No Time To Choose
Prequel to the House of the Setting Sun Series



Chapter One: Don't Mess With Us, We're Potentials

They'd moved closer together for warmth. As Spike was getting the better end of the deal he'd offered Buffy his coat. The long sleeves fell past her hands and she scrunched them up into fists as she finished talking. She'd only meant to tell him about last night, but once started she regaled him with every up and down in the Buffy and Faith history.

He'd frowned when she had told him how the cloven Kakistos had hunted Faith down as she fled to Sunnydale for the protection she was too proud to ask for. He'd got his old evil glint in his eye when she recounted breaking into the sporting goods store for weapons. He had tried to offer comfort when she spoke of the roof top fight that had ended in Buffy becoming an attempted murderer and Faith falling into a coma.

As he tried to put his arm around her, she leaned forward and shook her head. She was not being hostile or distant, she just didn't want to feel better. So many people at the time had congratulated her on a job well done, and the thought now made her feel sick. Spike sensed this, could relate to it even, and let his arm fall back to his side without rancor.

With tears silently rolling down her cheeks she finished the tale, including Faith's awakening, the body swap and right up to when the other Slayer handed herself in.

Spike broke the heavy silence. "I can't believe that ponce took her side and not yours. I always knew he was a bit empty upstairs."

"It wasn't like that. It felt like it at the time, but he believed she could be good again. He was the only person who could help her. I was certainly beyond trying."

"Do you wish you had?" He asked.

She thought for a moment before answering. "Every time I tried, I made things worse. I was the problem, apparently."

Spike wanted to argue this but in truth Buffy affected every life she touched, and for the bad guys that wasn't always a good thing. What side Faith's heart was on, he didn't know, but the things she'd done to his girl didn't really endear her to him. This prompted another train of thought.

"Have you forgiven her?"

She gave a loud, humorless laugh and dropped her head into her hands, wiping at her cheeks as she did so. Spike didn't press it. He just sat there, listening to her heartbeat. Finally she looked up and straight at him.

"Everyone I have ever loved has hurt me so bad. Everyone," she emphasized.

Spike swallowed uncomfortably, painfully aware of the of distress he had caused her, but he held her gaze as he asked:

"So did you love her?"

"We're bonded by something almost older than man. The only girls in all the world, yada yada yada. The Chosen Two." She chuckled somewhat sadly. "Did I love her like a sister? No, not really. Was she my best friend? No, not at all. Was she the most important person in my life for over a year? Yes - through the good and the bad. So who knows? The betrayal hit me hard and if I'm honest, part of the reason I was so pissed off in L.A. was that she had gone to Angel for help and she couldn't come to me. She didn't trust me. The one person she should have been able to count on." She hung her head again, thinking about that.

He took a deep breath, purely to steel himself, before he asked the next question.. "And now. Do you still...Are you in love with her? Is that...?"

She jumped to her feet, staring at him. "Am I...God no! How can you even think that? I'm not gay! So how on earth could I be in love with her? You've got no idea what you're talking about. Just because I feel a bit bad about what happened doesn't mean..."

"Calm down Slayer." Spike didn't move from his seat on the ground, he just watched her start pacing again amongst the dead bodies. He was amused now, not to mention relieved and he couldn't resist having a little dig. "I was only asking. Can't blame a man for wondering. You looked pretty into that kiss, very intense." He chuckled.

God, he was infuriating. After she'd let herself be vulnerable, opened up to him, he just used it to mock her. It seemed a hundred plus years of letting the demon take control was a hard habit to break. Well two could play at that game, she was the master at breaking demons.

She gave him a cold glare. "I don't have to love someone to get horny. You should know that." 'Ha, ha take that William the Bloody!' she thought.

His smile turned to a smirk. "Nah, they just have to piss you off."

She was leaning over him in a second. Her hand pushing him hard against the rock. "Yeah," she growled, "you trying to make me horny right now?"

His grin nearly split his face. "Yeah. Is it working?"

'Damn, I walked right into that one.' Her face colored immediately. She knocked his head against the wall with a feral snarl and backed away to the far corner. Turning away from him, she braced her hands against the wall and tried to calm down before she killed him or... No, she'd just kill him.

Spike rubbed the back of his head and grew slightly more serious. "Bloody hell, it is, isn't it."

Her head whipped round and the look on her face shut him up. He felt the wetness of blood in his hair and decided not to push his luck, just ferret the information away for a rainy day. Assuming they had any rainy days left to come. He imagined the end of the world would be all fire and brimstone, but maybe rains of burning lava counted.

Buffy stood facing the wall. She felt the heat coming off her face, it matched that which had amassed elsewhere. 'Okay, after this, if I get out of this cave alive I am so going to therapy. Blame it on the primal instincts. Blame it on the primal instincts.' She chanted in her head.

She turned around to face the sexy, annoying vampire. "I am not..." She began.

"I can smell it," he shot back.

"That is so gross, Spike, there just aren't words to describe how gross that is," she thundered.

"Doesn't change anything though, Slayer. Just face it, I still make you hot."

"No, sorry to disillusion you, Mr. I'm So Full of Myself, it's just been a really long time." Aware that this wasn't really helping her case, she shut up and resumed pacing, trying to ignore the mischievous bright blue eyes that tracked her every move.

Eventually Spike couldn't resist another comment. "It's no big deal Buffy, it's not like we haven't been here before."

Buffy took an exaggerated breath and turned to offer some cleverly cutting remark but she never got the chance. Her mouth hung open for a second and her eyes went wide. Then spinning and jumping at the same instant she leapt for the trap door. Pounding both fists against it caused nothing to happen.

Spike jumped up, worried. "What is it Buffy? What's wrong?" He asked.

"I don't know. Something. I have to get out of here, now!" She continued to jump and force both hands against the bottom of the barrel, to no avail. "Help me!" She insisted, through gritted teeth.

He was immediately at her side, jumping and smacking his palms against the wood. "Stand back," he yelled.

Doing as she was told, still trying to make sense of this urgency, she watched as he leaped and punched the barrel, with all his strength, over and over again. Just as she was about to shove him back out of the way to get to it herself, his fists smashed through the cask pouring red wine all over him. He stood under the red deluge yanking bits of plank though the hole he had created. Buffy grabbed her shiny new weapon from the corner and got under the hole. Spike hoisted her up.

"What is it?" He asked again.

"Faith, I think. Not sure. Just know it's not good," she called down as she scrambled through, pushing the remnants of the barrel out of the way.

"Watch out for Caleb!" he called up through the hole.

"Don't worry, I'll be back. Thanks!" he heard her call as she raced away.

Spike contemplated his new situation. Dripping with a rich, robust Bordeaux, his knuckles scraped and bleeding, standing alone once again in the gloomy, cold cave it was hard to keep his spirits up. Especially when a new idea came to him.

"I get her motor revving and she runs off to see the bint. Typical!" He chuckled at the irony and pondered how to get out of there and help.

Buffy shook wood splinters from her clothes and hair as she ran towards the exit of the vineyard. All she could focus on was getting to Faith. She had no idea what was wrong but she'd felt a bolt of energy go through her big enough to power Sunnydale. The only other time she'd had the same sensation was when watching the dark Slayer, or more appropriately hearing her, hit the empty crates in the back of her getaway truck.

As she neared the exit, Caleb stepped from the shadows.

"Well lookey who's finally come out to play," he drawled.

Without even turning she backhanded him hard enough to stun a bull elephant.

"Later," she snapped as he soared threw the air, back the way he had come. If her mind hadn't been somewhere else completely, she would have noted with certain satisfaction, the way his head cracked against a stone pillar before his body slid down the wall.

She raced into the sunshine, hesitated for a moment, then charged off in the direction of, where else, the Hellmouth.

The darkness was suffocating with smoke. The bare stone wall didn't offer a lot to burn and the small fires were already going out thanks to the water spurting from overhead pipes. Unfortunately this just made the smoke worse.

A thin layer of water was already covering the concrete floor when Vi dragged herself up. Splashing around, she noticed a couple of potentials were already up and crouched over an unconscious Faith.

"Is she okay? Is she alive?" She shouted to them.

"Alive? Yes. Okay? I don't know," one girl called back.

Vi was about to stagger over when she spotted Kennedy laying on the ground.

"Kenn, Kennedy can you hear me?" She shook the older potential trying to rouse her before rolling her onto her back.

There was blood pouring from a large gash on her forehead, mingling with the water around them. She patted Kennedy's face a few times desperately hoping for a response. Vi was scared. She could hear crying all around her as well as ringing left over from the explosion. The other two potentials had lifted Faith between them, they held her up and turned to Vi.

"What...what do we do?" The one who had spoken before stammered.

Vi hesitated; she wasn't a leader! Then she felt Kennedy stir under her hand.

"Oh my God, Kenn, thank God you're alright," she said, helping her sit up.

"What happened?" Kennedy asked, then she took in her surroundings. The gushing water, the fallen masonry, the charred girls. Oh God, the girls. She could see at least two dead bodies, belonging to young women she had considered friends, comrades.

"Faith, Where's Faith?" She shouted, struggling to stand up with Vi's help.

"It's okay, she's here," a girl called.

Kennedy looked at their unconscious leader, bloodied and hanging limply between the two potentials.

"Oh God," she spluttered and slumped into Vi's arms.

The guilt that consumed her was overwhelming. If Faith died it was all her fault. The two dead girls were all her fault. She had rushed in foolishly after being told to wait. Everyone was going to blame her and she knew they were right. Dazed with shock, she shivered uncontrollably.

Vi sensed she was losing her. "No Kenn, come on I need you. I can't do this alone," she insisted, trying to force the distraught teenager back on her own two feet.

"No, no, no. It's all my fault," she muttered, leaning back against the red-head.

The other potentials were milling around, unsure what to do. The small basement room was a chaotic mess, with grit still falling from the ceiling, along with the water. Vi noticed the door had been buckled by the explosion, the top half was missing leaving a jagged metal edge. The bottom half looked stuck. That was why no one had left yet. It was also why the smoke situation wasn't getting any better. A lot of the girls had started coughing now.

She shoved Kennedy away from her hard. The other potential staggered but stayed on her feet, swaying to some unheard rhythm.

Vi got up in her face. "This wasn't your fault, it was the First's fault. He blew us up, not you. But if you don't help me right now get us all to safety, it will be your fault. You choke now, we could all die!" she shouted.

Kennedy stared at her, shocked that mousy little Vi had shouted at her. For a fleeting moment Vi thought she was going to be punched as she saw some of the fire return to the other girl's eyes. Instead Kennedy held her gaze a second and then ran up the stairs, yelling:

"You two get Faith up here, she goes first. Vi, help me with the door."

Between the two of them, with much grinding of metal, they were able to force the door wide enough to allow the two potentials carrying Faith to slip through sideways. Three more survivors followed after, then Vi and Kennedy. Once on the other side, they all took a minute to hack up the smoke they'd inhaled. It still lingered in the corridor, but not nearly as thick or dangerous.

"We have to get Faith to a hospital," Vi said.

"There's no point. There's probably no one there, this town's emptying faster than the sea in a shark attack. You saw it earlier." Kennedy looked around, trying to clear her head. She still felt dizzy and disorientated, but if she could just help get everyone home, she could collapse.

"Where then?" Snapped one of the girls supporting the injured Slayer. She was exhausted and Faith wasn't getting any lighter.

"Our place, Willow will know what to do," Kennedy decided.

Happy with that decision they all hurried for the school exit. They could see the sun shining through the windows as they got near, but before they reached it, the Bringers descended.

Slayer central was also in turmoil. Giles' team and Robin's team had arrived back nearly two hours ago, with nothing unusual to report. The odd vamp here, the odd demon there, but nothing particularly Hellmouthy.

Anya had finally managed to drag Xander and their team back about half an hour later. They had seen nothing of Buffy or Spike.

They'd sat calmly and patiently for nearly another hour, awaiting the arrival of Faith's team, but she still wasn't back.

Giles, Willow, Xander, Anya and Dawn were all converged around the kitchen table once again.

"It's not like her Giles, Buffy wouldn't have gone this long unless she was in trouble," Xander insisted.

"I'm sure she's fine. We all know how capable Buffy is. She'll be back when she's done what she has to do." Giles tried to instill some calm, but it was a poor effort. He was near to panicking point himself now.

"And what if she's not? We sit here, twiddling our thumbs?" Dawn's voice was somber. She hadn't given into the tears threatening to fall, but when she spoke her lips quivered.

Willow put her arm around the young girl, giving Xander a scowl at the same time. "She'll be fine Dawnie, Buffy's never been good with the time-keeping. She gets carried away with a good slay..."

"Oooh yes, that's what I said. I said she's probably off with Spike doing grown-up things." Anya gave her a bright, cheery smile. Always eager to say the wrong thing.

"That's not what I meant," Willow wrinkled her nose with distaste.

"Oh," Anya's smile turned to a pout. "Well maybe Faith killed her and buried her in the back yard." Off everyone's looks she added, "Well no one's seen her since Faith came in last night, right?"

"Still not helping!" Willow told her incredulously.

"It happens, you know," Anya muttered under her breath.

"And while I really, really hate to lend any weight to that theory," said Xander, "I have to ask the question, why are we suddenly trusting Faith?"

"She's better now, I'm sure of it. She helped Angel when she didn't have to and she came here, knowing it could end in certain death," Willow said.

"As opposed to the not so certain death we usually get around here," Xander joked before turning serious again. "That still doesn't convince me. Faith's only ever out for number one. Whatever she's playing at you can guarantee, she's only got her own best interests in mind. It'll all end in tears again."

"Xander, while I appreciate there may be grounds for your concerns, I think you must agree that there is a certain element of saving our own skins present for all of us. We can not condemn Faith solely because she looks out for herself," Giles lectured.

Xander looked at him in disbelief. "That's not what I'm saying. You remember the old Faith. The do whatever I want and take whatever I want girl. How can we be so sure she doesn't still want to kill us all deep down?"

"Buffy obviously trusts her..." Giles began.

"No, Buffy obviously doesn't trust her. Have you forgotten the argument they had in front of us all last night? Buffy was accusing her of all sorts." Xander looked around at them for support. "Just before she disappeared without a trace."

Anya beamed.

"You can't possibly be suggesting that the Anya is right," Willow said skeptically, ignoring Anya's indignant scowl.

"No, of course not, I'm just saying...I don't know what I'm saying but it all seems a bit strange to me. Buffy goes off without a word to anyone, leaving Faith in charge - Er hello, in what alternative universe would that ever happen? Now Faith is missing with a whole bunch of potentials for like," he checked his watch, "nearly four hours. Maybe whatever side Faith is playing on, she's not the most stable role model for impressionable teenage girls. She's hardly the 'think first girl.'"

There was silence around the kitchen table while everyone thought about that.

Willow was the first to speak up, a worried frown marring her pretty features. "Kennedy's with her, oh God. If she's got one hair on her head hurt, I'll..."

Anya turned to the witch. "She's probably already buried her in the same shallow grave as Buffy."

Dawn gave a horrified squeal. Everyone rounded on Anya angrily.

"I was only trying to bring some light levity to the situation," she offered with a sheepish smile.

"Stop trying so hard," Willow growled.

"Okay, let's try not to get even further distracted," Giles said, bringing the meeting back to order. "The disappearances of both girls is worrying and we need to find them fast, so Willow, maybe a locator spell is in order."

"For who, Buffy or Faith?" Willow asked, already rising to collect the ingredients.

"Both I suppose. This really is most unfortunate, I'm sure I don't have to tell you how much worse our situation will be with no Slayer on our side."

"Yeah well I couldn't give a damn about having a Slayer on our team, I just want Buffy back alive and well," Xander said.

Kennedy could count at least six Bringers. They'd emerged from the classrooms on either side of the hall, blocking the way forward and cutting off their retreat. Faith still dangled unconscious between two potentials, who were helpless to do more than move away from the threat. Kennedy shepherded them into the center of the hall. The other girls automatically took their cue from this and surrounded them. Despite their newness to combat they had learned from the best.

All the Bringers seemed to carry were their long, rune-covered staffs, but all the girls knew they had a nasty habit of producing those wicked sharp knives from out of nowhere.

"We've got nothing Kenn, not even a stake," Vi whispered, shakily.

Everyone had dropped their weapons when the basement exploded. Kennedy and Vi both kicked themselves for not looking around for them before they left, but with the poor visibility and the smoke it hadn't seemed like a top priority.

'I should've known better,' Kennedy cursed herself again, but didn't give into the guilt, instead she came up with plan B. "If we can get into a classroom we should be able to find something to defend ourselves with."

"What, like a board eraser?" One girl muttered sarcastically.

"Unless you've got a better idea, shut up," Vi snapped. She could feel her own thread on sanity rapidly unraveling.

Kennedy spared a second to glance at the red-head. "High explosives really bring out the tiger in you, huh." She chuckled, then looked around again quickly. Aha, the two doors down behind them was the wood shop. 'Bound to be something in there to hurt these creeps,' she thought. She would have preferred a Modern Weapons classroom but you took what you had and ran with it.

The eyeless guys hadn't attacked yet. They just circled menacingly, inching closer. Kennedy called to one of the girls holding Faith.

"Sarah, give me you hair pin."

"What are you doing?" Sarah asked, even as she pulled the pin free, her long black hair falling down her back.

"You'll see." She took the pin, a nice thick metal spike, about three inches long. Sarah's hair was heavy, so was the pin needed to keep it in place. "When I distract them, head for the wood shop."

All the girls looked to see where the door was, so they'd know where to run too.

"You can't Kenn, it's not safe," Vi cautioned.

"And this is?" She gestured around her and watched the Bringers tense. 'They're waiting to see what we can do.' She realized. Well good, that should work in her favor. "Just get in there and load yourselves up, with whatever you can find. Oh, and if there's a crossbow save it for me."

With that she launched herself away from the group towards the Bringer furthest from the door they needed. Before it had time to react she plunged the hair pin straight into one of it's sewn up eye sockets. It made a strangled garbling noise of pain and tried to shake her off. She held on tight around his neck swirling the pin around and digging it deeper, hoping to hit whatever these guys had that passed for brains. She heard the other five rush towards her and kicked her feet out backwards. She managed to kick the leading one back into the others, slowing them up slightly.

Behind her she could hear the commotion as the other girls tried to get to the classroom. She heard Vi swear loudly at one of them just as there was a squidgy thud to the wall and hoped it was the Bringer's head and not her friend's. When she heard Vi shouting that they were through the door, she smiled in both relief and at Vi's capability.

The Bringer whose head she still clung to had started to drop, either dead or unconscious. She felt herself begin to fall with him and pushed away, pulling the pin with her It came out of its head with a slurping noise and it was covered in sticky red and yellow globules. She almost dropped it in disgust. She spun around to face the others. There were three left standing. One was trying to get through the closed classroom door at the other girls and two were slowly circling her again.

"Okay, so far so good. Ten years of training finally starting to pay off," she muttered to herself.

One of the two in front of her darted forward, bringing his staff down sharp across one of her arms. The arm holding the pin. She didn't drop it but her arm felt numb and she didn't think it would much use for a minute or two. 'Like I got a minute or two.' As the other one began to advance, she did the only thing that she could. Turned tail and ran.

As she barreled up the hall she risked a quick glance behind. She was dismayed to see all three of the harbingers giving chase. She'd hoped that at least one would stay and worry at the classroom door, uselessly. 'Maybe they're like the snakes that strike when they feel the ground vibrate,' She thought as she pounded around one corner. Either way they were all after her and she couldn't seem to increase her lead on them. At least she was taking them further away from the others. Maybe Faith would wake up and think of something. 'Maybe Faith's already dead.' She ignored the hateful little voice and just kept running. She knew she'd tire before they did what with her being human and them being supernatural and all, but for now she would just keep running.

Willow had performed the locator spell for Buffy first. As worried as she was about her girlfriend, Buffy had been missing for longer and so was of more concern. It was likely that Faith had simply wandered to the edges of town with her patrol and they were slowly making their way back. Only Xander was truly worried, and Willow couldn't help but think that had more to do with his own personal history with the dark Slayer than anything else. The witch could understand that; she still had a few grievances with Faith herself, high on that list: being held hostage at knife point, but now was the time to get over it. Willow had done some pretty mean things to her friends last year, and okay their situations were completely different, but they had forgiven her. The least she could do was pass it around. And besides, Giles certainly seemed to think the rogue Slayer was on the level. She didn't know what had changed but if he believed it she felt it was probably true.

"Right, it's done," she announced to the group as a collection of little yellow lights flared in front of her. "Are we all going or just a group?" she asked.

"Well I think it's wise if you stay here, Willow. Faith was right in that respect, you may be needed to defend the place. Not to mention you have to do the locator spell for Faith too and the sooner you get that up and running, the sooner we'll have some answers," Giles said.

"Well I'm going in, full force," Xander told them. "Buffy's in trouble with God knows what and we're going to save her."

"Right, I suggest you take Robin and a few of the more competent girl's. Amanda's good, and Rhona. Pick a few more and get going." Giles was trying to remain relaxed because he knew panicking wouldn't achieve anything, but the more time that went by with no word from Buffy was starting to take its toll.

Xander nodded his confirmation. "We're going in loaded for rhino. Wherever she is, we'll bring her back." With that he set off, picking up the girls, Robin and a boatload of weapons on the way.

"Okay let's get started on the next one," Willow said, pulling her ingredients towards her. As she selected what she needed she gave a moan of dismay. "Oh no, I've run out of Mandrake root. I can't do another one."

"Isn't there something else you can use?" Dawn asked anxiously.

"Nothing we have. I could have substituted it with wheat grass out of a teabag but someone took things a little seriously and burned them." She stared accusingly at Anya.

Everyone's eyes moved to the aluminum mixing bowl on the drainer. It was still smoking slightly. It smelled a lot better than it had tasted.

Instead of looking guilty Anya glared back. "Oh I know, why don't you run down to my magic shop and pick some more up? Oh, you can't because you knocked it down."

Willow looked suitably chastised, but said in a small voice, "I didn't knock it down."

"No, but you go in there and show me the difference," Anya stormed, pleased to finally be in the right for once.

"Okay Anya, let's stay calm. You know how sorry Willow is," Giles started.

"Yes we all know how sorry Willow is, but sorry doesn't pay construction workers. I wouldn't mind if you'd just magick it all back the way it was, but no that's too dangerous," Anya continued to rant.

"I'm really gonna have to start baking again," Willow muttered, then brightened considerably. "Hey. I'm still in Faith's mind."

"What?" Asked Anya, upset at being interrupted.

"Earlier, I did the incantation to open the wavelengths between everyone's minds, in case any of you needed help. With all the excitement - and by excitement I mean overwhelming dread and anxiety - I forgot. Faith's not back yet so the lines of communication are still all opened up," Willow babbled excitedly.

"And you remember this now? Well get on with it, ask her where she buried the bodies." Anya smirked.

Willow shook head exasperatedly at the blonde, everyone else just ignored her. Then the witch concentrated. She called out to Faith in her mind. After a few minutes of sitting in a meditative trance, she tried again.

Worriedly, she addressed everyone out loud.


"What do you mean, nothing?" Dawn asked.

"I mean nothing, zilch, nada communico. She's not answering."

"Maybe she's not there," Anya said sarcastically.

"How can she not be there? It's her mind," Dawn said, confused.

"Actually it is possible she can't hear me."

"See!" Stated Anya triumphantly, although no one knew why.

"It means she's dead!"

There was a chorus of oh's. Even Anya had the grace to lose the cocky attitude.

"Now Willow, it could also just mean she is unconscious. We don't always have to lean towards the dramatic," Giles corrected.

"Okay but this time I'm going to agree with Willow," Anya said surprisingly. "'cause if she's out there somewhere unconscious and we have no clue where, how long will it be before she really is dead?"

Giles pondered this and realized they were right. With Buffy missing and no magickal way of finding the other Slayer, her chances were not looking good. 'None of our chances are looking good,' he corrected himself.

Buffy ran across the school grounds. From outside it looked practically identical to the high school she'd attended for three years. The thought made her shiver. She didn't know exactly where to find Faith but instinct told her she was on the right track. She ran along the long line of windows leading from front to back. It was through a window just like these that Buffy had crawled to go on an impromptu slay with her sister Slayer, instead of taking a chem test with her friends. She grinned as she ran, 'not all the memories are bad.'

Through a glass-plated fire exit she saw something to cancel that thought out. Kennedy, running for her life, pursued by three Bringers. Sunlight glinted off of their knives as they chased the brunette potential. "Damn!" She murmured. Instead of heading for the emergency exit she rounded the corner and across the quad to the main doors. Hopefully if Kennedy could stay ahead of them for just a minute longer, Buffy would be able to burst through those doors and cut them off.

Kennedy was panting. her breath coming in short ragged gasps. The Bringers had shortened their lead but for the moment she was still ahead. There was a notice board on castors up ahead. If she could make it that far she might be able to take advantage of it.

'Yeah, no problem.' She grabbed the edge of it and used her momentum to swing it out behind her. She heard it hit the far wall and although she didn't dare waste the second it would take to look over her shoulder, she figured it would be in her enemy's way. It did hinder them for a moment. One of the Bringers ran straight into it. Obviously its sonar didn't work all that quick. Tangled, it fell to the ground before bouncing straight back up in pursuit. The other two didn't even slow down.

Aware they were still close behind her, she looked for her next obstacle. With a quick detour around a pillar that cost her a nano-second of her lead, but she hoped would prove worth it, she grabbed up a stack of chairs. Spinning around, she launched the chairs behind her, then continued the three-sixty and carried on sprinting away. The loud clattering noise was followed by three heavy thumps.

"Yeah, that's what I'm talking about!" She shouted back to them, risking a quick glance over her shoulder she noted that all three of the Bringers had been tripped by the strewn chairs. They were already struggling to their feet, throwing the chairs away, but it gave Kennedy an extra few seconds lead and one hell of a lot of satisfaction.

"Yeah you're messing with a potential now!" she called back.

She heard them running after her again. Quickly looking for something else that would really hurt them, she realized she had done a complete circuit of the school. She could see the ruined door of the basement and up ahead was the wood shop room. 'Just a few more feet and I can get in that room with the others,' She thought gleefully. It was all very well playing the hero but she was close to the point where her legs would just refuse to move anymore and there was a lot to be said for the comfort found in numbers.

As she raced past the buckled basement door, a loud growl made her jump and turn her head, nearly hard enough to cause whiplash. From out of the smoke that still lingered a bony, nightmarish face appeared.

Kennedy didn't think her heart could beat any faster, so when it increased at the sight of the Turok-han, she thought she would drop dead of a heart attack. With an ear-piercing scream she somehow forced herself to pick up speed and increased the distance between herself and the demons behind her.

As she shot past the door to the wood shop it flew open and the three girls lead by Vi, shot out brandishing an assortment of cutting tools. All three girls screamed when they saw the feral vampire in the hall, but they soon realized he was no threat. There was a bright shaft of sunlight falling through the window opposite, cutting off his approach. If he tried to reach them, he'd be dust.

The Bringers were a different story. They kept coming, slowing slightly at the sight of the three teenage girls, but not hesitating in their approach. When they got close enough, Vi lunged at the nearest one with a long, sharp chisel. It didn't touch skin, but stuck in its robe, tearing it loudly. In her other hand she held a heavy hammer. Swinging it around with surprising accuracy she swiped the clawed end hard across its spooky face. It's arms flew to its gouged face and she deftly twisted the instrument in her grip, this time bringing it down mallet end first. Again and again until he slumped to the ground.

The other two girls had their own plans. Between them they held a double handled saw. A long unwieldy thing for one person but between them they ran at the remaining two Bringers, being careful to stay in the sunlight. The Bringers were caught unaware, but instead of it slicing them in half as one might've hoped, it stuck in them. They both let out the weird choking noises the girls assumed indicated pain. Simultaneously they pushed the saw hard and had the satisfaction of feeling it cut in deeper.

The Bringers were still waving their knives around but without the precision they usually showed. Vi kicked her assailant away and rushed up to help the other two. Kennedy, who had spun around as soon as she heard the door open and the battle began, moved in to help her. Vi hit out with her hammer. From inside the still open doorway another girl whistled for Kennedy's attention. One of her arms hung limply at her side, obviously broken, but in her other hand she held a strong looking wooden structure, about a foot long. When she had Kennedy's attention, she chucked the wooden thing to her. Kennedy caught it deftly and turned to beat it over a Bringer's head. Neither Vi nor Kennedy stopped their beating until the Harbinger's bodies hung lifelessly over the long saw. The two girls holding the saw dropped it onto the floor. All four turned to look at the Turok-han. It still growled threateningly from the shadows, but came no closer. Kennedy made a rude gesture at it and they turned away.

Buffy, swamped in a black leather duster, was stood in front of the entrance. The place they'd been trying to reach before they were attacked. She walked purposely forward. They all eyed the silver-red axe in her hands. It swung loosely at her side as if she had forgotten she carried it. The jacket swept across the floor.

"This guy bothering you girls?" She asked, upbeat. She'd crashed through the doors just in time to see them make short work of the three Harbingers and she was feeling extremely emotional, in a happy way for once.

She walked through the patch of sunlight into the shadow. Vi began to voice a warning and the Turok-han lunged forward but the axe was already swinging through the air. It made a satisfying swish until it connected with the monster's neck and then it was muted by the dust that sprayed up.

"Well that should teach him to leave nice girls alone," she quipped. Then she was all business again.

"What happened? Where's Faith?"

Kennedy wanted to explain but couldn't find the words. She was no coward but she just couldn't look Buffy in the eye and tell her it was all her fault. As she tried to work up the courage Vi stepped in.

"We were on patrol and there was an explosion."

"Faith! Is she okay?" Buffy was worried all over again.

"Uh, we don't know. She was knocked out in the explosion and she won't wake up," another potential told her; she thought the girl's name was Sasha or Sarah or something beginning with S.

"She's in here." Vi pointed into the wood shop room. "We were trying to get her home when the Bringers jumped us."

Buffy wasn't listening any more as she charged into the classroom. Faith had been laid on the teacher's desk. The other Slayer was pale and had streaks of blood lining her face but her pulse was strong and she was breathing. Satisfied she wasn't dying, Buffy scooped her up in her arms and went back out the door.

"Let's get home. Are there any more girls here?"

"No one alive," Kennedy told her in a small voice.

Buffy looked at her sympathetically. These girls had seen more than enough death for their young lives. 'Haven't we all.'

Pleased that Faith wasn't dead as she'd feared and thrilled with her new weapon, but not looking forward to getting back and doing role call to see who else they had lost, she lead the weary band of girls back to Revello Drive.

Chapter Two

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Part Three Quick Jump:

Chapter One || Chapter Two || Chapter Three || Chapter Four || Chapter Five || Chapter Six || Chapter Seven || Chapter Eight || Chapter Nine || Chapter Ten || Chapter Eleven || Chapter Twelve || Chapter Thirteen || Chapter Fourteen || Chapter Fifteen || Chapter Sixteen

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