Always
by Amanda
Rating: R

Disclaimer: The characters of BtVS are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Sandollar Productions, Kuzui Enterprises, 20th Century Fox Television and the UPN Television Network. This is fan fiction, and is only for fun.
Date: 073002 - 082402
Spoilers: We begin with “This Years Girl” and pretty much anything after that are spoilers, as I jump ship into AU.
Note: I use liberally parts from TYG to set the scene, I know this, you know this, lets move through it shall we?
Note 2: LITTLE BIT OF TORTURE… you have been warned.
Note 3: italics are for thoughts and / or dreams.
Note 4: [ words ] = flashbacks
Dedications: You know who, and you know why.
Feedback: Feed the bard, and help her learn.

+1=2=3=4=5=6=7=8=9=10=11+

PROLOGUE

Boston, 1997

“When you die, where do you go? I am being serious. Really, when you die where do you go? Will you go somewhere different than, let’s say, the person next to you? How about that guy down the street? You know the one. There was that accident and he ran over that little boy. You saw it, you remember. Hell I can’t forget it, can’t get that out of my head, the spinning back wheel on that tiny bicycle. So what about that guy? Where will he go when he dies? How about the kid he hit? Where’d he go?” I leaned against the wall, crossing the gloved hands over my chest. It was hotter than hell today, and still she wanted me in here, in this closed up room, with no windows, no fan, no a/c. I could feel the sweat dripping off of me, rolling in rivers down the backs of my thighs. All this working out “training” or whatever, but I had these crazy ass thoughts in my head, and they wouldn’t quiet down for nothing.

“Faith, why are you asking me this?” she asked, looking up from the book in her lap, her voice curt, crisp in that haughty accent of hers. I was convinced that she talked even slower, punctuating everything just to rile me, just to point out that I slurred and used slang. Even after a few weeks, she still thought she was better than me, she still was still with the ‘I am so fucking smart’, yeah well then,

“Cause you are the smart one, you’re the Watcher, and it is your job to help me understand all of this right?”

“No Faith, I am here to make you a better soldier, a better fighter.”

“You want me to be some mindless killing machine then?” I rolled my eyes. Again with this bullshit. GOD! “I thought you guys had all the answers. When you all came and took me out of that place you told me, you were going to teach me. So teach. I wanna know. I really do. It’s been getting on my nerves all these questions, and no one wants to answer them.” I punched the bag hanging from the ceiling and it swayed back and forth. I did want to know. I needed to know. The nightmares I was having were freaking me out, and I was tired of not being sure, of hearing my mother’s voice telling me over and over again that I was worthless, that in this life I would be nothing, when I died I would be nothing. There had to be more than nothing.

“You are a Slayer, you will work to be strong, work to be fast. You were created by the Powers that Be to kill the evil in this world.” She sighed, like it was such a chore to answer me, to listen to me.

“Where do they go then?” I asked.

“Who?” She asked.

“The vamps and the demons? Where do they go when I kill them.” I took a breath and added softly, “Where will I go?”

“Faith? Don’t ask any more stupid questions, these things are not important.” She snapped, “You need to do another thirty minutes,” and went back to her book.

They are to me.

Sunnydale 1999

White. No lines, no form, simple, pure, expansive white. Surrounding the vision, living in its lack of color. Slowly, flittering in, moving like a mist from all sides, bringing with it color, life, making it clear that Faith and Buffy were standing, together in the room, bed between them. As the lack of color bled away, they found themselves caught in the act of making the bed.

“They smell good don't they?” Buffy wistfully asked.

“What?” Faith questioned back, quirking her right brow ever so slightly.

“Clean sheets. Like summer.” She replied.

“I wouldn't know.” Shrugged the brunette.

“Right. I forgot.” Buffy looked down at what they were doing, avoiding eye contact with the other Slayer, reality licking at the back of her thoughts, she forgot what, she forgot something important, that was clear by the look on Buffy’s face.

“I noticed.” Not maliciously, just factually stated. Faith understood more than Buffy, understood what was happening here, what had brought them to this place.

“I wish I could stay, but…” Buffy let her words drift between them, leaving the thought incomplete.

“Oh, you have to go.” Faith finished, looking at Buffy, and then back down to the actions her hands were fulfilling.

“That's just what...”

They walked around to end of bed, to stand close together again.

“Now I really have to...” Buffy met her eyes, looking into the pools of brown that looked back, unrepentantly.

“So go. Don't let me keep.” Faith countered. Blood began to drip onto the crisp white sheets. “Damn. Just when we'd made it so nice.” Both Slayers looked at Faith’s stomach, to see the knife handle protruding from it. “Are you ever gonna take this thing out?” She asked sadly.

Buffy’s nimble fingers curled around the grip, her hazel eyes rounded, as she pulled her arm back, and the blade dragged free of Faith’s flesh. They both flinched at the sound it made, the low sound echoing through the nearly empty room.

The constant beeping of the heat monitor; beeping, beeping, beeping, watching over the heart in her chest. Beeping for months, how many beeps per hour, how many did that make in a month? In eight?

It never faltered, never failed. It was a constant; until that moment. Its rhythm skipped, thrown off by a surge in power due to the autumn storm outside.

CHAPTER 1

The first thing I had heard, really heard, in the longest time, was the crack of a lightening bolt, after my closed eyes registered the flash. It ushered in the searing pain through every fiber of my being.

But it was better than the nothing.

My muscles were tight, stretched unforgivingly, and passed the point where a simple massage would loosen them. My bones ached, like they all had been broken at one point and were still healing, but the hair thin fractures were still there, still screaming at me, letting me know that there was something wrong. And there was something really wrong with me. I had never felt my body like this, felt this level of throbbing pain everywhere. How long had I been laying here?

My mind was reeling, processing thoughts that seemed impossible to me. B had been chasing me in the cemetery? The two of us making a bed? I knew, I knew as well as I knew my own name that those thoughts weren’t real, that they were imaginings, or worse, dreams. But the texture of them, the detail had me confused. I had just seen B, had just smelt the faint perfume of detergent coming from the sheets in that room. I remembered the sound of the knife as it slipped out from my stomach. It was too vivid not to be real.

Where was I? Where was B? Why was I still in this bed?

I sat up stiffly, yanking the IV line from my arm, pulling the oxygen tubes from my nose, and tossing them all to the side. I wasn’t supposed to be here, there was somewhere I needed to be. But my mind was fuzzy; I was unable to concentrate on what it was exactly that I was supposed to be doing. It was important, it was vital.

My head was a jumble of thoughts and feelings as my bare feet touched the cold tile of the floor. A shock went through me as I attempted to stand, and I swayed. My eyes widened, looking around the room I was in. It was pretty obvious that from the bed, the thin gown on my emaciated frame, the machines, that this was a hospital. But this was not a normal hospital room. The walls appeared stone, there was no window, and there was not even the smell of disinfectant that I knew I should smell in this place. Instead on the air there was dampness, there was age, forgotten things left to rot in corners. This was a place to put those better left forgotten.

I could feel it inside of me, this knowledge , there was a time and a place for me, but this, this was not it. Something was wrong. I did not belong here, wherever here was.

How long have I been here?

I needed to go. My knuckles popped as I made a fist with my right hand, attempting to feel the strength in my fist, the strength I used to be able to possess at a moments notice, when with a thought I would be strong enough to take down the largest opponent. So why did I feel weak, why did I feel less than myself?

I took five slow steps to the open doorway, and was in a dark hall. Not all the overhead lights were on. Stacked against the walls were rusted gurneys, piles of towels, a few tattered boxes. The floor beneath my feel felt coated, covered in something, and I cringed, thinking that my bare flesh was picking up what ever it was.

Thinking of the dirt and grime, made me shiver. All of me felt soiled, encrusted. My hair hanging around my shoulders, where it touched my skin itched. My tongue felt encased, my whole mouth was at the worst I had ever remembered. Even when I was living on the streets I had taken better care of my hygiene, I never went more than a day without brushing my teeth. This was unbearable, as my mind woke a little more with each breath, the feeling of my flesh, the condition of it, was making my mind short circuit, making it unbearable to be inside of my skin. I wanted out, I wanted to rip and burst through this outer wrapping. I needed to, had to it was too much too –

“Excuse me? Do you know where the-”

I looked up at the young woman who seemed to appear before me. Standing there, nervous, sparkling clean. She clearly did not belong in this place. This woman stood out like tomato in the onion bin. Standing there ridiculously holding a small teddy bear in her hand, not realizing, not noticing the conditions of the hall around us. She was talking, and I was attempting to understand her, to reply, but I could only stare at the red sweater. Red. Red. That meant something to me, but it was driving me crazy that I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Why in the hell couldn’t I break this lock on my mind, why couldn’t I think past the smell of this place, this girl, this –

Graduation, I realized in a flash. That was it, I had to get out of here, I had to help B with destroying the Mayor, and I knew how to beat him. I had to show B what could be done, how they could do it, and then I could make it up to B and the others, make up for all the wrong that I did, the mistakes I had made. I was a Slayer, I had turned my back on my calling, but I wouldn’t again, I would fight the good fight, I would make amends –

The pain of guilt surrounded my heart, stopping my breath in a jerk. I deserved nothing but death and torture for the things that I had done. I had taken human lives. I was a murderer. Why was I still here why was I still alive?

I’ve been here in this place for how fucking long?

I had been in a coma. A coma. My mind was clearing a little; I was remembering some things, remembering what had taken place before, remembering the smell of the Mayor’s office, of the perfume that B used to wear. I remembered the fight on the rooftop, I remembered being stabbed, I remembered looking, that it was a long way down to the street; long enough to kill me, and that was what I wanted. Release, death, peace.

I remembered walking into the light, I remembered getting close, I remembered the voice, I remembered it saying that it wasn’t my time, that I was still needed, and then I remembered being thrown back into my body, into that in between land of dreams and pain and emptiness.

I wasn’t even good enough for death. I wasn’t good enough for anything.

The woman before me was answering my question, about Graduation. My heart was heavy, but happy. The Mayor was dead, that meant B had defeated him. But what about B? Had she made it through? Was she still alive?

I moved forward, feeling a little fraction of the Slayer inside of me awaken, as I took hold of the woman before me. I had to get out of here.

*****

The night nurse entered the room to see two police officers and the day nurse standing around a now empty bed. This was truly astonishing. She was gone. The girl had somehow managed to wake from the coma and was gone.

“Why is it a girl wanted for questioning in a string of murders doesn’t have a guard posted?” One of the officers asked the day nurse.

“She was never supposed to wake up. We put her down here, out of the way, she wasn’t going to wake up.” The nurse fidgeted. That was the reasoning the Hospital Management had given all of the nurse staff. The young girl was never going to wake up, no one ever came to visit her, so they kept her alive down here, away from everyone else, to keep the stimuli to a minimum.

“Well she did, unless you all seem to believe that she got taken out of here.” The officer snapped. As the discussion got more heated, the night nursed slipped out of the doorway, and silently walked to the phone down the hall.

She had never expected this. Everyday it was the same. She would come and check. The rogue Slayer’s vitals were consistent, there was no sign of improvement, but no sign of deterioration either, that should have been the sign, the tip off that something, something was not normal. The Slayer was merely in status, just existing.

Lifting the white receiver she dialed the number, waiting for the line to open, to know the connection was there.

“It’s happened, send the team.” She said, before hanging up the phone.

*****

The clothes I had taken from that woman were oppressively tight in all the wrong places, and the shoes were too small, but none of that mattered, not now, not yet. I would deal with that when the time came. For now my concern was getting away.

I had heard the police arrive, from two rooms over I heard them talking about me. I was wanted for questioning? They made it sounds so unimportant, like I might be important to talk to. I knew they were covering their asses. As my mind woke up even more I knew that what was wanted of me was a little more than questions. If I knew the Mayor, and I was pretty sure that I did he had all the evidence needed to convict me for the murders of Allan Finch and the Professor. The Mayor would have held on to that tightly, an insurance policy just in case the candy he was offering wasn’t so sweet to me any more. And hearing the urgency in the cops’ voices just made it all that more clear to me that I needed to not be here, in this place. I needed to get away. There was no way I was going into a cage for the rest of my life, no fucking way. Spending months in the cage of my own head was plenty, thank you very much.

I took the back stairs, slipping out an unused side door of the hospital. There were no lights out here and the darkness swallowed me whole. It felt comforting, breathing the night air. The night covered me, embraced me, welcoming me back without any question, without a wonder at where I had been for months. As I jogged, keeping to the shadows I felt more and more of myself returning. In little flashes behind my eyes, black and white movies of my life, memories seeped in, coming back to me. The first vampire I ever staked, the first man I ever beat up, the first drink I ever took, the first cigarette I ever smoked. Slowly Faith was coming back. There were still some holes up there, I knew that for sure, but it was coming back.

I closed my eyes as I ran, and then opened them slowly, remembering that I could see better than almost anyone at night, remembering the gifts that came with being a Slayer, being the one who hunts the hunters at night. I allowed my eyes to open wider, the pupils to grow, to feed like an animal on the barest of illumination, as I moved silently. I was moving like a homing pigeon, moving towards B, wherever she was, I needed to get to her, needed to make sure that she was still alive, that she was safe.

Giles’ apartment had been the closest to the hospital, and I ended up there first. Slipping against the front windows, between the magnolia tree and the stucco of the wall, I peered in through the barred window.

*****

“Okay, what's he charging up for?” Buffy asked, still dumbfounded when it came to Adam. As the group was unaware what exactly he was comprised of, as well as unknowing the purpose of his creation, there seemed to be no way for the team to research his motives.

“Based on the clues, I'll go with killing spree.” Xander huffed.

“And that's a best case scenario. I suppose a little fire power would be a good idea right now.” Riley took the blaster from Xander, pulling back the activation switch that was virtually invisible unless one knew where to look, and then handed it back as Xander’s jaw hung open in astonishment. That was Riley, ever the soldier.

“Hey! How'd you do that? Is there like an On/Off button somewhere here?” Xander turned the gun over in his hands, searching for the spot Riley had barely touched that sent the gun humming with power.

Riley shrugged. “Blasters are easy. Adam won't be.”

“Since Professor Walsh designed it,” Willow began, “any chance she left instructions lying around somewhere?”

Buffy sat down next to Riley, leaning over to kiss his lips softly.

*****

The whole gang was there. And a few I did not recognize. The tall guy was one of them. And when B sat down on his lap and kissed him it made my chest tighten. With what, I wasn’t all that sure.

It was clear that B knew him on a level that made her kissing him like that in front of the group appear common place, routine. When in the hell had that happened? Even in my clouded mind, the length of time I was away, in the coma, Buffy Summers was moving faster than usual.

Eight months. And Buffy had found someone else. Was with someone else. Angel must have died, that was the only answer that seemed to make sense. B would never be with someone other than Angel, he had been the love of her life, her everything. And if he was gone, then I had in fact killed him as well. And that did not bode well for me. B had hated me enough at the mere attacking of the Scooby Gang, hated me enough to stab me in the gut, but killing the souled vampire she loved? B would never forgive something like that.

So this had to be the rebound guy. That made the pairing more obvious. He seemed so weak sitting next to a Slayer. In appearances he was tall and strong, and maybe there was a flicker of intelligence in his blue eyes, but he was frail, he was clearly human, and that would never do. How would a normal human, an American Male, handle being physically inadequate with his mate, knowing the frail in appearance, petite body next to him, was as hard as steal, that the two hands he could fit in one of his could rip his arm from its socket in the same amount of time allotted for a heart to beat. This man could never feel good enough for B, for the Slayer, of that I was certain.

“Well, if she did, they're gonna be in the Initiative.” B said, clearly not really seeing anyone else in the room, but for the man sitting beside her.

“Which we can't get into without mounting a major offensive.” Giles sighed.

“Speak for yourself.” The young man snapped, but then looked at Giles. “I’m just saying.”

“I must admit, a man on the inside would be...” Giles let his words hang in the air as he thought of the possibilities.

“A really good idea. Are you sure you wanna be double agent guy.” B asked looking up at him, searching his expression for something.

“I'm not exactly sure what you'd call me, but I will share information.”

I glared at the beefstick, information did not seem like enough, for whatever it was they were talking about. This creature, and the Initiative? It made it sound like some fictional branch of the government that would be in one of my comics, not some factual group in Sunnydale.

“It's the least I can do.”

“Riley's right. It is the least we can do.” Xander nodded like the good little lap dog.

The shrill of the phone interrupted the conversation, and Giles walked over to answer it. My eyes followed him as he moved. “Hello. What? Yes, she is.” He looked over at B, holding out the phone. “Um...it's for you.”

B’s eyes rounded in surprise, and then she walked over and took the phone with a shrug. “Hello? What sort of emergency?”

I watched as the subtle change came over the Slayer, how her shoulders tensed, as the muscles in her legs twitched. Her entire body coiled down on itself, ready to strike. And I fucking knew what she was hearing on the phone. Who else would be listed as my next of kin at the hospital? Or on the list of who I may be out for revenge against. She was hearing that I, Faith, the Psycho was walking the streets. What else would make B that tense, that ready for a fight?

“No, I haven't.”

I had heard enough. They knew now, and that meant that B would be coming for me. And I had no intention of being hauled into that room, with that group of people. Certainly not looking and feeling like I did right now. I still felt less than myself, and was afraid of not being able to contain my emotions, or my body. I needed to go. B would find me, she always did. Even in my dreams.

*****

“Thank you, I'll let you know.” Buffy was shocked, as she put the phone down. This was unbelievable. Sure, it had been something she thought about, hoped would happen. But she had forgotten. In all the drama that surrounded them, with the Initiative running around, trying to kill her, and Adam on the loose, Buffy had forgotten about Faith. She put the phone down slowly.

“What is it?” Giles asked.

“It's Faith. She's awake.” She said slowly, looking at the gang. The looks on their faces were enough to tell her that they too had forgotten all about the other Slayer. “She beat someone up, took her clothing and disappeared out of the hospital. No one knows where she is.”

“I'd say this qualifies for a ‘Worst Timing Ever’ award.” Xander groaned, holding the blaster tighter on his lap.

“What do we do?” Willow asked.

“Well, we have to find her.” Giles replied.

“What about Adam?” Willow countered.

“I'd hate to see the pursuit of a homicidal lunatic get in the way of perusing a homicidal lunatic.” Xander was visibly upset.

“Well, Faith's not exactly low-profile girl. I'll patrol and wait for her to make a move.” Buffy shrugged, hoping it would be that easy.

“But then what?”

“Oooh! I have an idea! Beat the crap out of her!” Willow answered Giles’ question.

Xander nodded, adding, “Good plan.”

“Good on paper.” Buffy disagreed. “But we still have a decision to make. Do we hand her over to the cops? They wouldn't know what to do with a Slayer even if they knew we existed.”

“What about the Council?” Willow offered.

“Been there. Tried that.” Xander added, “Not unlike smothering a forest fire with napalm as I recall.”

“Well, the Initiative, they do have containment facilities.” Giles removed his glasses to rub at his right eye.

“One word: Evil.” Xander said, then looked sheepish when he caught sight of the glare he received from Riley, which Buffy did not miss.

“There's no way around it. Faith is back, and whether I like it or not, she's my responsibility.” Buffy squared her shoulders. It was true, she helped create this monster of a Slayer, and she could help bring her back.

“Yeah, too bad. That was the fastest coma ever.” Willow grumbled.

“We have no idea where she is. We don't know what she's thinking, what she's feeling...” It was just dawning on Buffy that all of that was true. A coma wasn’t like the stomach flu, none of them had any idea the true ramifications that it had on Faith’s body, on her mind.

“Who she's doing.” Xander snapped, clearly still hung up on that one night.

“She could be terrified. Maybe she doesn't even remember. Or maybe she does and she's sorry and she's alone hiding somewhere.” Buffy needed to get out there, she needed to find Faith, there was no two ways about it, the girl needed her, and Buffy was not going to let her down again.

“Well, perhaps there's some form of rehabilitation we just haven't thought about.” Giles partially agreed, but still could not see past the point where Faith may not be the same Faith she was eight months ago.

“And if not, ass-kicking makes a solid plan B.” Willow clasped her hands together with a smile.

“I'm not going to rule it out. First thing, we need to find her. Then we can take it from there.” Buffy said, moving towards the door.

“Who's Faith?” Riley asked from his spot on the chair, where he had been forgotten in all of this.

Who’s Faith? How in the world was Buffy Summers going to respond to that?

“Um, well, see the thing of it is Riley,” she looked to the others for help, but they seemed content to hear what she had to say, what she was going to come up with. Buffy sighed, then pulled open the front door, “Willow will explain it.” She breathed out the words and was out the door before they could stop her.

*****

Oh, that was just low, Buffy Summers.

Willow looked at Riley, and smiled weakly. Leaving it to her to explain this one, how much should she really say? How much did they trust him and his Initiative buddies, certainly not completely, not after Professor Walsh tried to kill Buffy. How was she going to do this, she wondered, looking at Giles, her green eyes wide, pleading for a little bit of help, just a little something for her to work with.

“Maybe this is a conversation better left for Buffy to tell when she gets back.” Giles offered.

Riley stood up.

“It must be something important, for her to go rushing out into the night without any weapons.” He said angrily, clearly not liking being left.

“Oh, the Buffster always has Mr. Pointy.” Xander threw out, and Willow glared at him. They all knew how sensitive Riley was when it came to the Slaying, to the fact that Buffy pretty much could kill most demons with her bare hands, while her boyfriend, this strong man, needed a Blaster, a tazer, a stake, and a 9 mm before he went out to patrol. “I mean, it’s just Faith.” Xander shrugged, looking back down at the Blaster, appearing completely absorbed in it.

It was still on Willow to tell, Riley was looking at her expectantly.

“Would you believe wacky cousin from the east coast?” Willow ventured.

“Nope. I know all about her family, Joyce and I have talked about it.” He crossed his arms.

“You asked about her family?” Willow was a little taken aback. She hadn’t ever asked about Buffy’s family, and they had been best friends for four years.

“Of course.” Riley paced. “What is the big deal? What aren’t you telling me?”

“Riley, Buffy will tell you what she wants to, when she sees you next I am sure. Until then, I saw we adjourn.” Giles’ voice was calm, but stern enough to let them all know that he was not asking. And Willow thanked all the goddesses for small favors.

*****

Where could she be? Where would she be, Buffy wondered as she briskly walked through the streets. Faith was never one to hide, never one to blend in. Buffy fully expected her to see her strutting down the street, walking with that sway to her hips, that cocky attitude in her eyes. But this? She had been walking for thirty minutes, and this was just beginning to seem pointless. If Faith was on the move and just happened to be moving in the opposite direction, then there was no way Buffy would find her. She needed a miracle, she needed something.

*****

This was so not what I needed. I was doing fine, waiting for her to find me at the park, sitting on the swings, but this? A little vampire, still dressed in his funeral suit, well this just sucked all the ass in Sunnydale at the same time. Did I have a stake? No. Did I have anything? No. Could I even fight this thing? Um, no.

He bared his teeth at me, with a low growl.

“What you don’t even know how to talk? Eat your own tongue? What?” I asked. Think Faith, you can’t out run him, you can’t fight him. What the hell can you do?

I can scream.

A low scared voice said in the back of my mind. Scream? You have to be kidding me. I’m a Slayer, I didn’t fucking scream just because a no-neck vamp was lunging at me.

*****

Buffy heard a scream from her right, from near the swings at the park. Well, Faith would have to keep. Someone was dumb enough to be at the park this time of night.

CHAPTER 2

So this was it. This was how it was going to end. I had lived through so much, the pain and the abuse and the blood, and this was how I was going down? As a snack for a vampire who was so fresh I could still smell the makeup on his face? Great I was a loser if this was how it was going down. Shit, I certainly lived down to everyone’s expectations now didn’t I?

His hands were pinning my shoulders to the sandy ground, his mouth open, dripping nasty undead spit on my chin and neck. Talk about fucking gross! I hoped this just went fast, that it was over and I would be, be, wherever I was going. I wanted to go aware, but not looking at this no name piece of shit. Turning my head, giving him even better access to my neck, I watched the swing I had been on as it moved, slowly back and forth, back and forth. When was the first time I was on a swing? I think it was at Buckley Playground. Yeah, had to have been. Mom and I were walking down Bolton Street, coming back over from the market on E street, when I saw them. All those other kids on the swings, and I pulled and pulled at her hand. Begging her without saying a word, cause I hated talking back then, after Dad left. Man. That was a good day. Feeling the wind in my hair as I pumped my legs, and went higher and higher, hoping to touch the clouds with my feet.

Good way to go.

I felt his lips pressing against my neck, and closed my eyes. But no teeth, no pain. I opened my eyes, and standing over me was B. Stake in her hand, breathing a little heavy, standing there, looking down at me with wide eyes. What could I say? She had just saved me from becoming dinner, and not because I was losing a fight or anything like that. No she saved me because I was weak, because I had screamed.

“I was looking for you.” She said softly.

“Looks like you found me.” I said, not moving, not sure where to go. She was still holding a pretty sharp stake.

“Looks like.” She said, extending her hand to me. I gulped, feeling the terror racing through me, just for an instant. What would she do? What could she do? Hell, if tonight was my night, then it was my night. Laying on the ground wasn’t going to change any of that. I reached up and took her hand. She used her strength, and I was yanked off the ground and on my feet. I was a little dizzy. “What happened to you?”

“B, hello, coma?” I snapped, before I could stop myself. I hadn’t meant to say it like that. There was so much in my head, so much coming back to me, but only in bits and pieces. Like the important stuff, like she had tried to kill me. Oh, and not only her.

“They are coming for me you know.” I said, brushing the sand off of me.

“Who?”

“The Council. You know, killer Slayer and all that. They are coming to take me down.” I sighed, still a little fuzzy about everything, so I couldn’t stop my mouth from opening again. “But tell me why.”

“Why?” She echoed. Okay, which one of us was stupid due to a coma?

“If I am so bad, if I am so evil, if there is no fucking hope for me, why not pull the plug? Why didn’t they just end it all then, when I was laying in that bed? Why not let me go, to heaven or to hell, to nothing if that is all there will be for me. Why, God why didn’t they let me go?” I felt my voice crack. This was not good, not good at all. B couldn’t see me like this. What was I thinking? I wasn’t ready, clearly as all I wanted to do was curl up on the ground and cry, and there was no way that was going to be happening. She was just looking at me, still staring, like she didn’t believe I was standing here. Well, I didn’t believe it either. This was all wrong. I turned and ran as hard and fast as I could.

*****

Buffy had stood there, watching her run, and thought about chasing, but something told her not to. Something told her that Faith needed to be alone, and that she wouldn’t do anything too terrible. Faith needed a little more time. So with a sigh, Buffy headed back to the college.

When she got back to the dorm room, Willow was sitting at her desk, typing away on her laptop. Buffy went over to her closet, to pull out some pajamas for the night.

“Did you?” Willow asked.

“Find her? Oh yeah.” Buffy replied as she pulled off her shoes and tossed them into the closet.

“Is she dead?”

“Willow.” Buffy chuckled. “No, not dead. Almost.” She stood and pulled off her pants.

“Hurray for plan B!” Willow clasped her hands together, she was enjoying this a little too much, Buffy thought.

“No, it wasn’t me, a vamp nearly had a Slayer snack.”

“What?” Willow as all ears now.

Buffy pulled off the rest of her clothes and then slipped on her white cotton pajamas. She hoped onto her bed, looking up at Willow, who was still sitting at her desk. “I know, wigged me out too. But there she was, laying on the ground, helpless.”

“Faith?”

“I guess we all forgot, coma equals not moving for a really really long time.”

“Right.” Willow sighed, getting up from her desk and coming to sit on the end of Buffy’s bed.

“She was weak as a kitten.” Buffy said sadly, remembering how easily she had lifted her off the ground, how slowly Faith had run away.

“Kitten?” Willow asked, and Buffy could have slapped her own forehead. Where in the world had she come up with kitten?

“Sorry. I am a little confused. She didn’t seem, well she didn’t seem like Faith.”

“What, not with the cleavage spilling slutiness?”

“No, more with the nervous, not too sure why the world is spinning, weirdness.” Buffy shrugged, still not understanding it herself.

“Well that’s not good. Or is it? I mean maybe it is good. I have read in some studies that coma patients, once they wake up, take on different personalities, it is like a new person awakens.” Willow babbled.

“She still knew who I was, who she was, oh, and the Council.”

“Council?”

“Yeah, she said that they were coming for her. But she did have a good point.” Buffy felt her brow furrow as she remembered.

“Clearly not good enough if she wasn’t at the receiving end of it.” She mumbled it, but being so close, and having the preternatural hearing, Buffy heard it just fine.

“Wills.” She chastised.

“Sorry, but I don’t think I need to remind you that I, Willow, am not in the Faith fan club.”

“There was a club?” Buffy looked up from her hands.

“Joke.”

“Right. Ha ha.” Buffy pushed Willow’s shoulder gently.

“Sorry, sorry. You were saying that she pointed something?”

“If everyone was so up in arms about her, about what she had done, why didn’t we, you know.” She made the gesture of her finger moving over her throat.

“Oo, charades.”

“No. Why didn’t we kill her when she was in the coma?” Buffy’s voice lost all of its humor as she realized what it was that she had just said. Kill Faith.

“Not fair? Maybe the Council figured it would screw something up if she was in the coma, that maybe the next Slayer wouldn’t be called.”

“Doesn’t work that way.” She shook her head.

“What are you thinking?” Willow asked, feeling the seriousness Buffy was suddenly feeling.

"I am thinking that like always the Council cannot be trusted, and I wonder when they are getting here." Buffy said.

“Like there aren’t enough men sneaking around campus at night. Why does it always happen like this, all at once?” the red head grumbled.

“To make life fun?”

“Barrel of monkeys here, then. Oh, speaking of sneaky guys. Riley.”

“So what did you tell him?” Buffy rolled onto her back, crossing her arms over her face.

“Nothing. I can’t believe you did that to me, Buffy.”

“What was I supposed to say? Oh, Faith, she is the other Slayer, she went a little nutty and when she tried to murder my two hundred year old boyfriend, oh, who is a vampire, I decided to try and kill her? No Wills, I couldn’t just say that.” Buffy whined.

“Riley still doesn’t know about Angel?”

“No. I would rather he didn’t. God, look what they did to Spike, and I don’t even like Spike.” She looked up, afraid again of all the motives that the Initiative could have.

*****

That was all sorts of weird, and wrong, and just not normal. I knew that much. I was still thinking about how close I came again to death, as I stretched out on the bed in my apartment. Funny that it was still here, after all this time. Like it was waiting for me. My clothes, hanging in the closet, just waiting for me. It was kind of nice to have a place to come back to.

At least there was something here for me. I stretched again, feeling my bones ache, my muscles twitch, with that twitch they get right before they decide to give me a Charlie Horse from hell. But all in all, I was feeling a little better, my head a little clearer. And I was exhausted. Who would have thought, after laying around for eight months, I was tired. I would sleep now, and worry about B and everything else in the morning.

*****

“You know I am feeling so rested, rejuvenated.” Faith said as she dropped from the large oak tree, landing in front of Buffy. The blonde Slayer put her hand over her chest, taking in a deep breath. She hadn’t expected Faith to show up out of nowhere, and she sure as hell had not expected her to drop from the heavens like that, in the middle of the cemetery, on tonight of all nights, when Buffy was hunting for Adam. “Ah, did I scare the big bad Slayer?”

“Faith, let’s not do this, not now.”

“But, B, if not now, when?” She rolled her shoulders under the black denim jacket she wore, and Buffy let her eyes roam over the other Slayer, but just for a moment, just for a look.

“You look better.” Buffy commented. Understatement of the year! She looked gorgeous!

“Feeling better. I think I was a little out of it last night, all weak and frail. You should have done it when you had the chance, B. Like I was saying, I feel oh so much better now.” Faith stepped a little closer, clenching both of her fists at her sides.

“Done what? What do you expect Faith? What do you think I am going to do?”

"Well, I was thinking maybe try and finish what you started, I mean, if I was the girl that murdered the love of your life-"

“What?” Buffy stammered.

“God! Hello, B? You in there? Angel? You do remember him don’t you? Broody guy, tall, all sorts of boring? I killed him.”

“No.” Buffy grinned. “No. Angel is alive – well, you know what I mean.”

“How in the hell did that happen?” Faith crossed her arms.

“Slayer’s blood.” Buffy shrugged.

“So, okay let me get this straight. You gave up yourself to him, after you tried to gut me?”

“Faith, I didn’t try, I did.” DAMNIT BUFFY! Why had she said that?

“Right.” Faith sneered. "And now hunky Angel is gone, and in his place is that, that-"

“Riley.”

“Whatever. So was it worth it?”

“Worth it?”

“Nearly killing me? Was it fucking worth it?” Faith snapped.

“Oh, yeah.” Buffy lunged out with a right hook, but Faith ducked down to her knees, spinning.

*****

Wow. Okay, I could do this. I could fight her. Shit! I was still a little off. I was coming up, planning on giving her a nice happy upper cut, when I got a roundhouse kick to the side.

FUCK.

This was no big deal, I could fight her, I mean this was Buffy Summers, and I had some choice rage happening here, I would use it.

“I missed dancing with ya, B.” Blocking, blocking was good. She had gotten stronger, she was working out, that was it.

“Wish I could say the same.” Bingo, her head snapped back with the force of my punch.

“Oh, I think that you do. Look at you, all happy and glowing.” I was stalking around her, wondering what she was going to do next. She did look kind of glowy, and – Her fist connected dead on with my face. Just a little more to the left and she would have broken my nose!

“Fuck, do you have to go for my face!”

“It is right there, with that mouth that never seems to close.” She tried again, but I dodged, and she hit the tree. A low growl came from her throat. Yeah, that must have hurt.

A scream bounced through the trees. I knew the sound of that scream- that was not a good scream. We both stopped, our forearms slammed together. I searched her face, looking into those hazel eyes that always accused me, always condemned me, the ones that looked into my soul when she stuck the knife in my stomach.

“That’s Red.” I whispered, and she nodded slowly, her hair moving in slow motion. So Red was in trouble, somewhere out here in the middle of the night. “Go!” I pushed her away from me.

Her mouth worked like she wanted to say something. “Coming?” She asked as she took two steps backward.

“Don’t think that is the greatest idea I have heard from you.” I smirked. Would I go with her? Should I go with her?

“BUFFY!” Echoed through the night, and she turned took off running.

I crossed my arms, watching her go, my boots firmly planted on the ground. I should probably go and help, or something else like that. I knew it. Deep down inside I knew helping would be a good thing, a step in the right direction, blah blah blah. But see, another part of me, the dark and dangerous me, she wanted nothing to do with it. Let B run around protecting her Scoobies, they meant nothing to me. None of them did. What did it matter to me if there was some unstoppable genetically engineered demon out there getting ready to smash in B’s skull. More power to him, I thought.

Right.

I was running after her as fast as my legs could carry me, the new denim straining as I leapt over a head stone. I turned around the Andersen crypt and smacked into something. Something hard, and something strong, and something that pretty much just knocked me on my ass.

I looked up to see this, well hell, I had fought some butt ugly demons in my day, but this guy? He fucking took the cake with his staples and stitches, and just hell, fucking ugly parts here and there.

I mean,

“What are you?” He asked, stealing my question.

“Me? What the hell are you freak boy?” I leaned up on my elbows, pretty much regarding him as he looked at me. My Slayer-dar was off the charts with this dude, but that wasn’t what made me shiver when he said,

“I am Adam.” No I shivered at the way he was looking at me, like he was excited to see me. I fucking HATE that look.

“Yeah well I’m more like Lilith, so get ready for an ass kicking.” I snapped, and flipped up, and shot a punch out at him. Okay, did someone not give this guy the script? When a Slayer punches you in the jaw, you fall down, and it hurts, and you let her kick the shit out of you! He stood there, smiling, as I held my fist that felt like I had broken at least two knuckles on him. So this was the guy that had B freaked? I got it now. Made sense. B wasn’t a chicken-shit or anything, this guy, he was bad-

OUCH!

- news. I slammed into the side of the crypt, hearing either my head crack, or the stone wall, and I had a feeling it was me. I was in no condition to take this, that was clear as he started wailing on me with his fists. I curled into a tight little ball. Where in the hell was B?

*****

“Willow are you okay?” Buffy asked as she untied her friend, and then moved to Tara. She had come into the clearing to find both Wicca trussed up between the trees, helplessly. “What happened?”

“A-a-a” Tara tried, but she was too scared, to shocked to move past that vowel. Willow pulled her into her arms fiercely.

“Adam. He was talking about doing some experiments on witches.” Willow kissed Tara’s forehead, and Buffy noticed that immediately, followed by the fact that her best friend and her new witchy friend, were holding each other desperately. There was something there, something that no one had thought to tell the Slayer. Her best friend was clearly in love… with a girl.

*****

Blood was dripping from my mouth and a gash on my head as I crawled on all fours, trying to get away from Adam. He was strong as hell, like a Grogaglic demon on PCP or something. But me, I was scurrying, moving away as fast as I could.

His steel-toed boot connected with my side, cracking a rib, and I was flying through the air again. I landed with a thud at the base of a tree, and rolled over onto my back. Yeah, it was pretty, painfully clear.

“Okay, so I over estimated the whole Slayer healing thing.” I groaned.

“Slayer?” He said, looking down at me, with a confused expression on his face. Sure I was hurting, but come a little closer Adam, Faith has a surprise for you. Sure it was just a penknife, clutched in my fist, but it would still hurt like a son of a bitch when I shoved it through his eye. Just a little bit – and then he kicked me in the head.

*****

Well this was highly unusual. This human claimed to be a Slayer.

Adam looked back to where he had been preparing the two witches for study. He was sure that they had escaped their bonds by now. Perhaps this was not a wasted trip after all. If this woman was what she claimed. It may just give him the opportunity that he needed.

CHAPTER 3

I woke up, out of a perfectly fine coma… for this?

Looking around, as consciousness came back to me I was again cursing my luck, and my entire life. Hanging against what felt like a cave wall, my wrists and ankles shackled, was not my idea of fun. With a flip of my hair I noticed I wasn’t the only one in this position. Across from me were two vamps, both chained like I was. One looked like he was trying out for the replacement role of Kate Moss’s boyfriend, gaunt as hell, I mean I could see the joint of his jaw as he clenched it. That was fucking nasty. Even I thought so. But his buddy next to him was no better. He had crossed burned into his face, and his right leg looked like someone dunked it into acid. My guess, Adam played dunk the fang with some Holy Water.

What was with this walking Lego creation? I missed a lot of what the Scoobies had said I guess, because I knew he was a freak, but I didn’t know that he liked to play with his food.

Food?

Ah, shit. And here I was, chained to the wall, crusty blood on my face, and a couple of broken ribs. I knew I couldn’t pull the chains from the spikes holding them in the wall, not in my current pussified state. So where in the hell did that leave me? Sitting waiting for B I guess.

*****

“You are okay though, right?”

"Buffy, for the, oh I don’t know, fiftieth time-"

“Fifty-third.” Tara corrected Willow as the three girls walked through U.C.S. campus.

“Thanks, ba- I mean Tara.” Willow was blushing, Buffy could tell, even in the dark.

“Sorry, I was just freaked. Fighting Faith and then hearing you.”

“Faith?” Willow asked.

“She showed up, wanting to throw down.” Buffy shrugged.

“And she didn’t come to our rescue. How unlike her. Oh, wait a second that is exactly like her. Selfish bitch.” Willow groaned.

“Willow!” Tara clung tighter to the redhead’s arm.

“Hey, when I mean it I say it.”

“R-r-r-real-ly?” Tara stammered out, and Buffy thought it was kind of cute, the way she was stuttering and stammering. She seemed really nice, this Tara girl, and Willow had seemed happier the past few weeks. So this was where the redhead had been spending all her time.

*****

The wall was cool, nice view of two tortured vamps; this table, that was slimy and covered in God knew what? This was not cool. This was fucking so many county lines over from cool, from okay. Not to mention the mother fucking fact that I was laying here, NAKED, chained to this table. No. This was not cool, this was a fucking nightmare!

“You are awake again. Good. There is much to do.” The walking dead said as he came into this area of the cave.

“Do?”

“There are tests that must be performed. You see, from what little folklore based data I have on the Slayer, it really is not enough to know for sure.” He said moving next to the metal cart that was beside me. Why did he even bother to cover the top with a cloth? I mean, hello, I have seen enough movies, fuck I lived through enough to know exactly what was there. He pulled back the green cloth, to show the sparkling array of tools. All glinting and shimmering in the faint light from the torches in the corner.

“I’ll fill you in. Slayers kill bad guys.” I smirked.

“But that is not all. Faith Spencer, which is not your real name.”

“Um, duh.” I cut him off while rolling my eyes. Sure he had me strapped down, but he didn’t have my tongue, or my attitude, and I would give him all that I could from here.

“You are listed as the witness, possible suspect in two murders taking place last year. Two murders of average humans, not demons.” He turned back to me and smiled. “Did you kill them?”

“What do you care?”

“It will prove my theory.”

“And that would be something other than the fact that you are a sick fuck who likes to tied up naked girls?” I snapped.

“The nudity is required for the tests. No, my theory is that even one who fights on the side of good, possesses darkness.” He lifted a silver object, about eight inches long. I fought back the urge to shiver, as he unscrewed the cap, slipping it off to reveal a long serrated blade.

“How can you scientifically study that, you fucking freak?” Okay, who let my mouth talk without my brain’s permission? He had a knife, a wicked painful looking knife. Not the time to mouth off.

“Good point. I would rather view you anatomically.” He stepped up next to me. “Human, female, strong.” He said looking over my body. “All obvious characteristics. Others stick out, physically, making you unique. Scars for one.” He smiled, and that was down right creepy. “While you were unconscious, I noted the numerous amounts of them, scattered over the back of your hands, arms, shoulders. Those I would all categorized as battle scars. But others, like this one.” He ran the handle of the blade down the length of the scar on my right side. That morning I had found that little reminder, sent care of Buffy Fucking Summers. My muscles twitched, probably freaking out and afraid that another blade was so close to them. And you know I couldn’t blame them. I was scared. Why? I had the feeling that no one was coming to my rescue, not this time.

He turned the blade around, and I felt the icy coldness of something moving along my arm. Cold, replaced by a searing heat. I clenched my jaw to fight back the scream. Oh Fucking Christ on the Cross - what was he doing? Was he pulling back the flesh and muscle from my arm? What a freak! why would? God the pain!

“Please don’t pass out, this is for science, you know.” He patted my shoulder, “Your musculature appears, well, normal. Which is fascinating.” I looked up, feeling the tears rolling down my cheeks, watching him move closer to me. “I’ve seen a little boy, and a man, but this will be interesting. I wonder if, anatomically you are the same. Perhaps to accommodate the extra power, the higher levels of adrenaline and endorphins, your heart is larger.”

The knife dipped into the skin at the top of my diaphragm with a slight popping sound, and then as he dragged the blade up between the valley of my breasts I felt the hot wetness, that I knew was blood, my blood, rolling out of the cut, covering me. I could hear it pattering on the table beneath me.

This pain was unlike anything I had ever felt before. There was really no true way to describe the feeling of the blood pouring out of my skin and muscle that was sliced open, or to even comprehend the cold chill of the steel forceps that were placed on either side of the opening. There was another sound, a crack! He was going to open my chest?

“KILL ME! PLEASE GOD STOP! KILL ME!” I screamed, why couldn’t I pass out? Why wasn’t I passing out?

“Did they beg for death when you killed them?”

“I don’t- I don’t. PLEASE!”

“This is what it felt like, I am sure for the Professor. Did he beg?”

“No!” Did he? No, I caught him so off guard that he had no idea what was going on. I made sure the first stab of the knife pierced the flesh and bone hitting his heart, killing him instantly. Then I butchered him. God I butchered him just like this sick fucking machine was doing to me. He was cracking open my chest cavity to look inside at my – I couldn’t stand this! I knew I deserved it, I deserved this pain and this torment for everything I had ever done, but please! “I AM SORRY I AM SO SORRY! I AM BAD I AM WRONG, JUST KILL ME!”

“Are you truly sorry for what you did? Or are you sorry that now you are feeling the pain, the effects of what I am doing to you, and the guilt?”

“Please.” I sobbed. “I am sorry, please, just kill me.”

“Why?”

“Death has to be better than this.”

He leaned closer to me, and moved his two hands over my eyes. I blinked, because suddenly there was no more pain. Snapping my eyes open I looked at him, standing there with a curious look on his face, holding in his hand some big black helmet visor thing.

WHAT IN THE FUCK?

I looked down at my chest, and I was fully clothed still, wearing my black halter and denim jacket. I was shackled to the table, but that was okay, because there was no blood, no ripped open chest. I glared at him, as he came closer and took some sensor pads off of my neck, arm, and chest.

“Fuck you.” I hissed, my voice rough, so the screaming had been real.

“You apologized, you wanted release from the pain. But what pain was worse for you? The pain of imagined knives, or the pain of guilt.” He asked, setting the gizmo down on the table.

“Both.” I shrugged. Why was I even bothering to talk to him. Bad guy, and I kill the bad guys. So I was chained to the table, still feeling all sorts of wrong after getting mind tortured. At least that was what I was guessing that was all about. It felt wicked real though.

“You wanted the release, but release to where? Where did you think that you would go, if it had been real, if I had taken your beating heart in my fist and pulled it from your chest.” He smiled and said it like it was a promise.

Always came back around to this question, didn’t I. “I have no idea. Do you?”

“I have some data programmed.” He said looking at the ceiling.

“What are you?” I asked, still confused as hell.

“Mother made me to be the ultimate fighting machine.”

“Okay, what are you.” I asked again, still not getting what I wanted out of this, this? Hello? See I needed to know!

“Demon parts, construction all around a super computer mind.” He said, tapping the left top of his chest, the little metallic spot there. “Accessing files. Death.” He turned and looked at me. “You know, Death is cross referenced to heaven.

“Seventy-six percent of Americans believe in heaven, and, of those, seventy-one percent think it’s an actual place, but after that, agreement breaks down. Nineteen percent think heaven looks like a garden, thirteen percent say it looks like a city—and seventeen percent don’t know.

“The urge for heaven is universal; you need it the way you need love. It’s threatening to one’s entire sense of self to imagine the end of life. Do you ever imagine the end of your life, Slayer?” He asked.

“Every fucking day jigsaw.” I snapped back.

“And have you convinced yourself that there is an afterlife?”

“There has to be, right? More than this?” I prayed as I said it.

“Perhaps, Slayer. Perhaps.” He paused for a moment. And then started talking again, his eyes moving like he was reading something. “For more than 2,000 years, theologians and children have been asking the same, unanswerable questions: Is there a heaven? Do we keep our bodies in heaven? Are we reunited with loved ones? Can we eat, drink, make love? Can you go to someone else’s heaven? Can they go to yours? How do you get there? And though they answer these questions in varying ways, the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims share some common ground. Heaven is the home of the one God, who is just and merciful, and at the end of life metes out rewards and punishments. Heaven is a perfect place, devoid of anger, lust, competition or anything like sin. In heaven, you live forever.

“And so visions of heaven divide people—even those who worship the same God. When a religious community feels endangered or at odds with the mainstream culture, a vision of heaven can be like a badge of belonging. The theory of ‘If you don’t join me, you can’t come.’ And when that feeling of oppression turns to war, heaven can be a flag waved in battle. Hamas’ leaders say that Palestinian youth believe much more strongly in heaven than they did twenty years ago. They believe that if killed fighting in the name of Islam, they will go straight to the seventh level of heaven and delight in the company of beautiful virgins. This idea of heaven gives the martyrs comfort—and power. To fight the religious wars.

“The Greeks desecrated a Jewish temple in 167 B.C., for example, the Jews had a largely inchoate idea of the hereafter. They called it Sheol, and it was a kind of numb darkness—not an end, exactly, but not existence either. But when the Greeks, with their many gods and their decadent habits, began to threaten the Hebrew way of existence, Jewish leaders came up with a powerful incentive to stay faithful and fight back. They began to preach that ‘many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt,’ says a passage in the Book of Daniel, written around 165 B.C. ‘Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.’

“Jews also believe that at the end of time, paradise will exist on earth and souls will be reunited with their bodies. Theologians stress, though, that the here and now is what matters for Jews, not the hereafter.

“Revelation’s mythic descriptions of thunder and lightning and burning torches, as well as its familiar promises of pearl gates and jeweled walls, were exhortations to the earliest Christians: Do not worship the Roman emperors. Stay faithful to your God and Jerusalem will be restored and you will live in a magnificent city forever.

“The Qur’an describes paradise. Sura 55 is a song devoted in part to the rewards of heaven. It refers to two kinds of every fruit, upholstered couches, palm trees and pomegranates, and ‘green, green pastures.’ The Qur’an also says that the faithful will benefit from the attentions of houris, which many Western scholars translate as virgins, who have very white skin and very dark eyes. The Qur’anic notion of heaven’s being a bountiful garden full of sensual pleasure and spiritual bliss beyond what mortals can possibly imagine.

“Written by an Iranian religious leader, called ‘Ma’ad’ : translated literally, ‘Resurrection’, which made paradise sound something like a deluxe Vegas hotel: ‘There is a castle in Paradise made of marble. In that castle there are seventy houses made of rubies and in each house there are seventy rooms made of emeralds. In each room there are seventy female servants. Though some call this heavenly vision ‘propaganda,’ written expressly for young, unmarried men living in material poverty and sexual repression. To get them to follow the leaders of the religious community.

"For another, Muslim teachings contain strict injunctions against suicide. And while Islamic texts do promise heaven to soldiers who give their lives for Allah, they require those soldiers be engaged in what contemporary Westerners would call a ‘just war.’

“There’s a verse in the Qur’an that says, ‘If you’ve killed one innocent person it’s as if you’ve killed all of humanity.’ To kill someone unjustly and then say to yourself that you’re going to go to heaven and won’t have to submit to judgment, it’s very problematic.

“Even evangelical Christians, who do preach on heaven, eschew the idea that a lifetime of good works guarantees entree to paradise. The only thing you need to do to get to heaven is accept Jesus Christ as your savior. With that simple act, murderers can be granted entrance to this heaven.

“Part of the peculiarity of humans is that they believe what they want to believe, and if that’s illogical, they don’t care. Good, compassionate behavior is not a matter of historical necessity, political perspective or cultural bias. If one can make the mental leap to imagine God in heaven, meting out judgment at the final hour, it’s not so much more of a stretch to believe that, in his or her wisdom, God must be able to sort out the bad guys from the good, and twisted rationalizations from what is true.

“That thesis is all I am programmed with about heaven.” He said, turning his head and looking at me again.

“So you don’t know jack shit either.” I rolled my eyes at him. Not even this super computer thing knew the answer. Everyone had a different fucking answer. Great. You know what. None of it mattered anymore. I knew there would be pain and torment and all that shit. But it would be when I was done. And I wasn’t done yet, not by a fucking long shot. No, right now, I needed to just concentrate on one thing, and one thing only, getting the fuck out of here! “And fuck do you know how to talk!”

“I am not convinced that you are what you say you are. Buffy Summers is the Slayer, per my records. How are you the Slayer as well? All of the mythology shows that there should be only one.”

“She died.” I mumbled.

“So the linage is based on death. I see. That means you were always in the wings, waiting, and your cells, your DNA is activated upon the Alpha’s death. But how? Did you know her? Was there an injection process? An accelerant?”

“Listen, Frank. All I know is I woke up, and I was strong enough to kill anything that came near me.” I smirked. It was true, waking up that morning, throwing open the bathroom door, watching it splinter against the wall, and freaking out because I knew I wasn’t that strong. Having dear old Dad number 4 – come running, slapping me, and when I hit him back, I watched him fly through the air. That, was a good day.

“Well, clearly not everything. I am still alive.”

“You got lucky, catching me on an off day. Jury’s still not back.”

“I do not believe that you should talk of what is impossible. I am holding you here.” He stood back up, and began walking away.

“Yeah, and how long is this gonna be again? I mean, sure it’s been a blast, with the virtual torturing and all, you have a knack, gotta hand it to you. But, see, I am getting a little bored.” I leaned my head up to call out after him.

“Not much longer now. Only a few more tests, and I think I will gladly finish you. The slang you use is affecting my processor I think.”

“Aw, too fucking bad, Frank.”

CHAPTER 4

Where is she?

That was Buffy’s constant thought as she moved through Drummond Cemetery. It was an older one, no longer used for new burials, but it was tucked up against the foothills and forests, the places where Adam had been seen.

And that was her fear that Faith had fallen into the hands of the demon hybrid. Who else could have taken her away? Faith was not the type to just up and run away, she would actively be hunting for Buffy, she knew it as well as she knew that the pointy boots; the black leather ones that went mid calf, with the four inch heel in the new Prada line; were going to be hers next week.

She really hoped that Faith wasn’t with Adam, either as an accomplice or an ally. Buffy knew that Faith was still weak, still not at full strength, that had been clear the night before when they fought. The brunette was trying to be feisty, but just wasn’t pulling it off. Her punches were lacking, her kicks off center. Faith was more scattered than she had been when she was in the throws of her downward spiral. In that condition she was no match to fight Adam, and if she went as an ally, well Buffy didn’t even want to think something like that yet.

To her right she heard something, sounding like the crack of a twig, followed by a low swish of,

Leather.

Buffy griped the stake in her hand a little tighter, really hoping it wasn’t Faith, stabbing her was not on her top ten list of things to do that day, not wearing a light pink blouse, that was for sure.

She spun to her right and had the stake pressed to the center of Spike’s chest. Well, she thought, this was interesting.

“And what in the world are you doing in the woods in the middle of the afternoon?”

“What do you care?”

“Hi.” She stuck out her hand, “I am the Slayer, and you are a vampire. Where you are and what you do, kinda my business.” Buffy smirked.

“You know bloody well that I am harmless, thanks to that drone of a boyfriend you have. Him and his mates really have done a number on me.” Spike tried to back up, but Buffy followed.

“Like you weren’t asking for it.” She poked the stake harder into his chest, and he stepped back into one of the cave openings.

“What about all the others they are playing around with. You know they don’t understand the basics of this, Slayer. That we are magical, mythical.”

“Long winded and kind of smelly?” She cut him off and wrinkled her nose. He was covered in the smell of something, and it was bad.

“Well pardon me.”

“Have you seen Faith?” She asked, wanting to be moving on.

“Who?”

“The other Slayer? Brunette, se- bossy?”

“What? No. I haven’t seen anything or any one.” Spike rolled his eyes.

“Well what are doing in here?”

“Sunlight, sort of bad for my complexion, don’t you think?”

“Hmm, not so sure, wanna go out there and check?” She grinned looking over her shoulder.

“Funny Slayer, real funny.”

Buffy pushed on his shoulder, and they moved deeper inside of the cave. This wasn’t right, there was something.

“I feel her.”

“Whoa there, pet. Feel? Some sort of connection to this broad then?”

“She’s a Slayer too, Spike. God!” She could feel Faith, and she could smell fear, and blood, and death. Buffy turned and stormed out of the cave, and into the afternoon sunshine.

“Hey, where you running off to?”

“She’s in there, and I need reinforcements!” Buffy called over her shoulder.

*****

“There is a way, for me to tap into your subconscious mind, and see all of your thoughts and feelings.”

He was still talking. Man, this guy loved to talk. And ask his stupid questions. Did he think for one second that I would just roll over like a good puppy and do whatever he asked? This thing had no clue, and clearly could not read body language.

“Let me save you the work, I’m hungry, I’m horny, and I am bored as hell.” I rolled my head against the cave wall, just so I didn’t have to look at him.

“I doubt any of those hold true. You appear to have hope, though, based on your attitude. Hope of what?” He stepped closer, those weird eyes locking with mine.

“Just hope I guess. You know how it is, when you realize it doesn’t fucking matter, nothing matters, so whatever happens is no big deal right? That’s where I am sitting. So do your worst, in the end I’ll be dead. Big loss.” I shrugged. It was true. I was tired, tired of waiting, tired of wondering.

“And what if it is nothing?”

“Then I will fit right in, won’t I?”

*****

Buffy was pacing in Giles’ living room. She chanced a glance again at Xander, who was the only one who seemed to want to listen to what she thought. She told them all that she was pretty sure that Faith was being held captive by Adam, and that they all needed to rally to help free her.

“I don’t know, Buffy. Are you sure?” Giles asked.

“No?” She said honestly.

“But you want us to all run in there, all sorts of gung-ho, and possibly end up dead, just on a hunch you have that Faith might be in danger? She wouldn’t do that for us.” Willow said.

“But we don’t know that for sure. We still don’t know that she hasn’t changed. You said it yourself, Wills. When someone wakes up from a coma, sometimes they are different, their personality has changed.” Buffy retorted.

“I may have said that, but we don’t know for sure, Buff, and I really would hate to test that theory, and oh, I don’t know, have all of us end up dead. Just because miss ‘oh I am so sexy’ is in cahoots with Adam.” Willow mumbled the last part.

“You k-k-keep saying that?” Tara spoke up for the first time, more to Willow than any of the others.

"What? That she’s sexy, oh, no I, well what I mean to say-"

“No.” Buffy watched as Tara smiled and continued. “That this Faith is evil. Are you all sure she would even do this sort of thing? Help Adam?”

“Hmm. Let’s see.” Xander sighed. “Yes? She went hightailing it to the Mayor, biggest Bad in town, just to help him destroy us all, so yes, her helping the new big bad is a possibility.”

“They have a point, Buffy. We do need to consider that Faith may be on the dark path still. You have no proof otherwise.”

“I know what I felt, Giles.” She mumbled under her breath. “Don’t we have to try, though? Isn’t that what we are supposed to do?” Her eyes pleaded with everyone, even Riley, who was looking sullen.

“Perhaps.” Giles agreed, in his own way. “And Spike was able to offer nothing?”

“No. He was all with the ‘I don’t know’. I don’t trust him though.” Buffy crossed her arms. “All I know is that if she is there, she needs me.” Buffy paced past Riley, and the others were moving closer, to talk it over.

“So what was it between you too.” Riley asked, taking Buffy’s arm, bringing her to a halt.

“Nothing.” I don’t want to talk about this, not now.

“You are doing a whole lot of evading over nothing, Buffy.”

She rolled her eyes, knowing there was no way he would understand. "Riley, listen, there are things that-"

“I know she’s a Slayer.” He snapped, and Buffy froze. Okay with that information maybe he would understand, but still she felt a chill at the thought that he knew.

“What? How?” Buffy stumbled.

“I have a brain; no natural human could survive the lists of injuries that she had. Give me some credit here, Buffy.” He said, leading them to the corner of the room. The others were still talking it over, deciding what they would do. Should they help Buffy, or let her go to face Adam, and possibly Faith on her own.

“Natural? Did you say natural?” She stammered.

“Listen, Buffy, don’t take that the wrong way.”

“You said not natural, did you forget that I am a Slayer too- wait no. That’s it isn’t it? You still can’t get over the fact that I am different. Different from you, different from them.” She pointed to her group of friends.

“You are special, Buffy.” He took her hand in his.

“Why?” She wrenched her hand away. “Really, I would love to hear you explain yourself out of this one, Mr. Enhanced due to medical science.”

“I am still human – Listen, Buffy. I have been fighting my commanding officers for months, ever since you told me you were the Slayer, this mythical warrior. You know that they are foaming at the mouth to see you, to get a piece of you.” He crossed his arms, taking the defensive, as he should, Buffy mentally scoffed.

“And I am faltered that you ‘saved me’ Riley.”

“You should be! Don’t you get it? With Faith, they can have their Slayer.” He had a glint of something in his eyes that Buffy had thought Riley Finn was incapable of. It was hunger. At merely the thought of possessing Faith, turning her over to his white-coated men in that underground lair.

“You will not, and I will say this clearly one more time to get through that military bullshit in your head, you will not touch Faith. You will not treat her like a guinea pig to find out how we work. My God Riley, she is very likely being tortured by Adam, right now, right this second, and you want to rush in, save her, and turn around and do the same thing.” And she knew it was true, before he even tried to speak again, from the look in his eyes she knew.

“Why not?” He tossed his hands in the air. “She is a killer Buffy. You all told me that. This is not where she is meant to be, out there free. She needs to pay for her crimes, and how better for her to do that than to be tested, studied. Have you even stopped to consider all that we can do, if we just knew what made you a Slayer? If we could harness that DNA, or whatever it is, and place it in others. God, Buffy, have you not imagined a platoon, a whole battle regiment of men with Slayer strength, senses? This world would be saved, the HSTs would be decimated to such an extent that no one would ever have to worry again.” Was he drooling? It sure as hell looked like he was drooling.

“And everyone wonders why we keep the Slayer thing a secret.” Buffy groaned. “Earth to Riley. When will you get it? This isn’t about creating something – this is about mysticism, about a higher power. In every generation there is ONE.”

“No, now there are two. And forever there will always be two. You explain that one away with your bedtime stories.” He snapped.

“You will not touch her.” Buffy glared at him, letting him, for the first time see the rage of the Slayer in her eyes, before she turned and stormed out of the apartment, slamming the door in her wake.

“You can’t stop what has already started, Buffy.” He said, the words following her.

CHAPTER 5

She never stopped to consider that this wasn’t the best idea she had ever had, not until she lost her footing and fell down through the narrow opening into the oubliette she now found herself in.

She had marched into the system of caves with only a few weapons from the chest in her bedroom, still high on anger. Angry at the group for not believing in her, angry with Riley for thinking that he could storm in and take Faith away. Something within her was screaming at the mere thought of those men getting their hands on Faith, and it had nothing to do with her own self preservation. Buffy knew that regardless, even with years of testing they would never even get close to the answers they wanted. They were men of science, and therefore would continue to discount anything that could not be explained away with charts and figures. And what a Slayer was, what being a Slayer meant, was not definable by their logic. So them running tests on Faith and discovering secrets was not her concern. If was the fact that they would do things to the girl, all the while telling themselves that she was not a human being. And Buffy knew that was not true. Faith, for all her faults, had a soul, was good, despite what she had done. The other Slayer had been objectified enough in her life. Buffy would do everything in her power to stop that from happening again.

But only now, as Buffy Summers lay on her back, looking up through the narrow opening that she had fallen through, did it dawn on her that she had let her emotions get the better of her, that she really should have waited for them all to come to their senses. And they would have. They always did, her family, her friends, in the end they followed her into the fray, into the darkness, and certain death.

Mental note, next go around, I give them a little more time.

She groaned, and rolled over to sit up. Right now, she needed to figure out how to get out of here. She was a sitting duck. And whatever that used to be in the corner, she thought as she regarded the pile of blackened bones, she did not want that fate to befall her.

*****

Something was up. He had been sitting there, typing away at one of the computers he had set up, when his back straightened and he turned around quickly. His eyes regarded me for a second, and then looked down the narrow hall that lead to this place. Something had him spooked.

“What is it? Milk man coming to collect and you forgot to stop at the bank before coming home tonight?” I asked, though my voice was thick. I was wicked thirsty. When he had come back, we had another round of virtual torture. This time he gutted me. It was strange that it felt so real, that I could feel the knife, smell the blood, feel my insides loosen as he pulled them out and spread them on the table beside me. He had mentioned something about this being the newest technology, or some other bullshit, honestly, I was screaming behind the gage he had wedged between my teeth a little too much to pay attention.

God, what I wouldn’t give for some water, and hey, while I was on the subject of wishing for things I was never going to get, a half rack of ribs wouldn’t be half bad either.

“Someone is here.” He said softly, and stood up, keying something on his arm. I watched as the steel plate there slid away and he pulled out a needle. He kept a needle in his arm? You have got to be kidding me!

“Someone, I got that by the ‘oh shit’ look on your face. Who?”

“You really should learn to hold your tongue.”

“Naw.” I grinned, and he punched me. Right in the jaw. Man, that hurt… but see it didn’t hurt as much as it should have. I was feeling all sorts of better. But I wouldn’t let him know that. I nearly had the shackles on my wrists loose.

*****

She tried scaling the wall. But they were smooth. She tried to jump, using her Slayer strength, to grip the lip of the opening. But it was just out of her reach. She touched every filthy inch of the wall in here looking for an opening, looking for a secret door. None. Buffy was stuck. And it was dark, and smelly, and her new shirt was no longer the pristine baby pink it had been when she slipped it on that morning.

When will I learn, Slaying is murder on my wardrobe?

She leaned against the wall, her arms crossed, staring at the corpse across from her. How long had he been there? How had he gotten there? Was it a he? Did it really matter when all she needed to do was find a goddamn way out of this fucking pit, because it sure as hell felt like the room was getting smaller, that the walls were inching closer with every breath she took.

“Buffy?”

She jumped away from the wall, hearing her name.

“Willow?” She called up.

“She is down there, pay up Xander.” Buffy heard Willow exclaim.

“How in the world?” That was Giles.

"I told you that if we listen to Tara and followed Buffy’s aura trail that we would find her. Tara is a really smart witch like that, I mean really, it’s a pretty simple spell, maybe we should all learn it, you know, if we need to track any one down, it would make life-"

“Willow!” Buffy yelled, interrupting the rant that was taking place above her. “Get me out of here.”

“Right!” the redhead exclaimed, and then a rope was dropped down. “One freed Slayer, coming up.”

*****

“This really has been most interesting.” Adam said as he stepped closer.

“Actually I found your company lacking.” I sneered, trying not to look like that needle was bothering me.

“I will enjoy this more than you know.” He moved closer to my arm.

“Not as much as I will, you fucking piece of shit.” I snarled, and as he moved to jam the needle into my left arm, my right tore free of the wall and my fist slammed against his head.

*****

After Buffy’s feet hit the safety of the passageway floor, and explosion rocked the caves. It was close; they all stumbled, almost falling from the concussion that moved swiftly through the etched out earth.

“When did Adam get into excavation?” Xander muttered, as he stood straighter.

“I have the sneaking suspicion that it wasn’t Adam.” Buffy groaned.

“You think it is the Initiative?” Giles asked.

“They want Faith.” Buffy shrugged.

“Yes, but there is no proof that she is here.” Giles offered.

“They couldn’t pass up the chance that she might be.” Willow offered.

“Exactly, Wills. They have to make sure.”

“Maybe will get lucky, and they will take out Adam?” Xander hoisted his blaster higher up on his shoulder.

“We can hope. Listen guys, lets split up.” Buffy started walking away. “Be careful, I am not so sure about trusting Riley or the Initiative right now.” She finished as she disappeared around the corner.

*****

There were bodies laying on the floor of the room. Bullet holes, and puncture marks showing as the signs of death.

After I attacked Adam it seemed like everything went fuzzy for a while. When I came to, there was nothing left in the room, but for the smell of burning flesh and plastic. The computers on the table were smashed and smoldering, and there were a few dead G.I. Joe guys laying here.

I wasn’t sure what the hell happened. All I remembered was punching Adam in the face, and then passing out. Whatever that asshole had injected me with must have knocked me out.

“They went down here.” A male voice, one I didn’t know came echoing through the quiet.

I didn’t know what was happening, and I sure as shit didn’t want to stay here and find out. I pulled my other arm, shackle, chain and all from the wall, and took off running. Not sure where, only away from the sound of the voices and footfalls coming in my direction.

*****

Faith had been here, Buffy was sure of it. She could feel her all around her in this room. It was there. Buffy rushed to the wall, to see the holes in the stone. Something had been here. She set her palms on the wall, and it felt warm. Not too much time had passed.

Where was she?

“Well looky here boys. Not the one we came for, but this one will suit our needs.”

Buffy turned to see Forrest standing with a small group of men, all dressed in their fatigues, blasters pointing at her.

“Funny.” She rolled her eyes, and then glanced over Forrest’s shoulder. “Shit! She is getting away!” She pointed, and the men, turned, looking down the passage.

“Go!” Forrest ordered and the men began filling out, in the direction Buffy had motioned to. “It isn’t over between us, Buffy.” He snarled, and then followed his men.

“No it isn’t.” Buffy replied, and then took of running in the opposite direction.

Buffy rounded another corner, really hoping that when this was all over she remembered how to get out. She could feel the cold, and knew she was getting deeper into the hillside.

She crossed her arms over her chest, being in complete darkness did not sound like the best idea to her, but there was no way she was turning back. A low, nearly inaudible moan reached her, coming from the right, and she followed it. There in the dark, Faith was leaning against the wall, panting for breath.

“Faith?” She whispered as she walked up to the other girl, reaching out to touch her shoulder. When the touch connected, both Slayers shivered feeling the tingling of something passing through them. “Are you okay?”

“Five by five, B.” Faith croaked, her voice sounding hurt and foreign. Her wrists were chaffed and bloody, her face pale, her eyes gaunt. The brunette looked bad.

“We have to get you out of here.” Buffy stressed.

“Why?” Faith asked, pulling a syringe from her arm, and tossing it to the ground. It clinked.

“This place is crawling with Initiative men, and they, they want you Faith. They know you are the Slayer, and they want to study you.” Buffy said, trying to lead Faith away from the wall. She wasn’t sure how much longer they would have before they where found.

“They what?”

“They want to take you and experiment on you.”

“What is it with people wanting to stick things in me?” Faith snickered, then clutched her arm again.

“Faith that isn’t funny.”

“Actually it is. I am one big pushpin for these people, for everyone, even you.” She said that with such vehemence that Buffy stepped back. “See a good thing happened when Adam was playing doctor, B.”

“What, what did he do to you?” Buffy asked, fearful. She had seen some of the experiments Adam had left for her around town, and none of them were pleasant.

“Nothing, really, well no. He helped me. See the pain, and the anguish he supplied, well it made me remember stuff. Stuff I had shoved so deep down inside that I almost forgot that it was there. But no. I remembered. I fucking remembered it all, my whole life. And you know what? You were always there. Always. Why’s that B? Why have you been a part of me, on my mind before we even met? Why was it that I felt like I was waiting for you, until I got here? Why, in my fucking coma, was I dreaming about you? Always, always, always you!!! TELL ME WHY?” Faith screamed, her eyes round with pain.

“I, I,” Buffy couldn’t think of one thing to say, nothing to offer comfort. She had no idea that she was haunting Faith’s life.

She watched Faith turn, and run quickly away, to be swallowed by the shadows.

CHAPTER 6

Buffy wondered where she was, out there, alone. She had spent hours looking in the caves for Faith, and found nothing. Soon she came across the Scoobies, all who looked to her expectantly, but she had nothing to offer, nothing other than the fact that she had seen Faith, that she appeared all right, and that she had fled.

The Initiative had disappeared soon after as well, leaving the friends alone in the network of caves. There was no sign of Adam.

Buffy had come back to her dorm room, with Willow and Tara, and had been laying in her bed, thinking behind her closed eyes, thinking about how tonight had gone nowhere like she had planned. Adam was still on the loose, Faith was missing and out there, alone.

There was a low sound, like a moan, and Buffy opened her eyes, slowly. The room was dark, but with the faint light of the quarter moon streaming in from the open curtains she was given just enough light to see. Her enhanced hazel eyes could make out the moving forms on the bed just across from her. Willow’s red hair moved slightly, as her body was slowly moving over the one under her.

“Willow.” Tara whimpered, and the sound of need in her voice caused Buffy to shiver. She knew she should look away, go back to sleep, but she couldn’t. She watched as Tara’s hands lost themselves in Willow’s hair and brought the two girls mouths together in a wet and passionate kiss. Both Wicca had their eyes closed, as Tara’s lips moved over Willow’s cheek, her chin, to suck at her neck.

“Baby.” Willow moaned out, and Buffy watched as her best friend’s body twitched with excitement.

They were moving together, in a dance that mesmerized Buffy, both women looking so enraptured. Soft kisses, and gentle caresses of hands over bodies, under shirts.

Buffy had never thought that Willow could be gay, but seeing them together, it looked completely right. Everything about the two of them seemed to fit together, and they looked whole. They looked like they belonged together.

So happy, so safe, so-

Buffy gulped, realizing what she had been ignoring all of this time. That she wanted that, she needed that wholeness, that closeness. She needed to find the person that she fit with perfectly. She knew, without a shadow of doubt that she did not have that with Riley, and never would. She would never have that look in her eye, the one that sparked just then when Willow opened her eyes and looked down at the blonde beneath her. A look of pure love and understanding. It awed Buffy, to see such a strong love, to know that it did exist outside of fairy tales and afternoon daydreams.

*****

“I am sorry about our fight, but I know what is right thing to do, Buffy.”

“If you touch her, if you even breath near her this is over.”

“You would throw away what we have, just for this? See her for what she is, Buffy, an animal. Okay, I know that sounds harsh and terrible, and, and maybe it is, but Faith, she isn’t right inside. You told me that, they all told me that.”

I was squatting behind a thick Rhododendron bush, listening to them talk. I had been following B all morning, trying my best to figure out exactly what had happened to me, when was it that I truly realized that I needed to be near her.

So she thought I wasn’t right huh? Well that certainly wasn’t a big surprise.

“What makes her not right? You weren’t here then. Sure we all told you what happened, but do you think we told you everything? Do you think we told you what we did, what we are ashamed that we did? That we forced her out, kept her away from the group, only used her when it suited us. Did we tell you that Riley? Did we tell you about the nightmares she has? Did we? Did we tell you that the one night I actually invited her over, and she was sleeping, and she was tormented by these nightmares, where she was screaming out over and over again for it to stop, for her mother to stop hitting her, for these names, these men to stop touching her – did we fucking tell you that?”

Holy shit! B knew about the nightmares? Why didn’t she ever say anything?

“No, see, I don’t think we did. Because you still think she is wrong. That she deserves, no OWES it to the world to be cut open, picked apart, see what makes her tick. See Riley Finn, you don’t know everything, and you never will. Not about Faith, and certainly not about me.”

"Buffy I-"

“You know, I thought I could love you. I thought I should love you. I mean, look at you! Handsome, tall, strong, smart. NORMAL. DEPENDABLE. And that is what makes it not work. You are normal. And I just can’t love normal.”

“What are you talking about Buffy, sure this is bad, right now, but we love each other.” Beef stick was just now getting it, that was clear by the fear in his voice. I so wanted to peek through the bush, to see the look on his face, as I knew it would be priceless, but B would hear that, and I liked where I was hiding still.

“You said it yourself Riley. I am not a natural human, and I can’t love a natural human. You can never be what I need, what satisfies me… don’t you feel it? When we are together and I have to pretend? I have to remind myself that I can’t use my strength with you? That I can’t really show you my passion, because I would hurt you.”

He laughed under his breath. This guy so did not get it. But I did. I knew exactly what she was talking about. I knew because my life had been exactly the same after I was called. Being afraid to touch people sometimes, afraid that I couldn’t control the strength in my hands. She understood it too.

“Don’t Riley. It may hurt your ego, but I could shatter your ribs by holding you as tight as I need to hold someone. You are not what I need.”

No. You need me. I allowed my mind to say the one thing I never ever wanted to hear. It hurt too much, knowing that it could never be.

“Right, I am alive, not some dead blood sucking vampire.”

“Hello, I am sorry, did I say Angel’s name? Nope. – You know what? This is over. It is all over. You and your boys need to leave. This is not a place for people who don’t understand.”

"Buffy the US government-"

“Created Adam. They created a monster.”

CHAPTER 7

She hadn’t expected it to be that easy. If telling him off, and freeing herself had been that easy, why hadn’t Buffy done it months ago, she wondered.

Because you thought it was right, you thought it was what you were supposed to have, supposed to feel.

Buffy grinned at herself. She had thought that. She had convinced herself that it was how she would feel being in a normal relationship. God that word again! Buffy rolled her eyes as she turned down the street, heading for the Scooby Meeting. They needed to really search for Faith now. Buffy was worried, after seeing Faith last night, looking so broken, and exhausted. Buffy feared that maybe Adam had done something to Faith, and that Buffy had not been able to see the evidence of it in the darkness.

As Buffy stepped through the courtyard of Giles’ apartment building, she spied a leather-clad man was standing at the door. His arms tucked into his pockets. Silently he motioned for her to follow him as he took a few steps back toward the street, and when she did not budge he leaned forward and whispered.

“Ms Summers, this place is filled with listening devices, I beseech you to come with me.” He said in his thick British accent.

“You beseech do you?” She asked, crossing her arms. From his expression she could tell that he really believed that she would just follow him, when this guy was clearly from the Council. Had he not been given the memo, she did not work for them anymore.

“The others are already there,” he said standing close to her, but making sure that he did not touch her at all.

“Others?” She narrowed her eyes at him.

“Mr. Giles, Mr. Harris, Ms Rosenberg,”

“You have them then.” Her voice was monotone. She expected as much from them.

“Not have, they came quite amicably I assure you.” He said.

“Okay, lets go. But if they are tied up or hurt, you don’t even want to know what I am going to do to you.” Buffy sneered as he turned and she followed him back out to the street.

*****

This was an interesting development. I was walking about a block behind them, watching B was she followed this obvious Council goon through the bright afternoon streets. I couldn’t hear their conversation, not that there was much being said by either of them, but I wondered why she was following him. Being a little logical I figured that it had to do with me. I knew that the Watchers were coming for me, and now they were here. So she was with them, she was going to help them find me, hand me over so they could lock me up.

She almost had me with her impassioned speech to Beefstick, but it I was right to not believe it. I was right from the very start; from the first day I set foot in this town. She didn’t trust me, wouldn’t trust me. B was going to send me away with them. She thought it would be that easy? I don’t fucking think so. I hadn’t stayed alive this long, gone through everything that I did just to have her hand me over to a group of men that had no fucking clue what it was like to fight, what it was like to live with this responsibility. As they turned down McCarthy Boulevard I had a pretty good idea of where they were headed, and I veered off to the right, slipping between two houses. I would beat them there, set up and listen to their plans, just so I could fuck with them a little.

*****

“Hey I was happy hiding in my basement.” Xander said then tossed another grape in his mouth.

Buffy could not believe that they were all sitting in the dinning room of the mansion. Mostly because she had never even realized that there was a dinning room. Her visits always took place in the living room or the courtyard when Angel lived here. She wondered which of the Scoobies had volunteered this location to the Council, and whoever did it would get a tongue lashing from her. This had been her quiet place, now they would always know where it was. She internally groaned.

“I bet you were, Xander.” Buffy scoffed as she came the rest of the way into the room, to see that they were all here, even Tara, seated around the table. At the head was a man she was not familiar with. He was interesting though, with a long jagged scar running down the side of his face. “Well, look the gangs all here. Someone mind telling me why?”

"Uh, Buffster, I think we all know why they are here. They want-"

“Yeah, Xander I know why they are here, I just thought I would ask, you know, get the conversation moving forward.” Buffy snapped, crossing her arms, and leaning against the doorframe.

"Buffy, please join us. I have been talking with-"

“I get it Giles. Everyone wants Faith.”

“Actually, Ms. Summers that is not the main reason that we are here. Not in such mass.” The man at the head of the table said gently, calmly.

“Wanna enlighten me then?” She snapped.

“There is considerable unbalance in the world, and it is centered here. In this Hellmouth.” He said, leaning forward slightly. “If you come back to the Council, Buffy, if you and Giles agree to work with us, we can stop this madness. They think what they are doing is for the greater good, but they are merely upsetting the balance.”

“Agreed.” Giles added.

“They mean your boy toy and his laser tag playing buddies.” Xander chomped on another grape.

“Not that it matters all that much, but Riley isn’t my boyfriend anymore.” Buffy mumbled.

“Really?” Willow turned to look at her best friend. “Are you okay? Do we need to make an ice cream run?”

“I am fine. Wills. Better than fine. So,” Buffy turned to the man at the head of the table. “You want us to help you take down the Initiative, a large, heavily armed and funded group of the American Military?”

“Yes.”

“Sounds like fun.” Buffy grinned widely.

“We are going to have a problem.” He said, pushing back from the table and standing.

“Just one?” Xander quipped. Again eating. Buffy would have to talk to him about that, he was looking a little soft around the middle.

“Well, I believe it is fairly certain that the majority of us are going to die.” The leader shrugged.

"Great attitude there! Jeez! Just walk in here and tell us that we have to fight, and that hey you are all going to die. You know that some of us are passive, ever think about that? Ever think that maybe some of us are trying to live a nice happy life, you know starting college, being in love and-"

“Willow?” Giles questioned.

"You just can’t think that can you? Well maybe we didn’t sign up for this but we feel that this is what we should be doing. That we feel the need to fight this fight, but then you come in here with your long faces, and your smelly wool pants and you bring down the moral with comments like, ‘we are all going to die’. We don’t need that kind of attitude here Mister-"

Tara grabbed Willow’s face in her hands, and kissed her passionately, silencing the redhead.

“Oh my.” Giles pulled off his glasses, diverting his eyes.

“That about confirms what I was thinking.” Xander said with a grin.

“Did everyone know about this before me again?” Buffy asked the group. “I mean I knew since last night, but you knew before?” She asked him.

“When Willow only talks about one person for three hours, yeah, I get suspicious.”

*****

Wow!

Okay, Red was not driving stick anymore, and not missing it one bit, by the blush that had taken over her cheeks and ears when the blonde girl moved away from her. That was just, well, shocking as hell. Who would have thought that little Red would have moved on from her big bad wolf, and into the arms of a fairly hot blonde?

Their conversation seemed to have nothing to do with me, which was surprising, and again they were all talking about this Initiative. I guess it was real, that there really was a group out there messing with things. Trying to dissect the demons and learn what made them bad. I couldn’t really understand how that was a bad thing. Making the Slayer’s job a little easier if you ask me.

Slayer.

Ah, so that was why they wanted me. Cut me up, probably in reality, not like Adam had done. Study what makes me tick, what makes a slayer stronger and faster and better than every other fucking Mary Sue walking through the mall on a Saturday afternoon.

“But what about Faith.” B asked, and I spun my eyes back to the group. Always wondering what to do with poor little psycho Faithy.

“We have been unable to find her.” Scarface quipped leaning back in the chair again.

“I can find her, what I meant was what will you do to her?” She crossed her arms, looking all sorts of bad ass. Well as bad ass as Buffy Summers could look in a pair of khaki pedal pushers and a peach string tank top.

“I don’t know, Ms. Summers.”

“Are you lying?” She asked. Why was she pushing him on this? What was the big deal?

“No. It was the initial directive to exterminate her,”

I knew it! I fucking knew it! Kill the Slayer! That was all they fucking wanted, all they thought about!

“But that really does not solve our dilemma does it? Having two Slayers. No keeping her alive, and hopefully balanced enough to fight for the cause seems more valuable to us.” He finished.

“Just so another isn’t called while I am still alive.” B grumbled.

“Yes.”

CHAPTER 8

I had been hiding out, not wanting to get found by the Council. The sewers seemed to be the best idea. I remembered all of the times that Giles and Wussley always bitched when there was a nasty that needed slaying down here, and was pretty confident all the Nancy boys shared that trait. So down into the sewers I went. Mucking around for hours, until I felt I was hidden deep enough away. There was a small niche in the wall, elevated above the ground so it was dry. I sat down and pulled my knees to my chest and closed my eyes. I wasn’t sure for how long I would have to wait, but I knew I could last a few days down here, and maybe by then they would have given up and headed off somewhere else.

I was still confused, about everything. Since I woke up from the coma things had seemed off with me. I was remembering bits and pieces of my life before, and yet still nothing felt right. Even fighting with B had seemed wrong, had seemed so much harder than any other time before. I know that we used to be such a good match, nearly equal in the fighting department, but I was having a hell of a time holding my own. I wasn’t sure if it had something to do with my muscles being affected from laying, unmoving for months or if it was just the age-old problem I had going all out on her. Like the night on the roof, me and her and a knife. I didn’t go all out then either. Sure she had been a Slayer longer, but I was bigger, I was stronger, I was the more dangerous of the two because I fought without care, I found with everything that I was, fought with the mind set that if I got taken down I would have to be dead. B always thought with her head, was always thinking about what next, was always ducking punches to her face, always avoiding getting into the thick of it with a baddy, afraid she would get hurt herself. Me? I just jumped in and got knocked around, but was always the last one standing.

So why did she get the better of me when we had fought? Why was I still holding back? Why did it hurt me when it was my fist connecting with her face?

Why was I still thinking about her, sitting in this sewer in Sunnydale when I should be running out of this town, heading for Mexico or Canada or just somewhere else, far away from the clutches of the Council? Why did it always come back to her, why even when we were fighting did I feel like I belonged?

An explosion rocked the tunnel, I felt the actual ground lurch, and the walls trembled slightly, thinking about caving in. I lifted my head, looking through the darkness, to the faint smoke and rubble that could be seen about twenty yards down. My Slayer-senses started to tingle as demons of all shapes and sizes began to stream out of the opening. In seconds there were a dozen of them, all running right past me, not even noticing me. Clearly they were too busy running away to give a shit about a dirty Slayer sitting huddled in the dark.

“The Slayer brought an army.” One vampire said as he rushed past, to another.

“Who cares we are free.” Snapped an orange looking demon.

“But what about the rebellion? What about Adam?” This one had horns, and was moving a little slower.

“I heard they got him a few days ago.” The vampire snapped. “All those dreams are over. Let’s just get out of here.” His voice carried through the tunnel, back to me. More and more were rushing out of the opening.

B had an army? Adam dead? What in the hell was happening on the other side of that wall? I stood up, and moved through the water, avoiding the demons coming out as much as they avoided me.

*****

“Shit, Buffy, are you alright?” Faith wrapped her arms around her. Buffy wondered where Faith had come from. She didn’t remember seeing her there, fighting? Maybe she had shown up later, when the battle between the Initiative and the Watchers was in full swing.

“What?” Buffy blinked once then twice. “Oh, yeah. I’m okay. Damn blasters, they always knock the wind out of me.” Buffy offered.

“Hitting your head didn’t help either.” Faith smiled. Buffy realized that she had missed that smile.

Buffy looked around, seeing the remnants of the battle, bodies laying on the ground, those of demons and humans alike.

“Wow. So, did we win?” Buffy asked.

“You sure did B. You sure did.” Faith pushed some hair behind Buffy’s ear.

“Okay then where is everyone and why aren’t we all down with the high fives?” Buffy sat up straighter.

“Um, it ended pretty quick I guess. I am sure they figured you were, um, well.” Faith stood up and back away looking confused.

“I am pretty hidden back here.” Buffy mumbled out loud, looking at the boxes and debris surrounding them.

“Right.”

“So, let’s go then.” Buffy stood up.

“Um, B, why don’t you go, I have to,” her eyes were moving back and forth over the large hanger.

“Faith are you still worried about what they might think?” Buffy asked, setting her hand on the other Slayer’s arm.

“Well, yeah, I mean I did try and kill them all, working with the Mayor. That isn’t something somebody just forgives you know? And I’m not ready to be groveling Slayer. ‘Cause I don’t think it is all my fault, nothing was all my fault.” Faith crossed her arms.

“You’re right it wasn’t. A lot of the blame is with me too. And I will help you work this out with them. I think, no, I know we could use another Slayer in town, and I wouldn’t want it to be anyone but you.” Buffy grinned.

“You hit your head harder than I thought. Listen B, you hate me, I hate you. This is all pretty simple stuff here. Just because you got knocked in the head doesn’t change any of that.”

“This isn’t about me getting knocked in the head, Faith. This is about what I know. You were in that coma for eight months. That’s a long time.”

“Tell me about it.” She grumbled.

“So I did do a lot of thinking. And I am sorry I tried to kill you. I am sorry that I didn’t listen, that I wasn’t more of a friend to you.”

“How long is this speech gonna be?”

“Why you have somewhere else to go?” Buffy quirked her eyebrow.

“Maybe.” Faith growled.

“Fine. Go. Whatever Faith. You don’t want to hear how I have forgiven you, how I want to be your friend. Then just go.”

“Fine.”

“Agrh!” Buffy threw up her arms as Faith disappeared behind a stack of crates.

*****

I just stormed out. It was easy to do. She was thinking it could be so easy. That she could give me that smile and it would make everything all better. Well it couldn’t not by a long shot. There were some things in this life that could not be that easy.

*****

NO! Buffy thought. It was just not that easy. She couldn’t just shut down and walk away again. Buffy rushed after Faith, finding her at the opened hangar doors, and reached out for her.

“You can’t just walk away from me Faith.”

“No, looks like I just did.”

“Faith.” Buffy pouted. "Please, I-"

“The Council still wants me, now that this is all over with.” She moved her hands around the now empty Initiative. “That’s for the best, right? That I just leave here, go with them to England.” Faith sighed.

“But, maybe I don’t want you to go back there.” Buffy said. She couldn’t believe that Faith seemed to want to go with them. Since Faith left the hospital they had not spent any time together, not really, even so, Buffy wanted to spend more time, she didn’t want to just let Faith go like that.

“What do you want then, B?”

“I don’t know! I like you being here I like the idea of you slaying with me again.”

“Just the Slaying?” Faith wiggled her eyebrows.

“F.”

“What B? I am just trying to figure all this out, what you want, what they want, what I want.”

“How selfish of me. What do you want?”

“I think I want to go.” Faith sighed.

“Oh.”

“B?”

“Yeah, F.”

“I don’t want to leave you, I am going so I can figure out who I am, what I am meant to be. And I have some baggage, some pretty big baggage, and they are going to try and help me with it.”

“I’d help you.” Buffy offered.

“I know you would try.”

“Will you, never mind.”

“Say it.” Faith demanded, but softly.

“Will you think about me?”

“Ah, I always do B.”

CHAPTER 9

"So what do we do now? I mean with-"

“The Initiative has folded, so they are no longer a threat to us. The Council has returned to England. I, I dare say, that this couldn’t come at a better time.” Giles offered.

“I agree with that!” Buffy added as she still paced in the room. She was still hurting because Faith was gone. It seemed like everything happened so fast after the battle, and the next thing she knew, everything was back just as it was before. Them, huddling in the living room of Giles’ apartment.

“How can you say that?” Willow asked softly.

“Sorry Wills, but it is nice and quiet now.” Buffy crossed her arms, leaning against the bookcase.

“Imagine if something else was happening now, where would that leave us?” Giles offered.

“I understand that, but still, how can you.” Willow croaked out.

“Willow.” Tara pulled her into an embrace. Buffy thought they looked so good together, and loved each other so much. She was thrilled that Willow had found someone who seemed to just complete her best friend in every way.

“So what I want to know is now what?” Xander asked from the lounge chair.

“The Council has her, and will be training her.” Giles offered.

“Then she comes back here right?” Buffy asked, hoping. No one had confirmed if Faith was coming back, not even Faith had been certain.

“And what then, they just send her here?” Xander paced.

“Hello, I just said that.” Buffy snapped. Sometimes everyone was far too involved in their own little worlds, not hearing her.

“That is the plan, yes. This is the Hellmouth, the one place that needs the most protection.” Giles took his glasses from his face. “This, this.” He stumbled.

“Maybe we should all get some rest, maybe then it will be easier?” Tara offered.

“How can this be easier?” Giles asked softly.

“What is the big downer, guys?” Buffy furrowed her brow.

She watched Xander and Willow shrug.

CHAPTER 10

Buffy was sitting in the commons, watching the early evening light slowly disappear. Over the quiet past few days, a lot had come clear to her. Crystallized in her mind. She had for a moment been taken a back by it, the truth of it. But now, it felt right, it felt good.

“So I hear there is a cocky vampire that needs to be taken down a peg or two.” Faith said from behind Buffy, and the blonde spun around. She hadn’t felt her arrive, but there she was. Standing in her tight jeans, tiny top, and a shit eating grin that she was famous for. Buffy gave a sigh of relief. Faith was still here, she hadn’t moved on.

“And you came running.” Buffy grinned.

“I’m your girl for apocalyptic drama.”

“Mine, huh?”

“Always, B. You know that.”

“Hmm. Do I?”

Faith stepped closer, pressing her body against Buffy’s making a shudder race through the small blonde Slayer.

*****

Well this is it, now or never as they say.

“You know I’m yours B, if you want me.” I said softly.

“If?” B whispered, looking up slightly, tilting her head, making her hair fall over her shoulder. “There is no ‘if’ Faith. I want you.” She brushed her lips over mine, just a peck, and then kissed along my jaw.

I ran my thumb over the underside of her chin. “I love you B, always have, and I always will.”

“Love you too, Faith. My Faith.” I met her lips in a crushing kiss, feeling her gasp in surprise and as I devouring her mouth, not waiting, not going slow. It felt like I had waited a million years to touch her, to hear her say those seven letters strung together. She loved me! ME!

*****

Faith’s skin was warm under her lips. Buffy kissed along her neck, down to the base of her throat where Buffy nipped with her teeth gently.

She felt like she had been waiting forever for Faith to return, to come back to her, and now she was finally here, in her arms.

*****

“Uh, B, what, what are you?”

My head slammed back against the wall as I felt the hot exhale of her breath through my jeans, right on my center. Her teeth and lips were pressing against me, and I was so hating the fact that clothes were on my body right now. My knees shook at the thought of her mouth on my flesh.

CHAPTER 11

They were laying in the large bed in Faith’s apartment, just a white sheet pulled over the top of them. Buffy’s cheek rested on Faith’s shoulder and her fingers were lazily drawing patterns on Faith’s chest.

“B?”

“Yeah, Faith?”

“What happens when we die? You know, where do we go?” Faith’s voice was a whisper.

“I am thinking you are asking as I kind of have the market cornered on the whole dying and coming back thing.” Buffy grinned. And then felt Faith nod. “Well, I think it might be a little different for everyone, you know? I mean, what one person may think heaven is like, might not be what I want it to be.”

“I remember a light, a white light and then they told me to come back, that I was still needed, still wanted.” Faith sighed.

“Hmm.” Buffy leaned up and kissed Faith’s lips softly. “Are you sure they sent you back, Faith?”

“What?” She asked. Buffy propped herself up on her elbows, and looked into those deep chocolate eyes.

“Are you sure that this,” she looked around them. “Isn’t your heaven?”

“No, it can’t.” Faith argued.

“What would you want your heaven to be then?” Buffy asked, running her fingers through Faith’s wild hair.

“Somewhere safe, and warm, and… with you.”

“I am with you always Faith. Here.” She set her lips above Faith’s heart, giving the skin a soft kiss, before moving up and capturing those lips between hers, sucking the full velvety bottom lip between hers. They each deepened the kiss, tongues dancing, and when they ran out of air, Buffy leaned back. “Faith?”

“Yeah B.”

“Change it.” She said softly.

“Change it?”

“Change it.” Buffy was stronger this time. It was time.

“You are serious, huh?” Faith questioned.

“Dead serious.”

"Okay, but I am only trying this to prove you-" the room changed and they were laying under the stars, surrounded by blankets and pillows. “Wrong?” Faith sat up, afraid. “B?”

“You didn’t survive the coma, Faith.” Buffy looked down at her hands for a moment, and then with a sigh looked up. “And I didn’t survive the battle with the Initiative. That blaster shot? It got me.”

"You are shitting me. The Gang, and Adam and the Council, and Riley and-"

“Sorry about some of that. That you had to go through what you did, it was all part of the journey to get here.” Buffy shrugged, having figured it out much sooner than the other Slayer. Though hearing her friends talking about how she was dead did help her come to accept it.

“But.”

“No buts, baby.” She kissed Faith’s nose. “This is our heaven.”

“So no more Slaying?” Faith asked, eyes still wide and unsure.

“Nope.”

“No more paying taxes?”

“Nope.”

“Will you be staying here, with me?” her voice was vulnerable.

“Always.” Buffy kissed her cheek softly.

The End

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