Walking the Shadow Road
Four Months Later
California State Prison, Los Angeles County
For Faith the last four months had been a whirlwind of activity, the first thing had been the Warden getting her out of the Hole and by the time her Slayer metabolism had had enough time to heal her body fully Faith had found things had really changed a lot. Word had spread throughout the prison that you don't fuck with Faith in the slightest. Everyone had given her a wide berth, even the bigger gangs were staying away. Whatever it was that they'd heard about her Faith could tell they didn't want a piece of it either. Her next surprise had been when a lawyer came to visit her and said he'd been hired by one Willow Rosenberg and here she was now, a free woman with $514.21 to her name and a bus ticket to Sunnydale. She'd considered contacting Angel, but had decided against it. She'd made Buffy a promise she'd come to SunnyD right away and that's where she was going. [Or at least I was planning to. That limo has to be waiting for me, especially since there's no one else here that's getting out!] Faith noted as she saw a black stretch limo that was parked across from the jail.
Lilah saw Faith walk out of the LA Correctional Facility with her usual swagger still in place as she walked out. "Good afternoon, Miss Lehane."
"Okay...Faith. My name is Lilah Morgan and I'm here to talk with you for a few minutes about a job opportunity my employers are offering," Lilah said before gesturing towards the open door of the limousine.
Faith took a few seconds to go over her options before answering first. "Sure, always looking for a good job that pays well," Faith said before ducking down and into the back of the black limo. Sitting across from Lilah, "So, what is it that you want to talk about?"
"Well, one of the stipulations of your parole was that..."
"I'm not on parole," Faith said firmly as she crossed her arms.
Lilah stopped in surprise at Miss Lehane, Faith's, declaration. "Oh...I see. Well I apologize for that error on my part. It would seem my information on that point was less than 100%. But regardless of that, there is a matter Wolfram & Hart would like to discuss with you."
Faith kept her arms crossed, "So what is it you wanted to talk about?" Faith asked suspiciously.
Lilah smiled at Faith's question, So naive, so easy. "Well, I'm fairly certain that you know how far $514.21 won't take you."
"And what are you offering me?"
Lilah hid the smile she was feeling at Miss Lehane's question, "Well, as you know, Wolfram and Hart is a law firm with branches worldwide and a wide-ranging clientele listing. Unfortunately, sometimes there are individuals who are more persistent than is healthy for some of our clients. Unlike many law firms, Wolfram and Hart is a full service organization and this means we play an active role in assisting our clients...."
"And you want me to go beat-up some Joe Smith who's pestering some client of yours and tell them to back off or else, right?" Faith said neutrally.
Lilah knew she had to be careful here because the reports on Miss Lehane had indicated that while she was no longer exhibiting the psychopathic behaviour she had before and upon entering prison, she was fairly confident that Miss Lehane's 'Dark Streak' was still there, just more under control than it had been before her prison stay. "Nothing so drastic Faith. We would merely like you to demonstrate to this more stubborn and sometimes die hard individuals that it is in their best interests to go 'elsewhere' and leave our client alone."
"So I take it that Wolfram and Hart aren't hiring me to be their own personal, Slayer-assassin then?" Faith asked as she put on her most cocky look.
Shaking her head, "Oh no! *That* would be illegal and Wolfram and Hart *is* a law firm, we do not condone practices as such as assassination or assault. What we would be expecting is more in-line with 'explaining' the benefits to their seeking living accommodations outside Los Angeles, far far outside, like the East Coast or Europe even! But in return for your assistance with these problems Faith, you would be generously compensated. We are talking a starting pay of $100,000 dollars a year, and of course our excellent health benefits."
One eyebrow went up on Faith's face, "That's nice but I couldn't consider anything less than $400 grand and a starting bonus of $50,000 to help me get on my feet, someplace to stay and whatever else I might need..."
Lilah took a minute to weigh her options before finally responding. "I'm sorry but $400,000 would be too much to start; the Partners would be willing to raise the starting salary to $185,000 and a $5000 dolllar bonus but that would be the maximum Wolfram and Hart would even consider."
"Stop the car."
"I said, Stop the FUCKING CAR!"
Lilah was both confused and shocked by Faith's response but she finally signaled the driver to pull over.
"I'm out of here. If Wolfram and Hart want to talk seriously, then you come find me. I'm a Slayer, not some street thug you've hired off the street." Instinctively Faith realized she was going to have to settle this before she headed to SunnyD because this was not something she wanted following her back there.
"Where can I find you then?"
"Angel's hotel. I'll be there for the rest of the week before I'm heading out of LA."
Lilah sighed silently, "Very well, Faith. I will speak with the partners and then contact you with their final answer."
Faith just nodded before exiting the limo and heading towards Angel's...
Tara had gone looking for Buffy as soon as she was certain that Buffy would be awake, especially after what Willlow had told her how Buffy was *not* a morning person. Standing at the front door to the Summers' home Tara knocked on the door and heard footsteps a few moments later before the door finally opened to reveal a slightly sleepy looking Buffy in her pajamas. "Buffy? I'm sorry." Tara said as she felt bad for waking her up.
"No, it's okay. I needed to wake up anyway." Buffy said with a polite smile before stepping back to let Tara into the house. "So what has you up at this early hour?"
"Early?" Tara asked as she stepped into Buffy's house. "It's 11:15am..."
"Yeah, there is that, but it's also....much much earlier in....Bangladesh!"
Tara decided not to reply to that answer by Buffy. Switching topics, "Buffy, I know you were expecting Faith to grab a bus up here. But I think that might be a mistake..."
Buffy was going to say something snarky to Tara and stopped herself. "Okay then, so what do you think Faith should do to get here?."
"Let Willow and me go pick up Faith in LA. I-It's a lot better, I think, then just having her take the bus h-here." Tara said nervously.
Buffy paused for a moment to think about Tara's suggestion before saying anything. "Maybe, I didn't really give it any thought to be honest. How long will it take you to go up to LA and pick Faith up?"
"A-A couple of days, probably two days there and two days back."
Nodding, "Okay, but how are you going to get Willow...nevermind." Buffy said as she cut that line of curiousity off. "Don't mind me, just my Summers sense of curiousity coming out."
"Okay," Tara said, not really understanding Buffy sometimes. "I'll let you know when I get back."
Sauron was enraged beyond belief, they had defied *him*! He had warned them what would happen and all they had to do was listen, instead they chose to play their little games and now they would learn the consequences for their arrogance... Reaching out with his mind Sauron touched his chief minion and said one word, "Go." With that Sauron knew that he would do what was ordered to do, even at the loss of his own life. Nothing else mattered to him but doing his Master's will. Sauron knew that his minions would keep the three Demons preoccupied, this time, however, it required a more *direct* touch for what he had in mind...
One Day Later...
Wolfram and Hart was reeling from the utter destruction of their branches in New York, London, Rome, Vienna and Paris when the Los Angeles branch received a large package for the Senior Parters where it was sent up quickly to the top floor. When the giant package was opened what they found inside were three heads and six pairs of hands with a note. "This is the penalty for touching what is mine." But that was not the end of their problems that day, no, by the end of the day twleve more senior employees, three from each of the four major divisions in the Los Angeles branch were assassinated.
Circle of the Black Thorn
"There can be no question, there is a new player, one we did not detect and is still hidden from us," Came the voice of the hooded figure at the head of the table.
"Agreed, the destruction of those five offices was no accident. They were carefully picked out; and whatever attacked them passed through the magical fields and wards as if they were never even there."
"We can rebuild them, the losses of the offices and those employees who were killed are minor at best to us. We have more then enough resources to deal with this," The Third Cloaked figure said, arrogance coloring his voice.
"No we cannot. Quite mysteriously a priest was found at each site, blessing the dead and consecrating the grounds. We can rebuild elsewhere, but this new player has shown it did not 'appreciate' our interference with the Slayers." Came the voice of the First Cloaked figure. "So we will have nothing further to do with the Slayers or Sunnydale for now."
"Agreed," said the Second Cloaked figure. "This player has no interest in us or our plans, only in its own plan that somehow involves both Slayers. All operations that in some way involve either or both of the Slayers will be suspended indefinitely."
"Very well," said the Third Cloaked figure reluctantly.
"Tara, sometimes I really don't understand you."
"Wh-What's not to understand Willow? We're driving up to pick up Faith instead of leaving her to take a long, lonely bus ride down to Sunnydale. Are you saying that if that was Buffy, you guys wouldn't have driven all night to get there and take her back home?"
Willow dipped her head in acknowledgement, "Okay, that's true. But why did you volunteer?"
"Because none of you would have gone to Los Angeles to get Faith otherwise," Tara said before heading towards the front door.
Faith paced inside the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel or as she liked to think of it, 'Fang Boy's Hideout From The Rest Of The World'. She hadn't heard from Lilah Morgan for several days when a registered letter arrived at the hotel and addressed to her. Tearing the letter open Faith scanned the contents before she looked up at Angel who was impatiently waiting for her to share what the letter said. "Nothing big, Fangs. Just a job offer that was being withdrawn, nothing for you to be worried about." Putting the letter back into the envelope Faith folded it in half so the front was covered before she shoved it into her pants pocket and leaving to get to the bus station.
Faith had actually been within spitting distance of the bus station when Angel had shown up claiming he needed her help with some vamp's who'd moved into LA. "So Angel, are you satisfied I'm not going to bring about the next apocalypse yet?"
Angel walked out of his office. "For the moment I am. But that's not why I..."
"No, you stopped me from getting back to SunnyD because you've got a case of the green eyes is why, " Faith said cutting Angel off. Faith saw the surprised look on Angel's face. "What? You thought nobody would notice? Angel, you can lie like a rug and fool most people, but when it comes to Buffy you're like reading an open book."
"Fine," Angel said with a frown, "If you hurt Buffy I'll make you regret it Faith." Angel said menacingly.
"Then get at the back of a *very*, long line..." Faith said just as the front doors opened to admit Willow. "Oh joy!" Faith said to herself. "This should be fun..."
It had taken her minions longer than made her happy to find the 'Slayer's' home and several of them were no longer around, but such was the lot of a minion who failed their Mistress so badly. She even knew the brat's name now, not that she cared enough to use it, she'd gotten lucky but it was time the little girl learned her place in the scheme of things, which in her world was under her boot and licking it happily.
Walking up to the door of the Slayers house Glory knocked on it so the door wouldn't break yet and then she heard the brat's voice from behind the door. Glory's fist reared back and into the front door where it Raising her right hand, she channelled just a small bit of Power into that hand as she touched her palm to the door that promptly exploded inwards...
Buffy heard the knock on the front door and ran down the stairs to get it, "I got it Mom!" Buffy had just called out when the door just disappeared in a flash of light and the shockwave from the door exploding hit her and threw her backwards into the living room wall, cratering the wall where she hit. Getting up off the floor where she'd landed after sliding down the wall Buffy saw psycho-chickie was back and had apparently come to start tearing apart her home!
Joyce heard the commotion and came running from the kitchen to see the blonde girl standing in what was their doorway and Buffy who was on the other side of the house from her. "Buffy? What's going on?" Joyce asked feeling totally confused here.
"Ahhh, you must be..." Glory stopped as the brat interrupted her.
"MOM! GET OUT OF HERE!" Buffy yelled as she ran towards psycho-chickie to distract her from her Mom. At the last instant Buffy dropped and slid low on the ground towards psycho-chicke and just avoided the windmill punches where her head had been. Buffy launched both feet up, catching psycho-chickie under her chin and throwing her backwards into the wall behind her. Buffy stopped just long enough to look and see if her Mom was gone; her Mom was nowhere to be seen, with that Buffy focused all her attention on psycho-chickie.
"Buttercup, don't you know anything about waiting for your betters to finish speaking?"
Buffy didn't wait to listen to psycho-chickie and charged her once more her fist lashing out as soon as she was close enough to psycho-chickie, hitting her jaw and this time her punch drove psycho-chickie through the wall and out onto the front yard.
Glory shook her head and the plaster and sheet rock drifted off of her from that last punch that put her through the wall. "Well Butterfly, if that's how you want to play this..." Glory said angrily as she stood up and stalked back towards the house. "Now you learn about playing with your betters..."
Joyce ran away, torn by leaving her daughter to face whatever that woman was and staying, but she knew that she'd just be in the way, but there was something she *could* do though. Pulling out her cell phone Joyce dialed Rupert's phone.
Buffy moved off the ground slowly as part of the wall had collapsed on her where Glory had punched her into. As she got to her knees Buffy saw psycho-chickie was almost on top of her Buffy quickly turned around grabbing part of the fireplace behind her and ripping it out of the wall almost in one piece before turning around and throwing it into psycho-chickie's face. Not willing to give her a moment's peace Buffy leaped at psycho-chickie, both feet catching psycho-chickie in the stomach and pile driving her through the floor and into the basement below.
Dropping down through the hole Buffy followed psycho-chickie, landing next to her but psycho-chickie was up and ready and Buffy had to block psycho-chickie's punches or get pulverized into paste, as one punch psycho-chickie missed with shattered a large section stone wall behind her quickly demonstrated. Buffy saw psycho-chickie starting to move faster and was barely able to get her arms up to block the kick, but was still thrown backwards through several support beams and into a wall. Getting up quickly Buffy was ready by the time psycho-chickie was close and the two began trading blows once more...
Giles picked up the phone, "Hello. Giles residence."
"Rupert...Mr. Giles. This blonde woman came over to the house and just attacked Buffy..."
"What? Slow down. Now, Mrs. Summers, what is wrong?"
Joyce slowed her pacing down. "This woman came over to the house and just attacked Buffy. And then Buffy punched her through the front wall of the house..."
Giles heard a crashing sound on the phone, "Mrs. Summers...Joyce? Are you alright?"
"Yes, it was the house..." Joyce said with a cough from the dust as she tried seeing her if her little girl was alright.
"Stay where you are and whatever you do, *don't* get in their way!" Giles called out as he ran towards his Citroen.
Buffy coughed heavily from where she was lying on the ground after having been bounced off the roof. The house was in utter shambles, what was left of it and she could hear psycho-chickie's footsteps as she walked up the stairs. Buffy got to her feet slowly, "You come into *my* home, attack me and threaten my Mom? I don't think so!" Buffy said fiercely even as her body was throbbing in pain.
Willow heard her cellphone ring and touched the cordless ear piece, "Yes?"
"Willow, it's Giles. You have to hurry back."
Frowning, "Why? What's up?" Willow asked, her foot pushing the pedal down and the car began to accelerate.
"That woman Buffy fought at the warehouse is back and has attacked Buffy at her home," Giles explained calmly.
"Oh my Goddess!" Willow swore and the car picked up even more speed. "I'll be back as fast as possible." With that Willow went to end the phone call when she heard Giles voice,
"Oh my god, the house... it's completely destroyed..."
Tara woke to the feeling of the car swaying and looked out the window to see the road was alot further beneath them than it should be and so was the ground. Sitting up quickly Tara could see the car was flying high in the air. "Oh, uh, Willow?"
"Could you put the car *back* on the ground carefully please?"
Willow frowned at Tara's request. "Tara, what are you.... Oh...huh?"
Tara felt the car dip and used her own magick to keep it from going 'Boom' until Willow could settle down. "Yeah. You're in a bit of a hurry."
Willow blushed in embarrassment but started concentrating as she lowered the car back down towards the ground.
Faith had woken up a good 15 minutes earlier, but after seeing how high they were she decided not to startle Red so that they plummeted to their horrible deaths below. The car was slowly moving down when Faith saw the front cab of the mac truck and the window there were now flying parallel to. Looking in the window Faith could see the twin looks of shock and confusion on the drivers' face and it was all Faith could do to stay quiet and not break out laughing after seeing the truck driver's face...
Tara felt the car 'touchdown' on the highway and breathed a silent sigh of relief "Willow hon? Why don't you let me drive while you fill me in on what it was that got you so excited about?"
"Sure," Willow said as she kept the car speeding down the highway and filled Tara in on Giles' phone call...
Buffy watched as her uppercut rocked psycho-bitch back and quickly followed up with two more punches to psycho-chickies head that drove her backwards. This is it, I have to hit psycho-chickie with everything while I'm still standing. Buffy thought to herself furiously as she hit psycho-chickies with a front snap kick to her chest and followed up with a spinning kick to the side of psycho-chickie's head that threw her over the broken banister and down to the first floor below. Dropping into a run Buffy charged after psycho-chickie and leapt over the railing to land on top of her with both feet hard enough to pile drive the bitch deep into the ground below. Climbing back out of the 10' foot deep hole Buffy dragged herself a few feet away from the hole before passing out...
Glory pulled herself out of the hole she'd been driven deep into, her entire body was throbbing with pain, something she'd known of but had only *very* rarely experienced. As she pulled herself out Glory saw the girl was lying on the ground just a few feet away and as much as she wanted to teach that girl a lesson, in a rare moment of self-preservation Glory decided against doing anything so stupid right now. She still needed to acquire the Key, and the snotty little brat was her only lead at the moment; and besides, there was always later...or at least she told herself so.
22 Hours Later
Sunnydale General Hospital
Faith and Willow ran into the hospital and came to a sliding stop by the front desk.
"I'm looking for Buffy Summers, she was just brought into the hospital."
The nurse looked up patiently at the two teenagers at her desk, "Bunny Summers?"
"No! B.U.F.F.Y. Buffy Summers," Faith said as she tried holding her temper back.
"Ahh! That's why I wasn't finding her, she's been moved out of surgery and into her own room. Room G118, that's up on the seventh floor..." The nurse was going to say more, but the two teenagers took off. "Oh well..." The Nurse said with a shrug.
Faith slowed down enough to let Willow keep up and both girls saw Mrs. Summers and Giles down the hall. "Giles!" Faith called out when they were a little closer and saw the older Watcher look up.
"Faith? Willow?" Giles said surprised that they had made it back from LA so quickly.
"How's Buffy Mr. Giles?" Willow asked slightly out of breath from all the running.
Giles looked back towards the room where Buffy was resting, "She's resting and the doctor says she's stable now, but she had some internal bleeding and several broken bones when they brought her in."
Faith looked at Giles, shock written plainly on her face. "What the Hell happened to her Giles? Red said that B was attacked by someone, but that's not anything even close to normal for a Slayer. No demon or vamp is gonna put a Slayer in the hospital and what happened to the the thing that attacked B? Is it dead?"
Giles took a breath to explain to Faith and stopped, "I'll tell you what I know, but later. This isn't the proper venue for this discussion."
Willow saw Faith was ready to explode and reached over, touching her arm. When Faith looked over at her Willow just shook her head and Faith willed herself to calm down for right now.
"So when then? As you can see Faith, and I, both want some answers on what happened to Buffy."
"We'll meet at the Magick Box in a couple of hours and we can talk freely there," Giles answered Willow. With that Giles returned to Mrs. Summers, Joyce's side as she kept watch on Buffy.
Four Hours Later
The Magick Box
Giles walked into the back room where Faith, Willow, Tara, Cordelia and Xander were waiting for him. "So, let's start at the beginning and recap for Faith who's just come in from LA." Giles said before he started filling Faith in on the dying Monk, the Orb and the first fight with the unknown blonde woman, but he avoided mentioning anything about Dawn or the Key to Faith or Cordelia.
"And that was the first time Buffy ran into her?" Faith asked, "Didn't you come up with anything in your research?"
Shaking his head, "No, the information we have is fairly sparse so there isn't much to find right now."
"What about that Orb thing you found?" Faith pressed.
"It is called the Dagon Sphere and it was created to keep things near it hidden from 'That Which Cannot Be Named', but as to who created it or what they were hiding is something we just don't know still."
"Well that's pretty fucking useless Giles! What happened to you and your 'so-called' researching godliness?" Faith was going to say more, as angry and worried as she was about what happened to Buffy when she saw Tara giving her a 'look'. "Fine, whatever!" Faith said grumpily before sitting back down on the couch with a plop.
"It might be best if you take up Buffy's patrolling duties while she rests, Faith.
"Whatever!" Faith said angrily as she stood up and walked out of the Magick Box.
"Geez, angry much? I can see Faith hadn't changed much since she went to prison," Xander said as soon as Faith was gone.
Willow looked over at her best (male) friend, "Xander, Faith's worried about Buffy. How about you cut her a little slack, it's her first day back, you know?" Willow looked over to where Tara was, only she was gone and Willow was left wondering why and where her girlfriend had gone...
Faith walked out of the Magick Box fuming over how calmly everyone there seemed to be and started walking over to B's house. It took her about fifteen minutes, but when Faith arrived at Buffy's house she couldn't believe her eyes. Not only was the house not there, there weren't even two walls standing where the house *had* been! Ducking under the yellow police tape Faith walked over to the Summers' home. There were broken pieces of wood, plaster and sheet rock all over, along with personal odds and ends all over the ground. As she walked through the devastation that had once been Buffy's house, Faith's first and most lasting impression were of houses destroyed in San Francisco's 1906 earthquake she'd seen in a school book once. Taking one last look around Faith left to go start her patrol.
Glory could barely move, her body hurt so much all over. Signaling, one of her minions came over. "Find out everything you can about the Slayer," Glory said before dismissing the minion and closing her eyes to rest.
Buffy opened her eyes, her first sight was her Mom who was sleeping in a chair only a few feet away. "Mom?" Buffy said softly as she sat up slowly, her body was feeling weird somehow.
"Buffy?" Joyce said as she tried to figure out if she was dreaming or not, but when she opened her eyes Joyce saw that it was Buffy who called her. "BUFFY!" Joyce said as she hugged Buffy tightly before letting go. "Oh, I"m sorry honey! I wasn't thinking. Are you okay?"
"Yeah, how'd I wind up in a hospital?" Buffy asked as she looked around and fought the urge to get up out of bed and try leaving.
"It was that woman you fought. The doctors said you had some broken bones and internal damage. Are you certain you're okay?" Joyce was just finished asking when the door opened and in walked Faith who stepped into the room as she let the door close behind her. "You..." Joyce started to say when she saw that 'look' on Faith's face. Turning, Joyce saw the same look on Buffy's face as well, neither woman seemed aware as they just seemed to look deep within the other.
Whatever Buffy was going to say she forgot when she saw Faith, "Hi....."
"AHEM!" Buffy heard her Mom's voice and shook her head to clear it. "Mom! What's the problem?"
"Would you two just like to get a room and get it over with already?"
"You two need a mirror to see yourselves when you're in the room together. "
"Thanks Mom. Please humiliate me some more! We're not like that!!" Buffy said emphatically. Faith was her Slayer Sister, that's all.
"You want me to come back later B?" Faith asked hopefully.
"Oh no! If I get tortured by my Mom, so do you! So come on in."
"Thanks B," Faith said but she didn't leave the room and instead walked closer to the bed. "Hey Mrs. S," Faith greeted Mrs. Summers. "So B, who drop-kicked your ass and where can we find them?" Faith said with her best and most cocky grin.
Buffy frowned at Faith's description of her getting her ass drop-kicked, but the problem of it was Faith was right. She *had* gotten her ass handed to her by psycho-chickie and they still didn't have a clue of who or *what* she was. "I don't know. I ran into her before and we fought and I thought I'd won that time but I guess she wasn't holding back this round."
"Don't sweat it B. There's two of us now and we'll kick that demon's bitch ass back to wherever it is she crawled out of!!"
Buffy couldn't help but smile at Faith's declaration...
Continued in Chapter Seventeen