| 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 five
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 own two eyes with which I search the entertainment world for subtext. The current target? All My Children and Bianca Montgomery.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The fall quarter for my school starts soon so chapters might be coming a bit slower because of that. Ah, the joy of learning... gotta love it.

It Starts With Faith
By: Dreiser

-Twenty Five-

Sometimes Buffy had nightmares. No, that was a lie. Most always Buffy had nightmares and she figured that Faith had them as well. Especially lately, considering the current circumstances they were in.

They never talked about their nightmares though. It was just something left unspoken between them. They both knew it was there, that they had them, that maybe at times they even shared the same ones. But still, they didn't talk about them.

Unheard, unsaid, unreal.

Perhaps that was their line of thought. That if they didn't talk about them then maybe they would just go away. A wishful sentiment, for certain, but one they still had.

Or was it something else?

To them, it seemed like even if they did want to talk to each other about the nightmares, about the pain they felt inside that got released every night, they couldn't figure out how to do so. How to say the words. How to explain what they were going through.

Instead of talking, the Slayers fought, and fought with all their strength and energy. Sometimes against their enemies, sometimes against one another. But they always, always, fought. It was the thing that kept them alive.

The thing that kept them moving forward.

Lately, for three days now, Buffy hadn't been having her usual nightmares. Instead, she dreamt not of what could've been but something that actually occurred.

And even though the situation itself was traumatic, it hardly qualified as something of nightmarish quality.

The dream started the exact same way that the event did. Her mother fainting, Buffy shouting at the top of her lungs, and Jenny staring at her with a wide eyed look that said, in so many words, 'oh shit.'

Then came the explanation. Jenny's wonderful explanation about why she'd revealed to Joyce, in an all too blunt manner, just why Sunnydale had so many pale residents.

Because, she didn't know who Joyce was!

She had absolutely no idea in the world that Joyce was Buffy's mother and then proceeded to say, with far too much attitude in Buffy's opinion, that as far as she was concerned, Buffy could've been raised by baboons.

The latter statement Faith found all too funny and in real life, and the dream, she cracked up over it. Buffy on the other hand, didn't like being associated with baboons.

Who knows why?

Jenny then proceed to explain, very quickly, that as her Watcher she was only to watch Buffy's development as a Slayer. Which had nothing at all to do with the details of her personal life. Of course she'd read about Buffy's family but she hadn't gone so far to look at pictures of them.

These words managed to calm Buffy down somewhat. It being somewhat because now Buffy had to try her best to tell her mother what being a Slayer meant and why she'd kept it a secret from her. Oh, and the fact that Faith was still laughing over the baboon joke of Jenny's.

Then came the doom and gloom portion.

Joyce waking up and wanting to know just what was going on and Buffy... having to deal with that lost and hurt look in her mother's eyes as Jenny explained. The only thing she found good about the situation was that somehow or another Faith ended up holding hands with her. Which helped make Buffy feel a little bit better about the situation.

She supposed that it could've gone worse. Like instead of getting hurt, her Mom could've fainted again, or freaked out and yelled at her and the others. Instead, she seemed to take things pretty level headed. At least, once that P.I. guy, David, started talking to her some.

The dream pretty much went on from there the same way the real life counterpart had. With Giles and Jenny doing their best to explain everything to her Mom, Kate, and David as they all asked questions. Buffy and Faith remaining silent until the whole Slayer issue came up and finding support from all their friends.

Mostly from Willow, whose staunch tone of voice and solemn gaze brooked no arguments from those who were in hearing and seeing range of them. And Buffy had to admit, the girl could be damn scary when she wanted.

Buffy always woke up during the same part of the dream, something that never actually happened in real life. It was Faith, turning towards her with empty eyes that bore steadily into Buffy.

Then she would ask quietly, "Was it worth it?"

And with that, Buffy would wake. The words ringing in her ears as sweat ran over her body. Faith's dead expression that was closed off to the world stuck firmly in her mind, unable to leave.

Today was no exception.

When Joyce knocked on her door, saying that it was time to wake up, that she shouldn't be late for her first day of school, Buffy had that last image in her mind.

"Why?" Buffy muttered to herself, running her fingers through her hair, her breathing a bit shallow. "Why do I keep dreaming this? Does it mean something?"

Shaking her head a bit, Buffy got up out of bed and wandered out into the hall for her morning shower. It was something she'd have to think about later because right now she was on a tight schedule. Especially if she wanted to be ready when Faith came to pick her up.

Forty five minutes later, after much primping and pondering over outfit choice, Buffy walked downstairs and into the kitchen where Joyce waited for her. Immediately on seeing her mother's face, Buffy knew what she wanted.

Joyce had 'the talk' face on. And the talk face meant one thing only to Buffy: that her Mom either had something sad or something serious to say. Or maybe both.

Just once Buffy wanted to see her mother use the talk face to announce that she would be getting a new wardrobe.

She wanted this but she knew it wasn't too likely.

"Buffy," began Joyce, patting the seat next to hers at the kitchen table. "Sit down with me for a minute."

Wordlessly, Buffy did as her mother asked, looking at her with expectant hazel eyes. As she did this, she found herself wondering just what the discussion topic was going to be. Her job as a Slayer or... well, the actual slaying.

"I'm starting to understand your destiny, as Jenny calls it, but I don't like it," said Joyce firmly. Her blue eyes turned soft and she added, "I don't like you in danger."

"Mom, I have to do this," Buffy protested. "They--"

"Need you, yes, I know," Joyce interrupted, smiling gently as she reached out to clasp Buffy's hands in hers. "I can see that just like I can see how much you need them. Buffy," Joyce seemed to trail off, searching for what to say next. "I'm not sure how to say this but... be careful. I don't want you getting hurt... I've talked to Jenny about this and she says you're careful on patrols. But really how careful can you be fighting those creatures?" asked Joyce, her eyes solemn. "Just... just know that I love you. I don't quite support all of this yet, but I'll always love you."

"Mom," said Buffy in husky tones. "Thanks."

"My baby," said Joyce quietly, her voice echoing with love while she gently caressed Buffy's cheek. "You've grown up so fast, do you know that?"

"Must be the Slayer powers," Buffy laughed through her tears, which she was wiping away quickly. "They make everything speed up metabolism wise. That's the only reason that Faith and I aren't as big as houses, considering how much we both eat."

"Too bad it doesn't apply to Slayers mothers as well," Joyce teased, smiling with her daughter.

"Yeah, too bad," said Buffy, watching as Joyce stood up and crossed the kitchen, putting away some of the stray dishes in the sink. "Mom?" she asked hesitantly.

"Yes, Buffy?" Joyce kept putting the dishes away.

"Do you... think I'm weird now?" asked Buffy, freezing when her mother turned to look at her with an expression of surprise. "Because of the slaying."

"Oh, Buffy," whispered Joyce. Taking a fast walk forward, she was instantly in front of her daughter, pulling her up and into a hug. "Of course I don't. I think you're a hero... I know everything that you did back home. How you helped all of those people and I couldn't be more proud of you if I tried." Pulling away, Joyce cupped Buffy's face in her hands and said firmly, "You're not weird. What you are is a very caring and special girl who happens to have an unusual life compared to others."

Instead of replying to her mother's words, Buffy simply blinked back her fresh set of tears and moved back into her embrace for another hug. Which was how the two of them remained for several moments until they separated due to Buffy's empty stomach growling loudly.

Laughing together, Buffy watched as Joyce went about fixing her breakfast, and realized this time she was actually glad to get the talk. Because this time, it had finally done her some good.

Well, some good that she would admit.


Having your head pounced on isn't much fun.

And yet, that was the way that Monet chose to wake Faith up each and every morning. The worst part of it was that Faith just couldn't manage to stay angry at the calico cat who would always barrage her with snuggles after his not so vicious pouncing attack.

Currently, Faith was in the middle of the snuggles barrage, as Monet rubbed his face against her cheek. With a chuckle, she reached out to scratch behind his ears as the cat purred with certain fond appreciation.

"Hey, kitty," said Faith, her voice rough from sleep. "Feeling bored, huh? Or just pounce crazy?"

Monet replied by licking her face.

"All right," Faith laughed on feeling the sandy tongue touch her face. "That's a little too much affection for your new Mommy. Howzabout we get up outta bed and make some breakfast?"

On hearing the word breakfast, Monet purred loudly, rubbing his head against Faith's side as the Slayer sat up in bed.

"Oh yeah, you want food," said Faith with humor, swinging her feet over the edge of the bed and getting out of it. "Priorities first, kitty cat," Faith said as she opened her bedroom door and walked towards the kitchen. "Food then shower."

Monet's response was a loud meow of agreement.

With familiarity, Faith moved into her new morning routine, reaching into the cabinet to pull out one of the cans of cat food and opening it. Placing the food in the dish, Faith smiled on seeing Monet waiting patiently for her to finish. Only when Faith placed his water bowl next to his food did the calico cat start eating.

"You got great eating manners, y'know?" Faith murmured to the cat, watching him daintily eat his food. "It sorta reminds me of..." Faith trailed off as a look of pain crossed her features. Shaking her head, Faith went over to the refrigerator and opened it up, pulling out the remains of the pizza she'd had with Giles last night. "She'll be back... I'll bring her back," said Faith with quiet resolve. "I have to... 'cause I can't live without her."

Finished eating now, Monet looked at the Slayer who was caught up in her thoughts, and walked over to her. Sitting in front of her, he meowed sympathetically.

"Yeah," said Faith, looking down at him. "I know what you're saying, kitty. You're saying, 'cheer the hell up, Faith, it'll work out in the end', right?"

Monet studied her for a moment then batted at her foot, making a lazy swipe that just barely tickled them.

Chuckling at this, Faith said, "Yeah, yeah, I getcha. No more moping, it's time for action. Namely cook myself some pizza before I starve action."

Heating up the pizza in the microwave, Faith leapt up to sit on the counter, aimlessly kicking the shelves with her the heels of her feet. Monet watched her carefully from where he sat below, his green eyes slightly lidded.

"I don't think she's coming back," Faith confessed after several long moments of silence. Moving her gaze to look at the cat, she whispered hoarsely, "I really don't."

The air was silent once again as Faith tightened her jaw, squeezing her eyes shut to stop the flow of tears.

"I wanna bring her back," Faith continued softly. Her head was tilted back now, resting lightly against the pantry. "Because I know that I'm not gonna be right without her but I got this awful sinking feeling that it's just not gonna happen."

She looked down at Monet who moved forward to stand on his hind legs, his paws reaching out to clasp her feet in his furry grasp. Laughing at this, Faith said in husky tones, "You're a trip, kitty cat. Sometimes it's like you know exactly what I'm saying."

"Perhaps he's telepathic."

"Funny," Faith drawled, smiling at Giles as he walked into the kitchen wearing his usual robe. A funky green silk number with little books on it that Faith had gotten for him last Christmas out of perverse humor. As much as it looked silly on him, Faith was touched that it was the only robe he wore these days. Looking down at Monet who was sitting now, staring up at her, she asked, "Are you my psychic kitty friend?"

Tilting his head to one side, Monet seemed to consider this before he looked at Giles and meowed in tones that resonated vaguely with sarcasm.

"I think that's a no, G-man," Faith chuckled.

"Pity," Giles sniffed, moving to open up the refrigerator and pulling out a container of orange juice. "If he had telepathic powers he might be of use to us."

"G-man," said Faith in slow and drawn out tones that sounded like they were meant for a child. "He's a cat, he doesn't have to be of use to anyone. His big job in life is to sometimes act cuddly so folks love him."

"I'd like to be a cat then," murmured Giles. He turned to hand Faith a glass of orange juice then smiled as he said, "Sounds like they have a fairly easy life."

"When compared with us? Hell yeah," agreed Faith smoothly, accepting the juice and taking a sip of it.

All was quiet for a moment and Giles studied Faith who seemed to be peaceful enough but he knew better. He knew that inside she was suffering, so opening his mouth, he started to offer her words of comfort when she cut him off.

"Y'know," Faith began suddenly, looking at Giles who still had his mouth opened. "Even if Monet was some sorta psychic friend kitty how would we know? And how would he even be of any help to us? He can't talk."

Blinking at this, Giles wondered if Faith was purposefully keeping him from asking what he was about to ask her. "Telepathy is the ability to read minds. If he truly had such abilities then his inability to talk would be moot. He'd speak to us in our minds."

"Yeah, but cats got their own language I figure," mused Faith, looking at Monet who was still gazing up at her with a lidded expression. "How likely is it that he's gonna speak to me mentally in English? I'm thinking all I'd hear was him meowing."

"An apt point..." Giles murmured, frowning now. "Perhaps the powers would allow him to access all of the different information in human brains, thereby letting him learn human languages as well." He paused for a second then blinked and taking off his glasses, he pinched the bridge of his nose and said to himself, "Why are we even discussing this?"

"Because it's interesting?" offered Faith lamely.

"Faith," said Giles softly, heaving a sigh. "We really ought to have a discussion about--"

Before Giles could finish his sentence, he was interrupted yet again. But this time it wasn't Faith and her theories about Monet and telepathy, rather, it was the ding of the microwave and Faith retrieving her breakfast.

Taking the pizza out of the microwave, Faith stared at the plate that she'd just set on the counter and said in stark tones, "I know that you wanna talk, G-man. Everyone does lately. But I don't so... please don't try and make me, okay?"

"You shouldn't put all of this onto your own shoulders," Giles said, not heeding Faith's request. "It isn't your fault, there was no way you could've known."

"Yeah," said Faith in rough and grating tones. "Just like there's no way that I can help her now. I screw up and Cordelia gets stuck as a vamp. That's real fair."

"Life isn't fair, Faith," murmured Giles. "Sometimes horrible things happen and they don't seem to make any sense at all but everything does happen for a reason. I believe that, I have to in order to go on." Taking a step forward, he clasped her shoulders gently. "We shouldn't give up hope of finding a cure for Cordelia just yet. Not until we've used every available option."

Closing her eyes, Faith gave a gruff laugh and asked, "What're we gonna do when our options are up?"

"What we have to," Giles responded softly.

Trembling quietly, Faith turned around to bury her face in Giles chest, her hands grasping to the sides of his robe as he held her close. "I don't wanna fight her," Faith sobbed, her voice choked. "I... I still love her."

"I know," whispered Giles, grief in his voice.

Observing this, Monet walked towards the pair and rubbed his head against their legs, purring softly, trying in his own way to offer them both comfort.

Laughing softly, Faith pulled away from Giles and wiped at her tears before kneeling to face Monet. "You're really worried about us, huh, kitty cat?"

For the second time that morning, Monet licked Faith on the face, causing the Slayer to laugh harder.

"All right," Faith said fondly, reaching out to scratch under the cat's chin. "Getting a little too close for my comfort again, kitty." She paused, then said in low and conspiratorial tones, "Only one special lady gets to lick me. Get my drift?"

In response, Monet licked Faith again.

"It appears he doesn't know how to take no for an answer," said Giles humorously. "I wonder why?"

"Simple," said Faith, smirking as she rose to her feet, picked up her plate of pizza, and headed towards their tiny kitchen table. "He's a boy cat."

Seconds later, Giles and Monet released their own versions of irate replies to this remark. Both of which Faith found entirely too funny.


"I don't know if this is a good idea," said Xander nervously, following after his girlfriend none the less.

Xander wasn't sure what he was feeling more anxious about, the fact that he was at Amy's house fairly early in the morning and her father was still around or what they were going into the attic to retrieve. Certainly, he knew why he was anxious about the first. Xander had yet to win Amy's father over and the man could give some very scary glares when he wanted to. Still, Xander didn't dislike him for his behavior. He was just being a protective father after not having his daughter for so long.

Then there was the second thing he was anxious about. The reason why they were headed up to the attic in the small house Amy and her father lived in. Because that was where they had put her mother's most powerful spell books. The ones that her father didn't want her going near. And from what Xander heard in more than one fight they had, the books weren't just powerful, they were also a source of great magical knowledge. Some of them even holding the ability to summon certain deities.

Perhaps it was their protection that kept the books from being destroyed. Since Edward Madison, or Ed as he liked to be called, had tried several different ways of getting rid of them. The most recent was a huge spell book burning ceremony.

Except that the books wouldn't burn. Hence them being placed up in the attic inside of a large chest that had a lock and a guardian spell safely attached to it.

Ed claimed to have no problems with his little girl practicing magic but when it came to the spells that were in those books the message was clear. And the message said hands off and because of that, Xander was anxious.

Just what did those books have in them that they could make Ed, a guy who was fairly easy going when it came to magic, having a sister, ex-wife, and daughter who practiced it regularly, this apprehensive about them?

"You worry too much," Amy replied as she first pulled down the hatch to the attic then the small ladder that led up there.

"I worry, therefore I live," Xander said solemnly. "That's my motto and maybe it should be yours too. I don't think I'm ready to look for another lady love."

"Uh huh," said Amy with a definite smirk, climbing up the ladder and into the attic. "Like you could even find another one inside Sunnydale town limits."

"Ouch," Xander clutched at his heart. "Shot down. You're such a brutal girlfriend, I'm feeling abused."

"I somehow doubt your abuse claims," Amy's voice called down and heaving a sigh, Xander gave into the inevitable and climbed up the ladder.

Looking around the dusty attic, Xander felt his nose twitch and tried to restrain the urge to sneeze. It'd be just his luck that the sneeze would be loud enough to alert Ed to what they were doing.

In the meantime, Amy was busy searching the attic for the forbidden spell books. After a few moments, she came upon a large black chest and on seeing the lock attached to it she grinned.

"Bingo," Amy whispered. "I've hit the magic motherload."

"Yes," said Xander, giving a nervous laugh as he looked at the various things in the attic. Various things that just freaked him out. There was something wrong with a Slip'n'Slide being placed next to a demonic alter. "It being the motherload because those were your mother's books. Naughty magic books that Ed said we shouldn't go near and he glared at me when he said that, you know. A deep, penetrating, 'I will kick your ass if you disobey me', glare was what I got. So maybe we should just leave the motherload here before he shows up, huh? We can always do this when he's not around you know."

"Actually, we can't," said Amy, studying the lock closely, holding it up into the light as she formed a look of concentration. "Daddy's in between work right now. It'll be at least a week until his next construction job so until then he's hanging out at the house doing fixer upper stuff. And we don't have time to wait until he'll leave the house to see what's inside these books anyway."

"Yeah?" asked Xander, his eyes were now focused on the figurine of a naked snake woman that stood in the middle of Barbie's Dreamhouse. As much as he loved Amy he was starting to find her home life a bit disturbing. "Do me a favor and tell me why that is because right now as I stare at the various scary things in here I'm drawing a blank."

Amy didn't reply as her blonde eyebrows knitted together and seconds later, her sky blue eyes flashed with fire and the iron lock she held in her hands melted. This left the chest before her almost ready to open.

"All right," Amy said in softly triumphant tones. "Now I just have to get rid of Aunt Stephanie's guardian spell that's supposed to keep people away."

"People? People like us, right?" Xander instantly picked up on this. "It's guarding the books so maybe you shouldn't mess with it. I once made the mistake of trying to get a football that landed too close to a bird nest out of the tree, and I have to say... when birds are guarding their eggs, you stay away unless you like peckings. This spell your aunt cast will peck at you if you--"

"Xander," interrupted Amy smoothly. "Calm down. We're just getting a few of my mother's books. That's all."

Laughing nervously yet again, Xander rubbed the back of his head and said, "Yeah, that's all. Except those books have some big boom power mojo going on with them. I think I heard your dad saying 'end of the world' to you at one point and I don't think he was referring to when he'll finally approve of me as your boyfriend."

"Daddy likes you," Amy reassured, her eyes were narrowed as a golden glow surrounded her entire body and the chest in front of her. "He's just very not good at showing it."

"I'm starting to think that we have vastly different definitions of words," Xander murmured to himself.

Ignoring Xander's naysaying, Amy watched as the chest snapped open to reveal a pile of books that looked just as old as anything Giles and Jenny would have in their collection. Pulling out the first one, Amy flipped it open and when she did, she felt a rush of power fill her body.

Looking at his breathless and wide eyed girlfriend, Xander moved to her side. Clasping her shoulders, he asked, "Are you feeling okay?" When she didn't respond, he continued in certain fright, "Amy? What's wrong?"

"These books," Amy whispered, her voice reflecting awe. "I know why Daddy didn't want me near them now... why Mother kept them with her always."

"Why?" asked Xander, both concerned and curious.

"Because," said Amy, turning to meet Xander's eyes. "These are the books that summon them. The ones to call upon their power, protection, and wisdom."

"What are you talking about?" Xander pursued, worried about how his girlfriend was acting stranger than usual.

Forming the sweetest of smiles, one that Xander thought just might break his heart, Amy said, "The Powers That Be."

Everything was silent as a long moment of tension passed and then Xander formed a rather perplexed expression.



Magic is a powerful thing.

It's something that can shift reality so that its user might change things according to their will. Which all in all, makes it fairly dangerous to use.

That's probably why Willow didn't practice much magic even though she retained that knowledge from her past life. She'd much rather leave the spell casting duties to Amy who seemed to enjoy the hint of danger that using magic gave to its users.

But right now, Willow didn't have any choice. She had to use magic, she had to use her knowledge, because if she didn't her parents would move out of town and take her along with them. And that wasn't something she could let happen. She had to stay in Sunnydale, for her sake and the sake of everyone living there.

Everyone here needed her. Faith especially because of what happened to Cordelia. And Cordelia... she had to help bring her back to herself. She wasn't like Zac and Brendan, their destiny took them outside the reach of the Hellmouth. But Willow knew that just wasn't true for herself. She was meant to stay and fight with Faith and the rest of the Scoobies, she was meant to help protect the world.

So closing her eyes, Willow murmured the final verses to the spell that would alter her parents opinions about a few things. Namely them leaving Sunnydale so Willow would stay far away from her friends.

She knew in her heart it was wrong to do this. That she was invading the essence of her parents being and, in a way, betraying them, but she had to do it. There was so much she was needed for, there was so much she had to do in this life, and she could only do it in Sunnydale.

And her parents weren't about to listen to that.

It wasn't like with Joyce and Buffy either. She couldn't explain what she was to her parents. No matter what she'd do, they'd just deny it to the end. Saying she was experiencing 'issues' and was 'identifying' with certain rebellious trends in her age group.

Then they'd probably send her to a psychiatrist.

For all of these reasons and more, Willow cast the spell. Watching as it took place, a bright blue mist forming around them, freezing them in their positions. It seemed as if time froze with them. But that wasn't so, as Willow, exhausted from casting the spell, collapsed only to be caught immediately in Vince's strong arms.

"Red?" said Vince with concern, lifting Willow up so he was now cradling her against his chest. Walking very quickly into the living room, he asked with rising panic, "Are you hurt? Did it backfire or--"

"I'm fine," Willow interrupted, giving him a reassuring but still weary smile. Vince had just tenderly placed her down on the couch where she lay on her back, looking up at him. "The spell just took more out of me than I thought it would."

"Oh," Vince breathed a deep sigh of relief. "Good." Immediately, his chocolate brown eyes widened and he said wryly, "No, it's not good but it's better than what I thought was wrong. I mean that I thought you were really hurt or..." Heaving another sigh, Vince pushed his shaggy dyed blonde hair up out of his eyes and smiled. "I'm starting to think that your babbling habit is catching."

"Hmm, you think?" asked Willow, smiling. "I don't like it much when I babble but it's sort of cute when you do it."

"Now you know how I feel," replied Vince warmly, reaching out to hold Willow's hands as he sat on the edge of the couch. Turning his gaze towards Willow's parents, who were still frozen in the front room, he asked, "How long are they going to stay like that?"

"Fifteen minutes," said Willow confidently. She paused to scrunch up her face, then added, "I think." A moment of silence surrounded them and flopping her head back against the pillow it rested on, Willow moaned, "I'm the worst daughter in the world, aren't I? Most kids just sneak out past curfew or something, but no! I go and brainspell my parents!"

"Could be worse, you could steal their money out of that safe while you're at it," Vince offered. Hearing this, Willow moved to look at her boyfriend with a very droll gaze and shrinking under it, he said, "Okay. That was a lame joke. But I'm right, aren't I? It could be worse and you did have a good reason for doing this."

"I guess," murmured Willow with a sigh.

Looking at Willow with soft chocolate brown eyes, Vince slowly reached out to brush some stray strands of red hair out of her eyes. "Red," he began. "As long as you know in your heart that what you're doing is right, it'll turn out okay." He paused to give her a goofy smile that reflected shy sweetness. "That's karma."

"Yeah," said Willow, smiling up at him. "I guess that is." Pushing herself up on the couch, she reached out to hold his hand and tugged him closer. "My parents are frozen and we don't have to leave for school for a half an hour."

"And?" Vince drew the word out humorously.

"And," Willow echoed his tone of voice while forming a mischievous smile. "Want to watch TV? I think cartoons are on."

Chuckling quietly, Vince pulled back to lift Willow's legs up so they'd rest on his lap. Reaching for the remote control, he said, "Only if we don't watch Pokemon."

"But Charmander is so cute!" protested Willow.

Despite having stated it was the last thing he wanted to watch, Vince ended up, some way or another, turning on Pokemon and watching the saccharine filled creatures run around.

Maybe it had something to do with Willow and a certain adorable pout she wore on her features. But even if it did, he'd be the last person to admit that.

Vince did have his pride, after all.


Trick and Iris were up way too late for vampires.

Late as in vampire time clocks. Because what vampire really wants to be up and around in the morning? Stupid or suicidal ones, that's what.

Since Trick and Iris were neither of these, one had to wonder just what they were doing up. Especially since all of their fellow vamps were currently resting. That included Kakistos, who was the reason that Trick and Iris weren't in bed this very moment.

But bed was just where they were headed. And headed very slowly at that, as they felt rather worn out from all of their activities. As a rule, the pair had never liked traveling and today they had to travel quite a bit.

"Tell me again," Iris commanded lightly.

Forming a small smile, Trick began his well practiced speech. Well practiced because every time Iris got irritated with Kakistos it was his job to give her this speech to calm her down.

Call it a form of vampire therapy if you like.

"Kakistos is a influential and well known vampire so once this job is over, and we head back to New York, our reputation will have tripled by working for him. We'll get more clients and even more money," Trick drawled.

The two vampires had finally reached their room and as Trick shut the door, Iris turned to face him. From the quirky smile she wore on her face, one that echoed of the barest hint of unbridled lust, he knew that the speech had managed to calm her down once again. That or she was ready to play games.

"Praise Lucifer," Iris called out in a fairly decent impression of a southern preacher. Wrapping her hands around Trick's neck, she pulled him in closer, so that their lips were inches apart. "We shall not be saved."

"My thoughts exactly," Trick murmured darkly, moving in for a passionate kiss as he pulled her closer to him.

Lazily parting from him, Iris pulled Trick towards their bed as she said coyly, "Tell me the other part."

"Heh," Trick chuckled softly. Over the years, one thing had never changed about Iris. She loved to receive compliments, even if she had to fish for them first. "Those spells you cast today were brilliant, baby doll. Not only did they frame that man but they drove him to suicide. Plus," Trick said this with a wide smile. "They covered up any tracks we may have left."

"Mmm, thank you," Iris purred, her hands falling down to his waist and running up over his shirt. Pulling off his jacket, she said, "You weren't so bad yourself. I just loved watching you intimidate those justice department people. All their cowering and groveling... they never knew what hit them."

"They should know better than to mess with us," said Trick in dangerous tones as Iris tossed his jacket on the floor and started unbuttoning his shirt. "After what we did to them for Lagos' sake."

"True," said Iris with a throaty laugh. "We did make an awful mess around there for him, didn't we?"

"Place was in shambles for months," Trick smirked. "All their computer files were sent to hell."

Pushing Trick lightly down on their bed, Iris allowed her clingy black dress to fall to the floor. As she crawled towards him, she said, "That was a difficult job but at least Lagos appreciated our efforts. I don't think that we'll get anywhere near the same treatment from Kakistos."

"Maybe," Trick admitted, reaching up to undo Iris' bra with certain ease. "But Kakistos is paying us more."

Her hands sliding down Trick's chest Iris sighed then said, "Money isn't always everything. I like to know that I'm an asset to the operation. Or at least to be told that I am." Forming a dangerous smile, Iris' blue eyes glinted and she said, "It's the most feminine part of my true self that calls out for attention."

"Well, now," Trick drawled, moving to sit up and pull Iris onto his lap. "Why don't you let me lavish her with some, hmm? Will that make you feel better?"

"No," Iris whispered as she moved her head forward so her blonde hair fell like a waterfall, covering their faces from clear view. "It'll make me feel naughty. Which," she paused to smile widely. "Is so much better."

Chuckling at this, Trick murmured, "I agree with you completely, baby doll."

With that, the two vampires went about their naughty extracurricular business. Because they, like any hard working employees, deserved to have some fun.

Particularly with each other.


Lil' Butchy caused more than a few stares when she roared into the school parking lot for Sunnydale High with Faith behind the wheel and Buffy riding with her.

Of course, the Slayers didn't seem to notice any of the attention. Especially not Faith, who as she took off her helmet, was listening to Buffy say the same thing since she'd picked her up.

"Why was he there?" Buffy continued, taking off the helmet she wore and resting it against her hip. Faith shrugged for a reply as she pulled their folders out of the leather satchel on Lil' Butchy. "There's no reason for him to be at my house. Does P.I. man not know everything about us and the Slaying now? Why would he have to talk to my mother? Do you think he's spying again?"

"You're gettin' paranoid again, Buff," commented Faith dryly, standing up to hand Buffy her folders. "You oughta chill yourself out. I'm sure Dave was just visiting."

"I know that!" Buffy exclaimed testily. "What I want to know is why is he visiting."

Giving another shrug, Faith formed a careless smile and said, "Maybe he likes your Mom."

"Oh no, no, no, no," Buffy repeated quickly, shuddering and giving a firm shake of her head. "That's so not why he's there. He's spying or getting info out of her but no way in the Hellmouth is he liking her."

"I dunno, your Mom is sorta cute," Faith remarked. "I can see why he'd dig her. She's human, y'know, Buff. And humans gotta do the date and mate thing. We got it bred into us."

"I'm not hearing any of this, I'm just not," said Buffy, looking rather sickly as they entered the quad. "My Mom shouldn't date, that's just intrinsically wrong."

"So your Mom's a nun?" asked Faith, smirking.

"Nun, yes, she's big time nun material. If we had hills then she'd be spinning around on them and singing mushy songs from the Sound of Music," Buffy said fiercely.

Chuckling at this, Faith said, "I always liked musicals. There's something cool in their nerdiness."

"Really?" asked Buffy, taking a seat across from Faith at their usual table in the quad. Staring at the surface of it, she couldn't help but remember that she was sitting here when she first met Cordelia. "I never knew that."

"Yeah, well," Faith gave a small smile. "I got this soft spot for stuff that doesn't hide what it is. Musicals are straight up about being goofy and entertaining. You gotta respect that they're so cut and dry with it."

Mulling over Faith's words, Buffy looked up to meet their eyes, and smiling softly, she said, "I always liked Oklahoma."

"Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain," Faith drawled, half singing the lyrics as she gave Buffy a charming smile.

"And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet," Buffy continued, returning the smile as she half sang along with the Faith.

"When the wind comes right behind the rain," the Slayers finished singing the lyric together.

There was a momentary pause of silence before Faith and Buffy burst into laughter. Faith was the first one to speak as she said through her laughter, "Damn. We're pretty dorky, aren't we?"

"Dorky but musically inclined," Buffy teased.

"Yeah," said Faith quietly. Her smile faded from her features as she murmured, "It feels nice... to laugh. I'm not sure I'm gonna be doing much of that lately. So I guess I gotta fit it in when I have the chance, y'know?"

"Faith," whispered Buffy brokenly, reaching out to hold Faith's hand in her own. "We'll help her. I know that we will because... well, because we won't give up until we do. I know that and so should you."

"What if we can't help her?" Faith asked, her brown eyes moving to lock with Buffy's and the blonde Slayer froze under the power held in that sorrowful gaze. "What if this is just how it's gotta be? What if... no matter how hard I try, we try, she's gone for good?" Breaking her eyes away from Buffy's, she continued, "If she goes then I'm gonna go with her. That's the only way I could do it."

"Faith," Buffy echoed her broken tones from before. "It won't come to that, I swear that it won't."

The dark Slayer looked like she was about to reply to Buffy's words when her gaze averted. Forming a small smile, she said, "Will. I was wondering where you were."

"Long story," said Willow, heaving a sigh as she approached the table along with Vince. "One that I'll tell you all about later, okay?"

"My favorite boy wonder," said Buffy, smiling fondly at Vince who sat down at her side while Willow sat next to Faith. "How's it going?"

"She made me watch Pokemon," Vince replied in deadpan tones, giving into his need for sympathy for what he had to go through. "They had a rap video at the end of it with Pokemon dancing around. Some of them had on Tommy Hilfiger clothes."

"Eww," Buffy cringed. Looking at Willow, she said, "Abusing your boyfriend is a criminal offense, you do know that, don't you?"

"I think they're cute," Willow said, giving Buffy the same pout that she'd given Vince earlier.

Buffy merely blinked at this and feeling herself get guilty, was about to apologize when Vince leaned over to whisper in her ear, "That pout is how she got me to watch the show with her."

"All right, Will," Faith congratulated, smirking as she gave her friend a light pat on the back. "You've finally gotten to the manipulative pout stage of your girlish development."

"Pouting is useful," Willow acknowledged, smiling. She paused to look around the quad then said, "It's almost time for class. So where's Amy and Xander? Don't tell me they're going to be late on the first day."

"You're right," said Buffy, forming a frown. "I talked to Amy last night and she said she had this whole elaborate multi alarm set up going on. Had like seven of them turned on so she wouldn't sleep in."

"Seven?" asked Faith, quirking an eyebrow.

"She's a heavy sleeper," Buffy gave a sheepish smile on the behalf of her closest friend. "Plus Xander made her responsible for waking him up too."

"Huh," Faith murmured thoughtfully.

"I hope they show up," said Vince, looking over at Willow who smiled. "We were hoping that you guys might sit in on our first recording session. I figured that Xan-man would sorta like that seeing as how I've been teaching him stuff about drumming."

"Teaching," Buffy giggled lightly. "He sounds so bad compared to you, Vince. I never thought that banging things with sticks could be that hard until Xander did it."

"Hey, he's not so bad," Vince said, but still smiling at Buffy's words. "It takes awhile to learn to play any sort of instrument. Even one that you bang with sticks."

Faith was quiet for a long moment until she felt Willow lightly clasp her arm, and turning to look at the red haired girl, she smiled. "It's all right," said Willow in low and gentle tones. "You don't have to come to the recording session if you want. We just want you to be happy, Faith. So tonight, and every night, do what will make you feel that way and know that we'll support you."

"Will," breathed Faith, blinking back the sudden onset of unwelcome tears. "Thank you."

This heartfelt moment was quickly interrupted by the ring of the warning bell that told the students to hurry up and get to their first period classes.

As they headed off to class, the gang almost missed the dramatic entrance of Amy and Xander onto the school premises. Dramatic because Amy, complete in her Lincoln Towncar, went screeching into the parking lot, making a complete 180 before she parked her vehicle diagonally to the ones around it.

Then of course, came their crazed run onto the campus. Amy covering her ears with her hands as she fought to keep her backpack from falling off as Xander followed close behind her shouting about how he didn't like near death experiences. That and a few random remarks about how stealing things from the attic and then hiding them in his basement was wrong.

Blinking at this display as their two friends ran past them, the entire group was silent for a very long while.

Then Faith smirked and said in an easy drawl, "Oh yeah. We're definitely back at school."


"You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have... the facts of life, the facts of life."

Kakistos couldn't help but cringe at the lyrics. Cringe at the lyrics and how Cordelia sang along with them as she went about painting her toenails.

"What is this?" Kakistos asked, revealing his presence in the room that Cordelia had declared just yesterday to be their 'family room.' He wasn't quite sure what that meant but he was almost completely sure that if he did, he wouldn't like it.

"A sitcom, Daddy," responded Cordelia smartly, gracing him with a lovely smile. "This one is from the 80s and has the cutest girl who wears leather in it."

"Hmm," Kakistos narrowed his eyes. He paused then sat next to Cordelia on the couch. "And what purpose does this sitcom serve? Is its mindless garble supposed to lull the mortal masses into a sense of false security?"

"Something like that," said Cordelia glibly. She was now back to painting her toenails blood red. It was a color that she found herself liking more and more lately. "But it's more supposed to just entertain people. Make them laugh and things like that."

"Hmm," Kakistos repeated. He was studying the television closely now, watching the people on screen. "I don't see anyone wearing leather."

"That's because they've got her in that stupid girls school uniform," Cordelia supplied, looking up and giving a half pout, half frown. "Jo really shouldn't wear skirts. It just ruins the sexily butch image that she has going for her."

"Sexily butch?" Kakistos echoed, his eyebrow quirking as he said this. "Explain."

"It's just that she looks best when she's dressed like a boy," explained Cordelia. "Even if she is human."

Kakistos seemed to consider this before he rose to his feet and stood in front of the television. Looking up at him, Cordelia protested mildly, "Daddy! I can't see!"

"This won't do," Kakistos murmured darkly, his eyes full of conviction. "No Childe of mine shall feed their brain on the refuse of society. Starting now, you are under my tutelage in all areas, including the kinds academic. This is your duty as my heir."

"What?" Cordelia blinked. She slowly formed a horrified expression then said, "You don't mean--"

"Yes," Kakistos interrupted, forming a slow smile that caused a shiver to run down Cordelia's spine. "You'll be going to school from now on, daughter. One especially of my own making."

Giving a weak laugh, Cordelia said, "Goody."

Though he knew Cordelia wasn't at all enthused by his newest declaration, Kakistos was sure that she would warm to the idea. Because there was nothing better for a young vampire than learning about their roots and the source of their powers.

Simply because it made them a better fighter and a far more efficient killer.

Which was all any normal vampire wanted really. 

Continue to Chapter 26

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