She's Gone 1 - Nightmares

"No," Xander stood, his heart pounding but his voice remaining steady. "I won't do it. Count me out, it's wrong."

"Wrong? How can resurrecting Buffy be wrong?" Willow demanded angrily.

"You ever read Pet Sematary Will?" Xander's palms grew sweaty as he remembered how Willow was the one amongst them who had the most success one on one against Glory. And he was defying her - but it was long past time someone put their foot down with her. "This is wrong, against the natural order. This can't have good consequences. All the texts say so," he shook his head, "I won't be part of this." They'd turned a blind eye to Willow's behavior for far too long.

"Who do you think you are, Gandalf?" he flinched at Willow's harsh, mocking tone. "Well fine, I'll get someone else, Dawn, to help us."

"Like hell!" his trepidation about confronting Willow fled at the thought of her involving Dawn in her mad schemes. "You're not raising her hopes!"

"But we need her!" Willow whined.

"Not at any price!" he shook his head. "You know how miserable Buff was, how worn out she was after her mom's death, let her lie. We can't even be sure she'd come back right!"

"Sweetie he's right," Tara broke in, her voice trembling.

Willow's head snapped round to face her girlfriend. 'You're turning against me too?"

"You know that's not true. I..I'm just worried -," Tara's voice trailed off as Willow stormed out of the room. Seeing the distress on Tara's face, Xander took her in his arms. "She hates me," she sobbed.

"Hush Tara," Xander soothed as he cast Anaya an anxious glance. "We did the right thing. Just give Will time to calm down."

* * *

Faith glanced up at the sound of the visiting room door swinging open. Outwardly she wore her customary cocksure expression, the look that had taught all the prison's gangs and dykes to leave her the fuck alone, but inside her guts were churning.

"Damn." Her suspicions were confirmed with the entry of two snooty-looking bastards in their early fifties. She didn't know them but she recognised their type - Watchers. Collecting herself she waited to hear what they had to say. "Hello Faith," the thin man who spoke had the same cultured upper-crust accent that Lin, G, and Wussley had all shared confirming her earlier forebodings. She didn't answer, preferring to wait to bide her time. After a second the man continued. "I assume you're aware of Miss Summers' demise?"

"Yeah," she replied, her nonchalance masking her inner pain. Angel had told her three weeks ago but she'd known ten days ago before that when her strength had suddenly increased. And she'd never felt so alone, so scared not even when she'd been a street runaway. "I know about B."

"B? Ah Buffy yes quite." Bones glanced down at his notes. "Miss Summers' death leaves the world unprotected at the moment."

It was an effort to keep her shock from showing. So that must mean she was the active Slayer, wasn't that a kick in the ass? And, Faith's eyes widened, that meant she had to die for another Slayer to be called. Her face hardened. "So which of ya's got the gun?"

The other man, a fat doughy-looking dude, shook his head. "No, there was some consideration given to that idea in Council circles but you were an exceptionally successful Slayer, apart from Ms. Summers, the best of the past century."

She squinted. "Me?" that was news to her.

"During your time in Boston you managed to eliminate three separate Master Vampires. In Sunnydale you slayed the oldest known vampire, a number of major demons, and survived an apocalypse."

"And then it all went to shit."

"Quite, owing to your previously exemplary record as a Slayer, your attempts at reform, and," the Watcher paused for a second, "various arguments put forward by Mr. Giles and Mr. Whnydham-Pryce it has been decided that you should be given a second chance."

Faith hid her surprise that G and Wes had gone into bat for her. "I don't know guys; I've got a pretty sweet deal here, three square meals, a roof over my head, and a kick-ass weights room. Why would I want to give it all up to die for a bunch of stuffed shirts?"

The Watcher's answer wasn't long in coming. "The world needs your experience. But if we have to put an untested Slayer into the field.."

Faith registered the implied threat in the Watcher's words. Not that she cared, she knew the Council wouldn't come at her face on, not unless they were really stupid. No, she'd end up eating poisoned food and then her pain would be over. But on the other hand it would give her the chance to re-pay Angel's trust. "Five by five, you two my new Watchers?" Great a couple of middle-aged sleazes, like she hadn't put up with that before. They probably couldn't wait 'til she was injured so they could 'nurse' her back to health.

She was surprised when the tall skinny one shook his head. "No, the Council has decided that despite his unorthodox," there was a world of disdain in the word 'unorthodox', "methods, Mr. Giles is considered the most successful of current Watchers. This, and his experience both of dealing with you and the hellmouth, has convinced the Council to give your stewardship."

Faith felt the colour drain from her face. "Yeah 'cause he did such a bang- up job last time," she muttered, holding her mouth away from the intercom so that the two men sat at the other side of the bullet-proof glass couldn't hear. She supposed it made sense to the Council. When she fucked up, not 'if' the Council would be sure she'd screwed up, they would blame it on Giles' methods, get rid of her, and discredit him in one hit. Going back to Sunnydale was bad enough but being constantly compared to St. Buffy. But she wanted to prove to Angel. Sighing, she spoke into the intercom. "So when do I get out?"

Fatso beamed, displaying the yellowest teeth she'd ever seen, dear god all that money and he couldn't afford dental care? She was just glad the glass separated her from his inevitable bad breath. "The paperwork will take a few days but then you'll be released."

"Five by five." All she had to do was wait.

* * *

Faith glanced from side to side as she hurried out of the prison gates, a small smile playing on her full lips. She'd never thought she'd feel the sun on her face, never be free again. She turned at the beeping of a car- horn. "Shame," she muttered as she sauntered towards the waiting black Saab, "I was kinda hoping to get drunk and laid before getting down to work." Reaching the car she grabbed the passenger door handle and opened it. Her mouth dropped open at the driver. "W.wes."

"Get in," the Englishman's tone was stiff and formal, but then she wasn't exactly expecting hugs and kisses - she had beaten and tortured the guy.

"Five by five." She slid into the car and had barely closed the car door when the Saab screeched away from the kerb. For a while she just sat there, watching the city go by, as uncomfortable with the situation as the Watcher obviously was. Finally she forced herself to speak. "Um, sorry for torturing you. And thanks for speaking up for me."

"In winter my arms burn and sting where you slashed them. Sometimes I wake up screaming with the nightmares," Faith winced, yeah nightmares, she knew how much of a bitch they could be. The Watcher glanced towards her, his eyes cold. "I spoke up to you because Angel and Mr. Giles requested I do. You could rot for all I care."

Faith blinked, well at least she knew where her former Watcher stood. Fighting back the urge to retaliate she closed her eyes and began to practice the meditation techniques she'd learnt in prison.

* * *

"Yes Mr. Halford-Bull," Xander moved to the chair Giles motioned him to, wondering who the Englishman was speaking to. His best guess was another Watcher judging from the double-barrelled name. He leafed idly through the magazines neatly stacked on the coffee table as he waited for G-Man to finish. Giles had moved to the Summers house to help Will and Tara look after Dawn after Buff's death. "Sorry for dragging you here Xander."

He looked up to see the Watcher hanging up the phone. "No problem G-Man," he grinned, "got me away from Anaya trying to get me into a nappy and feed me a bottle."

The Watcher shuddered. "Do you bloody mind? There is no need to assault my mind with such images," the Englishman's face turned grim. "That was a contact from the Council."

"Oh, he'd been right. "Has another Slayer been called yet?"

"Ah no," Giles hesitated, "in point of fact Buffy's death has revealed that the Slayer Spirit resides in Faith-."

Xander's eyes widened he realised the import of the Watcher's words. "They're letting her out? No way!"

"And what would you suggest Xander? That we allow the Council to murder her in order to call another Slayer?"

"No of course not, but remember what happened. She killed two people, tried to turn Deadboy bad, tried to kill me and Buff," he still had nightmares where he woke with her hands around his neck choking him, "and kidnapped Will!"

"Xander we need her, we can hardly hold the hellmouth on our own. Beside Angel assures me that she has made -."

"Oh Deadboy says!" he threw his hands up in disgust, "let's all believe the master vampire! After all he's the expert on murder!"

"Xander," Giles' tone was soft, "Faith wouldn't be the first murderer you've given a second chance."

Xander's eyes widened. "Hold on, Ben was going to end the world -."

"I was talking about the Mark of Egyhon."

"Oh," Xander thought for a second before caving in. "Okay I'll give her a chance. Why aren't the others here for this?"

"Ah," the Englishman paused. "We've all got history with Faith."

"Oh really?" he muttered sarcastically.

Giles ignored his interruption. I'd like to have some support when I announce Faith's return to the others. Willow at the very least is likely to be hostile."

Giles definitely had a point. "G-Man," Xander licked his lips. He'd never been a rat but this was too important and too scary to keep to himself, "a couple of days ago Willow wanted to do a resurrection spell to bring Buff back but I wouldn't join in."

""WHAT! Tell me you're joking!" Looking into the Watcher's blazing eyes he sincerely hoped Giles was angry at Willow for attempting the curse and not him for refusing to go along with it. Xander shook his head. "That bloody stupid girl! Doesn't she realise how reckless that is?" with an effort the raging Englishman calmed himself. "I'll have to have words that young woman," the still fuming magic shop owner took a breath. "There is another reason I wanted to discuss Faith's return with you."

"Oh?" Xander listened to Giles talk for a few minutes, his incredulity increasing as the seconds ticked by. Finally the Watcher finished. "You have got to be kidding me?"

* * *

"Hi Queen -," Faith's shoulders slumped as the former queen of Sunnydale turned and walked into the hotel's inner office. She brightened as Angel walked in from the elevator. "Hi Fang, you five by five?"

Her mentor smiled back at her. "How's freedom treating you Faith?"

She winked and laughed. "All this fresh air could make a girl giddy."

The vampire chuckled before turning to Wesley. "Thanks for picking her up for me Wes, could you watch the office for me?" the former Watcher nodded. "Thank you Faith, come with me."

She nodded and started after the vampire only to turn back towards the Englishman. "Thanks for the lift -," she sighed as the Watcher turned away from her.

"Wesley."

"I agreed to help you prevent the Council from murdering her," Wesley's voice was cold as he shuffled through papers on the reception desk, "I never agreed to be civil."

"Wes can't you at least -."

Suddenly the Watcher spun round, his eyes filled with raging fury; fuck Wes could be a scary bunny. "Bugger off Angel!" the Englishman rolled up a sleeve, she bit back a gasp at the scarring she saw on the man's forearm. "You didn't have to go through the agony, the weeks of physiotherapy that I did because of her! So don't tell me how to treat her!"

Angel glared at Wesley but to her surprise it was the vampire who lost the staring contest and turned to her. "Shall we go up to your room?" she nodded numbly.

* * *

"Big place you got here Fang," Faith kept her tone casual but inside her stomach was clenched in pain. Wesley's outburst had shaken her, the anger and hate she'd heard in his voice directed at her. What was worse was she deserved it.

"Faith," she turned at the vampire's soft voice, "I'm sorry about Wesley."

She shook her head. "Don't be, he had the right, I gave it to him."

"He should give you a second chance."

"Why?" she demanded bitterly, all the self-loathing pouring out. "I tortured him for fuck's sake!" she began shaking. "God Angel, I don't know if I can do this, go back to Sunnyhell."

"Of course you can Faith," she looked up into the vampire's gentle eyes. "You and I are a lot alike. We've both got a darkness inside us, me my demon, you your childhood. But we also have a choice. We can choose to let the darkness swallow us whole or we can choose to rise above it. What do you choose?"

She swallowed, god this was so hard, before nodding. "I choose to go to Sunnydale."

"Never had any doubt." Angel squeezed her shoulder before leading her into a room. "This will be your room for tonight; tomorrow we'll put you on a bus to Sunnydale."

"Five by five," her attention was drawn to the duffle bag on her bed. "What's that?"

"Yeah," Angel shrugged an embarrassed look on his face. "I went out and bought you some clothes, jeans, leather pants, T-shirts, sweatshirts, some basic cosmetics, and," the vampire coughed, "woman's things."

Woman's things? Faith hid a smile at the thought of Fang standing in a chemist's asking for sanitary towels. "Get me any condoms? Girl's built up a hell of an itch, even Wes with his 'tude was looking kinda interesting."

"Faith -."

"Joke," she'd developed a hell of a technique for getting herself off in prison but while inside she'd decided on a complete lifestyle change and that included a steady. 'Course he'd have to be hung like a horse - she hadn't changed that much. She was surprised when the vampire passed her a thick leather wallet. "What's this?"

"Two and a half thousand dollars," she gasped. "A copy of your pardon in case of trouble, and a social security card."

"I..I can't repay you."

"Just stay on the path that's all payment I need," Angel replied. "How do you feel about Sunnydale?"

"Scared," she admitted, the mask she always hid behind falling in the presence of her mentor. "I mean Red hated me before I went bad, she always was an insecure little bitch. Pip, well fuck I tried to kill her sister, threatened her mom, and locked her under the stairs and threatened to set it on fire," from what Angel said that last bit was a false memory but she was pretty sure Pip would remember it. "Then there's Xman," Faith closed her eyes as she remembered the look of desperate pleading in his eyes, the look of betrayal on his face as she'd choked him. The first guy, even before Angel, to reach out and she'd repaid his trust by trying to kill him. Pushing away the memories she continued. "Then there's G," she smiled, "I tried to kill his daughter, me the misfit. I mean god knows I can't compare to her."

"Faith," Angel rubbed at his forehead, "you don't have to compare, just be yourself."

"Whatever," she shrugged. Angel's words were all very well when she was secure in the big house but when she was about to be confronted by those she hurt. "Angel, I get why you're on my side with the Council, but why G?"

"In '74 Giles dropped out of Oxford and started running with a bad crowd -."

Faith snorted. "What, they eat their scones without butter?"

Angel ignored her interruption. "They did all the normal stuff kids in their late teens, early twenties do - drink, drugs, fighting, and sleeping around. But they also got into the black arts," Faith jolted with shock. "Demons I've met that were in London at the time are still terrified of 'Ripper' Giles. And in March '78, Giles and his companions raised a demon called Egyhon," the vampire's face tightened, "and the demon possessed one of his friends and he was forced to kill him."

"No way," Faith whispered, stuffy G a murdering black arts mage?

"Giles believes he was given a second chance and that you deserve one too." The vampire turned to leave then turned back. "Your bus leaves at four pm tomorrow."

"Sooner I'm there sooner it's over with."

The vampire's brow furrowed. "What's that supposed to mean?" she didn't answer. "Faith?"

She glanced down at the carpet. "The Council made it pretty damn clear they're expecting me to screw up and get myself killed."

"Did they?" Angel's tone hardened. "Well prove them wrong. Buffy lasted over six years in the field -."

"I'm not her remember?" Faith pointed out, her tone bitter. "Besides she had you watching her back for three -," her voice trailed off at the amused look on the vampire's face, "what's so damn funny?"

"You know why you're a Slayer?"

Faith stared at the vampire, confused at the question, for a few seconds before answering. "Yeah, some chick called Kendra got offed by your childe."

"Yes," Angel winced. "But do you know how the second line of Slayers was started?"

"Yeah B drowned by the Master and you and Xman revived her."

"Yes," Angel hesitated, "what you wouldn't know because nobody but Xander and I know is I fell into a depression at the thought of Buffy's death and hid myself in my mansion. Xander broke in and forced me the tunnels at the point of a cross."

"No way."

"You heard about the Judge and the rocket launcher?" she nodded remembering how she'd mentioned it to B on their first meeting. "Xander stole it from the local army base," her mouth dropped open, she didn't know that! "Then," Angel paused, his face drawn at the memories, "when I was Angelus I beat Buffy pretty bad when she was ill with a cold, would have killed her but for Xander putting my head in a sack and kneeing me in the face. The next night I went to the hospital to kill her but Xander was waiting for me."

"And?" Faith couldn't believe what she was hearing.

"Buffy wasn't turned was she? Then there was the night we fought the Sisterhood of the Jhe, you remember?"

"Yeah." The night she'd helped save the world, one the few decent things she'd ever done. "Xman saved my life the night, ran over this Jhe bitch that was kicking my ass."

"Oh," Angel looked surprised for a second. "He saved all our lives that night. A couple of nights later I heard a rumour about a group of zombies planning to use a bomb, to blow open the hellmouth. I asked around and found there'd been a gang and alright. They'd been boasting about blowing up the hellmouth the night we were battling the Jhe and how afterwards they were going to find this Harris kid and kill him."

And yet Xman and the hellmouth were still there, while the zombies weren't. She wasn't a genius but she could the math. "Yeah but that was for B and the others," she replied nonchalantly, hiding how impressed she was, "he wouldn't do shit for me."

"Just give him a chance. Give him a chance."