Title: All That You Dream
Category: Drama
Rated: PG-13
Characters: The Season Four Gang
Spoilers: Anything is fair game right through season four. And I mean anything. Takes place the night after Restless.
Summary: One of the gang is still having The Dream. Except something is very wrong.
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns all rights, ideas and even the pets of his actors on BTVS.
Feedback: Love to hear it.

PART ONE

"Okay, now you're making me nervous," said Buffy, concerned.

"Oh, no, no. There's nothing to be nervous about. Really, it's silly. Ha, ha! Hey!"

A boy sitting on a bench looked up.

"Leave."

He got up and walked away.

"Thanks."

Buffy sat down and Xander sat next to her.

"Well?," asked Buffy.

"Um...you know, Buffy, uh, Spring Fling is a...time for students to gather and...oh God!"

Xander looked away and took a deep breath. He looked back, making eye contact again. Buffy had no idea of what he was talking about.

"Buffy, I want you to go to the dance with me. You and me, on a date."

Taken by surprise, Buffy hesitated with her answer.

"I...I don't know what to say."

"Well, you're not laughing, so that's a good start. Buffy, I like you. A lot. And I know we're friends, and we've had experiences...we've fought some blood sucking fiends and that's all been a good time," laughed Xander. "But I want more. I wanna dance with you."

"Xander, you're one of my best friends. You and Willow..."

"Well, Willow's not looking to date you. Or if she is, she's playing it pretty close to the chest," laughed Xander, but not convincingly.

"I don't want to spoil the friendship that we have," answered Buffy anxiously.

"Well, I don't want to spoil it either. But that's not the point, is it? You either feel a thing or you don't."

Buffy looked down and Xander lowered his head to look at her face. Buffy looked back up at him.

"I don't. Xander, I'm...I'm sorry. I...I just don't think of you that way."

"Well, try! I'll wait," said Xander, offering a weak smile.

"Xander."

"Nah, forget it," said Xander, standing up. "I'm not him. I mean, I guess a guy's gotta be undead to make time with you."

"That's really harsh," replied Buffy with an edge to her voice.

"Look, I'm sorry. I don't handle rejection well. Funny! Considering all the practice I've had, huh?"

"Xander, I'm sorry. I don't know..."

"You know what?," interrupted Xander, putting a hand up, "let's just not."

Xander lowered his head and walked back towards the school. When he looked up again he found himself walking along a stone wall. On the other side was a field. The grass and weeds were at least knee high. No crops had been grown in those furrows for a long time. At the far side of the field stood a scarecrow, tilted on an angle and wearing torn and ripped clothes so old it was hard to distinguish what color they had been. Two men were standing at opposite ends of the field, bending at the waist and using hoes to turn the dry soil. They both wore identical overalls.

"Come on now, is that how they taught you?," yelled the first to the other. It was Giles. He held up his hoe and Xander saw that there was no blade on the end of the handle.

"I'm doing the best I can," complained the second without looking up. It was Wesley. "There's only so many ways to kill the weeds. At least you have a Slayer to help you."

"So it's how you do the job that's important? Try harder, man!," scolded Giles.

Xander was distracted by the beating of wings. A raven landed on the shoulder of the scarecrow just as a cloud passed in front of the sun, sending a chill through him. There was blood on the scarecrow's shirt, spreading out in an ever widening circle. The scarecrow looked at Xander, eyes wide with terror as if it had seen something that Xander had not. But no warning would come from the scarecrow; its mouth was sewn shut. Xander cringed as he realized that the scarecrow was Faith.

"Nevermore!," screeched the raven, plucking a straw from the neck of the scarecrow and then taking flight again. Xander stumbled backwards, shaking off the chill that had gripped him. And then he noticed Willow sitting there on the wall next to him. He relaxed and smiled.

"I got a movie for ya!," teased Xander, tapping her nose with his ice cream cone.

"Xander!"

"You're Amish. You can't fight back...'cause you're Amish! I mock you with my ice cream cone, Amish guy!," said Xander.

"Witness," answered Willow. "My nose is cold," she pouted.

"Let me get that for ya," said Xander, leaning in to lick her nose.

"Xander!"

"I'm sorry. I can't help myself. Your nose looks so tasty."

He reached up and dabbed at Willow's nose with a napkin, holding it there and staring into her eyes. Xander brushed his hand across his friend's cheek, then leaned in to kiss her. Willow tilted her head and closed her eyes, their lips so close they could feel each other's breath. Xander hesitated. Something was very familiar about this and yet different than he remembered. Out of the corner of his eye he caught movement. Willow saw it too and screamed.

"Willow, go!," yelled Xander, pulling her from the wall and placing himself between Willow and...Buffy! Terrified, Willow didn't move. Xander punched Buffy in the face but she didn't even flinch. She grabbed him by his shirt and tried to bite his neck! He held her off, pushing her away but she held on, too strong for him. Xander closed his eyes, more scared than if a vampire had tried to bite him. Buffy let go of him...

He became aware of music. Loud music.

"Think I slipped the net, but I cut myself free...
I'm not losing yet, so don't forget me..."

Buffy was dancing with him, smiling. She was more than arm's length away, but her eyes were on him. Xander glanced over his shoulder. Willow and Cordelia were sitting at a table, talking. Every so often they would glance over. Xander looked back at Buffy and smiled, losing himself in the beat of the music.

And he became aware that they were being watched. He stopped dancing but Buffy didn't seem to notice. There was something...moving...behind the crowd. Buffy kept dancing, ignoring him. Xander backed up, moving slowly towards the exit. He realized that he was breathing faster than he should be. Panicking, he turned to run. And then he heard it.

"That's not the way out," whispered a familiar voice. Xander spun around. The crowd was still dancing, Buffy included. He looked over at the table where the girls were sitting. Cordelia was gone. Willow smiled at him and waved, a monkey next to her. The monkey wore a red coat and matching hat. There was a large white teacup in front of Willow. Xander shook his head and again searched the crowd, looking for that voice.

"Who are you?," he challenged loudly. But no one answered him. And again he saw, no felt, the presence in the Bronze. Suddenly feeling sick to his stomach, Xander turned and stumbled to the men's room. Pushing the door open he saw...

Willow. Standing there in a beautiful black dress.

"I know," she said, looking down at her dress, then up at Xander. "Nice," she agreed, waving her left hand at him as if to dismiss the thought that she could look nice.

"I was going to go with gorgeous," replied Xander, stepping towards Willow.

"Really? You too!," said Willow, pointing again with her left hand at Xander's tuxedo. "In a guy way," she added, taking a step towards him.

"Oz is very lucky."

"And so is Cordelia," smiled Willow. "In a girl way."

Willow took a half step towards Xander.

"I don't know if I can dance in this," she said, looking down. "I don't know if I can dance!"

"Come on. Piece of cake," said Xander, motioning her to come closer even as he stepped towards her. "Here."

Xander put his right hand on Willow's waist and reached out with his left. Willow took his hand and placed her left hand on his shoulder.

"That seems to...," began Xander.

"Yeah, this shouldn't be a...problem," whispered Willow as they slowly began to dance, barely moving.

"No. No problem," agreed Xander.

Willow looked up at Xander but couldn't make eye contact with him so she looked down. And back up at him. His eyes were partly closed. And she looked down again. Xander caught the scent of her hair. Willow looked up again and he tilted his head to her, closing his eyes. Her eyes closed as their lips met. They kissed softly at first and then Xander kissed harder, lost in the moment. Willow eagerly returned his desire, feeling light headed. Suddenly Xander pushed her away.

"That didn't just happen!," cried Xander.

"No! I mean it did, but it didn't!"

"Because I respect you. And Oz. And I would never..."

"And I would never either! It...it must be the clothes! It's...it's a fluke!," stammered Willow.

"It's a clothes fluke! That's what it is! And there'll be no more fluking."

"Not ever," agreed Willow, even as they drew closer together and sought out each other's mouth. They stopped as they realized what they were doing.

"We gotta get out of these clothes!," warned Xander.

"Right now," nodded Willow.

"Oh, I didn't mean..."

"I didn't...me neither!," yelled Willow.

Xander turned and ran to the door, opening it. And was met by Buffy.

"Let's dance," commanded Buffy.

"Ooo...kay," managed Xander. Buffy grabbed him by his shirt, pulling him onto the dance floor as the music started.

"When a black cat crosses my path..."

They came together and began to dance slowly. Very slowly.

"A woman in the moon is singing to the earth...a woman in the moon is singing to the earth..."

Buffy turned and spooned Xander, pulling his arms around her waist. They moved together. She ground her hips against him and rubbed her shoulders across his chest. Xander was barely moving. Buffy reached up with a hand and softly stroked his face. Xander looked up to see Willow sitting at a table, staring at them in shock. And he had that feeling again, the feeling of being watched.

Buffy pushed her hips harder into him. Then she turned to face Xander, her head slightly tilted and close enough to kiss him.

"Xander? Did I ever thank you...for saving my life?," she whispered to him with her eyes closed.

"When a black cat..."

"No."

"crosses my path..."

Buffy writhed against him, making sure their bodies touched ever so softly, never apart.

"A woman in the moon is singing to the earth..."

"Don't you wish I would?"

Buffy walked away from him, heading for the door. She passed Cordelia on the way. Xander stood there, staring down at the dance floor. And again he had that feeling of being watched. He looked behind him and saw Angel glaring at him. But behind Angel was...what? It moved through the crowd, staying in the shadows. And Xander knew. Somewhere in the Bronze, the First Slayer was hunting him.

"Buffy! Wait!"

Xander ran to the exit and pushed the door open. He stumbled into...a motel room. Behind him the door slammed shut. He walked to the window and peered out from behind the curtain.

"You think demon mama followed us?," asked Xander.

"No. We're cool. The bitch dislocated my shoulder, though."

Buffy tossed her jacket on the bed, not moving her arm. Xander walked away from the window and stood next to Buffy.

"Hold me."

Xander just stood there, unsure of what she wanted. Buffy took his right hand and put it on her left biceps. She reached up with her right hand and grabbed his jacket for leverage. Pulling her shoulder back, she suddenly jerked it forward with an audible snap. Buffy exhaled deeply and rotated her shoulder in a circular motion.

"That's better. She got me really wound up."

Buffy ran her hands over Xander's chest and again exhaled deeply.

"A fight like that and...no kill...I'm about ready to pop," said Buffy, smiling and still rubbing Xander's chest.

"Really?," asked Xander nervously and looking down at her hands. "Pop?"

"You up for it?," asked Buffy with an even bigger smile.

"Oh, I'm up!," nodded Xander.

Buffy kept smiling and pulled closer to him. She stopped rubbing his chest, reached down and grabbed his crotch.

"I'm suddenly very up! It's just, um...I've never been up with people before," grinned Xander.

Buffy grabbed his jaw and kissed him hard, forcing her tongue into his mouth.

"Just relax. And take your pants off," she demanded, pushing his shirt and jacket off his shoulders.

"Those two concepts are antithetical."

Buffy yanked his clothes down off his back and past his arms, throwing them down on the floor. She pulled him to her and again kissed him hard. Shoving him back onto the bed, she straddled him.

"Don't worry. I'll steer you around the curves."

Buffy pulled her shirt over her head. Xander stared at her breasts.

"Did I mention that I'm having a really strange night?"

Suddenly Buffy was knocked off of him, tackled by...a blur...a girl, maybe, with black hair. Xander jumped out of the bed but he was alone in the room. There was a knock at the door. He rubbed his eyes, walked to the door and opened it. And saw Buffy.

"What?," she asked as if bored.

"I just, uh, came by to see how you were, actually."

"I'm sick of people asking me that, for one thing," she answered angrily.

They both stood there, saying nothing.

"Can I come in? Just to talk. I promise," said Xander.

"Like you could make something happen if I didn't want it to?"

"Hey, yeah. Got me there! Pretty much not gonna try to...take you under any circumstances."

Xander held up his arm.

"See? Here, feel that," he said, pointing to his biceps. "Probably like a wet noodle to you, huh?"

"Five minutes."

"That's all I need," said Xander, entering the room. "For talking and conversation," he added, shutting the door behind him. "I'm, um, quick as a bunny."

Buffy walked over and turned off the television.

"Clock is running."

"It's just, uh...I heard about what happened. And I thought you might need a friend."

"So then, go talk to Faith. She's the one who killed a guy."

"Yeah, I heard that version."

"Version?," repeated Buffy, getting mad.

"Either way, it...it sounds like it was an accident. And that's the important part."

"No, the important part is that Faith is the accidental murderer," said Buffy, making quotation marks in the air with her fingers.

"Buffy, you may not think so, but I know you. And I've seen you post-battle. And I know firsthand that you're, um...like a wild thing. And half the time, you don't know what you're doing."

"You're living proof of that, aren't you?"

"You see, you're trying to hurt me. But right now you need someone on your side. What happened wasn't your fault. And I'm willing to testify to that in court if you need me."

"You'd do that, wouldn't you?," said Buffy with a sexy smile. "To get up in front of all your geek friends and go on record about how I made you my boy toy for a night."

"No. Noooo. That's not it."

"I know what this is all about," said Buffy, stepper closer to Xander. "You just came by here 'cause you want another taste, don't you?," she asked, running her fingertips across his face.

"No! I mean, it was nice. It was great! It was kind of a blur. But okay, someday, sure, yah. But not now. Not like this."

Buffy grabbed Xander's head with her hands.

"More like how, then? Lights on or off? Kinks or vanilla?"

Xander pulled away from her.

"Buffy, come on. I came here to help you. I thought we had a connection," said Xander, looking into her eyes.

Buffy laughed and grabbed his shirt, throwing him on the bed.

"You wanna feel a connection? It's just skin," she said as she ripped open his shirt.

"I see...I want...I take."

Buffy kissed him hard on the lips.

"I forget."

Buffy rubbed his chest and shoulders and began to move her crotch against his.

"No. No, wait. It was more than that," protested Xander.

"I could do anything to you right now, and you want me to. I can make you scream."

She moved her tongue over his face and around his lips. Buffy suddenly kissed him hard, biting his lower lip and pulling on it.

"I could make you die," she whispered. Buffy kissed him again and placed a hand around his neck. Kissing him again, she began to choke him.

Xander reached up with a hand, trying to push her away, trying to pry her hand from his throat. But she was too strong. Buffy now put both hands around his neck, squeezing hard. Xander began to see black spots. He was passing out. And then came a sickening wet thud. Buffy collapsed on top of him.

Gasping, Xander looked up. Standing to one side of the bed was Faith. She was holding a bloody baseball bat in her hands. She dropped it but oddly it made no sound as it fell to the floor. Faith looked down at her hands. They were covered in blood. She looked back at Xander. He could see that she was terrified.

"Xander, run! Now! I can't fight her. I can't!," cried Faith, tears streaming down her face.

Xander pushed Buffy off of him and she fell to the floor, landing on her back. He glanced down and was shocked to see the paint covered face of the First Slayer lying there. And she was starting to move. Starting to wake up.

Xander sat up, inhaling deeply. His T-shirt was covered in sweat. It took a moment to realize that he was in his bed. The alarm clock on the nightstand read 3:07am. It had all been a dream.

"Last time I have a burrito before bed time," he muttered to himself.

Groggy, he shook his head and stumbled to the bathroom. He turned on the light, bent down and turned the faucet, splashing cold water on his face. He looked up at his reflection in the mirror. And saw that his neck was already turning black and blue, as if someone, and someone very strong, had tried to strangle him. With one hand he touched his throat.

"That was no burrito," said Xander slowly. He decided to make some coffee.

END OF PART ONE


PART TWO

Xander knocked again on the door. It was only seven thirty in the morning but even so, the dorm seemed very quiet. There was no one in the hall but him. Just as he was about to knock again the door opened and Willow stepped out, shutting the door behind her. She was wearing a pink, fuzzy, oversized robe and Xander realized that it probably belonged to Tara. Willow put a finger to her lips, signaling him to talk quietly.

"Hey. Sorry if I woke you," whispered Xander.

"No prob. I was up," said Willow with a smile, but Xander knew she was lying.

"You know, you're cute in the morning."

Willow just answered him with a frown.

"No, I'm serious," said Xander, reaching out and touching her hair. Even though she wasn't quite awake yet, Willow opened her eyes wide. Sensing the approaching awkward moment, he decided to quickly change the subject.

"Oh, so Buffy's still asleep?," asked Xander, lowering his hand.

"Buffy's at Riley's. Tara's still asleep," answered Willow, tilting her head towards the door.

"Oh. Oh! I...I'm sorry. I'll come back later."

"Xander, you don't have to go. What's up?"

"Uh, just wondering how you slept. Well, not how, or how where or why or any of those other questions that start with a 'w'. But how well? Uh, that's starts with... Willow, any cravings for cheese products?"

"Nope. Dairy free, forty winks and a nod, too. How 'bout you?," asked Willow.

"Uh...okay, I guess. Just a little restless. Probably that burrito I had before bedtime. So the First Slayer must be gone then. Or we all would've dreamed about her again, right? All of us, I mean."

"Maybe."

"Maybe?," repeated Xander. "What do you mean maybe?"

"Well, we weren't all in the same room last night. So it's possible that she could've visited one of us and not everyone at once," explained Willow.

Xander looked away, considering what Willow had said.

"Hey, did you dream about her again?," asked Willow, concerned. "Is that why you came by?"

"No, of course not!," laughed Xander. "You know, I should go. Giles wants me to help him move some books today and he's probably waiting for me. Right now."

"Xander, it's seven thirty in the morning."

"Yes, and you know those English types. Up with the crack of dawn, tally-ho and all that."

Willow reached out and gently grabbed his arm.

"Hey. It's me. Are you okay?," she asked, very seriously.

"Yeah. Just tired, I guess."

"Alright. But we're not keeping secrets anymore, remember? You, me, Buffy, Giles."

"I know. It's nothing. Really," said Xander. Willow lowered her hand.

"And speaking of secrets," continued Willow, "you and I haven't had time to...well, to talk. About Tara."

"Oh, Will, we don't have to..."

"Yes, we do! First of all, it's such a relief not to have to hide it anymore. Well, at least not from you guys," added Willow, glancing quickly up and down the hall. "And I need to talk about it. I need to know that you understand. What I'm trying to say is that I need you to be there for us. So. Are you okay with it?," asked Willow, shifting her weight from one foot to the other.

Xander stood there, thinking of what to say.

"'Cause I know it must be a shock and all," she said, trying to get a response from Xander.

Xander looked at his friend. Willow seemed, well, scared.

"No more secrets. Right?," asked Xander.

"Right," nodded Willow.

"Okay then. Well, don't take this the wrong way, but I do have a problem with it."

"You do?," asked Willow nervously.

"Yes. I do. We've known each other forever, Will. And after all we've done together, and after what you went through with Oz, I can't believe..."

Xander stopped, noticing that Willow's lower lip was trembling. And he felt his own eyes begin to tear up.

"I can't believe you thought that you couldn't talk to me. That I wouldn't be anything but happy for you. I mean, your my best bud and, and you couldn't come to me. I'm so sorry that you felt that way. Guess we have drifted apart."

"Oh, Xander!," yelped Willow, throwing her arms around him with a hug. She buried her face in his shoulder.

"Thank you! Thank you. You don't know what it means to me to hear you say that," whispered Willow. She stepped away from him and wiped tears from her eyes with both hands.

"I wanted to tell you." Willow didn't know what else to say. So she smiled. Xander reached out and held her hands.

"No more secrets," he repeated.

"No," agreed Willow, starting to cry again.

"And I won't ruin this Hallmark moment by mentioning any naughty thoughts I might have on the subject," said Xander with a smile.

She gave him a quick glare but then broke out into a smile again and kissed him on the cheek.

"Why don't I get dressed and we'll go get a cup of coffee?"

"Sounds great," agreed Xander.

"Uh, Xander?"

"Yeah?"

"What's up with the turtleneck? Not your usual style and it's kinda warm for that, no?"

Xander simply shrugged. Willow let herself back into the room and shut the door. And Xander stopped smiling as he thought about his dream.

"Yeah. No more secrets," he mumbled to himself.

He heard footsteps and turned to look down the hall to see who was approaching.

"Morning Xander," yawned Buffy. "What are you doing here? I thought you usually got up at the crack of noon."

"Hi Buffy. I'm waiting for Willow. She's changing and we're going to go for a cup of coffee. Want to come with? Oh, Tara's still sleeping," said Xander, nodding towards the door.

"Oh," replied Buffy, yawning again. "Excuse me. Not quite with it yet. You know, coffee sounds good. No, make that sounds great."

"Uh, Buffy? Why are you so tired? Didn't have any more dreams about your family tree I hope."

"Nope. Dream free. Slept good when I finally got to sleep. See, Riley got home later than he thought he would, and then he kept me up, and then I kept him up," smiled Buffy. "So..."

"That's okay. I very much get the picture, what with the keeping it up and all...uh..."

Buffy gave Xander a wide-eyed stare.

"Where is that Willow?," asked Xander.

"How about you?," asked Buffy.

"What?. Oh. Uh, no keeping it up for me...I mean, no problem. Nope. Slept great."

Just then the door opened and Willow stepped out holding a toothbrush.

"Hi Buffy."

"Morning Will."

"Hey, up for some coffee?," asked Willow.

"I'm already in."

"Great. Just gotta do the toothbrush thingy and we'll be off. Oh, need anything from the room? Tara's still sleeping."

"No. All set."

"Okay. Have Xander tell you about the dream he had last night. I'll be right back."

"What? How did you know?," asked Xander.

"I didn't. No secrets, remember?," said Willow, pointing her toothbrush menacingly at Xander.

"I was going to tell you," offered Xander weakly.

Willow walked into the bathroom and Buffy just stared at Xander, waiting for an explanation.

"Honestly, I was going to tell you. Just needed some coffee first. Well, more coffee."

Buffy nodded in agreement and yawned.

"Xander, what's up with the turtleneck? New look? It's kinda warm out to wear one, no?"

Xander exhaled very slowly. He looked at Buffy and pulled back the collar of his shirt, revealing his neck.

"Xander! My god, that looks like...that looks like what happened to you when Faith..."

"It is. Or was. Except this time, you did it."

Buffy stared at him with her mouth open.

*****

"So, that's it. You both thought that any little detail might be important, so I didn't leave anything out," said Xander, sipping his coffee.

"Wow," said Buffy. Willow didn't say anything and in fact was staring at the cup in her hand. Xander could tell she was upset and, even though what he had to say was for Willow's benefit, he didn't look directly at her. Instead, he too stared at the cup in his hands as he spoke.

"I'm sorry you had to hear the details of...of what happened. With Faith, I mean. In the motel room. That's pretty much how it went down. Both times. Not really proud of that. In fact, that's exactly what happened, word for word. How the hell can I recall...oh, never mind. Except, of course, in the dream it was Buffy and not Faith."

"Xander! It wasn't your fault! You were...well, let's face it. You were raped. And, and...I'm sorry. It's just worse than I even imagined it was," said Willow. She met his gaze and he gave her a little smile.

"Thanks," said Xander.

"So why was I in your dream? I mean, instead of Faith? And why did she save you and not Angel?," asked Buffy.

"Hey, I just went along for the ride," replied Xander with a shrug. "In fact, that's one thing that was different about last night and the dream we had together. Last night I had less control, or fewer choices. It's like I was just observing what was happening. But it was real. Too real. I mean, I could actually smell things, like, like Willow's hair."

Willow blushed at hearing that but the others didn't notice.

"And everything you dreamed last night was in the past. It already happened to you. Hence the being in the past part," said Buffy, rolling her eyes. "You know what I mean. It was different from our dream."

"Except for that whole scarecrow in the field bit," said Xander. Buffy shook her head and Willow shrugged her shoulders.

"Buffy, you talked to Giles at that pay phone while Xander was getting the coffee. He didn't dream last night?," asked Willow.

"No."

"Well, and just guessing here, but maybe the First Slayer is still upset, but only about Xander. Maybe she's accepted the fact that our group helped you against Adam, even if she couldn't understand the concept of not working alone. Of not being alone. But I'm not a threat because I'm female, like all the Slayers. And I can work magic. Okay, Giles is a male but he's the Watcher. And he spoke Sumarian. She didn't know what a Watcher was but she understands that he's helping you, training and researching stuff. But Xander..."

"Is a male. And is really not needed," pouted Xander.

"What? No! That's not what I meant!," shouted Willow.

"Xander, come on. You know I couldn't have defeated Adam without you. I can't explain it. But you're a part of me. Of us! I think...I think it's why I'm outliving so many other Slayers. I'm not alone," said Buffy.

"You're right. I'm sorry. It's just...okay, maybe Willow's right. Remember how uncomfortable Kendra was around boys? Maybe this male thingy is something the First just can't grasp. Oh, that didn't come out right," said Xander, rolling his eyes. Buffy hid her smile behind her coffee cup. Willow ignored the remark.

"And why would she, I mean the First, want Xander to think Buffy was trying to kill him?," asked Willow. "Or that Buffy would try to hurt him, uh, you know, emotionally?"

"And what's the what with you two again? Uh, guys? That whole trying the clothes on scene. Is that how it happened?," asked Buffy.

"Yeah. And again, pretty much verbatim," said Xander. "It's spooky."

Willow nodded her head in agreement.

"You never told me," said Buffy, taking another sip of coffee.

"I tried to. Maybe if I did, a lot of other stuff never would've happened," said Willow.

"No what ifs. What's done is done," answered Xander.

"Right," nodded Buffy. But no one could think of something else to say. Just then Anya walked up to their table.

"There you are! Xander, I've been looking everywhere for you!," complained Anya.

"I'm sorry. Guess it got later than I thought it was," apologized Xander, standing and giving her a quick kiss.

"Turtleneck? Going for a new look?," asked Anya.

"It's just a shirt. Am I that much an affront to fashion?," demanded Xander. Buffy and Willow quickly took a sip of coffee so they wouldn't have to answer.

"We need to go see Giles. He'll know what's going on," said Xander.

"Giles wears turtlenecks?," asked Anya, confused.

"No, but he's full of ideas," replied Xander.

*****

"I have no idea why you are still dreaming," said Giles.

"But...but, that's your job! Your idea man!," said Xander.

"Xander, if you didn't have those marks on your neck I would've thought that you simply had a burrito inspired nightmare. Obviously something is going on, and we'll do the research. But I don't know yet what the First Slayer could want with you."

"Oh."

"Hey, I know! Why don't you take a nap?," suggested Anya.

"What? Sleep is the last thing I want right now," said Xander.

"Perhaps Anya is right. You could take a nap here and we'd be in the next room. If you dream again then we might learn more about what the First wants. And if your sleep seems too restless or disturbed we'll wake you," said Giles.

"And the rest of us will hit the books," added Willow.

Xander didn't seem convinced.

"Xander, she can't harm you unless you believe she can. Tell yourself it's only a dream and she'll have no power over you. Worked for me," said Buffy.

"Alright. But if you see me tapping my shoes together three times and mumbling something about there being no place like home, wake me up. I don't care if you have to dump cold water on me. And you know, I don't know if I can fall right to sleep. I had a lot of coffee this morning."

"I'll come in there for a little while. You always fall asleep right after we, well...you know," smiled Anya.

Giles took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. Buffy and Willow exchanged pained expressions.

*****

"So, Faith. How's it going?"

"What do you care?"

Kate eyed the young girl sitting across the table from her. She seemed very sure of herself, almost arrogant. Completely different from when she had turned herself in and confessed to what she had been charged with. Then she had been scared, even terrified. It had been too easy. And Kate wanted to know why.

"I know you confessed to the charges, but your sentencing hasn't come up yet. Sometimes these things take time. And if you cooperate with me, I can see to it that the judge is lenient with you. My father was on the Force for many years, so I do have some pull in certain matters."

Faith ignored the detective and stared at the handcuffs on her wrists.

"How do you know Angel?," asked Kate.

"Who?," answered Faith, not looking up from the handcuffs.

Time to take charge, thought Kate to herself.

"I know that he knows you," said Kate.

"Oh. That Angel. Yeah, I used to be...well, I knew someone he dated once."

Faith glanced at her face and was immediately overwhelmed with the vision. She saw herself grab a baseball bat that was lying on the table between them. Her hands gripped the handle tightly, so tightly she could feel the pulse in her palms. Faith spun, swinging the bat at Kate's forehead. The detective collapsed on the floor. Faith stared at her shirt, now splattered with droplets of red.

"You must know him better than that. He was willing to die for you rather than give you up. Angel was not only surprised but upset that you had turned yourself in."

Faith looked up at Kate. She fought back the urge to throw up.

"What do you mean he was willing to die for me?"

"Simple. I threatened to lock him up unless he told me where you were. See, his cell faced the rising sun."

"So?," replied Faith, but Kate saw that she had upset her.

"So if Angel is such a good friend, why doesn't he ever visit? Oh, that's right! Visiting hours are during the day. I've worked with him on cases before. So we both know what he really is."

"And what is that?," sneered Faith.

"He's a vampire. Trust me, I know what he is. His kind killed my father," answered Kate, glaring at Faith.

Faith stared back at Kate.

"Trust you? His kind?"

Faith laughed and shook her head.

"Girl, you think you know what you're dealing with because you know vampires exist and you've probably read a few musty old books? And I should trust you because you threatened to kill him?"

Kate didn't answer her. To herself she counted to ten before speaking again.

"You had a visitor yesterday. He's been here several times before but you've refused to see him. So he left a letter for you. Of course, we had to read it. Completely within our rights, you understand. Shall I read it to you?"

Faith went back to staring at her handcuffs. Kate opened the letter.

"Dear Faith. Under the circumstances I can understand your reluctance to see me. However, I wish you would reconsider. I only wish to convey to you my deepest regrets in how I failed you in the past. Know that I forgive you anything you might be blaming yourself for right now. I only wish to help you in any way that I can. Obviously I no longer have any official duties in regards to your training. However, I want to be something more for you now. I want to be your friend.
"If you still refuse to see me, I will understand. I'm so sorry it has come to this. Know that we all think of you, always. Love, Wesley."

Faith didn't move. She didn't breath. And Kate had to call her name three times before she heard her.

"Faith!"

"Oh. Sorry. Just thinking, I guess."

"Faith, I'm serious about getting the charges against you reduced. Maybe even dropped. If you cooperate with me. Now Wesley talks about having official duties with you. I know he works with Angel. What's your connection with them?"

Faith looked down at the table and didn't answer.

"Faith, why is Angel different from the others? Why does he pretend to be something that he's not?," demanded Kate. "He's dead!"

"You are in so far over your head!," yelled Faith. "We're talking deep water here. Angel is on your side. The things you're getting into, they have a way of finding out who their enemies are. Even with Angel's help you're probably already good as dead! Without it, you're way past helpless."

"But.."

"But nothing! Angel's one of us!," screamed Faith.

Faith stood, grabbing the knife in one fluid motion. Kate stood, realizing what was about to happen. But the Slayer was quicker. The knife entered Kate just below the rib cage. Faith forced it upwards, lifting her off of her feet. Warm, sticky blood oozed over Faith's hand.

The vision passed. Faith took two deep breaths to calm herself. She tried not to cry.

Kate forced herself again to count to ten before speaking.

"One of us. Well, he's not a cop and you're not a vampire. So, one of us. One of the good guys. I bet you could break apart those handcuffs if you wanted to, couldn't you? Faith, are you the Chosen One? Are you the Slayer?"

Faith laughed, loud and hard. She couldn't stop.

"Reduce the charges? Walk free, even? You don't get it, do you? You have no hold over me. No leverage, no power, no control. There is no punishment that you could dream up that would compensate for the things I have done. I belong here!"

Faith raised her hands over her head. She snapped the chain on her handcuffs without so much as blinking.

"There's only one Slayer. I'm not her. You'll have to figure out for yourself who I am. Guard! Fun's over!"

Kate looked down at the table, then slowly raised her eyes.

"Do you know?," asked Kate.

"Know what?"

"Who you are?"

Faith only hesitated for a moment.

"Yeah. I'm nobody."

The guard entered the room and Faith stood up. She glanced at the letter lying on the table.

"Take it," offered Kate. "I'm not your enemy."

Faith looked again at the letter, turned and walked out with the guard.

"Huh. Only thought of killing her twice. I must be getting better. Yeah, I'm the freaking poster girl for rehab," muttered Faith to herself.

END OF PART TWO

PART THREE

Giles was alone in the kitchen, putting water on for tea. Willow looked behind her to make sure no one else would hear them then walked up to him, tapping him on the shoulder.

"Hi," she whispered.

"Oh, are you being quiet because Xander's asleep?," asked Giles in a low voice.

"Well, I think he's finally asleep. Anya's with him. Uh, but the door's open, so I don't think there's any hanky or any panky going on."

"We are talking about Anya here," countered Giles.

"That's true," admitted Willow, wrinkling her nose. "But that's not why I'm here."

Willow had Giles' full attention now.

Giles, I think Xander's going through a rough time right now and I don't mean because of the dreams. He's, well...I think he feels a little lost, like he's not part of the group anymore. He's between jobs, he's not in college, and, and...well, you know."

"Willow, it's common for people his age to experience this. It's growing pains. He'll find his way. Eventually," added Giles. He took the kettle off the stove as it began to whistle.

"Yes, but...Giles, can I ask a favor of you?"

"Of course."

"I'd like you to consider training him. As a Watcher."

"As a Watcher? Xander?," said Giles with a smile. Which he quickly hid when he saw how serious Willow was.

"Willow, it takes years of training. And he doesn't seem very book friendly to be a Watcher."

"I know. But think of all the experience he has. Did you, at his age, have even a tenth of the field experience he does?," asked Willow, raising her eyebrows.

"Well, there's that," agreed Giles.

"And maybe he won't even take you up on your offer. And he may never get called. Well, probably won't. Oh, I hope he won't! I mean, there aren't that many Slayers to go around and all and Buffy would have to...at least consider it. For me. It would give him a sense of direction. He's...it's important to me," said Willow, slightly blushing.

Giles looked at Willow. And smiled.

"You're a good friend, you know. Perhaps you're right. I'll have a talk with him. Soon."

"Thank you," said Willow, smiling her best smile.

*****

Cordelia shelved the book and Xander walked over to her. She turned to face him.

"Sorry I snapped at you before," he said.

"Well, I'm reeling from that new experience."

"I was crazed. I wasn't thinking," explained Xander.

"I know. You were too busy rushing off to die for your beloved Buffy. You'd never die for me," whined Cordelia.

"No, I might die from you. Does that get me any points?"

"No."

"Come on, can't we just kiss and make up?," pleaded Xander.

"I don't want to make up."

Xander turned to leave but Cordelia grabbed his arm.

"But I'm okay with the other part," smiled Cordelia.

Xander smiled and they kissed. After a while Cordelia giggled and stepped away from him, smiling. And then they noticed Willow standing there, obviously upset.

"Willow, uh...," began Xander.

But Willow ran off.

"We were just...Willow! Willow!"

Cordelia lowered her head, realizing that they'd been found out. Xander ran after Willow and caught up to her in the hall outside the library.

"Willow, come on!"

Willow stopped running and turned to face him, shaking her finger at him.

"I knew it! I knew it! Well, not 'knew it' in the sense of having the slightest idea, but I knew there was something I didn't know. You two were fighting way too much. It's not natural!"

"I know it's weird..."

"Weird? It's against all laws of God and man! Cordelia!! Remember? The, the 'we hate Cordelia' club, of which you are the treasurer?"

"Look, I was going to tell you," said Xander.

"Gee, what stopped you? Could it be shame?"

"Alright, let's overreact, shall we?"

"But I'm..."

"Willow, we were just kissing. It doesn't mean that much."

"No. It just means that you'd rather be with someone you hate than be with me," said Willow, her voice quivering. She turned from him and ran down the hall.

Xander inhaled slowly and headed back to the library. He pushed the door open and...

he walked into the Bronze. Oz's band was just finishing a song.

"...Pain. I can't sleep."

He saw Cordelia sitting alone at a table and walked over to her. She noticed him and stood up.

"Hey," said Xander.

Cordelia looked him up and down.

"Your clothes...you look so good."

Xander looked down at himself.

"Oh, I let Buffy dress me."

Cordelia gave him a confused look.

"Well, not physically," explained Xander.

"Perfect! You had to make this harder."

"Okay. Clearly the fact that I please you visually has got us off on the wrong foot here," said Xander, confused.

A song was playing in the background.

"We're tied together, entwined us into one,
but knots remember to come undone..."

"Xander..."

"Let me finish. I've been thinking a lot about us lately...the why and the wherefore. You know, once, twice, a kissy here, a kissy there. And you can chalk it all up to hormones"

Cordelia looked at him, puzzled.

"And, and maybe that's all we have here. Tawdry teen lust. But maybe not. Maybe something in you sees something special inside me. And vice versa. I mean, I think I do. See something. So..."

Xander handed her a small jewelry box.

"And if you walk away, remember me as before,
and if I go, well know I had to go..."

"Xander...," began Cordelia, opening the box.

"Thank you," she said, holding up a necklace. "It's beautiful."

Cordelia exhaled and looked at him.

"I wanna break up."

"You drift away from me, my baby,
don't drift away from me..."

"Okay, not quite the reaction I was looking for," said Xander, shocked.

"I know. I'm sorry. It's just...who are we kidding?"

Xander looked down at the necklace she was still holding.

"Even if parts of us do see specialness, we don't fit," explained Cordelia.

Xander looked up at her.

"Yeah! Okay...do you know what's a good day to break up with somebody? Any day besides Valentine's Day! I mean, what, were you running low on dramatic irony?"

"I know. I didn't mean to do it this way," said Cordelia softly. "I..."

"Well, you did!"

Cordelia looked at him with a sad expression. Xander turned and walked away. He pushed the door open and then slammed it shut behind him. He was in his bedroom. Xander sat on the edge of his bed and tried to calm down. Someone touched his back and he jumped up, startled.

"Sorry. I wanted to surprise you," said Willow. She was half under the covers, wearing one of Xander's shirts. And only one of his shirts.

"Good job! High marks," grinned Xander.

"Don't be so jumpy. I've been in your bed before."

"Yeah, but Will, we were both in feety pajamas."

"Xander, I've been thinking."

"Willow, I, I think I know what you've been thinking. But this is all my fault. I cast a spell and it sort of backfired."

"How long have we been friends?," asked Willow, rubbing the sheets with her hands.

"A long, long time," answered Xander nervously. "Too long to do anything that might change that now."

Willow moved to the edge of the bed.

"Well, friendships change all the time. People grow apart. They grow closer," she added with a big smile.

"Uh, this is good! How close we are now. I feel very comfortable with this amount of closeness. In fact," continued Xander, pointing behind himself, "I can even back up a few paces and still be happy. See?," he said, smiling and stepping back.

Willow got up and walked over to him.

"I want you, Xander...to be my first!," she said with a smile.

"Baseman. Please tell me you were talking baseball," said Xander nervously.

"Shhhh," said Willow, putting her hand on his chest. She backed him into the door and rubbed his chest.

"We both know it's right," said Willow, leaning in for a kiss. But Xander backed his head away.

"It's not that I don't find you sexy."

Willow leaned away from him.

"Is it Oz?," she asked, shaking her head. "Don't worry about him. He's sweet, but...he's not you," whispered Willow, rubbing Xander's chest again.

"Yes he is. And you should go to him. 'Cause he's me."

Willow ignored him, leaned in and sucked on his earlobe.

"I...I don't wanna use force," said Xander, weakening.

Willow smiled.

"Mm. Force is okay!"

She tried to bite his earlobe again but he pushed her away.

"Th...that's it! This has gotta stop. It's time for me to act like a man," said Xander, opening the door. "And hide!"

He slammed the door behind him. Xander was walking down a hallway. His footsteps echoed as he walked. It was...the hospital. But he was all alone. Each room he passed had an empty bed. There was no one here. He kept walking. Xander knew that, in the last room, she would be there.

Xander sat down next to the bed. He leaned over and took Willow's hand.

"Come on, Will. Look, you don't have a choice here. You gotta wake up. I need you, Will. I mean, how am I gonna pass trig, you know?"

Xander managed a half-hearted laugh.

"And who am I gonna call every night...and talk about everything we did all day? You're my best friend. You've always..."

Xander stared at his friend, bandage on her forehead. He looked away, but only for a moment and took a deep breath.

"I love you."

Willow's face twitched and her hand gave his a little squeeze. Xander's eyes opened wide. He knew what was coming. He knew what she was going to say. And there was nothing he could do about it. He would have to relive it all over again.

"Willow?"

She took a few shallow breaths but kept her eyes closed.

"Xander?," managed Willow in a dry whisper.

Xander's eyes opened wide. Again. He forgot to breath.

"Xander?," repeated Willow, a little louder this time.

"I'm here. Hey."

"Hi," answered Willow weakly.

"How you feelin'?," asked Xander.

"My head...feels big. Is it big?"

"No. It's head size," said Xander. He kissed her head and stroked her hair. Willow opened her eyes.

"I'm gonna go get a doctor," said Xander, smiling at her. He stood and let go of her hand.

Xander left her room. He was outside, walking along a stone wall. He stopped and looked around. Then, in one smooth motion, he put his hands on the wall on swung his legs over it. He was in the field. And he was alone. He began to walk through the tall grass.

There were three hoes scattered about, the weeds growing over them. He noticed one hoe's blade was covered in brown rust. With a few more strides he stood before the scarecrow. She sagged terribly, much of her straw missing. Xander stared into her eyes. A single tear ran down Faith's cheek.

He reached up and tugged at the rawhide that had sewn shut her mouth, slipping it through the leather holes. As he pulled the lace free from the last hole, Faith's leather face became skin. She spit out a large amount of blood.

"Help me," she whispered.

Xander wiped her mouth with the back of his sleeve. Noticing that she still bled from her stomach, he placed his hand over the wound, trying to stem the flow of blood. Faith shook her head.

"That's not your concern," she managed in a coarse whisper.

Xander reached up, placing his hands under her arms and tried to lift her crucified body off her cross. Again Faith shook her head.

"No. I belong here."

"Then what can I do?," pleaded Xander.

"Just stay with me. Keep it away," nodded Faith to something behind Xander. He turned and saw the raven perched upon the stone wall.

"It's afraid of you."

"Of me?," asked Xander in disbelief. He turned to face her. Faith nodded. And then she raised her head slightly. Something had caught her eye. Xander looked behind him. And knew. The First was in the field, stalking him.

"Faith, I can't stay.'

"I know. I can't help you. I'm sorry, but I can't."

"But why? Why?," begged Xander.

"You'd better go," was her answer.

Xander slowly backed away from her, not taking his eyes off of her. And the raven landed on her shoulder. It cocked its head towards him, then plucked a piece of straw from Faith's neck and flew away.

Xander turned and pushed the door open.

"Willow?," he called, closing the door behind him. "I got videos," said Xander, holding them up.

And then he noticed the fire in the fireplace. The room was softly lit with soft music playing in the background. There were candles on the table. And there was Willow, wearing a red dress he hadn't seen before. Xander doubted that she had worn it before now.

"Hi," said Willow, patting the sofa next to her with her hand. "Why don't you come s...sit down?," she offered.

Xander hesitated but sat down, tossing the videos on the table. The song ended and Barry White began to play.

"I've heard that people say..."

Xander looked at Willow and she smiled.

"Too much of anything is not good for you, baby..."

"You ever have that dream where you're in a play, and it's the middle of the play and you really don't know your lines, and you kinda don't know the plot?," said Xander.

"Well, we're alone, and we're together. I...I just wanted it to be special."

"How special are we talking?," asked Xander.

"Well, you know, we're alone, and we're both mature younger people, and, and so...w...we could...I...I'm ready to...w...with you."

Willow lowered her voice to a whisper.

"We could do that thing."

Xander opened his eyes in disbelief and Willow smiled at him. Xander stood up.

"Where are you going?," asked Willow.

"No, I'm not going. Just a dramatic gesture. That's, that's pretty special," said Xander nervously.

Willow stood up.

"I...I wanna be with you. First."

"I think we should sit down again," answered Xander, obviously uncomfortable.

They sat down on the couch.

"Xander?"

Xander looked at her, very worried about what she would say next.

"I...I'm ready."

"Okay. Well, don't take this the wrong way...but I'm not," said Xander.

"Are you scared? 'Cause I thought you would want this."

"No, I do, but this is different. I mean, you look great. You know, and, and you got the Barry working for you, and, and it's all...good. But when it happens...I want it to be because we both need it for the same reason. You don't have to prove anything to me," said Xander, very sincerely.

"I just wanted you to know."

"I know," replied Xander, smiling. "I get the message."

They kissed. Softly at first, and then deeper, both giving in to their feelings. Xander didn't want this moment to end. He wanted so badly to remember this. Her lips were so soft and willing to return his kiss. And then Xander felt a hand on his shoulder, shaking him.

Xander sat up in his bed, inhaling like he had just broke the surface of a lake after not being able to breath.

"Xander, are you okay?," asked Anya.

Xander looked at Anya. Her hand was still on his shoulder. He tried to remember where he was.

"You were moaning loudly. I thought something bad was happening to you," explained Anya.

"No. I'm okay."

Xander glanced at the clock by the bed. It was 3:07 in the afternoon. Somehow that seemed familiar to him, as if it should mean something.

"Hey. I heard voices. Nap timey over?," asked Willow, suddenly standing in the doorway.

Xander looked at Willow but very quickly looked away.

"Xander, you okay?," asked Willow, concerned.

"No. I'm not," answered Xander, not looking at Willow. "We'd better get downstairs and talk about this. With Giles," added Xander.

Anya took his hand in hers and gave it a squeeze, smiling at him. Xander didn't smile back.

END OF PART THREE

PART FOUR

"Not to hex us, Cordelia, but things have been quiet lately. And I, for one, like it that way," said Wesley.

Cordelia rapped her knuckles on her desk.

"Knock on wood they'll stay that way. This is wood, isn't it?," she asked with a shrug. "We could use the income a new case would bring, but a few days off would be nice too."

"Even Angel decided to take a nap. When was the last time he did that in the middle of the afternoon?," asked Wesley.

"We should go out tonight. The three of us," suggested Cordelia.

"This wouldn't involve dancing, would it?," asked Wesley nervously.

"Uh...okay, no dancing. I know! How about a movie?"

"Oh, I don't know. Perhaps we could go to a club, listen to a band, which would lead to dancing...a movie it is!," announced Wesley.

"You know, Angel needs his rest. But to waste a beautiful afternoon? You wouldn't...catch me..."

"Catch you what? Napping?," asked Wesley.

"No! Catch me!," yelled Cordelia.

Wesley finally understood and did catch her as she fell, just before her head would have hit the edge of the desk. Cordelia grabbed the sides of her head with both hands. Wesley cradled her in his arms as her body convulsed. Soon she relaxed and he knew that her vision had passed.

"Should I get a piece of paper and a pencil?," asked Wesley. Cordelia gave him a funny look and he realized that he was still hugging her tightly. He slowly lowered his arms from her.

"Thanks for the catch."

Wesley nodded.

"What did you see?," he asked.

"It...it doesn't make sense."

"What do you mean. Your visions are usually quite clear," stated Wesley.

"No, I know what I saw. But it has already happened! What the hell does that mean?," she asked with a very confused look on her face.

*****

"Well, that's my latest adventure down the rabbit hole. I, uh, glossed over some of the more graphic details for, well, obvious reasons," said Xander, glancing at Willow. She smiled weakly and looked at her hands. Tara reached over and gave her shoulder a push, a big grin on her face.

"Slut," whispered Tara.

Willow relaxed and not only smiled but blushed. Xander was happy to see that Tara already knew how to make Willow laugh when she needed to.

"Will, I'm sorry I have to ask this, but what I experienced, with you, I mean, did that happen? With you and Oz?"

"Yep," answered Willow. "Word for embarrassing word. Say, you didn't happen to be looking in my window that night, did you?"

"No. Not that night," replied Xander.

Willow's eyes opened wide and then she frowned when she saw Xander smiling at her. But she couldn't help smiling too.

"Giles, how is it possible that Xander can have a Kodak moment of something that happened to Willow?," asked Buffy.

"I'm not sure. The only common bond is the spell we shared. Perhaps because we, in essence, became as one, Xander can tap into our memories," said Giles.

"You mean that I might dream of something that happened to you?," asked Xander. "Ew!"

Even Buffy looked uncomfortable at that idea as the implications sank in.

"Xander, why aren't you dreaming about me?," pouted Anya.

"Believe me when I tell you I wish I were. These aren't dreams, Anya, they're living, breathing nightmares."

"But what do they mean?," asked Riley. "There's a message here somewhere."

"Yeah, why's Willow coming onto my boyfriend all horny sailor like?," asked Anya, holding on to Xander's arm.

"Anya!," complained Xander.

"No, she's right. The First wants something. We need to figure out what," said Willow.

"I agree," said Giles. "The First, for some reason, wants Xander separated from the group. First Buffy attacked him, and now Willow...well, even if it just made Xander feel uncomfortable around her, that might be enough to upset the dynamic of the group."

"But why? We defeated Adam together. We're better together. Aren't we?," asked Xander.

"Of course we are! You don't even have to ask that," said Buffy.

"There's another issue we seem to be avoiding," said Tara, raising her hand but then quickly lowering it.

"Faith?," said Xander.

Tara nodded.

"She's right, Giles," said Willow. "Besides her not being part of the enjoining spell, the visions Xander is having of Faith have nothing to do with the past. They're more like...well, what we all dreamed about the other night."

"Faith is a Slayer. We invoked the source of the Slayer's power with that spell. I have no doubt that she was there, with us, the other night," said Giles.

"What? Giles, none of us saw her," said Buffy.

"I don't think she wanted us to see her," countered Giles.

"So why the matinee performance?," asked Buffy.

"A cry for help?," suggested Riley.

"Too late for that," snapped Buffy.

"Still, we should call Angel, let him know what's up," said Xander.

"Why? It's not like he can go see her. Faith is where she belongs and she's going to have to get used to the idea of being alone," said Buffy bitterly.

No one said anything or looked directly at Buffy. And then the phone rang. Willow jumped and was embarrassed that she had been the only one to do so. Buffy got up and grabbed the phone on the third ring.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Buffy? It's me, Cordelia."

"Cordelia! Hi, yeah, it's me. What's up? Is Angel okay?," asked Buffy, looking around the room. All eyes were watching her.

"He's fine. That's not why I called. Is Xander alright?"

"Uh, yeah, he is. Fact he's right here. Why?"

"Well, did Angel explain to you about the visions I get?," asked Cordelia.

"Sure. Kinda weird. Like my dreams except, uh, without the migrainey thing. But I know what you're talking about. Did you..."

"I did. About Xander. But this was...different, somehow. What I saw, well..."

"It already happened?," interrupted Buffy.

"Wow. Yeah, that's it exactly. How did you know?," asked Cordelia.

"He's been having dreams. Very vivid dreams about the past."

"Buffy, can...can I talk to him?"

"Sure. Hold on," replied Buffy, surprised that Cordelia would seem uncomfortable talking to Xander. She held up the phone and nodded to Xander.

"Cordelia wants to talk to you."

Even though he had been following the conversation Xander still seemed surprised that Cordelia wanted to talk to him. Buffy handed the phone to him.

"Hey. Been a long time," said Xander. Now everyone was watching him.

"Yeah. Too long," answered Cordelia. "How are you?"

"Actually, been better. You?"

"I'm fine. Xander, I had one of my visions. About you."

"Still dreaming about me, huh?," teased Xander.

"Xander! This is serious. Usually I don't have a vision unless someone is about...about to die," finished Cordelia. "But not every time!," she added.

"Okay, you've got my attention. What's the dire?"

"See, that's what doesn't make sense. All my visions are about stuff that's going to happen. What I saw was...well, it was when I broke up with you. At the..."

"Valentine's Day dance. At the Bronze. Cordelia, not fifteen minutes ago I dreamed the exact same thing!," said Xander, gripping the phone a little tighter. "Total recall, full sound surround...and just as fun the second time around."

"I...guess it would be. I'm sorry."

"Cordelia, it's okay. That was a long time ago. But what does this mean?"

"I don't know. About fifteen minutes ago I had the vision, so it probably happened while you were dreaming. Maybe Giles can figure it out. I wanted to warn you," said Cordelia.

"Thanks. I appreciate that," said Xander.

"Xander?"

"Yes?"

"If it means anything to you, I still have that bracelet."

Xander smiled and didn't answer right away.

"You know, that means more to me than you could know," answered Xander, lowering his voice a little.

"Thanks."

"Cordy, have you or Angel seen Faith lately?," asked Xander, glancing at Buffy. She was, in fact, now glaring at him.

"No. Why? Not that I care, mind you. Do you know what she did to Wesley?"

"Yeah, I do. But there's something wrong. With Faith," said Xander.

"Well, duh! She's psycho nut!"

"No, I mean she was in my dreams. More than once. I think she's in trouble, that, somehow, she's trying to tell me that. I...I just thought Angel should know," added Xander.

"I'll give him the message," agreed Cordelia reluctantly.

"Thanks. Take care. Why...why don't we try to stay in touch more often? Okay?"

"Sounds good. I will. And Xander, let me know if we can do anything to help on this end. Be careful. Bye."

"Bye."

Xander hung up the phone. Everyone was still looking at him.

"If you weren't able to figure it out, she had a vision of the same dream I had. At the Valentine's Day dance. Giles, help me out here. What's going on?," asked Xander.

Giles adjusted his glasses, took a deep breath and shrugged.

"I suggest we do some research," said Giles, somewhat embarrassed. "Anya, Riley can you stay and help? We can cover more material that way."

"Sure thing," said Riley. Anya nodded.

"Uh, Buffy? I had to mention her, you know," said Xander.

"Whatever. Let's not talk about it. Hand me a book, Giles," said Buffy, turning her back on Xander.

Xander shook his head and noticed Willow whispering something to Tara. She caught his eye and tilted her head towards the door. Xander nodded and followed her outside.

"What's up?," asked Xander.

"I'm worried about you. About tonight, when you go to sleep. We have no way to protect you if, if..."

"Will, nothing happened this afternoon. No strangling Xander, no pain, just saw some, well, really weird shit that even has Giles stumped. Okay, I see your point."

"Tara knows a spell. It's not that complicated. Not as intense as the enjoining spell, but if it works we should be able to dream with you, see what you see."

"What, don't like my Charles Kurralt reporting from the road act? No, right now I'm the only one involved. I don't want you, or the others, risking getting hurt," said Xander, putting his hand on Willow's shoulder. She covered his hand with hers.

"But.."

"Will, I...what does Giles think?"

"I haven't told him yet. It's your decision. Just wanted you to know we're behind you"

"Willow, I...I think you should get behind me!"

"Xander, I just said..."

"No! I mean get behind me!," yelled Xander, grabbing Willow's wrist and pulling her behind him. "She's here!"

"Who's here? What are you talking about?," asked Willow.

"What do you mean? The First Slayer! She's standing not twenty feet from us!," said Xander, not taking his eyes off of the Slayer.

"Xander, there's no one there!"

"What!?"

Xander glanced at Willow then looked back at the First. She was just standing there, watching him.

"Am I still asleep?," asked Xander. Suddenly he felt Willow pinch him hard on his arm.

"Ouch! What did you..."

"Guess not!," said Willow.

"Get in the house. Get Buffy," commanded Xander.

"Xander!"

"Go. Now!"

The First took a step towards Xander and he backed up a step to match her. She stopped, then spread her hands very slowly, palms outward to Xander. Even slower she knelt, never taking her eyes off of him.

Xander heard the others behind him but didn't turn around. Anya spoke but still he didn't turn around.

"Xander...there's no one there."

He held up his hand, motioning for them to stay where they were.

"No, there's something there. We just can't see it," corrected Tara. "It's like, like..."

"A shadow, or...or ripple, as if a pebble was tossed into a pond," said Buffy.

"Yes! Exactly," agreed Tara.

"Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I don't see or feel anything," said Willow. No one else spoke, so she didn't know what they saw.

The First brought her hands behind her back. And drew forth a long, bloodstained knife. Xander's eyes grew wide but he stood his ground. The Slayer placed the blade on the ground in front of her, then leaned down and kissed her weapon. Her eyes found Xander again and for a moment he thought he saw hatred revealed there. But just for a moment. The First stood and stared at Xander. And then, to his astonishment, she closed her eyes and bowed slightly to him.

Xander took a step forward, offering his hand. The First turned and ran, disappearing around the corner of the building.

"Xander? She's gone, isn't she?," asked Buffy.

Xander ignored her. He took five or six steps, covering the distance between him and the knife. He bent down, picked it up, turned and faced the others.

"She's not our enemy," announced Xander. "I don't think the First is causing this," he said, holding the blade up for the others to see.

Only Buffy moved. She walked to Xander, touching the edge of the weapon as if she needed to do so to believe in what she was seeing. Her eyes told him that she still didn't believe.

"You're wrong, Xander. The First is responsible for this. Only not the First Slayer," warned Giles. "I'm afraid we're facing the First Evil."

*****

Kate just stood there, watching. Faith sat in her cell, alone, her knees drawn up in front of her. She rested her chin on them and rocked back and forth, holding her legs tightly with her hands. And her eyes...it was obvious Faith hadn't slept for a night or two. She just stared out at the floor in front of her. At nothing.

"Faith?," said Kate softly.

Faith either didn't hear her or chose to ignore her. She continued to rock back and forth. And Kate realized that Faith probably couldn't hear her. The detective shook her head and walked away. Faith never looked up.

*****

Except for the turning of pages the room was quiet. Xander finally slammed his book shut and rubbed his eyes.

"Tired?," asked Anya. She put her book down, got up and stood behind him. She began to massage his neck.

"Tired, yes," answered Xander, closing his eyes. "Sleepy? No way!"

"Giles, I know the Watcher's have always kept diaries, but why haven't the Slayers done so?," asked Willow. "Might've been helpful to get a different viewpoint on things."

"A very good question, Willow. And yes, I think it would have been very insightful to read their perspective. Perhaps we should start a new tradition," said Giles, glancing at Buffy.

"Thanks Will! And do I write this before I do my homework or after I go patrolling?," asked Buffy sarcastically. Giles simply stared at her.

"Okay, I'll think about it. Enough with the third degree already!," said Buffy, once again looking at the book she was holding. Giles was about to say something but Xander spoke up first.

"It's getting late. Review time. What have we learned so far?"

"You mean besides the fact that certain Watchers sure were cranky old...makes you kinda appreciate the new generation even more," said Willow, quickly returning to reading her book.

"There seems to be very little known about the First Evil. Very rarely does it make it's presence known, preferring to work in the background. But from one cranky old Watcher we do know one thing, at least," said Giles. He glared at Willow but she hid her face behind the book she was pretending to read.

"Surprisingly," continued Giles, "it doesn't seem that the First Evil can harm us. At least not in the physical sense. If it creates the illusion of a fire, and you believe the fire to be real, then you will be burned. But it cannot take on corporeal form and strike you, for example. The First Evil relies on fear and deception. Even the shape it assumes when it becomes visible is only a projection of something we can understand. It can conjure spirits and set them on people, influence them, haunt them."

"Like the ghosts that Angel faced two Christmases ago," said Buffy.

"Yes, but the Bringers, the High Priests of the First evil, brought it forth last time," said Giles.

"Well, that's it then. We just find out where they're holed up this time and I kick their butts again," suggested Buffy.

"Once it is called forth I don't think the First needs the priests anymore. It's already here," said Giles.

"Wouldn't they need to keep...well, doing whatever they do, in order for the First to remain here?," asked Riley.

"No. And I doubt if the Bringers were ever even here," said Anya.

"What do you mean? Explain yourself," said Giles.

"You're right about the First. It relies on fear. And if the First is afraid enough itself, then it can manifest itself. Without the Bringers. Obviously that enjoining spell has it scared shitless. The First Slayer was just trying to warn you," said Anya, who went back to massaging Xander's neck. He put a hand over hers.

"Uh, Anya? When were you going to tell us this?," asked Xander.

"And how do you know all that?," asked Willow.

"And why is the First Slayer talking to Xander and not me?," complained Buffy.

"Hey! One at a time. I've been around the block a time or two. Hang around for a millennium or so and you're bound to hear things. Sorry. I thought you knew this stuff," explained Anya.

"If we did we wouldn't be reading all these books, would we?," asked Xander, raising his voice.

"Sorry," said Anya, sitting back down in her chair.

"No, I'm sorry Anya. I shouldn't have yelled at you. I'm just a little on edge, you know?," asked Xander. Anya nodded.

"Anya, have you ever faced the First evil?," asked Tara.

"Are you kidding? Demons tend to know when it's around. And they leave. Quickly."

"At least patrolling should be boring," said Buffy.

"Xander, tell Giles about the spell," said Willow.

"Willow, I don't think that's a good idea," countered Xander.

"Spell? What spell?," asked Giles.

Willow frowned at Xander until he nodded his approval.

"Tara knows of a spell, similar to the enjoining spell but nowhere near as intense. If it works we could sleep when Xander sleeps and see what he sees," explained Willow.

"That's about it," added Tara. "There shouldn't be any side effects."

"If. Shouldn't be. I'm not in any way doubting either of your abilities, but messing with mojo is, well...I'm just not comfortable with it. More importantly right now I'm the only one involved. I don't want to put any of you at risk if it can be avoided," said Xander firmly.

"Spoken well, Xander. And you're right. I suggest everyone bunk down here tonight and we can take turns watching over you. Hopefully we will learn something. In fact, I'm sure of it. Any questions?," asked Giles. No one spoke.

"Good. I think I'll call Angel. This is more serious than we first thought. Cordelia may be in danger as well. Why don't you go get what you'll need for tonight and we'll meet back here in an hour. And prepare for more weird scenes inside the gold mine."

Everyone looked at Giles.

"Huh?," grunted Buffy.

"Uh, obscure album reference from my youth," said Giles.

"And that's relevant how?," Buffy asked.

"It...is very much relevant. In relation to Xander's dreams."

"Giles, did you have the eight track version of it?," asked Xander.

"Well, yes."

"Then it's not relevant," explained Xander, trying to sound sympathetic.

"More relevant than the lyrics of a Cibbo Matto song," mumbled Giles to himself as he adjusted his glasses.

*****

Kate looked up from her desk, startled because she hadn't heard him approach.

"Angel. This is a surprise."

"Kate. How are you?"

"Why don't we skip the pleasantries and get right to the point. Why are you here?"

"Wondering how you are?," offered Angel. Kate just stared at him.

"May I sit down?" She waved her hand at a chair and Angel sat down.

"I understand you've seen Faith recently. How is she?," asked Angel.

"Why don't you go see for yourself? Oh, that's right! You can't, visiting hours being during the day. But you're here," said Kate.

"It's not that simple and you know it," said Angel, careful not to raise his voice.

"Where there's a will there's a way," replied Kate with a smile.

Angel just stared at her. Kate looked away first but still didn't speak.

"I think she's in danger. Serious danger," added Angel.

"Angel, she's in jail. No one can get to her," protested Kate.

"You think every demon has a physical form, like a vampire? Well, you're wrong. Faith could be dead soon. And there's more."

"There's more?," repeated Kate. He had her full attention now.

"If you continue to see her, what's after her may come after you. Guilt by association."

Angel saw that she believed him.

"Okay, fine. We'll talk about Faith. But first, answer me this; is she the chosen one? Is she the Slayer?," she asked, watching for any reaction from him to indicate he might be lying. But Angel didn't even hesitate with his answer.

"Yes. She is a Slayer."

"And if the Slayer is in jail, unable to fight what she is supposed to fight..."

"Then we're seriously short-handed," finished Angel.

Kate considered this.

"What went wrong?," she asked.

"The short version? Her Watcher was murdered, she couldn't stop it and blamed herself. Throw in a typical American nightmare of a childhood, a few bad breaks here, some bad luck there...let's sum it up by saying she has some issues to deal with. Suffered a nervous breakdown, if you will. I think I was reaching her, making a difference. Until..."

"Until I came along. Angel, I won't apologize to you for doing my job."

"I don't expect you to. But you had no idea what you were dealing with. So, how is she?," asked Angel, trying to change the subject.

"Not good," admitted Kate, leaning back in her chair. "She won't eat, only drinks water and not much of that. She looks exhausted. Her doctor tells me she's afraid to sleep, suspects Faith is having nightmares. Bad ones. But she won't talk about them."

"No, she wouldn't. No one would believe her. Not even you," said Angel sadly. "The doctor would think she was insane."

"Is she?," asked Kate.

"No!"

Kate jumped, surprised at Angel's reaction.

"No. She isn't. She just needs help. And I can help her," said Angel calmly.

"Angel, we can't just let her go," said Kate. He didn't answer her.

"What's after her? Can you tell me?," asked the detective.

"I'm not sure. Yet."

"Is there something I can do?"

"Yes. For your own safety, stay away from here. At least for now. And let me know if her condition gets worse," said Angel, standing up.

"Thanks, Kate. I'll be in touch, but call me if you have to. Especially..."

"If her condition changes," finished Kate.

"No. I was going to say call me, especially if anything strange happens to you. A nightmare, for example."

"Oh." Kate nodded and looked down at her desk.

"Hey, wait a minute. You said she was a Slayer, not the Slayer. What did you mean..."

Kate looked up but Angel was already gone.

"Now what did he mean by that?," asked Kate out loud.

END OF PART FOUR

PART FIVE

"Giles, I suppose we should've asked first, but do you approve of the sleeping arrangements?," asked Buffy. "After all, it is your home."

"The what?," asked Giles.

"You know. Who's paired up with whom?"

"Buffy, we're all adults here. But thanks for asking."

Buffy smiled and nodded.

"Okay then, Xander and I have the couches down here. Riley and Anya will stay with us and watch over us. Tara and Willow are in the guest room and you're in your bed. Keep your door open and Tara will check in on you every so often."

"Sounds like a good plan. I don't know what else we can do to prepare," said Giles.

"You really think we might have dreams similar to what Xander has been having?," asked Buffy.

"The core group, yes. You, Willow, Xander and I might all be influenced. Another side effect from the enjoining spell."

"Really gotta read the fine print next time, Giles."

"Yes, I believe you already reminded me of that."

"Uh, one last thing."

"Yes."

"You do wear pajamas to bed, right? Wouldn't want to frighten Tara, you know," smiled Buffy. Giles took off his glasses and tried not to smile.

"Giles, could you come here please?," called Willow from the kitchen. Giles turned and went into the kitchen. Buffy followed.

"Giles, Tara suggested that we create a Circle Of Protection around Xander. For him to sleep on, or over, tonight but he won't even discuss it," complained Willow.

"No way. Whatever is going to happen will happen. Let's just get it over and done with," answered Xander.

"It's a good idea, Willow. But the final decision rests with Xander," replied Giles. Willow pouted.

"Oh, alright," she said, dejected.

"Willow, it probably wouldn't have worked anyway. I think the First Evil could easily get past anything we conjured up," comforted Tara.

"I just wish there was a way he could control where he was going," said Anya, entering the room.

"Right. To anchor him in place, if you will," agreed Tara.

"In a dream?," asked Buffy.

"It's a song we danced to in high school," said Xander to no one in particular.

"Huh?," said Buffy.

"Or the scent of Willow's hair," he added.

"Huh?," said Anya, looking at Willow who could only shrug at her.

"In all my visions there was a common link. A song that made me think of a time or a place. Or a scent that made me think of a person. If I could think of something specific like that I might have some say in where I end up," said Xander excitedly.

"He could be right. Certain sounds, and especially the olfactory senses, can instantly bring back a memory, even one long forgotten," commented Giles.

"Worth a try. But I'll still wake you up if you start acting weird. Or weirder," said Anya.

"Okay, then. It's show time!," said Xander, forcing a smile and rubbing his hands together. No one else smiled. Willow rubbed his back and then left the kitchen.

*****

"My eyes are all blurry," whined Willow, rubbing her temple with both hands.

Xander moved closer to her and moved her hands aside with his, rubbing her temple as he sat behind her.

"Mmm. Mm. Stop," said Willow unconvincingly.

"Right. Stop means no. No means no. So...uh, stop," said Xander, turning away from her.

Willow turned quickly to face him and kissed him hard, putting her hands on his face. Xander returned her kiss and put his hands around her head. Soon he softly pulled away, smiled at her and stood up, extending a hand and helping her stand. They walked out of the library and went outside.

"Something's going to happen," said Willow.

"Like what?," asked Xander.

"It's a mistake. I see that now."

"It's just bowling," defended Xander.

"It's bad bowling. It's, it's a double date with all of us and they're going to know," whined Willow.

"How are they going to know?"

"It's a very intimate situation. It's all sexy with the smoke and sweating and shoe rental."

"You're turned on by rented shoes?," asked Xander, only half serious.

"That's not the issue," answered Willow, suddenly embarrassed. They stopped walking and faced each other.

"Okay, well, let me ask you this; what are they going to know? That we're friends? Old, old friends and maybe we've had one or two indiscretions but that's all past. Look, we're just very good friends who like to hang out and can I kiss your ear lobe?"

"Nooo! Well, okay."

Xander leaned in closer to Willow.

"No. Pez!," said Willow, holding up in front of her the pez witch Oz had given to her.

"Maybe bowling might be too much to handle," agreed Xander. He reached out and touched her.

"Man, I wish I wasn't so attracted to you. I wish we could make it all stop," said Xander sadly.

"Any suggestions?," asked Willow apprehensively.

Xander took her hand and they began to walk again. And he knew where he had to go. And by knowing that, he was there.

It was dark. The only sound was that of the wind rustling through the dead grass. Their feet crunched down the brittle, frost covered blades. They reached the end of the field and Xander let go of Willow's hand. The cross was empty. Faith was gone.

"She's not here anymore. But you're not too late."

Xander turned and saw Tara standing next to Willow. Tara looked up at the sky.

"Summer's over and dawn is coming. You should go," said Tara. Her breath was a white cloud before her.

Xander nodded.

"Why are you here?," he asked.

"You haven't figured that out yet?," answered Tara.

Xander glanced at Willow. Tara slipped her hand into hers.

"I'll stay with her. You should go," said Tara.

Xander looked down at the ground. There were pieces of straw strewn about and there was a depression, a path, in the frost. As if the scarecrow had been dragged away. Xander followed the path to the end of the field. And there, at the edge of the grass where the field ended, he found it. A dead raven, its neck twisted at an odd angle, loose feathers lying on the ground around it. The frost had not yet covered the carcass.

He never saw who hit him. There was a sharp pain at the base of his neck. And when Xander woke up he was tied to a chair. He became aware of pain. Incredible pain. It was an effort even to raise his head.

"You know, I can stop the pain. You've been very brave..."

Xander looked up without raising his head. It was Giles. He put a hand on Xander's shoulder as he walked behind the chair.

"...but it's over. You've given enough. Now let me make it stop," said Giles, his mouth close to Xander's ear.

"Please!," begged Xander, his body shaking. He tried to take a deep breath but his ribs protested with a stabbing pain. Giles knelt down in front of him.

"Just tell me what I need to know. What I need to hear."

"In order...to be worthy...," began Xander. But he stopped.

"Yeah?," whispered Giles.

Xander closed his eyes. And he remembered...

He opened his eyes. And Willow was there with him.

"What?," he asked, seeing the concerned look she gave him.

"Sometimes, when you're falling to pieces your mouth, it just does the sweetest thing."

She smiled and gently touched his mouth.

"What are we going to do?," she asked, suddenly distracted.

"We just have to get the two of them communicating," said Xander.

"I meant about us," replied Willow sadly.

"No, that's it! We just have to get the two of them communicating! Don't you see?"

Willow just stared at him, not understanding. Xander closed his eyes, smiled and shook his head. And when he opened his eyes he was again tied to the chair. His arms were pulled sharply behind him and he could feel the rope burns on his bloody wrists. Giles was sitting in a chair in front of him, cleaning his glasses. He breathed on the lenses and inspected them.

"Xander, buddy...I'm here to tell you, I'm impressed," laughed Giles as he put on his glasses.

"Hey. Uh...how are you holding up?"

"Never...better," answered Xander, raising his head defiantly. Giles knelt down in front of him again.

"Glad to hear it. Now...tell me when it hurts," said Giles, grabbing one of Xander's fingers.

There was an audible snap. Xander inhaled sharply but refused to cry out. He forced himself to open one eye. Tears ran freely down his face. But it wasn't Giles in front of him. It was Buffy. She was holding a knife. The knife of the First Slayer. She slowly walked behind the chair.

"Take what you want. Take me. Pour all that frustration and all that guilt into me and you'll be free. You can't live with all that pain," she whispered into his ear. "Take me...and then you'll be ready...to kill me."

Buffy placed the knife on Xander's lap. And smiled. Xander closed his eyes.

"I just have to get the two of them communicating. I just have to get the two of them communicating. I just have to..."

*****

Buffy wasn't sure where she was. She was walking up a flight of stairs. It seemed to her that she was late for something so she walked faster. Buffy reached for the door and pushed it open, walking out onto the roof. And suddenly she knew. She knew.

"You're not going to run, Faith."

"What do you wanna do? You're gonna throw me off the roof? Again?," asked Faith, not turning to look at her.

"Any reason why I shouldn't?," asked Buffy, walking towards Faith. Faith finally turned and looked at her.

"There is nothing I can do for you, B. I can't ever make it right."

"So you're just going to take off again. Leave us to clean up yet another one of your messes."

"It would make things easier for you," admitted Faith.

"Till you get bored with the whole guilt thing, decided to come back to shake things up."

"That's not gonna happen."

"You're right. It's not," warned Buffy.

"Angel said there was no way you were gonna give me a chance."

"I gave you every chance! I tried so hard to help you and you spat on me! My life was just something for you to play with. Angel, Riley...anything you could take from me, you took. I've lost battles before, but nobody else has, ever, made me a victim!"

Faith closed the distance between them and got in Buffy's face.

"And you can't stand that. You're all about control. You have no idea what it's like on the other side. Where nothing's in control, nothing makes sense! There is just pain and hate. Nothing you do means anything. You can't even..."

"Shut up!," yelled Buffy. She didn't want to hear this. She was starting to believe what Faith was saying. Starting to feel sorry for her. Again.

"Just tell me how to make it better," pleaded Faith, her voice quivering.

Buffy closed her eyes and put her hands over her ears. She would not listen. She couldn't. And slowly, ever so slowly, the anger came back. The hatred. It comforted her, washed over her, protected her. From Faith. From becoming like her. Buffy took a deep breath, walked back to the door and kicked it in. She was in the room before the last splinter hit the ground.

Xander was there, tied to a chair. He was in bad shape. Faith held a knife to his throat. The First Slayer's knife.

"About time, big sister. Ready to play now?"

"I'm ready," answered Buffy calmly.

"Okay, you showed. But how do I know you are really in this? I mean if I kill him, would that help, or just be really funny?"

"You don't think I know what you're after," smiled Buffy. "I do."

"You I have to kill. Xander is just for the hell of it," said Faith, pointing the tip of the knife against Xander's throat. Buffy began to walk slowly by her and Faith turned to keep facing Buffy. Xander was now to one side of Faith.

"This isn't about Xander. This is about you and me," said Buffy with more of an edge to her voice now.

"No, baby, he's payback."

"For what? I thought you were happy with the way you are. By the way, you never told me how much I'm worth dusted. Just out of curiosity," added Buffy.

"Fifteen thousand plus expenses."

"You're kidding," replied Buffy, shaking her head.

"Hey, I'm young, willing to work my way up," smiled Faith.

"You feel young? Do you, Faith? You're looking pretty worn out to me."

Suddenly Xander threw himself backwards, landing hard on the floor. Buffy kicked Faith and the knife fell to the floor, sticking in point down. Faith picked up a piece of wood and charged Buffy, wrestling with her. The wood fell from her hand and Buffy tossed her onto the couch. She bent down, picked up the piece of broken furniture and broke it over her knee.

"Is that all you got, B? Get in the game!"

Faith kicked the glass table in front of her, sending it and shards of broken glass at Buffy's face. As Buffy tried to block the table Faith jumped on her, wrapping her legs around Buffy's waist and slamming her into the wall. She punched Buffy hard as they fell to the floor, landing with Faith on top.

"Come on Buffy, I thought you were bad!"

Buffy grabbed her wrist and tossed Faith to one side. Faith rolled, stood and grabbed a floor lamp, bringing it down towards Buffy. She moved out of the way but Faith swung the lamp again, knocking her off her feet. Buffy was thrown over the sofa and Faith dove after her, smashing a vase over her back. Stunned, Buffy tried to shake her head to clear her vision. Faith grabbed her and slammed her into the ceiling.

Xander had reached the knife and began cutting the rope that held him.

The two Slayers stood. Faith swung at Buffy but she ducked and managed to kick Faith in the stomach. She got in another punch before Faith grabbed her and threw her over the couch.

"You can't take me! No one can take me!," screamed Faith.

Buffy blocked Faith's next kick with an end table but was sent backwards across the room. Faith kicked out again but Buffy ducked, causing Faith to smash a glass shelving unit. She lost her balance and Buffy grabbed her, slamming her down on the floor and then sliding her across the floor through the broken glass. Faith's head smashed into the wall.

"Come on!," yelled Faith, standing with a piece of wood in her hand.

"You can't win this," answered Buffy.

"Shut up! Do you think I'm afraid of you?"

Faith grabbed Buffy and threw her down, sitting on top of her. She started punching Buffy in the face.

"You're nothing! Disgusting!"

Faith grabbed Buffy by the hair and began slamming her head into the floor.

"Murderous bitch...you're nothing!"

Faith switched back to punching and began to cry.

"You're...disgusting..."

Buffy grabbed Faith's hand and, using her legs, flipped her over her head. They stood and faced one another. Buffy charged, tackled Faith and crashed through the picture window, falling on top of a dumpster two stories below, each rolling off to one side.

"You're gonna die!," screamed Faith.

Faith struck out, hitting and kicking the other Slayer. It began to rain.

"You hear me? You don't know what evil is! I'm bad! Fight back!," yelled Faith.

Faith kept up her attack, Buffy blocking or ducking most of her fury. But more than a few of the punches landed. It began to rain harder. Buffy suddenly grabbed Faith.

"Nice try, Faith."

Buffy tossed her back and then walked straight at her.

"I know what you want," said Buffy.

Faith hit her but Buffy swung back, dropping her to the ground. Faith got back up and screamed, lashing out but being blocked easily by Buffy. Buffy ducked another punch.

"I'm not going to make it easy for you," yelled Buffy. Faith threw herself at the other Slayer.

"I'm evil! I'm bad! I'm evil! Do you hear me? I'm bad! Buffy, I'm bad!"

Faith grabbed Buffy's shirt and began to sob, her body shaking.

"I'm ba...bad...do you hear me? I'm bad! I'm bad! I'm bad! Please. Buffy, please, just do it," begged Faith, her voice getting softer.

Xander had cut himself free of the ropes and had stumbled down the stairs into the alley, knife in his hand. It rained even harder, the ground shaking from the thunder above.

"Buffy, please, just do it. Just do it. Just kill me. Just kill me," pleaded Faith, her body racked with uncontrollable sobs. Buffy wrapped her arms around Faith's shoulders and pulled her close. They both fell to their knees. Faith couldn't stop crying. And Buffy began to cry.

"Shhh. It's alright. It's okay. I'm here. I'm right here. Shhh," whispered Buffy, holding Faith tightly and stroking her wet hair with one hand.

Xander stood there, unsteady on his feet. The knife fell from his hand and clanged on the ground, the sound echoing through the alley. He felt sick to his stomach and thought he might pass out. Making his way back to the stairs, Xander managed to stumble or crawl into the apartment. And then he spotted the phone.

He knocked it to the floor and dialed a number, using his middle finger because he couldn't bend his index finger. He hesitated only once, trying to remember the last four digits.

*****

Buffy opened her eyes. She was awake. But as she tried to sit up she winced as a sharp pain ripped through her left side. Hoping it was only a broken rib, Buffy forced herself up, resting on her elbows. She paused for a moment as she fought back both dizziness and a wave of nausea. Her lower lip was swollen and bleeding and her left eye was puffy, making it hard to see. The phone was ringing and she knew that was what had caused her to wake up.

Xander was still asleep. Surprisingly so was Anya and Riley. None of them seemed to be bothered by the phone. Buffy was shocked to find bits of straw on her bed, clothes and even imbedded in her hair. And it terrified her when she realized what that meant. Buffy tried to stand but was too unsteady on her feet. So she crawled to the phone and pushed over the table it was on. It crashed loudly to the floor and yet neither Anya, Riley nor Xander even flinched.

"Hello?"

"B...Buffy? Is...that...you?"

"Xander!?," shouted Buffy, looking at Xander asleep on the couch. "How..."

"Buffy, please...wake me up...help me...," whispered Xander.

Buffy dropped the phone and dove at Xander. She grabbed his shoulders and shook him hard.

"Xander! Wake up! Xander!," she screamed, shaking him even harder. She hadn't noticed until now that he was bleeding from a gash above his left eye. And that his face was bruised and his shirt was stained with blood.

"Xander!"

Xander's eyes flew open and he gasped as the pain greeted his conscious mind.

"Xander, what's wrong? What can I do? Tell me. Please."

Xander collapsed into a fetal position, holding his sides, keeping his eyes tightly shut. Buffy put her arm around him.

"It's over now. It's over. You're safe now. Xander, talk to me. You're scaring me."

"It's...not...over," whispered Xander through clenched teeth.

"Xander!," screamed Anya. Both she and Riley had just woken up. Buffy hadn't noticed.

"What happened?," demanded Anya.

"You tell me! How did you fall asleep?," asked Buffy.

Riley and Anya looked at one another as if they didn't understand the question. And then Giles ran into the room, holding a first aid kit.

"Giles, how did you know he was hurt?," asked Buffy, confused.

"Because I was there. I...I did this to him."

"What!?," said Buffy, louder than she had meant to.

"No, it wasn't you," said Xander. He rolled onto his back and finally opened his eyes. Anya wiped the tears from his face.

"Xander, I'm sorry. There was nothing I could do. I...I could only watch."

"Giles, what are you talking about?," asked Buffy.

"Giles, give me that. I probably have more field training than you. I need to do something," said Riley, pointing at the first aid kit. Giles nodded and absently handed it to him. Willow and Tara came running down the stairs and stood behind Giles.

"Is he okay?," asked Willow.

"I don't know yet," answered Buffy, although Xander was nodding to Willow. Riley ripped open Xander's shirt, trying to decide where to start. He ignored the bloody welts on his wrists and began to clean his forehead.

"Giles?," demanded Buffy.

"I was in the mansion. With Angel. Except this time I saw through his eyes and Xander was me. I was the one torturing him. I was Angel."

"But...but in my dream it was Faith that was doing that to him!," said Buffy.

"You're both right. It's been a long night," added Xander, trying to smile.

"So Faith...," began Willow.

"Did this to me. But...it must be like what happened to Giles. We never fought like that. I must have been Angel, when they fought. And Xander was Wesley."

"I don't know if there's any internal injuries, but he's not coughing up any blood. He should be okay with some rest. Tara, can you get some ice from the kitchen? Put it in a towel. It'll help keep the swelling down on his lip," said Riley. "Might want to get some for Buffy, too."

Tara nodded and left. Buffy absently put a finger to her lips.

"Shouldn't Xander go to a hospital?," asked Willow.

"No! No doctors," said Xander.

"Xander...," started Giles but was silenced by Xander's glare. Giles nodded in agreement. Anya sat down next to Xander, looking very upset.

"Hey. I'll be okay," reassured Xander, putting his hand on her arm and wincing at the touch.

"What?," asked Anya.

"I think it's broken," said Xander, holding up his finger.

"It is", confirmed Giles.

"Faith. I can't believe it," said Buffy to no one in particular.

"Yeah, I think I had something to do with that," said Xander. The room got very quiet.

"What?," said Buffy.

Xander sat up slowly and smiled, amazed at his accomplishment.

"I finally understood what the First Slayer was trying to tell us. Tell me. The First Evil is threatened by us, by our joining. We need to be together as a group because that's what it is afraid of. It promised to end the pain if I would kill you, Buffy."

"What's that got to do with Faith?," demanded Buffy.

"She's a Slayer. She is a part of the group. Has been since the enjoining spell. We need her."

"We defeated Adam without her and we don't need her now!," answered Buffy.

"Wrong. She was there. Open yourself to that and you'll know I'm right. That's why I brought you two together," explained Xander.

"What? You did what?," yelled Buffy, standing up.

"Control. I'm getting the hang of moving around in these dreams," said Xander. Buffy looked him up and down.

"Okay, I'm still having trouble with what happens, but I can move around. I brought you two together. I saw what happened. I saw you holding her!"

"Just like Giles had to watch himself torture you! I was a puppet. And thanks to you I got the shit kicked out of me!," replied Buffy, getting angry.

"You gave more than you took," countered Xander. "Buffy, you know that I'm right. Faith needs us and we need her. Whatever battle she's fighting, well, she ain't winning!"

"You've never been more wrong in your life. Ever consider that maybe this is exactly what the first Evil wants you to think?," asked Buffy. "We don't need her. And we'd all be better off if the next Slayer was called."

"Buffy! You want her dead?," asked Willow, shocked.

"Don't any of you realize what she did to me? She's evil! She said so herself, right voyeur boy? She can't be reached! She's gone!," yelled Buffy.

"Buffy, Faith needs help, but...," began Giles.

"But nothing!"

"Angel was right. You'll never give her a chance," said Xander. Buffy faced him and glared but didn't answer him.

"This isn't about Faith, is it? It's because you can't handle the fact that you tried to kill a human. That she drove you to it," said Xander, an edge to his voice now.

Buffy's mouth opened in disbelief.

"You were there! She's begging you for forgiveness. Buffy!," said Xander, trying to make her understand. Buffy shook her head and turned away from Xander.

"Running away again?," asked Xander, grabbing Buffy's arm. She spun and smacked him viciously across the jaw with the back of her hand. Xander's head snapped back but he managed to stay on his feet. He looked back at her, blood oozing from his split lip. Buffy brought both hands to her face.

"Xander...I...oh my God! Xander, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to...," she said, reaching out to him. Xander stepped back, not wanting her to touch him.

"You're sorry? Prove it!," barked Xander, walking towards the front door.

"Xander!," called Anya.

"Not now!" Xander left, slamming the door behind him. Everyone stared at Buffy.

"Aren't you going after him?," asked Willow.

"Will, I...I can't. I just...."

Willow shook her head in disgust and ran after Xander.

"Giles, what's happening?," whispered Buffy.

"I'd say the First Evil is getting exactly what it wanted." He immediately regretted saying that. "I...I think I'll make some tea." Giles left the room.

Anya began to cry and Tara put her arm around her. Buffy looked at Riley and began to cry. He held out his arms and she buried her face in his chest.

END OF PART FIVE

PART SIX

Willow walked past Buffy and plucked a piece of straw from her hair.

"Go for a roll in ze hay last night, Buffy?"

"I don't know what I rolled. Or stepped in," said Buffy.

Willow sat down on the couch next to Tara, opposite Buffy and Riley who sat on the other couch. It got quiet. Giles was standing and everyone looked at him, hoping he would start talking first. He did.

"Buffy, is Xander right? I need you to be honest with me, and with yourself. Is the biggest issue you have with Faith the fact that you tried to kill her?"

Everyone waited for Buffy's answer. They glanced at her but only Willow stared.

"I don't know. Maybe," admitted Buffy, not looking at Giles. "I do know that I've blocked it out for so long that I'd almost forgotten about it. Well, almost. Giles, there's just so many issues with her. Where do I start? I'm just not ready to forgive her yet. Or even start the process, you know?"

"Are you feeling any better?," asked Giles.

Buffy shrugged.

"Xander picked Faith. I guess...I guess Faith was the one he could relate to. She was so sad. I still...," Buffy paused to exhale. "A part of me just doesn't understand why he would forgive her."

"Does it matter?," asked Giles.

"No. I guess not."

Buffy got a strange, confused look on her face and stood up quickly.

"Whoa! Deja vu! Giles, we've had this conversation before."

Giles was about to say something when his eyes opened wide as he remembered what Buffy was talking about.

"And why does he keep having these sexual fantasies about me?," asked Willow. "I mean, it feels like my telephone number should be written on the wall of the boy's bathroom!"

Buffy stared at Willow.

"What? It isn't, is it?"

"Willow!," laughed Buffy.

"Okay, over-reacting much here, and I know that Xander is a young, warm-blooded, oh, okay make that hot blooded active male with needs and all and, and I know we have a history, but it's a history that's in the past. Well, I guess most history is in the past. But it's over. Uh-oh..."

"What?," asked Tara.

"It's deja vu all over again. I've said that before. To Oz! Giles, these dreams are affecting us more than we realize!," said Willow.

"Perhaps," offered Giles.

"It's all about the past. As if the First evil wanted you all to be like you were," said Riley.

"Before the enjoining spell," added Tara.

"Definitely hitting a nerve," agreed Buffy. "I mean, we are."

Just then Anya came in through the front door, not even bothering to shut it behind her.

"Well, he's gone!," said Anya, who began pacing around the room.

"You couldn't find him? He didn't go home?," asked Willow.

"None of his clothes are missing," said Anya, getting visibly upset.

"Did you talk to his mother?," asked Buffy. Anya stopped pacing.

"His mother? She wouldn't notice if he was gone. And she wouldn't care! You didn't know that?"

Buffy shot Willow a surprised look.

"We all know where he's going," said Tara.

"Faith. He's going to see Faith," said Buffy.

"I'd better ring Angel to let him know. Maybe he can find Xander," said Giles, taking a step towards the phone.

"No. I'll do it. I need to talk to him. He needs to know everything," said Buffy.

"Very well," said Giles. "Don't leave anything out."

Buffy nodded and reached for the phone.

"Who's up for a road trip?," asked Buffy.

*****

"This doesn't make any sense. Someone must've gotten to her."

"Detective Lockley, I was here all night. Not only was she alone in her own cell, none of the other inmates heard anything," replied the guard.

"Like any of them would talk?," countered Kate. "Think she did it to herself?"

"How? I mean, look at her! Whoever worked her over used a weapon of some kind, maybe a rubber hose. Bare hands couldn't inflict that kind of damage. It's not humanly possible."

Kate looked at the guard but didn't say what she wanted to say. She reached into her purse and withdrew a pair of photographs, glancing at them before handing them to the guard.

"When did you take these? I haven't left her side since she woke up and I don't remember..."

"They were taken on the day she turned herself in," said Kate.

"But...but she looks the same! Those are the same injuries!"," said the guard, holding out the photos towards Kate.

"Spooky, huh?"

Kate took the photos and put them back into her purse.

"Maybe, maybe her injuries never healed properly and...and just came back to the surface," suggested the guard.

"Right. Better think of some official explanation for the record. I can smell a police brutality case brewing if some liberal lawyer walks through here and spots her," warned Kate.

"No one will see her. I'll make sure of that," replied the guard, glancing at the prisoner. Faith's face was badly bruised, puffy and swollen with numerous small cuts, too. Her lower lip was discolored and split. The phone on the wall behind them rang.

"Lockley. To see who?...I'll be right there."

"What's up?," asked the guard.

"Faith has a visitor."

Kate walked past the guard and headed for the door, looking at Faith the whole time. She was still sitting there in the same position she had been in for hours; legs drawn up into her chest, chin resting on her knees, arms wrapped around her legs. Faith stared vacantly at the bars in front of her.

Kate walked into the conference room and was about to ask Faith's visitor a question. She froze. The boy standing in front of her looked almost as bad as Faith herself.

"Detective Lockley?," he asked, his words slurred because his lower lip was swollen.

"Yes. Who are you?"

"Xander. Xander Harris," he said, extending his hand but then drawing it back. "Excuse me, but I think my finger's broken."

Kate nodded.

"I'd like to see Faith."

"She's not receiving visitors at this time," answered Kate.

"But I thought visiting hours were..."

"Guess you were wrong. I'm sorry, but you'll have to come back another time," said Kate, turning to leave.

"You don't want me to see her because she looks worse than I do. Isn't that right, Detective?"

Kate turned back to face Xander.

"You a friend of hers?," she asked.

"Yes, I am."

"Faith doesn't have any friends."

"Well, you're wrong there. Do you think you really know her that well?," asked Xander.

"Her words, not mine," replied Kate, suddenly looking bored.

"Look, I know the police didn't beat Faith up," said Xander.

"Really? So what do you think happened to her? Not that anything did, of course," added Kate.

"Same thing that happened to me."

Kate didn't have an answer for that.

"Do...do you know Angel?"

"Yeah, I do," answered Xander.

"You a friend of his?," smiled Kate.

"Not really."

"Could you do me a favor? I'd like to have a good look at you. Step over to that window. Into the sunlight," ordered Kate.

Xander smiled and took a step not towards the window but towards her. Kate nervously took a step back. Xander slowly brought his left hand up to her throat. Kate didn't move. He grabbed the cross that hung from her neck and twirled it between his thumb and index finger.

"Still need me to stand in the sunlight?," asked Xander, letting go of the cross and stepping away from Kate.

"Tell you what. I'll tell Faith that you're here and we'll let her decide if she wants to see you."

"Fair enough. Just mention my name," said Xander.

Kate looked Xander up and down.

"I know, I should see the other guy, right?"

"Lady, that's the last thing in the world you want to do."

Kate suddenly believed him.

"Have a seat. I'll be right back, with or without her."

*****

Kate sat down gently next to Faith, careful not to touch her.

"Faith, there's someone here who wants to see you. I told him you might not be up to it, but that I would leave the decision to you. It's Xander, Faith. It seemed very urgent to him that he speak with you."

Faith's expression didn't change. She still stared off into nothing.

"Would you like to see him?"

Faith gave no response. She didn't even blink. Kate lowered her voice to a whisper.

"I can't help you if you won't let me try. Maybe I'll fail, but at least give me the chance. Please, Faith."

Faith didn't move. Kate counted down from ten to herself and stood up, walking to the door of the cell.

"Guard!"

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When Kate opened her eyes Faith was standing next to her, eyes staring at the floor.

"Shouldn't turn your back on a prisoner like that, Detective. Want these?," asked the guard, holding up a pair of handcuffs.

"No."

"It's procedure, sir."

"I'll take responsibility for the prisoner. Put them away." The guard shrugged and unlocked the cell.

*****

"Hey," offered Xander. He was sitting at a table across from Faith. He glanced to his right and saw Kate watching them through a window in the door.

"There must be some mistake," said Faith.

"Mistake? What do you mean?"

"Conjugal visits aren't until Saturday."

Xander suppressed a smile. Same old Faith, he thought. Or was it? Still had that edge to her voice but something in her eyes was...softer?

"How are you doing?," asked Xander.

"I have my bad days. And then some are worse. And you? By the way, you look like death not quite warmed over."

"Yeah, had a little trouble shaving this morning. Razor must've been dull. Looks like you had a rough night yourself. Hey, you didn't say five by five," said Xander.

"No, I didn't."

"No, I guess you wouldn't. Do you know why I'm here?," asked Xander.

"To mock me? Have a laugh or two? Maybe satisfy some cheap thrill?"

"I've been having dreams about you."

"And I should be flattered? Ew!," replied Faith.

"You're not going to make this easy for me, are you?," asked Xander. Faith only stared back at him. Xander sat there for a moment and tried not to get angry. Without saying anything he stood up to leave.

"She'll be waiting for you tonight, you know. You have to sleep sometime," said Faith.

Xander turned and stared at the Slayer.

"Who?," he demanded.

"Well, we both know it's not the First Slayer."

Xander sat back down.

"Took you long enough to get my hints. What was it? The fact that you didn't understand what you were going through or that you couldn't trust me?," asked Faith.

"Little of both, I guess," said Xander.

"Fair enough. I mean, you have no reason to trust me," said Faith, looking down at her hands.

"So you were there. You saw what I saw."

Faith nodded.

"I'm still a Slayer. I was there. With Adam. With you. With...Buffy. Can't call upon the power of the Slayer without sucking me along."

"We didn't see you. With Adam, I mean," said Xander.

"I was there. Buffy knew I was there, too. I just didn't show myself."

"But Buffy said that you weren't there."

"She's blocking me out. She won't even consider that..."

"Consider what?," asked Xander.

"Nothing."

"But you were there. You helped us defeat Adam."

"No. I said I was there," corrected Faith. "I couldn't help."

"But, why? I don't..."

"Because I was afraid, okay? Yeah, me. Big bad Faith. Hiding like a little school girl."

Xander looked at Faith and shook his head.

"Xander, you don't understand. You can't understand. Do you know how hard it is just for me to get through a single day? Just to get past even one minute? Since you've sat down I've had two visions of me shoving a knife through your gut. And these aren't daydreams! I can smell the blood, hear the knife as it snaps bone..."

Xander realized Faith was being sincere. That she was actually trying to talk to him. He reached over and touched Faith's hand. He could feel it tremble under his.

"I'm sorry. Does anyone know?"

"Only Angel. Xander, I want to be better, I really do. I don't know what to do. These visions are payback for what I've done. How many demons have I killed? And now the sight of even their blood paralyzes me with fear so much it's all I can do not to throw up afterwards. I'm sorry. This isn't your problem," said Faith. She covered her face with her hands so that he wouldn't see her cry.

"Faith. Faith!"

Faith wiped her eyes and looked up.

"I want to help. Even if I just sit here and spend time with you. Just tell me what to do."

"I don't know what you can do. But thanks. I have no right to expect anything from you. Or anyone else. But I am sorry. If nothing else, believe that."

Xander nodded.

"Faith, what's happening to me? Why am I having these visions?"

"The First Evil is afraid. It's that simple. The Slayer has always been alone. Now she isn't. The Scooby gang is a threat. Why you? Got me. I only know that Buffy won't be able to help you."

"What? Why?"

"She can't see the forest for the trees. She's blocking out the good with the bad. Her mind isn't open to what the First Slayer is warning her about because Buffy's too busy denying me. Can't blame her, of course. But that's why the First Slayer came to you and not her. Buffy's blocking both of us because of me."

"But why not Willow? Or Giles? Why me?"

"You got a nice butt?," said Faith with a smile. Xander rolled his eyes but couldn't stop from smiling.

"So what do I do?," he asked.

"Go to sleep."

"What!?"

"Hey, I'll be there. Think of me and I'll be there. You understand that much at least, how to summon people."

"You've done this before!"

"Nothing like this, but I've had a prophetic dream or two. Like Buffy. Comes with the territory."

"So you'll help me fight this thing?," asked Xander hopefully.

"No. I said I'll be there. That's all I can promise. Maybe I'll make a difference. Maybe I still can."

"That's better than being alone," agreed Xander.

"So, I guess you'd better get going," said Faith, leaning back in her chair.

"If you don't mind, I'd like to stay for a while. Just to talk. Or we don't even have to do that," said Xander.

Faith looked at Xander and considered what he had said. His honesty shocked her.

"Thanks. That would be...nice," said Faith, smiling.

"Just don't let me fall asleep."

"Same here," agreed Faith. "Same here."

Kate looked in at them again through the window. She glanced to a red light on the wall next to her. It was on, indicating that the tape recorder was still working.

*****

"So she wouldn't see you again?"

"No."

"Wesley, don't you think it's time you gave up? Males! Sometimes you guys just don't get the hint. Believe me, I know!," said Cordelia emphatically.

"It's not that simple," answered Wesley, resting his chin on his hand. They were sitting at Cordelia's desk. Cordelia was filing her nails.

"Yes, it is. Wesley, I don't get it. How can you forgive her after what she did? And not only to you. She murdered at least two people that we know of. And do you know how much makeup I had to use to cover up that bruise she gave me? Wonder if I can write that off as a business expense?," added Cordelia, shaking her head.

Wesley sat back in his chair and didn't look at her.

"Wesley?"

"You don't understand. No one does. Well, perhaps Giles would. But then again he didn't fail as a Watcher."

"So that's what this is about? Hey, it's no big! You're still fighting the bad guys. You're making a difference. How many people can say that?," asked Cordelia.

Wesley gave her a half-hearted smile.

"And to refresh your memory, Giles was fired," said Cordelia, pointing her nail file at him.

"Cordelia, I was trained to be a Watcher my whole life. It's what I was meant to do. There are so few that are finally chosen, given the responsibility of training a Slayer. Not to sound like a Yank, but I blew it. There are no second chances. For being a Watcher, I mean. Or maybe for other...things, too."

Cordelia stared at Wesley, not sure of what to say.

"And yes, part of me will always hate Faith. Always. But I'm to blame. She needed help and I wasn't able to reach her. My nose was buried to deeply in my books to see what she really needed," said Wesley, looking down at his hands.

"Wesley, you're being too hard on yourself."

They both jumped, neither of them having seen Angel enter the room.

"Faith was damaged goods long before she was your responsibility," continued Angel.

"But..."

"Wesley, be fair to yourself. You didn't know. No one did. Not even Buffy, and she was closer to her than anyone."

Wesley sadly nodded in agreement.

"Faith can be helped. I know it. She just needs a second chance. And Cordy, you seem to have forgiven me."

"You, yes. Angelus, no. I'm still afraid of him."

"Good. You should be," said Angel.

"And I'm still afraid of Faith. I don't trust her. Who knows what that fruitcake is going to do from one moment to the next? So forgive her? If I never see that bitch again it'll be too soon," said Cordelia, tossing her nail file onto the desk.

"It's okay, Cordelia. You don't have to forgive her. And I doubt if you'll see her again anyway," added Wesley.

"Oh, I'll be seeing..."

Codelia stood up, bracing herself with both hands on the desk.

"What? Oh!"

Wesley jumped up and put his arms around her. Cordelia collapsed on the desk, both hands holding her head...

"I heard about you and Cordy. That's her loss," said Buffy, leaning on the table.

"Yeah. Not really the popular theory," replied Xander.

Buffy looked up at him.

"You know what I'd like? Why don't you and I do something together tonight? Just the two of us."

"Really?," asked Xander, surprised.

"Yeah, we can comfort each other."

"Well, would lap dancing enter into that scenario at all? 'Cause I find that very comforting," added Xander with a grin.

Buffy stood up, stared into his eyes and stepped closer to him, smiling.

"Play your cards right..."

Xander put up his hand, stopping her.

"Okay, uh...you do know that I'm Xander, right?"

"I don't know, I just...heard that you and Cordy broke up and I guess I was just surprised how glad I was," said Buffy, playing with his shirt and then leaning towards him. "It's funny...how you can see someone every day but not really see them. You know?"

"Yeah, it's funny," laughed Xander. "And it's just getting funnier."

Buffy put her finger to his lips to quiet him and slowly leaned in for a kiss...

Cordelia shook her head, focusing on Wesley's voice.

"Cordelia, are you alright? What did you see?"

Cordelia caught her breath and tried to stand, first looking at Wesley's arm that held her up and then at him. His face was close to hers. Very close. He didn't move his arm. And she saw the concern for her in his eyes.

"How are you feeling?," he asked.

"Okay," she nodded. Wesley helped her sit down into the chair.

"We have a problem. I...I think Xander is in more danger than we thought."

"You mean by the First?," asked Angel.

"No. It's Buffy. She...I think she wants to kill him! And what is that tramp doing hitting on my boyfriend?"

Angel and Wesley looked at one another. Angel shrugged his shoulders. They both looked back at Cordelia.

"What? Just 'cause I dumped him doesn't mean he's fair game now. Oh. Never mind," said Cordelia, blushing.

*****

"So, is it you give help to the hopeless or hope to the helpless? Either way, I'm your man."

"Xander!"

Cordelia jumped up and tackled him with a bear hug.

"We've been so worried about you! Where have you...oh my God!. What the hell happened to you?," shouted Cordelia, stepping away from Xander. "You look like..."

"I know. Don't worry, it's worse than it looks. Uh, no wait, I mean...oh, it doesn't matter. Hey, you look great!"

"Aw, thanks," blushed Cordelia.

"What do you mean you've been worried about me? How did..."

"Buffy called Angel. Told him everything. He and Wesley are out looking for you right now," explained Cordelia.

"Now? But it's daylight."

"So? Angel wears sunglasses," smiled Cordelia. "You know if you were coming to Los Angeles you should have called me."

"I had something to do first," replied Xander.

"Yeah, so how is Psycho Chick? Still nuts?"

"Actually, no, I don't think so. But whatever is after me is going for her, too. Cordy, I don't know if she's dying, but she's not winning her fight."

"Oh. Want some coffee?"

"You don't like her, do you?," asked Xander.

"Honestly? No. That bitch is pretty low on my list of favorite things. Right below taking the garbage out, in fact. But I don't want her dead. Angel thinks he can help her."

"I think he can," agreed Xander. Cordelia poured him a cup of coffee.

"Still cream and two sugars?," she asked.

"You remembered. Hey, any more visions?"

"No, not since...not since that last one," said Cordelia, handing him the cup.

"You know, you never gave me the chance to apologize to you," said Xander, putting the cup on her desk.

"Huh?"

"You know. The whole Willow thing?"

"Xander, that was a long time ago."

"Doesn't matter. You were very special to me and you didn't deserve to be hurt like that. I know it sounds lame, but whatever pain I caused you, well, it was worse for me. And I never got to say how sorry I was. It was my fault."

"I'm going to ignore those sad puppy dog eyes and say, 'duh!'," said Cordelia, hands on hips. But then she gave him a smile.

"Xander, thanks for saying it. But why the sentimental journey? Wait a minute! You think you're going to die, don't you! Well this ain't goodbye, mister!"

Xander ignored her, stepped to her and gave her a hug.

"I"m not saying goodbye. I just wanted you to know that I don't regret a minute of it."

"Well, again duh! You were dating Cordelia Chase in High School," said Cordelia, stepping apart from him but holding his hands. "You're a good person, Xander Harris. And I don't regret any of it either. Well, there was that time..."

"Cordy."

"Only kidding. You're overtired, huh?"

"I don't know what day it is," admitted Xander.

"Thought so. Now why don't we call some people and let them know you're here?," suggested Cordelia.

"That won't be necessary."

Xander and Cordelia turned. Buffy was standing in the doorway.

"Doesn't anyone ever knock? This is a place of business," complained Cordelia.

Buffy ignored her and walked across the room to Xander. And hugged him. She held him for some time before she even spoke.

"Xander, I'm so sorry."

"Forget about it. Friends know how to push each other's buttons. I pushed a little too hard, that's all."

"But..."

"Buffy, I understand. I really do."

"Still doesn't give me the right to hit you."

"Hey, sometimes words hurt more than punches. Well, sometimes," added Xander, rubbing his chin.

"You hit him!?," said Cordelia.

"It's okay, Cordy. I deserved it."

"I'm sure you did. Still, she is the Slayer!"

"Cordelia, can you go outside and get the others? They're waiting in the car. If Xander was here I wanted a few minutes alone with him," said Buffy, keeping her eyes on Xander.

"Or with Angel if Xander wasn't here," said Cordelia.

"Cordelia!," snapped Buffy.

"So I finally get to meet your boyfriend?," asked Cordelia.

"Uh, no. I made him stay in Sunnydale. In case Xander did show up there."

"And the fact that you were visiting Angel had nothing to do with it?," asked Xander.

"Well...," admitted Buffy.

"Okay. I'm going. Don't you hit him again," warned Cordelia. Buffy rolled her eyes as she left.

"Same old Cordy," commented Buffy.

"Actually, no, I don't think so," said Xander. Buffy ignored him and gave him another hug.

"Have a little trouble shaving this morning, Xander?"

Buffy turned to see Angel standing behind them.

"Uh, I'm not interrupting something, am I?," he asked with a serious face.

"Can't you ever drag your feet or something? You know, make a little noise once in a while?," asked Xander. "And what's with the funny? You're scaring me!"

Buffy ignored Xander and smiled at Angel.

END OF PART SIX