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Chapter 91: Power Hungry

Three Weeks Later. BPOV

Faith can be such a freaking jerk sometimes. She's being so much of a jerk that every once in a while for a split second I forget what I see in her. She isn't being obvious about it and I think that's the most frustrating part. To everyone else she's being her usual self, but I know her like no one else does so I can tell the difference. It's frustrating because if I try to call her out for being such an ass-face no one else will know what I'm talking about and it'll look like I'm attacking her for no reason. And I'm sure you're asking why Faith is being such a jerk. It's because Spike is here. He showed up a couple of hours ago and even though Faith has worked out most of her issues with Spike, having him in our home is causing all of that progress to regress and it's really annoying. It's not like he just showed up for no reason or without warning. That I could understand, but right now she's being petty over nothing.

"You would think that after all this time, the demons and vampires and all of the other nasty things in the world would learn not to mess with us," I say and cross my arms over my chest. I'm leaning against the refrigerator and everyone else is sitting at the table drinking coffee even though it's eleven o'clock at night. By 'everyone else' I mean Faith, Spike and Willow. She showed up about an hour ago to help us deal with this. My eyes widen a little bit after the last word leaves my tongue and I look over at Spike. "No offense. You're not nasty at all. What I meant was evil, and you're not that either, at least not lately." And now I'm babbling like an idiot. "And even when you were evil you weren't nasty because you kept up with the exercise, which is important health-wise. It's not like anyone who has ever seen you with your shirt off is going to think you're gross."

"Ok, B, I think that's enough sharing," Faith says with a smirk on her face and she gives me a little wink. "If I have to hear about the Buffy-Spike saga I might barf." To everyone else she sounds like she's being lighthearted and totally playful. Like I said earlier I know her better than that, and this is exactly what I was talking about. She's been subtly digging my history with Spike and it's really starting to piss me off. Forgive me for having a past. I didn't know I was supposed to save myself all of those years for her. It's not like she was a virgin when we finally got together so she doesn't have any damn room to talk. But since she wasn't mean about it I can't call her out and not look like an ass so I'll have to bite my tongue for now. She's so going to pay for all of this later. Trust me, she will pay, and not in a sexy way, either.

"Sorry. You know the doctors still haven't found a cure for foot-in-mouth syndrome. They have me on a new medication but the drugs can only do so much," I say and give her a little half smile and to everyone else I look like there's nothing wrong, but Faith knows me as well as I know her. There was more smarminess in my tone than necessary and she knows it. Her left eye twitches a little bit and I know she wants to say something to me but she's caught in the same dilemma that I'm in and if she does everyone will think she's going crazy…again. "Has anyone found anything about this?" I look over at the box on the table and the very large pile of books that have completely taken over my kitchen. Why didn't we just do this over at Willow's house? That's where all of the demon books live.

Anyway, back to what's important: the box. Spike stole it from a demon he killed. Cordelia had a vision a group of demons were going to try and end the world using this…thing, but nobody has any idea when the ritual is going to be performed. Spike called asking if it would be alright to come to Lincoln to get Willow's help. Normally he would just swoop in, coat billowing in the wind, and make a big, over dramatic entrance but the last time he did that Faith almost staked him. She didn't know it was him, she just sensed a vampire rushing towards us and reacted, and it taught Spike to never sneak up on a slayer when she's armed and patrolling.

"The box is powerful," Willow says and she has kind of a dopey smile on her face. She used her magic to basically scan the box to see if there was anything up with it but she didn't get much. Doing that much magic got her kind of…high, so she's been a little incoherent but she's starting to calm down now. I'm a little worried about her using so much magic. I don't want her to go off the deep end or anything. Sky would kill me if that happened. "I haven't been in the same room with something this powerful in a long time." I let out a little sigh and try to keep my voice even because I'm starting to get frustrated by all of this.

"It's powerful, I think that was established with the 'it's used to take over the world' thing," I say and I know I sounded a little bitchy. I know this because Faith is giving me that 'what, are you PMSing?' looking and if she doesn't stop I might have to kick her in the face. I let out another little sigh and force myself to calm down. This is just like back in Sunnydale when researching would take forever. I've been out of the game for so long now that I'm not used to this anymore. I'm not used to doing research or not knowing what we're looking for. I'm supposed to be semi-retired, dammit. "So how does the ritual work and what's in the box?" Now that Faith is reading her book again I'm assuming I didn't sound as bitchy that time.

"Right now, nothing is inside of it," she says and looks up from the book she's been reading for the last twenty minutes. I hate how long this researching thing takes. This is why I semi-retired. All of the demon hunting; none of the reading. "The box itself isn't bad. I didn't pick up on any wicked mojo earlier and you know detecting wicked mojo is my specialty." I thought her specialty was being an insanely powerful goddess type Wicca? I guess you learn something new every day. Although this would be going much faster if we could skip the life lessons and get to finding out about the ritual. And if Faith would stop staring at Spike's hair like it's about to grow wings and fly away. "The box is only as good or bad as the intentions of whoever is using it."

"Ok, well let's assume that these demons aren't trying to take over the world to bring world peace." Faith gets a look on her face like she wants to say something but she stays quiet. I wonder what that was all about. Oh well, I don't have time to try and understand what's going on in the recesses of her brain. I barely have time to figure out what's going on in mine half the time. So let's just get back to what's going on now. "I don't think the Powers That Be would warn Cordelia about that. And if there's nothing in the box then why do they need it?" Faith starts snapping her fingers to get our attention and she's still looking at the book she's been reading. Ok, so I guess she found something important.

"I found that," she says and starts scanning the page again. I know not to say anything about her taking too long because I know it will just start a fight. It always has in the past and it's safe to assume that it will have the same effect now. "Really long and dull page short: the box transforms mystical energy into pure power. So if these demons make like Brain all they gotta do is find something with some wicked powerful energy." Is it scary that what she said makes perfect sense to me? I think we've been together for too long. Willow gets a look on her face like a light bulb in her mind just turned on. I can feel some of the weight being lifted off of my shoulders now that we're starting to get somewhere.

"That's what the ritual is for," she says and she sounds a little excited. You've known her since Sunnydale so you know how she can get when she figures something out. "The box can hold a great deal of power but you need the ritual to get the power in and out of it." Ok, that makes sense. In a weird way where it doesn't make any sense at all. I guess if you're going to take over the world the gods and goddesses aren't going to make it easy for you. Nothing worth doing is accomplished easily, right? Why am I thinking about this? I need to focus. I think I've been spending too much time with Faith. "Spike, did Cordelia say anything about any symbols or landmarks? If we can find out where they're doing it maybe we can find out how."

"She wrote everything down. Don't know why. Not like I have a bad memory," he says and starts digging through his coat pocket. Why didn't he mention that in the first place? I've seen some of the notes Cordelia takes and they're usually pretty detailed, or in as much detail as she can remember at the moment. Since she's been with Kennedy I guess it's been easier for her to fight off the side effects of the visions and tell everyone what happened because Kennedy has been teaching her some meditations and techniques on conquering physical pain. Something about mind over matter but I need to stop thinking about that and pay attention. "She said there was a building in the background. A barn or a warehouse. There's a mural on the side. A picture of a lake with a big sun, and a giant tree. That's all it says. I could've remembered all that on my own." Or maybe she still needs to work on it.

"God fucking dammit," Faith says and I'm kind of surprised. I know she comes off as this tough chick who will kick your head in if you say the wrong thing to her, but she's usually more patient than everyone else. Ok, so not really but she usually keeps her frustration internalized. Alright so maybe not, but it's a little weird that she would be getting this upset. It's not like Spike is leaving out details on purpose, he just doesn't know what they are. "That's here. That building is a stable. Some people were using it to house wild mustangs before they went to auction, but the feds shut it down 'cause they were runnin coke and meth, and I think a prostitution ring." Everyone stares at her and she gets an irritated look on her face. "What, I can't watch the fucking news?" Ok, moving on before she gets really mad.

"If the ritual is taking place here and they need something mystically powerful then that's probably one of us," I say and look into her eyes. She gets that look on her face like she's going to punch someone really hard. She's always been protective of me. Sometimes it's kind of annoying when all I'm trying to do is slay a vampire and she pushes me out of the way to do it so I won't get hurt. Trust me, that's always annoying. But this isn't irritating at all. She's mad because my life might be in danger. It's actually kind of sweet in its own way. "We're the original slayers. Our mystical energy is probably off the charts." Out of the corner of my eye I see Willow start to play with the pages of the book she's been reading and I can't help but feel a little bit of dread wash over me. She always does that when she gets really nervous.

"There is another option," Willow says in that meek voice she always uses when she doesn't want to be saying what she's saying. That means I'm not going to like this in any way, shape or form. Everyone is quiet as we wait for her to continue. Even Faith is paying really close attention and she hardly ever does that. I guess now that our lives could be in danger she just wants to find out what these demons are and where to find them so she can kick some ass. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel the same. "Who in this house is made up of the true, pure essence of the slayer and is therefore more powerful than every other slayer on the planet by default?" She was right when she thought I wasn't going to like this at all. My whole body tenses up and I exchange a quick glance with Faith. I guess she knows what Will is talking about too because she doesn't look happy at all.

"Addison," I say and the only person in the room who looks surprised is Spike. I guess no one ever clued him in on Addison being the pure essence of the slayer. I'm glad no one told him about it. I trust Spike, but the fewer people who know what she really is the safer she's going to be. Hopefully these demons don't know what she really is and they're going after her on a hunch that she'll be more powerful because she's the daughter of the two original slayers. Why does it seem like bad things always happen to her? I swear, it's like my baby girl is stuck in some really bad soap opera and she's put in peril to try and get a boost in the ratings. "Ok, so who are these demons and how do we kill them and how do we destroy the box? I don't want to risk anything else getting their evil hands on it."

"We can do that later," Faith says and she stands up. See, she's getting impatient. Things are serious now and possibly deadly and she doesn't want to sit around and wait. She's always been action girl and waiting around for research has never been her strong suite. It hasn't been mine either but when it comes to the really deadly stuff I like to have my facts before I go rushing off to fight the bad guys. "The demons are probably at the stables already. Don't they need to set up for shit like this?" She's looking at Willow but I don't wait for her to answer. Faith needs to calm down or she's going to get herself and possibly our baby killed. I love her, I do, but if it came down to it I would do anything to protect our babies even if it meant stopping her from doing something bullheaded and stupid by knocking her out and chaining her up.

"Or maybe they don't start setting up until after they have someone to suck the mystical energy out of." She looks over at me and her eyes are really dark. There are only two reasons why she gets that look in her eyes. One of them is she's really turned on but I doubt that's the case right now. The other is that's the same look she always gets right before she slays a vampire. I'm not worried, though. We've been together for years and I know her better than anyone. She would never hurt me, at least not physically. Ok, so at least not physically under her own free will. "We should keep researching the box. Whatever ritual they're doing they can't do it without the box." She slams the book she had been reading shut and the sound of it echoes off the kitchen walls. It sounded more like a gunshot than a book closing, that's how hard she slammed it.

"Yeah, and I say we shouldn't stick around and see if they have a backup plan. We kill the demons and the immediate threat is gone." She has a point and I know she does, but I'm not going to give in on this. This is too important to go off without all of the information we could have. Our daughter's life could be at risk and she's being impulsive. "Then we can smash the box into a thousand and one pieces in case something else tries to use it for evil." I let out an irritated sigh and hold back most of my anger. Getting into an argument about this isn't helping anything and it needs to end as quickly as possible. If only she weren't so stubborn then she would see that this is a waste of time.

"Faith, we can't just go off half cocked and hope everything works out. What if there's too many of them for us to fight? They could kill one of us, use the other for the ritual, and now our kids are orphans." Ok, so I would be lying if I said that wasn't one of my worst fears. I'm so afraid that one day we're going to go out on patrol together and we won't come home. Or worse, we come home but we're vampires and we try to kill our children and they're forced to kill us first. Ok, let's not think about that because it's really starting to piss me off. Anyway, she gets this look on her face like I just slapped her and called her retarded and I guess verbally I did. I won't admit it out loud, though.

"We're not gonna go off half cocked, B. We'll take Sky, Lily and Kennedy with us. If it still isn't enough we'll get some of the girls to help out," she says and I can see some tears building up in her eyes. She loves our babies so much and sitting around here waiting to be told when she can go off and protect them is killing her but she has to wait. We can't just run off without knowing exactly what we're up against or we might as well give them Addison on a silver platter. "I'm not gonna let anything happen to her, B. I'll die first." I feel like someone just dumped an entire truck load of rocks into my chest. This feels like the Glory situation all over again. Why can't my life just be simple for like, a whole year? Is one year of peace really too much to ask?

"I know you would, Faith, and I would too," I tell her and my voice isn't as loud as it was, and my tone isn't as angry. I get it, I really do. Every fiber of my being is telling me to go out there and kill those demons before they get a chance to go after my baby but I have to control it because when I act impulsive people get hurt. "But we need to find out more about these demons before we try to take them down. I don't want them having some kind of power or ability that we don't know about that they could seriously use against us. That would be like a suicide mission." She lets out a little sigh but I know she's going to keep arguing. One of the things I love most about her is she sticks to her convictions, but it's also something about her that drives me crazy.

"If you two are finished squabbling like children, we found some information on the demons," Willow says and I look over at her with I'm sure a surprised look on my face. Wow, that was fast. Normally researching demons can take hours. Days or weeks even depending on how old they are and how much exposure they've had. Faith and I finally stop arguing and let Willow talk. If she tells us what we need to know then we can get out of here and hopefully be back before the kids have to get up for school in the morning. "It says here that every five hundred years on the night of a full moon a new leader of the demon clan is picked and the ritual they perform gives him more power and strength so he can assert himself as the leader." Let me guess, they're male demons. Wait, what she said doesn't make sense.

"If they've been doing this for centuries then what's so special about this ritual? Why are they able to take over the world?" Out of the corner of my eye I can see Faith smirk and I know she wants to make a Pinky and the Brain joke right now but she knows better. She's been referencing that a lot because she bought the Animaniacs DVDs to show the kids what 'real' cartoons really are. She would have a point if she weren't totally insane. Again, why does my mind keep wandering off to pointless things I shouldn't be thinking about? I think I need to have my head checked.

"The spell that turned all the potentials into full grown slayers," Spike says and I glance over at him. I cross my arms over my chest and I guess I look intimidating because he backs off a little. His tone was kind of harsh which I don't appreciate. He understands that using that spell was the only way we were going to win, but he also knows that there were devastating consequences, and he hasn't really gotten over it. "It's always just been one girl in all the world. Now it's hundreds, maybe thousands of slayers all over the world. If they can perform the ritual with a normal slayer it would give them more power than they've ever had before. If they can get a hold of the true essence of the slayer, of your little bit, they would be unstoppable."

"This is always going to be a problem for her, isn't it?" I ask no one in particular. I sound so…tired. Sick and tired of everything that always happens to us, especially her. I know that we have more important things to focus on at the moment but as her mother I feel like I have every right to be sick and tired. "There's always going to be some demon or vampire cult that wants to dominate or destroy the world and she's going to be the thing they need for the ritual. I wish we could do something to make it stop." I'm starting to regret not asking Willow to bind their powers when they were babies. Faith and I decided it would be best if they were able to grow into their powers, to learn about it when they're young, but I think that was a mistake.

"Come on, B, don't think like that," Faith says and she has her 'talk Buffy down from a mental breakdown' voice on. It's the same voice she gets when we're out on patrol and we run into a stray dog that's afraid of people. It's soothing and calming, and I know she's only doing it because she thinks I'm about to lose it. "Don't feel guilty for having her. It's just part of the deal. The boys are going to have it just as rough when they get older." Later on she'll have to explain why that's supposed to be comforting. "You know they love being slayers. Part of it is dealing with demons. It can't be all super powers and good looks. There's gotta be a downside." I let out a little sigh and shut the book I had been reading.

"You're right," I say with a little sigh. She's not right but I want to get this over with and now before those demons make a move. I would rather be on the offensive side of this fight. Ok, time to do the thing that everyone hates and turn into General Buffy. It's the only way we're going to get this done quickly. "Will, does it say anything about the demons themselves? Is there anything special you have to do to slay them or will basic decapitation work?" I wonder what type of conversation we would be having right now if we were normal and not slayers or a witch or a vampire with a soul.

"No, doesn't mention anything specific," she says and she keeps scanning through the pages. I don't mean magically or anything. She's just reading really fast. She gets that look on her face that she always gets when she finds bad news. I hate it when she gets 'bad news' face. It's never good. "They'll be extra defensive, though, and ready to ward off any attacks. Hours before the ritual they'll be at their weakest mystical-power wise. So be prepared for lots of physical resistance to compensate for that." I groan on the inside but don't let it out. I'm in General Buffy mode so emotions have to take a back seat.

"Great, and here I thought it was going to be easy," I say and rub my hands together. Ok, so maybe I'm a little rusty when it comes to being General Buffy because I haven't had to be this way in years. Since we don't have to do anything special to kill them it shouldn't be too difficult to come up with a plan. They sound like your basic demons, and killing basic demons is something I excel at. "Ok, Faith, you call Lily and Kennedy, tell them we need their help. Will, you think you can see if Sky will help out on this one? I know she's been cutting back on the patrols and staying fray-adjacent since Ashlyn was born but we could use the extra muscle." She nods her head and stands up.

"No problem. I'm sure she'll be more than willing to help since Addison could be in danger," she says and starts gathering the books up. I guess she's going to take them home with her. I would argue about leaving them here in case we need them but it's no use. The last time she left one of her books here someone who is totally not me spilled a cup of coffee on it and since then she hasn't trusted anyone enough to leave her books here without her. "If she's not it couldn't hurt taking along an all powerful Wicca." We exchange a small smile and it will never cease to amaze me how willing she is to put herself in danger to protect me and mine. She takes her books and leaves the house without another word, and I let out a little sigh. Please let this night end soon and without any casualties.

"Buffy, what can I do?" Spike asks and it startles me a little. To be honest I kind of forgot he was here. He's been so quiet and calm and he just kind of faded into the background. It's kind of surprising since he normally makes his presence well known. I guess since he's taken over for Angel it's changed the way he conducts himself on 'business calls'. "I don't want to step on anyone's toes but I can help." He could help since he has all of that vampire strength, he's a very well trained fighter, and he believes in the cause. But if he goes with us there will be too much posturing between him and Faith and I can't risk that happening. Besides, there's something more important he can do.

"You stay here," I tell him and he doesn't look happy about it. "I need someone capable to look after the kids and Willow has to stay with Ashlyn so she can't." I hear Faith let out a little chuckle and I know she's going to give him crap about this. I don't know why she would when we're talking about the safety of our children, but she likes making fun of Spike so I guess logic isn't really involved. I wish she could just let it go. What is wrong with her that she always gets so jealous whenever the three of us are in a room together? I never get jealous when we hang out with Xander and she took his virginity. Maybe if I start acting jealous when he's around she'll see how annoying it really is and stop.

"I'll do that," he says and he sounds disappointed. I guess he really wanted to get involved with the actual demon slaying. Well he'll just have to suck it up because I need someone that I trust completely with my babies so I won't have to worry about the demons making a move while we're gone. "Just be careful. Demons might not be as weak as Willow thinks and I don't want your little ones waking up in the morning without you here thinking I slaughtered their parents. Even miniature slayers are bad for a vampire's health." As much as I hate to admit it he could be right. Willow is genius level smart but she has been wrong before and will be wrong again. But we're talking about my kids so I need to trust her because she would never intentionally put them in harm's way.

"We'll be as careful as we can. You know how these things go. You plan for smooth but they never go that way," I say and he nods his head a little because he knows exactly what I'm talking about. "The kids have already been put to bed so they won't be any trouble. If Matthew gets up and wants to know what's going on just tell him there was a situation we needed to take care of and to go back to bed. Don't mention anything about Addison possibly being a target. He's always been crazy protective of her and you'll just freak him out. If one of the little ones wake up just give them a glass of water and send them back to bed. They're good kids and they know the rules so they shouldn't give you any trouble." It's weird how much mom-mode and General Buffy really are alike. "Why are you smiling at me like that?

"I'm happy for you," he says and the smile doesn't go away. You've known Spike as long as I have so you know how rare it is for him to have a genuine smile that isn't leering or used to emphasize some type of sick double innuendo. "You worked so hard in Sunnydale, went through so much heartache and disappointment and thought having this kind of life wasn't possible." Does he really have to remind me all of that now? He knows how caught up in my own mind I can get and he's just bringing up things I shouldn't be thinking about. "Now you have a loving family and the most loyal friends a person could ask for. I can't think of anyone who deserves it more than you." I look into his eyes and all I see is exactly how sincere he really is. I can't help but smile back.

"Thank you, Spike. That really means a lot to me," I tell him and I start to feel a little guilty. He brought up things I shouldn't be thinking about and one memory in particular comes to mind. I know I shouldn't feel bad about it but we always left it unresolved and I want to address it now that we're in the same room and being honest with each other. "I know back in Sunnydale I told you I love you and for a while I hinted that maybe we could work things out and be together for real, but I wouldn't give up what I have with Faith for the world." I mean that literally. If it came down to saving the world and giving all of this up, I would rather let the world end because without my family nothing else matters. I know that sounds a little dramatic but it's true. "I'm sorry if you're disappointed but I guess we were never meant to be."

"I'm always going to be a little disappointed," he says and breaks the eye contact we had going. I'm glad he did because it was getting a little intense. "You're Buffy and I'll always love you." That's really not what I wanted to hear. I was hoping he would say that he's moved on and not pining anymore. He looks into my eyes again and he's nothing but serious. "But you're happy, anyone can see that and I just have to accept that it's not me who's going to be the one to make you feel this way. I just wish there was something I could say to get your woman to back off. Bent's like a dog with a bloody bone." I think getting through Faith's thick skull would require surgical tools, or a mallet, or Olaf's troll hammer. That might work.

"Hey B, time to get going," I hear Faith say and I whip around. I totally forgot she was in the room. She was on the phone so she probably missed a lot of the beginning of that conversation. "Ken and Lil are gonna meet us outside the training house. Lily doesn't want to leave the girls alone with Cordelia so Xander's gonna keep an eye on the place while they're gone." Really, how long was she standing there? I wonder how much of the conversation she heard and what she's going to do with what she heard. Hopefully she'll save her ranting and attitude for after all of this is over because I really don't want to be in the middle of fighting for our daughter's life and her bitching that Spike and I shared a little moment in our kitchen.

"Ok, will you get some weapons? I'll be there in a second," I tell her and I expect her to get a little huffy about it because I'm asking her for alone time with Spike but she doesn't and I don't know how to feel about that. She nods her head a little but she wasn't looking at me. She was looking at Spike. I guess she heard most of that conversation if they're exchanging that kind of look. I feel like they should be sitting down and talking about how many goats I'm worth, but I'll get mad about their possessiveness later. We have some demons to slay. When she leaves I turn back to Spike and he looks a little…well, his facial expression is back to neutral so I have no idea how he really feels right now.

"We'll be back as soon as we can," I tell him and I lick my lips. I'm getting nervous even though I know I shouldn't. Spike is a good fighter and he's the new champion for the Powers, so there's no way he would let anything happen to my kids. I still need to voice my concerns or I might go crazy. "Spike, please, protect them like they're your own." He looks into my eyes and I can practically see the wheels turning in his head and he gives a little nod. I get the urge to hug him but I don't want Faith to see and possibly misinterpret it as anything more than a 'thank you for promising to protect my babies because we don't have time for that argument. Like I said before, we have some demons to slay and they've not only awoken the slayer inside of me, but they've pissed off my maternal side and they're not getting out of this alive.


I really fuckin hate it when Spike comes to town. Buffy thinks it's because I get jealous because of their sexual history together. She has a past and so do I and it is what it is. You can't change it so there's no point whining about it. I get mad because she looks at him the way she should be looking at me. She gets that big 'Buffy' look on her face and you just want to take her in your arms and hold her for twenty minutes straight. And I can tell he wants to but he has enough common sense not to 'cause we both know I'd stake his ass in a heartbeat if he tried anything with her. Ok, so maybe I wouldn't stake him 'cause the world needs him but I would kick his ass to a bloody pulp, that's for fuckin sure.

I gotta say I do feel better about it now than I did half an hour ago. Hearing him say that he's gonna try to accept the fact that B loves me and not him is a big relief. There was so much about the two of them that was left wide open and thinking about how they were gonna either get closure or see where it takes them was driving me fucking crazy. I always thought one day Buffy's gonna realize how much time she's been wasting with me and they're gonna drive off into the sunset in Spike's DeSoto. With Springsteen playing on the radio. And she'll have perfect hair. You can probably tell I've thought a lot about it, but you can't really blame me. They've always had crazy chemistry together and if you think about it we're kinda the same. We started off wanting to kill each other and we ended up hooking up.

But I don't have to worry about that anymore. I heard it straight from the vampire's mouth that he's not going to make a pass at B. Buffy also said she would never leave me and I believe her. We've been through so much over the years and I finally trust her completely. I think it has to do with the fact that I've finally forgiven her for all of the fucked up shit we've been through. It seemed like whenever things got stressful between us she would kick me out and a small part of me still resented her for it. I didn't even know I was doin that until one day I had a really long talk with my dad after work. We just sat around talking and drinking and I opened up to him about a lot of shit and he gave me some advice. Told me I need let go of the bad shit from the past, and I've learned to let it go and it feels great.

"Great, this is just fucking great," Lily says and puts her crossbow away. We're at the stables that are on the very edge of town and trust me when I say she doesn't sound fuckin happy at all. That's because we're here and the demons we were ready to slay aren't here. We've checked every stall and there's nowhere else they could be hiding. There's stuff here that's clearly demonic but they're gone so they're probably out looking for a victim to use for their ritual and we've wasted our time, and ten dollars in gas. What? I drove and I'm not getting reimbursed for that shit, it matters. "The demons are loose, the girls are probably out of their rooms doing God knows what, and fifty dollars says Cordelia is trying to redecorate my training house." I would point out that it's my training house but I don't want to have that fight with her right now.

"For the love of God would you stop complaining? All you've been doing for the last three hours is bitch," Kennedy says and she sounds like she's having a mini-melt down. Maybe we should let her and Cordy stay at our house instead of the training house. Nah, I like my house just the way it is and Lily's right, Cordy tries to redecorate everywhere she goes. It's a nervous habit that's also annoying as hell. "What is it about dating Xander that turns women into angry shells of themselves? Is he just not enough in the sack?" Damn. Remind me to never talk shit about Cordy 'cause if Ken is snappin at a chick she barely knows I'm thinking she'll try to punch me in the face.

"Will both of you cut it out? We don't have time to deal with your bullshit. We have to find those demons as soon as we can, and fighting over petty stuff isn't going to get us there any faster," B says and she sounds pissed as hell. Well, not really pissed but her tone is kinda harsh. Kinda like when we take the kids to the movies and they won't stop fighting over the popcorn and B kinda snaps at 'em. I think it's pretty clear she's been freaking out internally for a while and it's starting to spill over. She gets like this in stressful situations and I don't fuckin blame her.

"Buffy, Willow doesn't know for sure if they're going after Addy. It was just a guess," I tell her and I make damn sure my voice is low and my tone is calm. The last thing I need is to start a fight 'cause her freaking out is freaking me out, you know? Those demons are probably going after Addy, why wouldn't they? But saying it out loud isn't going to help shit. Keeping Buffy calm is important to the plan or bad shit might happen. I have a feeling tonight isn't gonna end well and my instincts about this shit are rarely wrong.

"You're right," B says and I have to fight the urge to ask for that statement in writing. B hardly ever admits that I'm right. I think that's just a spouse thing 'cause I hardly ever admit that she's right, and my dad and Brittany are the same way. "But Cordelia saw those demons take over the world and stopping apocalypses is just what I do and fighting about irrelevant things right now is childish and pointless and making me want to swing my axe very hard." Yeah, 'cause that wasn't a passive aggressive threat. Nope, not at all. There's an awkward and very tense silence while we walk back to the car and this is really starting to get to me. I'm not the kind of person that deals with silence well.

"So Lil," I say and she lets out an irritated sigh. She hates it when I call her that which is part of why I call her that. If she wouldn't have a bad reaction I wouldn't do it as often. "How is ol' Xander boy in the sack?" I know asking these questions I'm just asking for trouble but I need to fill the silence with something and Kennedy brought it up so I'll just blame her. She's the perfect scapegoat in this situation. She's usually the perfect scapegoat in any situation because she's the kind of person who always says what's on her mind. Anyway, back to what I was talking about. "Has he learned to keep up with a slayer?"

"Faith, can we not talk about your past conquests while searching for demons who want to take over the world, or ever?" B says and she sounds hella irritated. I can't help but smirk a little bit. B hates it when I bring up that one night I had with Xander. I don't know why she always gets so upset. It's not like I was in love with him or he was in love with me. Fuck no. I fought a demon but it was too strong to kill so I had to run off like a dog with a tail between its legs. Xander was just there and I was horny as hell 'cause of the whole 'lack of a kill' thing. If anyone else was in that room with me I woulda jumped 'em just like I did Xander. So see, it's no big deal.

"Come on, B, lighten up. I'm just curious," I tell her and give her a little smirk and she rolls her eyes. I know I'm going to get a lot of shit for this later 'cause B only thinks she's not jealous of me and Xander, but I know her better than she thinks. Whenever I give the Xan-man I hug she gets this glare on her face like she's about to skin us both. It's scary but sexy at the same time and if she didn't do it I probably wouldn't hug him almost every time I saw him. Since he moved here that's been a lot. He probably thinks I got a crush on him or something. Hmmm, maybe I should lay off the hugs for a while.

"Oh yeah," Lily says and she has her own smirk on her face. "He can definitely keep up with me." Now she has a big dumb smile on her face so I know she's not lying. I can tell when Lily's lying and right now she's being totally honest. At least Xander is getting the job done 'cause if the sex is bad it can affect the rest of the relationship. She gets a curious look on her face and she looks a little jealous too. Fuck, I hope I didn't just poison that well 'cause now that Xander's living here we're back to being buds. We completely own at Halo. "You slept with him?" She doesn't sound mad or upset but Lily's good at covering up the emotions in her voice so I better tread lightly.

"Yeah, way back in SunnyD," I say and make sure to emphasize the 'way' just in case. I slept with him so long ago it almost feels like it happened in a past life or something. And I guess in a way it was 'cause I'm totally not the same person I was when I first tore through Sunnydale like a tornado. "I popped his cherry. Boy only lasted seven minutes but I was so revved up from a fight I had with a demon it got the job done." I hear Kennedy snort and I can't help but smile. I hope she and Lil don't get into a cat fight. On second thought, I hope they do 'cause that would be so fuckin hot.

"Really?" B says and she sounds…surprised. Ok, what the fuck is she doing in this conversation? She doesn't sound mad or jealous. She sounds genuinely surprised, but it has to be fake. B hates it when I bring up me and Xander bumpin uglies. I don't bring it up all the time 'cause I'm not an asshole but it gets mentioned every now and then. "When Spike and I were still going at it like rabbits he "got the job done" five or six times a night. Our record is eleven in one night." I see what the fuck she's doing. Hell, even Ken sees what the fuck is going on 'cause she looks a little nervous, like me and B are about to throw down or something. I glance over at B and she has that challenging look on her face which just confirms that she only said that to be a bitch.

"That was low, B," I tell her and shake my head a little. She told me a lot of what she did with Spike like in fuckin excruciating detail. It was really hard to hear and not drive down to L.A. and put a stake through is undead heart. But B wouldn't want that. Not that he has a soul now and everything. So what she said was low 'cause she knows I hate Spike more than I hate white chocolate. And I fuckin hate white chocolate so fuckin much. B gets a smirk on her face 'cause she knows she's getting to me and I just let out a little sigh. I'm not gonna fight with her over this. I'm not going to let it get to me. Maybe if I say that enough times it'll be true.

"Lighten up, F. I was just going with the conversation." Ok, maybe we will be throwing down tonight. We haven't had a good sparring match in a while. Maybe if we work out all of this aggression now I won't be pissed off when we get home and put my boot through Spike's face. Just the thought of that Billy Idol wanna-be touching her sends my blood pressure through the fuckin roof. One of these days I'm gonna have a Goddamn stroke. Really, what the fuck was she thinking bringing up Spike like that? Yeah, I brought up Xander which was kind of a shitty thing to do, but there's no fuckin comparison between my one night with Xander and the shit that Buffy and Spike did. Hell, some of that shit I won't even do and I'll do just about anything.

"You two haven't changed a bit since I left, and that was years ago," Kennedy says and she sounds annoyed but I can tell she's just joking around. B and I have always been like this. We argue and we bicker and five minutes later we're going at it hot and heavy. It's just the way we are and nothing's going to change that. I hope it never changes 'cause the sex is always better when she's kinda mad at me and I don't care if that makes me kinda weird. You have no fuckin clue how sexy she is when she gets all dom and she always gets dom when she's kinda pissed off. "It's sad, really. Someone should throw a telethon for you because you probably have some weird disease that's stopping you from growing up."

"Right, 'cause you and Cordy playin Ken and Barbie is a sign of maturity," I say and she lets out a little gasp. That's right, bitch, don't give it unless you can take it. I guess she never thought I use something like that against her in front of other people, especially people she barely knows. Ken tells me everything, and I mean fuckin everything. Every little detail about what it's like to be with Cordelia is now burned into my brain. It's a good thing Ken is a slayer 'cause apparently Cordy is a scratcher and she makes Ken bleed all the time but the marks are always healed up by morning.

"Might not be very mature, but it's hot as hell. A little role playing every now and then is good for the soul," she says and we head up the hill towards the car. Why the fuck did the stables have to be all the way out in the middle of fuckin nowhere? It wouldn't be so bad if my car has four wheel drive and was a big truck or SUV or something. But it's not so we had to walk about three miles just to get to the fuckin stables and they were empty. Anyway, I hate to admit it but Ken's right. Me and B role play every once in a while and it's always fuckin awesome. You have no fuckin idea how sexy she looks in cowgirl boots and a matching hat. Especially when she's riding me wearing nothing but the boots and hat. Good times, goooood times.

"Really?" Lily asks and she sounds a little shy. She gets like that sometimes and I'll only admit it to myself but it's kind of cute. She kinda reminds me of B when she gets all shy. Just don't tell B I said that 'cause she gets jealous over stupid shit enough as it is. "I've tried role playing before and it was really awkward. We weren't doing anything really weird or anything. There was a cop uniform and handcuffs involved but I couldn't go through with it." Cop uniform and handcuffs? Those are so going on my Christmas list. Well, maybe not. Maybe I'll get a siren and put it on my car and pull B over when she's on her way home from work and handcuff her in the backseat of her car. Damn, that sounds fuckin hot.

"I was a little weird about it too at first," Kennedy says and I let out a little sigh. I swear, every time we go slaying in groups we always end up talking about this kind of shit. It started out fun, talking about sex and whatnot, and now they're talking about their feelings. What, are we going to sit around and braid each other's hair and wait for our cycles to sync? Ok, so I'm getting irritated, but that's not my fault. I wanna find these demons as quick as fuckin possible so I can kill them and get the fuck on with my life. My baby girl could be in danger and I was joking around earlier about talking about Xander 'cause I was looking for a distraction but I'm really fuckin scared for her. "Willow's the one who turned me on to it. She used to dress up as a-"

"If you want to keep your tongue you won't finish that sentence." Fuck! That scared the hell out of me. I forgot Sky was with us, she's been so fuckin quiet. Since she had Ashlyn she hasn't really liked slaying all that much. She was never really into it in the first place. She's been practicing witchcraft since she was a kid and even though she's not like mother-earth and connected with the roots of nature, it's really what she'd rather be doing. She never got a thrill out of it like most slayers do and since she had the baby she just wants to get it done so she can get back to her family. I get it, I really do, but she doesn't have to be so…anti-social about it.

"Sorry," Kennedy says and she sounds like she means it. I glance over at her and I can tell she does mean it. She looks kinda embarrassed and I can't help but smirk. Ken doesn't get embarrassed often. It's nice to see her humbled a little. "Totally forgot you were standing right there. Did I ever tell you how happy I am for you and Willow? I'm really happy she finally found someone who can give her everything she deserves." Way to cover your ass, Ken. I look over at B and she's got the same look on her face that I know I have on mine. There might be some bloodshed if Ken's not careful. Sky may not be in to the slaying but that doesn't mean she's living without a possessive slayer side 'cause she totally is.

"You have, and thanks," she says and I let out a little sigh of relief 'cause she sounds sincere. So those two aren't going to get into it tonight, which is fucking good. Got enough shit on my mind without those two bickering like little kids. I feel like a total ass now for spouting off about Xander and expecting B to be cool with it. Hell, for even expecting Lily to be cool with it. No one wants to hear about their significant other's ex and even though me and Xander never dated, bringing up our one night was kind of fucked. I'm gonna have to apologize to B later. Maybe she'll let me give her head as an apology. That would fuckin rock. "This is a total waste of time." Ok, she sounds really fuckin agitated. Where the hell did that come from?

"Since when is hunting down demons who want to overthrow the Earth a waste of time?" Lily asks and I shake my head a little bit. 'Overthrow the Earth', is she fucking kidding me? All I've wanted to do today is watch Pinky and the Brain with my kids 'cause they love it and growing up it was one of my favorite cartoons, but I never got the time and she's making it worse. Remind me to go hard on her tomorrow when we spar together. The girls in training could use a real demonstration for once instead of that baby shit we teach them. Using kid gloves is for the best since they don't have full control of their powers, but it would be nice to give them a chance to really let loose. Anyway, back to what we're talking about now.

"The ritual they need to perform to get that kind of power has to be done on a full moon. The new moon was yesterday so the moon won't even be visible until Thursday. They can't do the ritual until next month," Sky says and she sounds pretty fuckin bitchy. I know why. Ashlyn has been sick all week and it's killing her to be away from her baby when she's sick. I get the same way when my kids get sick. They're slayers so they don't get sick often, but when they do I'm like a mama grizzly when her cubs are in danger. "Maybe the vision was just a warning and now we have enough time to prepare. Maybe that stuff back at the stables wasn't demonic at all. Maybe those bones were from a meal from a fox or coyote or some sociopath killed a cat."

"Or maybe my daughter's life could be in danger and we're not giving up until I know for sure that these demons aren't a threat," B cuts in and she doesn't sound happy at all. I put my hand on her lower back and she tenses up. Great, if my touch makes her tense then she's on the verge of a freak out. Sky better watch herself or she's going to be on the wrong end of an angry pint sized slayer. And I can't say I'll really do anything to hold B back. "No one made you come, Sky, and I understand why you don't want to be here, I really do. But since you're here could you please stop treating this like a burden? If Ashlyn was in danger you know I would do everything I could to help." Closing with a guilt trip, typical Buffy move.

"I'm sorry. I know this is important, and I know you would be there if Ashlyn was in danger. She has a double ear infection right now and was running a little bit of a fever all day and that's all I can really think about right now," Sky says and I cringe on the inside. Ear infections are the worse, especially when they get so fuckin bad the ear drum pops. That happened to me when I was a kid. I'm just glad it happened while my dad was still around and I had someone there taking care of me otherwise it might have gotten even more infected and a whole bunch of other bad shit might have happened. "How do you two balance being moms and slayers? I don't think I can do this." I don't really have an answer to give her. It's just something you learn to do over time and some days I'm better at it than others.

"I really don't have an answer for you. I've always talked about personal issues when patrolling with my friends, just ask Willow. Worrying about the kids…you just have to push all of that to the back of your mind and let the slayer within you come out to play. I know that sounds simple but it takes a lot of practice and sometimes I can't do it." Most of the time she can't do it but I'm not going to point that out 'cause it'll start a fight. "You just have to trust the person you leave them with will keep them safe. I've known Willow since we were teenagers, and I know for a fact she would never let anything bad happen to Ashlyn." That's easy to say but you can never completely protect your kids from bad shit happening to them. And I'm not just talking about the demon stuff. Mattie almost broke his leg when he fell out of the tree house but luckily he's a slayer and the impact wasn't hard enough to cause a break.

Everyone goes quiet as we pile into the car. I'm driving, Buffy gets shotgun 'cause it's my car and she's my wife, and the three stooges are in the backseat. I turn on the radio as soon as I start the car 'cause I hate tense silences but I don't wanna open my mouth and start another disastrous conversation. I'm already going to get enough shit for bringing up Xander like that. I don't want to bring up anything else and dig that hole deeper. I really fuckin hate that we didn't find those demons. I wanted to get this shit over with so I can sleep easy tonight and not have to worry about Addy getting kidnapped by demons. B was right earlier when she said this is always going to be a problem for Addy and it isn't fuckin fair. I try really fuckin hard not to, but sometimes I feel guilty bringing my babies into a world that's so against them.

But enough thinking about that depressing shit. I drop Kennedy and Lily off at the training house and drop Sky off at her place and head home. It doesn't take very long 'cause Willow and Sky only live a few blocks away from us. When I pull into the driveway I shut off the car but we just sit here. I look over at B and I don't think she's even realized we're home and the car has stopped moving. She's zoning out big time and that's never a good thing. Ok, so once it was a good thing but I really fucking doubt she's trying to think of a way to get everyone out of the house so we can spend all night fucking on every surface in the living room and kitchen.

I reach over and gently take her hand in mine. It startles her and her whole body gives a little twitch and I can't fight the smirk that pulls at my lips. It goes right the fuck away when she looks over at me and she's got tears in her eyes. I bring her hand up to my mouth and give the back of it a soft, lingering kiss. The tears don't go away but at least now she's got a little smile on her face. That's my baby: one big contradiction in one small, hot package. I have something that I want, nah fuck that, something that I need to tell her but for whatever fucked reason I feel insecure about it. Like it's all gonna come out wrong and she's gonna get pissed off. Fuck it, I'm just gonna go for it.

"Did I ever tell you about the time I stalked you for a day?" I ask and my voice sounds all soft but not meek like I thought it was going to. She shakes her head no and gently wipes the tears outta her eyes before they get the chance to fall and smear the makeup. "It was after I started workin for the mayor. He told three of his best vamps to take you out so you wouldn't be able to interfere with whatever the fuck he needed to do that night. I followed you all day, watched you walk down the halls and go to class. You looked so perfect that day, the sun kept catchin your hair just right and everyone looked back at you when you walked down that hall like they knew you were somethin special, they just weren't too sure why." I look down at our joined hands and start playing with her wedding and engagement rings.

"It doesn't really make sense me followin you in the day when he hired vampires to kill you, but I didn't wanna take the chance that they would try to catch you off guard, in the day. I remember hiding in the library and you were talkin to Willow about something and you kept getting this big smile on your face and I remember thinkin you looked like a little piece of heaven just waiting for someone to come along and notice and I wanted to be that person but I thought it would never happen." I keep playin with her rings and man I was such a fuckin moron back then. No doubt about that. I look up into her eyes for just a second 'cause for some fucked up reason I'm feeling kind of shy. She looks curious and a little confused. Normally I would think that's cute but not right now.

"That night they followed you into a cemetery, had this big plan about how they were gonna lure you into a crypt and corner you. Even back then you were Buffy: legendary vampire slayer, but I really think their plan would've worked 'cause they were so strong, B. They were walkin towards you, and I ran at 'em. Knocked one of 'em to the ground and fought them. You saw some other demon and ran off, and I had the upper hand for a few minutes but they knocked me to the ground and just kicked the shit out of me. Broke almost all my ribs, but I staked all three of 'em. I thought for sure the boss was gonna kill me. No way in hell was he gonna just let me walk after I took out his three best boys, especially when I did it to save Buffy the big pain in his ass.

"But I made up some bullshit lie. Said you were the one that took 'em out and before I got the chance to try Angel swooped in and handed my ass to me since he had such a big love-on for you and followed you around wherever you went." I bring her hand up to my mouth again and kiss the back of it and I see goosebumps pop up on her arm. Why the fuck she's not wearing a jacket I'll never fuckin no. It's the middle of January and yeah we live in a desert but it gets really fuckin cold at night here. "I was so fucked up back then I knew for sure that even if you did love me back the way I wanted you to I would end up fucking everything up because I wouldn't know how to take your love without running for the hills." I have no fuckin clue what the point of that story was but for some reason I feel a little better.

"Faith," she says and just the sound of her voice makes me look up at her. She sounds so taken aback, but sad at the same time. She squeezes my hand a little tighter and the tears are back. "My life isn't worth more than yours. You can't think like that, especially when we're out on patrol or hunting down some demons. I've lost so much, Faith, and if I lost you I don't think I could ever come back from that. Not even for the kids." I unbuckle my seatbelt and lean over and kiss her with every ounce of love and passion I have for her. It's one hell of a kiss, to say the least. She's kissin me back just as passionately. I know this sounds corny but it feels like my veins are on fire and I just need to touch her, need to hold her close and make those tears go away.

I don't want her to ever think that she isn't strong enough. She's so strong she could survive anything and our babies are going to need her if anything ever happens to me. She just doesn't realize how strong she is, is all. I seriously think we're about to move this into the backseat and pull a total Jack and Rose, but then I hear a knocking on the passenger window. We pull back from the kiss and we're both breathing hella hard and her face is flushed and her eyes are so fuckin green they look amazing and a shiver runs down my spine because I know exactly what that means. Anyway, Spike's standing there looking worried as hell and it kills my libido right away. B opens the door and I can already tell she's freaked out.

"I went upstairs to check on the kids and Joseph's gone," he says and time fuckin stops. Joey's gone? Moose, Joe Cool, strong like Donkey Kong, my little partner in driving Buffy crazy is gone? What the fucking fuck? Spike said he would keep them safe, how the fuck could this fuckin happen? "I think he snuck out. The window is wide open and the bed sheets are hanging out like a rope. Takes after the niblet, that one, she was always runnin off." Why the fuck did I teach the kids how to do that? Oh right, just in case there's ever a fire and they get trapped in their rooms. Why the fuck would my eight-year-old baby sneak out? It's not a full moon so there's no werewolves out but there's still a bunch of vamps and demons out there that would love a little pint sized snack and he's never been slaying before. Fuck, I hope he's ok. And he's gonna be in so much fuckin trouble when I find him.


My baby is gone. My little baby who's never really been a troublemaker climbed out his window and now he's God knows where getting into only God knows what kind of trouble. What is it with the boys in this house thinking they need to protect everyone else? I think I need to reconsider the way I've been parenting because something is clearly wrong with the way I've been doing it. He probably overheard us and now he's trying to find those demons. Matthew did the same thing a few years ago. I was kidnapped by a demon and my son saved me. The difference between Matthew and Joseph is Matthew has always been really strong and Joseph doesn't have any slayer strength. He's just a normal little boy. We're not sure why but he's never been as strong as the other two when they were his age. So my helpless little boy has run off to try and slay some demons. This night could not get any worse.

"Come on, Red, where is he?" Faith says as Willow does the locator spell. We're over at her house, Spike is back at ours guarding our other children and making sure they stay in their beds. Faith was ready to dust him for letting Joseph get away like this but it isn't his fault. Even though he's not a slayer we have trained him to be sneaky just in case something happens and he needs to get away undetected. It must be in the genes because Dawn was always really sneaky too whenever she climbed out her window. I watch Faith back away from the coffee table and she walks over to me. I've been standing back the whole time trying to figure out in my head what my baby boy was thinking. "I can't believe he did this. God, he could be anywhere." She's on the verge of a breakdown. That much is clear.

"We'll get him back," I tell her and she lets out a big sigh. I feel like our roles are reversed somehow. Like she's the one who's supposed to be comforting me while I'm about to have a breakdown. It isn't unusual. Normally when something big like this happens she's the one who takes care of everyone first before she deals with her own emotions. I guess this is just a little too much. First we think the demons are after Addison and now Joseph is going after the demons. At least that's what we think. Maybe he snuck out for a different reason. Maybe he heard us yelling at each other and he wanted to get away from it. He's always been so sensitive, my little tender heart and when Faith and I fight he always takes it really bad. I reach out and pull her close to me. She wraps her arms around me in a big hug and it feels like she's trying to squeeze the life right out of me.

"I know we will, but I fuckin scared, Buffy," she says and I hear her voice starting to get all chocked up. I guess she was closer to that breakdown than I thought. "He's not like the other two, he's just a boy. He can't protect himself like Mattie and Addy can. He's helpless." Does she have to say everything I've been thinking? Somehow that makes it scarier. Like when it was just in my head it wasn't a real possibility but now that she's put it out there it can happen. "Why didn't he get our powers, B? How come we never really looked into it?" We never looked into it because we thought it was a gift. He would get to grow up and be like everyone else but now it's not a gift. Now it's a nightmare and there's nothing we can do to stop it.

"I don't know but we'll find out when we get him back, ok? After we deal with the demons we'll do some research with Willow and try to come up with something. We can even go out to Cleveland and see if Giles can find anything out." I feel her nod her head and it makes me feel a little better. She isn't going to argue, to start listing all of the things that can happen between now and then that could stop us from doing that. Like Joseph being killed by those demons, or kidnapped by a human being. It isn't just the demons we have to worry about with him. He isn't strong enough to defend himself again normal human beings like the other two and there are very sick people in this world. If Sunnydale taught me anything it's to never underestimate how deranged a human being can be. We all saw what Warren did and he used to just be a normal guy who was power hungry.

"Guys, I found something," Willow says and we both rush over to the table. I can't believe it took that long. Normally when she's doing a locator spell she finds whoever it is within a minute or so. We waited for five minutes and from the sound of her voice I don't think she found him. Plus she said she found 'something'. Not 'I found Joseph' or 'I found him' but 'I found something'. Maybe her wording means nothing and I'm looking too much into it because I'm going crazy. One of my children is missing. I think I have the right to go a little out of my mind. "I couldn't find Joseph because there's something interfering with the spell. There's a presence, a strong magical presence pulling focus away from Joseph's essence." I look down at the map and there's a bright light coming from the woods. Why there's a forest in the middle of Nevada and why no one's ever questioned that blows my freaking mind. This is a desert, there shouldn't be a forest.

"What is that, Will? Is that where the demons are?" I ask and I sound a little panicked. Willow was our only hope in locating our son and it didn't work. Maybe if she had Sky help her then their magic would be strong enough but Sky is trying to calm Ashlyn down. The poor baby has been crying this whole time because of her ear infections. She's in a lot of pain, which I don't blame her for, but the crying is putting everyone on edge. Well, even more than we already would have been. Anyway, Willow gets this look on her face that I've seen many times before. It's the look of 'you're not going to like this so I need to figure out how to word it very carefully'. Yeah, it's a very specific look. It goes hand in hand with her 'I think Faith has gone crazy again but don't be mad at me for saying it' expression but I haven't seen that one in years.

"Yes, it's definitely where the demons are," she says and her voice is higher pitched than normal and it sounds strained. She definitely doesn't have any good news. "If they're strong enough to mess up my spell then they're drawing power from the woods. The forest is made up of nothing but magic, that's how all of those plants and trees survive in the desert. If they're drawing that much power from it then they're going to open up some type of temporal fold. It takes a lot of power to do that and with how much they already have it probably means they're going to be doing it soon." Ok, so lost me at 'if they're strong enough'. She really needs to get it through her head that we don't understand the magic=speak like she does. Faith lets out an aggravated sigh and now she's cracking her knuckles. Crap, I need to step in and fix this.

"Will, in English, please," I say and she gets an apologetic look on her face. She lets out a little sigh of her own. I know she's stressing out a lot about this. Ever since they had Ashlyn they can relate to us a lot better. Before whenever the kids would get in trouble they were empathetic but you can't really know what it feels like when your child is in danger until you have one. You worry every second of the day if they're going to be alright and you're grateful when you can go a whole day without anything too bad happening. Now she really gets it and I know there's about a thousand different scenarios running through her mind of what she would do if it were Ashlyn missing but I really need her to focus. My son's life is literally in her hands right now and I'm starting to run out of my patience for her quirks.

"It means that these demons don't plan on staying on this plane for long. Whatever it is they're after they're going to find it and go home," she says and she has that look on her face again that's telling me I'm really not going to like this part. "If Joseph really is going after these demons and he finds them, if he gets too close when they do the spell he could be sucked into the temporal fold and taken to wherever it is they're going." Holy mother of God this is so much worse than I thought it was going to be. "And these demons are giving off so much power it wouldn't be hard for someone with slayer senses to find them." I look over at Faith and she looks as relieved as I feel. At least Willow was able to bring us some good news. Now this horrible situation doesn't feel as soul crushing.

"Joey doesn't have slayer senses," Faith says and Willow looks really confused. "He doesn't have any powers. He's not as strong as he should be if he were a slayer. There's something wrong with him and he can't defend himself and he's out there on his fucking own." I gently rub her back to try and calm her down but she brushes me off. She's letting her emotions get the best of her and I can't blame her. Maybe when we were first going out her doing something like that would have upset me, but we've been together for almost twenty years and stuff like that I don't take personally anymore. "That's why we need to find him right away, Red. He doesn't have super strength or speed like Mattie and Addy. He's completely helpless." She just has to keep talking, doesn't she? I'm not freaked out enough as it is without her reminding me just how dire the situation is?

"We'll find him, Faith, don't worry. It's just going to take a little more creative thinking to do it since the locator spell is useless right now," she says and looks up at me and I get a very uncomfortable feeling in my gut. What does she mean by 'creative thinking', and why is she looking at me like she's about to do something sneaky? "There is another spell we can use but I need some ingredients." Ok, now I really don't like the way she's looking at me. I don't think Faith likes it either since now she's standing right next to me and looking at Willow like she's going to gut her. I guess Willow realizes how intense she was getting because now she looks a little shy and apologetic. Why, I'm not so sure because I have no idea what she was thinking. Faith might have an idea since she's getting so irritated right now.

"What kind of ingredients do we need, Will?" I ask and she starts flipping through one of her spell books. It's so weird seeing this because she hasn't needed to use an actual spell in a really long time. Her power has grown so much over the years since the last battle in Sunnydale. She really doesn't need to use spells anymore. As long as she has candles or crystals to direct the power she can do almost anything. Time seems to slow as I watch her flip through the book. My little boy is out there, every second that passes could be the last second he's alive and I'm really starting to freak out over here. "I need Juniper root, flea bane, some rose petals, and some of your blood." Ok, that shouldn't be too big of an issue. Just a little prick on my finger and she'll have some.

"What aren't you saying, Red?" Faith asks and she crosses her arms over her chest. I look over at her and she looks really pissed off. Why is she getting so mad? Willow needs to do this spell to help us find our son. You would think she would be glad Willow found another way since the normal locator spell isn't working. Judging by the guilty look on Willow's face I guess Faith's concerns are not unfounded. She only gets that look when what she needs to do might be dangerous. If she thinks it's dangerous after all of the things we've been through then it must be pretty bad. Ok, now I'm starting to get a little nervous. Willow needs to hurry up and speak.

"I need to get the blood from a very specific body part for the spell to be effective. Normally a couple drops of blood from a fingertip would do the trick but because these demons are using really powerful magics and its throwing everything else off, I need to get some of the blood that gave Joseph life," she says and now I'm getting really worried. I'm getting worried because she just pulled a classic Willow-babble. In high school and even in college it wasn't an uncommon thing. She would get nervous or a little panicked and she would babble. Now that we're older it doesn't happen very often and when it does it's because she really stressed or worried about something. If she's really worried enough that she's babbling then whatever she needs to do is probably really bad.

"We both gave Joseph life. Can't you just take some blood from Faith and me?" I say and gently place my hand on Faith's back. I don't know why but that sentence just made me mad. Yes, I'm the one that carried him inside of me for ten months, but Faith also helped create him. He's as much hers as he is mine. I guess Willow understands why I'm so upset now because she looks even guiltier than before. I didn't mean for that to sound as accusing as it did. I guess I'm upset because I get so sick and tired of people asking me inappropriate questions when they meet my kids for the first time and find out I'm with another woman. They always want to know who their 'real' other parent is and I'm sick of it. Our babies are ours, end of story.

"Normally that would work but tonight it isn't. I need some blood from your uterus, Buffy. That's where Joseph got his life's blood from," she says and glances down at my stomach again. Ok, so that explains why she was staring at me weirdly earlier. She was probably trying to imagine how she was going to get some blood. "I could use a couple drops of Faith's blood to make the spell a little more powerful, but it will be useless if I don't get a couple drops from your uterus." Ok, so why are we still just talking about it? My baby is out there and she's worried about upsetting us by saying she needs blood from me. I get that this is going to be more than just a little prick on the finger but he's my baby and I'd do anything to get him back. She's a mother now too, she should know that.

"How the hell are you gonna do that, Red?" Faith asks and she sounds pissed. I look over at her and she looks as upset as she sounded. I understand the fact that she's protective, I really do. But this is one of our babies we're talking about. If she needed a freaking kidney I would gladly hand it over if it meant getting Joseph back. Willow stands up and walks over to trunk in the corner of the room. She says a few words and there's a small bright flash of light and the lid opens up. That's a neat trick. I might have to do that with some of my stuff the kids keep getting into. "Willow, I said 'how are you going to do that?'" Wow, Faith is really impatient right now. I completely understand it because I'm starting to get to that point also.

"Just like I would if I needed some from a fingertip: with a needle," Willow says and starts digging through the trunk. It doesn't take her long to find what she's looking for. She's always kept her stuff very well organized. Sometimes I wish that quality would rub off on Faith but unfortunately it never has. She stands up and turns around and my eyes go really wide. "But this one is a lot longer and it will be a little more painful and dangerous." You think? Now I know why Faith got so upset before. I guess she knew what Willow was going to need to do. Why I didn't think she was going to need a needle that big, I have no idea. I'm willing to do it, I have to do it, but I'll admit that now I'm a little scared, and by a little I mean a lot.

"Ok, Will, how do we do this?" I ask and I sounded more nervous than I thought I would. She gives me a small, sympathetic smile and points to the couch. "So I just lie down and lift up my shirt? That doesn't sound too hard." I don't even have to glance over at Faith to know she's thinking something dirty. "And don't even bother, Faith, it's too easy." She was going to make a smart ass comment. We've been together for almost twenty years. Trust me when I say I know her better than I know myself. "Let's get this over with." I walk over to the couch and lie down. At least the couch is really comfortable. It would suck double time if I had to do this on an uncomfortable couch. Why, I don't know but I have a feeling it would. I need to stop thinking about things that don't matter and focus. My son's life is on the line here.

Once I get situated I pull up my shirt just enough to expose my stomach. I feel really weird doing this and Faith must think it's a bad idea because she's right next to me looking very protective. She's always been really good about that. About protecting me when I'm vulnerable and making me feel completely safe. Right now it's a little hard because of the huge needle that's about to go into my body, but at least she's trying. Willow kneels down in front of me places her hand on my stomach. I feel a warm sensation against my skin and her palm starts to glow. She's doing some kind of magic, that much is obvious, but I have no idea why. Maybe she needs to do a ritual before she can get the blood? When she pulls her hand back there's still a soft glow on a little spot on my stomach.

"I just want to make sure I get the right spot," she says and gets a little reassuring smile on her face. I guess she can tell how nervous I am. She picks up the needle and gentle puts the tip of it on my skin. "This is going to sting a little." Why did she have to say that? I know I'm a slayer so I probably won't feel this as much as a normal person would, but I really don't like needles. They give me the wiggins. As Willow starts to push the needle in, I feel Faith gently caress my cheek. I look up at her and she looks deeply into my eyes. I know what she's doing. She's distracting me from the pain. It's amazing how she always seems to know just what I need. I guess that's what happens when two people have been together for almost two decades.

"Ok, that should be enough," she says and slowly takes the needle out. I look up and only see a few drops of blood and hopefully that will be enough for the spell. I'm feeling a little lightheaded over here and I don't know if I could do that again without passing out. She sets it down on the table and walks back over to the trunk. She starts pulling out some more stuff, which I'm assuming are the ingredients for the spell. I glance down at my stomach and the glowing is gone and my slayer healing has already taken care of the puncture mark. What does it matter? I shouldn't be taking a moment to be glad for slayer healing. I need to focus on finding my little boy because I don't get him back soon I think I might go crazy. And I'm not talking about the kind of crazy you can eventually get over. No, I'm talking about being committed to a nuthouse for the rest of my life kind of crazy.

"Alright, this should only take a couple of minutes to whip up," she says and places a small wooden bowl on the coffee table. She measures out everything that she needs and one by one starts pouring them into the bowl very slowly and carefully. So I take it this potion is sensitive. That's good to know. I don't recognize any of those powders or roots and even though I'm kind of curious about it now is not the time for a lesson in advanced potion making. "Faith, I'm going to need a little bit of your blood too. It will help strengthen the spell a little and we could use all of the help we can get." Truer words have never been spoken. Faith lets go of my hand and pulls out her switch blade. I hate that she carries that thing around with her. If she gets caught with it she's going to jail but she insists on taking it with her all the time just in case she needs it.

"How long is this going to take to work?" Faith asks and cuts the tip of her finger and holds it over the bowl. Willow squeezes to get a few drops of blood out and I concentrate on not passing out. "I mean, are we gonna be sitting on our asses for two hours waiting for all this stuff to combine enough to tell us where Joey is?" That's a pretty good question. Why didn't I think of asking that? It could have something to do with a giant needle being stuck in my belly. That tends to be pretty distracting. Willow lets out a little sigh and starts to stir everything together. I can practically see the wheels turning in her mind and I know she's trying as best she can to come up with an answer. With magic there's never a set time line. I'm sure she would have mentioned if this needed to brew for a week before it would be ready, but it could be five minutes or it could be an hour.

"It shouldn't take more than twenty minutes or so. You guys have stronger blood than most people so that should speed up the process. Normally something like this would take about an hour but with you guys being slayers it shouldn't take as long," she says and my heart feels like it's about to explode. This could take up to an hour? We need to find a faster way. My baby could be out there dying. He could be hurt, and not just by a demon but by something different. There's coyotes, stray dogs, rattlesnakes, scorpions. The desert isn't the safest place for a child to be wondering around at night. Why did we decide to move here? We should have found a different way to deal with our anxiousness. Just because there wasn't a lot of slaying in Northern California, it doesn't mean you just pack up your whole life and move to a different state.

"Will, we need it to work faster than that," I say and stand up. Faith stands by my side and can tell she's ready to jump in if things get out of hand. They shouldn't, though. I can keep a handle on my emotions…most of the time. When Dawn was being kidnapped all the time back in Sunnydale it became old hat, but this is completely different. He's my baby and he's out there probably scared out of his mind. "We don't know for sure what these demons are capable of, and if they're near the woods and Joseph finds them then anything could get a hold of him. It isn't a wolf moon but there are other types of demony wolf species. Remember those Tier demons that were imported from Germany and sold as pets but the owner couldn't handle the responsibility of keeping demons so he let them go in the woods? Well that could happen again.

"I know that, Buffy, but we can't rush this. If we try to use it before it's ready or I try to speed it up than it could have devastating consequences. Like the location could be wrong and Joseph is actually on the other side of town, or it could blow up in our faces and kill us all," she says and I let out an agitated sigh. Sometimes I really hate magic. "Lily and Xander are out with the girls patrolling and looking for him. They'll call if they find him, but right now we need to focus on this. I know you would rather be out there looking, I get that, but there's nothing more we can do right now." I know what she's saying make sense but I can't accept that. I can't just sit around here doing nothing while I wait for this potion to finish brewing.

"I get that, Will, I do. I just don't know how much more of this I can take," I say and Faith wraps her arms around me. I hug her back and rest my head against her shoulder. How come in every horrible situation she's the strong one? It used to be me. I used to be the one with an emotional wall of steel. So many bad things happened in Sunnydale and we always seemed to pull through so getting emotional just seemed pointless after a while. I think it has everything to do with Faith. She's someone I can count on, someone who's always there for me when I need her. I can let my guard down and the world won't end because she's there to pick up the slack. God, have I always been this much of a sap or am I just now realizing how ridiculous I sound?

"Babe, is everything alright down here?" I hear Sky ask and I turn my head towards her voice. She's standing in the doorway looking concerned. I guess my voice got a little louder than I intended. Now I feel really guilty about it. Ashlyn is sick. The last thing she needs right now is someone getting upset and yelling, especially since she has a double ear infection. Sky looks like she's been through a wringer or something. This is the first time Ashlyn has ever been sick. Well, at least with something more serious than a generic run of the mill cold. These ear infections have her laid up and she's been really clingy. Joseph has always been that way. Whenever he doesn't feel well he wants to snuggle. Just thinking about him, what he must be thinking right now, it makes my heart hurt.

"Yeah, sweetie, everything is fine," Willow says and walks over to Sky. She wraps her in a big hug, just like the one Faith and I are in, and she gently rubs Sky's back. I'm so glad Willow finally found someone. After everything that happened with Tara I honestly didn't think she would recover. Then Kennedy came along and things got better. Then Kennedy tore Willow's sole into a thousand little pieces and it was bad for long time. Then Sky came along and helped her put the pieces back together again. She's given Willow everything she could ever need and so much more and one of these days I'm really going to have to thank her for that. "The simple locator spell didn't work so I'm trying something different and we don't know exactly how long it's going to be before its ready." She was trying to be quiet but hardly anything gets passed my slayer hearing.

"Ashlyn finally fell asleep. Is there anything I can do to help?" Sky asks and I can tell she's clinging onto Willow pretty tightly. I guess the clinginess is genetic. Then again it's the same way with Faith and I. Faith is the biggest wuss ever when she gets sick. The last time she had the flu she called me five times within an hour and a half just to check in. When I got home that evening I waited on her hand and foot and even spoon fed her some chicken soup. To her credit she will admit that she's a big baby when she gets sick so at least she's not trying to pretend to be all macho about it. Why am I even thinking about this? There are a million other things I need to be focusing on right now. "I want to help out, babe, what can I do?" I feel a little relieved. Maybe if they're working together they can find him faster.

"Can you do a little more research on the demons? Maybe try to find out where they're going if they really are trying to open a temporal fold," Willow says and gives Sky a little kiss on the cheek. They break apart from each other and the look on Sky's face makes me snuggle a little closer to Faith. She looks like she really wants to be held and the hug ended way too quickly. I don't blame her. Whenever my kids get sick it takes a big emotional toll on me so I know what she's going through right now. "I need to keep an eye on this potion, make sure it's coming along correctly." I have to bite my cheeks to stop myself from saying something snarky. I know she's doing the best she can, and she's probably feeling stretched a little thin helping me and Faith and emotionally supporting her wife, but my little boy is missing so getting him back is my first priority.

"Red, is there something we can do? I hate feelin useless," Faith says and rubs my back a little. I know how she feels. I wish I could be out there finding my son but we need to stay here so we'll know for sure where to go. And also in case he comes back. Maybe nothing bad will happen and he'll realize how big of a mistake he's making and he'll come home. I want to stay optimistic, I really do, but there's a part of me that really doesn't believe it's going to be that simple. Nothing for us is ever that simple and easy. Anyway, Willow looks up at Faith and I can tell by the look in her eyes that there isn't anything for us to do other than just sit here. I guess she's running low on the demon books.

"No, there isn't, I'm sorry. That's the only book I have on demons that use temporal folds to travel. The slayer academy has a bigger collection and I've already called Andrew and he has the magical department doing research. They're going to teleport the second they find anything. We'll get him back, you guys, I promise. It's just going to take a little while," she says and my heart sinks. I want him back now. I need to be out there looking for him right now. He is going to be in so much trouble when he gets home. I'm talking about full groundation for at least a month. No leaving the house, no video games, no television, nothing but sitting in his room and thinking about why it's a dumb idea to just take off in the middle of the night. I may even make him eat two servings of peas at dinner instead of just one. He hates peas, that'll be like torture for him.

"Guys, I think we have a little bit of a problem, but it could also be a good thing," Sky says and we all look over at her. She has the book open and she also has a piece of paper in her hand. Willow drew a sketch of the box and I guess Sky's found some connection to it. I finally pull away from Faith and we all walk towards her. "The ritual that these demons need to perform is on a full moon, which is a month away." Yes, she said that before when she kind of freaked out on patrol. "According to this the dimension that these demons live in has a different perception of time. A full month here is only one day over there." Ok, I have no idea where she's going with this. I wish she would just come out and say it. I guess it's kind of a good thing because Willow looks a little excited.

"Yes, that's perfect!" Willow yells and twirls in the air. Damn, when did her powers get so strong she can levitate and twirl? If the situation weren't so dire I would probably ask her to teach me how to do that. "Buffy, even if these demons do take Joseph or he accidently gets too close when they try to go home, we still have an entire month to find which dimension they're in and bring him home. And since time runs so quickly over there they won't have enough time to find a new source of power." That also means if my baby boy does get caught up in the spell and transported along with those demons he's going to be gone for at least a month. He's only been gone for forty-five minutes that we know of I really don't think I could handle a whole month.

"Red, I think this potion is done brewing," Faith says and I look over at her. There's a bright blue glow coming out of the bowl on the coffee table. It actually looks really pretty and if I wasn't so stressed out and my son's life wasn't hanging in the balance I'd take a picture. Before anyone else can say anything, Willow runs over to the bowl and picks it up. She very carefully pours the powdery stuff over the map and spreads it around very slowly. I see Sky shake her head and not in a good way. I guess this potion was more dangerous than I thought. Sky only gets upset when Willow starts dipping into the black arts again. I really hope this isn't going to be the start of a weird relapse and Willow goes off the deep end because the world barely survived the first time that happened.

"Ok, this should only take a few seconds," she says and waits. I watch as the powder disappears. It looks like it's being absorbed by the paper and it's a really weird thing to see. There's a few moments of tense silence and I think I would be able to hear a pen drop upstairs everyone is being so quiet. Then, very slowly, a little blue dot beings to glow on the paper. Willow gets a huge smile on her face and she looks a little closer at the map. "He's on Wilcox Street. It's near the elementary school. Why would he go to that part of town this late at night?" Why is she even asking? Does it really matter why he's there? Anyway, she pulls out her cell phone and pushes the number one and presses send. "Xander it's me. Tell the girls they need to check Wilcox Street, it's near the school. I just did a spell and I'm sure that's where he is." She's sure but she's not completely positive. I really don't like how that sounds.

"Come on," she says and jumps up off the floor. "We need to find him before those demons do." That is like music to my ears. We're finally not waiting around anywhere. We have an idea of where he is and we're going to get him back. I know I'm a married woman but I'm so relieved I could kiss her right now. I won't, but the urge is definitely there. I watch as she runs over to Sky and places a quick kiss on her cheek. Sky looks worried, but she always looks worried when Willow needs to help be a demon hunter. "I'll be back as soon as I can. Keep our baby safe, ok?" Sky nods her head and they kiss again only this time on the lips. I'm surprised Faith isn't saying anything about it but I guess she gets it. Whenever we patrol separately she always gets a little bit of separation anxiety too. "Ok, let's go get your boy back." It's about freaking time she said that.


"Red, what does the map say? Is he moving at all?" I ask and blow passed another stop sign. Out of the corner of my eye I can see Buffy and she looks like she's about to have a heart attack. What the fuck does she have to be afraid of? Before I taught her the right way to drive she used to floor it like a maniac and hit the corners way too fuckin hard. I'm surprised she never killed someone. But none of that shit is important right now. Right now we're looking for my boy. Joey ran off for only God knows why and if Red's spell worked than we're going to get him back right now. There's gotta be something wrong with the boys in our family if they think it's ok to just run off like this whenever there's a demon threatening our family. Tomorrow I'm going to sit them down and have a little talk with 'em about it.

"He's moving a little but staying in the general area," she says and I glance back at her in the rearview mirror. She doesn't look worried, which is good. I've learned over the years that when Willow looks worried it's time to start panicking. But right now she looks pretty calm and it's keeping me a little grounded. "It shouldn't be too hard to find him." Except that he's by himself in the streets and he has about two years worth of slayer training under his belt. Even if he doesn't have any powers like the others he still knows how to hide. We might as well be looking for a lizard type that can change color to become invisible. I can't remember the name of that demon, but trust me they're a bitch to track down.

I guess this is one of those damned if you do, damned if you don't kinda situations. On the one hand I could've waited until all of my kids were older to start their slayer training. There powers would be a little more evolved and maybe they could handle them a little better and it would make training easier. On the other hand demons attack us all the time because we're the two original slayers. The ones that were naturally chosen by fate or whatever to be the protectors of mankind. Get a little bit of our blood and we can be the ingredient in about a hundred spells that ends the fuckin world in a heartbeat. So our kids need to know how to protect themselves against demons and vampires and the only way to do that is to train them. Even teaching them to make a rope out of their bed sheets is a fuckin tossup. Yeah, he used it to sneak out of his room but if there's ever a fire in the house it could save their fuckin lives.

"We just have to make sure the demons don't find him first," Buffy says and it makes my blood boil a little. I know she's worried and she's gotta be freaking out on the inside because I am too. But that doesn't mean she has to say that shit out loud. I grip the steering wheel a little harder and I think it's about to snap. Fuck, I need to chill out or that would be really fuckin bad. I focus on the road and try not to pay too much attention when Buffy turns around in her seat. "Will, did you call Xander and Lily and tell them where to look?" She already knows the answer to that question but when she gets really nervous like this it doesn't matter. She'll ask the same thing over and over again just to give her mind something to focus on.

"Three times, Buff. They're on their way. They should make it there before us," she says and she has that reassuring tone to her voice. It almost sounds like she's talking to a scared animal or something. I guess that's a fair assessment of how B's acting right now. She's a scared mother looking for her lost child. If you ask me there's almost nothing more primal and animalistic than that. "Only the girls with the most training are going. Xander is taking the others back to the training house for the night. Lily didn't think it would be a good idea since Joseph's so close to where the demons are. Not with what's at stake." That's some really good thinking. The last thing we need is some newbie slayer who can't control her powers trying to be the hero by rushing out and trying to kill a demon she has no business fighting.

"Call her again, Red, make sure she's there. Tell her we'll be there in fifteen minutes," I say and I got the whole bossy general slayer thing going on. Most people think it's Buffy that turns to that the quickest since she was such a pushy bitch back in Sunnydale during the battle with the First, and she had years of practice before that. But I'm the one who normally gets all take charge when shit starts to go own. I get even worse when it's one of my kids that's right in the middle of it. God, what the fuck was he thinking climbing out his window like that? I gotta give him props for remembering how to make a fire escape like that. I really didn't think any of the kids were paying attention when I taught 'em how to do that. Guess I was really fuckin wrong.

"We're going to get him back, Faith. He's going to be ok," Buffy says and puts her hand on my knee. I guess she's trying to be comforting but I can tell she's just saying that because she needs to hear it. How come in the middle of all this shit she has to say something that breaks my heart a little? It wasn't so much what she said but how she said it. She sounds a little…defeated. Like she doesn't believe what she's saying. I guess she's been through too much shit to really believe everything is going to turn out perfect. I have to believe that, though, or I'll drive myself fuckin crazy. We're going to find our boy, we're going to kill those demons and we're going home. That's it, that's all that I'm willing to believe is going to happen. I'm not going to prepare myself for anything else. He's going to be ok: story, end of.

"Lily said she and the girls will be at the school in five minutes," Willow says and it snaps me back to reality. "That's where he's still headed. He's almost there now." Why the hell would he be headed towards the school if those demons are in the woods? Maybe it's some kind of trick or something. Maybe the woods are just giving off a lot of magic and those demons have nothing to do with it. But that can't just be a coincidence. If those demons are here on this plane and the magic in the woods is stronger than ever then it has to be related, I just can't figure out how the fuck it's connected. I turn the corner really fuckin hard and my car fishtails a little bit. Fuck, maybe I should slow down a little bit. Lily said she'd be there soon and I trust her to protect my boy's life with her own. She's a really good slayer. I can't lose faith in that. No pun intended.

I hear Buffy let out a really big sigh and I know exactly how she feels. She's getting really anxious because we're so close yet we're still so far away. I don't think either of us are going to be calm or relaxed until Joey's back in his bed where he should be right now. And I think tomorrow when all of this shit is said and done I'm going to just stay home and have a few drinks. I know I've promised B that I'd cut back on the alcohol but if there's ever a reason to kick back and enjoy a few beers it's the day after your kid ran away. We're working under the assumption he's going after these demons himself but maybe he's not. Maybe he heard me and B fighting and he got sick of it and took off. That thought isn't crazy. He's always been really sensitive about shit like that. We need to start watching our voices more when we disagree on shit.

"Willow, is he still headed toward the school?" Buffy asks and she sounds like she's getting really anxious. Maybe I should have let her drive. Sure I'd be the one going crazy but at least I wouldn't have to hear her going mad. Yeah, I know that was pretty bitchy but she's starting to grate on my nerves and I don't know how much of it I can take. I know if I say anything it will just start a fight and we really don't need to get into one of those right now. When Red doesn't say anything right away I glance into the rearview mirror. I probably shouldn't be doing that shit since I'm going to fast, but I need to know what the fuck is going on. She's looking at the map really close. I guess the spell is starting to wear off because the light on the map isn't as bright as it was before.

"It looks like he's there now. We need to hurry, the spell is starting to dissipate," she says and I have to resist the urge to fuckin floor it. Lily is already there, she'll find him and everything will be ok. I have to keep repeating that over and over 'cause it's the only fuckin way we're going to get to that school without getting into a huge car crash. I really don't think we'd be able to fight off any demons if our bones were all broken and fucked up from the car flipping about fifteen times. And with how fast I'm already going that's what would happen if I fuck up. "The light is gone, you guys. I'll have to wait a few minutes before I sprinkle on more of the potion or else it won't bind to the paper correctly." Thank fucking God she brought more of the potion. I was about to have a panic attack.

"It doesn't matter, Will, we're almost there," Buffy says and I have to fight the urge to say something back. I know if I open my mouth right now it won't be anything nice. What the hell was she thinking, of course it fucking matters! Sure, he's at the school now but one of those demons could grab him and drag him off somewhere and we wouldn't be able to find him. Or there could be a vampire or a different kind of demon or some creepy night janitor who wants to hurt my boy. Just the thought of all that shit happening to him makes my blood boil and if I don't calm the fuck down right now this steering wheel isn't gonna survive. "Pull out the blue prints for the school and sprinkle some of the potion on that. I want to know exactly where he is." Oh, ok, so maybe her plan is better than mine. Maybe she should have said that first.

I slow the car to a stop and those two are out before I even get the keys out of the ignition. Willow has the blue prints to the school on the truck of the car and she's sprinkling some of the potion over it. I'm just going to assume she used her magic to pull that out of thin air 'cause we didn't leave the house with blue prints. Anyway, we wait and I can't fuckin stand the anticipation. I really want to get in there and find my boy but I know if I just take off it'll be a waste of time. The school is fuckin huge and I'll be looking the halls all night before I find him. Buffy's right, we need to know exactly where to go if we stand a chance. It feels like the little hairs on the back of my neck are standing completely on end when a little spot on the map starts to glow.

"He's at the basketball courts. They're at the very back of the school," Buffy says and we all take off running. Willow has a hard time keeping up but I really can't stop and worry about her. She can hold her own if anything happens. That much I know for sure so I don't have to feel guilty about not being more concerned. As soon as we reach the main building I practically rip the door off its hinges. I've only been to this school a couple of times so I have to let Buffy lead since she knows exactly where she's going. I need to be more involved. I've always left the PTA's and the afterschool functions up to Buffy but I need to start getting in on that shit too. Even if it is just to clean the school's floor plan. My God, how many fucking hallways does this school have? No wonder Joey hates going to school its way too fuckin confusing.

"Come on, Faith, it's this way!" B yells and I have to resist the urge to trip her. Mostly because she's the one who knows where she's going but if she doesn't knock off the shit then she's going down. I know I have bigger things to worry about right now but she's starting to really get on my nerves with the whole 'thinking she's in charge' thing. This isn't Sunnydale, she can't boss me around anymore, and I'm not just going to take it. Except for right now because we have bigger things to worry about. But the next time she starts in with the general Buffy crap I'm going to argue. Alright, I really need to just let it go and pay attention to what the fuck I'm doing but it's hard. Normally whenever shit gets serious I focus my attention on something less important even though I try really hard not to. Old habits die hard, I guess.

As soon as we turn down another hall I feel something in my gut. It's like something just reached out and grabbed me from the inside and is pulling me towards it. The demons are here, I just fucking know it, and it makes me run that much faster. I'm a slayer and I'm still in shape so my legs and the rest of my body are having no trouble with what I'm telling 'em to do. I need to get to Joey and I need to get to him now. Something horrible is gonna fuckin happen, I just know it. I have one of those really bad feelings that I can't change. I hope I'm just being a pessimist. I hope I'm so fucking wrong and that everything turns out ok. But I have a feeling that tonight something so fuckin awful is going to happen and I don't think we're going to able to come back from it.

Buffy turns down another hall and I can see two big doors that lead outside. She's headed for them with a type of determination I've never seen before. Right now she's not Buffy, she's not my wife and she's not the friend that everyone knows and can't help but love. She's the slayer. Focused, determined, powerful, and she'll fuckin kill you in a heartbeat if you get in her way. Even in the middle of all of this I can't help but take wonder at her. She's amazing and I hope that amazement never goes away 'cause if it does that'll be really sad day. Seeing her like that also brings out my inner slayer and I can feel the change. My breathing evens out. My footing becomes stronger as I fall in step with her. The only thing on my mind now is how fast we can get outside and how quickly we can tear those things apart. There's the hunt and nothing else.

We hit the double doors and they explode outward from our momentum. They hit the side of the building with this huge that echoes in the air around us. I see the other slayers, the girls from the training house and they're all just standing around. No, wait, they're not just standing around. They're standing in a defensive stance and they all have crossbows raised and aimed at the same target. They're all dead fucking quiet and none of them even look over to see what that noise was. I guess they know it's us and they were expecting a somewhat dramatic entrance. I freeze in place when I see what they have their sights trained on: three demons, tall, purple and ugly as hell standing about fifty feet away on the basketball courts. Lily is standing about twenty feet in front of them and she's blocking most of their shots. From the way she's standing she's doing it on purpose.

I look over at B and I see her jaw tighten up as the rest of her body gets really fuckin tense. I guess her maternal instincts are joining her inner slayer and they're both ready to spill some blood. We start walking slowly towards Lily and I really don't fucking like this. Why is she blocking their shot? Why hasn't she just taken the demons out yet? I know it's way more fuckin complicated than that but I just don't understand why all of these slayers are just standing around waiting for something to happen. Why would Lily have them this far away with only a crossbow? I glance over at B again and she looks over at me too. I can tell by the look in her eyes that she's feeling just as uneasy about it as I am. We get a little closer and we both stop dead in our fucking tracks. I knew something like this was going to happen. I didn't want to believe it but I just had one of those feelings.

"Just let him go!" Lily screams and I don't think I've ever heard someone sound so agonized before. She's screaming because the demon in the middle, the one being flanked by his two buddies, has a hold of my son. He's holding Joey by the arm but he doesn't look like he's hurting him. Joey doesn't look scared at all. What the fuck is going on? "You don't need him just take me instead!" She's really willing to sacrifice herself for my son? Remind me to give her a hug and buy her a car when this is all over. "I'm a slayer I have even more power than he does. I'm broken. I'm even more powerful than a normal slayer so just take me!" She thinks she's broken? She really doesn't understand that she's one of the strongest people I know because she survived all of the hell she went through? Remind me to sit down and have a talk with her later.

"Just take me with you, ok? Please just let him go," she begs and she sounds like she's damn near tears. I'm too fuckin stunned to say anything. The way she's talking, the tone of her voice, you'd think she was begging for her own child's life instead of mine. And I'm just standing here with my thumb up my ass because I can't snap myself out of it for some fuckin reason. I see my kid in the hands of those things and I should be so fuckin angry that someone has to hold me back but I can't fuckin move. It's like I'm in shock and I can't get my feet to work right. I watch the demons really close and they look nervous now. I guess they know who B and I are and they know their chances of getting out of this alive just dropped to zero. But they have a hostage, and that hostage just happens to be my boy and I'd let them go if it meant getting him back safe and sound.

"No!" the tallest demon, the one who's holding my son, yells and he sounds just as nervous as he looks. I take it these guys have never dealt with a hostage situation before. They normally just kidnap the strongest thing they can find and use their little box to get the power they need. They've never had to deal with complications. Or at least that's what the book said. Fuck it. It doesn't matter right now. Right now I need to just focus on getting my boy back. "We need the boy! Ammut will have his day to rise!" Fuck, they're bound and determined that it's going to be my kid on their sacrificial stone. If they even use a stone, I wasn't really paying attention to that part. I think I might have ADD or something but I need to worry about that later.

"What are you talking about?" Lily screams. I look over at her and I really don't like the way this is going. I slowly start to walk closer to her and I can see Buffy doing the same. The closer we get the more nervous the demons become and that's not a good thing. Well, it is but it's also a bad thing. If they're really nervous it means they could mess up and I could grab Joey without too much of a hassle. It also means that they're more likely to do something stupid, like kill him if we get too close and they think we're going to kill them. "Ammut is an Egyptian goddess who decides if someone is pure and good enough to get into the afterlife!" How the fuck does she know something like that? I think she's been spending too much time with the witches if she can just pull random information out of her ass. The middle demon kind of looks around, like he's trying to come up with an explanation but he can't find one.

"That's a different Ammut. She show-boats, gets all the attention. But our Ammut will rise and there's nothing you can do to stop it from happening," the one in the middle says. Fuck, he sounds like a fuckin nerd. So this Ammut d-bag sent his lackies to grab my son and they're not even the higher ups? Or maybe they are and the rest of his little demon army are gonna be so fuckin easy to take down. I don't even have to look behind me to know that every single slayer just took a few steps forward. I can feel them getting closer, and I see the fear in these demons' eyes getting stronger. "And that wasn't an invitation to try!" Oh yeah, this guy sounds really fuckin scared. I see B step closer out of the corner of my eye and she looks like she's had enough of this bullshit. Trust me I'm right there with her.

"Enough!" Buffy screams and all of the demons look over at her. The sound of her voice, that primal tone, ripped all the way to my core and I'm so fuckin glad I'm not the one it's directed at. I probably would've wet myself. "Just give me back my son or I'll tear you apart limb from limb and your master will be finding your body parts for weeks!" Shit, that's fuckin scary. I really wouldn't want to be those demons right now. They look really nervous and afraid but I can tell they're not going to give it up. I bet they're more afraid of what their leader will do to them than what Buffy will do. "He's just a little boy. He doesn't have that much power. You want something with a lot of power, I'm the original slayer, take me instead!" Great, not this bullshit. It didn't work for Lily, I doubt it's gonna work for Buffy.

"Fools!" the middle demon screams. What the fuck is he screaming about? "None of you can see the power held within this small human." He looks down at my boy and gently lifts him off the ground by the arm. I tense up and have to fight every fuckin urge to run over there and rip off his damn head but Joey doesn't look afraid, doesn't look like he's being hurt so I stay put. "He is tiny and doesn't look like much. But his power is far greater than your miniscule minds can even comprehend!" What the fuck is he talking about? Joey doesn't have any slayer powers. I've tested him over and over again and he doesn't have any. He can't even lift a twenty pound weight and Mattie and Addy have been able to do that since they were five.

"Then take both of us!" I yell and step forward. The demon puts Joey down but he doesn't let him go. They all look really confused and I can't blame them. Here they came to this world looking for one thing to drain and now they have three powerful slayers offering themselves to take its place. I bet that isn't in their demon handbook. "We're the two original, destiny chosen slayers. We have access to power you can't even comprehend. So just let go of our son and take us instead." I'm trying really fuckin hard not to scream. I gotta keep my cool or something really fuckin bad is going to happen. That feeling that we're not all gonna make it out of this has settled in my gut and it won't go away. I want them to take us. If they take us it will give us a fighting chance to take them down before they can do the ritual. If Joey gets taken then we'll have to work at getting him back and stopping these demons from rising.

"We don't have time for your trickier, Slayer. We're leaving with the boy," the middle demon says and my blood starts to boil. Joey doesn't look so comfortable now. Now he's starting to look a little nervous. I guess he can tell it isn't going to be that easy. I guess he thought his moms would rush in and kill these demons and save the day but it's a little more complicated than that. I look out of the corner of my eye and B is slowly walking towards them. It's a tricky move but it's one I really want to do myself. She has the right idea. If these demons want Joy so much for their spell than they're not going to kill him. They can't let anything bad happen to him or they won't be able to complete the ritual on time. All we have to do is distract them, grab Joey and get him to Lily so we can tear these fuckers apart.

"We're finished fooling around with you inferior creatures," the middle demon says and it's like he's saying all of this stuff to sound tough. Why the fuck would a demon need to pretend to be badass? I just don't fucking understand anything that's going on right now but I really don't care. I just want to get my boy back. I start walking slowly towards them too and I can see them become more fearful. That's good. I can totally use that to my advantage. "Enlil." The one in the middle looks to the one on the right, and then he looks to the one on the left. "Dave, prep the teleportation spell." Shit, if they can teleport we're fucking screwed. But he says it needs to be prepped so maybe we still have a shot getting Joey home safe.

"Wait, so your names are Enlil and Dave?" Buffy asks and she sounds really fucking confused. I look over at her and she has a little smirk on her face. Great, now she's going to try to banter with them. Actually, that is really great. Maybe it will throw them off their game even more. "What, did they run out of weird names on your home planet so they needed to start picking out normal ones?" I look over at the demons and they don't really know what to say. I guess they're afraid to talk to the original slayer. The thing of legends that give little baby demons nightmares. Ok, so maybe not, but I'd like to think so. If anyone in the world deserves that title its Buffy, that's for fuckin sure.

"He wasn't at the ceremony to pick our worrier names," Enlil says and Dave glares at him. If he had different powers I'm sure daggers would be shooting out of his eyes right now. Ok, so wait, these guys are the worriers? These kinda nerdy, babbling, scaredy cat dorks are the worriers that were sent to find a sacrifice for the ritual? These are the things that are supposed to bring an end to the world as we know it? God, no fuckin wonder Buffy was so frustrated when Warren and Andrew and that other guy kept giving her such a bad time. It's just fuckin pathetic. Enlil looks over at Dave with an agitated expression on his ugly, demony face. "What? Don't look at me like that. The lady asked a question." Dave is about to say something back, I can tell, but before he gets a chance Buffy jumps in.

"The lady also said to give her back her son before she rips you guys to pieces. Why don't we make that happen instead?" she says and she's about fifteen feet away from them now. They look really nervous, like little puppies about to wet themselves. Yeah, it was a weird metaphor. Let's just forget it and move on. The two lackies start chanting and I guess this is them prepping the teleportation spell. I can hear Willow not far behind me chanting her own little spell. I guess she's going to put up a magical block so they won't be able to leave. She's done that before for me when this one demon I was trying to track down for Giles was giving me a bad time. Fuck, I'm so glad I don't work for Giles anymore. That was kind of a drag.

"No, stop coming closer," the middle demon says and I can see him tighten his grip on Joey's arm. Ok, that's it. These purple sons of bitches are going down. "You cannot trick us with your slayer…trickery." Seriously, why are these demons the worriers? Did the leader get annoyed with them and sent them on a suicide mission? Holy shit, this could all be a fuckin diversion or maybe it's a trap. Shit, shit, shit, why didn't we think of that before! The demon named Dave reaches into a satchel and pulls out some type of powder and starts sprinkling it on the ground. The tell tale feeling of magic in the air starts cracking and hissing against my skin. Buffy can feel it too, I can tell. Her whole body just tensed. "Come, tiny human, you're about to become a part of something so much greater than yourself."

Buffy lunges and I take off running towards them. Maybe I can get to them in time. Maybe I'll be able to stop whatever bad thing is about to happen. Time seems to stand still as the big purple demon that has a hold of my boy pulls a knife out of the belt around his waist. He jabs it upwards towards Buffy and if she sees it it's too late for her to do anything. Right before she sharp looking, and really big fucking blade go into her body I hear a scream. There's a loud, high pitched scream that echoes through the air. Then the demons erupt in a huge puff of green smoke like in some cheesy science fiction movie. Buffy disappears into the smoke and I have no fucking clue what's happening. I run towards the smoke and cough as it fills and burns my lungs. I try to find Joey, the demons, Buffy, anybody but I can't find anything.

Then I see Buffy stand up off the ground. She dusts herself off and she looks perfectly fine. Well, physically maybe. She looks like she could pick up one of those buildings and throw it about a hundred miles. She's coughing as much as I am and waving her hand in front of her face to try and clear away some of the smoke. All of the slayers are around us now, circling and raising their crossbows. Lily is in charge and she looks pissed as hell. Willow runs up to us and she looks confused. Finally, the smoke clears and where the demons and my son should be is just an empty space. What the fuck! Why didn't Willow's spell work? She's supposed to be this all knowing goddess of power and possible destruction. So why the fuck couldn't she block a simple teleportation spell? Someone's gonna die for this, even if it means going back to prison.



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