Finding Life By Pat Kelly
Feedback may be sent to Pat at: email@example.com
This story is currently unfinished and being posted in parts
| Ch. 1-4 | Ch. 5-8 |
"Come on, Red!" Faith groaned, her brain about to melt. She fell back onto the bed in what was once Angel's apartment, but was now hers and Buffy's.
Tara was there to sit her back up. Willow and Tara had moved into a dorm together, and Buffy decided to be a commuter for her second year. She had finished her finals before the coma, so she missed out on the whole summer. College started again in less than two weeks. And Faith�well, she was regretting a decision she had made when Buffy came out of the hospital. In a big way.
"You wanted to take the test. You came to me." Willow pointed out.
"You did." Tara agreed.
"Taking her side. That's a shocker." Faith dripped with sarcasm.
"GED's are hard, yeah, but all it takes is studying. Come on, you'll get a diploma, and who knows what'll open up for you." Willow pushed.
"But it's seven hours long."
"Seven hours and thirt -" Faith glared. "Uh�nevermind."
Tara picked up a booklet. "She knows more than she thinks."
"Give her another sample question." Willow said.
Faith buried her face into a pillow, as Tara flipped through the pages.
"Here. Um�'An electric current releases heat to the wire in which it is traveling. Which of the following electric appliances would best illustrate the application of the above statement?
"You're kidding, right? Toaster." Faith said.
Willow swatted Faith's shoulder. "See? Was that so hard?"
"Yes." Faith answered stubbornly.
When she heard the doorknob start turning, Faith jumped off the bed. By the time Buffy entered, she was kissing the blonde, making her headache go away. Buffy kicked the door shut, and put her arms around Faith's neck. She smiled.
"I'm home. But you knew that."
"You gotta get me outta this."
Buffy was confused for a second, and then saw Willow and Tara in the bedroom, papers sitting around them. "How long is it again?"
"I feel your pain." Faith huffed and went to sit on the couch. "What?"
"Of course you feel it. You don't have to take the damn thing. You do what you had to do?"
Willow and Tara came in, and Buffy greeted them before sitting down next to Faith.
"Hi, Buffy." They said.
"You hear an echo?" Faith asked, amused.
"Anyway�it went okay. Almost broke a priceless ancient artifact, but I'm a slayer, not an 'old thing handler'. Mom knows that." Buffy said in her defense.
"Old thing handler?" Willow asked.
Buffy turned to look at her friend. "Don't make me hurt you, Will." She looked to Faith again. "What's for dinner?"
There was a knock on the door. "Pizza!" Yelled the young delivery guy.
"It's ready, honey." Faith grinned.
The Abyss of Nosgoth
The unstable and barren lands of Nosgoth were shaken. Though not by the usual quakes that usually disturbed them. Now, the vampire Raziel was engaged in battle with his once Lord and Sire, Kain. They fought almost to the edge of the Abyss, where he had been banished to die centuries ago by his the very Lord he now combated.
Kain had been the ruler over six proud clans of vampires, whose bloodlines went back millennia. The clans ruled over the land, and the rebellious human forces were quickly taken down. He had the honor of receiving gifts, in essence evolving, as years were added to his unnatural life. His "children" would receive them soon after, not going unrewarded for their service.
Raziel had been his first child, the best of all his lieutenants. But Raziel, having no control over it, received a gift before his sire. He grew wings. Kain, believing his most valued subject to be a threat to his authority and a traitor to the family, tore Raziel's wings, and ordered his execution. A horrible, slow, painful death in the Abyss.
He was cast in, the void eating away at his body, disfiguring his hands, feet, and skin. His jaw was completely removed. Though he died, the Elder granted Raziel a reprieve. It was an ominous being that watched over the Underworld and made sure souls made their final journeys. Raziel soon learned that centuries had passed since his time in the Abyss, and that Kain's reign had disrupted the balance of the Physical and Spiritual Realms.
The Elder enlisted him as his "Angel of Death" and told him that he no longer would live off of blood. Instead he would feed off souls, that would allow him to manifest himself in the Physical Realm to destroy his former brethren and Kain, to correct the balance of things.
Which he was now close to doing.
"This seems familiar, Raziel." Kain said.
"Yes, but this time it is not I who will fall into the depths of the Abyss. You chose to abuse your power, Kain. That will not go unpunished."
Raziel held his arm out in front of him. Bound to it, was the Soul Reaver, a weapon that sucked energy from all the souls around it, feeding Raziel and keeping him in the Physical Realm. It also served as a deadly weapon, which Kain had once possessed.
"You took that from me."
"It was meant to be this way. Not in the physical form which you trapped it in."
Kain suddenly spread out wings from behind his back. He grabbed Raziel and flew into the air. "I have them now. It is unfortunate that you do not."
They were up over the Abyss, and Kain was about to drop Raziel.
"Do you not know? I am a true immortal. If I fall, I will simply return. And I won't stop until you're dead."
This caught Kain off-guard, and Raziel thrust the Reaver through his heart. Kain fell, his body disintegrating as he did so, and Raziel spread his wings. While not able to fly, they glided him safely to the edge. As the last bit of flesh vanished from Kain's form, and his ashes landed into the Abyss, Raziel consumed his foe's now free soul.
"Your knowledge would be a wonderful asset to the gallery." Joyce said to Giles as she went about placing the new pieces for display. She had asked him to assist.
"I've never really had much interest in becoming a guide, to be quite honest." Giles admitted.
"You wouldn't necessarily have to do that. We get sent some pieces that no one really bothers to identify. They sit in storage until I can find the time to date them and gather the information. Which is usually never. You've got access to materials and lots of -"
"Free time?" Giles asked with a smile.
"I wouldn't have put it exactly like that." Joyce said, embarrassed. "I'd pay you, of course."
"I suppose I -"
"Oh!" She said suddenly, going over to a box. "These are the shipments Buffy helped me bring in earlier. And it may be the last. She almost broke a�never mind." She reached in and pulled out what seemed to be an ornately crafted shaft of wood. It almost looked like a sword. "This is what I mean."
Giles' interest was piqued. "May I?"
"By all means." She handed it to him. "No one has been able to determine the era in which it was made, the carvings don't resemble any known language�"
He studied it for a few more seconds. It was a challenge. He hadn't had one in awhile. "I think�I think I will take you up on your offer."
"Consider yourself hired."
Sanctuary of the Clans, Nosgoth
Raziel returned to the once great temple, the Sanctuary of the Clans. He entered the circular structure, and made his way to Kain's main chamber. He walked to the great chair in the center of the room that was surrounded by great marble pillars and statues, and sat in it, weary and tired. What was going to happen now?
"Congratulations, Raziel." The Elder's voice boomed. The being had no form, and could be heard everywhere. At least by Raziel.
"I thank you for giving me a second chance."
"You don't disappoint. But I'm afraid you're no longer needed."
"I saved you so you could perform a task. Correct the balance of things. You have done well, and now the Earth must heal itself. You would only be interfering now."
Raziel grasped his wrist, as the Soul Reaver untangled itself from his arm, and vanished. "What are you doing?"
"With your weapon, goes your access to the Spiritual Realm and all the abilities which you have achieved. Kain misused his status, and I will not risk that again. The vampire race has become tainted, and it is only a matter of time before they are replaced. Perhaps man will rise again. Or perhaps not. Time will tell."
"Since you have served well, I offer you a choice. You may stay in the physical realm, confined inside the walls of this temple, or you may return to the Spiritual Realm, where you will then be permanently at rest."
"Know this. While here, time will move forward and you will not need to feed. The time will come when the world will be ready for you to re-enter it. When it does, someone will enter from the outside, and you will be free."
Raziel thought. "I shall wait. I am not ready to leave this world."
It would be awhile before someone ever walked the lands again.
"You're supposed to be encouraging me." Xander said to Anya in his basement.
"Oh. Uh, read those classifieds! You can do it!" Anya cheered enthusiastically. Xander just stared at her. "What do you want me to say? I've never had a job before. You're the one with all the practice at it."
He sighed, looked down at the newspaper, and readied his red pen for circling any interesting jobs. "Thanks, Anya."
"Anytime. Hey, how about the city cleanup crew?"
"That's the lowest of the low. I'd probably end up finding demon innards -" A light bulb went off in his head. "I could get all the inside stuff. Demon happenings, all the nasty secrets. I mean it's not the most glamorous of professions, but it could help Buffy and Fai -"
"It pays good too."
Xander looked closer. "It does?" An article caught his eye then. "Hey, listen to this:
"'The city council is preparing to select candidates for Sunnydale's upcoming mayoral election. When Mayor Richard Wilkins III term came to an abrupt end last year, it marked the final chapter of the Wilkins Family Dynasty. Men which led this town for more than a hundred years.'"
"Aren't there supposed to be different parties where the people nominate the candidates or something?" Anya asked.
"In a normal town. But this is the Hellmouth, and if you want to keep a dark secret from the townspeople, you have to pick the right guy. One who'll lie really well."
"Exactly. Hopefully these new guys'll be human. Uh�where was I?
"'The members of the city council are now in the process of cleaning out the remaining remnants of the Wilkins administration, including the Mayor's private treasury, files, and personal effects. Apparently he left a large amount of his funds to one�'"
Anya and Xander's eyes practically bugged out. "Faith?"
Sanctuary of the Clans
"You are a vampire, correct?" One man asked, with an accent Raziel didn't recognize. They seemed to resemble the human priests that had lived in Nosgoth.
"I am -" He suddenly realized his royal status probably meant nothing to them. "Yes."
"Why do you cover your face?" The second one asked. Raziel flung the cloth off of his nose and mouth, and revealed his absence of a jaw. The men were shocked. "It has no fangs."
"How does it feed?" The first man asked.
"Who are you?" Raziel asked.
"We're a new group. Founded to fight your breed. We were searching for recruits when we found this building."
"What do you know of my breed?" Raziel was interested to hear what had become of his race.
"They are nothing like you, as far as I can tell. You don't seem to be a threat. What with the absence of your ability to -"
"It's a long story. If you tell me what I want to know, I'll tell it to you."
After everything was told, everything explained, Raziel was more disgusted with what had become of his breed than he had been with the mutated versions of the ones he knew so long ago. The ones now seemed to retain human form again, but they were still animals. They had no souls. No respect or honor. He wouldn't associate with that or anyone else. It was disgusting.
"You have freed me, and I am grateful, but I have no desire to go out into the world you describe. If your council leaves me be, I will pay you the same courtesy."
"I believe that's a deal we can make."
Buffy and Faith waited for two new undead vampires to rise from their graves. They had already dusted three others, so after these, they were done. It felt like it was taking forever. First there was a hand, then the head came out� the girls wanted to fall asleep. When the vampires finally emerged, they didn't attack. Not Buffy and Faith anyway. They attacked each other.
"I get the first kill."
"I don't think so."
As they exchanged blows, Buffy and Faith were shocked. They didn't know whether to laugh or stake them. They walked up to the vampires, and tapped them on their shoulders.
"Sorry fellas. This is our kill." Faith said in mock apology, shoving her stake into one's back.
"Ever hear of teamwork?" Buffy asked, finishing off the last one. "Morons."
They started walking back to the apartment.
"The new ones are always idiots."
"I don't know�vamps never seem to work together. Like they could care less if one of their fellow demons died. If they were a little more organized, they'd probably have a better shot at killing us."
"B�" Faith said slowly, "think about what you just said."
"Oh." She tried to laugh it off.
"Are you sure you're only a bottle blonde?"
"Hey!" Buffy tackled Faith to the ground, and sat on top of her.
"Man, am I glad we ate that pizza before we slayed."
"Cause I'm not hungry."
Buffy grinned. "Well that only leaves one thing." She leaned down and kissed her partner, passionately and lovingly. Then, she stopped abruptly, getting up.
"You're not playing fair."
"Where's the fun in that?" Buffy asked wickedly, backpedaling. "Race ya back."
Faith broke into a run when Buffy increased her pace, smiling.
Willow and Tara sat in the Expresso Pump drinking hot chocolate. Since their talk a couple months ago when Tara told Willow everything about her childhood, they had been really close. The blonde had come from a Wiccan family. Her mother, her grandmother�her dad had been a witch. Her whole family had died banishing an evil spirit that had gotten into their home. She avoided a lot of details, but Willow knew it was still painful for her.
Tara had gone from foster home to foster home, never really fitting in. She was too different, too shy. When she turned eighteen, a legal adult, she had moved to Sunnydale. Her parents had told her once that the town had the highest concentration of magickal energy than anywhere else in the world. She enrolled in UC Sunnydale, and that's when she met Willow. The redhead felt really lucky, because Tara said she had never told anyone that before.
Moving into a dorm together was the natural thing to do to them. And with Buffy and Faith together, there was really no conflict of living spaces. They were still nervous though. There were all kinds of situations that could arise from living together.
"So�we start again soon." Willow said, trying to start a conversation.
"Yeah�second year. What�uh�are you taking psychology again?"
"I don't know�maybe. There's this cool class on Sigmund Freud, but if all psychology-related professors are like Walsh�"
"That's a good point."
"It's how I am. All rational and stuff."
"I know�that's why I love you. Well one of the reasons."
Willow blushed, grabbed Tara's hand, and kissed it. "So one of us has got to ask it."
"We're gonna have to make a decision."
"So�" Willow took a deep breath, "one bed or two?"
"If we did get one it wouldn't mean we'd have to�"
"Right. I mean, it's an option."
"Not a rule though." Tara added hurriedly.
"Right." Willow agreed.
Buffy and Faith raced down the steps, almost there. They stopped dead in their tracks though, when they saw a man in a suit standing in front of their door. He held an envelope in his hands.
"Can we help you?" Buffy asked.
"Which one of you is Faith Adams?" The man asked.
"That's me." Faith identified herself. "Who the hell are you?"
He handed her the envelope, walked up the stairs and out the door, not saying another word. Faith stared at the envelope, and after a few seconds, opened it up. Buffy looked over her shoulder. Faith gaped.
"What is it?" Buffy asked. Faith didn't answer. "Faith?"
Buffy took the slip of paper from the brown-haired slayer's hands, and got a closer look at it. It was a check. She felt her mouth moving, but no sound was coming out. Eventually, she found her vocal chords.
"This�you can trade this in for cash, right?"
Faith nodded silently. "Lots of cash."
"Lots and lots of cash."
Faith smiled widely, reaching for the doorknob. "Just so I'm sure�there's six zeroes there, right?"
"Six whole zeroes."
"Thought so." She grabbed Buffy by the waist and pulled her inside. "We have celebrating to do."
Sanctuary of the Clans
"Raziel?" One asked.
"I am." He answered.
"We're from -" The second man started to say.
Raziel stood up and began to walk around the room. After thousands and thousands of years, his wings had finally repaired themselves, and he spread them out.
"I know where you're from. I talked to your representatives already. We had an agreement."
"Yes, we know. That was made a thousand years ago."
"A thousand�has the breed changed?"
"They're basically the same." The first man spoke.
"Then what you have to say does not interest me."
"Actually, we have a feeling it might. From what we understand, you had a weapon."
"The Soul Reaver, yes. That was a long time ago."
"And forgive us," The second man said, "but how did you obtain it?"
"Kain had confined it into a physical shell. It was still a powerful weapon, but it wasn't in its true spiritual form. He destroyed it in an early battle with me, and it reverted, bonding with my body. It was taken from me after I defeated Kain."
"Now, this physical form, it was wood? Jagged?"
"Yes." Now Raziel was interested. "Why?"
"We may have pinpointed its location. It's across the sea. In a town called Sunnydale."
"If I could get it�I could restore�"
"Yes, um, seeing as we've given you this information, we only ask a small favor in return." The first man said nervously.
"You have heard of the slayers?"
"Humans with abilities that match a vampire's."
"Well, these two used to be ours, but they've created a problem. A vampire of your strength and talent should have no problem with them."
"You want them killed? Fine. I just need one thing." He stepped closer to them. "It's a long journey, and I haven't fed in so long."
Raziel grabbed them both by their necks, and a bright green energy began to surround him, as he took the men's souls from their bodies, and brought them into his own.
"Hey guys." Buffy greeted.
Everyone stopped, and looked up at them. More specifically, at Faith. "Hey! It's Buffy! And Faith!" Xander said, cheerily.
Faith and Buffy exchanged looks.
"Yep. That's us. Here every day. Almost like clockwork even." Buffy said. Her friends were strange sometimes.
"Whatever." Faith shrugged, shaking her head.
"Um�where's Giles?" Buffy asked finally.
"He's upstairs." Xander said, though all the Scoobies still stared at Faith. "So?"
"So�what?" Faith asked.
"You know," Willow said, excitedly.
"Not�really." Faith was now a little worried. "You all on something?"
"They want to know what you're going to do with the money you got. You know? From the Mayor? Because you helped him with his evil plan?" Anya elaborated.
Buffy rested her head on Faith's shoulder, standing behind her. "If this were a cartoon, they'd all have dollar signs in their eyes."
"Oh�right�that." Faith said slowly, pulling Buffy down with her onto the couch. "I gave it back."
"What?" Tara asked. Everyone was shocked. Not just because of what Faith had just said but also because of the louder than normal volume of Tara's voice.
"I'll go with that too. What?" Xander said in disbelief.
"I just�didn't really want it. I mean, so what if I never had that kind of cash before? And never will again?" Faith explained, keeping a straight face very well.
"It's a shame. I tried to change her mind, but she wouldn't budge." Buffy grinned, looking at Faith. "Not." She gave her a quick kiss. "One." And another. "Inch."
"I get it." Anya said, having a revelation. "They're joking, right? Right?"
The four of them were silent.
Faith sighed. "Of course I kept it! There's no way in hell I'd turn down that much money."
They all breathed again. "Thank God!" Xander said in relief.
"Did you -?" Willow started to ask.
"I'm stickin' it in the bank. First thing we're gonna do is get a new place." Faith said, looking at Buffy. "Then the necessary entertainment center�"
"Don't forget wardrobe." Buffy pointed out.
"I'm gonna get you into leather if it kills me, B."
"This is all very interesting, but when do we get some money?" Anya asked. They stared at her. "Oh. Was that the wrong thing to say?"
Giles walked down the stairs, dressed in tweed, his hair still damp from the shower. "A better question would be, now that you have a substantial amount of wealth, are you changing your plans to further your education?"
"No, I'm sticking with it." Faith assured him. "No matter how painful it is."
"Good." He smiled.
Buffy slid off Faith's lap and walked over to him. "You're dressed."
"Yes, that is generally what one who wishes to live in the world is. Often times daily."
"No." Buffy said, ignoring his attempt at sarcasm. "You're back in tweed. You haven't worn tweed since you worked at school. What's going on?"
"That's where I'm going, actually."
He got his bag off the table. "The gallery."
"Do you know of any other?"
Buffy thought. "So�she gave you a job?"
"Yes, and I'm very grateful to her for it."
"That's�good. Among the working force again�" She suddenly had a panicked look on her face. "What are we supposed to do?"
"You're supposed to be here. This is our hanging place."
"You can still�'hang'. Just lock the door when you leave. All right?" He said to her as he moved towards his now repaired front door, and opening it.
"Okay�I guess," Buffy said distractedly. She was surprised at how�weird she felt. He got a job. That was a good thing.
"Then I'll see you later."
Willy tossed a Relayn heart into the trash after draining the blood and fluids into a glass. Wiping his hands with a towel, he slid the drink down the bar to the demon that had requested it. They were paying customers, and as long as he kept seeing green, he'd mix anything they wanted. He knew most of the demons in town because they were regulars, and his "no fighting" policy had been surprisingly obeyed. He had gotten used to the routine, and was always a little suspicious when something new entered his establishment.
One of those somethings just had.
It walked in with a quiet confidence he had never seen before. Almost dignified. There was a cloak around most of its face, so only its white, glowing eyes and dark hair was visible. Its hands and feet were clawed and disfigured, and its skin had a purple tint. Willy noticed that it had wings that were retracted behind its back. He was definitely intimidated as it walked up to his counter.
"What can I get ya?"
Willy had standards. No matter how intimidating the demon. "I don't do that anymore." He shrugged. "Sorry, pal."
"No?" It seemed shocked. "I have just arrived, and I asked a very foul smelling human, I assume it was a human, where I could find out certain details. He pointed me to this establishment. Are you not the proprietor?"
"No, that's me. But all I do is serve drinks. Can I get ya something?"
"Simply what I need to know."
"Come on, what's your drink?"
"I doubt you want to find out."
"Ah�sure�right." Wait a second. This wasn't - "Raziel?"
"How do you know who I am?"
"Word got around to me that you might be dropping by. When the Council wants something, I figure it's best if I do what they say. Get what I mean?"
"What did they want you to do?"
"Follow me." Willy walked out from behind the bar, and led Raziel to a door at the back of the bar "In there. I'm not involved in this. The slayers'll have my head." Raziel moved to open the door. "You're a vamp, right?"
"And you didn't crisp in the sun?"
"I had forgotten. With today's breed, even the oldest of them is susceptible to sunlight. I am not."
Raziel walked in to the darkened storage area, not even waiting for Willy's response. He immediately knew he wasn't alone.
"Relax, Raziel. I'm with the Council. They sent me here to help you get acquainted. I can answer all your questions, but from now on, it would be best if you would try and use discretion." A female, British voice spoke.
Raziel sighed. "Hiding? What world have I entered?" He walked closer to her. "Very well. But�you know my name, yet I don't know yours."
"I miss Giles." Willow announced from her spot on the floor. "It feels wrong."
The gang had been sitting in his house for an hour, staring at the TV. Buffy and Faith were still on the couch, and Xander and Anya just sat up against his bookshelf.
"Huh?" Tara asked, lying beside her.
"Being here when he's not. Just feels�wrong."
"I miss him too, Will." Buffy said, glad someone else was feeling it too.
"What's so funny?"
"Well first of all, you're acting like he died or something. And two, you finally know how he felt. I just think it's amusing." Anya explained.
"What are you talking about?" Willow asked.
"He was here twenty four hours a day, and the two of you were always off doing some college activity. He never got to see you, and he had all this time on his hands. He missed that stupid library.
"Now you have nothing to do, and he does. And you expect him to be around whenever you're here. Too late. He got a life. Deal with it."
"Hey I -" Willow tried to defend herself.
"She's right, Will." Buffy admitted, sad and ashamed. "I'm such a jerk."
"We're both bad, neglecting�" Willow sighed.
"You're realizing that now?" Anya asked.
Faith turned and gave her a "don't say that again or I'll hurt you" look.
"You're not." Tara assured Willow.
"Guess this means if he's got a job I really have to get one. I could feel better about my absence of employment because he didn't have any. Now that's ruined." Xander grumbled. "I miss him too, though. He's the G-Man."
Faith stood up, dragging Buffy with her. "It's getting wicked depressing in here, so I say we motor."
"Where?" Buffy asked, sullenly.
"Anywhere but here." Anya said, leaving.
Giles sat in room that Joyce had cleared out for him. He had been studying the "wooden sword" for a few hours now, not having any luck identifying its origins. He shined a lamp down on several open books, as he turned sword around, running his fingers over the markings. Usually it took a lot to get him frustrated, but he was quickly reaching his limit. He felt like all his knowledge was useless.
He liked to think of himself as somewhat of an expert on demon languages, because it obviously wasn't a man-made artifact, but the markings were like nothing he had ever seen before. If it was demonic, he concluded, then it predated anything he knew of. And that was somewhat shocking, because he knew of languages during the Jurassic era.
If the sword was constructed before then�
There was a knock on the door. "Yes?" He asked as Joyce opened it.
"How's it going?"
"I was able to date all but one of piece of the shipment."
"That's wonderful. What's giving you trouble?"
"This frustratingly remarkable sword. It's going slowly, I'm afraid."
"Don't be so hard on yourself. I'm sure it'll just take time." Joyce nervously cleared her throat. "We're slow on visitors today, so I was about to order some lunch. Interested?"
"I suppose I could use a break."
Joyce smiled. "Chinese okay?"
"Now," Olivia began, "you'll want to know about the slayers. They told me you had never faced one before, so two might be a -"
Raziel stared at the window high on the wall of the storage room, directly across from it was a rather large cage. "I'm not interested in them."
"I'd think you would be."
He turned around. "I must get the Soul Reaver first. No matter how much I know these slayers, without that weapon, they will always have me at an advantage. I must continually feed on souls. And that is a weakness I cannot afford. Now that I no longer have access to the Spirit Realm, if I do not satisfy this�" He sighed, "accursed hunger, I will die."
"And the sword -?"
"Souls endlessly course through it feeding me. And it will give me access to magicks and the Spirit Realm once again. If I am to do battle with humans matching my own physical strength, I want to be fully prepared."
"Then shall we go retrieve it?"
"Yes. I feel the need growing. We must hurry."
"The sewer tunnels will be quicker. And safer."
"Lead the way."
"It figures that the 'SunCinema's Grand Re-Opening' would have twenty-four brand spanking new theatres showing 'Titanic'. Shudder." Xander said feeling chills.
The six of them walked down the street.
"The sad thing is we had nothing better to do and sat through it." Buffy added.
"I thought it was sweet." Willow said. Her friends stared at her. "Well I did."
"And the sinking wasn't very realistic." Anya complained. "There was a lot more gore and organs."
"Um�how do you know that?" Tara asked, a little afraid.
Xander stopped and faced his girlfriend. "Honey, you didn't�"
Anya grinned. "Wouldn't you like to know?" She grabbed his hand. "We just did a relationship activity, right? So let's go have sex now."
He followed numbly, as she pulled him along. The group continued walking, now down to four.
"Wasn't that bad." Faith said.
"What?" Three voices asked unbelieving.
"Once I started using my imagination, I kept seeing this blonde laying on that couch." Faith grinned at Buffy and kissed her hard. "But she wasn't alone."
Faith slid her hands down to Buffy's butt and gave it a squeeze. Buffy drew in a sharp breath. "Oh yeah. Definitely leather for you."
Willow and Tara gaped.
"You're in public!" Willow squealed, looking around nervously.
"So?" They asked.
The wiccans looked at each other in disbelief.
"As much as I want to�see where this goes�" Buffy said, "Will and I want to go see Giles, remember?"
Faith kissed her again. "I'll be waiting."
Tara, with a sudden rush of courage, wrapped her arms around Willow's neck and followed Faith's example, kissing Willow passionately. "See you later." She said softly as she and Faith walked away from their girlfriends.
"You with me, Will?"
Willow nodded mutely. Buffy grabbed her stunned and speechless friend's hand, and they walked towards the gallery. A few seconds later, Willow's shock was replaced with a happy, lopsided grin.
Joyce and Giles sat in the "break room", just a room with two tables and a few chairs, eating egg rolls and white rice.
"I just want you to know how much I appreciate this. I�haven't felt the same since the library was destroyed�well, since Buffy moved on. This is what I needed." He told Joyce truthfully.
"You and I have something in common then. Ever since Buffy started college, I just miss knowing she's safe in bed when I come home at night. They say college is a big change for the kids, but they never really think about the parents."
"No. They don't, do they?"
They continued eating in silence for a few more minutes, before Joyce spoke again. "Look�Rupert, we haven't talked about what�happened between us and..."
Giles almost choked. "Ah�"
"We're both adults and I should have�we should have�been able to talk about it. And Buffy reading my mind was not how I wanted her to find out. I know it's been awhile but we've left it go and -"
"You're right. To be honest, I was always somewhat afraid to -" He stopped talking, and his face quickly looked surprised. "Olivia?"
Standing in the doorway, were Olivia and Raziel. She held up a gun.
Faith got out of the shower, and slipped on red leather pants and a dark green tank top. She had to show Buffy that leather wasn't all black and dark colors. Bright normally wasn't her thing, but if it could get Buffy out of those Gap clothes she always wore, she'd make sacrifices.
She laid down on the bed and was trying to decide whether to study or do an apartment search. Before she could choose, there was a knock on the door. Instantly on guard, she moved to the door, and opened it just enough so she could see out. It was the same man who had given her the check.
She opened the door wider. "Come to give me more cash?"
"I'm afraid not. But I neglected to say some things last night, and due to legal reasons, you might want to hear them."
Faith moved out of the way and the man entered, going to shut the door.
"Leave it open. It'll be easier to kick your ass out that way. If I have to."
He cleared his throat. "Hopefully you won't."
"I was Mr. Wilkins' lawyer. I work for a firm in LA. Wolfram and Hart." He handed her his card. She glanced at it, unimpressed. "Well, it seems he had specific wishes in his will concerning the money which he wanted you to receive."
"Well I know it had nothing to do with giving half of it to charity."
"No, but he did say that under certain circumstances, the money couldn't be used. Repeatedly he mentioned a name. Buffy Summers."
She got close to his face. "What about her?"
"Simply that if by some, 'unfortunate turn of events', you were to associate with this person and use the money with her, there would be�repercussions. He wanted to make sure you were making the right choices."
"Is that a threat?"
"I'm just relaying his wishes."
"Well he's dead. He can't do anything. It's my life."
"Don't get me wrong, Faith. I agree with you. But I know how resourceful my client was."
"What do you mean by that?" She grabbed his tie.
He held up his hands. "I've said what I've come to say." She let go and he turned to door. "Good luck. I hope you pass."
He walked out, and Faith stood there, trying to shake it off. "It's bullshit. He can't control me anymore."
She almost convinced herself. Almost.
"What's going on?" Joyce asked. She turned around, and saw what Giles did. "Oh my God."
"Just give us the sword, and we go." Olivia said.
"Tell me." Giles said.
"I should've gotten out sooner. When I told you they were coming for her, I had no idea they were listening."
"Yes, it was tapped, Ripper. They told their team to move in earlier, and offered me a choice. Work for them or die. What would you have chosen?"
He looked sad. "I'm sorry."
Joyce watched them talk and immediately figured out how well they knew each other. She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath, and looked at Olivia's companion. He had stayed silent the entire time.
"I'm sorry too." She looked down at the floor for a second, and then up at him again. "But I'm still alive, and well taken care of."
"They promised me that they'd leave us be."
"And they have. They're not controlling this. They're in Britain. The sword, please."
"I can't give it to you. Besides, it's safely locked away."
"Be rational. It's not just your life at stake."
"I am. I don't believe you'll fire."
She looked hesitant. And then she fired into the wall. Joyce screamed. Raziel turned to Olivia. "What is their relationship to the slayers?"
"She is one's mother, and he used to be a Watcher."
"So it would anger them if these two were to die. I do not want them angry. An angry opponent is a dangerous opponent. It's too early, and it would be a foolish mistake."
"What about -?"
"I've learned patience. But," he rushed Giles and grabbed him, "I am hungry."
A green light passed from Giles into Raziel's mouth. After a few seconds, he dropped Giles to the ground, and motioned for Olivia to leave with him. Before they did though, Olivia looked down at Giles.
Joyce crouched down, over him. He was shaking, and seemed to be taking gulps of air. She didn't know what had happened.
"Mom? Are you back -?" Buffy asked, as she and Willow walked in the doorway.
"Oh my God, Giles!" Willow yelled, running in.
"Mom, what happened? Mom?" Buffy asked, trying to figure out what to do.
Joyce couldn't speak.
Buffy couldn't really think. Giles was on the floor, and it looked like he was a few seconds away from dying. She had no idea from what. Her mom was obviously in shock.
"I should call 911." Buffy said, getting up.
Willow put her hands on Giles' chest. "No."
"What? Will, he -"
"They can't help him Buffy." She said softly. She bent down close to Giles. "You'll be okay." She said a few words under her breath, closing her eyes. "Just take small breaths. Don't force it. You'll be fine. I'm not going anywhere, and neither are you." She talked to him quietly, pushing her hands gently down.
Giles was slowly calming, and he was doing as he was told, no longer gulping. His body didn't feel as tense as it had moments ago, but it was still shaking. He was shivering.
"He needs a blanket."
Joyce had snapped out of her numb state and went to get one. She was angry with herself. He had been on the floor, hurting and confused, and she had stayed frozen. What if Buffy and Willow hadn't come? No, she couldn't think about that.
"Talk to me." Buffy told Willow, getting on Giles' other side.
"I don't know how, but something�drained his soul of some of its energy. I think. But it wasn't enough to�"
"Kill him." Buffy sighed in relief for that. "So what did you do?"
"His body just reacted in a way that was�bad. Wouldn't you if your soul was fed off of? I just relaxed him a little."
"Fed off of?" Buffy asked.
"Sword�Olivia�" Giles said, sounding somewhat delirious.
Buffy and Willow looked at each other.
"It's okay, Giles. You're going to be okay�" Buffy said soothingly. "We should get him out of here. He needs to rest."
"I don't know if he can walk." Willow said.
"Then we'll help him. Take his arm."
They both pulled him up, slipping his arms around their shoulders, keeping him steady. Joyce came in, and she flung a blanket around his back. He lifted his head slightly to show her that he appreciated it.
"I'll get the car started." Joyce said.
Slowly and cautiously, Giles, Willow and Buffy began to walk out of the gallery.
"Look, C, just get him on the phone, all right?" Faith said. She was already on edge, and Cordelia wasn't helping.
"All I'm saying is that there's a fee. And you'll need to pay." Cordelia said at the other end.
Faith sat on the edge of the bed, and felt like yelling into the cordless phone. Instead, she just clenched her teeth, and hissed. "I don't care. Get him now."
There was some noise, most of it sounded like Cordelia yelling, and then she knew Angel was there. "You really have to get a new receptionist."
"She just went in for a third audition for a part in a movie she was sure she was going to get -"
"Don't tell her that!" She heard Cordelia scream.
"And she didn't. What's going on?"
"Long story short, the Mayor left me some cash and -"
"Now his lawyer paid you a visit."
"How'd you know?"
"Wolfram and Hart have their hands in just about anything supernatural. Most of their clients are."
Faith gripped the phone tighter. "That's just great. Wonderful. Probably means they know everything about me. And if you knew�"
"As far as I know they're not planning to make any kind of move against you. They'd risk exposure."
"Doesn't mean much. They could always hire someone."
"I'm watching them. If I find out anything I'll let you know." He was silent for a few moments. "Are you going to tell her?"
"Don't want her to worry about me. I can handle this."
"I tried the same thing. And she still did."
"Yeah, well�thanks." She hung up.
Faith put the phone on the bureau and sighed. This was nuts. She had to take that stupid test soon, her life was finally coming together, and something always had to try and screw her out of it. She was enjoying being with Buffy and just being happy, she wasn't going to stop just because some guy showed up at her door and freaked her a little.
She saw that the bureau drawer was open some. She went to close it, and saw something sticking out. Curiosity getting the better of her, she opened the drawer, and pulled out the wire-rimmed notebook that was inside. It wasn't labeled, but she knew it was Buffy's, because it certainly wasn't hers. She opened it, and the words, "invasion of privacy" were gone from her mind as quickly as they had appeared.
She started to read.
'Okay. I don't really know why I'm doing this, but the bond between Faith and me is getting stronger, and we don't really talk about it. Giles said I should try and write what it feels like to me so I can make some sense of it. I already know I'm not going to let him read this.
'I can feel her emotions now too. Not just her memories. For the most part they've been happy. Probably cause I'm out of the coma and stuff. She may think she's the lucky one, but I know I am. She's been so good to me, but not smothering, you know? We both need a certain amount of space and her giving me mine has made me feel closer to her. Does that make any sense?
'So�emotions. Like I said, it's happiness for the most part, but also a little afraidness. Not a word, I know. She decided to try and get her diploma and I was so glad she did. She's got so much going for her, even if she doesn't know it. But I think she's afraid that all the time she's putting in won't get her anywhere. I feel that way a lot too. I've been through thirteen years of education and I still don't know if it'll do me any good.
'Can she feel mine too? Of course she can. A bond has to go both ways, right? I just hope she knows that she's not the only one who's afraid of the real world. And I try to show her more than tell her. But maybe I have to. I have *no* idea where I'm going with this, but�
They tell you to go out into the world and set out on your own,
Grasping blindly for support,
Wrongs have outnumbered rights,
Grasping blindly for support,
It's been a long road for you,
Grasping blindly for support,
No matter what happens I'll be here,
Just know I love you, Faith.
Wow, where'd that come from?'
Faith closed the notebook and stuck it back in the drawer. Tasting the tears on her lips, she realized yet again just how much she loved Buffy Summers. The girl just made everything else go away, at least for a little while, and she made her think everything was going to turn out okay.
The phone began to ring, and she picked it up, smiling when she heard the voice on the other end of the line.
"Can you come to Giles'?" Buffy asked her.
"Yes sir�right�no everything's taken care of." Lindsay Macdonald said to one of the owners of the firm in which he was employed.
He was in the back of a limousine that was on his way back to LA, his cell phone held firmly in hand, listening to the response.
"No, I couldn't agree more. It couldn't have happened at better time."
"Will he live?" Olivia asked as they walked through the sewer tunnels.
"Of course. As I said, killing him would have been a mistake." Raziel stated.
They continued walking, Olivia telling him all she knew about Buffy and Faith. Fighting style, personality profiles, and all information the Council had provided her with. She didn't like what she had to do, or the person she was becoming, but she would do what was necessary to stay alive. Almost anything anyway. She still wasn't sure if she would have shot Giles.
She eventually noticed that they had passed the entrance up into Willy's.
"Where are you going? The bar was -"
"The slayers are bound to come looking for me. Given what I know of the man's reputation, they'll ask him about me. It would be unwise for me to go back there."
"You knew they'd try and find you if you fed off of -"
"I want to face them. By weakening someone they're close to, I have instilled fear in them. They'll be cautious now. The best way to know a foe is to face them in battle, and they will be testing me as much as I will be them."
"So what do you want to do?"
"Wait." He sat up against the wall of the tunnel. "Is it true?"
"That you are doing this because of fear of dying?"
"Yes." Olivia admitted.
"I'd imagine they consider you to be expendable."
Olivia swallowed hard. "Why do you say that?"
"Simply that we used to be called vicious monsters, and humans seem no better."
"I suppose in some cases that's true..."
"What a sad world this is. Lives extinguished without remorse by beings that are supposed to have human souls. Does no-one of your kind appreciate their lives?"
Faith met up with Xander and Anya in Giles' courtyard. Anya looked very frustrated.
"She called you too, huh?" Faith asked, surprised. If everyone was coming, it must be big, she reasoned.
"Yeah�" Xander said, forcing a cough.
"Right as we were about to -" Anya began.
He put a hand over his girlfriend's mouth. "I beg you not to finish that sentence."
Faith shook her head, and entered the house first. Willow and Tara were pacing, glancing up at the stairs, as the three of them came in. The witches gave silent waves, and continued walking. Eventually, Buffy came down the stairs, sliding her hand down her face. She smiled when she saw her.
Buffy walked up to Faith, and seemed to study her. "What's wrong?"
"Thought that was my question." Faith dodged. Buffy knew something was up.
Faith's quick avoidance seemed to be enough, because Buffy began to explain what had happened. "Mom's upstairs with Giles now. He's sleeping." She took a breath before continuing. "From what she knows, Olivia,"
"Girlfriend Olivia?" Xander asked, shocked.
"Yep. Her and some thing came in asking about a sword mom just bought for the gallery. And then it�"
"Fed off his soul." Tara said.
"He'll be fine." Willow made sure to say.
"Was it a vamp?" Faith asked.
"Mom couldn't tell. But they're supposed to drink blood. If it is a vamp�it didn't."
"Is there a plan?" Xander asked.
"We track it down and kill it." Faith said, as it was plainly obvious to her.
"I'm all for the tracking part, but seeing as we don't know anything about it�" Buffy tried to explain to her eager partner.
"Damn logic." Faith smirked. "So we hit up Willy."
"Wait." Anya said, making everyone focus on her. "It drank his soul?"
Willow and Tara moved in closer. "Anya? Do you know something?" The redhead asked.
"I don't know�"
"Then stay here and think." Buffy said. She turned to Faith. "You ready?"
"I'm always ready, B."
Faith and Buffy entered "Willy's Place" just after sundown. The place was no more crowded than usual, but they weren't in the mood for an audience. Willy was behind the counter. They'd get to him soon enough.
"Beat it." Faith said, looking around at all the demons in the bar. Some lifted their heads up, but nobody moved.
"Hmm�I don't think they heard you." Buffy said.
"Well maybe they'll see me."
Faith pulled out the knife she always kept with her, and threw it into a Chaos Demon's back in less than a second. It tensed in its chair, and then its head slammed down on the table. She walked up to it, looked down, and retrieved her knife. She held up the slime-covered blade for everyone to see.
Every demon took off like a bat out of hell. Buffy saw Willy trying to follow his customers, and she yanked him out of the retreating crowd. She slammed him up against the counter, holding his shirt with both hands. Faith just stood back and watched.
"What do you mean?" Willy asked, trying to sound clueless.
Buffy grabbed a beer bottle off the counter, smashed it and held it against Willy's neck. "In case you can't tell, I'm very pissed off right now. When I get pissed off, I start doing crazy things."
"She won't hold back." Faith assured him.
"You girls are nuts, you know that?"
"Coulda sworn she said that already."
"Someone I love was hurt today, and I think you know by who. Tell me." Buffy said forcefully.
Faith hopped over the counter, and poked him in the back of the head with her knife. "Come on, Willy. You were born a weasel. Now's not the time to grow a backbone."
She started sliding the knife down his back, cutting his shirt. Buffy pushed the bottle further into his neck. "Okay, okay! He's an old vamp. Name's Raziel. Not from around here. He's in the sewers now. That's probably who you're looking for."
'Out of towner? That probably means� shit. Lawyers work fast.'Faith thought.
"That all you know?" Faith asked, breathing into his ear.
"Cause if we find out you lied�" Buffy started to warn him.
"On my mother's life."
"Then we're done." Buffy let go of him and backed away. "These meetings could go a lot smoother if you just tell us up front, you know."
"I'll remember that."
"I bet you will." Faith walked to the door. "We got a sewer to search."
"Right behind you." Buffy said, taking a final look at Willy.
When they were gone, he stood up and straightened his shirt. "Oh yeah. He's looking for you too." Willy said with a smile.
"They're coming. Go." Raziel said to Olivia as he stared at the top of the tunnel. He could hear their footsteps above ground.
The two of them went in opposite directions. Him walking calmly, her running.
"Any manhole's as good as the next, I guess." Buffy said, looking down at the circular piece of metal secured in the street.
Faith now had it set in her mind that this "Raziel" had come for her. The stuff about a sword was obviously just to throw everybody off. She was expecting to die, but she had no intention of throwing in the towel. She'd fight and she'd claw, because she was determined to hold on to her life. She wasn't done seeing how far she could take it yet, and she had one other really good reason to want to stay alive.
"I know, B. Whatever goes down, I know."
Before either of them could speak another word, the manhole cover flew up into the air, and a figure shot out of the sewers and into the sky. Both slayers whirled around as it landed, bringing its wings behind it.
There was somewhat of a staring match as they circled him. He was sizing them up as much as they were him. Finally the silence was broken.
"Nice entrance." Buffy commented. "Raziel, right?"
He stayed silent.
"Think he's mute?" Buffy asked Faith.
"Talk gets us nowhere." Raziel said.
"Then let's skip right to the action." Faith said.
Olivia came into the gallery through the same subterranean entrance she and Raziel had used before. She knew the Summers' woman would have locked up and probably had an alarm system, so there was no way she was going to use the front door. She was no-one special. She was just a person in a bad situation, and she wasn't really skilled in breaking and entering.
But it wasn't like she had the option of saying no to an "older than recorded history" vampire. She was supposed to get the sword while he kept the slayers occupied, and that's what she was going to do. Having a feeling that it wouldn't be with the main displays, she went around to all of the side storage rooms.
She got to a room, where the door was locked. Smiling, she raised her gun and shot the lock mechanism. She went in, and at first, she didn't see anything spectacular. Getting increasingly frustrated, her attention was drawn to a stack of boxes. She saw a faint outline in a part of the wall which they seemed to be blocking. It could have been a compartment. As she started moving the boxes out of the way, she heard sirens. It had completely slipped her mind that the building might have had a silent alarm. Sound sensitive, probably. She figured she must have set it off when she fired the gun.
Cursing, and rushing now, she threw the boxes carelessly, and there was indeed a compartment. Thankful she had good night vision, she slid up the small door. Inside was a long object wrapped in cloth. Grabbing it, she ran out of the room, and towards her exit. She dropped in just as the police had kicked in the door.
Buffy went in first, trying for a quick roundhouse to Raziel's face. He caught her leg, and her eyes went wide. No vampire, or demon for that matter, had ever caught her kicks with their hands. She reacted quickly, bringing her other leg around, and that did connect, even though she fell. Raziel simply staggered, but he was impressed by her speed.
Faith was a little more aggressive. She rushed him, giving him a hard kick in chest that drove him into the front end of a car. She ran and jumped over top of him onto the car's hood. She kicked him in the face, and he shook his head. Her skills matched her partner's, he noted, but she was in too much of a hurry.
"Tell them I'm not that easy to get rid off."
"I do not want to take that trip again."
"Huh?" Faith was confused.
He reached his arms up, grabbed her shirt, and lifted her above his head. Effortlessly, he threw her square into a parking meter. Buffy had gotten up, and was now extremely angry with the newcomer. Raziel had moved away from the car, and Buffy, making sure to pick up speed, jumped high over him, and wrapped her legs around his neck in midair. As she came down, the momentum flipped him over onto his back and she landed atop him.
"First you hurt Giles, and now you hurt Faith. That's a big no no."
"Then kill me. Now's your chance."
She pulled out her stake, and went to drive it into his heart. He didn't stop her. She plunged it in�
And nothing happened.
He raised his arm and gave her a swift, powerful uppercut that sent her flying through the air.
Raziel got up, and looked at his opponents. "You certainly have potential. You're both too overconfident. She's," He pointed to the now semi-upright Faith, "too eager, and you're too cautious. When we meet again, I warn you, I will not hold back."
He flew away.
Faith and Buffy met up, watching him go. Buffy held her head, which she thought was slightly cut, while Faith had her hand on her back.
"You okay?" Buffy asked.
"Five by�" She winced. "Maybe not."
"That was something I'm not looking forward to repeating."
"Smug bastard. Can you believe he critiqued us?"
"I was rather insulted�but if that was holding back�plus the no dusting factor�"
It was all a complicated puzzle they were too tired to figure out. Even more so for Faith, who was now completely confused. Did Wolfram and Hart send him or not? If he was, why was he playing games? Why didn't he just get it done? Feeling something close to a migraine coming on, she forgot about it for the moment, and they silently walked home.
Raziel came back down to the sewers to find Olivia back. She looked worn, but she was holding something in her hand. The night just continued to improve.
"I have it." She said to him.
"Thank you." He replied as she handed it over to him.
He looked at it. Finally, after so many years, it was his again. The things he could do. Make the vampires the dominant force on the earth once again. Have order, respect, and power. He was not one who was overcome by the mere thought of having control, but there needed to be leadership. And he was the only one left to assume such a position.
Trapped in its physical form, he knew the only way to set it free was to destroy it. After he had it, he would deal with the slayers and start his kind back on the road to greatness. He closed his eyes, turned the blade toward the tunnel floor, lifted up the sword, and drove it into the ground, shattering it to pieces.
He waited for the mystical sword to attach itself to his body.
"Isn't something supposed to happen?" Olivia asked eventually.
"It's a fake. A forgery." His eyes narrowed, and he turned to her. "Did they know about this?"
"No." She said, backing up.
"Did they just assume that I could be used? That I wouldn't figure it out?" He closed the distance between them.
"They�didn't know." She stuttered.
"I know they do not think too highly of you. Perhaps they lied to you�or," He grabbed her neck with lightning fast speed, "perhaps you lied to me."
"I didn't! I swear!" She gagged.
"Only liars swear."
"You seem surprised. I do think its appalling that your kind would put you in this position, I however am not of your kind. You were useful, and now you're simply food."
He began to satisfy his hunger as well as release his anger.
In a large, spacious office on the highest floor of the Wolfram and Hart offices, there was a glass case attached to the wall that was behind a very expensive desk. Inside that case, sat by all appearances, a simple, practically worthless, piece of wood. But as its current owner swiveled his chair around to admire it, he knew it was so much more than that.
Yes, everything had fallen into place nicely.
It was only a matter of time now.
Punch with the left. Punch with the right. Front kick.
Again and again. Faster�faster�
Then the pads were dropped in a blink of an eye.
A wide arced kick was ducked.
Arms connected with arms. Attacks blocked.
A hand grabbed a wrist.
Buffy flipped Faith down onto the mat, and still held on to her. She stared down at her, seeing her faraway expression. Buffy sighed, released Faith's wrist and knelt down beside her.
"Please talk." Buffy said. "You wanted to train, and you're not focused."
Faith sat up. "Nothing to talk about. Money's just going to my head."
They both looked around at their new place. It was a large studio apartment. Wood floors, large windows, sliding door closets�it was perfect for training. Everything except the bedroom was in the same open area. The kitchen was a tad small, but that was fine with them. They didn't get much in yet. It was already semi-furnished. Two leather chairs, coffee table, medium size fridge�the barest of essentials. The rest would come later.
It had been a week since they had faced Raziel, and they hadn't heard a peep out of him since. Faith had been hesitant to spend any of the money, but when she saw that the threat given to her by Wolfram and Hart was not being carried out by Raziel or anything else, she took a gamble and she and Buffy bought the place. She was still distracted, however, and was developing a little paranoia.
"Wrong." Buffy told her.
"What do you mean wrong?"
"You and I both know that's a load of -"
"It's not." Faith got up and walked over to the kitchen area.
Buffy followed. "Oh yeah? I can feel you, Faith, and you are not okay." The brown-haired slayer looked her in the eyes. Buffy went quiet. "You read it."
Faith got a bottle of water out of the fridge. "Yeah."
She wasn't upset. Only more confused. "You have to know I'm here for you, then."
"I didn't need a notebook to tell me that."
"Then what is it? That you have to take the second part of the test tonight? That we lost to Raziel? That we found Olivia and had to be the ones to tell�"
They had searched the sewers the day after to see if they could find Raziel, and instead of finding him, they found Olivia's body lying rather haphazardly on the ground, surrounded by pieces of wood that they could only assume had once been the sword Joyce had talked about.
Going to tell Giles had been difficult, who immediately got out of bed and made the burial arrangements, despite all their protests health-wise. He hadn't said much to anyone. Except to Joyce who had asked him to stay instead of going back to his house. He didn't fight with her. He was the only one they knew who could possibly help them figure out what was going on, so they hoped he'd be okay. Olivia had apparently been a longtime friend and lover, and he was in no rush to talk about her.
"I'm fine. Could we please drop this?" She took a swig of water, and went to sit down on one of the leather chairs.
"You just seem�off. There's a lot of stuff happening now. I go back tomorrow and�"
"Plus the test tonight. So shouldn't we spend some quality time together?"
Buffy sat on her lap, admitting defeat. "Kiss me."
"Now this I can do."
Willow and Tara stood in the doorway of their dorm. The college let residents on campus a day early so they could get their living arrangements settled. They walked in, and over the next hour, they put their clothes away, hooked up Willow's computer, found a place for their spell materials, and they saved the placing of stuffed animals, pictures, and knick-knacks for last.
Willow brushed her hands together. "We're done."
"Uh huh." Tara nodded.
As their eyes were admiring their work, their gazes finally settled on the largest object in the room.
The bed. The single, uno, one and only, bed.
"Should we�uh�pick sides?" Tara asked.
"Seems like the thing to do." Willow shut the door, and walked up to Tara. "Or we could do this." She started to kiss her.
"Are you sure?"
"I want to do this. I've wanted to for -"
"Me too." Tara kissed her back.
"It's scary, yeah, but�"
"Okay." Tara said softly, smiling.
She leaned in to kiss the blond again. "I love you."
"Love you too�but�wait."
Willow's face scrunched into a confused look. Tara reached behind her, and flicked the lock. The girls then lowered themselves onto the bed, their mouths just as locked as the door.
"She was� when I was attending Oxford, she was the only person who made me forget who I had to become. Everyone else I knew, professors, my friends, all reminded me of it. She helped me get through. If that makes sense." Giles said, sitting on the couch in Joyce Summers' living room.
"It does." Joyce assured him, sitting in a chair across from him.
"I didn't have to think about prophecies, or vampires, or the Council�it never mattered when we were together. Even now, I was still just a person to her. Sometimes I forget that I am."
Joyce had a sympathetic expression. "Would you like some coffee? Or tea?"
"Coffee would be wonderful." He smiled gratefully. She got up, and stood there looking at him.
"I don't know how you like it."
"Normally�ah, black." She still stared. "Would you like some help in the kitchen?"
"Yes. Thanks for asking."
He followed her in. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be -"
She opened a cabinet and pulled out two mugs. "Nonsense. It's good to talk about it. It's the only way to heal." He grabbed the coffee can off of the counter. "I know it's not the same thing�exactly�but when Hank wanted a divorce after�what happened at Hemry�I felt lost for a long time. He and I didn't have the best marriage, but we did have a wonderful girl, and I loved him once. I wasn't sure how to handle anything."
"You seem to be doing well now."
"Appearances are deceiving. I may have a nice house and a steady job that's now in a police�" She trailed off when she realized what she was saying. "I'm sorry."
"It's all right, really. But I know�if it wasn't for me, she would've never gotten mixed up in all of this." He said, an angry edge to his voice.
"She made her own choices, Rupert. You're not to blame."
He ran his hands through his hair. "Whether I caused her death directly or indirectly, I'm still at fault." He threw the can hard onto the floor, and the ground beans spilled across it.
He dropped to his knees, and broke down, crying. "Two people. Two people are dead because they chose to get involved with me and my�what is my life now?"
Joyce knelt down, and put her hand on his shoulder. "You're a father. Whether you know it or not, you've become that for Buffy. You've been there for her, and I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful man to guide her through everything she's had to deal with. You're someone who I've come to -" She stopped herself. She got up for a second, and grabbed a few tissues.
He took them, and stood up with a slight smile. "Thank you. For -"
She shook her head. "Now, coffee seems out. What do you say we try tea?"
"As far as I can ascertain, the demon nest was in his house before he moved in." Wesley told Angel as the vampire sat at his desk.
Cordelia was sitting in front of it. "So he didn't invite the demons in to�do it." She looked disgusted with her own words. "Well good. Cause taking a client that's an evil breeder would *so* not look good for our reputation. And then we'd have to file for bankruptcy�"
"I wasn't aware we had a reputation." Wesley said.
"You do. I assure you." A woman said, standing in the doorway of his office. She was wearing a professional looking suit, and had a cocky grin on her face.
"Lilah." Angel said stone-faced.
"I wasn't aware we were addressing each other on a personal level."
"'Ms. Morgan' might give you the impression that I have respect for you and the work you do. I don't."
She grinned. "Touch�."
Cordelia whispered to Wesley. "How come he seems to know any woman who walks in from the street? Is it like some bizarre 'I'm a tortured, souled vampire' flirting routine that he -"
"She's a lawyer for Wolfram and Hart."
"Ohh�" She thought some more. "Oh. Then I'm not here."
She got up out of the chair, and Wesley walked behind her. She made sure she glared at Lilah before she left.
"As you probably know, we've watched you ever since you arrived in town. You've certainly attracted attention. Its caused setbacks for the firm."
"I hope you don't expect an apology."
"Please, I wouldn't -"
"Right. Feel free to get the point and then show yourself out."
"Very well. Mr. Hart would like to meet you. Face to face."
"I'm not the suicidal type." He got up out of his chair, and began to walk around the office, not making eye contact with her.
"You're being extended a courtesy. I can guarantee you that you won't get this chance again. And we do have other interests we could be focusing on."
He turned around to face her. "I'll be there within the hour."
"There's a limo outside." They stared at each other for a few more seconds. "I'll be waiting."
She left, and he waited until she was completely out of the office before grabbing his jacket and walking to Cordelia's desk.
"I'll be back."
"You're not going with her are you? Into the lion's den?" Cordelia asked frantic.
"I like to live on the edge."
Wesley came up to him. "I don't have to ask if you're armed, do I?" Angel was quiet. "Thought not."
"Call Faith. Something may be up, and she should watch her back."
He walked out of the office, with Cordelia and Wesley staring after him.
"Don't die, you hear me? I need paychecks!"
"This is cleaner." Anya pointed out.
"Well, I thought about city clean-up, but I have delicate skin." Xander said.
"A mop is better."
Xander was now the maintenance supervisor at City Hall. The place was a bustle with governmental and new mayoral decisions, and they weren't being paid much attention to. He would still be close to the source�just a lot less slimy. Unless the new mayor wanted to ascend into a demon slug. Currently, he wasn't supervising anybody, but he was looking forward to it. Being a boss. He had shown considerable enthusiasm, but he had no clue if he could actually do the job or not. They had just been looking for someone, and he had been the only one willing.
"So do you know anything about this Raziel guy or what?"
"There were just rumors. Back when I first was elevated -"
"Eighteen-hundred and eightyish, right? I don't know if I've said this before, but you look damn good for your age, honey."
Anya fidgeted. "I want you�but this is your place of employment�so thank you, instead." Xander looked disappointed, but this was what he wanted, so he smiled quickly. "Where was I?"
"Long time ago."
"Yeah, so�he was a demon ghost story. There used to be this really old temple, and demons would pass it, scared out of their minds. I was new in the demon area, so I stayed away too."
"So how -?"
"Oh! I remember now. They said he was a vampire who was older than the world itself and that he murdered any demon or human that disturbed him. He was supposed to be unkillable. Most demons probably won't know anything about it these days."
"It's not just a story anymore. Buffy and Faith went up against him."
"And don't forget. They could've easily been killed by him." Xander shook his head. "Which would be bad of course."
"What's his story? There's gotta be more to it."
Anya shrugged, and Xander continued to mop.
"Now that's a shame." Mr. Hart said into the intercom on his desk. "I was hoping no more action would be necessary on our part. But we must do what needs to be done to keep things running smoothly."
"It'll be handled, sir."
"I have no doubt."
His office was bathed in black, the curtains shielding the day from creeping in through his large window. He himself was hidden by the shadows, and he preferred it that way. He smiled as he saw the doors to his office open, and Angel step in. He had seen pictures, but the man exuded strength of intelligence and body by the look on his face. He hadn't seen that in a long time.
"You like the dark." Angel stated.
"A preference we share, I believe. Please sit."
"No thanks." Angel seemed to squint, and had a questioning look. "What are you?"
"What do you think I am?"
"First guess? Vampire."
"Always trust your instincts." He stared at Angel for a second. "You look confused."
"You weren't -"
"Giving off a vampiric scent? No. Well, not one you would recognize."
Angel's neutral look was back on, and he began to walk closer to his host.
"What's your game?"
"Game? I'm a business man who happens to make a successful living."
"By using demons to murder witnesses before they can take the stand. Among other things, right?"
"Don't tell me you're surprised."
"No. Just disgusted. Where's your partner, Mr. Hart?"
"I'm not sure. He hasn't shown up for work in a very long time."
"He was human."
"Looks good for the firm to have a partner. If only simply in name. PR reasons." Mr. Hart stood up, scrutinizing Angel more closely. "I didn't believe it at first. A human soul."
"What other kind of soul is there to have?"
"So young. And so uneducated."
"Time?" Buffy asked, now knowing the limits of their new bed quite well.
"Just past two." Faith grinned.
"And we've been here since -?"
"That a new record?"
"I don't think Guinness covers this category, B."
"Love you anyway."
"Something to keep me going while I finish the one thing that can give me a future. I hate pressure." Faith kissed her softly, coming down off the seemingly never ending high that involved hearing Buffy yell out her name. "That's better."
"When do you have to be at the testing center by?"
"Five thirty. I'll be outta there by nine."
"You can do it. I know you can."
"I think I proved that several times already."
Buffy snuggled closer, not having the energy to playfully reprimand her. "You know what I meant."
"Just like messing with your head. But that means a lot. Really."
"So what do you want to do?"
"I should probably�" She couldn't believe she was saying this. "Hit the books one last time."
"Then I'll let you study in peace. I'd only distracting you."
"Wouldn't want that." Their tongues jousted for a few seconds.
"I want�to see how�Giles is anyway." Buffy said, trying to catch her breath.
Faith looked at the brand-new phone on the bedside table. "It's not like the phone could distract me, either. Seeing as the damn phone company hasn't hooked us up yet."
"Then nothing will stand in the way of your book-cracking."
"I'm ecstatic." Faith muttered.
"I always like to learn new things." Angel said.
Hart walked around his desk, still careful to hide his face from Angel's view.
"I'd imagine there's quite a conflict between the soul and your demon."
"With a demon soul there isn't such a conflict. "Invitations" are unnecessary, and immunity to holy water and the light of day is developed after only a few years. Demons today have devolved to the point where demon souls are non-existent in this world."
"How do you know all this?"
"I used to have one. Until it was�" He cleared his throat. "That's not the issue. I have adapted over the years, and have come to terms with the fact that our reign is over. Having power now is�more fruitful. The population, the opportunities�"
"Why should I care? If you're trying to tempt me -"
"My motive here is quite simple." He glanced back at his prized, encased sword. "This law firm does not like -"
"To be directly connected to any demon activity. I know the drill."
"Which is why I need you. An enemy of mine has finally come out of hiding. We have unfinished business. If you could bring -"
"I'll find the way out." Angel began to walk toward the door.
"I could kill you at any time. And it would solve many of my problems."
Angel reached down to his pant leg, turned around sharply, and threw a stake directly at the firm owner's heart. It lodged there. Hart pulled it out calmly, and threw it back. Angel caught it.
"Now, as I was about to say, this enemy of mine seems to have taken residence in the area. A town called Sunnydale, I believe."
Angel's eyes widened. "Who are you?"
Hart leaned forward, and the side of his face was charred and black. The skin was barely holding onto his face. He had a large, rather hideous scar on the other side. The only thing that looked vampiric about him was his full set of fangs.
"You don't want to know."
Buffy walked into her mother's home, somewhat surprised to see Willow and Tara sitting on the living room couch. And they were beaming like love-struck fools. One might say they were practically glowing. And they were as close as two people could get without actually going for all out cuddling. Buffy smiled a knowing smile as she went over to them.
The two girls blushed. "Thanks." They said quietly.
"That good, huh?"
If it was possible to blush any more, they accomplished it. Buffy grinned, but left them in their own world of bliss when Giles walked in from the kitchen. She immediately met him, and hugged him tightly. She was happy when she felt him hug back.
"How are you?" She asked into his chest.
"I'm�doing better. I've had lots of support."
She looked into his eyes. "And it'll be here as long as you need it."
"Somehow I knew that."
"When's the funeral?" She asked, walking him to a chair.
"Ah�tomorrow. Around noon."
"Do you want me to go? I'd understand if�you wouldn't�seeing as she was�"
"I'd appreciate that. Very much, actually." He smiled.
"Giles�I�can we talk on the porch?"
Raziel looked into Willy's bar conspicuously from the street. Willy was arguing with another man. The man stood calmly listening to his frantic objections, and when Willy finished, the man reached inside his jacket and pulled out a wad of what must have been large bills, because Willy suddenly became less hostile.
Turning to the bar's demon customers, the man flashed the money in front of their eyes as well. After a few moments, the demons nodded in agreement to whatever the man had proposed, and then he discreetly left the bar. Raziel was immediately suspicious of the human. He seemed too well groomed to want anything to do with such a poor establishment.
He planned on following him, as he hadn't eaten since Olivia, but he wanted to know who the person was. Raziel had a feeling that he couldn't shake. He was just about to follow, but someone else caught his attention. Someone who was coming down the street. He made sure he was hidden from view.
It was the brown-haired slayer.
"I'm sorry." Buffy started out by saying. She and Giles were sitting on the porch bench.
"For being scarce like�almost all of freshman year."
"Buffy there's no need for -"
"Yes. There is. For three years you were there for me through everything, and as soon as college started�boom. I'm gone."
"Things change. Circumstances change."
"But it's not like I was that far away, Giles. Sure I came to see you, but only because some nasty was on the loose."
"You think you were using me, don't you?"
She nodded. "And it wasn't intentional. I just didn't think about how what I was doing might�how you might feel. And that was wrong."
"It was a strenuous�different year for all of us. And we all reacted�or didn't react, in different ways. There's no need for you to feel guilty about trying to figure out how to survive a very new situation.
"I'll be honest with you. I missed your company. I was used to the routine of seeing everyone throughout the course of the day, the comfort of the library, the employment," Buffy smiled, "and I hadn't prepared myself for the day when the routine would have to change. But I don't hold anything against you."
"I missed you too. There were so many things going on, and I guess somewhere I thought you were glad to be free of me so I didn't want to bother you."
"You were never a bother to me. Never. I'll always be here if you need me."
She grabbed his hand. "And I'll be around a lot more. Cause college gets harder, and I need you to keep me on track. And listen to me complain."
"One of my favorite things to do." He smiled. "And I'll return to the gallery when your mother releases me."
"Just do what she says and you'll be fine. Eighteen years of experience talking here." She grinned.
"I'll take that advice then. No appearances from -?"
"The only logical answer is that the sword was a hoax. It's still bothering me that I couldn't find any information on it."
"Well it's his move. He's probably just real ticked."
"I'd imagine so."
Joyce poked her head out the door. "Buffy? A Mr. Pryce is on the phone." Buffy got off the bench and grabbed the cordless her mom handed her, giving Giles a quizzical look.
"Buffy? Is Faith there? We've been trying to reach her. We tried your new number but it didn't go through, and we just found your mother's number -"
"She's on her way to take her the rest of her GED by now. Are you okay? What's going on?"
"I don't know exactly�but you may want to find her."
Buffy automatically went into panic mode. "Thanks." She hung up.
"What is it?" Giles asked.
"Faith might be in trouble."
She started to run, but turned around quickly. "You know I love you, right?"
"I consider you my daughter. I think I always have." She smiled at him through tear-filled eyes. "Hurry."
Faith was nervous. Really nervous. Everything rested on that stupid test. If she wanted to make something out of herself, she needed, at the very least, a knowledge of all the things taught in high school. At the most, a college level education. But she was taking one step at a time. The first part of the exam wasn't that bad, but the second part was going to be English. That wasn't her strong point.
But she had confidence. Everyone had confidence in her. She was going to do well. As she passed Willy's place, she looked at it with disgust, but also with fond memories. Those demons were scared of her. And that was the way it should be. She was a slayer, part of a team. She had to make sure they knew where their place was. The good guys were in control, and it was going to stay like that.
As she continued to walk, she felt eyes watching her. She stopped, and started to look around. The sun was still shining. Who would risk getting seen now? She gasped in surprise when she felt several hands, and things she was sure weren't hands at all, grabbing her and holding her legs and mouth.
She was pulled into an alley.
Buffy practically flew past the Bronze.
' Damn it! I knew there was something she wasn't telling me. '
Her worry increased, and so did her speed.
"Please let her be alive�please let her be alive�"
"Don't kill her." One of them said. "You heard what he said."
Together there were fifteen demons, and they drug Faith deep into the alleyway. The one who was carrying her threw her up against the alley wall. Wasting no time, she found a broken glass shard, jumped up, and slit its throat. He gagged, trying to stop the blood. It did her no good because the other fourteen were backing her into a corner, and began to attack.
No matter how many she threw or kicked away, there was always another one ready to take its place. When the blows got more frequent, she started to slow down, but never gave them the satisfaction of screaming. She had so many thoughts running through her head, that she couldn't concentrate on putting up a decent fight.
'These are the guys from Willy's�I didn't think they had it in them�maybe they don't. Is this because I bought the place? The test. Shit. You've gotten yourself into a real fucked up situation, you know that? There's only one way out of this. What a way to go. Ambushed cause you weren't paying attention.'
Her whole body ached. And hurt. It wasn't letting up. Her face was cut, and would definitely bruise. Her vision was just of claws and fists coming at her. She couldn't pinpoint exactly where the damage had been done, but she was beyond caring. And then suddenly�it was over. Just like that.
She heard clomps of feet and hissing, and it was all gone. She felt someone kneel down beside her, but she couldn't tell who it was.
"You're going to help me. You and your partner."
She knew she recognized the voice, but couldn't place it. Whoever it was had gone just as quickly as he had arrived, and then she heard a voice. If she went deaf she would still be able to hear it. And know it. It was unmistakable.
"God, Faith!" She could feel Buffy's eyes scanning her body to assess her injuries. "I should've�we should get to a -"
Faith had to look her in the eyes. "No. Home."
"I'll heal up�there." She tried to stand, but immediately began to fall. Buffy caught her. "Always here for me, B. But go into guilt mode�and�I'll kick�your ass." Faith wheezed.
It all hit Buffy at once, and she embraced Faith. "Don't leave me. I was so scared." Her voice was small. Like a frightened child's.
"Hey�I'm still here, ain't I?" She ran her fingers through Buffy's hair. She winced as Buffy tightened her hold a little. "Don't know what that�was�but�"
"Sorry. It's not that bad." Even though it hurt to laugh, Faith had to chuckle. "You'll be fine."
They began to walk, but Faith wasn't doing too well, so Buffy picked her up, and saw Faith about to protest. "It's this or I go to the nearest phone to get an ambulance and take you to the hospital."
"All right." Faith conceded, in no shape to argue. She switched to angry in the blink of an eye. "The test�damn it�"
"Later, okay? We'll figure it out later."
"There's things�I�gotta tell you."