Buffy opened her eyes and was immediately hit with a strong sense of bewilderment and 'wrongness' – she was at home, in her own bed. Going by the décor, it was around the time that she and her mom had first moved to Sunnydale… ah, a dream.
She sat up and looked around, trying to make sense of just why she would dream of this when she became aware that something was buzzing and had in fact been doing so since she woke up…
The young woman finally registered that it was the alarm clock by the side of her bed. With a sigh, she reached across and switched it off… just as Joyce came into the room.
Before Buffy could say a word about how good it was to see her, her mother gave her that look. "Buffy, what are you doing? You slept in, didn't you? Didn't you hear your alarm? Or did you forget to set it?" The woman sighed heavily. "Buffy, you are going to be late for school…"
Buffy awoke from the dream and sat up in bed – she was in the Initiative, Spike sleeping peacefully at her side. She was definitely awake this time. She sighed as she pushed her messy hair back from her face and flopped back down on the bed and tried to get back to sleep.
Ten minutes passed, though it seemed like a lifetime – it always did at four in the morning. With a heavy sigh, she had to concede that she was not going to be joining her lover in sleep again that morning. The Slayer pouted and sat up. After standing and rearranging the covers around Spike, she decided to head to the training room.
Buffy had been working out for ten minutes when she felt a malevolent force appear in the room. Spinning around, she was greeted by the sight of… herself. "Wow, if I really look like that, I need to get my hair done soon." She scowled and eyed the offending hairdo the First was currently wearing.
The First blinked – why was the Slayer not reacting as she should? She should be afraid, yet she was complaining about her hair! With what could only be called an angry snarl, the form changed to that of the deceased Kennedy. "You're all going to die - you know that, right?"
Buffy snorted. "How? You can't even hurt us – no physical form. Couldn't even cause a shiver down my spine! Don't even start me on Caleb or the Brin-"
The First cut her off. "Oh, I'm not talking about Caleb. He may be my right arm but even should you somehow manage to defeat him, I don't need an arm – I've got an army!"
The Slayer cast an incredulous glance at the First – was it really giving the same speech as before? It seemed so. She decided to go with it for then anyway. "An army of vampires. However will I fight-"
Kennedy glared at the blonde. "Every day our numbers swell. But then you do have an army of your own. Some fifty-odd pimply-faced girls who don't know the pointy end of a stake." Kennedy smirked, her tone just dripped sarcasm as she spoke again: "Maybe I should call this off."
This was the speech that had triggered Buffy's brainwave the last time around. This time around, she realised that it was a lot like the time that Glory came into her home to tell her that she didn't have the power. Truth was, if Buffy had had no power then, Buffy wouldn't have continued to live but she had something that the hellgod needed. Seemed the same thing was true here too – something about her specifically had allowed the First to get a stronger foothold on their reality - apparently what Giles and Anya had told her last time around was true… if Willow and the gang hadn't brought her back from the dead, the First wouldn't be here right now. She was the Key.
She pushed the disturbing but useless thought aside. "Have you ever considered a cool name? Being little more than a ghost and technically powerless… how about 'The Taunter'?"
Kennedy glared at her. "I will overrun the Earth. When my army outnumbers your pathetic humans, the scales will tip."
Buffy cut It off with a sigh. "Talk on. I'm not afraid of you!"
The First snorted. "No? Why aren't you in the arms of your dead lover, huh? Oh right… he can't help you. Nor Faith, nor your friends…. Definitely not your wanna-slay brigade – not one of those girls will know real power unless you die. You'll fail them, Buffy. Just like you failed me!"
Buffy eyed the other coldly. "You're not Kennedy."
The First snorted. "You'd like to think that, wouldn't you? I am though. Oh, I am! I feel her desire for your red-haired Witch and I share it," she smirked evilly, "I might even enjoy her death more than yours."
Buffy had been about to respond when the door opened and Faith stepped into the room. When she turned back to continue the conversation, the First was gone – or at least gone from her sight! She sighed and turned her attention back to the younger woman. "Faith… just the person I wanted to talk to – feel like doing a little damage right now?"
Faith considered for a moment. "No offence B, but I'm not really prepared to be beat down by you only to have to take time off to heal – not this close to the Apocalypse."
The older woman actually threw her head back and laughed before shaking her head. "Not me. Some Bringers. Mostly."
The brunette relaxed. "Oh. Cool… count me in."
Buffy grinned. "Okay good – collect weapons, meet me at the front door in twenty." With a nod from the other woman, Buffy headed out of the room. First stop, her room to write a note for Spike. She contemplated waking him so he could keep an eye on things but he hadn't been getting a lot of sleep lately so may as well let him when he could – someone would wake him if they needed him. With that thought in mind, she headed to Willow and Tara.
It was a sleepy-eyed Willow who opened the door to the Slayer. Buffy smiled apologetically. "Sorry Will. Didn't really want to wake you, it's just that Faith and I have to go and collect something important. Right now! I know that the Watchers' protection spell appears to be working for this place so far but I was kinda hoping that you and Tara could double-check? Just until we get back…"
Willow frowned then sagged a little as she sighed. "Well… I mean… of course. Hope we don't need to do anything but Tara and I can certainly check it out – and if necessary add our strength to it." She studied her friend. "You two aren't about to do anything reckless, are you?"
Buffy smiled, leaned in and gave the redhead a hug. "No more reckless than usual. Don't worry – we'll be fine. Back here before you know it."
Willow sighed as the hug ended. "What about Dawn? Could you go and see her before you go? She's probably in the research room with Mabel – you know that new Slayer from Ireland? She doesn't seem that keen on the fight but boy, does she like to research! Makes me feel old and slow."
Buffy laughed and shook her head. "You're not old or slow, Willow. You don't need to worry." They talked for another few minutes then Buffy took her leave, heading off in search of her sister.
It took a good ten minutes to find Dawn – she wasn't in the Research room or her own room. She was in fact in Mabel's room, talking about boys. Naturally. It shouldn't have taken her so long to track her down as it had been the next logical choice, it was just that Buffy didn't know where Mabel's room was. Finding it had involved finding an awake Potential who spoke English. That, as it turned out, had taken longer than she would have liked.
The sound of her sister's laugh, emanating from the room proved easily enough that Jenny had been right enough about the room. She knocked on the door and waited. A moment later, the door was opened by the pretty, red-haired Potential in question. "Hey Mabel… can I have a word with Dawn?"
Her sister came out but before Buffy could say a word, Dawn had tetchily informed her that as of yet, Mabel had not adjusted to the new time zone and couldn't sleep. As she had had a nap earlier in the day, Dawn too was wide-awake so why couldn't she spend the time with her friend?
Buffy sighed. "Dawn, I'm not here to pick a fight, okay? I just wanted to check that everything was okay with you."
Dawn resisted the urge to snort at that. "I'm fine, Buffy. I'm just chatting to my friend." She decided to change the subject before a fight could commence. She gestured to the bag in her sister's hand that she usually carried on Patrol. "Are you going out?"
Buffy blinked at the conversation change but nodded. "Faith and I are going on Patrol. Don't worry - I've said to Willow and Tara so they are going to check the Protection Spell is secure. Of course Spike's here too."
The younger woman couldn't resist rolling her eyes at that. "Of course we'll be fine, Buffy. Even I can handle weapons now thanks to the lessons with the Potentials." She smiled widely. "I'm certainly better than Andrew and the newer Potentials," She cast a glance over to Mabel. "No offence."
The young Irish Potential smiled easily and held her hands up. "No offence taken whatsoever. I don't think I'm meant for this life. I get squeamish at the thought of killing even a fly."
Buffy and Dawn both smiled a little at that. Dawn continued: "Travers still isn't happy about me being there even though I'm only training for an hour or so each day…"
Buffy snorted. "Travers can go to Hell and swivel on a pitchfork shoved up his ass for all I care! You have every right to be there – to know how best to defend yourself."
The two younger women laughed loudly at that. Dawn shook her head. "Spike has really rubbed off on you, hasn't he? I like it!" She gave her sister a hug. "You should go. Stay safe, okay?"
Buffy nodded as she hugged back then headed out to see Faith.
Faith pulled back from the open door and looked at Buffy. "Given that there's thirty Bringers in there, looking like they're lying in wait, I'm thinking we've lost the element of surprise."
Buffy shrugged nonchalantly. "No biggie – remember the time we took out the nest of fifty vamps whilst Giles and Wesley stood back and watched..?"
The brunette smirked. "You mean the time the stake got knocked out of your hand and I had to save you from that vamp sticking its fangs deep into your neck? Can't say I do."
Buffy sighed and touched the fingers of her right hand to the scars of the bite still visible if one knew what to look for. She had lost track now of just how many vampires had actually tasted her blood. She shook the sombre thought off and stuck her tongue out at her friend. "I was having an off day – hey, at least you were there, right? Thanks for that."
Faith looked a little taken aback – when it had happened, the older Slayer had been huffy, claiming she had the situation under control. Seemed she wasn't the only one who had done some growing up. "No sweat." The brunette nodded to the door. "Back to the present … you sure this is worth it, B?"
Buffy nodded and lifted the sword in her hand. "It is." She paused and lowered the weapon and looked over. "You ready for this? Seriously, this isn't going to be easy. The Bringers, fine but, I imagine that Caleb is there… if you're not up to it just yet, tell me now. I don't want you getting hurt because I was reckless."
Faith could only stare at her for a moment. Twice in less than a minute, Buffy had surprised her. "You've got my back, right?"
Buffy nodded. "Absolutely. I plan for only two of us to leave this place tonight. You're coming out with me if I have to carry you – you'd better be alive or I'll kill you, got that?"
Faith laughed and nodded. "Gotcha. I've got your back too. Let's do this!"
The two Slayers rushed into the room…