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Hebrews 11:1.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews ch. 11, v. 1; The Bible,
Oxford English Dictionary of Quotations,
Authorised Version from iFinger.

When Buffy returned to the Mansion on Crawford Street the next morning, she noticed nothing different from the deceptively normal exterior. Black blinds covered the front windows, but then they had done so ever since Angelus, Spike and Dru took residence. No, from the outside, the mansion still looked like the modern haunted house, a typical inclusion in every suburban neighbourhood.

She had spent the night at Giles' place. After her long patrol around the city, she had arrived at his apartment block on Oakpark Street to a scene of soft lights and hot soothing drinks. Her mother and Giles had returned there following the talk with her friends to wait for her, knowing instinctively that she wanted a change of scene from Revello Drive.

That astute understanding continued as they guided her to the guest room in the split level apartment, and told her to get as much sleep as she needed. Surprisingly, no dreams of Angel/Angelus, or indeed anyone else had bothered her during what was left of the night, causing her to wake to a late breakfast with her watcher, who had called in sick so he could make sure she was well, and inform her of what he and Joyce were sorting out regarding her wishes on education and Hope.

Now, almost twelve hours later, she was back at the house which she had felt compelled to enter the night before, intending to pick up the momento mori she had left in the living room.

But, as usual, other events interfered.

Buffy noticed the sofas first. The sudden sight of furniture covering the originally large and bare expanse of room caused her to halt. For a second she stood still, her eyes staring at the twelve hours old settees without really seeing them, wondering the reasoning for their arrival.

Then she noticed the two occupants sitting on them.

"Angel?" She uttered, her voice sounding hoarse and strange, as though her body had not used such a function of communication until now.

The souled vampire who owned that name was also at a similar loss for words, even though he had been forewarned of her return. It fell to the third person in the double height room to fill in the silence.

"Speak of her and she shall appear," Whistler remarked as he rose from his seat and walked towards her. "Don't say the Powers don't do anything nice for you, slayer," he added to her before heading out into the sunlight.

As for the chosen one herself, she had not even managed to acknowledge the words, gazing instead at the man she thought she had lost forever.

He was the one who first regained his equilibrium, rising from the sofa to stand before her. Seeing the plea in her eyes, softly, wordlessly, he took her into his arms.

The motion worked as effectively as pinching herself, and was far less painful. Buffy felt the reality of her love standing before her, the comfort of his embrace, the soft caresses caused by his fingers as his hands wove themselves into her hair.

Abruptly all the contradictions and confusing feelings caused by her dreams of him and yet not him withdrew their powerful effect on her mind and heart, as swift as the tide drawing out into the sea. Gratitude belatedly set in, as her body returned from its state of shock, to kiss the material of his top, inhale the scent that was him.

Eventually they drew back from each other, as both realised that neither of them were about to disappear, or a hell dimension was not about to open up and swallow them. Reluctant to part from the comfort of touch that the other was providing, they carefully guided each to a sofa.

Buffy looked up from her place just below his chin, to gaze into his dark brown eyes. "Where were you?" She asked cautiously.

"I'm not sure," Angel replied, one hand still weaving itself in her hair, the other gently rubbing her upper arm. "It was demonic, I think. They made me hallucinate, imagine what would happen to me. It was mental torture, not physical. And there was always something lurking in the shadows, watching me. Enjoying it."

He paused, feeling her flinch, and pulled her even more tightly to him. "Buffy, it wasn't your fault." His hand stopped rubbing her arm and placed itself under her chin so he could see her face once more. "That night,....... that moment, was the best of my entire life. You accepted me for all that I was, all that I am, and all that I ever could be. You gave the most precious gift in the universe. Your love. You made me happy."

He paused, making sure he had her whole attention, before adding, "if I could go back to that moment, I would tell you all of that. As well as making you tie me to the bed before finding a witch and an orb of Thesulah."

Buffy returned his wry smile, though Angel saw that it would take more than just words before she could heal. Like with him, he mused silently. "So, what was Whistler doing here?" She asked him.

"You've met him then?"

She nodded, slightly calmer, more able to deal with this part of their conversation. "He raided Giles' drinks cabinet one night. Felt I needed some advice." She lost herself in his eyes again.

"He brought me to you," Angel answered her unspoken question. "I wasn't in a good place back then. Living off rats, raiding hospital waste if I got really desperate. Anyway, he pulled me out of a hellhole of an alley and said there was something I had to see. Next thing I know I'm in a blacked out and battered old car outside a high school. As I wind down the window and stare into the blinding daylight, I see...... you."

He smiled at her. "You were sitting on the steps, sucking a lolly pop. Suddenly this bloke comes up to you...... You know the rest. I watched you as he told you who you were. Showed you your prey. As you came home to accusations and fights. I saw you staring at yourself, wondering if you could still see the girl that was within you, and I saw your heart. You wore it on your sleeve for all to see. And I worried that it might be bruised or torn. And, more than anything, I wanted to keep it safe, to warm it with my own."

"That's beautiful," Buffy uttered. "Or taken literally, incredibly gross."

He laughed and pulled her back into his embrace. "There, that's the girl I fell in love with." He brushed back a strand of red-blond hair from her face. "The girl I'm still in love with. The girl who I'll love forever. No matter where she goes or what she does."

"You heard then?" Buffy looked at him, surprised.

"Whistler told me that you weren't staying on the hellmouth. That you had some big plan which got all of them up there very excited. And it takes a lot, according to him. But he wasn't big on the details."

Seeing the acceptance in his expression, Buffy told him everything that had occurred from the moment she had left Sunnydale.

"What do you think?" She asked him when she had finished.

"I think you're amazing," Angel replied, smiling at her. "And I wish the Powers had planned for me to come with you now."

"Everyone wants to help," Buffy commented, but his words had not been lost on her. "What did Whistler say?"

"That I'm to stay here, and help the Scoobies defeat the next big evil. He hasn't told me who it is." He stroked her cheek. "I want to go with you."

"I want that too," Buffy replied softly. "But I need you here as well. Protecting the Scoobies. Ensuring that I can begin this organisation without having to dash back to the hellmouth all the time." She paused, then added hurriedly, "I want us, Angel. Above all else in this world. Is it possible?"

He knew what she meant. "He said my soul was permanent. Apparently your new mission made them feel generous enough to fix what the Romany should have done in the first place."

"I'm glad," Buffy replied, "but I know, even if they hadn't been that generous, I'd still want us to work." She reached out and stroked his cheek. "You give me hope."

"Then how shall we do this?" Angel asked her, smiling. "Alternate weekends?"

"Telephone calls every night," Buffy added.

"Emails whenever, if you can show me how to use a computer."

"As long as you teach me things too," Buffy replied, her smile turning giddy with joy.

"My pleasure," he remarked, making her blush.

Verbal agreement reached, they gazed at each other, before finally surrendering to the one need they had ignored until now.

The taste of each other's kiss.

 


A few blocks away, and some time later, another couple relished in their togetherness.

"I'm giddy."

Oz smiled at his redhead giddy girl. "Oh, I like you giddy. Always have."

"It's the freedom! As Seniors, we can go off-campus now for lunch. It's no longer cutting. It's legal! Heck, it's expected! Wow, it's, uh, also a big step forward, a Senior moment, one that has to be savoured."

Oz turned his head from his pez witch to the cavalry coming up behind them.

"You can't just rush into this, you know?" Willow added.

Xander met his stoic gaze and together they grabbed her arms, and unceremoniously lifted her off campus.

"Ohh! No, I can't!" Willow protested as panic set in.

"You can," Xander replied.

"See, you are," added Oz.

"Oh, but, no! What if they changed the rule without telling? What if they're lying in wait to arrest me a-and, and throw me in detention and mar my unblemished record?"

At that moment the four reached the other side of the street, causing the boys to set her back on the ground again.

"Breathe." Xander reminded her. "Breathe."

"Okay. Hmm..." Oz took her hand, while Xander took the hand of his girl, who smiled affectionately at Willow's outburst.

"This is good!" Willow uttered as reality set in. "This is... Hey, we're Seniors! Hey, I'm walkin' here!"

Their collective gaze went from the park surroundings to a sight which they had missed all summer.

"Ahh," Xander said, trying to act normally. "Buffy and food."

Willow smiled at him comfortingly. "Maybe we shouldn't be too couple-y around Buffy," she added, as the thought occurred to her.

"Oh, you mean 'cause of how the only guy that ever liked her turned into a vicious killer and had to be put down like a dog?" Cordelia asked aloud.

"Can she cram complex issues into a nutshell, or what?" Xander remarked.

"All right, prepare to uncouple..." Oz commanded. "Uncouple."

"Buffy, banned from campus, but not from our hearts," Xander intoned. "How are you and what's for lunch?"

"Oh, I just threw a few things together," the slayer smiled at him, letting Xander know everything was okay.

"When did you become Martha Stewart?" Cordelia asked her, impressed.

"First of all, Martha Stewart knows jack about hand-cut prosciutto," Buffy commented as she handed out bottles of mineral water.

"I don't believe she slays, either," Xander added.

"Oh, I hear she can, but she doesn't like to," Oz volunteered.

Buffy smiled at them as she finished laying out the picnic. "Guys, you don't have to act all single around me. I'm totally okay as a fifth wheel. Besides, I've met someone."

"Already?" Willow queried. "Who is he? Oh, is it Scott Hope? He likes you. He wanted to ask you out last year, but you weren't ready then. But I think you're ready now, or at least in the state of pre-readiness to make conversation, or-or to do that thing with your mouth that boys like."

"Willow!" Buffy uttered, shocked.

"Oh! I didn't mean the bad thing with your mouth, I meant that little half-smile thing that you....." she trailed off to glare at her silent boyfriend. "You're supposed to stop me when I do that."

"I like when you do that," Oz said unperturbed.

"No, its not anyone at the school. I can't exactly do that what with moving to L.A. and all. No, I met him this morning, on my way here."

"So, what's his 411?" Cordelia asked.

"Well, he's older, but that's a plus if anything. And he's kind, and intelligent, and gorgeous..... the perfect gentleman. Just one thing; he's allergic to sunlight. And garlic. Crosses too, they bother him a bit."

The four stared at her, speechless until comprehension dawned. "Angel?" Willow said cautiously. "You mean, he's back?"

"Returned last night." Buffy grinned.

"How?" Her best friend inquired.

"This," Buffy showed them the ring that was back on her finger. During their talk he managed to return it to her, along with some more sweet words and kisses that she was only happy to accept and return in kind. "And the Powers That Be. Apparently Hope has gotten them all very excited."

"Talk about a welcome back present," Cordelia commented.

"The best I've ever received. And with an unexpected bonus." She paused for dramatic emphasis. "A clause free soul."

"Wow," Willow remarked.

"The PTB really go all out in the gratitude stakes," Xander observed.

"Yeah," Buffy grinned.

"So are you two gonna ride off into the L.A. sunset?" Cordelia asked.

"No. Whistler, the guy who brought him back, says he has to stay here and help you guys find out and fight the next big evil."

"And he wasn't big on names," Oz guessed.

"Not even a hint," Buffy confirmed, "which makes me concerned. Angel said that the plan was that he would come back anyway, if I had chosen to stay here, but that it would have been rougher on us. So I think that means we'll need all the help we can get on this guy. Whatever they happen to be."

 


Hours later, after darkness had settled on the dale of Sunny, a long black stretched limousine pulled up outside the takeout port of Happy Burger.

"Welcome to Happy Burger," the voice of the takeout diner intoned. "May I take your order, please?"

The window of the limo slid down. "Diet soda. Medium," a voice requested.

"That'll be eighty-nine cents at the window, sir."

The black guy inclined his head in silent, unseen thanks, and slid the rear window back up. "Sunnydale," he uttered to the other passenger. "Town's got quaint. And the people? He called me 'sir.' Don't you just miss that? I mean, admittedly, it's not a haven for the brothers, you know, strictly the Caucasian Persuasion here in the Dale. But, you know, you just gotta stand up and salute their death rate. I ran a statistical analysis, and hello darkness. It makes... D.C. look... like Mayberry, and ain't nobody saying boo about it. We could fit right in here. Have us some fun."

"We're here for one thing," his companion growled out.

"Kill the Slayer, yeah," he brushed a piece of lint off his suit. "Still, big picture..." He trailed off here, to slide down the window again, dollar in hand for his drink.

"Have a nice night, sir," the student worker returned.

"Right back at ya," tailored suit responded before putting his drink in the cup-holder.

"The Slayer," his companion growled. "I'm going to rip her spine from her body, and I'm going to eat her heart and suck the marrow from her bones."

Tailored Suit stopped sipping his soda. "Now I'm hungry." Eyes turning yellow and fangs and ridges abruptly emerging, he stretched out the open window to grab the nightshift diner worker who was powerless to resist.

The last thing Tailored Suit's 'meal' saw, was that the other passenger of the limo had cloven hands.

 


Several blocks away, in the bad part of town, the chosen one brought drinks up to a secluded booth in the Bronze.

"Don't let me interrupt," she commented in the direction of the witch and werewolf of the group, who were kissing. Setting down the drinks, she settled into the waiting arms of her significant other, who was also present.

"Thanks," Oz remarked as he took a sip of the proffered soda nectar.

"Are you two..." Willow trailed off to consult her boy. "Are they all glowy?"

"Yeah, I suspect happiness," Oz agreed.

"Just in the kissing, courting sense," Buffy remarked blushing.

"We're working up to the other stuff," Angel added.

"Taking our time," the slayer agreed.

"Secure in the knowledge that you can," Willow finished.

"Hence the glowy. Its bliss," Buffy finished before smiling at the source of hers.

"Check out Slut-O-Rama and her Disco Dave," Cordelia remarked as she and Xander joined the group from the dance floor. "What was the last thing that guy danced to, K.C. and the Sunshine Band?"

Buffy followed the cheerleader's gaze and stared at the couple. Immediately her suspicions deepened. "I don't think that guy thrives on sunshine," she observed, putting down her drink and rising to follow the couple's exit from the nightclub.

As the Scoobies caught up with their leader, they found the alley entrance seemingly deserted.

"Where'd she go?" Buffy asked.

"I bet it's nothing," Cordelia hoped aloud. "They're probably just making out."

"Hey!" The girl said out of the darkness, as if in either agreement or contradiction. A loud noise backed up the latter hypothesis, and Xander handed his best friend a stake.

"That's not what making out sounds like," Willow commented. "Unless I'm doing it wrong."

"Stop struggling," the boy was heard to say as the group neared the chained fence and empty boxes where the couple were sheltered. "This won't hurt."

Suddenly the boy vamped out and moved in to bite the girl. Who, much to his surprise, grabbed him by the neck and pushed him away, before jabbing her elbow into his fangs.

The vampire staggered back to regain balance, while the girl jumped on to a nearby crate. Performing a roundhouse kick to his face, she knocked him to the asphalt.

At which point Buffy and her friends arrived. Their gaze went from the stunned vampire to the girl, who acknowledged them calmly as she jumped down to the ground before them. "It's okay, I got it. You're, Buffy, right?"

Experiencing the same emotion as the vampire, Buffy could only search for words as the creature of the undead came up behind the dark-haired girl in front of her.

"I'm Faith," the girl introduced herself as she grabbed the vamps arm, twisted it, and shoved him into the section of chain link fence.

"I'm gonna go out on a limb and say there's a new Slayer in town," Oz commented.

Faith kneed the vampire in the gut from behind, ducking his backhand recovering punch. She gutted him again before striking his face. After a few more hits she threw the vampire to the ground, before taking the stake in Buffy's hand. "Can I borrow that?"

The vamp was ready for the descent and rolled into the asphalt to regain his feet quickly. Running at Faith, he threw another useless punch. Faith hooked her hand on his shoulder and threw him back to the fence, before thrusting the wooden point in his chest.

"Thanks, B," Faith remarked as she handed back the weapon. "Couldn't have done it without you."

 


"The whole summer it was, like, the worst heat wave. So it's about a hundred and eighteen degrees and I'm sleeping without a stitch on. And all of a sudden, I hear this screaming from outside. So I go tearing out, stark nude, and this church bus has broke down, and there's these three vamps feasting on half the Baptists in South Boston. So I waste the vamps, and the preacher comes up, and he's hugging me like there's no tomorrow, when all of a sudden, the cops pull up and they arrested us both."

A stunned silence met the end of the story. It's star lead reached for a muffin, completely nonplussed.

"Wow. They should film that story and show it every Christmas," Xander declared, earning a glare from his girlfriend.

"God, I could eat a horse," Faith commented, oblivious. "Isn't it crazy how slayin' just always makes you hungry and horny?"

Another brief moment of silence ensued as the Scoobies turned their shocked stares from the new slayer to the other.

Buffy blushed as she shifted in the arms of her boyfriend. "Well... Sometimes I-I crave a non-fat yoghurt afterwards."

"I get it," Cordelia remarked suddenly, making Faith turned to her, confused. "Not the horny thing. Yuck! But the two Slayer thing. There was one, and then Buffy died for, like, two minutes, so then Kendra was called, and then when she died, Faith was called."

"But why were you called here?" Willow asked her.

"Well, I wasn't," Faith admitted. "My Watcher went off to some retreat thing in England, and so I skipped out. I figured this was my chance to meet the infamous Buff and compare notes. So, B, did you really use a rocket launcher one time?"

Pleased that her rep proceeded her, Buffy leaned forward to eagerly retell the tale. "Uh, yeah, actually, it's a funny story. There was this blue demon call the Judge and he could burn all the good out of you with a single touch. Literally. So he bands together with some vamps and they take the mall hostage, so we have to go after him. So I shoot my crossbow at him, and he's all like 'no weapon forged can kill me'. And I go, 'that was then. This is now.' And I fire the rocket launcher. Cue Judge bits, extra crispy."

"Cool," Faith remarked, clearly impressed.

"Something occurring," Oz uttered, causing Faith to look at him. "Uh, now, you both kill vamps, and who could blame you, but, I'm wondering about your position on werewolves."

Willow put a supporting hand on his shoulder. "Oz is a werewolf."

"It's a long story," Buffy remarked.

Oz shrugged. "I got bit."

"Apparently not that long," Buffy corrected.

"Hey, as long as you don't go scratchin' at me or humpin' my leg, we're five-by-five, you know?" Was Faith's call on the matter.

"Fair enough," Oz returned.

"The vamps, though, they better get their asses to Defcon 1," Faith added as she pointed to Buffy. "'cause you and I are gonna have fun, you know, Watcherless and fancy-free."

"Watcherless?" Buffy queried.

Faith looked at her, puzzled. "Didn't yours go to England, too?"

 


"There's a Watchers' retreat every year in the Cotswolds," Giles commented wistfully in the Library a half hour later to them all. "It's a lovely spot. It's very serene. There's horse riding and hiking and punting and lectures and discussions. It's... it's a great honour to be invited." He paused before adding a little bitterly, "or so I'm told."

"Oh, it's boring," Faith declared. "Way too stuffy for a guy like you."

"Um, maybe I should introduce you again," Buffy commented. "Faith, this is Giles."

"I see him. If I'd have known they came that young and cute, I would've requested a transfer."

"Raise your hand if 'ew," Cordelia muttered.

Giles chuckled. "Well, um, uh, leaving aside for a moment my, uh, youth and beauty," he grabbed the nearby newspaper, still stuttering. "I'd say it was, um, fortuitous that Faith arrived when she did. Two people have disappeared from the Sunset Ridge District."

He handed Buffy the newspaper. Blond and brunette slayers scanned it for the details.

"Well, I'm good for patrolling," the former commented. "Late-ish, though. We have that whole Hope committee meeting thing over dinner, remember?"

"Ah yes," Giles recalled. "Where are we holding that?"

"My Mom's," Buffy replied, before seeing Faith's expression of inquiry. "Oh, sorry. I'm moving on to fresh pastures. Got this idea for a help the hopeless organisation in the City of Angels." She paused before adding, "You're welcome to join us for eats, you know. If you fancy sticking around still."

"Totally," Faith answered with a grin. "Got nowhere else I need to be."

 


"Mr. Trick, talk to me."

Tailored Suit, turned from his laptop to his cloven companion from the limo. "Check this out. This town, this very street, wired for fiber optics. See, we jack in a T-3, twenty-five hundred megs per, we have the whole world at our fingertips." He paused, looking for comprehension. Finding none, he continued. "What I'm saying is, we stay local; where the humans are jumpin' and the cotton is high; but we live global. I mean, you know, you get the hankering for the blood of a fifteen-year-old Philippine, and I'm on the 'Net and she's here the next day, express air."

"I want the blood of the Slayer," Cloven growled angrily.

"On that note, there's good news and bad. Rumour has it that this town already has a Slayer, which makes two." Trick shook his head in puzzlement. "I'm not real sure how that happened."

"I don't care if there are a hundred Slayers! I'll kill them all!" Cloven gestured at his scarred eye. "She's going to pay for what she did to me."

"Yeah, she is," Trick agreed.

There was a knock on the warehouse door.

"I'm running a computer check on every hotel, rooming house and youth hostel in town," Trick informed his boss, as he grabbed a thick, protective leather black glove. "Meanwhile, as soon as the sun goes down, we're out in force. Food's here, boys."

He yanked on the glove and opened the door.

"You guys order a piz..." It was all the delivery boy got out. Not the best choice of last words, but then none of the occupants of the warehouse cared for his voice.

Only his blood.

>>>>>>>>

"What you must realise, Buffy, is that you and Faith have very different temperaments."

It was the next day. The night before, the Hope committee had begun the search for a base of operations, while Buffy and Faith had gone patrolling. Not until the former had seen her sister in arms begin to the punch the living daylights out of one of the vampires they had to eventually stake, did she have doubts about the new chosen one.

"Yeah, and mine's the sane one," Buffy now declared to her watcher the next morning in the library, having used Angel's sewer access to gain entrance to their unofficial headquarters in the Library. "The girl's not playing with a full deck," she added. "I think she ran into some trauma before coming here. The girl needs help."

"I'll see if I can reach her Watcher at the retreat," Giles uttered before glancing at his watch and doing the math on the time zones. "They're eight hours ahead. I guess they're probably sitting down to a nightcap." His tone became wistful again. "I wonder if they still kayak. I used to love a good kayak. You see, they don't even consider..." meeting her look, he stopped. "Sorry. I digress. The vampires that attacked you, can you furnish me with some details that might help me trace their lineage? I mean, ancient or modern dress. Amulets, cultist tattoos?"

"Uh, no tats," Buffy added thoughtfully. "Crappy dressers. And, uh... Oh, the one that nearly bit me mentioned something about kissing toast. He lived for kissing toast."

"You mean Kakistos?" Giles sought to confirm.

"Maybe it was taquitos," Buffy uttered in rethought. "Maybe he lived for taquitos." Catching his grave look, she added, "what?"

"Kakistos," Giles corrected again grimly, before grabbing a volume from behind the counter. "It's Greek. It means the worst of the worst. It's also the name of a vampire so old that his hands and feet are cloven."

"Now, this guy shows up two days ago, right?" Buffy queried rhetorically. "Right around the same time my bestest new little sister makes the scene."

Giles looked up from the book. "You think he and Faith are connected?"

"Affirmative." Buffy slid down from her seat on the counter to the ground. "You get England on the phone. I'm gonna talk to Faith, see if Kakistos rings a bell. Or an alarm."

"Wait," Giles remarked, halting her walk to the door. "It'll only take a few minutes." He went into the back office and picked up the phone handset.

"What did her Watcher say?" Buffy asked him five minutes later.

"Her Watcher's dead," Giles informed her.

"Guess I have my first case," Buffy uttered.

>>>>>>>>

"The room's eighteen dollars a day. That's every day."

"Yeah, I know. I'll get it to you by tomorrow, I swear." Faith vowed.

The motel manager shrugged. "It's not like I own the place."

Faith turned on her charm. "But I bet you will someday."

"Not if I listen to broads like you." He turned as Buffy entered the doorway of the rundown room. "Roommates are extra."

"I'm just visiting," Buffy declared.

Faith watched the manager leave before turning to her 'sister.' "So, what brings you to the poor side of town?"

"Cloven Guy. Goes by the name Kakistos," Buffy answered.

The dark-haired slayer lost a little of her composure. "What do you know about Kakistos?"

"That he's here," Buffy paused to get her suspicions confirmed. She dropped her accusing tone as Faith's expression became one of panic. "We're not happy to see old friends, are we? What'd he do to you?"

Faith grabbed her bag and began packing, ready to head for the hills. "It's what I did to him, all right?!"

"And what was that? Faith, you came here for a reason. I can help."

"You can mind your own business. I'm the one that can handle this."

"Yeah. You're a real bad-ass when it comes to packing. What was that you said last night? That you know the vamps are gonna die and your gonna live?"

"Hey, you and I both know that some times it's not that simple. You don't know me. You don't know what I've been through. I'm not one of your Hopeless. I'll take care of this, all right?"

"Like you took care of your Watcher?" Buffy queried, making Faith still her movements. "He killed her, didn't he?"

"They don't have a word for what he did to her," Faith uttered in hollow anger.

In the brief silence which followed, a knock sounded on the door. Faith peered through the small peep hole to see the motel manager had returned. "Oh, what now?"

"Faith, you run, he runs after you," Buffy appealed.

"That's where the head start comes in handy." Faith opened the door, only to back away, as the manager was thrust into the room by another.

"Faith," Kakistos remarked, before grabbing her by the neck..

 


"No!"

Buffy rushed up between the combatants and shoved Faith from the vampire, before slamming the door on his arm. The resulting pain caused Kakistos to retreat, whereupon she locked the door and put the safety chain through its holder.

"I just bought us a little," Buffy uttered, as the vamp punched through the wooden barrier, trying to reach for her. "..time!"

Faith meanwhile was in panic mode. "NO! NOOOOO!"

"Scream later! Escape now!" Buffy commanded, grabbing her hand and running for the bathroom.

While Kakistos broke the door down, the slayers jumped out of the window and into the alley behind.

"Let's go!" Buffy declared as she took Faith's hand began to run.

Unseen, Trick and his minions followed behind.

 



In a seemingly deserted warehouse, the slayers stopped for a breather.

"We're okay.," Buffy declared, before turning to her companion. "What happened? Faith, what happened?"

"I..... I was there when he killed my Watcher, and I saw what he did to her... what he was gonna do to me. I tried to stop him, but I... I couldn't. And I ran."

"Faith, first rule of slaying: don't die. You did the right thing. Okay? You didn't die. Now you do the math. One of him, two of us."

Faith looked past her and shook her head. "No."

"Yes," Buffy countered.

"No," Faith uttered again, making her look around, to find the bodies of humans littered around the warehouse, teeth marks apparent on their necks. "This is his place."

"He drove us here," Buffy uttered in understanding.

A growl made them turn round to see that the nest had caught up with them. Summing what was left of their slayer strength, they ran through the warehouse, searching for weapons on their way.

Buffy grabbed a bucket and kicked it into the path of an oncoming vamp. Two others came from the opposite direction, trying to head their prey off. She spun a kick on one of them and a side one to the other, before seeking the height advantage of the table.

Faith just stood still and watched as Kakistos advanced towards her.

Buffy grabbed a crowbar. "Faith! Don't die!" She threw the weapon to her.

Faith reached to catch it, but before she could use it, Kakistos punched her hard, knocking her into a set of large wooden beams which were leaning against the wall. As she hit the floor, Trick walked in casually, observing the action.

Buffy used her hand as a knife on her attacker's neck before throwing him off the table.

As Faith scrambled to get off the floor, Kakistos grabbed her by the shirt and helped her into the air.

"NO!" Faith screamed out before receiving a punch to the face.

Her prey staked, Buffy waited for Kakistos to drop Faith back to the floor before leaping upon his back.

Recalculating the odds, Trick turned to the other witness minions. "If we don't do something, the Master could get killed." Shrugging he headed out. "Well, our prayers are with him. There's a reason these vengeance crusades are out of style. It's the modern vampire who sees the big picture."

Buffy managed to thrust her stake into Kakistos chest, but to no effect. He threw her off his back with a growl of pleasure. "I guess you need a bigger stake, Slayer!"

Faith regained her equilibrium and glanced around for just such a weapon. Seeing one of the fallen beams had a broken, jagged end, she lifted it over her should and shoved the beam through Kakistos chest.

The vampire only had time to glance at his killer before transforming into a pile of ash on the floor.

Buffy scrambled for enough breath to speak. "You hungry?"

"Starved," Faith confirmed.

Arm in arm, they headed out of the building.

>>>>>>>>

"The council has approved our request," Giles declared to both of them the next evening. "Faith is to stay here indefinitely, while you set up Hope in Los Angeles. I'm to look after you both until a new Watcher is assigned."

"Good," Buffy commented. "Just hope he compares, on some level to you. There's no way he'd be the equal, 'cause you're the best."

"Thank you," Giles replied, touched.

Buffy jumped off the table and readjusted the bag on her shoulder. She stared solemnly at the Scoobies. "Well guys, I guess this is it."

Willow rose from her seat and moved to hug her best friend. "Call us when you get there."

"I will," Buffy promised. "Just need to take care of the Thesulac that's haunting the place first."

"Angel sure gets around," Xander commented. He caught the slayer's look and held up his hands in surrender. "Oh, no flames, I'm completely in dead boy's club now."

"As completely he'll ever be," Cordelia added as she hit his arm for Buffy's sake.

"Yeah, well apparently there's at least sixty-eight rooms, and aside from the paranoia demon, it just needs fixing up." Buffy smiled. "It sounds perfect."

"And you got any crew there yet?"

"Just Anne, at the moment. But Giles says he knows a friend who knows a lawyer who's willing to help me with the legal stuff. He set up a practice there a year ago which is well connected." Buffy held out her arms for a group hug. "I'm gonna miss you guys," she added as they obliged.

"Well, come back as often as you can," Faith asked her. "And not just for additional help on the slayage front."

"I promise," Buffy replied before taking Angel's hand. He had agreed to see her safely there, as well as defeating the demon in her new headquarters.

With a final wave to them all, they headed out of the High School building and climbed into his car, before driving off into the night.

The End.
To Be Continued In.

That Perches on The Soul.