Animatus II: The Descent

Notes: Thanks for the reviews. Keep them coming. This is the last chapter of the story. Sorry it took a little long to get up. Had some things happen that kind of spun me around. But writing helps, in theory at least. Ah, to be single again. Soon I will start posting Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow III: Inferno. I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Previously:

"There's only four more miles between us and freedom," Buffy reminded Diego. "We'll get out of here. All of us," she said, looking at each person. They starting walking again, Buffy and Faith helping Diego limp along the road. Paul brought up the rear, his gun held tightly in his hands. Kate led them, worry staining her features. Faith threw a look back at the liquor store, and Jay's mangled, lifeless body, and wondered if the rest of them would make it out alive.

Epilogue: Hope for the Future:

The fence loomed ahead of them, a shining beacon in the failing afternoon light. Diego was pale and trembling. The wounds on his leg and arm sorely needed medical attention to stave off infection. Though they had applied tourniquets to the wounds, Diego had lost a significant amount of blood. Faith worried that he would not be able to make it to the fence of his own violation. She and Buffy had been helping him along the road, but he had been able to limp along without truly needing them. For the past mile, however, he had begun to lose strength. Now he leaned heavily on Faith, relying on her muscles to compensate for his fatigue. "How ya doin', buddy?" Faith asked.

Diego snorted and grinned lopsidedly. "Never been better," he replied sarcastically.

"I'm sure," Faith grinned back.

"Thinking of going for a run once we get back to base," the soldier continued.

"Might join you," Faith joked.

Diego quieted momentarily, his face growing serious. "I don't know what we were thinking."

"What do you mean?" The dark haired Slayer asked, glancing over at him.

"Jay and I. Leaning against that window. It was stupid," Diego furthered.

"You can't beat yourself up over it," Faith said consolingly.

"We're soldiers," the man stressed. "We're trained to deal with situations like this." Faith raised an eyebrow at him and he corrected, "Well, not exactly like this. But you know what I mean. We're trained to be careful. We're trained to survey our surroundings and recognize all possible dangers. But we didn't."

"You can't blame yourself," Faith said softly.

"If I had been paying attention, he might be alive right now," Diego muttered.

"Maybe," Faith agreed. "But he didn't think either. I didn't think. None of us did. None of us recognized the danger of leaning against that window. We were all just so tired and so close to getting out of here. We slipped for a moment. It won't happen again," she said determinedly. "Jay and I came back here knowing that we might not leave again. It was his choice. Don't try to take responsibility for it. Just focus on getting out of here so you can see your family again."

"Thanks," Diego smiled.

Faith nodded in reply. The fence inched closer. Paul started jogging toward it. "We're almost there, guys!" He called back to them.

"Just a little farther," Buffy said encouragingly to Diego.

"I can make it," he gritted his teeth as he pushed forward.

Faith squinted as she gazed at the fence. She saw a Jeep waiting for them on the other side. Two soldiers sat inside of it: a driver and a guard. Both stood when they saw the group approaching. Paul waved to them and the soldiers waved back. They hopped out of the Jeep and moved to the gate, preparing to open it. When the group finally reached the gate, Faith breathed a heavy sigh of relief. The metal barrier swung open and the two soldiers rushed out to help Buffy and Faith with Diego. "We found some survivors," Diego said between clenched teeth, nodding his head toward the new faces in the crowd.

"Have any of you been infected?" One of the soldiers asked.

"No," Faith answered. "We're all clean. We have your anti-virus too."

"General will be glad to hear it," he smiled. "Let's get you to the Jeep. Once we get back to base, you'll all be tested just to make sure. Then you'll be released."

"Released?" Buffy whispered over to Faith, wiggling her eyebrow suggestively.

"Are you having dirty thoughts?" Faith whispered back as they climbed into the back of the Jeep. After the soldiers deposited Diego next to Faith, Paul and Kate climbed in.

"Maybe," Buffy admitted.

"In that case," Faith said, brushing a strand of hair behind her lover's ear, "we'll have to see about getting released earlier."

The road back to the base was dusty and bumpy. Diego gripped the sides of the Jeep with pale knuckles as he bounced in his seat. Faith watched him worriedly, but she knew that he would survive. Once they reached the base, they returned the vials of the anti-virus to the scientists working for the General. Each surviving member of the team gave a sample of blood to be tested. Only Diego remained behind in the infirmary. Faith reluctantly left him, though she knew that he would be in the watchful care of the doctors. While Buffy, Paul, and Kate were settling into the barracks for a long night of well deserved rest, Faith found a payphone.

Sliding a quarter into the slot, she typed in a number from memory. Before Giles left for Los Angeles, he gave Faith the phone number of Angel's motel, where she could reach him once her mission in Sunnydale had ended. Sighing, she tiredly rubbed her face, as she waited for someone to pick up on the other end of the line. The phone rang several times before Cordelia answered. "Angel Investigations, we help the helpless. How can we help you?"

"Cordelia?" Faith asked.

"Ah, it's psycho Slayer," Cordelia replied. "Calling ahead before you try to kill us this time?"

"You really haven't gotten the memo yet, have you?" Faith asked irritably.

"What memo was that?" Cordelia shot back.

"The one that says I'm not the psycho Slayer anymore," Faith said firmly.

"Oh, yeah," Cordelia said dismissively. "I got that memo."

"What?" Faith asked in surprise.

"Angel told me to take it easy on you when you called. Giles is a big advocate of your reformation. So is Willow, oddly enough. But I couldn't help a little jab," Cordelia teased.

"Thanks, Cordelia," Faith sighed. "Can you put Giles on the line?"

"Hold on," she said.

Faith waited until she heard muffled footsteps approaching the phone. "Hello?" Giles answered.

"Hey, G-man, it's Faith," the dark haired Slayer stated.

"I take it the mission was successful," Giles said.

"I'm still here," Faith replied, smiling into the receiver. "All goes well, they're letting me out of here tomorrow morning. Can you come pick me up?"

"Yes, of course," Giles replied. "And you're alright?"

"I'm good," Faith replied. "I've got a surprise for you."

"You do?" Giles asked curiously.

"You'll just have to come here to find out," Faith smiled as she hung up the phone.

Glancing up into the sky, she closed her eyes for a moment. She was out of Sunnydale. She had escaped for the last time. Though the first time she had lost the one thing that meant everything, but life had given her another chance. Tomorrow she would be on her way to Los Angeles with Buffy. She started walking toward the barracks. When she reached the door, Buffy was waiting for her just inside. "Hey," Faith said, greeting her with a quick kiss on the lips.

"Giles picking us up tomorrow?" Buffy asked.

"Giles is picking me up tomorrow," Faith corrected. "I didn't tell him about you."

"Why not?" Buffy asked confusedly.

"Because I wanted to give him a happy surprise," Faith replied, smiling slightly. "The man's been through a lot. He deserves some unexpected happiness."

"Speaking of unexpected happiness," Buffy said suggestively. "It appears as though we have the barracks to ourselves."

"Really?" Faith asked.

"They don't like to bunk potential infectees with the regular population," Buffy explained. "But Paul and Kate are spending the evening partying with some of the other soldiers – sort of an 'I'm glad we're alive' thing."

"And you were thinking?" Faith prompted.

Buffy grabbed Faith's hand and pulled her into the building. Closing the door behind her, she slammed her lips into Faith's, her tongue eagerly exploring the dark haired Slayer's mouth as she pressed her up against the wall. "I was thinking," she panted in between kisses, "that we could make up for some lost time."

Faith grinned wolfishly. "I think that's a very good idea," Faith replied as she backed Buffy up to a bed.

………………………..

The next day Buffy and Faith went to the infirmary to say good-bye to Diego, Paul, and Kate. "How was your party?" Faith asked, raising an eyebrow when she saw Paul and Kate.

"Drank way too much," Paul groaned.

"I had to help him back to the barracks around four in the morning," Kate grinned. "How was your night?"

"Good," Buffy replied cheekily.

"I'm sure," Diego laughed.

"So how're you doing?" Faith asked, turning her attention to the injured soldier.

"Better," Diego replied honestly. "They gave me painkillers," he added with a smile.

"We're going to be leaving soon," Buffy explained. "So we thought we'd drop by and say good-bye."

"We'll be in Los Angeles if you need anything," Faith offered as she leaned in and gave Diego a quick hug. "Just look up Angel Investigations."

"Will do," Diego replied seriously.

After they said their good-byes, Buffy and Faith stood waiting in the afternoon sun just outside of the gates of the base for Giles to pick them up. "No more Sunnydale," Buffy sighed. "It's a little weird."

"A little?" Faith asked. "It's seriously weird."

"Los Angeles is nice though," Buffy stated. "You'll like it. I liked it there before Mom and I moved."

"It's always sunny right?" Faith joked.

"Always," Buffy smiled.

"I'll like anywhere so long as I'm with you," Faith said seriously.

"Who know you were a romantic?" Buffy joked, leaning in and giving Faith a quick, but passionate kiss.

"I have layers," Faith commented when Buffy pulled away.

The sound of a car rolling down the street turned her attention away from the blonde and she smiled when she saw Giles driving up to them in a shiny convertible. "That's so not his car," Buffy joked.

"Might be a mid-life crisis," Faith suggested.

"I'm betting it's Cordelia's," the blonde objected.

The car slowed to a stop and Giles stepped out onto the street. "Good Lord," he replied when his eyes landed on Buffy. "You're alive," he stated.

"Very much so," Buffy smiled tentatively, her eyes filling up with tears when she saw her Watcher. Walking up to the older man, she wrapped her arms around him in a warm embrace. Giles hugged her back, smiling with relief. When Buffy pulled away, he glanced over in Faith's direction.

"Surprise," she said, shrugging.

"I'm glad you're okay," he replied, "both of you." He moved over to Faith and gave her a quick hug, to her surprise.

"Thanks," Faith replied gratefully.

"Are we ready to go?" Giles asked.

"As ready as I'll ever be," Buffy stated.

"New car, Giles?" Faith joked.

Giles blushed and looked down at the ground as he opened the driver's door. "No," he said hastily. "It's Angel's."

"I didn't see that coming," Faith laughed.

As Buffy and Faith settled into the backseat, Giles pulled back onto the road. Faith sighed, glancing behind her as the base faded from view. Buffy slipped her hand into the dark haired Slayer's and smiled over at her. "You okay?" She asked.

"Better than okay," Faith promised. "You're with me. We're leaving Sunnydale. Maybe we got a chance after all." The former rogue glanced out of the window again, watching the scenery flash by. She smiled. For the first time in her life, she had hope for the future.