| Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7 | Ch. 8 | Ch. 9 | Ch. 10 | End Season 1 - Epilogue |
| Begin Season 2 - Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16. | Ch. 17 | Ch. 18 | Ch. 19 | Ch. 20 | Season 2 - Epilogue |
| Ch. 21 | Ch. 22 | Ch. 23 | Ch. 24 | Ch. 25 | Ch. 26 | Ch. 27 | Ch. 28 | Ch. 29 | Ch. 30 | Season 3 - Epilogue |
| Toilet Demons Project |
| Ch. 31 | Ch. 32 | Ch. 33 | Ch. 34 |

TITLE: It Starts With Faith
CHAPTER: Twenty Four
AUTHOR: Dreiser
EMAIL: dreiser0@earthlink.net
ICQ #: 37674780
HOMEPAGE: http://www.lvdi.net/~reddeath/dreiser.htm
ISWF ARCHIVES: http://www.pinkrabbit.simplenet.com/ http://members.aol.com/xwpmom/dreiser.htm
CONTENT: F/F romance. Don't like it, don't read it.
SUMMARY: An alternate reality series that places Faith as the one true slayer aka the chosen one for her generation.

DISCLAIMER: I own nothing but my foot, which since I don't want to do physical therapy for it, still hurts. Stupid foot, I curse thee to the darkest planes of hell!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: <Sings off key.> Lemme tell you a lil story 'bout a fic named ISWF... the stars of it were a dark Slayer and her butchess gf... then one day one of them went bad... and for some reason, this made certain readers glad... but I'm here to say right here and now... this fic will always be about their love and things going bang pow! <End song.> Okay, I'm dorky.

It Starts With Faith
By: Dreiser

-Twenty Four-

Two days had passed since Willow returned but it was only just now that her friends got to see her. This was because of a number of things, the first being her parents not wanting to let her out of their sight and the second that the press felt the same way. That and her stay in the hospital along with the Police questioning.

When she finally got to see her friends, Willow couldn't help but notice that one of them was missing. She gave Vince a questioning look and her boyfriend wordlessly mouthed that Faith was in the downstairs gym located in the magic shop. She frowned at this but soon felt herself enveloped in another hug as Xander held her tight, telling her how good it was to have her back.

"And don't EVER do that again," Xander said in clearly scolding tones, shaking his finger hard at Willow as he pulled out of the embrace he held her in. "You had all of us scared out of our minds, you know that?"

"I know," said Willow, smiling softly. Her green eyes twinkled just a bit as she added, "I love you too, Xander."

"Yeah, well," Xander blushed bright red. "Ditto."

"My boyfriend here," reminded Amy teasingly, moving in for her hug. Murmuring into Willow's ear she said in tender tones, "We missed you."

"Same here," Willow replied, her voice husky.

After separating from the blonde witch, Willow's eyes immediately sought out the person who seemed to be holding back. Buffy was hovering in the back of the room, her eyes anxious and rather hesitant as they met hers.

Moving forward, Willow slowly reached her hands out to hold Buffy's and pulled the Slayer towards her. As she did this, Willow swore that she felt the other girl sigh heavily with relief as Buffy collapsed softly against her body, almost trembling.

"Vince told me how you helped him," Willow whispered, her cheek pressed against Buffy's soft blonde crown of curls. "Thank you... for being his rock just like you're always mine."

"No problem," Buffy managed to say through the tears she was holding back, her voice rough. "Just... just promise me that you'll never do that again? We need for you to work with us, not protect us, Will."

"I know," said Willow softly. A moment later, when Buffy raised her head to look at her with skeptical hazel eyes, she added sheepishly, "Now."

"That's what I thought," said Buffy a bit smugly.

Putting an arm lightly around Buffy's waist, Willow walked them back over to Jenny and Giles who looked at her with warm and welcoming eyes.

"We have a problem," Willow said finally.

"Same old Will, she cuts to the chase with an amazing Ginsu knife that she got at low price value," Xander quipped humorously as everyone gave him droll looks.

Focusing on the group, who despite Xander's joke, all wore solemn faces, Willow said, "You know then?"

"Yes," said Giles in sad and quiet tones. "Faith discovered Cordelia's... condition some days ago."

"What are we going to do about it?" asked Willow, her eyes and voice grave. "Cordelia's dangerous, we all know that. We've seen what she can do."

"Faith wants to cure her," Buffy said softly. The blonde Slayer was focused on the door to the back room where the entrance to the downstairs gym was located. "I think that's what we should do too. Find a way to bring the Cordelia that we know back." Turning her head, she focused on Willow and asked, "Can you do that? Faith told me she thinks that you might be able to. That or some friend of yours... I can't remember his name."

"Zac," supplied Willow in distant tones, her eyes growing cloudy as she said the vampire's name. "He can tell if a vampire has a soul but he can't call them into being for those without them. And... neither can I."

"So you can't help her," said Buffy finally.

"No," Willow whispered sadly, giving a sharp shake of her head as she bit her lip, trying to hold back the tears as Vince moved to hold her gently from behind. She leaned back against her boyfriend and said, "I wish that I could help Cordelia but I can't. I don't have the power to do that right now. I wish that I did."

"What do we do then?" asked Amy, breaking the silence as everyone looked at her. "We're not really going to fight with Cordelia... are we? I mean," Amy wore what could only be called an anxious expression as she went on. "I don't think I can do that and I'm pretty sure that Faith won't be able to do that either."

Heaving a sigh, Giles took off his glasses and giving them a long inspection before cleaning them, he said, "We'll simply do what we've always done. Do our best in the fight against darkness and help one another. And," he paused to look at the group. "Support Faith in every way. Perhaps with time and research the solution to the problem with Cordelia will emerge."

"Exactly," Jenny agreed with a nod. "We have to keep hope alive. Hope that we'll have Cordelia back with us one day and hope that even if we can't, that she'll find peace. But we know what we have to do now, right?"

"Beat Kakistos down," offered Xander firmly, his eyes filled with determination. Pausing to give a goofy grin that was still charming, he added, "And help out Faith."

"Good answer," said Vince, grinning at Xander.

"Hey, you're not the only sensitive male in Sunnydale, band boy," Xander replied jokingly.

Vince was still grinning from his banter with Xander as he turned back to Willow. Leaning down, he murmured in her ear, "Go talk with her. You know that she's waiting for you, we all do."

"Vince," said Willow lovingly, her green eyes lifting up to meet his brown ones. Reaching out to cup his cheek, she met his lips in a light kiss and said gently, "Thank you."

"No," Vince whispered in choked tones, holding Willow against him for a long moment. "It's me who has to thank you for coming back, Red. I don't think that any of us could've gone on if you hadn't. Me especially."

Smiling tenderly, Willow slowly released her hold on her boyfriend and turned to look at Buffy who had an odd expression on her face from watching their heartfelt exchange. The blonde soon snapped to attention and offered Willow a hesitant smile.

"She's this way," Buffy said, leading Willow silently out of the room and towards Faith.

As she did so, Buffy prayed with all of her heart that talking with Willow could bring Faith back to them and out of the virtual haze the other Slayer had been living in the past two days. But even as she thought this, Buffy felt part of herself warring against this hope. How can anyone, no matter how very special they are, help someone deal with losing the love of their life?

And losing her to your worst enemy at that. Was there a way to get over that? A way to heal from that? If there was, Buffy was hoping that Willow would know about it.

Because she sure as hell didn't.

---

Trick was irritated.

No, he was more than irritated. He was mad, he was angry, and he was definitely fuming. And the person that he was directing all these emotions and more at didn't seem to care in the slightest that he felt this way.

In fact, she looked rather bored with him.

"Okay," Cordelia pronounced, applying another coat of paint on her fingernails. "Tell me again why I should care about what you're saying?"

"You released Nerine!" Trick growled, shifting somewhat into his game face. "Nerine is all that Kakistos has wanted since he's arrived in Sunnydale and you release her! Now she's back with the Slayers and to top it all off, she probably knows secrets about our operation!"

"Probably," said Cordelia airily. She lifted up her hand to blow on her fingernails lightly, looking quite like a princess. Wearing a thoughtful expression, she murmured, "It's so hard to match fingernail color with pale skin."

"Are you listening to me?!" shouted Trick.

"Unfortunately, yes," Cordelia replied dryly, not looking up from her fingernails as she started to paint her left hand. "I'm not deaf and I don't have ear plugs. But know that I'm SO adding 'yet' to the end of that sentence."

"Why did you release her?" Trick tried again, clenching his jaw and doing his best to control his temper.

After asking this, Trick looked over to Iris who gave a silent shrug by way of reply. She'd already tried talking to Cordelia and Trick had to take over for her once she blew her top. They were now starting to recall why they'd taken to avoiding the newborn vampire that was Kakistos' Childe. Not only did she have more than a few screws loose, she was also just as enigmatic as her sire. Which made her hard to deal with to say the least.

"I released her because it's my job," Cordelia said, heaving a large and exaggerated sigh. She looked up from painting her nails and said, "Are we finished now? Because this isn't as easy as it looks, you know. Painting fingernails is a little known art."

"No, we're not finished," said Trick tightly. Closing his eyes and rubbing his forehead, trying his best to get rid of the headache he felt building, he asked, "What do you mean by saying that it's your job?"

"I wish Daddy was here, I hate having to talk with the help," Cordelia grumbled, focusing back on her job of painting her nails once more. "I said it's my job because it is my job. The only reason I'm here, that Daddy turned me, is because he wants me to torment the Slayers. I have no other purpose than that," said Cordelia coldly, her hazel eyes hard as she turned to look at Trick and Iris. "I know that, you know that, they even know that."

"But how does releasing Nerine help your cause?" asked Iris calmly, a touch of curiosity in her voice.

"She knows what I am now, more than anyone else, and she'll tell them because they'll make her tell them, and that will surely torment the Slayers," Cordelia replied harshly. "Now do you understand? It's just the first of many torments that's to come."

Meeting their eyes, Trick and Iris felt a mutual chill run through their bodies as they discovered a bit more of how their newest colleague's mind worked.

Unaware of their condition, Cordelia blew on her nails and pulling back to look at them, she formed a slow smile and then drawled, "Pretty." Tipping her head up to look at the two other vampires, she said, "Daddy's coming back tonight. We should prepare a feast for him."

"A feast?" echoed Trick and Iris, watching as Cordelia flounced out of the room talking to herself.

"A feast of feasts!" Cordelia said playfully, throwing her hands into the air as she walked out of the room. "First we'll have to decorate... then we'll have to find all the best people to eat. Foreign ones with titles even!"

Observing Cordelia, the couple wondered just what Kakistos had gotten himself and them into with his latest choice in proteges. That and if the pain that she caused the Slayers by being a part of their organization was really worth all of this trouble.

Doubts accompanied both of these thoughts.

Doubts and feelings of dread about just what Cordelia really meant when she said the word 'feast.'

---

The only thing that Faith enjoyed lately was her workouts in the elaborate gym beneath Techno Pagan Ltd. Well, it wasn't even that she enjoyed her work outs, it was more that she enjoyed what they did for her. And what they did for her was simple. They stopped her from thinking, they forced all the worries from her mind and allowed her to focus on one thing only. Preparing for the battle to come.

Through the fighting, through the katas, through the sweat and the tears that all of these brought on, Faith felt just a tiniest bit of relief fill her system. She couldn't ever forget what happened to Cordelia, what she thought she allowed to happen, but she could push it away in the back of her mind while working out.

That's why Faith was in the gym now, slicing her new wooden sword through the air with deadly precision. Dark brown eyes lidded, chest heaving just slightly from exhaustion, her muscular body cut through the air like a knife, the intentions it held just as dangerous as the dance that she was now performing.

Only two things could distract Faith from her current task. No, not two things. Only two people. And it just happened one of them was observing her now.

So pausing in her work out, arm stretched out as she performed a powerful thrust of her sword, Faith's gaze slowly sought the person out. When brown eyes met green, she felt her heart contract, and lowering her sword as her body relaxed by infinite degrees, Faith said hoarsely, "Will."

"Faith," whispered Willow in return.

The redhead moved down the stairs in a fast run and the two girls met in the center of the work out mat for a close hug. Just like Buffy before her, Faith seemed to let all the tension go out of her body with their embrace. Bonelessly, Faith slid down onto the floor, taking Willow with her as the other girl held her tight.

Burying her face in Willow's neck and breathing in the comforting scent of incense that clung there, Faith said in husky tones, "They got Cordelia... you know that, right? I... I was so afraid that they got you too."

"They didn't," Willow reassured. "I'm here... I'm back and I'm not going anywhere."

"You can say that now," said Faith roughly, pulling out of their embrace and wiping her tears away with the back of her hand. "But you never know what'll happen, Will."

"I know," Willow said sadly, acknowledging that Faith didn't want to hear any empty promises from her.

Averting her eyes, Faith looked over at Buffy who was hovering at the far end of the room, right by the stairs that led down into the gym. Upon seeing Faith focusing on her, Buffy jumped a little and looked nervous.

"That's my cue to skeedaddle," began Buffy, backing up the stairs. "Whatever skeedaddling is."

"No," Faith said in firm tones that froze Buffy in her tracks. "I want you to stick around, Buff." She paused then offered a wry and quiet smile. "If you wanna, that is."

"I want to," Buffy said quickly. Perhaps too quickly as she matched Faith's wry smile and said, "I'm really glad that you still want to have me around, Faith."

"Yeah, well," said Faith in gruff tones, her eyes fixed on the mat that she sat on while she felt Buffy join her and Willow. "You're my partner, aren't you?" Faith lifted her gaze to smile at Buffy who returned the gesture, her hazel eyes lighting up. "I not only want you around but I need you around, Buff." Faith then continued with utmost solemnity, "We gotta a big fight coming up and I know that without you we can't win it."

"About that," began Willow cautiously.

Faith turned to look at Willow and on seeing her concerned expression, she immediately said, "This is gonna be bad news, isn't it? Go on," Faith said bravely, though her brown eyes revealed worry. "Tell me. I can handle it."

"Cordelia," whispered Willow, meeting her friend's eyes at first but soon, unable to take the hope living there, the hope she had to snuff out, she averted her gaze. "Right now... I don't know how to bring her back. I can't even tell if she had a soul to begin with. Some vampires, when they're turned, they don't have one. That human part of them slips away... never to return."

Her dark brown eyes going wide, Faith made the softest choking sound, one that vaguely sounded like mad laughter, before she focused her wild gaze on Willow. In a jerky movement, she grabbed onto the redhead's shirt and demanded, "What about Zac? He can do it though, right? He knows about this sorta stuff, that's his whole deal, vampires with souls."

Closing her eyes painfully, unable to take the sight of Faith's pain and desperation, Willow whispered, "No, he can't. Zac... Zac can only sense when vampires have souls buried deep within them. He can't bring them into being. If Cordelia doesn't have a soul anymore... he can't help her."

Lowering her head, Faith squeezed her eyes shut and gripped at the mat, ripping it in her fingers while a low sound of anguish... unbelievable anguish, rose up from her throat to emerge in a terrible scream of animalistic rage. Rising up, Faith ran across the gym, thrashing at what was nearest to her, the punching bag, clawing, punching, kicking, at it until all her energy was spent. Sliding down onto her knees, Faith buried her face on her arms as the tears, the endless stream of tears flowed.

She dimly felt Buffy and Willow's presence. Buffy moving gently in front of her, pulling her forward and into the safe haven of her arms. Willow, her voice soothing as her fingers ran through her hair. Both of them trying their best to calm her, to ease her pain.

But Faith knew... she knew with everything that she was that nothing in this world could do that. Because now, she knew for certain that the girl she loved was truly gone.

And there was nothing she could do to change that.

---

The papers, his notes, the papers, his notes, the papers, and then, yes, his notes again.

That's the order in which David was shifting his span of attention. A few minutes rereading papers that contained information on Willow Rosenburg and Cordelia Chase and then a few minutes rereading his personal notes which said just what he thought about the information.

After doing this for countless hours, David was finally starting to realize something. In essence, he knew next to nothing about these two girls. No matter what he did, no matter who he talked to, David just couldn't get to who they really were. Everything he'd discovered so far was surface, it wasn't them, not really. It was what they let everyone think they were.

Unfortunately, the only people who knew their true selves wouldn't talk to him. He hadn't even had any luck finding out what was going on when he talked to Willow Rosenberg herself. The girl was open enough it seemed, answering all of his questions without any hesitation, much to her parents pleasure, but it still wasn't right to him. It still seemed like there was more there, that Willow had a secret she just couldn't share.

Or wouldn't share.

Either way, David wasn't getting the information that he needed and it was proving very frustrating for him. Especially since, unlike Kate, he didn't genuinely believe that Willow and her friends were bad people. If anything, he thought the opposite of them. That they were good and dedicated people, fighting against something that they felt he shouldn't know about right now.

But then again... what was it Jenny Calendar said to Kate the other day? Just keep her eyes open and she'd know what they knew. He wasn't sure if his old friend was doing that, but he sure was. Because more than anything else, David wanted to understand the motive behind these crimes.

Understand why they happened and understand the person behind them. And to do that, he knew deep inside that he had to do what Jenny Calendar advised.

Mulling over this, David focused back on his notes yet again, when a familiar buzz sounded. Leaning forward, he lightly touched the intercom button and then said, "Let me guess, you want to leave early, Robin."

There was a slight pause as his secretary seemed to mull over this, then her easy drawl answered, "Nope, but thanks for telling me that, boss. I'll take off right after you see this nice lady into your office."

"Nice lady?" asked David, puzzled by this.

"I'm sending her in now," Robin continued, an almost smug tone in her voice. "Be seeing you, boss man."

"But Robin--" began David in protest, calling out to his only employee as the door to his office opened.

As soon as it did, he paused in his sentence and stared at the woman standing before him. She was his age or perhaps a bit older and there was a hard beauty about her. Hard mainly because of the glare she was giving him.

"Hello," greeted David rather warily. "I'm David Benard, Private Investigator. May I help you?"

"Joyce Summers," the woman introduced herself. "And yes, you can. In fact, you can start by leaving my daughter the hell alone."

"Summers," David echoed, his green eyes studying her carefully. "You're Buffy's mother?"

"I am," replied Joyce coolly. "Her mother who is more than a bit sick of hearing about your harassment of her on a daily basis. I've already gone to the Police and complained about your colleague in intimidation, Kate Lockley, so now it's your turn." She then sneered at him in a way that reminded David exactly of Buffy and said, "It must make you feel so good about yourselves, picking on teenagers who are already traumatized by their close friends disappearances." Joyce seemed to calm down, her voice lowering as she said, "Buffy tried to keep what has been happening from me, but I'm her mother, I can tell when something is wrong. I thought that with Willow back you would leave her alone... but today I saw you and your friend Detective Lockley questioning her on the street." A hard look returned to her eyes and Joyce continued, "My daughter obviously doesn't want to talk to you. Leave her alone or I'll be forced to press charges."

Turning on her heel, Joyce started to walk out of the office as she said calmly, "That's all I have to say."

"Wait!"

Stopping on hearing David's voice ring out in the air, Joyce slowly looked to him and was surprised to see him wear a look of contrition on his face.

"I'm sorry," David offered quietly. "For any pain we may have caused you or your daughter but we're trying to solve a murder investigation. We don't have time to be kind about how we operate. And your daughter, whether you want to believe it or not, has vital information that could lead us to a killer."

"My daughter knows no such thing," Joyce said adamantly, her eyes hard once again. "She's a normal girl, with normal--"

"Normal girl?" David repeated, giving an incredulous laugh. Upon seeing the glare that she was directing at him, he said, "I'm sorry, Mrs. Summers, but--"

"Ms. Summers, I'm divorced," said Joyce in tones so cold that David was sure they could freeze over hell or at least some parts of Los Angeles.

"Ms. Summers, then," acknowledged David, giving her a quirky grin. "But like I was saying, Buffy is anything but a normal girl. And as for her friends, they pretty much meet the exact same description. I sure don't know of any normal girls who have the record your daughter has."

"Buffy had some problems in the past, that hardly makes her some sort of freak," Joyce said defensively. "It was during the time her father and I divorced. She was just having some trouble adjusting, that's all."

"So she blew up a gym?" asked David, smirking.

"I fail to see the humor, Mr. Benard," said Joyce, her voice turning cold once again.

Chuckling quietly, David took one of the folders off of his desk and walked towards Joyce. Then handing her the folder, he said, "Buffy not only blew up the gym but eye witnesses said that before she did, she single handedly beat up a hostile gang of 'deformed guys'." He paused to steadily meet Joyce's eyes. "And that's not all, I looked into the police reports, Ms. Summers, other than the incident with the gym your daughter has been brought in repeatedly by the Police before moving here. Each time, they caught her fighting people who were described just the same as those people at the gym."

"Your point is?" asked Joyce sharply, she was holding the folder tightly in her grip but had yet to open it and read what it said about her daughter inside.

"That there's a pattern to Buffy's problems, that's all," murmured David. "And it's a pattern that says to me that Buffy has a secret she's keeping from you. From what I've found out about her, your daughter is a good person who's saved countless people." Pausing again, David got a solemn look in his eyes as he said, "But what I can't figure out is why is she doing this? Why would she get into these fights? Why would a girl who was a cheerleader at one time and seemed to care only about herself, suddenly take to saving people on the street?"

"I'm afraid that I don't have the answers to any of your questions, Mr. Benard," said Joyce quietly, averting her eyes from his as she opened up the folder. For a long moment, she read what was before her, flipping through the papers, and then, lifting her head she met David's eyes with a look of amazement. "Buffy saved all of these people? Are you sure?"

"Positive," replied David with a nod. "I even went up to her old haunts and asked people about her. Some of those statements come directly from the people that I've interviewed. And all of them said the same thing, that if it wasn't for Buffy showing up and beating up these people who attacked them, they would've died."

Her hands shaking, Joyce looked up at David with plaintive blue eyes and said, "I didn't know... I never knew she did these things. She told me she was with her friends. How... how could she have done these things? She's just a girl, Mr. Benard. She's just a girl."

"Yes, she is," David agreed softly, reaching out to steady Joyce's hands with his own gentle grip. "But I think those papers prove she's not a normal girl. In fact, I think they prove that she's an extraordinary one."

There was a long moment of absolute silence as Joyce took in everything that David had said along with everything that she'd just learned about her daughter.

Then, lifting her head, blue eyes met green and in quietly desperate tones Joyce asked, "But why?"

David couldn't give an answer to that.

---

Nothing was on TV.

Correction, nothing good was on TV. And right now, Detective Kate Lockley had nothing to do but watch TV. Well, okay, that was a lie. She could do other things but she really didn't want to. Right now, what she wanted to do was act like a vegetable and stare at the boob tube.

Too bad nothing good was on it.

Finally, Kate settled on watching one of those horribly redundant news magazine shows. This one was talking about a man and his schnauzer being trapped at sea on a tiny raft and the man loving his dog enough not to kill and eat him while out there.

Kate knew that if it had been her trapped on that raft with no food and limited water, Poochie, the living hotdog, would've been going to that little doggie heaven in the sky. Because of this fact, she supposed it was best she didn't have pets.

After watching the man cry over his love for his schnauzer, which somehow seemed very wrong to her, Kate turned off the TV, staring at its blank screen. Surprisingly, she found this just as entertaining as the show she'd been watching. Several minutes passed and Kate just kept on staring at the screen when a thought suddenly occurred to her.

"This," Kate pronounced slowly. "Is pathetic."

Did she really have so little to do? Did she really want to avoid what was going on her life this badly? Did she really have this strange an attention span?

The answers to her questions: yes, yes, and yes.

Heaving a deep sigh, Kate flopped her head back on David's couch and stared at the ceiling. As she did this, she said to herself, "Nothing makes sense anymore and I'm not sure that I'm ready to deal with that."

But she had to deal with that. Because if she didn't then she would never understand what was truly going on in this town and she would never catch her killer. Both of which were things Kate just had to do. Something inside her called out that she had to do it, that she was meant to do it, so do it she must.

The problem was, to understand what was going on Kate would have to talk to HER.

Repressing the urge to shiver, Kate grimaced on just thinking about Jenny Calendar. That woman just got underneath her skin. She was so arrogant, so cunning, so shrewd... and just so... so... argh!!

Yes, to her, Jenny Calendar was argh and so much more. That particular belief left Kate totally unwilling to call the other woman despite the fact that she was holding her business card in her hand.

Well, not unwilling, thought Kate as she stared at the card, the magic shop's number somehow calling out to her. It was more like Kate really, really, really didn't want to call Jenny and hear that expectant tone in her voice.

The tone that said Jenny knew that she'd give in.

Giving in was the last thing Kate wanted to do but she had to know what was going on. She had to know to catch her killer. Which was her top priority right now.

So heaving a sigh, Kate leaned across the couch and picked up David's cordless phone and began dialing the number scrawled out on the business card she held.

Even if it doing this was the next to the last thing that she wanted to do right now.

To call Kate self sacrificing was an understatement.

---

"Hey, G-man, we're heading out on patrol," Faith said as she entered the front of the magic shop where Giles and the others were going about their business.

Which was, in order, Giles fixing himself a cup of tea, Amy and Xander not so subtly making out, and Vince busy flipping through one of the many spell books on the shelves. Faith smirked at the group and the looks of surprise they wore upon seeing her but soon noted that someone was absent from the party.

"Where's Jenny?" asked Faith in somewhat wary tones. As much as she liked the Watcher, she still felt more than a tad anxious whenever she would go off on her own. Maybe because unlike Giles, Jenny just didn't tend to think before she took action. Though lately it looked like she was doing her best to change that habit. "She didn't skip out, did she?"

"She skipped to her doodle," Xander smirked, only to pale when Faith fixed her solemn gaze on him. He coughed, clearing his throat, then said, "I sorta heard a phone ring. At least," he paused to form a very sheepish expression. "That's what I think I heard at the time. I was kind of... occupied."

On hearing this last piece of information, Faith fixed her gaze on Amy now and the blonde witch blushed prettily under this inspection. "Sorry," Amy squeaked.

"That sounded nice," Buffy teased her friend who immediately looked at her. "Ratly noises sound good on you, Amy. Going for a new image, Minnie style?"

"Minnie's a mouse, not a rat, thank you much," retorted Amy huffily, folding her arms across her chest. "And I'm highly insulted that I remind you of her."

"Howzabout you, G-man?" asked Faith, turning to regard her Watcher who was now pouring his tea. "You know where Jenny disappeared to this time?"

"I'm afraid not," said Giles slowly, a trace of guilt apparent in his tone. "I was in the back room, looking for a few items, and when I returned she was gone. But I do recall hearing the phone ring before she left."

"See!" Xander crowed triumphantly. "I got something right, after all. I did hear a phone ring."

"We're proud of you, honey," said Amy who patted his arm as Xander rolled his eyes good naturedly at his girlfriend who gave him a smile.

Buffy and Faith seemed to ponder this before the blonde Slayer turned to look at Vince who'd ended up holding Willow during the short period she talked with Amy. The redhead had her back pressed up against his chest as he held her tenderly around the waist, his chin resting comfortably on the top of her head.

"Vince, my reliable boy wonder, do you have any useful info about my Watcher lady?" asked Buffy, her eyes reflecting affection as she met his chocolate brown gaze.

"Sure do," said Vince, giving Buffy an easy smile. "I heard her say Detective Lockley, so I figure that's who she went to go see. But as for where they went, I'm not really sure. She never said that, far as I heard."

"No problem," said Faith calmly, her eyes glinting with something that none of them had seen in quite some time. A sort of exciting charm that seemed to pull anyone who saw it into Faith's life. But this time, there was a dead look in those beautiful depths as well. Like a part of Faith had died, a spark had gone out, and it wasn't about to return. "We'll just go and find her. After all, isn't hunting part of a Slayers gig, G-man?"

"Yes, but usually it's hunting vampires and other foul creatures, not a wayward Watcher," said Giles in dry but amused tones as he met Faith's gaze.

"Same thing," Faith replied glibly. Turning to Buffy, she smirked and said, "Wanna go on a hunt for your Watcher? Maybe get her outta trouble before she gets herself in too deep? Y'know it's gonna happen, Buff."

"True," said Buffy with a heavy sigh. She paused to give a shrug and continued, "Might as well. We have to do the patrolling thing anyway. Two vamps, one stake."

"Definitely," said Faith, nodding her head. Walking out the door with a confident stride, she called out, "Catch you guys later! We'll head on back once we've got our wacky wayward wandering Watcher under wraps."

Buffy paused at the front door to Techno Pagan Ltd. once Faith had walked outside and locked eyes with the rest of the group who looked a bit shocked. None of them were expecting Faith to revert to her usual self this soon. In fact, some of them were expecting Faith to never act the same way again after discovering what had been done to Cordelia. And seeing the dark Slayer acting this happy after having received the news that as of now, they had no way to return Cordelia's soul, made no sense.

Standing quietly, Buffy offered the smallest and sweetest of smiles, a strange beauty in the pain that they could all see in its forming, and said, "I think this is her way of dealing with things. To not deal with things or to just try and get back to how everything was before..." Buffy trailed off, her expression melancholy as she finished, "Well, you know."

"Yes," said Giles with soft understanding. "We do." He paused and before he went on, everything in his being seemed to implore her. "Protect her for all of us."

"I will," Buffy murmured, her eyes fierce in their promise, telling everyone she would uphold it. "I swear."

With that, Buffy turned on her heel and walked out of the magic shop to join Faith on Lil' Butchy. Watching as the two Slayers drove away, all of their friends shared one clear and unified prayer for their safety.

And that of Jenny Calendar, the wacky wayward wandering Watcher, who never failed to get into trouble.

---

Standing inside one of the many cemeteries in Sunnydale, Jenny looked Kate Lockley in the eye then said in very droll tones, "What are they doing here?"

"I wanted backup," replied Kate, smirking.

Quirking an eyebrow as she looked at David and the blonde woman standing at his side, the latter looking a bit ill at ease, Jenny frowned.

"Detective," began Jenny, turning to focus on Kate, a slow and somewhat mischievous smile spreading across her sculptured features. "Is there some reason why you don't trust yourself to be alone with me?"

"It's not me I don't trust, it's you," Kate growled.

"Me? But I'm a helpless maiden, really I am," Jenny said coyly while pressing her hand lightly to her chest. "Do you want to hear my fetching call of distress?"

"No thanks," said Kate, gritting the words out. "Just show us this big secret of yours. So we can finally understand what's going on in this damn town."

"All right," said Jenny, giving a disappointed sigh. Her gaze locked on the blonde woman once again as she said, "First I really have to know who she is and why she's here. I can't show this to just anyone, you know."

On hearing Jenny say that she didn't know the woman with them, Kate and David blinked in obvious confusion. Seeing this, Jenny looked just as, if not more, confused than they did.

"What?" asked Jenny. "Is there some reason I should know who she is? She doesn't know me, does she?" Looking at the blonde woman, she asked, "You don't know me, do you?"

"No, I don't," the blonde woman shook her head. "I'm here because I was talking with Mr. Benard when Detective Lockley called. He seemed to think whatever you were going to show them would be important to me as well. Although I'm not quite sure why."

Jenny frowned at this and was about to ask David just why he thought that when she heard the familiar sound of soil breaking apart and a horrible groan. As she whirled around, Jenny pulled a stake from her jacket and said, "It's too late now. What I brought you here to see is rising a bit early tonight."

"What are you...?" Kate began, only to trail off in a combination of shock and horror.

In this state, she and the others watched as a man clawed his way out of the ground. His features were deformed and horrible, and his eyes glowed bright yellow as they focused on Kate. Opening his mouth, he revealed a pair of sharp fangs as he snarled, "Humans, you will feed me."

"Sorry," Jenny interrupted immediately and the vampire turned his attention to her with some surprise as the stake she held entered his undead heart. "Not happening."

Replacing the stake in her jacket, Jenny turned to face her three wide eyed companions, and dusting off her hands, she said calmly, "That's our secret and that's what you need to understand. What I, and all my friends, do is fight vampires. Which is what that just was. They're nasty and vicious creatures for the most part, with a few souled exceptions here and there. But right now, the only ones we have in town are the ones who'd feed on a person just as soon as look at them. And our job is to stop them."

Before Kate or David could reply to this, the blonde woman, whom Jenny had still not been introduced to, fainted, causing the P.I. to catch her in his strong arms.

"She took that well," said Jenny wryly. She was about to ask David just how much his friend knew about the supernatural and the like when a well known voice sounded in the night air. And for some reason, the voice sounded fairly panicked.

"MOM!!"

Nervously moving her head to one side, Jenny watched as Buffy ran towards them at top speeds, with Faith trailing close behind her. Taking in the sight of both Slayers, Jenny said weakly to herself, "I'm in trouble."

Which was nothing new to her, of course. 

Continue to Chapter 25

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