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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2015 1:00 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Don't forget to open the music in the background :)


Undying Faith


‘There are days when his job sucks,’ Faith thought to herself.
Today was one of those days.


She stomped through the rain towards the suspected Vampire nest, looking for some clarity.
She knew she should have taken some of the mini-Slayers with her for ‘valuable training opportunities’ as the G-man put it. But she couldn’t be bothered.
She just wanted the simplicity and clarity that slaying brought. No training, no kids, no complicated Buffy stuff, just evil, and a Slayer. She looked up at the weeping sky and bitched. “Freakin’ rain! A good dose of sun would be handy about now.”


The sky was aggravatingly unresponsive.


Earlier patrols had spotted vampires in the area, the popular theory being that the lack of vampire activity was a sign of a badguy build-up. ‘Seriously, vamps have to be wicked stupid to be anywhere within a hundred miles of the main Slayer training academy,’ Faith mused.
Mind you, nice reliable stupid-evil was what she was in the mood for, a little violence, a little staking, a little clarity.
Just what the doc’ ordered.


She arrived at the location that Heather’s squad had tagged as the probable lair. ‘Disused warehouse, boarded up windows. Same old same old,’ she thought to herself.
Watching carefully for movement, she approached the warehouse.

The heavy sliding door was chained and padlocked, luckily Faith had her universal key.


Buffy may have had Mr Pointy, but Faith had her Mr Funtimes, a conveniently sized pry-bar. Good for hitting demons, blocking swords, and getting places you are just not supposed to be.
Not that Faith would ever tell anyone the name of her favourite pry bar.
That would just be weird.


Mr Funtimes and Slayer strength made short work of the chains, and Faith wrenched open the door, surprising a trio of vamps sitting around a small card table.

She grinned as they dumped their cards and bolted. Their hasty departure overturned the table and spilled chips and cards on the dusty floor. She drew her shortsword and charged.

And as she entered the warehouse, the hairs on the back of her neck itched.


‘Right on cue’ she thought, and sure enough, the heavy door behind her slammed shut, cutting off the light.
The rattling sounds of chains being wrapped around the door handle sounded, along with the thudding sounds of more vamps dropping from the rafters behind her.
She grinned hungrily, the jolt of fear running through her translated into ferocity by the predatory part of her Slayer nature.

‘Nine vamps, just right. They’re fun when they try to get clever,’ she thought to herself.
“Oh no! I’m trapped! Whatever shall I do?” She called out sarcastically.


“End of the road for you Slayer,” a bald vampire growled, his pale features twisted into the brutal visage of a hunting vampire.


“Seriously, do you guys get, like a newsletter or somethin’ when you get turned? Like, ‘100 dumb things to say before the Slayer dusts you?’” she complained as they surrounded her.


‘I’m not trapped in here with a bunch of vamps,’ she though with a predatory grin, ‘They’re trapped in here with me.’


They charged as one.
Faith went to work.


+++


Buffy bounced into the rear courtyard, a smile on her face that reached from ear to ear.

When Buffy was happy, the similarities between her and Dawn were most pronounced, however much the two sisters might protest.


The only inhabitants of the courtyard were the ‘terrible two,’ Buffy’s least-favourite people.
They were packing up their sewing kit, and a huge purple flag as the first spots of rain landed. ‘At least she’s wearing something less brain-damaging today,’ Buffy thought to herself.

Heather sent Buffy’s fashion sense to defcon 1 every time she got within 10 metres of her. Today, she was wearing a sleeveless black ‘Iron Maiden’ tee-shirt and cringe-making pink camouflage cargo pants and boots.


‘Where does she find this stuff?’ she wondered.


Julie, for her sins, was dressed in relatively sedate leather pants and a dark top. She looked a lot like Faith in that getup, something that Buffy found intensely irritating.

“Hey! Um, so I’m looking for Faith. Vital, important, Slayer stuff to discuss. Uh, senior Slayer stuff,” Buffy blurted.


Sporty-Xander arrived at a brisk jog, still wearing his exercise gear. “Did I miss it?!”


“She’s not here!” whined Buffy, stomping her foot.


Xander grinned, Buffy looked so much like Dawn when she was upset or happy. He dumped the bag of weapons he was carrying on the courtyard and stretched, completely oblivious to the brain-curdling effect it had on Heather.


“Relax Buff, she can’t have gone far,” he said, finally noticing the terrible two. “Uh, hey guys,’ he said, scratching his head in nervous discomfort.


Heather had a gooey expression of total bliss on her face.
Xander had never felt quite so naked, finding himself wishing for more clothes than running shorts and a singlet.
Against all his fervent hopes, he was not miraculously clothed.


“Hi Xander,” she sighed blissfully.


“Uh, so have either of you seen Faith?” he asked.


“She’s not here,” Julie glowered at Buffy.


Buffy rolled her eyes, ‘won’t somebody invent a cure for teenage crushes already?’


“Um, Buffy?” said Heather, half raising her hand like she was in class. “My squad found a vamp nest on recon last night, I think Faith went to check it out.”


+++


Faith dusted her hands together in the age-old gesture of a job well done. “Oh yeah, who’s bad?”


“Excuse me? Miss Lehane? Might I have a word with you?” said a pleasant voice from the darkness.


Faith spun to face the voice and was met by a man in a smart grey suit. He stepped from the shadows into the only-slightly-brighter light of the warehouse floor.


“Ok suit-boy, who the hell are you? And why am I not staking you like your boys here?” she demanded.


“Those were not my boys, this was not my ambush. They were simply vampires of slightly greater cunning than is typical,” he said simply.


“You still have not told me who you are,” she said curtly.


“My apologies Miss Lehane. My name is James and may I say, spectacular work on the vampires? It is a wonderful sight to see,” said James.


“Ok, now you are weirding me out. I gotta say, I am not known for handling surprises well. And wired after a good slay? Even worse,” she explained.

“What, do, you, want?” she spelled out.


“Ah yes. To meet you in person, and to apologise,” the suited man said.


“You ain’t Santa, and I already got over the puppy I didn’t get when I was eight. Don’t make me come over there and make you quit being cryptic,” she declared.


James gathered himself and sighed. “I came in person to apologise for your death.”


“Seriously? Well gee, thanks Santa, it’s just what I’ve always wanted,” she said, visibly cheering up.

“In case you weren’t paying attention in class, I just dusted 9 vamps in less time than it takes little D to inhale an ice cream cone, and I ain’t breaking a sweat.”


James looked sadly at her. “The walls of this building have been reinforced, you cannot get out, no magic can get in. This area has been screened from detection spells, no one can find you. I am truly sorry Miss Lehane, but the Powers That Be have decided to get the Slayer line back on track, and currently you are holding that up.” James said as he paced back and forth. “I’m sorry miss Lehane, but this is not the day someone tries to kill you. The Powers That Be control fate, and this is the day that you are fated to die.


“Whoa, time out Jimmy. Ignoring the fact that I’m gonna cut you in half real soon now, what the hell are you on about? I’ve never been accused of being a great thinker, but look around this town! There are Slayers everywhere! We got a couple a thousand in this school alone, and G-man is setting up schools in other frikkin’ countries for cryin’ out loud! Any of this registering? Why do you need me to die to get back on track?”


“There are many more potentials than there are active Slayers miss Lehane. What of those potentials too young to be called? Or too old? They exist still, and the line goes on. These Slayers Miss Rosenberg awakened are aberrations, they exist outside the Slayer line now. In time they will die and that will be the end of it.” He explained without rancour.

“But you are the last Slayer truly called, Miss Lehane. You carry the legacy of the first Slayer now, unlike Miss Summers. And the Powers That Be, need that legacy out of the hands of Miss Summers and her associates.”

“I am sorry Miss Lehane, truly I am, but it is time. It’s time for you to go now.”


With that James stepped back into the darkness, and dozens of muscular, green scaled demons stepped forth.


She gazed upon the massed ranks of demons, and for a moment, despair filled her.

‘Oh B, I’m so sorry...’


They waited for a moment, oddly silent, almost reverent for the importance of the encounter.

Faith gathered herself, wrapping up her feelings for Buffy, her sense of loss for what might have been. She put those precious things away in her deepest, most secret place.
And let the Slayer out.

She growled. It was the sound of a predator, as bleak and pitiless as the slopes of hell.


“My name is Faith, bitches. Remember it.”


+++


“Where was this nest Heather?” Buffy asked, as the rain started to fall.


“Uh, big warehouse, corner of Fergussen and Phillips. It was all boarded up and I felt kinda wiggy when we got near it. So: vamp nest or maybe demons. It’s on the alert board if you want some details...” Heather trailed off as the blood drained from Buffy’s face.

Music


“Buff?” Xander called, clearly worried.


Buffy’s world turned silent as she felt a deep sadness flood her. It was a sense of loss so profound, so absolute that there were no words she possessed to describe it.

For the space of two breaths, it felt like the world had ended.
She felt the way she did when her mother had died, or the day they lost Tara.

Worse, this sense of loss lingered only a few seconds, but it carried a lifetime of regret, of sorrow for all that might have been.
Buffy felt this soul-deep loss carefully put away and felt fury rising in its place, a fury that Buffy knew all too well: The fury of a Slayer.


“Faith,” she whispered.

The rattle of an axe being drawn from a bag, sounded to her side.
Wordlessly Xander handed her Faith’s Axe.


“Run.”


She ran.


+++


“Willow!” Tara gasped.


“Tara?” Willow said, a worried expression creasing her brow.


“Something is wrong,” Tara said, wincing and pressing a hand to her chest.


“What? What’s wrong, what’s happening?” Willow said, panicking.


Tara winced again, rubbing her chest.


Willow looked ever closer to panic. “Baby please, you’re scaring me!”


“I have to go! I have to go right now!” Tara said.


Willow’s worried expression was replaced by her resolve face. “Then go Tara. Go do what you have to do, I'll catch up.”

She nodded solemnly and pressed a brief but passionate kiss against Willow’s lips. She pulled off her borrowed pink sweater and ran from the room.


The rooftop door slammed back against the wall as she burst onto the roof.
She didn’t break stride as she sprinted for the edge, the white and blue sparkles of her magic swirling around her as she summoned strength from the Goddess.

Wherever she needed to be, she knew she had to get there fast.

She stretched out her wings as she ran headlong for the roof’s edge and brought them down with a snap as she hurled herself out into space.


+++


Faith fought like the avatar of a particularly vengeful and destructive god.
Everywhere she passed, she left devastation and ruin in her wake.
She was in her element, this was what she was born to do, she felt alive with her capacity to destroy.
She was the Slayer in its purest form, death come to life.
She moved with oiled precision, every move perfect and executed with blinding speed and terrible power.


Buffy ran.
She ran like she had never run before, her legs blurring with speed.
She held nothing back, she gave herself willingly to her Slayer nature and she moved.
She vaulted cars and smashed through windows without even breaking her stride. Poetry in motion, gone in a blur, everything she had given over one absolute task: Get. To. Faith.


Anyone who saw Faith that day would have known they were in the presence of something magnificent and pure, a force of nature.
The heritage of thousands upon thousands of years of battle flowed through Faith, a proud lineage, endless generations of Slayers reaching back into the distant past.
Slayers, sisters of blood, called upon to lay down their lives for the world.
And they answered Faith’s silent plea now, as they answered then.
Every one of them, every fallen Slayer, leant their strength to their sister in her moment of need.


‘God, somebody, help me!’ Buffy silently prayed, every hammering footfall a desperate plea to whatever gods might be listening.
And from somewhere she found the strength for even greater speed.

Flashes of memories came to her in the strange serenity of her commitment:
Meeting Faith for the first time.
Dancing with Faith.

Her lungs burned.
And she ran.


Faith’s sword was green with the blood of demons, bodies littered the warehouse, silent testimony to her ferocity.
And it was not enough.


More memories flashed into Buffy’s mind:
Faith drawing a heart on her classroom window.
Her smile.
Faith hanging out with Dawn.
Faith saving her in the cemetery.

Her legs screamed in protest.
Her heart beat faster than any human heart could sustain.
She embraced the pain.
And she ran.


The dreadful calculus of survival could not be denied.
Her sword could not be everywhere, she could not dodge every stroke.

She was slashed and cut by the claws of demons.
And she did not fall.


The memories burned through Buffy with pitiless intensity:
Stabbing Faith.
Watching Faith Fall.
Kissing Faith in the hospital bed.
Holding hands with Faith in the church.
Faith screaming, lost and alone in the rain, comforted by Angel.

Never again.
Her heart hammered in her chest at impossible speed.
And still she ran.


Flesh tore as claws raked her.
Ribs shattered in daggers of pain, as a demon kicked her with enough force to kill any mortal frame.
And she did not fall.

White hot agony screamed inside Faith as her arm was smashed and the sword driven from her limp hand. A clawed fist hammered into her head with force to shatter concrete.
It blinded her on her right side, in an explosion of agony so intense it transcended the concept of pain.

And still she did not fall.
Faith was a force of nature, unconquerable, wild. Free.
She fought back with screams of rage, with kicks, with her remaining fist, with her teeth, far beyond the capacity of any mortal, of any Slayer.

And she stopped.


Something grew inside of Buffy, a pressure building as if behind a dam.
The axe she carried began to glow white, unnoticed by the desperate Slayer, it brightened as she ran until it blazed.
And impossibly, Buffy found from somewhere even greater strength and tore through the rain soaked streets.


Blinking, Faith looked down and saw her own sword hilt protruding from her chest.
The Slayer fell.


Buffy closed on the warehouse at stunning speed, absorbing the covered windows and chained warehouse door without thought.
She did not slow in the slightest as she approached, she was a burning arrow hurled towards the door.
At the last second she leapt, Faith’s axe held out in front of her.


The demons stepped back, leaving the dying Slayer some space, almost reverentially, giving witness to the end of a magnificent spirit.
And reaching for her sword, the dying Slayer drew it from her body, its blade now slick with red.

And Faith rose. With impossible strength she stood, blood spilling from her body.
And the demons knelt.


The door exploded.

Buffy hurtled out of the shattered wreckage like a blazing comet. She rolled to her feet and took in the scene: Faith on her feet surrounded by corpses and demons.
Before Buffy could celebrate, other details became visible.
A swathe of red ran down Faith’s back from a wound between her shoulders, her right arm was all but torn off, and much of her hair was missing.

As Buffy entered, the demons rose.
And the dam broke.


If Faith was the avatar of the goddess of destruction, Buffy was the Goddess she prayed to.
She stepped into hell and began to destroy.
Where once she fought with an almost clinical detachment, now she fought to save Faith.

Her fury was a living thing, it gathered behind her like wings of fire and spread her wrath across the warehouse.

Her fury was her prayer, her desperate offering to the fates, for Faith.


The axe burned like the wrath of an angry god, and the demons feared to look upon it. It did them no good, for Buffy brought it to them wherever they were.

She twirled and spun with terrifying speed. The axe she held sheared through muscle and flesh with no more difficulty than a hand passing through water. She ducked and wove so smoothly that it seemed as practiced as a dance.


A dying Faith watched, awestruck as Buffy fought.
Buffy fought for her, to save her, and how she fought!

Every move perfect, smooth, effortless. In sharp contrast to the inferno boiling out from Buffy’s screaming heart.
Faith could feel it, she did not know how, or care, but she could feel Buffy, not the rage of the Slayer, but the desperate fury of one who fought to save someone she loved, to hold back the darkness out of raw need.

“That’s my girl,” Faith sighed.

And she fell.


Lonely years of searching had lead Buffy to this day and the name that hammered through her with every beat of her heart: Faith. She whispered it like a mantra, a prayer, a reminder of all she fought for. And she would not fall.

Outnumbered to an absurd degree, by demons called specifically for the task of defeating the Slayer, she should have fallen, any Slayer would have. But the woman called Buffy did not fall, could not fall.

But the demons did.

Silence fell with shocking intensity.


Rain dripped from the holes in the ceiling.


She ran to Faith’s still form and absorbed the horrifying injuries.
Her breath froze in her lungs.
No-one could possibly have stood with injuries like that.
The wound on Faith’s back had a matching one at the front.
If there was one thing Buffy knew, it was where the human heart was, and it lay squarely between the two wounds.


But the most grievous injury was to her face.
Half of Faith’s face was torn away.

Claw marks raked across the naked bone from her empty right eye socket to her missing right ear.
Buffy choked in horror, at seeing a face she cared for so despoiled.


“Hey B... Don’t feel so good,” Faith croaked.


Tears ran down Buffy’s face.
“You’ve looked... better,” she choked out.

She stroked the soft hair on the undamaged side of Faith’s head.


“You look good B,” the dying Slayer gurgled.


“Try to hold on honey, help is coming,” Buffy sobbed.


“Nah B, I’m dead already. Got stabbed through the heart,” she gurgled.

Buffy’s voice was choked into silence.


“I can feel them Buffy, all the Slayers who went before us. All those lonely girls who died in the dark. They’re here, waiting for me B, they let me stay long enough to say goodbye.”


“No... no... no,” Buffy wept, in the tiny voice of a child in terrible pain.
“I can’t lose you Faith, I only just found you.”


Faith raised her one remaining hand and clasped it into Buffy’s, as she had on that fateful day an eternity ago.
“Your timing sucks, B,” she murmured.

Rain splashed down on her upturned face, washing some of the blood away.
She looked up at an inconsolable Buffy, drenched like a wet kitten.

“I love you Buffy Summers,” Faith’s smile lit up her ravaged face. “You hear me? I love you.”


“I love you too Faith”


“I’ll love you for the rest of my life,” Faith croaked.


“I... will love you forever, Faith Lehane.”


Faith smiled crookedly with the undamaged side of her face. “I’ll watch over you B. Where you go, I go.”


Buffy wept openly, her voice hoarse and despairing. “You can’t die Faith, you’re my family now.”
“I don’t know who’s watching over us, or if anyone cares, but I want the world to know that I’m yours Faith, always.”


“All that I am Buffy... yours forever,” Faith gurgled.


Time stopped.

And the world went mad.


+++


The dim warehouse was lit by a bright light.
With a crash and a spray of water the roof caved in, revealing a white-winged and glowing angel, landing amid the wreckage.
The dramatic effect was somewhat diminished by the fact she was facing the wrong way and promptly fell on her butt, losing the glow in the process.

“Ow.”

“Buffy!” she yelled.


“Tara!? You-you” Buffy stammered.


Tara orientated herself and hauled herself to her feet. “Um, yeah.”


“With...” said a shocked Buffy, pointing with her free hand at Tara’s wings.


“Yeah,” she said, looking slightly embarrassed. “I’m sorry Buffy, I came as soon as I... Merciful Goddess! What happened to her?” gasped a horrified Tara.


“Demons. An army,” Buffy said, gesturing to the bodies.


Shocked to the core, Tara took in at the carpet of hacked and mangled demon bodies.


“Wow, pretty,” gurgled Faith. “Do I get those?”


Tara smiled gently into the ruined face of the dying Slayer “No Faith. You are going to live.”


“Save her Tara. I need her,” Buffy said, desperation screaming from every syllable.


“I know.”


“I love her Tara. Like... like you love Willow,” Buffy stammered.


“Really?” croaked Faith.


“Always,” Buffy swore.


Tara looked at Buffy and Faith and saw the same commitment she saw when Willow looked at her. She nodded.


“Take my hand Buffy,” Tara said.


Buffy clasped Tara’s hand tightly.


“What are we doing?” she said in a frightened whisper.


“Saving Faith, saving love,” she said. “Send her your strength Buffy, send her your love. Everything you have, give it to her.”

And while Tara laid her hands of Faith’s ruined body, Buffy closed her eyes and gave everything she had to her beloved, to Faith.
She had lived in hollow despair for so long and finally she had found life, found Faith, she was finally able to love truly and deeply, and it was going to be snatched away.

‘Not today,’ she swore.


She heard Tara whispering prayers to the Goddess.
And she added her own.
She commit herself totally, body and soul.

‘Where she goes, I go. She’s my heart, my blood, my family. I don’t know if you can hear me Goddess lady, but whatever you need, you take from me. My life for her. Anything for her.’


Time stood still once more.

A perfect moment frozen in time, raindrops frozen in the air, sparkling like little fragments of creation.


‘Raindrops are flat on the bottom’ Buffy thought to herself, caught in the strange moment of clarity.


And the moment passed.


The warehouse was lit by blue fire, a ring of flame appearing in the hole beneath the fallen roof.
With a thump of displaced air, Willow appeared, and the flames were snuffed out.

Willow clutched her head and staggered. “Ooo, swimmy.”

She looked around in the gloom of the warehouse, spotting Tara by the glow of magic surrounding her, and walked unsteadily toward her friends, over a lumpy carpet of demon corpses.


Buffy looked down from the display of magic.

Faith’s hand was cold and rigid in hers.


With despairing eyes she looked at Faith’s blank gaze and then up to Tara, her tear-filled gaze the most pitiable thing imaginable. “No, please?” she pleaded, her face crumpling.


“She’s going to be ok Buffy, I swear.” Tara said, projecting every ounce of reassurance and belief she could into those simple words. “No more pain Buffy, I promise.”


“But-but” stammered the soul-shattered Slayer.


“It’s a preserving spell Buffy,” Tara explained. “Basic healing magic. It stops people getting any worse, so we can get them to help.”


“You’re sure?” said a terrified Buffy, her heart hanging by a thread.


“Absolutely,” Tara said with conviction.

“We need to get back home so I can work on her. It’s going to take a while, but she’s going to be ok,” Tara said in a reassuring voice.

Tara laid a reassuring hand on Buffy’s arm. “She heard you Buffy. The Goddess heard you, and she won’t let Faith die.”


Willow joined Tara, her eyes wide as she took in Faith’s horrific injuries.
She said nothing, but she squeezed Tara’s shoulder in silent support.


“Why?” said Buffy’s small voice.


Tara squeezed Buffy’s spare hand. “Because sometimes there are exceptions, sometimes there are things too precious to be lost. And I think... I think she has had enough of pain. I think it’s time for joy Buffy, I really do.”


A tiny glimmer of hope sparked in Buffy’s forlorn gaze. She sniffled pitifully.


Tara smiled slightly. “She’s going to need your strength over the next few days Buffy, it’s not going to be easy for anyone.”


“Anything. You hear me Tara? For her: anything.”


“Then let’s get you both home,” said a solemn but hopeful Tara.


“Um, we’ll have to walk, I can’t carry you both.” Tara gestured to her wings.


“No. She’s mine. I carry her.”


Tara concentrated for a moment, and neatly folded her wings into non-existence.
She picked up the discarded and gore-drenched axe, and took Willow’s hand.


Buffy picked up Faith with heartbreaking tenderness, and they all walked out into the rain.


+++

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“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2015 1:28 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Yay for great update-y goodness... I'm glad that Buffy & Faith both now know how much they mean to eachother... I guess Faith's non-permanent death put the Slayer-line back on "track", but I seriously doubt that the Scoobies are very happy about that...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2015 11:14 am 
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Hate to say I stopped following this story a while back. Since Faith's heart stopped, does it now pass onto a third young woman, presumably still in mid teens, or does the line go back to buffy somehow?

Ooops, never mind, I found it in chapter 1

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2015 9:50 pm 
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Wow. I was not expecting some of the twists in this last chapter. We all know Faith makes it from the story time bits but still. And making the "powers that be" either the next big bad or at least the next hurdle. That was inspiring. I'm curious if this James prick will be an on going problem or if he'll just wake up in a few days with a ring of angry and heavily armed slayers standing around his bed. Or maybe Giles will let his inner Ripper out when no one is looking.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2015 10:23 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Hi gang!

Oh, so many good points!

i'll try to address them in some semblance of order:

Faith never dies. It's a point that comes up later. She got real close. She considers that she died, Tara and the mystical world disagree. The details of it come up... next ep :) sort of. the real nitty-gritty unfolds over time.

We investigate the Slayer line in detail, plus how come things like Willow's Slayer activation spell could possibly work.
I'm pretty sure i have a unique take on it :P

Hey Daddycat!
Sorry you stopped following. I'd offer to jazz it up a little for you, but most of this story is already written :(

Um, you've lost me. I looked in the first chapter of the story, and the first chapter of part two, i don't see anything about new slayers in either chapter.
There are many slayers, called by Willow's spell. Like Buffy when she was called, they're not yet at full strength. All this will be investigated at length in the future :) Eventually they figure it out.

James does make other appearances. You can make your own judgement as to his prickishness.
and yes, Giles let's us see what he keeps hidden away. Twice.
something to look forward to.

D'hoffryn should have recruited him.

Anyway, next week should be a little more fun :)

See ya in a week!

R :flower

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2015 12:38 am 
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9. Gay Now
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Oops!

Short short chapter tonight. Something of a filler piece.

'Meanwhile, back at the Ranch:'

I'll post next weekend too, to make up for it.
I totally forgot about the short bit in the middle :(
Back to writing for me :P

enjoy!

Rumour Control


The next few days were chaos at Slayer central. Rumours flew wildly, fed by the stunning carnage that the sophomores had to clean up. Hoping to deal with the wild speculation, Giles called the team leaders together and briefed them.


“Let me start by saying that no-one has died.”

Giles looked around the gathered faces. “Faith is however gravely injured. Willow, Tara and Buffy are all sequestered in the sanctuary for the purposes of a healing spell. Please make it clear to your teams that no-one is to disturb them under any circumstances whatsoever.


His stern gaze swept the room, letting the team leaders know how serious he was at that moment.


His expression softening, he spoke again.
“Now I would imagine you all have questions?” he said.


“Mr Giles? How badly hurt is Faith?” asked one of the girls.


Giles pinched his nose and sighed, as much as he did not want to detail Faith’s injuries, these girls were young Slayers. They deserved to know what had happened to Faith and how bravely she had fought.


He looked up, his glasses held in his hand, his expression bleak. “Her injuries were severe. Faith suffered bone-deep slashes and tears to every part of her body,” he said with deep feeling.

“Her right arm was all but torn off. Her ribs were shattered and most of her face was torn away, including her right eye and ear.”


The team leaders paled at Giles’ dreadful litany of pain. Jules looked stricken, almost shivering with horror.


“And she was stabbed through the heart,” he finished.


“And she’s still alive!?” Heather blurted out, totally incredulous.


The small part of Giles’ mind that recorded unimportant details, wondered where on earth the girl had found a hot pink ‘Sex Pistols’ tee-shirt.


With a bleak smile he said “Not only was she alive, she somehow managed to draw the blade from her own chest, and was threatening the remaining demons with it when Buffy arrived.”


He looked around the room, meeting the eyes of the team leaders. Faith’s ferocity in battle was already a matter of some renown, but after this she would be a bloody legend.
‘And why not?’ he thought to himself, ‘we could use a few bloody good legends.’


“Um, Mr Giles?” said a leather-clad team-leader, her raised hand clashing with her tough image.


“Yes... Andrea?”


“We pulled nearly 50 bodies from the warehouse when we cleaned up. Are you telling me Faith killed that many demons singlehanded?” she asked, clearly incredulous.


Giles said with quiet pride. “From my examination of the sword and axe wounds on the bodies of the Anara, I estimate that Faith killed approximately half of them before Buffy arrived.”


“I can imagine the battle was somewhat different for Buffy, but she managed to slay the remaining demons before they were able to flee. And she did so without notable injury to herself.”


He looked around at the shocked expressions of the team leaders.


“Take from this what you will, but remember: Each of these Anara demons is ferocious enough to be a serious challenge for any Slayer beginning her training, as you yourselves are. Do not count yourselves at the level of Buffy or Faith just yet. I don’t want to see any of you hurt,” he said as he looked around the young faces.

“But I want you to remember what a Slayer can become, what she can do when pushed, when she needs to.” He said with just a trace of reverence.


“Anara are a relatively uncommon type of demon, and they rarely form more than small groups. Fifty of them in one place is absolutely unheard of, as is the idea of Anara using vampires as bait. Something out of the ordinary is occurring, something unpleasant, even for the demon world.”

In full teacher-mode, he continued. “With that in mind, I want each team paired with another. Teams of ten will be making each patrol. Get your assignments from Xander after the meeting, and remember to be wary of traps.”


He turned particularly serious for a moment. “This trap was put together for one purpose: To kill one of the greatest Slayers in history. It failed only by the narrowest of margins, and then only due to the intervention of Buffy Summers, the most successful Slayer who has ever lived.”

Giles looked each of the assembled girls in the eye, ensuring that they understood the gravity of the situation.

“So for goodness sake, please be careful,” he reiterated.


“Now, are there any other questions or issues to be dealt with?” he asked.


Heather stuck her hand rather shyly in the air. “Mr Giles?” she asked, looking strangely nervous.


“Yes Heather?”


“Er... there’s been talk of... er, an angel? Some of the girls on my squad were training in the rain and mud,” she said.
“Not playing in the mud-pit, they were learning valuable lessons about ‘footing in adverse conditions’” she said, hurriedly quoting one of Giles’ favourite phrases.


Giles smiled slightly. “If your team wants to play in the mud Heather, they are entirely welcome to do so.”


“Er, right. Well anyway while we, I mean my girls, were training, they saw someone take off from the roof and fly away. They flew away on big white wings Mr Giles, and they had long white hair.” She said, catching Giles’ eye.


Giles thought for a moment and eventually said “Tara used magic to reach Buffy and Faith in time. I haven’t discussed with her the details of the spell she used, but it seems likely that it was a flight spell. It would also seem to be of a different nature to the one that Willow has used in the past.”

He smiled gently at Heather.
“I would imagine that you saw her rather dramatic exit.”


Giles polished his glasses for a moment, giving himself time to think.
“The situation was desperate and Tara had to act fast. As it was, Faith had only moments to live when Tara arrived.” He said.


A white-faced Jules silently got up and left.


“I for one, am sincerely pleased that Tara has the capability to rapidly cover ground in an emergency,” said Giles.


He saw Jules leaving and suspected that he knew why.
He shook his head ruefully ‘Good lord, another one?’ he thought to himself, ‘How many teenage infatuations do we have to live with, at any one moment?’

“Well if that’s everything, perhaps we can get on with things?” he asked, clearly intending to bring the meeting to a close.


“Um, Mr Giles?” said Heather. “Me and Jules were working on a flag, y’know to fly from the flagpole in the back courtyard?” Heather had started her characteristic bouncing once she started in on a less ghastly topic.


“Why ever would you want to do that?” asked a genuinely puzzled Giles.


“Uh, you know, because we’re like, a school. And schools have like, a school flag?” she asked. Her bouncing stopped.


“Hmm. That sounds marvellous Heather, what a wonderful idea. Esprit de corps and all that. Please continue, I look forward to seeing the finished work. And please pass on my thanks to Jules when you catch up with her, if you would be so kind.”


A giddy Heather squealed and jumped with joy, unleashing a thousand watt smile of pure happiness at the slightly stunned watcher.


Giles manfully resisted the irrational urge to look for his shadow on the wall behind him.

‘I do hope she doesn’t break anyone.’ He thought as she bounced out of the room, her ponytail bouncing from side to side, practically dancing with glee.

He paused thoughtfully for a moment, giving silent thanks that he was old enough not to on the receiving end of that kind of adoration, and at the same time feeling slightly older than he would like.

‘Steady on old man, no cause to get maudlin. Plenty of life left in the old boy yet!’


He made a note in his diary: ‘Ask Heather where she gets her Sex Pistols shirts from.’


+++

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2015 6:34 am 
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Yay for great update-y goodness... I'm glad that Giles warned the team leaders about increased monster activity and that nobody is to bother Buffy, Faith, Tara & Willow...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:55 pm 
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I like how you put in a lighter chapter before diving into the more gritty fallout from Faith getting half torn apart. Giles setting the other Slayers straight on how far they are outclassed by the two leads was also a nice respite before what I'm sure will be several tense scenes of the core Scoobies fretting over a wounded family member.

Was it just me or did the speech from James in the warehouse make it sound like the powers that be don't care about the existence of the other Slayers as much as they just want Faith to die so their ball can get rolling again? Or maybe he was alluding to another attack or series of attacks planned down the road that will take out half the girls at the school? Looking forward to whichever way you take things next.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2015 12:56 am 
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Citanul wrote:
I like how you put in a lighter chapter before diving into the more gritty fallout from Faith getting half torn apart. Giles setting the other Slayers straight on how far they are outclassed by the two leads was also a nice respite before what I'm sure will be several tense scenes of the core Scoobies fretting over a wounded family member.

Was it just me or did the speech from James in the warehouse make it sound like the powers that be don't care about the existence of the other Slayers as much as they just want Faith to die so their ball can get rolling again? Or maybe he was alluding to another attack or series of attacks planned down the road that will take out half the girls at the school? Looking forward to whichever way you take things next.



Hey Citanul!

Always good to hear from you :)


Good points, and you won't have long to wait for your answers :P

One thing i explored in the story (Thankyou Matty!) is how all this works, and why.
Some of the things the characters did, didn't make sense, the Watcher's Council actions for example.

So we dig into all of that.

I realize for the series it was a case of forcing the character to conform to the plot, rather than the reverse.

One thing to be aware of, is that the characters are quite bright, and good at figuring stuff out.
But they are not always right.

I think you'll like next weekend :bounce

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2015 12:41 pm 
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Sorry, I read the first part as the POwers wanted to kill Faith to move the SLayer legacy SLayer power to a new girl, that was their intent. And I really thought Faith's heart had stopped, which would do that. Well, curious as to Step Next, will stop by to see.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2015 1:56 pm 
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DaddyCatALSO wrote:
Sorry, I read the first part as the POwers wanted to kill Faith to move the SLayer legacy SLayer power to a new girl, that was their intent. And I really thought Faith's heart had stopped, which would do that. Well, curious as to Step Next, will stop by to see.


New post today!

I never like the 'heart stopped = new slayer' idea.

Your heart stops all the time.
It just starts again.

60 times a minute.

Better to say "Is dead = new slayer." and death can be cheated.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2015 8:09 pm 
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Heather looks for Jules


Heather bounced her way around the labyrinthine halls of Slayer central looking for Jules.
She was starting to lose her good mood.

Her frustration grew at her inability to track down her partner in crime, nor could she find her other partner Dawn.

The food place was a bust, as was their room, the training fields and the rear courtyard.
She had a hunch that she might be hanging around outside the sanctuary and went to check on her squad.


Heather and her squad had drawn the prestigious duty of keeping all the rubberneckers away from the sanctuary.
Her hunch paid off at least partially.

“Hey Danni! Seen Jules?” she said bouncing into the corridor that lead to the sanctuary.

Danni grinned and raised a clenched fist to her heart in a mock salute. “Viva el-presidente!”


“Dork.”


“Loony.”


The ritual greeting out of the way, Danni said “Nope, sorry boss, she was here a little while ago, but she took off. She looked kinda mopey though.”


“I know! She has the worst crush on Faith, it’s crazy!” an exasperated Heather exclaimed with a flounce.

Danni raised an eyebrow at this astonishing statement.
“Yeah, she should be after someone nice, like Xander,” Danni added in a dry tone.

Heather bobbed her head. “Totally! I mean that makes way more... actually no. No she shouldn’t.”


Danni grinned. “You sure? I mean earlier today you were telling me how kind he was, and how well he looked after his teams, and how nice his smile was, and how warm his hands were. And what’s that about anyway? Warm hands?”
Danni rolled her eyes, ‘Oops, done it now’ she thought to herself.


Heather had stopped bouncing in order to stare off into space, a dreamy expression on her face. “He’s just so... nice, y’know? Warm hands, warm heart, he’s just so cuddly.”


“Er, right. Was there a reason for your visit H? Or was it just a random ‘Xander is awesome’ moment?” said Danni, clearly having heard this story a number of times.


“Huh? Oh, yeah. Any trouble?” she asked, clearly thrown off track.


“Naw, just what you’d expect, buncha girls want to know what’s happening, Mr Giles been round a couple times to see if anything has changed. It hasn’t,” she said with a shrug. “What was the briefing thing about?”


“Mr Giles wanted to tell everyone about Faith, Buffy and Tara,” Heather said.


“So spill,” Said Danni, signalling the girls to come over.

Heather related the news that Mr Giles had given the team leaders, with only minor embellishment, her bounce nowhere to be seen as she related the grim news.


“Wow,” said a stunned Danni. “Remind me never piss off Faith. Or Buffy.”


A chorus of “uh-huh” greeted this statement.


“I better go find Jules, before she does something strange... er than usual,” said Heather.

+++

There you go, a nice long chapter to make up for last week being so small 

What? It’s a short chapter too?
Hmm. I'd better post some more then.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2015 8:10 pm 
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Undying Love


Music

In the sanctuary, magic was being made.


Between Willow, Tara and Buffy, enough power was being poured into Faith’s shattered form to raise the titanic.

With the blessing of the Goddess, fate was being overturned and life restored to Faith.
Bone was restored, flesh was made whole, and hearts were healed, in more ways than one.

In that room a miracle was being crafted, out of pain and sweat and tears and love.
Together the 3 friends fought to drive back the cruel hand of fate.


And they succeeded.



After days of unremitting toil, Faith was restored, her flesh made whole.

“We’re done Buffy, she’s ready,” said a tired Tara.

Willow raised Tara’s hand in hers and kissed her knuckles one at a time. “We made a miracle,” she said, tenderly.

Tara smiled beatifically. “Yes we did.”

“We were amazing,” Willow said, serene now that the work was done.

“Yes we were,” Tara said with a tired, but genuine smile.


Buffy said nothing, focussed utterly on Faith’s still form.

Gently, together, Willow and Tara released the spell of preservation that kept Faith suspended between death and life.


Faith’s naked form shuddered, and her fierce heart began to beat once more. She took a gasping breath.

And opened her eyes.


“Buffy!” she gasped.


“I’m here Faith,” said a hopeful Buffy, her face appearing over her.


They stared at each other for long moments, each swimming in the gaze they feared they would never see again.


“B?” Faith said in a gentle voice. “Could ya please kiss me now?”


Willow and Tara quietly left the room with tired smiles, giving the two Slayers some much needed privacy.



Buffy smiled tenderly and leaned in.


Their lips met gently, softly, almost shy in their first touch.


Faith closed her eyes and kissed Buffy with every bit of love she had, years of longing and pain, every tender moment, every loving thought, every loss put into that one kiss.


It felt like it lasted forever.


Buffy felt connected to everything, more alive now than at any time in her life, sure that she could feel the earth spinning its way through space.


Faith’s kiss took her breath away, it made the little hairs all over her body stand on end. It was like coming home, it was like the sunrise, like the dawn of a new day.

They kissed, gently, tenderly and long.



When they finally broke apart they opened their eyes and took each other in.


“Wow.”


“Yeah.”


Faith reached up her hand and ran it through Buffy’s soft blonde hair. Buffy leaned into the stroke with a soft sigh.

Faith realized that she was using her missing hand to do the stroking and looked at it in amazement.
She reached a hand up to her head and felt the side of her face.

Her gaze swept over the rest of her naked body.

“Been checkin’ out the goods huh B?” she said with a grin.


Buffy rolled her eyes. “There is the Faith I was expecting,” she said blushing.


“Elizabeth Anne Summers, I love you,” Faith said with a content smile.


“Ack! Don’t call me that! Only my mom called me that, and only when I was in real trouble,” grumbled Buffy.


Faith grinned. “Heh. Yeah I know, just wanted you to know I was paying attention.”


“I... I love you too Faith,” Buffy said with a shy smile.


“Well, Faith Dorothy Lehane, it’s time to get up and face the world.”


“I meet the world like this, they ain’t gonna be looking at my face,” Faith smirked. “And what’s with the ‘Dorothy’ bit? I don’t have a middle name,” she grumbled.


“You do now. Willow needed a middle name for some paperwork, so now the world thinks your middle name is ‘Dorothy’,” said Buffy in a perky voice.


“You’re yanking my chain!” said Faith, clearly shocked.


“Uh-huh!” said Buffy, cheerfully bobbing her head.


“C’mere you!” Faith said.

For the next few minutes the only sounds audible from the sanctuary were giggles and squeals.


+++


Sometime later came a gentle tap on the door, and Willow peeked carefully inside.

Faith was lying on her back, gently stroking Buffy’s hair. Buffy was resting her head on Faith’s chest.

They were the picture of contentment and Willow could not help but say “Aww,” in a gooey voice usually reserved for cute babies.


“Hey Red,” said a content Faith. “You know lil’ D gets that from you right?”


“Hi Faith,” said Willow. “You two are all with the snuggles, it’s sooo cute.”


“Mmm... snuggles,” said Buffy with a happy sigh.


“So um, I brought your gym bag, it’s got some clothes in it, since I figured you’d prefer not to be all with the nakedness.”


“Thanks Red... Willow? Thanks for, you know, saving my life an’ all.” Faith said, slightly embarrassed.


“It’s all of the goodness, you’d have done the same for me,” said Willow.


Faith responded, still recumbent. “Thank Tara for me will you? She really came through for me.”


Willow nodded. “She said the spirits of the fallen Slayers let you say goodbye to Buffy, she-”


“Shit!” blurted Faith. “I forgot! We’re about to have visitors,” Faith said, frantically hauling herself to her feet. She grabbed her gym bag and started to rapidly dress, Willow closed the door behind her, giving Buffy and a naked Faith some privacy.


“Uh, with the what now?” said Buffy.


“Visitors B!” said Faith, pulling on a tank top and pants.


“So, I’m confused Buffy. A few minutes ago you were kinda dead-y. When did you get the chance to invite people over?” she said, tossing Faith a pair of stripy gym socks.


Faith pulled on the socks, talking as she did so. “You know when you die? You go to a nice place right? Well they were expecting me, they just weren’t expecting me to come back here after.”


Buffy gasped. “Ohmigod! Faith, did you cause trouble in heaven?”


Faith shrugged. “Punched out an angel, started a war. Nothing big.”

Buffy gaped, unbelieving, at Faith.


A fully dressed, if sporty-looking Faith, took Buffy by the hands. “B? It’s gonna get crazy from here on out. I just wanna say some stuff while I got the chance?”


Buffy nodded silently, her eyes wide.


“Buffy? I love you ok? I never understood Red and her girl, until I got a chance to talk to her a while back. We talked about Snow White, and how Red felt about her. She helped me realize how I felt about you. So here’s the thing, I have never loved anyone in my whole screwed up life, ‘cept maybe my grammy and... uh, never mind. I’m saying it took me a long time to realize that I loved you B, ‘cos I had no idea what love was.

“So what I’m tellin’ you is that I love you, and I ain’t gonna love another person like I love you. Ever. You an’ me B. Against the world. Waddaya think?” Faith said.


Buffy’s face froze.
“Did... did you just propose to me Faith?” Buffy said, stunned.


Faith looked shocked. “No! Uh,” she hesitated awkwardly.

“Uh, yeah, I guess I just did.”


She looked down at her stripy sock-clad feet, one furry set of toes picking at the carpet.

“B? This is all so new to me. I... I don’t wanna screw this up, but if I’ve learned anything from Red and her girl it’s that telling people how you feel usually ain’t stupid. So yeah, I’m proposin’ I guess.”

And with that Faith proved that she had watched at least one chick flick at some point in her life. By taking Buffy’s hand and getting down on one knee.
“Buffy Summers, will you marry me?”

Buffy was absolutely gobsmacked, the gears in her head jammed solid.
She stared down open-mouthed at the kneeling Faith.


Buffy bludgeoned her brain into motion with sheer force of will. ‘Stupid brain.’

She thought about everyone she had ever been with, Angel, Parker, Riley, Spike.

For the most part she had thought carefully about each of those encounters before she got into them.

Even the Spike ‘thing’ had been subject to careful scrutiny. Warped and twisted scrutiny to be sure, but carefully considered nonetheless.

‘What has ‘careful’ gotten me so far?’ she thought to herself.

A worried Faith looked up at her, her eyes silently hoping.


Buffy nodded and smiled. “I'm done baking. I want to be a cookie. With chocolate chips. And nutty bits of Faith in me.”


Faith looked utterly confused. And more than a bit worried.

Buffy took pity on her and explained her Buffy-logic. “Yes Faith, I will marry you. Wait, can we even do that in this state?”


“Dunno, never really looked into it. Go figure,” Faith said, her anxious expression replaced by a toothy grin.


Buffy pulled a grinning Faith gently to her feet and placed a soft kiss on her lips.

“My turn!” she chirped.
“Huh? What?” Faith asked, perplexed.


“Hey, I listened when Willow and Tara were going on about equality and, uh, equality stuff. We’re gonna be partners Faith, not ‘man and wife’ but ‘wife and wife’. We get to be equal.”

Buffy got down on one knee and took Faith’s hand. “Faith, my Faith. If I think back, like properly, I’ve probably been in love with you since about the second week after I met you.”

She looked sad for a moment. “Even when we were enemies I loved you. I hated you so much because you broke my heart. And I still loved you. When you were in the hospital I visited you, I kissed you and I wished you would wake up. Because... because even if we were fighting, at least we were together.”

She took a deep breath. “Faith, I can’t live without you, I wanna grow old with you,” she looked up at Faith’s suspiciously watery eyes. “Faith Lehane will you marry me?”


Faith opened her mouth to whisper. “Buffy-” when the door opened and Dawn bounced in.

“What-” was all she going get out before her brain registered what her eyes were trying to tell her.


Faith moved instantly, yanking the youngest Summers inside the room and slamming the door. “Don’t move, don’t speak,” she commanded.


Dawn’s grey eyes were huge as she nodded, not wanting to argue with Faith when she used that tone of voice.

Faith muttered under her breath. “Man, you woulda thought Red’d lock the damn door on the way out.”

She returned to her place in front of the kneeling and irritated Buffy and took her hand once more.


“Yes. I will marry you Buffy Summers.”
And with that she pulled Buffy off the ground and into a passionate kiss.


Dawn had her hand clamped over her mouth to hold in her huge squeal of delight. She jumped up and down with glee, ignored by her smooching sister and Faith.


When they finally broke for air, Dawn’s squeal of delight was loud enough to threaten the windows. “Omigod omigod omigod! This is so cool!” she said as she enveloped both women in a huge hug.


“Your arms are freakishly long you know,” Buffy grumbled.


“Look at me lil’ D,” Faith said, grabbing Dawn by both ears and focusing her attention on her stern gaze. “You. Tell. No-one. Got that? Not Xander, not Red, not your insane buddies. No hints, no little slips, nada, nothing, zippo. This is Buffy’s an’ mine to share. We clear on this lil’ D?”


Some of the starry eyed look faded from Dawn’s eyes, but there was still glee visible in her expression.
She nodded. “It’s ok, I promise I won’t tell anyone.”

She focussed on Faith’s forehead. “Why do you have a big blond patch in your hair?”


Faith fussed with her hair, finding the tuft of mid-blond immediately. The stunning levels of healing power poured into her shattered frame had restored her flesh and bone, and regrown most of her missing hair.
The lock of hair on the right side of her forehead was somewhat shorter, and a kind of medium blonde that stood out against the rest of her dark brown hair.

Faith went cross-eyed as she tried to get a look at her own hair. “Huh, check it out, I’m a blonde.”


Dawn’s eyes narrowed in thought for a moment before the light came on. “Buffy! You have Buffy’s hair.”


Both women focused on the youngest Summers sister.

“Your hair... thing, is the same colour as Buffy’s roots,” she explained.


Buffy looked closely at Faith’s new do. “Oh yeah. Yup, that’s it alright. Yay Faith, you have Buffy hair.”


Faith grinned. “Wicked.”


Buffy blushed a little and looked at her feet.

“This is kinda my fault. I told the Goddess lady to take what she needed from me to heal you. Looks like you got my hair... along with the rest of me,” she said shyly.


“Awwww!” gushed Dawn.


Buffy grumped at her sister. “You be quiet, or I’ll set the terrible two on you. I’ll make them to run you through the obstacle course.”


Dawn poked her tongue out as she flounced out of the room.


“Next time we lock the damn door,” Faith grumbled.


Buffy sighed. “Don’t feel bad, she has the worst timing in the world. She walks in on everybody.”


Faith replied. “Big. Damn. Lock.”


“Come on B, we gotta go, guests an’ all. Pass me my running shoes?”


+++


Heather finally caught up with Jules in the rear courtyard.


“What?! This is like, the second place I looked!” said a clearly outraged Heather.


Jules was putting the finishing touches on the Slayer flag and looked up.

“Hey Pinkie. I had to get some air y’know? Figured I’d finish the flag and get Willow or Mr Giles to help us come up with a motto or something.”


“I was worried about you. Figured you’d do something funky,” Heather said.

Jules noticed that Heather’s motion-sickness inducing bounce had vanished, a clear sign that she was worried.

“Nah, just got to me you know? Whole armies of demons showing up for the sole purpose of knocking off ‘The Slayer?’ Scary stuff. Also hearing what happened to Faith was... bad.”


Heather sat down next to her best bud and put an arm around her.
Jules sighed. “We got it bad don’t we?”


Heather nodded. “Yuppers.”


Jules let out a huge sigh and rested her head on Heather’s slim shoulder. “I’m such an idiot. I’m in a boarding school with hundreds of hormonal teenage girls, all fit, all cute and an astonishing number of which are gay… and I fall for frikkin’ Faith.”


“Don’t feel bad Jules, she’s totally hot. Everyone likes bad girls and Faith kind reset the bar on the whole ‘bad girl’ thing,” Heather said with a squeeze.


“I thought you liked, y’know, guys?” Jules asked.


“Er, Yeah? I’ve got eyes though. I might not wanna marry her, but I can tell that she’s hot. Not like Xander, but I can see why you like her.”


“Xander’s no way as hot as Faith, but yeah, I see why you like him. He’s always real nice to me. Last week when we got ground patrol? He brought us fresh baked cookies and hot chocolate. In the middle. Of. The. Night.”


Heather sighed. “Yeah, he brought me breakfast in bed last week when I busted my leg. My whole squad took off without me to go shopping!” she scowled at the thought of a missed shopping trip.

“It was good though, he brought me like, hash browns and sausages an’ stuff. I was hoping for pancakes, but no-one here ever makes pancakes. It’s weird.”


“Yeah, it is weird. I was gonna make up a batch a couple weeks ago? But when I offered to make Buffy a plate of pancakes? She went all freaky at me and pretty-much banned me from making pancakes ever again.”



Tara wandered tiredly out into the rear courtyard, looking for a breath of fresh air.
She yawned and had a big stretch.


Opening her eyes afterward, she caught sight of the two girls working and wandered over to them.
One girl reminded her of Dawn: Tall, slim and with long straight hair.
Though she doubted that Dawn would ever wear cut-off jean shorts, a sleeveless Iron Maiden shirt, pink bows in her hair and hot pink Doc Martins.
The other girl was more solidly built and had shorter wavy hair.
She clearly went to the Faith school of fashion: Leather pants, boots and a dark sleeveless top.
Though she doubted Faith was one for dark purple.


Tara introduced herself with a small Willow-style wave. “Hi!”


“Oh hey. Tara right?” said Heather, taking in Tara’s earth-toned skirt and Willow’s purple sweater.


Tara nodded. “That’s me, I don’t think we’ve met though have we?”


“Nah, I’m Heather, that was my squad guarding the door while you guys did the mojo thing. This is my buddy Jules.”


“Hey. How’s Faith doing?” Jules asked intently.


Tara yawned. “She’s good. Fully healed. None the worse for wear, other than a new hairstyle.”


Jules sighed with visible relief, her posture visibly relaxing.


She set down next to the two girls, noticing the huge bolt of silky purple fabric. “Um, what’s that?”


Jules jumped in before Heather could steal the show. “School flag. Y’know, Slayer central is kind of like a school? And schools have flags, so we asked Mr Giles if we could have a school flag. He liked the idea and here it is. We’ve been working on it for ages. We still need a motto, something in Latin or whatever, but the flag part is finished.”

Heather started bouncing with excitement. “We were just going to give it a try, wanna help?”


Tara smiled and bobbed her head.
Between them they carried the huge purple roll over to the flagpole and hooked it up.


Jules talked while they figured out the hooks and pulleys. “Y’know, there’s some really cool way you can fold a flag so it goes up as a lump and pops open at the top, but I have no idea how to do that.”


Heather fidgeted. “Meh, just get it up there. We can ask someone about that bit later.”


They hauled on the rope and pulled the flag up the pole.
When it got up to the top, it caught the wind and unfurled with a snap.


Jules and Heather jumped up and down with excitement as their creation flew for the first time.

Tara blinked and smiled, working hard to hide her laughter. After a few moments she was able to get out a few words “It’s very purple.”


“I know right? Jules was trying to get me into that colour, but I can’t pull off purple, but I figured it would be cool for the flag y’know?”


Jules rolled her eyes behind Heather. “Royal Indigo it’s called.”


“It’s very impressive work. I like the rainbow colour, Willow is going to love it,” Tara said, still sporting an ear to ear grin.
Jules smiled brightly with pride, Heather positively wriggled with joy.


One side of the deep indigo flag sported a double bladed broad axe, the other had a well-stitched pair of stick-figure women holding hands. Both shapes were made with rainbow cloth.


Jules explained the flag. “We wanted something that showed that we were Slayers, y’know? So we put a weapon on it. We were gonna do, like a sword or a stake or something? But a stake crossed with a sword looked kinda nasty, and a bit too obvious. So we figured, hey: axe! We used Faith’s bad-ass double-axe as a pattern.”


Heather jumped in. “Ah-huh and on the other side: team work. We’re all Slayers, all girls, fighting the good fight as a team.”


“And the rainbow colour?” Tara asked mildly.


“Diversity! We’ve got black, white, yellow, brown, red, you name it, here at the school. Plus rainbows are pretty,” Jules explained.


“It’s amazing, absolutely stunning. I can’t wait for the Scoobies to see it. Especially Mr Giles, it’s really going to impress him, he won’t know what to say,” Tara said impishly.


The terrible two beamed ecstatically.


“Hey do you know Latin? We were thinking something like ‘Girl Power’ in Latin or something,” Heather asked, bouncing on the balls of her feet excitedly.


“That depends on exactly what you mean by ‘girl’ and ‘power’, but ah, ‘feminae potentia’ should probably do. Check with Giles or Willow, my Latin is a bit rusty.”



Behind the trio of flag admirers, a soft glow appeared and faded, revealing a dark haired young woman in white.

She walked briskly over to the trio. “Hi! Any of you know where to find Faith?”


“Who’s asking?” said Jules in a slightly suspicious tone.


The woman extended her hand. “Cordelia Chase, pleased to meet you.”

Jules took her hand. “Jules Marwiki.”


“I’m Heather O’connor” said Heather with a wave.


“I’m Tara, um, Maclay I suppose,” Tara said, reaching somewhat hesitantly for Cordelia’s hand.


“You suppose? You’re not sure? WHOA!”


Tara and Cordelia both snatched their hands away as if burned.


Tara wiggled her fingers experimentally and said “That was... different.”


Cordelia scrutinised Tara carefully.
Tara felt hints of sensation, enough to know she was being examined on a mystical level.

She let her magic flow a little, infusing her sight and she returned the favour.
Streamers of white radiated from Cordelia.
Tara burned with white light, her wings clearly visible to Cordelia’s mystical sight.


“What are you?” Cordelia asked, amazed.


Tara raised one eyebrow. “If I was feeling impolite I might ask you the same question. White in someone’s aura usually signifies a connection to higher powers.”


“That’s me, Cordelia Chase: ascended being, one of the Powers That Be.”


“You’re a Whitelighter?” Tara asked.


Cordelia rolled her eyes. “As if. I didn’t have to die, I was sort of invited up as a way to keep me out of trouble.”


Tara smiled another impish smile. “Did it work?” she said cheekily.


“Really, really… no.”
Cordelia smiled.

The terrible two watched the interchange with owl-eyed expressions.
This was too good to miss.
Even as squad leaders (or ‘Team Leaders’ as Giles preferred) they often missed out on the ‘behind the scenes’ or mystical stuff, and this promised to be really juicy.


+++


Buffy and Faith caught up to Willow in the back corridor.

“Will! You could have locked the door! Faith was all with the nakedness in there!” Buffy grumbled.


“Huh? With the what now?” Willow replied.


“Ya Red, what if someone hadda seen us goin’ at it? Coulda given them ideas,” Faith said, grinning.


“You two were... wow that was fast, ten minutes ago you were slightly dead,” Willow said.


Buffy blushed and looked away.

Faith grinned. “You know me Red, I move fast.”

Buffy’s blush spread a little further.
“Nah, we were just cuddling, plenty of time to work out the other stuff later,” Faith said, taking Buffy by the hand.

Buffy smiled shyly.

Willow’s expression turned gooey at the tender moment.


“Um, guys? Not meaning to sound all defensive here, but I can’t have left the door open. Not only does it lock automatically, but it is magically warded against entry, and Giles has the only other key.”


Buffy looked puzzled, then annoyed.


“My stupid sister walked in on us having a, er, tender moment.”


Faith added her grumble. “Really spoiled the mood I can tell you.”


“She is always walking in on people, the little perv,” Buffy groused.


Willow frowned. “Seriously guys, no. Um, I’m not saying Dawn isn’t a, um, perv, but some of the spells Giles and I do in there could go horribly wrong if the caster is interrupted at the wrong moment. So we warded the place, I supplied the power, Giles supplied the knowledge. You couldn’t get in there with explosives.”


Buffy looked surprised.


“I'm serious Buffy, it would take me an hour to get in from the outside, and the building would be a wreck.”


Buffy protested “But-”


“Willow? Might I have a word?” Giles asked.


“Eeeep! Giles! Don’t do that! Sneaky... watcher... man!” Willow huffed.


Giles smiled slightly. “I’m a product of my mis-spent youth I’m afraid. Might I borrow you for a moment? I have some complex magical issues of some import that I need to discuss with you.”


Willow sighed. “Okie dokie Giles. I’ll catch up with you guys in a minute- urmph?” she said as Buffy glomped her in a fierce bear-hug.


“God Willow, just... thank you, ok? I don’t...”


Willow smiled into Buffy’s hair. “It’s ok Buffy, I understand, I really do.”


Faith squeezed her shoulder. “That goes double for me, Red... Willow. Thanks...” she said looking significantly at the back of Buffy’s head. “Thanks for everything.”


“That’s ok Faith, anytime. Go on you two, go get some sunshine and snuggles.”


Faith held out her hand, Buffy took it hesitantly, with a shy smile.


The pair walked together down the hallway towards the light of the rear courtyard.
Willow and Giles watched them go, sharing a smile at the sight of the freshly minted couple.


Willow turned to Giles. “Giles, I’m really, really tired and need a shower. What’s so important that it can’t wait till tomorrow?”


The watcher looked pensive, but did not beat about the bush. “It’s about Dawn.”

+++

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2015 9:20 pm 
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Yay for excellent update-y goodness... Extra big yay for Faith proposing Buffy... I hope Cordy's there to help...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2015 12:16 am 
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So Dawn's super powers are setting in. Maybe she only functions as a key under very specific circumstances. Or maybe she's a key all the time and when you stick her in people she unlocks their death.

...

I'm sorry. I've had that Red vs. Blue line stuck in my head every time I brainstorm dialogue for Dawn and Cassie.

But back to this story. Very nicely done with making both of Dawn's sidekicks easily understandable / fleshing out their characters by clearly pointing out which Scooby they're crushing on. Saves a lot of time by saying one is they type of girl who falls for x character and the other falls for y.

Jules/purple/thing for Faith.

Heather/pink/thing for Xander.

Did I get that right? Anyway I'm looking forward to seeing Cordelia's part in all this. I'm suspecting that if there is a faction of Powers that Be that side with keeping Faith alive for now good old Cordy is involved somehow. Always good to see that "all knowing all powerful" energy beings can fall prey to infighting, misdirection and backstabbing like the rest of us. It's very Zen in that no matter how high up the food chain you go, there you are.

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Last edited by Citanul on Tue Jun 23, 2015 12:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2015 12:50 am 
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There you are :)

Hey Citanul!

Yeah, you have the girls details about right.
Jules and Heather are based on two kittens, who wrote awesome stories, helped me with this, and the smut.
Though according to Heather (i think) i have the pink/purple thing swapped around.
But the girls' images were cemented in my head by then.

much factions and craziness :0


And yeah, there's stuff about Dawn.

more in two weeks :P

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2015 11:38 am 
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Hmm, interesting backstory that apparently Cordy and Tara never met or even saw pictures much as ordinary humans.

"Jules and Heather are based on two kittens, who wrote awesome stories, helped me with this, and the smut" Aiiee, I hate when writers say things like that, since I immediately wish I could figure out who they are. (It's not like I really know anyone's real name anyhow, I don't think I follow any Kittens on Facebook, for example.)

Naked Faith and not-so-naked Buffy; whenever anyone else's fic reminds me of mine I get a minor tingle. (In my Ice Age Buffy continuity, a fairly new one, she's very prone to nightmares. So, when she wakes up shaking and panting with her pajamas sweat0soaked, running one or both hands up and down her wife's naked body is the only tranquilizer that works for her.)

Obviously, though, this story is just taking a break before kicking into a higher gear. Looking forward eagerly.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2015 1:42 pm 
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Lol, yes the real life Heather is so very much NOT a pink wearing type of girl (I don't even own ANY THING that's pink). Purple is much more my style, but that's why this is make believe....

:flower :flower :kgeek :grin

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2015 2:20 am 
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so, because i'm insane, the current chapter is HUGE.

I am formatting it now, but it's going to take a while.

And i'm going to break it up a little.

so, an update is on the way, but it's going to take a day or so, sorry.

Incoming!

R :flower

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Jul 12, 2015 1:43 am 
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Sorry Kittens.

There's lots happening and it took longer than i thought to format this.
Here's the first part.

The next part will be up this coming weekend, sooner if i get the chance.

Enjoy :P


Unexpected Guests - Part A



Willow and Giles were sitting in his office, ancient texts neatly stacked all around.
Giles stood with his glasses in his hand, pinching the bridge of his nose, as he was wont to do when he was tired.


“I have been doing some research on ‘the Key’, just quietly mind you, for some time.”


Willow looked puzzled. “Key?”


“Dawn.”


“What? Why? I thought that whole ‘Key’ business was over and done with. Dawn’s just a girl now, an ex-key,” Willow protested.


“Why ever would you think that?” asked Giles.


“Well, Glory is dead and gone, and the gateway was closed by Buffy, um, dying?” she said worriedly.


“I know everyone is more comfortable thinking Dawn is just a regular girl, but, and I say this with no small amount of pride, that she is an exceptional young woman. She is also ‘the Key’. The gateway to Glory’s realm was indeed closed by Buffy’s sacrifice. Glory is dead, and the particular conjunction required to open a gateway to that realm will not return for thousands of years.”

Giles gave his glasses a polish with his handkerchief before resuming. “However, Dawn has not changed. Nothing has happened to release her from her connection to ‘the Key’. Whatever special qualities she had, she still possesses.”


“Goddess! Don’t tell Buffy, she’ll have a spaz!”


“I also have reason to believe that some of that special nature is beginning to manifest.”


“Wait, What? Giles! What’s going on?”


“If I heard correctly in the corridor, Buffy was complaining that Dawn walked in on them having a private moment?”


Willow blushed. “Um, yup. They were all with the reunion snuggles when Dawn wandered in. But Giles, she has always done that! Really, it’s just Dawn being Dawn, she has the worst timing in the world.”


Giles smiled slightly. “Willow, I did not say that this was a new phenomenon. If I recall correctly, when we lived in Sunnydale Buffy complained about Dawn taking her things. I distinctly remember something about her favourite leather pants.”


Willow raised her eyebrows. “Wow. Giles, do you ever forget anything? Because you know, that’s just freaky.”


He smiled. “Well she did go on at some length about the incident if I recall. I also remember Buffy putting a lock on her closet to stop it happening. Which did not work if memory serves.”


“Uh, um and other sounds of hesitation,” Willow said.


“More recently, Dawn opened the civil defence shelter door. A combination lock that only 3 people know the combination to, and is notoriously difficult to deal with at the best of times. She also blithely wandered into your sanctuary through a door which was locked and warded with some rather effective spells. And she has walked into my office a number of times while I had thought the door to be locked.”

Willow gave him a worried look as he continued.

“I am starting to form a theory: that locks really present no obstacle to someone who was once a dimensional key.”


“Interesting theory Giles. That would explain the recent ‘Dawn is a perv’ thing I guess. What now?” Willow asked.


Giles sucked thoughtfully on the stem of his glasses thoughtfully. “Well, any theory needs testing. All of the incidences that I mentioned were rather after the fact. I cannot say with absolute certainty that I locked my door, nor I would imagine, can you say that the sanctuary door was absolutely locked?”


Willow thought for a moment. “Nope. I guess you’re right. What did you have in mind, oh watcher boss-guy?”


“I was thinking that we ward a safe or some other convenient secure device. We then contrive to have Dawn attempt to open it. If she can, it would certainly lend credence to the theory. If not... well, I would imagine we would need another theory.”


“That’s not quite how science works Giles, but it’s not a bad first attempt for a tweed-bound sorcerer.”


“Yes, well. Science does not come naturally to the breed of tweed-bound sorcerers. I’ll have you note that I don’t always wear tweed, today for example, I am wearing an absolutely smashing navy-blue suit, not made of tweed.”


“It’s a navy-blue three piece suit Giles. If it’s not actually tweed, it contains the essence of tweedish-ness. But yes, you look fabulous in it.”


Willow thought for a while. Giles took a moment to pick imaginary lint off his waistcoat. Suits really did suit him.


“Giles? You said you had been doing some research on ‘The Key’. What did you find?”


“Nothing. Not a blessed thing.”


Willow raised a disbelieving eyebrow and he continued.


“I’ll remind you, that I now have access to almost all of the council’s files and records, including everything they had on Glory and her minions. Records that go back thousands of years. And there is nothing on the key, beyond Glory’s desire to use it to return to her own dimension.”

He sighed and fiddled with his glasses. “The only references of any kind to a key that I have been able to find anywhere, were in the books penned by the minions of Glorificus centuries ago. Even the knights of Byzantium appear to have known little of the key, only that it was to be guarded and that they feared it. There is information to suggest that Glory became aware of the existence of the key by accident. It seems likely that even she did not know of the existence of the key originally, but was looking for any artefact of power that would aid her.”


Willow snorted. “Somehow I’m not surprised. For a god, she was pretty blonde.”


He pinched the bridge of his nose under his glasses. “Blonde or not, Glory predated the written word. Given that she did not know of the Key, it seems likely that it is older still. The creation of such a device, or entry of it into this world would definitely have been felt by someone like Glory.”


Willow looked worried. “That’s not exactly painting a picture of puppies and kittens Giles.”


“Indeed. Whatever the key was, it seems that it may be so ancient that there are simply no records. We may well be in the position of making it up as we go along.”


Willow waved her hands around excitedly. “Well, this is good! I mean, if no-one knows anything, then no-one is coming looking for Dawn. Which is a good thing right?”


“Indeed it is.” Giles ran his hand through his hair, a sure sign of his awkwardness.


Willow sighed. “C’mon Giles, spill the beans, ok? There’s more you want to tell me, I know.”


“Yes well,” he sighed before gathering himself. “When I could not find information about the key, I looked into the spell the Bohemian monks used to transform Dawn into her current self.”

He looked at Willow, gauging her reaction. “Willow... I was unable to find any spell, or even combination of spells that would be able to give the results we saw.”


“Uh, what? They had to Giles! Suddenly Buffy had a sister. And I distinctly remember having a younger and much shorter Dawn pestering us to go out slaying. And having a huge crush on Faith. Wow, that lead to some awkward moments I can tell you,” she grimaced as she remembered the angry confrontations and shouting matches. They were unpleasant memories, even if they were false.


“Willow, in order to produce the results we saw, the monks would have to insert memories in thousands upon thousands of people at range. People they had no contact or connection with. In addition, the nature of reality was changed, Dawn had possessions. The house was altered, photographs were altered, histories were changed.”


“I’m starting to feel very Buffy-like here Giles, what are you trying to tell me?”


“I can find no record, no trace, of a memory altering spell of that magnitude. More to the point, a spell of that power and nature would be noticed by the mystically aware across the globe.”

He gave Willow a mild smile. “I have been fielding an impressive volume of calls about the night of Tara’s reappearance. Events of this magnitude are seen, Willow.”

He paused for a moment, Willow watching him with a worried expression. “No-one has any record of any spell of that power occurring at the time Dawn was inserted into our lives. What I am trying to tell you in my slow British way, is that there are no false memories of Dawn. There was no spell, someone simply rewrote reality into a new shape, one containing Dawn Summers.”


“So Dawn’s real? She always was? That great! That’s totally... Whoa!”


Giles gave Willow a tight smile. “Indeed.”


Willow looked panicked. She waved her arms around frantically as she spoke. “But, but, to rewrite reality, to reformat the world like the matrix movies, that would take god-like power Giles! An entire coven made up of clones of me and Tara couldn’t do that! That makes what we did to bring Tara home look like a drop in the ocean!”


Giles nodded. “Indeed. With that level of mystical might, dealing with Glory or even The First would have been trivial.”


“That’s insane! That kind of power could stop the earth in its tracks! Or move the entire planet to another dimension! Or, or... anything!” she said, frantically waving her hands around.


He looked at her with serious expression, the expression Buffy called his apocalypse-y face. “Now you see why it is so important that we look into this. This is a level of power beyond spells. No monks, with any spell-book in existence could do this.”

Giles took off his glasses to give them a thorough polish. He inspected them carefully, before replacing them and continuing his explanation.

“Somewhere out there is a force of such unspeakable power, that they were able to alter the entire world. Changing its past present and future, and they did this to put the key under the protection of the Slayer. To protect it... to protect her, from someone who would have been no real threat to them.”

Giles looked Willow carefully in the eye. “I am beginning to suspect that Glory was simply a smokescreen, to hide what is undoubtedly a long term plan.”


“That is not a happy-making thought Giles.”


“No. It isn’t.”


+++


“I guess that you are from a family of witches?” Cordelia asked.
“Given that most people don’t throw terms like ‘Whitelighter’ and ‘aura’ around in casual conversation.”


Tara nodded. “All the women in my family were witches, as far back as anyone can remember.”


“Just the women? You don’t think that’s a little weird?” Cordelia asked.


Tara raised an eyebrow in mild reproach. “Historically women have been better at magic than men.”


“Well, yeah, guys are a bit dumb about this sort of thing. Like, most guys have no fashion sense. But to have magic on only one side of the family? Sounds more like a curse or something.”


“Hey!”


“What? I’m just saying! In a family of witches, it’s real odd to get boys with no talent at all, it just sounds like they were cursed is all. No magic for the boys.”


“Oh! You mean they were cursed? I didn’t, um, think of that.”


“Seriously Tara, what did you think I meant?”


“Um, my family has some baggage around magic. The magic itself was considered a curse.”


Cordelia brushed the idea off. “Well that’s just dumb.”


Tara gave a wry smile. “I’m starting to think so too.”


“I mean, unless someone goes all dark side with it, then it could be kinda curse-like. Anything like that in your history?”


Tara paled. “Uh, n-no. Nothing like that that I’m aware of.”



Buffy and Faith walked shyly into the sunlight of the rear courtyard and wandered over to the small group.
Faith grinned and snickered when she saw the flag, Buffy just looked puzzled.


Cordelia was talking as they arrived. “... I mean, it’s meant to be all ‘Through the force, things you will see, other places, the future, the past, old friends long gone, sorta thing.”


Jules eyes lit up once she realized Faith was up and about. Her expression clouded when she saw her holding hands with Buffy.
She got the feeling this wasn’t quite the same as when Buffy held hands with Willow, something about their posture shouted intimacy.


Heather gave her a consoling hug.
There was a lull in the conversation.


“Cordelia Chase! Did you just quote Star-wars at me?” Buffy said, stunned at this revelation.


“Huh, I woulda thought I could sneak that one by ya Buffy. When did you get your roots infested with geek?” Cordelia asked.


Buffy looked offended. “Cordelia, how does the queen of the mall people, even know Star Wars?”


Buffy and Cordelia stared at each other. Eventually they both exclaimed simultaneously. “Xander!”


Heather and Jules made themselves as invisible as possible, not wanting to be sent away and miss all the awesome gossip.

Cordelia registered that Buffy was holding Faith’s hand and opened her mouth, stopping sharply when she caught the dangerous glint in Faith’s eye.


“Hey Faith... glad to see you... back on your feet,” she ventured.


Buffy’s eyebrows vanished into her hairline at this halting exchange. She glanced at Faith.

Faith grinned. “Told her if she made you feel bad about us, I’d send her back upstairs in pieces.”


“Faith! You mean, when you said earlier about punching out an angel, starting a war, you were serious?!”


“Uh, yeah?”


Cordelia added. “Even dead, your-” she visibly changed tack. “-Faith, is trouble.”


“Faith, did you punch out Cordelia in heaven?” Buffy asked.


“Nah. We got on ok.”


“Bummer. That would have been awesome.”


“You want I should?”


Buffy sighed. “No. That would be bad... I guess. I suppose we should find out what she wants.”


“Hello?! I’m standing right here? Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s rude to talk about people as if they weren’t present?” Cordelia complained.


“Sorry Queenie, just had to deal with some stuff y’know?”


“Hey come-on! I’m not the same person I was in high school ok? I’m like, this super powerful, ascended being now. I fight the good fight and everything, so get over it already!”


Buffy smiled and said one word. “Angel.”


Cordelia froze. A series of emotions were visible flickering rapidly across her face: shame, guilt, determination, and an expression that could only be described as ‘slightly gooey’.

She deflated slightly. “Ok, maybe not the best move. I’m sorry I guess. I mean, I knew there was baggage there, but I really thought you guys were done with the dating thing,” she said, looking pointedly at Buffy’s hand welded firmly to Faith’s.


Buffy smiled. A warm smile of genuine happiness. “I am.”

She squeezed Faith’s hand tightly. “He was my first, my good guy, and I’ll always love him. But I’m not in love with him.”

She touched Cordy on the shoulder. “That part of my life is over. I’m happy he has someone, I’m happy for you both.”


Willow interrupted. “Just not too happy ‘cos, y’know, Grr! Argh!” she said, miming a fangy face and claws.


Cordelia laughed. “No, it’s ok. There are some advantages to having a girlfriend who’s an ascended being. Shanshu prophesy? That’s tricky. But gypsy curses?” she snapped her fingers. “No problem.”


“Phew! I am really glad that Angel’s happy doesn’t lead to everyone else’s sad anymore, I mean seriously? What were those gypsies thinking? What’s the point of cursing someone, with the knowledge that happiness will cost them their soul, if you don’t ever tell them?” Willow babbled.


“I know right? An... a friend of mine said it was just sloppy work, a bit of a rush job. But yes, he’s all curse free and making with the smoochies. Which gets me in a lot of trouble upstairs I can tell you.”


“Huh?” Willow said. “How come? Angel’s one of the good guys isn’t he?”


“Well hello? Vampire and a Whitelighter? Not meant to mix.”


“They call you Whitelighters? Like in the show?” Willow asked.


Cordelia made a face. “Crap, now I’m doing it. That’s not our official term, we don’t have an official term. Which is why we ended up getting called Whitelighters, because people watch too much TV.”

She grinned. “You think we have it bad? The brits have their version of the Initiative, and everyone who runs into them, calls them Torchwood. It can lead to some side-splitting misunderstandings.”


Willow and Faith sniggered, everyone else just looked blank.


“I’ll explain later. Really Buffy, it’ll make you laugh,” Willow said.


“I hate it when I don’t get the in-jokes,” Buffy huffed.


“Hey Queenie, why not show us why they call you a Whitelighter,” Faith said.


Cordelia tilted her head in acknowledgement. “Sure. See you earth-bound types inside.” She shimmered with a soft white light, and was gone in a heartbeat.


Willow blinked. “Wow. Pretty snazzy.”


“It’s certainly impressive,” Tara said.


Faith nudged Buffy toward the door. “Ladies, we should get inside before Queen C starts without us.”


Buffy turned to Heather and Jules. “You two better come with. I know Dawn’s going to blab everything to you anyway, so you might as well get it straight from the horse’s mouth.”


Tara hid a smile behind her hand, as Heather danced her own version of the snoopy dance, while simultaneously high-fiving Jules. Her coordination was impressive.

Buffy rolled her eyes and went inside, still firmly attached by the hand to Faith.



Eventually, the gang were assembled in the library, Xander still pink-faced from his training exertions, though he had managed to throw on some clean clothes.


Last to arrive were Buffy and Faith. They dawdled in the hall until Cordelia stuck her head out of the double doors and groused at them. “Hey enough with the face sucking already! I don’t have that long before I have to get back, so come on!”

She said it with a smile, and Buffy and Faith were not sucking face. Rather, they were leaning disconcerted against the wall. But it had the desired effect, they jerked into movement and stumbled into the library.

Dawn squealed with joy as the two came through the doors hand in hand.

Xander pulled Buffy into a hug bear-hug and squeezed her tight. She squeezed him back. “Hey Xander,” she murmured into his sweater.


“Hey Buffy,” he murmured back.

“C’mere you,” he said and pulled Faith into the hug.
She protested slightly, but suffered herself to be hugged.


“Hey, I love ya an’ all, but we should break this up, people will talk,” she said, smirking.

Xander rolled his eye and let go, though he was still smiling.


Giles cleared his throat. “I’m sure I speak for us all when I say welcome back, and I am glad that you’re well.”


Dawn and Heather hopped up and down with glee.
Jules smiled sadly.


“Five by five G-man. Good to be back.”


“And congratulations,” he added with a soft smile.


Faith shot Dawn a fierce look.
Dawn responded with wide-eyed head shaking, and pointed to Faith and Buffy’s joined hands.


“Uh, thanks Giles. It’s all good. And uh, thanks guys for, y’know not being weird about all this,” she said holding up her hand, joined with Buffy’s.

She turned to Buffy. “How you holding up B?”


“Terrified, floating, jumping for joy, dead on my feet,” she yawned hugely.


“Yeah, I hear ya. Uh, Queenie? Ya wanna kick this in gear? Some of us haven’t slept and need to get to sleep.”


“You just want to get her in bed, doncha?” Cordelia said.


“Totally. I am gonna hold B while she sleeps. And I’m never let go as long as I live. That ok?”
Buffy leaned gratefully against Faith as she said this, the dark circles under her eyes testimony to her exhaustion.


“Sheesh, touchy!” Cordelia complained.


“This is a big deal for me and B. We’re both still dealin’. ‘s gonna be a while before we’re both relaxed about alla this. So just leave us be, and do ya thing.”

Faith turned to the rest of the Scooby gang. “I’m sorry guys, It’s all gonna go to hell from here on out.”

“Heaven actually, which is why I’m here,” Cordelia added.



“Uh, yeah, I’ve been meaning to ask, what’s with the teleporting? Are you a vengeance demon now?” Xander said.


“Xander! Oh ,you are so going to regret saying that, buster!” Cordelia replied, her expression promising dire things in his future.


“The most commonly accepted term is ‘Whitelighter’,” Tara said. “Cordelia is an ascended being.”


“Ya, I work for the Powers That Be now. I’ve gone up in the world. Literally. Like, I floated off into the sky. Which was pretty amazing, though the Powers have the worst timing in the entire world.”


“Whitelighter? Like, in the show?” Xander asked.


Cordy rolled her eyes. “You watch Charmed? Perv.”


“Hey! Magical witchy types, fighting evil with the power of magic and kung-fu, what’s not to like? Though it did seem oddly warm for San Francisco,” he said with an unabashed grin.


Cordelia rolled her eyes again. “Focus, Xander. Anyway, as much as it sucks, Faith here is supposed to be dead. Her being here, has the Powers That Be in an uproar. Seriously it’s like Barney’s at Black Friday up there, which is how I was able to sneak off and visit you guys.”


“Wait, you’re not supposed to be here? Why not?” Buffy asked, perking up a bit.


“The Powers have a serious hands off policy around you guys, and I mean serious. Specifically anyone with the last name ‘Summers,’ but it applies to all of you, because, well,” she said gesturing around at the gang. “You’re never far apart.”


Tara had a thoughtful look on her face. “Why?” she asked.


Cordelia threw up her hands. “Who knows! Seriously, The Powers unwillingness to touch you guys, includes not talking about why. And I did ask. A bunch of times. Got in a lot of trouble for that.”


Willow fidgeted. “Um, Cordy, not meaning to sound mean, but why are you here, if you’d get into so much trouble?” she said.


“Because you guys are my friends dummy, and because you’re the good guys. Even you Xander, thought you’re still a butt-monkey.”


“Butt-monkey, check,” Xander said with a small smile.


Cordelia flashed him a grin.


“And because someone very powerful is covering for me. I was asked to come explain a few things by... well, the leader of the resistance. I can’t tell you much about her, because she asked me not to, and when I tell you it’s important to her, you better believe it. So don’t ask.”

“Wait what?! Did you say ‘Resistance?’ like, capital ‘R’ Resistance, all Nazis and berets and plucky resistance fighters smelling faintly of garlic?” Willow asked.


“Uh-huh. At first it was kinda like a PTA meeting. A bunch of people were upset at things that were going on. Lotsa stuff about Slayers, but it really came to a head with you guys,” she said, gesturing to the Scoobies.
“After some of the nasty, nasty stuff that happened to you guys, it really ticked her off. So she started a resistance movement. She pulled me in because I had history with the Scoobies, and I already bent the rules with Angel and the gang.”


Faith weighed in. “Seriously B, that is one pissed off broad. I wouldn’t wanna get in her way. Guys? You thought hurricane Buffy was bad? You got no idea.”


Cordelia picked up smoothly. “Then a few days ago, Faith goes and gets herself nearly killed, and what does she do? Punches out the Whitelighter sent to guide her, and proceeds to tear heaven apart.”


Buffy’s voice rose sharply. “You were serious when you said you punched out an angel?!”


Faith grinned. “Yeah, Jimbo. What?”

Buffy just gaped.
“He’s alright, one of our guys. I was just pissed ‘cos it was him that got me killed, or nearly killed. It was that job on me, that pushed him over the edge into the arms of the resistance. Turns out, sending good guys to arrange the death of other good guys? Not the smartest thing to do.”


“I think he has a bit of a crush on you Faith. Something he said about, what was that phrase? Oh yeah, ‘a magnificent spirit,’” Cordy said with cheerful grin.


Faith grinned back. “Well he’s outa luck there.”


“What the fuzzy heck?! The Powers That Be, sent a guy called Jimbo, to kill Faith, with a bunch of demons?” Willow exclaimed.


Cordelia nodded. “Basically, yes. James is like me, an ascended human, though he’s been around way longer.”


“Why?” Buffy ground out.


“Faith was fated to die. But,” Cordelia paused to get everyone’s attention. “Fate can be overturned or diverted sometimes, like Willow resurrecting you, Buffy. They were happy with Faith as the Slayer and you getting your eternal reward, then Willow does the ‘mortal free-will’ thing and brings you back. They didn’t like that at all. Anyway, they didn’t want any surprises this time, so they sent James to make sure.”


“Yeah, Jimbo told me they pitched it to him, as a job making sure it was quick and clean, ‘cept they didn’t figure on Snowy here,” she said, gesturing at Tara with her chin.


Tara nodded slowly. “Which is why bringing Faith back was so difficult. As bad as her injuries were, I should have been able to heal her in an afternoon. We were fighting the Powers the whole way, which is why it took me, Willow, Buffy and Faith four days to bring her back.”


“You’re that powerful?” Faith asked.


Tara smiled shyly. “Yes. I might not be super girl, but when it comes to healing magic, I’m the Slayer.”


“And,” Cordelia said. “Something about Tara’s extra-dimensional adventures has her off the radar. None of the predictive tricks that we use to keep tabs on people, can pick her up. She’s the spanner in the works of Fate. Which is why, I think, that Faith is still alive.”

“Tara? This ‘off the radar’ thing has happened once before that I know about. And it seems to run in the family, Because the only other person to drop off the radar like you did, was Rhiannon Ó Liatháin, otherwise known as Rhiannon Maclay. Uh, your mom.


Willow felt a stab of fear and loss shoot through Tara. “She was stolen too?” she said.


Cordy shook her head. “No. She asked to become a Whitelighter, but she up and vanished on her second case. She told James she had something important to do, and just disappeared. Seriously, they looked everywhere, used every divination. Nothing. We can’t disappear like that, and if the demon world knew how, they’d have used it to their advantage ages ago. No one knows what the hell happened.”


Tara spoke. “What does this mean?”


Cordelia held up her hands and shrugged. “Who knows. I don’t think any of this relates, but it came up. Even the afterlife is messed up when it comes to you guys.”


Tara focussed on Cordelia intently. “When exactly?”


“I’m not sure exactly, but mid-October, 2000,” Cordelia replied.


“Baby...” Willow said softly.


Tara spoke in a hushed voice. “Right after my 20th birthday. After my father visited.”


“Well, that can’t be a coincidence,” Willow said.


Xander spoke up. “So now we have two mysteries, Tara’s disappearing mom, and the case of the upstairs underground... What?” he said at everyone’s incredulous looks. “I thought that was pretty good for a spur of the moment thing.”


“Just so you know, I am reminding you of the violence clause in your contract. If you try to have the school van painted blue and green again…” Buffy said, waving a fist at him in mock threat.


Xander made a show of sighing and shaking his head.


“Well this is fun, but I have to get out of here soon. I don’t know how long mom can cover for me, and the Hellmouth mojo is seriously giving me the creeps.”


“You’re working with your mom? I thought she was still alive?” Willow said.


Cordelia looked puzzled. “What? Oh, yeah. We all call our fearless leader ‘mom’. She’s like, mother to all the Slayers, so the name kinda stuck.”

Her expression darkened. “It’s what started her off, seeing how badly the worlds chosen champions were treated. I mean sure, they are honoured when they get upstairs, have their own special place and everything, but she got pretty angry about how they were treated while they were alive. I don’t just mean the council acting like a bunch of idiots, even the powers didn’t do too good a job of looking after them. The last straw was what happened with Faith.”


Cordelia shook her head. “She got cold. Like, icy rage. I’ve never seen anybody that totally angry before, not even Faith could match that level of pure fury when she tore the place apart. That was the day the resistance came out of the shadows and became a rebellion.”


Faith groaned. “Told ya I started a war. How many people have that on their jacket?”


Cordelia continued. “James is angry about what they asked him to do, and he’s a heavy hitter upstairs. Mom is possibly one of the most influential people up there, who’s not part of the inner circle. She has a good chunk of the Whitelighters behind her and a huge reputation. It helps that she’s part of a very influential bloodline, they take that stuff seriously in supernatural circles, it gives her serious political clout.”


“God, who is this, Jackie O?” Buffy grumped.


Faith pulled Buffy in close and murmured to her. “B, I wouldn’t keep this from ya if it wasn’t real important. She wants to meet with you and talk strategies an’ stuff real soon. But if anyone gets wind of this, it could all go to hell.”

She whispered in her ear. “Names have power, B. Remember, demons are afraid of ‘Summers’?”


Buffy smiled at the joke. “I’m ok. Check me out, all is relaxed in Buffy land.”


“So yeah, it’s all confusion, chaos and industrial action up there. The Powers That Be have no idea what to do when a bunch of Whitelighters go on strike. It would be funny if it wasn’t all so serious,” Cordelia said.


Xander jumped in. “I realize this might be a question chock full of dumbness, but why do the Powers That Be even care what the Whitelighters think? Aren’t they kinda god-like?”


Cordelia nodded. “Pretty much. Though they can’t be everywhere at once, the world is just too big, so most of the actual work gets done by the rest of us.”

She looked around, fixing everyone with her serious expression. “Guys, the Powers are panicking. They passed through ‘concerned’ and ‘disturbed’ all the way to ‘freaking out’. Like, James has been around for centuries, and he’s never even heard of this level of freakage.”

Cordelia paced, thinking. “There’s something about Tara saving Faith that has them more freaked out than when Glory tried to wreck the world, or when the First Evil made its big move a few months back.”

“And no one has a clue. Even the guys James goes to for inside information have no idea.”

“All this confusion and general crazy behaviour gives us a chance to keep in touch. I can’t disappear too often, I’m the boss’s right hand woman, it’s too easy to notice when I go missing, plus Hellmouth. Yuck.”
She shuddered.

“I think I can scare up a Hellmouth-tolerant Whitelighter to act as a go between, and keep you guys in the loop. I’ll send them round in a few days. Anything you need to know, ask them.”
Cordelia grinned at the Scoobies.


Willow blinked. “Wow, we actually have help for once. That’s kinda different. Though, horrible disaster and panic? That’s not so new.”

She looked thoughtful for a moment. “How are we going to recognize the new guy?”


Cordelia grinned. “You mean besides the White outfit, teleporting and Tara spotting them as a Whitelighter?”


Willow blinked and looked sheepish. “Oh. Er. Don’t mind me.”


Cordelia smiled. “Don’t worry Willow, I’ll make sure you can tell they’re one of us.”


Faith looked thoughtful and slightly angry. “Gotta wonder, what kind of apocalypse I could spark off just by bein’ alive. I mean I’m pretty badass, but so what? I’m no world cracking witch, not the leader of a secret organization or anything. What makes me so special?”


At this Giles spoke up. “It may not be you that is the issue. As thankful as we are to have you alive and whole, consider what your healing represented. The direct overturning of fate. Defiance of the Powers That Be. And someone with the power and will to do so,” he said, looking at Willow and Tara.


Faith gently stroked Buffy’s hair. A very sleepy Buffy hummed quietly and leaned into the contact with a sleepy smile. “Just before it got hairy, Jimbo told me that for whatever reason, the big wigs wanted the Slayer legacy out of our hands. They wanted another Slayer called, one with nothing to do with you, B.”


“Me? Why?”


Faith shrugged. “I dunno for sure, but Jimmy said that the mini-me’s were a one shot deal. He told me that when they eventually die of old age or whatever, no new Slayer will be called to replace them. Not like me.”


Buffy looked puzzled. “So eventually we go back to ‘one girl in each generation’ again. Why? I would have thought that more good guys would be a good thing? Less vampires, less demons eating people. How can that be bad?”


“Hell if I know. Somethin’ fishy going on though. Maybe they’re figure that if we go back to one Slayer, the First won’t get another chance?”


“Life is your gift,” Buffy said in a dreamy tone.


Everyone looked at her.


“Um, sorry. I was spacey Buffy there for a moment. Four days without real sleep will do that. Uh, maybe that’s what the First Slayer was trying to tell you, that maybe your gift is life for them somehow, like, continuing them on somehow. Sorry guys, my brain is not the best right now.”

Giles was reassuring. “You are doing fine Buffy, and you bring up an excellent point. Our problem is that so much of what we are doing is totally new. To my knowledge, there have never been two Slayers in existence, so we have no idea what the ramifications of that might be.”

He took off his glasses and nibbled the ear piece thoughtfully. “Of course It goes without saying that there was never even the conception of two thousand Slayers.”

He looked at Willow. “If the Slayer activation was only temporary, it might be wise to look into the spell that you used for the activation Willow. It might be useful to know if we can activate more potentials one day.”


Willow nodded tiredly. “Okie dokie Giles.”

She yawned. “I’m gonna pull a bunch of guardian trainees in to research all this stuff, but I’ll get right on it as soon as the room quits tilting to one side.”


Giles smiled slightly. “In the meantime, Xander, Dawn and I will research what we can of Slayer lore and the Powers That Be, while you are getting some sleep. Hopefully we can put some shape to recent events and better understand what is going on.”


Xander sighed in defeat. “Yep, that’s us, research gang.”


“Yes, well, the alternative is to wander around blindly until something eats one or more of us.”


Xander slumped. “Research it is.”


Giles chuckled slightly. “Hopefully Andrew will be back some time tomorrow. I have high hopes that the council’s top secret archives will have some useful information for us on Slayers throughout history.”


“How is Andy Pandy and the geek squad?” Faith asked.


Giles looked slightly embarrassed. “I rather think he’s annoyed with me for sending him on a very dull mission. Whenever I have spoken to him over the last few days he has been rather curt and distracted, though he assures me that they are all in good health.”


Xander ran his hand through his curly hair. “I just hope we have more luck with this than we did with ‘life is your gift’ thing. Huh. Maybe that’s what it meant Faith, like ‘be cool, you’re gonna get out of this alive’.”


“Sounds good Xan. Seems a bit pointless though. I mean why be cryptic with good news? Why not something like,” she put on a phoney prophetic voice. “Be cool, a big ol’ buncha demons are no threat to the Slayer. Or somethin?”


Giles was still in thoughtful mode, nibbling the stem of his glasses. “Prophesy is meant to guide the right people at the right time, while concealing the intent from forces that would stop to those people. Which reminds me,” he looked at Dawn. “I left a very important text in my office. Dawn, would you be a dear and run down to my office for me?”


“Sure,” she chirped. “Where is it?”


“In my safe. I was going through it when Cordelia made her appearance. In my haste I left it unlocked. If it won’t open, be persistent, it tends to stick a bit.”


“Ok. Back in a sec,” Dawn said and jogged from the room.


Willow gave Giles a questioning look. Giles returned it with a minute nod.



Cordelia stood up. “Well I better jet, I have to get back to the crazy, and check on my guys.”


“Tell Angel...” Buffy hesitated. “tell him, that I’m happy.”


“Sure Buffy, I’ll do that.”
She smiled knowingly at the pair. “You sure this isn’t to get out of a really awkward phone call?”


Buffy grimaced. “Nope, no phone dodging here. Whatever you tell him, the next conversation we have is going to be filled with giant, economy-sized chunks of awkward silence. No, I’ll call him in a day or so when I’ve had some sleep.”

She shyly put her arm around Faith’s waist. “None of this is a secret, no matter how much trouble I have adjusting. And Cordelia?”

Cordelia met Buffy’s tired, happy gaze. “I’m happy for you both.”

It was Cordelia’s turn to smile and look slightly bashful.


Buffy added. “Of course, if you break his heart, I’ll set your hair on fire.”


“And I’ll take a trip to LA and burn all your clothes,” Faith added with a smirk. “Tell fang boy and the gang I said hi, and yeah,” she tucked Buffy in close. “I’m good.”


Cordelia smiled and vanished in a shimmer of light.


Seconds later, Dawn bounced into the room holding a book.

“Hey! Did I miss her?”

Many nods greeted her pout.
“Poop. I really wanted to see Cordelia orbing.”


Xander snorted.
Buffy asked with a yawn. “Orbing?”


Dawn rolled her eyes at her tragically out of touch sister. “That’s what it’s called Buffy.”


Buffy yawned again. “Whatever. Faith? Um, can you help me get to bed, I can barely stand.”


Faith smiled softly. “Sure B, I can handle it.”

She gently scooped Buffy up and carried her out the door. She turned as they went out the door. “Later guys.”


Xander turned to Willow and Tara. “You ladies might want to... oh,”


Willow and Tara were both sprawled across the table, fast asleep.


+++


Faith gently lay Buffy in her bed and removed her shoes.

“Sleep B, I’ll watch over you.”


“Stay?” Buffy pleaded softly.


“I ain’t goin’ anywhere,” Faith said softly.

She lay down next to Buffy and pulled the comforter across them both. Buffy snuggled in close and Faith treated her to a tender smile.

In moments she was asleep.


+++


Sometime later, the conscious Scoobies were in full research mode.
The long library table was piled high with neat stacks of books, which Xander, Giles, Danni and most incredibly, Heather and Jules were poring over.
Nearby was a large whiteboard covered in sticky notes and scribbles, detailing their progress so far.
Dawn was trawling through the council’s digitized archives and monitoring the Scoobies custom search-bot ‘Woogle’.
If the board was anything to go by, they had drawn a big fat blank when it came to spirits disappearing from the afterlife.
They were having only slightly more success with researching Slayer lore.



While Andrew had shipped home the bulk of the council’s texts, the really top secret texts were coming home under guard with him and the rest of his Slayer team.

The bulk of the shipped texts were housekeeping notes and minutiae of watcher life, taken from their archives section. The low security archives were at an off-site storage facility and not of interest to Caleb and his bringers.

Uncharacteristically, Giles had a look of irritation on his face. Every few minutes Xander would glance up at him and frown.


Eventually his curiosity got the better of him. “Ok, G-man what’s the what? You’ve been frowning all night and occasionally pacing. Seriously Giles, even when the world is ending you’re normally study guy. And as much as it feels like we’ve been at this forever, for a research run, we’ve only just started. So what’s made you all grumpy Gus?”


Giles gave him a look tinged with frustration. “Really Xander I’m fine. And do please stop calling me that.”


Xander nodded knowingly. “Uh-huh, because your good mood is both obvious and contagious. You’re acting like bear with a burr under his saddle blanket, or some such other large grumpy animal. What gives?”


Giles sighed and took his glasses of to give them a good polish with his tie. “It’s difficult to explain, something about this isn’t quite right,” he said gesturing to the books.


“Uh-huh, Andrew is sitting on the really secret stuff and bringing it home under Slayer guard. That might be the problem. Plus Willow has only gotten about half of this stuff scanned.”


“Hey hey! You mean ‘Danni and her staff of teenagers, all eager to earn money,’ have scanned half these books, thank you,” Danni protested.


Xander made a show of covering his head from incoming blows, which raised a smile from Danni. “Sorry, my bad.”

Xander sighed. “Look G-man, If it it’s not there, it’s not there. Move on to the next thing.”


An almost joyous expression of comprehension lit Giles’ face. “Bloody hell! Xander you’re a genius!”


Xander blinked in surprise. “I am? I mean, yeah. I am.”


Giles was invigorated. “It’s the wrong shape man! I’m so profoundly stupid.”


Xander frowned. “Bad Giles. Bad, bad Giles. Would it look too crazy if I asked you what the heck I’m supposed to be a genius about?”


“As you said Xander, it’s not there. There are pieces missing from some of these books! Sentences that do not end quite right, odd spaces and so forth.”

Excitedly he waved the book at Xander. “We cannot find what we are looking for, because what we are looking for is no longer there.”


“Uh, how does this help us Giles, I mean really, if it’s gone, how do we find it?”


“It helps us because it gives us information, it tells us that there was something to find, because someone went to a great deal of effort conceal it. If we can determine how the removal was accomplished, it should give us a lead on who did it.”

Giles’ green gaze was electric. Xander had often wondered what would really push the Watcher’s buttons, and now he knew. He really shouldn’t have been surprised: a world ending, literary puzzle-hunt thing.

“And finally it gives us a shape to the blasted puzzle. If we can gather enough information, we can determine what the missing text is about!” Giles said, holding his book up triumphantly.


Xander had an ear to ear grin, it wasn’t often the reserved Watcher got visibly excited, so when he did, it was hard not to get caught up it all. He glanced at Dawn and was unsurprised to see her and Danni both smothering giggles at Giles’ antics.

“It’s good to see you have an idea where to begin Giles,” Dawn said, her eyes dancing.


“Oh, er. Yes rather,” he said, looking slightly sheepish.


Xander clapped him on the shoulder “It’s cool Giles, enjoy the moment.”

At that moment, the computer in front of Dawn beeped cheerily.


“Ah, is that a good... Beep?” Giles asked vaguely.


Dawn shrugged. “Meh, statistical modelling that Willow wanted me to do. Pretty dull stuff, but she wanted to get something useful out of these diaries that we spent so long scanning.”


“And this model... thing?” Giles asked uncertainly.


“Is a fancy name for a bunch of information about Slayers and their Watchers, all neatly catalogued and referenced. So now at the push of a button I can tell you all sorts of things, from average dress size to most common hair colour.”


“Really? How fascinating.”


“It’s not complete yet, but we can use it for basic stuff. Try me,” she said with a smile, cracking her fingers.


“Oh er, right. Um, most common hair colour?” he ventured.


Xander watched the interchange with interest. He stretched out and put his feet up, happy to take a break from the tedium of reading.


“Duh, brown Giles,” she said clicking on a couple of icons. “Yup, I was right, most Slayers have brown hair, because most people have brown hair. Huh, interesting, we get a lot of blondes and wow! Check out the redheads!”


“Twenty percent doesn’t seem like much,” Giles responded.


Dawn pointed at the big screen with a pocket laser pointer. “This is the worldwide average Giles: two percent. Slayers are ten times more likely to have naturally red hair than anyone else.”


“Fascinating,” Giles said. “I wonder if this is the source of the old story about feisty redheads?”


“Could be. Gimme another.”


“Ah, longest lived Slayers?” Giles said.


“Pfft! Buffy, followed by Faith,” Dawn said, clicking an icon and typing in a short formula.


“Oh my,” said Giles, as he absorbed the graph on the screen.


“Holy short life-span batman!” Xander yelped, all but falling over in his chair. “Is this right?”


“Huh?” Dawn looked up at the big screen. “um, lemme check if I made a typo. Nope, this is accurate. These are the numbers recorded by the council for the last couple thousand years.”


“But this means that Slayers average about a year on the job before they get killed!” Xander said, his voice rising in alarm.


“I thought Kendra had an unusually short career, but if this is to be believed, her career was fairly typical,” Giles said.


“What about that one?” Xander said, pointing to a spike in the middle of the graph.


“Hmm... 5 years, lemme find the file,” she clicked a couple of icons. “Maud Ó Liatháin, Irish, active from 956AD to 961AD, according to this, she was a ‘wild’ Slayer. The Council, then going by the name of ‘The Brotherhood of Watchers’ didn’t find her until the year of her death.”


Giles sighed sadly. “If only they had got to her sooner. She must have been magnificent, to have survived for so long without help or training.”


Xander interrupted. “Uh, guys? Is it me or we hear that name earlier today?”


“Ó Liatháin? Tara’s mother’s maiden name? Quite a common surname Xander,” Giles said. “For anyone from Munster region of Ireland, at least.”


“God, how do you say that? Is it part of the watcher’s training? I have to learn to speak Irish now?” Xander groused.


“A certain familiarity with ancient languages is expected Xander, given the ancient lore a watcher must deal with.”

He smiled slightly. “Gaelic is one of the more prevalent ancient tongues.”

He turned his smile on Dawn. “Dawn here has quite the ear for languages.”


Dawn beamed at the compliment.

“It’s going to be one of those words with all the wiggly bits and weird stuff over all the letters isn’t it?”

Dawn pointed at the spelling on the big screen.

Xander sighed and puzzled at the spelling. “Yup, oh lee-thay-nn.”


He blinked. “Lehane? Tara’s related to Faith?!”


Giles rubbed his eyes. “Xander, if you go back far enough, you are related to me, or worse yet, Spike.”


“Can I just say, eeew! to the Spike thing?” Xander said.


“Tara’s parents were of Irish extraction. Evidently, at least one of Faith’s parents was of similar nationality. I wouldn’t read too much into it Xander, an astonishing number of Americans have Irish blood, particularly in Boston.”


Xander was clearly unwilling to let go of such an awesome possibility. “Aww Giles, don’t be like that!” he said, sounding suspiciously like a small child. “It could be pretty exciting if Faith and Tara were related. I mean Faith doesn’t have much in the way of family, and anyone would be pleased to have Tara as a relative. I know I would be.”


Giles chuckled. “Look into it if you wish, but don’t be too disappointed if nothing comes of it.”


“Great! Hey if I find something, I get to tell them the good news, ok?”


“By all means.”

Giles smothered a yawn. “Now, it’s rather late, and I’d like for us to finish on a high note. So off to bed for the lot of you. I want you all here bright and early tomorrow morning to pick up where we left off. And Dawn? I shall need you most of all, to operate that infernal machine,” Giles said, waving at the keyboard.


Dawn rolled her eyes. “You know, Willow designed the user interface for you, Giles. Even you should be able to handle it, Mr Technophobe.”


“I think I prefer your other term, ‘Weird Book Nerd’ thank you Dawn. Now shoo, off to bed. We have a lot of work tomorrow.”


Dawn poked a few keys and logged off, Xander and Danni scribbled a few notes and closed up their books for the night.


“And what about you watcher-man?” Dawn asked.


“Oh yes, bed for me as well, I just have to take a few notes,”

The three younger people exchanged glances.

Danni took his notebook from him, as politely as possible, Dawn and Xander took him by the arms, steering him toward the door.


“Willow left orders regarding you and bed,” Dawn said cheerfully.


Xander chimed in with similar cheerfulness. “Uh-huh, we have to be here bright and early remember? Can’t save the world if we’re all blechy.”


“I really must protest! You do realize that I am both the head of the council and a grown man?”


“Uh-huh, and Willow is the tiny Jewish witch who pays the bills, and is scarier than you. So it’s bedtime for everyone, even you, mister council.”


“Xander, you pay most of the bills, not Willow.”


“Yeah, but it sounded good. And it’s still bed time Giles, because I don’t wanna be turned into a frog. Willow would scream and run away, which is not a picture I want to be part of.”


The sounds of mild protest followed them up to their floor.


+++


Elsewhere, in a dim, vaulted cavern echoing with the quiet, slow drip of water, two voices conversed.


“You can do this?” the voice echoed throughout the vault. “You can kill the Slayer?”


A small figure barely visible in the dim light, face-palmed. “Yes, o overly dramatic one. I can guarantee the death of the Slayer in four to eight weeks.”


“We need this done rapidly,” the voice countered.


“No you don’t. You need it done right, and right takes time. Preparation and planning are key to this sort of thing, as you have discovered with the Anara. I told you, if you keep attacking Faith, they’ll just bunker up until you have to blow up the whole school just to get her.”


“This needs to be dealt with quickly, things are becoming uncertain.”


“Look, send me. Stay out of my hair, and she’s dead in 2 months at the outside. Guaranteed. Keep going the way you are going and you’ll only make it worse.”


“That is... acceptable.”


“And don’t send anyone to spy on them. They have a bunch of witches and a couple thousand jumpy Slayers, I don’t want one of your spies tipping them off, otherwise it will take even longer.”


The voice returned. “Agreed.”


After a pause it continued. “Ensure that you do not harm the Summers sisters, or the Watcher. It would make things... difficult.”


The figure huffed. “You already said that. I heard you the first time. Don’t worry, I have no reason to harm Buffy or Dawn, but Faith? That’s a different story. One terribly fatal accident coming right up.”


The echo-y voice said nothing.


The figure waited for a while. “Hello? Anyone there?”

Silence greeted her.

“Typical. How rude.”


Her form shimmered and was gone.


+++

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Jul 12, 2015 3:46 am 
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Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I seriously hope the Powers soon realize that making Buffy angry is very bad to their health...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Jul 12, 2015 3:57 am 
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zampsa19752001 wrote:
Yay for excellent update-y goodness... I seriously hope the Powers soon realize that making Buffy angry is very bad to their health...


:)

You. Have. No. Idea.

But it pales in comparison to the wrath Willow and Tara can pour out when you threaten their family.

you have mama-bear Tara to look forward to :P

and a REALLY angry Willow.

Soul of Fire, oh yes.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2015 3:42 am 
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Incoming!

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2015 3:42 am 
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Location: Beyond the orbit of Mars and accelerating...
so, the first part of this is Fuffy-centric.
There's a little second base action :P

And then some drama.
It wouldn't be Buffy without drama :)

Enjoy!

Unexpected guests part 2


Buffy woke, feeling contented, warm, loved.
Whole.


A hand gently stroked her hair. Tenderly, lovingly.


Buffy smiled sleepily, inhaling the spicy, almost cinnamon-y scent of Faith. “Did I fall asleep?” she said sleepily, opening her eyes.
She looked up into Faith’s gentle gaze, seeing her deep brown eyes, watching her so tenderly, as if she were the most precious thing in all the world.


Faith smiled back. “For a little while,” she said softly.


She leaned forward and kissed Buffy gently on the head. “Everything's going to be all right.”


Buffy snuggled into her, feeling as safe and warm as a child in her mother’s arms. “Now that you're here.”


“You trust me?” Faith whispered.


Buffy responded with a happy sigh. “With my life.”


They lay like that for a time. Side by side, Buffy snuggled up close to Faith, Faith’s arm wrapped protectively around her.
Eventually, Buffy sighed softly. “God. I could stay like this forever.”


“We can’t stay here forever B, but we can do this any time ya want.”


Buffy, hummed happily. “Did you watch me sleep all night?”


Face made a face. “I feel a little stalker-ish. But yeah, I watched over you all night.”


“I feel so safe” said a shy Buffy.


“I feel so... right, watchin’ over you B. I feel whole, filled up inside, like I’m finally doin’ what I was made for.”


Buffy smiled. “I’m home at last Faith. I’ve found my home, with you.”


“It sounds a little sappy. But yeah, I know what you mean.”


Buffy pouted. “It’s not sappy, it’s true.”



She looked up at Faith. “It’s going to take me a while to really get over myself. There’s going to be moments when I freak, and I’m sorry.”
She squeezed Faith tight. “But I want you to know that I am not ashamed, and that I love you Faith, even if I sometimes panic before I think.”


Faith smiled softly, a look more tender, more gentle, than anything Buffy had ever seen on her face before. It made Buffy feel so special that Faith reserved such tenderness for her, and her alone.
Faith stroked her hair gently. “It’s ok, B. Whatever stupid mistakes we both make, we’ll still be there for each other.”


Buffy smiled radiantly. It was as though she loved two women. She loved fierce and wild Faith, who fought the world with such passion it took her breath away.
And she loved gentle Faith, who held her and looked at her, and only her, with such tenderness that it made her heart ache.


“And uh, B?” Faith said, a note of awkwardness entering her voice. “I love you too.”


Buffy melted. She fought her almost overwhelming urge to say ‘Aww!’ at the sheer adorableness that was awkward Faith.


“I wanna do this right B. I wanna do this forever. I meant what I said before.”


Buffy’s forehead gained a tiny puzzled crease.


Faith explained. “This is the first and last time I am ever gonna fall in love. So much shit has gone wrong in my life B, gone wrong with us. Well not this time, not any more. I want one good thing in my life, one thing that’s good and clean and right.”


“So, it’s gonna be flowers, and long walks, and holdin’ hands and snuggling on the couch and kissing, before we get to the other stuff.”


Buffy needed a new word to describe what Faith’s words meant to her, what they did to her inside.
Words were not Buffy’s friends, they wiggled and squidged around when she tried to use them. But inside herself she felt as though some kind of warm, hot, melty thing was going on.
Faith’s next words caused the tiny hamster in her brain to fall off its squeaky wheel in shock.


“But I’ll wait as long as it takes B, for you to be ready, y’know?”


Buffy was speechless. Incapable of thought.
How long she stayed, stuck, she had no idea.


Croakily, she said “You mean... sex?”


Faith looked embarrassed. “Uh, yeah. ‘cos I know you’ve never... done stuff, made love, with girls before,” Faith said haltingly.


Buffy buried her head in the crook of Faith’s arm, hiding her furious blush.


“And, uh... me either,” Faith finished softly.


Buffy looked up in surprise.
“But I thought...”


Faith shook her head slowly

“B? I’ve hooked up. I’ve fucked.”

“I’ve done shit with guys, girls, whatever,”

“But I have never made love with anyone before. I’ve never had anyone to make love with. I’ve never even cuddled like this B. So it’s a first for me too.”

“I’ve never even had someone to hold hands with before.”


Buffy’s heart sank as she realized that Faith had never had this simple human contact before.
“Um, Faith?”


“Yeah?”


“I have... issues, with sex.”


“I know Buffy, that’s why I said... y’know? Cos I didn’t want you to feel like, weird or pressured or anything.”


“It’s a trust thing and an image thing and a Buffy is strange thing,” Buffy said quietly.

She moved back a little to better look Faith in the eye. She interlaced the fingers of her free hand with Faith’s.

“The very first time I made love with anyone, it-it cost them their soul,” she stammered.

“It cost Giles the life of Jenny, and some other people their lives too.”

“When I let down my guard with Parker, he used me and moved on.”


Faith kept silent as Buffy spoke, but squeezed her hand tight in silent support.

“When I finally got over that, got myself into a good space, I met up with Riley. Who turned out to be a government spy guy, and um, sex magic was involved.”

“And he left me.”

“And then when I came back from the dead, I couldn’t deal, couldn’t feel anything.”

She choked up. “I let Spike use me, beat me, abuse me. And I did the same to him, just to feel... anything.”


Faith did not speak, the crumpled expression on her face and her silent tears spoke volumes.


“And when I tried to stop, when I had had enough... he tried to r-rape me.”


Faith broke. Silent sobs wracked her body as she wept for Buffy.


Buffy couldn’t take it anymore, the floodgates opened and she cried. “Every time I let someone in... every time we take that last step... it ends in disaster and pain and death,” she sobbed.


Faith held Buffy as she wailed, pouring out her fears and insecurities into Faith’s chest. She wept her own bitter tears as Buffy cried.


“I’m cursed, I’m poison!” Buffy wailed.

Faith held Buffy tight as she gave voice to her terrible fears. If anyone had ever asked Faith what she had expected, it would not have been this, she would have expected to be the one speaking these words, not Buffy. Never Buffy.

Slowly Buffy wound down, her bawling giving way to sobbing, eventually to shuddering breaths and sniffling.


Faith lifted her chin and stared fiercely into her lost and despairing hazel eyes. “Never! You hearing me B? Never and no way are you poisoned or cursed! You’re Buffy Summers, the best and the brightest thing in the whole damn world!”

Faith was angry, she wanted to reach out and destroy everyone and everything that had made Buffy feel this way. She sighed, she knew that wasn’t the way, but it was just so frustrating!


She leaned forwards and pressed her head against Buffy’s. “B, I’m an ass. I’m not angry at you, I’m pissed at the world for making you think that.”


“It’s ok Faith,” Buffy said with a sniffle. “my Faith.”


Faith smiled sadly. “My B, my Buffy.”


“Faith, I know you’re not going to lose your soul, turn me over the government or try to make like Spike. But I’m frightened. It doesn’t make any sense, but I’m frightened that this good thing that we have will change after we, um,” her voice lowered. “we make love.”


Faith said softly. “We’re not on a timetable. We don’t gotta get sweaty to prove anything to anyone. Whatever we do together, we do ‘cos it’s the right time for both of us.”


Buffy stroked Faith’ hair softly and gazed into her eyes with wonder. “How did you get so wise?”


She looked away. “B? I... I got stuff too. Bad, bad shit. Shit that makes me the way I am.”


“Were you,” Buffy asked hesitantly, her voice tiny. “Were you raped?”


Faith’s voice was hollow, the dry whisper of a damned and hopeless soul. “Worse.”


Buffy felt something break inside her. She pulled Faith down to her and sheltered her in her arms. She knew how viscerally terrified she had been the night Spike tried to force himself on her. She couldn’t think of anything worse than that, and was shaken to the core of her being that it had happened to Faith, and that she had survived it.


“B-Buffy, I promise I’m not trying to hide anything from you, b-but some of this stuff is so b-bad I can’t let myself even remember, or I’ll kill myself,” she sobbed.


“Shhh,” Buffy soothed. “It’s ok Faith, there’s no need to remember. It’s behind you now.”


“Hold on to me B. Don’t let me run, don’t let me screw this up,” Faith said in a small voice.


“I won’t Faith. I’ll hold on so tight it’ll leave fingerprints in your bones,” she squeezed Faith tight. “And if you do run, I’ll always find you.”


“Promise?”


“I’ll tear the world apart to get to you, honey.”


Faith sniffled. “You say the nicest things B.”


Buffy smiled a watery smile. “Nothing like dating a Slayer.”


She pressed her forehead against Faith’s, their breath mingling. “I know you’re strong and you can handle yourself Faith. But if you ever need to let go for a little while, I’ll watch over you and keep you safe.”


Faith smiled her own watery and wobbly smile. “Ditto.”


Buffy smiled and ran her hands through Faith’s hair, gazing at her one blonde lock wonderingly.


“You know, even just spending time with you, holding hands and snuggling,” Buffy said wonderingly. “I feel closer to you than anyone I’ve ended up in bed with.”


Faith leaned cat-like into Buffy’s hair stroking. “That goes double for me babe. I’ve scratched the itch plenty of times and never thought too much about it. Now I feel nervous, y’know? Like, this matters to me, an’ what if I do it wrong?”


Buffy smiled tenderly. “Me too.”


They lay together for a time, simply gazing into each other’s eyes, not in a rush, not in a hurry, content to simply be.


Buffy’s expression changed subtly. “Can I tell you a secret?”


Faith’s smile spread. “Sure B, you can tell me anything, I mean I already told you about my dark past as a cheerleader, so shoot.”


Buffy pulled her down and whispered in Faith’s ear. “I think you are beautiful.”


Faith shuddered and whimpered slightly.
“Oh god B, I want you so bad,” she moaned into Buffy’s hair.


“I thought we were taking it slow?” Buffy whispered.


Faith pulled back, looking a little upset. “We are B, I promise ya. I swear I ain’t gonna push ya at all.”

Faith’s gaze was like a furnace and she spoke in a raspy tone. “But you don’t make it easy. I swear, the only thing I’ve ever wanted more than you right now, is to do this right.”


Buffy’s eye went wide. “Do you have any idea how that makes me feel?”


Faith’s eyes widened and she tried to pull away. Buffy refused to let her go and held her tight.


“It makes me feel deeply, deeply loved and wanted. I can see how hard it is for you Faith. The fact that you want me so bad that I can feel you trembling, and that you are willing to hold off so I don’t feel pressured. That feels... amazing.”

She smiled at Faith. “I’m not ready for, you know,” she said awkwardly. “Not yet. But I do want to...” she trailed off.

Buffy gently rolled Faith onto her back and straddled her hips. She peeled off her own pyjama top, and smiled down hungrily at Faith.

Faith was a little surprised at Buffy climbing on top.

Surprise was no longer sufficient and she was forced to resort to astonishment, when Buffy stripped off and looked down with dark, hungry eyes. Faith had seen Buffy without clothes a number of times, but this was different. Buffy was not nude, she was naked.
She was more naked now than she was in the shower, and she was looking at Faith in a way that she had only dreamed of in her most hopeless fantasies.


“Faith, I want you. I want you to touch me, right now.”


Faith reached up to Buffy’s pert breasts, and hesitated. “You mean...” she trailed off.


“Please?” Buffy whimpered.


Faith reached her hands up toward Buffy, but somehow couldn’t complete the journey.


Buffy moaned. “God, Faith! If you don’t touch me right now I’m going to die.”


Faith cupped Buffy’s breasts, feeling the pink nipples press hard against her palms. Both women gasped as contact was made.

Buffy let out a visceral groan and shuddered, her head thrown back in abandonment.


Faith was blown away. She’d never seen anyone get so much out of simple contact before. She stroked and massaged, listening to Buffy’s sighs and squeaks as they rose in pitch.

Buffy rolled her head forward and looked down with a gaze of consummate lust.
“More.”


Faith smiled. “Babe, we haven’t even started yet.”
And with that she rolled over, trading positions with Buffy once again. “My turn to get a little naked.”
She peeled off her top, and shimmied.


Buffy’s expression could only be described as ‘Wow!’


Faith smiled down at Buffy as she stroked her hands up Faith’s soft skin, marvelling at the musculature moving in Faith’s sleek form.
Delicately, almost hesitantly she moved her hands to Faith’s breasts. Faith hissed and sucked in a deep breath as Buffy explored her erect nipples.


“Wow. So different when they’re someone else’s.”


Faith closed her eyes and groaned softly “Uh-huh.”


Faith smiled, eyes still closed. “S’ok babe. Play, have fun.”


Buffy looked slightly embarrassed. “Are you sure?”


“Buffy, I’m lovin’ this. I love that I get to be your first. An’ I am definitely lovin’ you exploring me.”
Faith groaned and luxuriated in Buffy's delicate touch. After a while she fell forward, her hair falling around her head like a curtain and her dark eyes bored into Buffy’s hazel gaze. “You make me feel like... like I’m brand new, like I’m unexplored territory, like I’m a thing of wonder.”


“Wow. I make you feel all that?” she said, circling her small hands around Faith’s full globes.


“Oh man, that feels so good,” Faith said.


“This is ok?” Buffy said, still hesitant as she gently fondled Faith’s breasts.


“Totally. It feels like nothing else babe,” Faith said looking down at Buffy’s marvelling expression.

Normally Faith appreciated a certain level of confidence and even aggression in her lovers, but Buffy’s hesitant touches and wondering expression did things inside her that she had never felt before. Good things.

Faith moaned again. “God B. I love the way you look at me, you make me feel so wanted, an’ I don’t just mean that ya wanna fuck me.”


Buffy whispered. “You are.”
She pulled Faith down closer and kissed her, digging her fingers into Faith’s tousled mane. Kissing Faith was like nothing she’d ever experienced. Kissing Faith was like, somehow tasting the true Faith. Passionate but soft, strong but tender, desperately hungry but not demanding.

As Faith moved atop Buffy, their breasts rubbed against each other, soft skin rubbing on soft skin, taut nipples dragging against yielding flesh.

Faith felt Buffy’s hand slide from her hair and roam about her back. Faith knew the feeling, wanting to be everywhere at once, and just not having enough hands to touch everywhere you needed to touch right now.

Their kissing grew more heated. How long they engaged in passionate smooching they would never be able to say, minutes perhaps, though they felt like hours, happy hours.

Heat radiated from them and both were covered with a faint sheen of sweat as they moved and gasped. Together they discovered new sensations, new feelings, together they allowed long-held walls to come down. To come down, and give way to hope.


Buffy wanted her hands everywhere, to touch every part of this new experience and to taste it with every part of herself. She looked up into Faith’s deep and heated gaze, feeling the need that Faith had for her, bound behind the iron wall of her truly given promise. It made her feel safe, wanted and fulfilled all at once. To have someone who cared about her so much, was like a lost dream given form.

And the form of that long forgotten dream was amazing, so different from anything she had ever known. Faith was built like a dancer, sleek muscles rippling beneath soft skin, steel wrapped in velvet. Every cliché Buffy had ever heard about women flashed through her head and she was struck by a sense of wonder, ‘women really are softer.’

She kissed Faith with renewed passion, realising that even in her fierce hunger, Faith’s lips were still the softest she had ever touched.

Her hands roamed freely around Faith’s body, eventually working their way down to Faith’s butt.

Faith groaned as Buffy’s hands slid daringly beneath her pants to the firm, lush flesh beneath.


Buffy’s experience may have been limited, but Faith’s behind was seriously different from any she had felt. Not that Faith was in any way fat, but her behind was so much softer and curvier than the few she had encountered. Buffy explored, running her hands all over Faith’s rear, alternating between stroking the soft skin, just feeling Faith’s ass in her hands, and digging her fingers in.


Faith groaned and pulled back, breaking their lip lock. “B, I ain’t complainin’ I swear. But oh god, if you keep goin’, I am gonna explode.”


Whether it was the safety she felt with Faith, the sense of control she felt at making Faith groan and writhe, or the sense of adventurousness she had at this new and amazing place she found herself in, Buffy could not later say. But whatever the reason Buffy felt daring. She ducked her head and to take Faith’s erect brown nipple into her mouth.


“Oh Fuck!” Faith cried as her body clenched and her stomach rippled.


Impressed at the reaction, Buffy nuzzled and sucked one nipple, pressing her face into Faith’s breast as though hungry, she tweaked the other nipple with her fingers while Faith bucked.

On some level Buffy had worried that however much she loved Faith, that her sheer femaleness would prove an insurmountable obstacle to the physical expression of their love.

She was no longer worried, Faith’s very female nature was exciting to her on a primal level and she embraced it. Faith’s skin tasted indescribably good and her scent smelled like home.

She switched to Faith’s other nipple and sucked hard.


Faith gasped, gripped Buffy in a vice-like grip and threw back her head. She cried out her release with the one name that had defined her world for so long. “Buffeee!”


Faith collapsed on top of Buffy, gasping, barely able to lock her elbows and give them some breathing room.
She stayed that way for some time, breathing hard and drilling her gaze into Buffy.


“Oh my god B! What did you do to me?”


Buffy blushed. “You mean you’ve never...?” she asked.


“Well, yeah. But not like that! God B, you barely touched me!”


“So, um, I did good?” she asked.


“Oh baby, you did good. Goddamn! I thought screwing’ was pretty good, but this love-makin’ thing is gonna tear me apart.”


She stayed in position for a moment, panting and catching her breath.

She kissed Buffy gently, with tender passion. “Time to take care of my girl.”
She rolled the both of them over, Buffy ending up on top.
Faith ran her short fingernails up Buffy’s taut stomach and lightly scratched the underside of each small, perfect breast, eliciting a sigh from Buffy.


“I wanna see if I can do for you what you did for me, ‘cos damn girl, that was un-fuckin’-believable.”

She looked at Buffy with a hesitant expression. “Uh, if you are ok with that?”


“Oh yeah,” Buffy sighed, almost dreamily. “I'm all puppies and kittens.”

She pulled Buffy up and closer, kissing her way down Buffy’s slender neck, revelling in the sensation of her ability to give pleasure as Buffy bared her throat in total surrender to the feelings that Faith was producing in her body.

On some instinctive level, Faith knew with absolute certainty that Buffy had never given herself to anyone else as totally as she did now, had never bared her throat in total trust.

The feelings that simple act generated in Faith just blew her away and she nuzzled into Buffy’s neck with deepest affection.

As she rubbed herself, almost animal-like against Buffy, she knew on a primal level that she was lost. She would never love anyone else as long as she lived. She had found her mate, her love, her home, and a silent tear rolled down her cheek at the intensity of the moment.

Determined to make Buffy feel as good as she herself felt, Faith kissed the hollow at the base of Buffy's throat almost worshipfully, and she felt as much as heard, the hitch in Buffy’s sigh of pleasure.

She lifted Buffy up a little, bringing her pert breasts up to head height. She licked one erect pink nipple and blew on it until it could cut glass.


“Oh... Wow,” Buffy sighed.


Faith switched her attentions to the other nipple, playfully flicking it with her tongue, making Buffy twitch and shiver with each flick, before moistening it with a low sensuous lick and blowing across it.

Buffy groaned again

Faith slid one hand down Buffy’s back, sliding her hand under the waistband of her denim pants and underwear. She massaged and fondled the soft skin of Buffy’s petite behind.
‘Tiny and perfect, a butt you could bounce a quarter offa.’ Faith mused as her hands and mouth worked their sensuous magic.

Her other hand stroked languorously across Buffy’s breast, tweaking the glistening nipple as she switched her oral attentions to its unsuspecting twin.

Abandoning Buffy's breasts for a moment she used both hands to grope Buffy's taut buns beneath her cotton panties.


Buffy moaned. “Oh... Faith. Oh god that feels so good.”


And it did. Faith realized that she was feeling more than she would expect at this point. Yeah, half naked Buffy in the throes of ecstasy was hot. And it was freakin’ Buffy! But Faith realized that as intense as this was, there was no way her excitement should be rising this fast. Not after a big ‘O’ of her own only a few minutes ago. She shrugged mentally and flagged it for later, having more important things to do right now.


She pulled her hands from Buffy's pants and cupped both cheeks with her hands. She kissed Buffy on her breastbone and lifted her up slightly to place another kiss below it, and another and another, lifting her and slowly working her way down Buffy's belly.

She could feel her/Buffy's arousal building as she approached her forbidden goal. She wasn’t sure how she could sense Buffy's anticipation, but she could tell that the idea of Faith violating her boundaries excited her enormously.

As much as Faith wanted to excite Buffy, she knew at this fragile stage in their relationship, trust was more important than any amount of excitement.

Still, boundaries needed a little push every once in a while, and she lay a series of tiny, nibble-y kisses across the tender flesh of Buffy's taut belly, just above her pants.

Faith could smell Buffy's arousal, not that she needed a Slayer’s sense of smell, given her proximity.


‘I swear B, I am gonna eat you until the sun comes up,’ she thought to herself, ripping the button off Buffy's jeans with her teeth.


Buffy’s eyes snapped open, and she gasped, breathless with anticipation.

And shockingly, Faith lowered her down, putting distance between her mouth and Buffy's crotch, and took a hard nipple into her mouth.

She gently ran her teeth across the aching bud, forcing a high pitched gasp from Buffy. She sucked hard, and Buffy tensed like a bowstring.

Buffy’s hand dug into her dark hair and pulled her in tight as she cried out. “Oh, god!”


Faith felt Buffy explode, and felt something similar happening to herself. The two feelings echoed from each other in a weird way and sustained one another, generating far more excitement than Faith had ever imagined from something so simple.

Faith held tight as Buffy clenched and spasmed, finally collapsing on top of her.

She had her eyes closed and was breathing hard.

They rested together, Buffy collapsed on top of Faith for a few minutes, until brains were capable of coherent thoughts once again.


She opened her eyes with a slightly spacey expression.


“Not just me then?” Faith said with a smirk.


“Nope,” Buffy said, still breathing hard. “Definitely not just you.”
She gathered her wits for a moment and flopped bonelessly to one side of Faith.

“God, that was incredible!” she sighed.


“Been a while huh B?”


Buffy sighed. “Too long. I think the last time was like, 2 years ago.”


“Whoa, that’s some dry spell girl.”


Buffy smiled, looking a little embarrassed. She snuggled up close to Faith. “Well what about you? I barely touched you.”


“B, I’ve loved you for a long time, and wanted you since the day we met. Alla this is like a dream come true. Plus, uh, I haven’t really been taking care of my, uh, needs. For a while.” She looked nervous as she said this.


Buffy looked surprised. “You mean, um...” she waggled her fingers.


“Uh, yeah. Every time I got wound up, I’d go to do something about it, but when I did, you’d pop into my head. It uh, didn’t feel right gettin’ off on you, when we weren’t together y’know?”

Faith shrugged in an attempt at nonchalance. “I guess I didn’t wanna drag you down to my level, or somethin’.”


Buffy sighed sadly. “My level is not a good one Faith.”

She sighed wistfully. “I’ve always envied you your confidence and your sexiness. I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty.” Faith smiled as Buffy spoke,” “But I can’t really do sexy.”


“Babe, you got no idea. B, you’re like, my shining goddess. No word of a lie, I kinda worship you.”


Buffy lifted up to make eye contact with Faith. “Really?”


“Cross my heart.”


Her eyes glittered. “You say the most wonderful things.”


Her expression changed, like a light was switched on. “Ohmigod! I think I figured it out!”

She looked across at Faith, excitement shining in her eyes. “I know what’s so different about being with you Faith!”


“I’m a girl?” she said with a smirk.


“Um, yes, that too. Actually, that might be part of why, um.”


“S’ok babe, just take your time.”


“Everyone else I’ve been with has wanted something from me, to take.”

She gazed lovingly at Faith. “You are the first person who just wanted to give me something.”


“Well, yeah. I love ya B. Who doesn’t wanna do something nice for someone they love?”

Her expression softened. “Did the boys not take care of your needs?” Faith asked softly.


“Well, no, it’s not like that. Angel, Parker and Riley were all very considerate.”


Faith noted that she had very deliberately left Spike out of the list.


“But when you get right down to it, they were there for themselves. You were here for me.”


Faith sniffled. “You’re the best B. I know I love ya, ‘cos I let you get on top.”

She smiled sadly. “I wouldn’t do that with anyone else, I couldn’t.”

Buffy met her gaze with her own sad smile.


“Faith, our future is going to be sooo bright.”


“I swear B, if a little second base felt like this, the home run is gonna wreck me.”


“Then we’ll be wrecked together, because that was the best orgasm I’ve had in a long, long time, and you only touched my boobs.”

She groaned and let her head fall back against the pillow. “God, I sound like Anya. She’s poisoned the word orgasm for me.”


Faith grinned. “I always kinda liked her. She always told it to you straight. Called me a psycho slut-bomb once.”


“Well, you did go off,” Buffy said with a cheeky grin.


“Buffy Anne Summers, well I never!” Faith said in her best sitcom-mom voice.


“C’mon Faithy-poo, time to get up and face the world.”


Faith poked out her tongue and made a yucky face. “After a shower, ‘cos we live with Slayers, and I don’t want to broadcast everything we’ve been up to.”


Buffy groaned and reluctantly crawled out of bed. She stood and held out a hand to Faith. “Together?”


Faith grinned. “Always.”


+++


A decidedly chipper Giles was beavering away amidst a pile of books in his office.

Willow had put on her resolve face and forced him to have a proper breakfast with the rest of the gang. It seemed to have cheered him immensely.

Currently he was sipping a cup of tea and reading one of the more interesting books acquired from the council. A ‘how to’ manual for the training of Slayers, occasionally he would chuckle at a bit of dry wit, or frown when he encountered a passage that he disagreed with.

There was a polite tap at the door and Xander stuck his head inside.

“Hey Giles, what’s the what, watcher man?”


Giles smiled and waved Xander inside with the book he held. “Xander, come in. I’ve been comparing training manuals both old and new. It’s absolutely fascinating.”


Xander sat down in the comfy chair. “There goes that wacky British definition of fun again.”

He put his feet up on the other chair. “You weren’t kidding last night when you said ‘weird book nerd’ were you?”


Giles chuckled, his good mood unassailable. “I finally feel as though I’m penetrating behind the curtains of the council at long last. As an active watcher, all my energies were taken up with research and training, so I had little time for, or knowledge of, council policy. And given that the leadership of the council was destroyed by Caleb, there is no one to left to consult or ask questions of.”


“Or get in the way, or generally act like a tweedy twit.”


“Twit?” Giles said, surprised. “We’ll make a Watcher out of you yet, dear boy,” he said smiling slightly.


“Not a lot rhymes with tweed. Anyway besides saying ‘howdy,’ I stuck my head in to let you know Andrew is back,” he said, holding up his phone.


“Or he will be soon, Vi sent me a message. They’ve left the airport and will be home soon.”


Giles smiled. “Splendid! I can only imagine what we might find. Those books are the most closely guarded records in the Council’s archives.”


“You look like someone who’s been visited by tiny Jewish Santa,” Xander said, taken with how cheerful Giles was at the prospect of new ‘secret’ books.


“I must confess to feeling rather cheered by the prospect. I feel ever so slightly vindicated, poking through books that the upper echelons of the council never wanted me to see.”


Xander felt as though he was getting a peak behind the mask Giles wore, and looking at the ‘real’ Giles. It made him smile.


“In truth Xander, the council never treated the, ah, ‘Front-line’ watchers with much respect, something you might have noticed.”


“Oh yeah, I remember that Travers guy. Not my favourite person in the whole wide world.”


“Yes, well. Same principle as a security guard really.”


Xander looked confused. “Ah... What?”


“There was only ever one Slayer, but thousands of Watchers helping and training their potentials. All against the one in a thousand chance that they might become a Slayer. In all likelihood a Watcher would never really matter in the grand scheme of things.”


“And the security guard thing?”


“Like a security guard, we were generally ignored and disrespected until something went wrong. After all, unless there was disaster, or our charges were called, we didn’t really seem to be doing anything. Like a security guard.”

Giles sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Which is why most of us became researchers, teachers and historians. Something to while away the time after our potential had reached a high level of readiness.”


“Wow. Giles, I had no idea.”


“Yes, well. It’s astonishing how many people are reluctant to admit, that their illustrious career will never amount to anything more than being the tutor to a young girl.”


“In a completely non-astonishing way,” Xander said.


“We formed a loose sort of underground network, keeping each other informed, if the Council hierarchy was being particularly obtuse. Whenever you saw me on the phone to someone, it was usually to one of my other Watcher chums. Honestly, the council-proper took ‘need-to-know’ to ridiculous levels.”

Giles looked at Xander with a wan smile.

“Truth be told, the council had grown to such a huge size that most of its business was concerned with staying in business. The Slayer side of things was rather minor, all things considered.”


“That’s not what I expected Giles.”


“It happens with any large organization Xander, if they lose sight of the reason for their existence. In a way we should be thankful to Caleb. He removed pretty well everyone who was that way inclined, leaving only the people who actually believed in their charges and did the actual work.”


“So this thing with the Council acting...” Xander trailed off.


Giles raised an eyebrow. “Like idiots?”


Xander nodded. “Yeah. That”


“Quite normal, unfortunately.”


+++


Andrew stalked through the halls of Slayer central, his eyes glinting hard, his expression thunderous.

His hair was a mess and he looked as though he had slept in his clothes, but the slight blond man carried with him an aura that brooked no interference.

Rona and Vi were flanking him, though they lacked the air of angry determination.

Faith caught Vi’s attention as they barrelled through the entry area. She peeled off to talk to Faith.


“Hey Indigo! What’s up girl? That Andy-Pandy? ‘Cos it looks like him, but it sure as hell don’t act like him.”


The redhead bumped fists with Faith, something of a ritual they shared. “Yeah. Incredibly it is. He found something that poured molten steel into his spine. I don’t have any idea what’s going on.”

Faith gave her a funny look.

“That was a metaphor Faith, not some new demonic menace.”

Vi sighed and rubbed her face. “He’s been like that for a couple of days, ever since he read that big book he’s carrying.”


“Yeah? What is it?”


“I have no idea. Something we dug out of the vault, hidden away in the secret stuff.”

Vi closed her eyes and leaned against the wall, obviously tired. “He was excited at first, reading top-secret watcher books.”


Faith snorted. “Top secret recipes for tweed? And how to get a big stick up your ass in 9 easy steps?”


“Then he burst into tears.”

Faith’s eyebrows rose at this.

“Then he got angry. Really angry. Like, he swore a lot and shouted a lot and kicked stuff. I’d have been really worried if I wasn’t a Slayer and he wasn’t, y’know, Andrew.”


Faith grunted. “Huh. Wouldn’t a thought he had it in him.”

They leaned against the wall in companionable silence.


Vi groaned. “So, did I miss anything while I was in darkest Giles-land?”


Faith grinned hugely. “Girl, you got no idea.”


Buffy bounced up to Faith and Vi, her ponytail swinging.


“Hi cutie-pie, I got us some breakfast. We should go eat it before the ravenous hordes slay it all.”


Faith laughed and looked thoughtful. “Nah, that one didn’t work. Scratch it. Breakfast sounds good though.”

Buffy held out her hand for Faith to take, and like a shy teenager, Faith reached out and took it with a soft smile.

The pair left, Buffy almost skipping with happiness.


Rona moved slowly up to Vi and looked down the corridor with an expression of shock. It was as though the sky had spontaneously turned green and decided to rain jello.

“Did that... just happen?”


Vi nodded slowly. “I think so.”


“Buffy skipped.”


“Uh-huh.”


“Faith laughed.”


“Yep.”


“And they left, hand in hand.”


“Yeah, I’m having a little trouble with that one myself,” Vi said.

The pair stood in silence.

“So… pod people, magic or possession?” Vi said with a resigned sigh.


Rona looked thoughtful. “Magic,” she said finally.


Vi nodded tiredly. “Yeah, pretty much what I thought too. C’mon, let go find Mr Giles.”


+++


Giles and Xander were still chatting when Andrew shouldered open the door. He strode through the room and slammed down the tome he carried, right into the middle of Giles’ desk.

Giles looked rather shocked at his sudden appearance and even more astonishing behaviour.


“Read it!” Andrew hissed.

His tone was commanding, his stare was the look of a man who had looked into hell.


“Andrew what-” Giles said, before he was cut off.


“Read it!” Andrew shrieked, almost vibrating with fury.


“Now Andrew, calm down,” Xander began.


“No! You be quiet Harris! Don’t you dare tell me to calm down! I’ve read some of that book. I’ve seen the betrayal of everything I held dear! Everything!” he raged at Xander, red faced.

“Betrayal is too light a word, this is blasphemy, this is sacrilege!” he hissed.


Giles put a very serious expression on his face. “I shall read it at once.”


Giles handed his diary to Xander. “I need you to cover today for me while I investigate this.”


Xander nodded slowly. “Sure Giles, I can do that.”


He stood up with the leather bound diary in one hand. “Come on Andrew, let’s give him some time to read.


Andrew shrugged off Xander’s hand on his shoulder. “Don’t. Just... don’t touch me. I can’t bear to be touched after...” he trailed off.

Xander took in the dark circles and red eyes. Andrew was swaying with exhaustion and looked as though he had not slept for days.


“Get to bed Andrew, you look like you’re going to drop at any moment.”


“I haven’t slept in days. I think I need to drink myself into oblivion. Xander, I need alcohol. Lots of alcohol.”


+++


Faith ran into Xander as he was coming back from Andrew’s room.

“Yo, Xan, what’s with the geek queen?”


Xander ran his hand through his hair tiredly. “He passed out after one shot of whisky. So I had to put him to bed.”


Faith smirked. “Y’know, on any other day he’d be creaming his PJ’s over that.”


Xander made a face. “Eeew.”


“What’s happening? Vi said he’s been acting crazy for the last couple o’ days.”


“I have no idea. He stormed into the office, slammed down that huge book and demanded that Giles read it. I’ve never seen him like this.” He scratched his chin thoughtfully. “Possession maybe?”


Faith shook her head. “Nah, Vi already checked. No possession. Just Andrew.”


Xander chuckled softly. “What does it say about our life, that possession makes more sense than this?”


“Our life is weird?” she shrugged. “What’s more likely, Andrew messed up by possession or mojo, or he suddenly grew a pair?”


Xander made a show of thinking, resting his chin on his fist. “Possession, definitely,” he said.


“What about the G-man?” she asked.


“He’s locked himself in his study and doesn’t want to be disturbed. Hung up a sign and everything.”


“This is serious. Xan, what did Blondie-boy say?”


“Really scary stuff. That he hadn’t slept in days, that he needed a drink, that it was a betrayal of everything he believed in, whatever ‘it’ was. He also used other words, like blasphemy and sacrilege. Then he downed a double shot of JB and passed out.”


“Didn’t know he was into the hard stuff.”


Xander grinned. “Very manly, he didn’t even flinch. Of course there was the slightly less manly passing out immediately afterwards, so it’s still Andrew, not some evil clone.”


“Maybe he got hit with that thing you got zapped with a couple years back? Maybe there’s an extra geeky, extra fruity Andy-Pandy floating around out there.”


Xander laughed at the mental image this produced. “Elton John glasses maybe?”


Faith grinned and gently punched him in the shoulder.

Her grin faded and her expression became tense. “I got a bad feeling about this Xander. All my instincts are screaming at me to run. I can feel something big coming down.”


“Yeah,” he said quietly. “I feel it. That feeling you get just before the hit comes in. When you are hoping, just for a split second that it’s not real, that this can’t be happening again.”


Faith bumped her shoulder against Xander’s.

“Yeah,” she said softly.


He looked at her. “I notice a total lack of your absence.”


Faith looked away, almost embarrassed. “I’m done running. I can’t run Xan.”

She stared at the wall opposite them, clearly seeing something other than cream painted concrete. “Everything I got in the whole world is right here. An’ no-one is gonna take it from me without a fight.”


“You really love her?” he said softly.


“With everything I got man.”


He nodded. “Good.”


“I ain’t gonna let anyone hurt my girl Xander, I’ll fight the entire fucking world for her.”


He smiled. “I gotta say I’m surprised that you two got together, because, uh, girl. Also with you two hating each other.”


“We just didn’t know any other way Xan. We couldn’t let each other go, and all we knew was how to fight.”


“Well, I’m glad. A little wigged out, but glad. Buffy has really lit up since you two made friends again. It’s been nice to have girl-Buffy around, instead of Colonel-Buffy.”


“Yeah. Girl-Buffy I like, but Colonel-Buffy just makes me wanna smack her.”

Faith grimaced. “That didn’t sound so good, did it?”

She ran a hand through her hair. “I should find new words, ‘cos beating on your girl just ain’t cool.”


Xander smiled. “I’m not sure the usual rules apply to you guys, fighting always seems to cheer you two up.”


“What you really mean, is that it turns us both on. But yeah, it’s true. Enough about that stuff. So how’s lil’ Bitty’s plans for the new place?”


“Really nice. I’ve seen the plans and the sketches. It looks amazing. Sort of a big symmetrical mound made of circular buildings, all connected to each other.”

He smiled. “I think she’s done an amazing job, but there’s no way it could be passed off as anything other than Scooby central.”


“Huh?”


“It looks beautiful, almost like a temple. Everyone gets their own space, like a little house connected to the others. So we’re together, but without living in the same house. There’s a lounge and a meeting room and a library and a sanctuary for spell study.”


Faith looked impressed. “Sounds pretty flash. Can we afford it?”


Xander laughed softly. “Bridey showed me the cost estimates, and I nearly fell off my chair. When Willow showed me the capital budget, I did fall off my chair. The Watcher’s Council has been around since the beginning of time. We have more resources than some countries. And Willow is planning to build a lot of it with magic, so it’ll happen pretty darn quick.”


“Cool. I like the idea of having my own place. But I like having you guys around. I guess I’ve gotten used to you after all X-man.” Faith ruffled his hair.


“Aww shucks,” he said. “Hey, where’s Buffy? I haven’t seen her since you guys did the mojo thing.”

He muttered under his breath. “Stupid Slayer Central needing running and everything.”


“Getting munchies. An’ Xan? Thanks for being cool about us. Just be nice to her about alla this ok? She’s dealing, but it ain’t easy for her.”


Xander held up three fingers. “Scouts honour, no problem.”


He brightened. “Oh yeah, I have a little present for you when you have an hour or so.”


Faith gave him a funny look. “An hour for a present? What, like a makeover or somethin’?”


Xander grinned. “Pretty much. We got the first shipment of armour in, and you get first shot at it.”


Faith poked him in the shoulder with her finger. “Better not be in pastel shades or some crap.”


He grinned some more. “I think you’ll be pleased. Kevlar plates. Light, tough, and available in variety of fashionable designer colours including black, ebony, pitch and very very off white.”


“Wicked. I swear, we are gonna look like an army of ninjas or somethin’.”


+++


“Okay, so some of you will have heard this before already, some maybe not. That’s ok, it won’t kill ya to listen again.”

Faith strolled across the grass of the training field in front of the latest batch of Slayer recruits.
Her black armour gleamed in the floodlights.
She was dressed in a black body suit, over which were strapped lightweight pieces dark kevlar. Stakes, a heavy short-sword and equipment pouches adorned her body. She carried her axe across her shoulders, her hands resting on it possessively.
Standing out from the unrelieved black were her gleaming axe, her red bandana and a triangular golden medallion at her throat.


“You are Slayers. Warriors, protectors, defenders of humankind and all that jazz.”

“Some of you are here to join the fight an’ become warriors, the ones that the monsters fear. You will be joining the Slayer program and you will become the meanest fighters ever to walk the earth. You will do what others can’t: fight the evil that walks the night.”

“Some of you have lives outside being a Slayer. Family commitments, college plans, an’ stuff like that. So you will be joining the Guardian program. We teach you to how to fight, how to defend yourself and how to spot evil at work. We also keep you up on your schooling so you can still get into college an’ help you hold down jobs an’ such. You ladies will be our eyes and ears, living your lives like regular folks, but with your ear to the ground, so the rest of us know what’s coming.”

Faith spied a familiar blue jeep bouncing it’s way erratically across the grass toward her. A warm smile split her face.

“There’s a Witchy program and a Watcher program as well, but that ain’t any of you guys, so that can wait,” she said as the jeep closed on their position.

“As a Slayer you get a boost to strength an’ speed, also you can take a hell of a beating and keep on coming. You get to heal faster an’ better than anyone else too. Ya won’t scar for long, an’ stuff like broken bones will heal in a few days.”


The blue jeep skidded to a halt right by Faith, Buffy leaned out of the driver’s side window.


“Hi baby-doll. Behold, I return with delicious treats!”


Faith raised an eyebrow. “I’m a doll now?”


One of the new recruits snickered and muttered under her breath. “Doll.”


Faith looked annoyed. “There an echo out here all of a sudden?”

She turned to the offending girl. “Oh yeah. Shoulda mentioned, Slayer hearing? Really good.”

She stared at the girl until she looked away in embarrassment.


Buffy grimaced. “Sorry honey, still working out the name thing.”


“Nah, it’s alright B, I just don’t think ‘doll’ will work for us.”


Buffy nodded thoughtfully. “Ah-huh, crossing that one off the list now.”
Buffy hopped out of the jeep, similarly dressed to Faith, save for the axe and bandana.

“I brought the two major food groups: sugar and caffeine,” she said, holding up a bag of cinnamon donuts and two cardboard coffee cups.


“You’re a life saver B, don’t know what I’d do without ya,” Faith said, pulling her in for a brief, passionate kiss.


“Wow, someone really wanted munchies,” Buffy said, smiling as they broke for air.


“You swing by the Peach dressed like that?”


Buffy shrugged. “Pffft, most of the customers are Slayers anyway, I just told them I was going to a fancy dress party as a ninja.”


“Funny,” Faith said.


She turned to the new recruits sitting on the grass. “Kids, meet Buffy Summers, the oldest and most successful Slayer in the history o’ mankind.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “Great, make me feel like an old lady why don’t you?”

Faith just grinned.


“You’re Buffy?” said one of the new girls. “I thought you’d be taller.”


Buffy huffed. “Why does everyone say that?”


Faith’s grin changed to a smile. “Do the thing with the jeep, that’ll shut ‘em up.”


Buffy handed Faith the donut bag and drink holder, and stomped her way to the front of the jeep.


“Pay attention chil’un. Slayers get stronger as they age and train, like this,” Faith said, handing the bag of donut and coffees to one of the girls.


Buffy grabbed the steel bars on either side of her jeep’s winch and lifted smoothly, hauling the front of the jeep up until it was over her head. Faith grabbed the tow bar in her gloved hands and lifted the back end to match.

There was silence as the two women held a jeep over their heads.


“Can we put my jeep down now? I’m starting to sink into the ground,” Buffy asked.


“Heh, Xan is gonna be complaining about holes in the lawn again,” Faith said as they lowered the vehicle to the ground.


One of the stunned newbies blurted out. “Holy shit! Was that for real?”


“That look like a fake jeep to you?” Faith asked.


“That had to be a couple of tons!”


“Hey! It’s only a little jeep, it’s not that heavy! It’s... jeepy!” Buffy complained.


Faith snagged the bag of donuts and the coffee and took a swig. “Hey, cool. You got Red’s favourite.”


Buffy nodded cheerfully. “Coffee and chocolate, it’s a double hit of goodness.”


“Right, you lot. Amscray while I catch up with my girl. Go run laps with the others. I’ll whistle when I want ya back.”


The freshman Slayers dawdled, reluctant to take up the task of running around in circles.


“Ya waiting for an engraved invitation? Move!”


They scattered.

Watching them leave Faith put her arm around Buffy’s shoulders affectionately. “I dunno about the leadership stuff, but this drill sergeant crap? I love it!”


Buffy leaned into the hug. “Faith the teacher, who’d have thought?”


“I know. It’s kinda weird, but in a cool way. I mean, even before tweed-girl showed up on my doorstep and told me I was one a’ the chosen ones, I never thought of ‘Teacher’ as somethin’ to do.”

She shook her head. “But there’s just so much shit about the world and bein’ a Slayer, that I had to learn the really hard way. An’ I wanna have that count for somethin’ y’know? I don’t want someone else to deal with the crap that I had to.”


Buffy slipped her arm around Faith’s waist. “I hear you. Some of the stuff we lived through,” she sighed. “Yep, it’s good to take that horrible stuff and turn it into a learning experience for the sophomores.”


“Giles is being extra tweedy at the moment, he’s writing up a thing about new council philosophy or something. He wants us all to get together and talk about it when Andrew, Vi and the gang get back from the land of tea and scones.”


“Yeah. Sounds kinda dull, but he wants some not-stupid rules for when some of the bad stuff happens again. I mean, a couple thousand Slayers? Someone is gonna skewer someone they shouldn’t, sooner or later. And the old council was hugely stupid about this stuff.”


Buffy made an ‘ick!’ face at the mention of the old council. “Sending assassins to deal with a scared teenage girl? Stupid doesn’t cover it.”


“Preachin’ to the choir sister. Anyways, Giles wants a look at their top secret books and stuff before he finishes his thing, which is why we are waiting for Andy-pandy, Indigo girl, and Princess to show up.”


“Princess? You still don’t like her?”


“She ain’t so bad. I just don’t like the bitchiness. Or the fact that she’s a cheap knock off of yours truly. Aside from that she’s ok.”


“Genuine Faith, accept no substitutes,” Buffy said with a smile.


Faith pulled Buffy in close. “Damn straight, no substitute for Faith,” she murmured into her ear.


Buffy shuddered. “Oh god, I hope I never get used to that.”


“You know, this armour X-man got us is cool and all, but it’s got it’s down side,” Faith said.


“Hmm?” Buffy murmured.


“Look down babe.”


Buffy looked down and saw Faith’s gloved hands cupping the ‘breast’ part of her breastplate. “Faith!”


“Heh, too easy. Don’t ever change B.”


“Notice how I haven’t made you move your hands. I’d say I’ve already changed.”


“You’re awesome, you know that?”


“Come on sugar lips, let’s go rescue our littlest Slayers from the juniors,” Buffy said, leading them back to Slayer Central.


“God that sounds so wrong coming from your mouth. Strike that one from the list ok?”


“This relationship stuff is hard. How many have we gone through now?”


“Most of ‘em. C’mon, ‘honey’ is ok. And yeah maybe ‘honeybun’ at the right time. You’re ok with ‘babe’ what’s wrong with that?”


“Yeah but everyone says that. I want our own special one,” Buffy said, sounding just a little bit whiney.


“Maybe that could be our thing, we just keep working through them?”


“Sugar plum?”


“Nope.”


“Cuddle monkey?”


“Nope, and you already tried that one.”


“Sweet lips? Uh, never mind.”


“That one’s kinda fun if you think about it, but nope.”


Buffy blushed, but soldiered on.


“Cuddlebum?”


Faith laughed. “God, ‘bum.’ Are you Giles now? I mean it’s kinda fun, but can you imagine saying that in public?”


Buffy pouted a little.


Faith said softly. “Relax B. We got forever to figure this out.”


She took Buffy by the hand and they walked together in search of the newest Slayers.


+++


Giles stared blankly at the painting hanging on his wall.

It was a beautiful rendition of Jeanne d'Arc, a painting he had admired for a long time.


His thoughts mocked him, ‘What would she have thought? What would she have done if she knew?’

He slumped in despair against the couch, an overly large glass of scotch in hand. He had drunk too much, he knew. But somehow he couldn’t seem to care.

He ignored the faint pounding on the door. He wanted to be left alone amidst the ashes of his life, and the door was warded against both sound and entry.

He glanced morosely at the ancient text on his desk, abandoned when he could read no more.

His eyes were red with the tears he could not shed, and he sat on the couch, a broken man.


Quietly, without fanfare, the door opened. Dawn slipped inside the room and looked about. The room was not greatly different from any other time she had been inside. The smell of alcohol and the haggard appearance of Giles were new though. Ignoring the daggers that Buffy glared at her, she closed the door behind her.


Giles spoke up hollowly. “Thank you Dawn. I don’t think I could have faced everyone right at this moment, especially not Buffy... or Faith.”


Wordlessly she moved to the couch and knelt in front of him.

She was shocked. Often Giles would look rumpled or tired after working late at night, but not like this. His eyes were red-rimmed and lost, his glasses nowhere to be found. He looked defeated. She had never seen him like this.


She reached up and stroked his cheek. “Giles? What’s wrong?”


He pulled away from her touch and laughed, a hollow mockery of humour. “Don’t. Please, I couldn’t stand it.”


Her grey eyes filled with sadness and worry. “Giles, please tell me, what’s the matter?”


He could not meet her eyes. “Betrayal,” he croaked. “Millennia of betrayal. The abuse of a sacred trust, so absolute, so profound, that it borders on sacrilege.”

He stared blankly at the floor. “My whole life has been a lie. A mockery.”


Dawn’s eyes were huge. “Giles you’re scaring me! What lie? What betrayal?”


Giles stared unmoving, unblinking at the floor.

Eventually he waved indistinctly at the computer on his desk. “Turn that thing on. Bring up the model you showed me last night.”


Silently she went to the computer and waited while it came out of sleep mode. She clicked an icon and typed a short address for the model data.
“It’s up. What am I looking for?”


Giles laughed again, a terrible self-hating sound. “All of it.”


“I’m sorry Giles, you might need to be a bit more specific than that,” she said.


“Bring up the profiles of the wild Slayers,” he said.


Dawn clicked a couple of icons.


“Do you see anything?” he asked in a hollow voice.


“Uh, yeah? These are almost all the ones with longer than average careers.”


“Indeed,” he said acidly. “Now check the dates that the watcher’s council made contact with them.”


Dawn clicked icons and rearranged things.


“Um, according to the records they died less than a year after the council made contact, usually months after...”


“Indeed,” he said bitterly.


She went silent for a while as she processed the information.


Dawn’s eyes went wide as she caught on. “But Giles this looks like they got them killed! They’re supposed to watch over the Slayers, not get them killed!”


Giles chuckled. A horrible sound completely devoid of humour.

“Watchers were perfectly named. We were never meant to watch over our charges. We were meant to watch them.”


Dawn’s face was a picture of horror. “But, why? Slayers destroy evil, defend the innocent! Why would the Council do that?”


Giles stared out the window at the girls training in the field.

“I do not know. This book details ways of ensuring that Slayers are kept under control or ‘dealt with’ if they become troublesome. It does not contain an explanation as to why.”

“It also explains some of the gaps in training that I have encountered in my reading. Deliberate adherence to a rigid training method that hampers the Slayer’s ability to adapt. It almost ensures that at some point they will encounter something they cannot deal with.”

He buried his face in his hands.


Dawn got up from her chair and moved robot-like over to sit next to him.

“Are you sure Giles? Maybe you’re misreading it? Maybe it’s not as bad as all that?” Daw said desperately.


Giles shook his head. “No. There’s no interpretation, no metaphors, no hints. It’s all there in black and white. I do not yet know why they did such monstrous things, but the how of it is clear.”


She put her arms around his shoulders and hugged him tight. “We didn’t know Giles. You didn’t know.”


He struggled, trying to resist her attempt at comfort, but he was too exhausted, too tired to fight beyond a pretence.

He collapsed against her and suffered her to comfort him.

She stroked his hair comfortingly and stared into space only slightly less lost.

Her eye fixed on the painting of Joan of Arc that Giles was so proud of, as the eye is wont to do in desperate times.

They had whiled away a number of evenings debating whether the French Maid of Orleans was a Slayer or not, and whether she was more or less heroic for being purely human, rather than a Slayer.

Giles had long felt that the young French girl that lead an army to victory centuries ago, was in all probability a Slayer. They had the records now, thought he had not yet taken the time to check.

That the watchers council were a bunch of hidebound incompetents, did not surprise Dawn. But that they should be watching the Slayers with the intent to arrange their deaths? That was an idea that just didn’t fit in Dawn’s head.

And she was starting to get angry.

“Giles? How could they do this for so long? Without people finding out?”


“Tradition. History. The way things have always been. You must remember, the information that you have access to has never been available before. Slayers and their watchers have always been widely separated, communication difficult. Only in the last hundred years has there ever been anything approaching easy communication.”


“The others need to know this, especially Buffy and Faith.”


Giles slumped. “You are right of course,” he looked away. “Perhaps later, I... I just can’t face them right now.”

Dawn squeezed him comfortingly.


“These were my people, people that my family have been connected to for generations. I share their guilt, even if I personally never knew.”


“Giles, you’re the good guy. You fought the council and they fired you over the Cruciamentum thing.”


Her eyes went wide. “The Cruciamentum!”

He groaned. “The signs were all there to see, if only you happen to look. How could I have been so blind?”


“So this test, that we all thought was stupid and awful, was meant to kill Slayers?” Dawn said, incredulous.


Giles nodded sadly. “It would seem so.”


“So what was that business with Glory?” Dawn asked.


“I suspect that was the council getting everything they wanted, handed to them on a plate. The world saved and Buffy dead.”


“If they wanted her dead, or Faith, why not just kill them?”


“You mean like sending a wet-works team to kill them? I think that might be why they went after Faith and Buffy in Los Angeles with submachine guns.”


Dawn blinked. “Oh. I feel stupid now.”


“I think we all will, once the rage and horror has passed.”


He squeezed Dawn’s hand in desperation. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”


“I don’t either, so we’ll all figure it out together, ok?”

Giles looked at Dawn.

“Hey, we’re family remember? When one of us hurts, we all hurt. That includes you Giles,” Dawn said.


He smiled sadly. “Thank you my dear.”


He clambered unsteadily to his feet. “Just give me a moment to splash some water on my face and I’ll break the unpleasant news to the others.”


Dawn shook her head. “No way. We’ll both break the news. I’m a watcher too remember? This is my responsibility as much as it is yours, and don’t you dare tell me that it doesn’t count just because I haven’t being doing it as long.”


He frowned as she spoke, but eventually he nodded somewhat reluctantly. “As much as it pains me to admit it, I do need your help.”


“Hey come on Giles. We lean on you often enough, it’s ok to lean back occasionally.”

She fiddled with the little green finger puppet Giles had sitting on his desk, a reminder of happier times.

She put it on her finger and held it up to Giles. “Grr. Argh,” she said with a smile.

It prompted a ghost of a smile from Giles.


+++


Down in the library, the Scoobies were gathered together again, looking somewhat refreshed from their last library meeting.

Dawn walked in and looked around intently before speaking. “Guys I need your help.”


“What’s the matter Dawnie?” Tara asked.


Dawn paced, clearly on edge.

“Giles has some bad news. Super bad news. Worst possible news, ever.”


The level of tension in the room ratcheted up noticeably.


Buffy groaned. “God I hope it’s not another apocalypse, we just got through the last one.”


“No. Worse,” Dawn said sharply.


Willow looked worried. “Worse than an apocalypse? That’s worrying. What could be worse than the end of the world as we know it? I mean that last one was a doozy.”


Dawn held up her hand to forestall the torrent of words. “I’m going to let Giles explain so I don’t get any of it wrong. But we’ve been betrayed almost from the beginning.”


Everybody spoke up at once, demanding answers, pointing fingers and making wild ass guesses until Dawn just couldn’t take it anymore.

She screamed at the top of her lungs until Buffy and Faith covered their ears in pain.

She stood red faced and breathing hard in the stunned silence.


“Ow,” muttered Faith.


“Listen to me!” Dawn hissed. “I’m telling you this for Giles ok? However bad it is for us, and it’s bad, really-really bad. It’s ten times worse for Giles.”

She looked at Buffy. “He cried Buffy. Giles cried.”


Buffy looked shocked. “But he’s Giles! All stiff upper lippy and and... Giles-y! I mean he was a bit sniffle-y when he thought Willow was a vampire, but he doesn’t cry.”


Xander spoke quietly. “He did cry once.”


He met Buffy’s gaze. “He cried after Glory. When you died.”

They sat in silence, absorbing the impact of that statement.


“Twice,” Willow said.


All eyes turned to look at Willow.


“He cried when we were at the Devonshire coven together,” she said.
She squeezed Tara’s hand. “We talked about Tara and he cried then. We both did. He felt as though he’d let us down by leaving and he held himself responsible for what happened.”


“This is bad. This is really, really bad,” Xander said. He turned to Dawn. “What could possibly be that bad?”


“You’ll find out in a minute, when he’s freshened up a bit. I’m telling you all this so you don’t attack him when he spills the beans.”

She looked around. “I’m serious you guys! Don’t you dare attack him. This is way, way worse for him than it is for us and it’s bad for us.”


“I’m worried,” Tara said, wearing an expression that matched her words.


Xander held his head in his hands. “God, this is like being in the hospital waiting room. Waiting for news that someone’s not gonna make it.”


“You can’t give us a little hint, D?” Faith asked.


“Look, I’m not trying to be funny here you guys. I could tell you, but it would be worse than if Giles told you, so just wait. Wait, and be all supporto Scoobies to Giles ok? Because he needs us now.”

They sat in silence, the tension climbing suddenly as they heard Giles’ footsteps approaching.

He opened the door to a sea of worried faces.

He sought out Dawn. “Did you...” he asked.


Dawn shook her head slowly. “No Giles. I just told everyone that you had bad news, and that we need to support you. I didn’t want to make it worse,” she said sadly.


He gave her a small but grateful smile.

He looked at the worried faces.

They took in his haggard appearance and bloodshot eyes.


Willow asked. “Giles are you ok?”


He stared at her for a brief moment, lost to thought.

He shook his head.

“I’m sorry Willow, but I am very much not ok. Truth be told I am rather drunk.”


“Giles I’m freaking out over here. What was in Andrew’s big book of badness?” Xander said.

Under his breath he muttered. “Why can’t books ever contain good news?”


“Andrew’s book... where is Andrew?” Giles asked.


“Sleeping. He hasn’t slept in days. Vi and the gang are out too,” Xander said.


“Ah well then. For the best really,” Giles replied.

“Andrew’s book was a Codex, a book of laws or rules for the inner Council of Watchers members. It was only to be read by the
ruling members of the inner circle, not the likes of us, the front line Watchers.”
He looked around at the Scoobies. “You may recall, there is something of a separation between the likes of myself and Wesley, and the rest of the council.”

There were a number of nods.

“There is good reason for that divide. It seems that the purpose of the Council is not to Watch over the Slayer potentials and the Slayer, but to Watch them. And if they cause trouble, or live too long... to put an end to them.”


Stunned silence settled once more.

“What, the fuck?!” Faith growled.


Xander did not look the slightest bit happy. “What she said.”


“How?” Buffy said.


“That we have an answer for. Why, we don’t know, but how? By encouraging rigid adherence to council protocols, using training methods that leave the Slayer inflexible in battle, separation of the Slayer from friends and family, all but guaranteeing a sense of disconnection and hopelessness, the Cruciamentum and of course, the Council’s famous wet-works teams.”


Buffy hung her head and Faith spoke. “Man I knew there was something twisted about that test. I mean I get that sometimes you gotta have hard tests, but what are you supposed to gain from that?”


Tara put her hand up and looked a little self-conscious when all eyes turned to her. “Um, if it’s not too much trouble, what is the Cruciamentum?”


“Let me field that,” Xander said. “Basically, they get the Watcher to shoot their Slayer up with mystic tranquilizers that take away all their Slayer strength and speed. Then they dump ‘em in a box with a vampire and see who comes out. They do all this without telling the Slayer what’s going on.”


“And what is supposed to be the point of this test?” she asked Giles.


“Ah, to test the Slayers inner strength, to see if they are up to the task of fighting evil.”


“By having them fight evil without their powers? The powers that they use to fight evil?” she asked.


“Yeah, that is a bit like testing a fighter pilot by having him wrestle a cougar,” Willow said.

It went quiet.

Willow looked embarrassed. “The kind with teeth and claws? That goes ‘Rowr?’” she said, making claw shapes with her hands. “Shutting up now.”


Tara took Willow’s hand. “That seems like they are testing the Watcher more than the Slayer.”


“They were to a degree,” Giles said. “I was told it was a test of character by Quentin Travers. I was told big things were in my future after the test. And deportation, unemployment and abandonment if I didn’t go along with it.”


“He fought them,” Buffy said. “They considered him a failure for trying to end it, and they fired him.”


Giles looked away. “You give me far too much credit I’m afraid. I still performed the test. I still locked you in a house with an insane vampire, in spite of my better judgement.”


Buffy shrugged. “You still did better than every other Watcher before you. And I forgave you for that badness ages ago Giles.”


“Seriously dude, they had you brain-washed from like, the time you were in tweedy diapers. You were doing well to be able to even put up as much of a fight as you did. And you got them to cancel it for me, which I gotta say is all good.”


“I think that may be a factor of Buffy still being alive, more than them actually cancelling the test,” Giles said sadly. “Most likely they would have started up again once they were back to one Slayer, one girl they could manipulate.”

They sat in contemplative, horrified silence.


“Guys this is crazy!” Willow blurted out, attracting a wall of surprised looks. “Look, I’m not saying this is all puppies and kittens, because it’s not, it’s definitely of the bad.”

She nibbled on her thumb, deep in thought. “There’s something missing here Scoobies, something we’re not seeing.”


“Uh Will? We’re kinda missing everything, I mean they were bad guys, right?” Xander said.


“No. Uh, I mean yes. Sort of. Um,” Willow babbled.

Tara rubbed small circles in her back, seeking to give comfort and to help her think.

“What I mean is that the way they were acting makes about as much sense as monkeys hopped up on suspicious bananas.”


Xander blinked. “Uh, I’m gonna go with ‘Huh, what?’”


Willow frowned, clearly trying to corral all the whizzing bits of her thoughts into a coherent package for delivery.

“Ok, think of it logically. The Council was doing something that made sense to them right? Evil and twisted sure, but for some serious plan-type thing.”

Slow nods greeted this idea.

“Now it doesn’t make sense that they were protecting the Slayers based on what we’ve just heard.”

More slow nods.


“But it doesn’t make sense that they wanted the Slayers gone either, otherwise they would have just arranged a series of quiet ‘accidents’ for the potentials, like they were planning for Faith.”


The light dawned in Xander’s eyes. “So you’re saying that they were too evil to be good, and not evil enough to be evil either.”


Willow bobbed her head cheerfully, until the grimness of the subject they were discussing penetrated.


“Um, yup, that’s pretty much it. They must have wanted something other than the death of the Slayers, because it would have been way too easy to um, kill off all the potentials over the centuries.”


Buffy stepped in. “So what did they want us for Will? I mean it can’t have been to fight evil, otherwise they would have helped us, you know? Paid us a wage for saving the world like Giles does, or something.”


“Mebbie they did want us to fight the vamps an’ shit, they just wanted us under their thumb. So they killed us off ‘fore we wised up and told em where to shove their stupid rules,” Faith said.


“No,” Giles said. “I have not read the codex in detail, but there is talk of a sacred duty, a calling from on high that requires the Watchers to do these things. Control was only part of it.”

All eyes focussed on him once more.

“There’s rather a lot of hyperbole, including words like corruption, purity and perversion.”


Giles fiddled with his glasses, a clear sign of nervousness. “They were peculiarly passionate about stamping out any feelings of the, ah, Sapphic persuasion,” he said with more than a trace of embarrassment.


“Huh?” said Xander. “Once more in English please, for those of us that have trouble using the brain part of the head.”


“They really didn’t like gay Slayers,” Willow translated.


Xander blinked in surprise. “Oh.”


He put his hand up hesitantly, looking as though he expected to have things thrown at him at any moment. “Um, why?”


Giles pinched his nose tiredly. “Really Xander, do try to focus on topics of more import. We have discovered that the Watchers Council have been arranging the deaths of young women almost from the beginning of time. We have more important issue to deal with than why they were a bunch of reactionary idiots as well.”


Tara spoke up. “Has anyone noticed that quite a few of the younger Slayers are gay?”


Xander and Giles looked blankly at Tara. Faith and Willow raised their hands.


All eyes turned to Faith and Buffy.


Buffy’s eyes widened. “Hey! I’m not gay!” she protested.


This gained a few raised eyebrows and a smirk from Faith. “I’m-I’m,” she stammered.


She shot a look at Giles and gathered her wits. “I’m Buffy, and I love Faith, and that’s all I care about right now," she said, hugging Faith’s arm tight to her.


Faith pressed a kiss into her hair. “S’ok B, you don’t see me in any pride parades either.”


Giles smiled slightly at the exchange and gave Buffy a small nod.


“Uh, Right. So now we have learned that Buffy is really not into Birkenstocks and flannel, what were you saying Tara?” Xander said.


Tara smiled. “Just that I’ve noticed quite a few couples in my short time here.”


“And the mini-me’s practically own the Peach,” Faith said.

More blank looks, this time with Buffy added.

Faith looked amazed. “Seriously? It’s called the Peach Pitt for crying out loud! It has a giant pink peach on the roof!”

Now everyone was having puzzled looks, except for Tara and Willow, who had cheeky looks on their faces.

Slowly, as though talking to children, Faith explained. “It’s a gay bar. Mostly for girls. They do coffee and food during the day.”


“But I go there all the time!” Xander protested.


Faith laughed. “It’s ok Xandude, they don’t check your pride membership at the door, you’re allowed to go there and still be straight,” she cocked her head at Giles. “eh G-man?”


Giles looked only slightly embarrassed. “They have a much greater respect for the rocky horror picture show there, I must say.”

This garnered a number of amazed looks.

He defended himself. “They have poetry readings, open mic nights and have an excellent selection of teas. It’s all very grown-up I assure you.”


Faith whispered to Buffy, ‘he did a reading once. Called it ‘lament of the fallen,’ something he wrote after you died. Not a dry eye in the house.’

Tara looked puzzled and looked around, almost as if she was listening for something. She shook her head and gave Willow a squeeze.


“So is that a thing then? Slayers are all large with the gay love?” Xander said, carefully not looking at the blushing Buffy.


Faith shrugged. “Maybe. I hear this sorta thing happens at girls boarding schools, never been to one to find out though.”

She scratched her head thoughtfully. “About half the girls I know anything about have girlfriends. Birdie and Xena both figured we ran a gay boarding school, based on the number of gay chicks passing through the Peach. So yeah, I figure it’s probably a thing. An’ that’s without getting’ into whether they’re only into sisters, or they just ain’t fussy.”


“I’ll add it to the list,” Xander said, making squeaky noises with the marker as he put new notes on the big whiteboard.


“So we have disappearing dead people, Watchers being giant economy-sized poopy-heads and big gay Slayers to look into, along with a rebellion in heaven that we somehow got blamed for.”


“You’re getting good at this stuff Xander. Go you,” Willow said.

While Xander had been summarizing, Faith had watched Giles sink further into himself, his gaze lost and despairing.

She stepped into the circle of people and attracted everyone’s attention. “Hey guys, I think we’re forgetting something more important than evil Watcher dicks: the good Watcher guy right here.”

All eyes turned to look at Giles.

“G-man, this is some nasty crap to lay on us, but it ain’t your fault,” Faith said.

He opened his mouth to protest, but Willow forestalled him. “You didn’t know,” she said.


Tara continued smoothly on. “And if you did know, would you have been part of it?”


Giles looked horrified. “Good heavens no!”


“Then don’t go looking for guilt Giles,” Xander said, squeezing his shoulder. “No more pain. Remember?”


Dawn took his hand and squeezed it. “You have nothing to be forgiven for Giles, ok?”


He nodded. “You are right of course, but I cannot help but feel a measure of guilt by association.”

He raised his hand to stem their protestations. “One does not simply solve ones emotional problems by being told to do so, no matter how right the telling may be.”

He focused on Dawn and Xander in particular. “I will be alright. I won’t be happy for a long while, but I will survive.”

He blinked and wove slightly as if in a breeze that no one else could feel. “Ah yes, the drinking,” he said, and promptly fell into a chair with a groan.


Willow looked around worriedly. “Um, there might be one other thing,” she said. She mimed a key turning to Giles.

Sadly in his inebriated state, he could make neither head nor tail of Willow’s hand gestures.

She panicked when she saw that all eyes were on her and her somewhat suggestive hand gestures.


“Don’t worry about it! It’s not even a thing really, it’s a mini thing, a thing-ette, a thing that’s not even really a thing. Um, could we all pretend that I never said anything?”


“Uh, no?” Xander said. “C’mon Will, it’s obviously something, otherwise you wouldn’t be all spazzy like this. So come on, spill.”


“C’mon Red, let’s get alla bad crap out in one go, like a band aid or wax job y’know?” Faith said.


Willow winced and ducked her head slightly. “Promise you won’t kill me?” she said, looking at Buffy.


“Me?! Why are you looking at me Will?” Buffy said, looking puzzled. “You didn’t wreck my favourite top did you?”


Willow shook her head. “Nu-uh, no purpley stuff, I promise!”


Buffy, looked puzzled for a moment before the light dawned. “Purple-y stuff? I thought it was Dawn who wrecked my peasant top!”
She scowled at Willow. “Purple is sooo not my colour.”


“Which neatly segues us onto our topic: fun things to do with Dawn.”


“What?! When did this become about me?” Dawn protested.


“Um, remember ages ago when you were really grumpy ‘cos you didn’t have any superpowers? Well, um. To-da! It turns out that you do.”


Buffy frowned. “Dawn has super powers? Is being annoying a super power now?”


“I have super powers?” Dawn said, blinking in surprise. “Cool! Can I fly?”


Willow frowned. “Why does everyone always go for flight?”


“Ah Will? Can you fly?” Xander asked.


“Well yes, but-”


“And can Tara fly?” he prodded.


“Well yes, but-”


“With you two as our examples, I rest my case,” Xander said with a grin.


“So I can fly?” Dawn asked excitedly.


“No, no one’s flying!” Willow huffed.


“Just so you know, this doesn’t sound very super. The power of not-flying seems pretty sad.”


“Well you can open locks, how does that sound?” Willow said.


“Why would I want that as a power? No-one around here ever locks anything. It’s not a whole lot of use.”


Giles interjected at this point, the confusion in the explanation giving his brain time to catch up.

“It’s not that no one ever locks anything Dawn. Many things around here are in fact very locked indeed, they just open for you. Like my locked and magically warded safe.”


“Also the office door, the sanctuary door and the civil defence shelter door,” Willow added.


Dawn’s eyes got big. “Ohhh,” as the light went on.


“Is that because she used to be the Key?” Buffy asked.


Willow cringed slightly. “Um, no. It’s because she still is.”


Dawn sighed dramatically. “Existential angst here we come.”


Buffy's voice snapped. “What! Will, you can’t be serious! We left that Key stuff behind years ago!”


“Sorry Buff, Glory is dead and the conjunction she needed to use Dawn is long gone, but Dawn is still Dawn, and still the Key.”


Dawn sighed. “Does this mean someone’s going to come after me to open some other portal? ‘cos I have to say, that part of my life was all suckage.”


Willow brightened. “Actually I have good news on that front.”


“Pretty people from around the world will flock to Diamond Falls to worship at my feet?” Dawn said innocently.


“Um, nope, not unless you release an album, or star in a movie about sparkly vampires. No, Giles and I have been doing some research. Well really Giles has, but I helped a little.”


Giles spoke up softly. “Glory predated the written word, which is why it was so hard to find anything useful on her. The Key is older still, so old that almost nothing is known, by anyone.”


“And yet I still get carded. I want my driver’s licence changed to show my real age,” Dawn grumbled.

“You wanna be ancient?” Willow asked, slightly worried.


“When nine hundred years you reach, look as good, you will not,” Dawn quipped. “I could make a killing selling moisturiser.”


“So what I'm trying to say, in between y’know, outbreaks of random silliness,” Willow continued. “is that it’s pretty unlikely that anyone is going to come after you about this.”


“Yay me. I'm totally over that phase where everyone keeps trying to kidnap me. Now I'm all Grrr! And I have weapons,” Dawn said miming stabby things and shooting.


“There’s more good news,” Willow said.


Dawn smiled. “It’s like Christmas again, only rather than tiny Jewish Santa bringing gifts for me to unwrap, I get the gift of not-kidnapping.”


“Remember when you had that bad time with the ‘am I real’ thing?”


At this, Tara silently reached out and squeezed Dawn’s hand, giving a supportive smile as she did so. Dawn held on to the silent support.

“Ugh, not likely to forget that. I still have some faint scars from that whole deal.”


“Well Giles has been looking into the whole thing after he started to wonder about the whole Key... thing.”


“Um, right? This was good news you said?”


“Yup. Giles looked into the spell the monks in Bohemia supposedly cast to turn the Key you into you and plant you in our lives.”


“Supposedly? That’s a worry-word,” Dawn said.


“Well, memory is kinda fuzzy at the best of times, and is kinda easy to mess with, as I have unfortunate experience with,” Willow said looking around guiltily.

Tara gave her a reassuring hug, and after a pause to appreciate the hug, Willow continued.

“Um, a spell to alter the memories of hundreds or even thousands of people across the world would be truly epic in scale and power. And to do that to people you had no contact with or connection to, would be impossible. And it wasn’t just memories, you had stuff, pictures and little knickknacks, like that pebble with the hole in it you got from the beach. Little things like that.”

Dawn looked worried and glanced at Tara for support, receiving a squeeze in return.

“There’s no spell to do that. No spell in the world can create a life from whole cloth Dawnie. It’s not just a matter of power, it’s also a matter of complexity. A spell might hold for a day or two, but not years,” Willow said.


Giles picked up the explanation. “Any attempt at a spell of that magnitude, even a failed attempt, would be felt throughout the magical world. The power unleashed by Tara’s return was felt across the globe. If the spell that Willow is describing were possible, it would be felt by every living thing. And it wasn’t.”


“Uh, what are you saying here Willow, um, Giles?”


Giles smiled. It was a genuine smile despite his inebriated state. “My dear, I am saying that you are real and always have been. The spell to create your existence from nothing does not exist. It is doubtful that even the gods would be able to do such a thing.”


Buffy interrupted. “Wait, so what did I see when Will cast that true seeing spell on me?”


“The truth at that time, Buffy. Dawn has always been real, at least now she has. Simply put, reality has been re-written. Once you were an only child. Now, Dawn has always existed.” He took his glasses off to give them a polish, a clear sign that he was thinking.
“Dawn’s life is every bit as real as yours is Buffy, the only difference is that it was not always that way.”


Dawn held up her hand as though she were in class. “Um, yay for me being real and so on, but if I can ask a dumb question... who did this?”


“And who would have the power to do this?” Tara added.


“And why?” Buffy chipped in.


Giles sighed. “I'm sorry girls, I do not know the answers to any of those questions. Information on the key is almost non-existent.”

He looked up. “I am, to my knowledge, the foremost authority on the key, in all the world. And I know very little indeed.”


The group sat in silence for a while. The silence threatened to become uncomfortable.


“So we go and get some information,” Dawn finally said.


“Huh? From who? I thought Giles just got through telling us no-one knows anything?” Xander asked.


“Not from who, from where. Giles, you said those monks were from Romania, how about we go there and get some answers?” Dawn said.


“The Czech Republic actually, formerly known as Bohemia, but close enough I suppose.”


“Right, so we go to the land of checkers and do some digging. With any luck we can find some books or surviving monks or some clues as to what was going on, besides ‘Glory: Bad.’”


Silence abounded.


“Yeah, so I'm gonna go ahead an’ say it. That’s the best plan I heard in a while. At least since Andy-Pandy came up with the idea of hooking the x-box up to the giant screen in the war-room,” Faith said.


“What! You can’t be serious?” Buffy protested.


“G-man? How long you been researching this key biz?” Faith asked.


“Off and on for the past two years.”


“And?”


“I have found nothing new.”


Faith nudged Buffy's shoulder with her own. “There ya go B. If research guy can’t find it in two years, it can’t be found. Goin’ to where the key was kept for alla them years seems like a good move.”


Willow perked up. “Think of it like an exciting Scooby adventure overseas.”


Buffy frowned. “Who were you thinking of bringing on this holiday?”


Dawn interrupted. “I was thinking of asking Willow and Tara to help me.” She frowned as Buffy started to protest. “You can come too, if you like.”


“Dawn there’s no way I'm going to let you go off to some dangerous old monastery in some crazy country where all the locals are called ‘Vlad’,” Buffy said in a very determined tone of voice.


Dawn looked annoyed. “Buffy, you don’t get it. I am going to the Czech Republic, whether you like it or not. If you behave yourself, I'll let you come too.”


Finally the words penetrated Buffy's armour of big-sisterly concern. “You’ll let me come?!”


Faith groaned and closed her eyes, mentally bracing herself for the blast.

Xander winced.


Dawn’s expression was utterly unyielding, her own version of ‘resolve face.’

“What were you expecting? For me to wait here, while you go to the only place in the world that has any connection to me?”


Buffy's own expression was similarly resolute. “It’s not safe, and I don’t want you in danger.”


Dawn folded her arms and looked down at Buffy. “No Buffy. That’s not your decision to make.”


Both Summers girls glared at each other with absolutely unyielding expressions. The silence dragged on, no one being insane enough to get between two sisters having a row of this magnitude.

The answer to the age old question ‘What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?’ was apparently: ‘everyone nearby gets really uncomfortable.’


Tara sighed, and smiled just a little. Really this was business as usual for the Summers sisters. More than almost any other thing, this convinced her that she was truly home, playing peacemaker to the sisters.

“Um, Buffy? Dawn didn’t say you couldn’t come, just that she’s coming too. So why not come with us and make sure she’s safe?”

While Buffy was chewing on that, Tara spoke softly to Dawn. “Dawn, you know how crazy with worry Buffy gets when it comes to you, maybe take your fighting things with you so you’ll be safer?”


Dawn raised an eyebrow as she stared at Buffy. “So, you coming or what?”


Tara gave her a mildly disapproving look. “I don’t think that’s helping, Dawn.”


Dawn met Tara’s gaze levelly. “I know Tara. I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable, but this is about establishing my place in the world.”


“Hey!” Buffy protested.


“Buffy, you died so I wouldn’t have to, and that messed you up in ways that took years to heal. I will always be grateful and I will always love your overprotective streak. But that doesn’t mean you get to control my life, it’s mine to risk if I choose.”


Buffy continued to glare fiercely at Dawn, but the tenor of the look had subtly shifted from Buffy's ‘implacable glare’ to Buffy's ‘annoyed at losing an argument’ glare.

“God, I wonder if this is how mom felt?” she huffed.


Dawn smiled slightly, magnanimous in victory. “Probably.”


Buffy slumped, Faith poked her in the butt with the toe of her boot. “Gotta let ‘em grow up some time. Now’s as good a time as any.”


“Fine, but I'm going to the Republic place with you, if only to stop you doing horrible things to the locals sense of fashion.”


Dawn grinned. “Deal.”


Xander opened his eyes cautiously and un-scrunched his face, surprised that the room was not in ruins. “I’d say, ‘let’s all go Bohemia’, but we can’t all go. Vampires are starting to show up in town way more often, and more are rising from local graves.”


“There are plenty of Slayers to handle that particular detail Xander, but we cannot have the entire structure of the new Council simply up and vanish for a week. If Dawn is going to be overseas and likely Willow as well, I can’t simply have you disappear with them.”


Xander pouted. “Nuts. I was looking forward to a bit of overseas spy-stuff.”


“I don’t doubt that there will be other adventures,” Giles said gently.


He looked at Tara. “I imagine if Willow is going, you will be as well?”


Tara smiled and nodded.


“I imagine the same goes for you Faith?”


“Oh hell yes. You couldn’t pry me from B’s side with a crowbar and a gallon of lube.”


Giles grimaced. “Thank you for that charming visual.”


“No prob, watcher-boy.”


“Ignoring the issues of the entire council going off on an adventure, I don’t think it’s wise to send any more people. The local folk are likely to think it an invasion as it is.”


Tara spoke up. “Five’s about right for this sort of thing. Any less and there’s no backup, any more and you lose cohesion.”

All eyes turned to Tara.

“Um, sorry? Did I say something wrong.”


“Check you out Blondie! Wearing big sister’s clothes,” Faith said.


Shrugging her shoulders and smiling shyly, Tara said. “Two years. Other world. Life of adventure and mayhem. You pick things up eventually.”

She chuckled. “Just be glad my other friends aren’t here, they’d just wade in and shout at everyone, or maybe steal their stuff.”


“So, how do we find this chequered monastery?” Buffy asked.


“I can scry for it,” Tara said. “It shouldn’t be too hard to find, which will save us quite a lot of time on recon, then maybe Willow can teleport us there?”


Willow grinned cheerfully and muttered “Cool monster fighter,” before absorbing what Tara had said. “Um, maybe. Teleporting isn’t an easy spell, but if I can see the location in your scrying, it should be a bit easier.”

She frowned. “Probably easier than trying to smuggle a bunch of weapons and stuff into an eastern European country though.”

Willow smiled as she realized it would be her and Tara’s first spell together in quite a while.

Tara’s return smile was radiant.

Willow basked in her smile until she realized that everyone was grinning at her dopey expression.

“Um, well, anyway it’s going to take a few days to pin down the location, gather supplies and cast the teleport spell. I’ve never done one for a group before, so I'm going to need all the stinky herbs and stuff. I figure we’ve got a couple of days before we are ready to go.”


Buffy brightened. “Plenty of time for a shopping trip!” she chirped.

A number of ‘looks’ were exchanged between the Scoobies.

Buffy protested. “Hey! Don’t be like that, I'm not obsessed with shopping. That’s Cordelia, not Buffy. Plus Tara can’t keep borrowing other people’s stuff, she’s home now, she needs her own stuff.”


“Oo-oo!” Willow said waving her arms around excitedly. “I also have to fix up her ID and stuff, ‘cos she’s all with the legally dead and stuff. Imagine explaining that the police if you ever get pulled over.”


Tara smiled at the excitement visible in the two friends. Faith caught her eye and grinned.


“That’s a lotta ‘stuff,’” Faith said.


“Actually Willow, I wanted to talk to you about that,” She said, her expression turning solemn. “I don’t want to be Tara Maclay anymore.”


Willow looked shocked. “What!”


“The artist formerly known as Tara?” Buffy quipped.


“The Maclay side of my former family caused me nothing but pain and heartache, for most of my life. They had me convinced I was a demon from the time I was a child, dominated my life completely, and no-one helped me when I was hurting.” She looked down at her feet for a moment, a flash of the shy girl she once was.

When she looked up her gaze was calm, confidant, perhaps a touch determined. “I don’t want to be a Maclay anymore.”

Her face lit with a wry half-smile. “I think one day not too far away, I might change my name again, but in the meantime I'm done with ‘Maclay.’”

She sent on her private line to Willow, ‘Sweetie, does Tara Rosenberg sound ok?’ she sent tentatively.

Willow gasped.

The Scoobies knew something was up, Willow’s smile was radiant with joy, even though her eyes were glittering with tears.

She flung herself at Tara and engulfed her in a hug as huge as possible for a delicately built woman.


Faith whispered to Buffy, ‘Think I know what happened there.’

Buffy gave her a puzzled look as Willow and Tara embraced fiercely.

‘Later Hon, I'll explain later,’ she said with an affectionate one-armed hug.


Willow and Tara appeared to be attempting to become one being, so tight was their embrace. And they showed no desire to stop any time soon.

The Scoobies stood around looking slightly puzzled, with the exception of Faith. Faith had a knowing smile on her face, cute dimples and all.


After the pair separated from their bone-crushing embrace Xander cleared his throat. “So I'm gonna go ahead and look like a dummy again but, uh, what were we talking about?”


“We were talking about names Xander. I had just said that I didn’t want to be a Maclay anymore.”


“Then the rampant huggage broke out,” Buffy added helpfully.


Were you thinking of your mom’s maiden name ‘O Lehane?’ ‘cos I have a story to tell you about that.”


“’Ó Liatháin,’ but you were pretty close.”

“What’s your story Xander?” Tara asked.


He smiled. “Too much to tell right now,” he said smiling. “But your story is a bit shorter, or at least the bit I found is.”

All eyes looked at him expectantly.

“Ah, right. I should make with the ‘splaining then. So, given that I can’t pronounce Tara’s mom’s name to save myself, and to me it sounds like ‘Lehane’ I wondered if maybe you and Faith were distant cousins or something.”


Faith looked quite surprised and gave Tara a measuring look. The object of her scrutiny looked back and quirked an eyebrow. “I guess I could handle dangling Snow White here from my family tree. Might spruce it up a bit, y’know?”


Tara smiled and turned to Xander. “What did you find? Are we cousins after all?”


Xander scratched the back of his head ruefully. “Uh, I have no idea yet. I only just started looking. The story is more about Faith I guess.”


“So what did you find about Faith, Xander?” Willow asked.


Faith grumbled. “Not feeling too great about you poking into my past X-man.”


Xander held up his hands in surrender. “I know, and I'm sorry. I was just trying to find out if you were related to Tara, ok?”


“Xander!” Buffy said sharply, cutting through the grumbling. “For the love of puppies and kittens! What did you find about Faith?”


“Oh! Uh, right. So I was looking through birth certificates and stuff in government databases, trying to find out which Lehane family was the right one, when I found something a bit wiggy.”


“Wow, Xander. You a hacker now too?” Faith asked.


He grinned. “Nope. Will did the hacking thing, I just looked through the databases she hacked. So anyhoo, I found a birth certificate for you, complete with very cute footprint.”

Buffy grinned hugely at this and poked Faith in the side.

“But the weird thing is this,” he said holding up a print copy of the sheet. “You’re Faith Lehane alright, but your mom’s name is listed as Sharon Green. It looks as though you got your name from your dad.”


He handed Faith the sheet and Buffy looked curiously over her shoulder. “Ohmigod! You’re older than me! By like 3 months!”


Faith gave her a weird look, but turned back to the page. “This is whack. My Da’s name is Dave, not uh… Owen.”

She frowned. “Ma told me more than once. The way she used to sleep around, I always used to wonder y’know?”

She turned to Tara. “Any Owens in your family, T?”


Tara’s brow furrowed in thought. “Not that I know of. Though my family was not the most talkative about family issues.”

Tara rubbed her nose thoughtfully. “I had an uncle Owain I think. Mom used to talk about him sometimes when things were bad. They stopped talking before I was born. I, um, don’t know why.”


“I wonder why Ma lied? I mean, I figured she changed her name when she married my step-da. But why lie about it? I mean I never met Dave OR Owen, so why bother?”

They all sat in silence for a time, puzzling over the possible reasons.


Finally Faith broke the silence. “Fuck it. Hey Blondie? Wanna be my cuz?”


Tara stifled a giggle at the bizarre question and bobbed her head cheerfully. “I think I like my new family members a lot more than my old ones,” she said, gesturing around at the assembled friends.


Faith grinned. “Now you guys hafta like me, ‘cos I'm related to Snow White over here.”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “Goof.”


“Hey Will, how are you going for getting us to the land of garlic and unpronounceable names?” Buffy said.

“I think I have most of the stinky herbs and crystals for the teleport spell already. I just need to check my books for the spell details and practice it a bit before we go, then it’s eastern Europe, here we come,” Willow said.


“Then doctor Buffy prescribes shopping, for both furniture, stylish yet affordable clothes, and knickknacks for Tara’s space.”


“Birkenstocks?” Faith said, smirking.


Buffy rolled her eyes in response. “If you like. I still want some warm footwear though, this is Colorado, not southern California. They have actual weather here, Faith.”


Faith’s smirk didn’t fade.


Buffy brightened. “Hey I know! Tara, your new car has a really big trunk, could you take us into town for the trip?”


Tara bobbed her head cheerfully. “I can do that. Why? Were you planning to come back with the whole town?”


Buffy shook her head cheerfully, her blonde hair swishing about energetically. “Nope. Half will do, hence the need for significant trunkage.”


“Plus we get to take a spin in your wicked ride,” Faith added.


“Neat!” Buffy chirped. “I haven’t seen the Tara-mobile yet.”


“Winona. Her name is Winona,” Tara said.


“And she’s bad-ass B,” Faith chimed in.


“Whee! Mochas and muscle cars, tomorrow’s going to be fun!” Willow chirped.


“Witches on wheels, awesome.”


“You don’t mean ‘wicked?’” Tara said with a little smile.


Faith shook her head. “Too many wubble-you’s”

“C’mon B, time for bed an’ snuggles an’ alla that healthy relationship stuff.”

Faith held out her hand to Buffy and hauled her to her feet.


Buffy gave Faith a speculative look, before scooping her up and carrying her off in the direction of her room.

“Night guys,” she called over her shoulder.


Faith's expression was filled with surprise. “Wow, check you out B. All large with the butch now?”


Buffy rolled her eyes. “I don’t mind you manhandling me, or woman-handling as the case may be. But now it’s my turn. So I'm carrying you off to bed.”


Faith smirked, secure in Buffy's arms. “Baby you can woman-handle me all night.”


Buffy smiled shyly, looking down and flushing pink. “Alright.”


Faith looked shocked, her smirk vanishing. “Really?”


Buffy blushed, but nodded.


Faith looked uncomfortable. “Uh, B? I didn’t mean to put ya on the spot or nothin’. I was just having a little fun teasing ya.”


“I know,” Buffy said, her shy smile still in place. “It’s ok, I don’t mind the teasing.”
She climbed the stairs with Faith in her arms. “If I hadn’t gotten used to it yet, it’s a bit late to start complaining now.”

Buffy stopped in the Scooby lounge, still holding Faith to her. “Faith? If it’s ok with you... could you take me to bed and... and show me how to love you?” Buffy said, her voice halting.


Faith nuzzled cat-like into the soft spot below Buffy's ear. “If you do the same for me babe. I... I never loved anyone before B. Show me how not to screw it up?”


Buffy smiled softly. “We... we can learn together.”


“Ya mean...” Faith trailed off.


Buffy nodded slowly. “I mean. Ok?”


Faith nodded, and Buffy carried her across the threshold into her bedroom.


+++

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How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2015 7:24 am 
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Dibs-y Goodness! :banana

Yay for awesome update-y goodness!

Really big yay for Fuffy fest... I'm really glad that they really open up to each other and are ready to explore every aspect of their relationship...

Extra big yay for Tara Rosenberg...

I'm starting to think that the upcoming trip to Czech Republic will lead to news about Dawn's origin and major smackdown fest with Power's That Be...

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2015 8:03 am 
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I loved the Dollhouse references at the beginning. Great update and an interesting perspective on the Council. It was all about control for them-there tactics never did seem to make sense if you wanted a slayer to be successful.

Faith and Buffy progressing was enjoyable to read. I am looking forward to the Czech Republic.


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Sometimes it feels like we are running headlong through the woods on a dark cloudy night from monsters we can't see towards a destination we don't know.


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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2015 9:23 am 
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I like where this is going. Now that I think about it I have a theory for just who it was talking to the disembodied voice of whichever power it was that wanted Faith out of play. I won't say now but if I'm right I like the twists you may or may not be planning down the road.

And the soul crushing dark secret behind the watchers council was a fun bit of drama. Someone told them having too many gay Slayers under one roof would cause Galactus or Cthulhu to show up and eat the sun.

Looking forward to the off chance that Glory might have missed one or two monks when last she was in eastern Europe. Or maybe she just skipped right past the library as she was killing them and all their knowledge has been sitting, unguarded in an isolated building for a few years.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sat Aug 01, 2015 11:59 pm 
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Hi all!

Update below, and a treat of sorts at the end :P

***Warning!***
The 'treat' at the end includes some violence, and 'She Who Must Not Be Named.'
handle with care :P

Hi Zampsa! glad you enjoyed the Fuffy!
The dynamic here is pretty simple: W/T are the 'older' couple, and B/F are the crazy/stressy 'younger' couple.
sort of. After i establish it, i mess with it a bit :)
And yes, lots of fun and drama in the Czech republic.
And somehow, Buffy manages to go shoe-shopping up a mountain side. How? Slayer powers! :P

Hi Lois!
Glad you like the Dollhouse bit :) i was re-watching it when i was writing. Well, the first bit. After a while, all of JW's work goes the same. Lovable quirky characters, smart dialogue, unending disappointment and emotional pain heaped upon anyone nice... sorry, got away from me there :(
A lot of this stuff came about from re-watching buffy, and noticing that stuff didn't make any sense, specifically, people's motivations. Stay tuned, there is an explanation, but it may take a while to get to :P

Hi Citanul!
The big reveal isn't too far away :P
and there is an explanation for all the gayness. No, it's not gay-world, there's just more gay than average.
Bohemia awaits!


Shopping trip


Willow was making breakfast in the food place, while a smiling Tara leaned against the counter. Willow was gesturing wildly with the peanut butter as she punctuated an explanation.


They became aware of the sounds of rapid footsteps approaching, when Buffy bounced into the room, a smile of such radiance on her face as to all but light up the room with her joy.

“Hey guys! Will, I need some quality best-friend time, stat!”


With that, she all but carried the bemused Willow out of the room.

Faith strolled in with the recaptured peanut butter. “And people say they can’t see the resemblance between her and Dawn. Huh.”


“Um, Faith? Did your girlfriend just kidnap my girlfriend?” Tara asked.


Faith shrugged and handed her the jar. “Looks like. Probably just wanted to talk about last night. I think she’s feeling a little, uh, ‘born again’.”


Tara raised a questioning eyebrow. “Born again?”


“C’mon Snow-White, don’t be dense about this, I know you heard us.” Faith said with a grin.


“Yes, um, well... yes.”


“I know we heard you. I figured Red was a screamer, but I had no idea! Way to go girl,” Faith said with a huge grin.


Tara blushed furiously, but responded in kind. “Sounded like Buffy picked things up fairly quickly.”


Faith looked away for a moment, before looking back at Tara with a surprisingly shy smile. “You know B, way ahead of the curve. Bits of me are still tingling,” she said, touching her tummy with an amazed look on her face.

“And you’ll notice that I ain’t sat down yet. There’s a reason for that.”


“Slayer stamina?” Tara said with a cheeky smile.


“Damn Glinda! You little minx!”


"I prefer the term 'Vixen' thank you," she said with a happy smile.


Faith just laughed.
“Oh man, you crack me up. There’s a horndog hidden away under that innocent exterior ain’t there?”


Tara gave Faith a questioning look, but she still had her smile. “I’m not sure how to respond to that question.”


Faith held up her hands. “It’s ok Snowy, your secret’s safe with me.”


Tara smiled. “I see you’re still working on my official Faith-name.”


Faith ran her hand through her hair. “Yeah. I don’t know why it’s so hard all of a sudden. I mean I’m having the same problems with girlie names for B. We are working our way through the list crazy-fast. So far the only pet name we can both tolerate is ‘Hun’ or ‘Honey’.”


“You have a list?”


“Uh-huh.”


“That’s impressively organized.”


“Yeah. Well you know B. Having a plan makes her feel a bit in control when things don’t make sense. So yeah, we have a list. Don’t tell her, but its kinda fun. Though we’ve run out of sane ones and shit is getting a little crazy.”

Faith held up her fingers close together. “She’s this close to asking your girl to do a computer program for it.”


+++


Willow shut and locked the door with an audible click.
“Ok, so we’re in my room, with the door locked. Spill, also, how come we are not in your room?”


“My room is a mess, what with the mad monkey love we made all last night,” Buffy said, squirming awkwardly.


“Wow. I really was expecting you to, uh, not say that. But hey: mad monkey love, that’s of the good right?”


“Oh god Will, I had no idea!” she said, looking star struck.
Her expression changed to one of awkward embarrassment. “Um, Will? Can I tell you a secret?”


“Sure Buffy, I’m Willow remember? I’m the one that you tell stuff to, stuff that would make Xander’s head explode. I can totally keep a secret, uh, unless, y’know someone actually asks me, then it all comes whooshing out in a horrible mess, but yeah. So spill, what’s the secret Buffy?”


“You really have to promise me Will. I really don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and you are the only person I can talk to who’ll get it.”


Willow put a serious expression on her face. “I promise Buffy, no telling.”
Buffy seemed satisfied. “Ok. I was really worried before me and Faith made love. I guess I was kinda worried that it would be like, not ‘real’ sex and that I would be all disappointed, and that Faith would be upset.”


Willow nodded, looking embarrassed. “Ah. Yep, I thought of that too but, y’know, after. I’d learned better by then.”
She looked across at her best friend. “I’m guessing by the glow you’ve got going on, that the lesbian gay-type love was good?”


Buffy let out a happy sigh. “Oh my god Will! I had no idea! It’s like a secret girl thing. There’s like, buttons and things that boys just don’t know about. I lost all motor control. Seriously, if everyone found out, the human race would end, because no one would want the boys.”


Willow hid a huge grin and a giggle behind her hand.


“I mean Riley was great, he was kind and considerate and very attentive. And Angel was really special, but Faith! Oh my god, I felt like I was flying! I didn’t just see stars, I totally whited out!”


“Wow!”


“I know! I swear, Faith is like, the Slayer-of-bed. Afterwards I couldn’t move! I felt like I didn’t have any bones in my body. Also she Slayed my bed, so I need to go bed shopping when we do our shopping trip.”


“You broke the bed? Wow Buffy, you don’t mess around.”


“Oh my god Will,” she sighed. “I’ve never felt so loved in all my life! I don’t just mean that she was good in bed, I mean every look she gave me just set me on fire.”

Buffy sighed happily. “I feel all swimmy, like I’m paddling in the sea and the bottom just went away, and I can feel nothing but deepness beneath me, and it’s all scary, but in a good way.”


Willow flopped back on the bed with a happy sigh. “Buffy, I am so happy for you. And Faith too, she’s been talking to me about you for ages.”


Buffy blinked and looked down onto the bed. Willow’s smiling face was upside down. “Faith was talking about me?”


Willow smiled and bobbed her head. “Yup. She told me she loved you, and that she was worried about you, and that she didn’t know how to help you.”


“You set me up with Faith?” she asked, looking slightly annoyed.


“Um, nope. More sort of the complete opposite of that, I told Faith to just hang with you and spend time, and if you stayed just friends, that she needed to be ok with it, but if it turned into something more, well that would be just nifty,” Willow said. She took a deep breath afterwards, to pay for the stream of words.
“And hey, when we talk about stuff, you’re supposed to be down here with me.”


Buffy blushed. “Um, I can’t. Notice that I am ‘standing perfectly still’ Buffy. Notice also how the clever name denotes what I'm doing. I am still tingling and a little bit sore, but mainly just way too sensitive to move.”


“Wow. Really?”


“Uh huh. Will, I swear, if we have a power cut, you’ll still be able to read, because I still feel like I’m glowing. I still feel buzzy. Um, everywhere. I definitely got my floaty moment.”


“Um, yes well. Slayer stamina was why we ended up sleeping in Tara’s room, even though it’s still kinda un-furnished. We tried drowning you guys out, but you just didn’t stop!”


Buffy wore an embarrassed smile. “Uh, yeah, we heard. I think you brought out Faith’s competitive streak. Um, mine too.”


“Buffy! Wow, I had no idea.”


“Well, in Sunnydale I just sort of, didn’t care. So I just rolled over and went to sleep, but yeah, in bed with Faith? Really different.”
Buffy sighed again. “And do you know the absolute best part?”


Willow smiled. “I’m slightly afraid to ask. What’s the best part?”


“Waking up in her arms. I swear Will, it is the best feeling ever, waking up in the arms of someone you love, who loves you totally? Best. Thing. Ever.”


Willow sighed. “Oh yeah. And even when they move around a bit, you still sleep sooo much better. I forgot what it was like until Tara came back. This is now my third time finding that out.”


Buffy joined Willow’s happy sigh. “You know what else? Ever since that day when Tara saved Faith, I can feel her, wherever she is. I mean, I always knew when she was around, but now I can feel her, where she is, how she’s feeling. It’s amazing.”


“Tell you a secret? Me too only, y’know, with Tara. With us it’s because we are both witches, our magic links our souls. Maybe with you guys, you’re linked by your Slayer mojo?”


“Could be,” Buffy said. “We were the chosen two for years and we always had a thing even then. I think it’s why things got so bad, we set each other off.”


“’Sparks flew’ is the commonly accepted romance novel term,” Willow grinned.


Buffy grinned back. “Definite sparkage. And hey, since when were you romance novel girl Will?”


Willow squirmed and looked embarrassed. “Since always. Hey, when you are the high school nerd, with no friends other than Xander, trashy romance novels are where it’s at. Then came the internet and fan-fiction and boom! Romance everywhere.”


“Fan-fiction?”


Willow blushed and nodded. “Um, yeah. I think that might have contributed to ‘the Fluke’ ‘cos I wrote a lot of James Bond stuff, all cool gadgets and handsome guys in suits. Then along came Xena and everything changed.”


Buffy unsuccessfully hid her laugh behind her hand.


“Oh my god Will! Xena made you gay?”


“Hey, don’t laugh! This was before Tara, and I had no idea ok? Someone had to explain the whole girl-on-girl subtext to me. Hoo-boy that was awkward, ‘cos I’d written a whole bunch of stuff by then.”


“Come on Will, you can’t leave me hanging like that, what made it awkward? The sexy parts?”


Willow squirmed some more. “Um, no. In my stories, Xena was blonde, and less, um, tall and had a wacky sidekick with red hair. That’s what made it so awkward.”


Buffy’s eyes bugged out. “You and me were...?” she squeaked.


“Um, no. In my stories Xena and Gabby saved the day and were bestest best friends, who didn’t need nasty boys getting in the way of their perfect friendship.”


“But there’s kissy stuff in Xena!”


“Hey this was before the kissy stuff! And how do you know about Xena?”


It was Buffy’s turn to squirm. “Well… dark haired warrior-woman seeking redemption, with a blonde sidekick. Um.”


“Wow. Subtext much?” Willow said.


Buffy waved her hands at Willow. “Ok, ok. I get it. I had a thing for Faith even back then.”
Buffy was star struck. “Oh god Will. I’m totally and completely, head-over-heels in love with Faith.”


Willow grinned. “Welcome to the sisterhood Buff. Your enrolment pack is in the mail.”


Buffy blinked. “There are enrolment packs? Is there a newsletter too?”


Willow giggled. “That toaster-oven is mine I tell you. But yeah there’s a few newsletters I could sign you up for if you like.”


Buffy sighed. “If there’s one called ‘So you’re in love with a girl and still don’t know how to deal’ sign me up for it.”


Willow clambered off the bed and took Buffy by the hand. “Ah, level one lesbianism. Don’t worry Buffy, we’ll soon have you at level two: ‘proud and telling everybody you meet,’”


Buffy blinked again, surprised. “There are levels now? Is there an exam?”


Willow grinned. “Yup. I think you passed though. Wrecking the bed with your new girl? Definitely an ‘A’ pass.”


Buffy smiled, an awkward mixture of pride and shyness. “A+ I think. Remember, I still can’t sit down.”


Willow laughed. “Moving in on level two already? Come on Buff, let’s go find our girls before they wonder if we got lost.”


+++

Now, tonight’s episode is a bit short.
The reason for this, is that the second part of it violates FAQ for the board.

So, the second half is available at the other end of this finely crafted link:

Various file types. If anyone has trouble with it, just message me, and tell me what format you want :P

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“All I feel is sunlight. All I hear is music.” Willow
How i Met Your Mother - By Ariel


My Story: Coming Home


Last edited by Azirahael on Thu Aug 06, 2015 2:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2015 6:27 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs
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Great chapter. Even the part with Kerffuffle McPunchFace. Looking forward to the actual picnics and more from the Sunnydale Alumni Slayers like Vi and Rona getting up to speed on everything.

Oh and dibs.

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 Post subject: Re: Coming home part 2 - And The Stars Shall Fall
PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2015 12:48 pm 
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9. Gay Now
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Yay for great update-y goodness... I hope they send JFK to some cold lonely place so she can think how much she fucked up by messing with Willow's girl...

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