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Book One: Duty

by Amanda
Rating: PG-13

You have got to be kidding me! FUCK! Breathe, Faith, Breathe. I took a deep breath and looked at Giles, a shrug in my shoulders.

"What ever you say, G-Man." I looked around the crypt again, seeing the cage built into one end, taking in the smell of the earth and the death. I rolled his words over in my head. "You will stay here during the day, locked in. I will not be able to watch you then. I will come and let you out every night at midnight, and then you will patrol until five in the morning. You will then come back here and I will re-secure you. This is not negotiable." Yeah - FUCK! But I would do it. I would do anything for her. That was the vow I made when she died, I would jump through any hoops, do anything and everything that was asked of me. I would do it for her.

He motioned for me to get inside, and shrugging my shoulders I did so. I looked around the space, a pillow, a sleeping bag, a small bucket - I knew what that was for. I shivered. I waited until I heard the lock secure, and then turned slowly around. He was staring at me like I was a wild animal, and so I tried to relax my shoulders, being as non-aggressive as possible. I cocked my hips, and smiled. "Not too bad, I have to say." Looking around, I could see three weaknesses in the cell. I could get in and out, no problem. But I had to ask myself, would I be willing to risk it? I would have to think about that, and from the look on his face, I would have plenty of time to mull that over. "So, what big bad will the psycho Slayer be hunting tonight?" I asked, sitting on the floor.

"Um, well I am not sure. I will check in with the group, and get some information by the time I return." He slipped the key into his pocket. He turned and began walking away.

"Giles?" I asked.

"Yes?"

Okay, this is the best time to just get it out there. I don't really know if it will sound convincing coming from me, but I have to do it. I owe them all that much to at least say it. I can do this. Big Bad Faith, it's just words. Come on, okay here they come. "I, I am sorry, for everything." I said softly. Saying it made my tongue thick, and my heart and stomach were suddenly jumping around inside my body. Who knew saying sorry was so fucking hard. That might explain why I never said it though. He looked at me for a moment, his eyes becoming hard, and in them I saw emotions that where expected. Rage, Hate, Disgust. And it was all for me. Giles turned and left the crypt. "That did so not go well." I sighed. I leaned back against the wall, extending my legs out, and setting my hands in my lap.

There was nothing to do now but wait. I was terrified. How long had it been since I slayed? Let's count it down. Eight months in a coma, when I was about for a few days, I got in four vamps, but in B's body, so that didn't really count. Okay, so eight months, then ten months in jail, and then, um maybe five months in that Looney bin with the Council freaks. Eight, ten, five. "Fuck." I whispered. Twenty-three months, nearly two years. Okay, now I was getting super nervous. What if I forgot how? What if I froze up? Then I would be vamp food. Okay, moping is not going to help. I stood up and began stretching. I needed to get as ready as I could. Didn't want to disappoint anybody.

Note to self; don't doubt your gift, I thought as I plunged the stake into the third vampire, and he fell away to dust. Three. I snuck up on them, and took them out before they even knew I was there. No witty banter, no punches thrown. Just stakes through the heart.

"Very efficient." Giles said from behind me. I spun the stake in my fingers, which was something B had taught me.

"I know, kinda weird. But kinda wicked too." I smiled, but looked at this face, seeing him, my smile slipped away. "I was scared. It's been awhile." I mumbled.

"Quite." He said. "There are many more places to patrol tonight."

"What if we run into the Scoobies?" I asked as we began walking.

"I know where they will be, and we will avoid those areas."

"Giles?" I asked.

"What now?"

"Do you plan on sleeping any time soon?" I asked.

"I can handle things, Faith." He snapped.

"Hold that thought, Demon." I said, and went running off towards the scaly thing I saw coming out of a crypt.

*****

Long legs, clothes in dusty black jeans, arms in long sleeves, crossed over her chest. Deep chestnut hair pulled back in a tight ponytail. Dust smudges over her cheek, a slip lip. She looked so young, without a touch of makeup. Her brown eyes were matching his stare, and they looked closed off, empty to him. Dawn was coming, the sky lightening in the distance. Giles could see it, through the window of the cell where Faith sat. It had been a week since he had brought her to Sunnydale, and by all of his calculations and research, all of the escaped demons had been dispatched. Part of his mind was very much in awe of the display that he had seen from her. Each night, when slaying, she never once took too much time, she did not banter, did not fight for the fun of it, the thrill of it. Quite the contrary. She was emotionless, and only acted with purpose. He had never witnessed such pure efficient slaying. Rupert Giles was appreciative, and respected Faith for what she had done. He could see clearly that she had changed.

But the Ripper burned inside of him, hating her, looking at her. She thought she could come in here and take Buffy's place. No one would ever take Buffy's place. He wanted to spit on her, that was how little Ripper thought of this girl.

The two halves of this man were very much at odds with each other. He needed to make a decision. The immediate threat was over, and this young girl's fate was in his hands. She knew it, and so did he. Ripper wanted to kill her now. But Rupert wanted to see how much more she could do. Faith shrugged at him, and leaned against the wall, watching the sun as it began coming up. He watched the light coming, sparkling in her eyes. And then he saw it, just a flicker. She was scared.

"I will report to the Council with my recommendation." He said, moving to leave the crypt.

"Not going anywhere, G." She said, not looking at him.

*****

It was going to come down tonight. I knew it. And I know it could go either way. Part of me was relieved; another part was scared as hell. I had watched the battle going in Giles' face this morning. He was filled with so much hate. Every day this week he was going down hill, getting worse. Buffy's death was killing him, slowly, but it was happening. That made me so sad. I know what that is like, that pain. He was close to breaking. God, she meant so much to so many people. I slid down the wall to sit on the floor. If Giles was this bad, I was terrified thinking about how Red was handling herself.

*****

"It's not real. None of this is real." Willow hissed, as she held herself tightly. She looked down at the gravestone, wanting to vomit, knowing she was standing just six feet above her best friend's body. This wasn't supposed to happen. The good guys where supposed to win. That was the way it was supposed to be! This just wasn't right!

"Baby, are you okay?" Tara asked her lover softly, standing behind her.

"I will never be okay again." Willow whimpered. "She was so good!" She spun on her heel, locking eyes with her soul mate. "Good is supposed to win! This is wrong, there was a mistake. This was not supposed to happen!"

"I know, I know." Tara whispered. Willow had been like this all week, and Tara knew she just needed to mourn.

"What hell dimension is she trapped in? Angel told me that an hour here is a lifetime in hell. God, Tara, she is suffering so much!" Tara watched, and held her breath, as Willow's eyes turn black. They churned, moving and alive. The black magic coursed through Willow's body. "This is not right, and I am going to put it right." She whispered, and walked away from the grave, leaving Tara standing there, watching her go. Slowly Tara dropped her chin.

"Goddess, no, help me to help her." Was her soft whisper. She set her hand on Buffy's granite gravestone. "Rest in peace."

*****

What? Okay wait I think I heard that. Maybe he would say it again? I tilted my head, looking through the bars at Giles. Was I hearing things?

"Yes, Faith. We have decided that you will stay here, for now. You have shown yourself to be worthy, for now." Okay he read my mind. They were letting me stay.

"So I am the Slayer?" I asked, softly.

"You will never be The Slayer." Ouch, that stung. "You will stay here to control the Hellmouth." He said, taking his glasses off and cleaning them.

"So, can we discuss my accommodations?" I asked smartly, and he glared at me. I raised my hands in surrender, and took a step back.

"We will begin some simple training tonight. You still are rusty, and need to improve." He said tightly. He moved towards the door. "I will be back later for you."

"Giles?" I asked softly, and he stopped. "Will you ever forgive me? I am so very sorry. And I know what you are feeling, with her gone. I begged them to let me come and help. I begged and begged, and I did everything that I could-"

"Faith, what you did last time you where in Sunnydale made it clear how little you cared for all of us." His voice stung me again.

"You forgave Angel." I mumbled, getting angry.

"Angel never hurt her like you did." He hissed, and left the room.

"I did more to her than Angel, who went all freaky after taking her virginity from her?" I screamed out at him, "I did more than Angel did when he put Red in a coma? I did more than Angel did when he killed Ms Calendar? Okay, yeah I did some bad things, terrible things, but I never would have done those things!" He was back in front of my cell, his face flushed.

"Don't!" He hissed.

"What?! I don't get it, G-Man. Why? Tell me the Fuck why!" I yelled.

"You are pushing me." He whispered, and if I wasn't so upset then I would have been scared, but I was tired of being scared.

"What do you need to do? You need to kill me? If that will help you get over her death, then kill me! I am dead without her anyway. So stop the games, stop drawing it out." I gripped the bars. I watched him take a deep breath, and then he stepped back.

"I will be back in an hour for you. You better be ready." He quickly went out the doors.

*****

Tara needed some more rose petals for her spell to make Willow get some sleep. After the outburst in the cemetery Willow had folded, and she had spent the rest of the day in their room, sobbing and wailing. Tara knew that she needed to get some sleep. Rest would help, she was weary. So she had decided on the spell, and only too late realized she was out of rose, so she had left Dawn with Willow and come to the Magic Shop. She knew Giles wouldn't mind. She was behind the counter and stopped in her tracks, hearing a loud voice coming from the training room. She walked slowly over to the open door, listening.

"You" punch "Are" punch "Not" punch "Her!" punch. "You" kick "Will" punch "Never" punch "Be" kick "Her!" Tara's hand went to her mouth as she looked into the room. Giles was screaming, and lashing out on a brunette woman who was standing against the brick wall. Her hands were at her sides, and she was taking every kick, every punch. Blood was pouring from her nose, dripping from a cut over her eye. Tara knew who she was, but that was impossible. But no, it was Faith. Giles was just screaming incoherently at her, punching her in the stomach. Tara locked eyes with Faith. The girl's aura was solid, and it was pure sorrow. Faith's eyes pleaded with Tara to go, to leave. Giles put his hands around Faith's throat, and began choking her while slamming the back of her head against the wall. Tara couldn't stand it anymore. She whispered a spell under her breath, and Giles dropped to the floor, unconscious. She quickly stepped into the room and towards the girl.

"It's okay." Faith whispered, her voice hoarse.

"What he was doing is so far from okay." Tara said.

"It doesn't really hurt, and he needs to get it out. He is so angry." Faith shrugged. Tara moved her hand to the other girl's face, but Faith flinched away. "No. He, you can't know I am here."

"Why?"

Faith dropped her chin to her chest, took a deep breath and looked up. Tara could see the change that came over the girl. The guarded eyes, closed off, the crooked grin, highlighting her dimpled cheek. "It's all five by five. Hey, Tara right? Where's Red?" Her voice was a little stronger.

"H-h-home, watching, Dawn." Tara said, taking a step back. "They said y-you w-were dead."

"I am dead, just taking them awhile to bury me. How long is the G-Man out for?"

"Until I wake him up. Why?"

"Don't let it worry you, Blondie. This is as it was meant to me. I deserve all of this," she moved her arms around her. "Don't believe that, ask Red, I am sure she will fill you in." Her eyes suddenly looked so sad. "No, don't. Shit, you can't know. God, no!" Faith clutched her head and slid down the wall. "I was trying so hard." She moaned. Tara kneeled beside her.

"Why did they say you were dead? Why didn't you come to help us?" She asked.

"I begged them to let me come, but they wouldn't let me."

"W-w-what?" Tara was shocked.

"I was a mistake, there was never supposed to be two, it fucked everything up, the balance of good and evil, and the Powers That Be tried to fix it. But there was never meant to be two, so I couldn't come. Oh God, if only I could have gotten free of them, but I couldn't. I knew she needed me. It could have been me - It should have been me. FUCK!" Faith jumped up. "What am I going to do? You aren't supposed to know." She began pacing. "Wake him up, Tara. He needs to know, and he needs to make the decision."

"Tell me why he was hitting you."

"He needed to hit something, the grief was killing him. I told him to go for it. I can take anything and everything he has. I would rather hurt for a couple of hours than watch him die inside." Faith kneeled beside her, and took her hands. Tara could feel the truth radiating off the dark haired girl. "I told him to do it. Don't be afraid of Giles Tara. He just had so much rage, and I know what that is like, and I knew what he needed. Okay?" She asked.

"Okay." She whispered the ending spell, and Giles looked up at the two girls.

"Bloody hell - Tara what are you doing here?" He sat up nervously. He looked between them.

"G-Man, she knows, some of it. You need to talk to her, and you need to make your decision. I will go clean up." She said softly, and stood, walking out of the room. Tara watched her go, and then settled her blue eyes on the man lying on the ground in front of her.

"I am v-very upset." Tara said softly. Giles nodded to her, and stood up slowly.

"Perhaps we should-"

"Fuck the tea and tell me what the hell is going on." Tara growled at him. She would never again condone violence like she had just witnessed. It did not matter to her that Faith was the Slayer, with her resiliency. It was brutal, plan and simple.

"Right. Where should one start?"

"The beginning?" Tara said, her tone softer, but still firm.

"When Buffy was, um, when she died three years ago, she should never have been brought back. It unbalanced things, though none of us understood how much at the time. Kendra was called, and was quickly, erm, terminated. That event caused Faith to be called. It was when Faith came, here to Sunnydale that the Council began to understand the magnitude of what having two living Slayers meant. The unbalance. You were not with us in the beginning, but I am sure in your time with us you have seen the evil growing stronger, more difficult. This was due to the unbalance." Giles sat on the bench in the corner, and Tara went to sit beside him. She gave him the look to continue. "When Faith, went to the Mayor, things began to even themselves out. She was no longer fighting for good. But her fighting for evil was still unbalanced. Steps were to be taken to remove her from society then, but well, erm, the coma, and the Ascension took precedent at the time." Tara saw Faith standing in the doorway, leaning against the frame, her arms and ankles crossed. "And again, when Faith was incarcerated, she was out of society, and therefore her effect on things was minimal. But she could have escaped from prison at any time, and the Council could not have someone with her abilities free. We had to keep her and her strengths contained. So, erm, that is, due to her condition, well." Giles had noticed when Faith came in, and it made him feel so ashamed. Her face was swollen and bruised. The rage in him was gone, and it was replaced with a near peace. She had given him that; she had known what he had needed.

"W-w-what condition?" Tara asked, looking between them.

"After my confession I was broken. Completely and utterly broken. Ya see, Blondie, when I saw B last she told me if I ever told her I was sorry she would beat me to death. So I confessed, but all I wanted to do was say I was sorry. And if I couldn't say that to B, then I wasn't going to say anything to anyone. I stopped talking." Faith shrugged.

"But Buffy d-did go and see you." Tara said softly, and Giles looked between the girls.

"Yeah, she did." Faith nodded. "She told me to never leave prison, she said I deserved to be there, and she hoped I rotted there. She told me she wished she had killed me when she had the chance." Faith said softly. "So after her visit, I kinda died, inside. No talking, no eating, no moving. Just the nightmares." She cleared her throat. "Whatever. So they all thought I was a wack-job, right G-man?"

"Right. And the Council helped her to be transferred into a mental facility, which we run, so we could keep, an eye on her. You see Tara, Faith is a very dangerous girl. We had to watch her intently, check her progress so we could come the correct decision." Tara was confused. "Whether to terminate her and call a new Slayer or not." Giles clarified.

"You are a human being!" Tara said exasperatedly.

"No, I am a Slayer. A psycho one at that. The world needs one Slayer, and they needed to keep me around, in case s-s-something where to happen to B, they needed me to either become the Slayer, or to be able to kill me to activate the new one."

"How barbaric." Tara stood. She pointed at Giles, "She is just a girl!" He hung his head.

"Thanks for that, Blondie. But they did what they had to do - right Rupert. They couldn't let me come and help B. Even though I begged, even though I jumped through every hoop, I couldn't come because there can be only one." Faith hissed, her body coiled in rage, but then she took a deep breath, and her body relaxed. "Too late for what ifs and shoulda's."

"Quite." Giles began. "Faith has been here this week, cleaning up after Glory. The Council and I have decided to allow Faith to stay here as the Slayer, as long as she abides by our rules." He said standing.

"Well, everyone needs to know." Tara said.

"No one can know." Giles said standing and facing her. "Faith has damaged them all in the past, and I will not allow her to rip them to shreds now, when things are so, so."

"Why did you hurt her?"

"He didn't. And if you think what you saw was bad, Blondie, you don't want to know what Red or Xander are capable of if they know I am around. It really is better this way. I, I don't - I can't bring them any more pain. I will do my duty, my destiny, as I was meant to, alone."

"I just, I can't believe you would just agree to all of this."

"But I have. This is my penance; this is how I can redeem myself. I am dead inside; the least I can do is not let her have died in vain as well. So please, Tara, please don't tell them." Faith said, her tone completely serious.

"You will never touch her like that again." She pointed at Giles, and he backed away ashamed again.

"Never." He whispered.

"I, I need to get back to Willow, if she thinks I am gone too long she will come looking for me. I n-n-need to think about this. Can I talk to you tomorrow?"

"Of course," Giles said. Tara nodded to him and walked to the door. Faith moved back out of the way, and Tara locked eyes with her. The brown eyes were empty again, no emotion. Tara sighed and walked out of the room.

*****

I lunged my fist forward, connecting with a satisfying crunch in his jaw. The vampire yelped, his hands moving to his face.

"I just don't understand it either, Xander." I heard a voice from not too far off. And I knew that voice, it was Red. I delivered a roundhouse kick to the vampire's head, and he staggered a few steps backward. My senses where going all tweaky. I had to do this fast, they were coming in fast. I jabbed the stake home, and he began to turn to dust. No time to get the stake, I vaulted to the top of the crypt and lay flat, trying to calm my breathing.

"You're right Will, it has been extra quiet this past month." Xander said as they rounded the corner and where right below me. I peaked a glance. It was Xander, Red, and Blondie. And SHIT!

"Didn't you t-tell me that after a big bad, things get quiet here?" Tara said, just as she stepped into the pile of ash. I watched her foot connect with the stake. "What's that?" She exclaimed, pointing in the opposite direction. Xander jumped and both her and Red turned, just as Blondie kicked the stake behind a tombstone. Thank God for Blondie! I thought.

"Tara what was it?" Red asked, taking her arm.

"I thought I saw something. Sorry, guess I am jumpy."

"Rightfully so, it being so uneventful, all this Slayer less slaying." Xander mumbled as they moved past. I stayed put until I couldn't hear them anymore. Man that was the third time this week. When would those guys get the hint, they didn't need to patrol anymore? They were making my job harder than it was. I jumped down from my hiding place, and scooped up the stake, slipping it back into my pocket. I needed to get back to my cage. G-Man asked me to be back early, he needed some sleep. I took off in a dash to the south, to where my home sweet home awaited me.

*****

Giles was trying to calm Willow down, to get her to see reason, as she excitedly told him that she could bring Buffy back from the Hell dimension she was in. Tara was tired of trying to convince Willow herself that it was a bad idea. She hoped that Giles could help. He had taken her aside, when Willow was in the bathroom.

"I need to release Faith for the night." He said softly.

"Release?"

"Where she is kept." Giles looked back to the bathroom.

"Willow needs you more, right now. I-I can go." Tara offered.

"No she is too dangerous."

"I can always freeze her if she tries anything. I am not asking any more, Mr. Giles. Where is she?" Tara asked.

"Do you know the crypt, where we used to keep, erm Oz during the change?" Giles was taking a key from his pocket, and slipping it to her.

"Yes," Tara's voice was full of anger now.

"Just a quick patrol, and then lock her back up."

"Fine. Tell Willow I will be at home." Tara took the key and left.

*****

"Hey, Blondie. Where's the G-Man?" I asked, from the shadows of the corner of the cage. She jumped at my voice as she came down the steps. I knew she couldn't see me.

"He is busy with Willow right now. I am letting you out, for a quick patrol and then-" I slowly moved forward, the light from the moon outside covering me, allowing her to see my face. I watched as her hand went to her mouth. "What? I don't have mirror in here, do I have a zit or something?" I snapped, not meaning to. I watched as she composed herself and walked to the lock.

"When d-d-did you eat last?" She asked, and at the mere mention of food my stomach growled loudly.

"Couple of days," I shrugged. "Listen, it doesn't matter." She turned the key in the lock and looked around the cage.

"You can get out." She said softly, opening the door.

"Yeah, I know." I moved past her, out of the cage.

"No I mean, when ever you want, from there."

"That's what I meant too, Blondie." I gave her my best grin. "Wicked crazy, Psycho like me doesn't just sneak out of here, huh?"

"Um, yeah?" Tara squeaked out.

"You going to stay here then? I won't be long, just a quick circuit." I said, and moved out the doors, twirling the stake in my fingers.

*****

She followed behind, trying to stay out of the way, and be quiet. She watched as Faith staked four different vampires, all of them so efficiently. Tara thought she was watching a machine. Nothing like how Buffy used to slay. No joking, no real contact in terms of fighting. After Faith dusted the latest vampire, she walked off to the more secluded corner of the cemetery. Tara followed, and had a sense of recognition coming over her. She looked around. And then she watched as Faith dropped to her knees. In front of Buffy's grave. Even more slowly now Tara walked up behind her.

"Have you been here before?" She asked the young girl before her softly.

"No. I didn't think that she would be in the cemetery." Faith said softly. Tara watched as her hand slowly reached out to touch the engraving, but then she pulled her hand back sharply.

"She wanted to be here. She made a point to talk to Giles about it." Tara said, watching the emotions moving over her features. She saw them all, every human emotion.

"Weren't you afraid someone would try and d-d- you know, mess with her?"

"Willow and I did a spell. Only humans can come within a few feet of here." Tara said.

"Betcha that pissed off soul-boy." Faith joked. "Quiet over here I guess, no one but whoever that is." Faith pointed to a tombstone a few yards away.

"That's you." Tara said softly, and Faith snapped her head to look over to her. "When Giles told her that you were dead, she asked that your body be brought here. He told her that you had been cremated. Buffy didn't care. She had that placed here for you."

"Oh."

"She was really upset."

"Don't." Faith's voice cracked.

"Faith?" The girl stood slowly, looking Tara in the eyes. "Have you grieved for her yet?" Faith shook her head.

"She can't, she s-s-shouldn't be gone." Faith whispered. Tara took her hand. The pure sorrow that was radiating off of the younger girl made her ache. Tara knew what Faith had done in the past, when they all learned that she was dead, Willow had told Tara the entire story. But none of that seemed to really matter now. The broken girl in front of her was not the killer of the past.

"Come with me."

Tara took her to the Summers' home, to Buffy's room. She had to pull the Slayer to make her walk up the stairs. But now they stood outside the closed door.

"This is so not a good idea, what about Red, and Dawny?" Faith's voice was quivering.

"They don't need to know."

"Red'll kill me, Tara."

"She won't know. I am going to do a spell, it's, well we used it, it, um, no sound will come out of this room. And I'll place a ward; no one will be able to come in. No one but me." Tara said firmly, her hand touching the doorknob.

"Red will sense it."

"And I will handle her."

*****

I looked around the room, seeing everything that was her, smelling her. She was filling me, touching every inch of me, inside and out. I could barely handle it. I fell to my knees beside her bed, crunching her blankets in my fists. It was all too much, I was overwhelmed by her. And the tears rolled down my face, sobs and words coming from my cracked lips.

*****

What Tara didn't tell her was that as the caster she could hear everything. She heard Faith breaking down.

"All I ever wanted was to love you, to deserve to know you. Why did you do it? I know why, because you are pure, and do good. God, why couldn't it have been me, why couldn't I have had just a moment? That is all I needed B, just a moment to tell you how sorry I am, how much I want to show you that I can do good by you. I will do anything and everything they tell me, I will take it all in, cause I deserve it. I will do it to redeem myself. I want my soul back; I want to see you again in heaven. I have to see you. I love you so much, I am dying more and more every day." Then Faith screamed, and Tara was rocking herself on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably.

Tara slipped into the room after it was quiet for an hour. She stood inside the room, looking at Faith. Her face was tear stained, and her body was in a fetal position on the bed, her hands clutching the pillow to her chest. It broke Tara's heart to see her like this. All of this had to stop. No one deserved what Faith was going through. She would talk to Giles in the morning.

"Faith?" She whispered. She needed to get the girl out of here, Willow was due home soon. The brunette jumped when Tara touched her shoulder, and moved away. Not a good sign, Tara thought. "Faith, you have to go, Willow will be-" Faith jumped off the bed, her eyes growing wide.

"Tara she's here. At the front door." Faith backed up, and then began looking around the room. "Oh, God this is too much. I can't, I can't stand it." Tara felt the fear, and it was creeping up her back as well.

"Window. Now." She said, and Faith turned and shoved it up, Tara watched as the girl jumped out, and then closed it again. Quickly Tara left the room, and closed Buffy's door behind her. Her head fell to her chest, just as Willow emerged up the stairs.

"Hey, baby." Willow said lightly, with a warm smile.

"Hey." Tara said, smiling back at her lover. They clasped hands. "How did it go?"

"Really good. Well, not so good. He lectured me on my powers, blah blah blah, and then I told him to stick it, that I knew what I was doing. And I do Tara. I found the spell that we need."

"R-really?"

"Yupe. Found it." Willow kissed her cheek. "Why the warding spell on Buffy's room?" She asked casually letting go of Tara's hand to pull off her shirt.

"I, I needed some time, and didn't want to w-w-wake Dawn." Tara said, looking away, hoping Willow didn't see the lie in her eyes.

"My poor Tara. Being so strong for all of us." Willow cupped Tara's face in her hands and they met eyes. Gently Willow ran her fingers over Tara's cheek. "It will get better now, I promise. From what I can see, things should be ready in a month to get Buffy back." Slowly Willow leaned forward, and the two witches kissed softly, gently. Love flowed between them, warming and pushing away the earlier chill that had settled inside of Tara. They stepped back from each other. "Always with the WOW." Willow grinned, and finished stripping. Tara really hoped her lover knew what she was getting into. Resurrection spells were not to be taken lightly. She had thought they had all learned that lesson when Dawn tried to bring back Mrs. Summers.

*****

I ran through the night, keeping to the shadows. That was a close one. I could feel it when Red opened the front door. She was getting wicked powerful now, and I was a little afraid of her finding me in B's room.

I entered Restfield, and moved to the back of the cemetery. I had to be near her again. Being in her room hurt so much, felt like my heart was being smashed from the inside out. But I needed the pain. It was sort of calming in away. To know she could still hurt me, just like I had always hurt her. I kneeled down, where Blondie had come upon me earlier. This time I did touch the engraving.

Buffy Anne Summers. She saved the world, a lot.

I traced the letter B.

"Where are you now?" I whispered softly. I sat back on my heels, looking at the cold stone. Again I wondered if she could see me. After years of fighting all of the baddies, I never thought to ask anyone what Heaven was like, if they could see us from where it was. "I can almost hear ya yelling at me B, for tracking mud into your room. I would have tried to clean up if I knew what Blondie was planning." I sighed. "They all miss you so much. I can tell just from seeing it on G-man's face. Don't worry, he's getting better. A little rage in him, but I think I helped him work it out. We both know I'll never come close to you, and he is accepting that. I guess, I guess I am too." Why am I talking out loud? I shook my head. "I miss you." I leaned forward and kissed the grass, then slowly stood and walked over to the gravestone I had seen earlier. The one Blondie said was mine. I turned and looked down at it, my hand covering the sob in my throat.

Faith Spencer. Chosen.

Wow. She did that for me? I noticed something in the grass, and kneeled down and dug around with my fingers, managing to yank what ever it was from the ground. When I saw what it was I gasped.

"Oh.My.God." I ran my hand along the length of it, feeling it. "Mr. Pointy." I whispered. I let the tears roll down my face, feeling them, tasting them on my lips. What did all of this mean? Did she care, just a little for me?

I could hear the birds getting louder in the trees, beginning to wake up. That meant only a few more minutes until dawn. I needed to get back to the cage. I stood, slipping Mr. Pointy in the back of my jeans, and giving the scene, our two graves so close, one last look, before running back to the crypt.

*****

The Scoobies were patrolling, Willow and Tara side by side, Xander and Anya behind holding hands. For a week they had been out nightly, and they had yet to come across one vampire, or demon.

"Why are we not home having sex?" Anya whined in Xander's ear.

"This is what we do, An. Someone has to." He said back softly.

"But there hasn't been any thing to slay." Her voice was a louder whine.

"Yeah, Will, what's up with the lack of carnage?" He asked the girl in front of him. No one noticed Tara tense up.

"It's always the same, isn't it?" Willow stopped and turned. "You know, fight the super big bad, and then all the little bads go on vacation or something, you know, regroup." She shrugged her shoulders.

"Well I for one am pleased with the lack of violence, Xander could get hurt. But if we know there is nothing going on, why are we out here in the middle of the night? I am sure we would all rather be having sex." Anya put her hands on her hips. Xander looked flushed, and she slapped his arm. "Not together."

"Eww. Get your mind out of the gutter!" Willow said, hitting him too.

"Hello, human guy here can't help it. And Ow!" He rubbed his arm and looked at Tara for support.

"M-maybe she's right." Tara said softly. They all turned to her, eyes wide. A deep blush began to creep up her neck to her cheeks. "I, I mean, if we know it is quiet, why patrol every night?" Tara began. She wanted to be home, in bed holding Willow, where it was safe and warm.

"Honey," Willow said softly, taking her hand. "Without a Slayer, we have to make sure it is safe." Tara wanted to tell them all then, that there was a Slayer, Faith, and she was taking care of all the evil. "We need to be here, cause it gets quiet, and then there is an onslaught of big-evil a brewin."

"What are we going to do when that happens? None of us are the Slayer. We can't do much." Anya snapped. "Well, except die." She grinned.

"We will do what we have to do until, Bu - until, just until, okay?" Willow said and turned around. While they were talking, none realized that they had visitors. Four vampires were coming up behind them, all in game face, and all hungry. "Oh, hi." Willow said softly, her shoulders going back in shock.

"Dinner is served." The lead vampire said, as he lunged for Willow's throat.

*****

This was going to be a problem, I thought. Tracking the four vamps here was no big deal. Seeing the Scoobies now being surrounded, that was a big deal. How was I supposed to save them, without being seen? The big ugly lead guy grabbed Red by the throat, and she gave off a little scream. I watched Blondie as she bowed her head; I was betting that she was chanting. Okay, worry about Red in a second. The other three were still in the shadows around the group, so I figured I had a chance. I pulled one stake from my pocket, locked my eyes on one vampire's chest, and threw the stake. Poof. Okay, no problem. I only had Mr. Pointy left though, and that would become a problem. I targeted another vamp, and was about to throw again, when Xander stepped in my line of sight, and punched the vampire in the face. Good punch, but the vampire didn't go down. Anya jumped on the vamps back and began hitting him in the back of the head. Okay, then, back to Red, who was now a little blue. How in the FUCK was I going to save her?

*****

Tara was trying to remember the sunlight spell, but seeing Willow being strangled was scaring her so much that she kept stuttering over the words. A shadow darted in front of her, and she stopped one spell and began working on another. The one she knew perfectly. She only hoped she did it in time.

*****

All good plans are meant to be destroyed, I thought as I grabbed the vampire who held Red by the scruff of the neck and pulled him off of her.

"Play with some one your own size." I hissed, snapping his neck, he fell to the ground, not dead, just in a hell of a lot of pain. His arms released Red, who fell to the ground. She was totally out of it. I guessed that was a good thing. I staked the vamp and rushed over to the last remaining. He was standing looking down at Xander and Anya who were also both unconscious.

"What did you do?" I hissed at him, and the vampire actually shrugged. I staked him swiftly, not messing around. "Oh, hell, what happened?" I whispered.

"I knocked them out," Blondie's voice was behind me. I spun around, stake clutched in my hand.

"Thanks." I understood now, she knew that I had to help, and was keeping everything in line with the rules G-man had set forth. "Gotta go," I said and ran off in the opposite direction, leaving her alone.

*****

"So what happened again?" Xander asked, rubbing the back of his neck.

"I slipped on the sunlight spell, and made it a little too strong. Knocked us all out." Tara said softly. It was killing her inside, keeping Faith's secret, keeping Willow's secret.

"That's my strong girl." Willow beamed.

"I-it was nothing."

"Nothing? You just wasted four vampires! Way to go Tara!" Xander clapped her on the back. "I say we deserve Bronzing!"

The next morning, between classes Tara went back to her room and called the Magic Shop, hoping that it would be Mr. Giles who answered. She sighed with relief when it was.

"Well hello Tara. Anya told me of this spell you produced last night, quite ingenious."

"Mr. Giles, it was the knockout spell, the one I used on you. There was no hope for us, and Faith knew it."

"What? What did she do?" He whispered angrily.

"She saved our lives is what she did." Tara snapped back. "Mr. Giles, only Faith is the Slayer, only she should be patrolling, the rest of us, well we are just asking to be killed."

"Tara, I know what you are suggesting."

"Stop treating her like a wild animal!" She yelled, and then took a deep calming breath. "I, I am sorry. But I still do not understand why everyone hates her so much."

"She did terrible things."

"So did a couple of vampires that are still around." Tara snapped. This was getting to be too much for her. "I don't know how much longer I can condone the way you are treating her. Do you even know why she did the things she did?"

"Perhaps because she was unstable and evil?"

"Unstable, m-mabye. But I sense no evil." Tara thought for a moment. "Do you know anything about her, Mr. Giles?"

"Oh, I, erm, of course." Tara waited. "When she was incarcerated with the council, before, erm, Buffy, well when she would not speak."

"She didn't speak?"

"Right, one year without a word."

"Oh."

"Well, she wrote a journal for the council psychiatrist, a journal of her childhood." Giles said softly. But the word journal sparked something in Tara's mind. She remembered seeing a thin book, with the word journal on it. But where?

"I want to read it."

"Tara, I don't think that."

"Did you? R-r-read it?"

"Not as of yet, but."

"I want it."

*****

"What did you do?" Faith asked with a lopsided grin, her nose immediately picking up on the doughnuts that where in the bag at Tara's side. Unconsciously Faith began to pace in front of the bars.

"What do you mean?" Tara asked, smiling back. She opened the cage door and handed the bag to Faith. "Careful, the coffee is hot." Faith took it and sat down on the floor, she offered the box to Tara, who held up her hand.

"Bringing me the food, does he know you are here?" Faith asked, mouth full.

"Yes. Mr. Giles and I have come to an understanding." Tara sat on the floor across from the girl. Faith looked at her skeptically.

"Did you work your mojo on him Blondie?" She asked, wiggling her fingers.

"No." Tara giggled. "What was happening to you was wrong Faith. And I couldn't let it go on." The seriousness of her tone got to Faith, who set down the coffee.

"I deserve it." She whispered.

"No you don't." Faith stood up quickly.

"YES. I. DO." Her jaws were clenched. "Do you know what I have done? Did they ever tell you? What I did when you were here was a walk in the park compared to what I did before." Faith was pacing again.

"I know everything. I know more than Willow does." Faith looked at her, a brow raised. "Buffy had your journal in her room." Pain washed over the younger girl's face, and she went to look out the window.

"So, was it a good read?" Faith snapped.

"Yes, it was. But I liked your journal the Watcher's Council had better." Tara stood up and walked over to Faith, and set her hand on the girl's arm. "You did terrible things, but both Mr. Giles and I understand now, a lot more than we ever did."

"No one was supposed to know." She growled low in her throat. "I deserve all of this."

"Not anymore. I forgive you Faith." Faith turned, her eyes wide. "And one day they all will. You did terrible things, you hurt the people that I love; but you never REALLY hurt them. Not like you could have. I know that, and deep down so do they."

"She'll never forgive me, she can't." Faith said.

"How do you know that she hadn't already?" Tara asked softly.

"She hated me."

"And you loved her." Tara squeezed the girl's arm. "There is something else for you in that bag. I have classes, but later tonight you are going to meet Mr. Giles at the Magic Shop, to discuss how things are going to change around here." Faith nodded to the girl. Tara sighed, and then left.

*****

I am an emotional wreck. Blondie really knows how to get you, break you down. Kinda like her for that. I watched her walked away from the crypt. It was a nice and sunny day. I walked back over to the box of doughnuts and sat. I looked at the bottom of the bag, and stopped breathing. I knew what that was. I had read through most of it when I was in her body. B's diary. No, I couldn't touch it. I drank more of the coffee, and ate doughnuts just staring at the damn thing, watching it like it was a snake ready to strike.

What had Blondie meant? Had she read B's diary already? Oh my god, she had read all of mine. Buffy had read mine. After our dream where I told her to, did that mean she understood? Oh this was killing me. I wiped my hands on my jeans, and took the small pink book in my hands. Was I ready for this?

Had another Slayer dream. We tried to kill each other, again. It was just like the nightmares I kept having when she was in the coma. I hated every minute of it. Why can't she just let me go? Why can't I let her go? Riley noticed something was up right away, and did his "I am the man, and I will protect you even in your dreams, so tell me what is wrong" speech. So not what I wanted to hear from him. I told him to stuff it, well sort of. Okay, not really at all. There just isn't anyone I can talk to about her. Her. I can't even write her name down it makes me so angry. Why won't she just leave me alone!

I was right. I did not want to be reading this, none of it. But it was like I was already a junkie, and I had to know more.

Can I get a restraining order on Her? I mean, pulling me into another dream. I need to talk to Giles about this; I mean there has to be some way to stop it from happening, right? But maybe she did have a point. She said that I had brought her into the dream. Maybe I did. Riley wanted to talk - AGAIN - about what had happened before. Telling me how sorry he was, he never would have done IT, if he had known that she was in my body. How can I explain to him that I wasn't mad at him for doing that, not really? I was mad at her. How could she do that to me? She could have completely ruined my life…. But she didn't. Oh, there is too much going on right now for me to keep thinking about her like this. With Glory in town, I just need to focus, get my head on straight. Pick those shoulders up Slayer; the world is resting on them.

I skimmed through more pages, it was stuff about school, and how she felt like Glory was way too powerful for her. I couldn't read any of that; I didn't want to experience her self-doubt again. There I found another entry. The words were blurry, like she had spilled something on the page.

Where do I start? I am having such a hard time getting my thoughts around all of it. I spent last night there, at the apartment. Don't know how I ended up there, but I found her diary, and sat reading it. There was so much going on inside of her, which I never once stopped to consider. Everyone tells me how wonderful I am all the time, but reading her words, she was so right. None of us ever said that to her. No one was there for her when she really needed us to be. Okay, that's a lie. The Mayor was there. And it all kind of made sense. Her words, her logic. There was a lot there, written between the lines, she didn't mention stuff, and skirted around other stuff. I know her past was all secret, she never told me any of it, but that's my fault because I never asked. I think the worst thing she had written was that she had feelings for me. Okay not feelings, she used the L word. I wish I could say that I was blind and naïve to the whole thing. But I wasn't. I knew then. Her words and their double meaning, when I would see her looking at me, when she didn't know I could see. That helped freak me out, I think. Things in my life were so crazy. Angel back from Hell, and me hiding him. Me trying to get back in the good graces of my Mom and my friends. Plus the whole Slayer thing. No real time for me to sit back and process things. Some things that she had said in the past make more sense now. Like when we were back at Angel's and she looked up at me and said;

"You're all about control. You have no idea what it's like on the other side, where nothing's in control, nothing makes sense, there is just pain and hate and nothing you do means anything."

I didn't get it then, but I think I might now. But then I wasn't ready. I am not even sure I am ready now, even when it is too late and doesn't matter. None of it does. Because she is gone. That really floored me, when Giles told me she was dead. I always thought she and I had a connection, something. I figured if she ever did die I would have felt something. But now I don't. It is so out of the blue. Still doesn't feel real. I mean that was two days ago when he told me. And now everything is even worse. Moms really sick, cancer. I have a Hell God trying to kill me. And my last hope for help is gone. Tara said I needed to have closure, I needed to grieve. I kind of laughed her off, telling her I shouldn't have to grieve for my mortal enemy. But I think she was right. I do need closure.

I accept your apologies, I understand your pain. I am sorry that you chose to love someone like me. And I am sorry for not being there for you when you really needed me. I forgive you.

Still don't feel better, but I am getting there. Baby steps. I'll start by saying her name. Faith.

Better. Baby steps.

I closed the book and set it down, wiping the tears from my eyes. She had forgiven me; at least she said she did. But my gut was nagging me. She had forgiven me when she thought I was dead, and I didn't really believe it. I was happy though, that before she, she died, she knew some of the reasons why I did what I did. And I was glad knowing that she knew I loved her then. Could she see that I loved her now? I looked up to heaven with my eyes closed, and tried to picture her in heaven, sitting on a white cloud, harp in her hands, and her thousand-watt smile.

If I couldn't have her then I would make her proud of me, for once.

*****

The tension was palpable. Tara felt like extending her hand into the room and touching it, but she kept them locked together. She watched Faith as she moved slowly through the room. Giles was standing off in the corner.

“So, let me get this straight.” Faith began, turning to face the two of them. “I get to stay here, come and go as I please. And keep up the slaying?” She moved her arms around the apartment. It was small, no windows. But she knew it. This was where Angel used to stay, before he bought the big gaudy mansion.

“Yes.” Giles said, beginning to clean his glasses. “Tara, erm, assisted me in seeing that the way you were being treated was unfair.”

“Like an animal, I get that.” Faith smirked, moving to run her hand on the bedspread. She turned back to them. “So slay and stay out of the way. I’m still dead to everyone, yeah?”

“We would like to continue working under that guise, yes.” Giles said. “Willow and Xander are still very distraught.”

“Get it. What’s up with Red, anyways? I get a vibe when she is around.” Faith walked back over to them.

“Willow has been working on strengthening her magic.” Tara said softly, not happy about it, but knowing that Willow was practicing, getting stronger every day. She had found a spell, and she was working to be ready for it when the time came. Willow was going to try and bring Buffy back, but had sworn Tara to secrecy. The poor blond was keeping so many secrets now, and she hated it.

“Note to self, stay the fuck away from Red. Powerful Witch. Got it.” Faith flashed them both her trademark smirk. Giles sighed at her crudeness. “Okay then. Anything else? If not I am wicked filthy. Not having a shower in oh, two years does that to a girl.” She glared at them, but Tara could see that she held no malice.

“Yes, we are finished for now. I would ask that you check in with me, letting me know how the slaying is progressing.” Giles stepped back to the door.

“No problem G-man. I want to stay here, fighting the good fight.” Her tone got softer, and she turned her back on them. “Lock it when you leave.” She said over her shoulder and went into the bathroom.

*****

Something’s in life felt way too good. Least that was what I was thinking as I placed my hands on the tiled walls, and let the scalding hot water crash on the back of my head. This felt so fucking good, I never wanted to move. Nope, never. I lifted my face, and let the water pelt my skin. This was just too good! I moaned loudly. Then I groaned. The water was getting colder. Damn. Only an hours worth of hot water in this dump! I shut off the water, and stepped out into the bathroom. The fog was swirling around me as I pulled a towel around my waist and opened the door.

“Shit!” I exclaimed, jumping a little seeing Tara standing by the couch. Her eyes rounded and she looked away blushing. “Scared me to death, Blondie.” I said moving closer to her. “Get a good look when I nearly dropped my towel?” I tried to banter, embarrass her, but my heart wasn’t in it. “Sorry. Why are you still here?”

“Actually I came back.” She said softly, and held up a large duffle bag. “Brought clothes and some books.”

“Wicked cool! You’re alright!” I went to take the bag, but my towel started slipping again. “How about you put those on the bed, and I’ll get dried off and dressed?” I asked, moving back to the bathroom. She looked up and I caught her blue eyes smiling.

“Thanks.” She blushed again. Man, she was a shy one! I dried off quickly, and pulled my wet hair back into a bun. I peaked out the door to the bed, and then to the living room. She was standing with her back to me. I made a dash to the bed, behind the screen, and opened the bag. I could have kissed Tara right then. Inside were clothes, all black, and all just my style. I pulled out a pair of leather pants and slipped them on. I followed with a black tank top. Looking down at the bed, I was hit with a realization. That was the bed where B and Angel, and then badness. But B had lain there. I clamped my eyes shut. Sleeping on that bed would be impossible. I cracked my neck to calm myself, and then walked around the screen.

“Better?” I asked, gesturing to myself.

“Better.” Tara nodded. I sat down heavily on the couch, and patted it beside me.

“Won’t Red be missing you?” I asked.

“She’s in class.” Tara sat on the far end of the couch, and I shrugged.

“Still afraid of me?” I grinned.

“No.”

“Not even just a little?” I raised my eyebrow at her, and she just smiled back.

“You could have been making everyone’s lives hell for weeks. I know you could get out of the cage. I think Mr. Giles knew, too. Like it was part of a test.”

“You know I am getting pretty good at tests.” I said, leaning forward. “Tara, why are you being so nice to me?” I made sure I used her name to let her know I was being serious.

“You and I aren’t all that different Faith.” She said, smiling, but it was a sad smile. “I mean, from before you were a Slayer, and before I knew I was a witch. Our lives were the same, pretty much.”

“Oh.” I said softly, understanding everything that she wasn’t saying completely. “I just took a different path.” I said, raising my eyes to look at her.

“Exactly. But look. Now I think we are both on the right one now. We can never change what happened to us, and we shouldn’t want to. It makes us who we are today. And that is something to be proud of. For both of us.” Tara said strongly.

“You didn’t stutter, Blondie.” I smiled.

“You’re right. I didn’t.” Her smiled was wide and beamed. I stood up and walked over to the wall, leaning against it.

“Do you think they will ever know that I am here?” I asked, looking at the back of my hand. “I feel like I need to apologize to them. Make things up to them, you know? But how can I when to them, I am dead.” I shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. They will never forgive me.”

“See, I never understood that.”

“What?” I asked, raising my eyebrows at her.

“Of all the bad that was done to them, by Angel and Spike, they forgave them without an apology. Why not you? It’s been two years, and they think you are d-d-dead. Why can’t they forgive you?” She asked, leaning back into the couch.

“I am a Slayer. They trusted me. I betrayed that trust.” I sighed.

“This lying is only going to make it worse.” Tara sighed. “I, I don’t think I can do it much longer.”

“You might not have to. I could mess up any night, and then the new girl will be called, and no one will be the wiser.” I shrugged, moving to the kitchen, praying there was something there other than two year old blood.

“I’ll know.” Tara said behind me.

“I know, and I am sorry about that.” I said as I opened the door. It was fully stocked. “Thank you God!” I hissed, pulling two Cokes.

“Not God, Giles.” She smiled. And I felt something inside of me, just for a second. A glimmer of something I had forgotten. Maybe, just maybe, it was happiness.

*****

Roundhouse kick, punch, stake, poof. Another one gone. Tara was sitting on a bench, watching Faith work her way through the three vampires that they had come across at the playground. Only one more left. Silently Faith walked up to him, shattering punch to the jaw, the vampire stumbled. She lunged with the stake. Poof. Faith slipped Mr. Pointy back in her jacket pocket and walked over to Tara.

“What?” She asked, hands on her hips.

“What, what?” Tara asked back.

“What with the looking at me with the sad eyes what.” Faith smirked. There was something that had been plaguing Tara’s mind for the two weeks she had been patrolling with the girl.

“It’s, well, um. Never mind.” Tara sighed and stood up, brushing her hands down her skirt.

“Urgh. Just say it Blondie!” Faith hissed in desperation.

“Well, you just do it so quickly.”

“Never thought I would hear anyone complainin’ ‘bout that.” Faith chuckled and started walking back towards her apartment. Tara trotted up beside her.

“But you don’t say anything to them, you don’t fight with them.” Tara said, nervous again.

“A Slayer is just that, Twinkie. A Vampire Slayer. It’s not like they call us the Vampire Boxers or anything.” Faith kicked at a rock in the alley.

“You just, oh.” Tara suddenly realized it, and tried to cover herself, not wanting to make the younger girl uncomfortable. “Never mind.”

“Oh?” Faith stopped and looked at Tara. “Now I am really curious. You better spill.”

“You don’t think you should be enjoying the slaying. So you do it with as little effort as possible, getting no satisfaction out of it.” Tara said simply, and kept walking.

“You know, Blondie. When you are being all direct and stuff, you never stutter. Funny how that works, huh?” Faith walked up beside her.

“I know I am not wrong. But I wonder why, Faith?”

“Cuz.” She said.

“Because you don’t want to feel the rush, feel the pleasure of the slay? Does it make you feel guilty, feeling that?”

“I like it better when you are scared and stutter.” Faith snapped. “Hell, I don’t know. Maybe you are right. I shouldn’t feel anything. If she can’t then I shouldn’t, okay? Maybe I am a little scared too, huh? Maybe if I get in the groove and start feeling it, maybe I’ll get so caught up that there will be another accident, like Allan. I really can’t see how I am wrong in this, Tara.” She drew out the other girl’s name. But they both knew they were being completely open and honest as they walked down another alley, now moving towards UC Sunnydale. Faith suddenly stopped, her eyes glassed over for just a moment, and she shoved Tara hard behind a dumpster. “Well, looky here.” She whispered, and two vampires came strutting down the alley towards her.

“Out late and all alone. Why don’t we help you with that, little girl?” One of the vamps asked Faith. She shrugged, and started to walk forward.

“Faith?” Tara called, and Faith turned to meet her eyes. “Will you try? I will be right here, but try.” Tara pleaded. Faith shrugged and looked back at the two vamps, now in game face.

“Well hello boys. Maybe you can help me. Seems I misplaced my stake. Have you seen a pointy wooden object around here?” She asked with a mock shyness.

“Huh?” The other answered. Tara watched as a small grin broke the girl's features.

“Nice answer. I just want to let you know, I am going to kick you, and then slam you into the wall. Feel free to cry.” Faith whispered and jumped forward, kicking the taller of the two to the ground. He slammed into a dumpster, and slid down, dazed. She then turned to the other, and grabbed his shirt and running with him, slammed him into the brick wall. She raised her knee to his groin and he moaned. She head butted him sharply, and then stepped back. “Come-on boys, Blondie wants a show.” He lunged at her, and she let him get a punch in, which snapped her head to the side. She looked back at him with a twisted smile. Which Faith followed with a kick to his ribs and two punches to his face. He was completely dazed now, blood coming from his nose. She slipped her stake from her pocket and threw it like a dagger. It hit his heart and he was dusting away, the stake dropping in the air, she lunged, grabbed it and turned around, just as the other vampire rushed her. He stopped and looked at her with wide eyes, and then he feel to dust as well. She grinned to herself, and twirling the stake in her hand, walked over to Tara. “I think you might be right, Blondie.” She extended her hand. “That was wicked.”

“Well you are a Slayer right? This is what you were meant to do.”

“Right, destiny and all that.”

“Exactly.”

*****

Tara, Willow, Xander, and Anya were in a semi circle around Buffy’s grave. Willow kneeled at the foot of the grave and Xander and Tara are holding lit candles.

“Does everybody have their candles?” Willow asked.

“I am trying, my lighter won’t stay lit.” Moaned Anya as she tried flicking the lighter.

"Well hurry, it has to-" Willow began.

“What time is it?” Tara asked, getting concerned that they were running out of time. Xander checked his watch.

“A minute till midnight.” He said.

“C’mon Anya, do you have it?” Willow was getting worried now as well. Nothing could go wrong. She was praying that the damn lighter would just catch. Staring at it as Anya tried again, and then breathing a sigh as it lit and she lit the candle.

“I got it. I got it. I got it.” Anya said exuberantly.

“Okay. Start the circle now.” Willow began.

*****

Was that Red I heard? What in the world was she doing here? I had finished my patrol, and was coming from the Summers home. I knew I was pushing my luck, as they all lived there now, but tonight I had felt the urge to be close to her. So I had climbed the tree and gone in through her window. I just lay on her bed for a few moments, breathing in the faint scent of her that was still in the room. Then I went to her closet, and saw the red leather pants she had worn the night she stabbed me. I had cried like a child for a few minutes, quietly, holding onto them. But I knew I had to go, it was unhealthy for me to keep this up. Day by day I was getting better, beginning to feel more human again. So I had left the room, and was coming to say goodnight on my way back to bed.

I moved to the tree line, to stay hidden. When my eyes picked them out, I got worried. My stomach tightened. They were all kneeling around B’s grave. Tara, Xander, and his girl Anya. They were holding candles, except Red who was holding some old looking cup thing. Were they doing another protection spell? I watched silently as Red took a small jar from the ground next to her. From where I was sitting it looked like the jar was filled with blood. And if I knew anything it was that blood and magic were a dangerous mix. She poured the blood into the cup in her hand. Okay, I was officially worried now.

“Osiris, keeper of the gate, master of all fate, hear us.” Red said loudly, and then dipped her finger into the cup and marked her forehead and both cheeks with the blood. Yeah, this was not good at all. What the fuck was she doing?

“Before time and after. Before knowing and nothing.” Red kept going, and then tipped the cup the to the ground. All of the blood poured out onto the grass. “Accept our offering. Know our prayer.” Suddenly she jerked backward, panting. Her arms flailed out at her sides, and deep gashes appear on her arms. I lunged forward, just as Xander did the same.

“Willow!” He yelled.

“No! She t-she told me… she’d be tested. This is supposed to happen.” Tara said to Xander, and he sat back, and I took a step back into the trees as well. Man, Blondie was going to have some explaining to do later, that was for damn sure!

“Osiris! Here lies the warrior of the people. Let her cross over.” Red shouted. My mouth dropped open. Oh my God! Were they doing what I thought they were doing? They couldn’t bring her back, could they? I dropped to my knees, my eyes transfixed on the scene before me. Red winced in pain as blood came from the cuts on her arms, and something appeared to be moving under her skin. She moaned in pain. The round things under her skin started to move over her arms, to her chest, towards her neck. This was so not good on so many levels. Red was messing with some seriously dark magic now. No wonder Blondie was freaked whenever I brought it up. But what could I do?

“She needs help!” Xander cried.

“Xander, she is strong! She said not to stop, no matter what. If we break the cycle now, it’s all over.” Blondie snapped at him, and then looked back to Red. She was panting, breathing through the pain. I knew what that was like. I knew that she was wicked powerful now, but could she really do it? Could she really bring B back from the dead? Suddenly there was a deep rumbling noise in the distance.

“Oh god what is that noise?” Anya looked around, and I ducked, not wanting to be seen.

“Osiris, let her cross over! Ah!” Red stared chocking, and the round things were moving up her neck.

“Oh my god, Oh my god.” Blondie was scared, and that had me scared. What if Red couldn’t do it on her own? I looked up to the heavens and whispered under my breath.

“Please God, whatever you need, what ever any one needs to get her back, take it from me. I would give everything I have to bring her back!” I kept chanting that under my breath, noticing an orangish light around me.

*****

Willow leaned forward putting her hands on the ground, gagging. A snake's head appeared in her open mouth. It slithered out, and then away into the woods.

“It’s a test. It’s a test. Willow?” Tara whimpered. An orange red light surrounded Willow, moving around her.

“Osiris release her!” Willow shouted. A gut-wrenching scream ripped through the air, and Tara snapped her head back in the direction of the woods. She knew that scream. It was Faith. Tara thought that everything was suddenly going wrong.

From the other side of the cemetery a figure all in black ran towards the group. As he was upon them, they could all see his face. It was Angel. Willow was still entranced in the spell; no one noticed that Angel ran between them, until it was too late. Until his foot came down heavily on the Urn of Osiris, smashing it.

“No!” Willow screamed, then passed out. In the distance Faith fell to the ground as well. Both Willow and Faith were surrounded by the orange mist, which began to dissipate. None of them knew that below them, under ground, the orange mist was in the coffin. Swirling around the decayed head, the hands. Eyeballs become resilient and clear, and with a gasp, Buffy was back in her body.

*****

Pain. When B stabbed me and I fell of the building, that hurt, that was pain. This, what was running through my nerves, my body, this was a thousand times worse. And it didn’t help that someone was pushing on my shoulder.

“Get the fuck off!” I hissed, opening my eyes. Blondie was looking down on me, and then she looked over her shoulder. Then back to me. “What in the hell did you do?” I tried to sit up, but I hissed in pain falling back down.

“What’s wrong?” She asked.

“Pain. Everywhere. Want to die. Feel like killing me?” I mumbled, trying to breath through it.

“No. I can’t stay. I have to get back to Willow.”

“Did it work?” I asked, opening my eyes again.

“N-n-no. Angel, he, he stopped us.” Tara said softly.

“What?” I asked. I couldn’t sit up. I felt so very weak. I hadn’t felt this weak since, since those Council Clones drugged me with that shit that took away my Slayer powers. “Tara, something is wrong with me. I mean, big time wrong.” She looked worried, and I was glad, because I was freaking the fuck out! “My powers, they are gone.”

“Faith what did you do?” She asked glaring at me. Whoa. Never thought she could look like that. Note to self, Blondie is a badass witch too.

“What do you mean?”

“You watched the ritual right?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you do anything, say anything?”

“Oh.” I said, trying to sit up again. This time I managed. “Well when Red looked like she was puking the snake, I got worried and I kinda figured it out, and I, well started to pray, I guess.”

“What did you say?”

“Something along the lines of, I would give everything I had to bring B back.” I finished softly.

“Fuck.” Did she just say that, I couldn’t help my grin. Blondie swore. “Can you get back to your place okay?”

“I’m five by five.”

“Good. I have to help Willow, and get to the bottom of what ever Angel thought that he was doing. Oh Dear. And when Giles finds out, oh, n-n-no.” She was looking nervous now.

“Get out of here, come by when you can. Though sooner than later, I don’t like being normal, not when I just got back into the whole, ‘I like my job as a Slayer’ thing.” I smiled for her, and then pushed her away. She walked quickly back over to the group, and I fell back to the ground. Maybe if they had told me what they were planning I could have helped. I really did mean everything that I had said. I would have given anything for her to be back. I got up again; the pain was slowly going away. I looked over the cemetery, and I saw that the Scoobies were gone. That was good. I started making my way back to the apartment, suddenly wondering what in the Hell Angel had been doing here.

*****

“What did you think you were doing?” Angel shouted at Willow. All of them were in the Summers’ living room, Willow, Angel, Dawn, Xander, Tara, and Giles. Right now Angel was pacing. Willow was looking down at her hands. She was not even listening to Angel’s tirade, she was only thinking of what had gone wrong, at how close they had actually been to getting Buffy back. “You are a stupid girl!” He hissed, and did not realize his mistake until he was slammed against the far wall. Willow slowly raised her head.

“You have no idea how powerful I am, and I really don’t think you should be talking to me like that. You don’t want to make me mad.” Her voice was calm, but they could all see the blackness that overtook her eyes. Very slowly she stood up and addressed both Angel and Giles. “I knew exactly what I was doing. Everything would have worked perfectly. I was in control. I was bringing her back, saving her from whatever Hell Dimension she is stuck in. But you had to come and ruin it. Right when we were there- right on the edge. What were YOU thinking?” She had walked over to Angel, where he was being held against the wall, and poked her finger into his chest.

“It wasn’t right, Willow. You know that. You can’t bring her back from the dead.” Angel said. She waved her hand, and the spell was released.

“She’s not dead Angel.”

“Who’s not dead?” All eyes turned to the doorway, to see Buffy standing there, the door ajar. Her hair was matted and dirty, her dress ripped. Tara noticed her hands behind her back, and her vacant stare.

“Oh my God, Buffy!” Dawn exclaimed and ran into her sister giving her a tight hug, but they both fell down. “Buffy?” Dawn asked afraid.

“Are you okay, Buffy?” Willow asked, suddenly at her best friend's side.

“No, I, I don’t think I am.” Buffy said softly.

“Buffy.” Angel whispered, lifting her up in his arms. He scowled and looked at her hands, taking one in his. “God, no, you didn’t.” He whispered, but Buffy pulled her hand away, and squirmed out of his too tight embrace. She looked at the room, and then began walking up the stairs away from them. Tara’s hand was over her mouth, her eyes round.

“She had to dig.” Anya started, and then stopped, crying softly.

“You all left her there?” Giles asked painfully.

“We didn’t know. Angel smashed the urn, the spell was broken. I thought we had failed.” Willow said, and then turned to look at Angel. "She had to-"

“I know.” He said, moving to the stairs.

“No!” Dawn, Willow and Tara all said together, stopping him. Dawn moved past them all, going up the stairs to the Buffy’s room.

“I-I will take care of her.” Dawn said, and ran the rest of the way. She went into the open door, and closed it behind her, with her eyes closed. She was afraid for a moment that this was all another dream of hers, that when she opened her eyes she would only see an empty room. Slowly she opened her eyes, and saw Buffy. She was standing in front of her closet, her head to the side, like she was remembering something. “B-Buffy?” The girl asked, stepping closer. Buffy turned her eyes to Dawn. Her face was emotionless. “Can I help clean you up?” Buffy nodded, and walked into the bathroom, Dawn following. She ran the tap, soaking a cloth. Buffy pulled off her dress, and let it fall to the floor. Gently Dawn wiped the cloth over her sister’s shoulders neck and arms. “Are you okay? I mean, do you feel any pain?” Dawn asked, starting to brush her sister's hair.

“No, no pain. Weak though.” Buffy said softly. Dawn helped her pull a tank top over her head, and then a pair of shorts.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Dawn asked, hearing shouts from below. She cringed.

“Not right now.” Buffy smiled at her sister sadly. “Sorry. I would just like to sleep for a while. Is that okay?” She asked. Dawn nodded, and turned down the blankets. She made her way over to the door, and then turned to look at her sister.

“I love you Buffy, and I am so glad that you are back.” Dawn said softly, and then left the room. Buffy walked over to the closet again and inhaled deeply. She knew that smell. When Dawn had come into the room she was trying desperately to place it. She wasn’t completely here. She knew that. There was something definitely wrong with her, she could not keep thoughts in order, and memories were jumbled. She shrugged moving back to the bed, and she lay down. The smell was stronger here. It was like a faint perfume. She rolled onto her side, closing her eyes. And then she remembered. In a flash she remembered everything. Her life, her memories, standing on the platform with Dawn, running to the end, jumping. She remembered being dead, she remembered the peace. She began sobbing harder.

*****

“Mr. Giles, there is another problem.” Tara whispered in his ear, as the group was watching Buffy and Dawn go up the stairs.

“What?” He asked, turning to her.

“Faith was there, when we did the spell.”

“Good Lord.” He sighed.

“No one saw her, but something was wrong with her. A-and she said she was w-w-weak.” He looked at her, searching her face. “She said her powers were gone.”

“Well, erm, what should?” He looked at the group, and then at the stairs again.

“You need to help her.” Tara pushed him slightly, and he nodded, looking one last time at the stairs, and then moved to the door.

Tara was watching Angel and Willow as they squared off from each other. Willow’s eyes flashed black for an instant.

“Why did you stop me?” She hissed at him, and Tara made her way next to her partner.

“You were messing with things you shouldn’t.”

“I saved her from Hell!” Willow said, “Don’t you remember Hell, the place where she put you? IS that it? You didn’t want her to be freed?”

“That is not it, and you know it.” He said in a low voice.

“Th-this isn’t the time to t-talk about this.” Tara said getting between them. They both looked at her quizzically. “B-Buffy will need us in the morning, to help her, to understand what happened. Fighting will not help Buffy. We all wanted her back, right?” They all looked at each other, nodding. “Then let’s rest.”

“Take charge Tara!” Xander said softly. “I like her, she’s smart.”

Xander and Anya left the Summers’ home, after it appeared that the drama was over for the night. To Xander, everything was again right with the world.

“I think maybe,” Anya began as they stepped down the front steps. “I don’t think she’s particularly normal at all.”

“Well she just got back, Give it time. I bet in a week she’ll be our little Bufferin again.” Xander said, setting his hand on her shoulder.

“Oh yes, cause six or seven days, that’s all you really need to get over eternal hell experiences.” Anya scoffed, but Xander wasn’t listening, he looked off into the shadows, having heard something.

“Who’s that?” He called out, taking a stake from his jacket pocket. “Spike?” They move deeper in the shadows and see Spike at his favorite spot, leaning against the tree. The tree that leads to Buffy’s bedroom window. “What are you doing out here? I hope you’re not going to start your little obsession now that she’s around again.” Spike grabbed Xander’s lapels and slammed him against the tree, growling deep from within his chest.

“You didn’t tell me. You brought her back and you didn’t tell me.” He growled.

“Well, now you know.” Xander snapped back, angry once again that he was just a normal human and had to take whatever a neutered vampire gave him.

“I worked beside you all summer.” Spike spat on Xander as he spoke.

“We didn’t tell you. It was just,” he hesitated. Why was it? They didn’t tell a lot of people about Willow’s plan. “We didn’t okay?”

“Listen, I’ve figured it out.” He dropped his hands to his side, but he is still angry. “Maybe you haven’t, but I have. Willow knew there was a chance that she’d come back wrong, so wrong that you’d have,” he paused, pain on his face. “That she would have to get rid of what came back. And I wouldn’t let her. If any part of that was Buffy, I wouldn’t let her. And that’s why she shut me out.”

“What are you talking about? Willow wouldn’t do that.” Xander defended.

“Oh, is that right?” Spike scoffed.

“Look. You are just covering.” Xander began, suddenly finding himself hoping that the words he was saying were true. “Don’t tell me you aren’t happy. Look me in the eyes, and tell me when you saw Buffy alive, that wasn’t the happiest moment of your entire existence.” Spike stepped back, looking over Xander with worried eyes. He turned and walked away, calling over his shoulder.

“That’s the thing about magic. There’s always consequences.”

*****

Giles was walking in a daze, and didn’t snap out of it until he heard a groan beneath him, and felt his foot on something that was no longer the solid ground. Snapping to himself, he noticed he had walked through the open door to Faith’s apartment, and that he was standing on her arm. His eyes moved over her body, seeing her bloodied face, her ripped clothes.

“Faith!” He exclaimed and knelt beside her. “What happened?”

“Vampires. Got me on the way back. I barely made it through the door. Lucky for me they couldn’t get in.” She said, trying to sit up, but pain washed over her face.

“Why didn’t you slay them?” He asked, kicking the door closed and lifting her to standing.

“Thanks. Um, no strength.”

“Tara mentioned that.” She grabbed his lapels.

“Is it true?” Her eyes searched his face. “Is she really alive?”

“It, erm, appears to be Buffy, yes. But how did you know?” He moved her to the couch.

“When the vamps were knocking me around, I blacked out for a second, when I did, I got this wicked crazy vision. I was in a coffin, and I was ripping my way out of it. I felt so scared. And I know that I am not claustrophobic, but B is.” She sighed. “She was so scared.”

“Yes, well, she is home, with her friends now.” Giles couldn’t see it, but Faith flinched when he said that. “But what happened to you?”

“I am not sure. I was there, Red was slipping, or so I thought, so I just prayed. And I said that I would give anything for her to be brought back. Next thing I know I am surrounded by this orange weird mist, and then the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. Then I guess I blacked out, cause Blondie was shaking me, and then I felt like this.”

“Like what?”

“When that shit Rogers was filling me with the weird chemical that took away my Slayer powers. That is what I feel like now.” She flexed her hand. “Actually. I feel a little bit of power in here,” she tapped her body, “but it is really weak.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Giles?” He looked over at the young girl. “What happens now?”

*****

“What happens now?” She asked as Willow’s head was resting on Tara’s chest, and Tara ran her fingers through her hair. Gently she set a kiss on her partner’s head.

“I don’t know.” She whispered. She knew that Willow was wondering about Buffy’s distance, the fear that surrounded her. But Tara was thinking other thoughts. She was wondering what would happen with Faith, and all of them. She sat up, realizing what had been told to her months ago. That there could never be two Slayers, and that Buffy was the one that everyone wanted. With her back, would they kill Faith?

“What’s wrong, Tara?” Willow asked looked up from her position.

“Nothing, sorry. I guess I am just t-t-tired and a little stressed out.”

“Yeah, that was one hell of a spell.”

“How do you feel?” Tara ran her fingers through the red strands again.

“Kinda shaky. You know last summer when I had three mochas?”

“Oh, no.” Tara said lightly.

“Yeah, I feel like I am coming down from that. I am just a big jumble of washed out emotions. I mean I was so disappointed that it didn’t work, and then I found out it did work. And then at the same time I was so mad at Angel, and I still am, and I am confused to. I don’t know how the spell worked when I wasn’t totally done.” Tara lifted her chin with her fingers as Willow talked, and when she stopped for a breath Tara set her lips on Willow’s. Easily they leaned into one another, feeling the kiss growing from comforting, and loving to passionate. Willow pulled away slowly, but Tara put her hand on her cheek, stopping her from going too far.

“Don’t. Let me make you forget everything, if just for an hour. Let me take it all away.” She whispered huskily, in the voice that was reserved just for Willow, and just for times like this. Both girls could feel the heat rising up in their chests, the desire heating their blood. Willow blinked her eyes slowly, and leaned back in to capture Tara’s lips between her own.

*****

“What happens now?” Anya asked Xander as he held her on his lap. They were sitting in the dark of their apartment. Both where sullen, and in shock. After watching the ritual, and feeling the let down that it didn’t work they had both accepted the reality that Buffy would never come back. But when she walked in the room, reality flew out the window. She was back, albeit she seemed timid, and a little un-Buffy like to both of them, she was back. It had really happened. Neither one had thought that it could have truly been done.

“I guess things will go back to the way they were.” He said softly to her.

“Is it really her?” Anya asked softly. “What if there was a mistake, what if she wasn’t supposed to come back?” He felt his fiancée’s tears on his shoulder.

“If she wasn’t supposed to come back, she wouldn’t have.” He said, rocking her again.

*****

“What happens now?” Angel asked into the telephone as he paced in the mansion. Cordelia was on the other end, and after he relayed everything to her, she had become quiet. So he asked again, “Cordy, what happens now?”

“I don’t know Angel. I don’t know everything; I only know what I see in the damn visions. And in the visions I saw them trying to bring her back, and if they succeeded she would be broken, not human, miserable.” She rambled.

“But she is human. She is completely human, I could sense it.”

“Really?” Cordy asked, seemingly shocked.

“Yes, really.” He stopped pacing. “What is it?”

“I think maybe something else happened, you know, something else stopped it from happening the way it did in my vision.” He could hear her flipping through her notebook. “Yeah, says right here, you knew straight away that she wasn’t human, that there was something wrong with her. So she seemed like just plain Buffy to you?”

“She was Buffy. A little sad, a little weak, but Buffy.”

“Where was she?” Cordy asked.

“Don’t know. They wouldn’t let me talk to her.” He began pacing again. “I, I need to patrol. I will see her tomorrow.”

“Angel, get a seer, or something to look at her. To look within her. Please, for all of our peace of mind, make sure that this is our Slayer.”

“Okay. Goodbye.” He hung up and moved towards the front doors, stepping out into the night.

*****

“I don’t know.” He said looking at me. That was so not the answer I wanted to hear.

“Don’t lie to me. Just tell me.” I said softly, not having the strength to keep up any of my defenses. I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

“The Council will be notified, and then, well you know the two choices.” He said standing up and walking away from me.

“Giles, I am going to say something, and I want you to hear me REAL good.” I forced myself to stand. “If you make sure that it really is her. If you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is her, and she is the Slayer, just like it was before, then you can do what ever you want with me. Lock me up, beat me some more, drug me, rape me, kill me. Do all of it, and it is still okay. As long as it really is her. Cause that is the way it must be, and I deserve it. So don’t you ever feel bad, or guilty. I understand how all this works now, okay.” I limped towards the bed, to the pillow and blanket on the floor beside it. I looked at him, with his eyes downcast. “I mean it. Don’t feel anything for me. You just make sure she is back, and you make your decision. And do it fast, and I mean fast.” I dropped to my knees heavily. Walking this far was too much, and I was running out of steam big time. I SO hated being this weak. How could people live being like this? I crawled towards the pillow. “Lock the door behind ya.” I said, laying my head down.

“You should get into the bed, Faith. You need your rest to heal.” He said softly from beside me.

“Can’t get in that bed. She, she has been in that bed.” I mumbled as sleep started to claim me, taking away the pain, for a little while.

*****

“Just for the record I am not a dream.” Buffy said lightly, tired of having all of these eyes locked onto her in awe. They were all at the Magic Shop, and the whole group was staring at her. It was getting a little more than freaky. “You’d think you would all be used to this by now.”

“Used to what Buffy?” Xander asked.

“You know, me dying and then coming back. Hello, have done it once already.” She stood up slowly, and walked towards Giles. “So any idea why I feel, so, um weenie? I mean, no Slayer powers.” She asked. Giles looked up from the spell that Willow had provided him that morning when they all had gathered together. Nothing looked out of the ordinary, but he had yet to figure in the chanting that Faith had done. He was sure from her description of events that she had affected the spell in some way.

“Um, not yet, thus far. But, I do have a suggestion, erm or request.” He said, removing his glasses. She tilted her head at him, giving him her ‘well’ face. He had missed that look, and couldn’t help the smile that came over his features. “Tara.” He said, and the blonde jumped out of her seat beside Willow.

“Y-yes?” She asked, wondering what he would want.

“You can see auras, correct?”

“Y-Yes, Mr. Giles.” She looked embarrassed. She was comfortable around the Scooby group, but they had Angel with them, standing in the shadows today on one side, and Spike on the other. They both regarded her suspiciously. Neither vampire had known that, and now they knew that no secrets could be kept from the blonde witch.

“What do you see when you look at Buffy?” He asked, and she stepped closer to the girl. Buffy slowly turned to face Tara, and gave her a sad smile, but looking at her eyes, they seemed to be pleading with her. Buffy knew what she was feeling, and what Tara could see, and she did not want the rest of the group to hear it.

“Buffy.” Tara said softly, and touched the girl’s arm. “W-what do you r…really want, Mr. Giles?”

“We want to see her, all of her, we need to make sure that she is completely back.” Angel said taking a step out of the shadows looking at everyone, and no one.

“Right, is she still the Slayer, or is she just, well her.” Spike said, and then lit a cigarette, illuminating his face, just for an instant. Tara looked to Giles, and he nodded in agreement.

“O-okay. I will need a few things, and then Buffy and I will go back into the training room and I will let you know.” Tara moved behind the counter, to get a few herbs.

“What? We want a floor show!” Spike grumbled.

“Crass yes, but we need to know what you see.” Angel said, and Xander and Anya nodded. Tara locked eyes with everyone in the room, slowly deliberately, and then took a deep breath before she spoke.

“Tough. I will tell you what you need to know, when we are done.” She took Buffy by the hand, and they walked back into the training room.

“You know they will come in anyway.” Buffy grumbled.

“They can try.” Tara said as she threw her hand to the door and whispered the chant. Buffy watched as the door developed a moving liquid sheen. Then she turned back to Tara and smiled.

“Thanks.” Buffy said, sitting down on the floor.

“Are you doing alright?” Tara asked, setting things on the floor around them.

“Why don’t you tell me how I am doing?” Buffy said, and then tilted her head to the side. That perfume again.

“Pain, sorrow, confused.” Tara ground herbs into a powder in the chalice on the pedestal. Buffy stood back up and walked around the room. The scent was strong near the punching bag. What was it? “What is it Buffy?” Tara asked, looking up from the floor.

“Has someone been using this room?” She turned to Tara, who looked to the floor.

“N-n-no.”

“Is that no as in yes?” Buffy asked.

“We should get started.” Tara said, lighting three candles.

“Okay.” Buffy shrugged and went to sit in front of the witch. Tara began whispering softly, and then was moving her hands over Buffy’s body, keeping her hands from touching, just feeling her aura, her essence. Buffy looked into the other girl’s eyes, seeing them unfocused, and a much lighter shade of blue than they were normally. Her hands moved in front of Buffy’s face, and a soft smile came over the witch. She moved her hands down in front of her chest, and her face became quizzical, and then down over the rest of her. Tara did three sweeps of her body, and by then her face was covered in a thin sheen of sweat. When she stopped, she placed her face in her hands and sighed deeply. Buffy was worried, and placed her hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Not that bad I hope.” She said softly. She raised her head and was smiling at Buffy.

“You are fine. You are human, and you are alive, and there is no demon in you.”

“Then why do I feel less than Slayery?”

“Your spirit and soul, or rather, your Slayerness is fractured.”

“Do I need to wear a cast for that?” Buffy asked.

“No.” Tara smiled. “I went over you three times to check. Each moment it is growing, getting stronger. I think because it had to come from nothing, um, sorry, but nothing, that it is duplicating itself, and in a while you will be back to one hundred percent.”

“Great.” Buffy stood. “Now we can tell them that Dr Tara cleared me, and they can all stop looking at me like I am part of the freak show.”

“Buffy, you were dead. I mean, dead dead for three months. This is taking a lot of getting used to.”

“No shit.” Buffy mumbled, and suddenly Tara had her arms around the small Slayer, holding her tightly.

“I know where you were.” Buffy tightened in her arms. “I won’t tell them. Just know I am here if you need me.” Buffy nodded slightly, and pulled away. Tara wondered how she had found herself suddenly offering to be the support for not one but two Slayers. Buffy made her way to the door. “Will you tell Giles I need him?” Tara asked, and Buffy nodded.

*****

“Have no fear, I am human, and I am a Slayer, just a little broken, but healing in the Slayer department.” Buffy announced the group as she walked out.

“I told you so.” Willow sneered at Xander as he spoke.

“Wonderful news, Buffy.” Giles said coming over to her.

“Oh, Tara needs you.” Buffy said to Giles, and Willow sat up quickly, and Buffy held up her hands, “No Will, she is fine.” Slowly Willow sat back down.

*****

“Is it true?” Giles asked as he came into the room where Tara was putting the supplies into her bag.

“It is her, completely her.”

“Then?” he asked confused.

“I think I know what happened. I have to get to Faith, and check her too.” He looked perplexed. “Why?”

“Buffy’s soul is fractured. Her powers are very minimal, but they are growing every moment, getting stronger. She suffered the same weakness as Faith.”

“So you are thinking that-“

“There can be only one Slayer. Buffy dying made that right again, we tried to bring her back, and she would have not been the Slayer if she came back. But Faith gave up her power; her destiny for Buffy, so now there is truly only one Slayer. And either all of that power is in Buffy, or”

“My god, or it was split between them?” Giles said, and Tara nodded.

“Does the Council have a seer, someone who can clarify what is truly going on?”

“Yes. Let me know what you find out from Faith, and I will contact them immediately.”

“That spell still working on the door, Blondie.” Faith said softly, as she moved deeper into the training room. Both Giles and Tara jumped at the sound of her voice.

“Yes.” Tara replied.

“Good thing I am here. Saved you a trip.” Faith came up next to them.

"What are you doing here? You know the-"

“Shove it, G-man. I had to see her, to know.” Both Giles and Tara watched her eyes soften, and then they became completely devoid of emotion again. “Just do this,” she said to Tara.

“Okay, sit down.”

*****

What is going on in there? Buffy wondered to herself as she flipped through a magazine. Everyone was talking amongst themselves, well not everyone. Spike was sulking in the corner, and Angel was just staring at her. And she had had enough. She got up and walked over to Angel, taking his arm in her small hand.

“What?” She demanded. He looked down at her quizzically. “Why the staring? I know you like to brood, but what?”

“I just can’t believe you are back, is all. I resigned myself to never seeing you again, on giving you up. And now, now you are right here, and I can smell you, and see you.” He ran his hand down her cheek, “And feel you.” He sighed. Buffy watched Spike out of the corner of her eye as he slipped out of the Magic Shop. She knew he hated seeing her with Angel that his emotions for her ran deeply. But it hurt too much to think about. She moved away from Angel.

“I am here.” She said in a sigh. “But that doesn’t mean I am back for you, and it doesn’t mean I am not upset, a little.”

“Upset?” He asked, sounding hurt.

“I heard all of you last night. You tried to stop them, and I wonder why.” She said, looking up at him, searching his face. In the past, looking at him would fill her with such longing, but even before she had died, she had moved on from the love that she felt for him. They could never have anything between them, and Buffy knew that it was not meant to be, and that she needed to move on for her own sake, her own happiness. Now she looked at him and only saw a friend, some one she had trusted in the past. But she wasn’t sure if she could trust him now.

“Cordelia had a vision.” He said, as if that explained everything. She glared at him openly now, and he slumped his shoulders. “You came back less than human, broken, and wrong. It was not right. I came to stop their selfishness.”

“I see.” Buffy snapped. “They were selfish for wanting to help me?”

“You and I both know they should have done nothing.”

“Right, so when the Powers That Be sent you back from Hell, that was okay, because no one wanted you back.”

“You did.” He said looking at her.

“No, I didn’t. I let you go Angel. I went there and I said goodbye and I let you go. And then you know what? You came back then.” He moved back as if stung by her words. “But even though you stopped it, I am still here, I came back, and I am okay. And you know why I came back? Because some body wanted me back.” She looked at him, seeing the pain on his face.

“Maybe you came back because I said goodbye too.”

“I just don’t think that you did.”

“I love you Buffy.” He said softly.

“I know you do.” She said, and she knew that wasn’t what he wanted to hear. He grabbed her arm, too strongly, and she winced in pain, but he did not realize it, and pulled her closer to him.

“Things can be different this time, Buffy.” He said. “We can be strong.”

“And miserable? No, Angel There will never be anything between us other than friendship.”

“Buffy?” Willow asked from behind them, and Angel let her go roughly.

“You don’t really want that. I know you, Buffy.”

“Maybe you really don’t.” She backed up into Willow, and felt the red head’s arm around her waist. He stormed out of the shop, slamming the door behind him, and both girls winced.

“Okay, what was that about?” Willow asked.

“Angel being stubborn.” Buffy turned and gave her best friend a smile. “What else is new?"

“Are you mad that I brought you back?” Willow asked, looking at her sheepishly.

“Will, if I wasn’t meant to come back, they wouldn’t have let me. It’s okay.” Buffy took her face in her hand. “Say it with me, it is okay.”

“It is okay.” Willow smiled.

“Right.” Buffy addressed the group, and Giles and Tara came back in the room at that moment. Buffy gestured to everyone, “I am back, and I am alive, and it is okay. So I may be mope Buffy, or out of sorts Buffy. I’ll get back into the swing of being alive again soon. Okay?” She smiled at the group, and then her head snapped to look at Tara. There was something about Tara that seemed different suddenly. She stopped herself from stepping forward to the other girl. Instead she pushed the nagging inside her away, and looked back at the group. She was back, and she would do whatever it took to get back to normal, and to forget where she had been. Time would allow her to forget the peace she had known, the calm that had enveloped her. She would never tell them, none of them needed to know that she had not been in hell. It would break all of them to know that they had pulled her out of heaven to come back here to this place, this life. She would forget.

*****

I was being careless, but I could not help myself. As cliché as it was, I was like a moth, and Buffy Summers was my flame. I was standing across the street, on Revello Drive, looking up at her window. It was late, but I knew she was still awake, I could see her shadow on the wall. What was she doing, I wondered. Was she walking around the room, pacing just to feel the strength moving through her legs? She had been back for three days now. I felt like a Slayer again, I was strong, fast, healed quickly. But there was something different now. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I felt, new. Sounds weird I know, but my power felt like it did when I was first called.

Giles had called me before I left the apartment tonight, telling me that he wanted to meet with me at midnight, he had gotten a response from the Council. I had a few more minutes, and I needed to be near her, or as close as I could be.

A flash of light from under the tree below her bedroom, and I titled my head. Spike. He was looking up at her window too. I felt a rage bubbling up from my stomach, moving through me. What in the fuck was he doing watching her? Angel I would have expected, but little limp Billy the Bloody? My body screamed at me with all of the warning bells that I felt when vampires were around. Kill Kill Kill. It shouted in my blood. But I couldn’t, he was like the pet of the Scooby’s. They would kinda notice him gone.

“You hurt her, and I will kill you.” I whispered to his shadow, and then turned and began running back to my apartment, but I had a stop I needed to make first.

*****

She couldn’t stop pacing. She had all of this pent up energy inside of her. But she had promised Giles that she wouldn’t patrol until he gave her the go ahead. It seemed quiet out there any way. The window was open, and as she walked past she stopped in her tracks. She looked out, through the night. Spike was under the tree, but he was there all this time, thinking he was so sneaky, and that she didn’t know he was practically stalking her. But she felt something else. Something familiar. She strained her gaze, but didn’t see anything. Buffy sighed, deciding that being cooped up was driving her to panic.

She moved through the yard, but knew that he was watching her, eyes fixated on her.

“You should be careful. Never know what kind of villain’s got a knife at your back.” Spike said softly.

“Don’t have to worry about you, you’re all fixed. And I really don’t think there is anyone else left to try.” She said, turning to see him. His hand looked broken. “Your hand is hurt.”

“Hmm.” He nodded to her. “Same with you.” Buffy looked down, seeing her hands were still damaged from her escape from the coffin.

“Right.” What was she doing out here? Why was she talking with him? And why in the world did the big bad evil vampires all get soft when it came to her? Was she an evil magnet?

“Willow’s getting pretty strong, isn’t she? Bringing you back. It’s hard to get a good night’s death around here.” He is trying to make her smile, anything. But she looks so lost, and empty. She just stares at him, which makes him twitch a little. “Uh…. I do remember what I said. The promise. To protect her.” He looked down at her thoughtfully. “If I had done that…even if I didn’t make it… You wouldn’t have had to jump.” She keeps looking at him, and not for the first time, Spike wonders what really happened to her in Hell. She was not the same Buffy, not the same Slayer she used to be. “But I want you to know I did save you. Not when it counted of course, but… after that. Every night after that. I’d see it all again… do something different. Faster or more cleaver, you know? Dozens of times, lots of different ways,” he moved to touch her cheek. “Every night I save you.” She shrugged away from his touch.

“You never could.” She stepped back.

“What?”

“It was meant to be. None of you got that, but I did. She did.”

“She who, pet?” He asked, and her eyes became sharp again.

“Hmm.”

“She who?” He asked trying to get closer to her.

“I, not important. What I mean Spike, is that I was supposed to die up there, and I did. Period. Nothing you or any one else could have done to stop it. So don’t think about it any more.”

“How can I not, Buffy. I love you and I couldn’t save you.” She turned her back on him, and it felt as cruel as a stake in his chest.

“No you don’t. None of you do.” She walked away back into the house, cursing herself for trying to find peace out here. She would never find it, that peace, not like she had known it for those lifetimes she was away. This was all different, and yet the same. Evil wanted to possess her, and she wanted to possess heaven.

*****

In my old apartment, the one the Mayor had hooked me up with. I moved through the rooms, stepping through dust and garbage that was on the floor. I went into the shower, and pulled up the drain in the tub. Inside there was a small plastic bag, and inside that was a small key. I took the key and slipped it into my pocket. It was for a safe deposit box at the Sunnydale bank.

I had decided, when Tara told me what she believed, that the spirit of the Slayer was split between B and me, that I would not go with the Council’s plans. I know, my shot at redemption flushed. But I would never let them do to her again what they did last time. Because of them she died. I could have stopped that. So I was ready to forgo any forgiveness I might get from anyone, I would not be locked away from her; I would not be killed until it was my time. I also was realistic, I knew I wouldn’t stay in Sunnydale, there was no way I could stay, but there was a huge big bad world out there, full of evil that was just waiting to be punished. Tara had helped me understand again my destiny, and that was a fighter for good, and I would destroy all evil I came across. I patted the key in my pocket again, and then ran the rest of the way across town to meet with the G-man.

...continued in Evasion...

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