A/N; RL Crap, 'nuff said

Chapter 8

Faith walked between the sparring Slayers; occasionally yelling out instructions and stopping a few to demonstrate various different techniques and correct stances. Even though Faith had been acting at the senior Slayer for several months, she still felt ill prepared for the job and her daily wish that Buffy was still alive. Often she would wonder how Buffy would have handled something, or if she would have said something different – better.

But Buffy wasn't around, and Faith continued to do the best she could.

Faith spotted Giles and Willow out of the corner of her eye and she dismissed the other Slayers for the day. The girls headed out of the room, laughing, leaving the three 'originals' to themselves.

"Hey, G-man, Red, where's X?" Faith asked mischievously. Giles gave a disapproving glare at the nickname and Willow just smiled.

"Xander stayed behind to look after things while Giles is here and I don't think he's ready to come back here yet," Willow answered sadly, and the others grew sombre remembering the last time they were all together was for Buffy's funeral.

The last sixth months since Buffy's dead had flown by for the dark Slayer and the other Scoobies. The Watcher's Council was pretty much up and running with Giles as head of the Council, Xander helping with the training of new Watchers and Willow in charge of finding Slayers. Luckily, because the First had targeted Watchers with Potentials, those around the world without a Potential had managed to survive. Because of that they had a surplus of Watchers ready to start training Slayers when they were found, until the current Watchers-in-training were ready.

Willow had begun a network of witches around the world who kept an eye out for Slayers. Between them, and wandering Slayers, they were finding more and more Slayers every day. Though from Willow's estimates, there weren't as many Slayers as they had first suspected. At first they had assumed the numbers would be in the thousands, but now their best guess was in the hundreds – probably no more than five hundred around the world.

Once a Slayer was found, she was given the choice of coming to New York where Faith ran the Slayer training school or Cleveland where Kennedy and Wood ran their own training centre, or a Watcher was sent out to guide and train the new Slayer. Unfortunately, there were a few Slayers that didn't choose either option and that's why Giles and Willow were in New York.

The three headed to Faith's office and they sat down to discuss the incident that had brought them together.

One month ago a coven in Russia had found a group of ten Slayers who had banded together to form a gang that was terrorizing normal humans. All attempts to reason with them had failed, and it had taken Faith and twenty Slayers to contain them without actually killing them. They had been flown to England so the Council could decide what to do with them, but that turned out not to be necessary.

"Have you figured out how those rogue Slayers lost their powers?" Faith asked, not wasting any time.

"No, not yet," Giles said calmly, his anxiety betrayed by his habit of cleaning his lenses when he is nervous.

"I've asked every coven I know, but none of them have any idea how it could have been done," Willow confessed with frustration; after a month of research they still had no idea how the rogue Slayers lost their powers during the trip from Russia to England. The Slayers had been shipped in magically enforced crates – separately – and had no content with each other or anyone else during the trip.

"Do you think it has anything to do with what happened six months ago?" Faith asked quietly, not wanting to bring up the subject of the events surrounding Buffy's death. Willow and Giles exchanged glances, and the dark Slayer knew that they had already thought of the possibility.

"We don't believe so, given the specific locality of the event," Giles said, trying to unemotional and academic as possible. Willow quickly jumped in and changed the subject.

"We do have an idea, given the recent statements from the rogue Slayers."

Faith raised an eyebrow at that.

"I thought they had lost their memories along with their powers?"

"We have managed to hypnotize a few of them with marginal success – the common thread is that they insist that 'She' took their powers. Though they retain no memory of who this 'She' is when they're awake, and we haven't been able to get any further detail using hypnosis," Giles responded.

"Well, that's great, why the fuck are you here to tell me a mythical 'she' did it?" Faith asked sarcastically, leaning back in her chair and glared at the other two.

"We believe that they may be referring to the First Slayer," Giles continued, long accustomed to Faith's antics. The dark Slayer paled slightly, and quickly looked away to compose herself before looking back. Her reaction wasn't lost on them, but now Faith was looking at them with carefully blank eyes.

"What makes you think that?"

"Given what happened with…Buffy, it would seem the First Slayer has more control of the Slayer line than she did previously," Giles and Willow exchanged another glance, "and we were hoping you could perform the ritual to visit the First Slayer again."

Faith looked at her hands, folded in her lap. She had never told them that Buffy was the new First Slayer, and never planned to. She was unsure if she wanted to talk to the First Slayer – Buffy – again. It hurt to know that after everything Buffy had done, she still had to do more – even after death. But she couldn't say that to Giles or Willow, and Faith knew she had no other excuse for not going through with the ceremony.

Faith wandered through the desert, silently kicking herself for going through with the ceremony. But Faith didn't want anyone else finding out that Buffy was the First Slayer. So here she was in the middle of metaphysical nowhere.

Twirling around, looking for the First Slayer, she stepped back only instead of stepping into sand she felt water soak through her shoes. With a curse, she turned around and gasped at the sight of the oasis before her. There were several palm trees, and a beautiful pond where there had been only sand and rocks moments before. On the other side of the water, Buffy was lying on a deck recliner in a skimpy bathing suit.

Faith forgot the situation for a moment and raked her eyes across Buffy's half-naked form in appreciation.

Buffy grinned at the other Slayer, and raised her shades onto her forehead.

"Hey Faith, fancy meeting you here," she teased the bewildered brunette.

"So, um, B…like what you've done with the place," Faith said, waving her hand to indicate the small oasis.

"Yeah, the whole 'dark and brooding fire and mystical stone ring' wasn't really me. At least this way I can work on my tan."

"B, you don't have skin to tan," Faith pointed out, to which the older girl just shrugged.

"Pull up a seat," Buffy said, and another recliner appeared. Faith laid down cautiously, still unsure about what was happening. She hadn't expected the blonde to be so…happy. "So…I assume this isn't a social visit."

"Yeah, we had a little trouble with some rogue slayers…"

"You want to know if I'm the one that took their powers away," Buffy interrupted and Faith nodded and looked at the First Slayer curiously. The blonde appeared deep in thought, but the brunette wasn't able to read her expression. Buffy sighed and sat up facing Faith, who mirrored her actions.

"Yeah, I did."

"Why? Did you think we couldn't handle it?" Faith asked.

"No…not exactly. It just," Buffy sighed heavily, "it wasn't your job. I have to look after the line. And that means making sure those who shouldn't have the power…don't."

"But who are you…" to judge, because, right, Buffy's the First Slayer now. Guess that comes with the territory.

"So is this going to happening a lot in the future, because it would save me a lot of headaches if I don't have to train as many girls," Faith smirked. Buffy laughed.

"Sorry, I can only use my powers for good," she said mischievously, then grew serious again. "Besides, I trust you and everyone else to do what's right."

Faith coughed to try and hide her embarrassment at the praise.

"So…how's being dead working for ya?"

"I'm okay, Faith, you don't have to worry about me. You also don't have to keep the secret of me being the First Slayer to yourself."

Faith shrugged.

"Didn't think it would help them if they knew. Besides, its not as if I haven't lied before."

Buffy eyed her sceptically but let it go. The two sat in a companionable silence, each simply enjoying the company of the other.

"I really missed you, B," Faith confessed finally, keeping her eyes on the water. Buffy did the same, smiling softly.

"I know. Me too."

Buffy sat on the rock, looking out over the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Cassie watched the other girl from her seat with the other Slayers as they talked quietly by the fire. It had been a month since Cassie had joined with the small group, and she was having the time of her life.

Well, except for the demon fighting parts, though the Slayers enjoyed it. Buffy was teaching her martial arts and Cassie was now able to take on a vampire by herself – although she hoped the need wouldn't arise too often. She watched the Slayers fight and wanted more than anything else to be apart of the dance. But what she had gained most from the experience was a sense of self-confidence. All the girls were brimming with it, that she couldn't help but 'catch' it. Ever since leaving Colorado she had seen so much, and had done so much. She had, as Buffy put, 'found the fun.'

The six girls had headed north to Canada for a while, mostly for Cassie peace of mind. The alien wasn't sure what the SGC were doing to find her, but she felt safer out of the country. Though she doubted that would stop Jack O'Neill. Buffy said that the spell she had cast should protect her from any alien sensors, and even though Cassie had seen real magic, she was sceptical. But it was a month later, and still no sign of SG-1. Cassie felt a twinge of regret for the anxiety she was sure that they were feeling, but she wouldn't trade her current life for anything.

After the trip to Canada, they had headed back down to the states to drop Isabelle and Ellie off in Philadelphia. The two had learnt everything they needed to know from the older Slayer, and were missing civilization – especially Isabelle. They weren't sure how Buffy did it, but she set them up with a history: they were sisters whose parents had been killed and they had run away from the orphanage where they were staying. They (Buffy, Andy, Erica, and Cassie) had stayed in the area until a Slayer found them and then had headed off again.

Andy hadn't seemed sad after their companions left, even though Cassie and Erica were close to tears. When asked, Andy just shrugged and said she was used to it. Buffy had simply smiled, and stared vacantly off into space – just like she was doing now.

Noticing where Cassie's eyes were straying, Andy spoke up.

"She's probably talking with someone."

"Huh?" Cassie asked, abruptly bringing her mind back to the others.

"When she stares off like that. Sometimes to talking to someone like us who we haven't found yet, or looking in on those who have left, or she's focusing on the part of her that's the First Slayer."

Cassie turned to watch the Slayer some more. Buffy had explained what she was, but Cassie still didn't know if she understood it completely. Buffy was human – but not entirely since she almost couldn't be killed. She was the First Slayer and in the spiritual realm, but at the same time she was here in the physical world. How Buffy could be in two places at once without going insane was beyond Cassie.

Buffy shook her head slightly and made her way back towards the group, a sad smile on her face.

"'Sall good?" Andy asked, and the others turned concerned looks.

"Yeah. Someone was a little concerned because I took away the Slayer powers from some girls."

Cassie raised her eyebrows at that.

"You can take the Slayer power away?" Buffy nodded and the others looked surprised. Cassie thought about that for a moment.

"Could I…could you make me a Slayer?" Cassie asked hesitantly. Buffy tilted her head to the side, and a thoughtful look crossed her face.

"I don't know. Maybe, if your body could handle the power without burning itself out; that's the only real difference between a Potential and a normal human." The Slayer grew silent once more, thinking hard. Intense eyes focused on Cassie. "If I could, there would almost certainly be a trade-off."

Holding the Slayer's powerful gaze, Cassie made up her mind – though in reality, she had made this choice a month ago when she followed Buffy for the first time.

"It would be worth it."

It had taken some time to convince Giles and Willow that the First Slayer wasn't going to be going around taking away Slayer's powers – especially since they thought the First Slayer was still the psycho girl that had almost killed them. Faith was still keeping the fact that Buffy was the First Slayer a secret, despite Buffy giving her permission to tell.

Taking advantage of the rare opportunity of having the three heads of the Council in the same city, Giles and Willow decided to stay for a few weeks and discuss some policies – much to Faith's annoyance. She didn't mind training the Slayers, but she definitely didn't like the paperwork the others kept sending her way. Unfortunately, that's the position the Head Slayer found herself in.

Faith felt her head about to explode when one of the younger Slayers entered the dining hall where the three had commandeered. Hopefully, Faith asked if she was needed for anything. The girl looked apologetically at the Slayer, and turned to Giles.

"Mr. Giles, there are some people here to see you."

Giles eyes widened in surprise, and rose to his feet as the girl let two men and one woman into the room. The expression remained on his face as he recognized the one man.

"Professor Jackson? This is quite a surprise."

The two shook hands and Daniel Jackson turned to introduce his companions.

"These are my friends Jack O'Neill and Samantha Carter. This is Rupert Giles." They shook hands and Giles turned and introduced Faith and Willow, then indicated for them to sit as he gathered up the scattered papers.

"Since I'm sure this isn't a social visit, what can I do for you?" Giles asked, wondering what the archaeologist would want from him. He had still been working as the curator of the British Museum when he had last seen Daniel Jackson. In fact, Dr. Jackson had basically disappeared from the academic sphere years ago.

"Well, I'd heard from mutual acquaintances about your new position as head of an international organization and they said that you might be able to help us," Daniel started when Jack interrupted.

"We need help finding someone."

Daniel glared at Jack and continued. "As Jack so eloquently put it, we do need your help."

"Who do you want us to find?" Willow asked curiously.

"Our goddaughter, Cassie and her best friend Erica. They disappeared a month ago without a trace."

"Did they run?" Faith asked, eyeing the three suspiciously. The older man was setting off her Slayer senses, and she would bet anything he was military. The woman's eyes flashed with indignation but Daniel interject smoothly before his friends could reply.

"They didn't take anything with them, so we don't think so. But if they were kidnapped, we haven't had any contact from the kidnappers."

"But why come to me?" Giles asked in confusion.

"We've used all our resources and have come up with nothing," Jack replied in a tone that implied that their resources were extensive, "Danny here talked to some old friends and they said to talk to you."

The three looked at each other, indecision on their faces.

"Please," Sam begged.

Giles sighed and nodded.

"We'll need as much information as possible about the girls, as well as a few articles of clothing."

Jack looked dubious but the other two nodded. Giles had just invited them to stay for supper when a girl poked her head in the doorway.

"Faith! We got two new girls, where do you want me to put them?"

Faith thought for a moment.

"Put them in 23b and tell them I want to meet with them once they've settled in. Oh, where are they from and what are their names?"

"Danielle found them in Philadelphia – I think their names are Isabelle and Ellie."