###

The place was literally swarming with vampires and he feared the sands of time were running out for Buffy, Kendra, and Faith.

Giles, his desperation growing by the moment to reach his girls, his Slayers, nervously stood guard with Jenny over their brave young charges while the Immortals battled on.  Although the eternal warriors were both dauntless and deadly, their spirited attacks almost seemed fruitless because when an Immortal swept the head off of one vampire, two more of the fiends immediately stepped into the dusted one’s place. 

Just then, several of the creatures forced their way past the Pretender and Miss Parker and charged for his team.  However, before they’d taken three steps, the monsters were decapitated by the singing swords of the ancient Hyperborean, the ageless Amazon Queen, and the Wanderer.  Giles’ spirits lifted then as Sonja, Gabrielle, and St. Wolf positioned themselves between the horde and his mortal charges like Horatius, Larcius, and Herminius, the legendary warriors who held the Tiber River Bridge against legions of invaders during Rome’s darkest hour. 

As the last of the vampires who dared to try and reach them were cut down, Giles spied a few others escaping down another tunnel nearby.  Giles, followed closely by his charges, crept toward the opening of that tunnel.

“Steven,” Giles called out after the room was cleared of the living impaired.  “I believe that a few of the vampires escaped down this tunnel.”

“Duncan,” St. Wolf called to his former teacher.  “You’re with me in the front, followed by the others.  Giles, you keep the kids in the center of the pack.”

“We’ll take the rear guard, St. Wolf,” Miss Parker said as she indicated Jarod, Richie and Justin with a sweep of her hand.

“I will accompany them,” Gus called out as Glam joined him at the rear of the column.

“All right, let’s go,” St. Wolf ordered as the group moved cautiously down the tunnel. 

Giles noticed that the glow of St. Wolf’s sword brightened as they advanced deeper into the tunnel.  He was just about to say something when two demons like the ones they had already killed charged out of the darkness to attack the group. 

Giles watched in fasination as St. Wolf side-stepped the charge while he held out Demon Slayer and let the demon do the work for him as it barreled along letting the sword cut it almost in two.  Meanwhile next to St. Wolf, Duncan stepped in the opposite direction but swung with all his considerable might and decapitated the demon before it was able to attack anyone.

“Does anyone hear that?” Giles asked as he heard a sharp bark of a rifle.  “They must be on top of us.”

“Yes, but who is fighting?” Sonja asked as the group came to a stop under a manhole cover.

“Surely we can count them as friends,” Giles said, his mind still on his slayers.

“The rest of you stay here, I’ll go topside,” St. Wolf said as he started to accend the ladder.  After a few seconds he dropped back down and faced his team while he pulled out a cell phone.  “The Atlanta team is attacking a house across the street.  Toby is just to our left but its all open street; I’m going to call him and tell him to have one of his armored hummers provide some cover.”

“They’re attacking the house?” Giles asked worriedly as he looked at St. Wolf.  “Don’t they know Buffy and the others are mostly likely in there?”

“No wild shots into that house!” St. Wolf snapped after he’d ordered the Hummer over for cover.  “The Slayers are in there!”

“Really?” Giles overheard St. Wolf’s part of the conversation.  “And he said he would take care of it?  Great, once the Hummer gets here we’ll come up and help out.”

“What is it?” Giles asked as he heard the squealing of tires from above announcing the arrival of one of the Hummers.

“Charlie is in the house with Buffy and the others; he’ll cover them as long as possible.”  St. Wolf announced as he went up the ladder.  “Let’s go, they’re going to need our help.”

Once everyone was out of the sewer, St. Wolf ordered the group to spread out as a shot was fired that destroyed the wooden board that was placed over the main window of the large house across the street.

“NOW!” The Wanderer snapped as he left cover and charged across the street followed by all of the members of his team.

 ###

Toby stared into the manhole that Section Seven had entered.  He'd just about made up his mind to throw caution to the wind and lead his team underground when his phone rang.

He answered it and demanded, “What is it?” 

“Toby, this is Charlie.”

“Hello, Charlie.  What's up?”

“Dude, listen up!  The Slayers are in trouble and St. Wolf’s team might not get to them in time.  I think you’re going to have to do it.”

“Where do we need to go?” Toby snapped.

“We're at 2219 Ash St.”

“We’re only three blocks from there,” Toby said as he started toward his car and signaled for the others to follow.  “What’s your status?”

“The house is full of vampires.  When you get here, load your weapons with wooden bullets because most of the vampires here aren’t wearing vests.”

“What about the Slayers?”

“Don’t worry about them.  By the time you get here, I'll have taken care of them.  Just get here on the double!” Charlie whispered harshly just before he hung up.

Toby then turned to the members of his team and barked, “All right, people, we're heading for 2219 Ash St.  Load your guns with the wooden bullets and when we get there make sure you all stay in the four man teams we worked out earlier.”

“Mind if I ride with you?” Bailey asked.  “Even if you do, Sam and I are coming along.”

“What's happening, Toby?” Sam wanted to know as he indicated to the pair of agents that they could accompany him.

After a grunt, Toby told them everything he'd been told by the undercover vampire as he drove his car toward Ash Street.  “Just remember the bullets you have in your guns are useless against these things.”

"Then you should give us guns that'll even the odds," Bailey said.  As Toby handed the two agents a pair of Glock pistols with the proper load out, Bailey asked, “Where are St. Wolf and his group now?”

“They're being held up in the sewers.”

“What's holding them up?” Sam asked as she put her seat belt on after taking a sharp corner.

“I don't know, maybe a demon or something.”

Moments later, Felicia snapped, “That’s the place!”  In response, Toby pulled over a respectful distance from the house just as a bullet ricocheted off the roof.

The occupants bailed out of the car on the far side of the house as two of the Hummers wheeled past and parked in a blocking pattern giving the leaders cover.  Toby watched with a bit of pride as his team exited the vehicles and took up positions to cover their teammates as they moved in.

“If we don’t force the issue now, this is going to turn into a standoff,” Bailey noted. 

“We don’t do standoffs, pal,” Toby quipped as three more Hummers split off, two going left while the third went right.  “We’ll be in there before sundown.”

“Why before sundown?” Sam asked as she watched a man attach some kind of rocket propelled device onto his M16. 

“As long as it's still light out, we have the advantage,” Toby told the two FBI agents before he turned to the man with the M16.  “You ready, Billy?”

“I sure am,” the man replied.

“What is that thing?” Bailey asked.

“It’s just a little party favor,” Billy drawled with a smile as he lifted the rifle. 

“It’s a very low charge explosive device,” Toby added. "Billy's going to fire at that window that's boarded up; see the one that’s facing the east and the setting sun?  Well, when this hits that board, there’s not going to be much left of it and that will let the sun shine through.  When that happens, all the vampires are going to charge toward that area of the house and allow our guys to attack from the other side of the house.”  Toby finished as he looked at his watch.  “Do it.”

“With pleasure,” Billy said and fired.

 

###

“I can’t hold the shield up much longer,” Willow said, the strain evident on her face as Faith yanked off the metal rail from the slab that had held her.

“Save your strength, Red,” Faith growled as she prepared to face Kikistos.  “B, K, this turkey's mine!”

“Hey, who am I to argue with you, Faith,” Buffy drawled just as Trick and Angelus joined Kikistos in attacking the rapidly failing shield.  “Looks like our dance cards have just been filled, too!”

“Guess that leaves tall, winged and gruesome for me,” Willow murmured as the winged demon entered the room and screeched at them.  "Yay me?" she cheered sarcastically.

“Hey, asshole!  You ordered your fang boys to whack the wrong watcher!” Faith growled as she advanced on Kikistos. 

“So, the cow meant something to you, little girl?” Kikistos said, his words driving daggers into her heart.

Faith’s vision turned redder with each word Kikistos spoke as she remembered the good times Linda and she had shared.  Now her surrogate mother was dead and this vampire was responsible for it all.  Suddenly, the little witch's shield collapsed and Faith launched herself at the massive vampire, using the rail to pound Kikistos like an avenging fury. 

Kikistos raised his arm to block her attacks and the stainless steel rod bent slightly from the impact.  Then she saw the concerned expression cross his face when he realized that she was far stronger than she looked.  Faith continued to press forward and landed a mighty swing which barely missed taking out his right eye.  However, she managed to take a good-sized chunk out of the side of his face.

Faith brought the pole around with all her strength and weight and scored another hit on Kikistos’s back which caused him to stumble forward right into the path of the winged demon that had advanced toward Willow.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Faith snapped as she launched herself toward Kikistos’s retreating back, her heel driving into the back of the vampire’s knee which caused him to go down.

“You’re going to pay for that, you bitch!” Kikistos snapped as he spun around and lashed out with a loping right which caught one side of Faith’s head.  The blow sent her into the far wall hard enough to buckle the wallboard.  She tried to shake it off but was helpless as the giant vampire grabbed her by the neck and started to pound blow after blow into her face.

Kikistos was just about to bite into Faith’s neck when an explosion rocked the outer room which drew his attention away from the Slayer.  “What in the nine hells?”

###

The winged demon moved around the biggest vampire she’d ever seen and advanced toward Willow.  At first, Willow raised her pistol to fire then realized she couldn’t use her gun since Faith was in the way and a wild shot could cost the Dark Slayer her life.  As the giant vampire tumbled to the floor, a desperate Willow rapidly formulated a plan.  She pointed at the vampire with the fingers of both hands held just like the gnarled digits an old crone’s while her eyes bled to black.  “Jhaer si tylaer os si ailaelal mesyl o”

“Little Red Witch, I am a lord of the nine hells!  Your pitiful cold spell shall not stop me!” The demon hissed out as ice formed on its legs and wings slowing its progress.

“Didn’t expect it to,” Willow drawled.  She smiled as she straightened the fingers of her right hand and spread them toward the fiend.  Then her voice changed a bit as she chanted, “jhondraelol shyr”

Then she said, “I also know that no matter whatever hell you’re from, water and electricity don’t mix.”  Willow finished as she watched the demon thrown back by the lightening bolt she had cast.   As the demon slid to the ground she advanced on the creature, lifted her MP5, and fired three rounds of silver bullets point blank into its skull.  Then she leaned back against the wall exhausted from her casting of the high powered spells.  As Charlie raced to her side to protect the tired witch, Willow slid to the floor just as an explosion rocked the outer room.

###

“Hi there, lover!  Just curious—who did you leave on the Hellmouth to guard home, sweet home?” Buffy heard the taunt in Angelus’ voice.  “When we’re done here, I’m going to kill them you know.  I wouldn’t want them to miss out on all the fun!”

Buffy was silent as she drew her sword, Vampire Slayer, and advanced on Angelus, ready to end the years of torment the vampire had put her through.  As quick as a snake she thrust Vampire Slayer forward, however her hope for a quick victory was cut short when Angelus blocked her attack with a long sword forged from a dark metal.  The two swords met and sparks flew in all directions.  Each opponent felt the vibration race up their arms which caused them to take a step back. 

Warily the combatants circled, looking for an opening.  Buffy still felt the jolt that shot up her arm and was not in a hurry to feel it again.  Angelus feinted with the sword while he threw a looping left which Buffy simply ducked under while she tried a spin kick to swipe his feet out from under him.  Yet, he saw it coming and jumped over it.

As he retreated a few steps, Buffy advanced with a powerful right jab that just connected with his shoulder as he ducked a bit and turned to the right.  As he took the blow, he jabbed with his left knocking the blonde slayer back which gave him a bit of room to maneuver. 

“You know, Buff?” he taunted.  “After your new boy-toy buries you, I think little Willow will be the first one on my list.  She’s just so sweet and innocent with her strawberries and cream complexion.”  Then he shot a faux look of puzzlement at her.  “You know, I’ve always wondered if Willow’s drapes matches her carpet?”  Then he made a show of licking his lips while showing the Slayer his fangs.  “Either way, I’m sure that girl tastes real good.  You know, I wouldn’t be surprised that our girl still has her virtue, unlike you, that is.  It’s probably a safe bet she’s never had a vampire before, not like her best friend, eh?  You know, Buffy, before I kill her, don’t you think I should fix that—make a real woman out of her before she takes that big dirt nap, if you know what I’m saying!”  He cocked his eyebrow at the Slayer suggestively and chuckled wickedly before he swung his sword and tried to take Buffy’s head.

Buffy, both frightened and furious about the depraved threat he’d made against her best friend, dropped into a split which allowed the sword to sweep overhead harmlessly.  Then she spun on her back and her foot clipped Angelus’ left ankle, causing him to trip as she sprung to her feet ready for the battle to continue.

Buffy swung her sword at the vampire’s neck but her blow was met again with the flat end of Angelus sword.  However, this time there was no vibration and Vampire Slayer sliced through the sword Angelus held with little resistance.  Surprised by the destruction of her opponent’s weapon, Buffy hesitated for a precious moment and allowed Angelus to leap out of her striking distance just as the wood panel that covered the front window exploded, allowing the sun’s rays to filter into the room.

###

Kendra didn’t wait for her opponent to ready himself.  Instead, she leapt forward and attacked with a snap kick which caught him just under his chin.  Her blow slammed his head back and forced him out of the room.  Kendra chanced a quick look to make sure Faith had the upper hand then she followed Trick.  Kendra didn’t give her opponent time to recover from her mighty blow.  She jumped the last couple of feet and attacked by driving her knee into his stomach, causing him to double over.  Next, she struck the side of his face with her left hand and knocked him to the ground.  She was just about ready to stake the vampire when the explosion from the outer room tore her attention away from him for only a moment.  However, by the time she turned her attention back to him, he had escaped.

“Angelus, my brother!” Trick screamed as he rushed down the passage.  “It’s time to go!”

###

“Get off of her, you wanker!”

Faith heard the snarled command as she was held suspended about three feet above the ground, her eyes blurred from the lack of oxygen.  The monster had just dipped its fangs toward her neck when it lost its grip around her windpipe allowing her to tumble to the floor.  Suddenly she heard the vampire roar in pain while she desperately tried to draw a breath and heard a British voice rant and rave. 

“Keep your filthy paws off of my girl, you pillock!” the voice snapped just before the vampire roared in pain again. 

She regained her senses after a few moments and could just barely make out more noises from the house which could only be from the sounds of individual battles.  Finally her eyes focused and she saw the Watcher Giles attacking the vampire who had beat her down, just as Xander and Cordelia entered the room. 

Xander waded into the fight striking the vampire’s hamstrings with a glowing sword and was rewarded with a roar of pain just as Cordelia worked in concert and sliced the beast on its opposite side.   Suddenly, Kikistos spun quickly and lashed out at Xander, catching the side of the boy’s head and slamming him into a wall. 

Giles charged again this time swinging his sword horizontally cutting a grove across its stomach just above the belt line.  Kikistos raised his hand to strike Giles down but a scream from Cordelia pulled Kikistos attention away from Giles.   

“In the name of Artemis!” Cordelia cried as she thrust her sword through the giant vampire’s leg.  Although it was a mortal wound, she was too slow in pulling her sword out.  Kikistos suddenly whirled away from the surprised Amazon and, in doing so, he pulled the sword out of Cordelia’s hand.  Then he fired a hard uppercut into Cordelia’s chin and sent her back against the wall ten feet away.

Faith forced herself off the floor while an enraged Giles struck the vampire yet again.  He chopped down with his weapon, starting at his target’s shoulder and ending at the hip which left a deep gash.  Faith saw the wild look in Giles’ eyes and she nearly swooned from the heat of his magnificent fury.  Then, while it appeared to her that the Watcher would triumph, Kikistos managed to grab the crazed Englishman, lifted him off his feet and tossed him back against the wall.  

Faith watched as Giles, impossibly, struggled to rise while Kikistos shuffled on its bad leg toward him.  “I have always wondered what a Watcher’s blood would taste like.”

Gamely Giles stood up his sword in his hand, but even at that distance Faith knew it was just for show.  The Watcher obviously suffered enough damage from the previous blow to put up much of a fight.  However, defiant to the end, he slurred, “W-well, the only way to find out, you sodding wanker, is…BITE ME!”

As the vampire reared up to launch itself at the Watcher’s neck, Faith screamed.  “NO!!”  Then she used her metahuman strength to rip a 4x4 stud out of the hole in the wall behind her and charged toward Kikistos with the make-shift weapon.  A split-second later, she plunged the weapon into the vampire just as it turned toward her; the pointed stud entering into the side of its torso upward at a thirty degree angle as it passed through several ribs and lodged inside its undead heart.

Then as the cloud of dust that had been the ancient Vampire Master rained down upon her, Faith dropped to her knees while tears streamed down the cheeks of her bruised and battered face.  It was over, she realized as she continued to sob.  It was finally over.  Moments later, she felt a strong set of arms gently surround her and the girl surrendered to the feeling of safety she had long forgotten.  Finally, Faith had come in from the wilderness.

She had come home again.

###

“Attack those bitches!” Angelus snapped to the remaining vampires when he realized that he needed to get out of there and made good his escape with Trick.  “They all must die!”

“Let’s go, brother,” Trick said as he raced to the garage.  “Our arrangements have been made!”

“They aren’t going to let us just drive away, Trick,” Angelus growled as he heard more gunfire from the back of the house.

“Now don’t you fret,” Trick said in a light hearted voice.  “I’ve got it covered.”

Angelus followed Trick into the garage but he continued to wallow in his anger toward Buffy. That little, valley-girl bitch was beginning to get too big for her britches and somebody needed to plant her in the ground real soon!  As he stepped into the garage he felt something in the air.  Soon, something seemed to shift then he was in some kind of chamber where a large door was barred from the inside.  His mouth hung open as he turned to Trick who calmly sat down in one of the two big chairs that were in the room.   

“Have a seat,” Trick said as he pointed to the other chair.  “They’ll never find us in here.”

“What the hell just happened?”

“I told you I had an escape plan,” Trick replied easily.

“Where are we?” Angelus demanded.

Relax, my brother, we’re still in Atlanta,” Trick replied. “We’re in a bomb shelter on the east side of the city.”

###

“Buffy!” Kendra called as she charged into the outer room where the vampires had made their last stand.  “Where is Faith?”

“Back in the room,” Buffy replied as she ducked a punch from a vampire and lashed out in retaliation.  “Go and help her!”

Kendra saw that Buffy had things under control and raced off to help Faith.  When she entered the room, she found Giles comforting Faith in his arms while Cordelia and Xander were unconscious down on the floor.  Then she rushed to the fallen pair and cried, “Medic!  Back room, two down!”

“I’m on my way,” Felicia called back.

After she heard the reply Kendra turned back to the downed Slayerettes and carefully checked them.   Although they both were breathing easily, they had received serious wounds.  Xander’s head appeared to have a deep cut that bled slowly while Cordelia’s jaw had a very nasty bruise.  Fearing for the boy, Kendra ripped his shirt and used it to slow the bleeding just as Felicia arrived.

“Step back, Slayer,” Felicia said calmly as she knelt down beside Xander.  “I’ll have him fixed up in no time.”

Kendra stepped back to allow Felicia to do her work and took a look around.  A moment of panic hit her when she noticed Willow sitting on the floor next to the winged demon while green ichor surrounded both the witch and the fiend.   

“Willow!” Buffy screamed from the door just as Kendra started to move over to the fallen red witch. 

“Red?” Faith mumbled as Giles gently lifted the youngest Slayer off of the floor. 

All three Slayers reached Charlie, who stood like a sentinel at the fallen girl’s side, simultaneously.  As Kendra knelt down beside the Little Red Witch, the Jamaican Slayer’s heart started again when she noticed the slow raise and fall of her chest. 

“Willow…no, no!” Buffy whimpered.  “No, Willow, please!  Don’t do this!  Speak to me, Will!”

However, the red head failed to answer her best friend and tears began to stream down the Immortal Slayer’s face. 

“She’s still breathing,” Kendra informed the others as Faith moved in to do her own inspection. 

“It didn’t touch her,” Faith said. “She killed it before it even got near her.”

“Willow managed to slay it?” Kendra asked as she looked at the holes in the demon’s head.

“Damn right I did,” Willow grumbled as she winced and struggled to stand up. 

Willow then suddenly found herself to be the meat in a Slayer sandwich when Buffy, Kendra, and Faith grabbed her up in a group hug.  “Er…um…I love you guys, too, but oxygen…an issue!”

“Don’t ever scare us like that again, Will!” Buffy growled playfully.

The Little Red Witch smiled at her friends for a moment before her expression turned serious.  “How’s Xander and Cordelia?”

“They will recover,” Kendra said as she surveyed the damage to the house.  “However, I just want to state unequivocally for the record…I’m not paying to fix any of this.”

Giles cocked a wry eyebrow at her.  “Well, then, who do you think should be responsible for conducting the extensive repairs necessary to restore this home?”

A faux look of innocence shined on Faith’s face.  “Well…I hear that B’s boy toy is loaded to the gills.”

Buffy narrowed her eyes at the Dark Slayer for several beats.  Then she smiled wryly and shrugged.  “You know…that works for me.  My poor honey, I guess that’s what he gets for missing Slayer staff meetings,” she quipped. 

###

Felicia’s Barn

“Well, Faith?” Dana asked as she took in the scene of the group of fighters who were now feasting at an impromptu picnic.  “Do you still think the Watchers Council is right?”

“No, I don’t,” Faith replied. “But what choice do I have?  You saw what they were going to do back in Boston.  If I stay with one of these groups, wouldn’t I bring them grief?”

“You could always move to the District of Columbia with us,” Dana invited.  “Where you end up is not the issue here.  You have your own life to live, your own choices to make and there are many people willing to battle against the darkness in your place.  You could be a normal girl if you’d want.  It’s all up to you.”

The Dark Slayer pondered on that for a moment before she shook her head.  “Normal’s not in the cards for me, D.  Besides, I get a high that no amount of drugs or alcohol can give me when I dust a vamp.  It’s like doing the nasty without putting up with any shit from a boy toy, if you catch my drift,” Faith added as she ground her hips.

“You could always go with Buffy and Kendra,” Dana said with a smile.  “I know they would want you with them.”

“Your duty lies with the Council,” Wesley informed the Dark Slayer.  “No matter how glamorous they make it all seem, it is your responsibility to follow the guidelines that the Council has set in place.”

“Do you really think that the Council has Faith’s best interest at heart?” Dana asked as she turned to Wesley.  “I’ll tell you what, Wesley, if you can say without reservation that the Council truly cares for the girls, I will recommend that Faith goes back with you.  So go ahead, look me in the eye and say it.”

Instead of answering the Immortal, Wesley asked, his voice filled with contempt, “What about you, Agent Scully?  Do you have what is best for her in mind?  Or do you want her to go to the Hellmouth and risk her life on a daily basis?”

“Enough!” Giles snapped as he joined the conversation.  “Don’t speak of her as if she was not standing right in front of you, either of you!  Faith is old enough to make up her own mind and by God you’re going to allow her to do so!”

“What training and history can you offer her?” Wesley asked.  “You don’t have the resources of the Council anymore, Mr. Giles.  You are an outcast with nothing to offer her.”

“On the contrary, Wyndom-Pryce.  We can love her and provide a home for her,” Giles said softly. 

Wesley simply stared at the former Watcher for a moment while Kendra and Buffy joined the conversation.  “There’s one more thing we offer to our sister that your council would never contemplate giving her.  We can give her the freedom of choice.  She can choose if she wants to slay or not.  She can go to school and earn an education.  She can get married if and when she wants without having the fear of being killed by a vampire or one of another dozen things that stalk the night.”

“Kendra and Giles are right,” Buffy added softly and the tone of the shorter Slayer’s voice drew Faith’s attention more avidly than all the prior bickering had.  “Instead of showing her what you can do for her; you should let her decide for herself what she wants to do.”

“And if I decide to go back to the Council?” Faith asked as she looked directly at Buffy, wondering what the oldest Slayer would say.

“My heart would break because I would lose a sister,” Buffy replied calmly.  “But I would accept your decision and tell you that if you ever needed anything I would be there.”

“You really mean that, don’t you?” Faith asked as she noticed Giles’ proud smile at Buffy’s statement.  “You would let me go back to the Council without a fight?”

“It’s your call, Faith.  Make it a good one,” Buffy simply said and grinned warmly at the Dark Slayer. 

“The Council should have never sent that team after me,” Faith said to Wesley.  Then she turned and smiled at Buffy and Kendra.  “I want to try it with you guys.”

“Faith, the council...”  Wesley started.

“It will just have to deal, Wes!” Faith said to the man.  Then she regarded her sister Slayers and said, “There is something I have to do in Boston before I go to Sunny-Dee, though.”

“What’s that?” Buffy asked.

“I have to tell Aunt Marion what I plan to do,” Faith said as she held her head up.  No one would stop her from doing that.

“Fair enough,” Buffy acknowledged. “I’ll come with just in case Wes’s boys want to try and start something.”

“Kendra and I will come along, as well,” Giles said as he stepped up and wrapped his arm protectively around Faith. 

“I’d appreciate that,” Faith whispered past the uncomfortable lump in her throat.  “Marion is a really nice lady and I hope the Council doesn’t try to get back at me by hurting her.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it, Faith,” Dana said her voice giving no room for argument.  “I will make certain of that.”

“I guess I will have to call the Council again,” St. Wolf said as he approached the group.

“No,” Giles said.  “I will deal with the Council.  The girls and I will be taking a plane to Boston first thing in the morning.”

“Will you be all right?” St. Wolf asked.  “Or should I come along?”

“No, Jenny will also travel with us.  Between her and three Slayers…well the Council might be arrogant but not even it would be foolish enough to face those odds.”

“All right,” St. Wolf said.  “If you need help, don’t hesitate to call me.”

“How long are you staying here?” Giles asked.

“Our plane will leave tomarrow morning.  Then I’ll send it to Boston to pick you up.”

“You guys have a private plane?” Faith asked in wonder.  “Damn B, you really know how to fly!”

“Actually, we use Iverson Air to get around,” Buffy said with a warm smile.  “Frank, the owner of the air service, is one of Steve’s best friends.”

“So are we going to take one of those to Boston?”

“I don’t know, we have to ask,” Buffy said with a sly grin.

“Do you really want to go with me to Boston?”  

“Try and stop us,” Kendra answered with a hard note in her voice.

###

Boston, Mass.

 5:00 am

Faith, Kendra, Buffy, Giles, Jenny, Dana, and Wesley stood on the front porch of the old Victorian home.  Outside the scent of homemade bread filled the air and had all of their mouths watering. 

“Not sure if anyone could sleep with that smell,” Buffy whispered next to Faith who heard the hunger in the tiny Slayer’s voice. 

“I guess we’re not going to wake her up then,” Faith replied just as softly as she knocked on the door. 

“Faith!” Stewart cried out as he opened the door and took the girl in his arms.

“Notice how the rest of us are treated like red-headed stepchildren?” Dana teased as she smiled at the old butler.  “We might as well be ghosts for all the attention we will get from him.”

“Hello, Agent Scully,” Stewart said as he reluctantly released Faith.

Faith felt a bit uncomfortable as she noticed the moisture on the old butler’s cheeks.  She tenderly reached up and wiped the tear away as she scolded Dana, “Hey, you can’t blame him, it’s the Boston blood in us.”

“Please come in,” Stewart invited the group as he took a step aside.  “Miss Price is expecting you.”

Faith led her party into the study and knew Marion would there waiting for them.  She wasn’t certain how she was going to tell Marion about her decision.  She hoped the presence of the two other Slayers would make it easier on the woman. 

“Hey,” Faith said warmly as she entered the study and saw Marion.  Forcing a brave smile she didn’t feel, she hugged Marion before she stepped back and introduced her entourage.  “Aunt Marion, I want to introduce you to a few new friends.  This is Buffy Summers and Kendra McPherson, Rupert Giles, and his girlfriend Jenny Calendar.  You already know Wesley and Dana, of course.”

“Please sit down,” Marion invited, acknowledging the others as she returned to her seat. 

“Aunt Marion,” Faith started then she choked up.  “I...”

“You’re going with them,” Marion finished for the stricken Slayer.

“Yes,” Faith replied this time, strength in her words.  “With the Council trying to get me, I believe that it would be this way.”

“For how long do you think the Council will keep trying?” Marion asked.

“They will never stop,” Giles informed the elderly woman.  “The Council’s whole existence is wrapped around the Slayer line.”

“What about your group?” Marion demanded.  “Did she leap from the pan into the fire?”

“Aunt Marion,” Faith said which drew Marion’s attention away from the ex-Council member.  “Giles and the others risked their lives to help bring Linda’s killer to justice. They have something in Sunnydale, something that I need.  I want to join them.”

“I just worry about you,” Marion said. “I don’t want anyone to use you.”

“Don’t worry, Marion,” Dana said with a smile.  “I can promise you that Faith will be okay there.”

“What are you going to do about the house and your endowment?” Marion asked as she turned back to Faith.

“I don’t know,” Faith replied honestly.  “What do you suggest?”

“It’s been in our family for a very long time,” Marion advised.  “I hope you don’t plan on selling it.”

“Look, I don’t know a whole lot about having money and all,” Faith said.  “Maybe you can take care of it for me.  I talked to Willow and she said that they would have a job for me.”

"Well that is part of it," Jenny hurriedly added.  "All the kids go to school and have jobs; we have found that it helps them to have something else besides their calling as it were."

"Where would she be staying?" Marion asked

"With us," Buffy replied before anyone could.  "My mom would love having Faith live with us."

"You seem to have everything laid out for you, dear," Marion said.

"Hey, don't think you're off the hook with me," Faith said with a smile.  "I will visit you when I get the chance.  I’ve got too much of a Beantown girl to want to leave it all behind."

"What about Wesley?  Doesn't he still work for the Council?"

"He does," Faith said as she looked at him.  "But I’ve already told him that I’m done with the Council."

"Faith," Wesley began as he stepped nearer.  "I must try one more time; the Council is your best source of intelligence and even Giles will tell you that when you are dealing with these things, knowledge is power."

"Are you saying that the Council is holding back other things from us, Wes?" Buffy growled.  "I thought we agreed to share information."

“I assume that it is living up to its agreement with you, Buffy,” Wesley replied evenly.  “But how can you share years of knowledge gained from experience?  Somethings slip through when you’re writing of details that have happened and it is those small details that really make the difference.”

“He’s right,” Giles said.  “Books can never replace on hand experience.  This is why we invited one of the more experienced watchers to come to Sunnydale and work with us.  The Council refused our invitation.  Perhaps now, it will change its mind.”

“You presume to give an organization that has been around since the beginning an ultimatum?” 

“Wesley,” Giles snapped.  “The Council’s journals have large holes and even bigger misrepresentations.  I could tell you four things I know for a fact that the Watchers Journals have failed to reference.”

“I assure you I am well versed in the journals, as is are all Watchers,” Wesley snidely responded. “So tell me, Mr. Giles, what exactly are our books missing?”

“Let’s start at the beginning,” Giles replied with a smile as he cleaned his glasses.  “How did the First Slayer come about?”

“That is an idiotic question; no one really knows that.” Wesley snapped.  “Re…”

“We do,” Buffy and Kendra both said at the same time which stopped Wesley in his tracks.

“Number two,” Giles went on without missing a beat.  “Who trained the first Slayer?”

Wesley glared at Giles while the two older Slayers raised their hands and simultaneously answered the question.

“Number three, who was the first Slayer to marry and how long did she live with a family support?” Giles continued.  “And finally, did you know that more than one slayer had a child?”

“None of those things are written about in the journal!  How would you know the answers to them?”  Wesley snipped.  “You can’t possibly know.”

“Believe me, Wyndom-Pryce,” Giles replied his words carried a confidence that Faith felt.  “We know.”

“Preposterous!” Wesley snorted before he turned back to Faith.  “These people will eventually get you killed.  Only the Council could give you the knowledge that will help keep you alive.”

“Wes, I’m a brutal kind of girl,” Faith replied coolly.  “I don’t know how knowledge is going to keep me alive, but brutality?  Well, look at it like this.  A demon’s in front of you and all you’ve got is a shotgun filled with silver bullets and a book on the ground between you.  Which item would you grab?”

“So, your final answer is to go with them?” Wesley asked.

“Yes,” Faith replied with finality. 

“I wish you well then, Linda’s Slayer,” Wesley replied softly, surprising Faith. 

“Thanks, Wes,” she said, stunned at his heart-felt words.  “I don’t hold you responsible for what happened, Wesley and if they hadn’t of messed up like that, I might have stayed with you.”

“I understand,” Wesley replied.  “Faith, understand that I want you to come back to the Council because it is tradition, however, above that I only wish for your safety.  It is a hard position where I find myself but if you ever need my help, call me, please.”

“Thank you,” Faith replied as Wesley nodded to her and left the house.

“Strange,” Kendra said after the door closed.  “It would appear that Watcher Wyndom-Pryce was happy that Faith stayed with us.”

“There is a lot more to that man than it would seem,” Dana interjected.  “When they took Faith his only concern was to get her back.  I believe that we could work with him.”

“He still has a lot of tradition that’s holding him back,” Giles said.  “But I would be willing to give him a chance.”

“So what are you going to do now?” Marion asked. 

“We were going to stay the night here in Boston and give you and Faith some time together,” Giles said.  “Then we’ll return to Sunnydale.”

Faith then turned to Marion.  “Auntie, it’s a destiny thing, me going to Sunnydale and all.  But I promise I’ll come and visit you as often as I can because I want to honor both you and…my mother.”

Marion simply smiled at the beautiful child who sat between her two beautiful sisters.  “Of that, you need never worry, my dear.  I know that Linda, wherever she is now, would agree that whatever you do, wherever you go, you’ll always honor us.  We love you…we’ve always loved you.” 

After that, the Boston Bad Girl simply threw herself into her aunt’s arms, so moved she couldn’t find the words. 

For the first time in her life, Faith was speechless.

BACK END MAIN