A/N: S7 E18 'Dirty Girls'

Spike raced across the cemetery after the vampire, he was just about to tackle her to the ground when a hard punch collided with the side of his jaw.

"What do you wanna do to her, vamp? Something like this?" Faith growled, punching him again.

"Nice punch you got there. Lemme guess... Leather pants, nice right cross, doe eyes, holier-than-thou glower. You must be Faith." Spike smirked.

"Oh, goodie. I'm famous." Faith said sarcastically.

"Told you were coming. Bit of a misunderstanding here. I'm-"

"Spike." Faith interrupted. "Yeah, we've met before."

"We have? I don't think we-" Before he could finish his sentence, the slayer had landed a hard kick to his chest. "Bloody hell! What're you doing? I'm on your side."

"Yeah? Maybe you haven't heard. I've reformed."

"So have I. And I reformed way before you did. We're on the same side!" Spike yelled, dodging more of her punches.

"Please. You think I'm stupid?"

"Well, yeah." Spike shrugged.

"You were attacking that girl."

SMACK! Buffy socked Faith right round the face. "Sorry, Faith. I didn't realize that was you."

"It's all right, B. Luckily, you still punch like you used to."

Buffy ignored her, turning to Spike. "You okay?"

"Yeah, pet. Terrific."

"Pet? Are you protecting vampires? Are you the bad slayer now? Am I the good slayer now?" Faith gasped.

"He's with me. He has a soul." Buffy explained.

"Oh, he's like Angel?" Faith realised.

"No." Spike denied.

"Sort of." Buffy shrugged.

"I am nothing like Angel." Spike scoffed.

"He fights on my side. Which is more than I can say for some of us." Buffy looked pointedly at her sister slayer.

"Yeah, well if he's so good, what's he doing chasing down defenseless-" Suddenly, the 'defenceless girl' leapt back into the fray, knocking Faith to the grass.

"That's one of the bad guys." Buffy stated.

"You should make 'em wear a sign." Faith muttered, reaching for Buffy's stake. "May I?" She snatched up the weapon. "Thanks." And staked the girl.

"Angel's dull as a table lamp. And we have very different colouring." Spike grumbled.

Faith nodded. "Okay, catching up. Anything else I gotta know?"

"Nice to have you back."

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Spike slipped down into the basement. He loved being with Buffy again, in her bed, trusted. But being around the potentials 24/7 was making him want to screw their heads off.

"You craving a moment alone in the dark, or can I bum one?" Spike noticed Faith sitting on his old cot.

"Well, I guess you can smoke all you want, the big C not really an issue." Faith handed Spike a cigarette.

"Teeth get yellow after an eternity. Gotta watch that." Spike lit up and took a drag.

"What are you doing down here anyway?" Faith asked.

"Used to be my...bedroom I guess." Spike scoffed. Faith looked pointedly at the chains behind her head. "Right. Not what it looks like."

Faith held her hands up in mock surrender. "Hey, to each his own, man. This one guy I ran with, he liked me to dress up like a school girl and take this friggin' bull-whip-

"I got dangerous...for a while." Spike admitted.

"This before the soul, or after?"

"After, but I got over it, in case you're feeling all dust-happy again after your long incarceration." Spike informed her.

"Not if you're all repenty. Takes the fun out of it." Faith chuckled.

"So what brings you down here then?"

"The wannabes, they've been spazzing for, like, hours. No more Starbucks."

"Yeah, does get a bit much up there."

"We gonna talk about the fanged elephant in the room?" Faith questioned.

"And that would be?"

"You and Buffy. Don't tell me she's become a vamp groupie." Faith took a long drag on her cigarette.

"You'd be wise to keep your mouth shut about Buffy." Spike said calmly.

"Touch a nerve did I? So what? She's your honey?"

"Yeah. What's it to you?"

"How long for?"

"Nearly 2 years now. Give or take." Spike shrugged.

"And the soul? How long's that been hanging around?"

Spike paused for a second, wondering if he should lie. Oh sod it. "Few months."

"Interesting...So B was getting her mack on with you pre-soul? Angel will not be pleased." Faith tutted.

"Like I give a piss what Angel thinks."

"Spike?" Buffy called down the stairs. "...and Faith. Well don't you two look very chummy."

"Yeah you know all the cool vampires." Faith grinned. "Know them a little too well maybe..."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Shut up, Faith. We're here to win a war. Not discuss my love life."

"Relax. I prefer you not so straight laced anyway."

"Whatever. Spike, I need you for a sec."

"Fine by me." Spike leapt up and followed Buffy out of the basement.

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As usual, the Summers' living room was packed. Not just every potential from across the globe but the Scooby Gang: Xander, Willow, Giles, Tara, Anya, Dawn and Spike. The added extras of Faith and Wood and finally Buffy in the middle of it all.

"We've got a new player in town. Dresses like a preacher. Calls himself Caleb. Looks like he's working for the First. He's taunting us, calling us out. Says he's got something of mine. Could be another girl, could be something else. Don't know, don't care. I'm tired of talking. I'm tired of training. He's got something of mine? Fine. I'm getting it back, and you guys are coming with me." Buffy announced, she turned to the Scoobies. "We need to start arming the girls. I wanna be ready to move when we find him."

"We don't even know where we're going." Willow pointed out.

"That's why I figured we'd do a little recon first." Buffy turned to Faith. "You up for it?"

"Point me where you want me." Faith agreed.

"And you're certain this is the best course of action? You don't even know what this man has of yours, if he, in fact, has anything." Giles argued.

"It could be a girl, a potential trying to get to us." Buffy offered.

"Could be a stapler." Giles deadpanned.

"Going in anyway." Buffy said.

"With the girls? Most of whom have yet to be in the field, let alone in a life or death situation." Giles said exasperatedly.

"Then it's time we test them. Look, I'll just take the ones that have been here the longest. The rest can stay behind."

"Could be that's just what he wants you to do, the old bait-and-switch." Spike suggested.

"Yeah, he lures us away and then kills the girls we leave behind." Willow seconded.

"I know. That's why I need you to stay here with them. You and Tara. You're my most powerful weapon, Will. I know you can keep them safe if anything happens." Buffy looked to the witches seriously.

Willow nodded furiously. "Of course, Buffy." Tara agreed quietly.

"An unknown man breezes into town, says he has something of yours. Buffy, this thing's got 'trap' written all over it." Xander argued.

"He won't be expecting a full attack. Not this soon, that's why we have to move." Buffy emphasised.

"We know nothing about this man. We cannot go into battle unprepared. We have to have more time." Giles believed.

"Giles, we don't have time. And you're not going into battle. I need you to stay behind with the others."

"So what's the plan, Slayer?" Spike asked.

"We have a main team and a backup. Spike, you and me will be the first wave. Faith, can I count on you to be behind us?" Buffy turned to the other slayer.

"I'm five-by-five." Faith nodded.

"Willow and Tara. You two stay here, hold down the fort. If there's an attack, unleash your mojo." Buffy commanded the witches.

"You got it." Willow assured her.

"Where do you want me, Buff?" Xander chimed in.

"With Faith. Second-in-command."

Xander swelled with pride. "I'll be there."

"The more experienced among you girls will join. Be ready at sunset."

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Hospitals smelled. Of antiseptic. Stress. And death. Hospitals had brought nothing but sadness in Buffy's life. Her cousin, her mother, various failed battles, and now this.

Willow was seated studiously at Xander's side, clutching his hand tightly, Tara pressed a kiss to the top of her head. Anya was on his other side, her fingers threaded through his, whispering quietly to him.

Various potentials were bedridden. Broken bones, concussions, thrown into a fight they'd never asked to be part of. These girls weren't recruited, they hadn't volunteered. It was their destiny.

"You did what you thought was best, luv." Spike came up behind her.

Buffy's eyes lingered on Xander's weak form. "It wasn't good enough."