Boston international airport

Faith sighed and a wan smile flashed on her face as she stepped down from the plane onto the Boston tarmac.  Even though her heart ached over losing Linda, it still felt good to be home. 

“I have a car ready for our use,” Wesley announced as he guided their small party through the terminal.  “I only have two rooms at the Marriott; I didn’t think we would need another.”

“We won’t,” Faith replied coolly.  “I’ll be staying with Aunt Marion; she‘s going to need someone there to back her up.”

“She seemed to be standing up quite well to her tremendous loss,” Wesley said as they got into the rental car.  “She’s a remarkable woman.”

“Wes,” Faith snapped, her voice cold and deadly.  “If you know what’s good for you, you’d better not  tell me you’d come here, told her that Linda was dead, then left her here alone.”

“Yes, well you see.” Wesley started but was interrupted by a back hand that was delivered by Faith, luckily for him with far less than her formidable strength. 

“If anything has happened to her, I’ll make you wish your mother had never met your father and given birth to you, you creep!” Faith growled savagely. 

As she sat in the back seat, stewing, Faith pointedly ignored the pair who sat in front.  Without conversation or any action, weariness crept upon her and she fell into a deep sleep.   However, when, in her dream, the vampire bit into Linda’s neck once again, Faith bolted upright, her eyes darting back and forth while her fists clinched, ready to pounce.

As her eyes focused, she realized that they were now parked outside of Marion’s home.  The house was just as well kept as it had been when she’d first visited it.  The butler, his name was Stewart, she recalled, stood at the door, his normally proud stature now sagging as he talked to Wesley and Agent Scully.  Even from her seat in the car, she could tell he was crying.  At that moment, she felt an invisible fist clutch her heart and wondered briefly if this man would blame her for the loss of Linda.

Although not overly eager to greet the butler and Marion, Faith finally exited the car and started toward the house.  The walk up the drive seemed longer this time.  She was just about to take the first step up the stairs that lead to the porch when Stewart roughly pushed Wesley aside and charged toward her.

Instinctively she became guarded, her mind raced as a dozen scenarios shot through her mind.  Everyone one of them ended up with him being hurt which was something she didn’t want.  However what happened next shocked the Boston bad ass down to her core. 

Stewart stopped a half of foot away from her and pulled her into his arms, and hugged her as he cried into her shoulder.  Unsure of what to do,

Faith just allowed him to hold her and listened to his whimpering as he welcomed her to a home where she would be safe from the darkness.

“She has been so worried about you,” Stewart said as he pulled himself away from Faith his head bent low.  “Please excuse my outburst and come in.”

“It’s okay.” Faith whispered loud enough for him to hear, lightly she touched his arm before she went on.  “Is Aunt Marion all right?”

“She has spent the last few days in her room, I hope that your presence will draw her out of her depression.” he said when they entered the grand room of the old Victorian home.  “Please make yourselves comfortable, I will be down with the mistress soon.”

“This is a very beautiful home,” Dana said as she looked around the decorum which was a mixture of antiques and modern age work that seemed to work well together. 

“Very,” Wesley added.  “Most of these antiques are priceless to the right people, and the modern art would be very costly.”

“Faith, what about Marion?” Dana asked as she turned to the young girl.  “What do you know about her?”

“We came here a few months ago after I was hurt fighting a Chaos demon.” Faith said as she stood near a mahogany bar.  “She was really five-by-five by me.  She…”

“I had every reason in the world to be nice to you, Faith.” A woman stood at the foot of the stairs, her dark hair sprinkled with silver, her normally soft brown eyes were bloodshot from crying with deep bags from lack of sleep.  She stood just south of six foot with a slim figure.  “My Linda loved you; you gave her a full life in the short time you were with her.  That alone was enough.”

“Aunt Marion,” Faith cried out as she rushed into the woman’s outstretched arms. “I’m so sorry.”

“Hush, child,” Marion said as she hugged Faith.  “God has a plan for all of us.  Linda’s loss will somehow work into it even though we don’t understand it.”

The two held onto one another for a few more minutes before Marion let Faith go and turned to face Wesley and Dana.  For several moments, she examined them both before she said, “Thank you for bringing Faith home, Wesley.  Now, who is your companion?  Is she another Watcher?”

“I’m Special Agent Dana Scully with the FBI,” Dana said as she shook Marion’s hand.  “I’m here to ensure that Faith isn’t held against her will.”

“Of that you have no worry,” Marion said with a sharp look at Wesley.  “Faith is home and anyone who wants to take her will have to deal with me.”

“You’ll let me stay with you?” Faith asked as Marion’s words sunk in.  “Even after what happened to Linda?”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Marion said sharply.  “Don’t ever think that.  She was proud of you, she loved you and I know for a fact you did your best.”

For once in her young but wild life, Faith was speechless.  Her throat was tight and her eyes misted over with tears.  She felt as if a clamp had closed down on her heart, making it hard for her to breath.    She closed her eyes and forced herself to swallow before she stepped back and looked into Marion’s eyes. 

“Aunt Marion, I have something to take care of before I can even think of living anywhere.”  Faith told the older woman.  “Right now there’s a vampire in Atlanta who needs to go down for good.”

“The Council can get someone else to take care of it, dear,” Marion said sharply.  “I’ve just lost Linda; I won’t lose you, too.”

“We’ll jaw about it later then, all right?  Right now we have to bury Linda.  The rest can wait.”

“I have rooms set up for you and your friends,” Stewart announced at that moment.  “You may all wish to retire until the morning.  I am certain that tomorrow shall be a long day for all of us.”

“It’s tomorrow?” Faith asked a bit surprised. 

“Yes, she will be buried in our family crypt,” Marion declared sadly.  “The reading of the will is to be performed immediately thereafter.”

“Please follow me, I will show you to your rooms,” Stewart said and the trio followed him. 

####

After Dana Scully had entered her assigned room, she took out her cell phone and called Mulder. 

“Dana?” Mulder’s voice queried her while a shrill female voice in the background screamed something unintelligible.  “How are you?  Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine, Mulder,” Dana replied.  “Mulder…is that Buffy yelling something in the background?”

“Um…yeah…she’s really upset at me.  I guess it slipped my mind to tell her and Kendra about the other Vampire Slayer.”

Scully smiled at Mulder’s discomfort and said, “You poor baby!  Anyway, could you tell Buffy to calm down for a minute?  I don’t know how long I will be able to talk.”

“Are you all right?” Mulder asked “What’s going on?”

Dana gave her husband a concise report as to what had occurred since they had arrived in Boston.  She closed with, “The funeral will be tomorrow; after that, I’ll be coming back to Atlanta.”

“What about Faith?”

“I don’t know… it sounded to me like Marion Price wanted her to stay here.  I’ll know more tomorrow.”

“Dana,” a worried and angered Buffy suddenly broke into Dana’s conversation with Mulder.  “Where are you?  Are you safe?  Is this girl Faith really another Slayer?”

“Yes, she is, Buffy.  Remember the young Watcher, Wesley, one of the men who accompanied Quenton Travers when he was changed into a duck by Merlin?  Anyway, Wesley was Linda’s, the woman who was Faith’s watcher, fiance.” 

“I will feel a lot better when you get back, Dana.  While you’re in Boston, you need to be careful.  I don’t trust the Council.”

“Don’t worry, Buffy,” Dana said with more confidence than she felt.  “We’ll be back tomorrow night at the latest.  Goodbye,” she said and disconnected the call.

“Was that Buffy?”

Dana whirled toward the tentative and husky voice to find Faith standing in Dana’s open doorway.  “Is she really alive?”

“Yes, she is,” Dana said and motioned for the girl to enter her room proper.  “Do you have any other questions for me about her?”

“Why would the Council tell me she was dead?  That Giles ran out on her and left her to die?”

“I can answer that,” Wesley said as he entered the room.  “It was believed that if you knew about the other Slayers you would abandon your post to join them.”

“But why tell me Giles ran?” Faith snapped as she glared at Wesley. 

“They wanted you to hate the man.  So if you did come into contact with him you would not believe anything he said,” Wesley replied coolly.  “Really, it’s no harm in either event; Giles betrayed our organization.”

“And B is out there every night fighting against the monsters?” Faith asked before she turned back to Dana.  “She even left the Hellmouth to come here to help you?”

“Yes,” Dana replied.  “You must understand that she belongs to a bigger group now that fights the darkness.  Her new group gathers any resources they can to get the job done.”

“She’s really alive?” Faith asked again as she tried to understand what it meant.  “Kendra, too?”

“Yes.”

“Wesley, will the Council come after me?”

“Yes, I believe so.  They ordered me to bring you back but I couldn’t use Linda’s funeral as a means to trick you into going for it.”

“So the Watcher has a conscience?”  Dana asked.

“I believe Faith will see her duty and do it.”

“That isn’t even the issue,” Dana snapped.  “It’s all about how you ask them to do it.”

“It has been that way since the beginning,” Wesley argued. “There is a reason for it.”

“What possible reason can you have to let a girl just barely in her teens fight against those monsters all by herself?”

“You want reasons? Very well, here are some for you.  Agent Scully, tell me, who are we to trust?  Who believes in what we are doing?  The creatures of the night are not common knowledge to most people.  I dare say, if you talk to someone who is not in the know, that person is likely to have you committed.”

“Wesley wake up!  It’s a new day!” Dana countered. “I know at least four different people who offered their services to the current Slayers and those slayers have lived longer lives.  I’m surprised that you don’t know that.”

“I have read every Watcher journal available, and have never come across a Watcher whose slayer had help from the outside.”

“Then your journals have huge gaps in them,” Dana said with a smile.  “I know a man who was married to a Slayer.”

“That’s preposterous!”

“A Slayer got hitched?” Faith asked, then after a pause she went on.  “Wait a minute, how long ago was that?  I was told the past six slayers died alone.”

“They also told you that Buffy died in L. A. and we all know how true that was,” Dana noted sarcastically.

“I cannot believe you would stoop to such levels, Agent Scully!” Wesley snapped “No Slayer has ever been married.  Even if it were true, how in God’s name would you possibly learn of it?”

“Could have happen,” Faith said as she turned to Wesley.  “I mean the Council lied to me once; how do you know they didn’t lie to you?”

The room was silent for a few moments.  Then Wesley stood up and strode forcefully out of the room.  Faith watched him go before she turned back to Dana, “I still don’t know what to think, but I have a very bad feeling that the Council is going to come after me.”

“Let’s get some sleep,” Dana said as she stood.   “Tomorrow might be a very long day.”

“I’m not going back with them.” Faith said as she walked out of Dana’s room.  “I don’t know if I will go with you people but I know I won’t go with them.”

 

 

 ###

Black Cargo van

Down the street from the Price house.

2:00 am

He had a bad feeling about this assignment.

Mark Watson was the leader of one of the two teams sent by the Watchers Council to retrieve the Slayer known as Faith.  He wasn’t too happy about this assignment but in the end, a job was a job.  He and his team members had all started about 8 months ago and there were still gaps in his knowledge about the Watchers.  Not that he much cared; the pay was good and he liked his job.  But kidnapping a young American teenager-no matter what they’d told him about her destiny –it rubbed him the wrong way. 

“Oh, how the mighty have fallen,” Mark thought as he looked over the others in the van.  Gary Parks, an ex con who had a spree of robbing banks from one end of the U.K. to the other before he was caught by Scotland Yard.  The next member was Pete Whitman, a man who had washed out of the Royal Marines for insubordination.  Next was a pair of very low grade mercenaries that the Council had found on the docks, Eugene Short and Bill Hillsmit.  The last man of the team was a computer expert from America named Ryan Lyons.  Rumor had it the FBI was looking for him for hacking into their network.  “Alright men, our orders for this mission is to kidnap a 15 year old teenager and a twenty something male that should be with her.  We are to take the two of them back to England to the Council.”

He watched the faces of the men as he informed them of the job and noticed that all but one looked pleased.  He’d caught the look of revulsion on one of their faces before the man had masked it away.  He stored that information away before he took out and passed around the pictures of their targets. 

“This is a snatch and grab, non lethal weapons only,” Mark ordered.  “Our intel reports that there are four adults and the child in the house.  The butler has a room off the kitchen.  Pete, you and Parks take him out on your way upstairs.  Short and Hillsmit will move to the second floor and secure the passageway while Ryan and I grab the girl.  Any questions?”

“What’s so special about this girl?” Eugene asked as he loaded his tranquilizer pistol.  “Is she rich or something?”

“Never occurred to me to ask,” Mark lied.  “They want her and we are being paid to get her; any more questions?”

“Let’s get this done,” Bill said as he and Eugene stood up to leave. 

Mark followed his men around the house and entered by the kitchen window.  The house still laid as quiet as it had been since the last light had been distinguished four hours ago.  He watched as Eugene and Bill broke off to slip into the butler’s room.  Within seconds they heard the poof sound that came from a silenced gun.   With the butler out of the way, he waited until Bill and Eugene left the room and started up the stairs before he followed with the others close behind him. 

As they reached the second floor landing, Eugene pushed open the first door while Bill held his gun ready to eliminate any threat the room held.  Just as Bill stepped into the room, Wesley sat up in bed, his eyes wide with fright.  When he opened his mouth to ask a question, Bill shot him.

“Second male down,” Bill whispered into his small transmitter.  “Clear to move forward.”

“Continue to primary target,” Mark ordered.  “We will secure the Watcher.”

As the pair moved toward the next door, another door farther down the hallway opened and Mark was able to see a thirty-something, red haired woman peek out momentarily just before she slammed the door shut. 

“Get her,” Mark hissed which caused the two merc’s to charge toward her door. 

Mark watched as Eugene kicked the door open before he and Bill entered the room.  Soon after, something was slammed into the wall, followed by a few more crashes.  Then the sound of one of the tranq guns going off pierced the night followed by a dull thud as a body apparently hit the floor.

A few seconds later Mark watched as an injured Eugene stumbled from the room.  Then he turned toward the door he stood in front of after he heard a noise.  He motioned for Ryan to open the door as he readied his own tranq gun to take care of the potential danger. 

As the door opened Mark fired at a elderly woman who stood next to her bed while she threw on her night gown. 

“You’re going to regret that,” their main target said from where she stood over Eugene a baseball bat in her hands.  As she stepped toward Mark the last two of the team stepped onto the landing and fired at Faith.  Both darts hit her just as she got into striking distance of Mark.  As she faltered she whispered with her last breath.  “You bastards.”

“Get the girl, Ryan,” Mark ordered as he looked down at Eugene, “Parks help me get Eugene, Pete you get Bill.”

“What about the others?” Parks asked as he reached down to pick up Eugene.  “Shouldn’t we get the Watcher?”

“Leave him,” Mark ordered.  “The girl is the primary target; he was secondary.  Let’s get out of here.”

“Who the hell was the red haired woman?” Pete asked as he picked up Bill then followed the others down the stairs.  “She really creamed Bill.”

“She doesn’t matter; let’s go,” Mark barked as they carried Eugene down the stairs and out of the house.

As the team members gathered at the van, Ryan gently placed the girl down toward the front while Eugene and Bill were dumped in the back.  Mark took his seat on the passenger side before he pulled out his cell phone and dialed a memorized number. 

“This is team one,” Mark said as the phone was picked up.  “Mission accomplished, we are headed to safe house four.”

“Acknowledged,” the voice said before the connection was broken.

After he hung up, Mark fought his nerves as he drove through Boston.  A quick glance into the review mirror revealed that Ryan had handcuffed and blind folded the girl.  He nodded his head in approval.  At least the kid was thinking. 

“Who is this girl?” Ryan asked as he moved up to the passenger seat.  “I really don’t understand what the organization we work for does.”

“What don’t you understand?” Mark asked

“I understand that they fight for the right side.  I mean, anyone who fights against vampires is a good guy.  But what about this girl?  Is she their weapon?”

“That’s the way I understand it.  She is supposed to be possessed by a spirit that gives her the strength and skill of hundreds of warriors throughout the ages.  Somehow she has the ability to master any weapon she can lay her hands on.”

“You don’t say…” Ryan murmured.  Then a worried look flashed across his face.  “She’s probably going to be really pissed at us when she wakes up.”

“Probably,” Mark agreed.  “Hopefully she’ll be someone else’s problem by then.”

“Not that I’m worried or anything but what about the other people in the house?”

“The Watcher, when he wakes up, will probably tell the others that we have already taken her to the airport which is our normal M. O.  After all, he works for the Council too.”

“What about the red headed she-devil?” Ryan asked.  “Do you think we’ll have some trouble with her?”

“I don’t think so,” Mark scoffed.  “How would she be able to follow us?”

“Guess you’re right.”

“We’ll stay here for a few days then take her back,” Mark announced.

###

5:00 am

Council’s Safe house

She didn’t remember much of what had happened the night before.  Her mind forced itself past a dim fog.  She didn’t move at first nor open her eyes as she felt the presence of another in her room.  Soon she became aware of cold steel cuffs around her wrists which trapped them behind her back.  As she became more alert, the events of the previous night became crystal clear. 

//I’m a prisoner, probably the Council,// she reasoned as she tested the strength of the cuffs before she slowly moved her legs to see if they too were trapped.  When she realized they were free, she further thought, //Well these boys are about to find out that their target still has some teeth.//

She listened to the man’s breathing and knew he was asleep.  Quietly she started to test the cuffs. She began to pull them apart using her slayer strength and they bit into her skin which caused a sharp pain.  Pushing it aside, she continued her struggle; her anger would not allow her to stop even if she wanted to.  Soon the chain between the two cuffs gave way. Once her hands and arms were free she rolled over to face the man who was asleep in a chair. 

//Big mistake, asshole,// Faith thought.  When she removed her blindfold, she found that she was still dressed only in boxers and a t-shirt, her normal bedclothes.  Then striking swiftly, she delivered a backhand that sent the man flying out of his chair and onto the ground.  She moved in to strike again but when she saw his head bounce off the floor she knew a further attack would be unnecessary.  

Quickly she put the man back in the chair and fixed the bed up to try and fool his accomplices if only for a few seconds.  Once she finished her task, she moved back to where the man sat and removed his tranqulizer gun before she climbed out the window and dropped twenty feet to the ground below. 

“Count yourself lucky that I’m supposed to be at a funeral in the morning,” Faith mumbled under her breath as she memorized the address.  “Just stay here, and as the Terminator always says, ‘I’ll be back.’”

Once she found her bearings, Faith realized which part of town they had brought her to and sighed.  “Christ almighty,” Faith grumbled under her breath.  Man, she had to be at least ten miles from Marion’s house.  “Oh well, I ain’t walking barefooted for ten miles!”

As she started for her aunt’s home, Faith used alleys when they were available and the shadows when they weren’t.  She was about to cross over a main street when she had a stroke of luck.  She watched as two men shimmied into the basement window of a boarded up house.   She smiled further when her side began to hurt.  “Oh, this must be my lucky day!  I’ve found some fang boys just itching to give me their stuff!”

She waited a few minutes before she rushed across the street and picked up a branch.  She snapped the limb until she had made a good stake.  Then she entered the kitchen window, the only one not carefully boarded up.  She gingerly stepped on a dirty floor covered by shards of broken glass and reached the door that led down to the basement.  She listened through the door and tried to determine how many of the fang boys were down there. 

After a few moments, she figured there were only three vampires and by the way the kitchen window was lit she knew it was well past sunrise.  Confidently, she opened the door and made her way down the stairs.  Two of the three vampires were asleep on their makeshift beds while the third sat against the wall on the far side of the room.  She cursed her luck but then moved in to handle the job anyway. 

Just as she took the last step on the stairs she threw the make shift stake toward the vampire who was supposed to keep watch and although her aim was off, the pointed end thrust into the vampire’s lap region which caused him to double over in pain as it screamed.

Faith bounded over the rail-her aim perfect as she sailed over one vampire’s head while she took out the tranquilizer gun and shot the other one.  Still the second vampire rose as if the drug had no effect on him. 

“You’re going to die, girl!” the vampire who had been shot said as he ripped out the dart and threw it to the ground.

“I think you got the dying part backwards, slick!” Faith drawled as she shifted her weight and spun into a wicked high leg kick that struck the vampire in the head and caused him to stumble back into a nearby wall next to the window. 

Suddenly, as the window shade snapped up, the vampire hurriedly grabbed for it to keep the room from being engulfed by sunlight.  Just then, Faith executed a spinning heel kick which knocked him away from the window and the shade tumbled from its track, allowing the sun to stream into the window right in the place where the vampire had fallen. 

Faith then positioned the sun behind her before she turned to the other vampire who’d been sleeping and had just gotten to his feet.  She launched a kick to his groin which took him to his knees then shot a swift kick to the head that knocked him out.  When he was down, she crossed over to the first vampire she’d injured with her stake.  Then she fired a powerful right to its jaw, knocking him out cold.

With the three vampires handily disposed of by her, she took her time rifling through their things and found a pair of shorts that would fit her along with about ninty dollars in cash.  The shoes she pulled off one of the disabled vampires were not the best of fits but she figured she could get by until she got to a store to buy another pair.

“Finally something useful,” Faith grumbled to herself as she found a cell phone on the last vampire before she staked him.   “Thanks, buddy,” she whispered to its dusted remains.

After she dressed the best she could, Faith took a minute to called information to get Marion’s number then she called Marion but got no answer.  She hung up the phone after the fifth ring as she figured they must still be under the influence of the drugs from the darts.

“Just another thing you assholes are gonna pay for,” Faith swore as she dialed a taxi service

###

6:30 am

Home of Marion Pryce

Dana Scully moaned her way back into consciousness accompanied by the ring from the phone across the room.  At first she was confused as to why she was on the floor then the memory of the previous night flooded back to her.  She rushed out the door to check on Faith and found she was gone.  Next, she rushed to Marion’s room.  The woman laid half on half off the bed, but there was no blood to be found and after a check she found the elder woman’s pulse to be strong.   She took a minute to place Marion comfortably on the bed before she went to check on Wesley and found him laid back with his arms outstreatched.  Even though she knew what she was going to find, she walked over to check him just to make sure.

“Those bastards even shot their own man,” Dana said as she pulled out her cell phone to call her husband.  “Don’t worry, Faith, we will find you.”

“How is everything?” Mulder asked after the fourth ring.

“Shitty,” Dana scowled as she marched back to her room to get dressed.  “The Council struck last night and they got Faith.”

“Are you alright?  How did they find out so fast?”

“I’m okay, just feeling a lot of guilt for this debacle.  And, as to your last question, isn’t it obvious? It had to be Wesley.  No other way.”

“Alright, did you call in for local help?”

“No, not yet, Wesley was left behind so I’m going to ask him a few questions, maybe he knows where they have her.”

“They left him behind?”

“I don’t think they had much of a choice.  I know I hurt one man, and possibly the second one before he hit me with a tranq dart.”

“Thank God they didn’t use lethal weapons.” Mulder whispered.  “Do you want me to send someone your way?”

“Not yet honey, I’m going to call the local police and ask them to put out an alert on Faith,” Dana said, her voice grim.  “Then I am going to wake Wesley and find out what he knows.”

“Just be sure to call if you need help,” Mulder said.  “I love you honey.”

“I love you too,” Dana said just before she hung up.

A very angry Dana entered the bathroom and washed her face before she filled a glass of water and marched back into Wesley’s room throwing the contents on his face as she wished it was ice water in a bucket.  “Wake up you rotten son of a bitch.  How could you do this to Faith?”

She saw the reaction on his face and knew the water had done its job.  Then she stepped over to him and slapped him with sharp, short taps careful not to use her full strength. 

“Whaa,” Wesley finally got out as he lifted his hands to push his assailant away.  “What in the bloody hell are you doing, woman?”

“Where is she?” Scully snapped now that she had his full attention.  “Where did those bastards take Faith?”

“I assure you, I have no idea,” Wesley said as he rolled off the bed away from her. 

“What would be their procedure?  What did you talk about with them?” She snapped as she moved over to his side of the bed.  “Don’t even think of lying to me.”

“Let me think,” Wesley whispered as he wiped his face off.  “The retrieval teams are all fairly new, so I could not begin to think of how they would go about it.  However the standard plan is to secure the Slayer as soon as possible.  This means they would make passage to England fairly rapidly.  Indeed, they may have departed for home last night.”

“No chance of that,” Dana said as she looked at her watch.  “Boston has a city ordinance that prohibits landing or take offs after ten pm, which means they would have to fly out first thing this morning.  Get dressed; you’re coming with me.”

“What is going on?” Marion asked as she came out of her room to see Dana pushing Wesley in front of her.  “Where is Faith?”

“We’re going to get her now,” Dana said confidently. 

“Should I come with you?” Marion said as she followed the pair. 

“You should stay here; we’ll be back shortly with Faith, I promise,” Scully said, her tone projecting more confidence than she felt at the moment.  Boston was a big town even with the help of the local police and her other contacts.  It was going to be a crap shoot.

“What is going on?” Stewart asked from his door as he rubbed both of his temples.

“Faith’s been taken,” Marion said as Dana and Wesley left the house.   

Dana and Wesley had just jumped in the car with Wesley in the driver’s seat as she pulled out her cell phone again to file a missing child report.  Just as Wesley shifted the car into reverse, a yellow taxi cab pulled up and blocked the driveway.  Scully started to open the door to yell at the driver when Faith got out of the back seat dressed in a very odd pair of shorts and shoes that appeared to be too big for her.

Scully expressed a sigh of relief and barked out a nervous laugh.  “Faith, are you okay?” she asked as she rushed forward to take the younger woman into her arms then whispered, “I was worried about you.”

“Hey, no need for worry, D; I’m Five by Five,” she quipped then glanced at Wesley.  “Did you have anything to do with this?”

“Absolutely not!” Wesley snapped.  “I brought you here to attend the funeral.  After that, I would have tried to talk you into coming back with me on your own.  Now…I don’t know.”

“You can forget it!” Faith spat as she stepped away from Scully and said to the agent, “First, we take care of the problem in Atlanta, after that, we’ll talk.”

“No, first, we’ll attend Linda’s funeral,” Dana said in a soft voice as she guided the girl back into the house.  “Let’s go clean you up, you can tell me about it while you get ready.”

As they entered the house Faith burst away from Dana and rushed to Marion who stood at the foot of the stairs with tears in her eyes. 

“Are you alright? I was so worried that they hurt you,” Faith said as she hugged the older woman.  “I couldn’t stand it if something happened to you because of me.”

“I understand, child,” Marion replied as she held the girl while she looked at Dana, who met the elder woman’s eyes and slowly nodded.

“You look like a rat that just crawled out of the sewer,” Marion said as she led Faith upstairs.  “Let’s get you into something else.”

Dana watched the pair climb the stairs before she turned to Wesley.  Her eyes were red, but she forced her own voice to be steady.  “This had better not happen again.”

“I didn’t do this,” Wesley stated, “I want Faith to be here for Linda’s funeral, if you don’t believe anything else about me, believe that.”

“How soon will they try again?” Dana asked.

“There’s really no telling, I would say as soon as they determined she’d escaped.”

“They wouldn’t make a try for her at the funeral, would they?” Dana asked as she pulled out her phone.  “That is not an option.”

“Raymonds Pizza,” a heavy voice answered after three rings.

“Dimitri, I need to talk to Gordon.” 

“Agent Scully, is something wrong?” Dimitri asked.

“Nothing we can’t handle without a little help.”

“I will put you through right away.”

“Thanks.”

“Agent Scully, how can I be of assistance to you?” Gordon asked shortly thereafter.

“I have a problem,” Dana said before she gave Gordon a detailed report as to what had happened.  She finished with, “Linda was like a mother to Faith and the girl deserves closure without complications.”

“I’ll have a team standing nearby; they will keep their eye open for trouble.” Gordon said after a minute.  “Tell me something, do you think she is going to team up with St. Wolf?”

“I don’t know and neither does she at the moment.” Dana replied.  “I don’t think we should push her.”

“Of course not, but please make sure we are in the loop.”

“Thank you, Mr. Gordon.” Dana said just before she hung up the phone and turned back toward Wesley.  “Call your office; let them know that as of this minute Faith is under our protection.”

“Is that really necessary?” Wesley asked.

“Call them or not, it’s your people.” Dana replied coolly as she walked up toward Faith’s room.

###

“I really don’t know what I’m going to do.” Faith told Marion as she patted down the dress she would wear to Linda’s funeral.  It was black, stylish yet somehow somber.  It hid rather than enhanced her body unlike most of the things she typically wore.  “I have to go back to Atlanta to deal with that problem, though.”

“What about the Watchers?” Marion asked, “Don’t you think they will try again?”

“Yes, I know they will.” Faith growled, “I hope for their sakes that they stay out of my way because payback’s a bitch and so am I.”

“They won’t bother us at the funeral,” Scully informed the ladies as she entered the room. 

“Do you really think they would have come after Faith at the funeral?”

“They won’t now,” Dana replied with conviction.

“It’s time,” Stewart announced from the doorway.  “The limousine is here.”

###

Faith sat next to Marion on the ride to the funeral, her mind awhirl with all the memories she’d shared with Linda.  She knew that Linda considered her more as her own family rather than the Slayer and she knew that what she’d had with her Watcher was something precious that had slipped through her fingers and probably would never have again.  Tears ran freely down her cheek as she closed her eyes and savored her memories. 

“Linda,” she whispered in a strained voice.  “Why didn’t you run?”

“Hush, child,” a very real voice sounded beside her.  Her eyes snapped open and she realized that Marion sat next to her and held her like Linda had when they discussed life.  Her eyes were blood shot, the tracks of her tears was easily seen on her face.  Her face was almost hollow in appearance which caused Faith to hug her and receive a hug in return.

“We are here, Faith,” Marion said as she patted Faith on the back.  “The Priest is waiting.”

Faith slowly followed the others down to the grave site.  As she glanced about she wondered how many people were there.  It seemed like there were over a hundred people standing around all with their eyes on the coffin.  She never did like crowds, so she stood away from the others as she listened to the priest recite a few verses from the Bible.  She knew most of the verses that he recited and wondered what they had to do with Linda and the way she’d chosen to live her life.  She scanned the crowd of people who’d gathered there and realized that most of them thought those passages described Linda’s life perfectly.  She wondered how any of them could think of Linda as meek or humble.  The Linda she knew, the one who’d cared for her more than life itself, was a bold and brash woman who knew no boundaries when it came to helping others. 

The priest had just finished the Lord’s Prayer and asked if anyone would like to say a few things on behalf of the lost lamb.  Faith sat there and endured the ramblings of three of her college friends and two of her high school friends who’d thought they knew her fairly well.  Wesley rose to speak and admitted the love he had for this beautiful woman.  His speech was so soft she was surprised a man who seemed so full of it could express his love so eloquently.

Finally when he had finished, Faith took the stage, her eyes red after she heard what Wesley had to say.  After a minute or so, she took one more look around at the gathered friends and family of Linda and spoke, softly and clearly.  “Linda found me on a street corner.   I was homeless, with no family or friends.  I was a mess yet she took me in and fed me, clothed me, and grew to love me.  At first, I am ashamed to say, I thought she wanted something perverted from me.  Later, I found out the only thing she ever wanted was my friendship, someone who she could love and who’d love her.  We never had any strings in our relationship.  She wanted a family and she chose me, a girl with no past and no future and saved my life.  It took a while for each of us to learn how to bow, and believe me the woman was an oak, she didn’t bow easily.”  This drew a few smiles so she continued.  “Linda was my rock; she was there when everyone else had turned their backs on me.  She was my inspiration and she was and shall always be my hero.  I know a few of you would gasp if I told you how strong Linda was and how she stood where others would have faltered but I don’t know how many of you would believe me.  I listened to a few of you call her a lily, a dove, and a rose.  I agree she was all those things and so much more.  I will miss her dearly, the lily that does not drown in times of trouble.  The dove who would attack anything that endangered its nest and the rose whose thorns would rip a predator apart before it would allow it to get near its heart and home.”

Faith’s voice faltered for several moments before she simply shrugged, strode toward the coffin, reached down to place a rose and a cross on the lid of Linda’s coffin and whispered, “Mother, I will never forget you.”

###

Atlanta

Winningstar’s Barn

Buffy was still steamed at Mulder and made no attempt to hide it.  In fact, any attempt by anyone to come to his aid was quickly warned off and, at times, not always by verbal means, particularly in regards to Kendra who stood by her sister slayer and gave the devil’s eye to anyone who dared to challenge the Slayers’ wrath. 

“Alright, it’s done.  When Dana calls I want to know about it immediately.” Buffy growled as she looked over the others in the barn.  “For now we have a problem here in Atlanta, and we can’t very well split our forces without knowing who our opposition is or how many we have to face.”

As her temper slowly diminished, she glanced around and noticed the looks of disapproval from some of the stupid bastards too dumb to realize who they were dealing with here.  She narrowed her eyes at them and they shied away from her steady gaze.  Then she asked, “Alright what do we have going on?” as she walked over to the planning table.  She noticed how the others pulled away from her, but for now let it go.  She kept her voice steady as she felt Kendra step up beside her.  “What kind of force are we up against and where is their nest?”

No one bothered to respond as they all looked with displeasure on Buffy; finally her quick temper rose and blew again even as Mulder’s cell phone rang. 

“Oh for crying out loud, people!  What in the hell is wrong with you?  Are you pissed off about the way I blew up at Mulder?  You all think I am wrong for taking the hard line?  Well you might be right.  Mulder didn’t deserve the abuse I handed to him. I know he had to make a hard choice, probably made the best decision he thought possible.  But we have too few allies and to send Dana away on a mission by herself with an unknown Slayer was a very dangerous move.  He should have known that.  I was wrong to blow up like that and I will admit that.  But now it’s done and I will apologize to him after he gets off the phone.  Right now ‘we,’” she said, stressing the entire group by sweeping her arm toward them, “have to figure out this problem and you all standing at odds against me won’t help at all.”

“Buffy, it’s Dana,” Mulder said as he handed the phone to her.  “She said everything’s fine.”

“Dana,” Buffy growled as she took the phone from Mulder.  “Where are you?  Are you safe?  Is this girl Faith really another Slayer?”

“Yes, she is, Buffy.  Remember the young Watcher, Wesley, one of the men who’d accompanied Quenton Travers when he was changed into a duck by Merlin?  Anyway, Wesley was Linda’s, the woman who was Faith’s Watcher, fiancé.” 

“I will feel a lot better when you get back, Dana.” Buffy said as she looked at Mulder her voice softening as she went on.  “While you’re in Boston, you need to be careful.  I don’t trust the Council.”

“Don’t worry, Buffy, We’ll be back tomorrow night at the latest.  Goodbye,” she said and disconnected the call.

“She hung up,” Buffy said as she handed the phone back.  “Mulder, I am sorry for exploding like that at you.  It’s just that I don’t trust the Council and it’s not a good thing that they have another Slayer under their control.  Do you forgive me?”

“Of course.  Believe me, I have been beating myself up for doing it,” Mulder confessed, “But at the moment it was the only thing we could do.  The girl deserved closure and being at the funeral was the only why she could have gotten it.”

“I understand,” Buffy replied as she looked at her closest friends.  “Family is worth any risk.”

As the group gathered around the table to join St. Wolf and Casca who were smart enough to have stayed out of the cranky Slayer’s way, Buffy turned to where Willow and Cordelia talked to an elderly woman who appeared to be very tired. 

“So, you are their resident computer guru?” The old lady who was introduced as Winningstar asked Willow as she took a seat beside the redheaded witch. 

“My name’s Willow,” she said then pointed out her friends and continued the introductions.  “That’s my boyfriend Oz, the dark haired boy is Xander, that’s his girlfriend, Cordelia, and the Jamaican lady is Kendra.”

Buffy watched as Felicia looked over her friends and saw Felicia’s eyes narrow as they scanned Oz.  When the woman started to move her lips, she moved and positioned herself between the woman and Oz and was immediately joined by Kendra.

“Back off, lady,” Buffy said while she drew Vampire Slayer from its dimensional fold.  She held the sword in a relaxed stance, not threatening but ready. “He’s our friend.”

“He’s a werewolf,” Felicia accused which brought a few of the locals to her side.

“That’s right he is,” Cordelia said as she stepped up beside Kendra and Buffy.  “And I’m an Amazon.”

“I’m a Witch,” Willow said with a smile.

“I’m,” Xander started but took his time to look around before he pointed to Cordelia and finished, “well…I’m with her.”

“The boy could be a danger to us all,” Felicia said as she clutched her holy symbol tightly while it emitted a familiar glow.

“Oz is fine,” Buffy said in wonder as she glanced down at the item in Felicia’s hand. “I see that you’re a cleric.”

“That’s right,” Felicia replied proudly.  “I am Felicia Winningstar, high priestess of Pelor.”

Buffy took a minute to glance at Willow who shook her head in the negative before she turned back to the woman.  “Never heard of him.”

“I am not surprised; you’re too young to have heard of him on this plane,” Felicia said.  “Can I finish my spell to find out the boy’s true nature?”

“You can take my word that he is no danger to any here unless they attack him first,” Willow spat, cutting Buffy’s response off while the witch’s hands began to glow.  “You can also take my word that if you do cast your spell I will cast one of my own.”

“And she’s normally our diplomatic one,” Kendra quipped.

“So you really do have witches in your group,” Felicia noted as she sized up the little red witch.  “And what of your cleric?”

“We left her back home,” Buffy said as Willow remained guarded.  “Why do you ask?”

“I had hoped to meet her; I have heard so many wonderful things about her.”

As the tension diminished, Buffy smiled brightly, which further disarmed her potential foe.  “I don’t mean to pry, but all the clerics we know are from another dimension.  Where are you from?”

“You know more than one?” Felicia asked.

“Well, yeah sort of.  Shaw, the one who works with us, is a daughter of Mielikki.  The other’s name is Parkin and he was or is a high priest of Corellon Larethian or something like that.”

“And where is he?”

“Last I heard he was in the mid west, but no one can track that guy,” Xander offered.  “I don’t even think he knows where he is half the time.”

“I’m pleased to meet you all, even your werewolf,” Felicia said with a smile.  “I am sorry for jumping to the wrong conclusions about him.”

“It’s okay,” Buffy said, “I guess we all are wound a bit too tight.  How did you know about Oz?”

“He has a strong aura about him; I have only seen it a few times before.”

“Where are you from?” Buffy asked.

“Here,” Felicia replied

“You’re the first non-Elvin cleric I have ever met,” Cordelia began then changed her tone when she continued, “unless you’re...”

“She’s not,” Buffy snapped, cutting Cordelia off.

“Sit back and I will tell you my story,” Felicia said as she sat down on a chair near Willow’s work area.  “When I was young, maybe 15 or 16, I got into a game called Wizards, this game eventually became Dungeons and Dragons.  My character was a cleric.  Anyway, on my way home one night, I slipped and fell into a small river which swept me away.  I was taken under a few times and the last time I came up I was able to grab a tree branch and was able to drag myself to the edge.  When I got out of the water I was no longer in Atlanta.  There were no buildings; I was able to see the stars as clear as I see you now.  My body tingled and somehow I knew I had become Winningstar, the cleric I played in the game.  I found a trail and followed it to a small village where I called my home for the past twenty years.  I went on real adventures, fought monsters that I only knew from books.  About twenty years ago I was just about to set out for an adventure to find the white dragon when I stepped out of a tavern and found myself back here in Atlanta.”

“Wow, sounds like something from a cartoon or something,” Willow said. 

“Except that I had lived it.” Felicia said with a hint of sorrow in her voice.  “Just as I had achieved the rank of high cleric, I was brought back here.  Unlike your friends, I can’t maintain the strength it takes to cast spells.  My deity is weak on this plane of existence, so my spells are less than half strength.”

“When this is settled we might have someone who can help you,” Buffy said before she headed back to the planning table.  “Right now, I want to see what they have learned.”

As the Immortal Slayer approached the table, she steered herself between Mulder and Steve.  “What are we up against?”

“At least three master vampires have been able to put aside their differences long enough to perform a ceremony that will give them even more strength and power over lesser vampires,” Steve said.  “It seems that Angelus is one of the main lieutenants to a grand master vampire named Kikistos, who it seems is so old that his body has been morphed.  There were three Lieutenants, but one of them was the one who killed Linda.  Faith killed him when he and a group of vampires attacked the Federal building to get at her.”

“All right, so what are we going to do?”

“Tonight we go look for them,” Casca said.  “I believe we all should rest while we can.  We have a very large area to search tonight.”

“I have to agree,” Buffy said after she studied the faces of the other people in the room.  “They must have had a rough couple of days.”

“I guess we can bunk down here,” St. Wolf said.   “It would be better than driving to a motel.”

“You’re all welcome to stay here or in the house,” Felicia said from her position behind Buffy.  “I have plenty of room.”

“Thank you,” St. Wolf said as he tilted his head. “Most of us should be fine here in the barn.”

“I will bring food for you in an hour or so,” Felicia offered.

“Thank you,” St. Wolf said as he rubbed his eyes.  “Looks like most of us could use a few hours sleep.”

“Dana and the others will be here later tonight,” Mulder announced to the group.  ‘I’ll be leaving here in about eight hours or so to pick them up at the airport.”

“Do you want someone to go along with you?” Buffy asked, her attention perking up at the mention of Dana.  “I could….’

“No, this is something I want to do alone.” 

“Oh, okay,” a pouting Buffy said softly in response.

###  

Boston

Home of Marion Price

As she entered the house, Faith noticed an elderly man who sat in the foyer.  She stopped in the door which blocked Marion’s access.  Even though he didn’t wear the tweed suit most of the Council favored he was garbed in a dark suit and had the air of a professional about him.

“Who are you?” she challenged.

“Mr. Barrington, thank you for coming!” Marion exclaimed as she stepped around Faith.  “Faith, this is Mr. Barrington.  He was Linda’s lawyer.  I invited him here to read Linda’s will.”

“Oh, well…yeah,” Faith said with a shrug.  “Sorry, Mr. B.  Men in suits have been nothing but trouble for me lately.”

“That’s all right, young lady.” The man said as he started to rise.  “Miss Price, allow me to extend my heartfelt condolences for your loss.”

“Thank you,” Marion replied as they all took their seats in the parlor. 

“I have the will here, are you ready?”

“Yes, please go ahead,” Marion said from where she sat next to Faith.

“This is the Last Will and Testament of Linda Price:” Mr. Barrington began as he opened up a binder.  “I, Linda Price, being of sound mind and body, bequeath all that I have to Faith Price, a orphan that I have adopted.  It is my wish that my Aunt Marion, who knows Faith, would accept Faith into her life as a member of my family and as the daughter I have come to know and love.”

He then closed the book and looked at Marion.  “That’s pretty much it.  At the time of her death, Linda owned two homes, the first was a condo in downtown Boston, the other was the two flat in Charlestown.    After taxes and my fee, her closing balance was two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.  I took the liberty of withdrawing the funds and opened an account for Faith in the First National Bank of Boston.  If you wish, I can continue overseeing that account on your behalf, Faith.”

“That would be acceptable for now,” Marion replied after a minute.  “Faith may not want to stay in Boston, but until she leaves you will be the executer of her estate with all safeguards in place of course.”

“I would not want it any other way,” Mr. Barrington said.

“What does this mean?” Faith asked as she looked between Marion and Mr. Barrington.

“It means that Linda left you everything she owned,” Mr. Barrington said.  “I will over look the account until you choose someone else or when you become legal age.”

“I won’t be staying here,” Faith replied coolly.  “I’ve got a plane to catch to Atlanta for some unfinished business.”

“It will be here when you come back,” Marion said.  “We can discuss what to do with it at a later time, darling.”

“Thank you, Aunt Marion.” Faith said before she turned to Dana. “When is the flight, D?”

“Are you sure you want to go back already?” Dana asked.

“Yeah,” Faith simply said.  “Wes, you can tell your bosses that they had better stay out of my way.  The next bunch of yahoos that try to grab me won’t get off as easily as the last bunch, you got me?”

The icy streets of Boston swept past her window as Faith sat silently in the back seat on the way to the airport lost deep in her thoughts.  First, she had lost Linda, the only person who’d loved her unconditionally.  Now she was about to meet a living legend.  Oh, the Watchers had tried to trash Buffy’s memory, but B had done all right; she’d killed two masters in her first two years and still lived to tell the tale.  Obviously, the girl knew how to throw down.

She wasn’t sure how she felt about B’s boy, Giles, though.  The stories the Council told her about G still reigned in her mind.  She finally decided she’d check the dude out but if she found out that he used Buffy in any way she would make him wish that he’d never met her.  And what of Kendra, the Jamaican, where did she fit in all of this?  They told her that she was an active Slayer for about nine months before she was called to LA and had died there. 

She shook her head and snorted at herself.  Man!  She couldn’t believe she’d been so dumb to fall for the Council’s shit before!  Like, if both Kendra and Buffy had cashed it in at the Forum then who killed the vampire queen?  The story said the undead bitch had tried to release a high level demon loose upon the world.  Outside a Slayer-who would have had the juice to stop her?  Then there was this group that Dana had mentioned.  Those people who charged into the group of vampires who gathered outside the FBI building, were they part of the group?  If so, she smiled slyly, that big man with the blond hair sure would be one hell of a ride. 

That is, if Buffy and Kendra would accept her and let her fight on their team, she realized at that moment.  Dana had said they had friends; that Buffy still lived with her mother.  What would they have in common besides the Slay gig?   Then she scoffed at herself.  Of course, Buffy must still be into it!  Dana had said B had come to Atlanta to help her and Mulder.  Didn’t that somehow prove that she was still in the gig?  “Well no matter what, those assholes in Atlanta are sure going to get a belly full of Slayers.”

“What was that Faith?” Dana asked from behind the wheel.

“Was just thinking about what those assholes in Atlanta were going to do when they find out there are three of us to party with.”

“Might be fun at that,” Dana agreed.

“Faith your calling is not meant to be fun; your attitude could very well get you killed,” Wesley snapped.  “To be a part of the Slayer line is a great gift.”

“Wes,” Faith said coolly, “I ain’t a robot, dude, so don’t bring me down, alright?”

####

When they boarded the plane, Faith forced Wesley to take the aisle seat while she took the window seat which left the middle for Dana. 

//Not exactly what I wanted but it will have to do. // Faith thought to herself as she sat back to decide what questions to ask.

 They were well into the flight before Faith decided that it was time to get the answers she sought and turned to Dana.  “Hey, D, will you answer a few questions for me?”

“I will if I can.” Dana replied guardedly.

“What is she like?  B…Buffy, I mean.” Faith asked then after a second she elaborated.  “Personality-wise.  What does she think about the job?”

“I really don’t know how to answer that question,” Dana replied then after a second she continued.  “I can only tell you what I’ve heard how she was when she started then what I have personally seen during the past year.”

“Go on.”

“Well, she told me once that she was a cheerleader type.  Before she was called, she had a home with a mother and father, an active social life and friends.  Once she became active out of necessity she became moody often blaming her calling for all the troubles in her life.  She ended up having to kill about fourty percent of her friends or at least classmates after they had been turned.  Since I’ve met her, things really have changed for Buffy.  Before she met her current boyfriend; she started out fighting with two friends, a boy and girl named Willow and Xander.  Then a couple more joined in, Oz who became Willow’s boyfriend and Cordelia who became Xander’s girlfriend.  They, along with Mr. Giles, saved the world about four times and managed to destroy a master, too.  However, now with St. Wolf in the picture, their lives are a lot more secure.”

“How does one guy change so much?” Faith asked.

“He’s a killer,” Wesley said savagely. “He cares nothing about tradition.”

“Well, that is true,” Dana agreed.  “If tradition will get a person killed he has no problem with throwing it out the window.  But it’s more than that.  He brought intelligence and, more importantly, substantial support.”

“Intelligence?” Faith asked. “What were they all dumb?”

“No, that is not what I meant.” Dana said, “I guess the better word would be knowledge.  You see St. Wolf is a demon hunter.  He works with a lot of people who know a lot of things.”

“What about her, now that she has this experienced demon hunter behind her what does she do?”

“Pretty much the same, only on a grander scale.”

“Like coming here to Atlanta to help you?”

“And you,” Dana emphasized.  “I never talked to her about this, but I am pretty sure that she already counts you as a sister.  Like you, she is apprehensive about meeting you, but like you she will give you a fair shake.”

“I don’t know,” Faith said.  “I really ain’t a follower.”

“Just be yourself,” Dana said with a smile.  “I have a good feeling you two will get along.”

“What about you and Mulder?” Faith asked changing the subject.  “Where are you two most of the time?”

“We work for the FBI, our missions have taken us all over the US and sometimes outside the country.”

“Real jetsetters huh?”

“Well, we do travel quite a bit.” Dana agreed.

“He’s a hottie,” Faith murmured.

“Who?” Dana asked puzzled.

“Your partner, Agent Mulder.”

“Can you keep a secret?” Dana asked with a smile as she looked at Faith.

“Yo, D!  Slayer here!  Keeping secrets is part of the game!”

Dana bent down and whispered in Faith’s ear.  “He’s my husband but you can’t talk about it publicly though.  Promise?”

“You’re supposed to ask if I won’t tell before you tell me, you goof,” Faith teased.

####

As the aircraft entered the final approach for landing, Faith grew serious once more.  “D, do you really think they’ll accept me, I mean, just as I am?”

“They will.” Dana replied with confidence, “And even if they don’t, Mulder and I will.”

As the plane touched down, Faith was still a bit nervous about meeting B and K for the first time.  She still didn’t know how she felt about Giles, but like D had said, B and K were like sisters.  They all shared a very strong bond. 

After they had deplaned, Faith strolled down the jetway with Dana and wondered who would be there to greet them.  

As she stepped off the jetway she took a look around, she really didn’t expect anyone to be there, but was surprised when she saw Agent Mulder.  As Dana passed her to step into her husband’s arms and kiss him, she couldn’t help but smirk.  “Hey you two, why don’t you get a room!”

“Guess you’re going to be okay, huh?” Mulder smiled as he ruffled the young girl’s head.

Faith stepped back from Mulder’s outstretched hand with a cold glint in her eye.  “I ain’t a puppy. And my hair ain’t a playground for your hand.”

“I didn’t mean…” Mulder started as he looked toward Dana.

“You probably didn’t,” Faith said as she stared at the agent.   “Just don’t do it again.”

“Faith,” Dana started in a soothing voice.

“We’re five by five,” Faith dismissed Dana.  “Let’s go.”

“Even I know better than to touch a Slayer without her permission,” Wesley quipped as he strolled past the two agents.

“Shut up, Wes,” Faith tossed over her shoulder. 

###

On the ride back to Winningstar’s barn, Faith found herself in the back seat with Wesley.  At first she was just not sure what to say but as the miles drone on she engaged him in questions she was sure he had no answers for but wanted him to give her an idea what the Watchers Council wanted.

“Wes, why would the council try to take me back by force?” Faith asked, “I mean, don’t they know that would be kidnapping?”

“That team that picked you up last night was a new group,” Wesley said in a low voice.  “The old team would have gotten you out and back to England before you were awake.  However since the Sunnydale incident, the Council doesn’t have any experienced retrieval teams.”

“You mean they have done things like that before?”

“Mostly to potentials who they felt would become the Slayer.  The line must be maintained and the Council is the only organization knowledgeable enough to train her.  We have been doing it since the beginning.” Wesley said.

“And you don’t find anything wrong with that?” Faith asked.

“It’s the way it was at the beginning,” Wesley repeated, “I see no reason why it should change.”

“Wes, you ever see Star Wars?” Faith asked.  “Was a part in it when the princess says something like the tighter you close your fist the more things are going to slip through your fingers or something like that.  That sort of applies here, don’t it?”

“I really don’t know what you are talking about.”

###

Winningstar barn

Buffy watched as Giles stood in the doorway of the barn, his eyes glued to the long roadway which led down from the main road which lay around a bend and out of sight.  His shoulders seemed to sag as he shook his head.

“What’s the matter, Giles?” Buffy asked as she moved up next to him shortly followed by Kendra.

“Nothing,” Giles said then added, almost like a prayer, “I just wonder what she’s like.”

“Didn’t you already know about the new Slayer?” Kendra asked.

“No.  Since the Sunnydale incident, the Council went through a major upheaval,” he said.  “I had no idea another Slayer was called even though I should have anticipated that it could have occurred.  Kendra, after all, was hurt very badly.  If it hadn’t been for Quinn, she would have died.”

“I thought the Council said they would work with us on everything from then on,” Buffy said.  “I knew we couldn’t trust them.”

“Yes, well, the question now is how do we proceed?  Undoubtedly they have told this girl we are the enemy, so she may be quite suspicious of us.  But we have to do everything we can to help her.”

“She is our sister…well, in the Slayer aspect of it,” Kendra noted.  “We will accept her as such.”

“Of course,” Buffy agreed.  “But that doesn’t mean we have to bend over backwards for her.”

“That is not what I meant and you know it, Buffy,” Giles grumbled.

“Take a chill pill, Giles.  I knew what you meant,” Buffy countered.

“Mr. Giles is right,” Kendra said, “we need to welcome her into our circle.  We should try to make her feel welcome in our lives.  She could be a big asset to us.”

“Kendra, she isn’t an asset; she’s a person and a potential friend,” Buffy said.  “I think we should welcome her like that.  Not as a Slayer, just a person.”

“Agreed,” Kendra said as a dark colored sedan pulled into sight. 

“Kendra,” Buffy almost whispered.

“Yes,” Kendra’s voice was much the same.

“Are you nervous?”

Kendra simply nodded and stared at the car.

###

Mulder’s Sedan

Faith noticed that Mulder had slowed down when they entered what appeared to be a forest.  She was just about to ask what the problem was when Mulder turned onto a dirt road.

“We’re here,” Mulder said as he stopped a few yards away from a gate with two guards.  “Faith, just one more thing before we go inside—please try to get along with everyone here.  There are a lot of people in there with hot heads and most of them are at a breaking point.  These people have been fighting the same guys you have been for the past three months.  Earlier today we were just handed our asses.  So I can imagine the last thing anyone is going to want to hear is how much better you are than them.”

“Wait a minute, are you telling me that both B and K got served by the vamps?” Faith almost screamed.

“No, they just arrived this morning.” Mulder hissed.  “One of the local leaders thought we should go out and attack a warehouse.  It turned out to be a trap; we got out of it, but lost a few good people doing it.”

“Don’t worry, M,” Faith replied, “I’ll try not to step on too many toes.”

“That’s all I ask,” Mulder said before he shoved the car in gear and started toward the gate which had just been opened.

“That’s B and K,” an awestruck Faith whispered as she saw the two girls who stood in the barn doorway next to a hot-looking middle-aged man who still had a hint of ‘bad boy’ in him.  “Is that G with them?”

“Yes,” Dana said with a smile.

“Damn, he looks fine,” Faith said with a grin.  “Guess he has to be fit to spar with two Slayers.  Or do they only spar with each other?”

“Not at all; the mats when training is in session are open to anyone.  Sometimes we just draw names out of a hat,” Mulder said.  “As for Giles, he is very fit.  I have lost to him more times than I can count.”

“How many people does Giles train?”

“Uh, well you see,” Dana started before Mulder finished for her.  “Giles don’t exactly train anyone anymore.  Both girls have advanced beyond his knowledge; they have other trainers now.”

“Huh?” Faith asked.

“Preposterous!” Wesley exclaimed.  “Who, besides Watcher Giles, would have the depth of knowledge to train a Slayer let alone two of them?”

“It started off with Mr. St. Wolf and his partner Iverson,” Dana said.  “Now they have those two plus a slew of others.”

“I can’t imagine what kind of training that brigand could impart to a Slayer,” Wesley huffed.

“Wesley, I will only warn you once about this,” Mulder said as he pulled over and killed the engine.  “Be very careful how you address any of the men you will meet in this place.  If you piss off the wrong person you might cease to exist.”

“Wait a minute,” Faith said while Wesley sputtered at the implied threat.  “Are you telling me that B and K have an army ready to fight for them at the drop of a hat?”

“I wouldn’t say ‘an army’ but that will do until something better comes along,” Dana quipped.

Faith sat back in her seat and pondered that.  In the past, she had never been the type to wonder about how things might have turned out or who was jealous of someone else.  But she couldn’t help but think if Linda would still be alive if they had had the resources available to Buffy and Kendra.  Then she shook her head and tried to derail that train of thought.  She couldn’t let this thing about B and K to get to her.  There was a job to do.  Once that was done then and only then would she allow herself to take up that thread again. 

Moments later, when the quartet exited the car and started toward the barn, Faith faltered a bit as she forced herself to acknowledge the general feeling of well-being that permeated the ground itself even though her eyes never left the trio that stood in the doorway.  She noticed how close the two Slayers and the Watcher stood and realized for the first time that Dana had told her the truth.  No way would B and K be standing so close to him if he’d left them hanging.  Another thing that tipped her off was the relaxed way Giles stood there…she knew, without any doubt, that he was a competent fighter. 

As she got closer she read the indecision in their eyes and realized they were just as anxious as she was about this meeting.  She slowed a bit more as she tried to read more of the other Slayers’ body language but realized that the only way she was going to really know was to get this over with. 

Faith stood several feet away from the other two girls and for several moments, the silence was so thick it could have been cut with a knife. She was about to say something just before she noticed that Buffy stood there relaxed with an attitude that screamed, “I’m in command!”  It was as if Buffy knew she had the upper hand in everything she did.  Faith had never met anyone so out and out sure of themselves. She herself projected the cocky attitude and used her attitude to intimidate to get her own way. But Buffy used it in a different manner and that only won more respect from Faith.

Faith then glanced at Kendra who also carried the same self-assuredness that Buffy possessed, though the Jamaican’s seemed more regal somehow. 

“Hello, Faith,” Buffy said as she offered her hand.  “I’m Buffy.  She’s,” she indicated with a sweep of her other hand, “Kendra and he’s Giles, our Watcher.”

“Right,” Faith said as she accepted Buffy’s hand, but pointedly ignored Giles.  “I heard you two did a good job in LA.”

“We had help,” Buffy said simply.

“I heard that too.  Council said you went against all tradition and involved the local five-oh.  But they wouldn’t tell me how the heat could have fought vamps.”  Faith then noticed the tall blond studmuffin nearby who’d saved her ass the other night and added, “But then I see beefcake over there and now I’m not so sure it was the cops who helped you out.”

“That’s Stalker.  He and Ali were both in LA.” Buffy said with a smile as she followed Faith’s glance.  “But we had a lot more help than that.  As for going against all tradition, well I have my own tradition—don’t die.”

“It must be nice,” Faith said coolly.  “Council checked up on us almost every week, they said they didn’t want to lose me like they did you.  I guess everything they told me about you wasn’t on the up and up.”

“That depends on what they’ve told you,” Buffy replied, her voice taking on a cautious note.

“They told me a lot, on top of which was that you were dead.  They also told me that K was dead and Rupert was still running.”

“Now see here!” Giles started but was stopped by Faith who raised her palm out toward Giles.

“I believed it at first.  If someone was to ask me yesterday I probably would have still believed it,” Faith said honestly.  “But, well I don’t think you would be here standing next to B if you had run.  And we both can see that B and K are still kicking.  I don’t know if everything they told me was a lie but obviously those three things were.”

“Well,” Giles started again only to be cut off this time by Kendra. 

“They told you that I was dead?”

“Yeah, the exact words came from your old watcher.  He said he sent you to help Buffy but you perished while Giles ran and saved his own skin.  I asked why he didn’t go with you to LA, but he told me that was not something I should ask.”

“What about you, Faith?” Buffy asked.  “I noticed Wesley is here with you.  Are you going back to the Council?”

Faith narrowed her eyes at Buffy and said, “Not everyone has the choices you have, B.”

“You’re always welcome to join us,” Giles said as he stepped forward which caused Faith to take a step back.

“Let’s just agree to work together during this mess,” Faith stated.  “I know I can’t take them all by myself.  It was stupid for me to try and it got my mom, Linda, killed.  So we take out these vamps then when it is over I will tell you what my plans are.”

A confused look then crossed Giles’ face.  “Your mum?  I don’t understand, Faith.”

Faith then shot a hard look at him.  “Yeah…well, officially, she was my Watcher but she adopted me and became my family.  That’s why we were in Boston; we had to bury her there.”

Giles’ eyes opened wide at that.  “Your Watcher…your mum, was she Linda Price?”

Wesley nodded and said sadly, “I’m afraid so, Lord Giles.”

Then all three Slayers turned to shoot confused looks at both Watchers.  “Lord?” Faith questioned.

“As in British royalty, God-save-the-queen kind of lord?” Buffy added.

In response, an annoyed Giles simply closed his eyes shut in frustration and whispered, “Oh, dear Lord.”  Then he flashed open his witch green eyes and shot a cross look at the other Watcher.  “Thank you so much for letting that cat out of the bag, Wyndom-Pryce.  But be that as it may, did anyone from the Council bother to let my father know about what had happened to Linda?”

“I don’t know, Lo—I mean, Watcher Giles.”

“Alright, we can check into that later,” Buffy said then turned to Faith.  “Since you’ve been here longer than we have, maybe you can tell us what we’re up against and what the plan is.”

“The plan?  The plan is we go hunting tonight and destroy them,” Faith said simply.  “As for what we’re up against, to be honest, I don’t know.  We arrived the day Linda died and followed a vampire into a warehouse.  That’s when we found out there were more vampires than we had first thought.  I killed the leader of that group the next night when the vamps attacked the FBI’s offices trying to get me.  Dust-boy told me that his master wanted to see me, so I assume there were more, a whole lot more.”

“Our information seems to confirm your assessment,” Giles said as the four of them turned to walk into the barn.  “There are three masters who have joined together to preform a ceremony which will give them more power over their minions.”

“Does all that intel tell you where the fang boys are going to have this ceremony?” Faith asked coolly.  “Or should we go out, grab a vamp and make him tell us where it’s going down?”

“We have someone out there gathering information as we speak,” Giles said.

“Are you talking about that pet vamp of yours?” a man snapped from where he stood near the map.  “I can’t believe you guys are dumb enough to trust him.  Face it, once a vamp always a vamp.”

“Excuse me,” Buffy said as she whirled on the twenty-something male.  “Are you talking about Charlie?”

“You know that thing?” the guy asked, the disgust present in his voice.

“Charlie has a soul!  More, he has his spirit!” Buffy defended the souled vampire.  “He’s helped us more times than I can count which is a whole lot more than I can say about you, Sparky!”

“Seems I’ve heard that tune before,” Faith said as she shot a hard look at the blonde Slayer.  “A souled vampire, eh, B.  Didn’t you date one of those before, that is, before he lost his soul?”

“Totally different cases,” another young man with dark hair said as he moved up next to Buffy and Kendra. 

“Is it now?” Faith quipped before she shot a disgusted look at Buffy.  “Or has Buffy found another vamp to love?”

“That’s enough, Faith,” Giles growled.  “Charlie is a trusted ally and a friend.”

“Hey, Lord Giles,” Faith said, her voice hardening as she glared at him.  “I don’t need to take any lip from you.  You ain’t my Watcher; I just lost her, remember?”

“Be that as it may,” Giles snapped lowly, “I expect you to behave in a civil manner and not accuse others for things you know nothing about.”

“Is that a fact?” Faith said her voice taking on a hard note, blissfully unaware how close she was to meeting Ripper face-to-face.  “Then you’d better believe that this girl ain’t gonna turn my back on a vampire even if you think it’s your pet.”

“Faith,” Buffy snapped.  “You need to drop this before you force me to kick your ass.  Let’s just say that Charlie’s off limits and leave it at that, shall we?”

“Oh yeah?  Now I’m supposed to just accept your royal commands and bow down to Queen B?” Faith quipped.  “Look, ‘your majesty,’ I’ve been doing the slayer thing now for about nine months.  Been keeping myself alive by killing every vampire I meet.  This whole pet vampire thing sounds like something that’ll just turn around and bite you in the ass one day just like your whole Angel drama did before.”

“While I agree with you in most of what you say,” Kendra said in an attempt to avoid a Slayer battle royale, “but things have changed.  Sometimes all the monsters we meet don’t need to be killed.  The Council was too rigid.  You may have not been exposed to it but did you know that the council would order the Slayers to kill people who practiced witchcraft?”

“What’s the problem with having a few less ‘Sabrinas’ in the world?” Faith asked as she turned to Kendra.  “Witchcraft?  Man, just the thought of that crazy shit gives me the heebee jeebees.”

“But what if they use their gift to fight against evil?” Kendra asked.

“Say what, K?”

“Well, ‘F,’” Kendra said with emphasis as she narrowed her cat-like eyes at Faith with annoyance, “a well placed fireball can destroy a lot of vampires.”

“So can a Slayer with a stake.”

Kendra rolled her eyes and just sighed.  “Why don’t you think more on it,” Kendra directed before she turned and walked away.

“Round one to Faith,” the Boston Slayer joked as she turned back to Buffy who, at that moment, looked at Faith like she’d lost her mind.  “What?”

In response, Buffy merely shook her head, turned and walked away which only left Giles, who looked sadly at her.  “Faith, Kendra and Buffy both have good reason to accept witches.  Over the last year or so, witches have saved both of their lives.  In fact in our extended family we have several witches and a couple of sorcerers.”

“And you’re okay with that?” Faith asked confused.  “You, a Watcher, accept hanging out with witches?”

“I suppose I must,” Giles said as he raised his hand and showed her a small fireball he had conjured as it hovered just above his outstretched palm.  “Are you so certain about your preconceptions about magic-users that you would simply kill me without bothering to find out whether I use my powers for good or evil?”

“You’re a s-sorcerer?” Faith sputtered as Giles dispelled the fireball then dusted off both of his hands.  “I-I…”

“Other than the people on our team, I’ve never told anyone that before,” Giles said.

“Well, since you’re so cute and all and as long as you don’t use your mojo against me,” Faith drawled, “maybe I could be five by five with it.”

“Um, er,” a slightly nervous Giles stammered, “I-I s-see you’ve already begun to move away from the Council’s rigidity.”

“So, what’s going on between Buffy and that stud?” Faith asked as the tiny blonde wrapped her right arm around a dark haired twenty something male’s waist. 

“That is Steven St. Wolf, her paramour,” Giles answered with an edge in his voice.  “You need to avoid expressing any romantic interest in him, Faith.” 

“Don’t get your knickers in a bunch, G; I know where to draw the line,” Faith said as she stalked off toward Stalker and Ali. 

Moments later, when she was in earshot of the pair, she said, “Hey beefcake, how’s it hanging?”

“Hello,” Ali replied coolly.  “You’re that girl from the warehouse, right?”

“Yeah, guess I owe you thanks,” she said reluctantly.  Then Faith moved over to Stalker and placed her hand on his sword.  “You really worked those swords, think you could show me a few things?”

“I’m sure you can work them just as well as we can,” Ali said, her voice holding an edge of warning.  “But I would be glad to give you a few tips.”

“Maybe later,” Faith smiled as she stepped away from Stalker.  “Just testing the waters, don’t you know.”

“Uh huh,” Ali grunted as she took Stalker by the hand and strode away.

After she watched her rescuers go, Faith moved near the back wall of the vast room where a cute, teen-aged red haired girl worked on a computer.  Her fingers flew over the keyboard while the display changed, showing mostly maps and other data.  Then before Faith could even say anything, the red head said without even shifting her focus from her computer, “They’ve been through a lot and he won’t even see another woman in the way he sees her.”

“HUH?” Faith asked as she leaned against the wall. 

“Stalker,” the girl replied as she took her hands off the laptop, “he’s off limits.   Look, those two have faced some bad times I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  Now it’s their time.  Let them have it in peace.”

“I’ll think about it,” Faith replied as a tall, hot-looking brunette with a rack that rivaled Faith’s own walked over to them.  Faith took a quick moment to size the new girl up and noticed that she moved in a way that screamed, ‘Slayer!’  Then Faith shook her head and scolded herself.  That wasn’t possible!  There weren’t four of them!

“Willow, is there a problem here?” the brunette asked as she sized Faith up. 

“No, no problem, Cordy,” the red haired girl replied.  “I was just explaining to Faith about Stalker and Ali.”

“You two know who I am?”

“Of course,” the brunette replied.  “By the way, I’m Cordelia; she’s Willow.”

“Are you two from Atlanta or did you come with Buffy?” Faith asked.

“We came with Buffy,” Willow replied her voice now more friendly.  “I’m sorry about your loss.”

“You’re good,” Faith said sharply.  “I almost believed you.”

“You should,” Cordelia replied.  “Willow is one of the nicest people I’ve ever known.  She would never say or even bring up something like that unless she meant it.”

Faith found herself at a loss at Cordelia’s words.   Uncomfortable, she glanced around to find a way to get out of there without losing face.  Across the room Kendra sat alone as she took apart a gun to clean.  After she excused herself from the two girls she moved over to Kendra and hoped that she could gain at least this Slayer’s confidence.

“Are things really that different?” Faith asked as she sat down next to Kendra.  “I mean between the two groups or have I gone from one group of losers to another.”

“You are the only one who can judge that for yourself,” Kendra said after a moment.  “But in my opinion, Buffy has the right approach and the people we work with seem to generally care about innocents.”

“I don’t know, K,” Faith confessed.  “I went from living in a home with my mother to foster care where I might have offed the man who was supposed to take care of my needs not his own, to the streets then to Linda and the Council.  Since I became the Slayer it seems that a whole lot of people are interested in using me or killing me.  I still don’t know if your group is any different.”

“I was the active Slayer for nine months,” Kendra said as she placed the gun down on the table. “The Council deemed it necessary to isolate me from my family.  I hunted alone while my Watcher conducted research on my behalf and cared for my needs.  However, although I wanted for nothing, he was not a loving man.  He was an authority figure and I had to treat him as such.  Then he sent me to Sunnydale to help Buffy.  At that time she only worked with Xander and Willow.  I was shocked that a Watcher would allow her to have friends.  But as we worked together I found out what a difference it made, in the hunt and in her life.  To have friends who knew what dangers we faced and who cared enough to want to help, even if they were unable to help, that they wanted to do so was enough.  But when I brought those ideas back with me to my Watcher he was furious with Mr. Giles and reported him to the Council.  The next time I met Buffy was in LA and by then she had an army with her.  If their way is wrong, well as the song says…  I don’t want to be right.”

“What you’ve said makes sense, K,” Faith observed.  “What about the group that came with you, from Sunnydale I mean, who are they?”

“You mean who are they in this room?  Or what are they like, what type of people are they?”

“I mean, who are they in this room—but don’t make it obvious, I mean, don’t point.”

“Well, you’ve obviously just met Willow Rosenberg and Cordelia Chase.  Now the young man with the dark hair cleaning the rifle is Alexander Harris; he prefers to go by the name of Xander.  The short young man with spiked red hair standing at the door is simply referred to as Oz.  The young man next to Buffy is Steven St. Wolf, our other team leader.  You already know Buffy and Mr. Giles, but the woman standing next to our Watcher is his mate, Jennifer Calendar.  Also, the young blonde working just outside barn doors with her sword is Randi Jessup.”

“You say that they won’t run when the vamps get too close?”

“They haven’t yet.”

“What makes them so special?”

“That is not my secret to tell, but once you get to know them you will understand,” Kendra said.

“Damn, all of this waiting is getting to me!” Perry snapped from where he stood.  “I got to work off some of this jell!  Anyone wanna spar?”

“Oh now this could be interesting,” Faith said as she started to stand only to have Kendra grab her hand and hold her down.

“Could be enlightening as well,” Kendra said as Willow started to move forward.

“I’d like to give it a whirl,” Willow said in her low, husky voice as she picked up a practice sword.

“Okay, little miss,” Perry drawled, “if you think you can handle it.”

“I guess I’ll just try and do my best,” Willow demurred.

“What the hell,” Faith asked as she sized up Willow and scoffed.  “What’s she trying to prove?  That computer geek ain’t a fighter.”

“Watch,” Kendra whispered even as the group started to form a circle around the two combatants.

“Hey, Hans, I think your student is going to learn about the art of deception—the hard way,” a man mumbled lowly nearby.

“Better to learn it here than in a real fight,” Hans called back.  “Hey, Stalker!  Didn’t you spar against that little filly?”

“A few times,” Stalker confirmed.  “You know, I almost feel sorry for him.”

“Almost?” Hans asked.

“Well, yeah.  I’m not sorry enough to take his place.”

Faith tried to make sense of the conversation she’d just overheard.  Stalker was a big guy—there was simply no way ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ here, a chick who barely weighed a hundred pounds dripping wet, could put him down. 

Then what happened nearly took Faith’s breath away. 

Like a flash, Perry swung his sword parallel to the ground and aimed it at Willow’s graceful neck.  The strike looked like it was coming too fast and with all of Perry’s strength.  At the last possible moment Willow brought her sword up and blocked Perry’s in such a manner that it caused Willow’s body to spin.  Using her acceleration, Willow’s left leg bent at the knee while she turned her right leg and fired out her foot to catch Perry’s legs and sweep them out from under him.  She continued to spin until she faced him and brought her sword down to lay its edge across his neck. 

A tall man then called out, “Point to Willow.”

“We ain’t done yet!” Perry snapped as he executed a perfect kick out which landed him on his feet ready to fight.  “No little bitch is going to get the better of me.”

“Did he just call me a bitch?” Willow asked as her eyes darkened and began to go black. 

“Mister,” Oz the red haired boy said as he stepped up next to Willow.  “Apologize to my girl and we can all walk off and call it a day, no harm, no foul.”

“Oh, isn’t that cute? He’s protecting his girlfriend’s honor,” Perry observed and laughed.

“Dude, you’ve got it wrong,” Oz countered.  “Wasn’t trying to protect her; I was trying to protect you.”

“Get out of the way or take her place,” Perry snarled.

Oz simply shrugged and stepped away from the two opponents. 

“Perry,” Buffy announced in a soft, very controlled voice, “you wanted to spar and obviously over-estimated your abilities or, worse, underestimated Willow’s.  Either way, it’s on you to apologize to Willow or finish it against her.  But when this is done, you will apologize because your remark was totally uncalled for.”

“You think she can take me?” Perry asked with a laugh.

“No,” Buffy said simply.  “I KNOW she can take you.  All right, Will, take him down but don’t hurt him… much.”

“A bitch, am I?” Willow grumbled as she stepped toward Perry.  “Mister, this match is over.”

“Think again,” Perry said as he started to stab forward with his sword.

“V’dri,” Willow chanted.

Faith watched as Perry suddenly dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes, his sword tumbling out of his limp hand.  There was shocked silence for several moments as everyone stared at the fallen man.  Then they all began to laugh when they heard Perry begin to snore noisily.

“How long will he sleep?” Hans asked with a chuckle as he placed his hand on Willow’s shoulder. 

“Well, Hans,” Willow explained as she blushed prettily, “I was kind of po’d, so I put some oomph into the spell.  He might be out for a few hours or so.”

“When he wakes up, I’ll make sure he’s learned his lesson,” Hans said.  “And he will apologize.”

“It’s okay, Hans,” Willow said as she turned away and began to stroll back to her computer.  “No harm, no foul.”

“How in the hell did she do that?” a still stunned Faith asked Kendra.

“You didn’t feel it?” Kendra asked.

“Feel what? It happened so fast, I didn’t see or feel anything.”

“Stick around,” Kendra said with a smile.  “Maybe next time you’ll keep your eyes open.”

“Uh huh…yeah, right,” Faith muttered under her breath as she watched Willow stroll off.  “I still want to know how the hell she did that!”

“That was a different use of the sleep spell,” Felicia said as she and Patty joined Willow at her laptop.  “It has been a while since I have heard the Elvin tongue.”

“Was that Elvin?” Patty asked.  “How did you cast the spell without componets?”

“It was a command, so I only needed a symbol,” Willow answered. “I’ve been learning Elvin from Shaw.”

“You can use a command to make someone go to sleep?” Patty asked.

“Why not?” Willow asked.  “A command really is just a suggestion.  If a person is not fighting it, it normally works.  On the other hand, an actual sleep spell is an iffy thing.”

“Still, it was a chancy thing you did out there.” Patty asked.  “What if it didn’t work?”

“But it did,” Willow said simply.

“What would you have done if it hadn’t?” Felicia asked.

“I would have fought him,” Willow whispered.  “But I wouldn’t have wanted to.  I was too mad and didn’t know if I could have avoided injuring him.”

“You sound very confident, young lady,” Felicia said. 

“Well, I have good reason to be.  Anyway, allow me to introduce myself.  I’m Willow.”

“My name is Felicia Winningstar, and this is Patty.  I am a cleric and Patty dabbles in magic.”

“It’s nice to meet you, both.”

“So Red, you used magic on that yahoo,” Faith noted as she joined the conversation.  “Strange, I didn’t feel anything.”

“The man who taught me that spell said that it really wasn’t magic in the strictest sense of the word,” Willow explained.  “Even Buffy and Kendra have a hard time recognizing it as such.”

“Hmm,” Faith murmured to herself as she turned to walk away. 

###

Sewers

“Mulder,” Charlie said when the phone was answered.  “Listen, man; I’ve been working the sewers for the past thirty-six hours.  This is what I’ve found out.  They are not organized.  I have taken out about twenty vamps and so far only one of them knew what was going on.”

“That is good news,” Mulder said.

“Here’s a bit more good news.  The one vampire who did know something felt that there was some kind of rift in the command structure.  The one called Trick apparently approached him and told him to get their car ready that they might be leaving soon.  Things were not going as planned.”

 “That is not surprising after last night,” Mulder said.

“What happened last night?”

“They set a trap for us but we turned it around on them.”

“Mulder…somebody’s coming,” Charlie whispered after he heard someone’s approach.  “I’ll call you back,” he said and disconnected the line. 

“Go on, boy,” Charlie heard a vampire say as the fiend pushed a young kid down the tunnel. 

“Please let me go,” the boy cried.

Charlie waited until the vampire moved past him before he stepped out of the shadows and waylaid him with his MP5.

“Come here, boy,” Charlie said as he slammed the vampire against the wall and jammed the barrel of his gun into the creature’s back.  “Climb up this ladder and get out of here.”

“Oh, God,” the boy whispered as he hurried up the ladder and out the man hole.  “Ain’t you coming, mister?”

“Not right now.  Now go on and get out of here!  And, boy, don’t look back!” Charlie snarled at the boy who scurried away to freedom.  Then Charlie turned back to the vampire who now glanced over his shoulder at the armed vampire with a soul. 

“Who the fuck…” the Vampire started to say before he received a solid fist across his face.  “What the…”         

“Shut up,” Charlie barked as he hit the vampire again.  “I’ll ask the questions and you will answer them.  Do you understand me?”

“What do you want?” the vampire asked as he tried to shake the cobwebs out of his head only to get hit again by Charlie.

“Where are the Masters at?”

“Shit, man, all you had to do was ask,” the vampire moaned and it won him another punch.

“Yeah, but this is much more fun,” Charlie snarled as he struck the vampire once more.  “Tell me.”

“They’re at the old white house at the end of Lime Avenue,” the vampire offered.

“How many vampires will come when they call?”

“I don’t know; a couple of hundred I guess,” the vampire said as he tried to pull away from his attacker. 

“What else?”

“That’s all I know.”

“Thanks,” Charlie said as he dispatched the vampire with a stake through the heart. 

Charlie took a quick look around before he pulled out his cell phone and called Mulder.

“Charlie?” Mulder demanded. “Charlie, are you okay? What’s going on?”

Charlie smiled at the concern he heard in Mulder’s voice.  “Everything’s good here, dude.  You’re looking for an old style white house at the end of Lime Avenue.”

“Good job,” Mulder said.  “Here’s Steve.”

“Listen, Charlie,” Steve said.  “This ceremony calls for a number of girls; I need you to find out where they are holding them or where they are going to get them.”

“Will do.  Oh, and boss?  Welcome to Atlanta,” Charlie said humorously.  “Don’t forget to take in at least one historical site.”

“Keep your head down,” Steve returned as he broke the connection.

Charlie stayed in the sewer system as he made his way to Lime Avenue.  He had covered almost three miles before he heard a group of men as they marched toward him.  He slipped back into the deeper shadows and watched as about thirty heavily armed vampires marched past him.  After they passed by, he pulled out his cell phone and activated it’s GPS before he called in.

“Charlie? What’s wrong?” Steve asked after the second ring.

“We got problems,” Charlie whispered urgently.  “I just saw about thirty heavily armed vampires headed west in the sewers.  I’ll follow them with my GPS activated.  Hopefully Willow will be able to track me.”

“Where are you?”  Steve asked as he snapped and pointed to Willow.  “Willow start your GPS find Charlie.”

“On it,” Willow called back.

“Stay back and keep us posted, Charlie.” Steve said.

“I have to hang up Steve; I don’t need them to hear me.” Charlie whispered.  “I will do my best to keep you posted.”

“Just keep your ass down,” Steve said just before Charlie hung up.

Charlie followed the group of vampires until they reached a ladder that they took up out of the sewer.  He gave them a few minutes before he followed them up and looked around.  Charlie then called Steve.

“Steve,” Charlie said as the other end of the phone connected.  “They left the sewer; I am in a garage of some sort.”

“We got you,” Steve cut him off.  “We are on the way; our eta is about ten minutes.  Can you tell me what is going on?”

“No idea, I am in the garage and they moved into the house.  Want me to start a war?” Charlie asked.

“Not unless you have no other choice,” Steve said.  “And if you have to, don’t hold back.”

“You can trust me for that,” Charlie said as screams erupted from inside the house.  “Gotta go.”

 “No feeding,” a males voice ordered from inside.  “They’re all needed for the ceremony.”

“Alright bastards, the sun will be up pretty soon so you gotta come this way,” Charlie whispered as he racked back the slide on his MP5.  “Come get some.”

###

Vampire’s Headquarters

Lime Avenue

“Hello?” Angelus said as he opened his cell phone. 

“Angelus, this is Tilma,” the voice said before it continued.  “I have the females with me, we have several extras.  We are on our way back.”

“Very good, bring them here,” Angelus said as he hung up the phone before he turned to Kikistos.  “The rest of the sacrifices are on the way.”

“Excellent,” Kikistos said with a smile.  “Mr. Trick you will gather the others and take them to the site of the ceremony.  I want to proceed as soon as we can.”

“We can’t properly perform the ceremony until tomorrow night,” the vampire cleric said from where he stood over a table which he had a young boy tied to.  “If we try to perform it too soon she will not bestow her gifts upon you.”

“Do we have any idea where those meddlers are?” Kikistos asked as he looked around the room.  After a minute without an answer he ordered.  “Angelus, gather our flock, I want an accurate count.  Then I want you to take half of them and go out and kill those fools.”

“We have three hundred and twenty five,” Mr. Trick answered Kikistos.  “Half of which use the old factory on the south end of town, the rest have orders to stay out of sight until we call them.”

“Very good,” Kikistos said.  “Angelus take the ones in the old factory and destroy the hunters.  This night the streets will run red with the Slayers’ blood.”

“You two better keep up with me,” Angelus told a pair of vampires as he motioned for them to follow him.  “Things are going to get touchy from here on with Buffy and her friends in town.”

“Don’t worry,” one of the pair said as he followed Angelus down a manhole cover into the sewers.  “The Slayer would never come down into our domain.”

“Don’t be a fool,” Angelus snarled as he started to jog down the tunnel.  “Since she hooked up with this Wanderer guy, she just doesn’t quit.  The little bitch will follow you into your own crypt to get you heedless of any danger to herself because she’s got a one track mind.”

“So if we run into her?” the other vampire asked.

“Take her out,” Angelus answered coolly.

“Kikistos will get rid of her,” the first vampire said with conviction. 

“Right, slick.  Why don’t you just stick around and when things get too hot, I’m out of here as soon as we get this done.”

“So the rumors are true,” the talkative vampire said.  “This Slayer is different.”

“Different from what?” the other vampire asked.

“In the past the Slayers always hunted alone,” Angelus said as they jogged.  “Not so my old main squeeze.  That bitch has always had friends.  At first it was just a couple of puny kids who could have been managed by us.  Now she’s teamed up with someone who has experience and back up.”

“Why don’t we just kill him?”

“Why don’t we just kill him?” Angelus parroted back sarcastically as he remembered the debacle in the Sunnydale High School Gym.  “Believe me, that’s not an original idea.”

“Is it true that he killed a demon from the sixth plane?”

“That’s what Spike told me,” Angelus said.  “He carries the Demon Slayer sword and somehow he got the Vampire Slayer sword to Buffy.  Those two must die but I will be damned if I know how to get it done.”

“You sound scared,” the vampire sneered at Angelus.

Quick as a striking cobra, Angelus turned and faced the offending vampire and shoved out his arm toward him.  As his arm reached its full extension his arm muscle tightened which triggered a device he wore which delivered a knife to his hand.  As the knife reached his hand, he closed it around the handle and shoved it into the chest of the vampire who’d spoken the offending words.  Then the injured vampire took a step back while Angelus jerked back his hand.

Angelus eyes flashed as he gave a warning.  “Of course I’m scared.  But if you ever say it again to anyone, the next time it’ll be a stake.   Now come on.”

Soon the trio found themselves in the warehouse where almost two hundred vampires laid around.  Angelus took a minute to look around the room as the others slowly stood up in reverence to a master. 

“What would you have us do?” a large vampire asked as he pushed his way forward.

“We are going to eliminate the Slayer and her friends tonight.” His words were greeted with applause which soon died down when he raised his hand.  “First, we must find out where they are located.  Does anyone here know where we can find them?”

“I believe I can answer that question,” a female vampire said as she moved forward.  “But if I am right, we will have to wait for them to leave.”

“Why?  Where do you think they are?”

“When I was a human, I used to work for the hunters.   I believe they would have gone to the Winningstar estate.  However, the estate is situated on holy ground.”

“How holy can it be?  I’ve been in churches, drank the blood of a priest inside his confessional and I’m still here,” a vampire noted and his words were met with laughter.

“I’ve been on her estate,” the female said unfazed.  “Only five feet into it from the main road, I barely made it back.  The ground is so consecrated my shoes burned off me within seconds.”

“No one could consecrate that much land,” Angelus said.

“And yet,” the girl replied simply.

“If that is true, you’re probably right,” Angelus agreed after a moment.  “Buffy would take them there.”

“How do we get them to leave?” she asked.

“She will come to us,” Angelus replied.  “As soon as it gets dark we take it to her.”

###

Winningstar’s Barn

“All right, people, let’s saddle up!” Steve’s shout brought Faith out of her thoughts.  “We have a friendly to save.”

“What’s going on?” she asked as Buffy ran past her.

“Charlie’s following about thirty heavily armed vamps who have taken a bunch of girls captive.” Buffy replied as she threw a vest at her.  “I will set you up with armor later but right now we don’t have time.”

“Armor would just slow me down,” Faith countered as she automatically reached behind her back to make sure her favorite toy was there. “But I won’t say no to one of those swords you all carry.”

“Here, Faith,” Xander called out as he threw her a long sword before he picked up a shotgun.  “Just don’t lose it.”

“Wicked,” Faith said as she looked at the curves in the blade.  “Where did you get this corkscrew from, stud?”

“A friend gave it to me,” Xander said as the group moved to the cars. 

“Willow, you’re in the lead car, get us to where he is as quickly as possible.”

Faith found herself in a car with Kendra and Buffy as well as Buffy’s boyfriend and another girl who looked a bit nervous.

“How do we know where they are?” Faith asked.

“Willow has a tracker on Charlie’s phone,” Buffy said. 

“What are we going to do if they’re in the sewers?” Faith asked

“Go in after them,” Kendra said like it was the most obvious thing on the face of the Earth.

“Not me, sister,” Faith said as she shook her head.  “You’re freaking nuts!  They could have a hundred vamp’s waiting for us down there.”

“Okay then, you stay up here,” Buffy said calmly.  “But we are going to go down there to save some innocents.”

“But…”

“No!  I don’t want to hear any ‘buts,’ Faith,” Buffy snapped, her slate gray eyes gleaming.  “We’re going down there and do you know why?”  The blonde Slayer hesitated for only a moment before she answered her own question.  “Because that’s what we do!  They’re vamps and we’re Slayers and those bastards have some innocents and we save innocents! Look, Charlie said there were only thirty vamps, so we have the upper hand and we’re going to exploit it and save those girls.  So you have a choice!  You can live up to your calling, come with us and be a Slayer or you can stay up top where it’s moderately safe and turn your back on everything that you are.  It’s as simple as that.”

“Listen, B, I…” Faith started when Steve slammed on the brakes and flung open his door.

“Let’s go,” Steve snapped as the others exited the car with Faith hot on their heels.

“They’re about one mile south of us heading this way,” Willow called out as someone uncovered the manhole.

“Good job, Willow,” Steve said as he started down the ladder.  “Now let’s get down there and set up a welcoming committee for them.”

Faith shook her head as she asked herself, “What the hell am I doing?”   Then, she screwed up her courage and dropped down into the hole without bothering to use the ladder.

When she landed, she heard Xander calling to her.  “Come over here, Faith.” 

She turned to see him, Oz, Willow and Cordelia standing near a large grate in a passageway that shot off from the main tunnel.  “What the hell are you doing over here?”

“When the action starts, we’re going to secure and protect the girls over here,” Cordelia informed the Slayer.

“Are you sure this is such a good idea?”

“Don’t worry, Faith,” Cordelia said. “This isn’t our first ambush.  Now, shush!  Here they come!” the buxom brunette said as she pulled Faith deeper into the shadows.

Faith watched from her hiding place as the vampires strode boldly down the tunnel.  Even though they all had guns slung over their shoulders, the creatures all seemed to be relaxed as they pushed along their hostages.  When the vampires almost pulled even with her she noticed a dark shadow move in from behind and strike down one of the two vampires that were trailing the group.  At the same time Steve and Buffy attacked from the front while others moved in from the sides.  The ambush was brutal and within seconds, the odds were cut almost in half.  Faith watched Buffy as the other Slayer fought alongside St. Wolf, striking down one vampire with her sword then lobbing a second vampire’s head off.  Next to the petite blonde, St. Wolf used his sword with equal skill. 

“Why do their swords glow?” Faith asked in an awestruck voice.

“They bear two of the nine Swords of Destiny.  Gabrielle has one, too,” Willow noted.  “Now get ready!  Once they call for us, we have to go in hard and fast.”

“Jesus,” Faith whispered as she noticed how Ali and Stalker worked as a team against the vampires with their swords.  “I knew those two were good with those things.  But why aren’t they using guns?

“We’re doing it to protect the hostages.  The only way to keep them alive and safe is to go up close and personal,” Cordelia explained as she unsheathed her sword.  “Don’t get into a drawn out battle with these creeps, Faith.  Our job is to get the girls out of danger.  If you have to fight do it quickly; remember the others will cover for us when at all possible.”

“I should be with them,” Faith said as she watched Buffy take an opponent’s head and Kendra stake a vampire.  Faith began to move toward her sister slayers but was held back by a tiny, yet strong freckled hand.

“Being part of a unit means you play your role,” Willow said then released her grip on Faith’s arm.  “Don’t worry; you’ll get your chance at slayage, you can bet on it!”

Then there was no more time to talk as a vampire jumped up in front of Faith.  The vampire, a tall skinny twenty-something started to lift his submachine gun to fire.  His move was interrupted as Faith punched him in the face with her left hand, forgetting about the sword she held in her right.  As the vampire reeled from her blow, she reacted instinctively and shoved the sword forward, pushing the blade completely through the vampire’s chest.  As she pulled the sword out, she noticed with morbid fascination that the vampire’s skin smoked and blistered.

“The blade is blessed!” Xander called from behind her. 

As the vampire dropped to his knees, Faith didn’t miss a beat as she swung the sword down and decapitated the creature. 

“Get them out of here!” she heard St. Wolf yell and her team moved forward to pull the girls away from the vampires while she used the sword to keep the creatures at bay. 

Faith cut down yet another vampire while half a dozen more tried to engage her and her team.  Then, without warning, a vampire who was able to get close blindsided her and slammed the butt of his weapon to the side of her face, causing her to drop the sword and tumble to the floor. 

Pushing past the blinding pain, Faith glanced up at the vampire who’d held the gun as a club and saw that he was about to strike her again.  Groggily she tried to dodge the blow when she heard someone call out “Rill!” just before the vampire who stood over her burst into flames.

“Xander!” Cordelia screamed.  “Go help Faith!  Netgirl, Wolfboy—let’s make a hole!”

“Clear” Willow called out before she cast another spell which sent an arc of flame almost twenty feet to scorch the wall and every vampire between her and it. 

“I’m okay, studmuffin,” Faith murmured as Xander reached down to give her a hand. 

Faith came to her feet in a light bound with Xander’s sword back in her hand.  Once she felt she had her sea legs under her, she struck like a cobra and beheaded a vampire locked in battle with Gabrielle who was setting him up for the kill.  As Faith watched the dust fall, she grinned at Gabrielle and drawled, “Can’t let you have all the fun, blondie!”

Gabrielle simply returned Faith’s grin before she whirled to engage a few vampires moving their way.  Then Faith asked, “Why ain’t they using their guns?” as she moved alongside Gabrielle to join the battle.

“I don’t know,” Gabrielle replied as she lobbed off another head.  “Just be thankful they haven’t thought of it.”

 

“Uh huh,” Faith said as she looked back in time to see Cordelia and Xander attacked by a pair of vampires that were able to get to the girls.   Her face flushed with the thrill of the hunt as she charged forward and swung the sword which took the head off the vampire closest to Cordelia.  “Oh, no you don’t, fang boy!”

 “Thanks, girl,” Cordelia said just as she decapitated the vampire who got too close to her man. 

“Get the girls out of here,” Faith ordered as she sprang to attack several advancing vampires.  “I’ll hold them off.”

“Don’t be greedy, Faith,” Willow drawled.  “We do this as a team.”  The little red witch, along with Oz, now in his werewolf form, stepped up beside Faith and said, “Cordy, you and Xander pull the girls out.”  Then Willow chanted a spell, threw out her right hand toward the vampires, and fired a medium-sized fireball at them, wiping four of them out.

 “Damn it, Red!” Faith snapped as she felt the heat against her skin.  “Would you let me have one or two of them, for Christ’s sakes?”

On the other side of Willow, Oz ripped apart a vampire with his paws.  In the meantime, Faith jumped forward and took out the nearest vampire with her sword. 

As the dust rained down around her, the Dark Slayer looked around for another vampire to attack.

“Faith,” Willow counseled, “don’t go to them; let them come to us and don’t get in front of me because you might get singed.  Hey, I told you that you’d get some slayage in.  Now’s your chance!”

“Right on, Witchie-poo,” Faith drawled as she stepped back in line.

#### 

“Kendra!” Buffy screamed out from across the tunnel, “get to Randi!”

“I’m on it!” Kendra called back.

Faith heard the call and took a second to look around, trusting in the abilities of Willow and Oz to keep the demons off her back.  About ten feet away she saw why Buffy called out the warning.  The natural blonde girl was backed up against the wall as the crosses on her sword glowed while three vampires had her cornered. 

Faith reacted on instinct as her hand flashed behind her back to grab her favorite stake.  She then threw it with all her might.  End over end it tumbled before it sunk into a vampire’s back just as Kendra arrived on scene and stabbed a second one.  That left the last one for Randi who dealt with it in proper Section Seven style. 

Faith watched as Kendra turned to look at her and smiled which she returned in kind. 

“Nice throw,” Willow said.

“Thanks,” Faith growled.  “But it cost me my favorite toy.”

Then right there in the middle of a battle the two girls laughed as Oz cocked his head and looked like a confused dog at them.

####  

“It’s over, St. Wolf,” the man called Casca said as he struck down the last vampire.  “Are you buying the beer?”

“Watch out!” Faith screamed as she moved forward her sword leading the way.  “There’s one more.”

Her sword was just about to pierce a dark skinned vampire when Kendra’s blade blocked Faith’s strike.  “No, Faith.”

“What the hell?” Faith snapped as she backed off a bit.  “He’s a vampire.”

“That’s Charlie,” Kendra said.

“I don’t bother giving them pet names before I slay them, K.  A vamp’s still a vamp.”

“Not when the vamp is still a friend,” Willow quipped.

“This is the new Slayer?” Charlie asked.

“Charlie, this is Faith.” Xander said as he joined the conversation.  “Faith this is Charlie.”

“Hello, Faith,” Charlie said as he offered his hand in friendship.

“Thanks for the introductions, Xander,” Faith said coolly as she looked at Charlie’s offered hand then turned and started to walk away.

“Think she doesn’t like me?” Charlie asked wryly.

Faith stopped at the vampires’ words but didn’t turn around as she shook her head before she said.  “You’re a vampire.  I’m the Slayer.  Do the math.”

“Faith, he’s not evil,” Buffy said.  “He got his soul back before he killed anyone."

“Maybe,” Faith replied still not convinced.  “He’s gonna have to prove that to me.”

“Just give him some slack.”

“What now?” Faith asked bluntly.

“First, we get the girls up top.” Buffy said while Cordelia and Willow herded the frightened girls toward the ladder.  “Then we decide what to do next.”

Faith looked around and noticed that some of the team helped the girls out of the sewer while the others stood guard.   Since she didn’t feel any vampires in the general area she followed Buffy over to where St. Wolf and Casca were talking.

“St. Wolf, those varmints were headed somewhere,” Casca was saying when Faith and Buffy approached the two men.  “I say let’s head down that way, too.  Maybe we’ll find something interesting when we get there.”

“We only have about forty people and that includes your group and the two groups from Atlanta,” the Wanderer said as he shook his head.  “That’s only sixteen professionals.  I think we need twice that number before we go after the main group.”

“How long will it take to get that many of us here?” Casca asked.  “Do we have time to wait for the cavalry?”

“I’ve already made a few phone calls, as has Dana and Mulder,” St. Wolf said.  “I expect the Seattle and Vancover crowd here later tonight.  That will give us seven more, Amanda, Duncan, Richie, Justin, Methos, Jarod and Parker.  Frank, Cassandra, and Conner will be here by noon.”

“Well if you want thirty-two Immortals, who else are we going to get?”

“Once we get back in the car I’ll have Willow put out a general call, so we’ll see who’s in the area.  If no one answers then we’ll have to do it ourselves.  Since we have three Slayers now, that might even the odds a bit along with the arrival of the other elements of Section Seven.”

“Twenty-four might be enough at that as long as we attack and not defend,” Casca offered.

####

“Do these guys know what they’re getting into, B?”

Buffy nodded.  “They were with us in LA where we took out over seven hundred vampires and about thirty demons.”

Faith eyes became as wide as saucers at that.  “Seven hundred vamps?  Holy cow!” Faith shrieked.  “How many of the white hats did you lose?”

“Our team came out mostly unharmed,” Buffy answered.  “We had a few go to the hospital.”

“I guess when you use those bullets you developed, all you had to do is stand back and shoot ‘em like fish in a barrel.”

“The bullets helped out a lot,” Buffy agreed.  “But when innocents were in harm’s way, we had to get up close and personal.”

“What do you mean by that, B?” 

“We took the bad guys out with stakes and swords.”

Faith nodded at that.  “How many people did you have with you?”

“No way of telling, really.  We had a couple of SWAT teams, a family of ninjas, a crime unit from San Francisco, and a whole lot of friends.”

“And you were able to kill seven hundred vampires?” Faith couldn’t believe her ears.  Then she suddenly grew sober.  “I can’t believe Linda knew about all of that and still wouldn’t let me get help from you guys.”

“She might not have known,” Buffy said.  “But the Council did.”

“How do you know that, Buffy?”

“It sent a retrieval squad after both Kendra and me to take us away from Giles.  When they failed, we sent their team back empty-handed and made sure they knew how we won the battle for Los Angeles.”

“We have a truce with them at the moment,” Kendra added.  “However I believe they have not honored their part of the agreement.”

“What was the agreement?”

“Basically, we were supposed to share Intel,” Buffy said.  “You know, they were supposed to tell us about anything strange or unusual that was about to happen anywhere a slayer was needed.”

“So why do you think they didn’t tell you guys about Atlanta?”

“Because of you, Faith,” Kendra said.  “The Council should have told us there was another slayer.  If we had known, we would have acted a lot faster than we did and this would have not gotten so out-of-hand.”

“How did you guys find out about it?”

“Well, actually…when the FBI found out about you, they called in their specialists, who in turn called us,” Kendra said.  “But we also heard from Stalker and Ali who were both on the scene.  I believe they were the ones who found you, if I am not mistaken.”

“Yeah, they took out a whole warehouse of vampires,” Faith replied her words fading as she relived the horror of that night.  “They were too late to save Linda, though.”

“I’m sorry about that, Faithie,” Buffy offered and gave the girl a heart-felt hug so quickly that Faith could do nothing but accept the gesture for what it was.  “If it had been Giles…” Buffy paused and swallowed a lump that caught in her throat.  Then she said, “Well, I know how I would have felt.  Slayers weren’t meant to outlast their Watchers, you know.”

Although Faith nodded and seemed to gain some comfort from what she shared with her sister slayer, she was glad when Kendra called out and demonstrated that the eldest slayer still had her mind on the business at hand.  “Come on, let’s catch up with the others,” the Jamaican Slayer said as she followed the last person up the ladder with Faith and Buffy close behind.

When the three slayers were topside, they overheard St. Wolf say, “Toby, get a couple of your people to take the girls to the hospital.  Order them to remain at the hospital to protect the girls from any further harm.  Meanwhile, the rest of your people will meet us at the barn to go over our final assault plans.  Tonight’s going to be a hot one, people!”

“What does Patton mean by all of that?” Faith asked as they all climbed into the van. 

“We know the house they are using,” Kendra informed Faith.  “As soon as our reinforcements arrive, we shall raid it.”

“Willow, the minute we get back to the barn I want you to put out a general call for help.  Make certain they know they will need to be here before nightfall if they want to participate,” St. Wolf said as they started toward the barn. 

“Beefcake’s going to have more people come to help us out?” Faith asked.

“He is calling in more specialists,” Kendra said.  “These people are experienced vampire hunters.”

“Do you mean people like those armored Playmates who came to help Mulder in the FBI building?” Faith asked.  “Even though they looked like they should be hanging with Hef at the mansion, they sure knew how to fight.”

“Who were they?” Buffy asked.

“I don’t know.  Scully called them Bureau 13, I think.”

“That’s just like Dana,” Buffy said with a smile.  “She always manages to pull a rabbit out of her hat!  To answer your question, Faith, the group we expect today is the core group of Section Seven.  Believe me when I say they’re something you have to see to believe it.”

“What’s so special about them, B?”

“They’re considered to be a black operations group, Faith.  Mr. St. Wolf is the overall leader and our sister Slayer is his second in command,” Kendra said with her tongue firmly in cheek.

“What you talking about, K?  Buff here is like some cheap knock-off of ‘G.I. Jane’ or something?”

“Hey, I’m sitting right here!” Buffy groused good-naturedly. 

“What the fuck, B?  You’ve got your own freaking army?”

“Not really, ‘F,’ just friends we can call to help us out on occasion,” Buffy clarified.  “Oh, and by the way, do you kiss your mother with that potty mouth?” Buffy teased.

Faith shot an annoyed look at her sister Slayer.  “Ha, ha, you’re just a laugh riot, B,” Faith drawled, sarcastically.  “Anyway, this army of yours…these yahoos fight for you, right?”

“They just help out when we need them, that’s all.”

“Listen, B, knock off the cryptic, okay?  Look, when you can pick up a phone and get this many people to help you it’s called an army, capiche?”

“All right, all ready!  Fine! You win!  Call it a freaking army if you want to, one-track-mind girl!  Are you happy now?”

“If you call being five by five ‘happy,’ B, then I’m your girl.”

At that, Buffy simply rolled her eyes, sighed deeply, and groused to no one in particular, “What in the hell does that even mean?”

###

Atlanta Airport

Iverson Air Terminal.

Ralph Steel sat at his desk as he worked through a myriad of manifests and maintenance schedules.  He had only recently taken over the Atlanta terminal and thought he’d had lucked into a great job.  At first glance, it had seemed to be a top notch hangar.  None of the workers were out excessively; the hangar was cleaner than any he’d ever worked in.  He watched as the men moved when the Fox Xanatos jet landed the day before which carried Mr. St. Wolf and his team.  The men without having to be told took the plane inside a secured hangar and serviced it.  Even though St. Wolf didn’t stop to talk he knew that it had to be a sign that an inspection was on the way.

“Hey, boss, we have two jets scheduled to arrive at the same time today,” a five foot eight inch tall man with wavy brown hair said as he entered the main office.  “Are you expecting anyone important?”

“Mr. St. Wolf came in yesterday, so there’s no telling who might arrive today,” Ralph replied as he looked at the day’s manifest. 

“The first is a Fox Xanatos registered to the New York office.  The other is a twenty passenger Lear Jet from the Washington state office.”

“Oh, shit,” the manager cried out as he started outside while he yelled out orders.  “Mr. Iverson is on his way, people.  Let’s look alive.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it, Mr. Steel,” the messenger said.  “The boss knows that we work here.  I don’t think he is here for an inspection.”

“I think you’re right.  I’ve never heard of him doing surprise inspections,” Ralph said.  “But I have only been at Iverson Air for three months, and since just about everyone here is ex-military, I just figured.”

“Well, that’s not how things are done here,” the messenger said as he wiped his hands.  “Mr. Iverson is a straight-shooter.  If he was on a tour, of his places he would let you know.”

“That’s what they told me when they hired me,” Ralph agreed as the Fox Xanatos jet landed.  “Here he is; let’s go greet him.”

“Yes, sir,” the messenger said as he followed Ralph out onto the tarmac as the jet rolled to a stop.  A rolling stairway was quickly moved into place to allow the three passengers to deplane.

“Good afternoon, sir,” Ralph greeted the trio as they stepped down on the tarmac. 

“Good afternoon, Mr. Steel isn’t it?” Mr. Iverson asked as he took the offered hand from his Atlanta manager.  “How do you like the facilities?”

“It’s nice,” Ralph said as he looked over to Iverson’s companions, a tall, hauntingly beautiful woman with long chestnut brown hair and bewitching eyes with a Mona-Lisa-smile on her face, And a forty something brown haired executive type.  He turned back to the woman before he asked  “Aren’t you…”

“Yes, I’m Cassandra Hastings,” she said as she offered her hand to him. 

“My children love your books,” Ralph said with a goofy smile on his face.  “I’ve been known to turn a page or two, myself.”

“Why thank you, Mr. Steel,” she offered graciously.

“Well, sir?” Ralph asked as he struggled to return his attention back to Mr. Iverson.  “What can I do for you today?”

“I’m going to need the use of four of your Hummers,” Frank said as he turned to the messenger.  “Jones, can you get them out here and ready when the other plane arrives?”

“Yes, sir!” the messenger said as he turned and ran into the hangar. 

“You know Jones?” Ralph asked, surprised.

“Jones has been with me for a long time,” Frank said with a smile. 

“That’s good to know.”

“We will have the Hummers for about three days.  I want you to put my jet in the hangar and have your mechanics service it,” Frank ordered.  “Did Steve bring his jet as well?”

“He did, sir.  I have it in the second hangar and had it serviced this morning.”

“Good.  Those planes are quite sensitive so please keep the hangar secured and post round-the-clock guards.”

“Yes, sir,” Ralph said as four black Hummers rolled out of the main hangar. 

“We’ve got to go,” Frank said as he, Cassandra and the other man jumped into the first Hummer.  “Give the others to the group that follows us.”

“Yes, sir,” Ralph replied then he watched as Frank sped away.  “I wonder what’s going on.”

“With St. Wolf involved it could be anything,” Jones said as the two men strode toward the hangar office.  “Now that he’s called in Mr. Iverson it means something that’s probably pretty dangerous.”

 
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