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Sacrifice Par Amarth

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This story is No. 3 in the series "Twist of Fate". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Part 3 of ToF Trilogy- What if Glory wasn't the hell God that was driven out of her hell dimension, but rather the two gods that opposed her? Buffy and crew are about to find out first hand how two lesser hell gods aren't necessarily better than one.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Pretender
Harry Potter > Buffy-Centered
LisetteFR1522146,09471819,55114 Aug 0328 Sep 03Yes

Chapter 4

Illustration

Sacrifice Par Amarth: Chapter 4
by Lisette

Legalese: See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and ratings.

O o O o O o O

Sighing, Giles wearily put the kettle on to boil as the murmured words of his guests drifted in from the room beyond. Two months. It had been nearly two months since Buffy and Harry had disappeared without word. Two months of dead ends, false leads, and hopeless searches that always came up empty. Two months of fruitless internet searches and computer leads that led nowhere, and two months of magical spells and ancient rites that either failed completely or were somehow blocked. Two months of silence - a silence that was beginning to tell on everyone.

It had taken two weeks for anyone to truly get worried. That Buffy and Harry weren't waiting for Ron and Hermione in Switzerland as planned was disquieting. That they never arrived in Sunnydale a week later, as previously scheduled, was downright disturbing. And in those two weeks, whatever leads there might have been were long since cold and devoid of any hope. In those two weeks both Buffy and Harry's bank accounts had been emptied and of either, no more had been heard. It had taken another two weeks of frantic searching before Willow finally admitted defeat in tracking them through the computer. He knew that she still checked on a daily basis, but outside of that, there was nothing more to be done. In those same two weeks the Ministry of Magic called off its official search for the two teens that had become national heroes to Great Britain and wizarding communities around the globe for the defeat of the Dark Lord. Likewise, the Watcher's Council also called off their official search, as well as the U.S. Government. After two weeks, the official opinion was that Giles' former-slayer and Sirius' only godson were dead, and for those that didn't know them, little thought was given to the two children that had gone missing, little more than orphans that were now seen legally as adults. To those that loved them, however, such a view was never going to be accepted until the bodies were found. And thus, the search continued. However... after two months, even Giles was beginning to find the will to continue the hunt more exhausting than ever. In a strange way, it reminded him of the time that Buffy had disappeared after his second year of being her watcher, after she had sent Angel to hell... only then he at least had the comfort of knowing that Buffy had her slayer strength to protect her. Now she had nothing and was with a boy who had nothing. Neither of which helped Giles' state of mind.

"So what makes this spell different from any of the others that Dumbledore has tried?" Sirius asked as Giles abandoned his dark thoughts and stepped back into his brightly lit living room.

"Different spell, different factors - you know this, Sirius," Remus admonished lightly, his tired gray eyes seeming even more so this evening as he lounged in a worn armchair beside the warm fire. "Dumbledore is quite convinced that whatever has been blocking his attempts is not the fidelius charm - which means that the right spell may overcome it. It's just a matter of finding that spell."

"And this one?" Giles asked as he settled his long frame into a matching armchair, his tired eyes landing on the Hogwarts professor.

"A very powerful, old spell that he was able to dig up somewhere. It requires someone to act as a link to Harry and Buffy-"

"Thus why we need to be there," Sirius sighed, sharing a frustrated look with Giles. It wasn't as though he begrudged an opportunity to locate his godson - instead, after working a full day in the demanding field of the Auror division of the Ministry of Magic, followed by chasing whatever slim lead he and Giles had managed to dig up during whatever spare moment they could find in the day, the energy that was required to partake in yet another powerful, ancient spell that never succeeded in finding his lost godson only meant another large portion of energy that was wasted.

"Yes, although Dumbledore asked me to warn you that this one brushes rather closely with the Dark Arts," Remus added, frowning softly as both men shared yet another dark glance.

"Then Dumbledore's truly getting desperate," Giles murmured, absently speaking his thoughts aloud. Sighing bitterly, the watcher pushed himself from the depths of his chair and began moving back towards the kitchen and the tea that he was supposed to be brewing - and froze as a sharp chirping echoed shrilly in the small room. Even as the two wizards jumped and drew their wands, Giles was already waving them away as he hurried to his forgotten jacket and retrieved his cell phone from one of the deep pockets. "Hello?" he asked, fully expecting to hear either Willow's young voice, or Xander's deeper baritone. They were the sole reason that he had the blasted thing - all upon Willow's insistence - and the only people that had the number. Which explained his immense surprise when he heard neither.

"Giles? It's Jarod."

For a moment, Giles' mind went blank as he quickly connected the voice to the face that he hadn't seen in so long - not since he and the others had stopped briefly at the Centre enroute to Hogwarts. The night that Buffy and Harry each lost so much to the fight against Lord Voldemort.

The night that he lost his Slayer.

"Jarod? How did you get this number?" he asked, his confusion mirroring his companions' as both Remus and Sirius looked at him as though he were mad.

"Why is he talking to a box?" Sirius whispered, concern warring with the humor of the strange sight.

"A muggle device, I believe," Remus shrugged in response, vaguely recalling Hermione using a similar object a few weeks back. "Something called a 'seller phone.'"

"The Council database," Jarod returned after a brief pause, completely oblivious to the fact that there were two conversations taking place at once. "And don't ask," he added, forestalling the inevitable question of how Jarod had managed to get into aforementioned database. "Listen, Buffy asked me to-"

"Buffy?" Giles interrupted, everything falling deathly silent around him as the watcher pressed the phone tight against his ear, as if such an action would cause his missing ward to somehow appear magically before him. "Jarod, you've heard from Buffy? When? Where is she?" he demanded as both Sirius and Remus drew closer, their faces locked into nearly identical unreadable masks.

"She's.. she's sitting right beside me," Jarod murmured, obviously confused at Giles' excited words.

"Thank God," Giles murmured, his eyes closing briefly in relief. "She's with Jarod," he added, directing his words to his companions and forgetting the fact that neither of the wizards beside him had ever even heard of Jarod.

"What about Harry? Does he know where Harry is?" Sirius quickly pressed, desperate to hear whatever Giles heard so that he could learn news about his godson - any news, by this point.

"Here as well," Jarod confirmed, the question carrying through the clear line and responding before Giles could ask.

"There as well," Giles relayed, watching as Sirius leaned heavily against Remus, his eyes closed in relief. "Where are you?" Giles continued, quickly pushing his nearly overwhelming emotions to the side to be dealt with later.

"In my office at the Centre-"

"Hold on a second," Giles muttered and then quickly pulled the phone away, finally giving the two wizards his full attention. "They're at the Centre, a Council-owned corporation in the States - with friends," he explained, stumbling over his words as he tried to process the distance and the nearly overwhelming desire to be there right then.

"It's too far to apparate," Remus murmured, obviously thinking along the same lines as the watcher.

"I don't even know where it is - I'd have to study a map in detail before I could even think of trying-"

"It doesn't matter," Giles quickly interrupted, throwing Sirius an apologetic glance. "I overheard Samuel mention that when they took over the Centre, they made it both unplottable as well as they put up heavy anti-apparation wards all over the building. They wanted to make sure that it was a difficult place to find for those who didn't belong there."

"Portkey?" Remus asked, frantically racking his brain for a solution.

"It would take far too long to get one made," Sirius countered, his steely blue eyes showing that already this was taking far too long.

"Jarod, do you have a fireplace anywhere in the building?" Giles asked, turning away from his companions once more.

"I.. I believe that there's one in Miss Parker's office," Jarod returned after a moment's hesitation.

"Can you have someone meet us there in a few minutes?" he pressed, watching as Remus and Sirius exchanged a quick glance before Sirius hurried to the fireplace, snatching a pinch of powder from a jar on the mantle and calling someone through the flames.

"Of course-"

"We're on our way," Giles stated, snapping the small phone shut and jamming it in his pocket before sliding into his dark overcoat.

"Floo powder?" Remus asked, unnecessarily, as he gathered his cloak and threw it over his shoulders.

"Yes - can Sirius swing it?" he returned as he threw a glance to the pretty woman's head that now bobbed in his fire.

"He's working on it," Remus shrugged as he snagged Sirius' cloak and thrust it into Giles' hands. "I'll go to Hogwarts and alert Dumbledore and the rest of the staff. They can start sending out the word that they've been located and can call off the search - I'll be a few minutes behind you," he stated, pausing long enough to wait for Giles' nod before disappearing with a soft pop of displaced air.

Turning, Giles crossed his small living room just as the woman's head disappeared. "Well?"

"I called in a favor with Meranshelly in the Department of Magical Transportation, a member of the Floo Regulation Panel," Sirius returned with a cheeky grin. "She just hooked up their fireplace to the Floo Network."

"Then let's go," Giles returned, his words coming in a breathless rush as he quickly snatched the jar of floo powder from the mantle and allowed Sirius to take a small pinch before taking one of his own. And then as Sirius disappeared in a flash of green flames, Giles took one last look around his empty apartment - a small flat in London that Buffy had never seen. The small flat that contained a bedroom filled with Buffy's belongings - a room that he planned on offering to her as a place to always call home, no matter where her destiny took her. And a room that he had been beginning to fear that she would never see. After so many months of uncertainty and fear, it was too much for his mind to fully understand that now, his slayer only stood a continent and a simple fireplace away.

A smile pulling at his lips, Giles tore his eyes away from the small apartment and stepped into the roaring flames and then disappeared in a flash of green light.

O o O o O o O

Pain. Blinding, burning, agonizing pain. For minutes, hours, and perhaps even days, the monks had known nothing save the pain that radiated from his battered figure. The abominations had been given several centuries on their world - centuries to perfect their already impressive knowledge of the art of torture. And perfect it they had. From the burning pain that inhibited his breathing, the man knew at least one of his ribs had been broken as they had vented their cold anger, his leg bent at an impossible angle and then bound unmercifully to the straight leg of the chair he was secured to, the blood coating his skin and dripping from his broken eyebrow and into his swollen eye. Yet throughout the threats, the beatings, and the torture, the only thing he had given the beasts were his screams. And that knowledge, the knowledge that he hadn't betrayed his brethren or the secret that he harbored... that was enough to help silence the pain and give a small bit of peace to his thundering heart.

"You and your brothers have been running for a long time."

Moaning softly, the monk slowly lifted his battered head, bleak brown eyes vainly trying to see through the curtain of blood and into the cold, violet eyes of the beast that paraded himself as a man.

"But you can't run any longer," the beast added, his cold voice filled with a bored indifference as he slowly circled the bound monk, the soft rapport of his shoes drowning out the man's wheezed breaths.

"Where are the rest of your brothers?" the other beast continued, her soft, melodious voice filled with such concern as she knelt before the monk, two perfect, slender hands lifting to cup his bruised cheeks between them. Forcing his gaze to lock with her own, she smiled in a way that seemed to promise so much - yet in reality would give nothing.

It was the smile, more than anything else, that finally prompted the monk to utter his first words to the two foul beasts. To see them parade before him in the costume of his own kind, looking so perfectly sculpted and beautiful in a way that only Hollywood's finest plastic surgeons could imitate, and yet demonstrating nothing but their cold brutality - it was all finally too great of an injustice to his poor, battered mind. "Dead," he muttered, his words drifting in his broken, heavily accented English. "Our secret... has been taken... to their graves," he added, finding strength from the anger that blazed forth from the beast's empty gray eyes. "You can learn nothing from them now!" he hissed, pink spittle flying from his bloody lips and splattering the filmy white blouse the beast wore, red flecks dotting her porcelain skin.

And while the other beast fumed behind her, his muttered words echoing in the empty factory as was his wont, she opened her lips - the same red as her gloriously long, curly hair - a delighted, melodious laugh falling from her and ringing around the grimy building. "Oh my brave, brave mortal man," she whispered, a slow, sensuous smile lifting those perfectly sculpted lips as she gracefully stood before the battered monk. "All we want is the key," she murmured as she slowly moved around his chair and then bent over his shoulder, her hair falling as a curtain before his face - a curtain of red that hid them from the world. "We don't want to be in this world anymore than you want us here," she whispered, her gray eyes locked with his own as her pale hands gently caressed his bruised cheek. "Once we get the key we will leave this world forever. Really, you're doing more harm to your world by keeping us here. Think of the thousands that have died because your brotherhood refused to give us the one thing that we need to leave here. You know of what I speak," she murmured, her lips drawing closer until they brushed against his mangled ear. "You know of how we survive in this world," she whispered, her words a soft fan of air against his battered appendage as she tilted back, the curtain of hair parting and allowing the monk an uninterrupted view of the festivities.

With narrowed, sorrowing eyes the monk could only watch as the other beast followed her cue, moving gracefully to the bound security guard that lay almost forgotten against the wall before them.

"P-please Mister!" the man gasped, struggling against his obvious fear as his nervous eyes darted between the man who couldn't have been more than five or six years older than the dark-haired girl he had met just the other night. "I-I-I got a family at home. I'm married! I-I h-h-have two daughters," he stammered, his eye turning to the beautiful young woman who watched passively beside the beaten man. "Please!" he gasped, one final plea falling upon deaf ears as the young man knelt before him - and then jammed his fingers into the guard's temples in a flare of bright light. Moments later the process was finished as the beast slowly backed away, a pleased smile lifting his full lips as the guard began to babble incoherently.

A single tear falling from his swollen eye, the monk sadly turned away, his brown eyes settling on the other beast's face once more. Oh, she truly was glorious and the monk was unsure if he could have found a more beautiful sight to be his last.

"You could stop this if you would only allow us to go home," she murmured, her smile so sincere that the monk knew that she had spent centuries perfecting it.

"W-w-we have hidden the key," the monk whispered, his voice choked with hatred and fear, "in a place where... where you will never find it!"

Instantly the mask was dropped as the beast stood angrily before him. "Oh, we will," she murmured, her words as cold as ice. "Whether it is with, or without your aid," she added before withdrawing her fist and hitting him so hard that darkness instantly rose up to greet him.

O o O o O o O

With a loud whoosh of green flames, the cold fireplace came to life and sent Sirius spinning from its depths and into the bright room beyond - and straight into the lean form of another person, sending them both to the ground in a tangle of arms and legs. Grunting as the air was driven from his body, Sirius lay still for a moment, struggling to draw air into his starving body as blue eyes slowly fluttered open and took in the room that he had been deposited into. It was obviously an office of some sort, but unlike any that he had seen before.

The room was cavernous and filled with potted green plants, sleek leather chairs, and strange muggle paintings that were frozen in whatever tasks the artists had captured them in. Most of all, there wasn't a torch or candle in sight. Frowning, Sirius was about to continue his survey when a soft, feminine groan echoed up from beneath him - which was of course when his addled mind finally registered the fact that the ground was altogether far too soft and lumpy to truly be the ground.

Head tilting down, Sirius met the cold brown eyes of the woman lying beneath him, her painted lips a thin, fierce and unforgiving line as she scowled up at him. Flushing under her harsh glare, Sirius quickly pushed himself to his feet, scuttling back a few meters as the woman slowly stood opposite of him, her eyes never leaving his as she pulled down the hem of her extremely short, tight skirt that seemed to be made out of some sort of snake skin.

Eyes widening, Sirius couldn't help himself as his eyes traveled up her impossibly long, sleek legs, over curvaceous hips, around a slim waist and ample cleavage cleverly hinted at behind a pale, silk shirt, and up the long, graceful neck that led to the most sensuous lips, dark hair perfectly coiffed around pale features - pale features that were marred by dark soot. Now that he thought about it, she seemed to be liberally covered in the grimy substance. "Who are you?" he blurted, wondering where in the hell he had landed himself and unable to tear his eyes away from the very beautiful woman that he had throttled in his landing.

"You're the one that just came tearing out of my fireplace," the woman snapped back in her cold American accent, brown eyes narrowing into thin slits as she fruitlessly attempted to brush away the dark soot that stained her blouse. "Who in the hell are you?" she bit out, eyes lifting to take in the strange man. And as she took note of the unstylishly long, black hair and the grimy black robes that billowed around the man's slim form, she found her mouth tightening into a thin, disapproving line.

"Sirius Black," the wizard returned, smiling charmingly despite himself - only to have the smile wiped from his face as the fireplace came to life once more behind him, ejecting Giles with a loud belch that sent the watcher careening into Sirius' back - and straight into the beautiful, but cold-looking woman once more. In yet another tangle of limbs, all three hit the hard, marble floor and remained there in a pile of groaning and bruised flesh.

This time Giles was the first to recover as he slowly, and quite painfully, regained his feet, his eyes sweeping impassively over the room before falling upon the woman that was busy shoving Sirius off of her. "Miss Parker!" Giles gasped, the color leaking from his face as he shoved Sirius to the side and scurried forward, desperately trying to help the woman to her feet - only to be shoved back in turn as Miss Parker struggled to adjust her rumpled and dirty clothing.

Seething by this point, Miss Parker pointedly ignored Giles' attempts to help and angrily tugged at her ruined clothing. "Jarod - I'm going to kill him," she hissed beneath her breath, old habits dying hard as she automatically assumed that Jarod somehow knew that this was going to happen. She had only arrived back in the office, on her day off, no less, in time to be met with the rather strange request to wait in her office for the arrival of some guests. And even though it seemed that magic was to blame, she couldn't help the sneaking suspicion that Jarod somehow knew this was going to happen. After all, Jarod was a Pretender - a genius - and it was a rare thing indeed when the pretender was left in the dark. That, unfortunately, was usually left to her.

"Here, I got it," Giles quickly murmured as he lifted his wand and cast a simple cleansing charm, causing the soot and wrinkles to disappear in a flash of smoke - a light haze of smoke that caused Miss Parker to break into a choking cough. Wincing, Giles shared a brief look with Sirius, who merely shrugged his shoulders in return, and then turned his attention back to Miss Parker, who seemed torn between screaming in vexation or offering thanks for the return of her immaculate clothing. In the end, she settled for a fierce scowl that Giles immediately recognized from the few times they had met and the little time they had spent together close to a year ago. "Buffy's here?" he asked, finally succeeding in pushing the old memories away and asking about the person that always seemed to hover at the edges of his conscious mind.

"And Harry?" Sirius added, his earlier mirth forgotten beneath a cold wave as he drew himself tall, his blue eyes boring into her brown. "Are they okay? What happened? Do you know where they've been?" he asked, question after question falling from his lips as Miss Parker turned away and beckoned for them to follow her towards the door.

"I just got here," she quickly countered, waving away his questions as she slipped from her office, turning off the lights as she went. "Today is supposed to be my day off," she added, frowning as she indicated the door that stood just a few feet down.

As the trio came up to the heavy wood, Giles paused outside, his hand freezing on the knob as Buffy's unmistakable voice filtered through the wood.

"So... what's the what with you and Miss P and the inter-office smooching?"

"Why would you think that there was any... 'inter-office smooching' between myself and Miss Parker?" Jarod's muffled voice questioned back, causing Miss Parker to smile faintly from beside the two men.

"My good friend Janet let it slip when we were out front," Buffy returned. "Not that I'm surprised, or anything. I mean, that whole 'grr I'm going to kill you' routine is so classic 'take me I'm yours, please come jump my bones.' It's so obvious and completely overdone these days."

"But Buffy, we never tried to kill each other," Harry's voice argued back, causing Sirius to stiffen beside him.

"That's because you're too much of an English gentleman for that. In the states we play a whole new kind of dating game."

"Which means that you really had a thing for Remus and Sirius all that time? And if that's true, I hate to even think of what that theory means for Lord Voldemort and every other strange, slimy demon that you've ever..." Harry's voice trailed away as Giles finally turned the knob and stepped into the large room.

The watcher's eyes drifted over the pretender who lounged on a leather chair off to one side, past Broots, the thin computer technician who was trying to make a subtle exit, and then landed upon the two teens who quickly stood from the dark leather couch they had been sitting upon. More importantly, his eyes latched upon the petite blonde who stood beside Harry, a small, tremulous smile lifting her lips. "Buffy," he whispered, his eyes drinking in her form from the cuffs of her charcoal pants to the tips of her shining blonde head.

Without even realizing that he was in motion, Giles crossed the large room in a few long strides and gathered the young woman into his arms, crushing her against him as he bent his head and pressed his face against the soft crown of her hair, breathing in the scent that belonged wholly to his slayer. For a few precious minutes Giles clung to her, relishing in the feel of her small body cradled in his own embrace - a feeling that he had begun to fear he would never be allowed to experience again. All too soon the moment was shattered as he became aware of her muffled sounds of protest and pleas for oxygen.

Pulling away, Giles slid his hands up until they were firmly clasped around Buffy's small shoulders, his eyes never leaving her own as they took in her tanned features, beautiful smile, and the dark smudges beneath each green eye. "Buffy," he whispered, his voice a strangled croak as he rapidly fought to control his emotions. "How.. why... where have you been?" he demanded, pushing all other questions aside and settling on the one. But even as he finished voicing one question, he became aware of Sirius and Harry, both locked in a similar embrace beside him.

"Do you have any idea how worried we all have been?" Sirius demanded, his blue eyes locked on his godson. "What were you thinking?"

"How could you just disappear off the face of the planet like that?" Giles continued, as though finishing Sirius' thoughts. "No phone call-"

"No owls-"

"Just vanished!" Giles finished as Buffy and Harry both shared small, knowing smiles. Smiles that weren't lost on either guardian as their anger intensified - months of sleepless nights troubled by haunting nightmares, their every waking hour filled with horrible images of what could have happened to the young adults that they had come to cherish - all built up until the coming explosion was unavoidable. In the ensuing chaos, the questions continued - some whispered, some yelled - but all running over each other and never allowing time for a proper response. Both Buffy and Harry gave up trying to answer and instead just allowed themselves to be held, trying to recapture some sense of the safety that had always been felt in such an embrace. And both failing. Instead, they held on for an interminable time until the questions stopped and a heavy silence fell upon the room.

Harry was the first to break as he finally pulled away from his godfather's embrace, green eyes meeting blue and feeling more weary than ever before as he took in the concern, pain, and anger that radiated in his godfather's serious gaze, all the while desperately trying to sort through his jumbled feelings. He was excited to see Sirius again, as four months was far, far too long of a time to go without seeing his guardian - especially after having spent the first thirteen years of his life as unwanted baggage to his relatives. But there was also the almost overwhelming desire to flee before it was too late. The latter feeling, the one that confused him the most, was fortunately one that he was quickly learning to master. It was just the unknown reason of why he wanted to flee so badly that still managed to confuse him.

Shaking his head, Harry ignored the many frustrated questions that had been thrown at he and Buffy and instead asked one of his own. "Where's Remus?" he asked, seizing onto the first neutral thought he could think of, desperately hoping for his old professor's calming influence before Sirius decided to hex him for disappearing as he had. "Jarod mentioned that he had heard two voices in the background. We just assumed that it-"

"On his way back to Hogwarts to notify Dumbledore and the others that you and Buffy have turned up," Sirius retorted, his hands never quite leaving Harry's shoulders as his eyes roved critically over his godson. Harry looked tan, fit, and quite healthy - a little tired and worn, as evidenced by the dark bags beneath his brilliant green eyes, but otherwise in good shape. And while that sight caused his heart to swell with relief, it also did little to prevent the fierce scowl that was now twisting his features.

"Dumbledore! But why-"

"Harry, I don't know what you were thinking with your little disappearing stunt, but you've had half the magical community doing everything they could to find you!" Sirius continued, his tone sharper than he had intended as Harry winced at his words, his expression becoming even dimmer. "When Ron and Hermione showed up in Switzerland to find that you two had vanished, and when Dumbledore himself couldn't locate you... well, we began to fear the worst," he murmured, his tone softening slightly as he once more gathered the teen into his embrace.

"We really didn't mean to make everyone so worried," Buffy murmured, a small, tentative smile pulling at her lips. "And besides, you know that Harry and I are perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves."

"At one point in time, perhaps," Giles agreed, frowning sadly at the girl that stood before him, hating to remind her of her failings now that she had her destiny stolen from her - especially after the battle she fought in order to finally accept what fate had handed her. "But without your slayer strength and Harry's magic, you're both just as susceptible to the evils of the world as any other person."

At her watcher's soft words, Buffy quickly exchanged a guilty look with Harry. "Yeah, about that..."

O o O o O o O

Late afternoon sunlight streamed through the small, narrow windows that adorned the upper walls of the large basement, casting the room in a warm, golden light. Seemingly lost in thought, the young teen absently turned the pages of the dusty tome in front of her, blue eyes lazily skipping back and forth between the aged words and the glowing sphere that sat before her on the highly polished wood. "Come now, ma petite, I know that I have seen you somewhere before," she murmured, her low voice all but hidden beneath the loud grunts that her fellow slayer was producing at a rather alarming rate.

Distracted, the young slayer slowly lifted her head, a frown pulling at her full lips as she watched Faith execute a perfect roundhouse kick that sent the punching bag careening wildly to one side. Then, without even so much as a pause, the older slayer was on the move again, jumping, ducking, and twirling with a finesse that the younger girl admired. Celeste knew that she was young, even for a slayer, with only fourteen years under her belt before she had been called, but at least nine of those years had been spent in Monsieur Bertrone's care, which meant that Celeste had at least nine years of training to bolster her sudden strength and speed. Yet somehow, she couldn't help but think that even if she had thirty years of training to help her, she would still never even come close to the power and beauty that Faith possessed when she fought.

The older slayer had once told her that slaying was like dancing - a feral, primitive dance that had nothing to do with thinking, planning, or any of the other activities that Celeste excelled at. Instead, in order to truly be a slayer you had to let go of everything and just be the Slayer - an idea that Celeste couldn't help but scoff at, sure that the older slayer was merely teasing her once more. However, it was the look of sadness and loss that graced the brunette's features that caused Celeste to heed Faith's words. Buffy, she had said, had truly known how to dance. If only she had a chance to see Buffy do the dance, then Celeste would finally understand what it meant to be a slayer.

Personally, Celeste was quite sure that she already knew what it meant to be a slayer. It meant listening to your watcher, heeding his advice, and researching your enemies to learn of their strengths and weaknesses. Faith's problem, as far as she could tell, was the simple fact that she didn't have a watcher. Despite this realization, the young slayer couldn't help but wonder about Faith's simple words.

She had only met the first slayer, Buffy Summers, once - and only briefly when she had first arrived in Sunnydale. She had met her when Buffy was still the slayer, the first of the three, and even then she could sense the latent power that was hidden within the older, and oddly enough, much shorter girl. It was also that very night that Buffy had lost whatever it was that made her the slayer. That something so incredible had happened that Buffy had been effectively un-called. When everyone had returned from that great battle, they had returned a much more subdued group than the one that had left - and they had returned without Buffy. Now, countless months later, Celeste couldn't help but wonder if perhaps Faith had been right. For while she did enjoy Faith's company, and admired the older girl's speed and skill in fighting - although it would be wiser to eat rat poison than to admit such a thing to her watcher - she also couldn't help but wonder if she had she only seen Buffy in action, perhaps then she would understand what the dance was all about.

Celeste brushed away her whimsical thoughts with a soft sigh and focused back on the book sitting before her. If Monsieur Bertrone had glanced up from his own novel then, and seen the wondering look upon her face, she knew that she would have received a reproving frown - if she had been lucky. If her watcher was feeling a bit peeked and frustrated from his own fruitless search, then the result would have been more along the line of a scolding rebuke. Daydreaming, he would have called it. Young girls daydreamed; slayers did not. And as of the night that Faith was killed and then brought back to life, Celeste was no longer a young girl. Actually, she hadn't been a young girl since the day that she had been given up by her parents to be raised by the Council. She had been a young girl for the first five years of her life, a Potential for the following nine, and then she became the slayer. Or rather, a slayer. At first, one of three. Now, one of two.

One of two that was still allowing her mind to wander. Sighing, Celeste forced herself to concentrate on the book before her - only to have her eyes slide back to the brightly glowing orb. A mysterious glowing orb that held her fierce concentration - until it was, of course, shattered as Faith let out an enormous grunt that was loud enough to shake the rafters around them. As her watcher clucked disapprovingly at what had to be a display that was meant to raise his ire, Celeste found her blue eyes locking on Faith's lithe form. If she was lucky, perhaps Monsieur Bertrone would allow her to spar with the slayer later that night. Perhaps even-

Forcing back a groan of boredom, Celeste quickly shook her wandering thoughts away and firmly focused on the book once more. Pointedly she lifted one slender hand and turned the brittle page - and let out a startled exclamation as her eyes finally fell upon the familiar passage that she had been searching for. "I found it! I found it!" she cried out, her young voice ringing out in the room and causing Faith to finally abandon her training as Monsieur Bertrone focused his gray eyes upon her.

"What have you found, Celeste?" the watcher asked, his voice carefully schooled into that of neutrality spiked with a hint of mild interest.

"The orb is called a Dagon Sphere," the slayer quickly read, her face glowing with delight as she eagerly scoured the familiar passage for pertinent information. Now that it was sitting before her, she remembered the afternoon she had spent pouring over this same book in one of the first few weeks of her arrival. While Monsieur Bertrone's private library had been extensive, to be placed in a house that contained so many wonderfully ancient texts filled her with the remembered delight of receiving a birthday present, as she had when she was but a petite enfant in her family's care.

"A Dagon's Sphere, huh?" Faith said, a wide smile lifting her lips as the girl beamed at her before turning back to the dusty book. Rolling her eyes, Faith crossed the imaginary line that separated the training room from the more booky-side of her old watcher's basement. "So what's it do?" she asked, casually lifting the glowing orb and tossing it a few times, just to see if the uptight French watcher would rise to the bait.

"It is a centuries old protective device used to ward off ancient, primordial evil," Celeste explained, reading the passage aloud even as she grabbed the sphere mid-toss and set it gently on the table before her. Frowning a bit, Celeste reread the following paragraphs several times before shrugging her shoulders, blue eyes skipping to her watcher. "Unfortunately, the text is rather vague about this evil. It merely states that it was created to 'repel that which cannot be named.'"

"I can think of a few names for it already," Faith returned with a saucy grin as she headed back to her side of the basement. "You know - something like, 'Yo Ugly.' Or, 'Hey Big, Dark and Slimy,'" she added as she began slipping a few daggers into various hiding spots, hidden amongst the tight leather and jean.

"Where are you going?" Celeste asked, curious despite herself as Faith tossed her a particularly long, serrated knife.

"We," Faith began with a stern look, "are going back to the factory where I found the glow ball. See if we can't find whoever left our little trinket behind," she finished as she turned and headed up the stairs - evidently confident that Celeste would follow.

Celeste stared after the older slayer for a moment before quickly bending low, sliding the knife into a small sheath that she strapped against her ankle. Standing, she straightened her jeans over the weapon and then grabbed her jean jacket from the back of the chair that she had been sitting in and turned to follow - freezing at the warm hand that closed around her wrist.

"Celeste, I want you to be careful," Bertrone murmured, his eyes darkening into a stormy gray as a tiny knot of fear tightened in his chest. "Do not blindly follow her. I know that she has been a slayer longer than you have, but she has not the discipline nor the education that you do. Follow your own heart," he urged, waiting for her small nod before slowly releasing his hold. "And remember: anything that goes unnamed is usually an object of deep worship or great fear, maybe both. Be careful," he repeated softly as he watched his slayer hurry up the steep stair. Yet even as she disappeared from sight, leaving him alone in the large basement, Bertrone couldn't help the small spike of fear that coursed down his spine.

He had a terribly bad feeling about this business and as always, when his slayer, his petite Celeste, was the one facing it without him to watch over her... his mother had been right when she had grieved over his chosen path. "There is much sorrow in the life of a watcher, mon fils. Great sorrow indeed." He, for one, hoped to never experience the sorrow of his predecessors - a fruitless wish, he knew. Nonetheless, each time he said adieu to his young charge, he couldn't help but think upon the broken man that had been his father from the day that his slayer was killed until the day that he was finally laid to rest. Somehow, with him, it was going to be different. He had raised the girl for nine years, tried to keep her distant from his heart while teaching her what she needed to know in order to survive. And while she wasn't quite the natural fighter that was his father's slayer, a girl that he only distantly remembered, she had strength in mind. Great strength. A strength that he was beginning to believe surpassed his own. Somehow, it was going to be different with him. It had to be.
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