Reliable Backup

Summary: Faith needs help, but Giles is unavailable. Her request for an alternate helper catches Giles and the others off guard. . . Follow-up to "In Loco Parentis."

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for violence and themes.

Time Frame: Summer, post fourth season BTVS and first season Angel.

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me ( to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.


Giles carefully used the tweezers to remove precisely three rat hairs from the sample bottle that was sitting in front of him, and transferred them to the vial containing the mixture of holy water and snake blood. He was watching the mixture bubble with unnatural vigor when his pager went off. He looked at the number, and Willow saw the expression on his face and knew who the message was from. A look of irritation appeared on her face momentarily, but vanished as she remembered how important it was for Giles to meet this commitment. She smiled understandingly at him and commented, "You better get that. . .she never pages unless she's really in a jam."

Giles nodded, pleased that Willow was taking the interruption calmly. The current crisis had them all on edge, and Willow unquestionably still had issues with Faith, reformed or not, but Willow was right. . .Faith called every other week for routine news and updates, but pages always meant trouble. He glanced at the number on the display and punched it in.

"Hey, Giles. . .thanks for getting back to me so quick. I've got a location for that nest of vamps in Glendale. . .but I need backup. . .they have decent security and I need someone to watch my back. . .are you up for it?"

Giles frowned: Faith had been tracking the activities of this particular group of vampires for two months now, and wiping it out would be a major accomplishment. Unfortunately. . .he blinked and replied, "Faith. . .I'm in the middle of a delicate magical operation with Willow. . .I'm afraid that I will be tied up here for the next seventy two hours. . .can you wait for that long?"

"No go, G." Giles could hear the frustration in the Slayer's voice as she responded, "My snitch says that they're spooked. . .they're going to bug out tomorrow night, at the latest." Giles heard her pause, and Giles was not surprised at what she suggested next: "Maybe I'm just being too jumpy about this, Giles. . .I bet I can handle-"

"Faith, we agreed that you wouldn't take foolish risks. . .and if you're calling, you obviously think that it would be foolish, too." Giles took a deep breath following the admonition, then decided to take his own turn at a suggestion that wouldn't go over well: "Faith, things have been mostly quiet here, and should remain so until Willow and I have finished the binding ritual . . .perhaps Bu-"

"NO!" Giles pulled his ear back from the phone for a moment, then eased back as Faith continued more calmly, "Look, Giles. . .this is about me trying to get my act together. . .I don't want to be at war with the world any more. . .but that doesn't mean I don't have issues with B still. . .and Angel too, so don't go there. We're not trying to kill each other. . .let's leave it there for now, OK?"

Giles sighed. He had informed Faith that Buffy had overheard their conversation back in February, which had agitated Faith somewhat, but she had calmed down when he told her that he would keep their agreement not to tell anyone where she was unless she gave the OK. He had coaxed her into letting him inform Willow, Xander and Angel of the outlines of the new arrangement to avoid conflicts, and Willow (after her own angry outburst) had cooperated by helping to scramble the police efforts to locate Faith by computer and magical tampering. Faith had asked Giles for on-site assistance twice in the intervening period, and each time things had gone well. This time, it seemed, there would be problems.

"Faith. . .I don't know what to tell you. I can't go, you don't want help from Angel or Buffy, and it's too dangerous to go alone. . .we seem to be at an impasse." Giles was beginning to feel as frustrated as Faith obviously was, and there was a long silence before he heard an intake of breath at the other end of the line. Concerned, Giles asked, "What is it, Faith?"

There was a moment of silence, then Faith replied, "Giles. . .I need you to call someone."

* * * * *

Xander stared at Giles, then asked slowly, "All right, could you repeat that for me, please? I seem to be suffering from hallucinations."

Giles, who was carefully mixing equal parts of mercury and grain alcohol in a stone flask, nodded patiently and replied, "Faith needs help dealing with a dangerous situation, Xander. . .and when she found out that I was unavailable, she specifically asked for you."

Xander sank into a nearby chair and buried his face into his hands for a moment, then looked back at Giles and commented, "Well, at least I'm not hearing things. . .so, what's the situation?"

Giles looked at Xander, then at the other occupants of the room. Buffy and Riley were sitting on the sofa, watching with visible concern on their faces. Willow was visibly hiding anger, and Tara was squeezing her arm supportively, not completely aware of the complex web of emotions darting about the room. Giles sighed, then met Xander's gaze and replied, "It involves a nest of vampires that Faith has been tracking. . .she needs to attack tomorrow night at the latest, or they will change locations and she will lose them for the time being. . .she needs you to help as a lookout, and perhaps with some of the fighting, though she indicated that she felt up to most of it." The four oldest friends in the room shared an involuntary smile at that comment, while Riley and Tara looked on in bemusement. Giles sobered, then concluded, "I can't tell you any more than that, Xander. . .unless the others leave the room. . .Faith insisted."

Xander looked at Giles, frowned, then nodded. Buffy came up to Xander and squeezed his arm, asking, "Are you sure you want to do this, Xander? This isn't going to be a cakewalk. . .and even Faith wouldn't want you to do something you don't feel up to." Willow walked up next to Buffy, and her face bore the same message as Buffy's.

Xander looked at his best friends and sighed, then replied, "She needs the help, guys. . .and either of you would do it too if you could. . .even you, Will." Willow scowled, but did not verbally dispute Xander's assertion. Xander grinned briefly, then sobered as he locked eyes with Buffy and asked, "Can you do something for me, Buffy. . .if I don't make it back?"

Buffy's eyes moistened subtly as she looked back at Xander and whispered, "Of course, Xander. . .what is it?"

Xander looked uncomfortable, then turned away from Buffy as he began, "If I don't come back, I need you to tell Anya-"

"That you died bravely helping Faith fight the forces of darkness and that your last breath was a declaration of undying love for her?" Buffy replied with a deadpan expression, though the twinkle in her eyes suggested that she knew that the nature of the message she was to convey would be quite different.

Xander scowled at the mock melodrama, then replied, "Tell her that I got hit by a bus while jaywalking and that the ceremony will be closed casket." He shuddered, then elaborated, "If she even suspected that I was anywhere near Faith. . .the woman was a vengeance demon, and I don't even what to think about what she might do to my remains."

Buffy and Willow snickered, then leaned in to give Xander hugs, after which they beckoned to their significant others and vacated the room. Xander turned back to the grim-faced Giles and nodded, elaborating, "All right, Giles, give me the whole story."

* * * * *

Xander had once had family in Glendale, and had spent a substantial number of summer months there when he was younger. A lot had changed, with new construction in many areas, but he still knew all of the main areas of town. He was sitting in the Food Court of the Glendale Galleria, sipping on a Coke and watching the foot traffic when he felt eyes on him. Without turning around, he called out, "Hello, Faith."

He heard her move past him, and she slipped into the chair across from him. Faith gave him the once over, then replied, "Hey, Xander. . .you've kept in shape." He was wearing a light T-shirt and shorts, and the absence of sleeves revealed the muscle tone that he had acquired with long hours of training after the embarrassment of the Harmony incident.

Xander shrugged, trying to act casual, but he knew all too well that he was doing a poor job of hiding his reaction as he replied, "It'd be a bad idea if I didn't. . .you look all right, too." Meaning that she looked nothing like the pale, bruised figure that he had last seen in a hospital bed more than a year before. Even after everything that had happened, and as angry at her as he had been, that sight had shaken him to the core, and he had had to force the image down savagely in February when he had been out hunting her with Giles. She wore a simple white top and shorts: the sleeves were medium length, hiding certain landmarks that Xander knew were present, but an angry red line on her forearm indicated that she had seen some recent action. She saw his eyes on the injury, and she frowned at him in dismissal, of both that and his visible concern about her. He shrugged again and asked, "So what's the plan?"

Faith nodded at the door, and they went outside, walking for some time until they found themselves in a quiet residential neighborhood that had little foot traffic. She turned to him and began, "It's a warehouse down by the railroad tracks. . ." She pulled out a hand drawn map and sat down on the curb, with Xander quickly following, and she quickly showed him what she had discovered during her two nights of observations: guard positions, routines, and so forth. After a few minutes, she concluded and turned to him, asking, "So what do you think?"

Xander nodded and replied, "Pretty good. . .but you might want to consider-" He grabbed a pencil from his pack and made some notations on the map, then underlined some notes that Faith had made during her observations, but not commented on during her synopsis. Faith listened intently, then commented, "Good call on those. . .I might have missed that last one." She grinned at him and continued, "Those soldier skills still seem to be sticking with you. . .why didn't you just join the Army after graduation? I hear they're throwing money at new recruits with decent skills."

Xander frowned at first, then checked himself as he realized that Faith wasn't privy to the whole blow-up back in May, and that she was asking a reasonable question. He shrugged and replied, "You know me, Faith. . .I've never been a morning person."

Faith chuckled and replied, "Yeah, I know what you mean. . .Five AM is time to hit the sack, not get out of it." She got up and beckoned for him to follow, and they walked a couple of blocks until they reached a green 1970 Pontiac Grand Prix parked at the curb. Faith opened the driver side door, and unlocked the passenger door for Xander. He got in and looked admiringly at his surroundings, and Faith smiled at his enthusiasm as she explained, "I used some of the cash I had to get this and fix it up. . .it guzzles gas, but it can move something fierce and it can take some decent punishment."

Xander grinned and replied, "I bet." Faith started the car, and they drove for about fifteen minutes before Faith pulled the car over into the parking lot of a deserted building. Xander indicated the map and asked, "This is the building you marked as being our base camp?"

Faith nodded and replied, "We can get a good look at the place from here, and confirm the guard routines before we go in." They walked into the building, found their way to the roof, and sat down in a couple of chairs out of sight of anyone on the ground before Faith commented, "Two hours until sunset. . .guess we wait."

Xander nodded, and consciously relaxed for several minutes, trying to ignore the nagging questions in his mind. At length, he realized that he was going to fail, and turned to Faith and commented, "Faith. . .you can tell me to go to hell. . .I know that. . .but I would like to know what you've been up to these last few months. . .is there any way you'd be willing to tell me?"

Faith raised an eyebrow, and replied, "Why do you want to know, Xander? Obsessing over who I might be messing around with. . .or do you just want to confirm that you were right to want to shoot me with that overgrown bug zapper back in February?" Her words were harsh, but Xander noticed that the tone was completely different from the contemptuous, callous tone she had adopted before trying to strangle him; if anything, the tone was one of simple curiosity.

Xander looked at her for a few seconds, then replied, "If I still felt that way, Faith, I wouldn't be here. Giles says you're on our side now, and he told me that you asked for my help: not a problem. If I can work with Dead Boy, I can deal with the idea that you've turned over a new leaf, too." He closed his eyes for a moment, then continued, "Faith. . .I don't know what it was like from your side of things. . .but as far as I was concerned, we were friends, completely apart from anything that happened in that motel room. I like to think that I'm loyal to my friends, even if things go wrong occasionally between us. It still makes me sick to my stomach to think that I was on the streets with Giles, ready to shoot you down like some demon if I saw you. . .I want to get past it, Faith. . .I don't know if we'll ever really be friends again, but I'd like to be able to think of you in terms of the good things you've done, rather than the person who almost choked me to death and nearly killed one of my best friends. . .and hearing about the stuff you've been doing while fighting the good fight would help me do that. . .does that make any sense to you?"

Faith blinked, and Xander watched as she visibly considered his words, and nodded while replying, "All right. . .but I want to know what you guys have been up to, too." Xander's eyes widened, and Faith continued, "You don't have to betray any secrets. . .just the stuff that anyone who knows about you guys and what you do would know. . .I've still got some issues too, and it would be kind of nice to know what is going on at your end of things."

Xander looked for insincerity, and saw none, then nodded. Faith smiled and began, "Well, I got into Long Beach at the end of February, and-"

* * * * *

"Faith, duck!"

Faith obeyed instinctively and just missed having a rather large battle-axe diminish her by several rather important inches of height. Xander had been in perfect position to spot the vampire waiting in ambush, and Faith smiled at his instincts as she kicked the axe loose during his follow-through and staked him immediately. She turned back and gave him a brief smile as a thank-you, before moving somewhat more cautiously through the room, looking for lurkers with crossbows or guns lying in wait.

The two hours had gone by rather quickly, and Faith had been rather surprised at how easily she had opened up to Xander. She had readily told him of the long nights of stalking vampires all over Southern California, following tips passed on to her by Giles and others. Vampires were far scarcer in general away from the Hellmouth: a good sized city might only have two or three, which meant that there was a real prospect of clearing out all of the vampire problem a town had. . .at least for the moment. There had been several close calls, and Faith described them all in vivid detail, noting the genuine look of concern on his face as she did so.

For his part, Xander had described vividly the whole fiasco with the Initiative, including the whole final confrontation with Adam. Faith felt a chill and decided that she had been lucky to miss that whole scene. . .that Frankenstein wanna-be might have decided that he only needed one Slayer for his plans and turned her into a cuter version of the Bride. She had chided him quietly for nearly getting himself killed by Adam by charging at him, and laughed with genuine pleasure when he retorted that she would have been in deep trouble last year if he thought that way. He had mentioned in passing that Oz had left Sunnydale, and she had sensed his reticence about exploring that topic further. She hadn't pressed it, and Xander was talking about some party that the group had attended last week when he said, "So Anya gave me a dirty look, and Willow kind of huddled closer to Tara and-" He broke off at that point and looked guilty, and Faith had given him an odd look, asking "Who's Tara?"

Xander flushed, and replied too quickly, "A friend of Willow's."

Faith put two and two together and stated flatly, "Willow's dating a girl named Tara, is that it?"

Xander flushed brighter, then mumbled, "Ah. .. yeah. . .uh, Faith, could you somehow make sure that Willow never finds out I told you that?" He looked embarrassed, then elaborated, "I've got no problems with Willow's feelings for her, or vice versa. . .but I don't think she would have wanted me to tell you about it."

Faith laughed, then shrugged and replied, "Xander. . .you know I've got a few issues with Willow, but who she decides to knock boots with isn't one of them. Besides, what's the chance I'll ever have a conversation with her again? Relax, I won't tell on you." She was amused at his relieved expression, then decided to change the subject: "So, Anya used to be a demon, huh? What's that like?"

Xander simultaneously smiled and winced, causing Faith to laugh again as he replied, "It's been better since she stopped talking about her old job so much. . .she's beautiful, loyal, and she's doing less things to mortally embarrass me as time goes on. . .things are pretty good, actually."

Faith grinned at him and commented, "You really go for the hard cases, don't you?"

Xander winced again, then replied, "That theory seems to be popular among Slayers." He gave her a hard look and asked, "Faith, if you're asking me if-"

Faith held up her hand to stop him, then looked down for a long moment before meeting his eyes and replying softly, "Xander. . .I know you weren't trying to screw me over last year. I never told anyone else this, but after the dust-up at the docks with Trick and his boys, me and B had a talk. . .most of it was me just saying I'd stick around as long as Wesley and his goons backed off, but part of it was about you. She told me what you had said, and how you blew off what she had said to come and talk to me. She was pissed at me about that, Xander. . .more than anything else, I think. I had already decided to go work for the Mayor at that point. . .but I remembered what she said, and I've had time to think about it." She looked down again briefly, then looked at him again and continued, "Divided loyalties are tough to deal with, Xander. . .but you tried to do your best by me. . .I wish I had listened. I wouldn't have asked for you to be here if I didn't trust you to watch my back. . .and I hope you know that you can trust me to watch yours." She extended her right arm, and Xander discerned her intent and clasped forearms with her as they locked eyes. Both saw trust and determination there, and with that they began their final preparations to destroy the nest.

Their raid had started according to plan: they slipped past the outer perimeter and dusted the two guards who were just reaching their duty stations with no problems. Fortunately, the doors were locked manually, and the keys had conveniently tumbled free when the guard was dusted, meaning that Faith wouldn't have to kick the door down. They had entered the warehouse and begun searching for lurking vamps when Xander's sharp eyes spotted the vamp in the shadows bringing an axe to bear on Faith. His shout had the desired result, and Xander smiled at the efficiency with which Faith searched the rest of the building, finding no more vampires, but locating a wooden trap door in a corner.

Xander moved up beside her, a small crossbow resting comfortably on his right arm. Faith tested the trap door subtly, finding it was unlocked. She got into position, then quickly and quietly pulled it open. Nothing happened, and she glanced down the opening. Dim artificial light filled what appeared to be a hallway, and a ladder on the side of the opening went down about nine feet to the floor.

Faith frowned, then motioned for Xander to hold her feet as she leaned down into the opening. She slowly lowered herself until her eyes were below the level of the ceiling below, then took some quick glances before leaning up and closing the trap door again. She turned to Xander and commented, "There's a vamp about thirty feet down the hallway to the left. . .he's not completely alert, but there's no way I can get to him without him spotting me. . .word's gotten out about my little raids. . .I think if he sees me, he'll bug out and call all of his buddies. . .not sure how to go here."

Xander smiled coldly and replied, "I have an idea. . .vamps aren't famous for sharing, and I think we can use that."

* * * * *

The vampire standing watch in the corridor was bored: with two guards upstairs outside locked doors, no one was going to get this far down. He would rather have been out hunting, but the leader insisted that everyone do guard shifts, and the last one to demur to this edict quickly found themselves without a rather crucial portion of their anatomy. He sighed: five more hours of this crap, and he could grab some blood and call it a night.

Abruptly, sounds of the trap door opening noisily caught the vampire's attention, and he turned to see, not one of the guards from above coming down to report, but a young male human clumsily coming down the ladder. He walked pointedly over until he was about ten feet away, then snapped, "Who are you and what are you doing here?" He was tempted to kill the boy on the spot, but the leader had warned against killing anyone whose whereabouts might be questioned on short notice: he could have friends nearby.

The boy smiled broadly and replied, "Hey, I'm Bob. . .Bob Jones. I'm from South Carolina, and I'm looking for the Interstate to Sacramento? I asked your buddies upstairs if they could give me a heads-up, but they said for me to come down here and ask. . .said something about not being hungry. Not sure what they meant, but I don't really get you California folks anyway. . .so, can you help me out?"

The vampire grinned: an out-of-towner, and the boys upstairs had sent him along. . .unusually generous, but there was no use looking a gift horse in the mouth. He walked towards the boy, assuming his vampiric mask as he did so. His prey paled and backed off, but there was only a dead end five feet behind the end of the ladder. The vampire was preparing to enjoy an easy meal when he heard a light "thump" behind him. He turned and caught a glimpse of a dark-haired woman before a stake entered his chest and reduced him to dust.

Xander sighed in relief, then moved in quietly behind Faith as she slipped down the hallway. He whispered, "I don't suppose you've got that vampire sensy thing that Slayers are supposed to have?"

Faith looked back at him in annoyance, then replied, "If I did, would I have needed you to save my ass back there?" She shook her head and concluded, "We just need to do this the old fashioned way. . .and there's the break we need." She pointed to a door at the end of the hallway with a window, and they carefully moved down to it, and Faith cautiously peeked into it, seeing a large room with seven vampires scattered around it. One of them seemed to be in charge: he was directing some of the others to move some crates around, much to their apparent annoyance.

Faith frowned and muttered, "Damn. . .I was hoping they would be more split up. Seven on two isn't great odds, especially if that one is a hardcore case. Xander, don't take this the wrong way, but maybe I should take this alone."

Xander snickers and replies, "If I did that, Giles would kick my ass, and if you live through that dumb stunt, he'll do the same to you. Besides, you think I didn't come prepared for just such an emergency?" He opened his pack, and Faith smiled at seeing what was there.

* * * * *

Walter smiled coldly at his minions as they moved the crates of weapons against the far wall of the room. He had fled Sunnydale three years before, after the death of the Master, and he had been plotting to fill the power vacuum there ever since. He had heard of the debacle with the Initiative, and decided that this was his time to move in. With the soldiers gone, he would bring in a little firepower of his own, kill the Slayer and her allies, and everything would be just great. He was musing about the furnishings of his new lair when the door was kicked off of its hinges. A man and a woman stepped into the room: they were dressed for combat and had determined looks on their faces. Walter smiled, then looked at his minions, who were staring dumbfounded at the door, wondering how these humans had gotten past the defenses above. He sighed impatiently, then snapped, "Well, don't just stand there, you idiots! Kill them!"

The six minion vampires moved forward, only to see the man and the woman bring up pistol-like weapons with wide barrels, one in each hand. Two of the vamps realized what they were and dove off to the side, while the other four, not so well informed and not inclined to be afraid of a gun, kept moving forward. . .only to each take a flare in the chest. With charming synchronicity, they ignited and dissipated into dust.

Faith and Xander took a second to exchange a smile, then each engaged one of the remaining minion vamps. Faith quickly staked hers, only to find the leader vampire bearing down on her. She blocked his attack, and began defending herself, hoping Xander could hold his own.

Walter snarled, wondering who these rather dangerous intruders were. A memory came back to him, and his voice took on a sardonic tone as he commented, "So you're the other Slayer. . .the one who went bad. Tell me, how was it like to serve evil just like one of us?"

Faith's eyes went cold, and she whispered, "Not as fun as it will be kicking your ass." With that, she delivered a solid kick to his chest, sending him back twenty feet into a crate, shattering it. Several assault rifles came tumbling out, and Faith was shocked into delaying for a crucial half second as Walter grabbed one, then snatched a clip and slammed it into the gun as Faith moved forward. . .only to stop as the barrel leveled itself at her chest while she was still ten feet away.

Walter stared into the Slayer's eyes: he heard no sounds of fighting and dismissed the other human from his thoughts. . .he must have been killed. He smiled and replied, "I was planning on using one of these guns to kill the other Slayer. . .looks like I get to take it out for a test run." He was about to pull the trigger when he caught a motion out of the corner of his eye, and turned just in time to take the water balloon directly in the chin.

Holy water sprayed everywhere as the balloon burst and Walter pulled the trigger of the rifle convulsively as he screamed in agony from the burns. Faith was already moving, and she felt a trail of fire along her side as one of the rounds grazed her. With brutal economy, she kicked the rifle away, grabbed a shard of wood from the crate, and drove it into Walter's heart. The vampire looked utterly shocked before bursting into dust.

Faith sighed in relief, then gasped as the pain from the bullet graze became more prominent in her consciousness. She sat down, and then felt a warm hand check the area of the wound. "Not too bad, Faith, but you should take it easy for a bit while I clean and bandage it, then I think a night or two off wouldn't be such a bad idea." Xander's voice was calm, though Faith could sense the undertone of relief and worry there.

Faith turned to him and met his eyes to let him know that she was all right, then grinned at him before commenting, "You really were prepared for anything, weren't you?"

Xander smiled and replied, "Not everything. . .there are a lot of demons that this stuff won't touch, and a sorcerer would have been bad news. . .but after four years of fighting on the Hellmouth, I've pretty well figured out what works on vampires. . .though it's a damned good thing that the firepower was still in the crates." He smiled more widely and commented, "If the rest of those crates are like the one you busted up, I've got some nice goodies to take back to Sunnydale with me. . .minus whatever you want to take, of course."

Faith laughed, then winced at the residual pain as she responded, "I like the way you think. . .finish patching me up, and we'll start hauling, once we check to make sure there aren't any more lurkers around."

* * * * *

Doing a final sweep and loading the choicer ordnance into Faith's and Xander's cars took a couple of hours, and by then Faith was no longer in pain. She and Xander drove up into the hills above Glendale and looked down on the twinkling lights of the city. Both were silent for a moment as they sat on the hood of Faith's car, then Xander broke the stillness: "Somehow, the view looks better when you know there aren't any vampires down there."

Faith nodded and replied, "At least for now." She looked over at him quietly, then began, "Xander, I-"

Xander met her eyes in the dim light, and interrupted her, "If you're about to say thank you, there's no need to. . .it was sort of my job to keep some lucky vamp from killing you, after all."

Faith chuckled, then replied, "I was about to ask if this all helped square things between us."

Xander looked down at the ground for a moment, then replied, "Faith. . .you're doing good work out here, and any time you need help, I'll be available unless the crisis of the moment in Sunnydale has me tied down. . .and I do want the best for you. . .I always have. But if things are ever going to get back to us being friends in a more conventional sense, there are some things you have to get past."

Faith looked at the tension in him as he sat next to her, and she sighed before responding, "I know. . .but I'm not there yet, Xander. . .I'm sorry."

Xander smiled sadly, then reached out and squeezed her hand as he replied, "Me too." He hopped off of Faith's car and commented, "Well, I'm going to take off. . .I need to get the goodies in my car stashed away before sunrise, and Giles wanted me to stop by early for a report on what happened." He offered his hand, and Faith shook it once before releasing it without another word. Xander looked at her for a moment, then got into his car and drove away.

Faith watched the taillights recede into the distance, then whispered, "Good-bye," before turning back to watch the twinkling lights of the city that, thanks to a reforming Slayer and a young man yet to find his direction in life, would not have to deal with the threat of vampires for some time to come.

As always, comments are welcomed and desired