Pawns of Prophecy

Part One

Reconciliation, Retribution & Redemption

Chapter 12

Buffy sat down on Giles' sofa. Her guide entered the room with a tray of tea and biscuits. She smiled at him; Giles' priorities were wonderful. "So," he said by way of starting a conversation as he placed the tray on the coffee table. Buffy wondered whether he secretly called it a tea table instead. "What is it you want to talk about?" He looked at her suspiciously. "You don't want to buy me a car, do you?"

Buffy was caught off guard by the question. "Why would I want to buy you a car?"

"Well, you bought me the shop and you've always hated my car."

"I don't hate it. It's a nice car in a slow fuel-inefficient way." She giggled.

"There's an auto dealership just off Main Street."

"I'm not buying you a car!" She suddenly went serious. "Giles, the shop…..I didn't mean to offend."

Giles held up his hands. "No offence, Buffy. It's a wonderful offer and a practical one, I might add; I need a secure place for my research."

"I thought so, which leads me to why I came here tonight, besides resting from fighting."

"Did you find many?" Giles enquired.

"Yes and no. More than usual but not as many as their should be considering the attacks and the destruction of the Initiative," she added as clarification.

Giles nodded sagely. "What was the other reason for you coming?"

"Oh, yes." Buffy looked down at her hands. Giles offered her a cup of tea. She smiled thank you. "The last year…before Mom…..I made some mistakes, forgot my friends." She looked up at Giles. "I didn't follow your advice or ask for it even. I….I want to start over. I want you to be my Watcher again. I desperately need your advice to support me."

"But there's so much of last year's you haven't used yet," Giles teased to lighten the moment. Buffy glared at him although it merged into a smile. "I would be honoured to be your Watcher. In truth, I have wanted to step in several times, but since you broke the link with the Council over Angel and then went to college…well I thought I'd better take a back seat…let you find your feet…."

"Yea, well I did that alright. Then tripped up. Right now, with all that has happened in the last year I feel so unsure of what is going to occur next. My dreams need a code-breaker to decipher. Sometimes I wish I could jump to your age to gain the wisdom and self assurance it brings."

Giles smiled. "When I was your age I was just as confused and doubtful of myself and my role in life. I think it was my mid twenties that I was most confident. Of course, by then I was also reckless and irresponsible. Now….well I'm just as confused and perplexed as I was as a teenager. You'll find that the period when you are most confident is just a short break in adolescence."

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Faith sat at a table in a corner of Willy's Bar. The place was dimly lit. Had it been anywhere else she would probably have gone unnoticed, such was the lack of light. However, in this place everyone noticed a Slayer when she walked in.

She stared into a glass of beer. At least she thought it was beer; it had a brownish colour that swallowed any light that hit its surface and had the pungent odour of a brewery. She dreaded the state of Willy's cellar. The plate beside the glass contained a doorstop masquerading as a piece of bread. It was balanced on the side of the plate, which contained a stew that competed with the beer for colour and texture. Faith felt Willy had read too many fantasy novels; this place was becoming a cliché of an inn from something out of Tolkien. But, she felt better here than in her motel room. The latter reminded her too much of the cell she had resided in at the LAPD's pleasure. Besides, this was the only place in Sunnydale that would serve her alcohol. "This town has such a twisted sense of priorities," she whispered to herself.

"Why, it's the black sheep of the family," came a voice to her left. Spike stood in the doorway. He saw that groups or pairs occupied most of the other tables. Conversation was mostly muted; no one revelled in his or her surroundings.

"And it's the Eunuch," Faith rebounded.

"What's up, can't find anyone to kill?"

"No. Until now that is."

Spike showed his teeth in what was meant as a smile but which caused a couple of demons on the nearby table to move mistaking it for a threat. "We could spit at each all night," he said, "or I could buy you a drink."

"I'll have a Jack Daniels."

"With beer. You don't want to mix drinks at your age."

"I was contemplating dipping my bread in the beer since it probably has more flavour than the stew."

Spike laughed genuinely and approached the bar.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

A circle of glasses lay on the table in front of them. Faith rested her chin on her hands. She studied Spike curiously. "Just how old are you?" she asked finally.

Her drinking partner looked in her direction. His eyes looked as heavy as his mood; his head ached with alcohol and cigarette smoke. "None of your business, little girl. Hey!" he shouted at Willy, "two more drinks over here."

"It must be weird to live forever," Faith uttered.

"Weird? It's bloody boring!" Faith raised her eyebrows inquisitively. "Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful!" He quoted. "Willy!"

Willy brought over two more Jack Daniels. "Hi, Willy great place you've got here," Faith teased. "Three words of advice, though" she gestured him closer and whispered in his ear, "All Bar One."

Spike laughed out loud. "Good one, slayer," he shouted raucously and then held his head in deep regret at the outburst. "Damn you girl. Whose idea was it to get drunk?"

"What's up, William, can't you hold your liquor?"

"Sod off and don't call me William. It's Spike," he said proudly.

"Spike's a cartoon dog. William's far more noble."

"Bollocks to noble. I earned that name. It's short and to the point," he burst out laughing at the unintentional pun which caused him to cradle his head again. He sat up. "I've known demons with names so long that I've fallen asleep half way through pronouncing them. Spike is a fine name feared by demons across three continents. I'm bloody well king of the World, I am."

"Wow, you're chock-full of humility tonight."

"Yea and damn proud of it too. Anyway," he countered, "What about Faith? I can't think of a more inappropriate name for you, Miss Turncoat." Faith looked away. "Awww what's up? Did I hurt the li'l Slayer's feelings?" Spike taunted.

"Fuck off."

He laughed again. This time his headache not bothering him. "You slayers think you are so tough with your bits of sharpened wood and religious icons. You'd exterminate a whole species if you could. Yet you're so easily offended it makes me want to…"he tailed off. "What are you doing here, Faith? You should be having sweaty sex in a dark room somewhere. What about Xander? He looks like he could do with some physical and I hear you've already tumbled before."

"Fuck off," Faith spat again, through clenched teeth.

Spike was highly amused when he realised. "Unless…oh that's superb. He turned you down, didn't he? So you can't be as good as you think…."

"Oh, William," Faith leaned close and kissed Spike passionately, "I'm always good. Even when I'm bad, I'm good." She stood up and walked by him leaving him alone in the bar and suitably speechless.

Spike sighed melodramatically. "Well, what are we going to do tonight, Marty? I don't know," he quoted to himself.

Willy sidled up to the blond vampire. "Are you still playing for the other side?" He asked standing alongside him as Faith disappeared from view.

"If there's any fun to be had in it. Why?"

"I heard some careless talk this evening. Seems that our local group of vampires have found themselves a new nest." He paused. Spike looked at him dangerously. "A nest of the cuckoo variety," he added.

"Enough of the bloody cryptic…oh, I see. Are we talking a large nest recently abandoned?"

Spike stood up and then contemplated his next action. "What the hell, this could be fun." He left the bar following in the same direction Faith went.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Buffy was last to arrive at Giles' apartment. She entered his living room to find Faith, Willow Giles and her father sitting down. Xander emerged from the kitchen with refreshments. He was garbed in khaki combat gear. Stakes were placed in convenient pockets of his sleeveless jacket. Buffy stifled a smirk. She joined the others. "Is it true?"

"Well, the news came from Spike who got it from Willy who heard a rumour…" Willow spoke up.

"Pinch of salt anyone?" Xander asked humourlessly from the kitchen doorway.

"Spike said for us to meet him by the cave that leads to the burnt-out Initiative base," Willow added.

"What time?" Buffy asked.

"Tonight, 2am."

Buffy nodded her understanding and took a chocolate muffin from the tray Xander was holding. "Haven't you got any blueberry ones, Giles?"

"I'm English, Buffy. I could get my specials out."

"Oh, please God not the dried biscuits." Xander uttered dramatically.

Giles looked at him dangerously. "Nice costume, Xander. Didn't anyone tell you Tina Turner stopped playing the Thunderdome ages ago?"

Faith and Willow cracked up into tears of laughter. Xander looked to Buffy in desperation. "Don't come to me for help," she admonished, her hands held in front of her. "Giles is at his most dangerous when he's making cultural references." She and Xander sat down in front of the others. "So," Buffy said eventually, "am I the only one who's surprised that the Initiative has found new tenants?"

"I thought they had closed it down," Hank spoke up for the first time. "Riley said the Government had given up on the idea of controlling the demon population."

"The army have gone but their base still exists," said Giles. "It's too large a hole in the ground to fill with concrete without everyone noticing the trucks. The entrances would have been sealed, though."

"Except the one via the cave. They didn't know about that," Buffy added.

"Everyone should get some rest. We have a few hours to go yet." Giles suggested as he rose from his seat.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Faith found Buffy standing by the window peering at the deserted street outside. She caught Faith's reflection and pivoted round.

"Do you think there's a chance there's a telepathic link between slayers?" Faith asked.

"I hope not. Why do you ask?"

"I was just thinking that if I'm going to follow you when you slip out unnoticed it would be handy if I knew when you were thinking of doing it." Faith smiled.

Buffy looked at her sister-slayer and grinned in return. "They'll get themselves killed if they join us," she said.

"And we'll probably be safer without them to worry about."

"I'm convinced."

Chapter 13

Spike approached the vicinity of the cave but stopped short. "Sod that for a laugh," he said to himself and turned back.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

The two slayers spent twenty minutes waiting and watching for Spike.

"Can't say I'm surprised, or disappointed for that matter," Faith said.

They were both jerked out of their thoughts of a certain blond vampire by a large band of replacements entering the clearing in front of the cave. Several charged without the usual smart remarks that were the norm before a fight. Buffy and Faith killed two with bolts from their crossbows. It did nothing to halt the charge of those unaffected. The slayers braced themselves in fighting poses and kicked out when their foe reached within distance. Like hitting a solid object at full speed four attackers rebounded backwards and landed on the ground several feet away. Buffy lunged with a stake at another and dodged to her right to avoid the dust in time to high kick one more. Faith chose to use her fists and broke the jaw of a vampire closest to her. She staked him as he tried to refocus his vision after the blow. She then staked another with a backward gesture of her arm when he tried to sneak up from behind.

The four who had been thrown back at the beginning recovered and charged again. This time others from behind joined them to replace those fallen. The slayers found themselves having to kick one demon out of the fight zone for every one they were able to dust. Faith defended with a stake in each hand: stabbing with the left and slashing with the right. The latter to inflict wounds to make the former easier. Buffy relied on her high kicks more as she was not so adept at close quarter fighting with more than two opponents. By kicking one out of play she could quickly cope with one up close before the former returned to fight. After several minutes they realised they were in danger of losing, and picking a brief break in the charge, they fled into the cave. They rounded a few corners in the near darkness of the labyrinth. The odd light bulb showed evidence that power was still being supplied to the cave system and thus the Initiative ahead. They stopped to regain their breath.

"Rule two," Buffy said between short bursts of breathing, "don't run into a dark cave from your enemy when you know there are more of them ahead of you."

"I'll follow you anywhere, B," Faith said with a smile. "Mind you, only out of curiosity."

They heard voices from the direction they had come. They did not seem in any hurry to catch the slayers knowing as they did there was only one direction they could take: further into the Initiative. Buffy and Faith resumed their advance.

"By the way, what's rule one?" Faith asked a few minutes later.

"Oh….don't march on Moscow in the autumn, I think."

They reached the rear entrance to the Initiative. Buffy recognised the place and the destruction she had reaped on it from her last visit. Faith was suitably impressed with both. They picked their way over upturned gurneys and medical equipment and entered the hallway. Buffy contemplated which way to turn, but had the choice decided for her as several vampires set on them. They also heard the voices of those they had just run from.

"Hold this bunch off, Faith, while I try and block this door. It'll give us some time," Buffy instructed.

Faith charged into the latest group of assailants, her arms out wide, and a stake in each hand. One weapon found it's desired home in the heart of its victim. The other wounded in a shoulder. Because the latter did not turn the demon into dust Faith had to waste precious moments extricating the wood from flesh. The intended victim, ignoring his pain, took advantage of the situation by landing a fist to Faith's ribs. She stumbled to the side: shock and pain registering. She quickly recovered by high kicking the demon in the same shoulder. He grabbed the blood stained wound in agony. This allowed Faith time to charge into him. She pushed him to the wall, her left arm rammed under his chin and she drove a stake into his heart with rage brought on by the pain she felt in her ribcage. He disintegrated before her. She turned round and let out a battle cry, half triumph and half daring anyone to take her on. Although shocked by the ferocity of the young woman before them, the others made to charge her. Buffy grabbed her arm. Faith swung round with the aim to hit out but noticed her at the last moment. "Faith, we've got to run again. There's too many here and that door wont hold off those behind us."

With the adrenaline of the last kill still pumping its way round her body Faith took a moment to focus on what Buffy was saying, but soon recovered enough to follow the blond Chosen One as she started to retreat down the corridor to the main part of the Initiative.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Hank had calmed down after twenty minutes of rage spaced between moments of despair. Willow sat next to him as he stared into nothingness. He looked round and up at Giles who stood behind the sofa, leaning his weight on the dining table. "We must go after them," Hank said for the fifth time.

"They've been gone too long. Besides, they were right to go alone."

"What, just the two of them! Despite their strength, they're still two teenagers."

"Yes, but with us tagging along they would lose whatever advantage their powers give. No, we can only wait." Giles hated this part. Being a Watcher almost always meant having to wait.

"Can't we go and cover their retreat or….." Xander tailed off.

"I know what we can do. Something more tangible," Willow stood up and faced the others. Giles looked at her questioningly. "We could do the enjoining spell again. Summon the First Slayer the same way when Buffy fought Adam."

Giles looked doubtful. "I don't know. We nearly lost ourselves afterwards."

"I'm prepared to take the risk," Xander spoke up.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

"I'm beat," Faith said letting out an exhausted sigh as she sat down behind a stack of large packing crates. She and Buffy had fought a retreating battle into the cavern of the former Initiative complex. Her ribs still hurt and it gave her no satisfaction to see that Buffy was bruised as well.

"Yea, tell me about it," Buffy commiserated. "Of course, you know we've been led to this point."

"Herded you mean." Faith afforded a glance round their barricade. She quickly resumed her position.

"Well?" Buffy asked.

Faith glanced in her direction, a sick smile on her face. "Did you ever see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?"

"Yea, of course….oh, that bad?" she stated more than asked.

"Take a look for yourself." Buffy could imagine the scene, but morbid fascination made her look anyway.

"Still, I've always been curious what the undiscovered country was like," Faith uttered from behind.

Buffy turned back round puzzled. "What, the crap Star Trek film?"

Faith gave her a disgusted look. "You really are a culture vacuum aren't you?"

"Hey!" Buffy said indignantly. "If we get out of this alive you can…tell me what you meant just then," she smiled. They both sat with their backs to the crates and savoured the minutes of rest their concealment allowed them. "We might be able fight our way out. Assuming they don't have automatic weapons, that is." Buffy said with feigned confidence. Faith gave her a sarcastic look. "Come on," Buffy persisted, "do you really want to live forever?" she smiled.

Faith sighed and moved forward to a crouching position by the edge of the crates. She turned round to Buffy, a serious expression on her face. "I'm sorry, you know?"

"For what?"

"For Angel and the whole episode with the Mayor."

"Episode she calls it…I'm sorry as well…..for the six inch blade to the stomach, I mean."

They both shook hands.

"Wow, that was a bit deep," said Faith.

"We could hug."

"Let's not…besides, it was more nine inches"

They both stood up and charged into the arena. Stakes in both hands they lashed out causing bloody gashes to the body and face of anyone who came close. For the first couple of minutes they fought side by side until their twisting high kicks caused them to widen the gap. Faith picked up some fallen masonry and threw it over her head into a charging vampire. It crushed his ribs and sent him falling back on to a colleague behind. Buffy picked up a four-foot long metal pole and used it as a staff. With the space provided by the underground base it looked as though the slayers might just have a chance.

One vampire broke away from the fight. Buffy observed him light a home-made torch of cloth and paper. He held it up to a sprinkler valve and grinned in triumph as the heat and flame set of the sprinklers all around them. It did not take long for everyone to become soaked. "What the hell did he do that for?" Buffy shouted above the hiss of the spray and during a lull in the fighting.

"Who knows," Faith responded. "Perhaps they're perverts and like to see girls fight in wet t-shirts. Ugh!" She spat. "I just swallowed some."

The demons resumed their attack. The slayers fought on through a cloud of water and dust. They were slowly getting closer to the exit, but at the same time felt their strength begin to wane. Faith received a kick to her kneecap and doubled over in agony and shock. She balanced her weight on her other leg and lashed out with her fists only to receive a blow to her ribcage. "Buffy! Some thing's wrong…I can't seem…" She was flung to the ground.

Buffy was experiencing her own problems: her attacks were not gaining the desired effect and she was receiving too many painful blows in return. A sick realisation came to her. "It's the water. Faith!" She yelled at her friend who was getting up off the ground. "They've laced the water!"

"With what?"

"Probably the same stuff they inject us for our 18th birthday present…only in concentrated form."

Faith looked at her confused. "The Cruciamentum? I never went through that. Although I read it in the manual….."

"You had a copy as well!" Buffy was briefly indignant but went pale. "Damn them!" She screamed cryptically. "The Council must have supplied them with the stuff," she explained when Faith showed she did not understand.

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

"What about Faith?" Willow asked.

"We must hope she gains some protection by being close to Buffy," Giles responded.

"Powers of the Slayer" Giles, Willow and Xander recited, "and all who wield it. Last ancient we invoke thee. The first of the ones….."

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Buffy saw Faith fall backwards down a flight of metal stairs. She afforded one look and saw that she lay motionless in a twisted form at the base, blood leaking from a wound to her head. She turned round and faced the horde before her. There were too many for her alone to tackle. She realised there were probably too many even if Faith was standing alongside her. She frowned resentfully. "This sucks big time." She walked forward, however and made to charge the front rank. Suddenly she stiffened: power infused her. The force of it threw her backwards. She only just missed the gap in the railings that Faith had been thrown through. When her eyes glowed and her limbs felt charged with electricity she realised what was happening and laughed out in triumph and resumed her charge.

Buffy ploughed a swathe through the demons. Each one she struck was sent flying several feet up and backwards to land in bone crunching form on the ground. She grabbed one by its neck and with one hand twisted it until it broke in her grip. Instead of heading for the exit she opted to remain and, retrieving one of her lost stakes, she caused dust to fly. It hovered in the air electrically charged before settling on the nearest surface.

Buffy swung round and caught her reflection in what had been a two-way mirror. Curiosity caused her to pause and look at herself possessed with the power of past slayers. Then her image changed to the girl she had dreamt of the night after the defeat of the Initiative. The savage looking First Slayer stared back at her. "No," the girl mouthed to Buffy. "We fight alone!"

The image changed and Buffy once again saw her own reflection mimicking her. She turned towards her adversaries and made to resume her attack but realised that the former power was seeping from her bones. She smiled sadly. "If you are still there," she said out loud to her unseen friends sitting back at Giles' apartment. "If the bond is still there, know that I love you all. I always have." She smiled dangerously at the approaching demons and charged them. However, force of numbers and the loss of her slayer-strength caused her to be taken down after a few seconds. She did not notice the horde of non-humans that joined the fight from behind.

Chapter 14

"So, one slayer is dead and the other incapacitated. Things went better than expected."

The Council was in session having been told of the events across the Atlantic.

"We can check to see which protégé is called now and ready ourselves for the event ahead, sure in the knowledge that we will control events."

-/-/-/-/-/-/-

Faith looked round the temple of the Oracles. She knew the Oracles were dead: Angel had told her. As a result, the place had a tarnished, neglected look to it: weeds intruded through cracks in the marble, and a bed of green algae floated on the surface of the water that gathered in the bowl of the fountain. The latter rippled like one entity as water dripped from the fountain head above it.

Faith lingered there, however. She knew she was there for a reason. In reality she lay unconscious on a hospital bed. The army of non-humans that had finally decided to join the fight had discovered her still form at the base of the stairway. After beating off the vampires they had taken her to the hospital. On the way Faith had briefly regained consciousness. During that time she had asked after Buffy and had been told that she had died bravely. Faith had screamed out in anguish at her new-found friend's fate. In her last moments of lucidity she cried out to whatever powers that existed for some alternative.

That was why she was here, she felt sure: that final entreaty had brought her to the only place she knew where wishes had a chance of coming true.

"You know that the Oracles are dead, don't you?"

Faith turned round to where the voice originated. The only visible reaction she showed was the raising of her eyebrows questioning. "I suppose I should be shocked to find you here," she said to the person in front of her. "But, then I always thought you too good to be true."

"The point of relevance is what are you doing here," queried the new arrival.

"You already know why."

"But, still I must hear it from your lips," the other persisted.

"Buffy must live," Faith stated simply.

"I know that already."

"Buffy must survive. If it means I take her place then so be it."

"OK. That's acceptable." The visitor turned and disappeared.

"Wait!" Faith shouted into the space before her. The apparition reappeared. "What do I do now?" She asked.

The other shrugged her shoulders. "Wake up, I suppose. Although you really should get some more sleep."

Faith looked down at her feet. "I thought…."

"Death?" She smiled at the young woman. "Why are teenagers so melodramatic? No, that's not necessary. After all, Buffy was in no danger of dying; she's too vital for what is to come."

"Then what bargain have I just struck?" Faith asked confused.

"I've no idea…...yet. Time will probably reveal that eventually. The importance for now is that you were willing to make the bargain.

"Tara?"

"Yes, dear."

"Who are you?"

Tara beamed widely and disappeared again.

In a hospital miles to the south, Faith woke up. She stared at the ceiling. After moments of contemplation, she smiled then laughed. Tears followed at the realisation that she was truly happy for the first time. She grabbed hold of the emotion and swore to anyone who happened to be listening that she would never surrender it.

In the morgue, situated in the basement of the same hospital, Buffy's eyes opened.

end of part one

to be continued in

Pawns of Prophecy

Part Two

Realignment