Faith froze, her hand on the doorknob. Her shoulders tensed and her breathing halted. Buffy's eyes widened in realization. Faith released the knob, and then turned to face her.
"He killed her, didn't he?" she said in a quiet voice.
"They don't have a word for what he did to her."
There came a knock at the door. Faith scowled and checked the peephole. The motel manager was back, looking very agitated. She groaned.
"What now?" she sighed as she stepped back.
"Faith," Buffy said, trying to gain her attention. "You run, he runs after you."
"That’s where the headstart comes in handy."
With that, Faith swung the door open. The manager nearly dove into the room, scrambling past them before hiding behind the bed. He covered his head with his hands and whimpered like a child.
"What the fuck is your problem?" Faith asked, furrowing her brow.
"It's a monster!" the man quailed. "He's huge! Not human! Like an animal!"
Faith paled. Her hands began to tremble.
"Oh no," she breathed. "No. No no no!" Panic began to overtake her; panic that Kakistos had found her; panic that he was going to kill her like he'd killed her Watcher.
"Faith!" Buffy shouted. She quickly approached her and put her hands on Faith’s shoulders. "Calm down! Just think, okay? We can handle this."
"No!" Faith screamed, and she tried to get away. Buffy grabbed her arm, which only served to add to her panic. She tried to tug away from Buffy, but she was a Slayer too, and she held fast. "We have to run! You don't understand! He's unstoppable!"
The wall of the cheap motel suddenly shuddered with a heavy impact. Faith yelped with the surprise of it, and backed away from the door. Another heavy thud. She took another step back.
"We're dead," she whispered. She could see her Watcher lying in a pool of her own blood. That was going to be her. She was going to die. She didn’t want to die. She was only sixteen. "Oh god."
"Faith, you don't understand, I have friends. They can help us even if we can't beat him alone."
"I met your friends," Faith yelled, her anger momentarily supplanting her fear. "They aren't Slayers! They can't handle this! Even we can't handle this!"
"Debatable, but that's not the point."
"There is no point," Faith whimpered as her back touched against the far wall. Her eyes were locked on the wall. Another heavy thud echoed through the room. "No one can help us."
"No," Buffy said calmly as a huge dent appeared in the wall. "The point is that you didn't meet all my friends." The dent grew in size. A moment later a huge bear of a man burst through the wall, crashing against the bed in a heap. Faith screamed. She couldn’t help it.
"Sorry about the wall," came a deep voice. "He didn't want to go down."
Kakistos, the worst of the worst, oldest living vampire, groaned and fell off of the bed. He was broken, bloodied, and very bruised. Buffy flicked her eyes to the newly created hole in the wall. A wide grin spread onto her face.
Then Faith's scream died in her throat as the owner of the voice stepped into the light. The manager whimpered and began to shake, while Faith’s mouth dropped slowly open.
A tall, broad shouldered figure stepped into the room, bowing low to fit in the hole. He was the color of the pre-dawn sky, with long black hair and a body that was seemed like a bizarre mix of man and beast. Huge diaphanous wings draped around his body; a body that bulged with thick and obviously powerful muscle. He smiled at Faith, but all she could do was stare back at him in utter and complete shock.
"This is Xander," Buffy said, smiling broadly. "My boyfriend."
"Hey," Xander said, nodding to Faith. He strode across the room. Faith backed away from him fearfully even as he grabbed Kakistos by the throat, hauling him to his feet. The Master vampire hung limply, held up by Xander's massive arm. "Caught this guy stalking around outside. Says his name is Quick-Toast."
Faith gave a nervous, nearly hysterical laugh. She thought she might be going insane.
Kakistos tried to bat at Xander's arm with his cloven hooves, but Xander backhanded him across the face. It was a powerful blow, and the impact of it could be felt in the air. Faith blinked.
"Quiet down, Click-Toes," Xander admonished. He looked around. "Hey, Buff? You got a stake?"
"Sure," she reached into her back pocket and tossed him one. He caught it easily with his free hand, engulfing the small stake in his massive fist. He held it between thumb and forefinger.
"I don't like people who hurt Slayers," Xander said, lowering his face towards Kakistos's. His eyes glowed a brilliant, otherwordly white. Kakistos stared at him in horror. "And I especially don't like *vampires* who think they could ever hurt a Slayer."
He looked back to Buffy, the light fading. "Yeah?"
"It might be nice to let Faith stake him."
The winged creature turned his eyes to Faith, and she swallowed, expecting to see that light. Instead she saw surprisingly human eyes of odd compassion. "I'm guessing you're Faith?"
"Y-Yeah," she whispered.
"Got a beef with goatboy here?" he asked, shaking Kakistos, who could only groan, barely conscious.
"H-he killed my Watcher," she said, and her eyes went wide when the creature growled, his eyes flashing white. His fist clenched around Kakistos throat, and they could hear the popping of muscles and tendons. Buffy stepped forward and put a calming hand on his bicep, and the grip softened.
The white glow of his eyes faded, and he offered a small smile to Buffy that was impossibly kind in comparison to his previous look of pure anger. Faith felt something tug at her from deep inside.
Then he turned his soft eyes towards her. He made the stake seem to dance in his long, talon-like fingers, and then held his hand out to her palm up. The stake was resting there, the base pointing towards her.
“You want to do it?” he asked.
“What?” It was the only response she could think of. This was unreal.
“Do you want to stake him?”
“I--” she began, but was suddenly interrupted as Kakistos kicked out at Xander’s chest. Both Xander and Kakistos roared as they were forced away from each other. Xander fell back, and Kakistos rolled against the floor before coming to his feet. In the space of a single heartbeat, he snarled loudly, revealing a mouthful of fangs.
He sprang at Faith like a nightmare. She was going to die. This was it. There was no point in fighting it.
One tiny fraction of an inch before Kakistos got his hands on her, he suddenly stopped in mid-air. His eyes widened in fear before he was yanked backwards.
Buffy Summers had hauled him back by the back of his extremely expensive silk shirt. Then she wrapped an arm around his neck and positioned her other hand behind his head. She began to pull him backwards, dragging him across the room.
“Xander!” she yelled, and then shoved Kakistos forward.
Xander’s large hand encircled Kakistos’s throat. His other hand slammed a stake into Kakistos’s chest. For a moment, everyone stood silent as they waited for Kakistos to turn to dust.
“You’re going to need a bigger stake,” Kakistos rasped, eyes wide with laughter. He reached up to struggle against Xander’s grip.
Xander’s eyes flashed bright white. With a roar unlike anything Faith had ever heard in her entire life, his free hand shot forward and palmed Kakistos’s skull. Muscles bulging and eyes burning with brilliant white light, Xander tore Kakistos’s head from his body. Kakistos had time for one brief look of utter shock before body and head crumbled into ash.
“Or not,” Xander said to the ash. Then he and Buffy both looked at each other. They shared a small smile, and then both turned to Faith.
“What is this?” Faith whispered, unable to comprehend what just happened. Try as she might to fight against it, tears were stinging at her eyes. Kakistos was dead. It was really over? “Who are you?”
“Him?” Buffy asked, grinning as she wrapped her arms around Xander’s huge bicep. “He’s Xander. I’m the Slayer. I kill stuff. He’s a gargoyle. You know what gargoyles do?”
“Kill stuff?” Faith said in a quiet voice.
“Nope,” Buffy replied. “They defend. They guard. They protect. You and me, we Slay stuff. Xander?”
She stood on her tiptoes and then kissed Xander on the cheek. Eyes sparkling, she continued. “He defends me.” She looked back to Faith. “No, he defends us.”
“You’re safe now,” Xander told her.
And then he stepped forward, reached a gentle hand towards her, and pulled her into a gentle, caring embrace. His big arms held her, his huge wings surrounded her, and the utter strength and power of him seemed to say without words that nothing could ever hurt her when she was there.
“You’re safe,” he rumbled in that deep voice of his. “I promise.”
“We promise,” Buffy echoed. She placed a comforting hand on Faith’s back. “You don’t have to do this alone anymore, Faith.”
Faith said nothing. Instead, she tentatively reached her hands up and slid them around the strong midsection of the giant creature holding her in his arms. He was warm, solid, and goddammit: real. This was real.
She clutched at him, squeezed her eyes shut, pressed her face against his body, and then wept quietly, truthfully, and in absolute and perfect safety.THE END