|A Tale of Slayers
Author: Joseph B PM
A new Slayer is called. Giles must find out which of his Slayers has died. Faith or Buffy?Rated: Fiction T - English - Chapters: 3 - Words: 73,402 - Reviews: 24 - Favs: 15 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 01-31-01 - Published: 09-01-99 - Status: Complete - id: 1048
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A TALE OF SLAYERS Part 00 by Joseph B.
Disclaimer: I acknowledge the fact that I am not even worthy enough to stand in Joss Whedon's driveway, much less the curb in front of his house, but that doesn't stop me from cutting across his lawn every once in a while.....
To the metaphorically-challenged --lawyers, who take these things so seriously-- Joss's da man --he owns all copyrighted characters-- and I'm not. Just the shmoe who wrote the story.
Dedications: To the people of the Slayer's Fanfic for being cool enough to come up with their cool sight and to all the fanfic writers *even they whose stories I have yet to read* for inspiring me to take Joss's characters and play with them *at least until he takes them away from me.*
And of course to Sarah Michelle Gellar, just because........
Giles: "Previously, on `Buffy the Vampire Slayer . . .'"
I'm just so used to hearing that line before an episode, but I actually wish I could show some cool clips of the show. This is the best I can do however. . .
Author's note: this story takes place after "Amends" and before "Gingerbread." I started writing this story shortly after "Helpless" aired in January, when Faith was still a likable character. Onto the story. . .
Rupert Giles dropped the phone and slammed his hand on the cradle, disconnecting the line, as he grabbed up the receiver again. Frantically, he dialed in the number he knew better than his own home number and was whispering a single word over and over as he listened to the line ringing on the other end.
"Please, please, please, please....."
He stopped abruptly as the line was picked up. "Hello! Joyce! It's Giles.... Yes, I'm terribly sorry to call at such, uh, an inappropriate time, but there is some what of an emergency and I really need to speak to Buffy. What? She isn't home? No, no! I knew she would be patrolling late tonight, I apologize. I, uh, should have remembered. Oh, no! Nothing to worry about, I'm meeting her here in the morning. What? No, no, I'm at the library. Yes, I'm afraid I had to pull an all niter but there really is no cause for alarm. No, it can wait a few hours. Sorry to wake you, goodnight."
As soon as he replaced the receiver it was back against his ear again and he was practically pounding the numbers now. He just stood there, in his office, eyes darting around but he was seeing nothing as he was totally focused on the ringing on the other end.
"Please, be there, Faith...."
Then he froze when a recording cut in: "We're sorry, the number you have reached is no longer in--"
He dropped the receiver but missed the cradle and it fell to the floor allowing the emotionless recording to continue, but Giles was already out of his office having grabbed his coat and was walking determinedly out of the library when the double doors opened.
He froze once more.
"Hey, Giles," Buffy Summers said as she walked to him. "I was finishing my patrol when I saw the light in your office still on so decided to check in. I'm afraid there was no sign of Tangerine--"
"Oranstine," Giles corrected automatically, staring at her with wide eyes.
"Listerine, whatever. Anyway he was a no show, but there was a stray vampire that I took care of. I think I may have broken my previous time on fastest vampire kill, so be sure to put that in your journal so you can shove it in the faces of all the other Watchers in the Watchers old folks home-- and why are you staring? Do I still have ash on my face?"
Giles let out his breath and embraced her in a huge hug, much to Buffy's surprise. "Oh, thank God." But before the Slayer could overcome her confusion, Giles drew away from her, a hand covering his face. "Oh, God!"
"Giles, what is it?" Buffy demanded, unnerved at seeing the tears in his eyes he was trying to hide. He suddenly seemed very weak and Buffy actually held on to his arm and guided him to the table. Somehow she was able to get him to a chair before he collapsed.
"Giles, you just succeeded in scaring me more in ten seconds then even the Master was able to," she commented.
He now had both hands covering his face and Buffy could tell he was trying to collect himself, not wanting to fall completely apart in front of his Slayer. His glasses were askew over his fingers and she slipped them off, folding them carefully, holding them for him. She felt like pleading, or yelling at him, to tell her what was causing him so much pain. She hadn't seen him this way since Ms. Calendar.....
"What happened?" she whispered.
"The, uh, Council..." he began, looking up at her.
"Watcher old guys," she nodded her understanding, urging him to go on.
"They just informed me that, uh," he cleared his throat. "That the next..... Slayer has just been called."
Silence settled between them as his words sank in. It was broken by a small shattering noise that sounded loud in the quiet library, but neither of them noticed the twisted wire frame and bits of glass Buffy was holding in her clenched fist.
"But, if the next Slayer has been called," she said numbly.
"And then when I saw you...." he trailed off. He steeled himself as he said, "Faith is dead."
* * * *
With a great gasp, Faith took in a harsh lungful of air. She was unable to release it for a moment and when she finally did it came out as a ravaged cough. Her insides were burning as she labored for another breath and continued to cough. Her eyes were open but the racking heaves kept darkness dancing in front of her vision. Then she became aware of someone stroking a hand over her hair.
"There, there, now," she heard a voice say. "You're okay. Everything is fine. Shhhhhh......"
For a while Faith just didn't move. She blinked her eyes rapidly, trying to clear them, but the darkness would not go away. This frightened her. She did not understand why but she suddenly needed to be in the light, the sun, some place where she could feel warmth on her skin. She realized she was shivering and curled up on whatever surface she was laying on. It was smooth and hard and cold beneath her. So very cold.
She opened her mouth to say something, anything to confirm to herself that she was alive. Why was that suddenly so important to her? She heard a low guttural moan and a second later realized it was coming from her.
Squeezing her eyes shut, releasing tears, she whimpered; something she had swore to herself long ago she would never do, and could not stop. But she managed to but anger into her sobs, the rage she always kept simmering under the surface, where it shielded and protected her. It was gone when she had awakened.
Awaken? Somehow she didn't think she had just been pulled from a deep sleep. No. Something had happened to her. Something bad, she just knew. But now that she had found her fire again she held onto it, tightly, desperately, as if her life depended on it. Which, for some reason, she knew it did.
She felt the hand still stroking her hair gently. She flinched, but there was no strength in her movements. She felt completely drained, she felt-- she felt dead.
"Shhhhh," the soft voice was saying. "You are safe, little one. There is nothing to fear now."
The voice, that of a stranger, calmed her. Faith stopped moving and just laid there, curled tight, but could not stop shivering.
"....cold...." she said, weakly in a voice she hardly recognized as her own.
The hand stopped stoking her hair, which she instantly missed, and a moment later something thick and warm was spread over her body. The hand returned to stroking her hair and she was glad.
Faith struggled to compose herself; Giles would laugh if he knew that, she thought. She needed to take in her surroundings, find out where she was, what had happened to her, and what to do once she accomplished the first three.
Her Slayer senses were slowly coming back to her, if not her strength; nor the warmth to her body, but she sensed something very close. Something very dark. Was in fact Darkness, not the absence of light, the Darkness the Slayer Handbook spoke so often about. And it frightened her, frightened her in a way she had not felt since Kakistos had been after her. A darkness she had just been pulled from. Thankfully, she had no recollection of being in the Darkness but that did little to comfort her.
Faith opened her eyes again and found she could see. Her vision was blurry but quickly began to clear and her keen sight kicked in. She was in some sort of chamber. It had no real walls, its sides were made out of rock, like inside a cave. There were even torches ablazed on each side, but the chamber remained in a deathly gloom with deep shadows.
She turned her gaze up at the person who continued to stroke her hair. The person was wearing a dark robe with a wide hood, which, thanks to the shadows, hid the face completely from Faith.
"Where....." she began, her voice still very weak.
The person's other hand came to Faith's mouth and pressed a delicate finger to her lips. "Shhhh. Child. No questions. All will be as it was when you wake up."
"I..." the young Slayer struggled. "...don't want....sleep..."
"Yes, you must, child. You need your rest."
"No...." Faith desperately needed to get up. She knew that she must not remain here. But her strength was gone. She could hardly raise her head and the robed figure easily, but gently, kept her from moving.
She stopped her struggles when a piercing scream shattered through the chamber. The robed figure quickly moved away from Faith, turning its back to her and the Slayer saw it approach another table several feet away from the one she was on. There was someone lying on it. She tried to raise herself again, but only managed to lift her head a few inches from the hard surface.
Faith saw it was a young girl, her age, probably a year younger. She watched as the robed figure did the same hair stroking comforting to the girl, whispering softly to her. Faith wondered what had happened to her? Why were they both in this dingy place? They must be underground or in one of the many networks of caves surrounding the outskirts of Sunnydale. The girl looked to be in pain and she continued to scream. Fortunately, for the girl, it seemed that the pain lessened, for her screams began to fade. She settled back flat on the table but kept making a hissing sound through her teeth, as if fighting against something, something only she could see under her closed eyes.
Faith's heart caught in her throat as the girl suddenly growled, a nocturnal sound she was all too familiar with, that she heard quite often during her patrols and in her dreams at night. And her Slayer sense confirmed it as well.
The girl was a vampire.
But she didn't feel like any vampire Faith had ever sensed before. Maybe it was because she was so weak, but there was something about this vampire that was extremely.....not right.
But whatever she was, she was a vampire and Faith needed to get out of there now!
Adrenaline moving like molasses through her veins, it still gave her the strength to push herself up from the table -- and fall to a heap on the ground. The robed figure whirled around as Faith untangled herself from the thick blanket, but she was not moving fast enough! The robed figure called out across the chamber and two more figures hurried into the room from an entrance Faith could not see. They were tall and built, like any good goon squad, but she could sense they were not vampire. She wasn't about to call them human, but she was sure they were not vampires.
Kicking the blanket away, just as the first one reached her, she used the same kick to connect with his kneecap. But, despite her Slayer strength, the kick was too weak to elicit more than a grunt from him and they reached down and effortlessly pulled her up.
"Lemme go...." she tried to shout, but her voice was still weak as well. "Bastards! What did you do to me?"
Securely restrained, the guards were just as much keeping her on her feet since they felt like jelly and could hardly hold her weight. The robed figure turned to face the Slayer pulling the hood back to reveal itself. Faith tried to contain the gasp that sprang from her lungs.
"Why," the figure began, "we just completed an experiment, my young Slayer."
Struggling, more for show than anything else, Faith seethed, "Why do all you evil types gotta talk like the Emperor from Star Wars?"
The figure laughed. "All you Slayers. You are so much alike. So young, so head-strong, so fragile." The last it said with a sneer. "But now things will be different." It stepped aside, waving an open hand toward the young vampire on the table. "The experiment was a success."
Faith looked at the young vampire. She knew the vamp was newly raised but she was still receiving funky vibes from it. She just didn't know what to make of it all. The vampire sat up and its eyes focused on Faith and there was a -- power; Faith could call it nothing else, behind those eyes. Vampires all had the same animal tinted gleam that glistened from their hunger, even the soul-ridden Angel had that gleam. But there was something added to that gaze in this vampire's eyes, something that made Faith even more afraid. Somehow she knew she had the answer, but she refused to let herself see it. Instead she turned to the robed figure.
"What have you done?" she demanded.
It smiled at her and said, "My dear Vampire Slayer, meet our *Vampire* Slayer."
End of Part 00
A TALE OF SLAYERS Part One
"Faith!" Buffy called, as she rushed into Faith's motel room. The door was unlocked, as it usually was, considering Faith thought of herself as her own security system. Or maybe she just lost the key, Buffy thought.
Giles was right behind her and they made a quick sweep of the small room, Buffy the obvious choice to check the bathroom. She joined Giles once more to see him standing by the bed holding up the ripped cord of the phone line. Their eyes met for a contemplating moment before he let the cord drop and they surveyed the room again, more thoroughly.
The bed was a shambles, but Buffy did not know if that was normal of Faith, and the rest of the room did not say much as if a struggle took place here recently. But the dead phone spoke volumes.
"Some one was in here." Giles finally said.
"But who?" Buffy asked. She knew they were both thinking the same things, after two years they had developed a certain level of understanding; at least in situations like this, anyway. But voicing those thoughts often let them see things from different angles.
"Vampires?" Giles offered.
"No ashes," she answered, even though that was obvious to Giles as well. "Even if they surprised her, Faith would have managed to take out of few of them before they could overpower her. Slayers die hard, Giles. Kendra took a few with her when--" she stopped herself.
"And I doubt she would have invited them in, in the first place," Giles said quickly.
"That didn't stop Kakistos from smashing his way into her room when he found her."
"But, remember, Faith was on her way out, planning to leave town at the time. In a sense, I doubt she really thought of her room as her home. She's been in 'this' room for months now and it has become her home."
"So, no vampires," Buffy affirmed. "Who does that leave?"
"Poor devils, they're always blamed for everything. Intolerance is worst than ever.
"They didn't bleed her," she said. "There's not a drop of blood anywhere, so she didn't bleed them either."
"She may not have had the chance." Giles allowed himself to sit on his younger Slayer's bed, where she must have been sleeping hours earlier before--
Buffy was still worried about him. Back at the library, he had managed to pull himself together quickly, so they could rush over here in his hunk of metal on tires he tried to convince everyone was a car. But she could see him wearing around the edges. She realized she was playing his role, right now. The one who held everything and everyone together. She was the center where you could turn to for strength. Giles was here, with her, functioning, at the moment, but he was wounded. Hurting.
Nearly two years ago, when everyone in close proximity of the Hellmouth had been living out their nightmares; the high school and the surrounding neighborhood, Xander and Willow had later revealed to her what had been Giles' worst nightmare. And that was to lose his Slayer. Shame filled her as she realized she had not been there for him after Kendra had died. Even though they only had the chance to know the stoic young Slayer for a few months she and Giles seemed to click right from the beginning. He had not been her Watcher, but Buffy knew he felt responsible for Kendra, since she had been in his territory, probably blamed himself more than Buffy did herself for her death. When it came to responsibility Giles was fearless.
"But who would've known she was here?" Buffy said, trying to keep Giles with her.
Her Watcher did not disappoint. "I could not imagine. That new chap, Mr. Trick, certainly knows who you both are and, I'm afraid, your address is not exactly top secret, Buffy. But Faith is a little harder to find. Slayers usually can sense whenever any paranormal presence is close by, so following you would be a chore for--"
He raised his head, meeting her gaze, and a second later understanding swept through her.
"Demons and monsters did not do this," she said with soft rage. "Whether they were behind this are not, humans stormed in here and grabbed her."
"Humans are not as difficult to handle as monsters and demons," Giles said, "even many of them. Not for a Slayer."
They both knew the truth, but they still needed to reason it all together, to make it real.
Buffy said, "But humans are more cunning; lacking the strength of vampires and monsters, they have to be. They would have come in with weapons."
"And with no blood," Giles said.
"Tranquilizers, or stun guns," Buffy finished.
"So they knew what Faith was."
Buffy felt her rage building inside and her fist was trembling, hidden under the long sleeve of her oversize leather jacket. She really needed to hit something hard.
She jumped, startled, when Giles suddenly slammed his closed fist down on the night stand knocking the lamp off. It was so loud that Buffy knew he just injured it, even though the fury in his expression gave no hint of the pain.
"Giles!" She rushed over to him and reached for his hand. He pulled away but she caught his wrist. "Let me see!" She looked at his hand. "My God, what did you do!" At least her Watcher had the courtesy to look embarrassed.
"Well, now you did it, young man," Buffy even wagged a finger at him for good measure. "Now we need to get some ice on this fast." Giles was about to say something, but she quickly said, "And not another word from you. Do you hear?"
Despite everything, Giles almost smiled, and he was suddenly feeling the pain now.
"You're not going to be any good if you hurt yourself." Buffy was searching the room again. "How do you expect to help Faith! We don't know for sure that she is dead."
Buffy cut him off. "No! The Council can say whatever they want. Until I see Faith's body I'm not about to take their word for it. I have never even met the Council, and we Slayers are supposed to be their whole reason for existing! I've only trusted two people I called 'my Watcher' and Merrick is dead! And I'm not about to trade you in just yet, Giles!"
She finally found what she was searching for; the ice bucket, half sticking out from under the bed. She headed for the door. "So I need you to hold together." She chuckled. "Do you really want *me* to be the rational one during this crisis?"
She closed the door as she went off to find the ice machine, leaving Giles behind speechless.
End of Part One
A TALE OF SLAYERS Part Two
Buffy was fuming as she stalked down the sidewalk of the building. Damn it, Giles, she thought. Please don't make me have to worry about you, too! She was at least convinced that he wasn't about to pull a vengeance crusade like he did when Ms. Calendar was murdered. But that time, he'd known who the culprit was and he would have died if she hadn't reached him in time.
They were going to find the bastards, she vowed, and if Faith was dead Buffy was going to send them to join her. It wouldn't matter if some of them were human; the Slayer rule prohibiting the killing of humans be damned, they would die.
It was just worse when humans were evil. At least vampires and other demons were incarnations of evil itself. Humans couldn't point at evil and say "the Devil made me do it." You just do not turn other humans over to the monsters. That rule just had to be in the Slayer Handbook, she thought, but as yet, Giles had not even shown the book to her telling her that it would be of no use in her case.
Buffy suddenly stopped walking. "Where the hell is the ice machine?"
Taking off his long coat, Giles figured he might as well clean himself up. He tossed it across the bed and was turning toward the bathroom when he saw the lamp still lying on the floor. Chiding himself for his outburst he bent to pick it up and replaced it in its original spot on the stand.
That's when his eye caught something on the floor between the bed and the night stand. Wincing slightly from the pain in his hand, he moved the stand and picked it up.
Even without his glasses his blood ran cold when he examined the familiar object.
"My, God," he whispered. "Buffy!" he shouted, as he ran for the door.
Buffy finally found the elusive ice machine in the small hallway in the center of the building. She had her second scoop of ice in the bucket when she heard a faint shout. She dropped the scoop and brushed her hair behind her ear. She thought she had heard Giles' voice. And then she did hear a door slamming. She started back to the room, hoping there was nothing to worry about.
She hadn't taken two steps when she heard a crackle behind her and a jolt hit her in the shoulder blade. She was spun to the wall by the shock and her cheek hit the concrete as her chest slammed against it. Buffy staggered back, the world swimming, and her knees started to buckle, but her fighting instincts were taking over demanding her body respond to the danger.
As she fell, Buffy twisted, swinging the bucket of ice in the direction from where the shock came and made contact. Ice cubes exploded from the bent plastic bucket and she saw someone in black; looked like fatigues; go down the same time she did. Her assailant had dropped his weapon, and she saw it was a stun baton.
"Hellooo, nurse," she said, through clenched teeth. "I was just about to come looking for you."
Feeling weak, she was pushing herself off the ground when she was grabbed by a pair of strong hands, jerked up, and slammed against the wall again, this time with her back. Before she could sink back down, a heavy booted leg kick her across the midsection, making her gasp. Buffy bent forward, hugging her middle, and hands grabbed her jacket and shoved her into the ice machine. Protecting her head, she took the impact on her shoulder and leaned against it, turning to face her second attacker. But a large fist filled her vision and sent her spinning further down the hall. She managed to keep her feet this time, and regained her balance. There was another fist coming at her face. Buffy brought her hand up and it slapped into her open palm, stopping dead.
Buffy stared into the wide eyes looking at her from under a ninja-like ski mask and said, "My turn!"
The man flew several feet above the ground and over his partner; who was starting to get to his feet, and landed very painfully on his back at the mouth of the hall.
Right at Giles' feet. He stepped over the prone body and entered the hallway as Buffy approached the first attacker.
The goon grabbed up the stun baton and swung at the Slayer. Buffy caught it, snatched it away, and shattered it against the wall in the same movement, never taking her eyes from him as she grabbed the front of his army vest in her fist and slammed him against the wall.
"Where's Faith?" she demanded.
He replied by swinging at her face. She easily blocked it with her free forearm, then slammed him against the wall again.
"Where is she?"
He tried to kick her, but she raised a knee to block it.
Practically bouncing him off the wall now, she shouted, "Damn it, stop that! And tell me what you've done to Faith!" The goon was thoroughly seeing triple images now, and Buffy was the only thing keeping him on his feet.
Giles had reached them. "He won't tell you, Buffy." He held something up for her to see. "Recognize this?"
Buffy saw what he was holding. She released her attacker-now-victim, no longer paying him any attention as he fell on his face. She took the ring from her Watcher and ran a finger over the face design.
"The Order of Taraka," she said.
"It would appear they've found a new employer who wants both Slayers."
"But they weren't trying to kill me," she said. "They came at me with stun guns. Last time they tried to kill me as soon as they saw me. And these two are only human."
"I suspect they were left behind to guard over the area just in case you or I, as Faith's Watcher, showed up. Considering that they only left *two* behind would indicate they were expecting me."
"I guess it was lucky I decided to check in with you then. We caught 'em off guard." She smiled, after thinking about it. "I like that. I still haven't even things up for the hell we went through the last time."
Giles looked out toward the entrance as they started to hear voices floating their way. "We best take our leave now, Buffy. We don't want to have to waste time explaining all this to the authorities. Let's circle 'round back and return for the car."
"We still need ice for your hand." She snatched up the ruined plastic bucket and tried to restore its original shape. She quickly scooped out some ice. She used the scoop to point at the barely conscious goon. "Are you sure he won't say anything if we torture him?"
Giles started to give her a look that said 'how could you even consider doing such a thing?' but then his expression changed and Buffy knew he was actually giving it some thought. With genuine regret, he said, "No, I'm afraid not."
"Bummer." She dropped the scoop back in the ice machine and was about to start following him, but then stopped. Setting down the bucket, she snatch up the scoop again, with ice, rushed over to kneel by the goon, and grabbed him behind the collar.
She lifted him so her face was close to his. "Tell your master we're coming for him!" And with that she dumped the ice down his bare back and let him go.
"Buffy!" Giles hissed, from the end of the hall.
"Coming!" she replied cheerfully, retrieving the bucket of ice dropping several cubes as she ran to catch up.
Just as the first witnesses reached the hallway to discover the masked men. One out cold, the other writhing weakly on the ground, clawing at his back.
End of Part Two
A TALE OF SLAYERS Part Three
Giles had his hand resting in the battered bucket of ice as his eyes kept darting to the street and back at Buffy, repeatedly in quick succession. Buffy was behind the wheel looking as if she had been doing this for years. Giles saw the excited gleam in her eyes, of someone who was still new to driving, and he was glad she found joy in such a mundane task. So often, he forgot that the seventeen year old was still a teenager under all the battle-hardened experience.
Which is why he did his best to hide his anxiety as she took corners fifteen miles faster than she should have, especially since there was usually a stop sign at them.
Buffy spared a glance at him and he tried to smile a bit, too late. She rolled her eyes. "Giles, if you didn't want me to drive then you shouldn't have hurt your hand."
"And I sit chastised, believe me," he said the last with a little more emphasis. To his relief, Buffy kept her eyes on the road.
"Besides, it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Slayer to have her own car. A vehicle to get her to the demons much faster and not be late to rescue some one on the vampire nightly menu. After all, if Batman can have his 'mobile why can't I?
"But it would have to have a cool name. `Slayermobile?" She shook her head. "Nah. Slaymobile?" She grimaced. "Even worse. Sounds like Santa's car."
Giles allowed her to go on. Even though she was delighted to be behind the wheel of any car; even one as decrepit and older than she was, he could still see the tension underneath. He knew she, like the others-- Slayerettes, as they often called themselves-- kept up the light banter as a way of dealing with the severity and danger they faced almost on a nightly basis. But sometimes it was difficult for him to tell if they were actually taking matters seriously.
"Stakecoach," Buffy exclaimed. "But that's more suited for the Slayer in the Old West."
But he had to admit, that the children rarely let him down. Of course, it was more for Buffy's benefit that they committed themselves to the cause and risked their lives for one another, as her friends, than to help Giles. In fact, he knew the Council frowned upon his unorthodox methods of dealing with his Slayer. Or, as they fondly referred to as, 'controlling' the Slayer. As if such a concept were possible, he thought. Allowing the Slayer to have friends, no less letting them find out who she was. The Council never made their disapproval of him apparent but Giles was not fooled. They would congratulate him on the achievements of his Slayer, or Slayers, as the case may be, but then would not hesitate to offer their own opinions to him. He always accepted their words with his usual graciousness, but when he would suggest they offer their advice to the Slayers personally they would find a way to, just as graciously, decline.
Giles hoped he was wrong, but he had a nagging sense that something untoward was just on the horizon in the Council's regard for him. Or for his Slayers. Maybe they felt he was actually failing in his duty. But then again, he thought, if Faith was dead they may not be far off the mark.
"Hmmm?" Giles raised his head, not even realizing it had started to droop.
"Welcome back, Giles," Buffy said, looking at him.
"Sorry." He straightened in his seat.
"Don't be. You've had a longer night than usual. I'd say you should take a nap, but we're here."
Giles saw they had pulled up along the curb of the lonely Crawford Street. It was rimmed with tall trees on both sides but they were able to see the secluded old mansion, which was Angel's current address. Many conflicting emotions swept through him as he gazed at the mansion. He was still unclear when it came to the soulful vampire. His brain told him that the soul trapped in the vampire body was not the cold-blooded demon who had killed Jenny Calendar last year. But his heart first saw the face of her murderer whenever he thought of, or saw, Angel.
And when Giles had opened his front door to find Angel standing there, a few days before Christmas Eve, Giles hated to reflect how close he really came to putting a crossbow bolt into his heart after inviting him in. Even through his anger, he recognized the young man-- relatively speaking-- he had known prior to Buffy's seventeenth birthday. He had considered Angel a friend back then, maybe he still did, for the lad was the same soul before the demon had retaken him, but Giles knew things could never be the same between them. He glanced at Buffy. Just as they would never be the same between Angel and Buffy.
Buffy looked at him for a moment. "Uh, you don't have to go in, Giles. I'm just gonna go in there and tell Angel what has happened and then you and me can go beat up Willie 'the Snitch,' and find out what he knows." She gave him a smile. "How does that sound?"
"Thank you, Buffy," he said, with a nod. "But my only concern right now is Faith. And if Angel can help us, then we should both be there to ask for his assistance."
After a second, she said, "Okay."
They got out and started their way up to the mansion. It was one of the longest walks Giles had taken.
They circled to the back of the mansion since Angel stayed mostly on that side of the house, and climbed down the stone steps leading to the atrium. The vegetation was a little overgrown but it was still lovely; despite the memories it held for Buffy, but it seemed like Angel did tend to his home. And she was getting better at keeping her own place tidy, but she winced as she recalled the state she had left her room in. She still couldn't figure out how he had managed to restore some of the electricity to the place.
As they approached the back entrance; where the pair of newly repaired French doors --thanks to a certain Slayer duo-- stood open, they noticed Angel had the fireplace going, as he usually did. They were just in reach of the partially opened curtains when they became aware of the voices inside.
Exchanging a look, Buffy and Giles stayed quiet and crept closer. They were both wondering what sort of company somebody like Angel could have and they peeked around the edge.
They saw the vampire in question sitting on the sofa, not exactly looking relaxed; leaning forward with his elbows resting on his knees. His attention was on the tall man standing by the fire. Buffy saw he was handsome in a rugged if-Tom Cruise-ever-lost-his-boyish-looks sorta way. And he seemed to favor Angel's style in dress. Wearing a long trench coat, black pants, and boots. Angel, himself was just wearing a black tank top and the sweats he probably put on after waking up.
Buffy quickly chased away the image of Angel getting out of bed to focus on the conversation.
"You really picked a bad place to spend a vacation," Angel was saying. "I know the Hellmouth calls to everyone but you don't have to listen to it."
The man; obvious to Buffy and Giles that he was not human; maybe a vampire? she thought, looked over his shoulder and gave Angel a smile.
"I did not come here to see the Hellmouth." He moved toward the couch. "I came here to see you, *mon ami*."
Angel looked at him, no expression. "Why?"
The way the man looked at Angel baffled her. It looked almost like affection. Angel and this guy obviously went back a ways, but how far?
"I had heard Angelus was back," he said, standing in front of the vampire now. "I needed to see for myself."
"Sorry to disappoint you, Oran."
She heard Giles draw in a breath. "Oranstine," he whispered.
Buffy looked at him. "Are you sure?"
"How many Oran's can there be whom are acquainted with vampires?"
"Point taken like a stake."
"You are my friend as well, Angel," Oranstine said.
"Angel was-- I-- was never your friend," Angel said, sternly.
Oranstine's smile grew. "When you start referring to yourself in the third person, I always know you are uncomfortable." He reached a hand to Angel and Buffy's jaw dropped as he caressed her former boyfriend's cheek. "Or perhaps it is this form you are not comfortable with."
The hand on Angel's cheek suddenly lost mass and became delicate and smooth, and she and Giles could only gape at the form of the woman who was standing in the spot where Oranstine had been, wearing his clothes, which fitted her a little loosely now.
"Is that better?" she asked the vampire.
"Of course," Giles said behind her.
"Of course, what?" she asked. "What's the course?"
"Oranstine is the Two-Faced Demon. I didn't realize the title was meant literally."
Buffy said nothing and just watched as the lady Oranstine leaned down, lowering her lips towards Angel's. Angel stood up, not hurried, and walked the long way around the coffee table away from the demon.
"You used to welcome my company," Oranstine said, not miffed by the evasion.
Angel had picked up the andiron and was rousing the fire, but did not look back as he replied. "That was almost a century ago, Oran."
"And now things are different?" she asked.
"I see." Oranstine raised the hand she had touched him with to her lips and breathed deeply through her nose. "Ah, I do see. My little Angel has found love! Not even Angelus in all his conquests could find this feeling; while his sired, Drucilla and Spike , found their own twisted love for each other."
Angel looked at the demon, trying to keep his expression passive, but Buffy saw the pain in his eyes. It mirrored the pain she held in her own heart. The thought of never being able to hold Angel the way they had held each other the night of her seventeenth birthday; the way they had loved each other, was a double-edge sword that cut them both.
"You saw Spike and Drucilla?" Angel asked, trying to change the focus of attention.
"About fifty years ago, in Spain." Oran smiled. "Of course, they did not recognized me. They do not know me the way you do, Angel. Me and Spike actually became 'buds' for awhile." She chuckled. "We did have some times, though. But, alas, we had a falling out."
Angel really didn't seem to care, but he looked at least curious. "What happened?"
"Oh, I tried to seduce Drucilla."
"I bet Spike did not take that very well."
"No. That he did not. He actually came very close to killing me. If he had known that I wasn't a vampire he may not have bothered to try to eviscerate my heart. Did he really face two Slayers and defeat them both?"
Angel turned away. "I don't think you should stay here very long, Oran. This town is not exactly a safe place for vampires and demons."
"You mean the Slayer?"
Angel looked up sharply.
"Don't act so surprised, Angel. There's hardly a vamp, or demon, who does not yet know this is the Slayer's hometown. Unfortunately, most of them cannot resist the power of the Hellmouth. Whether this Slayer realizes it or not, she is the spider in the Hellmouth's web."
"I've been called worse," Buffy whispered.
"In fact," Oranstine went on, "I've heard this town has two Slayers."
"Is that it?" Angel asked sharply. "Is that why you're here?"
"Not directly." Oranstine moved closer to Angel. "I was rather curious of the stories I have been hearing about the Slayer having allies to assist her in her battles against evil. But more interesting, was that it was said one of those allies was a vampire." She used a finger to trace an invisible line from Angel's chin down his neck and to his chest. "A cursed vampire with a tortured soul. Could it be that the love you have is for this Slayer? This little girl?"
Buffy felt her temperature rise a few degrees, and she was suddenly glad that she already had a reason to kill this demon. She thought that it may be about time to make their presence known. But she stopped herself with Angel's response.
"Jealous?" he snapped.
Oranstine looked into his eyes and smiled broadly. "Oh, there you are, Angelus!"
Buffy just watched as Angel suddenly cold cocked the demonic bitch right in the face. And she knew he hadn't been holding back. This was rage, and having been on the receiving end several times she knew precisely how much power was behind that punch. And she knew where the anger was coming from, as well. Just a couple of weeks ago, Angel had decided it would be best to walk out into the sunrise than ever risk letting his demon take over his body again. Buffy'd had a hard time trying to convince him his life still meant something to the world, and Buffy was not only glad she could kill this demon, but was now looking forward to it. But the blow sent Oranstine back just a few steps before she regained her balance and smiled again.
This worried Buffy. Not many inhumans could take a punch like that from Angel and just smile back at him. But the demon made no move to retaliate.
"Such passion," Oranstine said. "The love you feel pales the love Spike and Drucilla have."
"You better leave, now." Angel seemed to have gained control of his fury, but it was still there just under the surface. "Leave town."
"I've never known you to challenge me, Angel."
The demon sounded amused, which served to further infuriate the Slayer and Buffy decided that enough was enough.
Stepping through the curtains, Giles right behind her, she said, "I believe he just asked you nicely to leave!"
"Ah, the Slayer," Oranstine said, not at all surprised. Damn, Buffy thought. She sure did hate it when her grand entrances fell flat on stage.
Angel however was surprised. "Buffy."
Despite the demonic presence in the house, Angel suddenly felt awkward having Giles in his home. "Giles," he greeted.
The Watcher nodded to him, but it was clear the bulk of his attention was on the Two-Faced demon. He addressed the demon. "Oranstine, I presume." She nodded. "No wonder we have been put to task at documenting your travels throughout history. What with you versatile visage."
Buffy narrowed her eyebrows. "Now try saying that ten times real fast."
The demon smiled condescendingly at her. "What an amusing child."
Buffy suddenly reached fever pitch.
"I wouldn't get her angry if I were you, Oran," Angel warned.
"Oh, it's too late for that."
"I've seen her like this. Now, would be a good time to leave."
"Uh-uh," Buffy stood directly in front of the doorway. "I have some questions I need to ask your 'little' friend, Angel."
Oranstine no longer looked amused and she crossed her arms as she regarded Buffy. "And just how may I help you, Slayer?"
Buffy gazed at her with cold eyes. "Did you bring the Order of Taraka to Sunnydale?"
Angel shot a look of surprise at her. She never took her gaze off the demon, but he received a nod from Giles.
"No," Oranstine said.
"Why don't I believe you?" Buffy fumed.
"Oh, could it be that I'm a demon and all you Slayers have an automatic grudge against our kind?"
"Yep," Buffy nodded. "That'll do it."
"What's happened, Buffy?" asked Angel.
She answered, not taking her eyes off Oranstine. "The Order of Taraka abducted Faith. Perhaps, even killed her already."
Angel stepped closer to the demon. "Oran, do you know anything about this?"
"Why should I know something about this?"
Buffy sneered. "Oh, I don't know. Could it be that you're a demon! And your kind seem to hang out together."
"You must admit that it is an odd coincidence that a group of demonic assassins show up roughly the same time that the Two-Faced Demon arrives into town," Giles offered.
"So, I'm the prime suspect."
"And getting primer with each second." Buffy started to move towards the demon. Giles stayed right behind her. Angel took a step behind the demon's shoulder. Oranstine took the situation with a stoic expression.
"As I told *our* Angel," Oranstine said, "I did not come here for you, Slayer. It was merely a personal visit."
"Somehow, I doubt that," snapped Buffy.
Oranstine shrugged. "Suit yourself. Now, if you'll excuse me...."
The demon started to walk a path to take her around Buffy, but the young Slayer moved directly in front of her. She looked the girl in the eye and Buffy backed down not an inch.
Before Oranstine could speak, Buffy put in, "If you're about to say something like `you have no idea what you're dealing with,' save it! I have heard it all before, and believe me when I say I have some very wild ideas. After the year I've just had you'll have to do something very big to get my attention." She put her hands on her hips. "So, go ahead. Impress me."
Oranstine regarded her for several seconds, neither one flinching. Slowly, a small grin appeared on the demon's face and her voice was dripping with serious.
"And what a glorious battle it would have been." This made Buffy frown, and before she could respond, Oranstine went on. "You might want to look around some of the caves close to the harbor." She looked over her shoulder at Angel. "When I arrived, I felt a gathered aura of mystical energies that could have been from your demonic group of assassins."
Buffy glanced at Angel. The vampire said, "I believe her, Buffy."
Oranstine smiled and turned her gaze back to the Slayer as if to say, "Satisfied."
"Why?" Buffy asked. "Why help us at all?"
"I have never had a qualm with any Slayer throughout my existence. Humans just really hold no interest for me."
"But you are a demon, remember?"
"Yes, and as such, I do unspeakable and evil things just as all demons do." Buffy tensed slightly, readying for attack. "But I get no satisfaction with the suffering of humans. No challenge." At the look Buffy gave her she smiled and added, "Til now, of course."
"If you don't target humans, then who -- ?" Buffy stopped herself and looked at Angel again. His expression gave away nothing but his eyes told her all she needed to know.
"You're sick," she said with venom.
"Is it any different than you humans killing each other?" Oranstine asked in a mild tone.
"And I just bet you're real popular with the other monsters?"
"Popular enough so that some of them actually hired the Order of Taraka on her head," Angel informed them.
"So you did bring them here!" Buffy declared.
"No. Not at all. Two hundred years ago, I was their bounty, and for a decade they followed me where ever I went. I'm sure I killed half their ranks before they finally gave up on me. Even to this day, their numbers have not recovered."
"The Order of Taraka does not give up until they've collected their bounty," Giles spoke up.
Oranstine nodded. "You are correct, Watcher. But they did collect their bounty. They finally took my head." She smiled as she spied their faces. "Oh, I grew another. It was much more convenient than trying to get it back."
Buffy was speechless. She looked at Angel and saw that he believed what the demon said. Obviously, this was the first time he'd heard this story. She quickly found her voice.
"All right. We appreciate the information. In return, we'll leave you alone, provided you jump on the next barge out of the country."
"I'll agree to leave Sunnydale. Anything else would require further `negotiation.'"
Buffy didn't like the sound of that, but her only other choice would be to kill the demon. And she wasn't sure if she could actually do it. Normally, she wouldn't be so hesitant, and Angel was here to assist her, odds that were usually in her favor. But Oranstine did succeed in giving her a wiggins, just with the shapechanging alone; and if the Order of Taraka couldn't kill it--. On top of all that, her primary mission was to find Faith, and she couldn't do that if she was dead or incapacitated.
Without a word, Buffy stepped aside. Oranstine bowed her head slightly and walked by. When she was halfway outside she turned. "'The Two-Faced Demon.' Is that what they're calling me now?"
"That is the more popular name for you," Giles answered.
The demon smiled at them. "You have no idea." She glanced at Buffy. "Sorry. I had to say it. Because. . .you really don't."
With that, she stepped out into the night.
End of Part Three
A TALE OF SLAYERS Part Four
Buffy walked up to Angel but stopped herself before her hand started rising to touch his shoulder. Ever since Angel got better, and especially after he regained all his strength, they took extra care whenever they were close to each other. Thankfully, he didn't need her constant attention anymore and they didn't see each other as often, which was better for both of them. At least, that's what Buffy told herself. . . for comfort? She would have frowned at her own strange take on logic if she were alone.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
Gazing down into her eyes, he said, "Yeah."
"I guess you get to meet a lot of interesting people in two and half centuries." She smiled. "So you and Oranstine are old friends?"
"I wouldn't exactly call us `friends.'"
"She seemed pleasant enough to you, from where I stood."
"Were you spying on me?" There was no accusation in his voice, but the words still hurt.
"I like to think of it as `looking out for a friend.'"
Looking into her eyes, he knew she was telling him the truth. "Thank you. But she wouldn't have harmed me."
"Why is that?" Giles asked.
Angel met the Watcher's gaze. "Because I have my soul back."
They did not say anything else to each other and the silence began to linger. Buffy spoke up. "She said she was both yours and Angelus' friend. What did she mean by that?"
"If I were still Angelus she would have attacked me, or tried to hold me captive. There's no love lost between those two."
"So what she said about not preying on humans is true?" Giles asked.
"To an extent. When she wants to infiltrate into the vampire ranks; such as with Spike and Drucilla, she would take on a vampire appearance to hunt, and feed on, humans just to keep up the act. She would have no regrets afterward, but she won't kill humans if she doesn't have to."
"But she can't turn anyone into a vampire, can she?" Giles sounded fascinated.
"No. Only real vampires possess that ability."
Buffy stared into the fireplace. "I shouldn't have let her leave."
"I understand how you feel, Buffy," Giles said, as he took a step closer. "The idea of allowing a monster --any monster-- to go free is not at all appealing to me, either." He praised himself for not glancing at Angel.
Buffy looked at him. "Do you `really' understand, Giles? I'm the one who let Spike and Drucilla go. Spike I even let go twice! Lord knows how many they've killed since then."
"And how many people have you saved by doing what you did, Buffy? You always do what is necessary. No matter what the personal cost to yourself. I only hope that if I'm ever in that kind of situation that I'll have the courage to do what is right."
She regarded her Watcher. And she was glad to have him back. The tension and concern for Faith was still there, but he was with her completely now. Having no time to worry can help.
Her expression softened. "Sorry, Giles."
"It's seems we're all under a lot of stress right now. But we can concern ourselves with Oranstine at a later time. Right now, we need to find Faith." He directed his gaze to Angel. "And we could use your assistance, Angel."
Angel was unable to tell how Giles felt about asking him for anything, his expression was tightly controlled. "Of course. Just let me grab some clothes."
Buffy watched him disappear then turned to Giles. "We're not going to tell him about the next Slayer being summoned?"
"Well, it really doesn't concern him. And it has no relevance to our situation either. Whether Faith is alive or not, we are going to look for her." He paused for a moment.
"And you're still not sure about Angel," she voiced his thoughts. "But then, giving away Watcher secrets to vampires is probably one of the big `don't do's in your Watcher's Handbook."
"Actually, it is." A little smile was evident on his lips and he shrugged slightly. "But, ever since I've met you, Buffy, it seems as if I've broken almost all the Council's `don't do's."
Buffy lowered her head and looked up at him with her infamous puppy-dog eyes. "They won't take away your pension for that, will they?"
He almost chuckled.
"Giles?" she said, her voice suddenly serious again. "How does the Council know who's going to be the next Slayer?"
"I don't know."
Buffy's eyebrows narrowed in a frown. "You don't?"
"There are a great many secrets the Council must safeguard. Being the Watcher of the current Slayer does grant me access to quite a bit more information than I was privy to before, but that secret is known only to a handful of individuals on the Council itself."
Buffy was about to say something more when Angel returned. He was in his usually black attire of leather pants, boots, and had on a gray long sleeve shirt under his long black coat. He looked hot --ready-- to go.
* * * *
Faith couldn't remember when she had lost consciousness, but it must have been right after the demonic Leader introduced her to the Vampire Slayer. Or was that Slayer Vampire? she wondered. But the next thing she knew was that she was waking up in a real dungeon this time, lying on a real stone floor. Her head hurt and her mind was reeling out of control.
How could that be possible? A Slayer who was a vampire. Faith knew that when it came to the studies, she was not the first to ask which page to turn to, nor would she even . . . care. But her previous Watcher never said anything about Slayers becoming vampires, nor had Giles in the few short months he had been her Watcher. Nothing like this must have ever happened before, she figured. If it had, one of them would have brought the subject up already. Buffy definitely would've known also.
Big deal, she told herself. It's happening, girl, just deal with it and concentrate on getting your ass out of this dump, so you can start killing these creatures.
But there was something else. Something she was trying to keep out of her thoughts. Faith even clutched her hands to her head as they invaded her mind and her brain started to process them.
If this new vampire was really a Slayer; which she already knew was the truth; then that meant a Slayer must've died. A new Slayer was called only when the previous Slayer died. That had been one of the first things that was taught to her even before she herself was called. When Buffy died, briefly, that Slayer, Kendra, was called. But that chick hardly lasted a year when the vamps claimed her ass, thus, activating Faith.
So, she thought. Either Buffy died. . .again, or she herself must have.....
"No!" she screamed through clenched teeth. Still clutching her head, she pushed off with her legs and slammed her back into the rocky wall she'd been sitting against, and felt the sting of pain in her shoulder blades and spine. But her brain was still working against her, trying to figure everything out logically.
"NO!" she screamed, and swung around fast and took a chunk out of the wall behind her with her fist. The pain in her hand succeeded in distracting her brain from its train of thought and she slid back down to the cold floor.
And for the first time, she noticed she was barefoot. Of course, she was still wearing the same clothes she'd had on when she returned to her motel room from her patrol. The tight black pants and maroon long-sleeve midriff. She had taken off her boots before hopping onto the bed, planning on watching the snowy programs on the TV. But she had barely gotten comfortable when her door had burst opened and these special forces looking creeps attacked her.
That was the last thing she remembered before waking up in these caves.
Breathing heavily, the sudden surge of adrenaline quickly fading, the pain in her hand really flared and she examined it. Her knuckles were badly scraped and bleeding but, flexing her hand, she found nothing was broken. With her strength finally returning to her she could now focus on trying to get the hell out of here.
She rose to her feet and walked to the wooden door with a small barred window. It looked thick and very sturdy. Not stopping when she reached it, she kicked with all her might and the heavy door trembled but did not give. She took a couple of steps back to do it again.
"What are you doing in there?" growled a voice from the window.
"How cool, a visitor," she said, and kicked the door again. The door continued to hold, but it seemed to weaken.
"Stop that!" commanded the voice.
"I'd very much like to see you make me!" she shouted back.
She was about to kick once more when she saw another head appear in the window and she heard those less than human voices start to converse with each other.
She was about to kick the door again when she decided to change her tactics. She made a show of wavering on her feet, putting a hand to her forehead, as if she were dizzy. As she swayed, she saw the two faces watching her and Faith collapsed to the ground in a sitting position, but made it look as if she was having a hard time staying in that position. Then she heard what she wanted to hear.
Her cell door opened with a groan on its tortured hinges and the two creeps walked in carrying chained manacles. Faith watched them from the corner of her eye, still playing the weak prisoner, and it looked like they were falling for it, too.
"Pick her up," said the one with the chains.
The other one reached down and grabbed her arm and started to pull her up roughly. Faith let him lift her so that she was on her knees and threw her other arm up between his legs, slamming his privates with a hard uppercut. Not being human, at least they had the same weaknesses, she thought. And as he bent forward around his pain, Faith rose quickly, planting her knee in his face. She didn't even see him fly off the ground and land on his back, as she used the momentum of the move to spin around and face the second monster.
He was already moving in on her, having pulled a small club from his belt, the chains still hanging from his other hand. The Slayer ducked from side to side as he swung the weapon at her, then captured his wrist as it came at her again in a backhand swing. She smashed the side of his elbow with a forearm, forcing him to release the club, and caught it with her free hand. Faith side-stepped the bastard, spinning on her barefeet, and broke the club off the back of his skull with a resounding crunch.
The goon flopped on his face, never to move again, and a real wave of dizziness swept through Faith.
"Whoa," she said, trying to steady herself, and waited for the world around her to stop spinning.
Before it faded, Faith was already moving for the door. She needed to find her way out of here as soon as possible. Not knowing where she was, where the exit could be, and not even knowing how many bad guys there were, she decided to look on the bright side. And she would as soon as she found it.
Faith knew it had only been just a few minutes since breaking out of her cell, but wandering around these caves seemed to stretch the time into hours. She would have worried that she was lost if she didn't already *not* know where she was going. But every turn she took there were still torches lit on the walls about every twenty feet, so she figured she was still in the enemy's domain.
The dizziness had completely faded by now, but whatever had been done to her to bring her to this place must have really taken a lot out of her, because she was definitely not one hundred percent yet. Then another sensation swept through her head. But this was a very familiar feeling, one she was born to perceive.
Faith had just reached the next turn and pressed her back against the rough surface, just a few feet away from a torch on the wall. The vampire that rounded the corner had been about Faith's age when she had been turned, but she had to be several years older than the Slayer. This had possibilities, she thought, as she grabbed the vampire by the lapels of her dark jacket and swung her face-first into the wall. Her head impacted on the stone with a smack that would gross out the stoutest Wes Craven fan and Faith moved in as she dropped to her knees.
She grabbed the vampire by her red hair to continue the head trauma against the wall, and the bitch drove her elbow back into Faith just below her belly button, the force of the blow sending the Slayer to the other wall. The vampire sprung to her feet and faced her, blood coursing down her prominent vampiric brow, and snarled, her jagged teeth and fangs flickering in the torch light.
Faith quickly composed herself. "Does the number 3:16 mean anything to you?"
The passage was less than ten feet wide and the vampire would be on her in an instant. As soon as the creature sprung, Faith used whatever speed she could muster so that she leapt almost at the same time and they met in the middle of the space. The Slayer had aimed her lunge lower, catching the vampire in the middle and slammed her back against the wall. They fell in a tumble to the ground and Faith was under the vampire, but it was dazed from the impact and her fangs were closer to Faith's neck than she preferred. Before the creature could recoup, Faith head-butted her in the nose and the vamp flopped off her. That last move sending waves of nausea through her, Faith got to her knees as fast as she could and moved up behind the vampire, who was still struggling to rise. She wrapped her arms around her neck and with a strong twist, filled the corridor with a deathly snap.
The vampire flopped limply to the ground next to her, and Faith let herself slump as well.
"Too, bad," she said, to the vamp but her voice was just a tired whisper, "because I just whipped your ass."
Faith took just a few seconds to catch her breath, reminiscing how she used to be able to take on three vampires like this without breaking a sweat. But even through her fatigue, she still felt the rush that went through her with each kill. Okay, it was a somewhat tiny sense of accomplishment due to her predicament, but at least it lifted her spirits a little.
She pulled the jacket off the vampire and found it fit her just about right. Wouldn't want to let such fine accessories get turned to dust along with the vamp, she thought. It would be such a waste. At least it would keep the cold away that even the torches couldn't seem to lessen. Next, she took the vampire's high heel boots. But they turned out to be too small for the Slayer.
She threw them away with a curse. "All the vampires in the world I could have killed and I have to snuff one with feet smaller than Buffy's."
She got to her feet and looked at the vampire again. "Thanks for the jacket though. But don't bother getting up, I'll find my own way out."
With that, Faith started for the corner again. Not slowing down, she plucked the torch from the wall and tossed it on top of the vamp and was half way down the next corridor when she heard the combustion behind her.
Faith continued to follow the torches and, luckily, she didn't run into many forks or intersecting corridors; and those she did come across were not lit with torches so she avoided them. She didn't run into any more monsters, and she wasn't sure if that was a good sign. Then she started to get the nagging feeling that she was being followed, but every time she looked behind her there was always nothing there.
After a few more twists and turns, and the sensation not fading, she decided that her escape had finally been discovered. No need for discretion, she started running half speed. When she rounded the next turn she did become aware of something, a lot of somethings, chasing her. She still couldn't see them and picked up a little more speed, tapping into her Slayer strength for help, which was still at less than nominal levels.
Around the next turn the cave became a cavern the size of a tennis court with a high ceiling. And she saw two large ugly looking creeps who must be the guards to the lobby. Behind them, on the far side, was a smaller passage which Faith guessed led to the outside world. All she needed to do was get past these two. One of them was a vampire, she could tell even without her Slayer sense, but the other . . . all she knew was that he was no more human then the other two from her cell.
Faith sighed resignedly, as she looked at them. "Okay. I suppose I can make time for you two. But this better not take long, okay?"
She readied herself in a fighting stance as the inhuman and vampire split to surround her, forcing her to only keep one in sight at a time. Faith could not have that and launched herself at the vampire. She came in with a front kick that the vamp blocked but was already following through with a series of punches to its face and chest, which the vampire also managed to block, to the Slayer's surprise. She found her opening when he retaliated with a kick of his own and Faith stepped in, as she blocked it, kicking his supporting leg out from under him.
She was already turning around, as he dropped, and just barely blocked the punch the inhuman sent at her head. She ducked the swing of his other arm and sent a flurry of punches into his mid-section, topping off with a viscous right hook to the face that sent him spinning off the ground. She used the momentum of the punch to send a spinning back kick into the vampire's gut, as he came at her, from behind. She grabbed him, as he bent over, and shoved him into the inhuman, just halfway to his feet, sending them both down again.
With the field wide open, Faith booked it triple time, making a dash for the exit. Ten feet from it, two figures stepped through the entrance and her feet skidded on the dirt, as she stopped.
It was the Demon Leader, still wearing the hooded robe; for which Faith was grateful, and the Slayer Vampire. Out of the two, Faith suspected that the vampire was the more powerful, but she knew the Leader could give her one hell of a fight even if she had been at full strength. There was no way she was going to be able to pass them.
But that wasn't going to keep her from trying. Faith took a step forward, readying herself. She looked over her shoulder and saw that the vampire and inhuman were already on their feet and moving towards her. But what caught her eye, was that the inhuman's face was hanging off the side of its cheek revealing its true demonic features. It yank the mask off and pulled the short wig off its fleshless head. Then, behind them, she saw another five assorted creeps and vamps pour into the room.
The Demon Leader tilted its head at her. "Now, child, do you really think you can escape us?"
"Actually," Faith sneered, "I don't care. Suddenly, I'm just wanting to see just how big a mess I can leave in this room." She grinned sardonically at it. "Are you gamed?"
"Very interesting," the leader said. "But no. I do not have time for this."
The Demon Leader raised a hand toward Faith and the Slayer tensed. Then she staggered as a sharp pain pierced her chest. No longer able to breath, she clutched her chest and sank to her knees. With a fright, she realized that her heart had stopped beating. She opened her mouth to gasp but nothing came out, not even a tiny breath. She fell forward and caught herself with her outstretched arm, her other hand still pressed between her breasts. She looked up to see the Leader, hand still raised, and struggled to get back up. But she wavered and fell on her side. Darkness began to creep around the edges of her vision and she could feel the emptiness start to consume her.
Then something thundered through her head and a gasp exploded from her lungs, and she started to cough. Desperately, her lungs inhaled another labored breath and she expelled that with a ravage cough as well. The thunder in her head continued to pound into her, and Faith realized it was the beat of her heart she was hearing.
She tried to move, but her strength was gone again. She couldn't even move her head. Then a pair of legs walked across her sight and a booted foot flopped her onto her back, and she found herself looking up at the Slayer Vampire.
When the girl was human, she had been either Chinese or Japanese and had probably been very popular with the boys, Faith thought. And there was still a touch of innocence in the face that Faith new had faded from herself a few years ago. Had Buffy looked that innocent when she was called to be the Slayer? she wondered.
Then the Slayer Vampire's face changed as she kneeled down next to her, fangs sprouting as her mouth opened slightly. Her brow furrowed but did not turn into the usual demonic features that took over regular vamps when they vamped out. She grabbed Faith by the hair and raised her upper body, exposing her neck.
Faith could do nothing but glare at the creature, filling as much rage into her face as she could. She swore, silently; because she could not speak, that she was going to kill this creature. Even if it turned her into a vampire, she would somehow kill her.
"No, my child," the Leader said, as the vampire was about to sink her teeth into the Slayer's neck. The creature looked up at the demon and Faith could tell she wasn't going to obey its master. The Slayer Vampire looked down, opened its mouth, and bent towards Faith's neck again.
Before the fangs reached her skin, Faith saw a bright flash flare from the creature's left arm. She dropped the Slayer and shot to her feet, as if she had just been shot. The vampire clutched the arm and looked at it when the light faded. Faith saw that there was a strange tattoo design just below the shoulder. The Slayer Vampire glared at its master.
"Not this one, my child," the Demon Leader spoke in that same mild voice it had. "We still have need of her. Go out, now. There are plenty of other mortals to feed your hunger. But you must avoid the other Slayer at all cost. You need time for your strength to grow."
The creature looked at Faith, then at her master again. Then, with incredible speed; faster than Faith ever could've moved, she ran out of the chamber and disappeared through the passage. That strange tattoo must be some way for the Leader to control her, she thought.
The Slayer was starting to move again, and she was able to move her head to watch what was happening around her. The Demon Leader walked passed her and spoke to its minions.
"Take the Slayer back to her cell. And this time, make sure she will not escape again." The tone of its voice had not changed one octave, but Faith was able to recognize the promise of great punishment in its words.
Its goons obviously believed this too and the inhuman and vampire hurried to lift her from the ground and dragged her away from the chamber, her barefeet scraping uncomfortably against the rough surface. But she hardly noticed, she was too busy trying to force herself to concentrate, find a way to get out of this. When they reached the dungeon, she knew they were going to throw a ton of chains on her and then there would be no chance for her to escape. She could not let that happen.
She raised her head and saw they had already taken several turns through the passage she had come from. Soon, they would reach the spot where she had killed the vampire, which meant she was half way back to her cell. They were coming toward an intersection in the corridor and Faith noticed something she had not when she had first passed this way. There was a steady roar coming from one of the passages. They had just reached it, when she realized the sound was running water, like a waterfall.
Not taking a moment to consider her actions, she planted her feet against the ground and pushed herself into the inhuman who was holding her left arm. This took her captives by surprise and she slammed the inhuman against the corner leading into that intersecting corridor. The vampire had lost its grip on her and he was moving quickly to grab her again. Faith lashed out with a back kick with as much strength as she could summon, which wasn't much, and when she connected it served to push her and the inhuman away from the vampire who hardly budged from the blow. The inhuman fell back, Faith holding tight to his coat, and they tumbled into the passage, which was an incline, and rolled over each other as they descended into the darkness below.
They reached the bottom, which was even ground again, and Faith rolled away from the goon. Still very weak, and now feeling dizzy, Faith pulled herself unsteadily to her feet. And was punched across the face. She spun around and fell. But instead of hitting the ground again, she continued to fall through open air, and the roar of the running water was suddenly rushing up at her.
End of Part Four
A TALE OF SLAYERS Part Five
Despite its small size, Sunnydale did support a very productive harbor. The traffic was light but the docks serviced both commercial and private shipping, and at any given time there were always barges, freighters, tugs, and luxury yachts stationed there. Buffy only had the occasion to come down here just a few times, mostly on business, none of them really fond memories. The most prominent being the time she had accompanied Angel down here on her birthday, who was planning to stow away on one of the outbound ships to take away the Judge's severed arm to a far corner of the Earth; in an attempt to keep Spike and Drucilla from assembling the powerful demon.
She had been filled with great sadness at the prospect of Angel being away from her for several months, perhaps half a year, or so, while he found a remote place to bury the demon limb. But they had been ambushed by some of Spike's minions and had lost the piece of the Judge, thus postponing Angel's journey; much to Buffy's relief. Although the assembly of the Judge would have spelled doom for, perhaps, the entire world.
Fate had played its cruel hand, anyway, later that night, after she and Angel escaped from Spike and Dru, as well as the newly assembled clutches of the Judge. They had been tired and wet from the rain when they reached Angel's apartment. Buffy had been in the process of removing her soaked clothes when Angel moved in close to examine a small cut she had suffered on her back.
Buffy could still recall every moment of that night. Everything that had followed. Making love to the only man, the only soul, she had truly loved with all her heart. Thankfully, the dream spared her the events that occurred after that cherished night. Instead of replaying Angel losing his soul, becoming evil and terrorizing her and her friends, she was suddenly walking along a bright sunny beach shore, holding the vampire's hand. She didn't question the impossibility of it all, she just enjoyed it and smiled back at him when he smiled at her.
"Buffy," he said.
"Buffy." She felt someone shake her shoulder lightly. She opened her eyes and looked at Angel. He was behind the wheel of the Citroen; at Giles' suggestion, actually, Buffy reflected. But then, Angel had been around when automobiles had been invented. About the time this car was invented.
"Hey," she smiled at him.
He returned her smile and she saw they were parked just short of the docks.
"Buffy," Giles said behind her. He was holding a stake out to her. She accepted it and hid it inside her jacket. She was now armed with three stakes. Giles was still digging into the large leather bag with the weapons they had raided from the library. He handed her a small, but deadly, silver knife in a sheath, and she stuffed it in the back of her waistband. Next, he handed a couple of stakes to Angel, who accepted with a nod.
"We should split up to cover more ground. It'll be dawn in just over two hours, so we best hurry," Giles said, as they climbed out, shouldering his bag.
"I'll head south, toward the beach," Angel suggested.
"Very well." Giles turned to Buffy. "Buffy, you take to the north and I'll--"
"You'll be with me," she said.
Giles was about to protest, but the stern look he received from his Slayer made him sigh softly. "Very well."
"We'll meet back here in an hour and a half," she said to Angel.
They moved off in opposite directions, the vampire seeming to melt into the darkness.
"Buffy, I don't want to slow you down. You and Angel can move much quickly on your own," Giles said. "Besides, someone should make a sweep of the docks."
"Don't forget, Giles, you're the one that said those creeps at the motel were waiting for you. They wanted to take me alive, but what if they want you dead?" He didn't reply to that. "I just feel a lot better if you're where I can keep an eye on you."
"I'm the one who is supposed to look after you. I am your Watcher, after all."
"And you're doing a great job. I just want you to still be able to do it. So, please, just indulge your Slayer."
"Anything for my Slayer," he said with a small smile.
"We'll take a quick look around the docks when we meet back up with Angel."
Giles seemed satisfied with this and they lapsed into silence as they walked on the elevated ground, with the docks not far below them. Buffy couldn't explain to herself why she was feeling so protective of Giles. Sure, she worried about him and did not want anything to happen to him, but never to the extent where she was afraid to leave him by himself. She figured it was due to Faith's disappearance and that she may very well be dead. But if she was, there was no way Buffy could protect Giles against that kind of pain. Which was why this had become very personal to her.
They continued in silence, the half-moon providing Buffy with enough light to let her night vision search the area without hindrance. Giles, even with the spare pair of glasses he'd retrieved when they had made the stop at the library, could not contribute much more without a flashlight, but he still made the effort.
After a long time, Buffy said, "Giles."
"Back at the mansion, you said you didn't know how the Council found the next Slayer, but they knew I was going to be a Slayer years before, didn't they?"
"The Council knew you were a candidate to become a Slayer, but until you were actually `activated' we didn't know for sure."
"A `candidate?' You mean like running for president?"
"Not necessarily. At any given time there are a handful of candidates around the world with the potential of being chosen as the Slayer."
"Well, what decides it?"
"I would imagine fate?" When Buffy didn't respond to that, he continued. "No one knows why one is chosen, Buffy, just that there must always be a Slayer."
"This is where that `every generation there is a Chosen One. . .' comes in, isn't it?"
"I guess you have to change that mission statement. I pretty much mucked that up when I died. From now on there's always going to be two Slayers, right?"
"It would appear so."
"Who do you think she is?" she asked.
"The new Slayer?"
"I don't know. It is always imperative to keep a Slayer's, or Slayer candidate's identity secret."
"Do you think she already knows she's the Slayer?"
Giles mulled it over for a second. "If she didn't know before, she will more than likely be informed very soon."
Buffy could tell that the topic of conversation was beginning to make him a little uncomfortable, but she couldn't stop. This was something she needed to hear, needed to get out of the way.
"Why didn't the Watchers contact me before I became the Slayer?"
A small smile appeared on Giles' face. "Can you imagine explaining to your parents why a fourteen year old girl would be gone for hours late at night, and missing a lot of school, or not being seen by your friends."
"That didn't stop you all from calling me just a year later."
"Circumstances had changed. A Slayer was needed."
"Oh," was all Buffy could say. Somewhere back there she had forgotten that another girl had died for her to become the Slayer. She finally said, "Still, I sure could've used the early training."
"Yes. I'm sure it would have been very helpful, but again, yours was a delicate case."
She frowned at him. "Again with my `case.' What's so special about my `case?'"
"Buffy, your `case' is not as uncommon as you may think. The Council can usually locate a Slayer candidate when they are very young. It is, however, very rare when a Watcher is allowed the opportunity to actually start a Slayer's training before she even becomes the Slayer." He saw that she was really listening to him and continued. "Kendra and Faith were unique situations. Faith was --is-- an orphan, and where Kendra was from, family honor provided the opportunity."
"Kendra did say her family gave her to her Watcher when she was young. How young would she have been?"
At first, she thought Giles wasn't going to answer. But then he cleared his throat and said, "I would imagine she would have been very young."
"So her Watcher would have raised her. Like a daughter?" she asked, but before he could begin to answer, she went on. "No. Not like a daughter. Like a Slayer! You saw how Kendra was! She could give lessons to The Terminator on stoicism. She died with no family and no friends."
Surprised by the anger coming from his Slayer, he said, tentatively, "Buffy, we were her friends."
This did nothing to calm her down, however. "And what did we really know about her, Giles? As her friends shouldn't we have known some of the things normal friends should know? Like what her favorite color was?" In a softer voice, she said, "She had never even kissed a boy."
"She was dedicated to the cause," the Watcher offered.
"But was it her cause? Did she have any more say in the matter than I did? Maybe she didn't fight against her destiny as much because they got to her while she was practically a baby? When she didn't have a normal life to leave behind."
"Buffy, `they' would include me."
She knew she may have just hurt his feelings, but she couldn't stop herself. "And right from the start, you couldn't wait to put the stake in my hand!"
Giles was taken aback by this. "I'm sorry, Buffy. If I came on a little too enthusiastically, it was only because being posted as your Watcher was my first real field assignment. I was somewhat . . . nervous."
This did make her stop. "You? Nervous?"
He nodded. "Yes. Being assigned to a Slayer is a tremendous responsibility. And I was following in the footsteps of the best Watcher of our time."
Buffy's thoughts drifted to her first Watcher. Without anger, she said, "How many Slayers had he trained?"
"No. I don't think he wanted to talk about it. But then, we really didn't have much time together. I hardly knew him." She let her gaze drop.
"But you cared about him." Giles made it a statement.
Buffy seemed to double her effort searching for cave entrances. She said, "He died saving my life."
Giles walked by her side, letting the silence settle between them. Then he said, "You were his second Slayer."
Buffy looked at him. "I was only number two for him? And he was considered the `best?'"
Giles seemed a bit irritated, when he said, "Buffy, Merrick is the only Watcher to be assigned to a second Slayer."
"But he was such --a grandpa man. He wasn't much taller than me! What was he doing out there with monsters?"
"He was doing what needed to be done."
"But as old as he was, you'd think he would have trained more Slayers." She looked at Giles. "Did he train the Slayer before me?"
"No. Merrick was assigned to his first Slayer in 1972. The young lady had just turned 16. He was about my age at the time."
"How did she die?" Buffy quickly shook her head. "No. I don't need to know. But when did she die?"
Giles paused for just a moment. "She was killed in 1982."
Buffy stopped walking and stared at him with a stunned expression. Finally finding her voice, she said, "But the life expectancy of a Slayer--" She trailed off.
"Now you know why he was considered the best," Giles told her.
He started to walk again, and Buffy followed. "If he was so good, why didn't he train the next one?"
"After his Slayer died, he *was* assigned to the next Slayer, but he requested a leave of absence instead. Under the circumstances, he was granted leave of the Watchers."
Buffy considered this for a while. "Did he love her?"
The question didn't seemed to take Giles off guard. "He cared very deeply for her."
"You know what I mean, Giles."
"I couldn't say for sur --" he stopped and looked at her. He said. "Yes. Near the end, I believe he did."
Buffy said, "Do you think she and Merrick were ever . . . together?"
"No. Never," Giles said, with a certainty Buffy rarely heard from him. With prophecies, demons, and monsters, there were never any certainties. "As I said, Merrick was the best."
"Did she know?"
"I suspect she did."
Buffy looked away. The silence stretched once more.
What Giles said next did take her off guard.
"You're angry with him."
Exasperated, she said, "What? Why would I be--?"
"Because he died."
Buffy averted her eyes again. "I couldn't save him. It's my job to protect others."
"And he did what was expected of him. He looked after his Slayer."
"He did his duty," Buffy said softly. "As you said, he was the best."
"Yes, he was. But when he saved you, I don't think he was doing it out of any sense of duty. He just knew he wasn't going to lose another Slayer under his watch."
Silence once more. It occurred to Giles that Buffy had never really mourned the death of her first Watcher. That would definitely explain her behavior toward him of late. Was she really that frightened of losing him as well? he wondered. From past experiences, that he reflected on with shame, he knew, that aside from losing a friend, the prospect of having to fight against the monsters by herself truly terrified her. That business with Ethan Rayne and the Mark of Eyghon over a year ago, had lead Giles to drink and try to hide his past from his Slayer, not only straining their relationship but scaring her by acting so out of character. Then again, a few months later, when he had gone after Angel by himself, for killing Jenny. Angel would have killed him had Buffy not arrived in time. To remind himself of his responsibility, he still replayed the scene, after she had dragged him out of the burning factory, over in his head. He had pushed her away yelling at her that it was not her fight. She, in turn, had laid him out flat with a single punch, and had yelled back at him.
`Are you trying to get yourself killed?' she had shouted. He was on his hands and knees sobbing. Then Buffy had crumbled next to him, shedding her own tears, hugging him. `You can't leave me! I can't do this alone.'
That moment had sobered him completely, and not from drinking. From that point on, he had vowed that he would never put her through that kind of pain ever again.
And seeing the tears in his Slayer's eyes, he wanted to take that pain away more than anything. "Buffy--"
She shook her head. "We really need to be quiet." She managed to give him a smile to alleviate some of his worry. "Having a `7th Heaven' moment is not the way to sneak up on the bad guys."
Giles nodded and they continued the searched. After a moment, Buffy pointed down the grassy bluff. "Let's try down there." she said, and they made their way to lower ground.
They had almost left the docks behind them and were approaching the north part of the beach. Not long `til sunrise, it seemed there wasn't a soul anywhere in sight, and Giles hoped not, especially with the demons and vampires that were supposed to be close by.
"I think I see something," Buffy said softly. She pointed to the side of the bluff but Giles could not make anything out clearly. He followed her and when they were ten feet away, he saw a jagged opening, about five feet wide, almost perfectly hidden by the shadows. "Now it's time for a flashlight."
"I have something better." Giles searched his bag and pulled out a small oil lantern.
"Watcher credo: always be prepared," she said, with a smile. "Or did you guys steal that from the Boy Scouts?"
Giles smiled and dug a lighter from his tweed jacket when he felt, more than saw, Buffy stiffen. She had an intense look in her eye she got when her Slayer sense went on alert. Despite her casual attitude toward honing such skills, he had come to trust them when she did indeed use them.
"What is it?" he whispered.
"Something's close by."
"In there?" He nodded toward the cave.
"No." The Slayer's expression was very serious now. "Above us." Giles saw she was suddenly holding a stake. Following her lead they inched slowly backwards away from the side of the hill, keeping their attention on any attack from above. They had backed away nearly thirty feet and still saw nothing at the top of the bluff.
"I don't see anything," he said.
"Trust me, it's up there."
"I don't know. I think so."
"You're not sure?" It wasn't an accusation, or lack of confidence in her, he was just asking for more details. His Slayer didn't disappoint him.
"It feels like a vampire, but then it doesn't. I can't describe it. I've never sensed anything like this before. The vibes I got from Oranstine weren't this strong. But it's very powerful and . . . it knows we're here."
"Then why doesn't it show itself?"
"I'll ask if I get the chance before I stake it."
Then they fell silent when they saw a silhouette step into sight. It was a slender figure, almost five and a half feet tall, and her long hair blew slightly with the light breeze.
"Faith?" Giles whispered. Buffy didn't say anything to contradict what he said, so maybe she was wondering the same thing. But before she could say anything, the figure reached the edge of the bluff and sprung into the air.
At first, it looked as if she were flying as her trajectory took her high over them, but then she came down quickly and her feet sank into the sand when she landed. She turned to face them as she stood up straight.
"Not Faith," Buffy said and stepped in front of her Watcher.
"Buffy," he said, but was suddenly aware there wasn't anything he could advise her on. "Be careful."
She grinned over her shoulder at him. "It'll take just a minute."
"I hope so," he said, as she closed the distance between herself and the creature.
Buffy was close enough to see the creature clearly, in the light of the half moon. She looked about a year or two younger, but to demons and vampires age was a relative term. Buffy prepared herself for attack at any moment, but the creature still made no move against her. Okay, she thought, this could get really serious. She hadn't know many vampires who would waste time sizing up their opponent. Spike hadn't attacked her the first time they had met, just gave her a death threat after he had watched her take down another vampire. Angel had been even worse, when his soul had been taken away, thriving on the psychological torment he caused her.
"This is usually the time where one of us would start making witty banter," she said. "And since it doesn't seem like you're the talkative type I guess it's going to have to be me."
"I know you," the creature said. God, she even sounded younger than me, Buffy thought.
"Yes. You're the other Slayer."
Buffy's blood chilled. "What have-- Where's Faith?"
The creature just smiled at the Slayer. "The Master wanted me to avoid you. Said I wasn't strong enough to face you yet. But I wasn't allowed to feed on the other Slayer, and Slayer blood is just so sweet. I can't leave without at least a taste."
"I think you should try to take it," Buffy hissed at her, stake ready.
The vampire glanced at the weapon. "Ah, the weapon of choice for any fine Slayer." The vampire took a small step forward just to put her body at an angle toward Buffy, offering a smaller target.
This vamp has had some training, she thought. Then something else occurred to her. "If you weren't allowed to feed on the Slayer, how would you know what Slayer blood taste like?"
"Because I've had a sip." The vampire raised a fist close to its face. Then, eyes locked on Buffy, opened her mouth to reveal elegantly long fangs and sank them into her wrist.
Buffy could only stand there, stake held up, in shock. Behind her, she thought she heard Giles gasp, but she wasn't sure.
The vamp pulled its wrist away, fangs tinted red, and smiled at the Slayer's expression. "Of course, my blood isn't as pure as yours any more."
Buffy suddenly felt nauseous and her mind reeled with the reality of the situation. But then she forced those distracting thoughts away. She could deal with that later, right now, her more immediate concern was slaying this creature.
Buffy reinforced her fighting stance but the vamp just stood there, body angled, looking at her from under narrowed eyebrows. Still very human looking eyebrows. Whatever part of this creature was Slayer did not give her a demon's appearance when she vamped out, she thought.
Something sliced through the air just to Buffy's left and the vampire's hand shot up and she was suddenly holding a crossbow bolt in her closed fist, just poised inches away from her heart. Buffy looked over her shoulder and saw Giles holding a crossbow, momentarily shocked at what he just saw, then recovered and began to reload. The vampire growled, the first real vamp noise she heard from it, then cocked the bolt back to throw it at her Watcher.
"No!" Buffy screamed. She was too far away to reach her in time, so she hurled the stake at the vamp. It was a clumsy throw but her aim was true, and the blunt end of the stake connected with the side of the creature's head as she released the arrow.
Giles grunted and she heard him hit the ground. She turned to see him on his backside and looking at the tear in the arm of his tweed sleeve, but he was all right. Buffy breathed in relief, then spun around to face her enemy again.
Who was charging her with incredible speed. No time to dodge, Buffy took the charge head on and smoothly flipped the vamp over her hip and, with the help of her Slayer strength, sent her several feet through the air where she landed in a tumble. However, the vampire used the tumble to spring back to her feet.
The vampire smiled at her again, flashing her fangs. It wigged Buffy to see a vamp with just fangs, like all the vampires in the movies with their fake teeth, but somehow, in real life, it was just a little scarier.
Buffy pulled out her second stake from the sleeve of her jacket as the creature approached again.
"Let's see just how well your Watcher trained you," it sneered.
"Gladly," Buffy replied, and launched her attack.
She came in with lightning round kicks, the first one aimed at the vamp's midsection, then she brought the leg up to its face. It blocked them both, to Buffy's irritation, with ease. She followed through with a stake strike. The vampire diverted the attack with a wave of its forearm, side-stepping, and slammed a spinning elbow into Buffy's back. The Slayer fell forward, but she tucked and rolled, putting distance between her and her opponent. Quickly, she was on her feet, and rotated her shoulders against the pain she was feeling between her shoulder blades. The vampire was walking calmly towards her again and Buffy prepared herself, stake ready.
"Let's do that again, shall we?" it hissed.
"Please," Buffy sneered back.
Buffy braced herself to take the offensive again, but suddenly threw her stake straight up in the air. The vampire was distracted, but only slightly, as it managed to block the barrage of punches Buffy unleashed. It retaliated with a punch at the Slayer's head, which she ducked and finally snuck a backhand fist across the vamp's face. It hardly staggered the creature, but Buffy used that moment to grab it by the shoulders and slam her knee as hard as she could into its middle. As the creature bent forward, Buffy snatched the falling stake from the air and shoved it into the vampire's back.
The vampire roared in pain and reeled back with a backhand that connected with Buffy's face. The next thing she knew was that the world was spinning around her and, a moment later, the ground came up to hit her.
"Buffy," she thought she heard someone calling her. Damn, she thought, she had just gone to sleep. It couldn't be time to wake up already. She opened her eyes, at least, they felt like they were open, but she still couldn't see anything. And there was blood in her mouth. With disgust, she spat it out but there was more. Her jaw and the side of her mouth ached.
"Buffy, get up!" she heard Giles say. He sounded right next to her.
She tried to pull herself to a sitting position and felt Giles help her. "Relax, Giles. I'm all right. Just a bit oogy. That was some parting shot she had."
"I'm afraid it wasn't as parting as we would've hoped."
She tried opening her eyes again and her vision slowly returned. "What are you talking about? She's dust. That stake was right through her heart. Actually, I think that was Mr. Pointy. Oh, God, I hope it didn't turn to dust with her, that was Kendra's favorite stake."
"You needn't worry about, uh, Mr. Pointy. He seems to be fine."
Buffy frown and looked up at him and saw he was looking off toward the beach. She turned her head and saw the vampire, still roaring in pain, on its hands and knees, reaching for the stake protruding from her back.
"Oh, bite me!" she cursed. "Giles, why isn't she turning into dust?"
He tilted his head, narrowed his eyebrows, pursed his lips, took a deep breath, then said, "I don't know."
"And I'm wondering why the Watchers never give you a raise." Under different circumstances she was sure Giles would have given her that British glare he had when he was miffed. "Help me up."
Buffy got to her feet and Giles had to hold her steady when her knees started to buckle. She shook her head, trying to clear it, then spat more blood onto the sand.
"Buffy, we have to get out of here."
"We wouldn't get far. She's fast. Much faster than me."
"Then you have to--"
She grabbed his jacket, angrily. "No! Don't you even say it! I am not leaving you here, so shut up!"
But Giles met her glare. "You can't kill it. I can try to hold it while you make a run for the car."
"No. The plan is: you run for it while I hold it off. We both know I'll last longer. You find Angel. He's fast. I promise, I'll still be alive when he gets here."
Giles looked like he wanted to argue. Another inhuman roar made them look at the vampire again. She had managed to grab Mr. Pointy and, with a spout of blood, pulled the stake out. She tossed the piece of wood away and looked at her prey.
"Dammit, Giles, you know I'm right. Now go!"
Giles looked into her eyes for a moment. Then stepped away. "You just remember your promise."
Buffy gave him a smile. "Don't worry, I will." She reached behind, under her jacket, and pulled out the silver knife. "I'm curious to see how well she'll do without a head."
With one last look at his Slayer, conflict reflected in his eyes, he finally turned and started to run as fast as Buffy had ever seen him run before. She breathed a little easier. No matter whether Angel got here in time or not, at least, she knew Giles would be safe.
She turned to the vampire again and saw it was standing. She was watching Giles disappear over the bluff. She looked at Buffy. "Don't worry. I'll catch up with him soon enough."
"Over my dead body!" Buffy snapped.
The vamp smiled at her. "I'm glad we both agree."
End of Part Five
A TALE OF SLAYERS Part Six
It had been over an hour and Angel still hadn't found anything. He'd only come across two small cave entrances but detected no scent of vampire nor demon inside, so had proceeded on. He would explore those caves further on his way back, which he would have to do very soon now. It was about an hour till dawn and the beach was the least ideal place for a vampire to be caught when the sun rose.
He honestly wished he could say he was searching for the missing Slayer for Faith's sake, but he knew that he was out here because of Buffy. As well, as for Giles. He owed them both more than anyone, who was still living that is. Even though he hadn't actually been there when Angelus had done all those heinous acts, with his soul the dominant presence in his body again, he retained all the demon's memories as if he had done them himself.
The joy he experienced when he --no, when Angelus-- had snapped Jenny Calendar's neck. The pleasures he felt as he tormented Buffy for all those months. Until she had been forced to send him to hell. It had been right after his soul had been returned to him and, for those few moments, he had no recollection of his actions as Angelus. And when Buffy had ran him through with the sword Angel had felt betrayed. Then Acathla's vortex had claimed him, sending him to hell, where he had centuries; in that timeless dimension, to remember everything that had been done in his soul's absence. Then, he could not lay blame on Buffy for doing what she had to do.
Thankfully, however, he hadn't spent his whole time there reliving those horrors, for to survive the torture being reaped upon him, he had to retreat within himself once more. Unfortunately, he couldn't recall his demon to experience the torment in his place.
But before eternity, for some reason, he was expelled from the demon dimension and had spent the next few days wandering the night as another ravenous animal in the woods of Sunnydale. But his own memories of being in the real world had not begun until his consciousness had resurfaced to find himself in some kind of supply room in Sunnydale High, where he had just killed a monster; which had been a student; that had been trying to kill Buffy. At that time, he had forgotten everything once more, and the first thing he did remember was Buffy.
The next few weeks, as he recovered himself, Buffy had taken care of him, helping him regain his strength. During that time he had the occasion to meet the new Slayer, after Kendra's death, so he being a vampire had automatically got them started on the wrong foot. That foot being Faith trying to kill him. Even at full strength Kendra had thrashed him about pretty thoroughly, so he had hardly been a match for the new Slayer in his weakened condition. Luckily, Buffy, with her usual sense of timing working for her, came in with the last second save.
Since then, he and Faith had crossed paths a few times, though under more peaceful conditions, usually during those late night patrols. They rarely spoke to each other and what little that was spoken was colored by a few choice words from Faith. Basically, a "don't bother me and I won't bother you" treaty.
Had he known about Faith's abduction before Buffy and Giles, his first action would have been to inform them about it. And if he couldn't find them, Angel would have started to search for the Slayer himself. Not because he actually cared much for Faith; though he didn't dislike her, but because it would have been the right thing to do.
A scream cut through the night, as well as Angel's thoughts, and he ran in the direction it came from just before it was cut short. From the sound he knew someone had just died.
When he reached the spot, he saw three vampires feeding on a fisherman. Poor guy, he thought, trying to make a first catch before morning and got more than he bargained for. The vamps looked up from their meal at his approach.
They must have figured him for a vampire for one of them said, "Move along, pal. This one's ours." The others growled in agreement.
"Oh, I beg your pardon," Angel replied as he slid into his own `game' face. "But I'm afraid I must insist."
The trio dropped their food and formed a rank to face him. "Is it really worth going up against us for just a few drops left?"
"Hey, I'm not a finicky eater. I take what I can get." He noticed that they dressed similar to each other, dark clothes, black jackets, and they definitely were not local. "Besides, I really do hate it when outsiders trespass on my feeding grounds."
"Are you some kind of honcho in these parts?" vamp number two asked.
"Let's just say I'm known in this town."
"Well, if we're going to do this we better get started," said vamp one.
"I agree," Angel said. "You can almost smell the sunrise, now."
They started to form a circle around him. Angel stood his ground and focused more on the sounds they made while they moved, then try to keep them in sight.
Just before they were about to attack, he said, "Where's the Slayer?"
This stopped them for a moment. "What?" vamp one asked.
"C'mon, guys, we're all vamps here. When the Slayer disappears you think the local demon populace wouldn't notice?"
"What's it to you?" This from vamp two, behind him. "I'd figure you'd be happy to be rid of the Slayer?"
"Happiness has nothing to do with it. The Slayer is ours to deal with, we don't appreciate outsiders invading our territory and trying to show us up."
Vamp one laughed. "`We' who? You look alone to me, friend."
Vamp three spoke up for the first time. "Wait. I know who this is. He's the Traitor. The Slayer is his friend."
"So, this is the infamous Angelus, huh?" vamp one chuckled. "The Master will reward us for bringing your fangs as trophies."
Angel smiled, flashing said fangs. "Then come and get `em, boys."
* * * *
Buffy came down hard on her back, the wind getting knocked out of her, but she didn't lose her knife. The vamp was closing in on her and she kicked herself to her feet to meet its attack. She blocked a fast round kick, followed by a spinning heel-kick, and hopped over a spinning leg sweep. As soon as her feet hit the sand, she was lunging forward with the knife aiming for the vamp's neck. The creature parried the knife hand and blocked Buffy's front kick to its midsection. Then the Slayer was on the defensive again.
Buffy had lost track of how much time had already past. Not more than a few minutes, she was sure, but for the moment it seemed they were evenly match. Which was untrue, for every hit she had scored on the vamp, the creature had replied three-fold, and Buffy could feel herself slowing down.
Then a side kick got through her defenses and slammed into her stomach, lifting her feet off the ground. The vamp followed through with a left hook that spun Buffy in place. Buffy used the spin to lash out with the knife, but the vampire captured her wrist, twisted her arm, forcing her to bend forward, and kneed her in the face. It snatched the knife away from her, tossing it to the sand, and pushed her away to deliver a jumping spin kick to Buffy's face. The Slayer almost left the ground again as she spun around a couple of times before dropping to the sand.
Pushing herself up, Buffy saw a steady flow of blood dripping from her mouth to the sand between her hands. But she didn't get the chance to recuperate. A strong hand grabbed her leather jacket at her shoulder and started to yank her back up. As she was pulled to her feet, Buffy wrapped her arm around the vamp's, trapping its elbow, and drove her other fist into the creature's sternum. Then twice more. The Slayer took satisfaction out of hearing it grunt with the pain the blows were causing, and slammed the heel of her palm into its face. Buffy was going to hit her again when the side of a boot came up to her face and disengaged her from her opponent. Both combatants fell to the sand away from each other.
Buffy was on her hands and knees again and saw the vamp just a few feet away. It was dazed but it was recovering faster than she was. She needed to move. If she was still on the ground when it got to its feet, she was done for.
And she was still on one knee when the vamp came for her again. Buffy slipped her hand inside her jacket and used her other arm to block the round kick it launched at her. Her hand came out with her last stake and she plunged it into the vamp's thigh. The creature screamed in pain and fell to her knees in front of the Slayer.
Buffy smiled at her. "Hi." Then unleashed a vicious uppercut that almost lifted the vamp off the ground as it flew back, the momentum of the swing making Buffy fall as well.
Like a wounded animal, the vampire scrambled back to its knees and clutched the stake sticking out of its thigh. If she had been able to, Buffy would have taken advantage of the situation. As it was, she could only struggle to catch her breath and her arms were trembling as she pushed herself off the sand. She watched the vampire pull the stake from its leg with another scream. It looked at the wooden weapon then glared at her.
"Ueber-cheater," Buffy replied. "It certainly sucks to be you, doesn't it?"
"Not anymore," it said, on its feet again. It kicked sand in Buffy's eyes.
The Slayer tried frantically to wipe the sand from her eyes. "Son of a--"
A hard kick to the face stopped her and she rolled back, flopping flat on her stomach. Blinded, she began to push herself up again. She was grabbed from behind and jerked to her feet. She swung blindly in that direction and hit nothing, the momentum causing her to stagger. She swung with the other arm and continued the beating against the innocent air around her. She maintained a labored fighting stance and closed her mouth to silence her loud breathing. She could do this, she told herself. She was blind, and in a fight to the death with a creature stronger and faster than she was. She'd faced worse odds. Although, she was unable to recall them just now. Suddenly, she was wishing she had taken Giles' sessions of training her to fight blindfolded more seriously, but no, she had to showoff like she usually did to end training she didn't want to do early.
Well, now's the time to prove I wasn't just showing off, she thought. Put my allowance where my mouth is. She concentrated on the sounds around her. Not far away she detected the surf flowing gently on the beach, the breeze swaying the brush a little farther inland, and soft footfalls on sand behind her left shoulder.
Aiming her kick head-level to the sound, Buffy spun 360 degrees as fast as she could and felt the heel of her foot connect solidly against, what she hoped was, the side of the vampire's head. As she staggered from the spin, she heard the creature's grunt of pain and something hitting the ground hard, and quickly rubbed the sand from her eyes. Blinking, her sight returning, she saw the vamp starting to scramble to its knees. She scanned the area around her for any of her weapons and saw one of her stakes several yards to her right. She made a dash for it and her legs wobbled slightly under her. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the vampire jumping to its feet and charging after her. It would be on her in a second. At the last instant, Buffy dove for the stake, hitting the sand in a rolling tumble, snatching up the weapon, and had it ready when she bobbed back to her feet.
The vampire came at her wielding the stake Buffy had stuck in its thigh, and the Slayer parried the strike with her free forearm, then retaliated with her own stake. But the vampire was suddenly standing somewhere else, moving faster than her eyes were able to keep up. Or she was just slowing down to the point she was losing sense of her surroundings. Buffy quickly reversed her stake in a backhand swing at the creature's head but it was blocked and she felt something slash her ribs under that arm. Tucking her arm against the pain, she tried to back-pedal away but could not escape the front kick to the face that snapped her head back. At that time her legs finally decided that they had had enough, and, after taking a couple of shaky steps back, her knees buckled and Buffy landed on her rear. She sat there for a dazed moment before her eyes rolled up and she slumped back on the sand.
* * * *
Giles' lungs were on fire by the time he made it back to the car and he knew he would not be able to go much farther without slowing down. His adrenaline and desperate need to save Buffy was all that had kept him going, but his body would soon start to fail him. He had never been in prime physical condition, even though he hadn't exactly been a slouch when he was younger, but he was feeling his age catching up to him. So as soon as he was back to the Citroen, he dove behind the wheel, tossing the weapon bag in the passenger seat, and burned as much rubber as the old vehicle allowed him to.
Speeding south on the elevated road looking down over the beach he had a clear view all the way to the water, but he hoped Angel was not exploring a cave now or he would drive past him. But after a few minutes he did see several figures out on the sand in a flurry of motion. Pulling to the side, he jumped out and saw that it was a battle and Angel was in the middle of it, dealing with three opponents.
Having retrieved his bag, Giles started his way down to the beach to help the vampire anyway he could. He knew, first hand, that Angel was as skilled a fighter as Buffy in many ways and was perfectly capable of handling most situations. And, indeed, as he drew nearer, it appeared he was holding his own against; Giles realized, other vampires. Angel did have a stake in his hand, but every time he found an opening on one of his foes, one of the other two would pull his focus away, but he would eventually prevail. Only problem was, it was taking too long.
Giles drew as close as he could without drawing the attention of any of the vampires, but it looked as if they were completely absorbed in their battle with Angel. He set the bag down and pulled his crossbow out again.
Vamp one was charging Angel from behind, while he was delivering a side kick to vamp three in front of him, but Angel was aware of this and had a backhand fist waiting for him. The power of the blow sent vamp one's feet out from under him and he flipped over as he flew under Angel's arm, landing hard on his chest. Angel took a chance to try to finish the down vampire with the stake, but was grabbed from behind by vamp two, pinning his arms back. Angel struggled against the hold and vamp three was coming at him again. He lashed out with a high kick to the creature's face, staggering it, then slammed his head back against vamp two's nose, and the hold lessened. Angel sent another kick into vamp three's face, sending him to the sand, then freed himself and smashed a hard elbow into vamp two's already shattered nose. He brought the stake up, poised to plunge it into the vampire's heart, but vamp one was up again and would have stopped him had Giles not sent a crossbow bolt through its heart from behind. Vamp one turned to ashes just as Angel staked vamp two's heart.
Angel spun around and saw Giles standing there, already reloading the crossbow. Their eyes met, then they turned their attention to the remaining vampire who was getting to his feet. Finding himself suddenly alone and out numbered, the vampire quickly came to the wise decision to make like a vamp out of hell, and did his best to disappear into the night.
Before Angel could say anything, Giles shouted, "Angel, hurry! Buffy's in trouble and she needs your help!"
Angel did not waste time saying anything and they ran back to the car.
* * * *
Faith felt the rush of water against her face and opened her eyes to a world dark and out of focus behind a watery blur. Blinking her vision clear, she raised her head, and threw herself onto her side as she coughed up sea water. A great deal of sea water. She was still heaving well after all the water was expelled from her lungs. She tried to take a deep breath but started to cough again, her tortured lungs a sharp pain against her chest.
She concentrated on breathing for a few moments and took in her surroundings. She was outside. The bright half-moon and stars confirmed this and she was laying on a beach as the surf flowed around her. Not very far in the distance to her right she saw the docks of Sunnydale.
Whatever had happened to her, Faith figured, she must have fell into some sort of underground river that dumped her out in the sea where she washed up on shore. Good thing the river was heading out and not down to the center of the Earth. Faith would bet money no other Slayer had died that way, but all things considered, she was glad she didn't turn out to be the first. Still, she was surprised she hadn't drowned during the escape. Especially with all the water that had been in her lungs. Chalk up another one for Slayer resiliency.
Gathering what strength she knew she did not have, she pushed herself up and managed to sit up on her knees. She was still wearing her confiscated jacket, but it weighed a ton soaked so she pulled it off. She let it drop behind her and the tide grabbed it and it slipped away. Next, she pulled her hair out of her face, slicking it back for the moment. She began to shiver.
First, she needed to get the hell away from here, then she could worry about catching pneumonia. With any luck, maybe the undead squad thought she had died, but she wasn't about to rely on being that lucky. Her legs felt dead but they supported her weight without buckling. Good girl, she thought. Now to try walking. One step. Two step. After the third step, Faith tried taking two, one right after the other. Since she didn't fall, she picked up the pace just a bit without pausing and headed inland angling toward the docks. She needed to call Giles to pick her up, and bring her a couple hundred blankets.
That was when she became aware of the noise coming from up ahead. She could not mistake it for anything else than a fight. A nasty one by the sound of it. There was a small sand dune in front of her, so she wasn't able to see it, but the sounds grew louder as she approached on unsteady legs. Then she heard an inhuman roar of, what sounded like, pain. Someone had just gotten seriously hurt, and it wasn't a human, and unless the monster was fighting another monster, there was only one person who could have inflicted that much pain on such a creature.
"Buffy," she tried to say, but her voice was severely hoarse.
Recognition suddenly hit Faith, with dread, as she realized she knew the sound of that roar. It belonged to the Slayer Vampire. And if Buffy was fighting it. . .
She forced herself to go faster but her legs were just not moving as fast as she wanted them to, and she was almost over the dune. When she crested the rise the battle came into sight, and what she saw chilled her worse than the cold air.
Even from this distance, she could tell her fellow Slayer was in bad shape, just by the way she was moving. She was staggering but still determined to keep fighting. Buffy could never be accused of not having guts, but right now she was in danger of losing them. The Slayer Vampire blocked a stake strike aimed at its head and used its own stake to slash Buffy in the side. The young Slayer cried out in pain, trying to back off, but the vampire snapped a front kick to her face, and Buffy took two wobbly steps back before dropping to the sand.
Faith almost stumbled and fell, but kept her feet under her and actually got them to move a little faster, thanks to a sudden adrenaline surge. But she was still too far away. She could only watch as the creature knelt down next to Buffy and lifted her head by the back of her hair. She turned the Slayer's head to the side, exposing her jugular, and opened its mouth revealing its cruel fangs.
"Buffy!" Faith tried to shout, but it was still weak. "Buffy!" she tried again. This time; thanks to her ragged throat, it came out almost as a growl and the vampire noticed her for the first time.
Its head turned to Faith, it didn't notice Buffy's eyes open and the Slayer swung her arm up at the creature. She was still holding her stake, but in her weakened condition, managed to drive just an inch of the tip into the vamp's throat. The monster reeled back in pain, but not without smashing a hard fist into Buffy's face and she flopped limply to the sand again.
"Buffy!" Faith shouted with more urgency.
Clutching its neck, blood coursing over its hands, the Slayer Vampire got to its feet and backed away from the prone Slayer and glared at the second Slayer charging her. Faith wondered if it had known how weak she really was would it have stuck around. But the Slayer accepted, without complaint, the choice the creature made to retreat and it was already out of sight by the time Faith reached Buffy's body.
She dropped weakly beside the teenager and put a hand to her chin. "Buffy! Buffy! Wake up!" She didn't get any response. There was a lot of blood on her face. She pulled her into her lap. "C'mon, B! Don't do this! C'mon, girlfriend, show me a sign here. You don't want to die again, all right? It's so overrated!"
Faith felt tears burning her eyes. She shut her eyes against them. "Dammit, bitch! Don't you dare die on me! You die, I swear to God I'll kill myself just so I can kick your ass all over Slayer Heaven!"
Faith felt a shudder go through Buffy and her eyes opened slightly. Her green eyes looked at her for a few seconds before coming into focus. "Faith," she said, weakly. "If you're here, I must be dead."
Blinking away unshed tears, Faith smiled down at her. "No, girlfriend. I'm not dead yet. Would they let me into heaven looking like this?" Her long brown hair, made stringy by the salt water, was in her face again.
Buffy tried to nod in agreement. "Yeah, you do look like shi. . ."
Faith chuckled. "Trust me, B, you look even worse." Buffy managed a small smile. "C'mon, we got to get you out of here before she decides that she's hungry enough to try again. And I'm in no shape to go even an exhibition round with that toothy bitch."
"You know what that was then?" Buffy asked as Faith lifted her to her feet.
"That, girlfriend, was a Slayer Vampire." Faith wrapped an arm around her waist as she draped Buffy's arm across her shoulders.
"A Slayer Vampire?"
"I know it sounds freaky, but that's what it is. We met earlier tonight, if this still is the same night."
"I'm not sure. There was this demon guy, gave new meaning to the word `plastic surgery.' He --it-- is some kind of master. It has some sort of control over this creature. My guess, this girl was supposed to be the next Slayer, but these creeps got to her and turned her into a vampire. And this demon leader must have done something to me to make it seem like I was dead." Faith did not tell her about the great Darkness she had felt after waking in the caves for the first time. It didn't matter, she told herself, my death was somehow faked, how else could I still be alive? They hadn't wanted me dead, why else would the Demon Leader stop the Slayer Vampire from killing me for real?
"How could it fake your death?" asked Buffy.
Faith recapped her escape attempt, in the caves. How she had run into the Demon Leader and the Slayer Vampire, and how the demon was able to stop her heart from beating. It made sense; Faith was even starting to believe it, that if this creature could stop her heart for a long period, it could somehow fool nature into thinking she had died and activate the next Slayer.
Even in her current condition, Buffy seemed to accept this.
"Are you going to be okay, B?" she asked, changing the subject.
With her free arm, Buffy was holding the side of her ribs that had been slashed. She was in obvious pain, but she nodded. "I don't think any permanent damage was done. Slayer healing: cure for everything."
"Let's hope so. That was a pretty cool move with that stake."
Buffy looked at the hand that was clutching her ribs and saw she was still holding her stake. "Mr. Pointy!"
Faith frowned. "Who?"
"This is Mr. Pointy." Buffy was smiling. "I'm getting this little guy bronzed."
Thinking that Buffy may be suffering from a concussion, she said, "Oookay. But, you know Giles is going to flip when he sees you. What are you doing down here, anyway?"
"Oh, the Watcher's Council had called Giles, last night, and told him about the next Slayer being called. We thought you were dead. We checked your room and saw that someone had been in there."
"Yeah, I was jumped buy these gung-ho types. I don't remember exactly what happened."
"The Order of Taraka. Demon bounty hunters and assassins. Although, some of them are human. We figured that was how they were able to get in your room before you knew they were there. Me and the gang had to deal with them last year. Real nasty guys."
"Anyway," Buffy went on. "We got a lead that there was a lot of paranormal activity down here."
"So you wanted to recover my body?" Faith asked.
"We wanted to find *you.* You think I was about to take the Council's word for it that you were dead?"
Faith tried to shrug. "Well, they were right about the next Slayer being called."
"But how did the demon do it without killing you?"
"Like I said, he must have somehow faked my death. They didn't want me to stay dead, or I'm thinking they would have just slit my throat."
"This is definitely something we need to talk about with --Giles!" They saw a car screeching to a halt up on the road.
"Why didn't you tell me about the new Slayer being called?" Angel asked.
Giles had quickly relayed everything he had left out at the mansion. "I did not think that Faith's abduction would be connected to the activation of the next Slayer. Least of all, that new Slayer being here in Sunnydale."
"So, whoever is behind the Taraka contract needed Faith--"
"Or Buffy," Giles added.
"--or Buffy, to activated this Slayer they could turn into a vampire." He looked at Giles. "How would they know this girl would be the next Slayer?"
"That is a question I myself would be very interested in finding out the answer to."
"And it can't be killed?"
"Buffy had already staked its heart." Giles tried to keep the worry from his voice, but was not succeeding. "But she is very resourceful. I'm sure she'll find a way to keep it at bay until we get there."
"Giles, stop the car!" Angel shouted.
"What?!" the Watcher exclaimed, but brought the car to a halt.
"That's Buffy!" Angel pointed toward the beach below. He turned and saw two small figures walking together. It looked as if one was half carrying the other.
"It must be taking Buffy to its lair." Giles grabbed up his crossbow and he and Angel jumped out of the car. The vampire flew down the bluff and he was hard pressed to keep up. Angel slowed as they came nearer. Giles stopped next to him and brought the crossbow up to bear at the figure supporting his Slayer.
"No, Giles," Angel said, putting a hand on the weapon, diverting his aim.
Giles focused his gaze as they got closer. He started to make out Buffy's condition. "Buffy!" he exclaimed. Then he realized who was helping her. "Faith! Thank God!"
He dropped the crossbow and was running to his Slayers. "My God!" he said, as he saw Buffy, taking her other arm. He looked at Faith. "Faith, what happened?"
The brunette Slayer said, "She got the crap beat out of her."
"Oh, yes. But I meant, what happened to you?"
Buffy spoke up, voice still weak. "Oh, that's a long story, Giles."
"I died," Faith said.
"Apparently not that long," Buffy said, wishing everyone would stop giving one-sentence summaries.
"We can debrief later," Faith said, glancing at Angel, who was hovering close to Buffy, but kept his distance from the other Slayer. Smart for a vampire, she thought. "Right now, we gotta book before she comes back with some of her friends."
Giles regarded his younger Slayer, with a sense of pride. She may not be aware, he thought, but Faith was acting a lot like Buffy just now. Taking charge. Now if only she continues like this. . . But Giles had to focus on what's at hand. "Quite right. Angel?"
Giles eased Buffy from Faith, seeing how she wasn't looking all too well herself, and the vampire easily took Buffy into his arms. Giles took Faith's arm and draped it across his shoulder.
"I'm all right, G," she protested. "I can make it on my own."
"Of course," he said. "Then perhaps you wouldn't mind helping me back to the car? I, uh, seemed to have, uh, twisted my ankle a bit on the way down here. Yes."
He thought he saw a faint smile on her face. "Sure. You're the Watcher. Whatever you think's best." With that, she leaned into him a little more, letting him take most of her weight off her feet.
End of Part Six
A TALE OF SLAYERS Part Seven
Despite his concern for Buffy, Angel could not help the feeling of great relief when Giles finally pulled into the parking lot of Sunnydale High. The glow of the sun just below the horizon had not yet peeked out, but the vampire could smell it was just minutes away. He was in the back, Buffy's head resting on his lap while she was stretched out across the seat; her five foot three inch frame serving her well for a change in the cramped space. He tried to make her as comfortable as possible without letting her fall asleep. Giles was very adamant about that, treating his Slayer as you would anyone who had suffered a concussion. And Angel agreed with his judgment, even though he was sure Buffy would be fine if she were allowed to sleep a little, but he wasn't about to take any unnecessary chances with her than Giles was prepared to.
With Giles' small field first aid kit, he had cleaned and dressed the gash; that was already healing, in Buffy's side as best he could on the go, but the temporary bandage would have to be changed as soon as they reached their center of operations. It was *theirs*, which no longer included him. Before he had lost his soul to Angelus the second time, the library had become a welcome setting for the vampire as he would often be there when Buffy, Giles, and the other Slayerettes would devise and plan their strategy against the forces of darkness that were threatening the world.
Angel knew better than most living beings that time was the greatest healing power, but then he'd gone through nearly a century of healing before he finally took back any semblance of life. And that was also with the help of an annoying fashion-challenged demon who had literally taken him off the dirty Manhattan streets. The humans in this tight circle of friends did not have the luxury to brood for several decades to heal the pain of the rift he had caused them during the last year. But in a way, despite being mortal; or perhaps because of it, they were stronger than he was, and he envied the strong will he never had even before he was turned into a vampire. If he had been half the person anyone of them were, he may very well not be a vampire even now.
In the end, only time would tell.
He had kept whispering to Buffy throughout the whole ride, keeping her eyes from closing all the way. At the same time, he cleaned the blood off her face and tried to keep the worry from his with each new bruise and cut he discovered. Because of her weakened condition, he knew she wasn't healing as fast as she usually did. They had treated each others wounds often enough to be familiar with their own healing prowess, and she was still healing faster than any normal human. But that did little to ease his concern.
Faith, on the other hand, seemed to come through her whole ordeal without so much as a scratch. A little ragged and tired, and in need of a change in attire, she was almost perfect. At least visibly, he thought. Her flippant remark that she had "died," to explain what had happened to her, held more meaning than she was willing to reveal. Angel had thought he had his barriers well guarded, but, in Faith, he found someone far superior in that department. Angel's brooding skills had come from his dealing with his cursed soul and the consequences his demon had wrought on others for over a hundred years; but that had ended when he had met a small sixteen year old Slayer. Faith's came from the pain she had suffered far too young, inflicted upon her by others; Angel recognized this in the younger Slayer. This didn't exactly make them kindred spirits, but it did say they had much more in common than either one of them would ever admit to each other.
Giles seemed to realize this also and had only asked her a few questions before he lapsed into silence and Faith had laid her head back, eyes closed, and pretended to sleep. Angel knew she was pretending because her heart rhythm had not slowed.
Saturday morning found the school parking lot deserted and Giles pulled up to the front of the side entrance. Faith carried Giles' weapon bag as she padded barefoot up the steps to the door and used the keys her Watcher had handed her to unlock it. Giles was helping Angel slide Buffy out of the car and he stayed near as the vampire carried her into the school, where Faith held the door open for them. Walking ahead of him; likewise, the school was deserted as well, she and Giles opened the double doors to the library for them. The Watcher directed him to his office and Angel gently set Buffy down on the leather sofa, her leather jacket being used as a small blanket.
He saw that her eyes were closed. "Buffy," he said. "C'mon, now. Don't go to sleep." He put a hand to the side of her cheek less bruised and felt the warmth of her skin. True he wasn't very qualified to gauge temperature, but she did feel hotter than she usually did. "Buffy?" A little worried, he called over his shoulder. "Giles. I think Buffy's starting to burn up."
Faith preceded Giles into the office. "Faith, please sit down." She obviously didn't need to be told twice and she slumped behind his desk. He pulled out another bag from a closet cabinet and Angel made room for him as he knelt beside Buffy.
"Is she going to be okay?" Angel asked.
"Her healing attributes are being taxed right now, due to her many injuries, which would explain the fever." He gently lifted her eyelids to examine her eyes. "No abnormal dilation, so I don't believe she's suffered a concussion. I believe it's safe to let her start resting. She's going to need all her strength to heal herself, especially with so little time."
"What do you mean?" the vampire asked, fearing he already knew the answer.
"He means she needs to be in top form for when we face the Slayer Vampire again, tonight."
Angel turned to see the younger Slayer with her head propped up on the palm of her hand, her elbow on the desk. She looked tired but she had been paying attention. He wasn't sure, but he thought he saw a bit of concern in her eyes.
Angel glanced at Giles. "You can't be serious?"
"I'm afraid so." Giles didn't look at him as he searched for something in the bag.
"There's no way Buffy will be ready to face that thing again. Nowhere near a hundred percent."
This time Giles did look at him. "Well, we really don't have a choice now, do we? Not only are we dealing with the Order of Taraka again, but with a new powerful demon; whose origins we haven't a clue about, as well as a newly turned Slayer. I certainly have no plans of going after them when the sun sets tonight, but I fear they will be hunting us." He had pulled out a small syringe wrapped in plastic and a small vial of liquid. "And you know as well as I do, Angel, that there are many day-walkers in the Taraka Order. They don't need to wait for nightfall."
Angel was forced to agree, even if he didn't like it. He nodded at the syringe. "What's that?"
"Something to ease the pain."
He watched as Giles swathed a small spot on Buffy's arm and gave her the injection. He put the syringe and vial away and turned his attention to the bandage on her side. Angel had ripped the shirt along the seam to tend to the wound. The gash itself was a few inches long, starting from the middle of her side to just under her breast. Taking care to keep as much of his Slayer's lingerie covered as possible, the Watcher removed the blooded gauze and conducted the examination with a doctor's manner.
"Hmm," he commented. "It will need a few stitches. I'm going to need Willow here. Faith, can you give her a call?"
"What's the number?" she asked.
"I'll do it." Angel stood up. But instead of using the phone on the desk next to the younger Slayer, he opted to use the one out on the check-out counter. Faith watched him leave until she could not see him without turning her head, then returned her gaze to the Slayer on the sofa. Giles wondered if there would ever be a stable atmosphere with her and Angel in the same room. Considering how seriously Faith took her Slayer duties, he truly doubted it.
Angel found it strange to be calling Willow. Not only because he would usually just stop by during the night rather than call someone, but this would also be the first time he would speak to her in depth since before his soul was taken away. True, one of the first things he did during their brief reunion, a couple of months ago, was save her life from a horrible death, he doubted that alone would alleviate the discomfort she and the others still felt towards him. Not that he could ever blame them. When he had first met Buffy, they had always been known to him as "Buffy's friends," but sometime during that first year, he realized they had become his friends as well. Even Xander . . . sort of. He had come to treasure that friendship and had kept it within him, along with Buffy's love, even when his soul was banished, and later, when he was sucked into the demon dimension. Which was why he had acted on pure instinct, when he had regained consciousness to find Willow in danger, and had pulled her away just in time.
She answered on the third ring. "Hello?"
"Yes? This is she--" There was a pause for a few seconds. "Angel?"
"What are you-- I mean-- That is-- Yes?"
Angel smiled sadly into the phone. "I'm sorry to wake you so early."
"Oh, no. That's no problem. Just a little surprise-- hey, it's bedtime for you anyway, I mean the sun is up. Not that you have a curfew, but--" It sounded as if she covered the mouthpiece but he was able to hear her mumble something to herself, and when she came back her voice was steadier. "What can I do for you, Angel?"
"It's Buffy. She's been hurt." He heard Willow gasp but she didn't say anything, even though he knew she wanted to. "We're here at the library. Giles is taking care of her, but he said he needs you're help. Faith is here too."
"I'll be right there." There was no hesitation in her voice anymore. "I'll stop by to pick up Xander on the way, too."
"Good. I'm sure we can use all the help we can get. There's something big going down and we don't have a lot of time. We'll fill you in as soon as you get here."
"Okay. She's going to be all right, isn't she?"
"Giles seems to think so. That's usually good enough."
"Yeah. But I won't feel better until I see her myself. Well, I better get moving."
"And be careful," he told her, sincerely.
"We will. And Angel." She paused for just a moment. "Thanks. And for calling."
"Sure." With that, they hung up.
End of part Seven
A TALE OF SLAYERS Part Eight
Not more than twenty minutes later, the two Slayerettes rushed into the library.
"Giles!" they called out as they hurried around the counter. Even though they made record time, they still looked presentable. Willow's shoulder length red hair was neat and hers and Xander's loose fitting clothes were as adequate as usual.
Angel stepped out of the office to meet them. He didn't venture much farther from the doorway or he would risk getting caught in the sunlight coming from the high windows and skylight of the library. Giles had found a folded cardboard box to place on the sill of the window in the office, to keep the sunlight out.
"She's inside," he said, stepping aside to let them enter.
"How is she?" they both asked in unison.
Giles look up from his task. "Thank you, for coming. She should be fine. You're just in time, Willow. I am about ready to start the sutures and I'd appreciate your help."
Willow only stood there for a few seconds looking at her best friend laying, on the couch, looking so-- helpless. She had never seen Buffy like this before. Well, there was that one time last year when she had been put in the hospital, after almost dying, she thought. But then she had still recovered fairly quickly and even managed to slay an invisible demon who had been terrorizing the children's ward. But as serious as that time was, she looked three times worse here.
"Oh, Buffy," she whispered.
"Willow," Giles said, gently.
She snapped herself out of it and moved over to his side to lend him a hand.
"Oh, man," Xander finally said. Then his anger flared. "Why didn't you take her to the hospital? What's she doing here?"
Giles didn't react to the young man's anger but said, "The hospital would not be able to do any more for her than we can. And, for our purposes, the library is a more secure location."
"How so?" Xander demanded.
"It's easier to guard. And we have a Slayer and a vampire as our first line of defense."
"As long as the bad guys don't stand in the sunlight, that is." He shot a glare at the vampire in question, not succeeding in getting a reaction. Then Xander looked at Faith and noted she was resting her head on the desk top, her eyes closed. "And the Slayer." Eyes still closed, Faith raised a hand and gave a tiny wave. Xander turned back to Giles. "This does not really instill confidence in me, you know." He missed Faith's wave turning into the bird behind his back. Angel was the only one who caught it and could not fight the grin that appeared on his face.
Just growing a little impatient, Giles looked at the young man. "Xander, I feel your concerns, but trust me. If I thought for one moment --one instant-- that Buffy's life was in jeopardy, I would be the first one demanding we get her to the hospital."
But Xander was not done pleading his case yet. "But look at her! She's never been this bad, before. Has she Willow?"
"Well. . ." His long time childhood friend seemed to share his concerns, if not as vocally as him. "You have to admit, Giles. I can't remember a time when Buffy's looked like this. Not even when Angel put her in the hospital." She glanced at the vampire. "I mean, not that you meant to beat her up, but it was your demon. . . ."
"It's okay," he said, even though the shame was evident in his eyes. "I remember. But Buffy was already weak from the flu. It made her easier to hurt. And she wasn't able to heal as fast."
Before an uncomfortable silence could settle, Giles cleared his throat. "Yes. And Buffy was at full strength last night. How ever severe her injuries, I have every confidence that she will recover. But, she will need our help to do so."
"What about Faith?" Willow asked, noticing her haggard appearance for the first time.
The Slayer in question finally opened her eyes and lifted her head. "Hey, I'm fine. Aside from needing a shower and breakfast in bed, I'm five-by-five."
Giles was working on the first suture but spared her a glance. "But you said so yourself, Faith, that you had died."
"Died?" Xander exclaimed.
"Died?" Willow echoed.
"I was being dramatic, Giles," Faith said, trying to sound matter-of-factly. "We Slayer's do tend to do that every once in a while. It's all parcel of the whole gig. And I'm not really sure what happened back there."
"But the next Slayer was called," Giles said.
"Whoa! `Next Slayer?'" offered Xander.
"All I know is that this demon-sorcerer guy has the ability to stop someone's heart."
"And he just raised a hand to you? He didn't chant a spell or say anything?"
Faith shrugged. "Nothing. He took me down without batting an eyelash. If he had any." The image of the demon must have entered her thoughts for she almost shuddered. This was really starting to freak Xander out, if something could freak out Faith this way, and do this to Buffy.
"Did you get a good look at it?" Giles asked, concentrating on his other Slayer.
"Yeah. Too good. I'm trying not to remember."
"Well, we can research the demon later."
Willow and Xander were looking expectantly at the others in the room, waiting for the "Cliff Notes" update that usually followed such an exchange. But, when it seemed that one would have to be prompted, Xander finally raised his hand.
"Hey, I hate coming into the middle of the movie as much as the next person, and I know no one is eager to be assigned the recap, but me and Will or still in need of flashbacks here."
Giles only glanced up quickly. "Yes. Sorry. I guess I'll go first, then."
"Yeah," Faith agreed, once more resting her head on the desk but positioned to listen. "I missed this part myself."
Giles gave a descriptive, if abridged version, of what happened through the night starting with the phone call he received from the Watcher's Council. The activation of the new Slayer, Angel's demon visitor, and discovering that the new Slayer was here in Sunnydale and a vampire. Throughout the retelling, Faith had supplied her parts in what she guessed were the appropriate places. Needless to say, Willow and Xander's jaws dropped several times.
Ironically, they finished the story just as Giles snipped the end of the last suture in Buffy's side. Willow silently praised the Watcher for his skills. The stitches were small and set neatly along the wound. She doubted there would even be a scar left, but then again, with Buffy's healing ability there probably wouldn't be a scar either way.
"Angel did say something `big' was happening," she finally said.
"And is anybody else thinking he should win the award for `Best Understatement of the Year?'" Xander quipped. This got a severe look from Angel and a chuckle from Faith. Although the teenager wasn't as adamant about his dislike of the vampire as he used to be, he still couldn't resist taking verbal jabs at him. But then, he realized, he was like that with all of his friends. Xander would have shook his head, had he been alone, for having the words "friend" and "Angel" in the same thought. And it occurred to him that Faith was the person in the room who liked the vampire the least, probably on general Slayer principals alone; but that was something he never would have thought possible just a couple of months ago.
"And we must start devising our strategy against attack from all fronts," Giles said.
Willow was applying a thin bandage over the stitches. "The bad guys do have an impressive offense: the Order of Taraka; this demon-sorcerer that stopped Faith's heart, with a platoon of vampires; which includes a vampiric Slayer. Our own defensive line-up consists of one vampire and two Slayers; granted a formidable fighting team, but with one Slayer in a near coma and the other having her heart stopped at least twice in one night, I'm suddenly thinking `sudden death.'"
She looked up to find everyone in the office staring at her. Heat suddenly rushed into her cheeks. "What?"
"Come clean, Will," Xander said. "You're a closet ESPN viewer."
Willow opened her mouth but couldn't think of anything to say. Giles removed his glasses and wiped them with a handkerchief. He winced, noticing the pain in his bruised hand for the first time in hours. "Very intriguing. Faith how are you feeling? Are you sure you're all right?"
The younger Slayer was suddenly the focus of attention, which she really didn't want to be, but the concern she saw in the Watcher's eyes did fill her with a certain warmth. Her previous Watcher had fussed over her as well, but she never had the emotional display this Watcher showed so readily. Although it probably wasn't as evident to the people in this room, who saw him as a stuffy Brit most of the time, but Giles seemed to go against the mold for Watchers, based on her own experiences with her first Watcher as well as her short time with Gwendolyn Post; who did turn out to be evil in the end.
"Yeah. I'm fine. Just tired."
It seemed that Giles wanted to say more, but Faith was grateful when he put his glasses back on and didn't push. "Then you best get cleaned up and put on some dry clothes. No need to push your luck."
"Sounds like a plan." She stood up. "But I don't have anything else to wear."
Xander's head snapped up, but he quickly looked away when she glanced at him, suddenly growing an interest in a book he pulled off a shelf.
"Buffy keeps some clothes stashed here," Willow said, getting up and opening the closet cabinet. "You are a little taller than she is but then Buffy usually doesn't have clothes as tight as yours." She quickly added, "Not that that's a bad thing, or to imply that Buffy isn't as--"
"Slutty?" Faith offered.
"No! No, I wasn't thinking that at all! I--"
Faith smiled at her. "Just joking Willow."
"Oh." She laughed nervously. "Either way, I'm going to stop talking for a little while."
"Uh, Faith," Giles spoke up. "If you can help Willow take Buffy with you to the girls' locker room you can get her cleaned up as well."
"Are you sure we should move her?" Angel asked.
"Right now, she needs to get as much rest as possible. We should make her as comfortable as we can. And besides, they can check to see if there are any further injuries we, uh, may have missed."
"Sure. No problem." Faith moved over to the blonde Slayer. "C'mon, private Buffy, time to hit the showers." She started to ease her off the sofa.
Buffy stirred and her eyes opened slightly. "Shower?"
"Yeah, Willow and I are going to make sure you don't drop the soap."
"I know how to take a shower by myself," she said, dazedly. "I've been taking showers since I turned twenty-one."
Xander frowned. "Man, Buffy really can't handle her drugs, can she?"
Willow looked at him. "You don't know, Xander. Maybe Buffy's the kind of girl who takes the time to enjoy a nice long bath-- Oh, supplied naughty image. Sorry, I forgot. Not supposed to be talking right now."
"Uh, Willow," Giles said.
She nodded and grabbed more of Buffy's clothes. Faith had Buffy on her feet now, but it looked like she wasn't going to be doing any walking. Angel stepped forward.
"I can take her."
Faith shot him a look. "You wish. Don't worry `long-tooth,' I'm just as macho as you are." With that she lifted the drowsy slayer into her arms but exaggerated a grunt. "Man, B! You really need to lay off the stakes."
With everyone standing now, the office had suddenly become a little crowded. Angel and Xander walked out first so the girls could leave and they headed out of the library. As they passed Angel Buffy looked up.
"Angel!" She reached out and grabbed the lapel of his coat, causing Faith to stop.
He wrapped his hand around hers. "You're going to be okay, Buffy. I promise."
"Oh, I know, Angel," she said, dazedly. "You always say that. You're my guardian Angel! Just. . . only a vampire."
Faith said, "Yeah, well, where we're going, boys --even boys over a two-hundred years old-- are not allowed."
"Maybe someone should be there to stand guard," he suggested. This got him a look from Faith and Willow. "I mean outside the door." Faith and Willow continued to give him the look. "Outside the locker room door."
Xander chuckled lightly and rescued him by putting a hand on Angel's shoulder and pulling him away. He removed his hand as they watched the girls disappear through the double doors.
"You're probably thinking the same thing I am?" Xander asked.
"How vulnerable they're going to be in the shower?" he said, seriously.
Xander nodded. "So you *are* thinking the same thing I am." Angel shot him a look. "Don't worry, Faith has had plenty of experience fighting monsters in the nude."
End of part Eight