A/N: There'll be one more chapter after this one, folks.
Faith wasn't sure exactly what she was expecting to happen when Willow began her spell, but the white hot pain that surged through her caught her so off guard she hit the ground, landing hard on her hands and knees and gasping for breath. Buffy landed right next to her, wincing and coughing and clutching at her chest, as if trying to pull the pain out.
"Faith," Buffy forced out, "Faith, look."
Her body was beginning to hum, the Slayer inside her beginning to take life like Faith had never felt before. Faith forced her eyes up, trying to see what Buffy saw.
The First was looking down on them all, eyes pitch black and face contorted in rage.
"No," it snarled, bending down and tossing its arms, sending Potential girls and übervamps alike flying away. "No, you cannot stop me."
"Then we'll die trying," Buffy yelled, getting to her feet and roughly pulling Faith up to join her. The brunette gasped automatically, a reflex reaction to the pain, but the wave of agony didn't come. She glanced down; her stomach and side were both still ripped and shredded beyond belief, but the pain was gone.
It's the Slayer power, Faith realized, turning with a start to glance at Willow. The witch's power was awakening the beasts inside her and Buffy, but it was also awakening the power that came with them, blocking out all the pain as it began to heal.
Spike stood next to Willow, keeping a wary eye on her. None of the übervamps tried to draw any closer since her spell began, but he clearly wasn't planning on leaving her side.
Both the ground underneath them and the air around them shook and cracked with The First's fury, but the air around Willow moved independently, swirling around her with a mind of its own. Her eyes were open, black and unseeing as she worked her magic, knuckles white with how hard she was gripping the scythe.
Buffy's gasp forced Faith to look back at what was going on in front of her. Like before, the übervamps were beginning to disintegrate, their old and evil power getting absorbed by The First, its last attempt at making itself stronger to fight them.
"I will kill you all," it roared, voice low and reverberating inside Faith like the deep clang of church bells. "You're pretty parlor tricks cannot stop the darkness as it blankets the world in death and despair. My evil power will rule."
"If you're going to rule," Buffy quipped, and Faith shook her head, because only Buffy could try to mock her enemy at a time like this, when the thing they were fighting was big enough to literally squash them like bugs. "Then I'd suggest flossing. I can see those nasty canines, and they don't look pretty."
The beast surged a step forward, both arms reaching forward to grab at them. Buffy leaped and ran to the left, Faith moved to the right, both narrowly avoiding its massive hands.
Again The First let out an enraged cry, stomping one of its massive hoofed feet and crushing the body of a fallen Potential. Faith winced, unable to do anything to stop it. She turned her head, intent on making sure Willow and Spike were okay, when the first scream happened.
The wind was whipping past her, stronger than anything Faith had ever felt, but the scream tore through it easily, cutting through the darkness around them and making them all jump. But before Faith could even locate which girl was screaming, another started. And then another.
She felt the Slayer inside her rumble, answering the girls' calls.
Willow's spell was working.
Faith watched in disbelief as, one by one, each and every one of the Potentials loosely encircling The First let lose a scream as the power of the Slayer line impacted them, jolting through their bodies and sending some of them off their feet. Faith knew it hurt, remembered just how crushing and suffocating and blinding the pain was, but in a moment it would be over, and they would all be strong.
Their pain lasted longer than Faith remembered her own did, only stopping when she heard the clatter of the scythe falling to the ground behind her. She wanted to turn and look, but was too afraid to take her eyes off The First.
"No," it howled, "No it cannot be, there can only be one."
"Um, did you miss the memo where there were two of us, you big ugly goat?" Buffy taunted, not flinching as its eyes narrowed and it snorted in anger at her. "What're you gonna do, glare me do death?"
It roared, tossing its head and stooping low again, trying to implant Buffy on one of its massive horns.
But she was too quick, jumping out of its reach and then twirling back in front of it. "You're going to have to do better than that, big guy."
The First dropped its head again. Buffy flinched, jumping back, but she wasn't its target. It's horn impacted the girl standing closest to Buffy, making her scream in pain before it tossed it's head and sent her flying, landing in a heap a few dozen feet away.
Buffy gritted her teeth. Faith gulped.
"You think because you give them power that it makes them strong? You think your pathetic army can stop me?" It snarled, and the ground shook underneath them, sending most of them to their knees. Faith staggered back a few steps, avoiding a large crack that appeared in the pavement. Looking harder, she noticed more of them, spiraling out from the ruins of the school. If The First kept up its idea of rocking the earth underneath it, it was going to bring the whole town down.
"I told you, you big overgrown freak with antlers, I'm not stopping until I take you down." Buffy turned, head whipping back and forth as she looked at all the girls surrounding them, her voice getting louder and carrying over the wind. "Do you feel it now, the power? Do you feel the birthright that's been passed down to you? I want you to believe in that power. You've all been Chosen now. Now we stand and fight, not alone, but together."
The First was still crouching low, its arms within reach. Lifting her sword, Buffy charged forward, plunging it as deep into its flesh as she could. The other girls immediately followed suit, closing in and trying to bring it down.
It was in vain though. The First laughed maniacally, their weapons hardly strong enough to do any real damage. It stomped its cloven feet as it easily fought back against the assault, sending the Slayers right and left as it brushed them off as if they were flies.
Faith knew she had to help. She had kept her grip on her sword, even after Willow's spell had sent her to the ground. She ignored the rational side of her that knew that, even if she was no longer in pain and her Slayer healing was already starting, that if she kept up in the battle, it would only make her wound worse.
She moved forward, not feeling the stabs of pain that shot through her stomach, as her blade hit home in one of The First's legs. She whirled, spinning out of the way of its kicking foot and trying to avoid getting trampled.
In focusing on its feet, Faith entirely missed her chance to leap out of the way before one of its horns impacted her good side, sending her crashing to the pavement a few feet away, the wind knocked out of her.
That pain she could feel. The whole side of her body was numb from The First's impact with her.
Stupid fucker, she growled to herself, struggling to get her feet back under her.
Despite the wind, Faith heard Willow's voice, weak and quiet. She turned, watching out of the corner of her eye as Spike held her, supporting her as she reached down to grab the fallen scythe.
The minute her fingers touched the weapon Faith felt the rumble of the Slayer inside her again, loud as a gong. It felt like it was trying to burst out from inside her, awake and alert and it's only thought to destroy the demon before them.
She caught Willow's eye and saw her tight-lipped smile, before the redhead's eyes flickered closed for a few seconds, lips moving in a silent spell.
Something bright caught her eye. Faith turned back to the battle, trying to find where it was coming from. It was just a shimmer at first, but it grew, until Buffy was bathed in a white light, radiating out from her chest.
Slowly, the other Potentials began to glow too, their power shining brightly against The First. Faith looked down at her own chest, amused to find a light shining there too. Willow was doing something to draw all their powers to the surface.
Faith could see their light was having an effect on The First. It was stomping its feet angrily and trying to shield its eyes from the light. She didn't know if this was Willow's intention, or simply a side-effect of whatever she was doing, but The First was clearly becoming agitated.
"How do you like us now, Firstie," Buffy yelled. Faith could see the feral grin on her face.
The First let out a monstrous sound as a sudden wave of darkness shot out from its hands, coating the sky in an even thicker blanket of darkness as it tried to block out their glows. It roared, the wind picking up so strongly it nearly brought Faith off her feet. The pavement around them cracked and caved-in further as the ground shook with The First's anger.
"I will destroy you," it growled, looking directly at Buffy.
"There's your problem. I'm not the only one you need to worry about. In case you didn't notice," she laughed, looking around at all the new Slayers, "we broke the lore. It's not one girl anymore. We aren't alone in our fight anymore."
"She's right," Faith jumped in, knowing they needed to get the girls not only strong, but believing in themselves for them to defeat The First. "Now we're all sworn to protect the world. Our power is their power. They've all been Chosen to stop you."
"I will bring you all down," it said, eyes flashing in anger. "Every last one of you."
"Hey jackass," Kennedy called, spinning her weapon in her hands. "Haven't you heard? The good guys always win."
As one they all attacked a second time, blades slicing and biting into flesh. It was still difficult to fight a foe so large though, because there was only so much damage they could do with it towering over them. Plus, The First seemed intent on trying to either toss them all across the parking lot, or squish them under its massive hooves.
But their light was distracting it. The First was a creature of darkness, that was why it had blocked out the sun in order to fight them. Their Slayer glow was weakening it.
"Faith," she heard Willow's sharp call from behind them. "Buffy." Avoiding getting skewered by an angry horn, Faith turned to look at the witch. She had stepped away from Spike, and had the scythe clutched in her hands again.
Faith took a step towards her but Willow shook her head sharply, "Get them all to channel their power, like their wielding their own magic, and focus on The First. Your power can blind it and you can bring it down."
"You heard the witch," Buffy yelled, never taking her eyes off the demon.
Faith was about to try and figure out what exactly Willow meant by channeling their power when the redhead called to her again, "Faith, catch!"
Not having time to blink, Faith caught the scythe. It burned warm in her hands, vibrating with the power inside of it. Willow had explained that it had a magic all its own, and Faith could feel it now, like a voice calling to her, making her insides rattle.
The First turned its head, its dark eyes turning to focus on Faith. It let out a puff of angry breath from its snout, glaring at her. Working on a hunch, Faith yelled Buffy's name before tossing the weapon to the blonde.
Buffy dropped her own sword and caught the scythe easily, and Faith watched as The First turned back to look at the other Slayer. She could see the evil glint in its eyes that wasn't there a moment ago. It thought the scythe was the source of their power.
The scythe wasn't. Willow was.
Buffy was already lifting the scythe toward The First before Faith could react. The First bent down, attempting to pick up the blonde. Her blade bit right into the demon's palm, ripping it open. It snarled in pain before enclosing its injured hand around Buffy, lifting her up and into the air. It had her arms pinned to her side, so Buffy kicked her legs furiously as she screamed at it.
"It's nothing more than an axe," it rumbled, voice low and angry. "There's nothing special about your weapon, girl." Then it opened its hand, letting Buffy fall to the ground. Faith heard the girl's sharp cry of pain when she impacted the pavement, the scythe landing next to her.
"Buffy!" Willow screamed, running towards her.
Faith felt her whole body freeze as she watched The First lock its gaze on Willow, realizing she was the cause of their magic. She tried to force her body to move, to protect Willow, to shout out a warning, but it felt like every muscle in her body was clenched in terror, unable to move.
"Nasty little witch," The First said, eyes dark and lips pulled back into an evil snarl. "I think you need to be dealt with."
Willow screamed as The First used it's uninjured, massive hand to backhand her, sending her flying back over the pavement. The sound of her hitting the ground was like gunfire to Faith's ears. Willow's body lay crumpled in a heap a few feet away, unmoving.
Faith flew across the ground, completely ignoring her own injuries as she dropped heavily to her knees next to the witch. There was blood. All Faith could see was blood. Blood and an unmoving body.
Her body froze again, unable to reach out and touch Willow, too afraid of what she'd find. She knelt there, right next to the redhead, as her blood ran cold. "Willow, no."
She felt Buffy behind her, grasping her shoulders and trying to pull her away. "Faith, we have to finish this."
"Buffy." Her voice sounded raw and hurt, even to her own hears. She turned, still staying on the ground, and watched Buffy's face contort as she got a better look at the witch.
"Oh my God, Willow." Buffy's eyes were wide, lips parted in shock.
When Faith looked back down at Willow, she felt the Slayer inside her roar louder than it ever had, it's agonizing sound ringing loud and angry in her ears. Her whole body shook with rage, her own and her demon's, as she looked at Willow's prone body. The creature inside her screamed, wanting revenge for The First taking what was theirs, Faith's and her Slayer's. Her Slayer could feel the bond she had with Willow, not because of her power, but because she cared for Willow, and it wanted to rip apart the demon that had caused this.
But Faith forced herself to rein in the beast; she was too afraid to leave Willow's side.
"Kill it," she seethed, turning back to Buffy, ignoring how the glow from her chest was beginning to glow brighter as her Slayer grew more and more furious. "You're the leader, you're the true Slayer. You need to be the one to take the kill-shot."
Buffy's eyes flashed dangerously, her lips pulled into a tight line. She locked eyes with Faith, and Faith felt her own Slayer's fury rush into and mix with Buffy's own. The blonde nodded, fingers tightening around the scythe as she spun to face The First.
Faith shifted, hands shaking as she reached to pull Willow into her arms. The side of her head was bloody, hair matted down from where she'd impacted the pavement. She cradled Willow in her arms for a moment, squeezing back the tears, and looked up to watch Buffy.
It all seemed to happen in slow motion for Faith, slow motion and as if she was far away. Everything around her seemed to dull, the demolished school, the rest of the parking lot, it all faded until all she could see was Buffy, the other Slayers, and The First towering over them. Emptiness filled her ears, so Buffy's screams sounded as if they were heard through thick glass.
She watched Buffy run forward, screaming something to the other girls. She couldn't tell what Buffy said, but it seemed to resonate with the other girls, somehow allowing them to channel their power, like Willow had told them too. The all seemed to glow even brighter for a moment before diming, all of their lift seeming to slow into Buffy, like Faith's had.
Scythe in her grip, Buffy jumped up, managing to catch her middle against one of The First's arms as it lifted and waved them, trying to block the light from its eyes. She heaved herself up, so she was standing on its still flailing limb. Then she leapt again, landing on its shoulder.
Faith felt more than heard The First's enraged roar. She squeezed Willow tighter against her, pulling the girl's head against the crook of her neck, as everything around her shook. Her own bones rattled inside her, and it felt like the whole ground might crack open and swallow them whole. She didn't let go of the girl in her arms.
Buffy swung, the enhanced power Willow and the other Slayers had given her allowing for her to slice right through The First's neck, decapitating it.
Everything turned to pandemonium for a moment. The ground shook further, the wind taking on gale-like forces as it blew in every direction. Faith hunched over Willow, still keeping her in her arms, trying to block anything from reaching the redhead.
The First's body erupted, exploding into a massive cloud of darkness. It sent everyone around them to the ground. It's body began to disintegrate, like the übervamps had, turning into pure dark power before spreading across the sky like thousands of pounds of dust, dirt and debris.
Everything went impossibly dark for a long moment before it began to fade. The sky was still dark and moody, but it slowly began to lighten as The First's power faded.
It was gone.
They'd defeated it.
"Willow?" Faith whispered, easing her hold on the other girl. Her body lay cradled against Faith's chest, held loosely in her arms. Faith felt the blood on her clothes from where it had seeped into her when she'd held the redhead, and saw the stains now across Willow's front from Faith's own bloody clothes.
"Willow, it's okay," she said softly, "We won. You can wake up now."
Tears stung like sharp knives against her eyes, but she couldn't do any more to hold them back. She drew in a shaky breath and she shook Willow's body gently. "Come on, Red."
Buffy dropped down in front of her, on Willow's other side. She was bloody and dirty, but Faith could see the dampness on her cheeks.
"Faith," Buffy said slowly. "Faith, is she…?"
"She's fine," Faith insisted, feeling exhaustion begin to drain her body. Willow was fine. Willow had to be fine. "She just hit her head."
Buffy eyed the blood as she bit down on her lip. "Faith, I…"
"She's fine," Faith said again, ignoring the waver in her voice. "It's just a scratch, it'll heal."
"She's not like us," Buffy whispered. "She can't heal like we can, Faith."
Faith shook her head, "Don't say that."
Her body stiffened as Buffy reached forward, first taking Willow's hand, and then reaching to find a pulse against Willow's neck. Faith didn't dare let go of Willow, but nothing inside her moved as Buffy's fingers pressed against Willow's skin.
"She… her pulse is really weak-"
"She'll be fine." Faith ignored the tears in her voice.
"We'll get her to a hospital."
"Faith," Buffy said, her voice breaking with her words. She regarded Faith with sad eyes, "Faith it… it might be too late for-"
"No," she hissed, pulling Willow closer. "Buffy, you can't just let her die. She's your best friend."
The tears ran steadily down Buffy's own cheeks, "Faith, I don't know what to do."
Neither did Faith, and that was what scared her. She didn't know what to do. She didn't know what to do to fix this.
"Willow, please," she whimpered, tears still falling, as she bent down and kissed her forehead. She hugged Willow close as her own body began to shake with her sobs. She felt Buffy's hand against her shoulder, squeezing, as her other hand took one of Willows.
She didn't know what to do.
She didn't want to let Willow go, she wouldn't, but she didn't know what to do.
Don't die on me, Red. Please. Please, you can't leave me alone to deal with everyone, I need you here with me. Your spell worked, you turned them all into Slayers. Don't you want to see them? Come on, Red. Please. Please say something.
Her body trembled, shaking as she cried and silently pleaded for Willow to wake up.
"You're getting blood all over me."
Faith jerked back right away, as if she had been burned. She hadn't imagined that. Willow's voice had been weak and scratchy, but it had been real. That wasn't inside her head.
Buffy gasped as Faith let out a hesitant and breathy, "Red?"
Willow's eyes fluttered open and a happy sob burst from inside Faith.
"You," Willow said slowly, "were the one bleeding. Why are you holding me?"
"Jesus, Red," Faith laughed as she tried to make the tears stop. "You nearly bashed your head open, that's why."
"Oh," she said carefully. "I don't remember that."
Buffy laughed too, shaking her head and smiling ridiculously wide, "Willow, you're okay."
"Mmm," Willow answered, beginning to nod her head and then wincing.
Faith wrapped her arms tighter around her, pulling her into a desperate hug. She felt Willow's arms lift, hugging her back. "You're okay," she muttered into Willow's neck. "God, you're okay."
Willow pulled back and smiled lightly, shifting in Faith's arms. She was still lying right next to Faith, partially in her arms, but she reached over to hug Buffy too.
When she pulled back she glanced down at Faith's stomach and opened her mouth to say something, but Faith cut her off. "It'll heal. I'm fine. Right now we're focused on you."
The redhead nodded, hand reaching up so she could brush her fingers against Faith's cheek. "Did it work?" she asked quietly.
"Yeah, Red. Your spell worked," Faith nodded, enjoying the sensation of Willow's fingertips against her skin.
"That's good," she answered. Then she frowned, "You were crying?"
Faith struggled, trying to swallow the thick lump forming in her throat. "Thought I lost you," she breathed out, voice heavy with emotion.
Willow gave a peaceful smile before reaching up, wrapping her arms around Faith's neck to pull her into another hug. Faith gave in right away, squeezing Willow tightly before pulling back to brush her lips against Willows. She let her forehead rest against Willow's, looking into the other girl's eyes. They shone back brightly at her, very much alive and okay.
Willow leaned forward, kissing Faith again. The kiss was soft, Willow's lips warm against her own. It had the slightest thread of urgency, as if Willow knew Faith needed reassurance she was okay, but it remained tender and soft. One of Willow's hands loosened its grip on Faith's neck so it could tangle in her hair. "I'm okay," she whispered against Faith's lips. "I'm right here."
Faith nodded back into the kiss, one hand skimming up and down Willow's arm. When their lips parted she pulled Willow in again, hugging her desperately close to her. She felt Willow's light laughter breath against her ear, "I'm right here, Faith. I love you. I'm right here."
Her body stiffened for a moment before softening, holding Willow close and breathing her in. Head against Willow's good side, she pressed her nose against Willow's hair as her lips hovered right next to Willow's ear. "I…" she started quietly, her voice hardly there at all. She felt Willow's squeeze of encouragement and let the words slip easily from inside her, "I love you, too, Red." She gave a soft kiss to the shell of Willow's ear before pulling back to look in her eyes again.
Willow was smiling softly, eyes bright and happy.
Faith let her eyes skim over Willow's face, once more making sure she was real and alive before leaving and landing on Buffy, who hadn't moved.
"I think you forgot about your audience," Buffy smirked.
Shit. She had forgotten about that.
She looked up, seeing Spike standing only a few steps behind Buffy. He shrugged at her, not really that interested. Clearly he was more worried that Buffy was okay than with the rather obvious show she had Willow had just put on.
Slowly, Faith untangled herself from Willow's embrace. She didn't let the witch go fully though, still made sure she stayed close, before looking past Spike.
The First was gone, its only remnants a dark stain against the grey pavement. The dark clouds were still hanging above them, but they were thinning, and the sun was already shining through.
A few bodies lay on the ground, the girls who didn't make it.
The rest of the girls hovered a few feet away, watching them. They all looked beaten and bloody, but they were standing, they had done it. Most of them had passive looks on their faces as they regarded Faith and Willow, a few looked uninterested even.
Kennedy was smirking like it was nobody's business.
She spotted Anya, supporting Giles against her. Anya looked bored, huffing as her eyes met Faith's before looking away. Giles' lips were pursed, surprise written clearly on his dangerously pale face.
Xander stood a few steps away. His arms were crossed over his chest and the slightest smile was present on his face. His eyebrows raised as Faith met his eyes, and he tipped his head forward, smiling. "I'm thinking you two have some explaining to do."
"Can it be later," Willow asked, sitting up fully and looking where Faith was. "My head feels a little woozie."
"Maybe another kiss from Faith will make it feel better."
Willow squeaked, her whole face blossoming red in embarrassment. Faith simply laughed, shook her head at Xander, and thought, What the hell, before pulling Willow back in to kiss her again.