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by Dushku Has Dibs



Author's Notes: This fic is the sequel to The Road Less Traveled. I hope you enjoy!!! This chapter is heavy on explanations, but I thought it was necessary considering where TRLT left off :)

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Chapter One: The New Guardians

"Where have they gone?!"

The demon was on one knee, panting and battle-weary.  He didn't know how to answer.

"We…we don't know."

His master hissed and hurled a chair into the wall, shattering it.   The demon ducked the pieces and tried to continue.

"We were not the only ones there.   When our portal opened into the house, another had formed outside."

"To where?"

No answer could be given; the demon bowed his head, shamed.

His master snarled.   "Our seers cannot find her.   They can feel creatures in other dimensions, and still, they cannot find her.   Where did this portal lead?"

"I…I don't know."

His master's face grew still.   It was not a pleasant look.   "Go back to the house.   Take our witches with you.   Have them touch every floorboard, every tree, every brick---have them find traces of that magic, and have them tell me where she's gone!"

"Right away, your Greatness!"   The demon, thankful to still have his head, ran out the door.

The fire crackled and popped.   The rest of the caves had grown quiet.   Slowly a sneer turned into a grin…turned into a laugh…turned into a promise:

"We will find her again.   Birds have to fly…slayers have to fight.   She won't stay hidden for long.   We will find her."


 Buffy was sitting at the end of a long wooden table when Faith walked in.   The air in the castle was chilly and damp, but various tapestries along the walls kept the heat of the few fires from escaping.  Still, Faith had grabbed a hooded sweatshirt from their hosts' stores of clothing for a bit of added relief from the cold.   She tucked her hands in the pockets as she crossed to Buffy.

Buffy sat with a hand propping up her head, rubbing her temple.   She hadn't changed clothes, Faith noticed.   She must have showered and put them right back on.   The brunette could guess why; they still hadn't been told anything specific about what was going on.   She won't accept anything until she accepts where it came from…  Not Faith.   She grew up unable to afford such high morals.   Hers were more along the lines of "get it while you can."   She zipped the sweatshirt up and leaned against the table next to Buffy. 

"You're early."

"I don't want to miss this."

Faith nodded slowly.  "You're wigged out.   Don't blame you." 

Buffy took the brunette's hand and gently stroked it with her thumb.   "I don't know who the good guys are anymore."

Faith squeezed her hand in a gesture of solidarity as the others came through the door; she immediately popped up to stand next to Buffy, arms crossed.

Dawn, arm bandaged, came running across the room to hug her sister.  Willow, Kennedy, and Xander were right behind her.

Faith's brow furrowed.   "Where's everybody else?"

"Robin went to get Andrew," Xander said.   "He's still a little woozy from getting knocked around by that demon.   Giles is on his way."

"Buffy, this place is amazing."   Willow could barely contain her excitement.   "Mystical barriers like I've never seen.   They overlap and interweave…and the libraries have scrolls thousands of years old, sealed in glass tubes.   I think half of them were written in blood…"

Xander raised his eyebrows.   "Nothing says 'authentic' like blood scrolls."

"Or the ones in the back that are written on human skin…"

Kennedy clapped her hands together.   "Okay!   Buffy, Faith---are you all right?   Do you need anything?"

Buffy frowned.   "I'd just really like to know where we are and what all of this is, actually.   Do any of you know that?"

The gang looked a little sheepish.   Willow shook her head.   "We don't.   Giles wanted to wait until you were here so he could tell us all at once."

"But you must know something…do you sense anything?"

"Well…"  Willow paused.   "I'm getting a lot from this place, but the overriding feeling is that it's safe.   There's some good, there's some bad…but nothing's really threatening."

"Besides,"   Xander said, "Giles…?"

Buffy didn't say anything.

Faith straightened up.   "How did you get here?   What happened at the house?"

"Turns out there were a few portals that opened at the house that night.   Giles knew they were coming and opened up an escape one for us.   But because we had no way of knowing that, I was trying to close it."

Buffy blinked.   "The portal in the yard?"

Willow nodded.  

"But there were…there were demons trying to get through!"

"Apparently, they were trying to get out so they could fight for us.   I didn't know until I saw Giles on the other side.   But then it was too late---we just had to get everyone out.   Then there wasn't a lot of time to ask questions; Deanna and I had to get to work finding you."

Buffy looked lost and, Faith would bet, hurt at being left out of the loop on this place.   Before they could get into it, Giles and Deanna walked in.

It would be more accurate to say that Giles walked in; Deanna seemed to drift.   She smiled warmly at the brunette slayer.   Faith wasn't sure how to respond.   Everyone settled around the table, except for Faith, who remained standing.

Giles cleared his throat.   "Yes, well…I'm so grateful that you've all made it.   I know it wasn't easy, and you all have many questions; I'm going to try to answer all of them as best as I can."

Robin entered with Andrew.  They silently acknowledged the others, then slipped into seats at the far end of the table.

"For those of you who haven't met her yet, this is Deanna.   She's a member of one of the world's most powerful covens, and because of our spell she's now also a slayer, which makes her quite a unique and valued member of our group.   She was most helpful in contacting you when it became too dangerous for us to communicate by normal means."

"Faith's vision,"  Buffy said.   Her eyes never left Giles' face.


"Giles," Willow interjected.  "Where did all this come from?   Where are we?"

Giles leaned back.   "At the moment we're between dimensions, in a kind of neutral zone."

"A metaphysical Sweden.   Nice."

"Indeed, Xander.   And it's Switzerland."

"We created it," Deanna said.   At her words, the table grew still.   Kennedy was the first to stir.

"What do you mean, 'created' it?"

Deanna looked to Giles, who took off his glasses.   "It was decided that we needed a safe zone.   No one can be harmed here---not humans, not demons.   We needed a place to come together, to share information, each side without fear of the other."   He paused and took in their confused faces.   He sighed.   "Let me start again":

"You all know I have always kept allies that the Council did not know of.   Very powerful ones, I might add, ones the Council would have viewed as threats.   When I was first fired as Buffy's watcher, I started to be in much more frequent contact with them.   I sensed a change was coming.   The problems we encountered with the Council in handling a rogue slayer, their inability to accept information when it came from a vampire with a soul, their strange 'tests' for Buffy, trying to keep her in line…all of this confirmed my fears.   The Council was not changing along with the world; they couldn't accept our new world for what it was."

"And what's that?"   Faith asked.

Giles was quiet a moment.   "Grey.  Not all demons are evil.   Not all humans are good.   It was time for new definitions of good and bad, and time for a new guardian---one that could stretch into multiple worlds."

Willow shifted uneasily in her seat.   "I dunno, Giles…this sounds kind of…"   She trailed off.

"So what is good, then?"  Kennedy asked.   "Who are we fighting for?"

Giles smiled.   "Balance.   There is either balance, or there is chaos.   The Alliance is made up of humans, witches, demons, and various other beasts who agree---good cannot exist without evil, and vice versa.   Anything that tips the scales one way or the other will lead its world into chaos until the balance restores itself."

"Funny," Buffy said.   "I never thought of too much good as a bad thing.   Call me crazy."

Giles put his glasses back on.  "Evil certainly feels the same way, you know.   But the universe will fight to right itself---it will remove the good as it removes the bad."

Xander leaned back in his chair.   His head was full.   "Ok, Giles, I'm example guy.   As in, I need one."

"Fine.  The spell we cast to give power to the slayers."

"That was a good."

Giles sighed.   "Yes."

"And the bad is….?"

"Not all of them wanted to be called," Giles said quietly.   "And still others are not using their newfound powers for good.   That is what balanced our spell."

They were all silent, taking it in.   Faith shifted uncomfortably.   Buffy was right…who are the good guys?

"So what do we do, Giles?"  Buffy asked.   "Do we sit back and do nothing, for fear of cosmic consequences?   Do we let evil be evil, because we need balance in the world?"

"Of course not," Deanna said.   Her eyes flashed.   "We fight for our side.   We fight the good fight.   But we have teams keeping surveillance---we look for large energy buildups, signs that something is coming that could create chaos for years.   No ones wins in chaos."

"It sounds like no one ever wins at all,"   Faith observed.

"And that is the world,"  Giles declared, standing up.   "That is life---the battle between the good and evil.  And if it is ever actually won, chaos will reign and this world will end."

More silence. More tension in the room.

Xander sighed.   "I never thought I'd say this, but I miss high school."

Faith was disturbed; she could only imagine how Buffy was feeling.   She understood what Giles was saying, and she supposed it made sense---the ebb and flow of good and bad, the constant currents, the movement…  and if something's not moving, then it's stagnant, still, and it decays.   She could buy that.  But it made it even more difficult to be motivated to 'fight the good fight' when you knew it wasn't ever going to be won---not by you, not by those after you.   Never.

Who cares?

"I'm sure you're all thinking it's pointless," Giles continued.   "It may seem that way at first glance.   But we're talking huge mystical disturbances, powers that are entirely unnatural.   We still save the innocent; we still protect what's good."

"Calling all slayers to action wasn't big enough?" Willow asked.  "You're sure?"

"As I've said, it's righted itself.   Besides---as we found out, we didn't actually 'create' new powers from nothing; that could have tipped the scales quite a bit.   But what we actually did was share Faith's.   Which…brings me to our next point."

Faith sat on the armrest of Buffy's chair and tried to stay calm.   Nothing else about me…please…nothing else…

"The reason we were unable to be in contact the last few days was because of a new threat that we believe is large enough to do some damage.   I couldn't stay in our world and had to retreat here."

Giles hesitated.   He began again, slowly.

"The demon world is very aware of the spell we cast with the scythe.   It sent ripples throughout multiple dimensions.   But…we are not the only ones with powerful seers and witches.   A very…ambitious…sect started organizing different species, forming an army with one goal:  to capture the scythe."

Dawn frowned.   "That's who attacked us at the house."


"But…why?   The magic with the scythe is done.   It's just a weapon now."

"But it's not," Deanna said quietly.   Her gaze fell on Faith.   "Far from it.   These demons realized as we did that the new slayers all shared Faith's power, but she hadn't died; the power hasn't actually 'passed on.'"

Kennedy threw up her hands.   "Meaning?"

"Meaning," Giles said, "that it's not permanent.   They could reverse the spell and take all the slayers' new powers away."

Faith felt a ball of ice start to form in her stomach.   She glanced at Buffy, but the blonde wouldn't look at her; she was studying Giles furiously.

"How?"   Willow asked.

Giles and Deanna exchanged a look.

"The scythe is the connection between Faith and the rest of the slayers," Deanna began.   "If this sect were to sever that connection…then the slayer line would end."

"How?"  Willow asked again.
Faith felt the ball of ice grow larger---she already knew.

Giles sighed.   "By using the scythe to kill Faith."



Chapter Two: Reactions

The room erupted with emotions ranging from fear to surprise to utter disbelief.   Everyone started asking questions at once, but Buffy stood up and cut through it all by asking angrily, "How long have you known about this?"

Giles and Deanna looked at each other before Giles answered her.   "We've been certain for about a week.   We've been reviewing the spell cast with the scythe for about a month, but it was only recently that we learned of this sect and realized how immediate…" 

"Why are we just hearing about this now?"   Buffy thundered.

Giles stared at her and slowly removed his glasses.   "As I've said, we just learned about this threat.   We got in contact with you as soon as we could."

"Not good enough."   Buffy was almost trembling with rage.   "All the power you say you have here, and it took you days to reach us?   Do you realize what could have happened at the house?   Giles, that sect got to us before you did.   And we had no idea what the stakes were!"


"Deanna's 'forced vision' didn't tell us anything.   Anything.   And we took that scythe into battle.   We all fought with it.   Faith fought with it.   And the slayer line could have ended right there!   We had no idea, but those demons did.  The only reason any of us are here right now is sheer luck."

Deanna tried to intervene.   "You don't understand---Giles was…"

Buffy's eyes flashed.   "I understand that I don't want you interrupting me again."

"Buffy, enough."   Giles stood as well, facing off with his slayer.   "I am well aware of what could have happened.   If the sect had sent more demons, if I hadn't gotten to the portal in time to have Willow let us through, and if you all hadn't fought as fiercely as you did…I know.   But believe me---I got to you as fast as I could.   Had we contacted you any sooner or any more directly, the sect would have known where you were before we could open a portal to you.   Our seers have felt theirs probing our covens, trying to find my mind so they could find you.   We had to be careful."

Buffy threw up her hands and turned away, shaking her head.   Giles was about to react when Willow spoke up.

"Ok, well…I think a more immediate issue is what we're going to do about this."

"Yeah, Giles," Xander said.   "Are we hiding Faith here until we find the big evil?"

"No," Buffy said.   They all looked at her.   "No!   We're not staying here.   We don't know this place; we won't be safe here.   I don't trust it."

"You'll be making a foolish mistake, Buffy," Giles warned.   "This isn't the time for your hubris."

Buffy's eyes grew wide, then narrowed as her face flushed.   

Faith, who had been quietly absorbing everything, decided it was time to avert disaster.   She stepped forward.

"Whoa, hey, ok---everyone's forgetting something important here.   Me.   Giles, I know you got the best intentions, but I can't just sit in Dungeons and Dragons while life goes on out there."

Giles cleared his throat and sat back down.   "It wouldn't be forever, just until---"

"It would be, though."   Everyone looked at Kennedy.   She shook her head.   "Once word gets out to the rest of the demon world that you can stop all slayers by killing the one, that torch will get passed pretty quick."

"Giles," Faith said carefully.   "I don't want you to think I don't care.   I do care.   But it sounds to me like the line will only end if I'm killed with the scythe, right?   So keep it here; we don't need it.   But let me go.   If this 'sect' is keeping your slayers in check, keeping them from fighting?  They still win."

Giles was quiet for a long time.   He looked at Faith.   "I won't keep you here against your will.   But I do ask that you take another day to rest, to recover.   That will give us more time to find a safe place to open a portal back."

Faith was surprised at how fast he agreed.   "Sounds good." 

"Sounds risky."   The blonde slayer, brimming with anger, stood with her arms crossed.   "You want us to leave the key to all of this in a place you share with demons.   Do you really think all of them can resist that temptation?"   Giles' gaze was steady as Buffy took a step forward; Faith could see her trembling with rage.   "Think what you want about me.   I have a responsibility to protect all of us, and that's what I'm going to do."

"Not if you don't ever learn to trust the right people, Buffy.   You're going to fail."

Faith felt the nail in the coffin.   "B…"

Buffy set her jaw, looked around the table at everyone, and walked out.



It was colder outside the castle.   The stone walls were slightly damp from the mist that never seemed to leave.   It was strange to feel the moist, chill air when past the castle you could see fires burning in the demon camps, and the sky was a dark red instead of the blue-black she was used to.   It looked like it should be warmer; that was just one of the many confusing things about the place.

She reached up to the wet stones, ignored the obvious danger, and started to climb.   The walls of the castle were wildly uneven, so there was plenty to hold on to and the trip was not too difficult.   The important thing was that it was dark, private, and would give her time to think.   At the top it leveled out for a large enough area that Buffy felt safe sitting down, so she did.

And she cried.

She cried for paths not taken.   She cried for fighting a battle she could never win, and for friends who had already been lost.   She cried for a legacy that was moving on without her, and that she was almost powerless to protect.  She cried for the life she and her sister and her best friends would have to lead, for realizing there would never be an end to the fighting, that they would never have a house without mystical barriers and weapons and an army inside it.   She cried because she would never know that Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.

No matter what she did, that life would never be hers, and so she allowed herself, finally, to mourn it.

And when she was done she took a shuddering breath and felt a little better, until the second round came through.   Giles.   The man she loved more than her own father.   What were they now?   Had he changed, or had she?   She didn't trust him.   She wanted to…she needed to.   But she didn't.   He was capable of keeping such secrets…

Buffy closed her eyes and took a deep breath.   All she wanted was to be able to go back inside and tell him she would fight for his army, be a champion of this new world order, and look him in the eye and know he would take care of everything, like he always had.

But she couldn't do it.  

Because she knew, if it came down to it, Giles would do just as he said---he would stop the world from descending into chaos by defeating extreme good as well as extreme evil.   She had no doubt that if he needed to, he would use his army against her.



Faith felt completely out of control.

She had managed to quiet her own feelings about her new position in the slayer line.   It hadn't been easy.   She had always counted on having that one extra advantage that her enemies didn't---even if she died, another girl would take her place.   Forever.   But now that advantage was potentially gone if she took one wrong step.

She couldn't think about that, so she set it aside.   That let her thoughts roam to Buffy, hoping that she was all right and wondering if their moment in the woods was just that.   She didn't think so; it didn't feel like it.   But she didn't dare get her hopes up too much.   They'll always let you down…

That's when her heightened slayer connections kicked into overdrive.

Memories and dreams that didn't belong to her filled her mind.   Rage and sadness and embarrassment and betrayal.   Buffy was hurt; it was everywhere.

Faith closed her eyes and pressed a hand to her head.   She tried to feel her way out of the weapons room she was in so that she could find Buffy and help her, make the pain stop.   But there was too much of it---she staggered and fell to the floor, crying.

She wasn't sure how much time had passed when she felt strong hands on her arms trying to get her to sit up.   The pain in her head was disturbing her vision; she couldn't hear properly, either.   Finally she was able to get control of her breathing.   Her heart rate started to slow.   She looked up at who was holding her.


Oh, no.   Oh no no no no…  Robin was the exact wrong person to be there, because he opened up her own feelings and allowed them to fall back into the mix.   It was too much.

"Faith?   Faith!   What is it?"

She couldn't answer him.   She didn't trust herself to talk.   She tried to push him away, thinking everything would be ok if she could only be alone to let it all out, but he wasn't letting her move him.   She was getting angry, and she was afraid of what she might do.   She tightened her grip on his arms.


"She just needs some time to…you know…"

Kennedy sighed, exasperated.   "Buffy always needs time to 'you know.'   She needs to learn how to deal in a less obnoxious way.   She's still acting like she's separate from the rest of us."

"I know, baby,"   Willow said, "but she has been apart for so long…I think it's hard to shut that off.   Besides, this news was huge.   She has to deal with it in the way she's used to."

"Fine.   But she…"  Kennedy trailed off as she became aware of strange noises down the hall.   It sounded like a struggle.   Willow looked at her---she heard it too.   They started running.

When they burst through the door they saw Robin and Faith; Faith was braced to throw him, or worse, and Robin just looked like he knew he'd made a horrible mistake.   Willow and Kennedy rushed forward and grabbed the slayer while Robin managed to pull away.   Faith strained against them, but her heart didn't seem in it.   Willow noticed that her eyes were red; she'd been crying.   Lots.   She looked to Kennedy, who nodded---she could handle it.   Willow motioned to Robin and the two of them stepped outside the room.  

"What happened?"

"I…I really don't know.   I heard her crying and came to help but…I think I made it worse.   When she figured out who I was she just kinda…"   He looked upset.

Willow was concerned.   Tears weren't really Faith's thing.   "Was she just crying?"

"No, she'd fallen on the floor and was rocking back and forth.   It looked like she didn't know what was going on.   I was worried."   He looked guilty.

Willow put a hand on his shoulder.   "It's ok.   Why don't you let us talk to her."

Robin nodded.   He looked as if he was going to say something, but he didn't.   He just turned and walked down the hall towards his room.

Willow took a deep breath and went back in.   Kennedy was holding Faith to her, talking to her quietly.   She seemed better.   Willow looked to Kennedy, who shrugged helplessly.   The witch knelt down beside them.

"Faith?   Are you ok?"

Faith's eyes slowly focused on Willow.   She blinked, then looked up into Kennedy's concerned gaze.   Her face flushed as she sat a little straighter.   "Yeah.   Yeah, I'm fine."   She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

Kennedy was far from convinced.   "Something must have…"

"It's not me.   I'm fine, really.   It's…Buffy.   She's…"   she sighed.   "She's feeling a lot right now."

Willow remembered Buffy mentioning a heightened connection with Faith when they were back at the hotel, weeks ago.   As other things had happened, she'd kind of forgotten.   "Do you need me to do anything?   Try to weaken the connection a little?"

"No,"   Faith said quickly.   "No.   There's enough going on with my powers right now.   Don't need anything else to tip the scales.   No offense."

"None taken."

"Should we, I don't know, try to find Buffy?"   Kennedy asked.

Faith sighed.   "I think she's all right.   A lot of it went through me.   I'd leave her alone."

Kennedy rolled her eyes.   Willow ignored it.  

Faith stood up and put her hands in her pockets.   "I should probably, you know---get back to my room.   Try to get some rest, like Giles said."

Willow frowned.   "You sure you're ok?"

"Yeah, I'm good.   Uh, thanks for…you know."

Kennedy crossed her arms.   "No problem."   Faith nodded and left the room.   Kennedy turned to the redhead.  
"What the hell?"

"The spell.   Again.   It did a lot of things we didn't think about."

Kennedy sighed.   "This is gonna be fun."


Buffy had somehow fallen asleep on the stones and didn't realize it until she was gently woken up by the sounds of someone climbing up the wall.   She immediately sat up, ready to fight.   "Who's there?"

"It's me, B,"   the brunette slayer said quietly as she came into view.   Buffy visibly relaxed, then became anxious for a whole new reason.    She scooted over so Faith could sit next to her.   "Can't sleep?"

"Not all of us have comfy wet rocks to crash on."

"Right.   I…I kind of needed to let stuff settle.   You know."

"Don't have to tell me.   I get it."

Buffy nodded.   She looked sideways at Faith and could see she'd been crying.   Her brow furrowed.   "Hey…is everything…what's wrong?"

Faith leaned back and shrugged.   "Nothin."

Buffy raised an eyebrow.  

"It's true.   Well, it was, anyway.   Until I started wondering how you were doing.   Careful what you wish for."

Buffy frowned, confused, before the pieces fell into place and her eyes widened.   "I'm…I'm sorry.   I didn't…"

"Nah, don't worry about it."

"But I…"

"You ok now?"   Buffy nodded; she felt awful.   "Good.   Then it's ok."

Buffy watched Faith as she stared out into the night.   The brunette seemed lost in her thoughts.   Buffy shivered; her clothes had soaked through and she hadn't realized it.   Faith looked at her and silently removed her own hooded sweatshirt, passing it over.   Buffy swallowed and shyly took it.   Faith watched her slip it on.

"You know, B…we should probably head inside."

"I know."   The blonde reached out tentatively for Faith's hand.   "Just a little longer?"

"It's gettin cold."

Buffy leaned over, tucking her legs underneath herself and resting against Faith's shoulder.   Faith automatically brought her arms up around her.

"…Is that better?"   Buffy whispered.

Faith brought a hand up to tuck Buffy's hair behind her ear before letting it rest softly on the back of her head.   Buffy felt her counterpart finally relax.

"Yeah, B."   She kissed the top of Buffy's head.   "That's better."



Chapter 3: Changing Tactics

Hours later, it wasn't so better; Faith woke up cramped and cold with a feverish Buffy asleep in her arms.

"Crap."   Faith was able to separate herself without waking the exhausted blonde, which she was grateful for.   She looked down the jagged wall of stone and sighed---she couldn't do this herself.   She tucked Buffy in as much as possible and started her careful descent…


"If you grow horns in weird places or anything, don't say I didn't warn you!"

"For God's sakes, it's just peanut butter."

"Demon-y peanut butter!"

"Will you shut up!   It's fine."   Dawn hesitated before taking a bite.   She turned to Andrew.    "Not that I'm saying you're right, but if anything happens, get Willow."

Andrew smirked and crossed his arms.   "Just don't say I didn't warn you."

Dawn had run into Andrew earlier in the night.   Both of their stomachs were suffering the effects of dimensional time-differences.   They seemed to have found the human food stores, but…

"Five bucks says you turn invisible.   Or into a gnaark demon."

"I don't know what that is and shut UP!"

"Gnaark demons will eat your eyes while you sleep," came a new voice from the doorway.   "In your dimension they show up as shadows with a salty odor not unlike an ocean breeze.   Oh, and that is peanut butter."

They turned and stared at Deanna as she walked gracefully into the kitchen and opened a cupboard.   "Need bread?"

Dawn blinked.   "Uh…sure.   Thanks."

"No problem."

There was an awkward silence while Dawn made them sandwiches.   Andrew tried to fill it with awkward conversation.   "So!   Does being a stunning slayer-witch who knows her way around a kitchen run in your family?"

Deanna smiled.   "Not exactly.   I'm kind of the black sheep of the family.   But that's not really unusual in our circles, is it?"

They heard a door open and close, then heavy footsteps as someone else approached the warm light of the kitchen.   Faith came around the corner, then seemed to regret it.

"Hey brat---you seen Willow around?"

Dawn shook her head.   "Think she went to bed.   What's up?   Something wrong?"

"Nah, I just…Buffy fell asleep outside.   Wanted some help getting her inside.   That's all."

Deanna straightened up.   "Well…I can help.   If you want."

Faith eyed her warily as she weighed her limited options.   "Ok.   Thanks."   As Deanna approached the doorway, Faith nodded a goodbye to Dawn and Andrew.   Once they were alone in the hall, Faith pulled Deanna aside.  

"I think she's sick.   Nothin major, I don't think.   Didn't want to worry Dawn.   But still, if we don't have to wake her…"

"I got it."

Deanna was able to float Buffy gently down to their level.   The blonde slayer didn't even stir.   Deanna closed her eyes to better feel her energy.   "You're right…just a cold.   Not surprising considering the last few weeks, and, well, where she fell asleep.   I could heal her, if you want."

Faith shook her head slowly.   "I don't think she'd want that.   But we can ask her in the morning."

Deanna nodded, then looked at Faith.   "Whose room am I taking her to?"

Faith flushed slightly and put her hands in her pockets.   "Hers."


The castle was quiet as they made their way through the halls.   When they got to Buffy's room, Dawn was waiting for them.   She rushed forward, but Faith caught her before she could wake Buffy.   "Easy, tiger."

Dawn glared.   "What happened?"

"Your sister decided to sleep on the rocks outside.   She'll be fine once she gets some real rest."

"I want to stay with her."

Deanna watched Faith's face go from disappointment to understanding to her trademark of seemingly tough.  

"Fine.   But if you wake her up, I'll kick your ass.   Just let her sleep."

"I get it."

Faith looked at Deanna one last time before disappearing down the hall.   On her way to her room, she ran into Giles and sighed, exasperated.   "Jesus!   Doesn't anyone ever sleep around here?!"

"Something's happened."   He was out of breath. 

Faith froze.   "Giles…Giles you said we were safe here.   We're supposed to be safe!"  

"And you are safe---I haven't lied to you."

"Then what is it?"

"When we were looking into our dimension, trying to find the best place to let you through…I believe the sect has stopped trying to look for you and wants to draw you out instead."

Faith clenched her teeth.   "What's happening?"

"A massacre," said a deep voice, high above Faith's head.   She looked up at the twelve foot winged demon that had come through the portal for them.   "Twelve human children killed so far at a hospital."

"Their seers can't find you, Faith.   They've changed tactics."

"I'd say so," the brunette growled.  

"Where's Buffy?"

Faith cracked her knuckles.   "Buffy's sick; she's staying here.   Get me Willow, Deanna, and…uh…"   she tilted her head back at the beast before her.

"Merk," he rumbled.  

"…and Merk.   For starters."   She started off towards the weapons room.

"You've got to play this carefully," Giles warned her.

"Thanks, but I kinda figured that."

"Faith, you can't put yourself at risk or take any foolish chances…"

She stopped walking and cut him off.   "Look---I'm not an idiot.   I know what they want.   But as long as you have the scythe, they have no chance of getting it.   If they kill me without it, all their plans turn to shit, right?"   She started loading up.

"We haven't gotten the chance to study them, their tactics.   We don't know how they fight…"

"Dirty and large-scale.   Anything else?"

Giles studied her.   He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, sighing.   "Please be careful."

Faith pursed her lips.   "Don't worry---I'm not planning on letting them undo all the work you've done.   There'll be lots more slayers after me."   She went to leave, to get Deanna, but Giles put a hand on her shoulder.   She looked at him, curious.

"I mean for your own sake."

Faith looked away, taken off-guard.   She nodded and left.


The screaming and crying would have filled his soul with happiness, if he'd had one.

His minions had failed to produce either the slayer Faith or the scythe.   The seers who had allied themselves with him were some of the most coveted in the world, but they could not find her in this or any other dimension.   Which meant only one thing---she had very powerful friends, and they were hiding her.

No matter.

He strode through the hallways of the hospital while his vampires conducted a room-by-room sweep, devouring some while changing others.   There wasn't a pattern, really---weak vs. strong, or young vs. old.   That wasn't the point.

He stopped as something squished under his shoe---a pool of blood.    His eyes followed the trail to the nearest room where someone was being eaten.   He nodded his approval to the vampire, who was young but ambitious, willing to work his way up.   Very useful.

He had taken just the vampires for this mission.   He himself was one.   More than anything, he wanted their kind associated with the death of the slayer.   Not "a" slayer:   "the" slayer.   All of them.   Too often vampires were written off as half-demons, instilling fear in the hearts and minds of humans but carrying no real weight in the demon realms.   It was assumed that they were stupid or inferior.   Hardly ever was it acknowledged that vampires were not born, or created, or hatched, as most demons were.   A vampire's creation is haphazard.   Unpredictable.

All they truly needed was a little organization.  

Which is where he came in.

For a hundred years, he had tracked what were now thousands of vampires---their creations were often systematic, courtesy of his better pupils who had been placed across the globe.   All of them became part of his growing army.   He knew that when opportunity knocked, the vampires had better be ready to rise.  

Opportunity had knocked loud and clear.   His army now had a focus, a purpose, a cause.

And so did he.

He stepped over a few bodies as he rounded a corner; from the look of it they'd tried to crawl to safety.   He shook his head and sighed.   "So foolish."

"My thoughts exactly."   On instinct he ducked as a fire extinguisher went crashing past his head and through the wall.   He whirled around.   A dark haired girl stood before him, glaring viciously.   On either side of her floated a witch, balls of electricity forming in their hands and causing their hair to move around, giving them a wild and unpredictable look.

He grinned.

His slayer had come.


In the castle, Buffy was tossing and turning in her sleep.   Dawn rolled over and put a hand to her sister's head.   Still a little warm…

Dawn gasped as Buffy's eyes flew open and she started to scream.


 Chapter 4: The Battle

Don't scream…he's got you if you scream…
Just remember he can't kill you.   And isn't death worse than this?
It's got to be.    But still, you'd win.   You win if he kills you.
But he wins if you scream…



"Where is she?!   What's happening?" a sobbing Buffy demanded.   Her sister looked at the others helplessly.  

Xander, Kennedy, Robin, and Andrew had all rushed in at the commotion and were trying to piece together what was going on.   When Kennedy had woken up, there had been no signs of Willow.   If not for that, they would have thought Buffy had lost it.

Buffy cried out in pain and tears filled Dawn's eyes.   Xander beckoned to her; she went to him and let him hold her.   He steered her into the hallway, away from the others.

"Dawn…is it Willow?   Do you think Willow's trying to get through to her?   Deanna did it once."

Dawn shook her head.   "I…I don't know.   I guess so.   Oh, Xander---what's happening to Willow?   Someone must be torturing her!"

"Not her---Faith," a red-eyed Kennedy said as she too came into the hall.


Kennedy nodded.   "If it was Willow, I'd know.   Plus, Faith and Buffy have developed a stronger slayer connection, I think;   Faith did something like this earlier when Buffy was freaking out about something."

Xander frowned.   "So Faith and Willow are gone?   Wait…" 

 "But how did someone take them from here?"  Dawn insisted.   "Giles said it was safe!"

"And it is, if you stay here," Giles said, rounding the corner.   He was heavily armed and there were several creatures and witches in his wake.   "The sect decided to draw Faith out by holding a massacre at a hospital.   It worked.   She left earlier with Willow and Deanna, and some more of our top fighters."

Kennedy blinked.   "She what?   Why didn't she tell us?  Why didn't you?"

Giles sighed, angry with himself.   "Faith wanted as few of you involved as possible.   I didn't say anything because we thought it was smaller scale than it actually is."

"Meaning what, exactly?"   Xander asked.

"Meaning they're losing."   Giles tossed a crossbow to Xander.   "Get everyone ready who can fight.   Dawn, stay with Buffy."


"Giles,"  Kennedy said nervously, "are they…is Willow…"

Giles put a hand on her shoulder.   "We're going to get them.   That's all we care about right now, not defeating the enemy---just getting our people out."


Willow crouched behind a pile of debris to catch her breath.   All around her, the hospital walls her crumbling like they were made of nothing more than dry mud.   She could feel Deanna two floors down, finishing the transport of the hospital's patients.   Opening portals between dimensions was difficult, but within their own it wasn't too bad…especially when they didn't care about a specific place, as long as it was safer.   They figured everyone would get back to where they needed to be eventually, a little confused maybe, but alive.

Willow wiped away the blood trickling down her cheek.   Their advantage was that the sect seemed to be fighting with mostly vampires, while they had brought all manner of creatures from the Alliance.  

The enemy's advantage, of course, was numbers.

The witch rolled to the side to avoid a chunk of the ceiling caving in; she sent bolts of lightning up through the hole, incinerating at least five vampires.   She caught sight of Merk down the hall, using his great strength to bring down walls to crush more of them.   The massive red demon fighting was quite a sight; other vampires around him made no marks on his hide---they were like flies buzzing harmlessly around a cow.

Seeing he was safe, she turned her focus outward, trying to find Faith.   When the vampire Willow had assumed was the leader had realized Faith had not brought the scythe to battle, he'd reacted with such a surprising surge of anger they were caught off guard.   While they'd occupied themselves with saving the innocent patients, he had come from behind with another force and taken the Slayer.  He couldn't have taken her far...

Willow closed her eyes, took a breath, and reached out.

She had to struggle to keep from recoiling---she felt like her back was on fire, but the rest of her body was ice. She gasped. Just then, Deanna burst through the floor in front of her, leaving more vampires in her wake. She hovered for a moment, locking eyes with Willow.

"You feel her."

Willow nodded.



Deanna reached out her hand; Willow took it, and they vanished, reappearing a moment later in the morgue.

Willow would not have reacted quickly enough to stop the fist from connecting with her face, but Deanna responded without even thinking---she caught Willow's assailant by the wrist and elbowed him in the throat. As he dropped, Deanna kicked backwards, immobilizing two more. She flew upward, stake in hand, and cleanly took out the fourth before returning to land at Willow's side. Together, they were able to surround themselves with an energy shield so they could breathe a moment and see what was going on.
Faith was being held down by five vamps while the leader viciously slashed at her back with his claws. There was blood everywhere.

"Where is it?" the monster bellowed.

Deanna dropped the shield as Willow fired.

Two of the vampires turned to ash. While the others scattered in a panic, the leader grabbed Faith by the arm (she was almost as limp as a rag doll) and dove to the side of the cooler as another round scorched the floor where he'd been standing. He snarled and tried to open the door of the walk-in cooler, but Deanna anticipated the move and melted it shut. Eight more vamps came running into the room, and the witches reflexively put the shield back in place. The head vampire laughed as he ran a claw down Faith's arm, drawing more blood.

"You can't do it all, Witches."

"That's where we come in."

The vamp's eyes went wide and Willow's heart soared as Kennedy and Giles charged into the room, leading a second wave of Alliance fighters. The shield was dropped once again as magic mixed with wood and steel to destroy their common enemy.


Willow heard her girlfriend call out to the slayer and turned to see the vampires dragging her out a side door. A nod to Deanna, and Willow, Kennedy, and Giles left the morgue and entered the main hallway. They could see Faith at the other end, making feeble attempts to fight off her attackers. They started for her, pieces of the building falling all around them. Their progress was interrupted by the arrival of Merk.

The massive demon punched his way through the far wall. The blow connected with the lead vampire, sending him sprawling. He spun around as his minions dragged Faith out of the new battle zone. Merk knocked down the rest of the wall to give himself room to step through. By then, the vamp had started up the stairs.

"Giles! This way!" Willow yelled, and they raced down the hall.

No sign of Faith.

Willow gritted her teeth and ignored everyone's nervous looks. They can't kill her, she kept reminding herself. They need the scythe.
"Let's go."

They ran up the stairs, but didn't get far when the vampire and another of his endless squads appeared and snatched Kennedy right off the stairs. It took four of them to hold her, but they were doing it. Willow raised her hands, ready to strike.

"Not so fast, Witch," the leader hissed. One of the others drew a gun and jammed it into Kennedy's throat. Willow hesitated. "That's right. We'll be leaving here, with the Slayer. Maybe taking this sweet thing will encourage you to give up the scythe, as well."

"Won't do you any good. You won't have me."

The vamp jerked his head upwards.

Faith stood several floors above them, straddling the railing with a knife pressed into her throat. Willow could see fresh blood starting to trickle down.

The vampire hissed. "We'll kill her!"

Faith's eyes never left his. "So? We'll both gladly kill ourselves to make sure the good guys win. Maybe you didn't read that fine print about slayers." She pressed harder. "Get out."

Willow could see what was about to happen, and mentally and physically prepared herself for something that would test the extent of her powers.

The vamp sneered. "All talk. If you were that heroic, you'd spend less time chatting and more time doing." He turned his back on her, and focused on Kennedy. "They won't deal. Kill her."

Faith screamed, and while all eyes reflexively went towards her, Willow enveloped Kennedy in a bubble of her strongest magic and flew upwards, muttering a spell for Faith.

With one clean stroke, Faith drew the knife across her throat. She started to fall.


Chapter 5: The Battle Continues

Buffy woke with a bit of a shock, sitting straight up and gasping for air, clutching at her chest and throat; it took her a moment to catch her breath and remember where she was.

And who she was...

She'd felt as though she'd been seeing though Faith's eyes, though the sensation had lessened as the night went on.  Being sick probably hadn't helped; she felt more like her own self now.   She closed her eyes and tried to remember her dream, but she couldn't, no matter how hard she tried.   She could remember feelings of fear and pain, and she knew there must have been faces, but...

She sighed.   Nothing else.

She was a little worried...no matter where Faith was or what was going on, she'd been hurting.   Buffy couldn't tell if it was mental or physical, or if Faith was dreaming down the hall or if she was in trouble omewhere.   She got up.   She had to find out.

Buffy grabbed the sweatshirt Faith had given her the night before.   It wasn't wet anymore so she pulled it back on.   

Buffy wasn't quite sure how she had gotten from the rock wall to her own bed, but she was a little surprised that Faith wasn't there when she woke up.   She blushed slightly at her own thoughts, but the truth was it was wonderful to have been held in her sister slayer's arms the previous night.   Ironically (considering their history) it was the only thing about their current situation that seemed to make sense. 

Buffy shook her head.   Maybe assuming Faith would be in my bed is moving a little fast.   She may not even want that.   I may not even want that.  I just want...well, her.   And suddenly Buffy didn't know what that meant; just that it was true.   

She walked faster; she was tired of trying to explain away her feelings and was trying to just accept them for what they were.   But at the moment she was worried about Faith and wishing her room was closer so she'd already be there, making it better.   And isn't that love?

Buffy swallowed.

She'd reached Faith's room and knocked on the door, pressing her ear into the thick wood to wait for a response.   Nothing.   She knocked again, while gently pushing open the door.   "Faith?"

But the room was empty.

Come to think of it, the whole castle seemed pretty empty, considering night was over.

Buffy's brow furrowed and she turned back to the hallway.   "Hello?"   Her skin started to crawl and she got a sinking feeling in her stomach.   She headed back towards her room.

"Anyone?   Hello?"


Buffy saw her sister come around the corner with a bowl of soup.   Dawn blinked. "You're up.   Ok, good, you must be feeling better..."

Buffy stopped and glanced around before looking back at her sister.   "Dawn...where is everybody?"

Dawn shifted her weight, uncomfortable.   "Everybody?   Oh, well...they kind of...see, you were really sick, so..."

"Dawn."   Buffy held her by the shoulders and looked her in the eye.   "Where are they?"

Magic burst forth from Willow's fingertips, entering Faith's body the instant she slashed her own throat.  Willow was not allowing even the most basic pain receptor to fire, which would have triggered a catastrophic response as the slayer's body realized what she'd done to it.   Willow was essentially holding Faith's inner workings in stasis---completely frozen. 

Willow didn't trust that she could keep Faith suspended as she was and keep the bubble around Kennedy and fly; when she reached Faith, she tackled her, knocking her back onto the stairs.

To everyone below, however, it looked very much as though the slayer had died and Willow had merely caught her.

The vampires screamed with rage and shot at Kennedy.   The bullets ricocheted off the bubble and through the stairwell, grazing Giles' arm before he was able to shoot the gun out of the vamp's hand.   One floor below them, the remainder of the Alliance came running into the stairwell, still ready to fight.

In such close quarters, the battle was truly frightening.   Merk moved himself way up front to try to give the Alliance some breathing room.   Xander was bleeding freely from a wound on his arm, but he was still able to take out a vamp with his crossbow.   Kennedy's protective bubble had given out---she dropped to the floor in a whirl of punches and kicks.   Though she had wanted to get back into the fight, the loss of the bubble meant one thing to her---Willow could no longer sustain it.  Kennedy gritted her teeth.


The slayer-witch flew to her side, leaving three vamps in her wake.   

"Willow and Faith,"  Kennedy panted.  "Up there."  She didn't have to say anything else---Deanna raced upwards.   Kennedy whirled around to meet another vampire head-on.

The lead vampire was being shielded by his forces; he was beside himself with rage and started yelling, "Get to her!  Get the slayer!"   He was not giving up so easily---if she had a breath left in her body, then the battle was not lost.  Not yet.   

His minions ran up the stairs, around and around, level by level.  Deanna leaned over the railing above them, sending down blasts of fire.   Some hit; some didn't.   They kept advancing.   

Deanna turned to look at Willow and Faith.   Willow had her hands at Faith's throat and was chanting intensely.   Deanna knew the slayer must be alive; she couldn't let the sect get their hands on her.

She erected an energy field further down the stairwell, trying to stop them before they got too far; there were too many, and she knew she could only hold it for so long.  Besides, if any attacked from above them, she'd have to drop it completely to fight.   She looked below to see if she'd be getting reinforcement any time soon.

Unfortunately, the Alliance had their hands full just trying to stay alive.  Merk, though mighty, was slowly starting to weaken.   It wouldn't have made a big difference in another fight, but in the battle in the stairwell every ounce of strength mattered.   The vampires sensed the weakness and more of them were able to push through.

Deanna swallowed.   Fighting alongside Willow, she had felt invincible; but now her own abilities were being stretched to their limits, and she knew she couldn't break the red-head's focus for a second or else they would lose Faith.  She felt the energy field weakening.  The vampires taunted her from below.

"It's only a matter of time, witch!"  they growled.

"Your battle is lost!"  Deanna said sharply.  "The slayer is dead.  You have failed to end the line.  Fall back, or we will crush you!"

The vampires cackled and looked at the battle raging around them.  "We will have her body, and you won't be able to stop us.   If your slayer is dead, then there is no one to save you now!"

Deanna gasped as their heads were separated from their bodies and the whole lot of them turned to dust.  In their place stood Buffy, wielding a broadsword.   She looked up at Deanna and shrugged.

"Everyone always forgot there were two."

Deanna grinned as Buffy joined the fray.   The blonde dove into the battle head-first, swinging wildly at every vampire within reach (and some that weren't).  She jumped, flipped, kicked, and every blow from her sword meant another vampire down.   The Alliance rallied around her as their strength was renewed.

The head vamp, with one last look up towards the seemingly-dead Faith, decided it was time to regroup; soon the Alliance would see that his never-ending army actually did have an end.  He didn't want that.  He called out to them, and as they started the retreat, he leapt down a few floors and grabbed Giles, pulling him up by his shirtfront.

"We're not done with you," he hissed.  "You or your little girls.   We'll be back for you." And he threw Giles over the railing.  Fortunately Robin and Buffy were able to catch him on the next level.   When they looked back up, all of the vampires had vanished.

Giles righted himself and put a supportive hand on Buffy's shoulder.   "Impeccable timing, as always."

Buffy nodded.   "Where's Faith?"

Giles and Robin exchanged a glance, then gazed upwards.  Giles hesitated.   "Buffy, we don't know if..."

But Buffy was already running up the stairs, around and around, level by level until she finally came to the landing with Deanna, Willow, and Faith.

At first her breath caught in her throat.  She's dead!  But once she got over her immediate shock, she noticed Willow was in a deep trance and Faith still had a little color in her complexion.   Deanna looked to her.

"She's alive...barely," she said.   Buffy slowly sat next to Deanna as she continued.  "It looks like Willow was able to put her body in stasis before it registered the trauma.  But, that means healing her is very delicate work; it's harder when you can't let the body's natural defenses help you."

Buffy swallowed and whispered, "What...what happened to her?"

Deanna recapped the battle for the blonde slayer, ending of course with Faith's attempted sacrifice.

"Suicide, you mean," Buffy said softly.

"If you want to look at it like that."  Deanna watched the way Buffy was staring at Faith.  "It truly was a heroic act, though---she was going to pass on her powers to all of us, right then and there.  The slayer line would have been ensured a long life."

Buffy's brow furrowed.  "But Willow didn't let her."

Deanna hesitated.  "It's hard to watch anyone do a thing like that.  Perhaps she felt that everyone thinking Faith was dead was enough, and that her life didn't have to end just yet."

"But you're sure," Buffy insisted, almost desperate.  "You're sure she wasn't dead yet?  You're sure Willow's not bringing her back from...somewhere?"

Deanna looked into Buffy's eyes.   "I promise."

Buffy let out a sigh of relief, and the tears started to fall.  "Sorry, it's just..." she brushed her hair out of her face.  "It's just, I hear that doesn't work out so well."

Deanna put a gentle hand on her arm before standing up.   "I need to talk to Giles.   Stay with them---we've got to figure out the best way to get them out of here."

The best way ended up involving six coven members plus Deanna to safely transport Willow and Faith as one back to the Alliance without disturbing Willow's progress.  The group of witches stayed on in Faith's room to help the redhead work, lending her extra powers, focus, and stamina.

Buffy leaned against the door outside with Kennedy.   The blonde felt horribly guilty.

"You all could have been...and I was just lying here, useless..."

"Come on, Buffy...you were sick.   There was nothing you could have done."

"But I---"

"But nothing!  Something happened---we had to go.   You know Faith.   I wasn't even part of the first wave; she left in the night with just a handful of people, thinking she could end this thing without any of us being involved.   What could you have done about that?"

Buffy shook her head and didn't say anything.  They were both quiet for awhile.

Kennedy cleared her throat.  "Your connection to her seems pretty strong.  Did anything happen to you when she...you know?"
"No.  I don't know...it was really strong when we first got here, and then when my fever was really bad, I guess.   But then it just kinda...it was less.  I don't know if it's because she was fading, physically.   Now I'm no more aware of her than I am of you."

Kennedy laughed softly.   Buffy frowned.  "What?"

Kennedy looked at her.  "I doubt that.  I'd say you're a little more aware of her."

"What are you...what do you mean?"  Buffy stammered.  But she was already blushing, and Kennedy raised an eyebrow at her.   Embarrassed at being so easy to read, Buffy turned back to face the working witches.

Kennedy decided to let her off the hook.  "Maybe the connection faded because Faith had a bit more self-control," she ventured, "and was trying to shield your mind from the fight."


"She'll be ok.   You watch."  Kennedy looked at her girlfriend, whose focus had never waivered.  "My Will's the greatest."

Buffy leaned against the door frame, where she would stay for the next several hours.  She watched, she waited, she prayed that Faith would make it though.  She wanted to reach out to the brunette, but was afraid of disturbing Willow.  All she could do was hope that Willow had gotten to Faith in time...



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