"Let me tell you what I see." He told his followers. "I see fear... and remorse... and the pitiful look of faces that cry out for mercy! But what I don't see is what I want to see, and that's... my... amulet!"
"Lord Balthazar, we found it! We had it! But the Slayers..." Said a vampire.
"Already I'm bored."
He held out his hands, and instantly a sort of �magnet effect� was distorting the air. The vampire floated over to Balthazar, who grabbed his throat and squeezed until his neck broke and he slumped to the floor. Vincent watched, extremely worried.
"Vincent... Come here." He wheezed as Vincent approached. "Closer."
Vincent leaned toward him. "Closer."
He leaned even closer, and Balthazar put his hands on Vincent's shoulders.
"Let me tell you� what I want to see."
In the library, Giles was studying the amulet Buffy had given him when she came to school. Wesley was sitting in the cage, quiet. Then, with a look of apology on his face, he stood up, and addressed Giles.
"There�s something I must tell you."
"I have plenty information on the amulet, thank you." Giles responded curtly.
"It�s not about that�"
"It seems I have made a miscalculation."
In chemistry class, Mrs. Taggart passed out the exam booklets. Buffy was sitting next to Willow at their table by the window. She was twisted around in her seat talking quietly to Willow, Xander, and Cordelia.
"It was intense. It was like I just... let go and became this force. I just didn't care anymore."
"Yeah, I know what that's like,"Willow responded.
"I don't think you can. It's kind of a Slayer thing. I don't even think I'm explaining it well."
"You're explaining it a lot, though," Xander said.
"Did something happen during patrol last night?" Willow asked.
"Nothing out of the usual. Why?"
"You�ve never seemed to enjoy slaying this much before."
Mrs. Taggart handed the four of them their tests. "Alright. You have one period to fill out your test booklets. Periodic charts are located on the back. You're on the honor system, so remember, no talking."
Buffy started talking again. "You see, the thing was �"
"Ahem. Ms. Summers?" Mrs. Taggert said. "You have one hour."
Buffy turned to her test, and as soon as the teacher had her back turned, she talked again. "Okay, so the best part..."
"Buffy. Test? You know. Remember? The thing you didn't come over to study for?" Willow explained, worry and hurt in her voice.
"Right. Got it." She went back to her test, but then began again. "Sorry. Okay, so we're down there, in the sewers�I mean, me�and�"
"God, Buffy, shut up," Cordelia hissed.
Buffy realized that she wasn�t going to be allowed to continue her story, and calmed down to take her test. She opened the booklet, but was interrupted, along with the rest of the class, by Faith rapping on the windowpane trying to get Buffy's attention. Faith lifted the sash and leaned in.
"Hey. Bad time?" Faith asked.
She leaned over to the next window, wiped the dust from it with her sleeve, exhaled to fog it and used her index fingers to draw a heart with a stake through it. She looked at Buffy, smiled and raised her eyebrows. Buffy slid down from her lab stool and headed for the window.
"No, she can't! You can't! Can you?" Willow asked, not believing what was happening.
Buffy regarded her for a moment, and climbed out of the window. Faith lowered the sash.
"What's up?" Buffy asked. They were walking outside now.
"Uh, Faith, unless there's a total eclipse in the next five minutes, it's daylight."
"Good for us, bad for them. Found a nest. Don�t know if it�s our boys, but they�re still vampires."
"How is everyone?"
"You mean you care?"
"Not really, but�"
"Willow�s all excited about getting accepted to every college on the planet. She�s probably gonna�" Buffy looked sad for a second, and then shrugged it off. "Forget it. Where�s the nest?"
In the nest, it was dark and musty. Only a few rays of sunlight were getting in. There were vampires lying all over the floor. Buffy and Faith kicked in the door, and the sunlight poured in. It hit one of the vampires, and it quickly burst into flames. They all scrambled to their feet and began to run.
"Rise and shine, people," Faith said.
"It's your wake-up call," Buffy said.
In City Hall, the Mayor posed with a troop of Boy Scouts. They all had smiles on their faces. The photographer snapped the picture.
"There we go," he said, as the boys went out of the office. "Thanks a lot, fellas. Thanks a heap."
He went to the window, where the blinds were open, and started to shut them.
"Hey, have fun on that camping trip, now. Don't forget to roast a wiener for me."
As the last kid left, the Mayor walked to the door of his private bathroom.
"Here we go. Alright, you can come out now." Mr. Trick came into the office. "Backbone of America, those little guys. Seeing the hope and courage on their bright little faces, I swear I could just, I... I could just eat 'em up."
He walked over to the liquor cabinet, and started to open it up. "So, any news about the Eliminati?"
Vincent jumped out and grabbed him by the neck, pushing him back and down over his desk and held up his sword to attack.
"In the name of Lord Balthazar, die!"
Before he could do anything, Mr. Trick punched him in the forehead. Vincent fell backward onto the floor, unconscious. The Mayor coughed as he sat up on the edge of the desk and straightened his tie.
"Thank you, Mr. Trick. That was very thoughtful of you."
"Why do they always gotta be using swords? It's called an Uzi, chump! Could have saved your ass right about now," Trick said to Vincent�s still form.
"You know, it's curious how he could've gotten all the way into my liquor cabinet." The Mayor looked at Allan who was standing in the corner. "Allan, don't we have security working in this building?"
"Sir, I... I had no idea. I..."
"There's no need to swoon, Allan. But try to keep things secure. Lock him up." The Mayor looked at Vincent.
"He wakes up, he's just gonna try and kill you again," Trick said.
"Yes, I expect he will."
In the library, Wesley was now telling everyone, except Buffy, about his �miscalculation�.
"Her story seemed to fit with what I�d been told about�all of you�she was quite inviting�"
"The Council didn�t tell you that Faith was the bad one?" Willow asked.
"Been informally discharged, in the mildest sense. Am I correct?" Giles asked.
"Yes. To be quite frank, the Council did not take your warnings about Faith at face value. Nor did I, when I was told."
"You thought he was making it up?" Xander asked.
"It doesn�t matter now. What matters is�"
"That you let Faith trick Buffy, and now�" Willow trailed off.
"Who knows what ideas she�s been planting in her head," Giles said.
Later, at night, Buffy and Willow were sitting on Buffy�s bed. Willow handed her a small black pouch, and she smelled its contents.
"You like it?" Willow asked.
"It smells good. What is it?"
"Just a little something we witches like to call a protection spell."
"Good deal, protection. I'm surprised, though, 'cause usually spell stuff's more..."
"Stinky. Yeah. That's why I added lavender. Give me time, and I may be the first wicca to do all my conjuring in pine fresh scent. So what's the plan?"
Buffy gave her a questioning look.
"For tonight's slayage. We're going, aren't we?"
"Yeah." Buffy looked down at the bag, trying to see if she could see the individual fibers. Avoiding wasn�t her best talent.
"Out with it."
"But... there's a 'but'. And that's 'but you shouldn't come... tonight.' Is that cool?"
"Well, sure. Makes sense. You know... You'll be facing big, hairy danger."
"Uh, biggest and very hairy. Found the Eliminati�s place. Wouldn�t want you to get hurt�or anything�"
"You'll be risking your life."
"Right. And why risk yours?"
Willow glanced down at the bed. "Because I'm your friend?"
"Because I love you, and that's exactly why I don't want you going. It's too dangerous."
"But I've done this sort of thing before! Like, a million times, and I can totally handle myself. Besides, minty fresh protection. So?"
"It�s Faith. I know who it is. You�re just trying to hide that�s who you�re slaying with. The enemy."
"She�s not�I just think maybe if I hang with her�she�ll come back to the side of good. She just needs someone to push her in the right direction."
"She�s the one doing the pushing, Buffy. Wesley said�"
"Wesley? The guy who tried to cart me off to England and kill me Wesley?"
"Faith set him up. She tricked him, and�now she�s tricking you."
"She saved me. Don�t you trust me?"
"Always, you just haven�t been yourself, and Faith seems to be in the middle of it all."
"She isn�t doing anything to me. Look, I have to go." Buffy walked out of the room, angry.
Willow looked out Buffy�s window, and saw Faith standing on the sidewalk.
Inside Balthazar�s warehouse, a vampire was pouring more water on his boss.
"Vincent made a noble effort. Man to man, as befits a true warrior. He had courage... He had honor... and I have jack to show for it!
"It�s been a hundred years since my enemy crippled me. Now ultimate power is within his grasp. And I shall not let it be! Forget about honor! Forget about everything! But getting my amulet! Bring the Watchers to me! Find the Slayers and kill them! Kill everything that gets in your way! Go! Go!"
Faith and Buffy looked for the warehouse and found it. They looked in through a crack in the door and saw Balthazar surrounded by the Eliminati. His men started exiting.
Buffy and Faith stood flat against the wall, making sure they weren�t seen.
"Okay, we got ten, maybe twelve bad guys and one big demon in desperate need of a Stairmaster," Buffy said.
"I say we take 'em all, hard and fast and now."
"We need a little more firepower than none. I should�"
"Well, I guess Jacuzzi Boy isn't going anywhere. I just... wish we had..."
Faith spotted a sport and tackle shop across the street. She pointed Buffy in that direction.
"Ah. That is too good," she said, heading for the store. Buffy was following.
The got to the front door and Faith kicked it in. They walked through quickly, looking for anything useful. Faith found the Archery counter.
She saw a small crossbow, complete with 4x optical sights, on display beneath the glass countertop. She broke the glass with her elbow, reached in, and pulled it out.
"Think they're insured?" Buffy asked.
"Strangely, not my priority. When are ya gonna get this, B? Life for a Slayer is very simple." She walked to a case, broke it, and pulled out a pair of nun-chucks. "Want...take�have."
Buffy hesitated, but saw hunting knives in another case.
"Want...take...have." Buffy repeated. She punched the glass with her fist, and grabbed a dagger out of the case. "I'm gettin' it."
Faith smiled, seeing that Buffy was finally coming around. Before they could get any further, they were surprised by a gunshot. They spun around to see two police officers. They both had service revolvers aimed at them.
"Drop the weapons and get down on the ground! Now!" One officer said.
They didn�t move.
"I said drop the weapons, or I fire."
Buffy slowly reached her hand out and set the dagger on a counter. The officer was satisfied, and turned his attention to Faith. She gave in, and tossed the bow aside.
"Your boss is gonna be very upset when he hears about this," Faith said.
"Hands in the air where I can see 'em. Slow!" The officer was worried about what Faith might do.
She smiled at him, but did as she was told and raised her arms over her head. Buffy raised hers as well, but up to her shoulders.
"Good. Now cuff 'em."
His partner holstered his gun and reached into his belt for his cuffs.
"I like him. He's butch." Faith said.
Giles and Wesley were in his office. Wesley was checking out some of the pictures on the wall, while he was sitting at his desk.
"I didn't say you had emotional problems. I said you had an emotional problem. It's quite different." Wesley said.
"My 'attachment' to the Slayer is not a problem. In point of fact, it's been a very..."
"The way you've handled this assignment is something of an embarrassment to the Council."
"If you want to criticize my methods, fine. And then I can criticize yours."
"The situation with Buffy was not my doing. It has probably been building towards this for quite some time. I�m surprised you were able to maintain some semblance of control on her for this long."
"First of all, it is entirely your fault. Buffy, to her credit, is a very emotionally driven person. A quality not usually found in Slayers. Most times her personality is an asset, but in this case, it has gotten her lost.
"She cares about people, and that coupled with the strong bond between Slayers, well, it must be very painful for her to watch Faith go down the path she�s on. She obviously feels it is up to her to try and restore Faith, and yet Faith is destroying her. If you had actually thought through your actions, and not tried to take her away, this would not have happened.
"She is your Slayer, and you are her Watcher now. Instead of bickering with me, maybe you should try and help me figure out how to handle this before she is too far gone."
"This matter will be cleared up in time. My point is, you're no longer qualified to act as Watcher. It's not your fault. You've done well. It's simply time for somebody else to take the field."
Giles looked at him, then past him through the window to the main area.
"Now's a good time to start."
Wesley turned to look as well, and they saw four Eliminati come to take them to Balthazar.
In the police car, Buffy and Faith were in the back seat with their hands cuffed behind their backs. A heavy steel mesh separated them from the officers in the front seat.
"That's some artillery you two were puttin' together. You with one of them girl gangs?" One of the officers asked.
"Yeah. We're the Slayers." The officer laughed. "You wanna get outta here?" She said quietly to Buffy.
She slouched down in the seat. Buffy realized what she intended to do, and was unsure.
"Can't save the world in jail."
Buffy realized she was right and slowly slouched down also. Faith raised her legs, and Buffy followed her lead.
They both kicked hard into the steel mesh, making it buckle and tear at the edges and hit the officers in the backs of their heads. The driver lost control of the car, and it swerved, screeching to the left and smashed into a parked car. The radiator burst, and steam rose into the air. The officers were unconscious.
Buffy climbed out of the front passenger-side door. A moment later Faith came out too, with one of the officer's keys. They turned back-to-back and fumbled with the keys, trying to unlock the cuffs.
"We should call an ambulance," Buffy said.
"Five people already have, the racket we made, and they're fine." She got the cuffs unlocked. "Come on. Let's get outta here. We�re not finished."
Buffy didn't follow.
Buffy went back to the warehouse, and waited in the alley for Faith. Faith had gone off, and said she�d be back. Buffy looked in. Giles was there, and Wesley. She jumped as she heard a police siren. The car continued down the street.
"Looky what I got." Faith said walking up carrying the bow from the store.
"I can�t believe you went back there."
Faith was going to say something, but an Eliminatus jumped down from above them.
"Giles and Wesley are in there!" Buffy yelled.
"Well you aren�t going to be much help to them if you�re dead, so fight!"
Inside the warehouse, Giles and Wesley were watching Balthazar get �rejuvenated�.
"The front! The front! Moisten the front!"
He groaned as the water was poured across his chest. Wesley and Giles watched in disgust.
"Oh, God! Oh, God!" Wesley panicked.
"It doesn't seem too promising, does it?" Giles asked calmly.
"Stay calm, Mr. Giles. We have to stay calm."
"Well, thank God you're here. I was planning to panic."
"What is that thing?"
"That would be your demon. You know, the dead one?"
"There's no need to get snippy."
Balthazar looked at the two Watchers. "Bring them closer."
They were shoved closer.
"You know what I want."
"If it's for me to scrub those hard-to-reach areas, I'd like to request you kill me now," Giles said. He was hit in the back of the head. "Ow."
"Are you out of your mind? This is hardly the time for games!"
"Why not? They're going to torture us to death anyway."
"You're not wrong about that," Balthazar snickered.
"Now, hold on. We can deal with this rationally. We have something you want. You have something we want." Wesley was caving.
"Hmm. A trade. Intriguing. No. Wait. Boring. Pull off his kneecaps!"
Two vampires grabbed Wesley.
"No, no, no! It�s in our office at the school. I can get it."
"Quiet, you twerp! They'll kill us both," Giles said.
"But I'd like to have my kneecaps."
Out in the alley, the vampire roared and came at Buffy. She sidestepped him, grabbed, and shoved him into the back of a truck. He came at her again and did a front snap kick at her, but she blocked. She returned with a roundhouse kick to his gut, knocking him to the pavement. Buffy jumped on him, and they began to struggle. Another vampire joined in as Faith struggled with her bow.
"Screw it!" Faith said to herself.
She dropped the bow, but held onto the arrow. She ducked a roundhouse kick from the demon, and did a kick to his side, and he staggered into the side of a truck. Faith came at him with her arrow and plunged it home as he turned around to attack again. He burst into ashes. Buffy got up holding her stake, having just dusted hers as well.
"I think we've got more comin'!"
"We're never gonna make it."
"If they keep coming one at a time, we got a shot."
Suddenly another Eliminatus landed in front of them and thrust at Faith with his short sword. She reacted instantly, catching his arm and shoving him into a crate, then pulling him off and swinging him backward onto a pile of several chords of wood. Buffy stepped right in and staked him. He crumbled to ash. They continued down the alley.
At the end of the building an arm reached out and grabbed Buffy by the shoulder. Instantly she grabbed the man and threw him against a dumpster. Faith jumped right in to stake him. He slumped down to the ground, hurt by the impact against the heavy steel container. It was Allan, but Faith was too caught up in things and to realize who he was.
Faith swung down with her stake and plunged it into Allan's heart, then pulled it out. Allan grabbed his chest. Blood poured out. Faith backed away as Buffy quickly got down beside him to try to help him. Allan pulled his hands away and looked down at them covered in his own blood, shaking hard as he went into shock. Buffy looked at the wound and saw it was bad.
"Don't move!" Buffy said to him.
"I didn't... I didn't know. I didn't know." Faith said in shock.
She was overwhelmed. Trying her best to rationalize her fear, and what had just happened, she thought, �The bastard was probably gonna squeal anyway.� Not surprisingly, it didn�t help her.
"We need to call 911, now!" Buffy yelled at Faith.
Allan shook harder as the blood loss increased. He looked up at Buffy.
"Don't move, it's okay..." She was trying to apply pressure to the wound. "I need, I need something to stop the..."
Allan began to convulse, and blood started to trickle from the corner of his mouth. He looked down at his chest one last time, then reached up to Buffy, but his arm never made it. It fell to his side, and his body relaxed against the dumpster, finally dead. His eyes remained wide open. Buffy gaped, terrified.
�I just killed a guy��Faith kept thinking. Then she thought about their safety next.
"We gotta go!"
"I�can�t. Giles is still�"
Faith closed her eyes, and tried to remember to breathe.
"Fine, go. I�ll take care of this."
Buffy stared at her.
Buffy ran back towards the entrance of the warehouse.
In a room in city hall, the Mayor was standing in the middle of a pentagram, chanting.
"Potestatem matris nostrae in tenebris invoco. Maledictum filium tuum abomni periculo custodias nunc et in saecula!"
The building began to shake. The Mayor remained still with his eyes closed and moved with the quake. Mr. Trick looked around nervously, as did Vincent who was locked in a cage. Soon it was over, and the Mayor opened his eyes and checked his watch.
"I don't understand why Allan would miss this. He's usually so punctual."
"Did it work?" Trick asked.
"Let's find out. Open the gate."
"Oh! Hold on".
He went over to Trick, took Vincent's sword from him, set it tip-down on the floor and let it fall through the cage bars into Vincent's hands. The Mayor stepped back.
"Okay. Now we're ready."
Trick stepped around to the front of the cage, unlocked the padlock and removed the chains. He pulled open the door, and Vincent rushed out, heading straight for the Mayor. He raised his sword high and brought it down hard on the Mayor's head, slicing it in two.
He didn�t bleed. The flesh inside just shimmered as Vincent pulled back his sword. The two halves of the Mayor's head pulled toward each other and sealed together. He stood before Vincent completely untouched. Mr. Trick waited behind Vincent, and staked him through the back. He exploded into ashes.
"Well! This officially commences the Hundred Days. Nothing can harm me until the Ascension. Gosh, I'm feeling chipper! Who's for a root beer?"
Trick smiled as they left the room.
Back at the warehouse, Giles was trying to work at preventing Balthazar from doing anything rash.
"Look, tell you what, let Captain Courageous here go, and I'll tell you what you need to know. How's that deal?"
"There is one deal! If your friend here is telling the truth, and my soldiers find the amulet, you will die quickly. If not, you will die slowly. How�s that deal?"
"I really think they should hold out for a better one," Buffy said, rushing in.
She backhanded one vampire and punched another in the face. The first one raised his sword and tried to attack, but she blocked him and grabbed his arm. She brought it down and kneed him in the gut, making him drop his sword.
Giles saw Buffy catch it, and turned his tied hands toward her. She swung the sword in a high arc and brought it down on the ropes binding his wrists, slicing them cleanly. Giles grabbed Wesley and pushed him out of harm's way.
Buffy swung the sword back at the Eliminatus, but he caught her hand and swung the sword down against the edge of Balthazar's pool, forcing her to drop it. He did a backhand swing at Buffy's face, making her trip forward, but she returned with a back kick at him, and then shoulder rolled onto a large crate to avoid being sliced by another one's sword.
"Unacceptable!" Balthazar yelled.
Out of the way of the fight, Giles untied Wesley's hands. Behind him a vampire roared, and he looked back in time to see and ducked his sword. It hit a shelf, and Giles grabbed the blade and back elbowed the vamp in the face, taking the sword from him. He swung it around and jammed the hilt of the sword into his face as well, then spun around in time to take on another one.
The Eliminatus swung his sword at Giles, who parried it with his own. The vampire swung again, and Giles blocked it. The demon spun around and swung down from above, but again Giles had his sword up in time to block.
He swung his arms around and down, forcing the Eliminatus' sword to the floor and making him bend down with it, and then kneed him in the face. The vampire jerked backward and fell to the floor, dropping his sword. Meanwhile, the one whose sword was taken away by Giles grabbed Wesley from behind, pinning his arms behind his back.
Giles raised his sword and started to swing it.
Wesley bent over fast, and the blade caught the vampire on the neck and sliced through. The beheaded Eliminatus burst into ashes. Wesley stood back up, shocked at what just happened.
Buffy got to her feet on a raised area of the floor. An Eliminatus came at her with a sword, but she grabbed his arm and pulled him past her over a crate and into a barrel. Another one swung at her, and she blocked him, punched him in the gut, ducked another swing and then backhand punched him in the face. He fell to the floor.
Buffy picked him up and sent him spinning into a huge pile of rope. As he tried to come at her again, she did a spinning wheel kick to his face. He quickly regained his balance and tried to punch her, but she redirected his fist and held onto it while she elbowed him in the face. She swung him around and threw him into a bunch of stacked oil barrels.
She spied an electrical cable hanging down from a lamp directly above Balthazar. She grabbed it and yanked hard, and the lamp fell from the roof with sparks flying right into the pool. Balthazar writhed in agony as he was electrocuted. Giles and Wesley stared in amazement.
Soon Balthazar seemed dead and the circuit breakers shut off the power. Buffy rushed over and looked at Balthazar. She jumped, startled, when his eyes whipped open and he took a sudden, wheezing breath.
"Slayer! You think you've won. When he rises... you'll wish I'd killed you all."
He let out his last breath and finally died. Buffy looked at Giles, wondering what the demon meant.
The next morning, Faith was in the bathroom at her apartment, washing blood off her hands, and off her shirt. She heard a knock at the door.
"Faith, it's me." Buffy called from outside.
She left the shirt in the sink and answered the door.
"Hey," Buffy said.
Faith walked back to the bathroom and continued to scrub the shirt. Buffy came in, and followed.
"So, I�how are ya doin'?"
"I'm alright. You know me."
"Do I?" Buffy asked. Faith just stared. "Faith, we need to talk about what we're gonna do."
"There's nothing to talk about. I was doing my job."
"Being a Slayer is not the same as being a killer."
"You don�t seem to get it. I am a killer. It was what I was hired to do. Slaying is your thing."
"Will you stop already? I used you to help me do my job. I was hoping you�d come work with me, but that ain�t gonna happen, is it? You were so close too."
"Faith, please don't shut me out here. We play on different sides; you were using me, that doesn�t matter right now. Look, sooner or later, we're both gonna have to deal."
"We can help each other."
"I don't need it."
"Yeah? Who's wrong now? Faith, you can shut off all the emotions that you want. But eventually, they're gonna find a body."
"Okay, this is the last time we're gonna have this conversation, and we're not even having it now, you understand me? There is no body. I took it, weighted it, and dumped it. The body doesn't exist.
"You have nothing to worry about. You can keep the flawless rep, get your girl, and move on. The next time we see each other though, we�ll be on opposite ends of a blade, I hope you get that."
"Getting rid of the evidence doesn't make the problem go away."
"It does for me."
"Faith, you don't get it. You killed a man."
"No, you don't get it. I don't care."
Buffy stared at her, disbelieving.
Buffy snapped awake. Looking at her clock, she saw it was only 11:30. More then twelve hours before, she had left Faith�s apartment after the other slayer had effectively ended any hope of them playing on the same side again. Buffy was scared not only for herself, but for Faith too, because Buffy knew she had gone over the edge.
She also knew what Faith did was an accident, but that didn�t help her any. She was the one who pushed the man to Faith to stake, and she was just as responsible. Looking back on everything, she wished she had been more responsible. In the good, Buffy way. Over the last couple days she hadn�t been herself, and she knew that.
Faith allowed her a freedom she had never considered before. She went along with Faith�s advice to try and gain her trust, and really, to see what it felt like to let go. She found out all right. She had lost control, and a man had paid with his life. Worst of all, she alienated Willow, and she hated herself for it.
�She was right. The whole time. Why did I do that to her?�
Willow wouldn�t have told her about Faith if she weren�t it sure it was the truth. She couldn�t imagine how she must have made her feel, to see her go to Faith all the time.
�It hurt her a lot.�
Faith was a good excuse to get away from Willow, and if it hadn�t been her, it would�ve been something else. As soon as she saw the look on Willow�s face after she got acceptance letters from every college and university on the planet, Buffy immediately felt like she was going to hold her back. Like she was forcing Willow to stay with her, and denying the world her intelligence and her talent.
She didn�t want to condemn Willow to a life of monsters and death. She wanted to give her a life with no worries. But she couldn�t do that, so the best option to her was to maintain enough distance, so that Willow would eventually decide to move on. She wanted Willow to stay, wanted to be with her, but that was selfish. And being selfish led to being arrested, and then causing two cops to become unconscious.
When she wasn�t thinking about Willow, she was dreaming about the man. Propped up against the dumpster, looking at her though dead eyes. In the dream, the blood never stopped. It just kept coming, and she went under, submerged in an innocent�s blood, and she lost herself forever.
She got out of bed, and rubbed her face. The right thing to do was tell someone, tell Giles, Willow, but she couldn�t. For Faith�s sake. She kept asking herself why she wanted to protect her. Was it because they were slayers? That was part of it, and the other she soon figured out, was because Faith was human. And Buffy killed and hurt demons, not people. Besides, they weren�t going to find the body.
She heard the news on in her mom�s room, and walked just inside the doorway. Buffy went wide-eyed when she heard what they were talking about.
"We go now live to our field reporter, who is standing by at the waterfront with this breaking news about the murder that has shocked the Mayor and residents of Sunnydale." The anchor said.
On the screen it switched to footage from the waterfront earlier in the day. A boat was in the water retrieving Allan�s body.
"Fishermen discovered the body today, the victim of a brutal stabbing. Authorities and citizens alike were shocked when the slain man was identified as Deputy Mayor Allan Finch." The reporter said.
�Oh God�he was�Oh God��She started to feel sick.
"Still reeling from the news, Mayor Wilkins had this to say."
The footage switched to the Mayor at a press conference.
"Mr. Finch was not only my longtime aide and associate, he was a close personal friend. I promise you I will not rest until whoever did this is found and brought to justice. Thank you very much."
Joyce turned around, and saw Buffy standing there.
"Oh, honey, you're up. Oh, it's just terrible, isn't it?"
Buffy was sitting at the table in the library with Willow, Giles was sitting on the steps and Wesley was talking.
"I want you to look into this. Find out everything you can about the murder of the Deputy Mayor."
Buffy tried to hide the guilty look threatening to surface on her face. "It's amazing that you've learned nothing at all about me."
"Try asking nicely. An apology would be good too," Willow clarified.
"Oh. I apologize, I�it was a mistake, and it will never happen again. Could you please look into�"
"But that's�not really our jurisdiction, is it?" Buffy asked.
"She's right. The Deputy Mayor's murder was the result of human malice. There's nothing supernatural about it," Giles said.
"We don't know that for certain. I say it merits investigation."
"Which I'm sure the police are doing. Meantime, if you ask me, there are better uses for the Slayers' time."
"Ah. But I don't believe I did. Ask you."
"Considering the success of your previous adventure..."
"Do I have to lock you into your rooms?" Buffy asked. "Listen, Giles' opinion counts too. You want me to work with you, he's gotta be involved. Got it?"
"Fine. If you have time after your standard patrol, could you possibly check out the Mayor's records?"
"You want her to break into City Hall?" Willow asked.
"Is that a problem?"
Buffy thought back to the alley. 'What was he doing there anyway?'
It was kind of weird that a deputy mayor would be in an alley in the middle of the night. That would be something. The city government involved in the Hellmouth. Actually, the more she thought about it, the more it made sense.
"No, I'll do it. I have�to get to�"
"Class," Willow said.
"Yeah, that's it."
Willow got up, and they both walked out of the library.
"You know something about it, don't you?" Willow asked Buffy on the way to class.
"No. Why would I?"
"I'm going with you tonight."
"If this has something to do with Faith, and it being too dangerous�"
Willow looked at her, waiting for Buffy to challenge her statement, but it didn't come.
In the Mayor's Office, he was destroying documents through a paper shredder. Trick was standing by watching, holding a folder.
"It's not working."
"It's supposed to do something besides shred?"
"It's supposed to cheer me up. Usually using the shredder gives me a lift. It's fun."
"And today you're not getting the ya-yas."
"No." The Mayor said sadly. "Guess it'll take more than this to turn my frown upside down. I just don't understand why Allan would leave such a paper trail about our dealings. Do you think he was gonna betray me? Oh, now, that's a horrible thought. And now he's dead, I'll never have the chance to scold him."
"Maybe this will change your mood."
Trick dropped a copy of the coroner's report on the desk. The Mayor picked it up and opened it.
"What is it?"
"Bombshell. The Deputy Mayor had wooden splinters in his wound. Struck right through the heart with a sharp, pointed object. Now, word is, someone was fighting vampires not a block away from the scene. Any smart money says it was a Slayer who did this job."
"Why? Do you think he talked?"
"He tried. Didn't get too far though." Faith said walking into the room.
The Mayor turned around and smiled at her.
"Faith! I hope the action was justified."
She couldn't let him know it was an accident. 'If he knew it was�' She shuddered. "Completely, boss. I'm sorry."
"Don't be. In every term of office there are gains and losses. This in no way implicates me. All it does is help. Relax." He walked up to her, and ran his hand across her cheek. "You did good."
"The cops will be all over this," Trick said.
"True, but I will deal with them. There are after all, two slayers in this town."
Faith and Trick grinned.
"Great idea, boss."
"Buffy Summers, is now up for Murder One. That's sunshine and roses to me. It really is."
Later at night, Buffy and Willow snuck into Allan's office. Buffy switched on the light as Willow went over to one of the file drawers. She went over to his desk, and saw a picture of Allan and the Mayor shaking hands at a press conference.
'And I feel worse.'
She looked up as Willow called her over. Willow handed her a folder. It was empty.
"All his files are gone," Willow said.
"Do you think�?"
"I wouldn't have thought it, but don't you think it's kind of odd that all the records the Deputy Mayor kept are just gone?"
"Then how much do you wanna bet that's who�"
Buffy suddenly hushed as they both heard noises out in the hall. They went to the door, and cracked it open. The Mayor and Trick were talking and walking down the hall. Buffy quickly shut the door.
"That guy's a vampire."
"The Mayor?" Willow asked.
"No the other one. I'm gonna follow them. See what else you can find."
Buffy crept out into the hall, and looked at the door that had just shut. She got halfway down, creeping along the wall, when she felt hands grab her and pull her into a room. She couldn't move, and she felt metal against her neck.
"I didn't think you'd be stupid enough to come here." Faith said.
"So, this is your boss's place, huh?"
"I work for the top guys. I won't settle for less."
"You gonna slit my throat or can I go?"
"No�I was gonna slit your throat."
Buffy stomped her foot on top of Faith's causing her to drop the knife right into Buffy's hands. She elbowed Faith in the stomach, and the other slayer staggered back.
"Come on, B. Use the knife."
"I aim to please."
Buffy threw the knife right above Faith's head, and it stuck into the wall.
"How'd I know you wouldn't do it?"
She rushed at Buffy, and they both fell to the ground. Faith was on top, and put her hands around Buffy's neck.
Willow grabbed the lamp off Allan's desk, and opened the door again. Buffy had been gone too long. She knew she should stay in the room, but she also knew something was wrong. Everything seemed okay, but in her experience, when something seemed okay, it usually wasn't.
She made up her mind when she heard a thump. She walked out, and shut the door behind her. As she walked past a couple more doors, she saw one was open. She peaked around the corner, and saw Faith choking Buffy.
She rushed in, and slammed the lamp over Faith's head. It shattered, and Faith let go off of Buffy's neck. She kicked her off, and back, hard into the wall. She flipped up into a standing position.
"Are you okay?" Willow asked.
"You brought your bitch, B?"
Rage swelled up inside Buffy, and she punched Faith right on the bridge of her nose. She started to bleed.
"You're close, still didn't go for the kill."
"Like you did?" Buffy asked.
Faith had an evil smile on her face, and Willow stood in front of her.
"Buffy tried to protect you from murder charges. She's a lot nicer than I am. You may be able to kill me right now, but I just have to say that you had your shot. You could've had us as friends, but you decided to choose evil.
"Well, keep it. Eventually it's gonna come back to haunt you, and you'll wish you stayed with us. See you may have protection from murder, some power, but you don't have friends, and you don't have love. I pity you."
"We have to go," Buffy said smirking.
They turned around, and started to leave. Faith didn't move.
"The Mayor's got this town wired. He built it for demons to feed on. You may have love, but it ain't gonna last. Come graduation day, you'll be dead. And I wouldn't be surprised if you had some people waiting for you at home, B."
Willow and Buffy were sitting in Willow's room. Buffy was reluctant to go home.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Willow asked.
"I don't know. I was scared, I guess."
"For you. The more I pull you in, the less likely it is that you'll be able to get out."
"Who said I wanted to get out?"
"Why wouldn't you? I've been really messed up, I helped kill a guy�"
"You didn't do anything. You didn't put a stake in his heart. You have to tell Giles."
"I know I do. Faith is gone, and I'll have to deal with her."
"We'll have to deal."
"Will, you have a great opportunity to do something with your life, and I don't want you to feel�"
"I know I have a great opportunity. When we were facing off with Faith, things just, kind of, got clear. I mean, you've been fighting evil here for three years, and I've helped some, and now we're supposed to decide what we want to do with our lives.
"And I just realized that that's what I want to do. Fight evil, help people. I mean, I think it's worth doing. And I don't think you do it because you have to. It's a good fight, Buffy, and I want in."
"I kind of love you."
"Really love you."
"I was beginning to think�"
"I know. I was trying�actually; right now I can't remember what I was trying to do. I guess I never realized that you helped cause you wanted to do. I had always thought you did it cause you thought I was making you. And I wanted to let you have the life, I thought you wanted."
"I want this life."
"I know that now." Buffy kissed Willow. "And I'm glad you do. I couldn't do this without you."
"I'm never leaving, okay? Never."
"Same here. And if I ever don't act like me again�"
"I'll get you out of it." Willow kissed her.
"As much as I'd like to find out how, I should get home."
Buffy got home, and was greeted by her mom, and a police officer. He wanted to question her about something, and she knew what it was.
"What time did you get home last night?"
"Late. Um, a little past 1:00, I guess."
"Maybe you can explain to me what a girl your age is doing out all night."
"I was at a friend's�watching TV."
"Hmm. That's funny 'cause I got a couple of witnesses who put you near the alley."
"A murder happened there last night."
"Yeah, I heard about it on the news."
"Somebody stabbed this guy through the heart. Strange thing is, the weapon, it was made out of wood. Any of this mean anything to you?"
"Sorry, no. Is that it? I'm kinda beat."
"Yeah, I have enough for now. Buffy, if you know something, if you're protecting someone, I promise you it'll be better for everyone if you just come clean."
"I wish I could help you."
"Well, call me if you remember anything."
"The Slayer, and her friend. Right here in the building." The Mayor said to Trick and Faith looking at the security camera tapes.
"There was supposed to be a guard."
"Here comes my favorite part. They see us in the hall together, thick as thieves. Oh, wait, we are thieves. And worse. And now they know it."
"Well, they're not gonna be much of a threat in jail."
"Well, we don't have near enough evidence to put 'em away. And Faith was injured trying to protect my interests. You're gonna have to come up with a more efficient solution. And Mr. Trick, you better think of it soon."
Buffy went immediately to the library, and Giles called everyone.
"We have a problem." Wesley said. "The Mayor seems to be more informed about this town's demonic activity then we realized."
"That's an understatement," Willow said. "Are you okay, Buffy?"
"Considering I just got interrogated by the police, and watched a man die�I could be worse."
"Well, if you're worried about jail time, don't be. I doubt they have enough evidence to hold you, and not even the Mayor's word would be enough," Giles said.
"What does he want?" Xander asked.
"Me in the ground?" Buffy asked.
"I think it's more than that," Giles said.
"I tend to agree. If your information is correct, we have to work to find out as much as possible about Mr. Richard Wilkins III before graduation." Wesley said.
"Let's do it then," Oz said.
"Yeah, I really would like to graduate," Cordelia said.
Trick was sitting in the Mayor's chair, when Faith came walking in.
"You're doing it already." Faith said.
"The man's losing control. Invincibility only gets you so far. Gotta be ready to take the reigns."
Faith walked over to the blinds.
"I'd get out of that chair before you make a mistake."
"Or he'll kill me? You've made plenty of mistakes and you're still kicking."
"Trick do you know what time it is?"
He looked at her, and then he understood. But it was too late. She opened the blinds, and the morning sun poured in. Within seconds, the screaming stopped, and the dust settled on the chair.
"I hope you know what you're doing, my dear." The Mayor walked in.
"Vampires are good for fighting, but once they get a brain, they're dangerous. Believe me."
"Oh I do. Just one thing." Faith looked scared for a minute. "Clean off the chair?"
They were going to go there for the next four years, so they wanted to get to know the campus, and find a place to stay. They were both smiling, because they realized they had almost achieved their goal. A lot had happened, but they had gotten through it, and they would get through happened from here on out too.
Giles and Wesley had both decided that this weekend would be a good time to do serious research on the Mayor and his plans. Giles had taken them, and Wesley had taken Xander and Cordelia to The city's Hall of Records building. They had actually drawn straws to see who would get stuck with Wesley, and it seemed fitting that they would be the ones to go with him.
"Are you sure you saw nothing of use in the Deputy Mayor's office, Willow?" Giles asked.
"All his file cabinets were empty, but�"
"What?" Buffy asked.
"There were torn scraps of paper in his trash."
"You rooted the guy's trash? You have my kudos." Oz smirked.
"Hey, I'm thorough."
"I can vouch for that," Buffy said, grinning.
Willow was getting better at suppressing the blushes that wanted to creep onto her face from time to time. So, she just grinned back giving Buffy a look that could've melted butter.
"Yes, can we get back to�" Giles started.
"Sorry, so anyway, it said something on it. Ascention�. Asceation�"
"That was it."
Giles was quiet.
"What is it?" Oz asked.
"I'm not sure."
"Usually when he says that, it means it's something really bad," Buffy said.
"How'd I know you'd pick the shortest straw?" Cordelia half asked, half yelled.
"The same way I knew you'd pick the next to shortest straw so I'd get stuck with you," Xander retorted.
They were looking in several volumes of town history. It was surprising that in a town full of demons pretty detailed records were kept. Wesley was trying to talk the clerk of the building into letting him see the older records on file, because the ones out for public viewing seemed to start from fifty years before, and not go any further back.
They consisted of town censuses, and mysteriously left out all the odd occurrences that they knew had happened. The strangest thing so far was that there were no election records, or any record of the Mayor's election, for that matter.
"Anyone else see a conspiracy theme here?" Xander asked.
Wesley walked into the room, trying to hide his rage.
"Yes, that does seem to be the case, doesn't it?"
"What'd he say?" Cordelia asked.
"He absolutely refused at the start, and then I brought up the Freedom Of Information Act of your country. That seemed to shock him into submission. I think he was surprised that a foreigner knew your laws."
"Hell, I don't even know this country's laws," Xander said.
"Freedom of what?" Cordelia was puzzled.
The college was beautiful. As they went past the gate up the long driveway, the main building seemed to just appear from nowhere beyond the trees, and a fountain was situated in the courtyard, crystal clear water flowing from its two pumps.
Besides the main building, containing various lounges, computer labs, and music rooms, and various classrooms used for foreign language classes, there were four other buildings situated together. The science building was to the left, the English one was to the right, and the Criminal Justice building behind it.
Further away from those buildings were two other complexes. One was dedicated to athletics, and the other, older building was of course, the library. The apartments and dorms were available through shuttled transportation back and forth.
"It's bigger than I thought," Buffy said.
"That's why I don't trust those view books they send out. Full of lies." Oz said.
"I'll be in the library. We'll meet up later?" Giles said.
"Sure. Come on, we know we're accepted, maybe they'll let us set up our schedules," Willow said, dragging Buffy by the hand toward the main building.
"Help," Buffy said to Oz. He just grinned and walked behind them at a casual pace.
"'I'm gonna take Chemistry as a minor and Computer Science as a major. I was gonna take Physics, but Chemistry can help me with the witch stuff," Willow said.
"Well good, because if I've learned anything in high school it's that the laws of physics can be broken, and therefore, it's a waste of time," Buffy said.
"I bet if every teacher in the world knew what you knew, nothing would apply. But that would destroy the whole educational system, wouldn't it?" Oz said.
"Well, I'm taking a major in Criminology. And sophomore year they offer a course in Demonology. I should clean up."
"Which branch of criminology?" Willow asked.
"The police kind."
"That's a good place to start," Oz said.
"Okay Mr. Sarcastic, what are you going to major in?"
"How'd I know that was coming?" Willow grinned.
They walked out of the admissions office, and turned in the schedule requests. When the people manning the lines asked what year they were going into and they said they were still seniors in high school, there were looks of amazement on their faces.
"Can we go look at the apartments now?" Buffy whined.
"What's your rush?" Willow responded.
"There's a lot of estrogen flowing between you two right now," Oz stated.
"The wolf thing?" Buffy asked, a blush creeping onto her face.
"I don't have to be a wolf to know that."
Buffy and Willow had one of their silent exchanges they were getting so good at.
'He's right, Will.'
'Well, it's your fault.'
'Hey you don't have to let me go on.'
'Why not? You're cute when you're flustered.'
They broke the connection, and noticed that Oz had walked toward the direction of the shuttle bus to the apartments. They were both grinning as they ran to catch up with him.
The clerk finally brought out the oldest records dating back some hundred years. Wesley became quickly absorbed in the events the records revealed. Cordelia was looking into a hardback book that had pictures of previous town officials inside, and information.
She thought something was amiss.
"I may be wrong, but this doesn't seem right." Cordelia said.
"What is it?" Wesley asked.
Xander was about to make one of his patented remarks, but as soon as he saw what she was looking at, he mouth hung open. There was a picture of the Mayor in 1898. His clothes were more rugged and appropriate for the time period and he had facial hair, but it was the Mayor.
"That's a grandfather, right? A really great, great grandfather?" Xander asked.
"I doubt it. According to this, Mayor Wilkins is over one-hundred years old, and most certainly not human."
"So that would explain why there aren't any other records of elections." Cordelia said.
"Quite. But other than knowing that the Mayor has been around for a good length of time this really doesn't tell us much about his plans."
"Sure it does. To stay in office forever all you have to do is be around when a town is founded and be immortal. Can you believe nobody's ever tried this kind of thing before?" Xander said.
"You may be on to something."
"He is?" Cordelia asked.
"Well, obviously, the Mayor has needed to stay in power to not only maintain status in the community, have access, and privacy, but also to control the demonic population. He probably has connections that he has built up over the years to provide him with everything he needed. He must have had to do extensive preparation."
"Well what could be so big that it would take a hundred years to get to?" Cordelia asked.
"What does anyone in power eventually want?"
"More power," Xander said.
"Control and domination over not only the humans of the world, but the demons as well. Most likely whatever he has planned will make him stronger." Wesley said.
"Didn't 'more power' pretty much sum it up?"
"You sure we'll be able to get an apartment together?" Buffy asked Willow.
"As long as we put in the request early enough."
"Not to mention the extra money to pay for the rent." Oz said.
"Extra money? It's times like this that I really wish they paid me to slay."
"Think about it. If you got just minimum wage for every demon you slayed�" Willow started
"Not to mention bonuses for world saveage�" Oz continued.
"I could've easily paid my way through college, not to mention supported myself for at least five years afterwards. Damn the Council."
"And the funny thing is, with the right spell, you could probably do that."
"Okay enough of this downer stuff, let's pick us out an apartment," Willow said.
Buffy smiled. "Yeah let's go."
"You two go ahead. I'm gonna go try and save what's left of Giles before he gets lost in the stacks."
"Knowing him, he's probably melded into the shelves." Buffy smirked.
"We've got lots of openings for your freshman year." Said the woman walking them through the halls. "There've been a lot of mysterious dropouts lately."
Buffy and Willow looked at each other. "Great," they muttered.
"There are still some students occupying apartments, so I can't show you all of them. Are you looking for separate rooms?"
"No, we were gonna share," Willow said.
"Well, good. It helps when two people split the cost." The woman looked at her watch. "There's a meeting today and forgot all about it. Can I leave you two to fend for yourselves?"
"Yeah. Don't worry," Buffy said.
The woman handed her a key. "The rooms with no occupants are labeled. When you're finished, just return the key to the security guard downstairs. Hope to see you both next year!"
"Thanks!" They said.
They started to walk down the hall again. They came to a door labeled 'VACANT', and Willow turned the knob.
"Let's see what's behind door number one," Buffy said.
They looked at five rooms, and in the final one, they all but collapsed onto the bed.
"So�which one do you want?" Buffy asked.
"They all kinda looked the same didn't they?"
"Yeah. I just think the reason they call them apartments instead of dorms is because each room has a bathroom."
"Group showering is kinda icky."
"Now two people is a different story." Buffy started kissing Willow's neck. "But this room does seem to have a bit more space than the others." She backed off.
"You're evil, you know that?" Willow rolled on top of Buffy. "Well, aren't you gonna kick me off?"
"Who said I wanted you to move? Seriously though, all innuendoes aside," Willow grinned at her, "I just like being close to you."
They crushed each other in a hug.
"Me too, and I don't wanna move, but we have to. To figure out how to save the world and stuff."
"I know. It's always something," Buffy sighed.
Willow kissed her, and they walked out of the room and locked the door.
"Library?" Buffy asked.
"Library. Oh, and I wanted to see the computer lab before we left."
"Can I wait in the car while you do that?"
Willow swatted her. "We want 203, right?"
"Sounds good to me."
Giles and Oz were sitting at a table littered with books on the third level of the library when Buffy and Willow came walking in.
"Wow this place is huge," Willow said.
"You must be in heaven, Giles."
"It is certainly well stocked, unfortunately I don't have time to look around. Did you accomplish everything you wanted?"
"Yep. What do we know?" Buffy asked.
"More than we did." Oz said.
"In a volume called the Marenstacht Text it makes reference to the journal of man by the name of Desmond Kane. He was a pastor in a town called Sharpsville. The last entry said, 'Ascension in 3 days, God help us all.'"
"So what happened?" Willow asked.
"The town disappeared off the map." Oz said.
"How�not great," Buffy said.
"In the same volume it has references to the Books of Ascension. I'm assuming the Mayor has the books safely locked away in his possession. Anyhow, the basics of the Ascension are a human transforming into a demon, the living embodiment of an immortal. However, there are thousands of possible species."
"And the ritual he uses to change depends on what he wants to become." Oz said.
"That's it, right?" Buffy asked.
Giles shook his head.
"There's more?" Willow asked.
"Every person who wants to undergo Ascension or have attained it, have one thing in common. Up until the date of the transformation, the person is invulnerable."
All their faces suddenly frowned.
In the Mayor's office Faith was sitting at his desk, her eyes closed. In front her was a small box. The Mayor was standing over her.
"Alright, you can open them up now."
Faith saw the gift and smiled at him.
"Fab. What's the occasion?"
"Faith! As if I need a reason to show you my affection. Or appreciation for running a small errand at the airport."
"Airport? What's next? Gonna want me to help a buddy of yours move a sofa?"
"This isn't a free ride, young lady. You know, I'm beginning to think that somebody's getting a little spoiled. Maybe I should take this back."
Faith opened it, and it was a very intricately designed knife with patterns on the blade. "There. That look on your face is my reward."
"This is a thing of beauty, boss."
"Well, it cost a pretty penny. So, you just take good care of it. And you be careful not to put somebody's eye out with that thing, until I tell you to."
Later, at the library, the gang was comparing notes.
"Okay, the Mayor is at least a hundred years old, invincible, and will become something demonic on graduation day," Buffy said.
"Pretty much sums it up." Cordelia said.
"Then may I suggest -" Wesley started.
"We need to do major surveillance on the Mayor. Everybody needs to be in on this," Willow said.
"Way to take charge." Oz said.
"Would you like to take over slaying? I could use a break," Buffy said to Willow.
"Nope. You can do that."
"Well, let's plan, people," Xander said.