The Road Less Traveled

Chapter 11—No Turning Back

Buffy ran up the basement steps and into chaos.

Xander, Robin, and Andrew were using all of their strength to keep something from breaking down the front door. The couch was overturned; glass was everywhere. Kennedy was between Dawn and a blue demon that seemed to be all claws and teeth. Dawn's arm was bleeding, but other than that she seemed all right. An unknown wind was ripping through the house, sending papers and objects everywhere. Where was Willow?

Three vampires appeared through the back door. How did they get in? Why are they working with other creatures? Buffy had to push her thinking brain to the side and just react-she jumped into the fray. She shattered a chair and used a makeshift stake to slay the first vamp. As she was grappling with the second, Faith reached the top of the steps and without hesitating destroyed the third. Faith quickly surveyed the scene and ran to help Kennedy. Buffy reached behind her to throw the vampire up and over her shoulders and through the kitchen window; that was when she noticed Willow in the back yard.

Willow was crouched low, arms wide, eyes focused on the vortex in front of her; it seemed to be a portal into another world, with more demons and beasts eager to make their way through. Her lighting crackled and shot off in multiple directions in an effort to keep them contained.

A loud crash behind her-Faith had kicked the blue demon into the table. Buffy was on him, punching and tearing. A claw cut into her shoulder; she cringed but didn't let go. Faith was soon at her side, but another creature tackled Faith from out of nowhere and she hit the fireplace.

Kennedy had vanished upstairs-she now reappeared, scythe in hand and ferocity in her eyes. She ran to Buffy, who rolled out of the way in time for Kennedy's blow to remove the blue demon's head. They turned as one towards Faith's attacker, but then the front door gave way.

A massive beast, dark green and scaly, had burst through and taken the doorframe with him. He stood over Xander and the others and let loose a roar that shook the house. Ten more vampires came pouring through the new opening; they didn't hesitate-they went straight for Faith.

The green beast was massive but slow moving, giving Xander, Robin, and Andrew time to dodge its blows. It also gave Kennedy and Buffy the freedom to save Faith, who was still crumpled by the fireplace.

Buffy threw herself on top of the brunette and felt multiple cold hands grabbing at her, pulling, trying to wrench her free, but Kennedy felled most of them with one level swing of the scythe. Once she did, however, the remaining vampires looked hungrily at the weapon and turned on her. Kennedy was caught off guard; while three vamps knocked her down the fourth tore the scythe from her hands and held it high, a sign of victory.

It was, of course, a premature celebration.

Buffy jumped and kicked it out of his hands, claiming it for herself. One punch sent him flying into the staircase; she slayed the three attacking Kennedy, then finished him off.

Faith was finally stirring. Whatever had knocked her over was small, fast, and missing.

Buffy backed up slowly, trying to reach Dawn, who was under a table injured. Kennedy had recovered and was helping the guys with the beast.

"Dawn!" Buffy hollered.

"Buffy-what's happening?"

"I have no idea. Go to Willow-she's in the backyard. Stay close to her."

"But Buffy, there's…"

"It's safer with her! You're safer with her. If she gets even a moment to transport you away, she will."

"Buffy…"

"Get OUT, Dawn-now!"

The beast had swung his fist towards the Summers sisters; Buffy sank the scythe into it, giving Dawn a window of time. As Dawn ran out the back, Faith finally stood up and was ready to fight again. The beast knocked Andrew to the ground in his rage over his hand; Robin dragged Andrew into the next room while Xander broke chairs on the beast's legs. Faith ran at the monster and jumped, pulling the scythe free and swinging it around again to take his hand completely off. He howled. More vampires showed up, this time from upstairs, and Buffy started to feel panic.

"Xander! Get everyone to Willow-you guys need to get out, any way you can!"

Xander didn't argue; he nodded at Buffy and ushered Robin and Andrew out the back as the three slayers took on the vampires and the injured, angered beast.

"Kennedy!" Faith yelled over the battle. "You have to go too!"

"What? No!" She took out another two vampires.

"Willow can't protect them all by herself!" Faith got the wind knocked out of her as she got slammed into the stairs. Buffy saw Kennedy hesitate.

"Go, Kennedy. You have to help them; they'll be killed!" Buffy's eyes were pleading with her.

Kennedy gritted her teeth, staked one more vampire, and grabbed Buffy's shoulder. "We'll find you." With that, she took off.

The fierce little monster returned, sinking its teeth into Buffy's leg; it wasn't there long before Faith kicked it through a window. An explosion of light shook the house and knocked Faith down next to Buffy; it had come from the backyard. Buffy closed her eyes tight. Please be okay, please be okay, please be okay…

She felt hands grip her arms-Faith was dragging her out of the way of the beast, which for some reason was clumsily turning around and leaving. The vampires had stopped coming, too. They didn't have time to puzzle over that, because the ground began to shake. A fissure appeared in the living room floor; the slayers rolled out of the way. The floorboards cracked and rocks shot upward, knocking in pieces of the upstairs that rained down around them. An extra large quake sent the scythe sliding towards the hole in the ground. Buffy's eyes widened.

"No!" The voice was Faith's, and she tried to hold Buffy back from following the scythe. Buffy pushed her back and dove towards the weapon.

The earth opened. Buffy and the scythe dropped.

The blonde slayer was in a free-fall; her fingertips grazed the tip of the scythe and she snatched hold just as her body jerked to a stop. Faith had grabbed the back of her shirt, but it wouldn't support Buffy long; she could already feel it starting to tear. She reached up with her free arm, grasped Faith's-and suddenly the dream they'd shared weeks ago came rushing back to her.

"Buffy!" Faith yelled. "Buffy, let it go-I need your other arm!"

This is just like the dream; it was a vision, the whole thing… I'm supposed to give her my hands… I'm supposed to do what she says…

"Buffy!"

Buffy felt herself slipping, but she just couldn't drop the scythe; she knew it was important, that it was probably what the whole attack was about.

She knew she only had one shot. She aimed the scythe at the wall above her and to Faith's right; she threw it as hard as she could, then brought her arm back to grab Faith's. Faith gritted her teeth and pulled; Buffy landed on top of her just as a burst of rock and steam shot out of the chasm in the floor.

They sat up and looked around; the scythe was lodged in the wall. Buffy felt a surge of relief and went to retrieve it, but the ground lurched again and she had to grab on to what was left of the railing by the stairs. Faith kept her balance and darted across the room, grabbed the scythe, and made it back to the stairs.

"Let's get out before they come back."

Buffy nodded. They worked their way across the broken, slanted floor and into the front yard.

Both cars had been destroyed, and several trees were either on fire or smoldering. Buffy felt her heart drop into her stomach. The others… "Faith, wait!"

Buffy quickly ran around to the back-no sign of Willow, Dawn, or anyone else. The vortex was closed, but the ground was still rumbling. Buffy's breath was fast and shallow. Faith came up behind her and hesitated. "…Buffy…?"

Buffy didn't respond.

Faith put a gentle hand on her arm. "C'mon, B. We gotta go."

"But…we don't know if…"

"They're not here; Willow must've got 'em out somehow. But we can't stay."

Follow her. You're supposed to follow her. Buffy turned and looked at Faith; she was standing in the grass, scythe at her side, house in ruins around her, and muscles tight and at the ready, capable of handling more. Buffy's mind flashed back to the basement, to kissing her, to what else she had almost done to her. Faith's face showed none of that, just concern for the blonde. Buffy felt horribly…exposed. She turned once more to scan the backyard for any signs of the others.

"B…c'mon."

Buffy blinked back tears.

"Ok."

They'd been walking north for hours (what they assumed was north, anyway). The late afternoon sun had come back as they put some distance between them and the house; the sun was setting, and the first stars were just beginning to appear.

There hadn't been any more trouble, but they still kept to the woods. Two women walking the highways, one with a leg wound, the other wielding an axe, would surely attract attention.

Faith looked sideways at Buffy who was trying to conceal her limping. "You wanna take a break?"

"What? Oh, no…it's ok."

"Let's stop here."

Buffy was thrown by the command, but she didn't argue. She was so tired. "Fine. Just for a minute."

Faith didn't answer her; she was scanning the trees around them. Just when Buffy was going to ask her what she was doing, Faith swung the scythe around and cut clean through a small tree; it crashed to the ground.

Buffy blinked. "Did you…did you just use the sacred slayer scythe to chop down a tree?"

Faith turned and raised an eyebrow. "It's an axe, right?"

"Yeah, but…never mind." Buffy watched as Faith cut the tree into smaller logs and cleared a small place for a fire. Guess we're staying more than a minute…

"Did you go camping a lot as a kid?"

Faith shook her head. "No. But I did start a lot of fires."

"Oh."

Soon they had a small fire going and they sat together in silence. They had to believe the others were ok, so Buffy didn't allow her mind to wander to all the 'what ifs.' Unfortunately that meant she was spending her time wondering what had possessed her in the basement. I had to win; I had to show I was stronger, that's all. But it wasn't all. She could have kept hitting Faith once she'd clearly been distracted; instead, she'd become distracted herself as Faith started kissing her back, and Buffy realized Faith would let her do whatever she wanted to her. And instead of freaking out, what did she do? I felt her up and almost had sex with her…

Is that what I wanted?

Buffy swallowed. "So…what's the plan?"

Faith shrugged and kept staring into the fire. "Dunno. Giles said to head north before; I say we keep trying to go that way. Maybe they'll know that's what we did."

"But we're not even sure if we are going that way."

"Yeah, I know." It doesn't matter. Faith didn't say that, but Buffy heard it. She knew it was true-they were lost, and it didn't matter if they moved or stayed still. The odds were the same of being found by their people. If they made it…

"They made it, B." Buffy looked sharply at her. Faith was surprised. "Sorry…I thought…I thought you said that out loud."

"Can you hear everything I'm thinking?" Shit!

"No."

They were quiet for a moment. It made Buffy uncomfortable. "Faith…I'm sorry. About earlier."

"Buffy, I don't mind if we don't talk about that."

"I know, but…I think we should. I should…explain myself." If I can.

Faith stared into the fire. She looked tired. "B, you attacked me. Wasn't the first time. Probably wont be the last. I'm over it."

Buffy's face felt hot. "I kissed you."

Faith was quiet for a moment. She grinned sadly. "Yeah, you did. Finally ready to fight dirty. 'Bout time you became one of the big girls."

"It wasn't-"

"Yeah, it was," Faith said roughly as she stood up. "You got some news you didn't like, and you had to regain some of that Buffy Summers control. You wanted to win; you wanted to hurt me. You wanted revenge for something I had no control over, and wasn't even anything I did! You did it-you and Willow. I don't want this, Buffy, not any of it. I don't want anything else you're gonna hate me for. I'm sick of it!" Faith stalked off into the woods with the scythe.

Buffy was momentarily stunned, then took off after the brunette. "Faith! Stop!" She caught up with her and grabbed her wrist. Faith spun around with a punch that Buffy easily deflected; they backed up and glared at each other.

"Faith, you cant just take off when you're pissed at something."

"Funny-I learned it was a better alternative than hitting her in the face. Which I'm gonna do again, by the way, if you don't leave me alone right now."

Something clicked in Buffy's head. "You're not running away because of your new powers, or because I hate you…which I don't."

"Coulda fooled me."

"You're running away because you kissed me back."

Faith looked distraught. She clenched her teeth and neither of them said anything for a long time. They didn't take their eyes off each other.

Buffy took a deep breath. "Please…please come back with me. We have to stay together."

Faith didn't say anything. She looked at Buffy's eyes, all but begging her to come back. Finally she crossed her arms, looked down at the ground, and nodded. Buffy exhaled and started walking back to camp. She could hear Faith following behind her.

Suddenly Buffy was overtaken by a feeling of warmth, followed by anxiety. Her heart sped up; she stopped walking and leaned against the nearest tree. She felt waves of tenderness for the brunette slayer, followed by lust and longing. Buffy turned back towards Faith, to see that her face had turned white. She looked terrified. This is her, Buffy realized. She can't keep it in. Oh god…

What surprised Buffy was how overwhelmed feelings of lust were by ones of affection, worry, protectiveness. She blinked. The feelings were replaced by images: a filthy apartment with broken windows and someone pounding on the door, a woman's head being torn from her body, a darkened hospital room…

Faith was slowly lowering herself to the ground and covering her face with her hands.

Buffy's eyes widened as her mind was assaulted. Every time her heart was warmed by Faith's gentleness towards her, there was an image…a memory… linked to it that frightened her. What the hell has she been through?

Buffy squeezed her eyes shut and focused all of her energy into stopping the onslaught. It took awhile, but it worked. She gasped for air and looked at her sister slayer.

Faith was sitting on the ground, scythe at her side. Her knees were bent, and her hands were in her hair while her eyes were closed, trying to force out the images. She was trembling slightly. Buffy's heart went out to her; she bit her lip, crossed to the brunette, and got down on one knee, placing a hand on Faith's shoulder. "Hey…"

Faith wiped her eyes and stood up. She went to take a step and was surprised when Buffy took her hand and pulled her back. The blonde gently wiped the tears from Faith's cheek. Faith put her hands on Buffy's shoulders and closed her eyes, sighing. Buffy wasn't sure which of them was feeling it, but she was overwhelmed with the urge to kiss Faith.

So she did.

The kiss was gentle, it was tender…it was everything the last one wasn't. Faith pulled her head back to look into Buffy's eyes, searching for signs of deceit. Buffy buried her hands in Faith's hair and brought her back down, kissing her firmly, reassuring her, promising her that she wasn't making a mistake. She felt Faith relax, and the brunette's hands found their way to the small of Buffy's back.

Buffy wasn't sure how all of this had happened. Less than a year ago she still considered Faith an enemy, deep down. She didn't believe she had the discipline to change, to tame the dark side of herself that had flared up so quickly during what had been a rough year for all of them. But Faith had come to the hellmouth without a second thought. She'd proven herself to be a good leader (though Buffy still couldn't admit to it out loud). She'd fought by Buffy's side, holding the line when Buffy fell. She was the last to run out of the collapsing hellmouth, and the first to comfort Buffy when the enormity of what they'd been through had caught up with her. Somewhere along the line, Buffy's feelings had changed. When she looked at Faith, she felt…safe.

Buffy felt awful about her behavior in the basement. All of it. When the truth about the spell had come out, she'd been shocked, angry, jealous. She'd done the first thing that had come to her mind, something she had such a habit of doing-attack Faith. Faith had been nothing but good to her. She had to make it better.

When they stopped kissing, Faith held Buffy to her. The brunette was slightly taller than the blonde, which meant Buffy tucked nicely just under Faith's chin. Neither of them felt the need to speak. Instead, they looked out through the trees at the sky.

It had clouded over. The stars were no longer visible.

Buffy straightened up.

Faith held her tighter as she exhaled. "Ah….shit."

Traces of purple lighting were appearing over their camp. The fire had burned out, and leaves and ash blew in a lazy circle that rose upwards. Buffy bent down to retrieve the scythe. She spotted a fallen tree, half-rotted away, and decided it would be a convenient shelter. She reached up wordlessly and touched Faith's arm; Faith followed her gaze and her meaning. They ran to the trunk and slid behind it.

The lightning was increasing, though it was not as violent as it had been at the house. Every now and then it struck a tree that smoldered a little before going out. A fog started to fill their camp.

Buffy gripped the scythe. You're not taking it, whoever you are…

Faith squinted in the darkness. With every flash of light, she thought she could see…yes. A portal was opening. It started small, in the middle of the air, and slowly grew in size.

Buffy raised the scythe, ready to use it as a weapon, but Faith put a hand on her arm. "B…wait a minute."

The opening had reached the ground, but still they could not see into it. There seemed to be nothing more than fog, swirling and churning, dark colors of blue, black and red. Slowly, the currents of mist started to gather with some order, parting down the middle. Something small pierced the highest point and started to come out. Buffy tightened her grip on her weapon.

The "something" got larger as it pushed out into their world. It was a deep red, relatively thin, with ridges and curves. Buffy swallowed. It's a wing…

After five feet the wing was followed by an arm, which was the same deep red and very muscled. Soon after came the rest of the creature, on two heavy legs, standing twelve feet tall. He was silent, studying his surroundings. Buffy's eyes widened. "Now can I use the scythe?"

"B, just wait!" Faith whispered harshly.

"Wait? Are you out of your-" Faith clamped a hand over the blonde's mouth and held her tight. Buffy was too shocked to protest.

The creature seemed satisfied with whatever it found. It raised a hand towards the swirling fog-the colors seemed to shift and part at a more rapid pace.

All at once the fog vanished almost entirely and another world was revealed through the portal, one of flying demons and…people? "Witches," Faith breathed. Buffy nodded. She noticed a stone castle through the mist, the dark sky giving it a ghostly glow. Great power radiated from it as well, stretching through into their own world. Buffy's attention was brought back as she sensed movement coming towards her; more beings were passing through. First came a lavender demon with spikes along its head, then a pair of human-sized ones with multiple eyes, scanning everything as the red demon was still doing. Faith gave a small gasp, startling Buffy, who followed her gaze upward.

A beautiful woman was descending slowly, her beasts having secured the ground for her. The woman had flowing robes and dark hair with bright colored highlights at the very ends. Both slayers recognized her from Faith's vision-Deanna. The slayer-witch.

There were more movements from the portal, more clumsy and rushed than the others had been. The slayers were stunned to see Kennedy and Xander come running out, calling their names. Buffy looked at Faith and saw the question in her eyes: a trap? Buffy shook her head-it didn't feel like one. Faith swallowed and slowly stood up, revealing their position. Xander came running toward them, unfazed by the demons. Kennedy grinned and crossed her arms as Deanna landed at her side. "Told you we'd find you."

Xander met the slayers with a hug and a broad smile; they didn't return it. Faith kept staring at the creatures, at Deanna, at the portal. "Xander," Buffy breathed. "What is all of this?"

"Buffy."

The voice wasn't Xander's; it came from the portal. Buffy turned to face it.

The demons backed up to make more room and even Deanna drifted to the side. Through the mist came Giles. His clothes were covered with signs of battle-sweat, dirt, a little blood. He raised his eyebrows at the slayers and gave a slight smile. "Buffy, Faith-welcome to The Alliance."

...

Thank you so much for reading! The sequel will be published soon. Keep an eye out for The Alliance:)