"So, you didn't actually dream about spiders?"
"No, Dawn. There was no spiders."
"Well that makes it less cool."
"There was a web, that's it."
Dawn rolled her eyes, "Even less cool."
"Do you want the dreams? Because if you want them, you can gladly have them. If I could give them to you, trust me, I would. I'd rather you suffer with them than me."
"I'd probably be able to make some better connections than you do."
"I'm the Slayer. I slay things. I don't analyze the things my subconscious comes up with. You're the sister, that's your job."
"No, my job is to flush the toilet when you're in the shower. And put food in your hair when you're sleeping. And to hide your favourite clothes in places I know you won't be able to find them. Like burying them in the garden, that's always fun."
"You stopped hiding my clothes when you were twelve."
"As far as you know."
"Can we do away with the banter and focus on the task at hand?" Giles asked. "We were discussing your dream."
Buffy's eyes travelled to Faith and then quickly skittered away. "Right…"
The current Scooby meeting was taking place in the basement. It was still early – Dawn's breakfast plan had woken up most of the house. And since the girls had just eaten, Faith and Buffy were giving them time to digest before starting the day's training session.
Plus there was the whole dream thing to discuss.
So somehow they'd ended up in the basement; the whole Scooby gang. Xander and Anya were sitting side by side on Spike's cot. Spike was leaning against one of the support pillars looking like he didn't want to be there. Dawn was sitting on the washing machine with Dani leaning against it next to Dawn's dangling legs. Giles, Andrew, Willow and Faith were sitting at the wooden table, the scythe lying in the middle.
And Buffy was pacing the concrete floor, trying her hardest to ignore Faith. She wasn't mad, it was more that every time she looked at Faith she seemed to remember the conversation from earlier and her eyes would move towards Willow before she'd look away fully.
Buffy was adjusting.
And to her credit, Faith was leaving her alone to process everything and not make it any more difficult. Buffy wasn't beating her ass into the pavement for getting close to Willow, so Faith was going to do whatever was needed to keep it that way.
It stung a bit, seeing Buffy act like this, like the blonde had no idea how to comprehend that Faith and Willow had slept together. But in the back of her mind Faith knew Buffy was thinking the same things as she was. She was going to end up hurting Willow. This was all going to go horribly wrong and she was going to end up hurting Willow.
"What's the point of dreaming about spiders if you don't actually get to see any spiders?" Anya asked. "Xander, I don't understand."
Andrew added onto the thought, "How does that even work? How do you dream about spiders without seeing any? Did you not see them but know they were there? Was it your superhuman senses that could detect their presence? Did-"
"Andrew," Buffy barked. Her eyes landed on Faith again as she spoke, "Not now."
Ouch. Was that directed at him or me?
"Buffy?" Dawn asked, looking between the two Slayers as a frown grew on her face.
"Am I sensing some unresolved tension?" Xander asked in a teasing voice.
Faith didn't answer, and made sure not look at either Buffy or Willow. Buffy because she didn't want to address the tension any further and wanted to leave Buffy alone to deal with what she'd learned; Willow because she didn't want to drag the redhead into it.
'Buffy just needs time to deal, Faith. This, this is probably a little confusing for her.' If you say so, Red.
"It's fine," Buffy said dismissively. She sighed and looked at Faith again, "It's…"
Giles looked thoughtful, "Did something, ah, tense happen during your-"
"It's fine. And no. We were all fine and dandy in this dream that revealed exactly nothing."
"So far all you told us was that there were giant missing spiders," Dawn said. "Are you actually going to tell us what happened or what? Faith?"
"We were at the school," the younger Slayer began. "It was cold and dark and deserted. We could hear voices…" She trailed off, looking at her sister Slayer.
"They sounded… they sounded young," Buffy started, pacing back and forth across the floor. "And they were screaming. And laughing."
"Oh, that sounds fun."
Buffy ignored Anya as she continued, "It sounded like…"
"Children," Faith filled in, remembering. "They were screaming and laughing and calling us. It was weird."
"This whole thing is sounding weird," Spike muttered, lighting a cigarette and pretending to ignore them.
"But you didn't see anyone?" Willow asked.
"No," Buffy shook her head. "We couldn't see anyone. But we could hear them. So we walked towards the sound. We knew we were going the right way; there was a wind pulling us in. And there was a really bright light at the end of the hallway, like, really bright, Wills. Mini-sun bright."
Dawn jumped in, "But there was a web in your way?"
"Yeah," the blonde continued, still pacing the floor, "It completely blocked the path. It was massive. But there was no massive spider to go with it." Her eyes flickered over to Willow, but the witch wasn't looking.
"And that's it?" Giles asked, shaking his head, "Your dream just ended when you reached the block?"
"No, we knew we had to go through it."
"More like we had nothin' better to do," Faith mumbled.
Buffy ignored her, "So we decided to go through. When we touched the web… pain. And then: end of dream. That was it. That was the whole thing. And we aren't leaving anything out."
Giles looked at them thoughtfully, "That's… a bit disappointing. And you can't make any sort of connections, reasons for what this could mean?"
"None," Buffy sighed. "I have no idea what the dream was supposed to mean. Nothing really happened."
"Really Giles. It wasn't like there were cryptic things to decipher. There was just… nothing. Nothing happened that means anything."
"Well it has to mean something, Buffy," Willow insisted gently.
"Start bit by bit," Dani offered.
"Whatcha mean, Dan?"
Dani smiled at her sister, "It all means something. Even the small things. Pick somewhere and start, the way you do with me."
Faith smirked, And who said she's supposed to be in an institution? Girl's a genius.
"Well," Willow said, "Let's start with the main part, the spider web. Describe it."
Faith filled them in: big, silk, completely blocking of their path. "It was just like a regular spider web," she added, "Only bigger."
"Obviously the web is supposed to represent something," Giles said, eyes lighting up slightly. "What do spider webs symbolize?"
"Not the spider, Dawn, the web."
Dawn rolled her eyes at her sister, "You see the web you get scared because you know the spider's around somewhere."
"Somewhere to hold things," Willow continued, staring ahead of her as she focused, "Spiders catch their food there, but you could use a web to hold something. Like a net even."
"So we're supposed to catch something? We're supposed to catch the voices we were hearing?" Buffy prodded.
"No, no…" Giles took over, "Perhaps the bodies of the voices were being trapped in the web."
"But we couldn't see the bodies," Faith said flatly. Her leg began bouncing under the table, already bored with sitting still.
"Webs symbolize time," Dawn said casually. Before Buffy could even open her mouth to criticize she continued, "Not like, spider webs. But cobwebs? You find those in like, abandoned places. It means time's gone by." She began bumping her feet against the washing machine, "So… the voices you're hearing are long gone. Which would explain why they have no bodies."
"But who are they?" Buffy asked. Then she shook her head, "I don't think that's it. What else do webs represent? Besides nets and time?"
Faith found herself watching Willow chew on her lip rather than actually try of thinking of anything. The redhead was distracting, and Faith wasn't the best at the whole research-brainstorming thing.
"A blockade," Xander spoke up after a minute. He leaned back on his hands as he continued, "It represents the physical thing that's keeping them from finding the voices. There is some sort of actual thing that's in the way. Like a fence."
"So we have nets, time, and fences," Buffy went on, dropping into the chair across from Faith. "What else to webs represent?"
"Connections!" Willow burst out, "You draw a web to connect ideas. The web represents the connection you have with whatever's on the other side of the hallway. These voices. You're connected with them. But, going along with Xander's, there's a physical thing blocking you from them."
"So why are we on one side and they're on the other? Why is there a block?" Faith asked.
Willow pursed her lips for a moment, "It could be a bunch of things, really. I mean…" She trailed off, her lips silently moving as she continued talking to herself.
Giles picked up from Willow's silence, "You said the voices were screaming? Perhaps you're connected to them because they're people you need to save. People in danger of The First's power taking over."
Andrew scratched his head, "So who's most in danger of Firstie getting power? Obviously not those Bringers, maybe-"
"The Potentials," Buffy said evenly. "The voices," she looked over at Faith, "The voices sounded childlike, but feminine. Did you hear any that could have been boys?"
Faith thought for a moment and slowly shook her head.
"It makes the most sense," Buffy went on, standing up again to begin pacing. This time she picked up the scythe and began swinging it through the air in front of her as she walked. The girl clearly liked to think while on her feet. "Voices – people that Faith and I would be most connected with? That would be the Potentials."
"Which would be why they were on one side and you both were on the other," Anya added, yawning and resting her head on Xander's shoulder. "This is all so mundane," she muttered, "I'd rather be doing actual research then thinking about webs."
"She's right though," Dawn went on excitedly. "Buffy and Faith were on one side because they're actual Slayers. The voices were on the other because they're connected – by the web – but they aren't actual Slayers."
"Okay, but what was the point of the dream," Buffy sighed. "We already know we're connected with the Potentials and that we need to protect them because The First is going after them…"
"What else happened?" Dani spoke up. She shifted her weight, so she was leaning against Dawn's legs and forcing them to still in their swinging.
Faith answered, "Nothing. We touched the web and the dream ended. So… we can't touch the Potentials?" After a moment she smirked.
"Naughty, Faith," Xander returned the look.
Willow smacked her arm, "Stop that."
"It was funny."
"How?" Dani asked, not getting distracted by her sister's innuendo. "How did it end?"
"We touched the web and everything hurt. And then the dream was over. That was it. Nothing like, jumped out at us or anything."
Dani nibbled her lip, watching Faith. The Slayer knew her sister was thinking hard. Of everyone in the room, Dani probably had the most experience with trying to understand dreams and visions. Given, she was usually caught in the middle of them and Faith was left to figure out what she was seeing. But she knew Dani wouldn't be asking the questions if she didn't think they were important.
"What did it feel like?" her sister asked after a moment.
"The pain? Um," she thought for a minute, "Kind of like my whole body was on fire. I don't-"
"Oh my God," Buffy suddenly burst out, stopping mid step. She spun around dramatically and locked eyes with Faith, waiting.
But she was waiting on a cancelled train, because Faith wasn't making whatever drastic connection the blonde was. "What?"
"What did it feel like?"
"B, I just said-"
"No, seriously. What did the pain feel like? Where have you felt it before?"
"I've felt it before?"
"Is there an echo in the room?" Spike mused.
Buffy ignored him completely. She continued to swing the scythe in a low arc as she asked, "When have you felt that pain before – like every cell in your body was exploding?" She was wearing a shit-eating grin. Clearly Buffy thought she'd just figured this all out.
Faith, however, had not.
"When have I felt pain like that? A few days ago actually, when an übervamp ripped my leg open right before it tried to eat me for dinner."
Buffy ignored her comment, "Faith, think."
"What am I thinking of?"
"The pain," Dani reminded helpfully, smiling.
Faith fought really hard not to scoff. This was her sister. Had it been anyone else, she would have.
She forced her bouncing leg to still as she focused; trying to think of a time she was in that much pain. She stayed quiet, watching the dull basement light reflect off the scythe's blade. It really was a piece of beauty. She and Buffy had had a few goes, trying it out. It was light in their hands but sharper than any weapon she'd ever held.
She watched as Buffy swung the blade again and it came to her. "My dream."
Buffy stopped and blinked at her, "Wait, what?"
"When we were in my dream," she paused, aware of everyone's eyes on her. "When we both touched the scythe. Everything exploded in pain, exactly like what happened when we touched the web."
"Huh. I wasn't thinking of that."
"You mean there was another time in my life I've been in that much pain? Are you sure? Because I think I'd remember."
"Faith," Buffy warned.
"Not even when you stabbed me, it didn't-"
Buffy, surprisingly, didn't look like she was annoyed. She just looked like a kid in a candy shop, holding her hand out and waiting for Faith to join her. "Faith," she said slowly, "What other time in your life did it feel like your insides were on fire, like every cell inside you was exploding. Pain so intense that you thought you were going to die. Pain that hurt so much you wished you were going to die just so it would end."
Oh, I get it.
"Yes," Buffy said, smiling.
"Um, hello?" Xander asked, waving a hand. "Help a guy out? The rest of us have no idea what you're talking about."
"When we were Called. It hurt like that when we were Called as Slayers."
Dawn looked alarmed, "It hurt? I didn't know it hurt."
"I was aware there was some discomfort, a quick burst that receded fairly quickly," Giles said, frowning, "I wasn't aware it was that painful."
Buffy looked a little nervous. Apparently she'd never talked about what it felt like to be Called with the Scoobies and Watcher-man. "Yeah, it… I thought someone had shot me."
"Stroke was my first though," Faith piped in. "Or that I was having a heart attack."
Willow looked back and forth between them, "It hurt that bad?"
"Like I was getting hit by a truck, shot, stabbed, cut in half and poisoned all at the same time," Faith elaborated lightly. "But only for a few seconds. It hurt and then it was gone. And then I felt stronger." She looked at Buffy, who nodded in confirmation. "I totally didn't believe it had just happened," Faith added, remembering, "that I had been Called."
"At least you had the pleasure of being aware of what the Slayer was before it happened. I was in the middle of gym class, playing volleyball."
"Oh my God, I remember that!" Dawn squealed, "They said you tripped and fell and had a concussion! I was mad because there was no blood!"
"Oh, thanks," Buffy made a face at her sister. "No, I was Called and then I fell. Anyway," she continued, catching Giles' glare, "That's what the end of the dream felt like. Like being Called."
"So that's the difference," Giles confirmed, "You were separated by the web because you two have been Called and the Potentials haven't."
Buffy, however, didn't seem to agree. "But that's too… No, no, wait… hang on."
Xander smiled, "Buffy's hatching a thought."
"Isn't hatching usually associated with eggs?"
"Yes, Anya, it's an expression."
"Well it's a weird one."
"I agree," Andrew whined, "It's not exactly the greatest metap-"
"Shhh," Buffy insisted. "Wait, wait, hang on. What if… wait, wait."
"We're waiting, Buffy," Willow said encouragingly.
"Faith," she said after a moment, looking sharply at her from across the table. "Faith, what did the First Slayer say to us – to the dream me?"
"Helluva lot of things, B."
Buffy grumbled, "No. Specifically, what did she tell us? What did she and the old woman tell us?"
"Take hold of the power given to you," Faith recited.
"Wait, we're going back to the dreams from a few days ago now?" Andrew complained, "I thought we were talking about last night's dream."
"Keep up, Andy" Spike quipped at him.
"What did she say?" Buffy muttered, "What did she say? We need to understand the power we wield. The power we changed."
"The power you changed," Faith corrected. "You died, I didn't. You changed the line."
"Okay, okay. I changed the power. Now we need to understand it? But I understand it. I'm a Slayer, I know what my power is."
"Maybe you're thinking to basically," Giles began. "Yes, you're a Slayer. But are your powers still the same? Did you feel different after you were brought back the first time?"
"Giles, that was years ago. I really don't remember. I had just died, and was focusing on killing The Master. I didn't really have time to make sure all the buttons worked and there were no new features."
"And it's not like Faith would know," Xander added, "Because her power's always been hers."
"So why would she say you don't understand your power?" Faith asked as Buffy sat down at the table for a second time, laying the scythe in front of her.
"What kind of power?" Dani asked.
"What?" Buffy looked confused. "What do you mean 'what kind of power?' I'm a Slayer. That's it."
"No, wait," Willow began, "she may have a point." The redhead flashed a smile at Dani before continuing, "When the First Slayer said you didn't understand your power, wasshe talking about your powers as a Slayer?"
Faith frowned, "What other powers would she have been talkin' about?"
"What were you talking about with her when she said this?"
Buffy closed her eyes, remembering, "We were talking about defeating The First. I was trying to get her to tell me how to defeat it. So, what? She was talking about this secret power we don't know about that will defeat The First? That's the power we don't understand."
Giles shook his head slightly and drummed his fingers on the table, "The scythe?"
"She didn't mention it."
"But she was holding it?"
"The scythe is just a weapon, it doesn't-"
"I thought you said it was magical?" Dawn spoke up.
Willow nodded, "It is. It's connected to the Sla-"
"Hold on," Buffy said, holding a finger in the air and cutting her off.
The blonde sat still for a moment, staring blankly ahead as she made some sort of connection. Faith suddenly had a strong urge to wave a hand in front of her face, just to see if she'd notice. Anya began humming the Jeopardy theme song when Buffy didn't start talking again; Xander had to nudge her to make her stop.
"Well?" Spike eventually asked.
Again, Buffy only addressed her sister Slayer. "Faith, what did she tell us?"
"I thought we just did this."
Buffy shook her head. "Humor me, okay? What did she say? The power we have to stop the darkness – The First – can't be told. She couldn't tell us. She said we have to discover it. What did she say right after?"
"It was about the power. She said it wasn't focused or understood. And something else. What was the other word?"
"B, you're asking the wrong girl. I'm not so good at regurgitating words."
Dawn smiled, "Which would be why you didn't finish high school."
"Can it, Baby Summers."
"Faith," Buffy insisted.
"B, I have no idea."
"It was a word. It started with… I think it started with a t."
"You think?" Andrew questioned. "That isn't a lot to go on. There are a lot of words that start with t."
Buffy ignored him. "T something. T something. Toned? Tracked? Tampered with?"
"Is this one word really that important?" Faith asked, but the look Buffy gave was answer enough. Yes. This word was very important.
"Talented?" Buffy continued, "Taken? Or tainted? Targeted? Was it targeted? It could have been that."
"Our power isn't targeted?"
"Toasted?" Anya offered.
Andrew added, "Teleported?"
"I don't think that's the direction we're looking in," Giles scolded, looking at them disapprovingly.
Faith's eyes roamed the room as people began offering words to the blonde. Buffy just kept shaking her head, not liking any of the suggestions. Faith tried remembering, but she had no idea what the word was. She could describe what the First Slayer looked like, but couldn't recite word-for-word what she'd told them.
"Tested?" Dawn offered.
"Trained?" Dani asked seconds later.
"That one! She said our power wasn't… trained. Power. Trained. Oh, wait." This seemed to be Buffy's new favourite word, telling them all to hold on as she figured things out.
"Buffy," Spike grumbled, "If you're going to keep doing this, the least you could do this think out loud, so the rest of us have a bloody clue what it is we're supposed to be waiting for."
"I don't understand the power I changed," Buffy began slowly. "It isn't trained. This power, that I – made, the power I made, changed, whatever. We don't understand it because we aren't looking in the right spot. It needs to be trained. She told me to 'be aware of those around me.' And then something about being aware of what has changed…" she dropped off, struggling.
Faith picked up, "Something like what's changed through the line because you walk. I remember that, the way she worded it was really weird."
"That's it, that has to be it."
"Buffy," Willow said softly.
"Hear me out, okay? What's the power Slayers have that isn't trained?" She was looking at Faith as she asked this.
Andrew moaned, "We're back to them again? We're just going in circles."
"What's changed because I still walk, because I didn't die? The line. The Slayer Line. If it weren't for me dying, Faith wouldn't be a Slayer."
"Thanks for that, by the way. The dying thing. Appreciate it."
Buffy continued as if the brunette hadn't interrupted her, "Instead of one, there's two. I changed the line. I change the power I wield. But I haven't taken hold of all the power I have. The Potentials."
"But we're trying to gather as many of the girls as we can," Giles pressed. "Having them all here is only proving to be more irksome than useful at this point."
Buffy shook her head, still looking at Faith but addressing Giles and the rest of the room, "Because we haven't accessed their power, we haven't trained them."
"B, what the hell have we been doing if we haven't been training them?"
"Not training physically to hold a weapon, training them in the sense that we haven't prepared them. The reason we could hear them in the dream, on the other side of the web. Because they aren't trained properly yet. The web, the web… they're on the other side of the web because they aren't Slayers. They aren't ready yet. And the web…"
Buffy suddenly looked over at Willow, "Connections. You said the web can mean connections. Faith and I are connected to the other girls, because we're Slayers and they're Potential Slayers, right? The connection isn't as strong between us and them as it is between Faith and I; which is why we could see each other but we could only hear them."
The whole room had fallen eerily silent, listening. It was like Buffy was the only one with the translation key. She was the only one making everything fit into place. Faith felt a little intimidated, but didn't want to interrupt the other girl.
"What do we have to do to be able to see them?" she asked.
Dani broke the silence, "Bring them to the other side."
Buffy smiled ridiculously wide, "Exactly."
"But, wait, B," Faith started. She glanced around the room before she continued, seeing multiple frowning faces. Clearly everyone was having the same line of thoughts as her. "Wouldn't that mean…?"
"Exactly," the blonde repeated, jumping to her feet. "We need to turn the Potentials into Slayers. That's how we defeat The First."