AN: This is mostly a teaser. I don't plan to update this until I have at least five chapters written, so please let me know what you think beforehand!

Sunnydale, 1998

It was time to go.

She walked back to her home with leaden feet- Not my home, can't go back- the weight of the world lifted from her shoulders. She'd done it. To save the world, the ultimate sacrifice, all over again. The man she loved was dead, and the world was still standing.

And no one knew.

She looked around as she headed down the street, staring at the lit houses and the people who moved around in them. They all went on with their lives, never knowing what she'd done for them, what she'd given up for them. The Slayer's role was a secret kept for millennia. And that was why she'd been kicked out of school, was being hunted by the police, had been booted from her home…

As she walked past a cemetery, she caught sight of a vampire rising a few feet away. Preoccupied, she produced a stake and moved to dust it.

It turned to stare at her with a face she knew. There was no name that she could attach to it, no real memories of the boy whose body now faced her. He had been in her chemistry class last year, had sat two seats down. She had dropped her pencil once and he'd picked it up. Staking him should have been unpleasant, but easy.

But not today. Not after she had thrust a sword into her lover and cast him into hell.

"I love you."

"I love you."

"Close your eyes."

She was sick of the killing, sick of the Slaying. Sick of the deaths all around, all the time. Merrick. Jesse. Ford. Jenny. Kendra. Angel. Oh, god, Angel…

The vampire squinted at her. "So, are you going to stake me, or do I kill you?" he asked, eyeing the stake at his chest.

She thrust it forward, turning him to dust.

No more death. No more sacred calling. No more of being punished for keeping them all alive.

I quit.

--

It had been four months since Buffy had first run, and they were working out a system at last, Giles mused. Willow, Xander, Oz, and occasionally Cordelia were doing their best, and, on occasion, actually succeeding. But they were just children, and the Hellmouth needed a Slayer.

He rifled through his mail absentmindedly as he called a contact in LA. "Yes, have you heard anything, Richard?"

Richard sounded regretful. "Nothing, I'm afraid. I had record of a blond girl fighting several demons in one of the suburbs, but she vanished almost a week ago. Some of her coworkers said that she never returned to work one night, and they seemed to think that she was dead."

Giles frowned, the pangs of fear overwhelming him. "I'll be down there in a few hours." He hung up the phone abruptly, breathing a secret sigh of relief at the idea of a search that didn't involve a flight.

Let this not be her, he prayed silently. Let me not bring home a corpse…

He packed quickly, most of his luggage already in a bag from his last journey. This would probably be a short one, and he was hoping he could be back by tomorrow. Hopefully, with a living Buffy in tow…

He opened the door, his bag slung over his shoulder, and came face-to-face with Willow Rosenberg. She and her fellow three Scoobies stood nervously before him, their faces dark and conflicted.

"What's wrong?" Giles asked worriedly, looking from Xander to Willow.

In response, Xander stepped aside to reveal a dark-eyed, shapely brunette girl grinning up at him. "Hey," she said, swaggering forward. "I'm Faith. Heard your Hellmouth could use a Slayer."

Giles gaped. "Well, er…come in, please."

He set down his bag on the table as the five children streamed in.

Somehow, he didn't think he'd end up in LA by the end of the night…

--

Sunnydale, 2001

Dawn was crying, tears pouring from her eyes and mingling with the dirt and blood on her face. "Faith, it hurts…"

Faith frowned, running her fingers down Dawn's cheek. "I got it, D. You're gonna be five by five, don't worry about it."

A few drops of blood slipped over the edge of the tower they were huddled on, and a rapidly growing circle of light appeared in midair.

Faith glanced out at it. "Dawnie, get out of here!"

She stared up at her sister, her eyes wide. "But it's started!"

Faith grinned. "Chill out, D. I've got it covered. Now get down there!"

Dawn climbed down the tower, stumbling in her haste.

Faith eyed the portal with vague trepidation. A dragon emerged from the rift, its wings spreading as it soared upward.

Blood shuts the portal, right? Dawn's blood. And she's made from me. So…

Faith shrugged. "What the hell."

And she dove into the portal, closing it as she met death headlong.

Below, Dawn sobbed. Willow and Tara stumbled toward Faith's body, their faces disbelieving. Xander gaped, Anya clinging to him. Giles stared sightlessly at his second lost Slayer. And Spike raised his beaten and battered body to scuttle over to Dawn and hold her close.

Sunrise was approaching, and Giles bent to lift Faith's body silently. Dawn helped Spike to shelter and sat with him, sobbing. The others followed Giles as he brought Faith to the hospital.

They knew the diagnosis already.

And while one of the Slayer's companions feverishly searched her brain for something, anything that could make it all right for them again, the Watcher pushed aside his grief and thought practically.

Sunnydale still needed a Slayer.

It was time for Buffy to come home.