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Wishing Changes Everything

by Declan
Rating: PG-13

+Prologue=1=2+

PROLOGUE: Graduation Day

Buffy had rarely seen the Sunnydale Memorial this busy, but then an exploding high school tended not to happen very often, and when it did it got people’s attention. Doctors and nurses scrambled to deal with burns, broken bones, blast injuries and, of course, the more familiar ‘neck ruptures’ of the few dozen or so people who streamed into the ER.

Buffy took some comfort in the fact that things could have been a lot worse. Big snake demon worse.

It was late evening, Buffy had left Xander, Willow, Oz and Cordelia as they all headed home after the battle. She had been quiet, listening to Xander and Cordy’s gentle sniping- mainly about Xander’s upcoming road trip slash spirit quest and Cordelia’s sudden announcement that she was also leaving Sunnydale early, apparently L.A beckoned.

Buffy had been pleased that their attitude towards each other had softened since the prom; they were even having almost normal conversations. Oz and Willow had also been quiet, Oz because, well he was Oz and Willow because she said she was wiped from the battle and said she was sleepy.

“It’s all that violence and strong language.” Willow explained leaning into Oz, “I’m overwhelmed.”

“Remind me not to stand next to you during the next mass battle, Will.” Xander quipped, “’cause I wouldn’t want you nodding off on me.”

Cordelia agreed. “Plus you’d probably end up drooling on his shoulder. Yuck.”

Willow shook her head. “It’s too much adrenaline, is what it is. I blame my hyper evolved fight or flight response. I think next time I’ll be away in a room somewhere, in charge of maps and stratagems. Ooh- and those little flags you push around with a stick. That always looks like fun.”

“It’s kind of scary that we’re looking ahead to a ‘next time’, don’t you think?” Xander said.

“Well, just because the high school’s gone doesn’t mean the Hellmouth is. I mean, if you could close the Hellmouth with explosives then I’m sure I would’ve read about it.” Willow thought about it and then her eyes widened slightly “Unless we made it bigger...”

“Sshh...leave some thoughts for tomorrow,” Oz said and kissed the side of her head.

Willow relaxed and leaned her head on Oz’s shoulder.

“Well, just for the record, I’m glad I’m leaving this place,” Cordelia remarked.

“Me too,” Xander responded, then from a pointed look from Cordelia. “I mean I’m glad I’m leaving as well, ‘the welcome respite of the open road.’”

“But you’re coming back, big mistake.” Cordelia shook her head, “Plus, ‘the open road’? I have it on good authority that if you head far enough inland you’ll either be eaten alive or made somebody’s wife. I’ve seen ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, that’s why we have airports- so we don’t have to drive cross country.”

Xander made a dismissive gesture. “Ahh, that’s just hillbilly prejudice, I’ll be fine.”

“Well, with your luck...” Cordy smirked, trailing off.

Xander pondered. “Say Buff, could I maybe have a long term loan of a crossbow and maybe one of your larger axes.”

Buffy nodded her head. “Uh, sure. Wait, what? When did you see ‘The Hills Have Eyes’?”

Cordelia rolled her eyes “Oh, blame Xander and his frequent video nights for that one, like I don’t get enough blood and guts in real life.”

Xander shrugged. “Just call me master of the cheap date.”

Cordelia’s eyes widened as she turned to Xander. “Did you just call me ‘cheap’?”

“Um...You haven’t by any chance got any weapons on you now, have you Buffy?”

Buffy had left them soon after that, promising to call in a day or so for one final get together at the Bronze before summer separated them. She’d then headed home and rang the hotel her Mom was staying at, telling her it was safe to return to evil ground zero, assuring her Mom that she was fine and that, yes, she actually had her diploma, though sadly no graduation photo.

After hanging up she took a long shower and then changed into fresh clothes, feeling too restless to go to bed despite her weariness. Buffy had then paced around the house a little while before snacking on some leftover lasagne from the fridge. Having little idea what to do with herself Buffy had then wandered outside, walking back through an oddly peaceful Sunnydale, seemingly aimlessly, hoping the fresh night air would relax her a little more and help her clear her head. She thought about the long summer ahead of her, a summer without Angel; a life without Angel. It was hard to see her life ahead without him nearby, the past year had seemed all about her struggling with her feelings for him, until in the end he had been the one to end it.

And right before Prom as well, not the ideal end to a romance.

Without really realising how Buffy had ended up outside the hospital, a place of noise and frantic energy that had drawn her inside, it was only then that she consciously realised where she was headed.

She had walked through the hospital in a sort of daze, largely ignored by the buzzing hospital staff. Buffy quickly moved through the patients lounge and off down one of the corridors, heading unerringly to a specific room.

Faith’s room.

Buffy went over to the bed gazed down at the fellow Slayer lying there, seemingly too small and fragile to ever be a threat to anyone. Bruised and pale, her slow, shallow breathing and the beeping machines by her bed the only real signs that Faith still clung to life. She looked younger now, the same age as Buffy really. And so vulnerable, not like the badass image she projected when she first arrived in town or like the killer she had later become.

The last time she had seen Faith had been the in the strange dream they’d shared with each other, oddly there had been no anger or hate between them, only acceptance and cryptic stuff. And maybe some regret.

*~~*

Buffy is in Faith’s apartment, windows still broken from the fight but otherwise different. Packing boxes lie everywhere stuffed with Faith’s things.

A cat leaps onto Faith’s bed. “Who’s going to look after him?” Buffy senses Faith pass close by behind her; she knows this is a dream.

“It’s a she, and aren’t these things supposed to take of themselves?”

“A higher power guiding us?” Buffy asks.

“Pretty sure that’s not what I meant.” Faith walks through the apartment, her back towards Buffy.

“There’s something I’m supposed to be doing.”

Faith replies knowingly. “Well, yeah. Miles to go. Little Ms. Muffet counting down from 7-3-0.”

“Great,” Buffy said exasperated. “Riddles.”

“Sorry,” Faith replies over her shoulder “It’s my head. A lot of new stuff.” She stares at the broken window. “They’re never gonna fix this, are they?”

“What about you?” Buffy asks.

Faith turns to her. “Scar tissue,” she gestures to her face. “It fades. It all fades.”

Buffy looks down to see the flash of a blade in her hand for a moment, and then it’s gone.

“You want to know the deal? Human weakness. Never goes away. Even his.”

Buffy mouth curls in a slight smile, her voice light. “This your mind or mine?”

Faith laughs. “Beats me,” she walks forward as Buffy smiles. Faith continues “Getting towards that time.”

Buffy looks at all the boxes scattered around. “How are you going to fit all this stuff?”

“Not gonna. It’s yours.” Faith stops in front of Buffy.

“I can’t use all of this.”

Faith looks into her eyes. “Just take what you need,” she reaches up and touches Buffy’s cheek, “You ready?”

*~~*

Lots of regret, that’s what Buffy herself, felt right now. Not anger or guilt exactly- well maybe some guilt, but in her head she knew Faith had forced this on both of them, bringing things to a head by trying to kill Angel. Still Buffy found herself missing Faith, or maybe just the memory of her smiling and stories, dancing and fighting. Those things Buffy found hard to forget.

“Isn’t it crazy how slaying always makes you hungry and horny?”

“But you like him, right? When you think about him you get that good, down low tickle right?”

“Come on, we’ll find a couple of studs, use ‘em and discard ‘em. That’s always fun.”

“We’re Slayers, girlfriend. The Chosen Two.”

“Want. Take. Have.”

And through all those memories the swirling questions all beginning with ‘what if?’

Buffy reached out and took Faith’s hand in hers and sat on the edge of the bed, leaning forward slightly.

“He’s dead,” Buffy said, her voice sounding unnaturally loud in the quiet room. “The mayor that is, he got to ascend for, like, ten minutes before I blew up the school with him in it.” She sighed. “I don’t know if you can hear me or even if you want to hear any of this, but I guess I owe you. I mean you did help me, so you should be pleased. But there are better ways to help, y’know. Such as, I don’t know, not trying to kill my friends or my boyfriend. Or me. Especially me. A few less fights to the death would have been real swell of you.” Buffy shifted slightly on the bed. “If anyone saw me here they’d wonder what the hell I’m doing. Hell, I don’t know what I’m doing- I’m not really known for chatting away with people who try and kill me.” She paused, frowning, “Well, actually I am but that’s not really the point. It’s the betrayal –that’s what gets me, the turning on friends and ranting on about us being better than everyone else. That’s what spins my head; I just don’t get it.” Buffy found herself toying with Faith’s fingers “Anyway, I don’t know if you’re ever going to wake up, or if you had any change of heart or doubts about, y’know, going all evil. I hope you did. I hope I get the chance to tell you that I’m sorry and that I really wanted things to be different between us. For us to be...friends, maybe. I guess I could have handled things better as well, to begin with anyway.” Buffy blew out a breath and was surprised to find out she was a bit teary. She blinked them away “I just...I want a do-over. God, If I could just go back the beginning I would do so many things differently, we...we could be Slayers again, we could get things right between us. I wish that could happen.”

Suddenly Buffy felt a wave of dizziness wash over her, along with a feeling of warm air and a slight exotic smell, like scented candles. She felt a presence near her, like there was a ghost or spirit nearby, only subtly different.

“DONE,” a voice intoned, somehow both a whisper and a roaring command, full of power. Buffy’s head spun as her world fell away...

Faith, Hope And Tricks (PART 1: So Last Year)

When Buffy came back to herself she was outside, in an alley, surrounded by her friends. Faith was there, smiling as she strutted over.

“S’Okay, I got it. You’re Buffy, right?”

Right on cue a vampire rose up and grabbed her from behind, without even turning around Faith slams her head back into its face.

“I’m Faith.”

‘What the hell..?’

As Faith flings the vampire across the alley Oz says “I’m gonna go out on a limb and say there’s a new slayer in town.”

Buffy just stared as Faith again delivered several brutally impressive blows to the vampire. Then, just like before, Faith then threw him to the ground before turning back to Buffy and grabbing the stake she was holding.

“Can I borrow that?”

She takes the stake and dusts the vampire; the whole fight had lasted seconds and been entirely one-sided. Faith turned back to Buffy and hands her back the stake.

“Thanks, B. Couldn’t have done it without you.”

And with that she walked by Buffy, who just stood there, still stunned.

‘What the hell is going on?’

‘OK, so this is clearly a dream- I fell asleep, that’s it. My brain just waved a little white flag, gave up and now I’m lying on Faith’s bed- No, I’m in a chair, happily drooling in a chair, in the hospital and a nurse is going to come in and wake me up very soon...’

As the others hurriedly followed Faith back up the alley to the Bronze, Willow lingered with Buffy before putting a hand on her friend’s shoulder.

“Um, Buffy, are you okay?” She asked tentatively.

Buffy snapped her head round “Uh, what...What just happened?”

Willow smiled, still a little wide-eyed from Faith’s display. “Looks like a new, uh, slayer is in, well, y’know, town. And we should go and make nice, uh, and welcome her.”

Buffy still felt light-headed and fuzzy. It certainly didn’t feel like a dream to her, or smell like one- yeesh, hello garbage. Maybe this was all real, a second chance or something- when her brain decided to work again that is.

Buffy cleared her throat. “Uh, yeah, that was hardly me at my best, sparkling wit- wise, was it?”

Willow started walking with her back towards the club. “But on the upside no fight-to-the-death-misunderstanding like last time, so that’s progress, as greetings go.”

Buffy sighed and muttered to herself. “Believe me slayer fighting slayer is so last year...”

*****

“The whole summer it was, like, the worst heat wave. So it’s about a hundred and eighteen degrees and I’m sleeping without a stitch on. And all of a sudden, I hear this screaming from outside. So I go tearing out, stark nude, and this church bus has broke down, and there’s these three vamps feasting on half the Baptists in South Boston. So I waste the vamps, and the preacher comes up, and he’s hugging me like there’s no tomorrow, when all of a sudden, the cops pull up and they arrested up both.”

Xander was looking into the middle distance. “Wow, they should film that story and show it every Christmas.”

This was all exactly how Buffy remembered it, all attention on Faith and her tales, Buffy’s friends charmed and amused (well, not Cordelia, but still) and Faith happily chowing down on a muffin, all smiles, dimples and chocolate curls.

“God, I could eat a horse.” Faith sighed “Isn’t it crazy how slaying...”

‘Oh not this again,’ “Uh, what about that alligator you mentioned, y’know, from before.” Buffy interrupted, surprising everyone, since she’d been fairly quiet up until then.

Faith smiled knowingly at Buffy before launching into the alligator story leaving Buffy free to wonder about her situation, which she was beginning to realise was just... entirely awesome>. All the things she got wrong last time could be put right, things she could now see coming and prepare herself for; Kakistos, Angel returning, Mr. Trick and the Mayor, that stupid slayer death-trap birthday surprise the Watcher’s Council set up. More importantly Faith was back to being a slayer, an ally, maybe even a friend.

‘Yay me,’ Buffy thought contentedly to herself.

“Was this also naked?” Xander was asking.

Faith smiled. “Well, the alligator was...”

Cordelia stares pointedly at her boyfriend. “Xander, find a new theme.”

Willow seemed worried. “Did the alligator get hurt?”

Faith thought about it. “Only a little. Then it was dead.”

“Oh no...” Willow pouted adorably and Oz put a hand on her leg as comfort.

“I tell ya, I never had more trouble than that damn vamp.” Faith said, although this time round Buffy was sure she could see hints of the other issue that troubled Faith. Maybe this time she could get her fellow slayer to open up.

Faith looked at Buffy. “What about you? What was your toughest kill?”

The feel of a blade sliding into flesh, a pained gasp, a strained voice; ‘You did it. You killed me.’

Buffy felt a chill at the image that flashed through her mind, she shifted uncomfortably. “Well, they’re all tough I guess. “

Faith watched her, waiting as she sipping her drink.

Okay, I want her to open up- so time to try a little honesty, because before this year my out and out toughest ‘kill’ had been...

“Uh, there was one vampire, last year, his name was...Angel. He was...a friend, who turned on me...us.” Buffy stared down at her hands, not talking about Angel now. “Fighting someone you used to...trust, who fought by your side, that’s tough.”

Faith seemed thoughtful as she finished her drink but she also seemed curious about Xander and Willow’s slightly stunned reactions to what Buffy had just said.

Thankfully Oz broke the silence. “Something occurring; uh, now you both kill vamps, and who could blame you.” He looked to Faith, “But I’m wondering about your position on werewolves.”

Faith seemed confused until Willow recovered and explained “Oz is a werewolf.” She put a supportive hand on her boyfriend.

Faith seemed unconcerned “Hey, as long as you don’t go scatchin’ at me or humpin’ my leg we’re five-by-five, y’know.”

Buffy smiled slightly at Faith’s practicality. Faith’s grin widened as she continued. “Those vamps though, they better get their asses to Defcon one, ‘cause you and I are gonna have fun, y’know, watcher-less and fancy free.”

Buffy decided to play along for now; she knew Faith was just putting on a front. “Watcher-less?”

Faith glanced around, a little puzzled, “There’s some big Watcher retreat thing in England,‘s why I skipped out. Didn’t your Watcher go too?”

Buffy shrugged a little “As far as I know Giles, that’s my Watcher- Giles, is still in Sunnydale, maybe they lost his invite. We can see him tomorrow at school, see what’s the what. You’ll like Giles... I mean you probably will.” With that Buffy stood up and smiled at Faith. “Anyway, if you want we could get out of here and I’ll give the five cent Sunnydale tour?”

*****

It had seemed like a good idea at the time, ditching the Bronze to spend some one-on-one time with Faith, trying the whole ‘friendly Buffy’ thing this time around. The only problem was that for the few months previously Buffy had gotten used to thinking of Faith as the enemy, the whole ‘helping the Mayor take over Sunnydale’ had really sold her on that idea.

But here they were, rewound to the beginning, walking with Faith through the fourth cemetery of the evening like they were best buds. Morbid best buds to be sure but still paling around and there was a part of Buffy that just wouldn’t relax and switch off, it tensed her up, seeming to expect ‘double-agent Faith’ or ‘Psycho-torturer Faith’ to suddenly pop up and take the wheel. So she ended up feeling a little tense and awkward, and to compensate she had babbled almost continuously for the past twenty minutes.

“And here we have cemetery number four, the name of which is...well, I’m drawing a blank. But I, um, draw your attention the creepy amount of angelic child statues which are very creepy, and also to the stone benches around in case you would like to sit and linger near said creepy statues.” Buffy gestured around at the pathetically familiar surroundings.

Faith sighed. “Guess you weren’t kidding about the tour, huh?” She had her hands in her pockets and seemed restless.

“Uh, sorry, um, it’s just I had a really, really long day.” Buffy winced, “Am I a snorefest? I guess there aren’t that many interesting things around here really.”

Faith shrugged, looking around. “How many cemeteries you got in this town anyway?”

“A dozen or so, I think. Plus it has lots of churches; lots of praying and funerals in Sunnydale, owner of its very own Hellmouth.” Buffy felt herself begin to relax a little.

‘Facts; Just stick to facts for now. Facts are relaxing. Huh, that almost rhymed.’

Faith frowned. “So, what’s a ‘Hellmouth’, ‘cause it kinda sounds like a crappy dance club.”

Buffy smiled. “I wish, nah, it’s just a big, sucking magnet thing that draws bad stuff to it- demons, vamps, zombies- you name it. Plenty of work for the slayer.” She changed the subject, “So, where are you from, I mean originally. It sounds like you’ve travelled a bit.”

Faith shook her head. “Boston gal, born and raised, didn’t travel anywhere until I got all chosen. Boston doesn’t have a Hellmouth or whatever; just a whole mess o’ vamps that need dusting. But, yeah me and my watcher did a couple of outings over the summer to places that needed some ass-kicking done. Then I hear all about the infamous Buff and when the chance came, couldn’t pass it up.”

Buffy wrinkled her nose. “Infamous? Me?”

Faith grinned and bumped her shoulder against Buffy’s. “Yeah B; you. Hey, didn’t you use a rocket-launcher one time?”

“Actually, yeah, it’s a cool story that...I’ll eventually get to finish some day. Look.”

Buffy gestured ahead of them to a man stalking purposely between gravestones; he was wearing a dark, dirt-stained suit. The kind you would wear to a funeral, if you were the guy being buried at least. The vampire seemed to notice them at about the same time and angled through the cemetery towards them, speeding up slightly now that he’d spotted a meal.

Buffy pulled Xander’s stake from her purse and offered it to Faith. “Do you...?”

Faith just grinned and held up her hands. “Nah, B, it’s all yours.”

Buffy frowned down at herself. “But I like this dress, you would think floral and grass stains go together but they really don’t.”

Faith hopped up on a gravestone, presumably to give herself a good view of what was about to happen.

“Come on, B. I had my fun for the night, show me whatcha got. ‘Sides, I gotta theory I wanna test out.”

Buffy sighed and turned towards the vampire as he slowed and moved closer, his stance became more predator-like, his face was fully vamped out and split in an unpleasant grin.

“You look tasty, little girl,” he growled, spreading his arms out a little in case she tried to flee.

Buffy smirked. “Um, are you sure you want those to be your last words? Because, no offence, but they were kind of ‘serial killer cliché’. Plus, ‘little girl’- I’m like 18.”

Faith spoke up from behind her. “Well it’s dark and y’are kinda short.”

“Can we have a little less commentary from the spectators, please?”

The vampire seemed puzzled until he noticed Buffy raise her right hand- the one holding the stake.

“You’re not the Slayer, are you?” He sounded a little worried.

Buffy nodded. “Y’see those last words- much better, also a lot more common amongst your kind.”

With that she struck; a quick left jab to his face followed by a stronger right cross, ducking under a slow counter from the vampire before slamming a knee into his ribs that sent him stumbling back. Growling the vampire bracing himself against a tombstone and lashed out with a foot. Buffy sidestepped, grabbed the leg and sweeping his other out from under him, quickly stepping backwards as he landed heavily on the grass.

With a roar the vampire launched himself up from the ground at her, forcing Buffy back with a flurry of blows that she managed to fend off. Gaining a little space Buffy smashed a left jab under his chin before launching a powerful kick at the creature’s chest, and as he again staggered she spun in close and sank the stake into his chest.

“Crap.” He grimaced as he was dusted.

Buffy relaxed and put the stake away. “Not too shabby- she said humbly.”

She turned to Faith as the other slayer hopped down. “And I’m not short; other people are just...freakishly tall. That’s right, they’re freaks.”

Faith just stared at her, looking her up and a down a little before smiling and nodding. “I knew it. I knew you felt it too, look atcha’ all loosened up- you get off on it same as me.”

Buffy rolled her eyes as she turned away. ‘Oh this again,’ “Right, of course- it was a nice; a nice, relaxing fight for my life. You know me so well.”

“Hey, all I did was look. See, ever since the club you’ve been wicked tense- all pent up. Now you’re relaxed and ‘satisfied’. Plus, back at the club you knew what I was gonna say to your buds, that’s why you interrupted me, ‘cause you don’t want ‘em t’know.”

Buffy shook her head. “You’re way off base. I’m not hungry or...I am so not the other.”

“Hungry and horny? How didja know that’s what I was gonna say unless you’re feelin’ it.” Faith’s smile widened, showing off her dimples.

‘Damn it, that’s what I get for getting a head of myself.’

Buffy blushed a little despite herself and was glad it was too dark for Faith to see. “Y’know I suddenly realise that I have school tomorrow and we really should be getting you home so you can’t annoy me anymore.”

With that Buffy stalked off towards the direction of Faith’s motel although she was soon joined by the dark-haired girl.

Faith whispered to Buffy slyly. “’s cool, B. Trust me your secret’s safe, I ain’t gonna rat on you.”

Well, when it came to Faith, Buffy had to admit this to herself- she sure was doing things differently so far.

*****

“...Lovely spot, very serene. They have horseback riding, hiking and punting and lectures and discussions, “Giles was talking wistfully, obviously picturing the place in his mind. “It’s a great honour to be invited. Or so I’m told.” He finished, not quite hiding the bitterness in his voice.

Buffy was standing in the library with Faith, Xander and Willow both perched on the table nearby as Giles reminisced.

“Ah, it’s boring. Way too stuffy for a guy like you.”

Buffy smirked as she said. “Um, maybe I should introduce him again. Faith, this is Giles.”

Faith smiled as she looked him over. “I seen him. If I’d known they came that young and cute I’d’ve requested a transfer.

‘Oh, hearing that again really doesn’t get any easier.’ “Okay, raise your hand if ‘ew’”.

Xander partly raised his hand, Willow just smiled and Giles tried not to look flustered. “Well, um, uh, leaving aside my...youth and beauty I’d say it was rather fortuitous that Faith arrived when she did.” He walked over and grabbed a nearby newspaper.

“Aha!” They all looked at Willow. “Sorry, I just meant, Aha! There’s a big evil brewin’. You’ll never be bored here Faith. ‘Cause this is Sunnydale, home of the big, brewin’ evil.”

Faith nodded. “Yeah, B gave me the lowdown last night; big, bad Hellmouth.”

“Yes, well, I’m not sure how big an evil it is but, uh, two people have disappeared from the Sunset Ridge district.” He handed the paper to Buffy.

“Aha!” Xander said, and then looked at Willow, “Fun.”

Buffy scanned the article, aware of Faith leaning in close to read over her shoulder. She cleared her throat and glanced back at Faith. “We should get on this, uh; if you’re free tonight we could patrol together.” She looked over at Giles. “But later than normal, I promised Mom I’d be home for dinner.” Giles nodded as she turned back to Faith. “You should come over after school, I’m pretty sure my Mom will want to meet you, she’s kinda curious about slayer stuff. Plus we can eat, and then kill things; those are two things I’m pretty sure you like doing.”

Faith grinned. “Good at ‘em too, I’m in.”

Buffy returned the smile; the whole ‘Project: Faith’ was going pretty well considering her little slip-up last night, just as long as she didn’t get ahead of herself.

Buffy jumped a little as Willow cleared she throat. “Um, Buffy, don’t you have that health science make-up.”

“Uh, yeah I aced it already...um; I mean I will ace it. I had a dream...where I aced it.” Buffy finished awkwardly.

Willow hopped off the table. “Here’s hoping it was a prophecy dream, huh.” Then she turned to Faith. “You can hang out with us while she’s testing. You wanna?”

Xander grabbed his bag off the table and joined her. “Say yes and, uh, bring your stories.”

Buffy sighed as they rushed off. “You guys go. I’m good here. I’ll just sit...”

Faith shot her a look of sympathy. “Okay...later.” She gestured at Giles, “We will talk weapons.” Faith then turned and followed after Willow and Xander.

When they were alone Giles sat on the edge of the table next to Buffy. “This, um, new girl seems to have a lot of zest.”

Buffy smirked at him. “Just because she said you were a hottie.”

Giles blushed before quickly moving on. “I-I’ve been having a little problem with the, uh, binding spell for Acathla. I’m lacking the, the requisite details to perform it correctly. Now, physical location. Acathla was facing south?”

Buffy remembered this, last year after Angel’s return Willow had had told her that there was no ‘binding spell’, it was just Giles’ way to try and get her to open up. Kinda sweet really, in a stuffy, British way.”

Buffy cleared her throat, “Uh, Okay, there was Acathla,” she gestured to a spot on the table. “And there was me, and Angel was in the middle, then,” she made a gesture with her finger, “sword.”

Giles seemed puzzled. “Yes, you see that’s what I thought, but...”

Buffy interrupted him. “That’s not all...Angel was cured. Willow’s spell worked and... And he was Angel again. Only, he didn’t remember anything that had happened. But it was too late, Acathla was waking up and I had to...”

Giles took off his glasses and regarded her with sympathy. “I’m so very sorry Buffy, it must’ve been...”

Buffy stood up and sighed. “Don’t worry about me; I spent the whole summer dealing with it. Now I’ve dealt I just want to put it behind me, and I also desperately need to study.” She picked up her books and headed out. “Good luck with the spell.”

Giles looked a little startled as he watched her leave.

*****

Buffy skipped down the steps to where she knew her friends were, pleased that she had remembered most of the stuff from the year before. It left her wondering if she could get better scores on her SATS this time round, now she knew which questions would come up. This reliving things over again had all kinds of perks.

“Well, I’m two for two for makeup tests.” Then, realising that her friends weren’t paying her any attention,” And we’re looking at what?”

Faith and Scott Hope were chatting by the water fountain, getting along pretty well.

‘Wow, I’d actually completely forgotten about Scott Hope.’

“Does anyone believe that is her actual hair colour?” Cordelia remarked snidely before moving away.

Willow was a little friendlier. “I haven’t seen him laugh like that. Hey, maybe Faith and Scott could hit it off.” She saw Buffy frowning. “I mean, if you were done with him. N-Not that you used him,” she finished quickly.

Buffy shrugged. “’m not really interested in Scott anymore Will, I mean he looks all dependable and...nice, but maybe he’s the type that goes and dumps you right before Homecoming and then goes with somebody else five seconds later. So really there could be a risk factor...” Then she noticed the shared look between Xander and Willow. “Why am I seeing a look? There shouldn’t be a look.”

Willow gave her a sympathetic look. “You really do need to find the fun, B.” Buffy gave her a disbelieving look. “...uffy.”

“What do I have to do? I have fun. I have big fun.” Buffy muttered to herself as she walked over to Scott and Faith. “Hey.”

“Hey, B.”

Scott smiled at her. “Hey, Buffy, Faith has been telling me tall tales.”

“She’s a funny one.” She took a hold of Faith’s arm, “And leaving. You are still coming over right?”

“Sure, wouldn’t miss it.”

“Well, bye,” Scott said, disappointed.

“Yeah, bye.” Faith sent him a smile as Buffy led her away, “He’s a cutie. Is he seeing anybody?”

Buffy shook her head. “Not me, that’s for sure. He had his chance.”

*****

“So you’re a slayer, too.” Joyce said as she heaps food onto Faith’s plate, “Isn’t that interesting. Do you like it?”

“God, I love it!”

Buffy gestured at her own plate. “Uh, Mom? Could you pass the...”

Joyce waved her away. “Just a second honey,” she said, her attention still focused on Faith. “You know Buffy never talks that way, why do you love it?”

Buffy sighed and helped herself to some fries.

“Well, when I’m fighting, the whole world goes away and I only know one thing; that I’m gonna win and they’re gonna lose,” Faith stabbed her food with her fork. “I like that feeling.”

“Sure beats that dead feeling you get when they win and you lose,” Buffy teased, although the joke seemed to fall a little flat.

Faith smirked at her as she ate. “I don’t let that kinda negative thinkin’ in, y’know.”

Joyce nodded understandingly. “Right, right, that could get you hurt. Buffy can be awfully negative sometimes.” She tapped the table lightly as she told Buffy, “See, honey, you’ve gotta fight that.”

“I’ll work on it,” Buffy said dryly. She guessed that this was the price for telling your Mom you were the slayer; work tips.

“Oh, Faith, can I get you another soft drink?”

Faith smiled. “Oh, you bet. Thanks.”

Joyce turned and left with Faith’s glass.

Faith glanced at Buffy as she ate. “She’s really cool, huh?”

Buffy smiled a little sadly, remembering from last time that Faith didn’t seem to have a relationship with her own Mom. “Um, best Mom ever. Excuse me.”

Faith frowned as Buffy hurried into the kitchen.

Joyce was getting some soda out of the fridge as Buffy entered. “I like this girl, Buffy.”

Buffy glanced down at the island as her fingers drew patterns nervously on the surface. “Good. I mean I like her too, it’s just...” She wasn’t sure if her Mom was gonna like her suggestion her not.

“What is it, honey?”

“Well, it’s just that she’s staying in the really seedy motel at the edge of town...”

Joyce looked surprised. “You want her to stay here with us?”

“I know it’s sudden, but slaying is a tough biz if you don’t have a support network...friends. It can be lonely and I just thought she could use the, um, again I use the word support.”

“And have you talked to Faith about this?”

“No, no, not yet...and not right away either, but maybe in about a week?” Buffy put on her best winning smile.

“Well, I suppose if it’s okay with her, I don’t see a problem. We do have a spare room.”

Buffy moved around the kitchen to hug her Mom. “Thanks Mom, this is gonna be great.”

Returning her hug Joyce said. “It’s the least I could do if she’s helping keep my daughter safe.”

*****

Buffy sighed contentedly as she strolled down the alley with Faith, she’d actually missed this; patrolling with Faith, which was distinctly more pleasant than punching Faith in the face, or getting punched by Faith really. Fighting with her before Gwen Post arrived or when they fought those sword wielding dudes, Buffy had loved the way they could be so in synch with each other. She’d never had that, not even when she patrolled with Angel.

Buffy remembered the energy that seemed to roll off of the other girl, the way she fought and the way she revelled in her power. Part of Buffy had always envied Faith and how she embraced her calling, but now all she hoped was that she could help the other girl find a balance in her life; to find something besides the slaying.

Faith looked around. “Didn’t we, um, do this street already?”

“Vamps have a tendency to hit a street even after you’ve been there. Being evil they tend to lack for manners.”

Faith shrugged and looked straight ahead. “Mm. You have been doing this the longest.”

Buffy looked at her sideways, a little cautiously. “I guess...”

“Yeah. Maybe a little too long.”

Buffy got a little irritated. She was actually trying to be friendly this time. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing.” Faith said, although a little uneasily.

Buffy sensed that the other girl regretted saying anything. “Am I not...Did I do something?”

“I’m five-by-five, B, living entirely large. Actually wondering about your problem.”

“I’m fine,” Buffy insisted. “I’m going completely problem-free nowadays, I’m clean.”

“It’s just... you’re wound kinda tight. Maybe it’s about last night or maybe you think I’m steppin’ on your toes by comin’ to your town.”

Buffy stopped and put her hand on Faith’s shoulder. “Faith, I’ve got no problem with you being here, y’know. I’m actually pretty happy that you’re here. It’s hard to explain...”

“Well if it’s not me then what? ‘Cause obviously something in your bottle needs uncorking.” Faith shrugged. “It is the Angel thing?”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “No, the Angel thing, it was a while ago and I’m okay now, it’s just that my friends have a hard time believing me.”

Faith stuffed her hands in her pockets. “But the other night, you acted all upset,” something dawned on her and her eyes widened. “You weren’t talkin’ ‘bout him were you? When you said it was tough, fighting someone you reckoned was a friend...”

Buffy took a deep breath and looked into Faith’s eyes, seeing the concern there and wanting to tell her the truth, to trust her. But before she could get her answer out she heard multiple growls as a number of vampires rushed them from the dark.

‘Oh, thank God.’

Buffy pointed over Faith’s shoulder. “Right now, I wanna just fight them. Come on.”

Faith, Hope And Tricks (PART 2: Kicking Ass And Kissing Toast)

Time seemed to slow, Buffy moved to the side and forward to give Faith room to move, her muscles tensing as she watched the vampires stalk closer. It was instinct, they were vampires, she was the slayer, and while she might not love the fighting quite as much as Faith at the moment, this she was always sure of; fighting, slaying, winning. There was no uncertainty or confusion or mixed up memories to go along with the violence and now she was glad for that clarity.

Instinctively Buffy ducked a wild swing from the first vamp that came at her and spun to roundhouse kick a second, she then jabbed backwards to smash the first one under the chin before Faith wrenched it of its feet from behind and threw it against the wall. Buffy pulled out her stake but before she could close on her downed opponent a third vamp smashed her across the back with a pipe, sending her tumbling.

Buffy gasped as she scrambled to recover her stake and shrug off the lancing pain across her shoulders; ducking a second swing from the pipe-wielding vamp she pounded him twice in the face before grabbing his shoulder and flipping him to the ground. As she readied to stake him another vamp caught her wrist and drew her backwards into his grasp.

“For Kakistos we live...For Kakistos, you die.” It growled as it bared its teeth against her neck. His two friends we picking themselves up from the ground as Faith proceeded to soundly beat hers to a pulp, shouting at it as she did so.

“YOU...CAN’T... TOUCH...ME!”

‘Oh, this is familiar!’

Buffy brought her head back fast against her assailant, stunning him and snapping his head back, before bracing against him and kicking off with both feet to send another one hurtling backwards as she fell to the ground. Then freeing her wrist she drove her stake down and back, dusting the prone vampire under her before scrambling to her feet.

The third vamp, this one with a bad pony tail, drove her back with a few of punishing body blows, driving her back towards a stack of pallets. Buffy blocked, countered with two fierce jabs before ducking and sweeping his legs out from under him. One quick staking later and she was left watching the back of the last vamp as he fled.

Buffy looked on as Faith continued to beat her vamp into sloppy joes. “Okay, someone needs to break this up. Faith!”

She hauled the other slayer of her beaten opponent. “Faith, enough. You won okay, he cried uncle!”

Buffy turned to quickly stake him, leaving them alone.

“You okay?” Buffy asked, deciding not to jump all over Faith this time, more flies with honey and all that.

Faith was a little out of breath. “Yeah, just got caught up in the moment is all.”

Buffy nodded cautiously. “Well, one of those guys could easily have had a shot at your back, you gotta be more careful.”

“I can handle myself,” Faith said defensively.

Buffy held up her hands. “That’s not in question; really, you were pounding that guy like he owed you money or something.”

Faith relaxed a little and smirked. “Gee, I hope doin’ violence to vampires doesn’t upset you, it’s kinda in the job description.”

Buffy smiled at the jibe. “Well, while you were getting all slap-happy I just dusted two.” She held up two fingers as she looked around. “Ooh, and the newcomer lags behind...”

“Night’s still young. I’m just getting warmed up.”

“Good to know, but I’m more concerned about these guys. One of them said something while he was trying to bite me.” Buffy looked at Faith and said flatly. “The name Kakistos mean anything to you.”

Faith’s entire demeanour changed, her smirk dissolved from her face and her eyes widened with fear. “Kakistos.” She said, her voice carrying a tremor.

Buffy tried to sound as supportive and concerned as she could. “Faith, what’s wrong? Who’s this Kakistos guy?”

“Kakistos,” Faith said again, running a hand through her hair. “H-he’s a vamp, biggest son of a bitch you’ve ever...I tried to...”

Buffy reached out her hand. “Faith, it's okay, but you need to tell me what happened.”

Faith shook her head and turned away frantically. “What I need to do is get gone, the sooner the better.”

Buffy grabbed her hand. “Faith, what really happened to your watcher? Is she...Did he kill her?”

Faith seemed to freeze, her face turned back to look at Buffy, she looked as terrified and as young as Buffy had remembered. “They don’t have a word for what he did to her. I was there...I saw, what he was gonna do to me. I tried to stop him but I couldn’t. So I ran...”

Buffy looked into her eyes. “Listen Faith, you didn’t do anything wrong, okay. If you hadn’t run, you’d be dead too. Now do the math, one vamp, two of us, we stick together we’ll be fine.” Buffy continued to hold Faith’s hand as she led her away. “Come on, I know where we need to go.”

*****

“Buffy?” Giles peered around his apartment door having just put on his glasses. “Is something the matter?”

Buffy was still holding onto the other slayer, who had remained pale and shaken on their way over. “Sorry for the lateitude but we have trouble of the serious kind.”

A short time later they were sitting on Giles’ couch with hot tea in front of them as Buffy continued to explain. “There’s a new vampire in town, goes by the name Kakistos. I’m guessing he’s the one responsible for the disappearances. We ran into some of his lackeys, who are thankfully no longer with us. But this vamp- he killed Faith’s watcher.”

Faith flinched and looked up guiltily at Giles, her face still pale. “’m sorry.”

Giles seemed shocked. “Oh, Good lord, you mean he followed you here?”

Faith just nodded, failure seeming to weigh on her slumped shoulders.

Giles nodded thoughtfully. “I have heard of this Kakistos. In Greek the name means the worst of the worst. But it also refers to a vampire so old that his hands and feet are cloven.”

Buffy thought about it. “Like how the Master got all ‘bat-face’ after being around for so long?”

Giles nodded. “Precisely. I also suspect that like the Master he will have, well, a cult following.”

Buffy leaned forward and caught Faith’s eye. “And we’ve already taken out some of his guys, okay?”

Faith looked like she was trying to compose herself and gave Buffy a determined nod.

Giles brow furrowed. “I think you should both retire for the rest of the evening, get some rest. We can start researching this fellow in the morning. Faith,” his expression changed to one of compassion. “I’m so sorry about your Watcher, Faith. From what I’ve heard she was a truly remarkable woman.”

Faith held Giles’ gaze, her mouth contorting like she was trying to say something, but eventually she ducked her eyes and nodded in agreement.

Buffy and Faith got up and left Giles apartment, Faith hugging herself and Buffy casting a grateful look at Giles; he had handled that well.

Outside his place Buffy spoke up. “Hey, you can come back to my house, if you want?”

Faith snapped her head round. “I’m not gonna rabbit on you, B. You don’t hafta’ keep an eye on me or whatever.”

Buffy shook her head. “That wasn’t what I was thinking, Faith. I was thinking safety, y’know. Motels aren’t homes; if they find you, the vamps can come in any time they want.”

Faith sneered at her before turning away. “Well, I don’t need a babysitter, I can look after myself. Been doin’ it all my life, anyhow.”

Buffy bit down her rising anger, she knew that Faith was just scared and lashing out. Buffy thought about how frightened the Master had got her.

“Faith, I know you can take care of yourself. But I also know that everybody needs help, okay. That’s why I let my friends help, because I know I can’t do this job alone. And I don’t think anybody should have to.”

Faith was still turned away. “Yeah, well I ain’t you,” Her voice was softer now.

Buffy looked at Faith, staring at the back of her head and wondering what she was thinking, caught somewhere between exasperated and desperate; Buffy wanted to reach out but the words wouldn’t come.

So she thought back to what she knew about Faith; no friends, a loner but maybe not by choice, no family that gave a damn, no supportive mom like Buffy herself had, now no watcher; somebody who had plucked her off the streets, given her a purpose, and probably treated her with more respect and affection than anybody had for a long time.

Buffy reached out and put a hand on Faith’s shoulder, feeling her tense muscles underneath.

“No, I’m not you, but I am a slayer, just like you- the only other one in the world, right? That’s why you came here looking for me, and since then you’ve been telling me how alike we are. And, I don’t know, maybe you have a point; maybe there are things I can learn from you. God knows I’ve screwed up enough times, I probably need some pointers...But it can go both ways, Faith, we can learn from each other. ” Buffy took her hand away a little awkwardly. “Which in slayer terms has gotta be a pretty unique sitch, right? ‘Cause usually a slayer is way too dead to offer any advice.”

She saw Faith relax her posture and turn around, favouring Buffy with a little lop-sided smirk. “So whatcha gonna teach me, Twinkie?”

Buffy smiled in return. “Lots of things, like, for example, how ‘B‘ is an acceptable nickname, but being named after a yellow snack cake, not so much.”

Faith grinned a little before faltering and her expression became more serious. “Listen, thanks for the offer but I’ll be okay for tonight. Reckon it’ll take a while for them to find out where I’m holed up.”

Buffy thought back to her internal timeline, she remembered the vamps coming to Faith’s place the night after the brawl in the alley, no reason to think that would change.

“Okay, if you’re sure. But tomorrow come to the school, things won’t be so hectic for me so we can hang out while we plan or strategize...and my god, maybe I do need to find the fun.”

Faith laughed at that. “See ya later, B.” And with that she took off for her place leaving Buffy alone with the night.

*****

Buffy didn’t sleep well that night; her mind seemed too busy with all the connotations of what was happening in her life. She had changed things, used her knowledge to actually alter what had happened from what it was, what she remembered.

And now she knew how.

It had taken her long enough, thinking back to the hospital with Faith, through her tearful regrets and ramblings to what exactly she had said. She had wished, she had asked for that second chance and someone or something had answered her.

Buffy’s knowledge of wishes was fairly sparse, since she knew of two things that granted wishes; vengeance demons and leprechauns, and leprechauns weren’t even real.

And this really didn’t seem like a vengeance thing either, maybe if Faith had made the wish, but she’d been pretty quiet- a coma would do that to you.

So what did that leave? A sorcerer? Maybe a faerie like the ones in children’s stories? Rumplesomething, did he grant wishes?

Could be a genie? No, there hadn’t been a lamp there or anything. Buffy sighed; she was so large with the not knowing. Maybe Giles would know; maybe she could casually slip it into conversation? Or research it herself? Or ask Willow?

It worried her; from her experience things like this came with a price, but what kind of price? Maybe things get worse? Or one of her friends gets hurt this time round? Or worse somebody dies.

As sleep finally overcame her she decided to deal with it after Kakistos, one thing at a time.

*****

Buffy walked into the library, after pretty much sleepwalking through class, and was pleased to see Faith was there, sitting cross-legged on the desk idly playing with a stake. Willow and Xander were there as well, laughing at something Faith said, and Buffy spotting Giles rooting around behind the counter.

“Hi guys,” Buffy greeted. “Don’t tell me, more tales of wacky slayer hi-jinks?”

Willow grinned. “Actually we were mocking the fashion disasters that Faith saw when she arrived here this morning.”

Faith shook her head. “Never seen so many bright colours on one person ’fore, like a clown exploded near ‘em or something.”

Xander nodded. “Hence the wackiness. Don’t worry Buff, we’re not gonna tell her all the embarrassing tales about you. Unless you, y’know, don’t pay us.”

“I’ll take my chances, thanks.”

Giles stepped back to the counter, a stack of books in his arms. “Ah, Buffy there you are. I think I have an idea of where we can begin our research.”

“Right, Khaki trousers guy, I remember. I’m here and alert, ready to study.” She put a hand over her mouth as she yawned.

Giles looked up from the books he was flicking through. “Did you sleep alright?”

Buffy shook her head. “I’m fine really, just been kinda busy up here.” She tapped behind her ear.

Xander regarded her sympathetically for a moment. “Does somebody need some sugar?”

“That sounds nice.” Then Buffy frowned a little, “As long as you’re talking about candy bars and not the whole kissing thing.”

Xander laughed nervously. “Um, the first one, really, I’ll just go get some study fuel.”

Xander left the library and Buffy slumped into one of the chairs, tilting her head to look at Faith.

“So how was your night, any trouble?”

“Five-by-five, B, just like I said it’d be. Seems like I slept better too, looking at you.”

Buffy stifled another yawn. “So, you’ve been here since this morning?” She looked around at the books scattered across the table, a few resting open near Faith, “Researching?”

Faith made a face. “Not exactly my speed, B. Giles was showing me the weapons and I told him more about Kakistos, what I know anyways.”

“Giles says that all vampires who get that old tend to develop some kind of special ability,” Willow added. “We’ve just got to find out what.”

Faith scowled down at the table. “Well, his head ain’t axe-proof, that’s for damn sure. I made him even more butt-ugly than he was before.”

Buffy thought about it. “So, we’re not going to bump into him out patrolling. That probably means he’ll only act when his people know where you are.” She turned to look at Giles, “I say we stake out Faith’s place tonight, loaded with weapons. And when they arrive we ambush them.”

Giles, chewing on his glasses as he read, looked up. “Are you quite sure they’ll do such a thing? It seems more likely they’ll try and ambush you whilst patrolling again.”

Buffy nodded. “Yeah, but I bet this Kakistos guy has a serious mad-on for Faith after what she did. And I’m also betting he’s not going to be waiting patiently for his guys to fetch and carry. As soon as he thinks he knows where you are he’ll come in force.”

Faith smiled grimly and nodded. “Instead he finds us loaded for bear.”

“That’s my brilliant plan.”

“Oh, dear.” Giles murmured.

Buffy frowned. “We don’t like my brilliant plan?”

Giles looked up. “No, I...I mean that’s not what I was commenting on. I’ve just found a rather grim 16th century account of a battle that Kakistos was involved in, outside Santiago.”

Buffy raised her eyebrows. “San Diego?”

Giles gave a long suffering sigh. “Santiago de Campostela, a famous religious site in Northern Spain.”

“I’m guessing it went badly for the other guys.” Willow replied sadly.

“It says here that his ‘breast could not be penetrated with arrow nor with spear’, um, that he couldn’t be staked. At least not by any normal means.”

“Was he wearing armour?” Willow asked. “Because isn’t that like cheating.”

Giles shook his head. “No, uh, according to this description it’s far more likely that, given his age his bones may have, uh, changed somehow.”

Buffy didn’t like the sound of that. “Changed how.”

Giles carried the book over to the table and seemed to be trying to cross-reference something. “Most likely a fused sternum, where the spaces between the ribs would be replaced with more bone and the ribcage itself may also warp.”

‘And I thought I was just having an off day.’

He turned to Faith with an open book. “Was his body shape anything like that? Barrel-chested?”

Faith flinched and glanced away. “Pretty much, yeah.”

Giles set the book down and sighed. “It is, well, a fairly rare vampiric trait brought on by extreme old age. And given that it was evidenced in the sixteenth century...”

“Then he’s probably much older, got it.” Buffy finished as she straightened up, “Still, with the two of us, I still think we’re looking at one very old pile of dust come night-time.

*****

A couple more hours of research later with no new helpful data Buffy was getting restless, one look at Faith showed that she felt the same way. Faith hadn’t really looked at any books, instead spending her time packing up a collection of crossbows, stakes, and holy water, as well as a couple of axes into a large canvas bag.

“All set?” Buffy asked as she closed a particularly boring tome.

“Everything a girl needs to get her slay on,” Faith patted the bag. “I’m thinkin’ I’ll take off for the motel, get changed before the sun goes down.”

Buffy stood and grabbed her bag. “We’ll both go; I’m being zero help here. It’s all ‘stakes are a big waste of time’ over and over.”

Willow looked concerned. “Be careful.”

Buffy gave a reassuring smile to her as Giles came out of his office. “Buffy, if I could have a moment.”

Buffy nodded to Faith. “I’ll catch up.” She walked over to Giles, “So what’s up?”

“Just to tell you that I’ve informed the Council of the situation here, and they approved my request, Faith is to stay here indefinitely, I’m to look after the both of you until a new watcher is found.” Giles removed his glasses and began to clean them. “How do you think she’s doing?”

“She’s dealing, but I don’t think she’ll be okay until she kills this guy and gets some closure.”

Giles nodded in sympathy. “Well I just wanted to say you’re being remarkably supportive. I know you have some issues of your own to work out as well.”

“It’s a relief actually, focusing on someone else’s problems for a change.” Buffy shrugged, “Besides, if she’s going to be here for a while then I should at least get to know her.”

“Agreed. Oh and Buffy, be careful tonight, this is a particularly dangerous vampire you’ll be facing.”

“Aren’t I always careful?” Buffy said walking towards the double doors. “Besides Faith’ll probably just shove a support beam through his chest and that’ll be that.” Buffy stepped through the doors and almost ran into Scott. “Oh, uh, sorry. Were... you waiting for me?”

Scott smiled nervously. “Hi and yes I was.”

Buffy smiled awkwardly. “Listen Scott I really have to be...”

“I know, be somewhere else. Think of this as my last ditch effort, I realise that one more will qualify as stalking.” He paused to catch his breath, “I’ve given a lot of thought, some might say too much thought, to how I might be a part of your life. It begins with conversation, we all know this. Maybe over a cup of coffee, maybe at the Buster Keaton festival- playing on State Street all this weekend...”

‘Buster Keaton, Yeesh...’

Buffy sighed. “Listen Scott, you’re sweet and all but I’m not really...interested in dating any guy right now. I just, I’m in a really weird place right now and I’m taking a break from the whole guy scene, so, um, sorry and I really have to...”

Buffy left hurriedly leaving a puzzled Scott behind.

*****

Buffy made it to Faith’s motel with the sun hanging low over Sunnydale, climbing up the steps she knocked on the door.

Buffy heard movement from inside and then the door opened, Faith stood there dressed only in a short, tight, red t-shirt and black panties, her hair was still wet from the shower and she was holding a stake in one hand.

Buffy smiled. “You remember what I said about vamps and no manners, they rarely knock. Also it’s daytime.”

Faith shrugged as she left the door open and went over to her bed. “Yeah, well you could’ve been the manager hitting me up for some cash.”

“And you thought you’d stake him.”

Faith gave her a look. “The way he’s been lookin’ at me, thought I’d give him a little show.” She gestured to herself, “Get him to lay off about the rent.”

Buffy hesitated. “I could help out with that...”

Faith shook her head as she sat on the bed and pulled on her leather pants. “Not a charity case, B. I’ll figure somethin’ out.”

Buffy looked around the room as Faith finished getting dressed. She’d forgotten how grim it was here, the kind of place you’d stay only if you had nowhere else to go. She decided she wasn’t going to let Faith stay here again, that’s for sure, charity or not.

Faith caught her looking. “You like it so much, I’m pretty sure I could get you a sweet deal for the one next door.”

Buffy reddened a little. “Sorry, but, uh, at least you’ve space, lots of space. And a bath, that probably helps with the, um, bathing and all.”

Faith stood and picked up the bag. “C’mon Blondie,” she smirked. “Let’s get this over with, and then, if your real good maybe I’ll let you use the bath later.”

*****

They didn’t walk far from the motel, across the street through a small car park to a patch of waste ground where they decided to wait. Buffy turned and saw they had a decent view of the whole street, even with night closing in they should be able to see anyone lurking about.

“Won’t be long now, he’s pretty close.”

Faith crouched to load one of the crossbows. “How do you know?”

‘Oh, because he chased us to his lair from right about over there...’

“Um, well, it’s the poor side of town, right? Lots of abandoned buildings to hole up in during the day, makes sense they’ll have a nest nearby.”

Buffy had actually tried to remember the exact location of Kakistos’s nest from memory, but it had been so confusing that night, the vampires had chased the both of them all over the place before leading them there.

“Locked and loaded,” Faith said handing a crossbow to Buffy. “You a good shot?”

Buffy nodded. “I do alright, what about you?”

Faith grinned proudly. “Oh yeah, Diana said I was a natural dead shot.”

Buffy looked at her. “Diana was your Watcher, right?”

Faith’s grin faded. “Yeah, she...she was alright, y’know.”

Buffy nodded in sympathy. “If you ever want to talk...”

“Right now I mainly wanna kill things, but, uh, thanks.” Faith stuffed a couple of stakes in her denim jacket and picked up an axe before looking at the both of them. “If anyone saw us like this...”

“I wouldn’t worry; the people who live here tend to ignore the weird and the unexplained.”

Faith raised her eyebrows, “And chicks walking about with battleaxes?”

“Um, we’ll say we're taking them to an antiques shop...to be cleaned or valued or something.”

“You sure the cops are gonna buy that?”

Buffy smiled. “Sunnydale cops? Probably.”

Buffy then held up her hand as she saw movement on the street, a quiet figure shifting through the shadows heading straight for Faith’s motel room. The figure moved up the stairs and paused before moving over to the window, peering in at empty space.

Faith moved a little closer. “Perv or Vamp, which d’ya think?”

Buffy followed the figure as he suddenly turned and leapt over the railing to the ground. “Our survey says vampire.”

Before either of the slayers could move closer the figure waved a hand over to a car idling a half a block down the street, a limousine by the look of things.

The limo moved a little up the street, stopping again outside the motel; waiting.

Faith tensed up. “That’s him. I know it, I feel him.”

In the street light Buffy saw the spotter for the first time as he leaned down to talk to the passenger, she recognised him as the vampire from the other night- the one that ran from them.

Buffy nodded. “There’s a familiar face, looks like he came back for a second date.”

As suddenly as it had appeared the limo drove off down the street leaving the vampire alone outside the motel.

“Looks like we’re only dusting the one tonight.” Faith said raising her crossbow.

Buffy held up her hand. “Or we get him to tell us where their nest is...”

Faith nodded as she and Buffy moved stealthily towards the motel, but when they got within twenty feet the vampire, seeming to sense he was being watched, turned and spotted Buffy as she stepped out onto the pavement.

The vampire shifted on his haunches before suddenly turning and running towards the back of the motel, Buffy cursed and began to give chase as Faith again raised her crossbow.

“Faith, no!”

Faith ignored her and fired at the fleeing vampire as he was about to climb up onto a car and leap to the roof of a building, instead though he tumbled to ground letting out a strangled cry. The two slayers ran over to his prone form and in the illumination of the motel sign Buffy saw that a bolt had neatly skewered the vamp’s thigh, which he was now clutching in pain.

Buffy looked wide-eyed at Faith. “Nice shot.”

Faith grinned, pleased with herself. “Stick around, maybe I’ll teach you.”

Buffy shook her head as she squatted down next to the vamp. “Say, don’t I know you? Isn’t that nice, running into old friends, it happens so rarely in my line of work. So, now that we’re all caught up, where are you staying in town? Please be exact.”

The vampire grimaced in pain. “For Kakistos we live...”

Faith stomped on his leg and the vampire cried out in pain. “Tell us something new.”

The vampire grinned around his pain. “You are nothing to us slayer, nothing. I followed you last night, heard you talk, you’re terrified. Little girl lost without her Watcher, and now your friends’ too.”

‘Giles, he followed us to Giles’ place...’

“Oh, no...” Buffy stood up and backed away from him, her mind whirling from the fact that she might just have gotten her Watcher killed. The vampire laughed again before Faith slammed a stake into his chest.

“We’ve gotta move, B, you know a shortcut?”

Buffy shook her head. “What?”

“A shortcut to Giles, cut through the alleys or something.”

Buffy simply turned on her heels and ran as fast as she could, hoping that Faith could keep up and praying that they weren’t too late.

*****

Buffy made it to the end of Giles’ street in pretty much record time, in time enough to see the limousine pull up in front of Giles place and stop. Doors swiftly opened and figures climbed out, Buffy counted five, with one big enough to count for another three.

Buffy paused briefly to raise her crossbow and shoot into the group before discarding it and pulling her stake. She saw one vampire, a blonde woman, reel away in pain and the others turn there attention towards her.

With a grunt she dived at the group, lashing out a foot at one before backhanding another, sending him sliding over the car. Grabbing a surprised vampire by the jacket, she threw him face first into the car window of the limo before pounding a stake into his back. As he was dusted the female vamp managed to jerk out her crossbow bolt and the vampire Buffy had just kicked whirled to face her.

Buffy recognised him as Mr. Trick, right-hand vamp for hire. This year would go a whole lot easier if she could stake him right now.

“Slayer,” he grinned as he circled her. “I believe this dance is mine.”

He lashed out fast, catching her in the side with his leg before grabbing her and slamming her against the car. Buffy squirmed against his strength; leaning backwards she suddenly twisted and lashed out, catching him in the chest with a well-placed elbow before flipping him over her shoulder.

“Guess what, the music stopped.” Buffy drove her stake at him but he quickly rolled away and back to his feet.

“But the beat goes on.” He finished, but then stepped back.

Buffy turned around just in time to see a large clawed fist lash her across the face, sending her to the ground.

‘Ow... he hits hard.’

“Mr. Trick, fetch the gasoline and burn the Watcher out. We are wasting time here.” Kakistos rumbled.

Buffy flipped to her feet. “Actually this is a good cardio workout for me.”

With that she launched a couple of kicks at the huge vampire, hammering her foot into his side, which still felt like she was kicking a tree. She punched him in the gut again before ducking a slicing forearm and driving her stake into his chest.

Kakistos laughed, grabbed her wrist and twisted it, making her release the stake. He then effortlessly threw Buffy around and slammed her hard against the car, grinning as she tumbled to the ground.

“I guess you need a bigger stake, slayer.”

Buffy looked up as Kakistos loomed over her, and then suddenly she saw Faith standing on the roof of the limousine, axe raised above her head with both hands.

Faith snarled. “Motherfucker,” as she swung the axe downwards and to the side with all her strength, like she was felling a tree. The blade struck Kakistos’s neck as he was turning to look and then there was no head on his massive body, there was just a thunk noise as something bounced off the hood of the car. Kakistos fell to the ground and exploded into dust.

Faith seemed to sag with relief as she climbed to the ground and helped Buffy to her feet.

Buffy looked around for Mr. Trick but, of course, he was gone. She then turned to the brunette.

Buffy smiled. “Potty-mouth.”

Faith shrugged. “Seemed like the thing to say, oh, and you’re welcome.”

“Well I was just keeping him busy while you caught up.”

“Didn’t know little legs could move that fast.” Faith nodded at the house. “Your Watcher okay?”

Buffy sighed with relief. “Probably still asleep. C’mon, I’ll say thanks by buying you dinner, you hungry?”

“Starved.”

*****

“I can’t believe you got all that in your mouth?” Buffy gaped across the booth at the other girl, “So what happened? Bitten by a radioactive Anaconda? Taught some strange technique by a circus freak? What?”

Faith, her cheeks stretched out by food, merely smiled and wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. She set down the remains of her second massive cheeseburger of the night and reached for her milkshake, managing to poke the straw between her lips as she chewed.

Buffy just shook her head and bit into her chicken salad sandwich daintily, which she was quite steadily demolishing; unlike Faith she wasn’t trying to be set some kind of record.

The diner they were in was quiet, a nice little retro place with a few couples talking in low murmurs and relaxed waitresses tending tables; a lot nicer than the one she had worked at in LA. And a hell of a lot nicer than the one she’d gone to with Faith the first time around, but unsurprisingly Giles lived in a much nicer neighbourhood than a bunch of smelly vamps.

They’d sat down half an hour ago in exhausted silence before ordering, and then Buffy had used the payphone outside to call a slightly tired and grouchy Giles and tell him that Kakistos was so much dust. She had gotten back to find Faith ordering two double cheeseburgers, fries and a shake; she’d then asked Buffy what she was having.

“Man, you are such a chick. ‘Can I have low-fat mayo, please.’?” Faith shook her head after the waitress had left.

“I’m watching my figure,” Buffy grumbled. “Just because I don’t eat like a pig.”

“What can I say, I’m a gal who likes to indulge her appetites,” Faith grinned widely showing Buffy her cute dimples, she’d rarely seen the brunette so relaxed. Like Buffy had told Giles, all Faith needed was closure and now it seemed a weight had been lifted.

Buffy pouted. “Besides, I’m treating myself to dessert after. Modern medicine has for too long ignored the healing power of ice cream.”

Faith grinned. “This girl just can’t be tamed. Seriously B, do you have any vices?”

Buffy counted things off on her fingers. “Let’s see; Shopping, shoes, more shopping, ice skating shows, ooh and did I mention shopping?”

“You are so vanilla...”

“Well, maybe I don’t sleep in the nude or wrestle alligators.”

Faith leaned forward and looked into her eyes. “Well maybe it’s time you started; guarantee you’ll have more fun.”

Buffy stared right back. “Well maybe I will,” then she frowned. “The first one anyway, I don’t think we have any alligators in Sunnydale. Maybe the zoo, but I can’t break in there. I just couldn’t cross that line.”

Faith, seemingly busily trying to imagine something, smirked. “What line’s that?”

“The ‘something a drunken frat guy might do’ line. I have my pride.”

They bantered like that until food arrived and then Buffy had watched in amazement as Faith devoured her meal with relish, sucking her fingers and making quiet murmurs of enjoyment.

Buffy dabbed hers lips with a napkin as she looked on. “Also, are you always this loud?”

Faith licked her lips. “Y’know, you keep pitching me all these suggestive questions, I might just make you blush.”

Buffy raised her eyebrows. “I think you’ll find I’m harder to shock than you think.”

“Okay then,” Faith leaned forward with a sly smile, her voice getting low and husky. “You ever notice how food tastes so much better after a good slay, it’s like that with the sex as well- I swear doesn’t take too much for a guy to get me off afterwards, and I come pretty hard too. Hell, everything’s better, I think it’s all that energy, y’know? Doesn’t just go away, it just buzzes under your skin, making you feel so alive you feel as though you can do anything. Have anybody.” Faith leaned back smiling. “You ever notice that?”

Buffy, suddenly feeling a little hot, just shook her head. “Uuh...no, never noticed that.”

Faith gave her a look like she knew she was lying but then just shrugged. “Whatever. So, you want dessert?”

*****

Afterwards, as they walked back through Sunnydale Buffy was deep in thought, wondering about tonight and the unintended consequences that had put Giles in danger.

She decided that maybe she should closer to the script, do most of the things she remembered doing- like dating Scott Hope. If she didn’t date him then maybe there would be some unforeseen consequence, like he could go out on one of the nights when they had been dating and end up getting hurt, or killed or even vamped.

But if she dated him, which hadn’t been a bad thing after all, she could then change only the bad things that were going to happen.

“B? Buffy?”

Buffy blinked and looked at Faith. “Huh? I mean...I’m listening.”

“Yeah, listening to the sounds on whatever planet you were on just now. Everything okay?”

Buffy smiled at Faith’s concerned look. “I’m just thinking that I might give Scott Hope another chance.”

Buffy thought she saw a flicker of disappointment on Faith’s face before it broke into a smile. “You gonna go and look him up right now?”

Buffy giggled. “Ew, no. I mean, at school tomorrow.” She looked sideways at the other slayer, “Unless, if you like him, y’know, you could date him. I wouldn’t mind really.”

Faith shrugged. “Nah, it’s cool. I don’t really ‘date’ anyways.”

Buffy saw Faith’s motel in the distance so she slowed to a stop. “Um, listen I don’t really know how to say this, or even if it will make you feel better, so I’m just going to say it okay?”

Faith stood with an expectant look on her face. “What’s up?”

“Giles, um, wasn’t my first Watcher,” Buffy said quietly. “In L.A, when I was first called...chosen, there was this guy called Merrick, he’s the one who started...teaching me or whatever. I wasn’t really the best student, not very focused or brave really. I kind of gave him a lot of attitude.”

“What happened?” Faith’s voice was soft.

“There was a vampire, a real Anne Rice freak- Lothos I think his name was. Anyway he came at my watcher and I wasn’t ready...I couldn’t protect him. Merrick told me to run and then... he killed himself before Lothos could turn him into a vampire.”

“Jeez, that’s rough.”

“I felt guilty for a long time after that, like I’d let him down or something. But, I don’t think I did, not really. Slayers fight and Watchers help how they can; but the point is that the Watchers almost always outlast their slayer; they get to see them die. So the longer I live, I think, the prouder Merrick would be of me, of what he helped me to be. And tonight... I think you made Diana really proud, doing what you did.”

Faith looked at Buffy for what seemed like a long time. Her eyes, dark in the moonlight, seemed sad and solemn, like she was remembering something. Then she gently took Buffy hand and squeezed it. For a moment Buffy didn’t know what the other slayer was going to do and then suddenly Faith leaned into her, Buffy felt Faith’s breath against her cheek, and then her soft lips pressing there for a moment before she pulled away.

“Thanks, B. G’night.” She left Buffy standing on the sidewalk.

Buffy watched the other girl leave, her heart thumping a little from both the kiss and what she had told Faith, what she had wanted to tell her for the longest time. There was no guilt in screwing up, because everyone does it, but if you were very lucky you got a second chance to do things right.

...continued in Beauty and the Beasts...

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