Damned If I Don't, Damned If I Do
Part Three of The Damned Series



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PART TWELVE: 5th October 2004 - 25th November 2004
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Chapter Six: Downgraded to a Middle State

The postcard had a picture of a burning field, fires rising towards a sickly yellow-green sky. The flames flickered and the smoke rose as she studied it. In one corner the name of the resort was written in a cheerful purple cartoony font.

Tartarus, The Underworld.

Buffy turned the card over to see who it was from. It wasn't signed it but the handwriting was unmistakeably Faith's.

Having a great time.
You should be here.
Don't forget to water the goat.

"Wish you were here," she whispered.

Faith appeared in front of her, grabbing her arms and shouting angrily. "No, you don't get it. You really should be the one stuck down here!"

"I know," Buffy wailed. Faith was already gone.

"Buffy?"

Buffy turned at the sound of her name. "Toni? You're back."

"Just to say goodbye. Faith and I have decided to get a place in Las Vegas."

"What?" Buffy stepped forward, trying to make sense of why Faith had her arms lovingly around her girlfriend. "And more importantly, what?"

"We did not plan it," Toni said apologetically.

"But I guess if you spend enough time with someone," Faith said, staring adoringly into Toni's eyes.

"No seriously, what?"

"We fell in love," they said together and giggled.

"Oh please, you hate each other!"

Faith shrugged, "That was before we were forced to spend so many years living together."

"You should not be surprised, Buffy. Surely you did not expect someone with my gifts to be resistible to someone as sexual as Faith for long?"

"Well, I was kinda counting on you both finding me too irresistible. . . Jeez, and now you're kissing!"

Buffy looked away from them fast, then decided what the hell, and peeked. They were already gone.

"Mother!"

Buffy turned again. "What did you call me?"

The lanky, dark red boy behind her stopped looking sullen for a moment to look confused. "What did I do wrong now?"

"Nothing. It's just. . ." Who the hell was he? "Did you need something?"

"I'm meeting the guys and I can't find my hat."

"Do you really need your hat?"

"Uh, unless I want everyone to know I'm a freak, yeah!" he said, pointing to the nubby horns jutting up from either side of his forehead.

"Oh. Right." She found a hat on the seat of one of the kitchen chairs and handed it to him.

"Thanks, Mom!" He took the hat and ran out of the back door.

"Tuck your tail in!" she yelled after him.

"He'll never love you. Never respect you!"

Buffy sighed as she turned again. Troy was behind her. He was dressed in a toga, there was a laurel wreath around his head and. . .

"Is that a lightsaber?"

"I will fight you for his destiny.

"Okay. But where's my lightsaber?"

"Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!"

Buffy looked over as her sister came running down the kitchen stairs. "It's okay, Dawnie. Don't be scared. I can take him in a fair fight." She turned back to Troy. "And speaking of fair fights, where's my. . ."

"They're coming. Quick they're coming!"

Buffy glanced at Andrew, "Are they bringing my lightsaber?"

"Buff, come on, it's time."

"I could just use my fists and still kick your ass!"

"Why would you want to do that?"

Buffy slowly blinked awake to find Xander peering down at her, looking worried and slightly offended.

Disorientated, having just woken up from her first deep sleep in weeks, it took her a moment to figure out what was going on. She was on Troy's cot in the basement and everyone was standing around looking excited to see her awake. That was nice. Weird though. Could she hear chanting?

She sat up fast, clutching Xander's arm tight enough to make him pull a face. "What's happening?"

"It's happening! Toni just called!"

Buffy froze for a moment, letting it fully sink in, and then she shot off of the cot. "Toni called? She's back? Is she okay? Where is she? Did she sound okay? How long 'til she gets here? Is she really okay?"

"She sounded tired," Troy said.

"She sounded tired?" Buffy repeated angrily. "That's all you're giving me?"

"It is all she gave me," he said tersely. "She gave only her location and asked me to awaken the portal."

"Which Willow is doing," Giles said, indicating where Willow and Marco were once again stood either side of the glowing green disk, chanting. "As soon as it reaches full strength Toni will be able to pass through."

Buffy nodded, knowing there was one name they were avoiding. If Toni was tired and unforthcoming about the details of her trip did that mean. . . did that mean it hadn't been a success? She couldn't think about that, not yet, so let someone else mention her name if they wanted to. Instead she clenched her fists tight and watched the circle of glowing green expand inch by inch.

It had been four very long weeks since Toni had passed through from this basement to the edge of Hades. Buffy hadn't changed in that time, except for being slightly insane with worry now, and her tan had faded considerably thanks to so much time spent in the dim light under the house, but other than that she was the same old Buffy. Toni had been to Hell! That had to come with side effects. Angel had been wild and ferocious when he'd first come back, unable to listen and interpreting their connection as a motive for attacking her. What if Toni came back the same? Nobody had even mentioned the possibility of Toni losing her humanity while down there. Buffy had been too focused on the possibility of Toni actually dying down there, and too selfish to throw more reasons in the hat for her not to go, that it had never even crossed her mind. That could prove to be a big mistake. What if Toni came flying out of that portal and the first thing she did was rip somebody's throat out with her bare hands?

She looked at Troy to gauge if he was having the same worries. He was tense, on edge, but smiling, his bright blue eyes sparkling with anticipation. She was alone in her fear then. That made her feel even more responsible for Toni's behavior and guilty that she was the only one to doubt her.

"About one more minute," Giles said.

Buffy positioned herself at the front of her gathered friends and acquaintances. It was her rightful place anyway. Toni was hers, and if. . .and if Faith was there, she was hers too. Sure Troy might think differently, but Troy could kiss her ass.

She tried to relax and think about what she would say if Toni did come through alone. The two things didn't go together at all. Still no one else had mentioned Faith's name, not even Kennedy, they were all just as scared as she was but none of them would have to deal with it in quite the same way. She found herself calculating how long it would take to demand answers from Toni - was she at least still alive? Had Toni been able to reach her? - and whether it would leave her enough time to leap through the portal before it closed completely. That made her subtly edge away from Kennedy, needing to increase the distance between them and decrease the distance she was standing from the portal. She'd agreed to Toni going to rescue Faith because everyone had told her it was the more sensible plan, but if it didn't work. . .Buffy would drag Kennedy through with her if she had to rather than lose the chance to rescue Faith herself.

"Ten seconds," Giles said as Willow and Marco's voices rose together, perfectly in sync.

The shimmering green gateway was now large enough for Buffy to step through with ease and she had to hold herself steady and not give in to the instinct to charge in. The ten seconds felt like ten minutes but then voices could be heard, faint like they were in the next room and the door was closed. Buffy cocked her head to listen more intently.

"I am entitled to enter before you. Without me there would be no portal. Be patient. You have waited six months; you can wait a few more seconds."

"You just want her to see you first."

"Of course I want her to see me first. If she sees you first I will be eclipsed."

Buffy was grinning now and she moved eagerly closer to the portal.

"Can't help it if her feelin's for me are bigger than her feelin's for you."

"I was not talking about her feelings for you. I was talking about how fat you are. . ."

Toni suddenly came stumbling fast through the portal, clearly not under her own steam. Buffy, standing too close as the Italian barreled through head first, automatically caught her before she could fall and only just kept her own balance too. Her arms tightened around Toni's head and shoulders immediately, not giving her any choice but to hug back, not even giving her the chance to stand up straight.

"You're back! And alive and. . . and, oh God, thank you! I'm so. . .!" Buffy kissed the top of her head and then pulled Toni up to kiss her forehead, her cheek, every bit of her face she could as Toni laughed and babbled in happy Italian. ". . .Thank you!"

"There, ya got to go through first," Faith said, sounding satisfied. Her tone changed as she stepped through. "Aw, damn, see this is why I wanted to go first! That's disgusting. B, did she tell you she cheated on you with a dog yesterday?"

"What?" Buffy asked, still laughing, but she didn't really care about the details right now.

She gave Toni one last kiss and then pulled away. She'd expected everyone else to rush forward, smothering the other slayer in their happiness to see her alive and well - and therefore giving her a minute or two with Toni before she turned her attention to Faith - but the crowded basement was strangely quiet; there was a complete lack, in fact, of enthusiastic greetings, and she had to see why.

Sidestepping Toni, she walked over, arms already reaching for Faith, needing to hold her tight and prove she was really here and alive and okay and. . . Fuck! That was why everyone was so quiet.

Buffy stopped walking without realizing she had stopped walking. Her arms were still out but she doubted she could even get them around Faith at the moment. Fuck! Her brain went completely blank with the exception of one word. Fuck!

In a vaguely detached way she saw Faith lick her lips nervously, heard her say, "Hey, B. Surprise!"

Fuck!

"What the hell is everyone gawping at?"

Dawn, Xander and Andrew all gave variations on the word, "Um."

Giles went all British and said, "Err."

Willow's eyes were too wide with wonder to say anything, leaving it to Kennedy to break their silence - never a good idea.

"That," she said, pointing at Faith's large, very pregnant stomach. "It's kind of. . .new."

"Not to me it ain't. Don't I get a hug, B?"

Fuck!

"Uh. . ." She had to pull it together. If she was freaking out think how much Faith must be. No, there was no way Faith could be freaking out as much as this. It wasn't like she hadn't been prepared for Faith to be pregnant, but this much was. . .too much.

It wasn't fair to leave her standing there though. Not with the way everyone else was already staring at her.

"Of course you do," she finally said, although her tone probably screamed the opposite, and stepped up to her.

What followed was probably the quickest and most awkward hug in history. She'd given creepy old uncles longer hugs. She felt guilty but the urge to get away was too strong to resist. She gave Faith an equally awkward kiss on the cheek - hardly the welcome she'd planned - and then thankfully stepped back.

"I'm really glad you're home."

"Yeah, looks like it," Faith said softly.

"I am, really."

She didn't get a chance to say anything else because Troy moved in front of her, effectively pushing her backwards. She never thought she'd be pleased to see him do that.

"Fai, my love, I am so joyful to see your safe return to me. I am sorry you had to go through that. If I had foreseen. . . I am so sorry. Are you okay? Are you well? Do you have any ailments?"

"Ya mean like morning sickness?" Faith asked, her voice not cold but unemotional. "Cause yeah, I had buckets of that. Well not buckets 'cause they didn't give me a bucket."

Troy smiled, clearly to overwhelmed by the obvious sight of his unborn son to care too much about her tone.

"It pains me that you had to go through that alone. I wish I could have been there to ease your suffering. Is there anything I can do for you now?"

"Yeah, stand still."

He did so obediently and never even saw the punch coming. Faith socked him hard in the mouth and he staggered back in surprise.

"Fai?"

"Don't you dare look fuckin' confused! I know what you did. I know that this..." she pointed to her stomach. "...is not an accident. I don't have the energy right now to dish out the pain you really deserve so you can count yourself lucky but don't pretend for a second you are not an asshole."

"Faith, I do not think you understand. . ."

"No I don't, hardly any of it, and right now I don't want to hear it, not from you anyway. Just leave me alone."

"I will not leave you alone. . ."

When Faith had first punched him Buffy had grinned gleefully but as their argument went on she looked quizzically to Toni.

Toni nodded and mouthed, "I told her everything."

Buffy was glad, it saved her from having to do now what she should have done months ago. It also let her off the hook of having to deal with Faith right away too. Faith had bigger things to cope with, even though she didn't sound like she wanted to cope with them, and that gave Buffy the time to step back from the situation and figure out how to cope with it herself.

She moved over to Toni again. "Are you okay? How horrible was it?"

"Very horrible, but it does not matter now that I have seen you again."

Buffy smiled, "It's good to see you too. It's been so long, I was starting to really worry."

"I am sorry. We traveled as fast as we could but there were complications to contend with and, of course, with Faith's condition we needed to rest often."

"It doesn't matter now that you're both back."

"I need a fuckin' strong drink," Faith suddenly snapped, pushing past Troy and heading for the stairs.

"A...are you sure that's a good idea?" Willow asked nervously.

"Gonna try and stop me, Red?"

"No, but, it's just. . . What with. . ."

Faith was already halfway up the stairs.

"After what Faith has endured Willow," Toni said, "I do not think a little alcohol will harm her."

"Good, 'cause I could use one too," Buffy decided.

"But it's only eleven in the morning," Willow stressed.

"It is?" With all the time she had spent in the basement her idea of day and night was all jumbled up. "Well maybe just a little one then."

"It is Thanksgiving, Will," Xander reminded them. "Couple of drinks before lunch is tradition."

"No it's not," she remained firm.

"Well it should be," Giles said, ending the matter. "I, for one, need a stiff drink too."

Troy had followed Faith up the stairs immediately; Buffy waited for the others to go and then brought up the rear with Toni.

"How about you? Need a drink?"

Toni lightly shook her head. "I have everything I need."

Smiling, Buffy took her hand. Toni used it to pull her back a step and she thought it was to kiss her. Her head a mess as it was and right now Buffy wasn't in the mood to turn it down and tilted her head, bringing her lips closer to Toni's.

Toni didn't take the opportunity, instead putting a few extra inches of distance between them. "I brought Faith back for you."

"I know. Thank you. Wanna talk rewards?"

"I would like to talk about why you do not seem happy to see her."

"I am happy to see her. More than happy! It's. . .I can't even describe how happy I am that you brought her home safe and sound."

"But?"

"There is no but."

"You know my feelings for you. I know your feelings for me. They are not in question. But now Faith has returned. . ."

"What?"

Toni took a deep breath and looked back down into the basement before speaking again. "I told her I would fight for you, and I will if you tell me now there is something to fight for. But if you are only waiting for the right time to tell me we are over I would prefer it to be sooner rather than later."

Buffy's heart beat faster and she glanced up at the basement door that had closed behind everyone else. "You've only been back five minutes!"

"Time is irrelevant in this matter."

"No it's not. Time is very relevant. You can't expect me to make a decision like that so fast."

Toni looked down at her feet. "I assumed you had already decided before we returned, before I left."

She had, but things were different now. Not that she was going to voice that out loud, she felt bad enough that it was the way of things anyway. If Faith had come back just a little pregnant would she still be freaking out at the thought of welcoming her with open, girlfriend-y arms? Actually, probably yes. An abstract pregnancy was a lot easier to deal with than an actual one.

So what? This meant she didn't want to be with Faith anymore? Buffy dug deep for an answer but it still didn't give her a concrete yes or no. She still loved her so much, still wanted to be with her in a theoretical, Faith-not-being-pregnant way - but she was. Theory was out the window and practical was the only option left. And practically, she didn't know if she could handle that. She definitely knew she couldn't decide about it in the next few minutes.

Toni was still waiting patiently for an answer so Buffy smiled again - and stalled for time. "I think we all need to take a breath and decide where we go from here. I'm not the only one who has to decide stuff."

"But I do not want to be led on, Buffy. With Helena, I. . ."

"I'm not Helena! And if you're really that worried, why don't you just break up with me? That's not exactly what I'd call fighting for me though."

Toni looked like she was about to do it for a moment, scaring Buffy, but then she smiled. "If I had brushed my teeth once in the past two months I would kiss you enough to show you exactly how much I intend to fight for you."

She almost told her to do it anyway, but two months was a long time. Plus, hadn't Faith said something about her making out with a dog? If it was what she had needed to do to get them both home safe, she wasn't going to judge, but that didn't mean she wanted to go there before Toni had been reacquainted with her toothbrush.

"It's been a crazy couple of months for all of us, okay, so can we just ease back into our wacky normality slowly please?"

They caught up with the others in the kitchen. Giles had one of his good bottles of scotch on the table and everyone had some - even Willow. As soon as they emerged, Giles poured a measure into the two waiting glasses on the table. A conversation about the trip was already in progress and Buffy sat down, gesturing for Toni to sit beside her, eager to catch up.

"So did you realize you were pregnant when you started throwing up?" Kennedy was asking.

Okay, so Buffy wasn't so eager to hear this part.

"No, just figured I was dying then. Wasn't until I started showing that I realized something was up. Was kind of a surprise to be putting weight on considering I was only eating once a week."

"And they kept you in a cage?" Xander asked, horrified.

"Again, not 'til I started showing. Before that they made me work. Or tried to at least."

"Work at what?" Dawn asked.

"They had me digging a hole."

"For what?" Giles asked.

Faith shrugged. "Dunno, didn't ask. I wouldn't dig, so they'd whip me, then I'd dig until they went away. Then I'd sit down again. Then they'd come and whip me. Kinda went on like that for a couple of months."

Buffy felt sick but she didn't say anything.

"What about you, Toni?" Willow asked. "Were you whipped?"

Faith laughed, "Yeah, I had her whipped."

"She did not! And no, your invisibility potion worked very well to keep me safe from detection while in Tartarus."

"So did you two get a chance to bond down there," Kennedy asked, laughing at her joke.

Buffy saw Faith and Toni share a glance, and they smirked slightly at each other, and then they both looked at Kennedy and said, "No."

Now why didn't she believe them? In a way the idea of them becoming friends was appealing, but it probably wouldn't make things any easier. Now if they'd fallen in love down there. . . her recent chaotic dream came back to her. Okay the idea was ridiculous, and wouldn't make things any easier either, but providing they both still loved her too it could have been interesting. Plus it would have been an extra pair of hands to raise the baby. Oh, God, the baby! Buffy found herself staring at Faith's stomach rather than listening to the conversation. There was really a baby! Could she. . .could she be a mom? A step-mom even? Was that easier or harder than being a real mom? She'd met her dad's new wife a grand total of four times and although she seemed nice enough Buffy had never felt any connection with her. Was that what her life would be if she chose Faith? Raising a child she never felt connected to, who probably wouldn't even like her because she wasn't his real mom. . . dad. . .whatever? Did Faith even want her in the role?

"Okay, I need food," Faith said, suddenly.

Andrew jumped to attention. "What would you like? Hot, cold, light, heavy?"

"All of the above. Cook up whatever you got in the house."

"Really?"

"Hell yeah. I ain't eaten a decent meal in months. Tone needs to eat too."

"Toni," Buffy corrected absently.

"Actually, it's Antonella," Faith said, chuckling, while waving Andrew towards the fridge. "Did she ever tell you what that means by the way?"

"Faith!" Toni said, warningly.

Buffy looked between them, confused. "Sure, it means flower, doesn't it?"

"Sure!" Faith started laughing harder but despite Buffy's curious expression didn't elaborate.

"What does she mean?" Buffy asked.

Toni, looking embarrassed, began, "She is simply being. . ."

A flash of light like a chemical explosion cut her off. It had a physical force to it and even as Buffy was trying to figure out what had happened she watched her friends go flying backwards across the kitchen, sending chairs crashing to the floor, their bodies slamming into the wall or the cupboards. Faith was knocked backwards too but Troy, although staggering, kept his feet enough to hold her steady. Toni also seemed to be able to withstand the explosion but was apparently too pre-occupied to catch her and Buffy was thrown back with the rest of them, landing on her ass on the floor several feet away from the table.

A voice boomed, "Hmm!" as Buffy shook her dazed head and tried to clear her vision of the blinding points of light. When she had she saw Zeus standing there, looking way too large for their roomy kitchen.

"So, Antonella," he bellowed, although Buffy realized he was using this inside voice, her ears just weren't equipped to deal with it. "Here we are again. Do you not think you should be doing something other than gaping at me? My good grace is something I would have thought you desired."

Toni dropped to one knee in front of his sandaled feet and bowed her head. "Sire."

Zeus nodded. "Well, Antonella, I'm surprised at you. After waiting patiently for two thousand years to be returned to your true self you risk it all again within a month. And for her, of all people."

Buffy bristled with anger but more than that she felt sick. She had been scared Toni would die while trying to rescue Faith but it hadn't occurred to her that Toni might get into trouble for it. Or maybe it had occurred to her but it hadn't seemed important at the time. Now it did.

Toni kept her head bowed but said defiantly, "You would not understand."

"Indeed I do not, and I can't say I care either. I long ago gave up worrying about what happened on this plane."

"Then why don't you just let her go," Buffy said quietly.

Zeus turned to her. "Because, my dear, a God has been cheated and that makes it my problem. The fact that the God in question is an irrational, menopausal harridan is neither here nor there."

"Do not speak of my mother like that," Troy snapped, stepping away from Faith and closer to his dad.

"Silence boy! If it were not for you I, nor any of these women, would be in this mess!" He looked back down at Toni. "However, Hades is now missing a promised soul and your Aunt was really looking forward to seeing her runt get married. So, I repeat, here we are again. Stand for your punishment!"

Toni rose to her feet, and looking Zeus dead in his clear blue eyes, said boldly, "I choose to be banished to Hades."

"No!" Buffy said weakly.

She couldn't have that. She couldn't have Toni suffering down there for eternity any more than she could live with Faith being down there. An evil little voice in the back of her mind said Stay quiet, let it happen. Toni got herself into this and with her gone everything would be sooo much simpler. And then she glanced at Faith and knew that whether Toni was here or not, nothing would ever be simple again.

"That is not an option this time, Antonella," Zeus boomed. "You go there willingly so often it hardly feels like a fitting punishment anymore. No, this is the second time you have defied the sacred divide between life and death and betrayed your own kind for a mortal. As such your punishment on this occasion will reflect your crime.

"Two options. Option one - you will be stripped of your powers, your divine status, and you will be exiled from the country of your birth for the remainder of your life."

"The whole country," Xander began, "that's a bit. . ."

Zeus turned swiftly to him, his eyes burning with godly power. "SILENCE, MORTAL!"

Xander fell back against the cupboards again, white-faced and shaking. After a second or two Buffy found her eyes drawn to the expanding dark patch on his pale blue jeans. So were everyone else's.

"Dude, you peed yourself!" Kennedy said, sounding mildly disgusted.

Zeus turned on her, eyes glaring, one hand raised as if to strike her for daring to speak.

The young slayer shrank back, paler than pale, and then grimaced. "Well, look at that - so did I."

Willow and Giles both gulped but Zeus lost interest in the spectators now and spoke to Toni again.

"If you want so badly to live among humans then you can be one. I am sure you will be very happy living a 'normal life'. No enhanced strength, no mystical protection, no divine gift of love, no boundless sexual energy, no intrinsic knowledge of another's heart, no symbiotic connection to their soul. . ."

"I get it!" Toni snapped.

"I will however grant you an expiration date this time. I know how grey your life has been these past two thousand years and I am not heartless enough to grant you an eternity of it. So, shall we say seventy, eighty years?"

"So I will live as a loveless mortal for eighty years and then die of old age?"

"If something mundanely human does not kill you first."

Teeth gritted, Toni was staring into space. She swallowed hard and then asked, "What is option two?"

"You can return Faith to Hades."

"What about the baby?" Troy asked fearfully.

Zeus paused, thinking about it. "I give you permission to cut a deal with the God of the Underworld in regards to the child. You can hash out the terms between you."

"Screw the baby!" Faith shouted. "What about me?"

Buffy wanted to argue on her behalf but Toni had turned her head to look at her and Buffy was caught in her eyes. Toni's expression gave nothing away of what she was thinking and Buffy just felt blank with shock.

Eventually Toni turned back to Zeus and, her voice barely audible over Faith and Troy's bickering, said, "I choose option one."

"You are sure?" Zeus asked. "It is unlikely my son will find a way to restore you this time. Not in eighty years. And once you are dead you will be very dead."

"I am sure."

"Very well."

There was another flash of bright light, red this time and centered around Toni. She jerked once as it flared around her and then when it was gone she fell to her hands and knees.

"What. . .? Is that. . . What. . .?" Buffy was still shaking, eyes locked on Toni.

Zeus simply nodded and then moved to Faith. She cringed back from his touch but he put his large hand over her swollen stomach anyway.

"My Grandson I presume?" Faith glared at him defiantly and he removed his hand with a smile. "A strong life force. Maybe he will be the measure of everything you hoped," he said to Troy. "Do not forget to bring him by for the birthing ritual." He stepped back. "Good luck, Antonella."

And then he disappeared in another blinding discharge of light.

Everyone waited a second to make sure he was really gone and then Xander and Kennedy jumped up from the floor and ran to different bathrooms. Buffy could see Faith looking at her from where she sat but Troy was still hovering and Willow went to her, asking if she was okay.

The only person who didn't seem to be getting any attention was Toni, still on her hands and knees, looking like she could barely hold herself from falling flat to the cold floor. Buffy crawled over to her, not stopping until their shoulders were touching.

"So, human now, huh?" she teased quietly.

Toni's reply was a hoarse whisper, "Si, apparently."

"It's not all bad," she promised.

Toni didn't answer. Buffy let her head rest against Toni's shoulder, not knowing what to do or say to make this right or better.

In the end she stood up, pulling Toni up easily after her. "Come on, let's get you cleaned up. Being human is definitely better freshly showered."

With an arm around her, Buffy led Toni to the back stairs. She caught Faith's eye on the way and the other slayer looked lost in the middle of their friends, hurt that Buffy was leaving the room with Toni. Buffy gave her a small, not-so-reassuring smile and then turned away.


Chapter Seven

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