Allison woke with a start, clutching the blanket with one fist, sure the danger was still there. The adrenaline of taking on so many at one time still with her. She could feel the affects of a night's patrol. The sadness of having not saved someone's life. Of being just a minute too late. Her hand was still shaped in the grip she'd use to wield the stake the woman in her dream held.

She glanced at the bedside clock, noticing that it was before sunrise. This wasn't the first time she'd dreamt of this young woman. The woman in her dreams could have been one of her daughters the resemblance was there. She knew, though, she was dreaming about someone here and now, not the future of one of her girls.

"Who's Buffy? And what's behind her?" Joe asked from beside her. It always amazed her how calm he was when these things happened.

"What?" Allison asked, the fog clearing from her head. "I don't know, just someone I've been dreaming about. She was in trouble."

"I sensed that."

"I need to call Lee."

"Now?"

"Yeah, I get the sense that it was pretty urgent. I need to find her. I think she's hurt."

Joe handed her the phone while she sat up in bed. She dialed Detective Scanlon's number from memory. He sounded sleepy. Of course he was, the sun wasn't even up.

"Hi, Detective Scanlon it's Allison."

"Uh, yeah, Allison. What's up?"

"Care to take a drive with me?"

"Now?"

"Yeah, I had a dream, and I think it's pretty important."

"Where we headed?"

"That's the thing, I'm not exactly sure, out west along 10. I'll recognize it when we get there."

"Sounds like it might be out of our jurisdiction."

"If I knew where she was exactly I'd call an ambulance, but I don't. I can't very well send them to cruise the whole highway."

"Good point. Let me throw on some clothes and I'll be there to pick you up in a few minutes."

"Okay."

"Allison?"

"Yeah?"

"Is she┘?"

"No, she's alive but maybe not for long." Allison wasn't sure that was true. She'd dreamt of the woman before, in similar circumstances and what would kill most people she walked away from relatively unharmed. So, why had tonight been different.

"All right. I'll step on it."

CENTER
/CENTER

"So, tell me about this dream," Lee Scanlon said, taking a sip of his coffee. He understood a woman's life might be on the line, but he could have a cup of coffee.

"Well, I don't know what to say exactly. She's fighting. Always fighting."

"Always? You've dreamed of her before?"

"Yeah. I've never felt she was in danger before though, not like this. I sense that she has some powers, too."

"Another psychic."

"No, I didn't say that."

"All right," he said with a shrug, not understanding how it worked. "So, she's fighting. A boxer?"

"No, that's the strange thing. It's nothing organized and she's always alone." He noticed she glanced at her hand as if she expected to see something there. "I think she fights vampires."

"Come on, Allison."

"No, Lee, I'm serious."

"There is no such thing."

"You would have said there was no such thing as a psychic a couple of years ago. And yet, here you are, taking a ride out to the desert because I called you after a dream."

"Okay, we'll suspend reality for a minute and pretend I believe you. What does this have to do with your dream?"

"There were too many this time. They sensed the sun was close to coming up and needed to get underground. She was surrounded by them, they were coming too fast and she was alone."

"So, a gang of vampires did what?"

"I don't know. I woke up before seeing what happened to her."

"So, she might not even be out here?" he asked, incredulous now. She'd woken him to go on some wild goose chase?

"You've come with me on less."

"Not this early in the morning."

"There," she said, pointing to the mile marker. There was an abandoned car there, too, driver's door still ajar. "Stop the car."

He watched, horrified, as she jerked open the car door before he'd even come to a complete stop.

"Buffy," she called frantically. Lee cut the engine and got out to follow.

He stopped to check the car, shone the flashlight inside. Nothing there. He thought of popping the trunk, but heard Allison.

"Over here," she called out from a bit of a distance.

Lee pocketed the flashlight in exchange for his weapon, following Allison's voice. The sun wasn't quite up yet, leaving lots of shadows out here in the desert. He saw her then, the blonde laying in the desert sand.

"I dreamt of you, too. It's how I knew to come here and find you."

Lee hadn't heard the woman on the ground respond, so assumed Allison was just trying to talk her into responding. He took a second to look at the surrounding area so he could accurately give a report. Whatever happened here, Allison had been right about something. Whoever it was that had messed with this woman, there'd been a lot of them. He could tell by the number of footprints in the sand. And she wasn't the only victim he noticed. There was another woman, barely sixteen. This one wasn't as lucky as the older one.

"Christ," he muttered, when he got up, counting at least ten different shoe prints as he carefully made his way to Allison and the survivor. "Is she all right?"

He crouched down then and saw for himself she was far from all right. She was still breathing and conscious. Though, that might not be a good thing going by how beat up she was.

"I guess I answered my own question."

"Girl," she said through chattering teeth. Shock and the fact that the desert can get cool at night, he wagered. He slid out of the sports coat he'd put on and draped it over her. "Thanks."

"They were," her eyes darted from Lee to Allison, "hurting her. Too many. So many," she murmured.

"What about the girl?"

"I told her to take my car and drive to the nearest town."

Lee looked back to where the body was, realizing she probably had been running in the direction of the car until someone caught up to her.

"I'm sorry, Miss," he said softly, stopping at saying the whole truth. He saw by the slight nod she understood.

"I'm not getting any reception out here on my cell, so I'm going to head back to the car and call for help on the radio."

"No, no hospitals. Please."

"I have to. If there was a crime committed here."

"Oh," she said with a deep sigh.

"Buffy, you need a hospital."

"No, just get me to my car and I'll be fine. I've got a first aid kit with everything I need in there."

"You need more than what a little first aid kit has. You should see yourself."

"Where is it?" Allison asked.

"Trunk."

"I'll get it for you."

"Detective Scanlon," Allison said, saying something for the first time. She'd been holding Buffy's hand until now and awful quiet in the process.

"Yes, Allison."

"Can I talk to you a minute?"

They walked off a bit, not that there was anywhere to go that wasn't desert.

"She's telling the truth."

"What?"

"She'll be fine. Whatever's in her car will help her better than any hospital can. You know I don't normally keep contact with someone for very long. I usually can't stand what I see."

"Yeah," he said. Now that she mentioned it he had noticed that. He'd never really stopped to consider it was because she didn't like what she'd get off the people she was touching. He just assumed it was in part not to invade their privacy.

"Well, I couldn't stop touching her. What she's been through, what I saw. It's amazing."

"You still saying she was in a fight with vampires?"

"Yes, and this wasn't the first."

"Allison."

"I know. I know it sounds crazy. I feel crazy for saying it, but I know what I saw when I touched her. And it's real."

"Maybe she's crazy."

"No, she's not, Detective Scanlon. She's a young woman who has been keeping the world safe for almost a decade now."

His eyes drifted behind Allison to the young woman in question. And then to the girl who she wasn't fortunate enough to save. Someone's parents would get a visit this morning that would change their lives forever. Lee was glad it wasn't his place to bring such news this time as much as he hated thinking that way. He hated those visits with a passion.

"I should bring her to a hospital. I have to call this in, Allison. If you didn't want by the book on this, you shouldn't have called me in."

"I know. It's just I feel so bad for her. She's here alone. She didn't mean for this to happen. She stopped to help someone, putting her own life at risk."

"So you feel like you should help her?"

"Yes."

He exhaled sharply. "All right, go get whatever it is from her trunk. A few more minutes delay calling this in isn't going to change the other girl's status. I can always say we were checking for other survivors."

Lee returned to the woman's side.

"Mrs. DuBois, Allison, has gone to get your kit."

"Thank you," she said, teeth still chattering. He leaned forward, tucking the sports coat around her as best as he could. She wasn't dressed for a night in the desert. The top she had on wasn't much of a top to begin with. It was torn to shreds now.

"You're welcome. You'll be all right, Miss."

"Buffy."

"What?"

She gave a partial smile. He could tell even that much effort hurt right now. "Name."

"Your name is Buffy. I'm Detective Scanlon. You shouldn't be talking. Just rest until Mrs. DuBois gets back."

He was tempted to look at the body of the dead girl, but he didn't want to contaminate any evidence that might be there. The desert was a hard enough place to get trace evidence from, no sense clouding the pool with his own shoeprints.

Allison returned with a pretty large kit. He'd expected one of those small travel sized kits you could buy at the local drug store. It made him wonder how often this sort of thing happened to her. She was pretty, even through the bruises and cuts.

Buffy tried to sit up then, which Lee put a stop to. "Hey now, we've got you, Buffy."

"No, no, I need," she gestured to the kit.

"You need something specific in here?"

She nodded.

"Water," she whispered.

There were a few smaller bottles, he held one up and she nodded.

"On my neck," she whispered again.

"You want this on your neck?" Now that was the oddest request he'd ever heard. Well, maybe not ever, but it was pretty strange.

"Please."

She pushed her hair out of the way and he saw them then. Bite marks. Lots of them. All around her jugular, piercing but not quite deep enough to make the kill.

"Allison," he said simply, wondering if this was some sort of joke.

"I told you she was fighting vampires."

"I do this, doesn't mean I believe you."

"I won't tell anyone, Detective."

He noticed Buffy's eyes were darting between them, trying to figure out what was going on maybe. He did as she asked, pouring the water over the bite marks. His hand jerked away and he stopped pouring after the first drop hit, causing her to scream in pain. He'd heard that scream before, knew it well.

"Don't stop," she hissed.

He wasn't a sadist, didn't enjoy inflicting pain on people. Not as a cop and certainly not as a man to a pretty woman who was already battered and bruised. She took it, though, other than grabbing onto his forearm with a grip that was strong she rode through the obviously painful experience.

"Thank you," she whispered.

"Not sure you should be thanking me for that, but you're welcome."

She started to sit up now, and he placed a hand at her shoulder. "Buffy, you're hurt. You need to stay down."

"I need to get up. I'm fine. I'll be fine. You did what needed to be done. The rest I can get on my own later."

"You going to tell me what I just poured all over your neck? Because that wasn't a bottle of Avian."

She laughed softly. "No, it wasn't. It's holy water. I needed to clean the wounds so I didn't scar."

"From?"

"Detective Scanlon," Allison interrupted.

"Right. Vampires again." He tossed the empty bottle back into Buffy's kit and threw his hands up, standing. "I give up."

"You saw her neck with your own eyes. What else could have done that?"

"Humans. An animal of some sort. This is the desert."

"Piercing marks so accurate? Come on, Detective. An animal wouldn't have just gone for her throat."

"I'm sorry. It's enough I believe in you. Now you're expecting me to believe in things that go bump in the night. And why does she know about them?"

"I'm the Slayer," she whispered. He watched as she really took Allison in for the first time. "I know you."

"You do? I don't think so."

"I know I've seen you somewhere."

She was sounding stronger and stronger by the minute. That was a good sign.

"I've dreamt of you," Allison offered and Buffy's eyes widened.

"So have I. I don't think I ever saw your face, though, but I know it's you."

"Are you psychic?" Allison asked, sounding somewhat hopeful Lee thought.

"No, prophetic dreams come with being the Slayer. I don't know how I tapped into yours. I've only done that once or twice before and it was someone I knew."

"So, what's this slayer business?" Lee asked.

"That's what, who, I am. A slayer. The slayer, even though I'm not the only one anymore. I am susceptible to dreams, prophetic ones usually."

"Maybe you were seeing this night, me saving your life."

"Could be. I've learned to stop questioning things because there aren't usually many answers."

"Wait a minute," Lee said.

"I know it's hard to believe. There are no vampires. They're the stuff writers created to scare you. I hate to tell you, they're very real."

"So, why don't I have a cell full of them back at the precinct?"

"Because there's someone on your precinct who knows, a higher up and they're covering up facts. Gang activity, drug deals gone bad. I suppose out here in the desert you could have wild animal attacks."

"And you do this for a living?"

"No, I mean, yes, but it's who I am. You chose to be a cop, at least I assume so. I didn't choose this. It chose me. Somewhere hundreds of years ago my name was dropped into the hat. Do I make a living off it? I do now."

"Now?"

"Didn't used to. It was a pretty thankless job. Night after night of putting your life in danger, no pay, no glory because no one can know. It's supposed to be a secret. I changed things, though, a couple of years ago. And that's not the case so much anymore. Except with the secret stuff. Not sure how my dreams flooded into Allison's here."

"I'm a psychic," Allison offered and Lee grimaced. "What? She's talking about vampires I can't admit to being psychic?"

"Where'd they go?"

"I don't know," Buffy said and sounded a little defeated. It was an amazing thing to see, but as she sat there he couldn't help but notice that her bruises and cuts were fading. It was slight, but he noticed the gash on her cheek grow shorter. "They've got to have some place, a nest, around here somewhere. Because it was pretty close to sunrise for them to be out in the middle of nowhere like this."

"There's nothing out here for miles."

"So you think. They're here somewhere, underground most likely. A tunnel or sewer access, an old fallout shelter. Something. Do you think I can get out of here now?"

"Uh, yeah, sure," he said, going against everything he believed in letting her walk away from this scene. Except there was no evidence. The blood on the ground he was quite sure would belong to Buffy and the dead woman. "You can sit in my car until the locals get here."

He helped her into the back of his car. It wasn't a squad car, so it didn't lock her in but she still seemed a little confused.

"Allison," he said over the top of the car. "What are you going to do with her?"

"Me?"

"Yeah, you. This is your thing. I'm just along for the ride. I've broken so many procedural policies as it is. This isn't even my jurisdiction. I'm pissing in someone else's pool here and messing up evidence."

Obviously, Allison had no answer, which made Lee sigh heavily. He glanced into the backseat at the woman they'd come out here to find. Allison had been right, she was bad off but near death obviously not.

"Why don't you go back with her in her car. Take her to your house until I get back," he said finally, rebelling at the fact he was betraying every lesson taught him over the years.

"Okay."

"I'll stop by on my way home to let you both know how it went. I don't want her to just walk away, though, in case I have questions for her."

Allison nodded then as Lee opened the back door once again.

"Buffy, Allison's going to take you back to her house where you'll have to stay until I'm finished with the authorities here. In case I have more questions."

"You're not going to tell them┘?"

"About vampires and slayers? No, I'll come up with something that won't make them want to lock me into a padded cell for the day."

"I stopped them in time," she said softly.

"Stopped them in time for what? She's dead, Buffy."

"But she won't turn. They weren't able to finish the conversion."

"You know that for a fact?"

"Yes, she was still alive, barely, but alive and fighting when I came onto the scene. They didn't finish."

"All right," he said, not sure what exactly that meant. She wouldn't rise as a vampire then? The very fact that he was buying the story, believing it and her was giving him a headache. He'd kill for a beer about now. Instead, he helped Buffy into the passenger seat of her car and watched as Allison drove a material witness toward Phoenix.