Dream A Little Dream Of Me
by Don't Make Eye Contact
As the demon's hand passed insubstantially through Xander's head, Willow could see the terror erupt in her old friend's eyes. Xander was brave. Braver than she was but he collapsed backwards, his mouth open in a silent scream.
The Scoobys hadn't exactly done things by the book. They had traced the rash of madmen back to this demon. Rather than more research as Giles suggested they had decided they knew enough to defeat it. They had stormed its lair with Buffy, Xander and Giles rushing in to defend Willow as she cast a spell to banish it to its home dimension.
They should have known something was up when the demon was so unafraid. It was in the form of a massive man dressed all in black with a billowing cloak but as it flowed towards them it reverted to a formless black mass. Claws extended out of the mass to swipe at them. Giles was felled in seconds. His sabre passing harmlessly though it. It moved towards Willow as she started to chant.
"Ablocare cariosus sopor abasse..."
She held the Onerion amulet out before her like a ward, focusing the spell through it. Xander had leapt in front of her, trying to protect her from the creature. He held out a cross but it didn't shrink away. Instead simply passing one hand insubstantially through his head and slamming him aside with the other. Willow chanted quickly, trying to find her magical centre but then it flowed over her and she was gone.
Buffy had caught Giles as he fell. She looked up to see the thing bearing down on Xander and Willow and ran towards it. She saw Xander fall and felt a tight, sick feeling in her stomach as it flowed over Willow. She howled in rage and rushed forward but her axe passed through it. Anger brought out the best in her but her weapons did no good. She dodged its fast but clumsy attacks but it flowed towards her inexorably. She felt an impact in her spine and realised she had backed into the wall of the crypt.
She wondered if she could dive through it but she couldn't bear to do anything suicidal. She wanted to live. She was still defiant and wouldn't give up. She prepared herself to dodge aside as its next blow came but it seemed frozen. Its inky black shape rippled and pulsed and Buffy wasn't sure if she imagined a high pitched scream.
With a final pulse it seemed to implode into itself. It's entire body sucked into itself. As it vanished Buffy saw something clatter to the floor. She picked it up. The amulet Willow had been using. Giles and Xander were waking now and getting to their feet but she didn't notice them. A pack of vampires could have attacked and she wouldn't have noticed them. She clutched at the amulet. She knew now that Willow had still been alive inside the demon and had managed to finish the spell. Willow had sacrificed herself for her friends. She felt pain in her hand and looking down realised she had cut herself on the amulet. She felt wetness on her face and realised she was crying and as she felt herself sit heavily on the dusty floor of the crypt she realised she couldn't stop.
Willow never lost consciousness so she didn't exactly wake up but she did regain an awareness of her surroundings. She could feel her own body and the clothes rustling against her skin but there was nothing else touching her. She didn't feel like she was falling but she couldn't feel anything about her surroundings. No wind or smell, no sound at all. She was about to say something to see if she could talk when the world appeared around her.
It seemed as though everything flew at her from a great distance away from every direction and suddenly she was somewhere. And what a place she was. She was on a flat plain that extended as far as she could see. She sky was full of fast moving clouds as if someone had taped it and then speeded it up. Lighting flashed in the distance. The only thing that interrupted the plain landscape were the ruins. Massive broken castles and monoliths. Smashed pyramids and giant hill forts. Fairy tale villas in disrepair next to monuments corroded by age and wooden forts rotten and collapsed. She turned full circle trying to take it all in and failing. Some of the ruins were on too big a scale for her mind to comprehend and some were just too incomprehensible to comprehend. As she turned she saw appear before her the demon that had swallowed her. It was in the form of the massive man that they had originally tracked it as. It was facing away and so she had a moment to regain her composure. She saw it look around and as it turned it saw her and its expression became enraged.
"You." It bellowed at her.
She felt it's breath, hot and smelling of rotting vegetation and gagged.
"You brought me back here. I'm doomed."
Willow didn't know what to say and started to back away. She glanced around to judge the distance to the nearest ruin but it was too far away even if it had done any good. As it started towards her she stumbled backwards trying to think of a spell to help. Its furious threats weren't helping.
"I may die but before I do I will cause you such pain as you never imagined. Your death will be a thing of legends and frighten children to fitful sleep for aeons to come."
It advanced upon her and she saw claws extend out of its fingers. She could feel its acrid breath and knew it was almost right there. She wanted to turn and run but couldn't bring herself to die as she was running away. She flinched away as claws sliced towards her but then a calm, clear voice said:
The voice seemed to come from inside her head at the same time as she heard it. It felt familiar even though she'd never heard it. It felt familiar but not comforting. She saw the speaker standing a short distance away. He was tall and thin in a way that would make a supermodel feel hungry. His skin was utterly white and his hair was jet black. He was wearing a black suit with a cloak. The only touch's of colour were the flames that flickered around the bottom of the cloak and his eyes that were a spark of blue. His expression was not happy. His stare was fixed upon the demon who seemed paralysed with terror.
"Albrecht. I am not happy."
"No my lord M..mopheus, I can see why you might not be happy."
The demon, who Willow now knew was called Albrecht was crouched in obsequience. Morpheus walked slowly towards the demon who was trembling.
"You left the dreaming while I was imprisoned. You walked among men and drove them mad with their nightmares. You abandoned your responsibilities and indulged your own base desires."
"My lord, I simply wished to see a little of the waking world. I would have returned soon, my lord. I swear it."
"You lie clumsily Albrecht."
The demon cowered before the white skinned lord. Willow almost felt sorry for him. Almost but not quite.
"You will have time to contemplate your mistakes."
Morpheus gestured and the shadows around all of them seemed to rush towards Albrecht. For a moment he was covered in a shroud of utter blackness and then he was gone. Willow saw her own shadow was back at her feet. Morpheus gave a slight nod of satisfaction and then turned to face her.
Willow wasn't sure if his knowing her name was a good or a bad thing. Although she knew that he had saved her from a death that she was certain wouldn't have been pretty it was also true that this individual was the demon's master and that couldn't be a good thing.
"Yes, that's me."
"Do not be afraid little Wiccan."
He gave her a smile that although slight was comforting.
"No harm will come to you in this place."
Willow looked around at her surroundings and couldn't contain her curiosity.
"Can I ask? What is this place?"
"This place is my realm. It is the dreaming."
Willow tried to take in all the devastated ruins again.
"Why has everything been destroyed?"
Morpheus laughed at her earnest curiosity and gestured to the vast plain.
"You believe this to be the entirety of the dreams of men. This room is simply a storeroom. Mervyn, my janitor keeps the ruins in here. Come we will adjourn to my throne room."
He swept his arm around and suddenly there was a door there. It was walnut panelled and the door knob was highly polished. All in all it wouldn't have looked out of place in a gentlemen's club but Willow was prepared to accept anything at this point so when Morpheus opened it and politely held it for her she walked through it.
The corridor she found herself in was wide and endless with many hundreds of similar doors in each direction. There were suits of armour spaced along it and when she could have sworn that she could see them moving to look at her out of the corner of her eyes but when she turned they were perfectly still. Morpheus joined her in the corridor. He picked a door seemingly at random and led the way through it. Willow followed hurriedly and almost fell as she found herself at the beginning of a bridge.
She stumbled at the sudden change and almost fell but Morpheus was at her side. His hand gripped her arm firmly and she steadied herself. She was reminded of Angel in that they both had very cool skin but there was a slight electric feel to the dream king.
The bridge spanned a massive chasm. It was deep enough that the bottom was lost in darkness but Willow fancied that she could see the red glow of fires far below. On the other side of the chasm was a castle. As mighty and impressive as any of the ruins she had seen in the storeroom. The pinnacles of some turrets were lost in cloud. There was an eclectic mix of architectural styles and materials and the whole combined to amaze and disorient her.
She followed Morpheus through the gate around which were detailed sculptures of a dragon, a griffon and a hippogriff. She followed him, hurrying to keep up as she tried to take in everything that they passed. Willow had always thought she had seen a lot but as she hopped over a snail carrying a small mott and bailey castle on it's back without a thought she began to realise that after seeing so many mind blowing things they began to seem a lot more mundane.
They came to massive door which swung open at Morpheus's approach and together they entered the throne room. The throne room of the king of dreams is big. It would be true to say that it is extremely big. He could use it to hold audience with all of his subjects should he have need to. There were stained glass windows hanging in mid air with simple but pretty images captured in them. To describe it all would be impossible since it never kept one appearance for long. It changed according to the needs and moods of Morpheus and the preconceptions of those who came here. Willow had no other preconception than that it would be impressive and that it was impressive is all anyone needs to know.
The throne was a simple marble seat seeming carved from a simple block. The veins in the marble seemed to pulse so slightly it almost seemed like a trick of the light. Morpheus sat down and gestured for Willow to seat herself in the simple wooden chair that hadn't been there a moment before.
"I find that I owe you a boon for returning the errant nightkind to my realm."
He spoke with no perceptible emotion. He seemed to not be displeased about owing a favour, he was just informing her of the state of affairs.
"What kind of boon?"
"Whatever you wish that is within my power to grant."
Willow had studied a great deal of occult texts and so she wasn't going to take this at face value. She knew that with many powerful demons first they offered a taste of something and then the price only became apparent later. She could ask for magical power, wealth, good fortune or to spend her life in the garden they had passed through but she would ask for none of these things. Her gut told her that asking for any of these things would lead to tragedy. Maybe it was paranoia on her part but she had read too many stories of people getting what they asked for to be anything by wary.
"All I want is to go home."
Morpheus's eyes flashed brightly for a second before he replied.
"You have chosen a difficult path I fear. There is a way for you to return to your world but it is not easy."
"Can't you just poof me there?"
"I am afraid I cannot 'poof' you there. If it were just your mind in the dreaming then I could simply wake you but your body is here also so it becomes a more difficult affair."
Willow hadn't thought she was asking for much. Now she began to worry that she might not get back home at all.
"But it is possible, right?"
"Yes, it is possible. There is someone close to you who is currently trapped in dreams. If you can enter their dreams and help them to wake then you too would be drawn back the waking world."
"Someone I know who is trapped in dreams?"
Willow wondered who he could be talking about and then her stomach fell and her mind turned dark with anger and bitterness as she realised who he meant.
"Indeed. The slayer should be able to wake now. Her physical wounds are long healed. All that is keeping her here are her own demons."
"So you want me to help out Faith? Get her to work through her issues? No way. She deserves to be in a coma for everything that she's done."
A slight furrowing of the brow indicated Morpheus's disapproval of what she had said. When he spoke there was a slight tone of reproach.
"Even if you do not wish to help her she is your only path out of here. I understand the wish for vengeance but you must not let it blind you."
Willow was angry at having no choice but she wasn't going to let spite make her act like an idiot.
"What do I have to do."
"I will have someone take you to her dreams. You have to enter them and find out why she cannot wake up and help her resolve it."
Willow dreaded to think about the sick things that could be happening in Faith's twisted mind.
"One thing I must warn you about. Although you will be entering her dreams, any harm you sustain will be real."
"So I could die in there?"
"It is so."
She didn't like any of this one bit. Still none of it changed what she had to do. She was about to ask more questions when a raven flew into the room and fluttered down onto Morpheus's hand.
"You called, Boss."
"Yes. I wish you to guide this traveller to the dreams of Faith the slayer."
The beak moved and words emerged. That wouldn't normally be enough to convince her that the raven was actually speaking but after everything else this seemed the height of normality.
"Where exactly is this slayer dreaming?"
"In the depths of Eve's cave."
"Oh that one. Sure thing, boss."
Morpheus looked again at Willow. She found it impossible to read his expression.
"You could still choose a different path. You would be welcome to stay here in the dreaming."
For a moment Willow was tempted. She knew that the journey wouldn't be a picnic and there were so many incredible things here. But she knew she would miss her life. Buffy, Giles, Xander. Even though Oz had left her so recently and the pain was so real she could bite it she still wanted to keep her life.
"I choose to go."
He looked up at the raven who was scratching himself with his beak.
"Guard her well."
"No problem, boss cause you know that if we were attacked by some hideous and deranged monster I would be a great help. I could crap on em."
The raven looked like it was expecting a rebuke but Morpheus just looked at him impassively and Matthew flapped his wings and took off.
"Come on, kid."
The raven flew ahead of her a little way and soon had guided her out of the castle. Willow was surprised to find the journey relatively short. Once they were out of the castle they simply went down one hill and up another and they were at a cave entrance. Matthew flew in and Willow followed. The cave became a tunnel and the tunnel branched and twisted but went inexorably down.
They had spoken a little while they were in the castle and on the hillside. Just getting to know each other questions but the conversation dried up as they went deeper into the cave. Willow heard snatches of voices and laughter and screams and moans and shouts and whimpers and all other kinds of noises of pain or ecstasy or anything in-between. Matthew told Willow to ignore them and she just did her best to comply.
They reached the entrance to another tunnel and the raven perched on a small outcrop of rock by it's side.
"This is as far as I can go."
"Faith is in there?"
"Yep. Just wake her up and you get to go home."
"I could die in there."
"Oh, that wouldn't be so bad. Look at me, I died in dreams and now look at me."
Willow decided then that she would really rather not die and with her resolve face in place she hesitantly made her way into Faith's mind.
Willow walked carefully along the uneven rock floor. She stumbled once and almost fell but grabbed onto the wall to steady herself in time. There was no source of light but nonetheless she found she could see quite easily. Up ahead she could see brighter electric light and a flickering that probably meant a TV. She closed her eyes and breathed to try and calm the frantic pounding in her chest. She didn't like Faith and Faith hated her. Faith had wanted to kill her. She had looked into Faith's eyes and seen the lust to murder her. She had hated Faith before that but it was only after that that she had realised how close to death she had come.
Willow tried to clear her mind of fear. She tried to focus on the need to get home. She tried to make herself be more understanding about Faith and more forgiving. She tried to stop the trembling in her hands and the shaking of her knees. She failed in all of this but she walked forward anyway.
The living room she walked into seemed quite normal apart from the dark tunnel she had walked into it from. A bare electric bulb hung from the ceiling and occasionally flickered. The paint peeled from the walls in places and the sofa and chair in front of the TV were old, worn and quite dirty. Sitting on the sofa, hugging her knees, her attention raptly focused on the Disney film she was watching was a ten year old girl. She was dark haired and wearing clothes that were too big for her. Willow recognised Faith immediately. Willow almost jumped out of her skin when she heard a shriek from nearby. She looked around and realised it was coming from behind a closed door.
Faith seemed to ignore the scream but Willow noticed her hugging her knees tighter and saw that Faith's watching of the TV was bordering on religious as if she was trying to block out the rest of the world. Willow slowly walked to the closed door. More screams were coming from it now. They were distinctly screams of pain. Willows hand reached out to the door handle but then a voice said.
Willow looked round and saw that Faith was standing close to her now. Her eyes were big with fear.
"Why? What's happening in there?"
She used a gentle tone. She knew that this was Faith but it wasn't exactly the Faith she hated.
"Bad things. Things that we can't see."
Willow was about to ask what things when the door opened. Willow had never met Kakistos but he wasn't hard to recognise. She saw his cloven hands and the ingrained and vicious demonic face of the oldest vampires. The scar Faith had given him was conspicuously absent. Perversely when faced with such a sight the first thing she thought was how oddly he was dressed. He was wearing black pants with braces and a white vest which he was now tucking in. She did notice the blood around his mouth pretty quickly. She saw past him into the room. A woman with too much makeup and a trashy taste in lingerie was sitting up in the bed and lighting a cigarette. Her neck had a large bite wound in it which was still pumping blood.
Willow protectively moved the young Faith behind her. Kakistos ignored Willow completely and looked directly at Faith.
"Well ain't you the cutest little thing."
Willow couldn't tell if he leered or if it was the vampiric face distorting a smile. She was ready to fight to protect Faith but the vampire just turned and left.
Faith walked off through another door. Willow followed and as the cold hit her she realised that they were outside. She looked back and there was no house there. She saw Faith again and realised that Faith had gotten older. She looked more like the Faith she had known.
Faith's leather jacket and black leather pants were back. She walked with the cocky swagger that Willow was beginning to see past.
"You don't wanna be here Red, it's dangerous out here in the woods."
Willow saw that they were in a forest. Tall, dark trees surrounded them. She couldn't see the night sky but the occasional electric lamp lighted the path they were walking. A vampire in biker gear stepped out onto the path ahead of them. More stepped out to surround them. They were carrying knives and chains. They gave a low animal growl and started to close in. Willow looked at Faith who simply grinned at her and pulled out a stake from her jacket. She charged at the vampires head on, a few quickly executed stabs turning several of them into puffs of dust. She was moving faster and more confidently than Willow had ever seen.
The Wiccan turned to see other vampires almost on her but then Faith was there. She danced around Willow. Soon there seemed to be almost an army of vampires and demons all trying to get to her but Faith's axe and feet and fists were everywhere kicking, punching, slashing and hacking. Not a claw, not a fang, not a weapon even got close to Willow. After what seemed like no time at all there was silence and the path was strewn with demon corpses and thick with dust. Faith was standing there nonchalantly.
Willow pointed at a gash across Faith's shoulder. Faith glanced at it and smiled. "It's nothing, Mom will take care of it."
They continued walking up the path and soon came to a door which opened onto a bright and friendly living room. There was a fire burning in the hearth and everything was neat and clean. One of the walls was lined with books. A woman who Willow barely recognised as the woman she had seen earlier in Faith's house. Barely because although the features were the same the woman's entire dress and demeanour were different. She was wearing a perfectly fitting tweed suit and stood with confidence. Her eyes burned bright with intelligence and vitality. Willow could only assume that this was Faith's watcher. The watcher regarded Faith with an affectionate gaze.
"Have you been out playing rough again?"
"Sorry, Mom. They started it."
"Let's have a look at it."
Slowly and gently she helped Faith take off the leather jacket. Faith winced with pain and Willow couldn't help but think she was exaggerating the pain slightly. Willow watched as the Watcher cleaned and dressed the wound.
There was a knock at the door and Willow saw Faith's expression turn angry.
"Don't let him in." She said looking at her watcher with a pleading expression.
"Don't be that Faith, he provides for us. You be good to him."
"I don't like the way he looks at me."
Faith was looking at the floor as she said, her voice quiet.
"Don't be ridiculous dear."
The watcher opened the door and Kakistos was there. He walked in with a slight uncertainty in his step that made Willow think he must be drunk.
The watcher laughed as Kakistos picked up the watcher and kissed her. He glanced at Faith and bared his fangs at her menacingly before he carried off Faith's watcher into the next room. Soon Willow heard screaming.
Faith slowly got up off the couch and walked towards the door. Her face was grim. The screams of pain grew louder as Faith approached the door. Willow went to her side and tried to stop her opening the door but Faith's strength was such that she could just ignore Willow. The door swung open and Willow saw Faith's watcher under Kakistos. Both were naked and Kakistos was busy ripping out her neck. The watchers eyes gazed out sightlessly and blood was splattered everywhere.
Faith just stood there with blank eyes and a dead expression on her face. She watched as Kakistos drunk and then raised his head and looked at her. He growled and leapt for Faith but Willow pushed her out of the way. Kakistos landed on her and she was thrown to the ground with him on top of her. Blood from his teeth dripped on her face and his yellow eyes were inches from her.
Faith grabbed Kakistos and threw him off Willow. The vampire was thrown back into the room and Faith pulled Willow up and out through the front door. Now Willow recognised Sunnydale. She had developed a good knowledge of the bad parts of town after filling in for Buffy along with the rest of the gang for a couple of months after Buffy ran away. Now she ran. Faith was sprinting ahead of her and Willow thought her head would explode from the pounding blood. She began to slow but Faith pulled on her arm.
"He's right behind us!"
The panic and terror in Faiths voice chilled her. She glanced back and indeed saw Kakistos walking slowly behind them but seeming to grow inexorably closer. They seemed to be going constantly uphill and the road got steeper and steeper. Willow saw Faith stop and managed to stop ploughing straight into her just in time. It was a good thing she had since she realised that Faith was standing on the edge of a precipice. Down below she saw a pool. It was in a quarry. It seemed a very long way down. Faith flashed a grin and leapt. Willow heard Kakistos's steps getting closer and jumped herself.
The fall seemed to last forever. The wind rushing past her ears deafened her. She was desperately trying to remember what they had been taught about diving in gym class when the water hit her. It was cold and enveloped her. For a moment she couldn't think and couldn't breath then almost instinctually she kicked her legs out and broke the surface. She took deep breaths and tried to get her hair out of her eyes as she trod water. She couldn't see Faith anywhere so she swam to shore.
Willow knew that Faith had to be somewhere close, this was her dream after all. Then she saw the cemetery and heard the sounds of combat. It was one of the cemeteries she knew quite well having spent many an hour there with Buffy. She peeked out from behind a mausoleum just in time to see Faith finishing off a vampire. Another rushed her from behind but just as Willow was about to shout a warning a crossbow bolt slammed into the vampires back and Buffy was there. There were other vampires appearing from the shadows but the two slayers dusted them with no problem. For some reason Willow didn't want to join them. It could be because there was every possibility that they might ignore her and that would bring back too many painful memories of how Buffy had seemed to reject her for Faith. The two walked off. They were being a lot more chatty and friendly than Willow ever remembered them being together. She followed at a distance and was unsurprised that within minutes they had reached Faith's motel.
She went the door of Faith's room and tried the handle. It opened. She walked in without knocking and wished that she had stayed outside. Buffy was half naked already and Faith was kissing down her body and trying to undress herself at the same time. Buffy was making little happy moaning sounds. Either neither of them noticed Willow or neither of them cared because they didn't even glance in her direction. The two slayers were ripping each others clothes off. They seemed to be always touching, trying to be have as much skin in contact as possible. They were naked in moments as if either slayer strength or the rules of a dream made it easier. They were always moving, kissing, touching, sliding up against each other.
Willow wanted to walk away. She had imagined this happening before Faith turned evil. Faith was obviously into Buffy and Buffy herself was always unpredictable. Willow had tortured herself with the idea that Faith was closer than she was to Buffy. Buffy was immensely important to Willow, her friend had made her come out of her shell and feel cool in a way that nobody else had ever even tried to do. She would have done anything for Buffy and feeling that Faith had taken her away was too much to bear. Now she had no idea what to think. Was this memory or fantasy? She guessed that much of what she had seen already had happened but not in the way she was seeing it. It was all confusing and symbolic. She didn't know what to think and she didn't know where to look. She wanted to leave or at least look away but she couldn't stop looking. Now Willow could barely tell where one slayer ended and the other began. She couldn't stop looking. Faith was on top of Buffy now, her back arched as she sat astride the blonde. Willow could see Buffy's muscles tensing as the slayer used her fingers on Faith. The redhead's ears were filled with Faith's hoarse cries and she couldn't take her eyes off the sweat running down the back of the girl whose mind she was in. The smell of sex in the room was almost overpowering. Willow felt dizzy, the sounds, smell, sight of sex had captured her entire mind. Willow saw Faith give one final loud cry which had a kind of gasp in it. For a moment there was utter silence in the room and then Faith collapsed backwards clutching the knife the Buffy had rammed into her stomach.
Faith was twitching slightly and blood was welling up around where the knife had stuck in. Buffy looked at Willow and smiled, looking friendly and open.
"Do you want to finish her off or shall I?"
Willow swallowed hard and stumbled forward. She checked Faith's pulse and tried to remember her anatomy to work out if any major organs would have been punctured. Blood trickled out of Faith's mouth showing Willow that the lungs had been punctured. She stroked Faith's forehead and in what she hoped was a comforting tone said.
"Don't worry you're going to be fine."
Buffy, wriggling out from under Faith at the time gave a harsh laugh.
"Oh yeah, I'm sure she'll be just fine. I mean look at me, I died and I was fine."
Willow gave Buffy a glare. She was trying to remember why she had hated Faith so much. She was looking in Faith's eyes and seeing only pain and fear and realising that it had been there all along. It had been so glaringly obvious, why hadn't she seen it?
She reached out to the knife, preparing to pull it out but Buffy grabbed her wrist.
"Don't touch that."
Willow tried to pull her hand away from Buffy's grip but it was too strong. She reached with the other hand but Buffy backhanded her in the face. She was thrown off the bed. Her face stung like hell. She tried to get to her feet but Buffy was standing over her. Buffy's foot was placed firmly on Willows chest. Willow realised with an intense feeling of fear that Buffy could quite easily push her foot down and crush Willow's, ribcage, lungs, heart and spine.
"Don't touch her."
Faith was picking herself up off the bed. Her hair was matted with sweat and blood was dripping from her mouth and the stomach wound which still had the knife sticking into it. Buffy smiled.
"What are you going to do? Bleed on me?"
An elderly man with grey hair and a worn suit stepped up behind Faith. He threw in quick succession two cheese slices at Buffy's face. Both hit her square in the forehead and bounced off to lie on the floor. The cheese man stepped back into the darkness with a nod of satisfaction.
"Touche." Buffy said with a look of bemusement.
While Buffy's attention was focused on Faith, Willow twisted her friend's foot and tried to get out of the way but Buffy's foot slammed into her face throwing her against the wall and gashing her forehead. Faith lunged forward at Buffy but Buffy just grabbed her, gripped hold of the knife handle and jerked it up into Faith's heart. There was a flash of light and Willow was somewhere else.
Willow recognised the library immediately. She felt at home here. This was the place that she could be Willow, demon hunter, hacker, witch rather than out in the school where she usually found the nerd role forced upon her. She was sitting in front of a pile of books. She got up and looked around and soon saw Faith sitting by the stairs with a small book in hand. When she walked closer she saw it was the slayer handbook. Faith ignored her and Willow looked over her shoulder and saw she was reading the section on protecting civilians. Willow had been surprised to find how ruthless the watchers seemed to be about that. The focus was on defeating the enemy not on reducing casualties.
She pulled the book from Faith's hands and threw it aside. Faith started to protest but Willow shushed her. Then she pulled aside Faith's jacket and pulled up her shirt.
"Are you gonna do me right here, Red?"
"Look." Was Willow's reply.
Faith looked down and the knife was still sticking out of her stomach.
"It's amazing how it doesn't show most of the time."
Faith looked up at Willows word's and Willow saw the little girl she had met in the slayer's eyes. Willow grasped hold of the knife handle again and started to pull it out. She felt strong hands pick her up from behind and she was thrown against the railings of the staircase. She turned and saw Buffy regarding her with cold, hard eyes. Normally she would have been very disturbed by seeing even a fake Buffy look at her like that but she was certain she knew the truth now.
"I know who you are."
"You know nothing, you are nothing."
Buffy pulled back her fist, preparing to hit Willow but Faith grabbed the blonde slayer's arm and as Buffy's attention shifted Willow grasped her chance. Her hand darted forward and she gripped Buffy's face and pulled, skin came off in her hand and she stumbled back again.
Willow looked down at what looked like a Buffy mask in her hands and then up into the hard as steel cruel eyes of Faith. This was not the Faith that she had been following but the Faith that had been following them. The part of Faith that wanted to kill and hated herself and everyone else.
Her Faith's face contorted in rage and with one yank she pulled out the knife imbedded in her belly. She left a bloody open wound but it didn't seem to affect her as she punched and slashed towards the other Faith. The other Faith never stood a chance. She was thrown and kicked and punched back until she was up against a wall then with a classic staking move Faith rammed the dagger through her double's chest, pinning her to the wall where she tried in vain to pull out the dagger.
Faith looked over at Willow with a look of calm that the redhead hadn't previously seen in Faith's eyes. The slayer smiled at Willow and then she woke up.
She could smell the too clean hospital smell and hear the beep of the heart monitor. Willow looked around and found herself in a room she had only been in once before to give Buffy moral support as she visited the girl she had put in a coma. Faith was lying where she had before in a bed in the centre of the room. She was hooked up to an IV and dressed in a hospital gown. Her skin was very pale. When she had gone before she had expected any moment Faith's eyes to snap open and for her to attack them. She hadn't of course and the visit had been disturbing and unsatisfying. At the time she had been angry that Faith was giving Buffy another thing to brood about along with Angel leaving and upcoming university.
Now Faith's eyes were open. She was gradually pulling herself up and looking around. She first took in the bed she was lying in and the IV in her arm then she turned and saw Willow. Thoughts had been running through Willows mind at breakneck speed. She felt like she had made a connection to Faith and saw her completely differently from how she had. She had always known that Faith had some bad breaks but now understood it in her gut.
Willow walked forward till she was right by the side of the bed. She smiled at Faith and put her hand on the slayers arm. Faith just looked confused and disoriented.
"What's going on here, Red?"
Willow knew that there was no real way to avoid answering questions like that in a way that wouldn't make Faith mad. She was acutely aware that there was nobody coming to protect her and if Faith decided she didn't like what Willow was saying she could kill her as easily as breathing, even newly awakened from a coma. She sat down on the bed facing Faith.
"You've been in a coma."
Faith's eyes seemed to lose focus for a second as she took this in.
Willow was hoping that Faith would respond best to the open approach. She needed Faith to trust her and feel like she was a friend.
"Since you're here with me I assume the boss is dead."
"I'm afraid so. He turned into a snake at graduation but we beat him."
"Good for you."
Faith said it without anger just with a sad bleakness. Willow realised that the Mayor had been the only semblance of normality in her life. In a way he had given her life meaning. Now he was gone. Willow herself had helped kill him. Every new thought like this made Willow realise how likely it was that Faith could see her as an enemy.
"Faith, do you remember any of your dreams while you were sleeping?"
"In a coma."
"Yeah, in a coma. Do you?"
Faith looked at her like she was crazy.
"Your pal Buffy put me in a coma for six months and you're asking me how my dreams were. Strangely enough they were about this blonde self-righteous chick gutting me repeatedly. Oh that and some stuff with a tunnel and a cigar. Do you think that might have some deep hidden meaning? Come on, you were always a big brain. Tell me, what does that mean?"
Faith's face was inches from Willows now. She wasn't shouting but she was spitting the words out angrily. Willow replied calmly and quietly.
"I think that the woman who was hurting you turned out to be you. I think that you woke up when you defeated her. I think that I was right there in your dreams when it happened."
Faith was still looking at her like she was crazy but there was doubt in her eyes too.
"What do you mean you were in my dream?"
"I got trapped in dreams. The only way out was to go into your dreams and help you resolve whatever was keeping you asleep. I was with you when you were chased by Kakistos, when you saw your watcher murdered, when Buffy stabbed you. I was with you all the time."
"If you were in my head and saw what I've done then why are you still in this room with me."
Faith seethed with anger and self-loathing and as she spoke she moved forwards until Willow was bent backwards.
"Because I saw why you did them, I saw what was done to you. I used to hate you for everything that you had done and now I don't. Now I want to help you."
Faith had an urge to run. To get out of Sunnydale, start fresh or maybe just go after B' and make her suffer but although the rage seemed to fill her up satisfying it wouldn't make her happy. Willow wanted to help her though, make her happy. Willow thought she was worth it. Faith's head was in turmoil, her thoughts were pandemonium but that stuck at the centre of her inner debate. Willow, who she had abused and hurt, had seen inside her. She had gotten under Faith's skin in a way nobody had before. Faith realised that she desperately wanted someone who understood her. She had thought that Buffy could but that had never happened and now Willow did. She couldn't walk away from that.
She looked into Willow's eyes searching for any trap or deceit, anything that might show she was being played or mocked but she couldn't help but smile as all she saw was honesty, friendship and possibly a hint of attraction.
Willow grinned back at Faith. She knew that Faith wouldn't be redeemed overnight and there would be definite problems but the first step had been taken.
Matthew the raven waited by the cave until he saw the life drain from the dream. It was still there but it was now a discarded dream. What was left when a dreamer awakened. He took off and flew back to the castle of dream. He landed on the chair that Willow had sat in. Dream was exactly where he had been sitting in the marble chair.
"Seemed like a nice kid."
Morpheus turned to look at him.
"Yes. She did."
"Boss, I've gotta ask, why did you send her into that slayers dreams?"
"Because she needed it."
"But you could have just sent her back, I've seen you do it."
"I could have sent Willow back to her world yes, but I wasn't talking about her."
"You mean Faith needed it? But you put Willow in danger."
This clearly perturbed Morpheus. Matthew knew his boss was one for brooding but he wanted an answer so he waited while Morpheus considered.
"Willow would have been just as much in danger when Faith awoke on her own. The slayer needed someone else to understand her. She wasn't capable of changing on her own."
"So you think it all worked out in the end then, boss?"
Morpheus waved his hand and a mirror appeared showing Faith's hospital room. They saw the two girls hugging each other. Tears were running down Faith's cheeks.
"I believe things have resolved themselves satisfactorily for now."
Giles didn't often drink while Buffy was there but he felt the need for something to numb his mind. He had been trapped in his own nightmares when Willow had been taken. He had came to and found Buffy sobbing and clutching onto the talisman the witch had been using. It had only taken a few choked words from Buffy to confirm his initial fears.
At first he had been most concerned with comforting Buffy. It was a while before he had allowed himself the luxury of letting his own grief out. Xander had taken it badly. He had gone virtually catatonic and obviously blamed himself for not protecting her. Anya had taken him away obviously expecting him to cheer up once she got him alone. They all blamed themselves for what had happened though and there was no comfort. Now it was hours later and Buffy was sitting on his couch staring off into the distance with a stone cold cup of tea in her hands. Giles kept almost saying things to try and make things a little better but for the life of him there was nothing he could say. There was nothing he could say. Buffy was his slayer, his main responsibility but he felt responsible for all of them and he couldn't help but take the loss hard.
There was a timid knock at the door. He didn't get up. He suspected it was Xander, tired of Anya not understanding his feelings and wanting to share his miseries. Giles heard the door swing open but he didn't look round.
"Hey, guys, miss me?"
Buffy and Giles stood up and turned around in a split second. Buffy's cold tea was dropped and splattered everywhere but was unnoticed. Willow was standing there. She was wearing the same clothes that she had been wearing and although they were ripped and dirty and she was obviously exhausted, she was alive and unhurt.
Giles simply stood and stared at her in amazement but Buffy moved the instance she saw Willow. Vaulting over the couch she ran to her friend and grabbed her in a bone crunching hug. Willow made a slight noise as she fought for air and Buffy released her and stepped back.
Willow opened her mouth to speak but Buffy hugged her tightly again and then moved back only a little to look at Willow. She seemed to Giles to be examining her to make sure that she was the same Willow she remembered and not some cunningly disguised demon. Willow smiled a little unsurely.
"You guys really did miss me. How long was I gone for?"
Giles stepped forward.
"Willow, we thought you were dead. We thought that demon had taken you. It can't have been more than five hours ago."
"Five hours? It felt much longer."
"Willow what happened? Where were you?"
It was the first thing Buffy had said. The words sounded slightly choked like she was trying to hold back tears still.
"Well before I answer that, there's somebody waiting outside and I don't want you to leap to any conclusions or do anything rash just give her a chance."
Giles paused for a moment to understand the sentence and then asked.
"Who is it?"
Willow walked to the door and opened it and standing in the doorway, very much awake was Faith. Giles thought perversely that awake was not a verb that would be useful in describing most people but since Faith had been in a coma for six months it was kind of important. He had visited her occasionally at first but his visits had petered out as it became increasingly likely that she would never wake up.
Buffy had immediately started to move forward to attack but stopped herself as Faith glanced nervously at Willow and after an encouraging nod from the redhead had come in. The tension in the room had risen considerably and everyone moved with exaggerated caution. Buffy and Faith both seemed to be expecting the other to attack at any moment. Giles broke the tension by stepping forward to offer Faith a chair and then inquiring as to whether anyone wanted tea. Soon they were all sitting around and Willow was telling them of the Dreaming. When she got to actually entering Faith's dream she blurred pretty much all the details and just explained how Faith had fought her inner demons and now wanted to try and redeem herself.
Giles watched the three girls closely as Willow told her story. It seemed to him that it was only respect for Willow that was holding everything together calmly. Buffy was still reeling from the shocks of thinking Willow was dead and then that she was alive and Willow had helped Faith through a lot so at the moment Willow held a lot of power over both. Giles hoped that it would be enough when the fireworks started.
There would be plenty of problems for Faith to face. The police and the watchers council were only human agencies to fight or avoid. The real problem was that Giles knew people didn't change overnight. He knew from his Ripper days that it was easy to slip from the best of intentions. He truly didn't know if Faith was strong enough.
Faith watched quietly as Xander threw himself on Willow and wrapped his arms around her. She was uncomfortably aware of another girl who had arrived with Xander and who was looking at her with suspicion. Xander released Willow and started to ask what had happened but the redhead turned to glance at Faith. Xander was quite surprised to see her there to say the least.
"Faith! Faith! Buffy, why aren't you attacking her?"
Xander's girlfriend was calmer but her suspicious glare became dark and hateful. She obviously knew who Faith was and what she had done to Xander.
"Xander it's ok, Faith's good now."
Xander looked dubious at Willow's words but she was definitely in earnest so he calmed down a little.
"What is it with arch foes around here. Doesn't anyone stay evil? I swear, any moment now Dracula's going to walk through the door and say he's found Jesus."
"Don't be ridiculous Xander, Dracula isn't real." Giles said with a slightly patronising expression. "Anyway, it's good for people to reform. It's a validation of everything we do here."
"Yeah, well I miss black and white morality."
"We've been through this, Faith. You can't turn yourself in to the police."
"Why not? The way they were all looking at me... I just think it would be easier, that's all."
Willow and Faith were sitting in Giles' spare room. He had offered to let Faith stay with him although it was clear to all there that he wasn't going to allow her to go anywhere else. Faith had talked about this before. She had accepted that she had done wrong and now she was considering turning herself in to the police.
"It's too dangerous."
Willow was a hacker. A long time ago she had believed that the police of Sunnydale were fine upstanding men and women. Now she knew better. She had invaded systems and dug about in personal files when she was trying to find out what the mayor was up to and she had discovered just how corrupt the police were. She had found out how far they would go to cover up supernatural activity. She knew what they would do if the people in charge felt threatened. She had seen the photos. She had read the autopsy reports. Willow wasn't certain but she suspected that the current mayor and his associates wouldn't take kindly to the former top killer of the previous mayor turning herself in because of guilt. The might feel that Faith could incriminate all sorts of people who the mayor might have mentioned. They would feel threatened and Faith would be found dead in her cell. The forensics would say suicide.
Willow had gone over all this with Faith. She was half convinced that Faith wanted to be killed by the police. That might stop her guilt. Willow however was not going to let that happen.
Faith gazed at Willow with dark, troubled eyes. She was certain she didn't deserve Willow's help but the least she could do was cooperate with her.
Willow left soon after to get some well earned rest and Faith tried to get some sleep.
It was hours later. Giles was still up researching downstairs. Faith couldn't sleep. She had slept for six months and hated the idea of going back to sleep but she was exhausted. Not physically exhausted but emotionally. She had lost everything she had. She had lost the mayor. He had been more than a boss. He hadn't talked about his family much. She knew that he had been married and suspected that he had wanted children but never been able to have any. Probably a side effect of his immortality. Faith hadn't missed the fact that he treated her like a daughter. It had seemed so right. Buffy had Giles and she had the Boss. She had been constantly surprised that he had never tried to get anything more from her. She would have let him but he had never tried and that meant more to her than everything else. He had been like a real father. Someone who had cared for her.
Her line of thought was broken as she heard a thud from downstairs. She was instantly fully awake. She pulled on some clothes as quickly as she could and sneaked down the stairs. She peeked around the corner and saw Giles struggling with some massive demon. The demon's muscular arm was wrapped around Giles's throat and the watcher seemed to be ineffectually trying to pull the arm away. Faith moved without thought or hesitation. She darted forward and grabbed a knife of the wall. The demon turned and was about to speak but the knife was in the air and then sticking out of the demons neck. It gurgled and greenish blood dripped from the wounds. There was a look of shock in its eyes and then it keeled over backwards taking Giles with it.
It had all happened in a fraction of a second. Faith stood almost paralysed for a second with the ease and speed of the kill. She had barely thought, it had just come so naturally to her. Could she really reform if death was so second nature? Giles kicked his feet and she hurried over to help him up. The demon's arm seemed to be locked in position trapping him there. She pulled on it and there was a crack as the arm broke and Giles was released. Faith helped him to his feet and he smiled thankfully at her.
"I must say; being, erm, inactive for so long hasn't dulled your reflexes."
"You can say 'coma.'"
He looked uncomfortable and instead turned his attention to the demon. Faith didn't recognise the species.
"Friend of yours?" She asked.
Giles looked round at her.
"I was going to ask you the same question actually. He was here looking for you."
"Me? I've never seen this guy before."
"Nevertheless. He knew you were here and wanted to see you. He forced his way in when I denied you were here."
Faith looked at the demon more closely but she was certain she didn't recognise it. Giles was searching it and pulled out a parcel from the folds of its clothes. It was addressed to Faith. Giles handed it to her without a word and then watched in curiosity as she ripped it open. Inside there was a videotape and a little decorative box. She ignored the latter for a while and concentrated on the video. She gave Giles a speculative glance and he nodded so she stuck it into his VCR.
They watched the video together. Giles glanced worriedly at her several times throughout it but she barely noticed him doing it. She was watching the man who was the best father she had ever had. He was telling her that it was all over for her and she should go out with a bang. He was saying that her days were numbered. The world seemed to drift away as his words sunk in. She realised she was staring at snow on the TV screen and the video had finished. Giles was looking at her expectantly as if waiting to see her response. She could sense the tenseness in him and realised he was worried this might set her off.. She stood up and walked a little away from him. Without looking at him she said.
"Do you think that Mayor really cared about me?"
Without looking she knew that Giles would have taken off his glasses and started to polish them as he considered the question.
"I really don't know, I barely met him but judging from that video I would have to say no."
Faith turned and looked at him. The watcher was gazing at her intently, trying to read her reaction. She could tell he was nervous that she might react badly to his answer and truth be told it did make her angry. Not white hot rage but a slow burning aching anger in her stomach. She wanted to hurt him but she didn't.
She didn't trust herself to say more. She was controlling herself.
"He left you a magic device to possess people. I believe that it was his intent that you use it against Buffy. Am I wrong?"
Faith thought for a moment. She realised that Buffy was the only person she would have even considered using it against. She shook her head.
"If he wanted you to be safe then he would have left you false passports, money, instructions as to how to go somewhere safe."
Giles said this all quite calmly as if he were explaining a philosophy problem.
"He mentioned that he had made lots of friends in his life. Could it really be that none of them would be happy to have a slayer as an ally. He didn't leave any of that, he left something you could use to take revenge upon his enemies. He knew that if he had failed it would be because Buffy had stopped him. It is my belief that he didn't want to help you. I think that he wanted revenge."
He waited to see Faiths response. Faith herself walked around his desk and started fiddling with his paper knife. He remembered the speed at which she had killed the other demon and wondered if his death would be as quick. She looked up at him and then down at the paper knife. He realised that he must have looked frightened and tried to regain his composure. Slowly and deliberately she placed the paper knife back on the table and stepped away from it.
Faith wanted to shout and scream and make him realise that the Mayor had loved her. She wanted to pound her fists into his face until he admitted that the Mayor had her best interests at heart. She heard a cracking sound and realised she had been gripping onto the back of a chair and had broken it. She knew that he was right. She knew that there were a dozen ways the Mayor could have provided for her. Money and a passport could have brought her a new life and the Mayor was smart as a rattlesnake. He would have known she would have gone after Buffy. She could have even succeeded, managed to steal Buffy's body and gotten away but she would never have gotten away with it completely. She knew in her gut that it would have been suicide. She would have given the Mayor the revenge he wanted. She walked over to the box that held the 'gizmo', she took it out of its case and then dropped it on the floor and stamped on it. In a few stamps there was nothing but tiny shards of it. Then she went to the video recorder and ejected the tape. She snapped it in half and threw it down. She started punching it. Shard of plastic cut her knuckles but she didn't care she just slammed her fists into the tape. She felt Giles hesitantly put his arms around her and she collapsed in tears. She wanted to keep hitting the message that was such a betrayal. The message that showed that once again a father had betrayed her so cruelly.
Giles carried her back to her bed. She was sleeping soundly before he was halfway there. Exhausted, physically and emotionally. She needed the sleep. Giles felt Faith's pain and betrayal but he couldn't help but feel elated. He had seen her reject the dark side. He had stood and watched as she made the decision and took another step towards redemption. Now he knew she was strong enough.
Giles walked downstairs later than normal the following day. He had been up late disposing of the demon. He knew immediately that something was amiss. The welcome mat was at a slightly different angle, his coffee mug wasn't where he had left it, there was a hint of a cigarette smell in the air and there were three burly men with hard eyes and guns sitting in his living room. The fact that he knew them, had even worked alongside them some years before did nothing to ease his apprehension. The three men were called Weatherby, Collins and Smith. Giles had never been told their first names and had never asked. They worked on what the council called delicate operations and what Giles had an annoying, in the councils eyes, tendency to call illegal and immoral acts. Murder, blackmail, kidnapping. The council was of the opinion that such things were completely acceptable in a war. Giles had his own opinions.
Collins lit a cigarette and smiled at him. There was nothing of comfort or humour in the smile.
"Rupert, so good to see you again."
"Collins, all of you, what a pleasant surprise."
Giles tried to calm the part of his brain telling him they were here to kill him. He had known helping Faith was dangerous but he wasn't one to let a little thing like probable death stop him from doing the right thing. Faith was asleep upstairs. They would kill him silently and then kill her in her sleep. If she woke up then she might have a chance but they were professionals so they probably wouldn't let her wake up.
"We're not here for pleasantries, old man. We came here as a courtesy more than anything else. I suppose you know that Faith has awakened from her little nap."
"From her six month coma, yes."
Collins ignored Giles correction and continued.
"Well the council have sent us to bring her back to England. We just thought we'd pop by and let you know we were in town and of course to tell your little rogue slayer to keep out of our way."
"You're here because of Buffy?"
"Yes. She no longer works for the council so we don't know where her loyalties lie. I just wanted you to know that if she decides her loyalties lie with Faith then the council may find that they have a brand new slayer to train."
Giles turned away. His relief at their ignorance of his helping Faith was short lived. They would find out eventually. He really hoped that Faith didn't come down or they were both dead but now he at least had a hope that they would both live for at least this encounter.
"You can't expect to come to the slayer's home town and make trouble and expect her to just leave you alone. We will deal with Faith on our own."
Weatherby punched Giles' desk in anger.
"It was dealing with this on your own that got us into this mess. One slayer turned evil, betraying everything the council stands for, the other might as well be. She's bloody quit."
Giles slowly turned back and stared into Weatherby's eyes.
"Buffy has done more good than the three of you have all together. She has faced and defeated threats that would have you wetting yourselves. Now get out of here before I do something I regret."
Like get my head blown off Giles added silently. He thought he might have gone over the top and half expected them to shoot him there and then. He could see the killing glare in Weatherby's eyes but Collins shook his head and they slowly walked out. Collins stopped by Giles for a second and said almost too quietly for Giles to hear.
"If you know what is good for your slayer then you will keep her out of our way and let us do our job. We've given you fair warning."
Then having satisfied whatever honour he thought he possessed, Collins left.
Giles had faced vampires, demons and monsters without flinching but somehow the most basic human evil always left him feeling disgusted and angry. It could be that they were so righteous in their atrocities. When he had regained his composure somewhat, he went to the phone and dialled.
There was silence for a moment after Giles had explained about the Council agents. Giles could see that Buffy was seething with anger. Willow was the first to speak.
"We can't let them take Faith."
"I agree. They are not exactly modern thinkers when it comes to rehabilitation."
"Yeah they would probably lock her up with only British cooking to sustain her. Nobody deserves that."
Giles arched an annoyed eyebrow at Xander's comment.
"Unfortunately, I'm not sure what we can do. They are human so we can't really do anything to them."
"We could report them to the police. They are probably carrying weapons so that should be enough."
Buffy knew she was clutching at straws but nothing else seemed to have occurred to any of them.
"I'm afraid that wouldn't do much good Buffy. For one thing if the police didn't arrest them then they would know who would have tipped them off and start investigating me more closely. God, I wish I knew what their plans were."
Xander put his hand up "This may seem like a simplistic solution but can't she just hide till they go away?"
Giles considered this "It's not an ideal solution, they are nothing if not stubborn but in the absence of a better idea I say that is our only option."
"You mean "Yeah"?"
Giles ignored Xanders sarcasm and continued. "Well, I'm afraid that Faith staying here is out of the question. If there is anywhere they are likely to keep under surveillance then it's my house and possibly Buffy's as well."
"My parents are out of town so Faith can stay at my house." Willow seemed enthusiastic.
Faith had been lost in thoughts of dungeons and stern Englishmen but she looked up at Willow's words.
Things went well for about a week. Willow spent a lot of time hanging out with Faith, even if it was just doing her college work at home rather than in the library. Faith had thought that she would get cabin fever having to stay indoors but instead she relished the time. Just hanging out with Willow, chatting, watching TV. It all seemed so blissfully normal. It was just like something someone normal might do.
Sometimes Buffy would come over and although there was a certain tension between her and Faith, Willow would smooth everything over. Faith wasn't stupid and could tell that Buffy still didn't trust her. She always had her guard up but then Faith remembered precious few times when Buffy had let her guard down with Faith. There had been that exquisitely brief time, just a few days when Buffy had started to let go and enjoy herself and enjoy being with Faith. Finch's death had stopped that cold. Then Faith had put the wall back up and that time was lost forever. She wondered if it could ever get back to being normal between her and B'. Probably not completely but there was a good illusion of it sometimes.
When B' was there she still tensed up. She couldn't help but feel that Buffy was judging her but with Willow she was starting to feel a lot more comfortable. Willow treated her like a real person, a close friend, rather than a bomb that would go off with little provocation. She liked that feeling.
Buffy crouched on the rooftop. She was frozen in place, trying to make no sound as she extended her supernatural slayer senses. She had been patrolling as normal and the feeling had come over her that there were vampires nearby. Not about to attack but more that there was a large group of them somewhere. She tried to remember Giles lessons and hone her senses. Her eyes snapped open as she realised she could hear something. There was a low murmur of voices chanting. She stealthily made her way towards the sound. Soon she was on a rooftop overlooking a warehouse like any other in the district except that it was lighted. The windows seemed to blacked out with dirt and dust more than anything else but approaching one she found that she could see through a crack into the area beyond.
The chanting was coming from a group of about fifteen vampires. They were all raptly focused on a picture of a vampire that was hung on one wall. Buffy didn't recognise it but she recognised demon religion when she saw it. As sneakily as possible she got out of there. Giles would need to know about this. They would need a plan.
"You say they were chanting and worshipping a picture of a vampire."
Giles seemed to be almost lost in thought as he said this.
"Yeah, does that ring any bells? There were a lot of them Giles. Way to many for me on my own. Even going back during the day with the whole gang may not be enough."
Giles walked over to a shelf and took down a file. He flicked through it until he found a large photo which he held up for Buffy to see.
"That's the picture that was there."
"Oh dear god."
"I'm guessing they're not here to spread happiness and cupcakes."
"I'm afraid not. They are part of a cult which has surfaced in recent years. I received a report in them just before the council fired me. A vampire who turns weak willed and impressionable humans. They follow him blindly and do what he says without any hesitation of qualms. Recently he has taken sending a large amount of them to a city or town, they take a couple of days to work themselves into a frenzy chanting and then they go on a rampage. They continue to kill as many people as possible until they themselves are killed by mobs or the sun. They cannot be reasoned with, they cannot be intimidated or scared away."
"So in other words they are a bunch of highly dangerous losers?"
"I suppose that's one way of putting it."
"On the plus side they will be relatively young vampires."
"On the minus side there are too many of them and they are fanatics."
"There is something else. There have been a few deaths in that area already so they have probably been there for a couple of days."
"So they could be ready to rampage any time."
"We have to contain them Buffy. If we wait then they will cut a swathe through the town."
"Call the gang."
The bat signal was lit. The avengers were assembled and Faith somehow found herself among the ranks. Willow was looking through spell books to try and find something suitable to help. Xander was picking out weapons and Giles was looking at a map of the area and trying to work out some tactics. Buffy took Faith aside.
"Look, Faith, normally I wouldn't ask this so early of you but this is a big threat. I'm not sure that we can handle them on our own. A second slayer could make all the difference."
Buffy wasn't really hiding the fact that she was saying this against her better judgment.
"B', I am not sure that this is really a good idea. I could put you all in more danger than you would be."
"I know but the alternative is letting people die. This is it, Faith. Are you willing to fight for what's right or not?"
"I can see it in your eyes B' you don't want me there."
"No I don't. I don't trust you...yet. I don't think that you are ready for battle but I don't have a choice. Now are you coming or not?"
Faith looked over at Willow. She imagined how she would feel if the redhead were hurt and nodded her consent to Buffy. Walking over to the weapons cabinet she picked up a stake and tucked it into her belt. Buffy and Giles exchanged a glance of apprehension.
The plan was simple. There were two entrances. Giles, Willow and Xander would go to one. There they would douse the ground with gasoline and then open the doors. According to Giles the vampire cultists would rush to attack anyone who disturbed their worship. They would let as many as possible rush towards them and then set them on fire. They would then use crossbows on the ones who rushed through the fire. Buffy and Faith would attack from the other entrance. They would rush in and hopefully the element of surprise would let them even the odds a little more. It was a rushed plan but they didn't have time to come up with anything else.
Buffy and Faith waited. They would know when to act because the vampires would scream. Faith couldn't help but watch Buffy. She was like a cat waiting to pounce. Utterly focused on her task. Faith was nervous as hell and more than half convinced she would screw everything up. She remembered telling Buffy once that she loved the feeling before a fight when she knew that she was going to win and they were going to lose. She had been lying then. Cranking up the bravado to hide her true fear in the face of Kakistos. Now she wished she even had the bravado.
They both heard the whoosh of the flame and the screams of the vampires and as one they kicked at the door. The combined strength of the slayers knocked the door off its hinges and they rushed in. They saw the crowd of vampires around the other entrance but they turned to see the slayers rushing at them and with growls of anger they rushed to meet them. Buffy was carrying a massive axe and swung it with abandon, taking out vampires left and right. At another time Faith might have just stopped to admire her skill but she was surrounded too. She had the stake in one hand but her real love was for using her feet and fists. She lashed out. A kick pushed one vamp into the fire where he was engulfed. A punch almost took off a vampires head. She was like a wild thing. Dust erupted around her as her stake slammed into vampires chests and despatched them. She felt alive again, on fire again. She realised that there were hardly any opponents left. She had really made a difference. Buffy was still fighting though. She had lost the axe and was using her fists. Two vampires were circling her. With a back kick she knocked one vampire back towards Faith. It slammed into the wall and fell to the ground. Faith moved to stake it but then the memories hit her. She saw Finch lying against the wall just like that. She felt the stake slide into him. The solid wet feeling that you didn't get with vampires. The blood spurting out over her hand. For a moment she was completely at the mercy of the past. Long enough for the vampire's foot to connect with her face. She was stunned and collapsed back. The vampire was past her in an instance. He ignored her and instead leapt for Buffy. Buffy had staked the other vampire and was caught off guard. The vampire was against her and trying to ram his knife into her and bite her at the same time.
Faith saw all this as she struggled to regain her senses and her balance. She staggered forward but could see that she would be too late. The vampire's teeth were on Buffy's throat. There was a thud and suddenly a crossbow bolt was sticking out of the vampires back. Faith turned to see Willow through the flames holding a crossbow. The vampire collapsed to dust and Buffy sank to her knees. Faith's eyes were fixed on the knife imbedded in her chest. Buffy pulled it out with a grunt and then clapped her hand to the wound to try and stem the blood flow. In a few moments Giles, Xander and Willow were around her. Faith slipped out of the shattered door and ran off into the night.
Willow had run after Faith as soon as she took off. Faith wasn't running in any particular direction she was just running. under normal circumstances there would be no way Willow could have caught a slayer but Faith was running blindly and it was not too long before she stumbled and fell. Willow turned the corner into the dank alleyway Faith had run into and found her on her knees huddled against a rusty dumpster. Faith's forehead was pressed almost painfully hard against metal. Willow could see her muscles knotted with tension and her fingers gripped the dumpster so hard it's side was buckled under them. Willow realised once again that Faith wasn't any normal person. She could express her rage and guilt in ways that would be impossible for a mere mortal. Nevertheless Willow placed her hand on Faith's shoulder and pulled her round to face her. Faith turned almost limply. Willow could see that her eyes were on the verge of tears and she could see the shame and hopelessness in them. Faith didn't say a word until Willow tried to move closer. She placed her palm on the wiccan's chest and held her away.
"Is Buffy going to be alright?"
"Of course it's just a little wound. She's had far worse."
Faith didn't answer straight away but looked away and fiddled with the stake still clutched in one hand.
"It was my fault."
"No it wasn't."
"I know what happened, Red."
Willow grabbed the slayer's face and forced her to look at her.
"You couldn't kill. That is nothing to be ashamed of.. I mean personally I have no problem with killing vampires but..."
"It was just.... Buffy threw him and I pulled back my arm and it was so like how it was when I killed Finch. I was half certain that I heard Buffy shout stop and I kind of froze and next thing I knew the vamp was past me and on Buffy."
"It's understandable. It's good. It shows that you really have changed."
"It shows I'm useless. There is one thing I can do and now I can't even do that and I almost got Buffy killed finding out."
"Faith, there's nothing I can say that will make it all better. All I can say is that running away is not going to solve it. You've tried running away and it doesn't work. Remember in the dream, you would still be asleep if you hadn't stopped running."
"Maybe that would have been better."
"Maybe it would have been easier but it wouldn't have been better. God knows what would have happened when you eventually woke up. Now are you going to sit in a dirty alleyway wallowing in guilt or are you going to come with me?"
She put on a stern expression and held out her hand. Faith gripped almost hard enough to hurt and they got to their feet. Willow kept hold of her hand as they turned to walk back.
Willow felt Faith tense up before she saw anything. They were on a dark road and all Willow could see were threatening shadows. Then Collins stepped from the darkness. Faith immediately stepped in front of Willow. Collins held a pistol with a long silencer in one hand. Faith glanced around quickly and saw that Weatherby and Smith had appeared around them. They also held silenced guns. Neither girl had met them before but they didn't have any doubt as to who they were.
Weatherby spoke first.
"Not interrupting anything were we?"
Faith gave him a hard stare.
"You're not taking me anywhere."
"At least we agree on something."
Collins' face was expressionless but Willow thought that she could see concern in his eyes when he looked at her.
"By order of the Watchers council of Britain I hereby sentence you to execution."
"What? You're going to kill her. What happened to you being the good guys?"
"Needs must as the devil drives Ms Rosenberg."
Faith moved like quicksilver, She disarmed Collins with a kick and had grabbed and thrown him at Weatherby before the other two had a chance to move. Smith got two shots off. One missed, one caught Faith in the top of the shoulder. There was a spray of blood but Faith barely noticed. She knocked his gun away and punched him. He blocked the blow and tried to hit her back. Willow could see he was highly trained but Faith was a slayer. He had no chance.
Weatherby slid out from under Collins' prone form and picked up his gun. Faith had his back to him. He aimed the gun but he had forgotten about Willow. The wiccan was too far away to do anything physically but she saw him and saw that Faith was too far away to get to him in time so she pulled out a pouch of sand from her bag and tossed it at him as she chanted.
"Illium riccum saterium est"
She never finished the incantation. Quick as she was, Weatherby was quicker. As she started chanting he swung his gun round to point at her and Willow saw a flash and felt something hot and hard slam into her body. She started to fall but it seemed to happen so slowly. The last thing that she saw was the blurred figure of a dark haired girl above her. She reached out her hand.
"Faith . . . "
Willow opened her eyes and saw Buffy leaning over her with concern etched across her face. She looked around and realised she was in hospital. There was a drip in her arm and there was a dull throbbing pain coming from her stomach. She thought for a moment.
"I don't like waking up in hospitals."
"How are you feeling?"
"A bit ooky but I think I'll live. I will live won't I?"
"Do you remember what happened?"
"I was following Faith, she was guilty about letting you get hurt."
Willows eyes glanced to where Buffy had been stabbed. Buffy pulled her top down slightly to show her the wound. It had already closed and pretty soon there wouldn't even be a scar there. Willow was glad Buffy was fine but couldn't help but realise that she must have been unconscious for at least a day.
"I got her to come back with me but then we were attacked by those three council guys. Oh god, Buffy, they were there to kill Faith. She fought back and she was winning but this one guy was about to shoot her in the back so I started to do a spell and then I guess he shot me. What happened to Faith? Is she alright?"
Buffy avoided her eyes but said.
"You've got to get some rest now."
She started to get up but Willow grabbed her arm. The movement jarred her wound and she immediately let go with a grimace. Buffy looked down at her sadly. Willow tried to give her a resolved look.
"Faith disappeared. She waited until the ambulance came for you and then took off. We're trying to find her now."
"Please, Buffy. You've got to find her. She probably feels guilty about me being shot but it wasn't her fault. Just find her and tell her I need her to come back."
Buffy didn't reply but nodded and started to leave again but Willow knew Buffy too well for that.
"There's something else. Something you're not telling me."
Buffy seemed almost angry at Willow for forcing her hand. The anger was only there for a moment, instantly replaced by sadness at having to deliver bad news.
"Yes. There is something else. I don't think that Faith took off because you were shot. The police came to question Giles because one of the Watcher agents had Giles address on him. That's how we knew that you were injured."
"Were they arrested?"
"The watcher agents? Two of them were. They were carrying silenced guns and you had been shot so they were arrested. The third couldn't be arrested."
"Because Faith killed him."
Willow could tell that Buffy didn't condemn Faith for the death. She even got the feeling that Buffy was glad the council agent had died but both knew that it didn't matter how justified the death was. Now all they could do was wait to see how Faith would react to it.
It was dark when Willow woke again. She knew immediately that she wasn't alone and turned her head to see Faith sitting by the bed. Willow couldn't see her very well in the darkness.
"I'm here, Red."
Willow reached out and grasped Faith's hand. It felt good to hold onto it. She hesitated for a moment and then brought Faith's hand to her lips and kissed it. The slayer pulled her hand back with a jerk.
"Don't do that."
"I'm sorry. I thought... I don't know what I thought."
"No, I... I liked it. It just makes it harder to do what I have to do"
Willow's insides chilled at Faith's words. There was resignation and despair in the tone.
"What do you mean?"
"I'm guessing you already know what happened in the alley."
"It's not important."
"Of course it is. I saw that bastard shoot you and I couldn't contain the rage in me. I had killed him before I knew what I was doing."
"You were acting out of self defence. You were fighting three men with guns. There isn't a jury in the land that wouldn't let you off."
"It doesn't matter. I could have subdued them without killing them and I didn't. I couldn't control myself."
"You're passionate. You can learn control."
"I can't cope with it, Red. I can't live with what I've done. Maybe I can learn not to kill people but that hardly makes up for what I've done."
"You make that up in other ways. Fighting evil, helping people."
"I'm going to turn myself in to the police."
Willow almost sat bolt upright but Faith's hand shot out and held her still. Willow was amazed at how tenderly Faith held her down considering the slayer complained about lack of control.
"Don't move, you might hurt yourself more."
"You can't do that. They'll kill you."
"I can take care of myself. I don't think that there is anyone who would be worried. They would have known that the mayor was close lipped about that sort of thing and if they are that cautious then they would probably think it's more dangerous to piss off a slayer. I'll be fine."
"But, you can't go. I need you."
Tears started running down Willow's face. She hadn't realised how close she had been getting to Faith. She couldn't stand to lose her so soon. Faith wiped the tears off Willow's cheeks so gently she just brushed the skin.
"This is the way it has to be, Red. If I just carry on then all the pain I caused, all the deaths. They're gonna eat at me. If that happens then not even you'll be able to save me."
Willow knew that this was probably true but she needed Faith, she wanted Faith. She had suppressed her feelings about Buffy and then Faith but she was through suppressing her emotions.
"Faith, I've been inside your head. I've seen everything you've been through, everything you've done and I love you. Please don't leave me."
"You love me?"
Faith's voice was quiet.
"Yes. I love you. The thought of you leaving is too painful for me not to love you."
Faith leaned over and kissed her. Willow felt Faith's lips soft and warm and then her tongue, hot and sensual inside her mouth. Willow moaned with desire and even the throbbing pain in her gut couldn't stop her feeling indescribably turned on by the promise in the kiss. She reached out to touch the slayer. Her fingers running over the worn leather of her pants and the rough cotton of her top. She slipped her fingers under the t-shirt to touch the girls smooth skin. Willow's eyes were shut as she drank in the sensations of Faith kissing her, touching her. Then Faith moved back and when Willow opened her eyes the slayer was gone.
Faith stepped out into the prison courtyard. She was wearing her own clothes again for the first time in what seemed like forever. She walked slowly towards the gates savouring the wind in her hair and the sun on her face. She felt free.
She had been trapped long before she went to prison. Trapped by family or circumstances, trapped by sacred duty and her own anger. Finally trapped by guilt and then by her own choice trapped by prison walls. Now she was free, figuratively, literally free.
She would still fight. She had a duty and she wouldn't give up on that but it was her choice.
The guard let her out with a smile. They were glad to see you go when they didn't think you'd be back.
Faith scanned the area and saw the redhead leaning against the side of a car. She started to hurry.
She could finally look forward to the coming days. There was work to be done. There was evil to be fought and to be atoned for. There was destiny to fulfil and apocalypses to be prevented.
And there was Willow.