Outskirts of Sunnydale, 2100 hours.
It was about nine in the evening when the SUV had taken Buffy, Giles, Colonel O'Neill, and Faith to a clearing in the middle of nowhere in the outskirts of the city. They had parked the SUV before walking into the grassy area that was full of bushes and surrounded by trees. Looking around, Buffy and Faith called out for the Knights, with Giles adding his voice to the call… saying that it was urgent that they speak.
"This can't wait a week," said the Colonel with his hands in his pockets, "it's about Glory."
The four of them waited alone in the clearing, looking around their surroundings when Buffy noticed a glimmer to her left. Calling for Faith, the two Slayer's went into defensive mode as Giles and the Colonel stepped back while the air continued to shimmer and ripple for a few more seconds before three Knights, two of whom handed Faith the map at the safe house, and the third whom the dark haired Slayer didn't recognize.
"Slayers," said one of the Knights as they placed their hands on the hilts of their swords, "you have come early, and with company that has not been approved. You were only asked to bring your Watcher, not someone from the military."
"Neat, how'd you know I'm military?" asked the Colonel while Buffy and Faith had their hands up in front of them in a defensive posture.
"You have been made to us the moment you stepped into our magic," said one of the knights.
"What mag…. Oh," The Colonel stopped saying anything, as did the others when the air shimmered around them and tents appeared with many other Knights seated outside. They small group saw horses tied o trees in many places, as well as campfires with which came the smell of cooking meat. There was a buzz coming out of the camp with the Knights murmuring about the dangers of the Beast, and the finding of the Key. The four of them could even hear chanting in soft, muted voice taking place somewhere in camp before they stopped looking around, and turned to the three Knights in front of them.
"Neat trick," smirked the Colonel.
"We are unarmed," said Giles, "the reason we have come early is to talk, nothing more."
The man in the middle tapped each of the Knight on either side of him, and Buffy and the others watched as the two Knights took their hands off their hilts. The man in the middle, who had an unfamiliar tattoo on his forehead, then stepped forward and introduced himself as General Gregor.. the leader of the Knights in Byzantium in Sunnydale.
"My name is Rupert Giles."
"Colonel Jack O'Neill, two 'L's'"
"Buffy Summers, Slayer."
"And you know me," replied Faith as she and Baffy dropped their arms by their sides, "listen, I know we're here early, but there's something you need to know."
"Glory… the one you call the Beast?" said Giles as Gregor looked at him, "well, she's dead."
"Impossible," said Gregor while the two knights on either side whispered among themselves, "the Beast is immortal and…"
"We know she half human," said Faith as she stepped forward, "we trapped her. B, and I fought her until she was weak enough before I was teleported with the crazy bitch using magic. We fought for a few more seconds before she reverted to her human form, and I killed her. She fell into lava spewing out of a volcano."
"You speak false," said Gregor with his eyes narrowed in confusion, "you…."
"There must have been some way you knew that Glory was located in Sunnydale," said Giles, "use that same way to search Glory's whereabouts. You will see that we are speaking truth. She is gone."
Gregor whispered something into the ear of the Knight to his left before he ran off into the camp while holding onto the sword dangling from his hips. Watching the man run before turning to Faith and the others Gregor set his jaw as he looked at the four of them. He was aware of Glory's weakness, and he was certain that no one from his Order had told the Slayers about the one weakness that made Glory. However, he also knew that if true… it didn't mean anything.
There was still the Key that needed to be dealt with; and in this time of activation, the Key was extremely dangerous.
Gregor and the others just stood silently waiting. And it wasn't long before the Knight who had run into the camp earlier, ran back and whispered into the General's ear. Faith and Buffy saw the General raise his eyebrows in surprise before he turned towards them.
"It seems you speak true," said Gregor as he kept his hands by his side, "our Clerics have been unable to search for the Beast's arura anywhere."
"And you couldn't pinpoint her earlier using these… Clerics?" asked the Colonel.
"All we knew was that the Beast was in Sunnydale," said Gregor, "we cannot find her when she is human, and we couldn't attack her as the beast… to do so would require a massive army. The option was to find the Key, and destroy it. And while the Order is thankful that the Beast is not a danger to anyone, there is still the issue of the Key."
"The Key isn't a danger to you, or anyone," said Buffy as she lifted her arms up again, as did Faith, "and you know I protect the Key. So seriously, don't go after it."
"The Key is still a danger to this world," said Gregor, "the Beast has a great many followers. If they were to find the location of the Key, then…."
"They won't," said Colonel O'Neill, "no one knows what the Key is other than us. And… and here's the kicker, from this moment on.. the Key is under the protection of the United States Air Force. If you… or any clown tries to even go after the Key, then we have ways to find you and… well… you really do not want to know what happens when you attack someone who's been protected."
Buffy and Giles looked at the Colonel as he made that threat to the Knights, and then they looked at Faith who had a grin on her face.
"We will not leave Sunnydale," said Gregor as he stood straight up, "the Key is the greatest danger to this world, and we will destroy it."
"If you can find it," said Buffy. She saw Gregor hesitate for just a second, before he nodded his head. It was that action that told the blonde Slayer that Gregor didn't know that Dawn was the Key, and she guessed that none of Glory's underlings would be able to figure out that that it was her sister who was the Key either. Unless the Council told them, "I know that the Key is supposed to be activated by Glory in less than a month. She's gone, and her minions don't know about the Key. But I do protect it… so how about this. You stay here… out of Sunnydale until the month's over. If you guys use your Clerics, or whatever, to see that the Key's been activated.. then you can help. But… if any of your Knights come after the Key in my city before that? There will hell to pay."
"Do we have an agreement?" asked Giles as he stared at Gregor, who remained standing stoically.
"We will remain here," said Gregor with a frown on his face, "once the time for the Key's activation has passed, we will leave the city. However, should we find out that…"
"No," said Colonel O'Neill shaking his head, "Miss Summers will be given a number to call us should any move be made on the Key. If you or any of your Knights act before the Key's been activated, then my earlier threat applies. We will find you, and take all of your people in.. and… and before you say you have clerics? I should tell you that I have Thor on my side."
"A pagan god that…."
"Uh uh uh," said the Colonel nodding his finger while shaking his head, "we have someone who knows the spell to contact him. And he really doesn't like being called for this kinda stuff, so… you don't come after whatever the Key is.. and we don't sic Thor on you. Deal?"
"You can find out if he's telling the truth, right?" asked Faith with a smirk on her face as she stood next to Buffy.
"Yes," replied Gregor.
"Go and find out if we're telling the truth," said Faith, "cause I met the guy, saved my life once. So… I dare you, ask someone if we're telling the truth, and me and the old guy behind me…"
"Hey," said Giles and the Colonel together, both of whom were behind Faith while Buffy shook her head and chuckled. Faith then looked over her shoulder and told the Colonel that she was referring to him, and it was then she noticed the look of relief on Giles' face.
"Yeah," Faith said as she smirked at Giles, "you're old too."
Buffy looked back at Giles, and shook her head before turning back to look at Gregor who had set his jaw. The blonde could see that he wanted to say something, but Faith repeated her offer to check on the truth of her words… and Colonel O'Neill's in regards to knowing Thor.
"Very well," said Gregor with a shake of his head, "we will stay away unless needed. We will not come after the Key in the meantime."
"Thanks," Buffy replied before taking a deep breath.
It was few minutes later that Faith and the Colonel arrival at a hotel in Sunnydale, near the airport. The same hotel that Faith had stayed in when she elected to stay in the city days ago. After dropping off Giles and Buffy at the latter's house where Tara, Willow, Xander and Anya were staying the night.. the Colonel and Faith returned to the hotel.
With the equipment, including the hardlines, the laptop, the staff weapons, and the armband, among others at the safe house already packed earlier that day, and shipped to the Sunnydale Army Base where that would be set to Colorado Springs… Faith knocked on the door to the room that she shared with Major Carter and Ella. Major Carter opened the door a few seconds later, and stepped aside as an excited Ella ran to Faith who was still in the hallway. Ella wrapped her arms around Faith's left leg and looked up at her with a grin on her face. Fait then ruffled the little girl's hair and grinned at the new shirt and jeans the Major had bought her youngest daughter.
Nodding towards the table at the side of the room, Faith caught a whiff of fires and burgers in the air. While holding Ella's hand, and with the Colonel walking behind them with Jonas already seated at the table eating a pack of large fries, the door was closed by Major Carter as everyone sat down at the table.
Faith then bit into a fry while Major Carter took a sip of soda with the Colonel emptying the six large packs of fries, burgers, and nuggets for Ella on the table. Faith glanced at her clone… at her sister, and gave a small smile before telling Major Carter what had just happened at the camp.
The Summers Residence, 2200 hours, the next night.
It had been a few hours ago that Teal'c accompanied both Joyce and dawn back to Sunnydale. Faith was there at the Summers house in the afternoon with Buffy, Tara, Xander, and Anya when Joyce and Dawn returned safe and sound.. much to the delight of Buffy who literally jumped onto her sister and hugged her tight. Faith smiled at Dawn, and then at Joyce who then hugged her before whispering thanks to her. As did Dawn.
It would be an hour later, while Joyce and Dawn, was telling their cover story to the group did Faith and Xander finally have a one on one talk. The man had been in the kitchen when Faith walked in to get a cola from the fridge. She and Xander, who was drinking a glass of water just looked at each other while the dark haired Slayer opened a can with a pop.
"I guess you didn't lie," said Xander softly as he leaned against the counter near the sink.
"Yea, I guess I didn't," replied Faith as she stepped back and was prepared to walk away when Xander called for her again. Frowning, Faith turned around and watched as he put his hands in his pockets before asking her if she was leaving soon.
"Yeah, tonight," replied Faith, "Mrs. S convinced mom when she and Jack met her at the Army Base that she'd make dinner tonight. Plus she really wants to see Ella."
"She's different," whispered Xander.
"She doesn't have memories of the hell I went through," replied Faith, "which is always a good thing."
"Yea," said Xander shrugging his shoulders.
"Yea," Faith replied before she turned and waved at Xander, "see you when I see you."
Xander then saw the young woman leave through the hallway. Following her when she was at the foyer, Xander saw that she was hugging Joyce again before she stepped back. After telling Joyce that she'll be back later that evening with the others, Xander saw Faith and Teal'c head out of the Summers house. He looked at Buffy who was looking out of the door as Faith left. She then slowly closed it, and turned around to face Xander. He saw the blonde Slayer give a small smile before being hugged tight by Dawn.
It would be later that evening, around seven, that Major Carter arrived with the rest of SG-1, Ella, and Faith in tow. Faith looked on as Willow chased a giggling Ella around, while Dawn would occasionally catch her and then carry her up into the air. She looked at Joyce and her mother simply talking to each other while Colonel O'Neill and the others would be talking to Giles, Buffy, Tara, and Xander. Occasionally, Faith would be the one carrying Ella in her arms, all to protect her. She would whisper in the little girl's ears that she would always be safe, and that nothing bad would ever happen to her. And that would lead to Ella giving kisses onto Faith's cheeks.
And all Faith could do was smile as she looked at Ella before putting her down before she ran over to Dawn, and then to Willow. Faith would watch as Ella touched Willow's red hair, saying that she liked it very much. Smiling at her sister, Faith then noticed Tara standing next to her. The dark haired Slayer looked at the witch, and then gave a small smile. Faith knew that Tara felt horrible about having to lie about what happened to Oz, so she nudged her shoulder, and then nodded towards the kitchen.
Nodding her head, Tara and Faith walked into the kitchen, and then walked through the door and into the backyard. Closing the door behind her, Faith followed Tara who sat down on the top step before brushing her hair behind her ears. Sitting down next to the blonde witch, Faith looked over her shoulder at the solid, wooden door before she turned to Tara.
"So," said Faith.
"So," smiled Tara as she looked at the dark haired Slayer.
"Are… are you heading back tonight?"
"How are you with Buffy and… and Xander?" asked Tara as Faith looked back at the grass before saying that they weren't going to be the best of friends anytime soon, but they were going to part on speaking terms. Tara then asked, while her heart was racing, since she feared Faith's answer, if the both of them were on speaking terms.
"Yeah, we're going to be alright," answered Faith as she looked at Tara who gave a small smile, "but coming back when they ask me for help.. I mean…"
"It's going to take some time," nodded Tara in understanding.
"Yeah," replied Faith as she looked at the grass again as the door to the back yard opened. Faith and Tara turned around to see Major Carter looking out the door, saying that it was time to go. Faith told the blonde officer that she'll be right with them, and then the door was closed and Faith and Tara looked at each other.
And the both of them smiled.
"So," said Faith, "you said you wanted to kiss me."
"I hoped you'd forget about that," whispered an embarrassed Tara.
"I've never really.. you know… kissed a girl and... well, I know I should have said this earlier but… I'm flattered," said Faith softly as Tara smiled, "and I'm not saying this cause I'm leaving.. I think you know I'm telling the truth."
"Yeah," said Tara nodding her head.
"Call me?" asked Faith as Tara nodded her head.
"Maybe I'll even come visit you sometime," smirked Tara.
"That would be cool," said Faith as she stood up, as did Tara. The two of them stood on the back porch, and then hugged. Faith rested her head on Tara's shoulder, just as the witch lay her head on Faith's shoulder. They held on tight to each other before parting completely parting. Tara and Faith brushed their cheeks against each other, and then the edges of their lips touched for an instant while Tara was stroking the back of Faith's neck, while ta the same time… the Slayer was tightening her hold on Tara's hips. Tara and Faith kept eye contact with each other even after letting each other go; Tara occasionally brushing her fingers along Faith's arm.
"I guess… I guess it's time," said Tara with a small smile.
"Yea," replied Faith as they headed for the door. The both of them touched the doorknob at the same time, with Faith's hands ending up on Tara's.. followed by a spark of static electricity between their forefingers.
"Hey, look," said Tara with a grin, "we have a spark between us.
"Oh," smiled Faith as she stepped back while Tara opened the door, "I can beat that."
"Oh yeah?" asked Tara with an eyebrow raised as they entered the kitchen.
"Yeah," whispered Faith before she bit her lower lip, "I get to go home and play with myself."
"Fine, you win," chuckled Tara as they walked into the hallway that led to the dining room where Ella ran to Faith. The Slayer picked up the little girl while Tara told Faith with a smirk that she'd love to see that sometime.
Faith chuckled before saying that she'll talk to her soon.
"And me too," said Ella with a smile, "but first I am meeting my grampie, and then my Aunt Betty, and my Uncle Mark."
Tara kissed Ella's forehead before they walked over to the foyer where everyone was gathered. Tara and Faith were looking at each other discretely while Willow and Buffy were saying goodbye to Ella, with Dawn saying that she was going to be talking to her soon. And as Faith walked out of the Summers house with her mother and Ella, she looked back at the Scoobies and was glad that things were slowly changing between them.
'I just have a funny feeling I'll be coming to this hell again,' thought Faith to herself while saying goodbye. She took one more look at Tara, and gave her a smile.
And then Faith, Ella, and SG-1 began their long trip back to Colorado Springs.