Notes:  Sorry it's taken so long to update this.  Chapter 9 is with my beta now and Chapter 10 (the final chapter) is half-written.  Jeez, I've been writing this for over a year.  Damn this chapter gave me hell.  It fought every step of the way.  I've deleted and re-written this chapter more than I have any other (including Chapter 6, that of the million re-writes), and that's before my ß (to be known now as the Bossy, Brainwashing, Bribing, Beater/Beta) gets her grubby little hands on it.

Kat, I have two phrases for you:

1) "Plus, saves the hassle of accessorising.  A rosary goes with everything."

2) "And bad hair days?  Thing of the past, hide it under a wimple."

Part 8

            Marie was in hell.  Quite literally.  Hell, in her opinion, was a bad place emotionally, it was a place where all your fear, guilt and pain came out to play and never called for a time-out.

            She was in his boiler room.  Except it wasn't.  She was surrounded by pipes leading to a huge furnace that she could hear roaring in the background, but one wall was flat and clear, and currently being used to project a movie.  No matter which way she turned, the wall was right in front of her.

            The movie playing had started with the title 'I let my friend die', followed by credits of 'Staring Frederick Krueger, Joanna 'Annie' James… and introducing Marie Varnden."

            Marie whimpered, as the movie played on a loop, watching herself do nothing as the girl she loved was tortured and murdered by the sadistic son of a bitch.

            As the film started for a fourth time she tried to run for the stairs, but found herself faced with a wall again.

            "Fucking stop it!"  She screamed.

            The picture changed, Annie was in the foreground, blue and water bloated with gashes running down her arms and back.  She stepped out of the wall, materialising in front of Marie.  "How could you do it to me, Marie?  How could you just let me die?"  She pleaded.  "I thought you loved me."

            "I do."  Marie replied, knowing that it wasn't really Annie and that Krueger was just fucking with her, but unable to ignore the face of the woman she loved, even if it was distorted by death.

            "I don't think so.  Taz would never let Krueger kill Maya.  You let me die because you knew I'd never want you!  That's not love.  But I'm glad, I'd rather be dead than your girl."

            The tears fell down Marie's face.  "Shut up."  She whispered.  "You're not Annie."

            "See, you don't even know the girl that you claim to love."  Annie sneered.

            "You're not Annie!"  Marie screamed again.  "Annie's dead."

            "And it's all your fault."

*~*~*~*

            Buffy wove through the labyrinthine corridors.  This time she had seen the house from the outside and she knew that physically there was no way on earth that the house could contain the maze that she was fighting through, however, she was in the dream world, which meant logic was null and void.

            She was certain she heard a muffled scream below her.  Which made no sense, because after entering the house she had gone straight down to the basement, remembering that it was one of Krueger's favourite haunts.  However, there was a window further along the hall, she rushed towards it and looked out.  It appeared that she was about twenty or thirty floors up.

            She sighed, deeply pissed off with Freddy.  He knew she was looking for him, and that was obviously why he was playing these mind games with her.

            She heard another yell and set off towards it.  This time it seemed to come from above.

            "Damn you to hell, Krueger!"  She yelled in frustration.

            She heard a giggle in response and turned to see a young girl standing in the corridor with her.  The girl was about six or seven and had long blonde hair, done in ringlets and fancy ribbons, she wore a white dress and white patent leather shoes.  She looked like a doll.  Except dolls weren't a faint bluish colour that came with death.

            "Where did you come from?"  Buffy asked with a touch of surprise.

            "I've always been here."  The girl said solemnly.

            "Where's Freddy?  Did he bring you here?"

            "He's going to be cross."  The girl giggled, as if this idea appealed to her very much.  "He liked the other one.  Her mind was more fun."

            "The other one?  Faith?  Taz?  Who?"

            The little girl giggled once more and abruptly turned and walked around a corner.  A corner that had not been there only moments ago.

            Buffy sighed and set off after her, she turned the corner and found herself outside the house.  The girl had found two others, who looked much the same as her and was now playing jump-rope with them, chanting as they jumped.

"One, two, Freddy's coming for you.

Three, four, better lock your door.

Five, six, grab your crucifix.

Seven, eight, better stay up late

Nine, ten, never sleep again."

            Buffy rubbed her forehead, hating the feel of this dream, it was so out of control and random, not like the dream from the previous night, yet she felt that Krueger was carefully controlling her.

            "I'm gonna kill you, Krueger!"  She yelled out, once more stepped inside the house, then in an undertone she added, "as soon as I find you."

*~*~*~*

            "I'm gonna kill you, Krueger!"

            Faith shook Buffy roughly.  "Wake up, B!"  She yelled loudly in Buffy's ear.  She turned to Wes.  "Maybe I should slap her?"

            Wes nodded.  "But go easy, with your strength you might just knock her unconscious instead."

*~*~*~*

            Marie jumped as she heard another voice faintly yell Krueger's name.

            Annie also looked around.  "Someone else is here."  She commented conversationally.  "You wanna see her die too?"

            "Stop it!"  Marie screamed.  "You wanna kill someone?  Kill me!"

            "Where's the fun in that?"  Annie asked, morphing into Freddy, a process that scared Marie more that she could stand.  "I have a new toy now."  Freddy gestured behind him, the wall now showed Buffy running along a corridor yelling in frustration that it seemed to be endless with no turns or doors off.

            "Buffy."  Marie whispered.

            "You know, this is your fault too."  Krueger said casually.  "If you hadn't pushed your guilt onto her, she wouldn't be here proving herself."  He smiled, almost lovingly at her.  "But don't think I'm not grateful."

            With that he turned and leapt into the wall.

            The room turned pitch black, leaving Marie alone in the dark.

*~*~*~*

            Buffy flinched at Krueger's sudden appearance.  "So you're Freddy?"  She asked, regaining her composure.  "My god, you're ugly.  You have the kind of face that not even a mother could love."

            Krueger smirked.  "That's true.  My dear mother couldn't wait for me to be born before signing the adoption papers."

            "Awww.  You wanna take a moment to cry here, or should we just fight?"

            "I'm going to split you in two."  Krueger replied.

            Buffy made a show of yawning.  "Like I've never heard that before.  Let's just jump to the fighting, you're not good at this punning stuff."

            She ran at him, making sure that she came nowhere near his blades.  She grabbed his right wrist and forced his finger-knives away from her as she kneed him in the groin.  It was a cheap shot, but unarmed, it was all she had.

            Krueger barely even flinched as she ministered punches to his face.  He grabbed her by the throat and flung her away from him.  As Buffy flew through the air she pondered the wisdom of jumping – unarmed – into a dream where Freddy was obviously in control.

            She went straight through the wall behind her, she did not crash into it and it did not crumple, it merely disappeared when she touched it.  She landed on a metal walkway with steps leading down to a boiler room.  Even if Taz hadn't mentioned it, she would have known that she was now on Krueger's home ground.

            She shivered, despite the heat in the room, rusted metal pipes covered the walls, steam hissed out at irregular intervals.  Below her the pipes twisted and turned making a veritable maze.  Beneath the sound of the furnace she heard moans of pain, screams of terror, and the thing that upset her most of all was the sound of the girls' jump-rope chant.

            "This is where he takes us."  The little girl from before stood in front of her, a single tear rolling down her cheek.

            Buffy looked around for the 'he' in question.  Freddy was gone again.  "How long have you been here?"  Buffy asked.

            The girl looked around.  "Forever.  He keeps us."

            Buffy thought back to Taz's words, I really don't want to die in the dream.  I just get the feeling that if you die in there your soul isn't freed, and wondered how many other souls were trapped in there.

            The little girl looked terrified.  "I have to go now."

            Buffy heard a screech of metal on metal that set her teeth on edge, she turned to see where it was coming from, and when she turned back, the girl was gone.

            Buffy got to her feet, considering trying to find the little girl, but reluctantly dismissed the idea.  The girl wasn't alive any more, finding her would do no good.  The best thing to do would be to hunt down the bastard that caused the girl's death and take out her anger on him.

            She started down the steps to the main part of the boiler room, keeping a keen ear out for any sound that might lead her to Krueger.

(damn it, b! wake up)

            Buffy flinched, she had heard Faith's voice, not from somewhere around her, but from inside her head.  Outside the dream, she deduced.

            She tried to ignore the voice, she wasn't going anywhere until she had faced Krueger again.  Her anger was growing with every second, the fact that he was playing with her and avoiding her, the fact that there were little children stuck in this damn world forever, the fact that his very existence violated everything she considered 'good', the fact that two of Taz's friends had died by his hand in as many days, it was all too much.

            The second she found him she was going to unload all of her anger and guilt on him by way of violence.

            She heard a scream of terror to her right and turned down an alleyway, between some scaldingly hot pipes, towards the noise, wondering idly if this was another one of Krueger's games.

            The sound of pounding feet coming towards her led her to believe it wasn't.  Krueger was either coming for her, or chasing someone towards her.  Either way, she was going to need a weapon.  She looked around for something suitable, her eyes lit up on seeing a length of broken pipe that would do.

            She picked it up and swung it experimentally.  Perfect.  Light enough to swing, but heavy enough to do some damage.

(wake up, now!)

            "Damn it, Faith."  She whispered.  "Give me a few more minutes."

            The heavy footfalls no longer seemed to be coming towards her, so she cut to the side, trying to follow them.  The walls of pipes and the roar of the furnace disoriented her, her own footsteps sounded as if they were coming from far away.

            She heard another scrape of metal on metal and wondered what was causing it, however she didn't ponder long as it was followed by a scream of fear and the words, "Kill me or let me go, but stop fucking with me!"

            She recognised the voice instantly, it was Marie.  She urged herself to move faster and find Marie before Krueger caught her.  She heard Krueger laugh and it chilled her to the bone.

(buffy, wake up)

            The tight passageway of pipes seemed to open out at the centre of the boiler room and she hurried on.  Without warning someone slammed into her just as she reached the open and they both tumbled to the ground, Buffy's length of pipe clattering off to the side.

            Buffy very nearly hit the other person before realising it was Marie – who didn't seem even slightly surprised that Buffy was in the dream with her.

            "We've got to go.  He's coming."  Marie scrambled to her feet.  "He's going to kill us."

            Buffy reached for her weapon once more, then got up.  "He's not going to kill anyone."  She said firmly.

            "Yeah?"  Marie looked doubtful.  "Tell him that."  She said, staring over Buffy's shoulder.

            Buffy whirled around, comforted by the heaviness of the pipe in her hand.  Krueger walked towards them, no urgency or impatience in his step, he rested his finger-knives against a pipe as he walked making the now-familiar screech that set Buffy's teeth on edge.

            "Go."  Buffy said over her shoulder, then she turned her attention to Freddy.  "You know, I'm getting the feeling you don't like me much.  First off, everyone got a better nightmare than me, we all sat around last night comparing notes and I had a really boring tale to tell…"

            Krueger chuckled and continued his unhurried pace towards her.

            "Second, we have one little fight and you disappear on me.  I'm hurt."

            "You will be."  He assured her.

            "Now you're getting the hang of this punning stuff."  She said with mock pride.  "I'm going to take credit for that."

            She moved towards him swiftly, both hands on the metal pipe.  She aimed for the heart but he dodged sideways just as she slammed it into him, using it like a very heavy stake.  As the slayer, she had seen some pretty disgusting things, but the sight of Krueger with a length of metal straight through him, with trails of black and red ichor oozing out of the edges of the wound made her shudder.  From the whistling sounds of his breath she presumed she punctured – or possibly removed – a lung.  She pulled on the pipe, trying to get it free for a second attack but the end was caught in the pipework behind Krueger.

            "Very gross."  Commented Marie from behind her.

            Krueger laughed, looking amused by his own predicament.

            "But obviously not good enough."  Marie grabbed Buffy's arm and began dragging her away.  "Waking up would be good now.  Preferably before he gets over the jollies of being in pain and comes after us for vengeance."

            "He enjoyed that?"  Buffy asked, following Marie.  "Yuck."

            "Very.  But I thought you were used to stuff like this.  Taz said you're a superhero."  Marie said over her shoulder, leading Buffy through a maze of pipes and metal walkways.

            "Do you know where we're going?  And superhero isn't quite right, Faith and I have strengths to fight demons, the downside is a short shelf-life."

            "I'm pretty sure I know where we're going.  And besides, it doesn't matter anyway, as soon as he gets over the ooey-gooey thrill of being impaled he'll use his mind to trap us."

            "I hate this stuff."  Buffy decided.  "As soon as Krueger's dead I'm going to rob a bank and Faith and I are going to Disneyland."

            "It's good to have a goal, why Disneyland though?"

            "Just an idea Faith had."

(buffy!  wake up now)

            Buffy paused, hearing Wes's voice in her head.  "They're trying to wake me up."  She told Marie.  "Take my hand, I'll try to stay with you.  It might be easier if I'm anchored to you."

            "Don't leave me."  Marie said softly.

            Buffy smiled, it was the friendliest thing Marie had said to her since they met.  "I won't."

*~*~*~*

            "Damn it!"  Faith shook Buffy roughly, wondering if she was damaging her sister Slayer.  It probably wasn't a good thing to be shaken by a Slayer for almost half an hour.  However, any damage she might be doing was better than the alternative, better that what Freddy might do to B if she remained asleep for much longer.

            "Wake up, B!"  She yelled in frustration.

            "I have an idea."  Wes picked up the kettle from the floor and moved towards the bathroom.

            "Coffee only really works when she's awake."  Faith said to his retreating back, then turned back to Buffy.

            Wes reappeared seconds later, with the kettle full to the brim with cold water, he reached past Faith and emptied it over Buffy.

            Buffy reacted instantly, bolting upright her eyes open.  She whimpered in pain, and then suddenly Marie appeared on top of her.

            Wes and Faith stared.

            "Well, that was certainly unexpected."  Wes commented.

*~*~*~*

            Buffy had expected a far more severe telling off than the one Wes gave her.  She had thought that he would drone on for hours and hours about needing to be told about every slaying venture she went on.  However, it was not the case.  What she actually got was a full-on guilt trip.  Faith walked Marie home and Wes used the time to  point out how worried he and Faith had been about her, and what would have happened if they hadn't come to find her and she hadn't been so lucky?

            Her surprise took away any smart comments she was considering making.  She was prepared to tell him that while Faith may have accepted him as her Watcher, she never would, but listening to him all resentment fell away.  He and Faith hand been worried about her, it wasn't about her not telling him what she had planned to do, it was that she'd put herself in mortal danger.

            She found herself apologising, which Wes accepted with more grace than she had expected.  Moments later Faith walked back into the room.  Buffy wondered if she'd been lurking outside the door, waiting for Wes to finish his lecture before coming back for fear of being dragged into the middle of it.

            "Marie says thanks."  She said without any preamble, sinking to her knees and peering in the kettle.  "Should there be white bits floating in the water?"

            "I bet Marie didn't say thanks."  Buffy said with a grin.  "And I say new water, who wants bitty water?"

            "Ok, but she did say you were cool."  Faith replied, getting to her feet.  "I guess coffee would be good now?"

            "I'm going back to the library."  Wes answered.

            "We only just left."  Faith pointed out.  "We didn't even get lunch, thanks to Huffy."

            Buffy opened her mouth to respond to the taunt, but realised that, given her behaviour, she was getting off lightly if that was all Faith was going to say to her.  "I guess I'm buying lunch, huh?"

            "Hell, yeah."  Faith nodded.  "I'm all for a free feeding.  But I have to ask why Wes is going back to the library.  My only possibly guess is Suzie."

            Wes fixed his Slayer with a glare.  "I refuse to respond to that.  Buffy brought someone out of her dream with her, which seems to confirm my suspicion that we could take the Urn into a dream with us."

            "Hadn't actually thought about that."  Faith commented over her shoulder as she filled the kettle.  "I was just thinking the Urn would be the plan.  Full-stop."

            "So you're hitting the library again?"  Buffy asked.  "You look beat, you need sleep."

            Faith stared at her.  "Do you have a memory problem?  Not half an hour ago you just battled a demon in a dream."

            "I didn't mean alone.  I meant that Wes should sleep with one of us –"

            Faith snorted.  "And I got a nasty look because of that 'young and cute' comment about Giles."

            "I meant dream."  Buffy amended hastily.

            Faith just gave her a knowing grin.

            "Mind.  Gutter.  Separate them.  I'd never sleep with Wes, he's so… Wesley."

            "I am still here you know."  Wes pointed out.

            "And Buffy's very appreciative."  Faith replied.

            Wes sighed pointedly.

            "I'll stop."  Faith said.

            "And I'll just continue teasing about Suzie."  Buffy added.

            "And I shall ignore you both."

            "Seriously though," Buffy smiled.  "You look exhausted."

            "I'll sleep after I get back from the library."  Wes replied.

*~*~*~*

            "Maya, honey, are you going to bed?"

            Maya yawned and smiled at her Mom in what she hoped was an innocent way, making sure the covers were right up to her neck, hiding the fact that she was still wearing her day clothes.  "Sure.  I'm really tired."

            Her Mom gave her a sceptical look, Maya's parents had been very worried about her sleeping habits and had been paying close attention to her.  Especially after the deaths of Annie and Sharlie.

            "Night, honey."  Mrs Hansen shut the door behind her and Maya listened carefully for the tell-tale snick of the lock.

            Maya rolled her eyes and hopped out of bed.  She pulled some boxes out from below the bed until she found what she was looking for.  Her box of supplies containing a coffee maker, several bottles of water, pots of granules, caffeine pills and several cans of coke.  She emptied three pills into her hand and downed them with some water, fighting waves of dizziness.

            She then grabbed her cell phone from the charger and dialled Taz.

            "Greetings and salutations."

            "Hey Taz."  Maya yawned and stretched.  "I'm just about to sneak out.  They've locked me in."

            "Ok, I'll leave the studio window open."

            "See you soon."

            "Is gra liom thu."

            "I love you too."  Maya grinned into the phone then hung up.  This was an almost nightly ritual for the two of them, Maya would sneak out of her window and down the porch, then walk the couple of blocks to Taz's house where she would crawl through the window leading to the art studio in the basement.

            But not tonight, Maya realised as she tried to open the sash window.  Her parents had obviously been in her room during the day while she had been at the library and they had nailed it shut.

            "Damn it."  She growled angrily, pulling her phone out of her pocket and hitting the redial button.

            "Problems?"  Taz asked, foregoing any preamble.

            "They've nailed the window shut.  How the hell am I supposed to get out now?"

            "Gurriers."  Taz sighed.  "But it's ok, I'll just talk to you all night.  We won't sleep."

            "Maybe I should smash the window.  I could be out before they managed to unlock my door."

            "And then they'd hop in the car and drive straight over to my place."  Taz replied.  "I bet they think we get up to all manner of lesbian delights each night."

            "To be fair…" Maya smiled.  "It did start that way."

            Taz sighed again.  "I wish that's all you were sneaking over for."

            "Me too."

            "Faith called today.  She said someone found the Urn, it's being couriered over from… well, somewhere, it should arrive tomorrow."  She yawned.  "Maybe tomorrow night everything will be back to normal."

            Maya yawned in return.  "Then we can get up to 'all manner of lesbian delights' as you put it."

            "And we can substitute the post-coital cigarette for a post-coital snooze."

            "Sounds wonderful."  Maya dropped to her knees and dragged out her coffee maker and plugged it in.

            "Damn, I think my battery is going dead.  I'm looking for my charger now."

            Maya yawned again.  "Ok."

            "You sound exhausted."

            "Three days since I've slept."  Maya replied, washing coffee granules down her throat with a sip of coke.  "My parents think I'm on drugs.  I wish.  What I wouldn't give for some speed."

            "I know the feeling.  Just …ay …ake…"  The line began to crackle, distorting Taz's voice.

            "Taz?"

            "Ba…ery… alk … oon."  The line went dead.

            Maya swore softly, cursing modern technology.  Taz's room was a tip, not to mention her studio, it could be hours before she found her charger and if she called the land line Mr McDonald would get in a mood and probably force Taz to try and sleep.

            She sipped her coke, waiting for the caffeine to kick in, although she didn't hold much hope, she was exhausted.  She helped herself to a few more caffeine pills, noting the warning that stated it was unwise to take more than eight a day.  She, Taz and Marie took at least two every hour, not to mention the amount of coke and coffee they consumed.  So far there had been no real symptoms except for Marie complaining that she got strobe lighting effects for about ten minutes if she sneezed, which had amused Taz no end.

            She fought another yawn and decided to get up off the floor.  It was harder to fall asleep if she was on her feet.  She rubbed her eyes, a little dizzy and moved towards the window, still considering smashing it if Taz didn't ring back soon.

            She was so tired she could barely stand, there was a faint ringing in her ears and her bed looked so inviting.  She stretched again and began to recite nursery rhymes attempting Taz's Irish accent.  Maya had been keen to learn Irish from her girlfriend, but Taz told her it was pointless until she had mastered the accent.

            "One, two, Freddy's coming for you… Three, four, better…"  She trailed off.  Speak of the devil and he will appear, and she sure as hell didn't want to give him any more incentive to appear in her dreams.

            She suddenly became aware that her heart seemed to be pounding far too fast and it was making her dizzy.  She wondered how many caffeine tabs she had downed in the last few minutes – certainly far more than she had ever taken in one dose before.

            A dizziness overtook her and she stumbled towards the bed.

            "Just until I feel better…"  She murmured, her eyes closing.

*~*~*~*

            Buffy flicked through a magazine idly, keeping one eye on Wes and Faith.  Wes had returned from the library with the good news that the Council had managed to locate an Urn of Ylliano and that it was being shipped to them, hopefully it would arrive the next day.

            Faith had then suggested that they go out to celebrate, Buffy's treat.  Wes, to Buffy's dismay, hadn't discouraged her, so she raided her savings and took them to the nicest restaurant Springwood had to offer.  She had kept her receipt though, it was doubtful the Council would reimburse her, but it wouldn't hurt to try.

            Faith stood up and stretched, making Buffy jump.  "This is no good.  Wes is in the land of nod and I'm wide awake.  I dozed for a couple of minutes, but just can't get to real sleep."

            "REM sleep, you mean."  Buffy shut her magazine.

            Faith looked alarmed.  "You actually listened to Wes when he was talking about the stages of sleep."

            "There was nothing else to do."

            "You wanna try getting to sleep?  I'll keep watch."  Faith offered.

            "I'm also wide awake.  Guess that's yet another downside of sneaking off for a snooze while you went to lunch.  Don't worry, we'll keep an eye on him, if he even whimpers…"  Buffy gestured to the jug of cold water beside her.

            "Admit it, you just want to chuck the water over him, nightmare or not."  Faith took a seat on the chair opposite Buffy.

            "Just as payback for doing the same to me."  Buffy replied.

            "B, he saved your life.  And Marie's."

            "I know."  Buffy shifted and stretched.  "These chairs are not comfortable."

            "They're not supposed to be comfortable, nobody is actually meant to stay in this roach-infested hell-hole long enough to sit on them."

            "I'm bored.  There's no TV here, wanna play snap or something?"

            "Snap?"  Faith asked with arched eyebrows.

            "Ok, so I don't have any cards and that game is so boring that it's more fun being bored than playing… but I don't hear you coming up with any better ideas."

            "I have plenty of suggestions.  It just so happens that they all involve nakedness and whipped cream."  Faith replied.

            Buffy grinned back.  "And Wes is here, nothing turns me on like having a Watcher doing his job and watching."

            "You're wicked gross."

            "Believe me, it's your influence.  How about twenty questions?"

            "Sure.  I'll go first."  Faith agreed cheerfully.  Then her face hardened.  "What on earth possessed you to run off and face Krueger without telling me?  Don't you trust me?"

            Buffy goggled.  She hadn't realised that Faith had been so worried about her.  "I do trust you…"  She shrugged.  "To be honest I don't know why I didn't tell you at least.  Maybe I thought you might talk me out of it."

            "Damn right."

            "See?  And Marie would be dead."

            "I would have talked you out of going alone, I would have dreamt with you."  Faith stared at her levelly.

            "I'm sorry, Faith."

            "So you should be."  Faith responded.  "Ok, done that.  What's your question?"

            Buffy thought and finally came up with something that had been bothering her for months.  "Have you ever had any pastels in your wardrobe, even as a kid?"

            Faith snorted.  "That's your question?"

            "I'm starting small and working up."  Buffy grinned.

            "Never.  Although I wore a pale blue dress in a play at that camp I was at with Taz.  Does that count?"

            Buffy looked unimpressed.  "Not really.  I'm disappointed, I would have loved to see a picture of you as a kid in a silly frilly dress."

            "Does that mean there are pictures of you in silly frilly dresses?"

            Buffy sighed.  "Yes it does.  Ok, my next question is –"

            "Hey!  My turn!"

            "You asked if I had pictures of me in a silly dress."  Buffy replied.

            "No, I repeated your question.  I'm asking now.  Ok, if Wes and Giles were the last two men on the planet, which one would you bone to ensure the human race continued?"

            Buffy looked stunned, blushing slightly.  "I can't answer that!"

            "Sure you can."

            "But Giles is my Watcher and Wesley is… Wesley!"

            "You have to answer, or I don't answer anything else.  Ever."  Faith crossed her legs and grinned widely.

            "But…"

            "No buts, B."

            "Urgh."  Buffy rested her face in her hands.  "If there was an apocalypse I doubt my thoughts would be about… um, procreation."

            Faith stared unblinkingly at her.

            "Giles."  Buffy answered finally.

            "Wicked gross.  He's like a father to you."  Faith teased.

            "The fate of humanity rested on it, it wasn't a fair choice.  Right, my turn.  Who were you before you got called?  I mean, what did you do, where did you live, what were your friends like etc?"

            "That's about a hundred questions at once, is that fair?"

            "Unfair was asking me to choose between Wes and Giles."

            "Fine."  Faith got up and retrieved her cigarettes from her jacket pocket.  She opened the window and lit up, breathing out smoke into the night air.  "I lived in Boston with my Mom, where – or even who – my Dad was, nobody, not even Mom, knew.  She hooked up with this guy called John, a fat, sweaty asshole.  We moved into his apartment, I doubt love entered the equation, we were broke and he kept her in enough booze for her to float through her days in a drunken haze.  So she never noticed that John would rather hop on me than her to get his jollies.  I didn't have any friends and I really wasn't anyone except 'that weird poor girl who liked to sing' before I got called.  Which is why I haven't mentioned it until now."

            "My god…"  Buffy said softly, getting up to put her hands on Faith's shoulders.

            Faith shook her off, turning to face her.  "I don't need a big hug, B."

            Buffy raised her hands in a surrender gesture.  "I'm sorry… I just…"

            "I'm not gonna cry in your arms and sob about how scared and helpless I felt."  Faith said firmly, but not angrily.  "See, all this happened before I got called.  I didn't have any super powers to get me through it, and I didn't know that I was going to be a Slayer and would be expected to save the world, but I still dealt.  I survived, as a person, not a Slayer, and I'd say that makes me pretty strong.  Things like that make or break a person, and I didn't break.  I'm not saying I'm glad that it happened, I'm saying I'm glad that I was able to deal with it."

            "I… I don't know what to say."  Buffy said gently.  She had thought that Faith's upbringing might have been less than Disney-esque, but hadn't realised it had been so hard for Faith.

            "Don't worry, nobody knows what to say about stuff like this."  Faith took one last drag on her cigarette and pitched it out of the window.  "My question is… why the hell haven't we woken Wes up?"

*~*~*~*

            "Let her go!"  Wes commanded, pulling a cross from his pocket and standing behind it, wondering if Krueger was repelled by religious objects.

            Freddy smiled at him sadistically and batted it away easily, then used a blade to trace Maya's cheekbone with just enough pressure to draw blood.  Maya squirmed in his arms, desperate to escape.

            "If that's what you want."  Krueger smiled again, showing his fire-blackened teeth.  With a quick movement he grabbed Maya around the neck and flung her away from him.  Then he turned his attention to Wesley.  "I'll give you a head start."  Krueger offered, clicking his blades.

*~*~*~*

            Buffy turned towards the bed where Wes was thrashing around a look of terror on his face.  She and Faith rushed over, and started shaking him.  "Wes, wake up."

            Faith fetched the pitcher of water and was just about to throw it over Wes when he woke up.

            "Are you ok?"  Faith asked.

            "Maya."  He said worriedly.  "She's asleep."

            Buffy strode over to where her phone was charging and started dialling.

            "Are you really ok?  He didn't cut you or anything, did he?"  Faith asked Wes.

            Wes looked surprised by her concern and sat up and tried to see his back.  "He tried to grab me but didn't quite catch me."

            Faith peered at his shoulder.  "He shredded your shirt, you've got four scratches, aside from that I'd say you were lucky.  Which is good, because I'm only just getting used to you, it would be downright mean of you to get offed because then I'd be on Watcher number four and that would be unacceptable."

            "Got it."  He said, a hint of a smile on his face.

            "Damn it!"  Buffy snapped.

            Wes and Faith turned to look at her.

            "Maya's phone is out of order and her cell phone is off."  She explained.  "I'll try Marie."

            "You do that, I'll try to sleep.  How about hypnotising me?"  Faith asked Wes.

            Buffy's phone rang just as she was about to dial out again, she answered as Faith and Wes swapped places, Faith lying down on the bed and Wes sitting beside her talking in a soothing voice as he searched for the pendulum to aid the hypnosis.

            "Guys…?"  Buffy said softly, tears brimming in her eyes.

            Wes turned to look at her.

            "Marie just called, she lives opposite Maya.  There's a fire… from what she can see, it looks like it started in Maya's room."