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The Gift - Take Two

by Dafydd


Overall R to NC-17
Timing: Late Season 5
Distribution: Faithfanfiction.net, Mystic Muse, Shared Destiny, Squared, anyone else who wants it and emails me.
Huge thanks
: To Kaz, beta extraordinaire, and to Leila, my friend and sounding board.
Notes: I started writing this after asking myself "What might happen if Faith was involved in the battle against Glory?" The question first arose after I read Wlfgrrl's "Reflections". You don't need to read that story to understand this one, but I'd recommend it anyway just because it's good.

Print Version: Adobe Reader PDF


Chapter 1: Bad Idea

This is a bad idea.

You got a better one?


Then quit complaining.

She won't want my help.

Probably not, but I'll have tried.

She'll probably kill me.

That works too.

I'm not ready.

Will I ever be?

I'm having an actual argument with myself. That can't be a good sign...

Standing in the twilight gloom of the cemetery, Buffy felt the tears falling softly from her eyes. Every time she visited her mother's grave it felt a little more real. The initial shock and numbness had lasted for days, and it was only now that she was truly beginning to grieve.

"Hey, B."

At the sound of that voice, Buffy's grief disappeared under a tide of other emotions; shock, a flash of fear, and finally, boiling rage.

How DARE she come here!

Buffy spun round on the spot, her foot lashing out. Faith, who had expected exactly this response, didn't try to defend herself and tumbled to the ground with blood trickling from her nose.

"You shouldn't have come here, Faith! I knew you were too weak to last in jail, but you should've run. Why come to my mother's grave? To gloat?"

"I came here because I was following you, B! How would I know where she's buried? Jeez, I only knew she was dead 'cause Angel told me."

"Then why? To make my life that little bit less bearable? To try to kill someone else I care about?" Buffy snarled, tears flowing unheeded over her cheeks.

Faith looked up at her old enemy and realized, perhaps for the first time, the depth of Buffy's sense of betrayal. "Do you want me to answer that?" she whispered.

"YES!" Buffy screamed.

"I've been having these dreams, B. I think they're like those Slayer-prophecy dreams you and Giles used to talk about." In spite of having thought through what she was going to say on the journey from L.A., Faith could barely get the words out. "I never had one before. Seemed like something bad was going down in Sunnydale..."

"So, what, you thought you'd bust out of jail and try to really screw things up for us?"

Hearing the note of contempt in Buffy's voice snapped Faith's control over her temper. Surging to her feet, she grabbed the smaller girl by the shoulders and yelled in her face, "I thought that MAYBE you could use some HELP!"

Instead of fighting back, Buffy simply burst out laughing. "You thought YOU could help ME? How? By switching sides again?"

"Damn it, B, I don't how these dreams work! Maybe this whole thing isn't as bad as I thought, but I couldn't just sit there and not try to find out! You look me in the eye and tell me you got it covered, and I'll go turn myself in again." Faith half-turned away from her fellow Slayer, trying to hide the fear in her eyes.

"I've. Got. It. Covered."

"Fine!" Faith turned and walked out of the graveyard.


Told you so.

It was the right thing to do.

She'll never trust me again. Why should she?

I still needed to do it.

Here we go for three months in solitary...


Yards from the door of the police station, Faith spun around and saw Buffy standing in the shadows of a side alley.

"B! How'd you get here so fast?"


"You drove? Any fatalities?" Faith couldn't help herself; the idea of Buffy behind the wheel still seemed weird.

"Very funny. You were actually going to turn yourself in, weren't you?" Buffy couldn't keep the disbelief from her voice, not that she was trying very hard.

"It's not like I got anything better to do: my diary's pretty clear for the next twenty-five to life." Faith turned back toward the police station, then felt Buffy's hand on her shoulder.

"Faith, wait."

"Why? You don't trust me, you don't want my help, and the longer I'm missing, the harder they'll be on me when I go back."

"Did you expect me to trust you after everything you've done?"

"I don't know... hadn't thought that far ahead."

"I can't take the chance, Faith, there's too much at stake..."

Faith nodded silently, turning away so Buffy wouldn't see the tears gathering.

"Come and talk to the others. If they're willing to let you, you can stay."

Faith couldn't help laughing bitterly at that idea. "Might as well turn myself in now, B. Saves time."

"Lose the self-pity, Faith, you've got no right to it. Take the chance or give up, your choice."

The dark Slayer took a deep breath. "Which way to the car?"

"How's Dawn doing?" Faith broke the uneasy silence that had settled over the Jeep.

"About as well as can be expected. She's had a lot to process lately." Like finding out she didn't exist a year ago. Buffy wasn't sure how, or even if, she should let Faith in on that little gem of information.

"And the others? Is Red still with that blonde girl?" Faith wracked her mind to remember the other girl's name, but came up blank.

"Yes, Willow is still with Tara."


"Still with Anya."

"What about..." Faith trailed off.

"What about what?"

"You and Riley?" Did I screw that up for you?

"We broke up."

"Why?" Please, please, please not because of me!

"We... just weren't right for each other."


Silence descended for a while.

"I'm sorry about your mom."

Buffy looked across at Faith, who was staring rigidly ahead. The other woman seemed sincere. Buffy simply didn't know what to make of what was happening. She couldn't even say why she hadn't let Faith turn herself in.

As the Jeep approached 1630 Revello, Buffy was immediately worried. "Something's wrong."


"Xander and Giles are here." Buffy pointed out the BMW and Ford.

"Great..." Faith muttered.

"Second thoughts?"

"More like fifth." Come on, Faith, get it together! "Let's go."

As soon as the Jeep stopped, Buffy sprang out, trying to imagine what would have brought Giles and Xander over like this. Flinging the door open, she was confronted by not only Giles and Xander, but the rest of the Scooby Gang as well. Willow and Tara were flipping through what looked like spellbooks. Anya was pacing in circles around Giles, who was assembling the tranq gun, while Xander was comparing axes for weight and reach. The only one sitting still was Dawn, who looked plain scared.

"What's happened? Is it Glory? Dawn, are you okay?" Buffy was kneeling in front of her sister before Faith had even made it into the house.

Giles cleared his throat. "Shortly after you left, Dawn had a phone call from Angel. It seems Faith has escaped."

"Just what we need, Psycho-Slayer on the loose again." Xander said bitterly, finally picking an axe and moving on to crossbows.

Buffy let out a sigh of relief that she didn't have anything more to deal with that night. "I, uh, already know about Faith..."

Various cries of "What?" and "How?" came from around the room.

"Hi guys."

Everyone turned to see Faith standing in the doorway.

Faith had known this wasn't going to be easy, but the wave of fear, hate and disgust directed at her was so intense that she took a step back before she realized what she was doing. She steadied herself against the doorframe and looked over at Buffy. "I told you this was a waste of time, B."

"Buffy, what the hell is going on?" Xander snapped.

"Guys, just calm down for a second. Hear what she's got to say, then we'll decide what to do."

"What's there to decide? This is Faith we're talking about!"

"Xander, just listen for a moment please." Giles didn't understand what was happening, but he'd seen Faith's mask slip a little, caught the defeated look on her face at Xander's reaction. "Faith?"

Leaning against the wall, never meeting anyone's gaze, Faith began. "A few days ago, I started have these dreams, nightmares really. I mean, I get nightmares a lot, but these were different, they weren't about me and the stuff I did. My first Watcher told me that sometimes Slayers get dreams about things they're going to face, but she didn't explain much. I heard you guys talking about them sometimes before..."

Willow finished for her. "Before you betrayed us?"

Yeah, thanks Red, really needed to be reminded of that... "Anyway, the first time I figured it was just my fucked-up subconscious screwing with me, but I kept getting the same dream over and over. Seemed like someone was trying to tell me something so I hopped the wall and headed here."

Xander snorted derisively. "Oh, you 'hopped the wall', just like that?"

"You think I'd stay somewhere like that without making sure I could get out if I had to?

Giles silenced Xander's next remark with a glare. "Faith, can you tell us something about this dream?"

"Well, it's all pretty mixed up, but I know I'm in Sunnydale - I can see that huge neon sign on the front of the movie theatre. I'm standing somewhere high, like the top of a building, and there's this weird light, but I can't see where it's coming from. And there's blood somewhere, I can smell it. And then I'm back on the ground, and the light's gone, and I can see you guys, and you're looking down at something on the ground and crying. I couldn't just sit there and not at least warn you."

Buffy looked straight into the dark eyes as she asked, "Why not just use the phone?"

Faith's mouth twitched into a brief, wry smile. "You saying you wouldn't have hung up on me?

Everyone was silent for a moment, then Buffy stood up. "If that's all you've got to say, Faith, go wait out back while we talk this over." Faith looked over the group once, trying to assess the chances of them believing her, and didn't like what she saw. Closing the back door behind her, she sat on the steps and lit what she expected would be her last cigarette for a long time.

"Anyone believe her?" Buffy sounded skeptical.

"No way. Absolutely no way." Xander was staring at the door as though he expected Faith to burst through and attack at any second. "How can you even ask that after everything she's done?"

"He's got a point, Buffy, Faith doesn't exactly have a good track record for honesty." Willow was managing to stay calmer than her old friend, but was still jumpy - she probably wasn't even aware that she was compulsively straightening up the books and papers on the table.

"On the other hand," Giles broke in, "she did voluntarily turn herself in and remained in jail for a year, when she clearly could have escaped almost at will."

Buffy had begun pacing nervously. "Giles, what did you think about the dream she described?"

"Well, it certainly sounded like a prophetic dream..."

"You mean big on the 'You're all gonna die!' and sketchy on the stopping it part?" Buffy knew only too well how vague such dreams were. "Dawn? Tara? Anya? What do you guys think?"

"I don't like her." Anya said firmly. "She hurt Xander, stole your body, threatened Willow-"

"We're all well aware of Faith's transgressions, Anya." Giles cut in. "The question is, can we trust her?"

"I-I believe her."

Everyone turned to look at Tara. "Why, baby?" Willow asked quietly.

"I think she's scared - of us, that we won't believe her."

"Tara, you don't know Faith like we do, you don't know the damage she can do." Xander remained firmly unconvinced.

Tara lowered her head, but refused to back down. "I know she's not the same person I met last year."

Buffy sat down beside her sister. "What do you think, Dawn?"

"I don't know. I mean, if we ignore her, and she's telling the truth then something really bad happens, but if we trust her and she's lying I'm stuck between Faith and Glory... I think Tara's right, though."

Buffy looked around at her friends. "So, what do we do?"

Sitting on the back steps, Faith had long ago finished her cigarette and was now simply savouring the night air. Occasionally she could hear raised voices from inside the house, but tried to block them out and just enjoy being free. Eventually, she heard the door open. She didn't need to look to know it was Buffy standing behind her.

"So what's the verdict?"

Buffy sat down beside Faith, carefully not looking at her. "You're staying here. Giles and Dawn are setting up a bed in the basement. We need to keep you out of sight; I'm pretty sure the cops won't be happy if they find out we're hiding an escaped convict."

Faith smiled slightly at that. "I didn't think any of you would believe me..."

"Well, we talked it over, and then I called Angel, and we decided to give you a chance to prove yourself."

"Got it. Was Angel mad I didn't call him?"

"He was... worried. I told him you'd call tonight." Looking at her fellow Slayer for a moment, Buffy wondered what Angel saw in her that the rest of them didn't. "I suppose I'd better fill you in on what's happening..."

"Won't be able to do much if you don't, B." Faith's attempt to lighten the mood fell flat.

"Glory. Her name's Glory, and she's a god."

Faith's eyes widened at that. "A god, as in... a GOD?"

"Yeah. Seems she's stuck here in the body of a human, so she doesn't have much in the way of power - except that she's stronger than me and seems to be completely invulnerable."

"Great. So what's her deal? She just in town to soak up the Hellmouth vibe?"

"She's looking for something called the Key. We have it. We don't know what it does, but no-one thinks letting her get it would be a good idea." I can't tell her the whole story, I can't afford to trust her that far...

Silence reigned for a moment before Buffy spoke again. "You're not going to ask what the Key is?"

Faith, with a little help from the darkness, was able to hide her disappointment at Buffy not trusting her completely. Like I have any right to it... "I figure, if you want me to know, you'll tell me. Asking won't change that."

"You're right. If you show me you can be trusted, I'll think about telling you." Buffy stood up. "Mess with us, just once, and I'll kill you."

Faith heard the door close behind her, and wondered if she could manage not to screw this up again.

Chapter 2: Progress

A few days later, Giles sat in the living room of the Summers' house as Buffy tried to explain how she felt inside, how she thought she was losing her ability to love.

"There is something in the Watchers' diaries. A quest."

Buffy looked at Giles in surprise. "A quest? Like finding a grail or something?"

"Not a grail. Maybe answers. It would take a day, perhaps two."

Shaking her head, Buffy replied, "I'm not leaving Dawn. Not with Glory looking for her."

"Sure you can." Dawn said from the doorway. "What's the deal?"

"Some Slayers before Buffy found it helpful in regaining their focus, learning more about their role." Giles looked hopefully at Buffy "There's a sacred place in the desert. It's not far."

"But I can't go. I'm not leaving you, Dawn."

"If you have to go learn, I mean, if it'll help you out, I think you should do it. I can hang with the gang. I'll be okay."

"What about Faith? I can't leave her unguarded for two days..." Buffy looked anxiously toward the basement door.

"Has she broken the rules, even bent them?" Giles asked, knowing the answer was no.

"See? Even Caution-Guy thinks I'll be fine." Dawn ignored Giles' glare.

Buffy slipped her arm around her sister's shoulders. "I love you, Dawn. You know that, right?"

"Yeah, I love you too." Dawn replied with a smile.

"I love you... really love you."

"Getting weird..." Dawn's smile got a little freaked out, but it was clear she appreciated her sister's declaration.

"Sorry. But it's important that I tell you. Weird love's better than no love."

Faith was putting herself through an exercise routine she'd formulated in jail when Buffy came down the basement stairs. The two girls had barely seen each other since Faith's arrival - Faith rarely left the basement and Buffy hadn't tried to make contact, simply looking in every so often to make sure Faith was behaving herself. Usually she found Faith exercising or simply lying on the camp bed they'd set up for her, staring at the ceiling.

"'Sup, B?" Faith asked, not breaking the rhythm of the sit-ups she was doing.

Buffy stood silent for a moment, arms folded across her chest, watching Faith. "I'm going to be out of town for a day or two. Giles and I are going to do a ritual thing, has to be done someplace out in the desert."

Faith stopped her exercises and lay propped up on her elbows. "What about Dawn?"

"Dawn'll be staying with Xander."

"Right." Faith got to her feet and took position by the punch-bag. "Anything you want me to do while you're away?"

"Other than not stab me in the back? No." Buffy turned on her heel and ascended the stairs. She didn't see Faith's fingers tracing the scar on her stomach.

Faith lurched upright in her bed, gasping for breath. The tiny amount of moonlight filtering in through the basement window was just enough for her to see by.

God damn it, why are they sending me that dream again? I'm here, aren't I? And it's not as if I don't know how it goes. I told them what happens, I can't MAKE them trust me! Course, I didn't tell them all of it - even if they believed me it would break them...

She screwed her eyes shut, trying to drive away the image that always lingered after the dream. She'd told everyone that she saw them looking at something on the ground and crying, but she hadn't mentioned that she knew what it was. No, who it was. Buffy, lying dead on a pile of rubble.

It's not gonna happen... I won't let it...

"Whoa. Group hang time?" Fresh from her encounter with the spirit-guide in the form of the First Slayer, Buffy entered her house to find the gang pulling weapons out of the trunk in the lounge. They all looked up at the sound of her voice.

"Th-that was quick," Willow said nervously.

Buffy scoffed. "Didn't seem like it to me. Death is my gift? Ha!"

Xander tried to be reassuring. "Buffy, we need to talk."

The attempt failed, Buffy immediately went on alert. "What's wrong? Is Dawn okay?"

"Dawn's fine," replied Willow

Xander had another go. "Buffy, we care about you, and we're worried about you. The way you're acting, the things you're doing-"

"It's wrong." Anya interrupted. Willow immediately tried to calm the moment. "Wait. This shouldn't be about blame."

"Blame? There's blame now?" Buffy was completely at sea.

"No, there's only love. And... some fear." Willow's assurances weren't helped by the freaked out expression on her face.

"We're just kind of thrown by the you having sex with Spike." Blunt as ever, Anya drove right by Willow to the heart of the issue.

"The... who whating how with huh?" Buffy looked at Anya like she'd just given money away.

"Okay, that's denial. That usually comes before anger."

"I am not having sex with Spike!"

Anya nodded. "Anger."

"No one is judging you. It's understandable. Spike is strong and mysterious and sort of compact but well-muscled." Xander tried to sooth the irate Slayer.

Buffy was having none of it. "I am not having sex with Spike! But I'm starting to think that you might be."

"Buffy, I saw you. Anya too." She nodded as Xander continued, "We saw you and Spike... with the straddling."

The BuffyBot chose that moment to return from upstairs. "Spike's mine. Who's straddling Spike?"

Everyone gaped in surprise.

Buffy gasped. "Oh my god."

"And so say all of us." Xander looked from one to the other, trying to understand.

The Bot looked Buffy over. "Say, look at you! You look just like me! We're very pretty."

"Two of them!" Willow squeaked.

Xander promptly leapt to the wrong conclusion. "Hey, I know this! They're both Buffy!"

Buffy glared at him. "No, she's a robot. She acts just like that girlfriend-bot that Warren guy made. You guys couldn't tell me apart from a robot?" Offended didn't begin to cover it.

"Oh, I don't think I'm a robot." The Bot said chirpily.

"She's very well done," remarked Anya, prompting a smile from the Bot.

To his credit, Xander caught up quickly. "Spike must have had her built so he could program her to..."

"Oh god." Buffy felt nauseous.

Willow gasped. "Yikes! Imagine the things..."

Buffy cut her off. "No! No, no imagining, any of you!"

"Already got the visual." Xander held up his hand in shame.

The Bot interrupted the flood of disgust. "People. Friends of mine. You're forgetting the most important thing. Glory has Spike, and she's going to harm him."

Buffy paled. "Glory has Spike... FAITH!"

Xander laughed nervously. "We were gonna bring that up."

Anya tried to help out her boyfriend. "We were getting weapons."

"Grab 'em. We're going now. I have to kill him. FAITH!"

Faith, who had deliberately ignored the shouting until Buffy yelled for her, opened the basement door. "Jeez B, what's the ma- Oh my God!" She caught sight of the two Buffys. "Okay, did I get hit with a two-by-four and no-one bothered to tell me?"

Buffy tossed an axe to her; Faith was so surprised she barely caught it. "Glory has Spike, Spike knows where the Key is. We have to get him out then kill him. A lot."

"Buffy, we don't even know where to look," Willow pointed out.

Buffy thought for a moment. "I know where to start."

Spike, battered, cut and bleeding, hung from the chains on the ceiling of Glory's apartment. "It's that guy...on TV... what's his name?"

Glory frowned in confusion. "On the television?"

"That show... the prize show... where they guess what stuff cost..."

"The Price Is Right?" Murk offered.

Jinx piped up, "Oh, Bob Barker!"

"We will bring you Bob Barker! We will bring you the limp and beaten body of Bob Bark-"

Glory interrupted Murk impatiently. "It is not Bob Barker, you scabby morons! The Key is new to this world, and Bob Barker is as old as grit." She smiled venomously. "The vampire is lying to me."

Spike's answering giggle was barely audible. "Yeah, but it was fun. And guess what, bitch - I'm not telling you jack. You're never gonna get your sodding key, 'cause you might be strong, but in our world, you're an idiot."

"I am a god!"

"The god of what, bad home perms?"

"Shut up! I command you, shut up!" Glory's divine dignity was feeling a little punctured.

"Yeah, okay, sorry, but I just had no idea that gods were such prancing lightweights. Mark my words, the Slayer is going to kick your skanky, lopsided ass back to whatever place would take a cheap, whorish, fashion victim ex-god like you!"

Glory's extremely short fuse burned out, and she launched a vicious roundhouse kick at Spike's chest, tearing him free of the chains and sending him through the apartment door to land in a heap at the end of the hall. Getting painfully to his feet he muttered, "Nice plan, Spike..."

The elevator doors opened in the lobby of the apartment building. Spike pulled himself upright just as Murk clattered down the stairs, at the head of a pack of his scabrous brethren. "You do not insult Glory by escaping!"

Just then, the building's front door crashed open. Buffy and Xander charged in at the head of the Scooby Gang.

The fight that followed was brutal, but brief. Several of Glory's minions were killed. The Buffybot took the brunt of the damage on the Scooby side, everyone else got away with nothing worse than minor cuts and bruises.

That afternoon, Tara slipped away from the others and went to the basement. Faith was sitting cross-legged on the bed. If Faith was aware of her presence, she didn't acknowledge it as Tara walked down the stairs. Tara was about to speak when she noticed the tracks of tears on Faith's cheek, gleaming faintly in the dim light.

"Faith, what's wrong?" Tara rushed over and knelt in from of the other girl.

Faith finally looked up when she heard her voice. "Nothing, it's nothing... psycho-murderer stuff, y'know..." She smiled weakly and tried to change the subject. "So, what is it with B and vampires, huh? First Angel, now Spike. What's next, Dracula?"

"Umm..." Tara wasn't sure what to say to that.

"You gotta be kidding me!" Faith tried to laugh, but it came out more like a strangled sob.

"Faith, please..." Tara's heart ached seeing the young Slayer like this.

"I... I forgot how good all this felt. Buffy, the others, fighting beside them... just being around them. I never realized how much I miss it." The tears began to fall silently again.

Tara took one of Faith's hands in hers. "Is that why you stay down here all the time? So you won't have to see them?"

"It's not as if they want to see me. 'Sides, it feels more dungeony down here. Won't be as much of a wrench when I go back."


Faith laughed a little at that. "To jail. Murder Two, twenty-five to life, remember?"

Tara couldn't think of an answer to that, so she just hugged Faith, and then stood up. "Is there anything I can get you?" Faith just shook her head.

As Tara began to climb the stairs again, Faith spoke. "I'm sorry."


"I'm sorry. For the shit I said to you last year."

"Thank you." Tara looked over at the young woman on the camp bed. "Why apologise to me, and not the others?"

"'Cause you might accept it."

Chapter 3: The Big Scaredy Runaway

This is all my fault.

Willow sat with her arms around Tara as the Winnebago rumbled along the desert road. Tara was staring out of the window, her face wearing the vacant expression that had become normal after Glory attacked her.

My fault Tara got hurt. My fault Glory knows about Dawn. My fault we're running away to who knows where. All because I had to be Insecurity-Girl and run away 'cause we had a fight. Tara shouldn't have been alone...

All because I couldn't talk to her about her worries, about the magic, our relationship, why she keeps defending Faith...

Willow looked over bitterly at the dark-haired girl, sitting on the floor in the kitchen area looking blankly into space. Faith was still trying to process what Buffy had told her on the way out of Sunnydale.

Dawn was the Key. She wasn't really Buffy's sister. They'd never met before Faith escaped from jail. All those months of memories of the annoying, vivacious pre-teen she'd known two years ago were fake, a cover to protect Dawn from Glory.

A cover that was now well and truly blown.

Faith could hear Dawn and Buffy talking quietly in the rear cabin. Giles was driving, the rest were packed around the small table, with Spike opposite her on the floor. No-one was talking much.

Spike wasn't sure what to make of Faith. He knew they'd met before, the previous year when Faith had stolen Buffy's body, but she seemed only a shell of that person now. He knew nothing about her, except that the two of them vying for the title of "Least Wanted Member Of The Group" gave him an odd sense of fellow feeling. Bollocks, I am not getting fuzzy feelings for another sodding Slayer, he told himself, then Dawn's yelp of fright announced that the Knights of Byzantium had re-entered the game.

Buffy and Dawn burst out of the rear cabin as everyone dropped to the floor. Arrows began to puncture the hull of the Winnebago, then suddenly a sword was driven through the roof. A second stroke followed, then as the sword came down a third time Spike leapt forward and seized the blade.

"Now would be a good time for something heroic..." he said, grimacing as the blade cut into his hands.

Buffy looked around frantically. "Xander, hatch!" She pointed at the opening in the roof. As Xander hoisted her up, they heard the sound of breaking glass from the rear cabin.

"I got it!" Faith yelled, running for the back of the vehicle.

On the roof, Buffy was holding her ground in spite of being outnumbered and outflanked, but for every Knight she dislodged from the vehicle, another climbed aboard. Seizing an axe from one Knight, she spun and threw it into the chest of another, before kicking backwards at the axeman, sending him over the front of the Winnebago to disappear under the wheels.

Faith burst into the rear cabin to be confronted with one of the Knights scrambling through the rear window. Charging in with a kick to the head, Faith knocked him off balance long enough to throw him out of the window, but was then forced to duck as a Knight climbing the ladder to the roof thrust his sword at her. As his arm came forward for a second thrust, she grabbed it at wrist and elbow, jerking him off the ladder to land in the dust behind the vehicle. He was immediately followed by the last of the Knights from the roof. Looking back, Faith could see the remaining mounted Knights dropping behind, their horses blown from the pursuit. One brought up his crossbow for a parting shot. Faith saw the shot a second too late to dodge completely, and the bolt sank into her shoulder, the barbed head emerging from her back in a spray of blood. Then the Winnebago lurched sideways and began to roll over.

Spike smashed through the door of the abandoned gas-station, desperate to get out of the sun. Buffy and Xander followed, supporting the injured Giles, then came Dawn and Faith, who still had the crossbow bolt in her left shoulder. Willow guided Tara inside, and Anya brought up the rear, clutching the first aid kit and weapons bag salvaged from the Winnebago.

Faith flopped down onto an ancient chair while the others got Giles up on the counter. Willow and Xander started to work on his spear-wound, while Buffy checked on the rest of the group. "Dawn, are you ok?"

"I-I'm fine, but Spike and Faith are hurt..." Dawn was hovering between the two, unsure who to try to help first.

Buffy tossed Dawn a couple of dressings for Spike's lacerated hands before going to inspect Faith's injury.

Faith had her hand over the wound. "I'm okay, B. Go see to Giles."

Buffy tried to remove Faith's hand. "Faith, let me look..."

"Go see to Giles!" Faith yelled, then took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, B... Look, the arrow's keeping me from bleeding too much, and this'll take time to fix properly. Help Red with G-man, then we can take care of it..."

Reluctantly, Buffy left Faith where she was and joined Willow and Xander in doing what they could for her Watcher, which wasn't much. They managed to slow the bleeding somewhat before flaming arrows began to punch through the boarded-up windows.

Everyone frantically dove for cover. Xander scuttled across the floor to a window and peered cautiously outside. "Our friends are back, and they've brought a crusade!"

Buffy grabbed Spike's arm and ran over to a large vending machine in the corner. "Willow?"

"I'm working on it!" Willow snapped from her position crouched behind the counter. She was flipping through a spell book with one hand while using the other the maintain pressure on Giles' wound.

Buffy and Spike manhandled the vending machine across the room and tipped it on its side to block the main door, then Dawn screamed as an axe smashed through the wooden wall inches from her head. Buffy dashed across the room to help her sister, but was cut off as a Knight burst through the side door and knocked her down. Spike slammed his fist into the side of the Knight's head and then collapsed screaming as the chip sent a blast of pain through him. Within seconds, Buffy had disabled the Knight, but more were battering at the shuttered windows or coming in through the side door. One, more elaborately dressed than the others, spotted Dawn and moved toward her, sword raised, but was knocked aside as Faith flung a fire extinguisher at him. The impact sent him reeling headfirst into a pillar, and he slumped to the ground, unconscious.

Glancing over at Willow, Faith was shocked to see the witch's eyes turn completely black as she began to chant. "Enemies, fly and fall! Circling arms, raise a wall!" There was a burst of blue light, and the Knights hammering at the windows were thrown away from the building. In moments, the building was cocooned in a shimmering hemisphere of energy.

Buffy helped Willow to her feet. "How long will it hold?"

"Half a day, maybe." Willow looked out of the window and saw the clerics examining the barrier. "Or until Heckle and Jeckle punch a hole through it."

Spike prodded the General with his boot. "So what's the story with King Arthur here?"

Buffy looked down at the unconscious figure, then at her fellow Slayer. "Let's get that arrow out of Faith, then we'll find out."

"Okay, much of the shaft is showing at the back?" Faith asked. Buffy had already cut away the shoulder of her t-shirt, exposing the entry and exit wounds.

Spike looked at the barbed arrowhead protruding from Faith's shoulder. "Half an inch, maybe less."

"Damn! B, you're gonna need to push it through some more..."

Buffy wiped up a trickle of blood as she asked "Faith, are you sure you know what you're doing?"

Faith nodded slightly. "My first Watcher was real big on dealing with your own injuries. I need another two, three inches out at the back."

"Okay..." Buffy gripped the shaft of the arrow and pushed. The shaft slid through the hole, accompanied by a horrid sucking noise and a low moan from Faith.

"Okay, okay, now cut the end off, as close as you can to the arrowhead..." Faith gasped, sweat breaking out on her forehead.

Spike moved back a few steps. "You'd better do it, Buffy, we don't want the chip kicking in and making me flinch 'cause I hurt her."

Buffy picked up the wire-cutters Xander had found in a drawer. Gripping the bloodied wood of the arrow with one hand to steady it, she placed the cutters on the shaft beside the tip and began to squeeze. If Faith felt any pain, she covered it, and moments later the wood gave way and the arrowhead fell to the floor. "What's next?"

Faith looked around at her. "Clean as much of the blood off the shaft as you can, it needs to be as dry as possible."

Buffy didn't understand, but did as she was told, wiping the blood away until the red-stained wood was exposed. "Done."

Faith closed her eyes as she said. "Okay, Spike, set fire to the shaft."

"What!" Buffy and Spike exclaimed together.

"Set fire to the shaft. That way, when you pull it back through it'll cauterize the wound."

Buffy looked over at Willow, who was tending to Giles. Willow shrugged. "In theory, it should work..."

Spike pulled out his cigarette lighter and put the flame against the arrow. The shaft fizzed for a moment as the remaining blood boiled, then the wood slowly began to burn.

Faith looked up at Buffy, who had her hand on the shaft near the fletching, the other on Faith's shoulder to hold her steady. "Ready, B?"


Faith waited until she could feel the flame begin to burn her skin. "NOW!" Buffy pulled, hard. There was a sizzling sound as the flame disappeared into the wound, immediately drowned out as Faith screamed. Buffy dropped the smouldering arrow with a look of horror and went to look at Faith's back. The skin above the wound was red and beginning to blister, but the bleeding had slowed to almost nothing. Buffy immediately set to work dressing the injuries, pretending not to notice Faith's tears and quiet whimpers of pain.

A little later, as Buffy was talking to the now-conscious General, Spike went to check on Faith. She was still in the same chair, the bloody t-shirt hanging from one shoulder. He held out the red shirt he'd been wearing over his own black t-shirt. "Thought you might want something a bit more substantial to wear. It'll be a tad big, but I figured you'd want something loose over..." he trailed off, pointing at the dressings.

Faith smiled weakly at him and allowed him to help her pull the shirt on, wincing as she flexed her injured shoulder. "How's B doing?"

"She's trying to reason with a fanatic, and that rarely goes well." Spike sighed as he sat down beside her. He started to say something, stopped, and turned to face her. "Why are you here?"


"Why'd you come back? I assume it wasn't to... how did you put it... 'make me pop like warm champagne'?"

Faith hung her head, fighting back the memories of that day. "I-" she was cut off as Buffy stormed into the room.

"Willow, open a door."

"Buffy! Oi, rise and shine, luv!" Spike grabbed the catatonic Slayer by the shoulders and shook her, to no avail. For nearly thirty minutes, ever since Glory had rampaged out of the gas station with Dawn, she'd simply stared blankly into space.

"Spike..." Anya tried to voice the group's lack of faith in the vampire's approach.

"Come on, people, the girl's endowed with Slayer strength," Spike replied. "It's hardly the time to get dainty. Buffy!" He shook her harder.

Xander protested, "We tried that!"

Spike backhanded Buffy across the face, then groaned as the chip fired.

Xander dragged him away from Buffy. "Are you insane? We could be dealing with neurological damage here! You want to kill her?"

"We have to do something! I can't just sit here watching. You waste time with kid gloves - I'm willing to wager, when all is said and done, Buffy likes it rough."

Xander's arm was pulling back ready to punch the vampire when the sound of splintering wood drew everyone's attention to the corner of the room. Faith advanced slowly, a broken chair leg in her hand. "You touch her again and I'll kill you." Her eyes held a look terrifyingly familiar to Xander and Willow.

Spike, however, was too fearful for Buffy to worry about the other Slayer. "Yeah, trying to kill people who you're supposed to be on the same side with is what you're good at, isn't it?"

With an incoherent cry of pure rage, Faith flung herself at Spike. She was almost on top of him when Willow spoke, barely above a whisper. "Separate." Spike and Faith were flung across the room in opposite directions, Faith gasping in pain as she bashed her injured shoulder. Willow glared at them, her eyes darkening.

"Buffy's out. Glory has Dawn. Sometime real soon, she's going to use Dawn to tear down the barrier between every dimension there is. So if you two want to fight, do it after the world ends, okay?" She glanced around the room, almost daring the others to challenge her, before speaking again. "All right. First we head back to Sunnydale. Xander'll take Giles to a hospital. Anya's looking after Tara. Faith, Spike, you find Glory. Check her apartment, see if she's still there. Try anything stupid, like payback or killing each other, and I will get very cranky. Everyone clear?"

Anya cautiously raised her hand, waiting for Willow's acknowledgement before speaking. "Um... what will you do?"

"I'll help Buffy." Willow replied simply.

"Okay then."

"Uh, Will?" She looked over at Spike. "What do we do if we run into Ben?

The drive back to Sunnydale had been conducted in near silence, in spite of the appallingly cramped conditions in Ben's car. Since then, things had begun to look more positive: Giles' injury was properly seen to, Willow broke Buffy out of her catatonia, and Xander and Spike had obtained a volume detailing the ritual Glory intended to perform. Faith began to think they had a chance.

Then Giles told them that, if the ritual began, the only way to end it and keep the world from being overrun by demons was to kill Dawn.

Faith could feel the self-control she'd built up over the previous year slipping away. She was enraged. Ben had walked right into their midst, knowing Dawn was the Key, and brought Glory along for the ride! He hadn't even tried to warn them. Now she wanted, really wanted to kill him. She almost had killed Spike. Even seeing Buffy walk into the Magic Box hadn't provided more than a temporary boost.

So she'd retreated to the training room, partly to work off some nervous energy but mainly to get away from the sound of Buffy and Giles yelling at each other. It was ironic - her split from Buffy and her friends had begun when she'd accidentally taken a human life, and now the only way to prevent the end of the world might be to do it deliberately.

Xander's voice floated in from the front of the shop. "What about Ben? He's just a regular guy, we can kill a regular guy, right?" He paused, the reality of what he was suggesting sinking in. "Oh God."

You can't kill him, Xander, but I can. Faith thought. Maybe that's why I'm here, to keep the blood off your hands.

Faith tuned out the discussion as Anya began a pep-talk which seemed to involve a hammer and large amounts of "thinking outside the box". She began gently flexing her injured shoulder, testing the joint to see how much she could still do with the arm. She couldn't move it without pain, but the wound was holding closed for the moment.

Within a few minutes, the sound of conversation faded as people began doing rather than talking. Buffy appeared in the doorway. For a moment, it felt to Faith like she was looking in a mirror. The face may have been different, but the look in Buffy's eyes was horribly familiar. Fear, guilt, and an awful, crushing loneliness. After a moment, Buffy's face hardened, her expression slipping into the mask of resolve she displayed to the others, her eyes almost challenging Faith to say something. Faith lowered her gaze and silently left the room.

A ferocious hand-to-hand fight raged around the base of Glory's tower. Giles thrust his sword into one of Glory's minions, then wrenched the blade free barely in time to block the pickaxe being swung by one of the mental patients. Anya was hammering at another patient with her baseball bat. Spike was trying to keep as many of the minions as possible occupied, knowing he was all but helpless against Glory's brainsuck victims. Faith had become separated from the others, engaged by three of the minions at once and barely managing to stay ahead of them.

Away to one side, they could just hear the sounds of Buffy's battle with Glory. Willow and Tara were still recovering from the blast of power that had been unleashed when Willow tore Tara's mind free from the hellgod. That, and exposure to the Dagon sphere, had given Buffy an opening and, armed with the troll-hammer, she wasn't giving Glory a chance to regain the initiative.

Scrambling over a pile of debris, Faith bought herself a few seconds to catch her breath. Foolishly, one of the minions had raced ahead of his fellows and attacked her alone. He died swiftly, Faith's short sword slicing through his throat, but his friends were already moving in on her from either side. Weighing up the situation, Faith darted at the one on her right, ducking under the club he swung at her and driving the tip of her sword up behind his ribs. The blade struck bone and stuck, just for a second, but it was enough. The third minion charged in, swinging an axe in an overhead attack. Faith desperately thrust out her injured arm and caught the haft of the axe as it came down. The minion kicked at her, striking her back just below the exit wound. Faith felt something *pop* in her shoulder. She lost her grip on the axe and fell backward onto the ground, groaning in pain as she felt fresh blood seep from the wound. The minion was raising the axe for another blow when an
arrow thudded into his back. Struggling to her feet, Faith saw Xander jogging toward her from the crane.

Making their way through the heaps of rubble, they dropped down behind the stack of girders that was sheltering Giles, Anya and Spike. Xander crawled over to Giles and asked, "How're we doing?"

"It's a tie, so far. We haven't been able to get to the tower, but Buffy's keeping Glory occupied." The Watcher risked a glance over the girders then ducked again as a brick sailed past.

"There's someone up there..." Spike pointed at the top of the tower. Something was moving.

Spike, can you hear me?

Spike jumped as Willow's voice sounded in his mind. "Yeah, loud and clear."

Is there someone up there with Dawn?

"Yeah, can't tell who."

"Are you talking to us?" Xander's confusion was obvious.

Get up there. Go now.

Spike looked over at the mass of minions and mental patients guarding the base of the tower. "Yeah, but..."


Spike leapt to his feet and ran. Faith yelled "Spike! What're you-", then something *clicked* in her mind. With a muttered "Oh, shit!" she took off after him, leaving the others floundering.

Willow, whatever you've got up your sleeve, now would be a REALLY good time! Spike thought as he bore down on the mob. A second later, they suddenly flew apart, scattered in all directions. Spike never even broke stride as he pounded up the stairs into the tower. Faith, a few seconds behind him, had to deal with a mental patient who made a grab for her, before she too was climbing frantically.

"Doesn't a fella stay dead when you kill him?" Spike remarked as he emerged at the top of the tower and saw Doc standing by Dawn with a knife.

"Look who's talking."

Spike lunged at the demon, who dodged to the side and plunged his knife into the vampire's back. Spike gasped as he spun around, the knife falling free and clattering to the floor. "You don't get near the girl."

"I don't smell a soul on you, why do you care?" Doc asked, as though they were chatting over tea.

"I made a promise to a lady."

"Oh." Doc's tongue lashed out. As Spike ducked, the demon yanked his legs from under him. Before Spike could recover, Doc had him on his feet in an arm lock. "Then I'll pass on your regrets." Spike had time for one anguished look at Dawn before he was flung off the tower, Dawn's desperate cry echoing after him.

Doc stooped to retrieve his knife. "Now, where were we?"

"Get the hell away from her!"

Glory fell to her knees under yet another blow from Olaf's hammer. She looked up at Buffy and whined, "Stop it!"

Buffy returned her gaze with fury burning in her eyes. "You're a god," she spat, bringing the hammer down again, "make it stop!" Blow after blow rained down until, finally, Glory lost her hold on her body and Ben re-emerged.

"I'm sorry..." he gasped.

Buffy lowered the hammer. "Tell her it's over. She missed her shot. She ever, EVER, comes near me and mine again..."

"We won't, I swear..."

Buffy tossed the hammer aside and ran for the tower. Ben lay on the floor and tried to focus on breathing. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Giles approaching.

Doc turned to face this new interloper, tutting under his breath. Faith stalked onto the platform, glaring at him. "You okay, bite-size?" Dawn nodded, tears rolling down her face.

"These interruptions really are getting tiresome." Doc said in an aggrieved voice. He looked Faith over, taking in the film of sweat on her forehead, the rapid breathing, and most of all the slowly expanding bloodstain over her shoulder. "But I doubt you'll keep me for long."

Again, the tongue flashed out. Faith was taken by surprise and didn't have time to evade. The stroke hit right on target, in the centre of the bloodstain. Faith cried out in pain and fell to her knees. In a flash, Doc was on her, knife glinting in the glow of the arc-lights, licking his lips as he tasted her blood. Grabbing the weakening Slayer by her right arm, he hoisted her to her feet. As Faith raised her left hand to counterattack, he drove the knife between her ribs. His gloating chuckle died in his throat as he saw the look of triumph in Faith's eyes.

Her left hand dropped to grip his knife hand. Her right blurred forward to lock around his throat.

"I hate it when people stab me!" she hissed. Then, with a convulsive heave of her legs, she threw them both into the abyss.

Buffy was climbing the tower as fast as her Slayer muscles could propel her. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a flash of red fall past and realized it was the shirt Spike had lent to Faith. Then she heard Dawn scream from above her. Flinging herself up the final ladder, Buffy burst onto the platform to find Dawn slumped over, sobbing. "Dawn? Dawn! Are you cut? Are you bleeding?"

At the sound of Buffy's voice Dawn looked up. For a moment she just sat there, not understanding the question. Then she shook her head. Buffy broke the ropes binding her sister to the platform and pulled Dawn into her arms.

"Th-there was a demon, he had a knife... Spike tried to stop him but the bastard just threw him off the tower!" Dawn wailed against Buffy's shoulder. "Then Faith arrived... She JUMPED, Buffy! She grabbed hold of him and jumped! She's dead, and it's my fault..."

Buffy couldn't speak. As she picked Dawn up and began to carry her down the tower, she couldn't get her mouth to work.

Oh God...

Death is my gift.

It was supposed to be me...

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