Title: Shadows and Regrets
Author: Boo
Category: Drama
Rated: R
Spoilers: Takes place shortly, maybe a month, after The Gift.
Summary: This can be read as a stand alone fic even though it's a sequel to Into The Mirror, also posted here. You'll figure out what's different about Faith soon enough. The gang deals with Buffy's death, each in their own way.
Disclaimers: Joss Whedon owns all these people and likes to laugh at me.
Distribution: Ya want it, take it - just let me know.
Feedback: My drug of choice.

PART ONE

Faith lashed out with her fist, ducked and quickly spun around, connecting with her foot. She sprang up into a defensive position, automatically drawing her right arm back to get more force behind her punch. And then she froze.

"You know, if this is a bad time, I could come back later. As in later in the week."

"What? Oh, um...sorry. My bad, as you say. A momentary lapse of concentration. Let's continue, shall we?" smiled Giles awkwardly. He lifted his boxing gloves up again as if they were very heavy and braced himself for Faith's attack.

Faith stood there for a moment, one side of her mouth raised in a half frown.

"Nah, let's call it a night. You're heart's just not into it. I'll make an early sweep and then go back to check on Dawn."

Giles lowered his arms as if he was a little boy who had just been scolded by his teacher. He turned his hands palm up towards Faith so that she could untie the laces of the gloves.

"I'm sorry, Faith. I'm just a little...distracted," shrugged Giles, not looking at her. Faith began to untie the strings.

"Hey, these hours can't be easy for you. I mean, you work all day at the shop here and then train with me at night. You're probably just tired. Doesn't help that I can't get here during the day," added Faith, shaking her head as she pulled the first glove off and tossed it onto the floor.

Giles simply stood there, lost in his own thoughts. Faith tugged on the remaining glove to get his attention and let it fall to the floor next to the other glove.

"Wanna talk about it?" asked Faith, one eyebrow raised.

"What? Oh, um, no. No, it's nothing...really," smiled Giles.

Faith reached out and gently held his forearm.

"Giles, you...you never let me in. Talk to me," said Faith softly. It was a request, not a demand.

Giles stopped smiling, even though he knew she was genuinely concerned.

"You should go patrol. We'll talk tomorrow," said Giles, lowering his arm.

"Hey!" snapped Faith. She had his full attention now. Even so, she spoke in a whisper.

"I can't replace her, Giles. And...and I miss her too, you know? So...talk to me. You understand what I'm trying to say?" asked Faith hopefully.

Giles took a deep breath and nodded.

"Let's go sit down," he said.

Faith tried to not look worried as she followed him over to the table.

"Uh, Giles? Is there anything in back for me to drink?"

Giles winced and didn't even try to hide it.

"I...I'm sorry. I meant to go to the butcher's before but, but I...forgot," sighed Giles.

"No big. I hardly broke a sweat anyway. Tell ya what, why don't we get out that single malt scotch you're so fond of?" asked Faith with a mischievous grin.

Giles stared at her for a moment, not saying anything.

"Well, it's not like I'm ever going to turn twenty one! And you're beat. I know you have...have a little. At night. To help you sleep. Just to take the edge off," added Faith, seeing Giles' eyes open a little wider.

"Is it that obvious?" asked Giles dejectedly.

"Only to someone who's close to you. Only to someone...someone who cares," smiled Faith.

And now Giles smiled. He walked behind the checkout counter and brought out a half empty bottle. He placed it on the counter, surprised at how much was already gone but not letting Faith see his concern. Looking under the counter again he found two glasses. Sitting down at the table across from Faith, he poured them both a full glass.

"Sip this, young lady. You're still going on patrol later," warned Giles with an empty glare.

Faith raised her glass to his, not hesitating with her toast.

"To Buffy," offered Faith.

"To Buffy," nodded Giles, clinking his glass to hers. He drained most of his glass, closing his eyes as the smooth liquor warmed his throat. Faith took more than a sip, suddenly surprised that she liked scotch.

"You seem a little distracted yourself, Faith. Do you want to talk about it?" challenged Giles as he refilled his glass.

"Fair enough," agreed Faith, watching him pour. She took another mouthful of the scotch and then set her glass on the table in front of her, rubbing it back and forth between her hands.

"It's about Dawn," said Faith.

"Is she still mad at you?" asked Giles warily.

"No. No, I don't think so. But she hasn't forgiven me. Don't think she ever will," frowned Faith.

"Faith, it wasn't your fault that you weren't there when...when it happened. Buffy herself asked you to go. Angel, Wesley, Cordelia...they had all disappeared and she was concerned. She couldn't have known..."

"But that's just it! She did know. If I had been there I could've helped somehow. It didn't have to happen! But she...Buffy wanted me out of harm's way so that, so that there would be someone left to take care of Dawn. In case..."

Faith didn't finish. They both took another sip from their glasses, not looking at one another. The only sound in the room was the ticking of the clock on the wall. Such an insignificant detail, something easily unnoticed. A clock that still ticked. A little touch that marked this place as his...and one that comforted Faith, made her feel at home. Like she really was part of his world now.

"Dawn told me, Giles. About being the Key."

Giles visibly stiffened, glanced at Faith and then quickly looked away. He raised his glass to his lips but then put the glass back down.

"I would have told you, Faith. But Dawn didn't want you to know. I was simply respecting her wishes."

"Whatever," shrugged Faith. She didn't look at Giles.

"Faith, I wanted to tell you. I..."

"Giles, I don't have a problem with the not telling part. It's, it's...haven't you stopped to think about what this means?" asked Faith.

"I, I don't understand."

"The whole time I was with the Mayor...how can you not...Giles, there was only one thing anchoring me to this world. Only one thing that made me feel like I still belonged. Dawn. I never tried to hurt her. I loved her. And now I find out that none of it was real. None of it," sighed Faith, taking another gulp of scotch.

"Faith, how does...I'm sorry, I don't understand..."

"Giles, don't you see? There was no good in me! If Dawn was really Buffy's sister I would've gone after her. We both know I probably...no, I would have...killed her," said Faith, lowering her voice noticeably.

"Dawn is her sister!" yelled Giles, startling Faith.

Giles took another sip of his drink. When he spoke again he was much calmer.

"It doesn't matter how she came here. They have the same blood. She is as real as either of us. And the good was always there. Not even those monks, as powerful as their magicks were, could change evil into good. I believe they were helping you."

"Helping me? How?" asked Faith skeptically.

"By giving you a connection to us, a, a way back. I told Buffy the very same thing," nodded Giles.

Faith looked at her glass and then glanced back up at Giles. Seeing her doubt, he smiled for her.

"A Slayer's nature is to help others. You are a Slayer," reminded Giles.

"A Slayer's nature is to kill. The helping part is just a bonus," said Faith flatly.

Giles was going to argue with her but thought better of it. He couldn't handle Faith in the same way he had dealt with Buffy. But he knew how to reach her.

"There's more, isn't there?" asked Giles. Faith looked up at him and he saw the fear, the hesitation in her eyes.

"Yeah," admitted Faith softly, nodding her head.

Giles waited patiently for her to continue.

"It's the others...Willow, Xander...all of them. I'm, I'm just being compared to her, you know? And it's not fair. I'm expected to be her, fight the good fight, kill the demons, the vampires...and, okay, that's my job. I'm not supposed to fail. Not supposed to mess up. So I don't get any credit for doing...what I mean is, when I do mess up, I think, I think that's what they expect too."

Faith looked up at Giles. She was surprised to see him smiling.

"If I understand you, what you're saying is that if you do well, it's no big, as you say. It's all been done before. You're living up to standards that were set by..."

"Hey, it's not like I was expecting a parade or anything!" interrupted Faith. She took another drink from her glass.

Giles smiled again.

"What?" demanded Faith.

"Faith, they won't let you in...because by accepting you they would be admitting that she's really gone. Give them time. Every one of them has to deal with this in their own way. Be patient," added Giles, reaching across the table and running his hand through her hair.

Faith nodded but didn't smile, caught off guard by his tender touch. He sensed her discomfort and withdrew his hand.

"So...we were going to talk about you. What's bothering you? Besides...well, you know, the obvious," shrugged Faith, suddenly sorry she had hinted at Buffy's ghost. The dead Slayer was very much still with them. It was just that no one talked about that.

"Yes, well...where to begin? Perhaps I should simply express how I feel," admitted Giles bravely.

"Or you could just tell me in English," smiled Faith. And Giles returned her smile.

"Faith, I believe I have been failing you in my duties as your Watcher."

Giles raised his hand to silence her protest.

"I have not been training you to the best of my abilities, my research has been at best shoddy if not downright inefficient...oh, right. In English," agreed Giles.

Faith stared at him, afraid to say anything.

"My heart just isn't into this anymore and it's not fair to you. We both know why. I'm going to get you killed. And you deserve so much more than that. I think...I think..."

Giles reached across the table and put a hand over Faith's cold hand.

"I think it would be best if another Watcher were assigned to you," whispered Giles.

Faith withdrew her hand as if she had been stung and glared at him.

"What!? You gotta be kidding me here!" yelled Faith.

"Faith, I..."

"No! You are my Watcher. I don't want anyone else. Giles, I, I can't trust someone else. I...Giles, I need you," pleaded Faith.

"But..."

"But nothing! Okay, maybe we need to slow down some, kick back a bit. We can take a break from training. Maybe you're just burned out. Maybe..."

Faith stopped, seeing how sad Giles suddenly seemed. And now she reached across the table and held his hand. When she spoke she whispered her words.

"Giles, please...don't do this. I don't want to be alone."
"And I don't want to lose you. That's why I think it's best..."

"Who gives a damn what's best!?" yelled Faith, standing up. She turned her back to him so that he wouldn't see how upset she was.

Giles simply sat there, staring at the glass near his hand. Faith turned to look at him but he didn't look up. He spoke before she could.

"Quentin Travers once pointed out to me something that was painfully obvious. It was right there in front of me but I didn't see it. He said...he said that I had a father's love for Buffy. And even though he said that in front of her, we never spoke of it again. Ever," sighed Giles.

He took another gulp of scotch and glanced up at Faith. Faith chewed on her lower lip and waited.

"I wanted you to know...so that you might understand...Faith, I, I feel the same way about you," blurted out Giles. "That's why I have to do what's best for you. And that's never the easiest path to take, is it?" smiled Giles.

Faith swallowed and choked back the tears she felt coming. Very slowly she sat down, never taking her eyes off of Giles. He tried to smile for her but it didn't work.

"You are so much like her...did you know that?" asked Giles, looking away and taking a deep breath.

"If that's the way you feel, then there's something you need to know. Because only you would understand this," began Faith.

"Oh?"

Faith hesitated, unsure of how to continue. The room suddenly seemed smaller, confining, as if she were an unwelcome guest, an intruder. The ticking of the clock was distant, a distraction.

"Before...when I, I...oh man, this is so hard for me," said Faith, closing her eyes and shaking her head.

"Faith, you can tell me anything. Anything," reassured Giles. "Just say..."

"I'm scared." Faith leaned back into the chair and watched him to gauge his reaction.

Giles pushed his glass to one side. He reached for his glasses, changed his mind and leaned back into his chair.

"Do you know why?" he asked softly.

Faith barely nodded. Giles patiently waited for her to explain.

"There are times...I think I'm starting to enjoy the killing. Liking it too much. Hell, I'm craving it. Like before. With the Mayor."

Faith watched his face but Giles gave no clue as to what he was thinking.

"It's like a drug. Sometimes, sometimes I can't get to sleep unless I've made a kill. Giles, there's no way I can really explain it. I mean, how do you describe getting off on being afraid? This power, this...this gift, has a price. So you can't leave me. Not now. If I tried to explain this to the Council they'd lock me up. You know they would," winced Faith.

"Buffy told me very much the same thing. How she liked to hunt, how she couldn't sleep. I didn't think it would start so soon with you. You should have told me before now," said Giles.

"Yeah. I should have," swallowed Faith. "So, how did you help B?"

Giles sat further back in his chair and rested his two index fingers under his chin. He glanced at the shelves behind her, heavy with books. They always expected him to know the answers to their questions or at least to know where to search for them. But these tomes could hold nothing more than blank sheets of paper and still they wouldn't be as empty as he felt.

"There's some advanced training techniques we had started...mind control, focus...I'll review my notes. She got past it or, or at least seemed to control these...urges. But do you know what I think helped Buffy the most?" asked Giles.

Faith shook her head.

"Her friends. Buffy was never really alone. She always had someone to turn to. Except...except when it mattered the most. And I wasn't there for her."

"Giles, you didn't fail her! I did!" snapped Faith.

Giles leaned forward in his chair and took a deep breath as he reached for his glass.

"I told her that she might have to kill Dawn, that, that she would have to kill her sister. That's the last memory Buffy has of me," choked Giles.

"Wrong, tweed man."

Giles' eyes opened wide in surprise.

"You say we were alike. I agree. She knew how you felt, Giles. Just like I do."

Giles had to stand and turn his back to her so that she wouldn't see his face.

"I won't leave you alone, Faith," said Giles, his voice cracking.

"Thank you," whispered Faith. She raised her glass and emptied it in one gulp. Once again she heard the ticking of the clock. It brought little comfort. Faith wiped a tear from her eye, telling herself it was from the heat of the scotch.

*****

She rolled out of the way of the next punch and sprang up onto her feet. This was wrong. She hadn't been this scared in a fight since...well, she couldn't remember when. Her left arm hurt and she could barely raise it. Throwing a weak punch that was easily blocked, the vampire unexpectedly hesitated, giving her a chance to run. But why? Was it some kind of trick?

As quickly as the opportunity presented itself, it passed. The vampire threw her head back and laughed cruelly, eagerly anticipating what would happen next.

"Stupid bitch! You had your chance. Did you really expect another? Come on, you're making this too easy! Let's have a kiss."

She knew now that it would have been a mistake to run. This vampire was just playing with her. And enjoying it just a little too much. Her base instincts took over and with a growl she charged, fangs bared to rip into her neck. She never saw the stake deftly shift from one hand into the other.

As the vampire exploded into ash, Faith closed her yellow eyes and threw her head back, screaming her satisfaction, giving voice to an emotion that couldn't be expressed with words, something so primal that only another predator could understand her passion.

But then the moment no longer held her, no longer overwhelmed...her rage dissipated like water fading into sand. And was replaced by a sense of awe, a sensation that almost made her feel...alive. Faith laughed and slid the stake into her back pocket.

The night was quiet. Suddenly, too quiet. Faith sniffed at the air and growled, not even having to look. She felt it, like the vibration of a ripple on the surface of a lake. She knew. There was another presence out here, another like her. And that could only mean one thing. Faith spit in the direction of the approaching shadow.

Pat had felt it, but only for a moment. She knelt down and touched the damp grass. Turning her hand over, she saw the fresh ash coating her skin, felt its warmth. She knew Faith had been close by. The ash simply confirmed this. And she knew that Faith was now far from her...and not only in a physical sense. With a sigh and a shake of her head, the living Slayer, the one who breathed and could move in the sunlight, stood and walked away, her head hung low. The night, once again, was quiet.

*****

Faith reddened her lips and then tossed the stick of lipstick into the drawer, quickly closing it. But not quickly enough. She turned and saw Dawn standing in the doorway with her arms crossed and grinning her disapproval.

"Stealing my favorite lipstick again?" asked Dawn.

"Um...sorry? I'll get my own soon, I promise. I like that color," replied Faith sheepishly.

"It's alright. I mean, it's not like I wear it very often," sighed Dawn.

"So...how'd I do?" frowned Faith.

Dawn tilted her head and smiled. She walked over to Faith and pulled a tissue from the box on the dresser.

"Better," encouraged Dawn, dabbing at Faith's upper lip with the tissue. "Roll your lips together."

Faith did as she was told and Dawn nodded her approval.

"Want some eye shadow?" asked Dawn.

"Sure. 'Cept nothing too dark. My skin's pale enough. I don't want to look like a raccoon," said Faith, causing Dawn to laugh.

"Sit down," commanded Dawn as she dug through her makeup box. Faith sat on the edge of the bed. Dawn held a color up and Faith nodded in agreement. Faith closed her eyes and Dawn went to work.

"So...you seeing Matthieu again tonight?" asked Dawn.

"Well, I'm going to the Fish Tank. Maybe he'll be there."

"Maybe?," smiled Dawn. "He's the bouncer. Kinda has to be there if he wants to keep his job. I can't believe that dive is still there."

"It's not so bad," replied Faith.

"Right," answered Dawn sarcastically. "Hey, hold still, I'm almost done. What do you see in this guy anyway?"

"I don't know," shrugged Faith. "He's...different."

Dawn looked at Faith as if she just noticed what the Slayer was wearing; black leather pants, a deep red crop top, matching black leather vest...she had become oblivious to Faith's taste in clothes a long time ago. Now Dawn wondered if she was trying to impress this guy. No, she always dressed like this. Still...

"All done," announced Dawn. "Different how?"

Faith opened her eyes.

"Well, for one thing he knows how to have fun. He's, he's very confident without being cocky. Plus he's got this wicked tat of the Arizona desert on his left arm. Ya know, cactus, sunbleached steer skull, tumbleweed...goes from his wrist all the way up to his shoulder," smiled Faith.

Dawn narrowed her eyes.

"Okay...um, so what's he like to do for fun?" asked Dawn uneasily.

"See, that's the cool part. Matthieu's into rock climbing and surfing and, and hang gliding. Always pushing himself. Likes to live on the edge," added Faith enthusiastically.

"So he likes to flirt with death," said Dawn, looking Faith up and down. The gesture wasn't lost on Faith.

"I hope so," teased Faith.

Dawn hesitated a moment and looked down at the floor.

"Does...does he know? About you, I mean?"

Faith didn't answer. Instead she patted the bed with her hand and Dawn sat down beside her.

"So, how was your day?" asked Faith. Dawn smiled.

"You would have liked it, Faith. The air was so clear the sky seemed to be a deeper blue. And the clouds...they weren't all fuzzy. No, they were sharp, almost solid. A lot cooler today, too. It was...you know how in late September you'll get a warm day and you'll think, 'wow, where did the summer go?' because it's so nice out and you want to go down to the beach?"

Faith smiled and nodded.

"Well, this was like that. Except today, it was a hint of autumn. And...and you don't want the fall to come. You just want to hang on to today, 'cause everything is moving so fast. It was stupid, I know, but I, I felt kinda sad. Worrying about my summer being over while it's still here," sighed Dawn, shaking her head.

"No, it's not stupid. I remember...I know how you feel," said Faith, putting her arm around Dawn. Dawn smiled but wasn't comforted.

"So...how was your night?" asked Dawn.

"Well, I was going to patrol down by the docks. Haven't been down there in a while. But I never made it there."

Dawn looked up at Faith, both confused and concerned.

"I went to the beach," grinned Faith.

"Huh?"

"Yep. Just me and the ocean. Oh, and some kids making out in their cars. But it was quiet. Wasn't much of a breeze so the surf was calm. The moon was out and it was almost full. It was so bright, reflecting off the water...ever see clouds at night? The moon does something to them. It...it almost seemed like daylight," whispered Faith.

Dawn slipped her hand around Faith's waist and gave her a little squeeze.

"I just sat there. For a long time, too. Wish I could see the water again, the way it should be. At night, it's not even gray, never mind blue. It's just sorta, I don't know...colorless. A little less than it should be."

Faith looked at Dawn to see if she understood. And Dawn nodded as if she knew what Faith was thinking.

"Oh, don't tell Giles I wasn't patrolling, okay? He..."

"Wouldn't understand," finished Dawn.

"Right," nodded Faith in agreement.

She stood up and touched Dawn on her arm, then pointed to a pad of paper on Dawn's dresser.

"Hey, you started to sketch again? It's good. Um...what is it?" frowned Faith. Dawn smiled.

"Not sure yet. Just started fooling around with it to pass the time. It's...something to do," shrugged Dawn. "So, you have any artistic talents?"

"Me?" laughed Faith. "I can't even draw a breath."

"Faith!" groaned Dawn, rolling her eyes but laughing anyway.

"Sorry. Couldn't pass that one up. Thanks for the makeup help," said Faith softly. Dawn nodded but looked away from her.

"Should I leave the light on for you?" asked Dawn.

"Why not? Think I'm going to get lucky?" asked Faith with a smile.

Dawn was going to say something but she hesitated, her face turning red.

"Yeah, leave the light on. Uh, not that I need it, of course. But...but it's nice when I see it. Lets me know you're thinking of me," said Faith. Suddenly feeling embarrassed, she leaned forward and kissed Dawn on the forehead.

"Don't stay up too late," reminded Faith as she left.

"Eat before you go out, will ya?" yelled Dawn.

"Then I'd have to brush my teeth again!" laughed Faith from down the stairs.

Dawn just sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the eye shadow in her hand, shaking her head. When she heard the front door close she stood and tossed the eye shadow onto the dresser. She walked out into the hall, pausing by Faith's room to glance in. New curtains, a new bedspread...neither of which Buffy would have approved of. But it was no longer her sister's room.

Dawn clicked the hall light off and got ready for bed.

*****

It was cool, almost cold with the breeze blowing off the water. But the sun was warm on her skin and it was relaxing to be here again. Willow leaned back, ran her toes through the sand and looked at Tara. Tara noticed and smiled. And Willow smiled back, knowing that Tara's smile was meant for her and her alone. Lost in something as simple and powerful as a glance, Willow hadn't even realized that she was holding her breath.

Dawn was lying on her stomach on a blanket next to Tara, probably asleep. Xander and Anya sat across from them. Willow followed their gaze down to the water. They were watching Riley as he tossed a football to Buffy. Suddenly he ran at her and grabbed her around the waist, obviously threatening to throw her into the water. Buffy's laughter made Willow smile again. It was so good to hear her laugh again. Oh how she had missed that.

Willow raised her eyes and noticed that some dark clouds were forming. Yes, the wind was picking up...a thunderstorm was approaching. Willow sat up and looked at Xander to see if he had noticed the sudden change in the weather. And his look froze her. He seemed...sad. Why would he feel sad? They were all here, together, and it was a beautiful day...

Willow looked behind her again. But the beach was empty. Buffy and Riley were gone. It took a moment for that to sink in. Buffy was gone...

"Willow?"

Willow felt her hand on her shoulder. She wouldn't cry. Not this time. She wouldn't.

"Willow, we should go."

Willow stood up and closed her eyes, unable to stop the tears. She felt Tara slowly turn her around and pull her close in a comforting hug. Tara held her tightly and stared at the ground behind her. Buffy's grave had fresh flowers on it. It always did.

"I'm sorry. I, I know I said I wouldn't cry this time, but..."

"Honey, it's okay," whispered Tara. "It's okay."

Willow buried her face in the hollow of Tara's shoulder, her body trembling with sobs. Tara kissed her cheek.

"We should go. I know we haven't seen any vampires lately, but it isn't safe here at night," said Tara.

Willow nodded and stepped away from her, wiping her eyes with both hands. Tara stared at her for a moment but then looked away.

"Don't say it," said Willow softly.

"But...but you promised," protested Tara.

"It's too soon!" barked Willow. Tara winced and looked down at the ground.

"I'm sorry. I...I didn't mean to yell," said Willow, reaching out and taking both of Tara's hands into hers.

"Willow, you really need to talk to someone. You have to get past this. We agreed..."

"There's only one person I want to talk to," whispered Willow, not looking at Tara.

Tara let go of Willow's hands and glared at her.

"No. It's not right," said Tara sternly.

"I don't need to talk to a counselor. I...I just need to say goodbye," sniffed Willow, tears welling up in her eyes again. She raised her eyes and looked at Tara. Tara bit her lower lip.

"Please, Tara. I, I just need to know she's at peace. I need..."

Willow stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Tara's waist. Her face was a breath away from Tara's lips. Tara began to cry, a cold tear running down her cheek.

"I promise you, if this...afterwards, I mean...if I'm still hurting, I'll talk to someone. I promise. But I need this. And I need your help," pleaded Willow.

Tara closed her eyes and slowly nodded, once again embracing Willow.

"You know I can't deny you anything. But...but I'm afraid, you know?" whispered Tara.

Willow hugged her tighter and smiled.

"I know. So am I. But it will be alright. I know it will. I just know it," comforted Willow.

Tara reluctantly nodded.

"We, we just...won't tell anyone. Okay?" whimpered Tara.

It was as if Willow hadn't heard her.

"Thank you, Tara," said Willow, kissing her cheek. "Thank you."

Tara opened her eyes and again looked at Buffy's grave. She slowly exhaled, puffing out her cheeks.

*****

Giles reluctantly opened his eyes, wondering where he was, trying unsuccessfully to focus. The phone. The phone was ringing. He pushed himself up from the table, not bothering to look for his glasses.

"Hello?" mumbled Giles into the phone, the single word he uttered slurred.

"Rupert. I didn't wake you, did I?"

"Quentin," answered Giles, suddenly becoming awake if not sober. "How nice of you to ring me up."

Quentin Travers didn't say anything but Giles knew he was smiling.

"Well?" sighed Giles.

"It's confirmed. Another Slayer has not been called," said Travers as if he was reading an address from a phone book.

"That's...not unexpected," replied Giles.

"No, it isn't. That gift now belongs to Pat. However, there may be another explantion, however unlikely."

Gift? Her death would be a gift? A chill gripped Giles and he wondered if Travers realized what memories that one word had unleashed.

"Wh...what? Another...Quentin, what are you talking about?" asked Giles.

"Rupert, there's something I need you to do. Something that you might consider to be, shall we say, most unpleasant..."

END OF PART ONE