Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I do own the Iron Coin, the original characters, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Thanks again to my beta-reader, Starway Man.

Author's Note: For those interested, I've started a tumblr at: alkenifanfiction . Tumblr . Com (take away the extraneous spaces, obviously), for the purposes of talking on a somewhat meta-level about my fanfics – my reasons for doing X instead of Y, how I feel about this or that character or thing from the fandom, and so on. One of the things it will include is some discussion of concepts, themes or information about the fics themselves that are too long for an author's note, and that I really can't fit into the story itself, due to a lack of space or a lack of an appropriate moment story-wise to explore it. Should be pretty interesting, if you like to get as meta about fics and the fandom as I sometimes do.

Don't need to have a tumblr to look at it, so feel free to check it out periodically, as I'll make posts about all my fics there, and potentially thoughts about past fics of mine, or even upcoming projects in the world of fanfiction. If you're interested, check it out. If you're not, well, on with the fic!

The Iron Coin Chronicles: Season 1

By Alkeni

Episode 13: Consequential Sisterhood

January 23rd, 1999

Library, Sunnydale High

The entire room – which had, just moments before, been fairly screaming with sound – fell silent as Amy collapsed to her knees, almost at the same time Catherine Madison's lifeless form collapsed face-down onto the floor.

Gasping in pain, Xander struggled to sit up with one hand. He tried to move his other hand, but quickly stopped as a scream of pain was ripped from his lips. Biting down, he suppressed the screams, but the young man's senses were overwhelmed with pain, nothing else really registering for a minute.

Faith hurried over to Buffy, lifting the desk that had pinned the other Slayer with ease. Oz was on his feet quickly – a look towards Willow told him that she was alright, so he made his way to Xander, seeing the young man's limp arm. Carefully, he hooked his hand under Xander's shoulders and lifted him to his feet, the other teen sucking in air through clenched teeth at the pain.

"Thanks." Xander managed after a moment. Oz nodded, then went over to Willow, as Cordelia and Giles got to their feet, battered and bruised, but still fundamentally alright. Cordelia hurried over to her boyfriend, careful to avoid brushing against his damaged arm.

"We need to get you to a hospital," Cordelia said softly, but in no uncertain terms. She looked around the room. Apart from Xander's arm, and the slight burns on Faith's stomach – her top was half-charred and gone in a few spots – no one seemed to have more than small cuts or bruises. The library was a complete shambles, true, but at least no one was badly hurt.

Well, no one but Catherine Madison, who seemed to be suffering from a terminal case of the 'my heart just exploded out of my chest' syndrome.

Once on his feet, Giles was the first to speak. "How the bloody hell did you do that?" He demanded, looking at Amy. "That was a, a killing curse, or some such thing! Magicks like that should be far beyond your abilities, you..." He started to continue, but then saw Amy's reaction – rather, lack thereof. She wasn't moving. She wasn't speaking. She wasn't even shifting her gaze from her mother's body.

"Leave off her, Jeeves!" Faith demanded, stepping between Giles and Amy. "She-"

"She just killed her mother, Faith." Buffy interrupted, raising her voice. "I think we're way past 'leave off her' at this point."

Faith got into Buffy's face. "Fine, she killed her. So what!? That bitch was going to kill all of us, if she'd gotten the chance, remember? It was self-defense!"

"It's a great deal more than any moral issues regarding the killing of Catherine Madison." Giles objected after clearing his throat. "It's, uh, how on earth Amy was able to do it in the first place. The amount and kind of magical power to effect death in such a manner-"

"I didn't know...I don't know how..." Amy said suddenly, her voice hollow, empty and toneless. She started to babble, "I just...I just didn't want her to hurt Faith...I didn't want her to hurt anyone...never again...I was...I was so scared...I was angry...everything she'd done...I just...I just wanted her to stop...I didn't mean...I don't know..." She fell silent once more.

Buffy, hearing Amy speak, bit her lip. Yeah, Amy had killed someone. She'd killed her own mother. That...that was a big deal. But...she hadn't meant it. It wasn't, uh, pre-meditated, the Slayer recalled the word from her interview with Detective Stein last year over Ted the Robot Boy. Buffy believed Amy, believed that she hadn't known what her spell would do...that she hadn't meant to kill anyone. There was no way Amy could be lying. Not with that tone and that look on her face.

Fine. Well, no, not fine, but still. She'd killed someone, by accident, in self-defense...not meaning to. In many ways, Buffy had done exactly the same thing. She hadn't known that Ted was a robot when she'd thrown him down the stairs and he had 'died'. She hadn't meant to kill him, but for a while, she had thought she had. In the heat of the moment, she had, essentially, killed him. The guilt she'd felt afterwards wasn't completely undone by the revelation that Ted hadn't been human, not really. She had killed what she'd then believed to be a human being.

And like Faith had said, Catherine Madison...she had been trying to kill them all. And she'd been about to start with Faith...so Buffy couldn't just condemn Amy as a murderer, a killer...besides...

"We need to do something about the body." Buffy spoke up, cutting in as Giles stated to speak again. She looked at the Watcher, and then everyone else. "We can handle the rest of it – whatever it is – after that. But first off, we need to get the remains out of here. Or, well, raise your hand if you want to call the cops and try to explain all this to Detective Stein. Any takers?" No one moved. "Thought not."

As the Slayer finished up, everyone – Buffy included – just sort of looked at everyone else for a moment, silent. Finally, Xander spoke up, looking over at the older Chosen One. "Okay, Buff, do you have any ideas on where to dump the body?"

Buffy shook her head. "Nope, sorry. I've never had to think about how to get rid of a dead body before."

"How helpful." Cordelia replied dryly. She gestured to the dead Catherine Madison. "We got a corpse on our hands, someone who's been missing in action for over two years no less, and all you can do is say we need to get rid of it, without offering any solutions of your own. Like I said, helpful." Xander inclined his head to the left a little, in agreement with Cordelia.

"Well, I don't see you offering any ideas, Cordelia. Or you, Xander! You can both snark later, after we fix this. Anyone else?" Xander had the decency to look a little chastened, but Cordelia just rolled her eyes a little.

"Maybe we could dissolve the body." Faith offered. Everyone looked at her. "I mean, isn't that what psycho-serial killers do in those stupid TV shows?" She asked defensively. "Dissolve the victims' bodies in acid, or whatever?"

"We had the right stuff, should be possible..." Oz said slowly, but his expression suddenly looking distasteful.

"We'd have a better chance of success getting enough lye, i-i-if we really wanted to go down that road." Willow pointed out. "But...well, I don't know about any of you, but desecrating the dead doesn't exactly appeal."

"Hey, no offense, but she was an evil bitch who woulda killed all of us and never lose a moment's sleep over it afterwards. I say, desecrate away!" Faith countered, to Cordelia's emphatic agreement.

"No." Amy cut in. "She's still-" she trailed off, looking away from her mother's body. "Isn't there another way?"

"Yes, well. There are, uh, several options..." Giles said, after clearing his throat lightly for attention. "First and foremost, if we're going to move the body anywhere, we, we're going to need gloves. I don't want the Sunnydale police to check for fingerprints for once, and find any of ours." The Watcher stepped into his office and rummaged around for a moment, coming out with a box of those disposable crime-scene gloves.

"What, were you a Boy Scout or something, Giles?" Buffy asked, wondering why on earth he'd had any of those on hand.

"Please, Buffy, the-the Watchers Academy was telling its trainees to be prepared for anything, well, centuries before scouting started up." Giles removed a pair of the gloves and put them on. "As for what we do with the body, the quickest and simplest option would to carry it out of here, find the grave of a recently risen vampire and drop it in. We'll need to inter the remains properly, true, but that shouldn't be a, a, a major issue." He looked to Amy. "There are still things we'll need to discuss after that's done, however. Burying the body won't bury the rest of the problems, as it were."

Amy nodded slowly, haltingly. Her mind was still reeling in horror...her mother, dead by her hand. But...what had she expected to happen? Her mother had been insane...had been going to kill her...kill everyone else...kill Faith. Faith, who had saved her life...but...she'd killed her mother. She hadn't meant it...but...and the spell, those words...whoever had given the spell to her, whoever he was...he had known...he'd had to...but she'd had no other choice.

None. No matter how she tried to figure out what else she might have done, Amy simply couldn't. She'd killed her mother. Not on purpose, but it had nonetheless saved her life and everyone else's. The responsibility was on her...she'd known there was a catch...some cost...

But she hadn't cared. She'd killed her mother. The woman who had given birth to her – as much as she'd always seemed to regret doing it, by her own words – but...

Amy's mind swam in confusion, regret, guilt, sorrow, fear, anger, at everyone, at herself, at her mother, at the man who'd given her the spell...unfocused anger, undirected fear...

Refusing to direct her eyes back to her mother's dead body, she looked towards Faith, and then Giles. Slowly, Amy nodded. "Alright. Fine."

Faith could hear the shaking in the other girl's voice, the uncertainty. On the plus side, she doesn't sound like she's got no fucking personality at all. Faith wasn't sure why it mattered so much to her. There was...well, the fact that Amy had saved her life – had killed her own mother to save her life...and hell, she felt bad for Amy...like she'd said...the one person she'd met she wouldn't gladly trade moms with. Amy had a father that cared about her, true, but damn, the other parental unit just sucked...

January 23rd, 1999

Mayor's Office, Sunnydale

Richard Wilkins hummed to himself lightly as Spike walked into his office sullenly, arms crossed. Well, he's bloody happy.

"What?" Spike demanded. "What the hell did you need me for?"

"Language, William." The Mayor said, tossing his hand to the left lightly, almost dismissively. Spike dropped to his knees as pain lanced everywhere throughout his body, gripping his hands to his head; which was on fire with indescribable agony. "Your stubborn resistance does you credit, perhaps, but it isn't going to help you much in the here and now. I am a very patient and very understanding man, if I do say so myself. But I do not have a limitless supply of patience, or understanding. Are we clear on that?" He steepled his fingers and looked over a Spike.

"Yeah, we're blo-" Spike abruptly cut himself off, not wanting another dose of whatever spell Wilkins had used. "Uh, I mean, right, we're clear." Spike struggled to his feet, the after-effects of the pain leaving him swaying and staggering a little, as if he was just on the far side of tipsy.

"Good!" The Mayor said brightly, all smiles. He waited until Spike was no longer swaying before continuing. "Now, in a few days, some of my...well, associates, if you will, intend to activate my Hellmouth and destroy the world. I can't let them get away with something so impolite and unneighborly, so you're going to have to ensure they get dealt with."

"No problem. Still, isn't that sort o' thing what you keep them Slayers around for?" Spike demanded, slipping his hands into the pockets of his coat.

"I've always believed in backup plans, and so does the Sisterhood of Jhe. So be a team player, and make sure things turn out for the best."

"Gotcha. Still, while we're on the subject – what exactly am I supposed to do, hang around the Watcher's library until they attack?"

The Mayor shrugged slightly. "Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open. Use your best judgment to make sure the world doesn't end. Everything else will take care of itself, I'm sure."

"Right." Spike started for the door, then turned back to the Mayor. "Wait, is that it? Can I go now?"

"For now, yes, that'll be all." Wilkins returned to humming as Spike left. By now, Catherine Madison would be dead at her daughter's hand, and in just a few days, the Sisterhood of Jhe would be dealt with. It was always such a pleasure when things went exactly according to plan.

January 23rd, 1999

Library, Sunnydale High

The uncomfortable but necessary task of moving and disposing of Catherine Madison's body having been completed, the Scoobies had assembled back into the library. There was still some work to be done on getting the whole place sorted out, and Giles had drafted both Slayers into helping him. Exasperated sighs came from both his charges as a response, but after a few moments – longer for Faith than Buffy – they set to work on helping get the desks, chairs and tables set back into place, or getting replacements from storage closets. Willow and Oz, although lacking the superior strength of the Slayers, helped out where they could.

Cordelia and Xander weren't present right now, though; the cheerleader had taken her boyfriend away for medical treatment, and Giles suspected that given Xander's injuries, they wouldn't be coming back anytime soon.

"Amy, I know this is...difficult for you, to say the least, but it's also vitally important. The kind of power required to, to overcharge someone else's magical energies in the manner that you did to your mother is, uh, immense, and w-well beyond anything you should be capable at this point in your life. Outside of a, um, ritual calling on one of the old gods for empowerment, what's the most you could do with your magic before tonight?"

Amy paused for a moment considering. "I could...float pencils, perform some suggestion spells, and then there was that freezing vampires in their place trick I did last night...and even then, that took a lot of work. Few other small things, I guess. Like turning water vapor in the air into liquid water, though that was kind of a long-shot when I did it..."

"Driven by your quest for survival i-in the face of your mother's attack, yes. Which is where this must come from. Magic is a very connected to emotion and intent. During, uh, moments when emotion overtakes reason completely, often fear or anger, a spellcaster's magic can achieve things that would otherwise be impossible. But even then, there are...uh, well, upper limits on that power. The fact that you were capable of doing that to your mother suggests two things: One, that you're going to have to keep an ironclad control of your emotions in the future, or else your magic might go out of control-"

"You mean, if she gets too angry, she'll kill someone?" Willow asked slowly, edging away from Amy just a little.

"Nothing that extreme, uh, hopefully. But, err, any heightened emotion could lead to spontaneous displays of magic, with varied effects. Especially given the second factor, Amy: you possess the potential for an incredible amount of magical power. If this were anywhere other than Sunnydale, I-I'd suggest finding a reputable nearby coven to train you, both in control and knowledge. Contacting any covens that might be active on the Hellmouth, though, that would be...counter-productive, to say the least. So for the time being, at least, it seems that I'll have to provide you with some basic training." He looked to Willow. "And you as well, since you seem insistent on continuing to develop your magical talent, despite my words of warning."

"I can control it just fine, Giles!" Willow protested. "Especially if you stop being such a big ol' fuddy-duddy, and help me learn what I need to know! Hello, there's always someone trying to kill us around here, every week? Seriously, Xander makes all those jokes about you being Mr. Big Caution Man, but this town is pretty much a war zone – and sometimes, caution i-i-is something you can't afford to have in Sunnydale, not if you want to live!"

"Yes, well, you do make a point o-of sorts, and your eagerness is unsurprising." Giles looked to Amy. "But for the record, your magic, and what you've done with it, has brought you onto dangerous ground, Amy. I don't know how you can get off it, but you must learn to control your magic – if you don't want to end up becoming just like your mother."

Amy nodded, her thoughts still overwhelmed – and the idea that she could...could kill someone else with her magic, not meaning to..she had no idea what to do...and this option, what there was of it...was there any other choice?

No. Not if she wanted to stay on the straight and narrow, and not become the next Big Bad around here.

Taking a deep breath, Amy nodded. "I understand."

January 26th, 1999

Demon Nest, Sunnydale

"Willow, you okay?" Buffy asked her friend, standing back up from helping Giles to his feet.

Putting the ceremonial candle into one hand, Willow waved the other dismissively, her voice faux-chipper. "Yeah, I'm fine. Th-the shaking is a side-effect of the fear."

Buffy looked back to Giles, who was once again straightening his glasses to rest firmly on the bridge of his nose. "Thank you." He said, standing free of her assistance.

Buffy turned back to Willow. "Well, if it wasn't for that clouding spell-" She started to say.

"Yeah, it went good!" Willow gushed, pleased by her own efforts. "Nothing melted...like last time." Her voice fell a little.

"These babes were wicked rowdy." Faith drawled, holding her sword downwards by the hilt as she wandered away from the body. "What's their deal?"

"Well, uh, it would seem the Council's sources were correct. The Sisterhood of Jhe is moving in on Sunnydale. Frankly, I-I-I was hoping they were wrong. Ordinary vampires would have been far preferable." Giles sighed.

"Sisterhood of Jhe? Why does that not make me think of singing and dancing nuns?" Buffy asked the obvious, lurking question.

"Because they're anything but that, even though I'm not entirely familiar with them. I've, uh, only had a chance to do a little research on them so far, but they're a dedicated and dangerous demonic cult, not afraid to give their lives for the cause." Giles replied.

"And their cause is what, being blue and ugly?"

Giles resisted the urge to roll his eyes at Faith. "The, ah, end of the world, actually. It's standard operating procedure for demon cults." He knelt down and touched a pen to the necklace around the demon's neck, lifting it up some. "If I'm going to figure out exactly what they're up to here, then we'll want to gather any artifacts they have."

Buffy looked around. "I thought Xander was going to be here to help us out. Anyone know why the no-show, on his part?" Not that she minded the fact that he wasn't here. While her male friend wasn't useless in a fight – far from it – he really wasn't a front-line kind of guy. Well, not against non-human opponents. He'd been trying to get better at fighting in the big leagues, just like he'd been learning Latin...but still. Normal human, and all that.

Well, maybe not so normal these days. Buffy still had issues there, especially after hearing that Angel had temporarily been blinded for poking his nose where it wasn't wanted concerning Xander's affairs. But normal or otherwise? Despite his...new source of information, and the slight grimness that he'd adopted from time to time, Buffy knew she couldn't let whatever distrust she was feeling for Xander stand. Because it wasn't really him she was concerned about. It was whoever, or whatever, was providing him with information, and apparently not asking for anything in return.

Sadly, Miss Summers had been burned way too often in the past to believe in altruistic offers of help anymore. Still, Buffy told herself, put yourself in Xander's shoes for a second – what was he supposed to do after receiving such (apparently) legitimate information? Ignore it? Not use it to help?

No, of course not. He'd done the best he could, getting around the stupid limitations he'd somehow been put under. So now, she had stopped treating Xander with a certain distance, pretty much completely. And Xander, thankfully, wasn't seeming to hold anything against her. At the end of the day, he really was the same guy who had brought her back to life at the end of sophomore year, and could be trusted.

Buffy told herself that as firmly as she could, willing herself to believe it without question.

"He mentioned something about Queen C." Faith replied to Buffy's original query. "I figure he's at her place, preparing to get lucky for the night."

"Faith, uh, really...I, I very much didn't need any sort of mental image like that." Giles commented, removing a small totem from the hand of another dead demon.

"Besides, you can't know for sure that's what they're doing!" Willow protested. "Besides, yeah, I really don't want that image in my head either..."

"Oh, come on Red," Faith countered, smirking. "You gotta know by now that those two are screwing each other senseless, right? Only reason a guy ever gets a big, dope-y grin like that on his face, is sex! Been seeing it for months now; you telling me you haven't?"

"We can talk about Xander's sex life later...or preferably, never." Buffy opined with a visible shudder. "Right now, we have dead demons and a cult that probably wants to end the world." She looked to Giles. "The bodies?"

"I imagine we can leave these to the local scavengers." Giles noted. "Someone should check to see if Willy knows anything about where others of their kind might be, o-or what exactly they're planning."

"I'll take care of that." Faith offered. "Besides. Easiest place to score some booze, since he ain't dumb enough to try to card me." Afterwards I oughta drop by Amy's and get her smashed, after her dad heads off to work. Girl needs to get over what happened with her mom. In Faith's view, getting drunk and partying was definitely the best solution for that problem. Amy was still moping over what had happened – and well, yeah, it made sense, but Faith didn't enjoy seeing the girl like that. She saved my life. May as well try and pay her back for it.

Giles bit back a disapproving statement, and Buffy just looked at Faith oddly a moment. How can she like the taste of that stuff? Was her dominant thought. Once, just once, Buffy had tasted beer. She remembered subsequently wondering why anyone needed to be told to stay away from it.

The fact that Faith was also legally too young to drink was very much a side-issue, given everything else that her sister Slayer had gotten up to, even only counting what Buffy knew about. "Alright, fine. I'll check with Angel." The blonde Chosen One added. "See if he can get word from anyone he knows."

"A good plan. And I'll-"

"Consult your books." Buffy, Willow and Faith said in almost perfect unison, finishing for him. Giles was too tired to even glare at them for it.

January 26th, 1999

Chase Residence, Sunnydale

Once again, Cordelia's parents were out of town; and once again, she and Xander had the house to themselves, with Lupe the maid once again being allowed to go home early. And contrary to Scooby Gang opinions on the matter, the teenage couple were not currently boinking each other's brains out.

Oh, that wasn't to say that sexual relations resulting in multiple orgasms for both parties wasn't taking place – in fact, their physical relationship had become very intense lately, resulting in buying extra condoms and birth control – but such things usually took place at Xander's house, with Jessica Harris conveniently turning a deaf ear to what her son and his girlfriend got up to in the privacy of his bedroom. Still, they didn't have sex together every night; and this evening, the two crazy kids were up to something different.

"Xander, come on!" Cordelia protested, as Xander stood on a stepladder, rummaging around on one of the higher shelves in her dad's office.

"Hey, you were the one you told me you had your hair dyed pink when you were five." Xander pointed out. "So now we're going to find the pictures to prove it, one way or the other."

"Stop it, you...you dork!" Cordy protested again, grabbing at his arm. "Come down from there, dammit! I told you, you're not going to see those-" Xander shifted on the stepladder, but in concert with Cordelia's tugging, he lost his balance, falling off the ladder, colliding with the corner of Mr. Chase's desk and landing on Cordelia, both of them 'oofing' loudly. A scattering of papers fell off the desk as well, landing all over the floor.

"Get off me!" Cordelia pushed Xander off of herself, but he turned over on top of her and ran his fingers over her sides, her neck, moving quickly. Immediately Cordelia responded to the tickling, half-laughing, half-screaming in partial surprise at Xander's action. After a minute or so, she managed to get a 'Stop!' out completely, and pushed Xander away. "Not fair!" She hit him in the chest lightly. "I've told you not to do that!"

"Well, hey, I thought you liked it. I distinctly recall something in my bedroom the other night..."

"That's not what I – MMPH!" Cordelia didn't get the chance to finish her sentence, as her boyfriend locked his lips against hers and proceeded to mine for tonsils. Harris was talented enough with his tongue to distract her for a few minutes, before she finally pushed him away after feeling a suspicious bulge in his pants. "God. Is sex all you think about?"

"Honey, I'm straight, eighteen, and in love with the most beautiful woman I've ever met. Do the math, already!"

Cordelia felt her insides melt at once. They always did, after hearing the L-word from her boyfriend's lips. Even after all these months, she never got tired of hearing that Xander freaking Harris loved her. Her. Not the most popular girl in school, not the rich high society princess, not the girl who'd made his life hell up until the eleventh grade. Just her. "Well, yeah, I have. And even putting aside the fact you lucked out light years beyond what you should have..."

"Something I give thanks for daily, just for the record."

"As you should, doofus. Just remember, though, I'm Cordelia Chase! And I'm the one who decides when and where you get to have me." Warning sternly delivered, she looked over at the fallen papers. "Oh, crap!" She pulled herself to her feet. "Come on, gimme a hand. We'd better get these back on the desk, or my dad's going to be pissed. Last time his paperwork got screwed up, he yanked all my credit cards for a week!"

"Well, we wouldn't want that." Xander said with an un-serious smile, but he helped her gather the papers up. "I mean, Cordelia Chase, Queen of Sunnydale High without her Visa..." He trailed off when he saw Cordelia, standing stock still, one of the pieces of paper in her hand. "Cordy? What is it, what's wrong?" He stepped closer to her, craning his neck a little to read the paper. Damn, that print was small.

"Dammit, dad..." Cordelia cursed softly. "What the hell did you do?!"

That was when Xander saw three letters right at the top of the paper, in clear, bold, black ink. Letters that rarely meant anything good for any U.S. citizen.


January 27th, 1999

Library, Sunnydale High-detail

"Based on the artifacts we recovered from them, and taking into account the current astral cycle-" Giles started to say, setting a book down near the door into his office.

Buffy interrupted. "Giles, I don't need to see the math. Just tell me the final number."

Despairing of Buffy ever taking seriously the difficulties of research, Giles got straight to the point. The grim, serious, deadly point. "They intend to open the Hellmouth."

Wait, what? I didn't hear that right. Did I? Buffy looked up at Giles. "The Hellmouth...the one that opens..." She turned her head, looking at the table – or rather, right next to it.

Giles nodded. "About twenty feet from where you're standing." His own gaze was directed to the same spot, while, as if to punctuate the mood, Oz, now fully transformed into his werewolf aspect, howled and crashed up against his cage, clawing at it, escape and mayhem and slaughter the only things on his lycanthropic mind.

"Well," Buffy said slowly, "We'll just have to stop them."

"Given that the Beast that rose the last time the Hellmouth partially opened would be the prelude to the end of the world, most definitely. Did Angel have any helpful information?"

"He didn't know where they might be hiding, but he'll keep his eyes and ears open." She looked away from the spot, back to Giles. "How do we stop them? Better yet, how long do we have?"

"Killing them all, if we can manage it, would be the most effective option. Uh, there may be some rituals that can stop them from opening the Hellmouth, depending on when they try it...but as for the when, I have no idea. According to Faith, Willy doesn't know much that's helpful either."

"So, what, we're flying blind here? We don't know when they're going to do it, or even where they are so we can kill them first?"

"Essentially, yes." Giles admitted. "Well, I've warned the Council. Given the enormity of the situation we're dealing with, they'll send us some support within a few days. They have a team in Vancouver that was sent to deal with a cult of Lurite demon-worshippers, and more will arrive as they can. If we can just have a few weeks, we can deal with the Sisterhood and be done with it."

"Giles, how often do we have a few weeks between finding out about the latest bad-guy plan to destroy the world, and the bad guys starting up with it?" Buffy asked.

"Well, never, I suppose." Giles admitted.

"My point exactly."

January 28th, 1999

Weatherly Park, Sunnydale

"Faith, I appreciate you trying," Amy said slowly, as they made their way through a park, the dark and heavy Sunnydale skies above them. "But I don't think I want to get that drunk again. Or really, drunk at all again. And...I don't know if it really helped..." Her expression and tone was apologetic...she really did appreciate Faith trying.

"Hey, getting drunk isn't something you want to do anymore, that's fine." She looked to Amy. "At least now you're less...well, all robot-y."

"Uh, I've had some time to think about things. And it helps that you're trying, really. Because – well, everyone else is kind of giving me a wide berth. Well, apart from Buffy. She's not being very judgmental either, but she's still not actively coming over to try and help. I really appreciate-"

Suddenly Amy went quiet with an 'oof' sound, and Faith turned to see her sprawled on the ground, a blue-skinned demon – another one of that crazy 'Sisterhood' standing there. Faith lunged at the demon, pushing her back a few feet with a kick to the legs, but not knocking her down. Still, it gave Faith the opening she needed. Ducking down, she pulled a knife from her boot. The Jhe demon came at her again.

"Nothing will stand in the way of our triumph!" The demon hissed. She grabbed at Faith, throwing her aside, then following after her.

"I think you being dead will get in the way of winning." Faith replied, jumping smoothly to her feet. Behind the demon, she saw Amy struggling to her feet. She tried to gesture at the witch to get away, now. Of course, she couldn't let the demon know what she was doing, either...and either Amy wasn't going to listen, or she wasn't getting the message, because the witch made no attempt to run for it as she pulled herself up.

Faith's attention was pulled away from Amy as the demon-bitch swung a fist at her. Faith ducked, and stabbed at the demon, who herself evaded the attack. The two were soon engaged in a brutal back and forth, managing to land a few kicks and punches – Faith even got a minor scratch onto the demon's arm – but neither taking the other down. Suddenly, the demoness froze – for perhaps a split second, with Amy behind them and her arm outstretched. But then the demon was moving again. With a kick to the chest, Faith was sent staggering back, and the soulless creature moved for Amy.

"Your magicks are puny, like your own mortal nature!" The demon hissed, moving towards Amy. The Madison girl screamed and started to run, but the demon was moving faster than expected – just as the demon reached out for Amy, Faith grabbed onto it, one arm around its middle, pulling it back. Swinging her knife around, she got the demon right in the side...

And God-damn, but that didn't slow it even a little.

The Jhe demon pushed back, throwing Faith off her, and then the demon picked the Slayer up like a rag doll, banging her against a chain-link fence once, then twice. Faith kicked out at the demon, but she only got her leg caught in a vice-like grip, once again swinging Faith around and into the fence – then, in a blur of black leather coat and peroxide-blonde hair, the demon was fighting someone else. The guy's speed, the punches he was delivering to the demon said he wasn't human...then she saw the face. Spike.

Granted, she'd only seen the guy once, that night Willow was kidnapped – but Faith knew he and Buffy had a history, and so did her boy-toy Angel. And that he was evil.

So what the hell's he doing? Moving away from him, and the fight, Faith went over to Amy. "Go find Giles."

"I'm not going to just leave you!" Amy countered.

"Amy, God damn it-" Faith started to argue with her – but with a loud cracking sound, Spike twisted the neck of the Jhe demon, letting it drop to the ground in a dead heap of flesh. Faith pulled a stake from her pocket, ready to move on Spike.

"Oi, Slayer, no need for that. I'm on your side – well, tonight, anyway."

"Like I'm supposed to believe that, Billy Idol?"

"'Ere, don't you call me that! And it's not my choice, believe me." Spike said, frowning. "And as much as I'd love to add a third Slayer to my kill count before I take on Goldilocks, Trick's got dibs on killing you. Besides, sodding hell – you do have an end of the world to stop. You know, complete with a Hellmouth opening?" Spike lit a cigarette and then, taking a long drag from it, jumped over the chain-link fence. "Not the first time I've allied meself with the enemy to prevent this world from ending, luv. Ask the Watcher if ya don't believe me. Be seeing you, Slayer..." He subsequently vanished from sight.

"Has this town always been so crazy, and I never even noticed until now?" Amy asked, looking bewildered.

"Beats the hell out of me."

January 28th, 1999

Outside the Bronze, Sunnydale

Xander made his way to Cordelia's car, he had brought his girlfriend here to the nightclub to enjoy herself for the evening; but of all the rotten luck, he'd run into Jack O'Toole on the way back to the vehicle to retrieve her purse. Well, maybe it wasn't exactly or entirely luck; these days, knowledge of the Jester and the Librarian of Fate had prejudiced Xander's viewpoint on such things a lot.

Be that as it may, though, upon realizing O'Toole was a psycho with a long knife called 'Katie', "You gave it a girl's name. How very serial killer of you," Xander commented.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately depending on your point of view, Cordelia came out of the club looking for him. "Xander? What's taking you so long?"

Getting annoyed at the interruption, Jack went to stab Harris before getting back to business; namely, stealing a car to go and raise his buddies from their graves. But Harris turned out not to be such an easy mark, as they struggled for control of 'Katie'...

Cordelia screamed Xander's name as she watched the battle, and then a Sunnydale PD cop showed up. "Hey! What's going on here?" He demanded.

"Nothing. Just rasslin'." Jack tried to bluff his way out of it, as he hid the knife.

"As if! He just tried to stab my boyfriend!" Cordy yelled, before Xander had the chance to say anything.

Looking at the cut on Xander's cheek and then at the other person present, the police officer smiled in recognition. "O'Toole? What a surprise…" Gun out the man then pushed the zombie up against the wall, frisked him and then cuffed him like this had really made his day. "You're under arrest. You have the right to remain silent…"

Finishing the spiel the bluesuit dragged the zombie away, after getting Xander and Cordy's names and addresses for the paperwork and court appearance.

In the meantime, Cordelia had started fussing over Xander's minor wounds. "Are you okay?"

Xander sighed. "Yeah, I'll be fine…"

At that point, Angel came out of the club. He stopped as he saw the two teens not far away, "You two alright?"

"Yep. More or less." Xander shrugged. He then looked more closely at the ensouled vampire. "You look worried, pal. Anything we should know?"

"Tonight's the end of the world, apparently."

Xander and Cordelia stared at each other and said in perfect unison, "AGAIN?"

January 29th, 1999

The Quad, Sunnydale High

Cut, banged up, or bruised – or with a broken arm, in the case of Buffy – the entire Scooby gang, even Cordelia, were sitting around two pushed-together picnic tables. Even Faith and Amy were present during this lunchtime.

"...and even after the Hellmouth closed, you could still hear it screaming." Willow said of the Hellmouth Beast – which had indeed, managed to emerge from the Hellmouth last night, during the worst part of the fight against the Sisterhood of Jhe.

Oz looked at Buffy. "But Angel's going to be okay?"

Buffy nodded. "He was only out for a few minutes..." She swallowed. "Longest of my life."

"I will never forget that thing's face." Willow said, shaking her head slowly. "Its real face, I mean."

"Yes." Giles agreed slowly. He looked over at Buffy as she started to speak.

"I don't even know how you managed. It was the bravest thing I've ever seen." The Summers girl told him.

"Stupidest." Giles corrected, even as he grinned. Despite himself, he gently touched the bandages on his neck, to make sure they were in place. The scratches on his face and ear weren't bandaged, though. "But, the world continues to turn."

"It's kinda mind-boggling, though," Amy said slowly. "That it is, I mean..."

Willow agreed, "No one will ever know how close it came to stopping. Never know what we did."

Xander shrugged. "Yeah, I dunno. It's annoying how we can't tell everyone we saved the world, but you know, that's just the way it is."

"Still, we should be able to tell people. I mean, hey, they should be on their knees thanking us for saving their butts!" Cordelia said from next to her boyfriend.

"No one would believe you." Giles pointed out. "The veil of ignorance is too strong, and these days, the kind of worldwide panic that would result from such disclosure would be, um, utterly catastrophic."

"Can't say I didn't sleep better before knowing about all this." Oz commented. "But, question: what's the deal with that disarmed bomb in the boiler room? And Jack O'Toole's body next to it – and those zombies as well?"

"Even better question," Faith interjected, missing the look that Xander and Cordelia shared. "Why the hell was Spike fighting the Sisterhood last night, or at least enough to help me out that one time? And what did he mean that it wasn't his choice? Someone else is calling Captain Peroxide's shots now?"

"That's, that's entirely possible – Trick did, uh, save his unlife for a reason, after all." Giles noted. Before he could continue down that line of argument, the bell rang, signaling the start of afternoon classes. As they all – apart from Faith, who wasn't a student here – got up and grabbed packs and books, Cordelia approached Willow.

"Willow-" Cordelia started slowly. "Can we talk after school? Alone?" She almost bit her lip. She'd successfully managed to blow Xander off about the IRS letter...but Cordelia had done some extra poking around in her dad's office over the past three days...and there had been no obvious signs of financial irregularities, but...

"Cordelia, what?" Willow almost couldn't believe it. They'd been getting along a little better lately, and last night had been something of a bonding experience, but they still mostly just managed to be civil for Xander's sake.

"Willow...there's isn't an easy way for me to say this, so I'm just going to say it. I need your help."