later." He kissed her cheek and then rushed out the door. Anya smirked. That worked every time with him. Now if she could just find a way to make the customers hurry up, because she had something important to look into.
When the last of the students were out of the library and Buffy slipped into her office, lifted the phone. She dialed a number and after three rings and it was answered in clipped tones.
"Giles, about these senses, you know how I was telling you-" She started talking without even waiting for him to finish saying Hello. But he interrupted her just as quickly.
"Um, Buffy, this is really not a very good time, call me later."
Buffy looked at the phone in her hand, after hearing the dial tone. He hung up on her. He had never done that before. Well that wasn't entirely true. He had done it on occasion. But it still stung.
Warm breath tickled the skin of her naked chest, as she ran her fingers through the short platinum hair of Jude's head on her shoulder. Neither of them were sleeping as they lay, legs entwined on the double bed in Jude's dorm room. The sun was blocked by the thick curtains on the window, but the glow around the edges let Willow know that it was about noon, and that she had missed her morning lecture. But her mind wasn't on missed classes; it was on Tara.
She had promised herself, months ago, sitting in the cemetery that if she was ever offered the chance to feel again, to love again, that she would take it. That Tara would want her to take it. They had even talked about it. Hushed conversations they had shared in the large bed in the Summers' home, after Buffy had jumped to her death, and none of the Scoobies thought it possible that they could bring their beloved Slayer back from the dead, they had talked about what ifs. Tara had been adamant that Willow promise, that if their time together in this life was cut short, that Willow would not lock her heart away. Tara wanted her Willow to be happy, she had said, with that slightly crooked smile, the twinkle in her eyes, before she lowered her full lips to kiss the skin above Willow's heart. "There is too much love in here to be denied. Too much passion here to be denied. Too much tenderness here, to be denied." Tara had said, her voice thick with emotions of love, and lust, and understanding. Looking back, Willow wondered if Tara had known, that there would be a time when she would be doubting herself, wondering if she was betraying the memory, and the love she shared with her blonde angel.
Swallowing away the hint of sadness, Willow massaged the head against her chest, and brought herself into the present. Craning her neck she set a kiss on Jude's forehead, taking the salty skin, before settling back with a smile. This unusual woman had come into her life and tilted things upside down. Never in a million years would she ever had thought that she would have become attracted to this woman, not because Jude wasn't interesting, or wonderful. It was, though Willow was sad to admit, Jude wasn't physically someone she would have found attractive in the past. But there was something in those honey colored eyes that made her want to get to know this woman, and she had allowed herself to do that. And now she was glad that she had. Where Tara had been shy and tentative, Jude was confident, secure, and forward. Even the way she made love was bold. Made love? Willow's body tightened.
"Hey," Jude leaned up. "You okay?" She asked, and then kissed the tip of Willow's nose.
"Yeah." Willow half smiled.
"Willow." Jude cupped her cheek. "You are thinking about her, aren't you?"
"Um," She looked away, embarrassed that she was so transparent.
"It's okay. Really." She used her fingers to turn their eyes to meet again. "I understand. I know how much you loved Tara. When you talked about her, about how she made you feel." Jude closed her eyes, sighed, and then looked again into Willow's. "I know that the two of you shared a love that wasn't just some college fling. You two were meant. Destined. I know you were crushed when she was taken from you. Really. I know I couldn't have carried on, and there was no way that I would still be friends, never mind." She sighed again, setting her head back down.
"No." Willow felt confused. "What do you mean, friends?" She asked, running her hands over the smooth skin of Jude's back.
"I shouldn't have said that. I am sorry."
"Well now I am all interested. You know me, Jude. You can't just half mention something."
"I know." Willow felt her smile against her breast. "My little inquisitive Willow." She was silent for a moment. "I just meant that if I had been in your place, I don't think I could ever have forgiven Buffy."
"It must have hurt you so much, to see Tara die, and all because of a bullet meant for Buffy. If Buffy would have just stopped Warren and the others when she had the chance, instead of thinking they were harmless, Tara wouldn't have had to die, you wouldn't have gone crazy, and had the blood of a human on your hands."
Willow swallowed deeply.
"If I were you, and I lost the one person I loved because of her, I would hate Buffy Summers."
She was dead weight, and he would have liked nothing more than to just end all of this right now. How easy would it be, Osler wondered, as he dropped the Slayer roughly onto the steel table. A snap of her neck, and it would be over for her. No more redemption, no more betraying orders. They would have one of the other girls, one who had been thoroughly trained by the Watcher's Council, who would know her place, and know who called the shots. All it would take was a little effort on his part. He slipped his hands around her neck, feeling the pulse beating against his palm, and the sweat on the back of her neck. Easy. But not what they had planned. Not what was the decision of the Council. For all his ambition, Osler knew what he was. A tool. He strapped the Slayer's arms to the table, and then her legs. Stepping back he noticed that she did not look so good. All of the reference material he had reviewed spoke of the Slayer's ability to heal rapidly. He turned his head to look at Balch who was fidgeting in the corner.
"Why doesn't she heal?"
"We believe that natural sleep is required for the body to correct the damage done. The tranquilizers put her into arrest. Not sleep."
Osler nodded, and then stepped back. He doubted her condition would effect what was to happen tomorrow, but just the same he spoke to the idiot researcher who seemed to care about the condition of the Slayer. "Wake her up then, and get her to sleep to heal. We want her in perfect condition, when we kill her tomorrow." He ordered, and then stepped out of the door, closing the door behind him.
Willow sat up quickly, and for a moment Jude was worried that she had said too much. But damnit, she thought, she had been waiting for years, planning this perfectly, setting everything in motion, and she was damned if she was going to second guess things now. When she had been gifted with the second sight it had come when she was in the darkest place, when she only had one more breath in her body. She could have died, should have died, that night, laying on the cold wet grass of UC Sunnydale. But she hadn't. She had sucked in a lungful of air, and had felt with all of her body, had closed her eyes and seen the running figure of Buffy Anne Summers, and had known that something would happen. She would see Buffy pay for her actions.
"Jude?" Willow asked carefully, almost as if she knew the squall of emotions, and visions of the past that were assaulting her. Did this redheaded witch know the true meaning of betrayal? Jude's eyes locked on to the green, the green that reminded her so much of the ones that used to look at her with love and understanding. The eyes that she had looked into as she held the dying body in her lap, as a group of vampires circled the two of them, laughing about how they had taken the Slayer out of commission and that the campus was once again theirs. That group of vampires who took the only person Jude had ever loved from her, and nearly taken her life as well. Jude hadn't been saved by the Slayer, she had been saved by the sun. And as she lay there, with dawn exploding around her, holding the dead body of her lover, she had replayed the words of the vampires in her mind. How they had beaten the Slayer, how they had watched her run back to her dorm room to hide, and pout at her loss. Instead of doing her duty, instead of protecting the innocents, she had been too busy feeling sorry for herself, and had gotten ambushed. It was Buffy's fault that Jude was alone, that her soul had been broken. And Buffy was going to pay. There was no way that Jude would wait. She had played Willow perfectly. All she needed to do was give her a little push.
Those months ago, when she had made damn sure that Willow was still as strong as before, when she had first come to this town and tricked Xander to put a draining talisman on Willow, and Jude had tasted the power that Willow possessed for the first time. She had taken Tara's form, and had seen in Willow's eyes that she still hurt over the blonde's murder. That it was the chink in Willow's armor.
"Jude?" She asked again.
Maybe Jude would know, Buffy thought. The Seer was just that, and if anyone would be able to tell her why her Slayer powers were growing stronger it would be her. Buffy nodded, knowing that their new friend would be a good place to start getting answers.
What she really wanted to do was to talk to Faith. For many reasons she wanted to talk to Faith, to see her, to smell her. But more than that, she wanted to talk to Faith and know if she was feeling these changes too. Faith was the same, they shared the bond, the same destiny. Faith was younger in Slayer years, but just by a few, and Faith always seemed to be more, well more of a Slayer then Buffy was. Though that was something she had only recently began to accept as a truth.
"Sorry Willow." She smiled, and then looked up at the Wicca. There was something in that smile that made Willow want to cross her arms over her chest; she was being looked at like a thing, not a person. It certainly was not a look she was expecting to receive after spending the morning making love. No, that look made Willow want to amend her earlier thinking, that they had fucked, not made love.
"How did you do it? How did you forgive her?"
"I, um, well, that is I-" Willow bit her lip. It was easy, she had never blamed Buffy for Tara's death. She had blamed Warren, and herself, but never Buffy.
"You do know that if Buffy had never come to Sunnydale that Tara would be in this bed with you right now, not me."
"We don't need to be thinking about Buffy not existing. That happened already, and Sunnydale? Not a nice place to visit, let me tell you."
"Willow." Jude admonished.
"I never thought about it like that. At the time, when it happened I hated and blamed Warren, the goddesses, myself,"
"But not her?"
"Oh." Jude sat up, her legs dangling over the side of the bed, shoulder slumped. Willow sat forward, putting her hands on the strong muscled shoulders, running her fingertips over the warm skin. Closing her eyes she felt the tension in the room, and leaned forward, setting her lips on the skin at the base of Jude's neck, who sighed. "I guess you are a better person than me."
"No. I just never stopped to consider it being her fault. Sure when I was an evil, veiny witch I kicked her ass." Willow chuckled. "Man, did I ever kick her ass," She mumbled. "But I was never one with the blaming."
"I guess you were just focused on making him pay, on butchering Warren," Willow stiffened. "That was all you could see, the rage. But after, you never wanted to, you know, confront her? I mean, she killed your girlfriend, and then went and got one of her own. That had to hurt."
"You mean her and Faith? I, well." Willow stilled her hands. It had hurt when she had seen the two Slayers together, once they had found the love between them, and accepted it. It had been painful seeing it, and knowing that she had lost that connection. She had lost the one person who just 'got' her.
But had she ever blamed Buffy? No. Jude's argument was making sense though. A little too much sense. Was she in denial over her feelings towards Buffy?
He had set down the phone, shaking his head, wondering, not for the first time what Buffy expected of him. He had things that needed tending to, he was no longer her Watcher and therefore no longer at her beck and call. Giles chuckled, turning pages in the text before him again.
It was always supposed to be the other way around. Guiding her through battles, my leadership.
Buffy was never what was expected of her, that was for sure. Though he was distancing himself from the Slayers as well as the Scoobies, he was still involved in the fight. The battle of good versus evil was still being waged all over the globe, and he was engrossed in finding some clues in this tome of Patagonian Anthologies from the twelfth century, in an attempt to assist a fellow Watcher who was experiencing a rare form of a demonic rash.
A knock sounded loudly in the small apartment and Giles glanced at the clock in the open kitchen. Surely not enough time had past for Buffy to make her way across town from the school. He knew her to be stubborn, but not that fast. Curious and with a frown he tucked a marker in the tome, before rising.
Just as the last series of three knocks sounded, he opened the door, and found himself squinting in the noonday sun. Standing there was a man, dressed casually; his blonde hair seemed to glow under the sunlight. There was something familiar.
"Mr. Giles?" The man asked smiling, blue eyes twinkling as he removed his dark sunglasses.
He felt his lips turning up in a nervous grin. "Oh, I, um, well this is rather odd. I seem, that is. Sorry." Giles laughed, feeling even more at unease. There was a nagging. "You just seem familiar to me. Have we met?"
"I think only in passing. Hank Summers." He said extending his hand, and Giles remembered. He had met the man once briefly, years ago. At the school if he was not mistaken. This was Buffy's ever absent father. With the pieces falling into place, Giles took his hand and they shook. It struck Giles, why would this man be here? Buffy had made no mention of him coming to town. In fact there had been no mention of her Father for years. Giles filled that niche proudly. The hairs on the back of his neck rose up, and he was possessed, albeit briefly, with a wave of jealousy.
"Well, what can I do for you?" Giles asked, chiding himself for his emotions. This man was Buffy's Father, but in blood alone. He knew that.
"It's more what I can do for you."
"Come in." Giles offered, stepping back to allow the other man inside. He noticed a flash of a smile on Mr. Summers' lips as he stepped into the room. "What is it you would like to talk about? Buffy?" Giles asked, heading for the kitchen, to put the kettle on.
"I thought, Rupert, we could start with Miss Calendar, actually."
"Buffy just loves to flaunt that she and Faith are together. The Chosen Two." Jude said standing up, and Willow watched her hands slip off of Jude's skin. "Jesus, that is all she talks about, not even caring that you lost Tara."
She watched as Jude went to the window, standing there, looking out at the bright afternoon. The sunlight highlighted the curves and planes of her body, causing the muscles to be more apparent. Her body, compact and powerful was so different than Tara's. But Jude was definitely all woman. Willow shook her head. Now was not the time to turn into a walking hormone. Something was going on here. Jude kept harping on Buffy, and it wasn't making sense.
Willow knew that when the Slayers had first become an item that they made an effort not to be obvious in front of Willow, out of concern for her feelings. Heck, Willow was the one who pulled Faith aside and told her that she was happy for the two of them. And she was. Willow could look into the past, and look into her heart today and say without a shadow of a doubt that she was happy for the two of them. Even without Tara. It was like she never envisioned that it had to be one or the other. Did Jude think that? If Tara was alive today, she knew that Buffy and Faith would still be together. There wasn't some weird quota on the number of lesbian couples allow in Sunnydale at a time.
"Buffy has the right to be happy." Willow offered.
"She does? Who said?" Jude spun around. "Why can she have her true love, her soul mate, when ours are butchered because of her?" Her shouted sentence was punctuated by a slapped hand against the wall beside the arched window. Willow knew her eyes were wide, and her mouth open. She never suspected such anger. She stood, to get closer to Jude, to calm her, and figure out what was actually happening here, when the blonde turned on her heel and left the room.
She had paced. She had organized her sock drawer. She had paced more.
I am just spinning my wheels here.
"Literally." Buffy grumbled, dropping down onto the couch in the living room. Giles was apparently too busy to talk to her. Xander was unreachable, something about being in a basement, too much steel rebar to get a good cellular signal. Willow wasn't answering her phone – any of them, though Buffy was pretty sure Willow had them switched off because she was in class. This just sucked. She needed to talk, but no one was around.
If Faith where here, she would listen to me… If Faith where here we would not be talking.
An evil glimmer lit Buffy's eyes as she leaned her head back against the couch, closing her eyes. She envisioned those dark brown eyes looking into her, looking into her soul. She felt the beginnings of arousal in her stomach as she recalled one of the many times Buffy had found herself looking up into those eyes as Faith was suspended over her, both decorated in a sheen of sweat, breath mixing in pants, and those eyes, the way they bore into her when Faith told her with just a look how much she loved Buffy. Never had she felt a look so strongly, knowing with all that she was that the person looking at her would die for her, would be everything she ever needed in a partner. Faith did that for her. She made her want to live forever, as long as they were together.
Summoned touches, fingers tracing the contours of her face, the touch that made Buffy's heart sing, knowing Faith was memorizing her, even in remembrance it made her breath catch, and eased Buffy into sleep.
Jude's words were still deafening, even though Willow was standing in silence beside the bed. As she buttoned her blouse she looked over her shoulder towards the bathroom, where Jude had just disappeared behind the door. The water had been turned on, and was drumming against the tile walls. Sitting on the bed she bent to get her boots that had been tossed in the heat of the moment when they had first come back here. She zipped them up and then looked at the bed. Sheets rumpled, pillows some how at the foot of the bed. When had they gotten there she wondered? Looking back to the closed door Willow again felt that something was wrong.
Feeling like an anvil shaped answer was hanging above her head, but she just couldn't see it, she replayed the conversations they had in her mind. There was something that Jude wasn't telling her. It made no sense for Jude to keep bringing up Tara. If Tara were alive and well, then Jude would not be in this room, they would not be dating, there would be no 'them'. So why did it seem like Jude was making a point of getting Willow to think back to that horrible day? Was she trying to push Willow away? To get her to think that Jude wasn't the right person for her? That made no sense. That made less than no sense, that was just completely wrong. Maybe Jude was disappointed in what had happened? Maybe she was baiting Willow so she would call an end to their relationship? Willow wasn't very experienced,
Lie. I have NO experience other than Tara.
Was that it? I was so terrible she wants me to dump her so she won't have to do that again?
She shook her head. No, Jude wasn't like that. She would have just come out and said it. Willow had known from day one that Jude was not Tara, that she would never be a replacement for Tara. She had been infatuated with the Seer from the moment she had seen her on campus, strutting to class in impossibly tight leather pants, walking like she knew exactly who and what she was, and if you didn't like it you could fuck off. That was what Jude exuded. Ultimate self-awareness and confidence. It pulled Willow in like honey for a fly. They had become fast friends, with the delicious tension of attraction below the surface. She had known Jude would be strong, passionate, and an attentive lover, and she had been, but it was just.
"Not Tara." Willow groaned, rubbing her eyes and standing up from the bed. Why was she feeling guilt? She knew Tara would understand. Anyone would understand. Wouldn't they? There was that attraction between them. So it hadn't been tingly magic or two souls becoming one, or even cheesy romance novel romantic. It had been nice. Right?
Right… I think… Urgh! I just don't know.
Willow vowed to think about it more, she needed a little time and space to really see what had happened in a clear light, without orgasm goggles on, clouding everything. From the rough and hot; and boy was it hot; sex, to the deep and angry conversation. Willow was still a little thrown. Without time for her to think all of this through clearly she would just get lost in analyzing every moment. She would get nowhere.
Sighing she stood up and walked over to her computer. Sending some emails to her professors apologizing for missing her morning classes would be a good thing to do before Jude finished up in the shower.
As she logged in she noticed one new unread email. She clicked it open.
I have not heard from you, and I can only hope that my earlier message reached you. Something is definitely going on with T and your other Slayer. A group of possible Slayers just left the HQ. I know you didn't believe me before when I told you we were training some, but it is true. I heard that T sent for them. I don't want to think the worst, but as we both know that is something I do, and often.
Also, the spell you sent. I heard at the water cooler that T had some samples tested, samples that should have gone along with that spell. Something isn't right here, and though I don't have enough to go on, and feel like I am talking in circles, you need to get in touch with the other Slayer.
Please let me know what is happening when you can. You know how I become obsessed with a good mystery.
I need to tell Buffy.
"Willow? Who is that?"
Willow spun around in her chair, heart thundering. She hadn't heard Jude come out of the bathroom, heck she hadn't heard the shower turn off. How would she explain this? Sure there was a completely logical and harmless explanation why she was reading an email, but the sound of Jude's voice and the look of hurt, no it wasn't hurt in those eyes, maybe shock? Yep, Willow was figuring that it was shock that she was seeing.
"Oh, well, this? Just an email from a friend." Willow offered. She was taken aback by the narrowing of Jude's eyes. Was she jealous? Of an email from someone Willow had never met?
"Who is Meral?" Jude asked, crossing her arms.
Whoa. Wait a minute.
"You should know better than me."
"You, Seer of all things in the future. You should know that we write back and forth." Willow clicked off the screen, not liking the look in Jude's face, but more importantly knowing that fighting about this now was not a good idea. She had to get to Buffy and tell her what Meral had said.
"Right. I know who she is."
"Meral is a she?" Willow grinned, and then quickly frowned. "I mean I knew that." She stood up, moving away from the computer and her girlfriend, feeling a little bit uncomfortable. This wasn't how she was supposed to be feeling. Less than an hour ago they had shared the most intimate act two people could share. She was supposed to be feeling elation and euphoria. That was how it had been with Tara, even with Oz. But she was feeling guilty, dirty and even a little scared. She lifted her purse from the table, and looked over her shoulder at Jude who was pulling on her pants, keeping her eyes on Willow, in a predatory glare. It seemed like everything had changed since they had, well done what they had done; and not in a good way.
"Listen I have got to get to class."
"You mean get to Buffy." Jude snapped.
"Right. Forgot. Nothing gets by you."
"No. It doesn't." She grinned, and walked over to Willow, cupping her face in her hands and bringing the Wicca's gaze to her own. "I know you are feeling a little unsure right now." She softened her expression. "Being with you, sharing that with you Willow, it was." She sighed. "It was magical."
Willow felt the blush creep up her neck, to her cheeks.
"Oh yeah." Jude leaned forward and nuzzled Willow's ear. "You taste so good, baby." Though the line was cheesy and over used, it still made Willow's stomach tingle. She swallowed. "I don't want to let you out of my sight. But I know that you feel like you have to see Buffy. So go. But I will see you later."
Feel like I have to?
"Um, well, if you would rather." Willow started, but Jude set two fingers on her lips.
"Just go. But come back to me. Soon."
Willow nodded, before meeting the lips that were searching out her own.
He closed the door behind him, and slipped back on the sunglasses. It had been a few years of not seeing the sun, and it was still painfully bright. But given time, Hank was sure that the pain would fade. Just like given time he had grown accustom to the night.
He wore a contented smile as he walked away from Rupert Giles' home. To say the British man had been shocked was an understatement. He had been a little surprised at the power and violence the man possessed. The old cliché seemed true. One could not judge a book by it's cover.
His cell phone rang, and he reached into his pocket to get it, noticing a few spots of blood on the back of his hand. Smirking he licked them off, before activating the call.
"We have a problem." Oh, it was the little schemer.
"If there is a problem, Jude, I think it is yours. That is your job in all this, right? To fix the problems before they happen."
"Yeah, well." She faltered.
"Listen there is a problem. It seems that-"
"YOU!" The voice made Hank jump just as a hand was pressed against his shoulder. Out of nowhere a young woman, was standing in front of him. Well, not a woman. He could clearly tell that she was a demon; had that minty demon smell. The impact of her hand on his shoulder caused him to drop the phone. Didn't demon's today have any respect?
"Do you mind?" He sneered.
"Don't get all pushy with me. You did it! I don't know how or why, but you did it."
"Do I know you?" He bent to pick up the phone. He glanced at her again. She did look familiar. "Oh!" He grinned. She had changed her hair. He liked the brunette color better. "Anyanka."
"How did you do it? Does Buffy know that you did it?"
"Ah, yes, Buffy. Always about Buffy. Aren't you helping her? You know, I thought demon's were supposed to, oh I don't know, be evil. Not help a little pathetic Slayer and her looser pals."
"Listen here, Mister Day Walker."
"I prefer Hank." He shrugged.
"Hank? As in, Mr. Summers, Hank."
He grinned. "Remember me do you?"
"No, Xander mentioned seeing you."
The Vengeance Demon narrowed her eyes.
"You smell like Mr. Giles."
"Imagine that. He and I just had a little chat. Came to an understanding."
"What did you do?"
"Nothing, dear. I assure you." He looked at the phone, hearing Jude calling out to him. "I really need to take this."
"No, you need to tell me what you are planning."
"Why? So you can run home and tell Buffy?" He laughed, then stopped. Looking at her seriously. "Why do you do it? Why when she says jump, do you ask how high? Why are you the Slayer's bitch?"
"Actually that is Faith."
"You know what I mean. Why? You're a demon. You should be with us, fighting against good. What has she ever done for you?"
"It was because of her you lost your power in the first place."
"Actually that was Giles."
"Whatever." He thought for a second and then sneered. "You know, the reason Xander left you at the alter was because of Buffy."
"He loves her. Always has. That boy drools every time she looks at him. He couldn't marry you, and settle. Not when he thinks he might have a chance with her. You see how he acts. She just has to ask and he drops everything to help her. Including you."
He saw the corner of her right eye twitch, and knew he had her.
Jude slammed down the phone, Hank wasn't talking to her. She had to find him. This was serious. Not only was Willow not going along as easily as she had planned, but the other Slayer was being held in Boston. If they managed to call another Slayer, continuing the Slayer line, then all of their plans were shot to hell. And there was no way Jude was going to let Buffy slip through her fingers. She had come too far.
A long hallway, that was filthy and boxes and other discarded bits of trash lined it. At the end a double door, swinging faintly.
"God, how cliché is this dream." Buffy mumbled. "Might as well see what is behind door number one." Her footfalls accompanied the rhythmic squeak of the rusted hinges as the doors continued to move.
As she pushed them open, blinding light seared her eyes, and she raised her hands while turning away. That was unpleasant.
In the center of a filthy room was a chair, tied to which was Faith. She could recognize those shoulders anywhere. Buffy walked around Faith, slowly, taking in the sight of her battered body, a cut on her shoulder that had stopped bleeding, but still looked painful, her head hanging down, chin on her chest. She reached her hands out, and cradled Faith's cheeks, lifting those brown eyes up to meet her own. Buffy cringed at the painful looking right eye that was swollen shut, cracked lips.
"Oh Faith. What happened to you?" Buffy whispered, and Faith's eyes snapped open. As they did the room seemed to spin, and Buffy was drawn into those eyes. Seeing inside of Faith. Buffy could feel, as though she were Faith, that she was strapped in this chair waiting to be executed for the crimes of her past. Buffy saw a young Faith beating her weak fists against the chest of a man, saw an older Faith forcing the stake into the chest of the Deputy Mayor, watched a sobbing Faith repeatedly stab the professor all the while hearing the voice of the Mayor talking in Faith's mind, promising her all the things she never thought she would deserve. Faith shifted, reflecting on killing the two people who warped her the most, Ronnie and her stepfather. In vivid color, even in the dream Buffy knew she was in, she watched amazed as Faith plunged the knife into her step fathers heart, feeling it as Faith must have, the freedom that came with watching him turn to dust, and the power he held over her disappear. He would never hurt her or anyone else again, and Faith had made sure of that. With a movement she had taken back nearly all of her self that he had set out to destroy years ago. Then Buffy watched as Faith stalked Veronica, the vampire actually cowering before the dark Slayer. Faith pulling the heart of the demon from her chest, and the elation that Faith felt as Veronica crumbled to nothing. The power of being the Slayer filled every fiber of Faith's body. Buffy could feel it. Buffy watched as Faith closed her eyes, severing the memories, and she looked at Buffy, seeing her. There were tears sitting in Faith's eyes. Buffy took Faith's hand, even though her wrists were tied to the chair. The acceptance of her fate, of dying washed over Buffy. She felt rather than heard Faith's thoughts.
"I am a killer, and always will be. I have inside of me the need to kill, and it is only a fine line between good and evil that stops me from being called a murderer, even though that is what I am."
Buffy felt Faith give in to the death sentence she was waiting for, felt the dark Slayer's determination snap with the realization that her entire life had brought her to this moment, all of the wrongs that she had done. And Faith knew that Buffy was standing there beside her, watching with her, as her crimes were all paraded past her.
The sound of the doors opening, and Buffy looked away from Faith, and watched a line of people coming into the room. The doors were being held open, and more and more people were coming inside. Some looked familiar to Buffy, some didn't. Most of them looked dead. The moment Buffy thought this, those entering the room began to look decomposed, at various stages of returning to the earth. Some without skin, some missing eyes. The smell of them plunged into Buffy's sinuses, and she shuddered, as it dawned on her. These were all the lives that she has taken. All the vampires that were once people she knew, that she has had to kill. Over time she began to kill them thinking less and less of who they once were. Seeing Jimmy enter the room, the question came at her again. Why can't she let some of them go? What would be the harm in that?
"It's my job." She snapped at her own question, and watched Faith flinch. "I'm the Slayer."
Faith shook her head sadly and then disappeared.
What is a Slayer, Buffy wondered. Faith knew what she was, a killer. She never let them get away, no matter what. Faith had embraced that part of being a Slayer years ago. Buffy wondered if she ever would. What was she capable of, in her heart? Was she really fighting the good fight, how much more would she have to sacrifice to be the killing machine the Council always wanted her to be? If she were the only one, would she give up her friends, her family and travel the world hunting and destroying evil? Was that what she was supposed to do, but she rebelled to have a human life as well as her calling?
Spinning around she looked at the empty chair. She wasn't the only one. There were two Slayers. Was it selfish of her to want Faith with her, beside her on the Hellmouth, when the two of them separate could do more good, save more lives? What about Dawn? Dawn died when she was in the arms of the woman she loved. As she slept at this very moment was someone being hurt? Was there someone she was supposed to be saving?
As she went up the steps of Buffy's house, Willow looked over her shoulder, feeling something or someone watching her. It made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. She wanted to shiver, she wanted to rush into the house and hide. Taking the doorknob in her hand she felt the hum of the protection spell she had placed around the entire house.
Willow wondered when she reverted back to being the shy and unsure wallflower. When it came to Jude, being in her life, she had clearly reverted. She is a badass witch who nearly ended the world. Why is she getting all mousy again?
With a gasp I sat up. The room was dark, but I could feel the bed under me, the blankets around my waist. I ran my hand over my face.
"That was one fucked up dream. No more burritos before bed for me, B." I turned my head when there was no reply, but I knew someone was there. "Buffy?"
"She isn't here."
"Shit!" I crossed my arms over my naked chest, and then realized how utterly lame that was. She had tits too. "Anya, what the hell are you doing in here? Where is B?"
"Did you hit your head again or something?" She came closer, and in the darkness I could see her clear as day. Gotta love Slayer vision.
"You are in Boston. The Council is holding you here, with grand plans of killing you to start up more Slayers."
Okay. That hurt.
"Hey! That hurt." I rubbed my cheek, and my head cleared. She was right. "Damn." She moved to slap me again and I put up my hand. "Stop! I remember. Shit. I just had a dopey dream, but I remember now. God. You have a strong right hook."
"Thanks." She grinned, and then it faltered. "I think."
I closed my eyes, just to clear my head again. That dream had been trippy as hell. If I didn't know better I would have swore it was a Slayer dream. Buffy was there, but I couldn't reach her. But I felt her.
"At work I suppose." She sighed. "You Slayers, always expecting me to have the answers. It really is tiresome."
"Well you are the demon here."
"Uh-huh. So everyone likes to point out recently. I may be a demon, but I have feelings to you know. I am more than the sum of my parts. Granted, I have some pretty good parts. I mean, no one has complained about my parts. Don't you think these are good parts?" Anya leaned a little closer, and before I knew it I was checking her out.
"Great parts." I slapped my forehead. "God. No. I mean."
"Still got it." Anya grinned, but then scowled. "God, what is that smell?" She leaned even closer to me, and then gagged. "Ugh. It's you."
"Hey!" I snapped. "I have been fighting, and stuff. It's been awhile since I had a shower."
"No, really? God, Faith." She backed up. "You know I once came across a carcass of a Wohc demon, and thought that was the worst smell ever. But you, this." She was looking a little pale. "Much worse."
I lifted my arm and sniffed. "A little ripe." I agreed with a smirk. "So aside from telling me about my lack of hygiene, what are you doing here?" I asked, kicking off the blankets and moving to stand. I stretched and twisted, feeling some vertebrae popping back where they belonged. My head was clear now, and I looked around. "Where are the Council guys?"
"So you know they have you?"
"No one has me." I grinned.
"Hmm." She raised her brow at me. "Do you know what they are holding you for?"
"Not sure. Something though. They wanted to shoot me full of that anti-slayer serum."
"They want to kill you."
"Who doesn't?" I rolled my eyes. "Why can't people just shot me with a gun or something? Why all these convoluted plots and shit. I mean really, has no one learned from the Batman comics? The more twisted the plot the easier it is for our hero to escape." I looked at her, and she was giving me that wide eyed, lost, has no clue what the hell I just said look. I get that look a lot, especially from B when I start talking about comics. "Urgh. Xander would know what I mean."
She flinched. "Well he isn't here." She crossed her arms in a pout. "They want to kill you, activate a new Slayer, and then maybe bring you back."
"These guys and thinking that they can control fate." I mumbled. "Okay then, Anya. Let's get out of here." She stared at me. "Come on, do your voodoo. I want a shower, and I want to see B. Maybe not in that order. Maybe you could orb me into the shower, with B in there too?" She was still staring. "Hello? Demon chick? Orb. Me. Home."
"I can't." She said, sitting on the bed.
"Then what the hell are you doing here?"
"I came to save you."
"Well save me."
"Take me home."
"Anya." I growled.
"Then why are you here?"
"To save you. Hello?"
"Stop." I held up my hand and listened. Four sets of walking feet, above us. Gun oil. Not good. "Okay." I sighed. "You can't just orb me home. What can you do to save me?" I asked, and she disappeared. "So waking me up was about the gist of it then?" I mumbled, before the door opened to the room, with Anya standing there grinning.
"I can open doors." She was positively beaming.
"Yippee." I hopped off the bed. "Then lets open some more."