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



Chapter Eleven: Destined to Dream

Upstairs in Buffy's bed, Faith had fallen into a restless sleep. The pillow was damp with her tears and she held Buffy's stupid stuffed pig tightly under her chin. She shifted over slightly, a small grunt escaping her and her eyelids began to twitch.

Downstairs in the basement, Buffy was fast asleep in Spike's arms. Her head was cradled where his neck met his strong shoulder blade. Her mouth began to move without sound and her eyelids began to flutter.

Willow sat on the ground, her hands on the red and silver scythe in front of her. Her hair was white and glowed with a radiant nimbus. Strong beams of a similar color shone out of the shiny weapon. Suddenly Willow was joined by seven other women, with equally flowing hair. Willow's pants and sweater became a fine robe of white and gold, dressing her in the uniform the other women wore.

All hands were on the scythe, the light shining through all of them and out until the room became to bright to bear.

When the light winked out they were left in total darkness.

"Where'd everyone go?" It was Faith's voice, but Buffy couldn't see her, couldn't sense her.

"Don't know, where are you? Why're our voices echoing?" Buffy asked.

"You don't want the answer to that B. Just don't look down," Faith warned.

Buffy had the feeling of rushing through space and for all she knew, she had. Then she realized it was just the wind. A very strong, more or less gale force wind, blowing from somewhere to where ever. Her hair streamed out behind her, and the front of her clothes became moulded to her body, but she had no difficulty in standing there.

Buffy walked forward into the wind and then she was standing on ice. It was still dark, but it was the darkness of a moonless night now. Looking up she could see a million stars. They were reflected beneath her in the smooth flawless ice. Around her in the distance she could see mountains, black as pitch against the night sky.

"Faith!" She called. Her words were whipped away by the wind.

"Bit busy right now Buffy, just don't look down." Faith could see Buffy through a jagged hole in the wall. Assuring herself Buffy was safe for the time being, she turned her attention back to her visitor.

"I did this already," she stated confidently.

"You are the Slayer, the Chosen One, the one girl in all the world with the strength and skill to combat the forces of darkness." The Mayor gave a little chuckle, steepling his fingers in front of him. "Sounds like a lot of hard work, doesn't it firecracker? Why don't you let me handle all that darkness, you should get some rest, you're much too young for all those worry lines Buffy is giving you."

"You're not my Watcher."

"On the contrary, Faith. I've been watching you your whole life, and I'm very proud of you so far. Don't let me down now."

Faith stood in the center of the filthy, falling down room. She had to get out. Steve would be back soon and he wouldn't be too pleased to find another man here, even if it was her boss - or was he her Watcher? - or whatever the hell he was.

"Okay, okay, I'll make you proud, I'll do whatever you want, just get out of here before my boyfriend kills me."

"Manners, Faith. It's rude to rush me out of here until you've finished our bit of business." The Mayor stepped aside to reveal the dead, blood-soaked body of Allan Finch.

Faith gasped and her hand flew to her mouth. "I did this already," she choked out.

Faith made a break for the hole in the wall, needing to leave the savage reminder of her mistake behind. She began squeezing through, her lithe body pulling and forcing itself through the small opening. Buffy was on the other side; if she could get to Buffy everything would be okay. Buffy could make this better.

"Come back here young lady, this isn't a free ride, you know!" the Mayor called after her. "You're my Slayer, you're not supposed to shirk your responsibilities."

Finally falling through on the other side of the wall, she noticed the hole that should have led back to her old squat in Boston had gone, so had the wall itself. She looked around for Buffy and saw her in the distance. Faith called out to her, but the blonde Slayer didn't acknowledge she heard. The wind whipped around Faith and she stared down at the ice. It was starting to melt and she didn't want to go under; she didn't want to go down there. She began screaming

"Buffy, Buffy, Buffy..."

Buffy found she could walk on the ice perfectly well, but she couldn't run. She learned that after slipping over on her ass a few times. Slayer agility wouldn't help her here, just slow, sure steps.

She could hear Faith calling for her in the ether, but she didn't have time to stop and have that chat with her at the moment. She needed to find Willow. Willow would know what to do, she was a witch and they knew about these Earth things. Like how the desert had suddenly turned into a giant skating rink.

She heard a snuffling noise behind her.

"'Bout time Faith, nice of you to get with the program."

Faith didn't answer, just kept up the snuffling, adding a little low growl now and again.

"Faith!" Buffy said, maddened.

Still no reply.

"Faith!" There was a tinge of fear in the blonde Slayer's voice this time that she was gonna make Faith pay for.

Spinning round she was greeted by a primal force hitting her chest and knocking her off her feet. Buffy screamed as she was sent sliding across the ice, the First Slayer crouched on top of her, dreads hanging in her face.

"Oh it's you," Buffy stuttered. "How've you been?"

"Right!" It growled, it's ancient voice hoarse and low. "Together! Free me! Create me!"

"Huh?" Buffy stared up at the cave woman quizzically.

The First Slayer snarled and jumped off Buffy, lifting her by the front of her black T-shirt and flinging her away over the ice.

"Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey!" She yelled as she flew through the air.

She opened her eyes and looked up into her mom's loving face.

"Hi, guess I had a bad dream. Did I wake you?"

Joyce stroked her daughter's face. "No honey, I was already right here. Your friend Willow stopped by, she said to give you this." Joyce handed the scythe to Buffy, who took it and cuddled it to her chest.

"It's my new toy, I said she could borrow it. We're gonna chop off the bad guy's head," she told her mom excitedly.

"It's nice you're learning to share Buffy. Now get some rest, I'll be right here."

Buffy smiled angelically and closed her eyes.

"Damn, you made me jump."

Buffy's eyes snapped open again at the voice.

Faith was stood next to her, one hand clamped theatrically over her heart.

"I've been looking for you," she said.

"Why are you so wet?" Buffy asked her.

"The damn rink melted. It's okay though, I swam to the desert before I went under." Faith nodded at her to show it was alright.

"Good, I'm glad, I don't want you to go under again."

"Phew, me neither. Have you seen what's down there?" Faith pulled a bag of popcorn out of her pocket and munched on a handful. She offered some to Buffy.

"No thank you, I only like new car smell."

"Yeah, that stuff's good."

"So what are we watching?" Buffy asked, looking down into the big arena.

"Dunno, some witch thing. Maybe they're burning them?"

"Better go buy some rat cages then."

"Shhh B, I think they're starting in."

In the arena sat eight women with white blonde flowing hair and long white robes.

"Looks more like a play than a burning," Buffy offered conversationally.

As they watched, one of the women turned around, smiled eagerly and gave them a little wave.

"Oh look, Willow's in it. Those drama lessons must have paid off!" Buffy said excitedly.

The women started chanting something and Faith finished her popcorn and grew restless. Looking around the stands they were sat in something caught her attention and she nudged her fellow Slayer.

"Hey B, I think we've got some hecklers."

"Huh, what? I think it's just getting to the good bit, they're starting to fan out a bit. They do a dance now, I think."

"B over there, look. Not everyone's gonna give them a good review."

Buffy finally looked to where she was pointing. Three men in dark robes were making their way down through the stands to the main stage. They carried thick, rune covered staffs and looked extremely menacing.

"I know these guys, I met them in the desert. They wanted me to mate with a demon."

"What's the big? I thought you did that already."

"Faith, so not the time. We have to stop them, I will not have them ruining Willow's first play."

"It's not her first though, is it B? She's done this sort of thing before. You can trust her."

"I know, but I don't want them making it difficult. They think they should keep the knowledge for themselves, like a woman couldn't handle it. They limit our power because they are scared we will become stronger than them, but I don't need any more demon power to know that we are already stronger than them. We have the power to overcome the shadows and drive the darkness back, I just wish I knew what it was I know."

"Damn B, you nearly sounded like you knew something then." Faith was genuinely impressed.

Buffy shrugged modestly.

"So we gonna kick some shadow butt or watch the play, cause by the looks of it over there, we're gonna see a burning after all." Faith rejoiced at their good luck.

Over on the far side of the arena was a figure chained to the sand by her arms and legs. She struggled and howled as the shadow men drew closer. The men surrounded her and began to pound their staffs in the sand, it mixed with the rattling chains and the women's chanting.

"I know her!" Buffy cried, looking around for where she'd put down the scythe. "She's us. We have to help her, if we don't we're all dust."

"Buffy we're too far away and Willow has the scythe," Faith called to her. The wind seemed to be picking up again, the sand in the arena was being whipped up into little sandstorms.

"Then Willow will have to use the scythe," Buffy said. She shouted down to her best friend, but the wind and the chanting and the howling and the pounding of the staffs drowned out her cries. From behind she felt Faith give a panicked tug on her sleeve.

"B, I really think the shadows are the least of our problems."

Buffy turned round to see what had caused her fellow Slayer to sound so freaked. They were stood on the uppermost stand in the stadium, looking down behind them the stands seemed to stretch on forever and coming up fast was an army of the deadly, prehistoric vampires.

"Where are they coming from?" Buffy asked. She sounded annoyed.

Faith sounded scared. "From below." She clutched at Buffy's arm. "They're coming from below. They're all coming, do you see?"

"I see, Faith, and it's okay I won't let them get us. You'll see, the play will be over before they get up this far," Buffy reassured the younger Slayer, stroking her arm.

Faith clung on, trusting Buffy enough to stand her ground, but still shaking with fear

As the army of Turok-han charged closer, Buffy felt her own courage beginning to wane. She could hear their growls and snorts as they fought one another on the stands to be the first to reach the Slayers and feed. And feed they would because two Slayers would never stand a chance against this many thousands. Just as they seemed close enough to reach out and grab, the chanting behind them reached a crescendo and Buffy and Faith both turned their heads in time to see white light shoot from between them, bathing everything in its resplendent glory. There was the sound of snapping chains and screeching wind and men's screams echoing around the vast space . . .

"Damn!" Buffy shot upright, nearly pitching Spike off the narrow cot.

He opened his eyes blearily. "You alright luv, you have a bad dream?"

She looked at him and smiled. "I think I can honestly say, that was the best dream I've ever had."

Faith awoke with a start, the sheet was tangled around her so tightly she could barely move. Wiping a hand over her face and pushing her hair back, she tried to extricate herself. "Damn dreams!" She muttered to the empty room. She was soaked with sweat and had a slight tremble. Taking a few deep breaths she decided to go have a smoke and calm herself down.

She was searching the floor for her clothes when the door barged open.

"Hey!" She snapped, using a boot and a bra to try and cover herself.

"Get over it Faith, I saw it all last night," Buffy sighed impatiently.

"Yeah, but they didn't," Faith remarked, indicating Spike, Giles, Willow and Xander who were also stood in the doorway.

"Fair point," Buffy conceded and ushered everyone out. No one was getting to see Faith naked until she'd had the chance to enjoy it. In fact no one was getting to see Faith naked after that either. Of this she was determined.

Once she had the door closed, she called through it to Faith. "You dreamt it too, didn't you?"

"I dreamt something," Faith admitted. She was wigged out enough by her dreams lately, now everyone else seemed wigged too. That couldn't be good. Pleased, at least, that Buffy had gotten over her bad mood from the night before, she hastily threw on her pants and t-shirt and headed downstairs.

"Nooo I don't mind being woken up at 6.30 in the morning by elephant feet on the stairs. Not if there's pancakes anyway," Dawn finished hopefully.

"Pancakes later, I promise," Buffy said. "But first this."

Faith came through and went to the back door.

"Faith, where are you going? We need you to tell your side of the dream too, I might have missed some important bits."

"Calm down Blondie, I'm just having a smoke." Faith opened the back door, letting in the fresh smell of morning, then lit a cigarette which let in the smell of fresh nicotine.

Buffy bit her lip but said nothing. She remembered how freaked Faith had been in the dream. It was no wonder she needed a cigarette.

"So Buffy, what is all this about? Did you have a prophetic dream on how to fight the First, cause I must say that would be extremely useful." Giles smiled at her. He was pleased to find her up and motivated after the obvious unhappiness she'd felt last night. A small, mean, human part of him wished she didn't feel quite so bright at this time of the morning after polishing off his prized Whiskey, but he suspected that was just caused by the slight ache in his own head.

"Actually Giles, I think that's exactly what I had, or I should say, what we had," Buffy replied.

"Oh well that is good news." Giles' smile grew wider.

"Is that what that was?" Faith exclaimed from over by the door. "Well at least the night terrors and the bed wetting was for a worthy cause this time."

Everyone turned to look at her.

"I was joking," she assured. "Well about the bed-wetting anyway," she continued in a darker tone.

Everyone was still staring at her.

"Come on, you guys I was kidding."

"Faith as much as I love you, you'd better be," Buffy told her, resisting the urge to get Dawn to change the sheets. Actually, thinking back to the night before, the sooner the sheets were changed the better.

Faith was staring at her like she'd just grown another head. It made her feel slightly awkward and she looked away. She caught Spike's eye and he smiled at her, she smiled back.

"Right, should we get back to the matter in hand?" Giles asked. "Tell us about the dream."

Everyone present took seats around the kitchen table.

"Right, well I'll tell what I remember and then Faith can tell her bit, then hopefully you can piece it together cause it makes as much sense as usual to me, which is none."

Giles pulled a pad and a pen from the jumble at the center of the table ready to make notes and Willow fired up her laptop to access all the notes, they already had. They both nodded when they were ready.

Buffy and Faith looked at each other and their eyes locked across the table as they began to speak.

"There was Willow, but you had white hair and the scythe..."

"No that was at the end..."

"No she had it at the start too, you weren't there..."

"I was in the dark...but I could feel you..."

"I found you in the dark and then you went away..."

"I was always not there, I was in Boston with my Watcher, it was the day I was called, except it was the Mayor. He said I had unfinished business." Faith's voice became quieter. "That I had to take care of the body. It was Allan." Faith's hands were splayed on the table top, Buffy reached across and covered one with her own. "Then I ran, crawled through the hole in the wall and tried to find Buffy."

"I got jumped by the First Slayer on the ice..."

"Luckier than me then. The ice started melting, it was trying to pull me under."

"She said something. Something about creating her." Buffy shook her head, trying to remember the exact words, but they'd gone the way of dreams past.

"Then we were watching Willow's play..."

"No before that I saw Mom." Dawn looked up at that. Buffy smiled at her. "She said she's right here always and she mentioned something about Willow borrowing the scythe, but I had it..."

"But Willow had it for her play, that's why we couldn't fight those shadow dudes..."

"Yeah...I remember...they had the First Slayer in chains...they were putting the mojo on her..."

"And then the vampires, Turok-han or whatever you call them...hundreds of thousands..." Faith shuddered at the memory.

"I saw them in the vision, the shadow du...I mean men gave me. It's the First's army."

"It's below...Don't look down...From beneath you it devours," Faith muttered.

"Uh guys, do you remember how you killed all the vampires? 'Cause that's kind of the important part," Xander asked.

"We didn't kill them, we woke up," Faith said.

"Very helpful," Anya said.

"When the light shone from the scythe, the First Slayer broke free and, and that's important, I just wish I knew why," Buffy said apologetically.

"Obviously I'm prepared to do whatever is needed to beat this thing, but, um, I'm not really comfortable with the idea of me standing down on the Hellmouth reciting Shakespeare," Willow said nervously.

"I'm thinking it wasn't a play," Buffy said.

"Dunno, we had popcorn."

"True, but I think you were with the Guardians, of the scythe." Everyone stared at her blankly. "The mystical old woman I met last night. She said her and her friends put the power in the scythe, and in the dream Willow was dressed like them and chanting like them."

"You up for a bit of chanting Will? Latin's easier than Shakespeare," said Xander.

"Makes more bloody sense than Shakespeare too," Spike scoffed.

"I guess. Do you remember what I was chanting?"

Buffy and Faith both shook their heads.

"Right, well I suggest we get Althenea on the phone and see if she has any ideas that could help," Giles said.

Willow nodded. "No time like the present. Dawnie, you want to carry on looking on here for me?" She got up to find the phone and Dawn slipped into her seat and resumed scrolling through Willow's files.

"I want pancakes at time and a half for this," she said to no one in particular.

"I'll make you pancakes," Anya offered brightly, no one would dare make her look through the boring books now because it would upset Dawn. "I can make pancakes," she said off of everyone's surprised looks. "Can't we Xander?"

"Cool guys, can I have funny shapes?" Dawn looked up from the laptop to beam at the ex-demon.

Anya looked at Xander expectantly.

"Yeah we can do funny shapes." Xander gave in and got up with Anya to start breakfast.

Giles looked through his notes. "I see no connection between Faith seeing the Mayor as her Watcher on the day of her calling, and the rest of the dream."

"Nah, I think that's just a throwback to my usual dreams, it musta just got mixed in." Faith shrugged.

"I don't think so."

"Huh?" Buffy and Faith both turned to look at Spike. Giles regarded him closely.

"What makes you say that?"

"Because Rupert, I think it was the First, somehow manifesting in her dreams. Wouldn't be the first time it's done something like that."

"It messed around with Angel's and my dreams that Christmas," Buffy agreed.

"It wants Faith out of the game, whatever way it takes. It's tried blowing you up, it's tried using me to get to you and now it's tried this."

"Dunno. It's not the first time I've had dreams of Boston, or the Mayor or...or Finch."

"What did he say to you?" Buffy asked.

"Like I said. He said he was my Watcher. He said he'd been watching my whole life in fact and that he was proud of me. Uh, he said to leave the darkness to him and not let Buffy give me any worry." Faith looked down, not meeting the blonde Slayer's eyes.

"It was the First," Buffy said without hesitation.

"Told you." Spike slumped back in his chair, a satisfied grin on his face.

"So does that mean the rest of the dream was useless, if it was all a decoy by the First?"

"If it was, it let something real slip by accident. No, I think it was trying to interrupt the dream, somehow. It didn't want Faith to participate." Buffy thought hard for the missing links.

Faith was also deep in thought. "Do you remember what you said about the men and the power?"

Buffy looked at her. "That they shouldn't have it?" She tried.

"Well that's a given, but no. You said they limit our power so we can't get stronger than them, but that we already are, we just had to use the power we have."

"You've got a good memory, Faith. We'll have to apply that to our research in the future." Giles sounded hopeful.

Faith gave him a sarcastic smile. "Yeah, if we have a future."

Giles refused to lose his smile. "Well I'm sure the information you remembered has just made that much more likely."

"Okay, I'm all for the appliance of mutual admiration but can we save it until later?" Buffy looked from her Watcher to Faith. "And figure out what my incredible insight actually meant."

"You have to use the power you and Faith already have to make yourselves stronger," Dawn offered without looking up from the screen.

"Or more likely to make us stronger, Y'know, the army of light or whatnot," Spike said.

"How though?" Faith asked.

"Something to do with what the Shadow men did to the First Slayer," Buffy mused.

"They gave her the power from a demon. They mated her with it, you said." Faith didn't bother to suppress her smirk.

"Still not funny now that we're awake, Faith," Buffy chided her. "I don't think it's about the demon though. It's about the First Slayer. She told me to free her, make her."

"Now that's interesting, make her. I wonder what she meant." Giles removed his glasses for cleaning. "I must admit I'm not too happy about the thought of freeing her, once was more than enough."

"Oh she's not so bad, apart from the lack of hygiene and social etiquette..." Buffy trailed off and sat in silence.

"B, you alright? You've gone a funny color."

"Buffy, what is it?" Giles put his glasses back on to peer more closely at her. Her mouth was working soundlessly.

Xander noticing the sudden change in the room looked over his shoulder. "What's up Buff? You scared I'm gonna burn your pancakes."

Her smile started slow, but soon it stretched from ear to ear.

"Pet?" Spike leaned over and put his hand on her shoulder.

Coming back from where ever she had been, she looked around at them all with a giggle.

"We are so off our game, it's embarrassing. WILLOW!"

Chapter Twelve

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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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