Someone else's friends
Disclaimer: Faith, Buffy, and the Sunnydale crew belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Paige and the Charmed Ones belong to Constance Burge and Aaron Spelling. I'm just keeping myself (and hopefully others) amused. Don't sue me, hire me!
Chapter One: Someone else's friends
I was dreaming about someone else's high school again. This library I'd seen before, with the librarian who taught my dream-self to use a sword, and the other kids who looked through the musty books with us. Only this time, the library was torn apart, the librarian and the redhead girl both lying on the ground, and only my dream-self and the taller boy fighting the monsters my dream-selves fought so often. There was a stir, and the monsters turned to the door.
A pretty brunette in a dark dress drifted into the room, said something I couldn't make out. I tried to fight, but she was faster and stronger than I expected, and she tenderized me. I got up off the floor, coming at her again, but she said something else, and I could only gaze into her eyes as the dream went grey around the edges. Then there was a moment of sharp pain, and I woke up yelling.
“Faith!” Paige burst into the room. “Oh, my god! Are you ok? You were yelling...”
“She didn't fight back!” She came over to the bed, and tried to stroke my hair and soothe me. I wrapped my arms around her waist and pressed my face into her shoulder. “She just let it happen!”
“Fai- You're squeezing!” She choked it out, and I let go of her in a hurry. She gave me a funny look. “You're a lot stronger than you were.”
But I wasn't listening. I needed to get there. The monsters were gonna get the kids, and the librarian! But where? “Sunnydale.” She gave me an even weirder look. “We have to get to Sunnydale.” I got up and started getting changed.
She stood, grabbed my arm. “First off, where the hell is Sunnydale? Second, why do we have to go there?” I shook her off, too focused on getting ready. “Third, when did you get so strong? Faith! Talk to me, dammit!” She planted herself in front of me.
I gave her a frustrated look. “I don't really know! Sunnydale is south of here, and something bad just happened there, and I dreamed about it, and now I'm strong because she was strong, and we have to go and help them deal with the badness!”
She sighed. “This is clearly important to you. I'll make the calls. But if it turns out this was all because you had anchovy-Gorgonzola pizza last night, you're doing all the chores around here for the next month.”
I grinned. “Thanks, sis. I know I'm explaining it wicked bad, but I'm pretty sure they'll do a better job.”
Half an hour later we were heading out of the city, coffee and pastries in hand, just headed south until we saw signs. Paige asked a million questions, about that dream and all the other ones I could remember, but my answers didn't help either of us figure it out. When we stopped for lunch, I realized how restless I'd been, and I ran from one end of the parking lot to the other and back four or five times before I was willing to sit and eat. And then I ate twice as much as usual, and I usually eat plenty. Paige just stared.
By mid-afternoon, we were seeing signs telling us how far Sunnydale was, and when we got there it was still half an hour or so before nightfall. We came within sight of the town, and both of us gave a reflexive shiver. I felt something go up my spine, like when you walk into a club and the music hits you, and I started to sway in my seat. I turned to Paige to share it with her, but she was looking kinda sick to her stomach. I figured I'd bring it up later, especially since now I had to concentrate, try to dig up the memories instead of letting them flow.
I half-closed my eyes. “Turn left at the next light. Then there's a coffee place on the corner...” It got easier as we went, more familiar, which clearly wigged her some, until we could see the school over the other buildings. She pulled the Beetle up to the front, and we got out.
She looked the place over. “Seems pretty deserted, but you're acting like someone's expecting you.”
I nodded, a little distracted. “They'll be in there. They're always in there.”
She gave me a completely wigged look. “You sound like something out of a horror movie, you realize that, right?”
I gave her my best creepy-little-girl grin. “One, two, Freddie's gonna get you...”
She made a face and swatted the back of my head. “Please don't. This place creeps me out enough as it is. This school especially. Just looking at it I want to puke.”
I snickered. “Aw. I knew high school was bad for you, I didn't realize it was so bad even a different one would make you physically ill. Wuss.” I headed up the steps.
She hurried after me. “Hey! I am not a wuss! You're just reckless...” She got hushed as we went inside, pressing up close behind me like she was the younger sister.
I made my way fairly easily to the library, and heard voices as we got close. I smiled smugly to myself. The first one I heard was female. “I can't believe... Just left a note for her mom... She didn't even come check on me!”
Next was a young male. “She needs a few days to deal, Will. She'll be back before you know it. Just think about-” There was a pause, and a couple of indistinct murmurs. “Dunno. Someone out there. Couple of someones.”
I took that as my cue and walked through the doors. Seated around a table were the librarian, beaten and bruised, the redhead, bandaged and in the arms of the short guy, who made me wicked wary, and the taller guy and the brunette girl. I flicked a look around, almost automatically, and noticed the chalk outline with blood still pooled around it. I was drawn to it, leaving Paige standing awkwardly near the doors. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that everyone at the table was watching me, surprised and cautious.
I knelt next to the outline. “She fought hard.” I turned so I was standing where she had been, and began to sway a little the way she had been. “But the eyes got her... Those pretty, dark eyes...” There was a collective gasp from the table, and I broke out of the dream memory to turn and grin and head over to them. “Hi, I'm Faith, this is my sister Paige, and I've seen all of you in my dreams. Who are you?”
The librarian recovered first. “I- Did you- err...” He cleared his throat. “I'm Rupert Giles. Did... err... Did someone send you here?”
I shrugged. “Not exactly. Just... I had the dream about-” I gestured behind me. “And when I woke up I knew I had to come to Sunnydale.”
Paige broke in. “I'd never even heard of this town before. I don't know how you knew about it.”
I made a face at her. “The dreams. I told you. And we found this place, didn't we?” She nodded, but I noticed she was eying the floor like it was week-old roadkill. I turned back to Mr Giles. “Anyway, in my dreams, you teach me how to use a sword and stuff, and since I'm all strong since this morning, I figured maybe I should be learning to use a sword for real.”
He blinked at me a couple times, took off his glasses, cleaned them, put them back on, and blinked again. Everyone else was still staring, or giving each other confused looks. “My goodness. And, err, where have you come from?”
Paige sighed. “San Francisco. I've been driving all day. Look, Faith, you found these people, they look pretty harmless, I'm gonna go find a bathroom.”
The short guy smirked at the word harmless, but Mr Giles actually smiled. “I assure you, Ms...”
Paige looked confused for a second, then smiled back. “Matthews. Paige Matthews.”
Mr Giles nodded. “Ms Matthews. We mean no harm to you or your sister. So, out these doors, turn left, the ladies' room is about halfway down the hall.” She nodded and left, giving the floor another wary look as she went. Mr Giles turned back to me. “Now, my dear, tell me more about these dreams.”
I grabbed a chair, swung it around, and straddled the back. “Mostly, I fight monsters. Sometimes I'm in old fashioned clothes, or in places where they haven't heard of electric light, but usually there's the monsters, and I'm fighting all alone.” I got a little cranky. “Usually there's an older guy, giving me pointers, but he doesn't help me actually fight.” I looked at him, then at the rest of them. “Except you guys. I've had dreams where all of you are right there with me.” I turned to the chalk outline, and my voice softened. “She trusted you guys to have her back. Not your fault the monsters planned for you.”
I turned back when he cleared his throat. “Th- these dreams. About us. How long have you had them?”
I shrugged. “Couple years, maybe. Year and a half at least.”
He was a little teary, but smiling. “Then I think that the... person you have been dreaming of is not the one we... lost, last night. However, the two were related, and you are part of-” He broke off as the doors opened, and Paige walked in, looking a little happier. Mr Giles looked at her, then at the other kids, and raised an eyebrow.
They all looked at him, then each other, then the redhead visibly got it. “Oh! Oh, hey, Paige, you want a tour of the school?”
“Hunh?” It took me a second, but then I was pissed. “Oh, hell no. Anything you're gonna say to me, you can say to her, too. We tell each other everything anyway.”
Mr Giles raised both eyebrows, and then looked concerned as something obviously occurred to him. “And your parents?”
I gave him a wry smile. “Which set? The ones that had me died over a decade ago, the ones that raised me and Paige died a couple years ago. She's the one who signs all the paperwork for me.” We both ignored, with the ease of long practice, the looks everyone was giving us.
Mr Giles got up, cleaned his glasses again, and started pacing. “Well, clearly, everyone else here already knows, and helps. Very well, then. I need to start with a little history, but trust me, it is relevant.” He sighed, then gave us a stern look. “Contrary to popular mythology, the world did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons, demons walked the world, fought each other, used and even ate each other. However, humans began to gain dominance, and the demons and monsters were driven out. It is said that the last pure demon bit a human, mixed their blood, and created a hybrid... the vampires.”
Paige wasn't buying it. “Demons. Vampires. You can't be serious. I mean, the dreams were weird enough.” She turned to me. “And why didn't you ever tell me about them?” She turned back to the group. “But you can't expect me to believe that there are-”
The short guy spoke up. “I'm a werewolf.”
She gaped and sputtered, and Mr Giles talked over her. “However, in every generation there is a Chosen One. One girl in all the world with the strength and the speed to stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer.” I was grinning wicked big by this point, but Paige looked horrified.
Before she could come up with anything to say, the tall guy spoke up. “Except it's not exactly that way anymore. About a year ago, there was this prophecy that Buffy would die, so I went to find her and back her up. When I found her, her heart had just stopped. I did CPR, and brought her back, but it was long enough for Kendra to be activated.” All of them looked automatically at the chalk outline.
I nodded. “And last night, Kendra died and I was... What did you call it, Activated?”
Mr Giles looked pleased. “Very astute. Yes, evidently you were- But you knew to come here?”
I thought about it for a second. “It was just... echoing in my head, 'Sunnydale', 'Sunnydale', and I knew it was south of me.” Something occurred to me. “Wait. What about this... Buffy chick? You said you brought her back. She still alive and kickin' now?”
They looked uncomfortable. The tall guy spoke up. “She was last night. She and I were fighting vampires, and then I got Giles out, and... Well, none of us have seen her. We called her house, her mom said she packed some stuff and left a note.” He was starting to sound a little panicked.
The short guy had a very calming voice. “She'll be back. I need to bug out sometimes. Fighting Angelus was a big deal, she needs a week or two.”
I shifted. “I'm guessing I shouldn't ask. So this Bu- yeah, I can't call anyone Buffy. This B of yours is the one I've been dreaming about all this time?”
Giles nodded. “It would make the most sense. Err... Though I suppose I need to actually give you names, don't I? This is Willow-” the redhead waved “-and Oz-” the short guy nodded “-Xander-” the tall guy smiled... well, leered “-and Cordelia.” The brunette gave a little smile-and-nod like a princess. “They have been enormously helpful to Buffy and myself. Err... I am Buffy's Watcher. Generally, a Slayer is found as a child, and raised by her Watcher, but with your circumstances... Anyway, I would be happy to, as you said, 'teach you to use a sword.' Though the weapon of choice for a Vampire Slayer is the wooden stake, as a stake to the heart is the most effective way to dispatch them. We can put it off for a week or two if you need to, though, if there are things you need to do in San Francisco...”
Willow sounded like she was trying to convince herself. “And by that time, Buffy will be back, and you two can train together.”
I looked over at Paige, who sighed. “I wasn't planning on driving back immediately anyway, I got us both a week off. We can get you started and see what comes next. I'm still not sure I believe any of this, mind you...”
Xander grinned. “You two can come on patrol with us tonight. I guarantee you'll believe after that.”
I nodded and started stretching. “Great! When can we go?”
Giles sighed. “While I commend your enthusiasm, it is still daylight, so the vampires will not be about just yet. Furthermore, I would be much happier, and I suspect your sister would be as well, if I taught you some of the basics of Slaying before your first experience in the field.”
I gave him a blank look as I figured it out, then nodded and grinned. “You wanna make sure I'm decent with a sword before I go wavin' it around in the dark. Good call.” I looked around. “So, where're the weapons?”
Paige gave me a Big Sister Look. “A little fixated on the long, pointy things, there, sis. Do we need to have a talk?”
I smirked at her. “Gee, let's see. Know about sex, getting plenty, like my boobs too much to turn 'em in.” I ignored the sputtering of Giles and Xander, Will's blushes, Cordy's eye-roll, even Oz's smirk, in favor of Paige's eyebrow-raise, which shifted to a smirk, then a full grin, which I answered. “I just wanna show off how bad-ass I'm gonna be with the thing.”
Giles cleared his throat and polished his glasses again. “Yes, well, perhaps we should start with something simpler. Like a stake. It will be your primary weapon, after all.” I made a face, and he chuckled. “Don't worry, we shall work up to swords and crossbows in good time. For now, however...” He picked up a stake from the table and tossed it to me.
I grinned and caught it one-handed, then spun and aimed it for Paige's heart. I stopped short, a couple inches from her chest, and laughed in her face. “Gotcha.”
She yelped and jumped backwards. “Damnit, Faith, that is so not funny.” I shrugged.
Giles wheeled out a manikin on a cart, and gave me a Look. “We do have the practice dummy for a reason, my dear. If you would?” He stayed behind it, and manhandled it back and forth a bit, but it took me almost no time to stake the dummy in the chest. He looked pleasantly surprised. “Excellent, excellent.” He pulled out the stake, handed it to me, and moved the dummy in a more random, jerky pattern. I staked it again, just as quick. He was definitely impressed. “Very good. Well, you do seem to have skill.”
I shrugged. “I got into some fights when I was younger. And, no offense, but you were movin' that thing kinda slow. Unless the vamps are that slow too?”
Cordy spoke up. “No, he's just old and British.”
Xander nodded. “One of us could have worked the manikin, but that would have been work, and we avoid that whenever we can.” I nodded in approval while Giles scowled and Paige grinned.
Oz shrugged. “Vamps are fast.”
Will took his hand and nodded solemnly. “They're going to be faster than we could be anyway, Buffy mostly just trains in here to learn the moves, not to do them quick.”
Paige stepped up close again, almost huddling against me. “It's dark out now. Can we do this?” Her voice was tight, and I looked over to see that she was eying the floor under the table the other kids were at, with a sick look on her face, like she'd had after the funeral.
I was wicked wigged by that. “Yeah, I think I'm ready for action. Someone lead the way!”
The kids stood, but they all looked at Giles first. He nodded. “I think between us we can manage. Though Willow, I do think you should remain near the back.” She nodded and clung to Oz's arm. Giles handed stakes and crosses to everyone, then headed out. “I believe that Buffy had been neglecting the cemeteries on the East side of town, so we shall go there.”
Paige was startled. “Just how many cemeteries are there in this town? And what about this cross? Does it matter that we're not religious?”
Willow giggled. “I'm Jewish, and the cross works just fine. They only keep vamps away, though. Well, and burn them if they touch them, so that's probably why they stay away. And we have twelve cemeteries within city limits.”
Oz nodded. “Forty-three churches.”
Xander sighed. “And some of the lowest property values in southern California. Some people just don't appreciate a good demon-infested town.”
Cordy sniffed. “Which means hardly any decent shopping, but no one worries about my pain, do they?”
Xander smirked at her. “Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot, we must all bow before Queen C and do her bidding.”
She grinned back. “At last, you're learning!”
Giles mock-glared. “Children, if you're quite finished...” He gestured across the street, and I saw the cemetery, full of crypts and tombstones. “Now, Faith, concentrate. There is a sensation which will tell you if vampires are near, something Buffy called a 'gut feeling'. It should guide-”
He broke off because I was already heading in and to the left. I called over my shoulder. “I think there's a couple this way.” The whole pack of them followed, but I half tuned them out, realizing I could hear the voices of the vamps from around the next mausoleum. I walked confidently around it, and stopped in shock. These things were wicked ugly! “Damn, ya didn't warn me about the creepy faces!”
They turned, and the taller one grinned, a wicked unsettling look. “Well, never mind. Dinner just delivered itself!” He lunged for me, and I ducked under his arm and slammed my elbow into his face instinctively. He staggered back, and I heard Paige cursing under her breath behind me. There were sounds of another struggle, and I turned to see Giles, Xan, and Oz fighting the shorter vamp. While I was distracted, the tall vamp tackled me from the side, and I gave a flip, managing to land on top of him. I punched him in the head several times, then remembered my stake, and brought it down into his chest. He turned to a cloud of dust with a very satisfying 'poof', and though I was coughing as I stood, I was grinning like a jack-o-lantern, too.