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Meeting Halfway

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Summary: When Faith stops in Colorado Springs while fleeing Kakistos, the entire BtVS universe gets turned on its head. AU and crossover both increase as the story progresses. Some B/F, but I'll let the characters decide if they'll actually end up there.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Stargate > Faith-CenteredMethermeneusFR15220,53312325,3613 Oct 1318 Nov 13No

Short Skirt, Long Jacket

Meeting Halfway

A Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Stargate: SG-1 crosover fanfic

by Μεθερμήνευς

 

Chapter 1

While I wrote the words you’re reading now, I don’t own the settings of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, nor Stargate: SG-1, nor any of the characters nor fantasy/sci-fi concepts introduced therein. Nor, quite frankly, would I want to own a fair amount of it; as an historian and linguist, both shows sometimes make me want to bash my head open with a rock. No, that’s all on Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy’s and Roland Emmerich/Wright & Glassner/several production companies’ heads.

The timeline for these match up very well, due in part to early BtVS and Stargate attempting a real-time timeline. For Buffy, this takes place between S03E02 Anne and S03E03 Faith, Hope & Trick, although it probably essentially replaces the latter episode for the most part. For Stargate, these events follow S02E01 The Serpent’s Lair (not that there’s really enough Stargate in this chapter for that to matter much). Sorry if some characters seem OOC, but, as you should see towards the end, that’s actually somewhat intentional. I know the Stargate characters are a bit thin here, but they’ll show up more later, I promise. Oh, and the Buffy/Faith thing is kinda in the back of my head, but not a guarantee; I’ll let the characters decide.

Harry Hooper: most career stolen bases while on the Boston Red Sox. A bit before Faith’s time, and she’s never shown an interest in baseball in canon, but she’s a Bostonian; I imagine she could pick up that sort of thing.

No idea how accurate my depiction of Cheyenne Mountain’s security and structure is. I’m guessing not very.

2013-10-12: Minor Edit In watching Stargate: SG1 season 2, I realized Carter hadn't been promoted yet. Changed all instances of "Major [Samantha] Carter" to "Captain [Samantha] Carter.



“She’s waking up, Sir.” Faith groaned and grabbed her head in a vain attempt to stop the pounding. She felt a slight resistance and heard a snap as her hand rose, but ignored that in favor of her massive hangover. “Holy shit!” She wished that whoever was talking would shut up long enough for her to concentrate. When was the last time she had felt safe enough to get drunk, and why had she done so last night?

Her eyes shot open as she remembered what had actually happened last night. She rolled off the bed, snapped the rest of her restraints, and flipped the bed over to serve as some sort of cover against the source of the voice in the process. At a glance, she took in the room, which looked like a high-tech prison, or maybe a nuthouse fancier than Belmont had been, given the hospital bed equipped with restraints. Her mind tried to backtrack over the events of last night, but aside from a successful slaying of a couple of fledglings, she came up blank. She must have been ambushed after that; perhaps they had been a trap of some kind? Not by Kakistos himself—he would never stoop to using such a high-tech facility—but that lackey of his, Mr. Trick, would have loved to stick her here. The shocked voice must be fledglings unfamiliar with the Slayer’s strength.

“Please calm down, ma’am.” This voice was calmer, played on a speaker rather than heard through the walls. She assumed her captors must have some way to hear her if they could speak to her.

“How’s about you tell me where the fuck I am and why, and I’ll calm the fuck down if that seems like the right response!” Faith yelled in the general direction of the speaker.

“Sounds pretty sane to me,” a new voice said through the wall.

The speaker said, “You are in an isolation holding cell in a United States Air Force base located under Cheyenne Mountain. You are here because a group of airmen witnessed you apparently disintigrating a pair of humans and, knowing such odd events to fall within our purview, they detained you and brought you here. I don’t supose you have any explanation for what these men witnessed?”

“I don’t suppose you've got any explanation for why I don’t remember being ‘detained?’” Faith shot back. She was fairly certain she shouldn’t give away any info to a military organization that could get the jump on a Slayer without at least finding out how they’d done it.

“They used an experimental non-lethal weapon to render you unconscious from a distance,” the voice said. “What did you do to those men?”

They seemed to be betting on an information exchange. All right, she could play along for now. “They weren't men, G. I. Joe, and that’s all you need to know. As for me, aren’t there laws against detaining citizens without charging them or something?”

“G. I. Joe is Army; I already told you we’re Air Force.” The voice was laced with laughter. “As to your question, however, we’re allowed to hold you for two days without charging you, and we’re still well within that time limit, but I’m sure we can come up with something by then. Assuming, of course, that you actually are a citizen of the United States, for which we have only your word. You haven’t even told us your name, and you weren't carrying any ID on you.”

She thought for a moment, then said, “Well, I’m pretty sure my ID’s fried, and since I don’t feel like answering any more questions, that’s as far as we’re going, I guess.”

“Please, Miss, if you are truly a citizen of the United States, then we really do want to help. If you’re in some kind of trouble, if the men you attacked truly weren’t men, and if someone did something to you to make you as strong as you are, we need to know so that we can do something about it.”

“Trust me, it’s all stuff people are taking care of, and it’s all stuff you can’t handle. I don’t care if you’re the people who killed Kennedy and did the alien autopsy; this is over your head.” This argument might take a while, but Faith thought she remembered something about NORAD being under Cheyenne Mountain. That kind of secure facility might just be able to keep her safe when Kakistos came a-calling.



“She remains consistent and adamant, Sir,” Colonel Jack O’Neill reported to his superior, Major General George Hammond, commander in chief of Stargate Command. “We’re not up to it, it’s not our jurisdiction, someone else is taking care of it, and she has absolutely no proof.”

“Has anyone considered that she might be telling the truth?” Daniel Jackson asked.

“It’s unlikely, considering that she won’t give us any credentials or even a last name,” Jack’s second-in-command, Captain Samantha Carter pointed out. “Heck, it was like pulling teeth to get a first name, and we have no reason to believe she was even telling the truth about that.”

“Nor do we have any reason to believe that she wasn’t,” Hammond said. “I don’t know how much else we can trust, but we can call the prisoner ‘Faith’ for now.”

“Whatever else she is, she is a warrior. Her reaction time upon waking was excellent, and her instinct to find or create cover was a good one.” Jack nodded at Teal’c’s input and was just about to comment himself when the room’s intercom buzzed.

“Front gate paging Colonel Jack O’Neill?”

The members of SG1 glanced at each other in confusion. Jack had few friends outside of the base, even fewer in the area, and very little military business outside of his team at the moment. “Who the hell needs me at the front gate?” he asked rhetorically, picking up the room’s phone to dial back. He repeated the question only slightly more politely.

“Colonel, there’s a woman here to see you, a Miss Elizabeth Frost. She says she doesn’t have an appointment, but you’ll want to see her anyway.”

“Oh, does she, now? Isn’t it part of your job to screen the crazies?”

“It is, sir. She says she’s here to speak to you about a detainee named ‘Faith Lehane,’ and that you’d know who she was talking about.”

Jack was silent for a moment, then said, “Have her brought to the SGC briefing room. That definitely sounds like someone I need to talk to.” He hung up and turned back to the rest of the room. “Well, it sounds like Miss Faith Lehane has either a lawyer or a superior, and possibly like we have some sort of leak. Anyone care to guess where that leak might be?”

“Given the timeframe, I can’t imagine what leak could possibly have gotten out that quickly,” Carter protested.

“Well, how else did Miss Frost find out we had her client or whatever? There’s a reason I wanted her brought to this level; we’ve got questions we need answered, and we’ve apparently got someone to answer them.”

The team waited for a tense few minutes for the mysterious Miss Frost to arrive. When she did, she did so in style, in a designer suit, three-inch heels, her dirty blonde hair in a no-nonsense bun. Jack found the song Short Skirt, Long Jacket running through his head.

“Miss Frost, I presume?” he asked, shutting the door behind her and leading her to the conference table.

“Elizabeth Frost, IWC,” she responded with a smile and a firm handshake. “And you must be Colonel O’Neill?”

“I must be. This is my CO, Major General Hammond.” Elizabeth shook the general’s hand cordially. “My second, Captain Samantha Carter, and the team consultants, Dr. Daniel Jackson, and T. Murray.” Teal’c had put on a hat after Miss Frost was announced to hide the golden brand on his forehead; Murray was the name the team tended to use for him when he had to interact with humans unaware of the existence of the alien Jaffa.

Miss Frost nodded at each of the team members in turn, but frowned for a moment at Teal’c. “What’s under the hat? No wonder you thought this was your jurisdiction, with a non-human consultant on your project.”

The tense mood around the table racheted up several notches. “And what makes you think Murray isn’t human, Miss Frost?”

“Well, General, I work with non-human sentients a fair amount in service to IWC. If the specific type of non-human is classified, that’s fine; I have no idea what he actually is. Just like you have no idea what Faith is or what she fights.” She sat down, setting her briefcase on the table, but not opening it. “In point of fact, Faith is human, and what she fights is not. That much should put you and us on the same side. I have a number of other arguments if you’d like to hear them, of course.”

“Humans don’t generally break chain restraints with their bare hands,” Jack pointed out.

“Well, Faith is a particularly special human. There’s only one other like her in the entire world. In fact, the IWC was created specifically to find, train, and support the people with that special talent that enables them to protect humanity from its predators. Make no mistake, we don’t make people like Faith. No one is entirely certain what does. Nevertheless, there is always one in the world, and the IWC takes care of them.”

Captain Carter frowned. “What do you mean ‘No one is entirely certain?’ It sounds like a rare genetic condition to me.”

“The potential is genetic,” Miss Frost agreed. “The actual abilities aren’t. It’s not epigenetics either; I had someone try to explain how those work and why this can’t be that once, but I don’t really remember it that well. The main reason it isn’t anything we can explain by traditional means is that what causes someone to be Chosen is the death of the previous Chosen One. It doesn’t matter whether the potential and their predecessor are right next to each other or thousands of miles apart; it still happens, and close enough to the death of the predecessor as to be, for all intents and purposes, instantaneous.

“But that’s about as much information as I can give you on that subject, and you still haven’t heard any of my arguments yet.”

“That we haven’t,” the general said, gesturing for her to go on.

“Well, first of all, I could point out that if you ask up your chain of command, you will eventually find someone who knows who the IWC is and therefore what Faith must be, and that person will tell you to let both of us go and assist us in any way you can while asking as few questions as possible… But, I think that would take too long.”

“Both of you?” Jackson asked, confused.

“You’re a civilian consultant, so I suppose it didn’t occur to you like it did to the top-secret military types that I must have found out Faith was here somehow, and no legitimate communications were opened. I’ll tell you all now that no one in this facility leaked the information to me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have leaks; frankly, I don’t know. I’m sure that won’t keep you from wanting to hold me for a while anyway.” O’Neill grinned sheepishly. He was starting to respect this woman, who knew exactly what she was getting into, yet did it anyway.

“Anyway,” Elizabeth continued, opening up her briefcase and pulling a card out, “I could also point out that you might not want to deal with the fallout of detaining a minor. Faith is only sixteen.”

Jack took the profferred card. It was a Massachusetts driver’s license for one Faith Lehane. The photo was definitely of the girl in the holding cell, and her birthdate was, indeed, only sixteen years past. “We managed to salvage the license from the wreckage of her home. Unfortunately, we didn’t find her birth certificate, and it takes a little while to access hospital records. It’s probably better if Faith is the one to retrieve that anyway, but we were having trouble tracking her the last few months.”

“And why were you tracking her, exactly?” Captain Carter asked, handing the card back after having examined it herself. “And what happened to her house?”

“Ah, that’s the argument I hope will hold the most weight. You’re familiar with nonhumans,” Miss Frost said with a nod towards Teal’c. “I assume you’re also familiar with fighting nonhumans.” This time, it was Teal’c who nodded. “So, can I assume that you’re familiar with the idea that what works on a human does not work on a nonhuman? And that what works for one nonhuman does not work for another?” Reluctant nods circled the table; it seemed that any pretense of pretending that aliens did not exist had flown out the window. “The nonhumans we fight are not the nonhumans you fight. I don’t know precisely what you do fight, but I assume it’s aliens or extradimensional entities or something. What we fight is entirely terrestrial in origin. Sound different enough from what you fight?

“Faith is one of only two Chosen in the entire world. She is chosen by whatever power it is that chooses such things to fight the monsters that have plagued humanity since the dawn of time. She knows how, and she’s equipped to take care of it; you don’t, and you aren’t. Simple as that. And a very powerful one of these creatures attacked her at home, killed her foster mother, and has been chasing her across the country ever since. He’s coming, and he is not someone you should fuck with, and he’s not someone you know how to deal with.”

Silence followed her proclamation until Jack scoffed. “So, what, some supernatural entity is coming, it’s going to kick all our asses, and the girl you say has been running from him for months is going to take him out instead?”

“Yes,” Miss Frost replied. “Make no mistake, Kakistos is a being worth fearing, and one Faith can’t beat in a stand-up fight. I’ve seen similarly powerful beings defeat and even kill even a Chosen One. Part of my job is to make sure she doesn’t have to fight him that way.”

“Ignoring the fact that you’re sending a minor into battle when you already tried to play that card against us, I have to wonder, given Faith’s age, how old people are generally chosen… and how long they tend to live.”

“A valid and depressing question, Dr. Jackson. In my defense, I’m not sending Faith into battle. She seeks it out, and trying to prevent it would only drive her stir-crazy. If I had my way, only experienced soldiers who already know what they’re sacrificing would be chosen. Unfortunately, like I said, we don’t know what chooses or how. We do know that it tends to choose adolescents, and that the average lifespan once called is six months.” She paused for the outrage anyone could have predicted to die down. “The IWC tries to keep that average up. Obviously, no one wants them to die. Even without compassion, the practical truth is that more experience can only make them more efficient at their jobs.

“Speaking of which, that job is coming for Faith, whether you or she or I like it or not, and she needs to be prepared. I will not let her die if I can help it, and I’d really rather we didn’t risk Kakistos trying to force his way into the mountain to deal with that.”

General Hammond stood up and said, “You’ve given us a lot to think about, Miss Frost. I think we need to discuss this amongst ourselves before we come to a course of action. Would you care to wait in the anteroom, or perhaps visit the cafeteria while we deliberate?”

“I’d like to speak with Faith if I could, actually. I want to make sure she’s all right.”

Hammond nodded and gestured to Teal’c to escort her. “Mostly all right, although I considered it too much of a risk to send any of my men into her room after what she did to the bed, so she may still be wearing the restraints as bracelets.”

“I’d look into the company providing your restraints,” Miss Frost said. “I know for a fact that it’s not hard to get restraints heavy enough to hold someone like her. Leverage is important, of course, but I’ve seen a Chosen One have to be rescued rather than break out before.”



Teal’c led ElizabethFrost to the security room from which the warrior he now knew as Faith Lehane was being observed. The monitors showed that she had relaxed somewhat, but was still most definitely on guard, the bed still propped up between herself and the door. Now that he had some reference for her age, he could see that she was, indeed, young, and he gave whoever had trained her a mental nod of approval. He was just about to give the operators of the security station permission to transmit ElizabethFrost’s voice when the woman called out, “Faith, how are you doing?”

“FaithLehane cannot hear us, ElizabethFrost. She is separated from us by a hallway and a pair of stone walls.”

“She can hear us just fine, Mr. Murray. Can’t you, Faith?”

“Yeah, I can hear you,” came the startling reply from the speakers connected to the cell. “I’m just five by five. Yannow, except for the whole imprisoned by the government thing.”

“That shouldn’t last much longer,” ElizabethFrost replied. “I’m here to get you out. I’m pretty sure these are actually the good guys, and they’ll let you go once they know how much the world needs you.”

“The world needs me? That’s rich. I’m the spare. I couldn’t even-” FaithLehane broke off, and even on the grainy security camera Teal’c could see the grief and guilt in her face.

“The council may think you’re a spare, Faith, but they’re mostly a bunch of old guys who don’t know what it’s like to be out in the trenches. The ones who do don’t think you’re a spare. Diana didn’t, did she?”

FaithLehane shuddered and hugged herself. “Diana’s dead, didn’t you hear? I couldn’t fight him, couldn’t do anything but run. And you want me to face that?”

A sad expression passed over ElizabethFrost’s face. “No, Faith, I don’t. But you have to anyway. You need to get back on the horse and show that you can-”

“Can what, get myself killed? He’s too strong! Let Miss California do it. I keep hearing how awesome she is, how many monsters she’s saved the world from!” Teal’c raised his eyebrow. He somehow doubted that FaithLehane was speaking of the contestant in the “beauty pageant” O’Neill had shown him.

“How much do you know about your counterpart, Faith?”

“The other girl? Not much except how great she is.”

“I think Diana may have been trying to encourage you by telling you stories about her,” ElizabethFrost said after a moment. “She’s far from perfect, let me tell you. But most of the Council would rather she get on with dying so they can get a more traditional replacement, and that has a lot more to do with her personality than her failures. That personality is probably what Diana wanted you to pay attention to.”

“What are you talking about?”

“‘The other girl,’” ElizabethFrost continued with a wry smile, “is a spoiled brat. She does things her own way, and sometimes it keeps her alive because she does things no one expects, but sometimes it just gets people killed. She’s great at saving the day in the nick of time, but it’s often her fault that it must be saved in the nick of time, rather than in a timely fashion. Believe me, you’re needed as much more than a spare.” She paused again, then started pacing the security room. “She also killed the Master, who was more powerful than Kakistos is. Do you know how?” FaithLehane shook her head, and ElizabethFrost either saw it on the monitor or plowed ahead without waiting for a response. “She had a plan, and she had backup. Beings like Kakistos and the Master, you don’t face them head-on, but that doesn’t mean you can’t beat them. You didn’t have time to plan: First you knew about him was when he captured you and Diana, right?” This time, she spun to watch the monitor and saw FaithLehane’s nod. “Diana died to give you time,” she said, softly enough that Teal’c was uncertain FaithLehane would hear in spite of her apparently superior senses. “You’ve had the time. You needed to run away for a bit; that’s fine. The other girl did that, too. But then she got off her pansy ass and killed the Master. Are you gonna let her be better than you, or are you going to make your own legend and prove that she’s the spare?”

FaithLehane straightened and said, “Ain’t no one better’n me when it comes to dustin’ vamps.”.

“That’s what I thought.”

“You said the other s- girl had backup, though. What kinda backup I got? Seems to me we oughta keep these Air Force guys out of it.”.

ElizabethFrost grinned not at the monitor, but at the wall beyond which FaithLehane stood, and it was a grin he recognized, for he had seen it on the face of Anubis when he had a new Tau’ri to torture. “You’ve got me.”



“Super strong, super hearing, but she’s supposed to be human? And a minor, but we’re supposed to sit back while she fights something that’s apparently beyond our ability to fight? I don’t like it at all.” Colonel O’Neill shook his head. Captain Carter sympathized; she couldn’t think of any reason for Faith’s abilities, and, worse, neither could Janet, who was adamant that the girl’s DNA was completely human, and her blood free of any strange viruses or substances. She wasn’t too keen on sending a kid out to fight, either, but knowing the Colonel’s past, it had to be worse for him.

It might have been easier if the General’s inquiries up the chain of command had borne fruit, but so far no one had any information on an organization called “IWC,” and knowing from Miss Frost’s conversation with Faith that the C probably stood for “council” was neither timely nor particularly helpful. Knowing what s-word Faith had almost said might have helped, but neither the girl nor her agency’s representative seemed to want to give out any more information than they had already let slip.

“Apparently whatever those airmen saw her do was intentional. You heard what she said about ‘dusting vamps?’ I assume ‘vamps’ refers to whatever nonhuman threat Miss Frost claims to face, and dusting seems… obvious.” Sam frowned. “Of course, we only have their word that whatever they are ‘dusting’ is nonhuman, and we have no idea how they do it.”

“They turn to dust when they die.” Sam barely managed not to jump in her seat; she had not heard Miss Frost reenter the room. Daniel had not managed to hide his reaction, and she couldn’t tell whether Jack and Teal’c had managed to control themselves or were not actually taken by surprise. “Simple as that. Dusting in this case just means killing. As to how… Well, I haven’t seen much yet that beheading won’t take care of, although there’s plenty of times that’s kinda difficult to pull off. Faith probably impaled the ones you saw, but a normal human doesn’t have the strength to do that easily; their breastplate is at least as strong as a human’s. I’ve seen normal humans do it, but they generally have to be really good to get a chance, and more than a couple in one night is the kinda workout Marines use for punishment.”

“And ‘vamps?’” General Hammond asked.

Miss Frost shrugged. “Nickname for the particular monster in question. Look human, drink blood, dislike sunlight, draw your own conclusions.”

“Miss Frost, are you suggesting that you kill vampires?” Daniel asked skeptically.

“Like I said, draw your own conclusions. All I know is, they prey on humanity, bullets don’t kill them, and Faith does. And frankly, she needs to kill this particular one if it’s not going to scar her for life. More, anyway.”

“All six months of it,” the colonel spat.

Frost just raised an eyebrow and said, “Like I told you before, part of my job is to increase that number. No one will be happier than me if Faith manages to die of old age in her own bed. Except of course for Faith herself.”

“You mentioned another girl,” Sam said. “Why can’t she do this?”

“Leaving aside the matter of Faith’s self worth? Oh, any number of reasons. For one thing, I don’t think you’d like putting her in the line of fire any better: She’s only a year older than Faith, and not as street smart. She also wouldn’t have the backup she’s used to having here, is needed where she is, lives a thousand miles away, and, well, you obviously heard what I told Faith about her.” She shrugged again. “I may not be part of the faction that wants her to die to make way for a better replacement, but that doesn’t mean I like her. Quite the opposite, actually, and if she weren’t needed I would retire her in a heartbeat for someone more competent.”

“Someone like Miss Lehane.” There was no mistaking the hostility in the colonel’s tone.

“Most of the Council would disagree, but, yes, I think someone like Faith is exactly what the world needs. Someone who knows what she’s doing and doesn’t take shit from the REMFs. So far, it seems to be an either/or proposition.” She was about to say something else when an alarm sounded. “What the hell-”

General Hammond reacted immediately, grabbing the phone from behind his position at the head of the conference table. Sam turned to the general as his face turned grave. He thanked the person on the other end, then gently replaced the handset in its cradle and turned to address his primary away team. “There is a state of emergency in Colorado Springs. Apparently, a large group of persons unknown has attacked the populace at large. Reports are vague, but include mentions of inhuman strength, and humanoid beings that appear to be wearing frightening masks similar to Star Trek aliens. The base is in lockdown with the exception of a team we will send to- Where is Miss Frost?” There was no mistaking the surprise on anyone’s face this time, not even Teal’c’s. Elizabeth Frost was gone.



Faith had been pacing restlessly when an alarm klaxon began to blare. Uncertain what it could mean except “something not good,” she resumed her semi-fortified position behind the bed. A minute or so later, she heard a slight scuffle outside the door, and then Elizabeth Frost’s voice, louder than before, obviously just on the other side of the door: “We’re out of time, Faith! Time to bust outta here.”

“Bust out how, exactly? You got the keys?”

“Electronic lock, I saw it in the security room. The door’s only a couple inches thick, though.”

Faith grimaced and stalked towards the door. “You really think that’s thin enough?”

“Barely, but yeah. Don’t use your hands; you’ll split your skin.”

Faith nodded, deciding that a shoulder would probably work better than a foot in this case. She backed up, lowered one shoulder, and took a short sprint at the door. The first impact, she nearly saw stars, but she felt something give and hoped it wasn’t her shoulder. The second, the door was visibly bowed in the middle, and she decided that it didn’t really matter which shoulder she used for the third because they were both equally bruised. Bruised or not, the third charge bent the door and its locking bar enough to shove it out into the hallway with a screech of metal on stone. A simple push was enough to finish the job, although the screeching was louder and shriller, making her wish she had used a foot so her hands would be free to cover her ears.

Standing in the hallway and nodding in approval was a blonde in a business suit, holding a briefcase, and with a pair of guards unconscious at her feet, tied together by their own rifle straps. “Let’s get going,” the blonde said in Elizabeth Frost’s voice.

“What’s going on, exactly?“ Faith asked as they ran down the hall.

“What sounds like a large-scale vampire attack in Colorado Springs—the town at the foot of the mountain.” Faith was impressed that Lizzie could run and talk at the same time, in heels no less. She must be one of those field Watchers Diana had mentioned: basically, spec-ops agents working for the Council. “Since vamps don’t usually attack on that kind of scale without someone powerful keeping them in line, probably Kakistos and his maenads, either trying to draw you out or just attacking out of frustration. They probably wouldn’t do too well attacking the mountain, if they can even figure out that’s where you are.”

“So, we’re really doing it? We’re really gonna take Kakistos down?”

They were interrupted by the appearance of a large black man coming around a corner and standing in the middle of the corridor to block them. Faith could tell at a glance that he wasn’t human, but Lizzie said, “Good guy. Go high,” so she leaped up, kicking off the wall near the ceiling to flip over the big guy’s head. Lizzie did a slide that would make Harry Hooper proud, which she turned into a somersault that brought her back to her feet once past the obstacle. Apparently unprepared for their speed and split routine, he managed to get a hold of neither woman, and blondie led the rest of the way to the elevators, replying to Faith’s earlier question as they ran.“Sorta. I’m gonna bust in start kicking ass while you sneak around back. When Kakistos shows up, you’ve got him. Use something big, maybe a two-by-four; with something that old and powerful, a simple stake won’t cut it.”

Faith charged a couple of guys with stripes on their shoulders guarding the elevators, putting them down before they could get off a shot or call in on their radios. “Great plan. So, whaddawe do when you get your ass killed?”

“Open the doors; we’re not taking the elevator.” Lizzie pulled one of the guards’ belts off and used it to strap on her briefcase while the Slayer pried the door open. “I probably won’t get killed, but even if I do, I should provide enough distraction for you to sneak up behind Kakistos, which is the main point: He has to die. A group of field Watchers can probably take down his organization, or you can do it on your own, if he’s not there to lead it. Going up.” Lizzie took a flying leap, catching a cable for one of the elvators whose car was a few floors down. After she’d climbed up a bit, Faith followed, letting the doors slam shut behind her.

“Still not much of a plan.”

“Gimme a break, I’ve had all of five minutes to make it up,” Lizzie called back down.

Faith looked up and wolf-whistled. “Business outside, party underneath! I’ve got your distraction right here, Miss G-string!”

“I can so kick you in the face from here!” Faith just grinned and amused herself with the view up her rescuer’s skirt as they climbed. She couldn’t help but notice that they skipped all the elevator doors, including the topmost ones, though, and the non-Slayer’s arms had to be getting tired.

“Where’re we going, exactly?”

“The base is in lockdown, which I imagine means it’s hard to get out the front door. Air ducts aren’t actually usually big enough or strong enough for a person to climb through, but a facility this big has to have some massive intake ducts, and I think they’d probably just hook them directly to the elevator shafts for convenience. Probably a bitch to get in, but shouldn’t be too hard to get out.”

Getting out wasn’t exactly a piece of cake, and even Faith winced at the probable pricetag of all the filtration equipment she smashed along the way, but the few guards they encountered were obviously in place to keep people out, and it was easy as pie to sneak up on them. Once outside, Faith took a moment to breathe, not having realized until she had the mountaintop air available just how stuffy it was under hundreds of feet of rock. While she enjoyed her freedom, Lizzie unstrapped her briefcase and opened it to reveal something more useful than a bunch of legal documents: She buckled a pair of machetes over her own shoulders and passed Faith a belt with loops in which she could hold a number of stakes, also conveniently held in the case. “Wow, you’re a regular Boy Scout, aincha?”

“Never got past Brownies,” was Lizzie’s flippant reply. “Otherwise I’d’ve brought a broadsword and a couple of crossbows.”

“So, now what?”

Lizzie looked around, eventually pointing in a direction where what little light pollution there was in the Rockies seemed a little more obvious. “We run. That way… I think.”

“You think?”

“I told you, I’m not a Boy Scout. I can’t read a map if it’s not all roads with names, and I didn’t even think to bring one, or a compass. Looks more like a city that way. I hope that’s enough.”

Faith shrugged. “Better’n anything I’ve got.”

With that, the two began running through the woods. Faith was even more impressed that blondie seemed able to keep up with her through the woods, but suddenly realized when they passed a deer running away from them that the woods weren’t slowing her down enough to explain the other woman’s ability to keep up with her. She abruptly stopped, pulling a stake and crouching into a defensive position.

“What the hell, Faith?” Lizzie had stopped just as suddenly, but she didn’t react to Faith’s defensive posture.

“What the hell are you?”

Lizzie smiled tiredly. “On your side, which should be good enough for now. We’ve got a vamp to kill, and I’m not trying to fight you. You wanna wait here for me to ambush you for a couple minutes, that’s great. Gives me more time to pull the vamps so you can sneak up behind them.” Lizzie abruptly turned her back on Faith and continued her mad dash through the forest.

Faith stood nonplussed for a moment before cursing and continuing her chase.



Lizzie had apparently been holding back a bit when she kept pace with Faith because she seemed to have gotten to town several minutes before Faith. There were a few corpses here and there, probably a result of the time it took for word to reach the base, and then for the two women to climb out and then race down the mountain, but the vamps were apparently far more interested in the whirlwind of death in their midst than the easy pickings of an unprotected town now. As far as Faith could tell, the vamps had scattered a little on the streets, and she took the time on her way to downtown to pick off a few stragglers, but had congregated mostly around a bar/pub/tavern/restaurant thing with multiple floors, which meant a lot of victims in an enclosed area. When she got there, Lizzie was plowing a squad of vamps, beheading some, impaling others on improvised stakes made from pieces of chairs and tables, and occasionally grabbing a startled patron/victim and hurling them towards the door. Faith was as sneaky as a brash in-your-face kid from the streets could be, coming in through the kitchen and making sure no one alerted the big boss to her presence by the simple expedient of staking all the vamps she encountered.

For her, it was remarkably stealthy. It also seemed to be enough, as all of the vamps in the place were concentrating on the dervish of death near the entrance, including the big ugly motherfucker leaning against the railing on the second floor landing.

Kakistos.

Faith almost ran away. Then she almost ran at him. The two instincts warred within her, fear against rage, self-preservation against revenge. She ducked down so that she couldn’t see through the window in the kitchen door, squeezed her eyes shut, and breathed, great gasping sobs that she slowly turned into deep, calming breaths. She had to do this. Had to stop him. For herself. For Diana. Slowly, she pulled herself to her feet, braced herself against the instinctive fear of the monstrous visage upstairs, and started to push through the doors. Lizzie happened to be facing her as she started through and shook her head wildly, hurling a vamp through the kitchen doors to underline the point. Faith caught the former businesswoman on a stake and backed off. Point received: Don’t come in yet. She wondered when she should come in, since they never really came up with a plan beyond “Sneak up behind Kakistos while he’s distracted.”

Then Kakistos decided to stop watching.

In an instant, the monstrous vampire had leaped from his lounging position upstairs to slam into the tiny blonde who had been fucking up his minions. “Thank you for the entertainment,” he growled, “but I’m waiting for a different Slayer, and I don’t think she’ll come if you kill all my minions.”

Give Lizzie some credit, she managed to kick her way out of Kakistos’ grasp, though she was left choking and rubbing her throat for a moment. “What other Slayer?” she asked, her face somehow simultaneously filled with righteous wrath and innocent ignorance. “Doesn’t the spiel say, ‘Into every generation a girl is born, a chosen one?’ If you want another Slayer, you’re gonna have to kill me to get one.”

Faith had no problem holding herself back now, confusion holding her in place. The other Slayer? The girl from California? Sure, it explained the way she’d kept up with Faith on the climb up the elevator shaft and the run down the mountain, but how’d she get into the mountain in the first place? And what was with her badmouthing the other Slayer? Was that a deception, or was she some sort of other demon or warrior, going with the flow now to distract Kakistos?

Kakistos snarled and struck at the girl again, hurling her through several of the surviving tables. She staggered to her feet and prepared a defensive stance, which the ancient vampire blew straight through, smashing her into the ground. “Don’t play games with me, girl. Do you have any idea how many Slayers I’ve eaten? I know there are two Slayers now. The reason doesn’t matter; it just means I get to kill two of you in that much less time. Lie down and die so I can get back to killing the other.”

Faith started forward again, but Lizzie managed to look at her past Kakistos and shake her head again. When the hell was she supposed to move, then? Did Lizzie want her to wait till she died?

Lizzie stumbled to her feet again, and managed to dodge Kakistos’ next blow, taking advantage of his unexpected miss to kick him back into the stairs. The battle raged, slowly destroying the room. Lizzie managed to hold her own somewhat, and it was clearly frustrating Kakistos, but she was also clearly, if slowly, losing. For every hit she got in, he got two, and while she had to fight through his attacks, he shrugged off hers in an instant. Faith slowly crept out of the kitchen again, this time apparently unnoticed by Lizzie, who had no concentration to spare from fighting for her life. Other vampires had slowly filled the edges of the room, mesmerized by the battle raging between two of the most powerful beings most of them had ever seen, also too focused on the battle to notice Faith creeping around the edges of the room, looking for anything she could use to turn the tide in Lizzie’s favor. Whatever she was—Slayer, demon, vampire—she was clearly not on Kakistos’ side, and she had busted Faith out of a secure government facility, so they were on the same side at the moment.

Her slow, creeping circuit of the room had brought her near the stairs, and she noticed that the bannister had cracked when one or the other of the combatants had been flung into it. She remembered Lizzie saying something about a two-by-four; well, this looked more like three-by-three, but it was still a lot bigger than a stake, cracked into a fairly sharp end, and about six feet long. She quietly scooped up her makeshift spear and waited for an opportunity.

Her opportunity came, unfortunately enough, with Lizzie’s final fall. One of the strongest vampires in history had been whaling on her for nearly ten minutes now, and she was bruised, bloodied, and thoroughly smashed into the floor. For the last couple of minutes, they had not even been fighting, really, so much as Kakistos had been roaring, beating her in frustration at her earlier successes in the fight. Faith hoped she wasn’t too late for Lizzie, but at least Kakistos was thoroughly distracted. She felt kinda like she should make some sort of quip, but this monster was far too fast and powerful to give any kind of warning; instead, she braced the fragment of bannister against her side and charged his back, targeting just below and to the right of his left shoulder.

It almost didn’t work. Even distracted by his demonic rage, even with Faith sneaking up behind him, he heard her and began to turn. Instead of impacting his back, Faith impaled him through the armpit, and she felt the impact in a way she never did with the relatively fragile bodies of younger vampires. She kept charging, screaming incoherently at the monster that had ruined what little life she had managed to build in Boston, had come so close to killing her, had killed the one person in the world who gave a damn about her. Her rage was probably the only thing that brought her success, as she kept charging even past the impact, carrying herself and Kakistos over Lizzie and through the front wall of the restaurant, impact with the wall shoving the oversized stake a bit deeper.

Just deep enough.

Kakistos survived just long enough to recognize his killer, just long enough for surprise and recognition to flash past his eyes before he began to crumble. Just long enough for Faith to know it had been worth it. Even if Lizzie had done the majority of the work, the final blow had been struck by the one the ancient vampire had wronged, and moreover, he knew it.

It wasn’t as fast as it usually was, an instantaneous puff of dust: The powerful ancient demon within Kakistos held on frantically, holding the body together even as it lost its grip on the world. Was this what Lizzie had meant when she said it would take more than a stake? Perhaps his body could have held together long enough to remove a fragment of wood; a chunk of bannister, however, had practically shredded his heart with the myriad splinters that formed its end, rather than simply pierced it, and, as the tip dipped under his weight, his inhuman features faded to grey and began to flake, then crumble. By the time the tip of the bannister struck the pavement outside—the force of a Slayer’s charge crushing through the pavement, stopping her short, and causing an impromptu and rather graceless pole vault—the driving force behind her nightmares ever since Faith had left Boston was nothing more than a vaguely human-shaped pile of dust.

The shock of Kakistos’ death had frozen Slayer and vampire alike, but Faith managed to move first, knowing that the battle was only half-won. She rushed back into the restaurant, pulling a stake from her belt and sweeping one of Lizzie’s dropped machetes from the floor and stood over her downed ally, daring the vampires within to attack. “Anyone else wanna tango?” she shouted. A few particularly power-hungry and/or stupid vampires obliged, wanting either to make a name for themselves by killing Kakistos’ killer or take advantage of Lizzie while she was down and out, but the rest scattered while Faith culled the vampiric equivalent to a gene pool.

Just like that, it was over: Kakistos dust, his followers scattered. A few brave souls had begun to creep out of their houses, but Faith, seeing them through the holes in the restaurant shouted out, “Stay inside! Just ’cause the boss is gone doesn’t mean the danger’s over!” Satisfied that she’d done what she could for the locals, Faith crouched over Lizzie and said, “Think you can get up?”

“Just gimme a minute to catch my breath,” she gasped. “Bastard hit harder than Angelus. Faster, too. Got more hits in.”

Faith nodded, then reached out to help the blonde to her feet when she began to struggle out of the hole in the floor Kakistos had beaten her into. Together, they stumbled out into the street, apparently helpless, but offhandedly killing an occasional vampire who seemed to think they weren’t keeping an eye out for trouble. They made it into a diner that had fared somewhat better than the restaurant in which the battle had taken place just as dawn began to brighten the sky, penning any remaining vampires inside their hidey-holes until night fell once again. The nervous staff slowly came out of the woodwork and were happy enough to return to some semblance of normalcy as Lizzie tiredly, but politely, ordered two of the largest breakfast combos on the menu for each of them.

Faith was working her way through a stack of pancakes, while Lizzie had opted to switch to a Belgian waffle, when the Air Force guys came in.

A more general force had come down the mountain earlier and was working on keeping order, but a small team with weird weapons, and including the big guy she and Lizzie had dodged on the way out, actually came into the diner. They paused a moment in surprise, which Faith supposed was understandable given the complete wreck Lizzie presented, but after a couple of minutes, the older dude with an eagle on his lapel shook his head, holstered his sci-fi gun, and sat down at their booth, calling for coffee and steak and eggs, over easy, in a voice she recognized from her first conversation under the mountain. The woman and the guy with the glasses looked at each other for a moment, then sat down as well, each asking for more coffee, while the big guy pulled up a chair at the end and asked for water.

“So…” the older guy said, “vampires.”

“Big, mean old powerful one with a bunch of minions,” Lizzie said through a mouthful of waffle.

The old guy looked her up and down, wincing at the obvious damage. “Okay, so I believe you about trying not to let the kid get hurt.”

“Quick and dirty tactics: Let the bad guys beat on me so she can sneak up behind ’em.”

Faith snorted. “Kid? If she’s who I think she is, she’s only a year older than me.”

“Watch it, young’un,” she replied, waving her fork threateningly. “I may be only a year older, but I started two years younger.”

“So what was all that trash talking about if you’re so great and experienced?”

Lizzie shrugged. “I’ve had enough experience to know how much I screw up. Plus, it made everyone think I wasn’t me, which means I got to run around the base talking to people instead of getting locked up with no clue what was going on.”

“Wait,” the blonde in uniform said. “You’re like Faith? And you’re only seventeen?”

“Had a prophetic dream right when I was about to leave LA. Blew the last of my cash on some fake ID and a Greyhound so I’d be here when it all went down. Channeled my Watcher so you’d think I was one. Hey, it all worked out, right? Besides, the only thing I ever actually lied about was my name. I said I worked for the Council, not that I represented them.”

The group sat quietly for a few minutes, everyone trying to think about what happened next. “So, what are we supposed to do with you now?” glasses guy said eventually. “We’re normally supposed to deal with nonhuman threats, and you-”

“Different nonhuman threats,” Lizzie interrupted. “I told you, all I lied about was my name. Eventually, you’re gonna find someone who knows what the IWC is, and they’ll tell you not to interfere. It’s probably for the best if both of us forgets the other exists; somehow, I don’t think we’re prepared to take on whatever you deal with either.”

The conversation went on in a similar vein until they finished breakfast. It was obvious that the Air Force guys felt compelled to take the two girls into custody, but at the same time they knew the two were heroes and didn’t deserve it. They also obviously felt compelled to protect them, but Lizzie stomped on every offer to take over the Slayers’ fight, hard. Finally, the old guy said they’d have a lot of fun writing this after-action report and made sure both girls had his cell phone number when he let them go, over the objections of his second in command. The geek just seemed confused, and the big guy congratulated them on their “fighting prowess” before they left.

After, Lizzie led Faith to a motel on the outskirts of town. It was obvious that she’d booked the room when she first rolled into town by the overnight bag on the floor, but the place was an absolute shithole compared to the quality of her clothes.

“So, now what?” Faith asked, sitting on the bed.

“Now we get some sleep,” Lizzie said. “I don’t know about you, but I haven’t gotten any in the last couple of days, and then I went and let a master vampire beat on me for a while.”

“And after?”

“After?” Lizzie paused for a moment, then put an arm around Faith’s shoulders. “After, I call my mom to apologize for being a bitch and running away for three months.”

“You ran away?”

“From what I’ve heard, I had a hell of a lot better life than you. I told you I was a spoiled brat. Anyway, I apologize to my mom, then I ask her if she minds not having a guest room for the foreseeable future. Um… If you want, I mean.”

Faith frowned. “If I want what?”

“To move in with me. I wasn’t kidding about you not being a spare either; there’s lots to do on the Hellmouth. Too much to do. And, my mom’s a really nice person. She had a lot of trouble with me when she found out I’m a Slayer, but that should just mean she’s more sympathetic to you when she finds out how much being a Slayer’s screwed with your life. She’d be a great foster mom, or you might be able to get emancipated and just live with us, or there’s a chance she might try to adopt you…”

“You’re shittin’ me.”

“Am not. I told you, I got a Slayer dream about you. A bit was about how I needed to help you here, but there was also some vague feeling that I’d need you back in Sunnyhell. That place already broke me twice, Faith. I- I can’t go back there alone.” Lizzie had her hands in her lap now, staring down at them. “It’s your decision; I’m in no position to tell you what to do. But I hope you’ll come with me.”

Faith thought for a moment. Lizzie’s offer seemed too good to be true, but she was also being up front about her selfish motivations. She knew from experience that no one would give her something for nothing, but if Lizzie was telling the truth, her payment would be what she was likely to do anyway just by being thre: Helping to kick vampire ass and take out the BBEG when one showed up. “Hell, Lizzie,” she said eventually, “It’s not like I got anywhere else to go.”

Lizzie frowned. “Lizzie?”

“Yeah. Y’know, short for ‘Elizabeth?’”

Lizzie didn’t comprehend for a moment longer, then she burst out laughing. “Oh, god, I forgot I still hadn’t told you my real name!” She held out her right hand. “Buffy Summers. Buffy’s usually short for Elizabeth, and I almost went with Winters, but that seemed a bit too obvious.”

Faith smirked as she took the proffered hand in her own. “Buffy’s kind of a stupid name. I think I’ll keep callin’ ya ‘Lizzie.’”

“Hey, you take that back!” Lizzie said, smacking Faith with a pillow. The resulting scuffle ended with Faith pinning the still-injured blonde pinned under Faith, who decided that she had maybe held off a bit too long on the second of the H&Hes after their night of slaying and laid one on the older girl.

Lizzie froze for a moment, then grabbed Faith’s shoulders and pushed her off. “Wait, wait, wait!”

“What? You never get the H&Hes after a good slaying?”

“H&Hes?”

“Hungry and horny,” Faith breathed. Their good-natured little wrestling match had brought the feelings she’d put off earlier in favor of food back to the forefront of her mind, and Lizzie was both hot and, apparently, wanted to be nice to Faith, so, better in at least one department than most of her bed partners so far.

Lizzie didn’t react for a moment, then she looked like she was trying hard not to cry. Rather than keep pushing Faith away, though, she hugged her. What the hell?

“I’m sorry, Faith,” she whispered.

“Sorry?” In her surprise, Faith was whispering, too. “What for?”

“I’m not really in any kind of shape for anything casual right now. One of the reasons I ran away was I couldn’t face everything… I had to kill… my boyfriend. Sorta. And he was kinda the only guy I ever- And no girls either. And… You’re right, I kinda do get those cravings after a busy night, but… I’m not really into short-term. I’m that unrealistic girl who wants something I can at least pretend it’ll last forever, you know?” She released Faith and pushed back on her shoulders again so she could look into her eyes. Faith was surprised to see Lizzie was crying. “I’m sorry, but I really can’t help you with that one. If you need to go get a guy or a girl, there’s nothing wrong with that, or if you need some alone time, I can take a really long shower, but I can’t be the one to take the edge off, not now. Maybe not ever.”

Faith was taken slightly aback. Oh, she’d been rejected before. Sometimes someone was actually faithful to a significant other, sometimes not in the mood, but she didn’t think she’d ever found someone who was actually sorry they couldn’t bring themselves to fuck her. She pondered a moment before she came to a decision. She wasn’t sure if it was a decision she could keep to, or if it was the smart thing to do, or if it was really worth it, but right now, she felt a need to prove herself to this woman who could refuse her and still show she cared. She slowly lowered her face towards Lizzie’s and kissed her gently on the cheek, then said, “Okay”

“Okay?”

“Okay. Take your shower. Call your mom. I’ll come and help defend the Hellmouth. We’ll see if we get along enough to be friends. And I’ll wait. I don’t know if I’ll wait forever—I’m usually more the ‘want, take, have’ type—but for now I’ll wait. But first, I want you to know what you’ll be missing.” Faith had been whispering practically into Lizzie’s mouth, and now she closed that last gap, kissing her for all she was worth, trying to put the passion of the hours of sex she wanted into a liplock that lasted barely a minute. Then, slowly, reluctantly, pleased to hear Lizzie panting as much as she was, she pulled back, then rolled over, releasing the other girl. “Now, go take your shower,” she said, forcing her breath to come out evenly. “And, Lizzie?”

“Yeah?” Lizzie said, still out of breath.

“I think you’ll need to be in there long enough to use up all the hot water.”

“Are you nuts?”

“What?”

“You think I’m going to be using any hot water after that?”

Faith grinned. “Five by five.”

“What the hell does that even mean?”
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