Note: This is another story I finished last year but never posted here. I'll try to post a chapter a day. :)

Summary: Buffy decides to take fate into her own hands when a vision reveals Faith's gruesome and untimely demise while working for the Mayor.

Timeline: Season 3 AU, after "Bad Girls"

Sleight of Hand


Chapter One (Prologue)

The Watcher's Council had never spared any expense when it came to the many branches of their establishment. They prided themselves on their offices decorated with rich mahogany desks placed atop marble floors, Italian leather sofas and chairs, rare antiquities adorning the walls, and floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with even the rarest of books and scrolls that made the Smithsonian look like a high school library.

Such luxuries were never afforded when it came to the sisters, however; three decrepit old women who no longer aged and instead slowly festered. They hadn't been much to look at even when the Council had brought them in four hundred years before and time had not been kind to them in that regard.

The sisters didn't care, however. They owned no mirrors and wouldn't allow any brought into their subterranean den. The jagged and uneven stone walls were covered in moss and candle wax where tapered white candles had spilled over their remains. There were no beds as the sisters never slept; instead they lay on the floor in drug-induced hypnotic states, waiting for the visions to come.

Forget the fact that one of the sisters had no eyes and couldn't see the visions and that one of the other sisters had no ears and couldn't hear them. Also ignore the fact that the third sister had no tongue and couldn't speak the visions. None of that mattered. What did matter was that it took all three of them to receive and decipher the vision and that there was only one person they could share the visions with:

The Head of the Council.

It was a pact that had been forged with blood centuries back and had never yet been broken.

Quentin Travers left the comfort of his office and headed to the lower level of the building where records and unimportant antiquities were kept. His black leather loafers scratched along the dusty granite floors as he made his way down a torch-lit stone corridor. Artificial light wasn't permitted in the vicinity of the sisters, whose den lay at the end of said corridor.

He didn't bother to knock; they knew that he was coming before he'd even left his office. It was somewhat difficult to take three precognitive witches by surprise, especially when the tongueless sister had used her mind-gift to call to him.

The heavy stone door swung back with minimal effort, giving him ample leeway to enter the dim room. He walked in and stood just inside of the doorway, preparing himself for the encounter. No matter how many times he had personally visited the sisters, the experience never got less unpleasant and creepy.

"He comes seeking knowledge," the earless witch, Syntyche, began, her wide eyes focused on the ceiling as she lay on the ground on her back.

"Then knowledge he shall have," the eyeless witch, Hypatia, said blankly, her body twitching as she continued to receive a vision.

The tongueless sister, Euphemia, lay on the hard ground between them, her body twitching in a similar manner. It took her a few moments of trying before she finally managed to sit up. Her crystal blue eyes had a pallid film over them which Quentin never quite got used to seeing. He stood as still as possible, trying not to outwardly show his disgust for the three women.

Euphemia approached him, her long disheveled silver and black hair tickling the back of her heels as she walked. Quentin braced himself, waiting for the connection. When Euphemia finally reached him, she grabbed a wooden pipe from a stone slab and put it to her mouth, inhaling deeply. Without warning she blew the smoke out and right into Quentin's face, making him splutter unattractively.

When the smoke cleared and the coughing fit was over, Quentin opened his now white film-covered eyes and looked to the three sisters who were once again laying back on the floor, twitching.

"Show me what you see," he said, his voice far off and raspy.

"You have lost control of your slayers," Hypatia began. "The elder is no longer your concern. She has already passed on the lineage to the other."

"It is the other who you need to worry about," Syntyche continued. "She has harmed a human and suffers for it."

"It's a war out there. Humans get hurt from time to time," Quentin said blankly, his eyes focused on the vision that was being sent to him.

"Yes, but she will soon make a choice and she will be lost to you."

"What choice?" Quentin asked.

It was then that the vision flashed before his eyes, making him gasp quietly. Faith was at the professor's. They were speaking. There was a knife in her hand.

"Murder," Syntyche hissed.

"Death!" Hypatia yelled.

"Kill," Euphemia said using her mind gift.

There was a long pause as Quentin watched the vision replay over and over. "Can she be rehabilitated?"

"No," all three sisters replied simultaneously.

"Not by you," Hypatia clarified.

"Then I only have one option," Quentin said grimly, shaking his head until he had rid it of the image. He turned around without so much as another word, leaving a paper-wrapped package behind on the stone slab before he left the room.




Across the ocean half a world away, Buffy awoke with a start in the middle of her English class. She'd been dreaming of Brad Pitt taking her on a motorcycle ride across the desert when the dream shifted. Suddenly she was at the house of a man she'd never seen before, wondering exactly why Faith was there and why she had her knife out.

She never got to find out why the girl was there though; three men in black came running through the door, completely taking Faith by surprise. There was no fight, not even a scuffle. Three loud shots rang through the apartment and Faith fell to the floor, the look of pure shock never leaving her face even after her body was still.

It wasn't just a dream, it was something more. Buffy still felt the adrenaline racing through her body, the ever potent connection that connected her to Faith still tickling at the bottom of her spine. Faith was still in Sunnydale, still connected to her despite the fact that they were playing for different sides now.

That feeling had disappeared in the dream though, completely severed. It was a sign of something. Something bad.

Ignoring the weird looks she was getting from her fellow students and the angry shouts from her teacher, she quickly gathered her books and ran out of the room, heading for the library. She needed to find Giles.

She needed to find Faith.