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When Willow walked into the living room she noticed Buffy immediately. She was sitting, staring forward, her hands in her lap, twisting against each other.

"Buffy?" She asked softly, but did not step any closer. The haunted look in the Slayer's hazel eyes froze her. Taking what felt like minutes, though it could have been accomplished in seconds Willow's best friend turned her head, and moved her eyes up her lithe body to peer into the green ones that were watching.

"Willow." It was hoarse and pained. Just the sound of it made something within Willow ache. She never had imaged she would see Buffy like this. Without her spark.

"Buffy, what is it? What's wrong?"

"Willow, who am I?"

"Oh shit. This is not good." Willow mumbled, finding her feet and walking across the room.



Too easy.

At least it seemed that way to me, and I kept thinking that over and over again as I followed Anya out of the large house I had been held inside of for not even two days. Sneaking behind and orbing in and out demon, I tiptoed as best I could in muddy unlaced combat boots. We passed closed doors, and I could hear on the other side British accents talking about everything from their plans for me, to the latest football games, to someone explaining the finer points of cricket. The later conversation had my head spinning, and though I understood each word that was said, the way it was strung together had my foggy brain doing a ‘huh'?

It seemed like this was some great an daring escape, one that I would be part of if I were like getting out of prison; again; not just sneaking past this group of people who collectively were supposed to be THE shit when it came down to all things supernatural. Sort of anti-climatic. No fight scene, not even a chase to speak of. Just me sneaking out, like I was twelve years old and was leaving my parents house to go out to a keg party… not like my parents gave a fuck if I wanted to sneak out when I was twelve, but I knew what I meant.

After the last door was opened I ran. And I mean ran. You know how in that movie, Run Lola Run, she ran? Well fuck that. She was jogging compared to me. I was running like the devil himself was sitting on my back. Which, as I came to a stop, bending at the waist and panting, thought about it, was sort of silly. All those guys wanted to do was kill me. Get in line, that was one long fucking list.

"Well that took longer than I thought." Anya said as she appeared next to me, stopping my inner babbling.

"Sorry oh demonic one. Us solid fighters of good, are slow."

"Ok. Well, hurry up. We have to get back to Sunnydale."

"What's the fire?"

"There is this, thing… and well…" She looked over my shoulder, and I turned, but didn't see anything. "Listen, Faith you are the Slayer, and you just need to get there."

"It's only been two days since I saw B, how bad could it be?"

"Um, Faith?"

"Right. Sunnydale, Hellmouth, badness abounds. Got it."

I started walking west, and after a few steps I heard her start to follow. Looking around I guessed dawn to be a few hours away, and the chill was getting to me. Of course I didn't have a coat to cover my bloody and ripped tank top. Come to think of it, I looked like shit. Not much I could do about it in the middle of the woods in Massachusetts, so I sighed instead.

"So Buffy sent you."

"Well, sure."

"Hmm, sounds to me like you just pulled that out of your ass."

"What do you mean? If Buffy, I mean, we all know nothing happens unless Buffy okays it, I mean, I would never just do something without being told, that would mean I am a sentient being, and we all know that-."

"Why are you here if B didn't send you?"

"Can't a girl look after her friends?"

"Anya, we aren't really bosom buddies, you know? So how did you know I was in trouble?"

"Demon underground railroad."


"No, DUR, actually."


"Are we going to stand out there in the cold all night? Shouldn't you be in a hurry to get back to your orgasm buddy?"

I shrugged. Don't get me wrong, the mere thought of seeing B again was enough to make me start running towards California, but I knew thinking about it wouldn't get me there any sooner.

"Okay. It's like this. You get on a plane, and then you will be in Sunnydale, and everything will be fine."


"What? Money? Steal some. You used to be evil, I am sure you remember how."

"Not the money, though I have none. The flying thing."


"I don't fly."


"Huge steal coffin thousands of feet in the air." I crossed my arms over my chest and cocked my head, narrowing my eyes and giving her the look. "When was the last time you flew in a plane?"

"Well. I. Um. Never." She blew out exasperated that I had caught her.

Grinning I asked, "Why?"

"They are scary."


"So it will be awhile before you get back?"

"A few days, yeah. Go ahead and zip on back. Tell B I'll be there in about a week. Okay?"

She nodded, though she still looked pissed that I wasn't running to an American Airlines terminal.

"Hey, how come you all gave me with wrong info." I asked, knowing she was about to poof out of here, and it was still bugging me. With every step I took, more of my head seemed to clear. And along with the aches and pains a lot of confusing shit was starting to rattle around in my head.


"The spell Ronnie had, it wasn't right."

"Oh, Um, not sure?" She looked over my shoulder again, and I checked, still no one there. "Maybe Willow made a mistake."

"Maybe." I offered, and she was gone. "But I doubt it. Red screwing up like that? Naw." I looked down the road that I had just come upon, and saw a white van coming towards me. I crouched low, watched it pass, and then ran like a mother towards the back, jumping up onto the back step and holding onto the door. Like I said before.

Too easy.

After a few miles I just let go, and fell, feeling myself tolling along the asphalt, then into a ditch. Lovely. Standing up, I grimaced, feeling the pain of the past few days, the grogginess of the drugs, and the funk that seemed to be my new signature smell.

I am fucking nasty.

I checked the road and then ran across, to what made me ditch my ride. One of those no tell motels that peppered with back highways of the country. You could find at least one in every town, no matter how backwater or small. Just like whoring was the worlds oldest profession, screwing around was a close second. There was only one car, nice one actually. Cadillac. I felt my self nodding in approval, and the frowning as I watched a porker of a guy decked out in the seventies finest as he slipped into the car. Here was my chance. Just needed to get into a room, and clean up.



From the look on Willow's face Buffy knew that her words had been a little to vague and too intense. The color had drained from the Wicca's face. Buffy smiled, lightly.

"Sorry, that was not exactly what I meant." She offered, and Willow said beside her with a heavy thump. Buffy spun her face all the way to look at Willow, her eyes wide. "Well you little minx."


Buffy closed her eyes, and inhaled. No mistaking that. She grinned eagerly at Willow. "I can smell a certain Seer all over you."

"OH!" Willow dropped her head into her hands, as Buffy good-naturedly chuckled.



The pain was pretty bad as I rolled my shoulder in the socket. Them knocking me out and not letting me sleep really took its toll on my body. Didn't they all know that I was nearing mandatory retirement age for a Slayer? Twenty-one was here, and I was about to drop over the edge of that milestone real quick. I needed my sleep to heal, though, not so much as I used to. I'd have to talk to B about that. Her having been an actual Slayer longer. I wondered if she was going through these changes too.

I stripped and slipped into the shower, wincing as the water hit some of the cuts on my skin. Damn you can be a stoic, but some water gets in a paper thin cut and look out, you are squirming in your own skin.

Taking a deep breath I put my head under the showerhead and felt the hot drops beating down on my skull, washing away the dust, dirt, sweat, blood. Washing away the evidence of being a Slayer. I felt a lump in my throat, as for just a fleeting moment I wondered what it would be like to be Faith. Just Faith.

God. I can't even imagine being just me.

I wasn't me without being that. There was no part of me that wasn't the Slayer, the hunter, the murderer. My whole life I was this thing. Even before that morning when I woke with all this power, I was just waiting before then. I had the temper; I had the desire. I had the dreams of death, and knew about wanting to get even. I had the drive. Did I still? Now that Ronnie was dead, and HE, the man who had created the shadows in my life was no more, what was left? I was just a killer. There was nothing driving me.

Revenge? Done.

So what was I left with, besides this hunger to kill?

Should I return to B? What for?

Did the Council have the right idea about activating more Slayers to pepper the world with them? What would it hurt, me dying once? In the scheme of things, did I really matter? Did anything matter? Was I worth any one else dying by not doing it?

Was I worth anything?

I didn't even realize that I was no longer standing, but kneeling in the moldy shower, sobbing.

For the first time in a long time, I was confused, and scared.



Willow was hoping the earth would open and swallow her whole. She wasn't sure how much good natured ribbing she could take from Buffy, especially because she was still feeling unease when it came to what she and Jude had done just a few hours earlier. If she had been elated and basking in the afterglow of a deep physical and spiritual connection then sure, she could take Buffy giving her a hard time. But because she felt pretty damn cheap, she was getting more embarrassed and upset. A scathing comment was on the tip of her tongue, one she was sure would halt the Slayer in her pick-on-Willow-who-didn't-have-time-to-shower fest, when Buffy stopped laughing. Peeking through her fingers, as her hands were still covering her face, Willow saw that Buffy had placed her hand over her chest.

"No changing the subject, Buffy… Buffy?" Dropping her hands Willow looked at her, and realized the haunted look had returned, though with it a pained expression. Slowly, Buffy stood and walked to the window. Willow watched sensing that the mood had definitely changed. Something was wrong. And the redhead was sure it had something to do with Faith. It wasn't some witchy sense, just an intuition.

"I had a dream." Buffy said softly, setting her hand on the stained oak window frame.

"A Slayer dream?"

"Maybe, Faith, no. No, I don't think so. She was there, but it didn't feel the same. It didn't feel like she was there. You know?" Buffy shrugged. "Just now, I felt this impossible weight settle in my chest. This sadness." Willow heard her best friend sigh, but waited. It was clear to her that Buffy had something to say, and she would allow her the time to get her thoughts together. "I'm changing Will." She turned around, crossing her arms and giving Willow a sad smile. "Something is happening, that is for sure. Easiest way to describe it is that I am changing."

"Have you spoken to-"

"No. Giles seems to be busy." She rolled her eyes, but her tone was forgiving. "I don't even know what to say to him. Hell, Will, I don't even know what to say to you. I don't think anyone but Faith would understand."

"Do you think its her? What you feel, what is changing you?"

"I don't think so. Maybe I am feeling her. I can't say that this is because of her. She's been gone almost a year, but these changes are getting stronger now. If it was because of her, it would have happened when she was back, right?" She looked over her shoulder, to the window, and then to Willow, who was still on the couch. "I think this has more to do with me. I need to accept who and what I am. Especially if I am changing like I think I am."

Willow was trying to understand, but as usual, when Buffy talked it was a little hard to follow right off.

"I'm a Slayer. I have to accept that I can never just be Buffy Summers. I have been lost for years thinking I could be both, but it was a lie. I have always been the Slayer, even before I was called. I have these gifts, these powers, and they're getting strong and stronger. And that is what makes Faith better than me. Faith accepted it years ago."



Well that was a great use of hot water.

I stood, teeth chattering under the ice-cold water. I had balled my eyes out like a kid, while all the nice hot water went down the drain. When it turned cold I snapped out of my pity party and got down to business. I needed to be clean, and get all the blood and ick off of me. There wasn't time to cry like a fucking girl.

If not now, then when?

Shut up.

It felt good though, didn't it? To let it go?

Shut up.

You are a girl, you are allowed a little weakness.

No. Not now. Not when there was so much

What? What is happening, right this second… Gotcha! Not a damn thing. So finish washing your hair, and get in that bed, and sleep. You need it. You earned it.

I hate you.

Stepping out I wrapped a towel around my waist, and it was only big enough to cover that much of me. Figures. But it was better than a kick in the teeth. And a million times better than my clothes. I looked at them, the tattered cargo pants, the stained tank top. They would have to do for now. I kneeled down and started the water in the bathtub, still fucking cold, and grabbed the tiny bar of soap, or what was supposed to be soap. Even the cakes of flaky, smelly, white in prison were closer to soap than this. I bent and began scrubbing my clothes.

I felt a light laugh rise up from my gut. Just like the old days. When I trekked across the country the first time. Even when I was in Sunnydale, I would wash my clothes in the tub. Funny how no one ever commented on why my clothes would be hanging around that dingy motel room. Hell, B had Mrs. S doing her whites and darks separate. Folding them and leaving them on her bed. Me, I had the chapped hands from the rough soap from doing it all at once in an icy tub of water.

This was my life. This was the life I knew. It almost felt comfortable, as fucked up as that sounded. What was foreign was living in that massive house with HS and everyone. Having a washer and a dryer. Hell, having a bed that didn't squeak, that I didn't have to pat down, scattering bugs from before I laid down in it. That luxury was what felt off to me. Now that was fucked. But did I need the hot and cold running water? I mean, I was a tool, I was created to serve good, to go out and kill evil, night after night. What did I need a microwave for? Blow dryer? All those things were needed by humans.

I am not human.

I am a Slayer.

I squeezed the water out of the pants and tossed them over the shower rod. Was I turning my back on good? Running away from the Council. Because, when you think about it, taking me out, to activate another girl, that made one more fighter for the good side, more dead things on the bad. Wasn't that how it was supposed to be? Maybe I should think about that before going anywhere.

I turned off the light in the bathroom, and walked over to the bed. My body was screaming, and I needed to sleep. A solid twelve hours, for these torn muscles, cracked bones; it should all be, five by five.



He had been pacing for a good fifteen minutes. Now, he understood that fifteen minutes was not that long to be pacing, but he was getting concerned. Jude was sitting on the couch, finding her boots fascinating.

"I thought you were going to wait and sleep with her later, you know, woo her, build the trust."

"It was the right time."

"So if it was the right time, where is she? You promised me that she would join us. It really is important to have everyone betraying her, you know. That was your plan."

"You think I don't know that?" Jude shouted as she flew off the couch. "I planned this whole fucking thing, Hank, so stop acting like your shit don't stink, ok? Something is wrong, something I didn't foresee."

"Imagine that." He huffed. They should just go with his plan, turn all of Buffy's friends into vampires and then go after the Slayer herself, ripping her limb from limb and drinking her blood from a golden chalice.

Fingers snapped in front of his blue eyes startling him.

"Hank, do not tell me you just had that corny blood drinking fantasy."

"It's a good one."

"Its old and tired, and just played out."

He crossed his arms and sat heavily on the couch. "Like your plan is even better. I mean, look around Jude. Where is Willow? Where is Faith? All we have is… is… fuck! We don't have anyone."

"Well that is being a bit rude. So I was a little late? That Slayer, man does she like to ramble on." Anya said, as she appeared sitting on the couch next to Hank. He sprung up.

"Don't do that." He turned to Jude. "Tell her not to do that. How I am supposed to be imposing and suave and evil when she can scare the crap out of me like that?"

"What the hell happened to him?" Anya asked Jude as if he was not even there.

"He is anemic. Gets weird when he gets low."

Anya nodded, with a sarcastic smile. She was not planning on respecting him, that much he could see.

"Where is Faith?"

"Outside of Boston."

"So you…" Jude asked,

"So she is no longer being held by the Council, so she is on her way here."

"Tomorrow then?" Jude asked.

"Well, see there is this small problem."

Hank turned to Anya, and then Jude, before asking,  "Problem?"

"She won't fly. So you are looking at a week or more. But hey, more time to plan for the big Buffy meltdown party." Anya grinned, but Hank was not amused. Jude had said Faith would be there soon. Another thing that wasn't going right.

"Great." Jude huffed, sitting down again.

"Did you already know-" Anya asked.

"No." Pouting, Jude crossed her arms.



"Do you know what I mean?"

"Honestly?" Willow asked Buffy.

Buffy nodded.

"Honestly, I am on a slow boat to confusion land." Willow shrugged, and Buffy found it completely endearing. She sat down next to her friend, and took her hand. Buffy felt the redhead tense, and tried to be soothing as she ran two finger tips over the back of her hand.

"I feel you tense. I can hear your heart beating, the whooshing of the blood as it is pushed through the heart out into the veins. I can feel it moving, right here, under my finger. I can feel your muscles, and know, by just knowing how much pressure it would take for me to snap this finger." Willow eeped, and Buffy smiled. "I won't Wills. I can smell that you and…" Buffy trailed off, realizing something. She met her friend's eyes, finding herself looking into the darkening green. "Oh, God. Why didn't you say anything?"

"What?" Willow gasped, and Buffy pulled her into a fierce hug. "How, what? I mean, huh?" Willow mumbled into Buffy's shoulder.

"Fear, pain, sadness." Buffy answered into red hair. "Do you need to talk about it? I thought things were ok between you and Jude."

"No, I'd rather not." She sighed, and then moved back, to hold Buffy at arms length. "How did you know? I don't feel any magic."

"I am changing Willow. There is so much I never stopped to notice before. And these are just the physical changes. Don't even get me started on the super sized guilt trips I have been having."

"Buffy, if what you are saying is true, I am way over my head here. Sure I know I am sort of a Watcher in training, and all. But this is really Giles' area of expertise, not mine. Now if you wanted to talk wolf bane and rowan berries I would be your girl. But this?" Willow frowned.

"I know. You're right." Buffy bit her lip, thinking. "Up for a walk to see a man about a horse?"

"Buffy, I don't want to watch you pee."

"Oops." Buffy laughed, glad the mood seemed a little lightened. She wanted to know what was going on with Willow and her Seer, but that would wait. She could tell her friend was still raw. "Walk with me to see Giles?"


They stood and moved to the front door.

"What brought you by? Not that I don't love to get all morose with my Wicca."  Buffy asked.

"Oh shit."


"Council stuff. We can talk and walk." Willow grumbled, a touch of irritation on her face.

"That has yet to be proven. I am blonde you know."

"Not funny, Slayer."

"Then lay it on me, Witch."

Willow mock growled. Then sighed. "So I have this friend, in the Watcher wannabe category."

"Huh?" Buffy asked, kicking at a pebble on the front walk, like she did every time she left the house.

"You do realize if you keep doing that, eventually there will be no more pebbles on your pebbled walkway. All you will have is dirt, or I am betting in your case, a muddy path leading right up to the front door. And Buff, we all know how much you clean or rather don't, and as no one knows for certain how long Faith will be gone, leaving it up to you to keep the mud and carnage off the freshly polished wood floors is not-"

"Damn Will. Breathe."


"Council, Watcher, kinda. What's the scope?"

"Nothing concrete. Oh, you could put down-"


"Riiight. There is a rumor that Quinten Travers and some Possible Slayers, who they have been training in England made a rushed trip to Boston day before yesterday."

"Boston." Buffy stopped and looked at Willow.

"Boston." Willow confirmed.

"Boston where my Faith is?"


"Let's hurry this up. Seems like Giles needs to explain a couple of more important things."



With his right hand he flipped through the old text, his left hand was pressing a handkerchief to his slip lip. Giles contemplated ranting for a few moments at the incompetence he clearly displayed in choosing to invite someone into his home. But he knew it would be to no avail. What was done was done. A vampire, correction, a day walking vampire had coming into his house, roughed him up a bit, then told him a little story, and then knocked him about the head with his teakettle, effectually knocking him unconscious for a good four hours.

Hank Summers had given him a choice, something that Giles first suspected to be a trick, but now believed to be in fact just that, a choice. He had to admit, with a sad grin, Buffy's biological father did have a strong argument to believe that the choice Giles would make would be the one he expected him to make.

He ripped out the passage in the text he had been looking for.

"Let her try and solve this one." He said, moving back towards the door, lifting his coat and leaving in a huff.



"She's gone!" the door was thrown open and the words shouted, silencing all other discussion in the room.

"That is impossible." Osler stammered.

"Nothing is impossible." Quinten stated flexing his authority, now that the tranquilizer gun was no longer pointed at him. In fact, he stood arrogantly and nodded to his body guard, who noticed then too than in a moment of confusion Osler attention was other where, and the gun hung limply at his side. Balch watched all of this with a trained Watcher's eye, and stepped back as Osler was surrounded and tackled to the ground in a grunt. Balch had known that it would only have been a matter of time before Osler's take-over was squelched; only he had not guessed it to happen so quickly.

"No!" Came the pitiful cry from the bottom of the heap.

"Slayers, especially this one, are creatures of immense improbability, and therefore must never be taken for granted. Please, restrain the Commander and see to it that he is held until we return to England." Quinten walked over, and looked up into Osler's betraying eyes as the other members restrained him. "I do recall warning you of this. Yet you took it upon yourself to ignore me. And now you know why she is gone."

"This isn't my fault."

"Oh, but I dare say it is." Quinten dismissed him with a flick of his wrist, and turned, seeing that he had Balch's complete attention. "Did you give her the serum?"


"I see."  Men filed out of the room. "Can you find her?"

"I am sure that I can. Given time."

"And you have all the time you need then, Balch. All plans rely on having the Slayer at our disposal."

"You still plan to terminate her then?"

"Hmm. Nothing has happened to make me want to change my mind." He sat back down, like Napoleon. "Perhaps, between you finding her and now, something will?"

Balch nodded, and left the room. He wasn't sure how long of a head start the Slayer had. But he had a good idea where she was headed.



Buffy turned 360 degrees once more, taking in the sight of Giles' ransacked apartment. She could smell the blood, and the sweat, and something that was definitely vampire, but there was something else. She walked into the kitchen, and lifted the electric teakettle from the floor. There was a small bit of blood on the bottom corner. There was something familiar about the kettle, Buffy couldn't place it. Maybe a scent or-

"Hey that is just like the one he got you for school."

Or that she had one exactly like it. Buffy tossed it down with the rest of the smashed cutlery.

"This is not of the good."

"I tend to agree." Willow nodded, still looking at all the damage.

"Thoughts then on what we should do?" Buffy inhaled again. Something, there was definitely something.

"Locator spell, simple and effective. To find Giles at least."

"Sounds good." Buffy looked out the window. "Dusk is here. I had better get a quick patrol in."

"You know where I will be. Down with the sage." Willow joked, setting her bag down on the desk, and opening it.

"Gotcha." Buffy winked.



Willow watched Buffy closing the door behind her. Then she surveyed the damage again. If Giles was unaware of the mess, he was going to be very upset when he returned. She set some of the jars down on the desk, and went to move a book that was laying in the way. She lifted it, and then looked more closely, pages were torn from it.

"Oh yeah, he is going to be pissed off. I wonder how hard it would be to replace this book?" She closed it and looked at the cover. It seemed familiar. "Oo." She wasn't certain, but thought she might have a copy at home, one of Tara's old tomes. Tucking the book into her bag, she began to get the spell ready.



Balch stepped out of the abandoned mansion and began walking towards the road. He looked around, trying to see if anything was amiss, any sign of something. In his younger days hunting was something his father attempted to teach him, and though the shooting of animals for sport held no interest, the tracking fascinated him. He was thankful for the skills imparted to him as he spotted some tracks. Boot tracks that were too small to belong to one of the men inside, that appeared to be running away. This was as he expected. Walking and looking, he knew he could follow the trail to the road, and then it would get harder to track the Slayer. Though she did have habits. Slipping his hand into the inside pocket of his trench coat, he removed his mobile phone and dialed a familiar number.

"Archives, Balch speaking."

"I will never get used to that." He replied with a smile to the female voice that greeted him.

"Robert, how lovely to hear from you. And how is Boston?"

"Meral, how did you know I was in Boston?"

"Would you believe caller id?"

"You've been snooping again."

"I have not… well possibly."

"You always did have your finger in the pie, little sister."

"Did not."

"I recall walking into the kitchen and seeing just that very thing."

"That was over twenty years ago, will you please let it go?"

"Mother still blames me, to this day, she says I cannot be trusted with pastry."

"That is just because she saw that movie on Sky. You know, the American film, with the pie and the young man."

"I am aware of it. And why are you allowing her to watch such things."

"Allowing? Have you taken leave of your senses, and forgotten who our mother is?"

"No. Quite right."

"May I ask why you are calling?"

"I know you have been in communication with Ms Rosenberg, and I-"

"Is everything alright? Nothing has happened to Willow has it?"

"Meral. Please. I am just making an inquiry. Have you been?"

"Please continue."

"Avoidance is a sign of-"

"Stuff your psychological degree at the moment. What do you need?"

"Any rumors about Faith returning to Sunnydale?"

"No. Actually I have not heard from Willow this past week, which is most strange for her. Usually she is punctual to the point where I thought she was a computer, not a human. That girl is always on line. Um, yes. Sorry. No. Nothing. Other than the spell she was inquiring about."

"The Day Walker spell?"

"One and the same."

"I see."

"What are you thinking, brother?"

"I am not sure. Faith has excused herself from the Council's rather stifling accommodations, and I am tasked with finding her. So I was hoping to just travel to Sunnydale to obtain her."

"She ran off huh? Good for her."

"Meral, please."

"Sorry, Robert. But you know how I feel."

"You have made mention about a thousand times."

"I have to be sure you understood. You don't always hear the words I say."




"So you think she may be going back home, to her other Slayer huh? Or she could go anywhere really… you know, I have some concerns about Sunnydale myself."

"Such as?"

"Just concerns, dear brother. I do have some time coming up. Would you be apposed to me traveling to Sunnydale immediately, and letting you know of any information first hand?"

"I think you will be expensing a personal trip."

"You say potato I say potato."

"Call my mobile when you get in?"

"Of course, dear brother. I suggest you try Pittsburg."


"Good distribution hub. Faith likes to hitch hike."


He disengaged the phone with a smile. His little sister always had the ability to do that. Make him smile, and hang up with out any warning. Pocketing the phone, he looked back at the estate, it's sprawling ivy, cracked lead windows, and his smile widened. He was glad Faith had gotten out, though still not sure how she had managed it. It would be something he could ask her. Balch had no doubt he would find her in due time. Right now he had to get a ride to Pittsburg.



The swirling smoke dissipated and Willow looked down at the map, absently tucking some hair behind her ear and frowning. The map was showing her Giles' location, and it was somewhere she was sure her friend would not be just for an evening stroll.

Digging in her purse, vowing to herself for the hundredth time that she needed a smaller purse, or no purse at all, she found her cell phone, and pressed one for the preprogrammed number.

"Dust makers are us."


"Hey, Wills, did you – umph"

Willow frowned, looking at the phone, and then putting it back to her ear.

"Um, Buffy? Is this a bad time?"

"Naw, he's just a little one, hey! Hey! Get back here, chicken."

Willow laughed, picturing Buffy slaying while talking. She kept having to warn Buffy against the dangers of slaying and talking, it was much more dangerous that driving and talking on the phone. Well, unless you were talking about Buffy, in which case driving was more dangerous, period.

"Buffy, you need to be paying attention. Why did you answer the phone if you were slaying?"

"I was hoping it was you?"

"Funny. You just are one of those people that have to answer when it rings."

"Am not."

"Are too."

"Am not."

"Are too."

"Am, ok." Buffy laughed. "You got me. I am. So? Locator spell? Did it work?"

"Aren't you busy? Should I call back?"

"Naw, he's poofed. So?"

"Looks like Giles is at the docks."

"Well that spells bad news like, like, um, b-a-d news. So?"

"Want to meet me over there?"

"I don't know Wills. You heading over there alone? I am not comfortable with that."

"I am a big girl Buffy. Remember me? Nearly ended the world?"

"But you were hopped up on stolen magics."

Willow huffed.

"I worry about you Willow. You know I am only a bitch because I care."

"Is that what you think."


"Maybe I will call Xander." Willow said in a resigned tone, still not liking that she was always babied. She wasn't the same bookworm she had been all those years ago. She was a badass mojo toting mama, well she had been for a while at least, and yes that had ended badly, but still, she wasn't to be trifled with. She even nodded her point to the empty room.

"If you say you can handle it, Will, then I believe you."

"Really?" Willow immediately perked up.

"Really. But, I wouldn't be apposed to oh, I don't know, meeting you over there in an hour or so?"

"Great! Be safe out there."

"Always try to be." Buffy laughed. "See you soon."

Willow ended the call, and put the phone back in her bag. She could do this. She had a stake, and she had some low level magic that she was comfortable using. This would be a piece of cake.



Buffy was smiling as she put the phone back in her pocket. She needed to let go, to stop protecting her friends so much. They had lasted this long.

I was here watching over them.

"Ah, don't kid yourself Buffster." She said to herself as she walked deeper into the cemetery. "They can take care of themselves. No one was killed off when you were dead and buried in the ground. Give them some credit. They don't really need you." She smirked. It was true. Maybe when Faith came back the two of them could take a vacation, a nice get away, to Alaska, in the summer.

Her happy train of thought consisting of twenty-four hours of daylight, accompanied by a vision of her and Faith, in the middle of brightly lit woods, scaring the squirrels was interrupted rudely when she was tackled from behind.

Rolling to the right, she sprung back up to her feet, turning to glare at the vampire standing there.

"You always talk to yourself Slayer?" He sneered.

"Fuck off, it's been a rough couple of weeks." She was more upset that she had been caught up in her little daydream and had not heard the vampire approach more than anything. Crossing her arms she watched as he stalked around her. "Find anything you're looking for?" She asked as he completed his circuit, and in that time she was able to sense that there was no other living creatures within fifty yards of them. This vamp smelled like death, thick and fresh. He was young, and weak, and this would take no time at all. Which was good. Buffy wanted to get over to the docks before Willow had a chance to get into any trouble. Not that she didn't think she could take care of herself, more that she wanted to find Giles and make sure he was alright.

"I guess you will have to do."

"Have to do? God, you are young."

"Young and strong, Slayer."

"At least you know who I am then."

"Of course. You have the smell, the hunter. But you don't look like you should. The vision showed you with brown hair."

"Vision?" Buffy asked, interested.

"You know, visions, before you rise. Sort of like a training school." He waved his hand in a bored tone, like he thought she should know all about this. She had heard rumors of course, but never thought to ask the vampires who were in her life to share their stories of being born to this darkness. Actually, she never really asked them much. She frowned. She really should have. Sort of self involved of her not to.

The vampire, dressed in a long dark jacket, pulled something from inside, and maneuvered it open. Buffy stopped her mind from rambling and watched.

"Where did you get that?" She snapped.

"Oh this?" He twirled the parasol emphatically. "City dump. Amazing what people throw out." He grinned, this yellow eyes sparkling.

City dump? When? How?

"That's mine."

"If you threw it out, it isn't any more." He pouted. "What, you gonna take it from me, Slayer?"

Buffy nodded, and flicked her wrist out towards him. She was no longer in the mood for hand to hand. Not in the mood to play the game. The small stake she had tucked against her wrist zipped through the night air, piercing his heart before he even noticed the movement. He frowned, looked down, and then dust rained on the grass, and the parasol lightly caught the air before it fell too.

"Damn." She stepped forward and lifted the bent umbrella, looking at the stained fabric, touching the handle reverently. When had she lost this? He said the dump. Had she really been so careless? Sure her life was hectic, but had she been so heartless, and thoughtless to have thrown this out?

Buffy regarded her once sacred Protector award. All her classmates had given her the award. Presented her, Buffy Summers, this as thanks for saving their lives, over and over again during her earlier years in Sunnydale. It had meant so much to her, that Buffy was given the recognition.

"Not Buffy." She sighed, realizing for the first time. They didn't give the girl Buffy this award. The children of Sunnydale High School had given the award to the Hunter, the Slayer, they just didn't know its name. Buffy Summers was the one who had been trying to be just like them. She had tried repeatedly. Going to class, studying when needed, trying out for cheerleading. If she had just been the girl, Buffy, no one would have noticed her. She would have faded into the background, just like Willow had. But she couldn't even claim to be on the same level as Willow. Everyone knew the redheaded genius. Knew who was the go to girl for help with schoolwork. If Buffy were just the girl she always wanted to be, she would have been invisible. She probably would have faded away too. Her only claim to fame, the only thing that made her different was the one thing for years that she hated about herself. Being the killer, the murderer, the Slayer.

She turned to leave the cemetery, leaving the parasol behind her as well.



"Oh, no. I can do it all by myself." Willow grumbled under her breath as she walked along the corrugated steel wall of one of the many warehouses here at the docks. It seemed darker than usual, and a light fog was settling around her, coming off of the thick water that enabled the ships to port here. She wasn't sure why she was feeling more wiggy than normal. Perhaps it was because she had passed the warehouse where they had found Dawn last year, just a few minutes ago, and when she closed her eyes she was treated to the memory vision of all the blood. So much blood. Who knew there could be so much blood in such a thin body? Well vampires knew; their whole thing was blood. What if there were some vampires hanging around here tonight, did she have her stake? Would she be ready for them?

"You're babbling Willow." She chastised herself. Even in her head she rambled when she was nervous. And she was certainly nervous. After a day like she had, nervous was an understatement.

"What a day, huh Tara?" Willow grimaced. She had done it again. She found herself still talking to Tara, still thinking about her. The tall blonde had always been her touchstone, her grounding into this world, keeping her thoughts from wandering too much. It still hurt that she was no longer here. Willow was learning to live without her friend, her lover, her confidant, but still, there was so much she had wanted to say and do, and never got the chance. It was haunting her, the incompleteness. Rationally Willow knew there was no way for her to have prepared for Tara's murder. None of them knew what Warren was planning; even Warren didn't know he was going to kill Tara. It had been an accident. Accident or no, it left her feeling empty, and incomplete, in a way that she knew would never stop. No matter who was in her life, if she ever fell in love again, there would always be a part of her soul that belonged to Tara. That was made blindingly clear that afternoon, when she had been with Jude.

Her focus should have been on the moment, the culmination of months of flirting and sexual tension. But it had paled in comparison to every time she and Tara had come together, in such a way that left her feeling even more empty.

A movement caught the corner of her eye and she turned, seeing Jude, slipping out of a side door.

"Speak of the devil." Willow mumbled.



Something wasn't right. There was too much that she had been missing lately. The visions were spotty at best, and had been so since they preformed the ritual. Could it have been the ritual that drained her? Possibly. Maybe she needed to get more power. And power was Willow. Jude would have to check the crystals she had in Willow's apartment, to be sure they were still pulling trace amounts of magics into them. She had better do it fast. Hank, she was sure would never notice the changes, but Anya. The demon already knew something was up, had questioned her more than once. Jude didn't like that. If she could get rid of the demon she would. But at this stage of the game, that didn't seem like a possibility.

Sighing, Jude lit the cigarette she pulled from her shirt pocket and exhaled, letting her mind relax for a minute. All the planning was getting to her. If one more thing didn't go as she planned she was going to scream.

"Hey you. Fancy meeting you here."

Jude jumped and turned, to see Willow looking at her questioning her. She gulped, wondering how in the world the Wicca had found her. And why the hell hadn't she seen this coming?

"Did you know I was alone and admittedly a little freaked, so you came to keep me company?" Willow asked.

"Um." Jude dropped the cigarette and ground it out under her boot heel. "No Buffy?" She panned the area behind the redhead.

"She'll be here eventually." Willow narrowed her eyes. "Jude, are you okay? I know we need to talk about what happened today."

Jude decided then, that it was now or never.

"Actually, Willow. There is a lot more than this morning that we need to talk about."

Twin red eyebrows shot up.

"A whole lot more. I think it is time."


Jude grinned and nodded, slipping her arm around Willow's shoulders.



She stopped in front of the open warehouse door, and felt her head drop.

Buffy had been back to this building more times than she had admitted to anyone of the Scoobies. She would come and think about Dawn, think about what she could have done differently. Before Faith left, she had made it clear to Buffy that she blamed herself for Dawn's death, and Buffy had told her repeatedly that there was nothing Faith could have done. That all the ‘what ifs' and ‘could haves' meant nothing. That it was meant to be, and that beating herself up over it would not bring Dawn back. Faith hadn't heard those words and had left, looking for revenge. Buffy had heard the words, but didn't completely believe them. She didn't blame Faith, on the contrary, Buffy could stand outside of the situation and see exactly what had happened and why. Still, it didn't stop the hopes, the ‘what ifs' and the ‘could haves' from springing into Buffy's mind. She and Faith were alike in so many ways, the way they accepted blame another one. So Buffy would come here, and allow herself to think, to grieve.

Looking inside the warehouse, with her Slayer eyes she could see the large stain on the concrete floor. Slayer smell? The metallic tingle at the back of her throat of blood, familiar blood. Her own blood. It was still there, and Buffy wondered, not for the first time, if she would always be able to smell it here, in this place.

Raising her head and closing her eyes she inhaled the moisture rich air. Her mind taking in all the levels of scent, she was looking for one in particular. Where was her redhead?  Tilting her head to the side, she imagined stretching out her mind, covering this entire area.

"Not here." She mumbled. There was nothing. No trace of Willow. A low growl of disapproval came from her chest, unnoticed, and Buffy pulled her phone out from her pocket. It was turned off. She didn't remember turning it off. Holding the button it beeped as it turned on, then buzzed. She had a voicemail.

"Buffy, its me. I didn't find anything interesting. And it is sort of creepy, so no sign of him, and I decided to head home. And you should to. Get some sleep and we will regroup in the morning. Ok bye."

Buffy ended the call, looking at the phone. That hadn't been a normal Willow message. She felt herself frown then willed it away. Maybe Willow had been tired or something. Nothing seemed amiss and Buffy was sure that Willow was nowhere around, so she turned and headed out. Home would be good. A bath, even better.



"Well if you would have brought Faith back with you we wouldn't have to wait." Hank exclaimed, his cheeks would have been rosier with anger, if he had eaten anything recently, but he had been cooped up in the warehouse most of the day. He hated loosing face, especially in front of the man who had stolen his daughter's affections, and he was sure was partly to blame for his untimely demise at the hands of bumbling vampires in L.A. He was tired of excuses from Jude and Anya. They had a plan, a simple plan, and no one seemed to be playing by the rules. And now, for this demon to sit there all indignant like she was better than him, and Mr. Giles cleaning his glasses for the umpteenth time as he sat on the couch in the corner, Hank was at his boiling point.

"Listen, I know you are new at this being evil and all that, so I am cutting you some slack. Thing is, I can teleport, but I can't take others with me. It doesn't work like that. You want teleporting you need a Naidan demon, or a really strong witch."

"She has a point." Giles offered, and Hank growled at him.

"We don't have either of those!" Hank exclaimed slamming his fist down on the large conference table set up in what he called the War Room, in the basement of this warehouse.

"Well, I have the witch."

All eyes in the room turned towards Jude as she stood in the doorway she had left from not an hour before. She stepped aside and the redhead, Willow, stepped into the room. Hank felt his vampire visage slipping away as he smiled in greeting. Well it was about time. Finally, something was going right. He watched the witch step further into the room, and took her in. Wide green eyes looked at the others assembled, her hands still crossed against her stomach. She smelled of fear, but fear was good. Manageable.

"You too." Willow said looking at Anya, who had stood and walked over to her side.

"Well you have to admit, his benefits package is much better than the one the Buffy has been offering." Anya said, walking with Willow over to Giles, who was strangely quiet.

"You just know you looked hot in the evil leather pants." Jude quipped as she sat down heavily in her chair in the corner. She seemed quite pleased with herself.

"I don't have to be evil to wear leather… do I?" Willow asked.

"It is sort of a prerequisite." Giles offered, moving slightly as the redhead sat beside him.

"Well phooey." She shrugged.

Hank watched them all closely, wondering again, what his daughter saw in these people.



Coming home to a dark and empty house. Again. Buffy could feel it on her shoulders, a ghostly pressure. She wanted a home filled with her friends, her family. She wanted crowded rooms, and arguments over washing dishes. She wanted life surrounding her, not cold bricks and mortar. This wasn't home. This was a cage, a shell.

"Too deep for even me." She mumbled and made her way to the upstairs apartment, bypassing rooms that she never used.

Faith's scent was too faint now up here. Only a pair of leather pants, and a stake or two were left really. Buffy hadn't changed much in the apartment after Faith left; there wasn't much to change. Faith had always traveled light, she claimed. Owning things didn't seem practical to the dark Slayer. Another example of the differences between them. Buffy was notorious for having stuff. Meaningless stuff. Like Mr. Gordo sitting on the bed. Why did she need that?

Shrugging off her jacket she moved into the bathroom, leaned over and turned on the spout.

It was time to do some cleaning, she decided. Time to lighten the load. Faith had it right, in so many ways. It had taken years, but Buffy was seeing it now. Seeing her true self, the one she had denied.

"Enough thinking." Buffy decided, and slipped into the warm bath.

She stretched her right leg out, running the soapy sponge over it, feeling the muscles of her lower back starting to relax from the punch she had received earlier when she was paroling. It felt good to be warm, soothing. Sighing Buffy looked at the clock that was hanging in the bathroom above the toilet, a must have in any young professional's bathroom.

"Four hours to go. Whoop-tee-do." Buffy sighed, realizing work was not far off.

This was not how she had planned to spend the evening. She had thought, albeit fleetingly, after sitting with Willow that afternoon and smelling the pungent smell of sex rolling off of her best friend, that a good way for her to top off her night would be a visit to one of the bars down in the bad side of town. Slip in alone, slip out with someone, take care of business and be home with time to spare. But instead she had gotten kicked around by a pack of no name vampires all because she was too busy thinking, and then she spent even more time walking around the docks looking for Willow, but there was no Wicca to be found.

Buffy rolled her head back on the tub ledge. "Looks like it is the old fashioned way for me tonight." She slipped her fingers through the warm water, between her parted legs, feeling her already aroused clit, and circling it. It felt good, and so she did it again, as the rest of her body settled lower into the water. Closing her eyes she willed all thoughts away, and just pictured ebony hair, dark eyes, and kiss-swollen lips. She tried to conjure up the sound of Faith's growling and moaning her name, a sound that would always get Buffy more excited. Pumping her digits in and out, running her fingers through her swollen lips. She flexed her legs, feeling the climax getting closer, imagining her Slayer there, touching her. Her hips were moving in time now with her rapidly thrusting fingers, two inside of her. Then three. And she was getting closer. So close she could almost taste it. Biting her bottom lip, Buffy willed herself to relax, to feel the pleasure.

"Fuck!" It was not an exclamation of climax, rather frustration. "Ever since I came back Faith." She frowned. It was true. Ever since she was with Faith last she couldn't come, and it was beginning to get tiresome. Buffy knew it had only been a few days, but to a Slayer, to Buffy, that as a few too many moments filled with frustration.

She pulled the drain, and slipped from the tub, wrapping a large towel around her body, making a beeline for the soft bed.



The sun was just making its way over the Sierra Mountains, barely lighting the sky in Sunnydale, but there was a noticeable difference from when Willow had entered the warehouse with Jude earlier. The Seer had a firm grip on her arm, suddenly more possessive it seemed. At the moment, Willow's mind was swirling so intently, that the hold on her was welcome. Passing out seemed like a possibility.

"A lot to take in huh?" Jude offered as they started walking away.

"What? Yeah it really is. Who knew, I mean well, we knew, but we didn't know." Willow tripped over her words, and just stopped talking. What would be the use? After hearing what she did, she couldn't for sure say the earth was still round.

"I know."

"So this has been your plan from the beginning?"

"Pretty much." Jude shrugged.

Planned the whole time. Even our meeting. So really, nothing has been what it seemed.



The face looking back at her from the mirror on the ladies room wall was the same one she had seen for all of her twenty-seven years. Blue eyes, brown hair; pale cheeks with the standard spray of freckles. There was nothing new really to be seen in this busy bathroom mirror at Heathrow Airport. But Meral was sure something was different about her today.

"Why do I have the feeling my life is about to completely change?" She mumbled, and then chuckled, when an elderly woman who had been washing up beside her jumped a little, giving her an odd glance and then rushed from the room. Scaring old ladies was not a pastime for the researcher, on the contrary, she had no pastimes. Since she was old enough to know about the Watcher's Council, where her father and then brother worked, it had become her life to study and learn about the occult. She wanted what they had. Access to knowledge. The power and resources to do good. It was only after she was accepted that she learned of the truth. Power corrupts. The Council was no different. Centuries of watching had taken its toll and now the ruling hand wanted to control, and actively participate. It was something Meral was very uncomfortable with. She had no allegiance to the group, thankfully her youth and tenacity had ensured that. Perhaps that explained why she had left work, feigning exhaustion yesterday after the call from her brother. Explained why her bags had been packed, her bank account emptied, and tickets purchased all within hours. She believed in the good, fighting on the side of good, and the fight was where she was needed. Where she was headed.

Oh so Willow Rosenberg had nothing to do with it?

Meral smiled, a lazy grin that had been her trademark since birth. To be honest with herself, part of this journey was selfish. Though she knew better, and even chastised herself again, that Willow was merely words on a screen, she was a large reason for this trip.

"You only saw her that once, when Mr. Giles carried her past your desk to the infirmary. Really, you are a silly girl." Shaking her head, she lifted her pack, walking with sure steps to the boarding gates.



Rolling over, my hands found an empty bed. I was sure that someone had been there, beside me. Well not someone. B. As I drifted off last night I had been thinking about her, about how it used to feel to fall asleep knowing she was right there beside me. Most nights we would just fall to sleep on our separate sides, maybe feet touching, maybe my arm against her back. Cuddling I didn't do all the time, too many years of sleeping alone maybe. God lover her, B never pushed me to hold her, or anything. It was like we both took enough comfort in knowing the other person was right there, and that was enough. But last night, it had felt like she was there. Like I could feel the warmth of her body under the sheets. So waking up and not feeling her there, it was a little freaky.

I sat up, looking around. Still the same dingy room I had broken into. Nothing looked like it had been disturbed, which was good. If someone or thing had managed to get in here while I was sleeping, I was so far off my game then that the Council should put me down.

I stretched, closing my eyes and feeling my body. Everything seemed okay. I even wiggled my toes. No problems there. Looks like I was back, good as new. I got out of bed, shivering a little at the coldness of the room, and the thin carpet over a cement floor that was equally cold.

Getting dressed and getting out was on tap for this morning. Question was; where was I going to go?



Grimacing, she decided that this would have to do. Cocking her head to the side Buffy took in her image in the floor length mirror in the room. Khaki pants, a white knit sweater. It was drab, it was old, and it was crap.

"This is what happens when I forget to do laundry." She grumbled, leaving the room and heading down stairs.

The house was still empty. And she knew it would be when she came home tonight too.

"Well, empty means more time for laundry." She stopped, picking up her brown suede boots from the rack in the hall. "I need to stop talking to myself like this. It is just… creepy." She frowned and went into the kitchen, sitting in the chair and pulling on her boots. That accomplished she started the coffee maker, and lifted the cordless phone from its cradle.

She dialed Willow's number.


"Hi, its me, and I'm not here right now."

"Damn, voicemail." She pressed to off button and then dialed Xander.




"Hi! For those of you just tuning in, I am at work, yes an actual job-"

"Bah." Buffy hung up again, and cradled the phone. "Where is everyone?" She pouted, before pouring herself a cup of coffee. She tried not to think about being alone, something she was never good with. Even those months she lived in L.A. as Anne, it had been painfully hard to not have anyone to talk to, not having people around her at all times. She wondered, not for the first time, what sort of person that made her if her own company was so intolerable.

Buffy heard the gravel of the front walk shift, and smiled, setting her cup down. She listened and heard heavy steps coming up the porch, and then the front door open. She gave him five seconds to appear.






"How are things in quiet town?" Xander asked as he appeared in the kitchen, and she watched him as he went and took a banana off the counter and peeled it. She had never been so glad to see him, even if he was eating her last banana, which he suddenly bit off half of and began to chew.

"Fine. Where were you last night?"

"Mwe? Wahft abwaout wu? Nwa un wasp awaound."

"Please chew."

He swallowed, and grinned sheepishly. "Sorry Buff. Everyone was sort of M.I.A. last night. None of my girls could be found."

"I thought you had a date with Anya."

"So did I. She wasn't at her place when I stopped by. I chalk it up to demonic activity that called her away, not any sign that she wasn't in the mood for some Harris charm." He grinned again.

"Right." Buffy smiled, finished her coffee and moved to rinse the cup.

"What were you and Willow up to? Anything menacing I should know about? Big bad looming on the horizon? Broken windows? If its broken windows, I'm your man."

"Nothing like that." She stopped. "I don't think so. We went to see Giles, and his placed was trashed. And not like I am having a bad day, but frat party trashed."

"That's not good Buff."

"I know. Worse, there was no Giles to be found." The microwave chirped the change in the hour. "Shit. I have to go, or I will be late for work… again."

"Need a ride?" Xander offered, tossing the now empty peel into the trash bin under the sink.

"Naw I can walk."

Suddenly the cadence of sharp tapping was heard, and both looked to the windows.

Rain. Great.

"About that ride to work?"

"Yes please."



The bar was just a mile down the road. As was the norm when it comes to bars in backwater towns. The morning sun was a little too bright for my liking, but there wasn't a whole hell of a lot that I could do about that now was there?

I walked up closer, past the rusted out trucks and cars to the row of six motorcycles. This was more like it. If I was going back to Sunny D, and I hadn't decided if I was or not, I was certainly going to need a ride. And one of these would fit the bill perfectly. On the end one was gleaming. Sparkling chrome against a black drop. It was perfectly clean, despite the dusty dirt parking lot and the pothole-strewn highway beyond. I stepped a little closer, smelling the oil, and leather. I reached out and touched the bike, as I heard someone walk up behind me.

"Nice bike." I offered, still looking at it, wondering how big the person behind me was, and how I would feel about knocking them out to take this machine.

"Not a bike." A deep female voice responded. *"She is sleek, smooth, slick and low. Shiny, black, the sunlight reflects off of her almost blindingly.  She is wicked, evil, cocky, knows it and flaunts it. You run your fingers along her flanks, liking the firmness of her flesh.  It is almost like touching metal-velvet.  You follow her silken lines until you find the right switch, the one you know will push all the right buttons.

"As you turn her on, she growls low then starts to purr. You straddle her, feet planted firmly on the ground, legs spread wide. You reach up your hands, squeeze, holding on tight as you pull her upright between your thighs.  You stroke her a little with a subtle twist of your right wrist and listen to her purr a little longer, a little louder for you.  You tap you foot, release the tight hardness in your left hand and she starts to purr stronger, her volume rising as she begins to move underneath you. 

"With care you guide her around the curves, gentling her, she vibrates between your thighs and suddenly you realize that you are purring right along with her, moving to her rhythm as she moves so sweetly beneath you.* She is anything but a bike."

"Mm. I'd have to agree with you there. Sounds like a hell of a ride." I licked my bottom lip turning around to face the knockout of a woman standing behind me.

"You have no idea." She gave me a sparkling grin, looking me over with deep brown eyes just visible over the rims of her sunglasses.

"Care to let me try?" I asked.

"I don't know about that, little one. I think she might be too much to handle on your own."

"You might be right. Give me a lift?" I knew I was pushing it. But she was flirting, and why the hell not. To ride that animal, after the way she described it? I'd be a fool to say no.

"How far?"

"Pittsburg?" It was as good a place as any, I figured.

"You got yourself a deal, gorgeous." She gave me that smile again, and I vowed that I would not be getting more than a ride. She straddled the bike, and for a moment I swallowed, knowing that this woman was my match, and I would be lucky if she let me get away with just a ride.



There she was. Sitting in a truck stop diner, cupping a chipped and stained mug, which appeared to hold coffee, but Balch wasn't completely convinced. This was the third truck stop he had checked, and he considered himself blessed to find her sitting in this one. Not only that, she looked contemplative. Steeling his resolve, and preparing for the eventuality of her throwing him out, literally, he took the steps needed to place him beside her booth. A silent sigh, and he slipped onto the cracked vinyl seat across from her.

"Where are you headed?" He asked.

"What's it matter to you?" She mumbled, before looking up. When she did he noticed she rolled her eyes, and gripped the cup tighter.

"A lot. You are at a crossroads here, literally. I know from the look in your eyes you are beating yourself up over something. Is it about leaving Boston? Knowing what we had planned?"

"Fuck you." She hissed.

"What we had planned, what Osler wanted, to terminate you? Faith, you have to understand, I don't share his desires." Balch confessed.

"Can any of you guys speak normal English?"

"You aren't evil, and you certainly do not deserve to die."

She released the mug and sat back heavily, glaring at him. "Who the fuck are you to be talking to me like you know something about my life? What the hell does it matter to you where I go, or what I want?"

"Everything you do matters to me. You are my life, as odd as that sounds."

"What do you mean?"

A matriarch came to the table, halting the words that Balch had been about to say.

"What are you having?" She asked.

"Um, the same as her I suppose." Balch replied, still looking at Faith, still not convinced that she wouldn't bolt from the table, and he would be forced to find her all over again.

"Coffee, black." She poured from a glass carafe that was in her hand, to the unused mug in front of him.

"Thank you."

"Uh-huh." She mumbled and left them. The Slayer was still looking at him. She motioned for him to continue.

"The past six years my life has been your life. I have studied you, researched you. Archived your actions, your triumphs and your failures. Faith, the Vampire Slayer has been my world. Your world."

"I have me my own chronicler, huh?"

"Something like that, yes." He smiled, sensing her beginning to relax, if ever so slightly. She took her mug and sipped.

"But you aren't a Watcher?"

"Not yet. Not sure if I ever will be. Seems I am more suited to the library, than the battle field."

"So you get that this is a war."

"I do."

"And you know everything about me, is that what you think Robert?" She cocked her head to the side, regarding him.

"I am confident that I know nearly everything. Granted, there are certain things I will never know, things you keep inside. What you are feeling. Those things, I do not know, nor do I think are my right to know. You are a woman of immense possibilities Faith."

"No. I am a Slayer."

"You are more than that."

"Am I? What makes you so fucking sure, bookworm? You just said it. You don't know what is inside of me."

"Then tell me." She leaned her elbows on the table, but said nothing. "I know many things about you Faith. With that knowledge, I am confused."


"To find you here sitting, contemplating, not rushing back to Sunnydale, to your Slayer. I thought for sure you would be making your way back as soon as possible. Something is on your mind. I am a good listener." He offered, expecting her to glare at him and say nothing. He was very surprised when her shoulders slumped and in a hushed voice she began speaking.



It was him. I smelled him when he walked into this diner. Same Council guy that didn't shoot me up with that junk. I'd give him that. But he came and interrupted me. I was doing fine, sitting here, twisted in knots.

The ride on the back of that Harley was amazing, but after thirty minutes the novelty of being on a hot bike with an even hotter biker between my legs wore off. The wind biting through my tank top, the wind making knots in my hair, shut off my libido, and I was left with my mind. Never a good thing. But thinking I was doing. And I was confused. Still was, sitting here, looking across the table at this guy that I knew nothing about, who claimed to know everything about be.

I don't know. Why did I even open my mouth and talk?

"Am I even worthy of going back to Sunnydale?" I asked myself more than him. In the year I had been away I have fucked myself across the country, living up to my Want Take Have. I wasn't thinking, only feeling, only doing what I felt I needed, that driving force to be alive for a few hours at a time. B deserved better. Sure, I never made any promises when I left, but still, how could I tell her I love her? How could I feel what I was pretty sure was love, and still live like I had. Would she still want me when she knew? And she would know, if I ever went back I would tell her. Hell, she could probably see it in my eyes. And after that whole thing with me fucking her brains out when she looked like someone else, she was sure to have more questions. How many women Faith? Could I even remember? They were all a blur of blonde hair. None of them stood out. Sure, when she was there, looking like someone else, I at first had no idea it was her, and when I told her I wasn't worthy of Buffy's love, she shut me down, telling me that B would understand. But would she really? Should I even expect her to? That was pretty fucking selfish, to think that she could or would forgive me. How could I even consider asking her to? She could have been faithful to me this whole time.

"Do you really think that?"

"Doesn't matter if I think it or not." I snapped. It could be true. Yeah, sure, we are the same, and B knows all about the lust that comes over a Slayer, she told me she accepted it, and lived it before I came back to Sunnydale when I got out of prison. Still, it was fucked up if I thought she would wait, that I was worth her. This was fucking Buffy! She could have anyone. Anyone! Why would she choose me? "What do I have to offer her?" I asked, looking up again meeting his eyes that actually seemed to care.


"That's just an emotion. A faulty one at that." It was.  It could be mistaken, when it is merely loneliness, or lust. How do I know it's real, what I feel, what she claims to feel. Could just be that we are the only two that are the same, and our Slayer connection is what we feel, nothing special, not love. My whole life I was told that I was unlovable, what makes me think that they were wrong? I am a tool. I treat women and men as tools. We are all used by each other, to get what we need. To get off. "So I just think I can go back, walk through that door and everything will be perfect? I am still Faith. Still the one who murdered humans, who let Dawn die, who brought Ronnie into town, who kidnapped Willow, and choked Xander, who fucked B's boyfriend after I stole her body, just because I could. I was still the sum of my actions. Nothing was going to change who I am. So why bother going back. I have nothing she needs."

"What if she wants you? What if she truly loves you because of all those things, that you did them, lived through them, and still you live everyday to fight the good fight? You strive to make other peoples lives better. Complete strangers are alive today because of you, and they will never know it. And you don't care. You don't do this; you aren't the Slayer for the recognition or the praise. You do it because it is you."

"Exactly. It is what I am. It doesn't void out who I am."

"But you are so more. You are the Faith who taught reading in prison. You are the Faith who worked at St. Michael's. You are the Faith who loved Dawn like your own, while she was here. You are the Faith who fights and slays in such a way that it is clear your goal is to defeat the evil or die trying. You are the Faith who lived beyond the abuse you suffered as a child, and for all your conquests you never once took something that wasn't offered. You slew your dragons, and work to slay other peoples' as well. That says a lot about who you are."

"Sounds like you are trying to sell me something, Bobby. What gives? Why the ‘you are a good girl' speech? Aren't you supposed to call in the guards, shoot me up with the liquid ick, and kill me? You do work for the Council, right?" I growled, trying to keep my voice down.

"Indeed, I do. But I like to think my work for the good of humankind supersedes any loyalty to the Watch's Council." He sipped his coffee, grimaced, and pushed it away. No shit it tasted bad, look around buddy.

"Ah, now you are being fucking noble."

"You are hostile when you are cornered, confused, or wary."

"Shut up." This dude thought he was so smart.


Maybe he is smart. Ornery, I will give him that. "So why are we here, chatting?"

"Is there somewhere else you would like to go?" He asked.

How the hell could I answer that? Was he not listening to me?

"I can take you back to Boston, we can terminate this life you despise, activate another Slayer, and call it a day. Or."

"Or?" I asked softly. Damn. Bobby did have my number.

"Or you and I can take a train ride to Sunnydale."

"Train?" I looked up. Why didn't I think of that? Right, no money.

"No planes. I know about your fear of heights." He smiled.

"Don't let that get around."

"I am afraid it is written in your chronicle."

"Am I ever gonna be able to see this book?" I asked. Maybe this guy was okay. And a train ride would certainly let me get to know him more. See how far I could trust him, if at all. Had to be careful though, look what happened to people I trust, especially ones that work for the Council.

"Probably not."

"Right." I leaned back in the booth. "So you know so much about me, where am I going to choose?"

"We will be going home." He slid an envelope across the table. "I took the liberty of getting two tickets. The train leaves in an hour."

I grinned. I couldn't help it.  "I kind of like you. Don't get used to it."

"Of course not."



"So no word on Giles?" He asked while backing slowly down the driveway.

"No." She looked out the window as the rain increased, and Xander had to switch on his windshield wiper blades to a higher setting. The heavy rain was uncharacteristic in Sunnydale, and when they first got into the car it took him a few embarrassing moments to find the switch to turn the wipers on. Now they were on, their rhythm the only sound in the car.

"What should we do?"

"I don't know. It's like I know that I should be doing something to find him. That me heading into work is the least practical thing at the moment, but." She sighed heavily.

"Buff, you ok? You've seemed, I don't know, a bit off?"

"I guess you can say I have been."

"Is it something I can help with? I'm sure missing Faith isn't helping you out here."

"It's that, but not just that. I guess I've been depressed."


"All of it. That there doesn't seem to be enough time,"

"You cant blame yourself for every death in Sunnydale if it wasn't for you people would be lined up 5 deep waiting to get buried."

"You've said that before." She turned and smiled at him. "That's not really all of it. Nothing is it. More like a whole bunch of little things. Vampires; who I kill, who I don't? Who or what am I."

"You're the Buffster."

"Mm. Am I?"



She knew hate.

She had embraced hate and rage in such a focused way that she had attacked those she loved, she had been focused on handing out what she believed was justice. Even the kill had not satiated her hate, and she had nearly ended the world.

Willow Rosenberg knew hate.

She had tasted it and engulfed it. It became her everything in those minutes, hours, when she was the evil stalking Sunnydale.

With this intimate knowledge of it, she could see through Jude's eyes. She could see the other girl's pain. Losing the one she loved, blaming the Slayer.

But Willow could not share. She could never blame Buffy for Tara's death.

Turning her head slightly she took in Jude's purposeful strides as they walked towards Willow's apartment. She noticed the shake in the hand that ran through close-cropped platinum hair. The honeyed eyes she had trusted were pulled in a sneer. Jude had it all figured out. Jude had played Willow. Jude thought she had everything just as she wanted it.

Willow was angry, but afraid. She wasn't sure why she suddenly feared Jude. Why it felt like she had no power to stop what was coming, what they had planned for Buffy. It was as though invisible chains were holding her to Jude.

Jude opened the back door, motioning Willow to enter first, and she did. As their footfalls echoed in the empty stairwell, it was like a weight was pressing down on her chest, the higher they got. With each breath Willow felt her resolve slipping. Where once she felt powerful and confident, in herself and in her moderate control over magic, the higher they got, the more it all left her, the more she felt like the Willow of old; the shy bookworm who would never raise her voice in defiance to those who were more powerful than herself.

Unlocking the door, she stepped through the threshold, and turned, watching the smaller woman close the door and take a step to her. A fleeting thought,

She is so much smaller than me. I could just push her out of the way.

But it was obliterated as Jude took her shoulders and slammed Willow back against the wall, her lips attacking Willow's with ferocity of possession. Willow felt the hands on her shirt, ripping the thin blouse open, popping some buttons, and shredding the holes of others. Her shoulders slumped, causing her bag to fall with a crash to the floor. Jude's lips were nipping against her throat, a throat that was constricting, as a booted foot kicked the bag across the entryway, spilling the contents.

"Jude, wait, what?" Willow stammered out, before a hand was over her mouth, forcing her cheek to press into the wall, holding her immobile.

"We are a couple now, more so than ever. Don't fight me, Willow. This is your job. This is who you are now. Mine." Jude growled, before forcing Willow's mouth back to her own.



In the quiet dark of the room the two of them regarded each other. Hank had left to feed, confident that the two of them would remain. It seemed as though he was correct in his assumption.

"I didn't know you were capable of this." Anya said softly, regarding the older man again. No glasses, his clothes no longer posh, more comfortable. He was not the man she used to know.

"No one knows what they're of capable until they are backed into a corner." He offered, stretching his arms on the back of the sofa.

"So is this the Ripper I heard about?" And she had heard stories. When she had been forced to live a mortal life, her demon friends still came to visit. Stories were told of the heydays, and insight on the group of people she then called her friends were offered.

"Are you back to being Anyanka? Buffy was certain you had, but with no proof, we decided to ignore it. Perhaps Buffy misjudged you."

"She misjudged all of us. Guess only we know who we really are, huh?"



I walked back into the large private sleeping car that Bobby had paid for, now dressed in the clothes that he had just happened to have. I thought he was pretty confident in finding me, what with the tickets and the clothes, even a knife and a stake for me. This guy exuded confidence. Which was a little strange. In the mansion I thought he was just a mousy Watcher wanna-be. But out here, in the big bad world, he acted like he was a bad ass. I sort of liked that.

I sat down on the bench; facing him in the chair he was sprawled in, and ran my hands down the legs of my new black jeans.

"Glad to see the size was right."

"Right as rain." I grinned, and then a little more quietly added; "Uh, thanks." I pulled on the red sleeve of the shirt. I was glad he seemed to know me enough to pick clothes I would be comfortable in, and still look good. And I did look good.

"I knew you would need something more appropriate than what you had."

"Always thinking ahead huh?"

"It is part of my job." He smiled.

"Right. Watcher's Council. All knowing and shit."

He smiled. "Something like that." He had a leather bound notebook open on his lap and was twirling a silver pen in his fingers, but his attention was out the window, on the scenery passing by rapidly.

"We have a while huh?" I asked.

"Few days." He said, then turned his brown eyes and pinned me to the seat. "Can I ask you something?"

"Shoot. I'm sort of a captive audience here." I winked.

"I am curious. How did you escape the mansion undetected?" He was ready to take notes, and I shrugged. Why not?

"Ever heard of Anya?"

"Anyanka, yes. Vengeance Demon. Cast out when her charm, her power was destroyed. Lived and worked with the group in Sunnydale. Last report was that she had gotten back her powers and was on the fence, as it were."

"Fence? Not sure. You might be right. If she is dealing out the nasty wishes, she is doing it on the down low, keeping it hidden. Good idea too, seeing as how Slayers sort of kill demons."

"Not all Slayers."

"What do you mean?" I sat forward.

"Well, it has been documented that Buffy finds some demons useful, and has, on occasion ignored the seeder deeds of her friends?"

What the hell did he mean by that? "Whatever." I shrugged. "Anya hasn't done wrong by me."

"But if she was up to her old ways, you would kill her."

I leaned back, closing my eyes. "Yeah. I would." Then I pinned him with my own stare. "But I don't know that she is. I do know she came and fought with me in Boston. Then she came again and got me out."


"She opened the fucking door. How do you think?" I smirked.

"So simplistic."

"Sure. Whatever you say. All that matters? I'm out."

"True." He shook his head and made a couple of notes. "I should have thought of that. We took precautions, but never imagined an outside influence."

"You wouldn't have opened the door for me?" I put my hand on my heart. "I'm crushed."

"I've said it before, and I will keep repeating myself. I am glad you escaped."

"Got to chase me, had to be fun for you."

"Hm. Something like that."

"So you study me huh? Like you have been my peeping tom or something?" I asked. I usually could tell when I was being watched, and was curious myself how long this had been going on.

"Not until recently. When you left Sunnydale I was tasked with finding you."

"So I have you to thank for the Watcher invasion."

"Yes." He looked down. Was he ashamed?

"You were doing your job, no skin off my nose. If not you, then someone else right?"


"And you are doing your job again. So, should I be expecting the Tweedies to raid the train at the next top?"

"No." He chuckled. "No ‘Tweedies' are coming. They know you are in my care, and we are, debating certain matters." He closed the book, and set it aside.

"Debating huh?"

He nodded, and I felt a little ill. Sort of an out of control feeling, one I don't think I had felt in a long time. I always had control. Even going to prison. My choice. My call. This was a little different. Or was it?

"Would you like something to eat? Drink perhaps?" He offered.

"Naw. I'm five by five." I pulled my knees up, setting my feet on the bench and wrapping my arms around my legs. Closing my eyes I set my chin on my knees. This was pretty all right. Moving quickly across the country, not way up in the air. Not too closed in, and not having to go down on a trucker for a hundred mile ride. This train thing was pretty good. I would have to remember this for next time.

Next time?

Where was I planning on going? Was I already thinking about leaving Sunnydale and I wasn't even back yet? What the hell was I doing? Sitting with a Council guy, who I knew I shouldn't trust, going back to who the hell knew what. Would she want me back?

"What is it, Faith?" He asked, and I opened my eyes, seeing him watching me with a sad smile.

"I am not to sure about this."


"Going back. I mean if I think about who and what I am, I should be heading back to the Council." And I would again be in control. I could give myself up to them. What was stopping me?

"You are a Slayer first and foremost, true, but there is a part of you that is Faith as well."

I just looked at him. Did that mean what I thought he meant.

"You have to live for the woman you are as well. And the woman wants to go home."



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