DISCLAIMER: The Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel characters are the property of Mutant Enemy, Joss Whedon, and Fox Studios. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2001 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
Part 2 - Survival
"Come on, put your back into it. A Watcher scoffs at gravity." – Giles to Spike, Restless
It was cold and dark, and Faith couldn't see her hand in front of her face. "Just friggin' great," she said. She turned slowly, trying to find some light in the darkness. There was none.
"Giles? I can't see anything."
He didn't answer.
They didn't answer. She drew the line at calling for Xander or his new girlfriend.
"So I'm all alone here?"
"Not exactly." a voice said just behind her.
She whipped around, hand already turning into a fist, ready to strike. She pulled back with a quick intake of breath.
Buffy stood there, surrounded by a dim green light.
"God, B, you about gave me a heart attack."
Buffy said nothing, just looked at her.
Something wasn't right—when did Buffy have nothing snarky to say back? "Aren't you dead?"
Buffy frowned. "I don't think death is what this is. Do you?"
Faith shrugged. "Beats me. Where are we anyway?"
Buffy moved away from her. "I don't know." She turned back to Faith, her expression lost. "I don't like it. I want to go home."
Faith could feel the other slayer's loneliness and pain battering up against her. It was almost too much to bear. "Buffy, stop it."
"I don't know how to help you," she said, feeling desperate as the pain increased.
"You have to. You have to help me."
The loneliness was unimaginable. "Buffy, stop it," she screamed.
She felt hands shaking her. She instinctively struck out but didn't connect. The hands shook her again.
She jerked awake and saw Giles' face in front of her. Realized she was safe in the bed she shared with him.
"Faith? Are you alright?"
"Giles?" She remembered the dream, then him waking her. "Did I hit you?" She felt confused, off balance. "Did I hurt you?"
He laughed quietly. "No. I've become quite proficient at ducking. It's rather a dicey proposition waking you up in the mornings, you know."
She smiled for a moment, until the memory of the dream threatened again. "Giles, I saw Buffy." She saw his eyes narrow. "I talked to her. And it didn't feel like a dream, Giles. It felt real.
"Where was she?"
"I don't know. It was dark. All dark. Except for her. She was glowing sort of green."
Faith nodded. "She wanted me to help her get home. I couldn't. I didn't know how." She pushed herself up to a sitting position and tried to shake off the dream. "It was so real."
He sat up too then reached over and smoothed her hair. "We've all been dreaming of Buffy."
"Well, yeah. You all loved her. But I didn't. So why am I dreaming of her?"
"You never dream of her?"
Faith thought back. "I think I might have when I was in the coma. I remember being so scared of her. She was after me. She'd kill the Mayor and then she'd come after me." She was quiet for a moment. "And she did."
"She said you were in her dream when she was near death after letting Angel feed on her. You gave her the secret to stopping the Mayor. And it worked. There's a connection between you two."
"You think this is a slayer dream?"
He sighed. "I don't know." His voice was a mixture of hope and dread.
She reached out and touched his hand. "If she's not dead, where is she?"
"I'm not sure," he replied quickly, but it looked like he had his suspicions.
Willow heard the sounds of sparring from inside the training room as she and Tara settled in at the table.
"Bloody hell, Dawn, block me!" Spike sounded annoyed.
Spike as watcher. Willow took a second to think about that. Found she still couldn't really comprehend it.
"Dawn!" The vampire's voice rose then there was the sound of a body hitting the mats hard.
Willow tried to ignore her curiosity as she buried her head in a text on incantations. The words began to blur as she tried to hear what was going on in the next room.
"I'm sure they wouldn't mind if you watched," Tara said softly.
Willow smiled and touched her shoulder as she rose. "You know me too well."
"And I'm fine with that."
Willow walked quietly into the training room, expecting to see Spike getting the worst of the deal. But it was Dawn who was picking herself off the mats.
"What the hell is the matter with you?" Spike paced angrily. "You go out there like this and you'll last all of a minute."
Dawn shrugged, her irritation clear. "I'm just distracted. It happens. Didn't want to train now anyhow."
She's been spending too much time with Faith. Her sullen nonchalance was a mirror image of the other slayer. With a little bit of teenager thrown in. Okay, Willow corrected, a lot of teenager. It probably wasn't fair to blame Faith for that part. Especially when Dawn spent a lot more time with Spike than with the other slayer. Willow wasn't entirely sure what Faith did with her free time. She wondered if she should be worried about that.
"Don't care if you don't want to train. Some night you won't want to patrol either. Doesn't give you an excuse for being on the wrong end of a thrashing."
"Fine." She stalked back to where he stood, finally noticed Willow. "Hey."
"Hey," Willow returned as she watched Dawn circle Spike.
A second later Dawn was on the mats again.
Spike lost it. "What. Is. Your. Problem?"
"Something is. You aren't like this. Did something happen at school? With your Dad? He's not trying to take you away again is he?"
"No, nothing's wrong, Spike. I told you that."
"And I don't believe you, Niblet. You tell me when you're serious about this." He walked out of the room.
"Crap," Dawn muttered as she pushed herself off the mat.
Willow moved toward her. "He's just scared, Dawn. He doesn't want anything to happen to you."
"I know. I'm just not used to having him mad at me." Dawn's face was a mask of misery.
Willow touched her cheek. "What's really wrong?"
"It was just a dream. I don't know why I'm letting it get to me."
A dream. Willow was suddenly worried. "There are dreams and then there are slayer dreams, Dawn. What was it about?"
Willow had seen her friend in dreams too. It was jarring, a reminder of how much she missed Buffy. She could only imagine how much worse it was for Dawn. She pulled the younger girl into a hug. "I know it's hard, Dawnie, but it'll get better, it has to."
Dawn pulled away. "No, it wasn't that kind of dream. She wanted me to help her. To help her get home. I don't think she's really dead."
Willow felt a surge of hope that she tried to suppress. "We buried her body. She's gone, Dawn."
"Yeah, her body is gone, but what about her soul? I'm telling you she's trapped somewhere."
"In the portal," Giles said quietly from behind them.
Willow turned, felt Dawn move with her. Neither of them had heard him or Faith come in.
"I believe Buffy is caught in the portal," Giles repeated. "And we need to get her out."
Time passed slowly inside the portal. There were no shifts from day to night, no turnings from one month to another. Buffy was utterly alone.
When she'd sacrificed herself for Dawn, she'd expected to die. Had even felt peace at the thought. But this wasn't death. This wasn't life either. She feared that she had become part of the portal, just one more jumble of energy in the chaotic blackness that was the gateway. The idea terrified her.
Don't panic, she ordered herself, amazed she was still sentient enough—separate enough—to order anything.
She had to get out of this place. Even if it was only to die for real. She knew she'd go mad if she spent much more time here. But she couldn't get out on her own. She needed help. Willow, or Giles. She'd tried to find them in their dreams but hadn't succeeded.
It had never occurred to her to try the next slayer, or the existing one either. Her successor wouldn't even know her, and Faith wouldn't care. So it had been a surprise when both of them had shown up in her prison. Faith had seemed different, stronger yet less wild somehow. But the other slayer—it had been a shock to see who had replaced her. She'd felt rage that her sacrifice had only resulted in having Dawn take her place. It was wrong.
But that didn't matter now. All that did was getting free. She hoped she was getting through to Dawn and Faith. She hoped they'd have the sense to go to Giles or to Willow.
If death was her gift, why couldn't she give it to herself? Had the first slayer deliberately misled her? Had it all been a way to trap her here, in this no-man's land between life and death?
The way the first slayer had wanted her to be.: alone.
"Xander, wait up." Dawn trotted to catch him.
"Hey, Dawnster." Xander grinned at her. "Whatcha doing down in this part of town? I would've figured you for the school yard about now."
"Teacher work day. They get a half day off. I was training for a while. Then I decided to meet you. Giles wants to talk to us all."
"I know. Anya called, said to come to the Magic Box. This isn't the best route though." He eyed the dilapidated buildings along their way. "Not too safe. Well, unless you're a slayer, I mean."
"Spike might disagree with you, I sucked at training today." She laughed. "But you still sound surprised when you say I'm the slayer. Is it that hard to believe?"
"No. I mean, I believe it. I've seen you kick some serious vampire butt since you and the watcher from hell rode back into town. But dealing with you being the slayer is another thing altogether."
"So how are you doing with the whole superpower secret identity thing?"
She shrugged. "I'm okay. I mean I wasn't exactly part of the popular crowd anyway. And you should see me in PE. I so rock. I'm thinking of going out for a team."
"Now, grasshopper, your powers must only be used to help others." Xander struck a sage-like pose.
She giggled. "Okay, sensei. No sports." They walked along quietly for a few moments.
Dawn thought of Buffy. "I understand her better." At his look, she clarified, "What Buffy was feeling, why she acted the way she did. I think it's going to be really hard to be a slayer." The last part came out as a whisper.
She could tell he wanted to disagree with her, to encourage her. But he didn't want to lie.
"Yeah, it probably will be."
"I mean look at Faith."
"I'd rather not." His voice was bitter.
Dawn shot him a look. He was still scared of the older slayer. "She's changed, Xander."
"Sure she has."
"No, I mean it. She's different now."
Xander started to walk faster. Anger and unhappiness were clear when he spoke. "Oh yeah. Sure she has. She's out there killing vamps with the same 'wicked' zest she always had. It's just a matter of time before she snaps again."
"I don't think so. Neither does Spike."
"What? That's supposed to make me feel better? She's okay because Spike says so? What is that? Professional courtesy from one homicidal maniac to another?"
"That's not fair and you know it."
"Right." He stopped her as they rounded the corner to the shop. "Dawn...you and Spike...you're not ummm..."
"You know..." He made a crude but unmistakable gesture.
"I'm sure!" Dawn punched him in the arm.
"Well God, Xander. I mean I used to have a crush on him, but he's still totally hung up on Buffy."
Xander smiled in relief as he rubbed his sore arm. "Good. And I suppose it's against the rules and all. Watchers and slayers doing the nasty."
"I hope not. I wouldn't want Faith and Giles to get..." Dawn broke off, realizing too late what she was saying.
His look was beyond incredulous. "Faith. And Giles?"
"That's not what I meant."
He clearly didn't believe her.
"Forget I said anything, okay?" Damn it—when would she learn to think before she spoke?
"No way, Dawn. You can't tell me something like that and expect me to forget it." He seemed lost in thought for a moment, his face tightening. "Is Giles out of his mind?"
Dawn felt a need to protect both Giles and her fellow slayer. "I think he loves her."
"Well I hope he loves her just as much when she's strangling the life out of him someday."
The door the shop opened and Anya stepped out. "Would you two hurry up, Giles is getting annoying."
Xander started to walk away.
Dawn hissed at him, "Please. Please don't say anything to anyone, okay?"
"Sure Dawn. Right. Mum's the word." He stalked off to kiss Anya hello.
She watched as Anya scowled, clearly aware that something was wrong. She gave it twenty-four hours before everyone knew. The she brightened. Giles and Faith would probably blame Spike and his big mouth.
"Dawn, come on." Anya's voice was not friendly.
"Okay, okay," she muttered, hurrying to the door, her worries over Faith and Giles supplanted by thoughts of Buffy.
Giles watched as all the Scoobies assembled. Dawn was just locking the door and he waited for her to join them. He felt an excitement, a purpose flood him. Buffy might be alive or nearly so.
His eyes turned to Faith. She was sitting stiffly, almost sullenly. She sensed his gaze and the eyes that met his were like stone. Then they softened. He gave her a gentle smile before turning back to the others.
Xander was staring at him, an emotion that Giles couldn't identify and didn't want to try written on his face.
"Dawn," Spike's voice startled him. "Get in here already."
She shuffled in and sat with her...watcher. Giles found that very hard to fathom, any vampire but especially William the Bloody as a watcher. The Council was not at all happy about this. The only thing that had kept Spike alive was their fear that Dawn Summers would be as loyal and unpredictable as her sister had been. They couldn't afford to lose control again.
"All right, we're all here. For those who don't know, Faith and Dawn have been dreaming about Buffy. They believe she's trapped somewhere alone in a dark place."
"So? Humans dream, how is this different?" Anya was clearly unimpressed.
"Slayers' dreams are different, An," Xander said, not looking at her.
"Different how? Buffy's still dead." She looked around at the faces, most of them shining with new hope. "We saw her die, remember? The big swan dive to eternity."
Giles tried to head her off. "Anya, I—"
"No! For months now everything has been about Buffy. How sad you all are, how you miss her. Well, I'm sad too. But life has to go on. You have to give her up."
"Why? So we can all focus on your wedding plans?" Willow's tone was nasty.
"No. I just don't want to see you spend time and energy trying to bring her back if it won't work and will just make everyone all sad again."
"We don't even know where Buffy is," Tara said gently. "Maybe Anya is right."
"No, she's bloody well not," Spike was on his feet. "If there's even a chance..."
"What? You spend the next fifty years trying to get a dead woman back?" Anya's voice rose.
"Well why not? I've got the time."
"And you've also got Dawn," Tara said. "I liked Buffy a lot, but maybe it is time to let her go, to let her rest in peace."
"She's not at peace. She never will be if we leave her there. And what will it mean for me and Dawn if the dreams don't let up?" Faith's unexpected comment surprised Giles as much as it seemed to the others.
There was silence. Giles decided to wrestle back control of the meeting. "Right then. That's the crux of the matter. How do we help her find peace?" He turned to Anya. "No one is saying that we're going to bring her back to life. God knows I'd like that. I think we all would." He glanced at Faith and saw her face tighten. "But we do need to help her soul move on."
"How?" Xander seemed tired of talk. "What do we do?"
"For now, research." Giles pointed to the books he'd stacked on the table.
The others groaned.
He smiled, amused in spite of the nature of the task. "These are our normal references. If we don't find anything here we move on to the rest of the volumes."
"But what are we looking for?" Tara asked.
"I believe Buffy is trapped in the portal. We don't know anything about it really or about what happened to it when she closed it down. Anything you can find will be helpful."
"We should look for information on those monks too." Willow looked at Dawn and smiled gently. "They knew how to make energy into flesh. Maybe that knowledge isn't completely lost?"
"You want to use what they knew to bring Buffy back? The same way they made me?" Dawn's voice was hopeful.
Giles studied her. She was becoming so powerful. It was possible that if they found the method, she might be able to do this. "Good thinking, Willow."
She smiled gratefully and for a moment he saw the gawky and unsure teenager he'd first known.
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Spike asked as he brushed past Giles and grabbed a book. "Let's get started."
Faith tried to concentrate on the book in front of her. The words kept blurring. She shook her head but it didn't help. She wasn't helping—didn't want to. Not for this. Not to bring Buffy back. Not to go back to that life where she was the bad slayer—would they send her back to prison?
She slammed the book down and kicked her chair back, startling the others. "I'm outta here."
She was through the training room and at the alley door when she heard Giles' voice behind her.
"Where are you going?"
"Out to patrol." It was a lie but he wouldn't know. Or probably care. Not if his precious Buffy was coming back.
She started to open the door.
"Are you coming back, Faith?"
She turned to him and was surprised to realize she'd started to cry. "No."
He moved to her slowly, his voice infinitely gentle. "Why not?"
"You won't need me." She forced herself to meet his eyes. "I know you...and Willow. You won't stop until you have Buffy back with you. Not just at peace. You want her back. In the flesh."
He nodded. "Yes. I do."
"And there isn't any place for me then. Not with B back. All of you barely tolerate me now."
He moved closer. "I wouldn't call what we've been doing tolerance."
"What? The sex? Oh yeah, like that meant anything."
She turned to go again, sure he wouldn't try to stop her.
"It meant a great deal to me, Faith." He slammed the door she'd just started to open, moving faster than she expected, and with more force. "A very great deal."
She turned angrily and was surprised to see something wild and dark in his eyes. "You think you can take me?"
He shook his head slowly, his expression becoming less dangerous. "Of course not. We both know that."
Her voice shook as she looked down. "It will all just happen again, Giles. The slaying...I still enjoy it."
He brushed the hair off her face. "I know. You're a hunter, it's what you were made for."
"But it's what got me in trouble last time. Liking it too much."
"Nobody believes that except you." She wiped a tear away angrily.
"Dawn does. I've seen how you look out for her. I've seen you seemingly lost in the moment of the kill but still able to take the time to warn her or throw her a weapon. You aren't the mindless killer you fear you'll become again. You are exactly what you were called to be: a slayer, doing her job, helping another to learn hers."
She laughed scornfully. "And you think Buffy will let me near her sister when she gets back?"
"I don't think it will be up to Buffy. Dawn will learn from whomever she chooses. Just as she picked her own watcher. She's as stubborn as her sister in that sense. And she looks up to you. In a way she never did Buffy."
Faith considered that. She couldn't think of anyone who'd ever looked up to her before. "But Buffy..."
"This isn't about Buffy. This is about you, Faith." He moved away from her a bit, making it clear she could open the door if she wanted to. "This is your home now, Faith. It has been for a long time."
"What? Since I first got here? I don't think so."
"Since the Mayor." At her look of shock, he continued. "I'm not saying that I don't consider him evil, because I most certainly do. But he did one good thing among all that evil. He taught you what it feels like to be loved. Unconditionally, without any sordid expectations. He was the father you never had. And he loved you. So much so that we were able to use that love to destroy him. I think between his love and Angel's compassion, you were able to find your way back to yourself."
She walked to him and put her hands on his chest. "Giles, I'll never be like Buffy."
"I should hope not. Much as I love her, one is enough." He smiled playfully. "And I couldn't do this."
His lips touched hers in the way she'd come to crave. Softly but with passion. She felt herself giving in to this man. Marveled at his power over her. Before she knew him, she could count the time she spent with a lover in hours. Now, with him, she could count the months.
His voice was very low. "Faith, I want you to know something. If it's us...if you want to stop this, you just have to say the word. I'll still be your watcher. You must know that."
"Is this your way of saying you're tired of me?" Her voice was teasing.
His was still serious. "I'm a good deal older than you, Faith. And I don't lead a very exciting life, certainly not for a vibrant young woman."
She smiled, charmed as always by his manner. "I've had just about all the excitement I can stand." She realized what she'd just said sounded like an insult. "Not that I mean you're boring. Because I don't." She began to back him up, toward the small room that held the weapons. "I know you aren't that, I see the fire inside you when I touch you, when you touch me."
He reached back, opened the door, and pulled her inside. "Don't leave us, Faith. Don't leave me."
"I don't think anybody has ever asked me not to go," she said with a smile, as she let him lower her to the floor. She kicked the door shut with her foot.
"I love you," he whispered.
She froze, remembering the moment with Riley, when he thought she was Buffy. Felt panic coming on again.
"Faith," he said again, "I love you."
Her. He loved her. It meant everything to know that. And she finally recognized the feeling that had been growing inside of her for him. "I love you too, Giles."
"I'd say whatever's wrong, is okay now," Tara said as they all listened to the silence coming from the training room. It was punctuated with the slam of a door, then more silence. She hated when there was tension; it made her feel sick inside.
"Either that, or one of them is dead," Anya said.
"Or just naked," Xander said.
Everyone turned to him.
"Braniac here figured it out?" Spike asked Dawn. "Or has someone been doing a little too much talking?"
She turned red. "I didn't mean to."
"She didn't mean to," Xander said. "Just sort of came out."
Anya was clearly still processing. "You mean Giles and Faith are having sex in there?"
"Trust you to get right to the heart of the matter," Willow said.
Tara nudged her. "I know you don't all like her. I mean I didn't either when I first met her. But she seems different now. Her energy is all smooth." Everyone but Willow looked at her in confusion. "When she took over Buffy's body, her personality, I mean even with the confusion of being in somebody else's form, was all disjointed, uneven. Like she had no idea who or what she really was. Now it isn't like that. It just gets smoother and stronger the longer she's with us...but probably most of all with him."
They didn't look convinced.
Tara looked at Willow. "We really aren't in a position to question Mister Giles' right to make an unconventional choice, are we?"
"Question Giles?" Anya said with a smirk. "What about Faith? He's old enough to be her father."
"And you're old enough to be Xander's great to the nth power grandmum, Anya. So what's your point?" Spike asked. "Age is hardly the issue."
"Projecting much, Spike?" Xander wrapped his arms around Anya. "It's okay An, I like older women."
Anya laughed. "I just mean that while it may not make sense, it's okay with me if they want to be lovers."
"I'm sure Giles will be so relieved you approve," Willow replied with a raised eyebrow.
"I think Mister Giles will be much happier if none of us mention this," Tara said softly. "And don't we have some research to do?"
Anya leaned into Xander and whispered something.
He stood up, pulling her with him. "We just remembered there might be books and other useful stuff in the storage room. Downstairs. We'll go look." He pulled Anya behind him.
"It may be a while," she said. "Don't come down."
"Three guesses what they're going to do," Dawn said as they disappeared down the stairs. She looked at the two witches. "There's still the loft or the bathroom if you two need to go off somewhere."
"We're fine." Willow laughed as she took Tara's hand in hers and turned back to her book.
Tara felt Willow squeeze her hand and the enormous love she held for Willow flooded through her. "Yeah, we're fine." She looked sternly at Spike and Dawn. "Don't you two have something to do?"
"Right." "Uh huh." They both picked up books and started to read.
In the silence, they could all hear some interesting sounds from the training room and downstairs. Tara got up and flipped on the cd player. New Age music filled the room, muffling any other sounds. "Now get to work," she said. "We have a friend to get back."
It seemed darker in the portal. If that was possible. Buffy could feel it pulling at her. Trying to make her one with it. Trying to make her lose hold on herself, on her uniqueness.
She fought it. But she didn't think she could hold out much longer.
"Please help me," she whispered into the blackness, not sure that anyone could hear her, much less help her as she tried to fight off the portal's call.
Continue on to Part 3 - Surrender