Road to Redemption (Series #2) – a Faith Series (takes the place of season 5 of BtVS)
EPISODE FOUR: Beautiful Disaster
Faith found herself in a warehouse lot on the outskirts of Sunnydale. Although, she had never been there before, she knew where it was. She held in her hands a yellow glowing globe and stared at it, confused. The yellow aura seemed to brighten even more and it became hot to the touch.
"Shit!" she muttered, dropping it on the ground. It landed with a thud.
Laughter began to fill the air around her, putting her into a defensive stance. She looked around, trying to search for the source but it was night all around her. Whispers echoed, overlapping one another, almost making it impossible to make out each sentence.
"Not who you want me to be…"
A little girl's laughter.
A little girl's scream.
She kept looking around, turning her whole body as she did so. She wanted to yell out, demanding answers, but she couldn't bring herself to vocalize.
Within the darkness above, a blue ripple began to form. Like a doorway. It started small and thin then elongated as blue lightning emanated from it. Flashes of light almost blinded Faith as she tried to look at it. A girl's face. Familiar.
Buffy's little sister.
Suddenly, the light became so overbearing; it engulfed Faith and everything around her. She felt the heat on her skin, the screams of people she knew, she cared for. The cries of demons.
And in the middle of it all, the cry of a young girl…
"Be back before Dawn…"
Faith woke up with a start, sitting up in the bed. Her eyes darted around in alertness mixed with confusion.
"You okay?" Xander Harris asked, also waking up from her reaction to her dream. He looked at her with worried eyes. The both of them were on the bed in his dorm. The early morning sun was beginning to peak through the window. "What's wrong? Bad dream?" He placed his hand on her back. Bad dream and Slayer dream could be two different things; he really, REALLY hated it when it was the exact same thing.
"Shit, yeah." She rubbed her eyes. "Fucking weird." She shook her head clear. Looking back at him, she suddenly asked, "Who's Dawn?"
Xander stared at her, searching her face. "Uh, little 14-year-old girl. About yay high." He lifted his hand above the ground.
"No, I mean who is she REALLY." The question had been on the tip of her tongue for quite sometime now, and she couldn't resist the question any longer.
"Faith, she's Buffy's little sister."
"Her… long lost sister or somethin'? Adopted sister?"
"No." Xander knitted his brows together. "Are you okay? Lately, you've been kinda acting like you haven't seen her before."
"See, that's what's bugging the hell outta me 'cause NO, I haven't seen the kid before in my life."
"Whoa, Faith. Okay, I get that maybe you don't wanna face up to Dawn 'cause of everything that happened back then, but… I'm worried. You're kinda taking this whole thing kinda farish."
Faith sat up straight, staring Xander in the face. "What the fuck are you talkin' about? I'm not taking anything far. I don't know her! And I don't get why you think I should unless she's got some hold over you."
He searched her face some more, seeing the seriousness behind her intense eyes. "Oh, you're not kidding."
"No, I'm not." She narrowed her eyes to emphasize it.
"Right." Shifting slightly under the covers, Xander tried to follow her train of thought, as odd as it was. "Um, well, this 'hold' – why would it be affecting everyone else but you? It's DAWN. Little Dawnie. She's as harmless as a harmless harm. The only harm she seems to do is annoy Buffy, but what sibling doesn't? Maybe we should see if something was altered in your memory?"
"Fuck the altered memory thing," Faith said, getting out of bed in frustration. She searched the room for her clothes. "When this Toth thing went down, B was all about trying to fix my fucking memory and there was nothing wrong with it." She found her pants and a tank. "I just had a dream and it had that girl in it. A girl I've never seen in my whole fuckin' life until yesterday!"
Xander watched her throw clothes around the room in search for something else. The worry he had been feeling was growing ten-fold. Faith wasn't lying and by the way she was acting, she was just as frustrated with him as he was worried about her. But if something was wrong with her memory, of course she wasn't going to notice. "What was the dream about?" he asked, calmly.
"I… don't know," she admitted. "Went quick. Just her in it, buncha light… just a bunch of flashes of images that, of course, mean shit to me."
"Okay, so, this isn't good." Xander slipped out from the bed. "Maybe it's some spell. To keep you from knowing who Dawn is. It HAS to be."
"I don't know, Faith."
Faith crossed her arms. "Maybe it's just here in Sunnydale," she mused. "Whatever's happened to you guys happened 'cause you were here and I wasn't."
"Maybe," Xander murmured, trying to infuse as much confidence behind it as possible. But when he looked up at her, he saw the glare she was giving him. "How're we gonna prove it, I mean? It's not the first time Sunnydale has been the center of all things weird and nowhere else."
Faith glanced at the phone. "I dunno. Call Angel or somethin'."
"Oh, right 'cause me and him are tight buds." He stood up.
A grin tugged at the sides of Faith's lips, despite the frustration. "Ya' know, you CAN get over that sometime soon, Xand."
"No thanks." He found some pants and put them on.
"C'mon, you ain't got nothing to be jealous of from him. And I'm guessin' you're over Buffy by now." She tilted her head a bit. "Right?"
"Of course! But Mr. Dead Man Walking hasn't just had a MAJOR effect on the Buffy-turf, which I'm SO over," he quickly added. He was searching around for a shirt as well.
"Oh, I get it." She grinned wider. "Totally platonic, me and him. I kinda like my men alive."
"No, no. I get that. I just don't like the guy." He looked over at her seeing that she wasn't buying the non-jealousy. "If you want me to call L.A., then fine I will. I'll just ask for Cordelia instead."
The name brought Faith's smile down a notch. "Oh. Yeah."
Xander raised a brow, picking up quickly on her reaction. He was hoping for it, of course. "You gotta get over that sometime, ya' know."
Faith grabbed a pillow and smacked him with it, knocking him back on the bed. "Fuck you," she teased. She tossed it to him while she laughed. Even in the worst of times, Xander always knew how to bring in the humor. Sometimes in a wicked way, but still enough to make her laugh. "Okay, call. I don't peg Angel to be the secretary type and I know no one other than him will ever wanna hear me on the other line."
Xander gave her that and picked up the phone after searching his nightstand for the number.
After he dialed and got what sounded like Cordelia Chase, Faith paced around the room absently. How could this be that there was something wrong with HER? It seemed every day she had been in Sunnydale, something had to happen to her. This was Buffy's turf, shouldn't things be… no, she couldn't wish things to happen to Buffy.
Damn, I've changed, she thought.
Still, she had such a bad feeling about all this. The dream just added onto the badness. Just because this Dawn girl was a kid, it didn't mean shit. She'd learned there was sometimes more than met the eye.
Stopping a moment, she watched Xander talking to Cordelia. She barely knew the history behind the two of them; she knew his and Anya's better. But just by the way he spoke to her – the soft smiles and the teasing – they did have something special. It might've been some high school fling, but Xander was not one to take stuff like that without heart. That's where her jealousy seemed to seep through even though she knew better. He had told her once that him and Cordelia just never had closure.
He hung up after saying good-bye and sat there a second before looking up at the Slayer. "Okay, so, Cordelia knew who Dawn was."
Faith let out a sigh and rolled her eyes. "Fuck!"
He stood up. "Faith, I seriously think something's up that's causing YOU to forget who Dawn is."
Frustration came back to Faith. "When? How? WHY?"
"Don't know times three. Was there something else in that dream? Uh, anyone else other than Dawn?"
Faith shook her head, everything still so vague. "Nope. Nothing that made sense to me anyway." She ran her fingers through her brown locks at a loss.
He glanced at the clock. "Crap, I gotta go to class in a half an hour." His eyes met hers as they stood in front of each other. "We'll figure this out. Might be nothing, ya' know?"
But she wasn't convinced. Not at all. "I'll go talk to Giles. Maybe he won't think I'm fucking out of my mind."
"Hey, whoa. I don't think you're out of your mind. You're very much in your mind, just something might be messing with it." He stood up and walked up to her. "There's a difference."
"Always know how to sweet talk a girl, don'tcha?" she asked, the small grin returning as she wrapped her arms around him. She kissed him. "So tell me, stud, what's this whole thing about you bein' Drac's servant?"
Xander's eyes widened. "What? Who-who told you?"
"A little Buffy and Willow told me." She laughed as his face turned the color of a tomato. "Hey, don't sweat it, big guy. It's not like I'm gonna think any less of you."
"Well, that's a comforting thought considering there's not much to think of me to begin with." He felt her nudge him hard in the stomach with her fist, making him double over a little. "Hey and OUCH!"
"Don't talk about yourself like that," she told him, sternly. "I'd kick anyone's ass who talks about you like that and you're not excluded outta that group, you got it?"
He was a little surprised at her insistence but nodded. "Yeah, okay. What would I do without you?" he said with a smile.
She stared at him a moment, seriousness behind her dark eyes. "We almost found out, didn't we?"
"Yeah, we did…"
The moment passed and Faith ran her finger down his jaw line before she looked around the mess of a room. "Guess I better get in the shower before meetin' up with G-Man."
"Yeah, me, too."
They met gazes again and mischievous smiles spread across their lips, both having the same idea about showering efficiently.
Rupert Giles blinked at the dark-haired Slayer as he stood behind the counter of his shop, the Magic Box. "Excuse me?"
Faith rolled her eyes. "C'mon, Giles, I repeated myself twice!"
"I-I know, it's just…" He smiled at a few customers who had come into the store then returned his attention back to Faith. "… it's a bit hard to digest."
"Swallow it whole, G. I need to figure if it's me or her. And yeah, I get that it's pointin' more towards me, but WHY?"
"Good question." He jotted something else down in his accounting book. "So you have no memory of Dawn whatsoever?"
"Right. None. In my mind, Buffy's a damn only child. Just like the rest of us."
"It's quite hard to-to see your point of view, Faith."
"You tellin' me that you can't see how everything in this damned town happened without Dawn?"
"Yes. When you came into town, you know Dawn seemed to worship you. You recall how jealous Buffy was."
Faith blinked. "Hell, no, I don't."
A customer came up to the cash register, holding items in his hands.
Faith backed off a bit as Giles rang him up. She watched the stranger eye her.
"She come with the purchase?" the guy commented with a supposedly "charming" smirk.
Faith smirked back, leaning casually against the counter. "Two for one, you play your cards right."
Giles rolled his eyes as he counted out the change.
"Two for one? Two for one what?" the guy asked.
"For every one come on you try on me, you get two hard fists in your face." The sweet smile remained on her face.
The guy frowned, realizing it wasn't really an idle threat and grabbed his change and items and left.
Giles watched him then sighed. "Faith, really, that's no way to treat customers."
She grinned. "Hey, I don't work here."
"Good point." He adjusted his glasses. "Um, let me begin some research on mind-altering spells." The Englishman held up his hand before she protested. "I know it may not be the right route, but for now, that is our best course of action."
"Sounds fun." Faith frowned, disappointed that it could be something on HER. "In the meantime, I gotta walk around thinkin' I know the kid?"
"It might be best."
Faith crossed her arms and shook her head. "Something about her that's sending bad vibes to me. I ain't likin' it."
"It may be just the remnants of the dream you had."
Just then, the bell over the door rang and in walked the subject of Faith's woes. The lanky, long-haired teenage girl walked in with books in her hands. "Hey, Mr. Giles," she greeted the Watcher then stopped short when she saw Faith. "Uh, hey…"
"Hello, Dawn," Giles greeted her in return. He looked over at Faith who had tensed up. He pushed a book towards her, nudging her with it.
Faith blinked, finally, then unfolded her arms. "Hey."
"Did I come in at a bad time?" she asked, curiously looking at Giles.
"Uh, no," the man answered. "Faith and I were talking shop."
"Right, you and Faith…" Dawn eyed Faith suspiciously, Faith returning the favor. "Look, I told myself that I was gonna be nice 'cause, you know, you're dating Xander now. And I really like Xander and all, so thus with the niceness."
"Probably a good idea, then," Faith muttered, though realizing she sure babbled like Buffy.
"Sorry?" Dawn asked, narrowing her eyes at the Slayer.
"Uh, why don't you go on and-and prepare for patrol for later on tonight?"
Breaking eye contact with Dawn, Faith nodded. "Actually, I was hopin' to use your phone."
"Of course. There's one in the backroom, for your privacy." He nodded towards the training room.
"Thanks." She followed his direction, closing the door behind her, after giving Dawn one more glance.
"What's up with HER?" Dawn asked.
Faith found the cordless phone sitting on a small table near the weapons wall. She was actually surprised Giles knew what these new fangled phones were. Sitting on the mat, she punched in the numbers.
"Paul," Faith greeted the familiar voice, leaning against the wall. She smiled widely always happy to hear his voice. It seemed it had been forever than just a few days.
"Faith. How are you?" he asked, his tone brightening. "It's so good to hear your voice again."
"Hey, it's only been a few days, dude. Already miss me?"
"I wouldn't called it 'missing you' per se," he joked. "But we have noticed you not being around. Less things are broken around here."
"Oh, so NOW you grow a sense of humor?" But she laughed. Although her time here in Sunnydale so far hadn't been all that great, it was a heck of a lot better than her usual time spent in the Dale. Even so, she wished she were back in her neighborhood with Paul and Hannah and everyone. She really was missing them. "Seriously, it's been a rough few days. Hadn't had a chance to ring you up."
"Well, we were going to give you one more day before Rachel led the search party to find you."
Faith grinned again. "She's been askin' about me?"
"Of course she has. Actually, since the hour after you left. She'll be slightly disappointed she missed your call." He paused. "You say it's been rough there; is… everything alright?"
"Yeah." She sighed, knowing that that wasn't entirely true. "Damn, I spend a few days here and I get demon attacked twice. Life of Sunnydale. But I'm five by five."
"I guess the reputation you built up for Sunnydale really holds true."
"More than you know." She shook her head. "Hey, tell me next time you're gonna see Hannah and the squirt. I'll be sure to give 'em a call."
"Well, in a few days, I shall have a phone line set up at the shelter directly to Hannah."
Faith raised her brows in curiosity. "And how is it with you and Hannah? How's that working for ya'?"
She could practically feel the man blush.
"That's what I like to hear."
"And I take it you and Xander are…"
"Hell, yeah. Which… he's schoolin' and stuff so I kinda told him I'd hang around until his first semester's done." Some part of her felt so bad about telling Paul this, as if she was letting him down in some way.
"That's wonderful about his school. He told me about it before he left, actually, so it's good to hear he's still pursuing it and that you're giving him the support he needs."
"You… ain't mad I'm not coming back right away?"
"Mad? Why, no! Look, I know you think you were important stuff here, but we're making it fine for now."
"Again with the joking sarcasm. Dude, spoonin' up next to Hannah has really gotten you in a good way."
There was another long, blushing pause from the other end. "Um, so, you shall still keep in touch then?"
Faith chuckled at his attempt for a change of subject. "Yeah, Paul. Of course. But you better be tellin' me the truth about things goin' okay there. One sign of trouble and your ass better be callin' me. No hesitating, no matter what."
After a few more minutes of small conversation, Faith gave Paul the numbers where she could be reached – Xander's dorm, the Magic Box, even Buffy's dorm and Willow's and Tara's dorm.
When she was done, she sat in the quiet room staring out at the pieces of training equipment that were for Buffy. Glancing at the clock and seeing it was still well into the afternoon, Faith decided to take advantage of the free space and do some exercising.
"Ain't nothing like the vampires in Sunnydale," Faith commented as she was slammed up against a fence of what looked like an abandoned warehouse. The chained fence rattled, both vampires growling in what they believed was victory.
Only, Faith was barely fazed by the action and slammed both fists into each of their faces at the same time. Their heads snapped back and she used that distraction to duck down and sweep them off their feet forcing them to land hard on their backsides.
Sundown didn't come fast enough for Faith, but she had welcomed the evening and the two vampires that decided to give her a work out. It was nice to use the moment for herself. For awhile, she was going to have to get used to being around Buffy.
As soon as the sun went down after training for a few hours, she came across an area of Sunnydale she didn't even knew existed. A very small warehouse district, more or less… well, there was only the ONE warehouse so it was 'less'.
Faith grinned, snatching one up by the front of his jacket and hurling him right back into the fence. He bounced off once before finding himself sailing towards the stake she had pulled out during those seconds and dusted him.
The second one jumped back up and elbowed Faith right in the back, knocking her down. She landed on her stomach side, but thought quick, pushing her legs up, leaning on the palms of her hands, and slamming her boots right in the vampire's chest, sending him flying back.
She fell into a handstand that she quickly got out of and turned around, fists up. She lowered them when she noticed the vampire moaning in more pain than she thought she had inflicted. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"
"I think I landed on something," he whined, arching his back. He finally rolled over, revealing the glowing dull yellow sphere he had landed on.
Faith stared at it a moment then rolled her eyes. "You're such a fucking baby!"
The vampire got to his feet and shook out the pain, growling and getting back to business.
"Now that's more like it," she said with a hungry grin of her own.
He stood there, weighing in on his next move he was about to execute. So when she charged at him, it took him off his guard, allowing her fist to meet up with his chin. He stumbled back, only to be met up with a boot right in his cheek that sent him flying into the fence.
Faith grabbed him by the ear, forcing him to his feet. "Thanks for the warm up," she commented before slamming the stake right into his chest.
Dusting herself off after a moment, she twirled when she felt a presence behind her, fist out. But she stopped inches from the startled guard's face.
"Shit, dude, don't come up to a gal like that," she warned, slipping the stake easily - and stealthily - into her jacket.
The guard stared at her, recovering from the near collision with her fist and got his bearings back together. "You're late," he said. The skinny guard pulled the loose pants of his gray uniform up as he pointed the flashlight at Faith.
"For what?" She shaded her eyes against the direct light.
"The party you're looking for," he replied, pulling the flashlight down.
"The rave they tried to get going here a few nights ago. Had to chase them off the damn property. It's a prime place." He shined his flashlight towards the warehouse. "I mean, it's not like it's being used or anything, though structure's kinda rotten, but - "
"The law's the law," Faith finished. "Yeah, I gotcha, hon. No worries. I can find my kicks elsewhere. A girl's gotta be resourceful." She turned to go.
"Hey, wait," he called, bending over and picking up the glowing sphere the vampire had landed on earlier. "You forgot this… whatever it is." He held it out to her.
Faith looked at it, noticing the dull glow coming from it. She took it, mainly to appease him, but couldn't help feeling the familiarity behind it. "Thanks," she mumbled absently.
"You kids got some weird toys nowadays. But hey, whatever gets you through the night. Maybe I'll get my niece to explain it to me one day."
Faith grinned. "You may not wanna know," she couldn't help but say before turning around and leaving.
A group of vampires gathered in a crypt, not in very good moods. The crypt had belonged to Spike at one time but now it was just a good place to set up shop and make it their own.
Which their leader happily did.
Plus, it had a television set already there, just where Spike had left it.
"That's so not fair!" the female leader of the troop whined, pacing in front of them. "I so took the time to arrange every one of those morons to be on my team 'cause I thought they had, like, skills or something."
"But, boss, you told us they were the expendable part of the group," the largest of the gatherers, Mort, reminded her.
"No, I didn't! I told you that they were total throwaways!"
The others glanced at one another.
"But that's not the point, is it? The point is, they didn't come back so now, I have to do some more digging!" She crossed her arms, clearly annoyed. "And biting and stuff."
"There were two of them," another one announced.
"Two of what?"
"Slayers. Two of us got staked by one at the warehouses and the other two got it by the Bronze."
"That's not possible! Is that possible?" She looked at each one of them who all just shrugged. "Whatever!" She tossed her blond hair over her shoulder. "We can handle more than one Slayer. And we will!" She looked at the TV, placing her hand on it, almost somberly. "For Spikey's memory."
"Harmony, do you have a plan?" someone asked.
The blond vampire named Harmony Kendall looked at them with a knowing smile. "I will… eventually. Just give me a minute. And when I do, we'll have the Slayers for dinner!" She paused. "I'll have to have a totally light lunch before that, though. This low- carb diet is totally killing me."
Faith went directly to the Magic Box when she was done at the warehouse, the yellow orb now sitting on the counter in front of the ex-Watcher.
"What's that?" Giles asked as he held the clipboard in his hand. The glowing ball was settled in front of him. He picked it up and studied it, totally engrossed.
"That's why I brought it to you, G. You're the man with the answers. Found it near some warehouse. Looked like your thing."
"Yes. It does." He noticed the markings on it. "I'll have to get back to you about this."
"Take your time. Please." Honestly, Faith really could give a shit about it. The bell over the door rang then, prompting her to glance up. "Yo, B," she called with a wave of her hand when she saw the blond Slayer walk in.
"Faith, hey. You ready to hit some cemeteries?"
"Yep. You know me, always lookin' where the action is."
"Sometimes, it kinda follows you. I met up with some vamps over at the Bronze." Buffy picked something gross off her jacket. "Blah."
"Yeah. Ran into some on the west side, too. Guess they're out and about tonight, huh?"
She began to follow Buffy out the door. "Your boy not coming out with us?"
Buffy shook her head. "Riley needs some rest; he had a tough time recently with some leftover nasty drugs."
"Drugs? Didn't peg the guy to stray into that addictive line."
"Uh… guess we have some stuff to catch up on."
With that, the two Slayers left.
"What are you reading?" Riley Finn asked as he and Xander sat at the back table of the Magic Box later on that night.
Xander was reading a comic book with more interest than he ever showed his text books – which sat opened but unread.
"Some latest issue of Wonder Woman," Xander said, showing him the cover. "There are so many different issues of the same comic, it's kinda hard to keep up. But I figured, hey, Wonder Woman in her usual barely there uniform. Gotta love it."
"Wonder Woman? Dark-haired? Superheroine? Doesn't take a psychology major to see who you're relating that to." He raised one corner of his mouth.
It took Xander a moment to get what Riley was getting at.
"Or maybe it DOES take a psychology major…"
"Oh!" He glanced at the front picture again. "MAN, did you just put an image in MY mind."
"I don't want to know," Riley murmured.
Folding up the comic book, Xander placed it on the table. "What can I say? Dark-haired hotties with super strength really are a turn on for this fanboy. WW's too serious, though. I like my super-powered women with a sense of humor." He glanced around to see who was here, which really was no one. Giles was in the backroom studying the glowing ball Faith had dropped off before going on patrol. "Hey, Riley, what's the what? Kinda noticed you've been staring at the door more than your book. You're really THAT worried about Buffy? You know, with Faith here - "
"I know. Buffy's much better off."
"Wasn't really gonna put it that way, but…" He lifted a brow, narrowing his eyes a bit. "You're not of the liking of Faith being here, are you?"
"No, that's not it," Riley quickly put in – a little TOO quickly.
"Uh, huh. It's okay, Riley, really. A lot people don't REALLY want Faith to be here for different reasons. She knows it, I know it."
"Xander, I'm okay with her being here. She's… helpful."
Riley's eyes glanced down at the book. "Yeah, of course. But, I mean, it helps that Faith doesn't have to study like me. And she's really not a bad person."
Xander peered a little closer at Riley, knowing there was something more. "No, she's not. I should know." He grinned. "Look, I know she makes you really uncomfy 'cause of the whole body-switch thing, but she's trying to put everything behind her. It's not gonna be easy, I know."
"Don't worry, Xander. I really am cool with her being here." Riley stared at the comic book a moment before a small smirk spread across his face. "So, does Faith know about what happened with the whole Dracula thing?"
Xander's eyes widened slightly then quickly averted back to the comic that he snatched right back up. "No." He glanced at Riley who continued to stare at him, not believing him. "I'm never gonna live that down, am I?"
Riley laughed. "Sorry, man."
Xander checked his watch. "Oh, look. Time to check up on Anya," he said, standing up and gathering his books. He wondered what was going through Riley's mind at the moment. He knew it wasn't the safety of Buffy, per se. There was something else beneath it. It occurred to him that he and Riley were in the same boat – normal Joes dating super women. Xander wondered if that had something to do with Riley's mood. "Hey, Buff's okay."
Riley nodded. "I know," he said, quietly.
"We make our move tonight," Harmony said, slapping her hand down on the table for emphasis.
"How?" Mort asked.
"You mean I have to think of that, too? I just thought about the time when we're going to attack." She slumped back into the chair with a pout.
Mort rolled his eyes. "Boss, maybe we should just attack the Slayer when she goes out patrolling again."
"You saw what happened to our last batch. No, we so need her to come to us!"
"Bait her to where we want her. Steal something of hers."
"Yes! Good idea!" She stood up with a smile again on her face. "Uh, I think there's this sweater I saw her wear once at school; of course that was SO '99 - "
"Boss, we were thinking something bigger, more important. Like… one of her friends. Or… her sister."
Harmony narrowed her eyes at Mort. "That is a good idea. Yeah, steal one of them. But I don't want her stupid sister. I want someone better!"
"Take your pick then." Mort was ready for whatever he had to fight for.
"Xander. Xander Harris!" She recalled the slapping fight he had with her not too long ago and she vowed to take revenge on him for that. "He's been a pain in my ass since elementary!"
"You sure you don't want the younger, smaller, weaker bait?"
"Did you NOT hear what I just asked for?" Harmony demanded. "Go, go, go!!!"
"It's not sunset yet."
"Well, use what I just said, um, when it is…"
"… and it was not a very pleasant experience," Anya finished with a frown.
"Well, those kind of examinations usually aren't, Ahn," Xander said, leaning forward in his chair. "But you'll be leaving here soon, right?"
The ex-demoness nodded. "Yeah."
"Don't jump up and down about it, you're making me all dizzy." He peered closely. "What is it?"
"I get out of here, right? Where do I go?"
"Uh, you still have your apartment, don't you?"
"Maybe. I-I can't really remember what I did before my monster side came to. I think I might have killed the landlord." Then she saw the shocked look on Xander's face then raised her brows. "I mean, I am sure I didn't. There's nothing keeping me here any more. You're having sex with someone else and I am sexless."
Xander reached out and held her hand. "You're not sexless. You very sex-full, and I can attest for that. You'll go out there and you'll find a better guy who'll make you happy and have lots and lots of sex."
"Yes. You're right. This gaping wound won't show to him until we have our nude bodies next to each other. By then, it will be too late not have sex with me." She gave one nod of confidence.
"Good. I'm glad I got you thinking it through." He wasn't going to ask her to stay; there was no need for him to. In the honesty of it all, Anya really didn't have anything to keep her here. It was best for her to keep moving, finding her place in life. It was something he couldn't give her, and he believed Anya was seeing that.
"I'm just afraid…" She trailed.
"Afraid of what?"
"That I will not find a better guy."
Xander fell into a grateful smile, giving her hand a squeeze. "Believe me, Ahn, there are better guys for you. Just generally better guys than me." He glanced up at the wall clock. "I have to go. I'm meeting Faith downstairs."
"Are you going to have lots of sex tonight?"
He stood up. "Actually, I don't know… right now, we're just gonna have a late dinner. Not sure about after that. I'll help check you out of here, okay?"
She only nodded. She leaned back into her pillow and watched him wave good-bye.
Anya woke up from the sound of the door opening in her room. "What is it?" she murmured.
"Hey, sorry to bother," came Faith's voice.
"Faith?" Anya blinked back the weariness and became more alert. "Why are you here?" She glanced at the clock. It had been a nice twenty-minute nap. "Are you not supposed to have dinner with my ex-boyfriend and eating food better than the crap I'm about to have?"
Faith always had trouble reacting properly to Anya before; now it was just downright impossible. Instead, she just stayed by the door. "Yeah, we are. Only, he hasn't come downstairs yet so I came to check up on him."
"He left. A long time ago."
"Did he say where we was goin'?"
"To meet you downstairs…"
"I've been waitin' down there for half an hour."
"Well, I don't know what to tell you. He's not here. Maybe… he had to use the bathroom."
"For twenty minutes?"
"Like it hasn't happened before."
"Really don't wanna know," Faith said, though this wasn't looking good. She glanced up and down the hallway, not sure what she was looking for. This definitely wasn't like Xander, and she had been sitting as still as possible downstairs. There was the sense of over protectiveness swelling up in her every time she didn't know where he was. It was something she couldn't help, not after what happened with Relin's plan. "I'm gonna go check downstairs again."
With that, the dark-haired Slayer briskly walked down the hallways of the floor, peering into anything she was able to peek into, before heading back downstairs. Once she reached the lobby, she did the same – and came up with no sign of him.
Studying her surroundings to see if anything was amiss, she found nothing. Unconsciously, she was rubbing her knuckles in what could only be nervousness. She checked the clock again then decided to go to back to the dorm. Maybe there was some weird miscommunication.
Faith found herself knocking almost frantically on the door of Buffy's house. She wasn't at her dorm, as Xander wasn't at his, and this was the only other place Faith could've thought of looking. She glanced around.
Buffy opened the door, looking a little frazzled herself. "What?"
"You seen Xander?" she asked. She watched as Buffy stepped away from the door but left it open. A little confused, Faith nevertheless took the invitation and stepped inside, closing the door behind her.
She followed Buffy to the living room, seeing Mrs. Summers lying on the couch looking a little pale. "Shit, is she okay?"
"Uh, I don't know," Buffy answered, unsure. She was at her mother's side, placing a cool, damp towel on her forehead. "She fainted in the kitchen right before I was gonna go out to meet Riley."
"I'm fine, Buffy," Mrs. Summers murmured, trying to give them both a brave smile.
"That so of the not," Buffy answered, sternly. "You're gonna go to the hospital, Mom."
Mrs. Summers tried to sit back up only to be stopped by Buffy's hand. "Buffy, I think it was just an episode. Maybe the smell got to me."
"The smell? Of what? A home-cooked meal?"
"Okay, I'll go to the doctor tomorrow. I think right now, no moving from this couch is the best medicine. Oh, and aspirin of course." She reached for the glass of water in front of her, looking up at Faith for the first time. "Buffy told me you had come back into town."
Faith could easily pick up on the unease in Mrs. Summers' voice, but didn't blame the woman one bit. "Uh, yeah."
Joyce just smiled again. "Well, welcome back then. I have a sort of cooked dinner in the kitchen, if you'd like. At least, I think the potatoes are done."
Faith blinked, amazed with how quickly Buffy's mom had just invited her for dinner as if she and her daughter didn't mutilate the inside of their house. Or that Faith had slammed her fist into her face. "Not hungry, Mrs. S. Thanks, though."
"Did you ask if I've seen Xander?" Buffy asked. "That would be a 'no.'" She was trying to fix a blanket for her mom. "I thought you were meeting him for dinner."
"Yeah, me too. But we missed each other or… somethin'." She looked around. "Where's… Dawn?"
Buffy checked her watch, wondering the same thing. "I don't know but she should've been home by now." She rechecked the wall clock.
Frowning, Faith began to have a bad feeling about the situation. Dawn wasn't here, when apparently, she was supposed to be, and Xander was missing. With the bad vibes she had been feeling since she got here, it was pushing her into almost panic mode. "Where was she supposed to be?"
The blond Slayer glanced over at the dark-haired one, wondering why she was so worried about her sister suddenly. "She said she was studying with Janice today. Kinda got wrapped up with Mom…" She stood up and picked up the phone, dialing Janice's number.
Dawn had SAID she was studying with her friend? Faith was becoming more and more twitchy about this situation.
When Buffy hung up, she looked worried. "Janice's mom said she left an hour ago…"
"Oh, God…" Joyce murmured.
"B, I gotta talk to you about something," Faith said, gesturing towards the kitchen. She knew she had told Giles she was going to keep this whole Dawn-forgetting on the down low, but not with her boyfriend's life in possible danger.
"Now?" Buffy asked.
"Yeah." Faith was already heading towards the other room, looking around before Buffy came. She spotted a picture of Buffy, her mom, and Dawn at some park on the refrigerator. It looked like it was taken a good long while ago.
"What is it?" Buffy asked, almost impatiently.
"It's Dawn," Faith said, pulling her eyes away from the picture.
"What about her?"
"She… she ain't who you think she is, B."
Buffy knitted her brows together. "What're you talking about?'
"I don't know what's goin' on here, but you and Xander and Giles and your mom, you're all under a spell or somethin'. Something's makin' you believe Dawn's your sister."
Buffy stared at Faith for what felt like forever. "You're on something, aren't you?"
"I know odds are against me, but I got this feelin' that… it's bad. She's bad."
"You're two seconds away from me calling the crazy van. That would be after I punch you for saying that about my sister."
Faith wasn't going to get pissed off right away nor defensive. She was fully aware of how she sounded; she knew this wasn't going to go well even before she said anything. "Hey, I wouldn't be sayin' this unless I believe it."
"Why doesn't that still give me good willies?" Buffy sighed. "You know, stop right now before we get into it, okay? Whatever you're feeling isn't something TO feel, Faith. You know Dawn and not to pull out the same old card but you almost killed her."
"Okay, that right there - I don't know her. I don't remember tryin' to kill her. I don't remember ever seein' her!"
"What are you TALKING about?" She narrowed her eyes. "And we aren't stopping this conversation because…?"
"Giles is lookin' into it. I know what you're thinkin', B. But I KNOW that I ain't crazy."
Buffy couldn't help but laugh humorlessly. "Coming from you, Faith, that's kinda funny."
Tensing her body, it was Faith's turn to narrow her eyes but she kept her voice even. "Xander's missin' and now Dawn is, too. I'm puttin' two and two together, B. That's why I'm tellin' you this now. I'm afraid Xander's in trouble."
"From DAWN? Can you listen to yourself for a moment here? Dawn's fourteen…" Buffy shook her head. "I'm not gonna tell you what I think about you right now because you're half right – Xander might be in trouble and Dawn might be, too." She turned and walked right back out of the kitchen.
Faith clenched her fist then followed the other Slayer out where Joyce was hanging up the phone.
"Dawnie's not even at Marcy's either," Mrs. Summers said with heavy worry.
"I'm gonna go out and find her," Buffy told her mother, grabbing her jacket. "Lay back down, Mom." She gently took her mother's elbow and led her back to the couch.
"I'm goin' with you," Faith insisted.
Buffy looked at her, still none too happy. "Fine. But - "
A large rock came hurtling through the large window behind Joyce, shattering the glass in one panel. Joyce ducked out of instinct but Buffy's hand stopped the rock quickly. It was inches from where the back of Joyce's head had been.
"Goodness," Joyce gasped.
"Mom, are you okay?" Buffy asked.
"Yes." She slowly stood up to get out of the shards unharmed.
Faith flew out the door to see who had thrown it, but no one was there in the front yard. She scanned one last time before going back into the living room. "Shitheads aren't there anymore."
Buffy had unrolled the paper that had been wrapped around the rock. Her eyes looked over the simple note. "Oh, God…"
"What?" Faith asked.
Buffy held up the note. In large letters and 'i's' dotted with a smilie face, it read:
WE HAVE YOUR FRIEND AND YOUR SISTER. COME TO THE OLDABANDONED WAREHOUSE. NOT WHAT USED TO BE SPIKE'S BECAUSE THAT'S THE FACTORY. THANK YOU.
Faith frowned. "What the hell kinda note is that?"
"I don't know but I bet the 'friend' is Xander." She looked pointedly at Faith. "And the sister is… you know."
Not able to say anything, and at the moment, not willing to, Faith shook her head. "Let's just go."
"Okay…. What do we do?" Dawn asked, fear threaded in her voice as she and Xander sat within a large cage. It looked as if they were in some cave, tucked away in a corner.
"Uh, swallow hard and shake in our shoes?" he said, watching the really large vampire milling around impatiently.
"Wh-why did they take us?"
"I don't know. Either to get to Buffy through us or else they need two more players for Mario Kart." He was observing the room they were left in. The table that served as the only piece of furniture had a collection of different kinds of unicorns.
His eyes widened when the figure walked into the room, blond hair spilling over her shoulders, some klumps braided on either side of her head. "Harmony!?"
"Hi, HARRIS." She stopped in her tracks. "What is SHE doing here!? I didn't ask for her!" She pointed at Dawn.
Mort frowned, glancing at Dawn then looked back at her. "She's the Slayer's sister. She'll get the job done that we want – which is luring her. I got you the guy." He gestured towards Xander.
Harmony gave in and nodded. "Yes you did. And in record time, too." She patted Mort's cheek appreciatively. Walking up the cage, she smiled, hands on hips. "My plan's coming along so great!" She clapped her hands together giving a little squeal.
Xander cringed at the sound. She had to be the worst vampire to ever be turned. "Okay, you DO know that you're just asking for a dusting, right?"
She frowned, her good mood gone. "Shut up, Harris. You're just asking for a big bite out of your neck! I'm gonna be REALLY evil and not give you up. I might give up the kid if Buffy shows up, but I guess it's not going to do her good if Buffy's all dead and stuff." She leaned in. "No, for you, I wanna make this fun. Like with torturing and stuff. See, Buffy thinks she's gonna go to this warehouse to save yours and hers butts, but really, I'm just gonna keep you here."
"And what? Have a slap fest again? Wasn't fun the first time. Plus, how in trouble are you? You don't JUST have Buffy on your ass once it's known we're kidnapped."
"Oh, yeah. You mean that whole weird two-Slayer thing? That's just a rumor, isn't it?"
Xander shook his head. "'fraid not, Harmony. Hasn't been for a few years now. Where've you been?"
"Oh, so what… it's no big. I have more minions that'll beat both of them to the ground!"
Xander started laughing while Dawn looked on nervously.
"What's so funny?" Harmony demanded.
"That you believe that." He laughed again, holding his stomach. "You better hope the minion squad does the job because if they don't…" He trailed to emphasize his point.
"That's right!" Dawn cried. "One of them can beat all of you – just think what two could do!"
Harmony frowned. "Uh, hey, Morty baby… maybe you should check on our troop."
Mort growled something then went off.
"I'm already bored," Harmony said, unlocking the cage. "It's time to play…" She reached in and grabbed Xander by the front of the shirt.
Faith and Buffy found themselves at the warehouse where the note had said to go to. "Hey, I was here earlier," Faith announced, looking around. She had found that weird glowing ball here when she had fought the two vamps.
Suddenly, she realized this whole area was familiar in another way: her dream. In her dream, she had been here – holding the weird glowing ball. She froze where she stood, a dread coming over her.
"What is it?" Buffy asked, seeing the look on her face.
"Nothing," Faith said, shaking out of it. How was she going to explain this one to Buffy? But if it was some weird Slayer dream, why didn't Buffy have the same one? Before she could ponder it further, she felt someone coming up behind her. She twirled, snatching the man by the throat.
"No, no – no light!" the man said, grasping at her wrist. His eyes were wide and scared but crazed and lost. "The light is gone!"
Faith loosened her grip slightly as Buffy joined her by her side.
"Have you seen anything weird going on here?" she asked as Faith continued to hold him.
"Weird. The relevance isn't on the chart," the man said. His eyes darted back and forth in paranoia.
"Hey, this is that guard I met up with earlier," Faith said, releasing him totally.
"He's a guard?" Buffy asked, looking the uniformed man up and down. "Um, aren't they usually of the sane variety? Thought it was a job prerequisite and stuff."
"He… was," Faith noted in confusion.
"There. There. It is the certificate." He pointed to the warehouse. "The trolls and the raccoons live there."
"Do you know if there's someone in there?" Buffy tried again. "Um, vampires?"
The guard looked at Buffy, yet his eyes weren't reaching her. "I hear the crowd. And I know it is the fish that lives in the ponds."
"We ain't gonna get anything out of this dude," Faith said with an exasperated sigh. She had no idea why he was like this now, but they didn't have time to ask the man anything and get a straight answer. "Let's just go inside, B." She was already making her way towards the warehouse.
Buffy gave the man one last concerned look before following the other Slayer.
A vampire flew straight through the crate, shattering it into a hundred pieces before landing hard into the metal pole. He slumped to the ground, dazed before a stake finished him off.
Buffy turned around just in time to get a fist right into her face, making her stumble into the pole. The fist came again, straight and hard – only to miss her by inches and hitting the metal instead.
The attacker screamed in pain as bones broke.
"My turn," Buffy said, releasing a right hook that sent him flying backwards. She took a moment to rub her nose. "Ouch. That hurt."
Faith came up behind him, catching him. She turned him around and staked him. "Do you see them?" she asked.
"No," Buffy replied, looking around as she kicked another one in the chest. Backhanding the female vamp, she quickly staked her and spotted a door in the back. "Maybe there!"
Making a dash for it, both Slayers headed towards the door, knocking anyone in their way. The troop of vampires had dwindled down to a few and the ones who remained were becoming very weary about their so-called victory against the two Slayers.
They all stopped when the Slayers had burst through the door, knowing there was nothing but more of them behind it. They all waited until their "backups" were able to bring the two Slayers down, killing them on the spot. Those who had survived the small battle knew their job was done.
"Shit!" came Faith's voice. But it was more angry than surprised.
"This is getting ridiculous," came Buffy's voice.
There was some scuffle, a few well-placed punches, grunts…
Suddenly, two vampires busted through the wooden walls back out into the open area. The rest of the vamps jumped back as both Slayers came through the holes they had each made with the vampires they had thrown. No other vampires followed them indicating how awfully dusted they were.
"I've got an idea," Buffy said, dusting off her jacket from any splinters of wood. "Why don't we just make one of them talk? They have to know something."
Faith glanced over at the remaining ones standing, a glint in her dark eyes. A predatory smile spread across her lips and she nodded. "Any volunteers?"
"RUN!" cried one of the vampires and all of them smartly followed.
"Oh, HELL no," Faith moaned watching the mass begin to move towards the front door.
Buffy blew her bangs out of her face in exasperation. "Why couldn't this have been easy?" She looked over at Faith. "C'mon, time for cat and evil mice with fangs game." Moving forward, she sprinted after them just hoping to grab one of them.
Faith got a little ahead of Buffy, reaching the door just as the last of them rushed through it. But a large body of vampire appeared in the way, making her smash right into him. She stumbled back until she landed on her butt looking wearily up at Mort.
He reached down and grabbed both lapels of her jacket, lifting her off her feet. "Guess things you hafta do yourself."
"Think we just found our volunteer," Faith muttered, grabbing behind his head to head butt him right in the nose.
He growled in pain, dropping her as he grabbed at his face. A small foot flew into his side, making him stumble to his right. A slightly larger foot slammed into his gut, pushing him back.
Buffy slid her stake under one of his feet. As planned, he stepped on it and his feet went forward as the rest of him flew the opposite way. He landed hard on his back with a grunt.
"Nice trick, B," Faith commented.
The blond Slayer shrugged nonchalantly. "Yeah, well…"
Both Slayers looked down at the large vampire who was still getting his bearings together.
"So, where are they?" Buffy asked. "And really, what's the big with taking them anyway? Your leader had some really lame plan to lead us here and hope you all would kill us or something?"
Mort groaned. "We were hoping," he said. He lifted his head to stare at the two females. He knew he was terribly outnumbered. "You'll never get it out of – OUCH!"
Faith had stomped down on his hand crushing a few fingers to powder. She didn't let up, arms still crossed over her chest. "You were sayin'?"
"Cave… in the-the back of Restfield C-Cemetery!" He pulled at his pulverized hand, but Faith wasn't letting up. "Promise!"
"Finish him off, B," Faith said, releasing her foot.
"What if he's lying?" Buffy asked, skeptically. She was still not sure about Faith's state of mind after their near tift back at the house. "We're gonna need him if - "
The entire wall behind them busted open by some powerful force that sent both Slayers flying into the wall they had been facing. Mort came along for the ride, slamming right into the nearest pole.
"What the…?" Faith got to her feet just as the culprit appeared in the large hole. To hers and Buffy's surprise, it was a curly, blond-haired woman, not much older than either Slayer, standing there in a nice red dress and just as red high-heeled pumps. Everything looked dainty on her except for the fact she had busted three walls of the warehouse and she held aloft easily a man in a robe-like outfit with one arm.
He was groaning indicating he was alive, but barely.
"So this is what all the commotion was," the woman said with a haughty, yet valley voice. "You know, you were ruining my little pity party for him here." She lifted him higher to show the man. "He was just gonna talk and you both had to cause interruption."
Xander landed against the table, knocking over some unicorns in the process. The shattering of glass and porcelain filled the cave. There was a bruise across his face.
"My unicorn collection!" Harmony cried.
"You're the one who knocked me into it. Don't go blaming me," Xander protested.
Harmony growled and grabbed him by his shirt, hauling him forward. "If you weren't so-so…"
"So what? C'mon, Harmony. Vamp-ism hasn't upped your IQ any?"
She growled again and hauled him off his feet. "It's definitely upped my strength!" She vamped out.
Xander threw his foot up, kicking her right in the stomach. Her grip loosened and he landed less than gracefully on his feet. He grabbed her ankles and yanked, sending her onto her backside.
"Wood, I need wood," he murmured, eyes darting back and forth. "Hope that's not taken out of context…" He found a unicorn that had fallen, seeing it was hand-carved out of some kind of heavy wood. Grabbing it, he turned to stake the blond vampire when he found she had recovered by being shoved backwards into the cage.
Dawn screamed. "Xander! Are you okay?"
"Yeah. Good." He saw the keys that were haphazardly tossed on another nearby table. He got to his feet, grabbing for them while still clutching the unicorn. Right as his fist went around the key chain, he felt hands grabbing his own ankles and dragging him back.
He flicked his foot out of her grasp but she continued to drag him. He passed the cage and tossed the keys through the bars. "Dawn!"
Dawn barely caught them and she quickly went to work in finding the right one out of the 7 or so keys that were there.
Xander flipped himself over onto his back just as Harmony landed on him, straddling his waist in full vamp mode. She looked up at Dawn. "Hey! How'd you get those?"
"Harm, you really are a stupid creature, aren't you?" Xander remarked his wrists pinned to the ground by her hands. But he still held the wooden object.
"Me? Who's the one who's about the get his blood sucked?"
"You keep saying that, but I don't see the action going on. I think you're all talk."
With another growl, Harmony leaned forward. "This is gonna be fun," she sneered.
Xander braced himself as she drew nearer then let loose a head butt right into her nose.
She yelped in pain, her hands automatically going up to her face. "By nosb!"
"Worry more about your heart!" He took the opportunity and slammed the horn of the unicorn right into her chest. She soon exploded into dust. "Death by unicorn," he breathed. "Figures."
There was a creak from the cage door and Dawn soon appeared by his side. "Wow, you did it," she said, helping him to his feet.
"Somehow, defeating Harmony in a fight still doesn't make me too manly." He smiled at Dawn. "You okay?"
The young girl nodded. "Yeah. Can we go home now?"
"On our way." He put his arm around her shoulders and led her towards the way to get out of there.
Dawn leaned into him and smiled with a sigh.
"Who the fuck are you?" Faith asked the new arrival, defenses up.
"Wow. Such a potty mouth," the female said, placing the man in a random chair. "Now, if you'd just let me kill you, I can get on with my little questioning session with Mr. Monk here." She patted his bloodied face.
"Why are you questioning him?" Buffy asked, curiously.
"Boy, you're Little Miss Nosy, aren't you? Don't worry, it won't last long. Then, I'll kill him." She smiled, showing her extremely white, perfect teeth.
"Sorry, can't let you do that."
Mort got to his feet, holding his head then. He looked at the new girl with confusion. "Who are you?"
"Hey, I asked that first!" Faith protested. "Look, we ain't got time for this. Just hand the guy over and we'll be on our way, okay?"
The stranger laughed. "Come and get him, babies!"
Buffy and Faith glanced at each other, unsure if they really wanted to waste their time trying to take down the woman. However, they both knew they couldn't leave the monk to die.
Faith sprinted towards the woman first, jumping into a roundhouse kick. She wasn't sure who the female was – or even more so, WHAT the female was. Thus, she held back. When her foot connected with the woman's face, all it did was snap her head to the side. But she remained immovable otherwise.
The dark-haired Slayer landed right in front of her, confused. She let loose a hard left hook only to be stopped by the stranger's well manicured hand. "You kick pretty hard," the girl said. "I guess maybe you could totally put up a fight – with someone else."
Faith let out a small grunt of pain as her hand was beginning to get crushed. Her foot lashed out and slammed into the other girl's stomach with much more force. It knocked her back slightly and made her release her hand.
Pushing forward, Faith slammed her other fist into the girl's face and followed it up with another roundhouse.
The girl continued to stumble backwards but not get knocked down. "This is ANNOYING!" she cried.
Buffy rushed from behind Faith, somersaulting over her and smashing both feet into the face of the girl. That managed to finally knock her down onto her backside.
"Okay, that's it," the girl said, getting to her feet apparently unfazed by the double Slayer onslaught. She dusted herself off, frowning. "Oh, and I just got this dress!"
"I'll take care of her," Faith said to Buffy. "You grab the dude." Before Buffy could answer, she went towards the girl again. She barely ducked a fast-coming fist and swung an uppercut into the blond stranger's stomach. Satisfied with the grunt she got, she straightened to pound again when a hand snatched her by the throat.
"That's it," the stranger remarked, lifting Faith into the air. "Fun's over!" With a terribly easy flick of her wrist, she threw Faith across the length of the warehouse. When the Slayer hit the opposite wall, the entire warehouse shook and creaked.
"Faith," Buffy murmured, getting the monk's arm across her shoulders. She glanced up as some pieces of the roof flittered to the floor.
"Hey, that's my monk!" the more-than-formidable foe declared. "You have no right!"
"Uh, you don't really have the rights either," Buffy said, backing up with the monk practically hanging off her shoulders. She glanced over to where Faith was.
Faith shook her head clear and got to her feet. She wobbled slightly, using the pole for support. "Yo, I'm not done with you!" she called to the stranger. It was evident that this wasn't a run-of-the-mill demon.
"You're not dead yet?" She made an exasperated noise.
"You didn't kill me." Faith stood up straight despite the pain in her body. "Nice try though, bitch."
"What did you just call me?"
"BITCH. I can spell that out for ya' if you need me to." She smirked.
The girl narrowed her eyes and ran at Faith at amazing speed.
Anticipating it, Faith cried, "GO B!" And moved to the side, redirecting the speeding female right into the pole. The impact was so tremendous, the thick pole was pulled right off its spot.
The entire warehouse began to come in on itself as weak as the structure was.
Buffy began to run towards the large window and flung her and the monk right through the glass and into the air. She twisted them so that she landed into a pile of trash first, softening the land for the weakened man.
Faith soon followed, landing gracefully onto the ground as the warehouse begin to fall in on itself – not to mention the woman and Mort. "Come on!" she urged Buffy, helping her and the monk out of the pile.
Both Slayers rushed out of the way, carrying the man between them.
They settled into the very edge of the warehouse's lot, covering him with their bodies as the warehouse disappeared into a pile of dust and rubble.
The monk clung onto life, coughing as he tried to focus on the two Slayers when the rumbling stopped.
"What the hell was that about?" Faith cried, looking at the destroyed warehouse. The thing came down easily; no wonder it was condemned.
"I-I don't know." Buffy put her attention back to the monk. "Can you tell us anything?"
"Maybe we gotta get him to a hospital," Faith suggested.
"N-No," he finally sputtered, his breath shallow. "I will not make it." His accent was heavy and European, almost Russian sounding. "S-Slayer…" He looked between the two, but Buffy was the closest to him so he focused on her. "Sp-Sphere…"
"Sphere?" Buffy asked. "What do you mean? There's no sphere here."
"That globe thing," Faith noted, brows knitted together. "You left that here?"
The monk nodded, coughing more. Blood began to dribble from his mouth more. "K-Key. Protect the Key."
"The sphere is the Key?" Buffy asked, confused by his mumblings. "We don't understand." She was getting impatient. "Look, we can bring you to the hospital really fast and they'll fix you all up and explain it to us then. Right now, I've got a friend and a sister to - "
"The Key… is energy. A-A girl."
"What are you trying to tell me?" Buffy asked, trying to keep the monk upright. But the injuries to him were severe and he was fading fast.
"Key…" he sputtered between bleeding lips. He coughed more and harder. His eyes were beginning to roll back into his head.
"Please, go on…" Buffy urged.
"This key is human?" Faith asked.
The monk nodded. "Energy. Of K-Key. Poured into…" He coughed again. "…human."
Buffy frowned, gripping his arms probably harder than she should. "I don't understand. A human is a key to something?"
"E-Energy… into girl. Human girl. Young, innocent… she-she doesn't know…" He sputtered up blood again.
Faith took a glance over at her fellow Slayer. She was already beginning not to like what this was alluding to.
The blond Slayer couldn't help but shake the man in desperation. "Are you saying this key doesn't know she's the Key?"
He managed to nod. "Was done so… the Slayer… the Slayer would protect…" He glanced from Buffy to Faith then back to Buffy. "Protect the Key." Those were the last words out of his mouth before life left him permanently.
"Holy shit," Faith murmured. "Dawn."
"What?" Buffy looked up at Faith. "No."
"B, it's-it's the only thing that makes sense."
"Don't bring that conversation - "
"I had a dream about this! About this warehouse, about Dawn… and-and there was a Key mentioned in it." She watched as Buffy stood up. "B, don't you get it? They placed a spell or-or somethin' on you guys. The Slayer would protect this Key? That's you! That's Dawn!" It made sense now, why Faith didn't know about Dawn because Dawn never existed.
"But… why would they not place the spell on you?"
Faith shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe-maybe they didn't figure me important or nothing. But they had to do it to you guys, make you think maybe Dawn's your sister so that - "
"I'd protect her like one," Buffy finished, quietly.
"Yeah. You all would." Her voice grew just as quiet. "The Slayer would protect the Key." She sighed. "That's the theory at least, B. We need to tell Giles about this; he'll figure it out."
"Yeah, right." She seemed in some sort of trance then snapped out of it. "C'mon, we need to get to Restfield."
When they got there however, they found Dawn and Xander sitting on a bench near the ice cream shop right outside the cemetery. Dawn was sitting happily with a vanilla cone in her hand.
"Dawnie!" Buffy cried, rushing up to them. She took her sister into her arms, hugging her tightly. "Thank God you're okay."
"Ouch!" Dawn said, making a face. "Buffy, you're hurting me."
The blond Slayer pulled back. "Sorry." She smiled with slightly misty eyes, stroking Dawn's hair.
Xander was finishing up his chocolate cone. "And a 'hey' to you ladies," he said with a nod.
Faith was so relieved that he was okay. She couldn't help but glance over at Dawn, suddenly feeling bad for the girl. She gave her a smile then sat next to Xander, kissing him hard. When she pulled away, she licked her lips. "Hm, Rocky Road."
"How is it you can make 'Rocky Road' sound so darn sexy?"
"Gag!" Dawn announced.
Faith had to laugh, mainly out of pure relief. She put her arm around his shoulders. "They just let you go?"
"It was Harmony," he announced.
"As in bimbo Harmony?" Buffy asked, blinking. "Spike's ex-Harmony?"
"Yep. Wanting to take revenge for his dusting, I think. I told her she was only asking for the big 'T' – ouble."
"Xander saved us," Dawn declared. "He even fought Harmony and everything."
"Wow. Now you're just turnin' me on," Faith purred, leaning in towards him and fully telling the truth. She ran her hand up and down his chest.
Xander stared at her, his smile fading. "Those are nasty looking bruises." He touched her cheek, which made her flinch slightly.
"Lucky shot." She briefly made eye contact with Buffy before looking back at Xander. "No worries, hon." Her brows furrowed slightly at the nasty coloring on his face. "You okay?"
Xander made a dismissive wave of his hand. "No problem. Just a small bruise."
"But you kept whining about how much it hurt," Dawn put in. "That's why you said we could use some ice cream."
Buffy and Faith laughed.
"And here I thought you were being comforting to Dawn," Buffy commented.
"I'm tired," Dawn murmured. "Can we go home now?"
Buffy nodded, taking her hand. "Yeah. Let's do that."
"We'll walk you home," Xander said, getting to his feet. He stretched, knowing he was going to be very sore tomorrow morning. "You need to call Riley when you get there," he added as he took Faith's hand.
"I will," Buffy said, absently.
Faith was really the only one who knew the reason for Buffy's aloofness. It was a lot to take in, and she wasn't sure what Buffy was feeling exactly. What about the others? Xander? Willow? Giles? How would they deal with it?
Faith was going to have to keep it under wraps until Buffy and Giles proved it was even the fact. So Dawn wasn't evil – she didn't even know she was anything but Buffy's sister.
When they turned the corner onto Rovello Drive, their faces were soon reflecting the red lights flashing from Buffy's house's driveway. It was coming from the ambulance pulled up to the house.
Buffy froze, staring wide-eyed at the scene. Then her body finally reacted and she rushed towards the house. "Mom!" she called.
Faith followed Xander and Dawn to the house soon after just as they were rolling Joyce out onto the porch on a stretcher.
"Mom!" Buffy cried. "What happened? What's wrong?"
"It's nothing, honey," Joyce answered weakly though she kept a smile on her face. She had to pull the oxygen mask off her to talk. "I just had a really bad headache, is all. It got a little much."
Dawn looked on, fear in her eyes. "Mommy?"
Joyce reached out and took Dawn's hand. "It's okay, honey. I'll be fine."
"We're coming with you!" Buffy insisted, following the paramedics into the back of the ambulance. She took Dawn with her, keeping very close vigil to their mother.
Xander and Faith watched, hand-in-hand, as the vehicle pulled out, sirens blaring. Then it raced down the street towards the hospital, and the lights and the sounds were soon drowned out by the night…