A/N:- This chapter, or rather, the flashbacks within it are for soulfulone because I was rereading reviews and hers gave me the plot bunny that grew into them. Thanks for all the help you’ve given me (scratch it just being the flashbacks.... with all she's put up with she deserves a whole chapter... and this is a nice long one too).Never Smile at a Slayer
She knew about him.
They had told her, told this terrifying new creature with the power of demons and life of immortals.
The girl didn’t look dangerous, not curled up on the sofa beside Amanda with a wine glass casually held in one hand. She seemed even more harmless than the thief; Amanda oozed a predatory form of sensuality which kept anyone sensible wary. That didn’t ease his fears, he was too old to allow mere appearances to deceive him, knew too much about Slayers to doubt the power which dwelt within her slight frame; he had seen it himself.
“We looked for the slayer once.” Adam said, his voice calm, hiding his disquiet, “When the rumours of her were spreading faster than those about us. Kronos was jealous.“
Buffy looked up at his words, “I remember hearing you were coming... but the tales of the horsemen were about men and there were still all too many demons to worry about.”
“You can’t be that old.” he felt for her quickening, searching for the power which would accompany such memories but finding nothing, “If you were as old as you claim your presence would echo through my head.”
Buffy frowned at him, Cassandra had said she felt like a young immortal but Duncan and Amanda didn’t seem to think there was anything strange when she mentioned her past. They felt similar to her, their life forces each a pressure upon her when they approached but this Immortal, his power was a weight like that of the world on her shoulders, an effort to ignore, “You can feel it too can’t you, the differences.”
She could tell? His sword hand twitched, most of the immortals he had killed in the last millennia had been to prevent this, to eliminate those who might be able to identify him for what he was.
Amanda turned to her in confusion, “The difference?”
“Between you guys... You and Duncan are a similar strength but... you don’t taste the same, and he,” She pointed, “He’s so much more powerful it hurts, and kinda oaky.”
“Oaky huh?” Amanda asked with a smirk, “And just what do I taste like?”
Buffy raised one eyebrow, “Sharp and tangy, like lemonade.”
Duncan shifted, suddenly uncomfortable in his seat, and cleared his throat awkwardly before nodding at Buffy, “Yes, well... I had noticed that sometimes you feel... less safe to be around.”
MacLeod was already beginning to feel it? But then with the number of heads he had taken, especially recently, that wasn’t particularly surprising. He had amassed as much power as Amanda in less than half the time. Duncan’s instincts were beginning to recognise what he wouldn’t consciously sense for another few centuries, telling him when there’s someone powerful about, someone dangerous.
Eventually he might get a hunch of who might be coming, and if he paid enough attention even begin to recognise the quickenings of those he knew. Make sense of what he felt when another comes close, as the slayer somehow could despite her age.
"Sometimes I feel scary?" she grinned, a feral smile that justified the fears he couldn't let go of. Which showed just a fragment of what she was, "What about now?"
It was like a veil dropping away, or no, that implies there was an understanding that something was concealed, more like a hidden door opening, revealing horrors he had never expected to find. The power washed over him, impacting on his quickening like nothing had for millennia, not since the last of the old ones died and everyone he met was younger.
He was on his feet, sword in hand with Duncan beside him, the boy scout ever ready to accept a fight he knew he couldn't win. Only Amanda didn't react. Not, he saw from the awe in her eyes, because she didn't feel it but because it didn't scare her. In the weeks she had been here the girl had earned complete trust and acceptance from someone who rarely trusted anyone but herself.
"How old are you?"
"Old enough that I get first dibs on calling myself ‘Death'." She joked awkwardly, trying to ease the tension the revelation of her powers had caused.
"You can't be... I would have heard of you." Would have died millennia ago trying to kill her.
"Yes, well that is because I'm not really an immortal, not your kind anyway."
He glanced at Amanda and Duncan, expecting to see exasperation and disbelief but instead there was something else, "Then what do you think you are?" What had she convinced them she was? Why had Duncan sat down, no longer primed for a fight.
"A super-powered slayer with a multiple personality disorder?"
Amanda laughed and even Duncan smiled but he knew what he felt, whatever she said, and when he remembered the feeling of her full power his only thought was that it didn't matter what she knew; the game had already been won.
~ ~ ~
"Did you ever meet a slayer?"
They were still wary with each other, sizing one another up, trying to use the knowledge of millennia to understand motives, expectations. Something he’d had lifetimes to learn while she spent her lives battling demons.
"Wouldn't you know?"
He was testing her, she realised, still not sure what to believe about the tale he’d been told, "Not if she wasn't me. They are there, the others, like memories of a dream, but I can't get to them."
They sat together in silence as he mulled over the response, deciding what to think about this creature which threatened everything he knew. Finally he answered her question, "Yes, I met a few slayers. I even married one."
"You marr-" Buffy stared at him, the marriages she'd had in past lives were few and far between, "then you must have been her watcher."
"Yes." She had been one of his youngest brides. Long after he had chosen to marry only widows so the lack of children would be less noticeable. His infertility did not bother her, a wife that did not resent that inability in him.
“What happened to her?”
“What happens to all of you? She died, overwhelmed by innumerable vampires.”
Buffy smiled sadly at how true his bitter words were, how closely they applied to so many of her memories, ”When was it?"
"In Athens, not long before the Romans took it."
She saw him for a moment as he would have been then, a cross between warrior and priest serving in Ares' temple, "Have you met any since?"
"I avoided them."
"Hanging about those with a penchant for beheading didn't seem like a good idea." Her empty eyes bore into him, refusing to believe his flippant response, forcing something more from him. "Why do you think? She was my wife." He shrugged, "I didn't want to see that again, watch more girls die for a hopeless cause."
"Hopeless?" she repeated, her face for the first time breaking into a smile that didn't make him want to shiver. This wasn't scary, it was sad. It more even than the feeling of her quickening made him begin to believe her story.
"Do you truly think they will ever be gone, that the battle will end?" He shook his head, discounting the very idea, "That's as futile as a belief in the Gathering."
"You haven't noticed then?"
"There are less of them, not just vampires but demons too." That soon there might not be any left. **She should have expected this, that Buffy would come to this place, be drawn in by the energies which swirled about them, and yet it was still a surprise. To find herself no longer alone in the battle after Kennedy and her companions had fallen about her, dropping valiantly one by one as the horde continued to attack.
It was a shock when it was over, when their numbers dwindled down to nearly nothing and the mystics and their guards dove through the swirling vortex that the slayers had prevented becoming stable. The two Slayers watched as the last of their enemies dispersed into fragments of energy before disappearing, choosing the certainty of death in the unstable portal rather than attempting to fight the weary girls.
“Why are you here?”
Faith shrugged, “Prophecy.” Giles had explained in oh so painful detail exactly what was foretold but all she’d retained was that something about star formations would weaken the Hellmouth.
They stood together in silence, looking over the field of battle stained blue by the blood of demons. Finally she asked, “You?”
“I felt it.” Felt it like the thrust of her own stake into her gut.
Faith nodded, she had felt it too, this gaping hole in the world that called to her, drew her on as she grew closer.
“You were nearby?” had Buffy been hiding near here? Was this where she’d been all these years? No, Kennedy would have noticed if another slayer was in her domain.
That word was a harsh reminder of how much Buffy had changed, how different they really were. She hadn't felt what the prophecies were sending her to until she had landed; this emptiness which drew her onwards. Buffy hadn't required a prophecy to tell her she was needed here.
“I don’t get it.” Faith broke the silence which had descended upon them again, the pair of slayers working in tandem to bury the dead, “Why did they keep fighting when they could have covered a retreat. What could have been so important to bring here?”
“Didn’t you see? They weren’t trying to bring something here, they were trying to get there.”
“But the prophecy said...” Faith trailed off with the realisation that she actually had no clue what the prophecy had said, only that Giles had implied it might be very bad, apocalyptic even if the demons succeeded in using the weakened Hellmouth.
Buffy smiled, “You have no idea what it said do you?”
“Well no... I’ll have you know listening the way I do takes lots of practise!”
She assumed a superior air, “I carefully filter out the pertinent facts. What do I need beyond time, place and objective?”
“I suppose it could be considered a skill to somehow remember that without even hearing the reasoning behind it.”
Faith smiled, enjoying the banter and just being in the company of the other slayer. Buffy seemed different, lighter somehow than she had been when she left Cleveland. “Where have you been?” the words were out of her mouth before she could stop them, despite promising herself she wouldn’t ask.
“Here, there... everywhere.” Buffy smirked mysteriously. “I bumped into Oz.”
“His monks helped you.”
“Yes.” she confirmed in a serene manner which said nothing and everything, nothing about what she’d been through to get to this point, everything about how well Buffy now controlled the slayer.
“They miss you.”
The smile which had been growing disappeared with those words, replaced by the locked expression Buffy had so often worn in Cleveland, hiding all her thoughts away. She turned away from her, not wanting to see Buffy like that, and collected up her weapons, preparing to leave.
Having already made the mistake of mentioning the others, she had to ask, had to know, “Will you come back?”
“I can’t. Not yet.” She watched Faith’s shoulder’s droop and once again had to do something about it, “Do you need to go?”
Faith looked back, her smile returning, and Buffy knew she’d made the right choice.**
"That's one of the reasons I came, why I stayed. There are less now to fight, those Vampires you saw me fight with Mac earlier were the first I'd seen in months."
"But..." There had always been a healthy vampire presence; it was a major city after all with a vibrant nightlife in every respect, "Even if you got them all when you came by now..."
"No, you're not listening to me." she smiled patiently, "I didn't find any vampires here."
He raised an eyebrow, the only sign of his surprise, "You weren't killing on the way here then, nothing to give them warning that you were coming? No possibility of word reaching the nests and sending them into hiding, making them run." As he should, as he would, ignoring Duncan's call. Distance himself from this girl until another could defeat her and make the game less skewed. But that would come later, tomorrow. Tonight he needed to establish exactly what he was running from.
"An exodus from a city like this? We would have seen evidence of that, had the overflow back from nearby nests to refill the void. There would be more than just one scruffy band here."
"Perhaps they went underground."
She laughed and the sound was terrible, terrifying a reminder of the power she concealed, "There's nowhere they could hide, nowhere I wouldn’t sense them. No, they've been killed, and not by me."
"I don't know."**They had to open it.
To seal this Hell away forever they had to give it free reign, open the mouth of hell wide enough to see it’s fangs, and the awakening of a Hellmouth was something Buffy had felt halfway across the globe.
“Need a hand?”
She had expected this, expected her to appear just as things were at their worst to save the day. Buffy always had excellent timing. Faith didn’t respond, unable to break even for a moment from her battle to keep these creatures captive, prevent them from gaining purchase on the world in the brief time the portal had to be open before it could be closed. Instead she drew the scythe from it’s sheath on her back and sent it spinning towards her, not bothering to wait and see if it was caught.
Fighting with her was easy, they fell into a routine that might as well have never been interrupted by the years. One demon oozed past Faith leaving a trail of slime in it’s wake and she was there, ready to pick up the slack, with the scythe glowing in her grasp. The colours of the sun, of blood, shone out from the blade Buffy held and sliced through the beasts as cleanly as the sharpened edge.
It seemed like hours of endless fighting later that something changed, she heard, felt a change in the tone of the voices above their heads. The voices which had been endlessly speaking, chanting as they fought, drawing this world’s magics back to this place and eliminating those which came from Hell. Moulding the power needed to destroy this portal.
Once the chanting changed it was over in an anticlimactic moment, the demons and the place they had come from winking out of existence with a complete lack of ceremony. Leaving behind only their blood and goo, giving the slayers time to catch their breath.
This time she didn’t ask why Buffy was here, Faith already knew, instead she asked the only question whose answer she cared about, trusting from their time together that the question wouldn’t send her running, “Will you stay?”
Buffy looked sharply at Faith, wondering all over again what she had been considering since the pull started, urging her to this time, this place; whether this had been a ploy to bring her back.
“Not yet.” She replied again over the shattered remains of a portal to hell. Her earlier reaction to seeing them had proven it wasn’t yet time. With Faith it was easier. There was less history, or perhaps more. Somehow, despite or because of their past conflicts, less to forgive and forget. Her face didn’t remind Buffy of everything that had changed, everything that remained the same.
“What made you do it?” She asked, needing to know that this wasn’t about her.
“It was time.” Faith waited, knowing her companion wanted more but selfishly unwilling to give it, wanting there to be a reason for her to remain. Her eyes fell on the scythe where it was held loosely in Buffy’s grasp, but then, there were things she wanted to know too, “Have you heard the rumours?”
“That there’s something…attacking them? That it’s time to leave?” The triumph in Faith’s eyes confirmed her guess, “Yes.”
“They kept trying to open it, to find a way out.” She shrugged, “It seemed safer this way. Willow found a way to shut it for good.”
“She always does.”
Faith nodded, the witch always managed to get her own way. “Is it…”
“Yeah.” She breathed a sigh of relief that she hadn’t had to finish the question herself, hadn’t had to call Buffy a murderer. The creatures which were scared weren’t all bad, long peaceful races turning to war in a bid to escape, escape... something. Something Faith had to believe wasn’t Buffy, because if it was then she needed to be stopped, and irrespective of their relative strength Faith wasn’t sure she could do that.
“Yes. And no, or not all.”
“I’ve been travelling, taking out a lot of vamps and demons.” Faith snorted at the understatement, remembering the dust left in their wake when she had travelled with Buffy, “But in the last year or so there have been less, even in places I’ve never been before. I arrive and find nothing, not even peaceful demons.”
“Could it be the potentials?”
“No.” Buffy had wondered that, early on in the first few empty towns. But some of the massacred clans of demons had been strong enough, skilled enough that she would even now have limped away from the fight.
This was something at least as strong, something far more powerful than the girls who once, were Slayers. They had been Slayers for a few fleeting hours and stretched the new abilities to their limits, but just as they grew used to the strength, the speed, the power, it was taken from them, leaving only a shadow of what they briefly were behind.
Most of them had died, the ones that had decided to stand by a duty that was never really theirs. It had been years, longer even than many slayers lived since that fateful day, and one by one Buffy had felt them fall. The last of the fighters had died the last time Faith and Buffy met, on another Hellmouth. The only ones who still lived were those who had chosen to ignore the world they had momentarily been a part of.
The voices which had once been so distant resumed and they were startlingly close, evidence of just how long they had been contemplating that thought. The scythe clattered onto the compressed earth floor, finally losing it’s glow, the energy no longer emitting from it now that it was out of Buffy’s hands.
She didn’t speak, if she had the others would have heard her and they would know. It would hurt them more to learn she had been and left than to think she hadn’t yet returned. As the footsteps of her family drew closer, Buffy ran from them.**
"If something's out there killing vampires and demons, what are you doing here?"
"Figuring out what I do when there's nothing left to fight."
He hadn't thought of that, it had been too long since he had been acquainted with a slayer's need for combat. What was it like for her, being so much more than the slayers he had known, what would those urges drive her to do if her natural prey was gone.
A Slayer on the rampage. The image of destruction that thought evoked was more terrible than anything the Horsemen had wrought.
"Amanda says it's time to lay the table." Duncan's sudden appearance made Methos lose his cool, so highly strung from all he had learnt that he flinched away from the noise.
Methos sighed and stood, sauntering across the open plan living space to where Amanda and Duncan had been preparing dinner but when Buffy attempted to follow him Duncan lay a hand on her arm.
"Sorry for interrupting, I wouldn’t have disturbed you, but you know how Amanda gets when she cooks." they shared a smile, both remembering the previous week when inattention to their chef's needs had resulted in Duncan buying a new set of crockery, "I'm glad you're getting on so well with him."
"You think we're getting on well? He doesn't believe anything I say." She shrugged, "I'm not sure what he can teach me."
"Don't underestimate him, he knows far more than he ever lets on and..." He trailed off looking back at the kitchen where Methos was leaning against a counter with a beer in hand, watching as Amanda's stirs of the pot grew more agitated by the second. "He grows on you." Although right now Duncan couldn't remember why.
"Like a fungus?"
Duncan smiled, "Perhaps; like penicillin - useful in unexpected ways."
"We'll have to see. He's not planning to stay." His desire to be away from her was tangible, the tension still there in his entire body despite his attempts to project languidness.
"Don't worry he'll help you, he only runs when his head's in danger."
Buffy shook her head, how were these two men, immortals, friends. They were so different, one only out for himself, for his own survival; she knew that now the stories she'd been told were confirmed by their meeting, while the other placed himself in danger to protect others. "Then he should be moving faster now, Amanda looks ready to take it off with a spatula."
He turned back to where fish were being viciously flipped over in the grill tray before it was lifted and unnecessarily swept by Methos on its way back in the oven. "Unfortunately he knows he'll be okay if he antagonises her..." The old immortal didn’t react but Duncan saw a patch of skin burnt red for a moment before the quickening removed any sign of injury. In retaliation Methos moved into Amanda's way, grabbing himself another beer to lazily consume, "We'd better intervene, or we wont get to eat."