Authors Note: This is the third story in a series - best to read the previous two, Have a Little Faith and The Special Two so you can figure out what the hell's going on.
As stated previously at the end of The Special Two this story takes place approximately sixteen years after the events of that story and will be based mostly around the life of Faith and Dawn's daughter Hope although all the usual suspects will be making an occasional guest appearance.
I have decided this time around to write in shorter chapters - it means more frequent updates and less of a headache for me editing but let me know if you prefer the longer ones and I might change my mind.
This first few chapters will set things up - some of the history of the sixteen years inbetween, the new characters etc. but it will get more actiony soon I promise.
Anyway enough of my drabble and on with the story...
The young woman stood silently on top of the hill, the ceaseless, unchanging wind whipping her long, dark brown hair across her face.
She absently brushed it away, revealing the vivid, dark-red scar that ran along her right cheek. Her eyes scanned the bleak and blasted landscape below her, the monotonous grey colour broken only by the few trees that still clung stubbornly to life, and made worse by the dark thunderclouds that hovered, ever-present, overhead, forever blocking out the sun.
She surveyed the horizon, not really looking for anything in particular, just remaining watchful, danger was everywhere in this new world and since The Fall her life had revolved around one thing, survival. Food was scarce and clean drinking water even scarcer, few buildings had survived the destruction let alone anything useful like a supermarket, the army of The First had vowed to wipe out all trace of the plague of man off the face of the earth and had done an admirable job of it, now she and the few remaining 'free' humans were left to scavenge off the bones of what remained of their past, and what their 'betters' left behind.
"Hope." The faint sound of a vaguely familiar voice caused the young woman to turn and look around her suspiciously, gripping the Scythe tighter.
"Hope." The voice was louder now and reminded her of distant and far more pleasant days, days where she hadn't been hunted constantly like an animal and had been able to get more than an hour's sleep at a time.
Hope's eyes snapped open and she groaned softly as the shreds of her dream still clung to her, she'd been having these dreams, nightmares, of the future regularly ever since she was twelve, but they still never failed to affect her and usually left her feeling crappy for the rest of the day.
"If you don't get your butt down here in five minutes young lady you're going to miss school." Faith's voice rang up the stairs from the kitchen below.
"Yeah and that would be a world-ending sitch." Hope muttered softly under her breath then cast a wary eye at her bedroom door. Years of personal experience had taught her to be careful when she said anything aloud; both her parents seemed to have some kind of superhuman hearing even if only one of them was an actual Slayer.
She dragged herself reluctantly out of bed and over to her closet, Hope knew Faith's threat wasn't an idle one so if she wanted to eat breakfast she was going to have to be quick in choosing her clothes for the day, and she was always hungry these days, one of many things her parents attributed to raging teenage hormones.
Hope quickly picked out some clothes and tried them on, studying herself critically in the mirror as she did so.
Everyone, especially friends of her mom, always commented on how much she looked like her, in fact sometimes when they were out shopping together people mistook them for sisters, which never failed to please her mom.
Hope could, however grudgingly, see the resemblance; she had the same tall, lithe body, the same long brown hair and bright blue eyes, the same flawless, pale white skin lightly dusted with the occasional freckle and the same full, red lips.
There were some differences though, she was slightly taller than her mom, her face more rounded, her body more toned and she had also inherited a couple of things from Faith, namely the dimples in her cheeks and a rather well-developed and as it happened, early blossoming chest region, something which had gained her a large amount of unwelcome attention from the male population at her school.
It wasn't like she hated all boys, she did have a couple of guy friends, it was just that she wasn't interested in them in that way. She could still actually remember the day she told her parents she was only interested in girls, she had been the ripe old age of ten when she'd walked into the living room and solemnly announced to her bemused mom and Faith that all boys were yucky and that she was completely in love with Alice Peters.
Her mom had sat her down the next day and carefully explained to her that just because she and Faith were together didn't mean that Hope had to like girls too, it was OK to like boys, in fact it was more common for girls to like boys then other girls.
But she had been adamant back then about her feelings, and in the last six years nothing had happened to change her mind even if a few people had tried to change it for her.
Hope gave her reflection one last glance and nodded in approval, she just knew the outfit was going to get a disapproving comment from her mom, something along the lines of 'too tight and too low' referring to both her top and jeans but she simply didn't care, after all she had seen pictures of the way both her mom and Faith had dressed when they were her age and there wasn't a lot of difference to the way she was dressed now, OK maybe she did have on a little less material but it covered all the strategic areas so she couldn't see what the problem was.
Hope grabbed her bag and headed down the stairs, turning right at the bottom step into the kitchen and into the smell of freshly made pancakes. Her mom stood in front of the stove, frying-pan and spatula in hand while Faith stood behind her, her arms wrapped loosely around her mom's waist as she whispered something in her ear.
A small smile crossed Hope's lips, it was nice to see them together like that even if it was kind of gross to see her parents acting all couply, they had gone through a rough patch a few years ago, a lot of arguments and fights that eventually reached a point where her mom had left the house, taking her and her brother Will to stay at their Uncle Angel and Aunt Buffy's for a few months.
That had been the worse time in Hope's life, coinciding as it did with the onset of her dreams, which had led to them being diagnosed as a reaction to the stress of her home-life situation, until they had kept right on recurring even after her parents had reconciled and moved back in together.
Faith turned away from her mom long enough to notice Hope standing in the doorway. "Thought you were going to sleep the whole day away Kiddo."
"No, just the morning." Hope replied, moving past her to take a plate of pancakes from her mom.
There was a reproachful look in her mom's eyes when she spied her outfit but strangely there was no comment to match, causing Hope to thank whichever deity was looking over her at that moment, her mom just continued to plate up more pancakes for herself and Faith and then went to sit at the table.
Hope sat down at the table across from her brother Will, seizing the butter and syrup from in front of him. She shot a glance at him to see if he had noticed but, as seemed the norm these days, he completely ignored her.
If you hadn't known that her and Will were twins you would never have guessed it by looking at them, Will resembled Faith as much as she resembled their mom, except obviously in a more masculine way.
He was actually taller than Hope but seemed shorter because of his stockier build and he shared the same olive skin, black hair and big, brown eyes with Faith. His classic good looks and athletic frame had made him a firm favourite of the girls at their school, something he took great pleasure in and which Hope was intensely jealous of.
The large stack of pancakes in front of Hope rapidly diminished and just as she was looking around for some more, Faith picked up her car keys off the counter and opened the back door.
"OK guys lets go." Faith said, ushering them towards the open door and out to the car.
Will stood up and nonchalantly wandered out without comment but before Hope could follow her path was blocked by their Mom.
"Now remember Hope, Faith will be at school to pick you up after you've finished detention. Bar anything short of an apocalypse I want you coming straight home."
That was the reason for the lack of comment about her clothing; her mom had something else on her mind. "Whatever."
"Hope, I mean it." Her mom said warningly.
"What, I said I'll be there," Hope answered impatiently. "What more do you want?"
And now there was that look in her mom's eyes, that hurt but still loving look that Hope couldn't bear to meet and never failed to make her feel guilty. "Nothing," her mom said quietly. "Just get to school, and try not to get into any more trouble."
Hope walked past her, eyes downcast, and out to the car. All the way to school she brooded on the unfairness of her latest trip to detention and didn't utter a single word, which wasn't a huge problem as neither Faith nor Will were big talker's anyway.
Two days previously she'd stopped a small, defenceless little guy from being picked on by four Neanderthal jocks from the football team. She had done the right thing and stepped in, managing to persuade the jocks that maybe it would be better to pick on someone her own size, unfortunately her form of 'persuasion' had left one of the jocks with a broken nose and the others with bruises of various interesting shades, all of which had caught the attention of first the school nurse and then the Principal.
After she'd relayed her version of events it had turned out that the guy she'd tried to help had gone along with the jocks story which had her violently interrupting their innocent prank, and this, coupled with her less than stellar disciplinary record, had landed her a week's stint in detention, again, and had also landed her in her mother's bad books, again.
"Here we are." Faith announced as she pulled up in front of the school. Hope mutely opened her door and climbed out of the car. "And Hope," Faith's voice stopped her in her tracks. "Stay cool yeah?"
"Sure." Hope mumbled and quickly strode off before Faith could add anything else.
Will walked off in the opposite direction and over to his group of friends, the popular group, who had made it clear on numerous occasions that she wasn't welcome into their exclusive little clique no matter whose sister she was.
She and Will had been almost inseparable as kids, they had done everything and gone everywhere together, hung out with the same friends and gotten into the same trouble but around the same time as they had first entered junior high they had begun to drift apart and now barely spoke to each other or even acknowledged each other's existence beyond the inevitable sibling spats.
"Hope over here." Hope was shaken from her brooding by the cry and looking up, spied her best friend in the whole, entire universe Vanessa, waving her frantically over. She smiled ruefully and headed in that direction, Vanessa had the kind of bouncy, bubbly, vivacious personality that made her either a joy to be around or would make you cheerfully strangle her to death, and sometimes even Hope had to admit that she was in the second group.
Hope knew that she and Nessa made an odd pairing, the tall, graceful, glamorous brunette and the short, slightly overweight and...not so glamorous blondebut ever since they had met on the first day of seventh grade there had been an instant connection between them which hadn't changed even with the inevitable ups and downs of the intervening years, plus it was kind of nice having someone in her life who wasn't involved in the whole vampires, demons and impending apocalypse side of things.
Though of course Nessa did know all about it, Hope would never have kept it a secret from her, she had even taken her out on patrol a couple of times when they had been fourteen until her parents had caught them sneaking out one night and had firmly laid down the law, under no circumstances was she to take defenceless civilians out on patrol, it was simply too dangerous.
It hadn't stopped her talking about it with Nessa, she pretty much told her everything, and while Nessa was interested in that part of her life she was just as keen not to get involved with it or go on patrol again, much to Hope's parents relief.
"Hey." Hope said quietly, slouching down next to Vanessa.
Hope sighed heavily. "Mom aggro, she's really pissed at me for getting yet another detention for 'violent conduct'."
"But it wasn't even your fault," Vanessa protested. "Did you explain to her what happened?"
Hope smiled at her thankfully, she could always trust on Nessa for support when she needed it most. "Yes I did and no it didn't matter, all that matters to her is that there's yet one more black mark on my permanent record."
"Well that sucks, but look at the bright side you might actually get to finish that math assignment that's due tomorrow."
Hope groaned and held her head in hands. "If that's the bright side then you might as well just kill me now."
Vanessa stared at her friend for a moment. "You had another one of those dreams last night didn't you?" She asked gently.
Hope lifted her head up slowly. "How do you always know?"
"Because you always get that look on your face, you know, the impending doom one."
"Oh. It's a real pity you're not gay," Hope said teasingly. "Otherwise I might have asked you to marry me by now."
Vanessa chuckled softly. "That isn't even legal Hope, and unless something drastic happens to President Palin anytime soon it's not going to be for a while."
Hope rolled her eyes. "Don't even mention that name around me, I hear enough complaints about her at home from my Mom and about how she's undone all the good work that Obama did."
"Well it's true, I mean you just have to look-" Vanessa stopped when she saw the glare directed at her by Hope. "Fine I won't go into it, and by the way I did notice the fact that you changed the subject."
"Did I?" Hope said innocently, at that moment a faint peal of noise echoed around the school. "Guess we have to get to class though, wouldn't want to be late and add to my detention."
Vanessa sighed and shook her head as Hope jumped lithely off the bench and headed towards the school.
"You coming?" Hope called back to her. Vanessa's slid off the seat a lot less elegantly when compared to Hope, but there was no surprise in that, everything she did was less elegant then Hope, which might have bothered a lesser person but Vanessa was used to it.
She hurried to catch up to friend, hoping she could keep Hope out of trouble during the rest of the day and before her impending detention.