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



Chapter Two: Confusion is Nothing New

Spike had waited for ten minutes listening for sounds of a struggle, prepared to jump up and help Buffy, fangs bared.

He hadn't heard a thing. Cautiously he poked his head out. Nothing. He jumped, gripped the edge of the trap door and hauled himself up with ease. Crouched warily, he looked around for Caleb or any of his little henchmen. Still nothing. He crept towards the entrance, using the casks as a screen from the rest of the vineyard.

He was pleasantly surprised to reach the entrance without encountering any nasties, but was not very pleased to find he couldn't leave because a vampire's number one enemy was waiting just outside.

Bright, burning sunlight. It was another beautiful Sunnydale day and it took away any chance he had of leaving.

He lingered in the doorway, hoping for a passing black cloud, or better yet another of the miracle snowfalls he'd heard about.

That was where he was when Xander and his crew of rescuers found him.

With no niceties - because why would he waste those on Spike? - Xander stormed over.

"Where's Buffy? What have you done with her?"

"Hey, breathe for a second sidekick boy, I haven't done anything with her. She left about thirty minutes ago."

"What do you mean left? And if you're so innocent, why are you hanging around the bad guy's lair like you're still the big bad?" Xander asked, confused. If Buffy wasn't hurt or held captive, why hadn't she come home?

"Ahh, is little Xander all upset he didn't get to rescue the princess?" Spike was not happy that he couldn't leave the bad guy's lair, especially as he was sure it was only a matter of time until the First caught wind of him and sent Caleb his way.

"Just answer the question, fang face." Xander was also in no mood to play nice.

Spike's arm shot out and grabbed Xander, too fast for it to burn. As he dragged Xander into the shadow of the doorway, Robin made to lunge forward.

"Back off civilian, this is between the boy wonder and me," he snapped.

Xander nodded that it was okay, although he wasn't too sure it was, and Robin kept his distance.

Spike brought his face inches from Xander's and the dark haired man leaned as far back as he could. Spike didn't change from his human face but there was a slight vampiric growl in his voice.

"Listen Xander, I know you hate me, I'm not all that keen on you either, but the sooner you learn to accept me as a part of the gang, the better we'll all sleep at night." His tone made it quite clear he didn't have any trouble sleeping. "The chip's out now, mate, and has been for a while. If I wanted to suck you dry I could do it any time I liked. The only reason I don't is that the pig's blood tastes better."

"Not really reassuring me here," Xander told him.

"That wasn't supposed to. What should reassure you is that I would never do anything to upset Buffy, and I get the impression snacking on her little pet Xander might upset her. Now I know how you feel about her and so I think we have the same agenda on that score."

Xander couldn't help but nod. The blood-sucking fiend was right.

"So why don't we make a little pact to do all we can to help the Slayer, and in the process I won't drain your veins dry and you'll stop looking at me with stakes in your eyes."

When Xander didn't agree right away he added.

"Or we could go a round right now and see who comes out on top." This time he let the demon in him slip out for a second, when he was back in human face, he gave Xander a big grin. "Up to you, mate."

"All I want to do is help Buffy and save the world," Xander replied through gritted teeth.

"You have such small aspirations Xander, you should think bigger," Spike replied, his grin not slipping. "Now get me a blanket so I can get out of here and do something useful."

Xander turned back to Wood and the girls. "Find a blanket or something, and a manhole."

Two of the girls scurried off but the principal stayed, the stake still in his hand. Any excuse and he would take Spike down, whatever Buffy thought of him.

"So where has Buffy gone and where's Caleb?" Xander asked the vampire.

"Don't know and don't know. Buffy left a while ago like I said. Something about Faith being in trouble. Caleb locked me and Buffy down in a hole in the ground a few hours ago and hasn't been seen since. Buffy escaped when she felt something - something to do with the other Slayer." Spike shrugged.

"Maybe we should try and take Caleb down," Robin said.

Spike spun Xander round to face him before the young man could protest. "Yeah and maybe we should get out of here before we lose any more body parts."

"Hey!" Xander snapped, not happy being the example, but he had to agree Spike was right. He certainly didn't want to hang around any longer than necessary. Not if Buffy wasn't here any more.

"They're here, they're all here!" Dawn yelled from her station at the window.

"Oh thank goodness," Giles said, coming through from the kitchen.

"" Willow had been doing an ingredient inventory, with Anya's help, to see if she could come up with a useful spell.

She left the powders and potions spread across the floor and ran to the front door, only to be pushed out of the way by an over-excited Dawn.

Together they tumbled out of the door and down the steps. Willow pulled Kennedy into her arms. "I thought you were dead, baby," she told her as they hugged.

Kennedy let a few silent tears fall as she slipped into her girlfriend's embrace.

Dawn went rushing up to Buffy and tried to hug her around Faith's limp body.

"Arrgh Dawnie, strangulation does not say 'I missed you'," Buffy choked out, but she was really too caught up in her sister's enthusiasm to mind the crushing of her wind pipe.

"Sorry." Dawn smiled sheepishly and went up the steps to hold the door open for her.

Buffy managed to squeeze Faith through the doorway, only bumping her head once or twice as she carried her upstairs to her own room. Giles followed them up.

"Dear God, what happened Buffy? We've been worried sick. Is Faith okay?" He asked.

"I have no idea what happened," Buffy answered truthfully, laying Faith gently down on her bed. "From what I can tell there was some sort of explosion at the school and Faith got in way, but the girl's got nine lives so I imagine she'll be fine."

Buffy lead the way back downstairs. "The girls were great though. I arrived at the school just in time to watch them take down three Bringers. Total teamwork too. Very impressive." She winked at one of the girls who had wielded the saw, she was having her head bandaged by Anya and Andrew.

"What do you mean, when you arrived?" Giles asked, confused. "Where were you before that?"

"Getting this!" She took the axe from Vi, who had carried it back for her, and turned around to present it to her Watcher.

"Oh," he muttered, taking it to examine. "Do we know what it is?"

"Nope, but we know it cuts up prehistoric vampires like cake and we know Caleb really, really wasn't happy when I King Arthur'd it out of solid rock. In fact he was so not happy he locked me and Spike in a cave. It was all very medieval."

She smiled as she watched Giles swipe and thrust at the air with her new toy. Then she remembered something.

"Oh, Spike is still down there. Guess I better go rescue him again," she said with less sincerity than she felt, wrapping his jacket around her, although the day was far from cold.

She took the axe back and started towards the front door, but before she got there Xander and his scout group came through it.

"Buffy, thank God you're okay. Spike said you were, but I say never trust a guy with yellow eyes." He came over and gave her a little hug. "Is everyone else okay?"

"Cuts here, bruises there. Faith took a knock to the head and she's sleeping it off, but she'll live. The girls were great. Proved themselves to be true fighters," she told him.

"So where's Spike? Is he okay? Does he need help?"

Xander was one of the best men she could ever hope to meet, but she didn't think he was beyond leaving Spike to fend for himself.

"Nah, he's fine. We got him a blanket and saw him safely down into the sewers. I've no doubt sometime soon he'll be popping up like a bad smell, just like everything else that pops out of sewers."

"Thanks Xand," she said, and then realized that Principal Wood had also been with him she added. "That was big of you, to help him I mean. I appreciate it," she told him sincerely.

Wood shrugged, his face expressionless. "It was Xander's call."

She smiled warmly again at her best friend. He in turn shuffled his feet and looked away.

"We, uh, we came to a little agreement. I'd give him a break and he wouldn't turn me into a human juice box."

"Er well I guess... thanks for trying to work things out. I know you guys could never be best friends but he really is on our side," she said.

"He's on your side," he said matter-of-factly. Buffy started to protest but he continued before she could. "But that's okay cause I'm on your side too. Buffy, I know he's got the soul and I know he's done loads to help you - and us - in the past, and I guess at the end of the day he's not a bad ally to have. But I'm never gonna get past the fact that he's a vampire, and I'll never think he's good enough for you."

He didn't wait for her to answer, just gave her his boyish smile and wandered off to help pick up bottles, and jars and bowls of magickal components, before the influx of potentials demolished them.

Buffy checked on the injured girls, chatted to Dawn to reassure her she really was fine and took a few minutes to munch an apple from the looted groceries. All the while she wondered about what Xander had said. Maybe she was worth more than Spike. She'd certainly once thought so, but she hadn't exactly treated him very well last year. She remembered her conversation with Holden Webster earlier in the year. It had all seemed so plain then. She and Spike were well past over. When she spoke of him it had been with pain and regret, because the memories she had were painful and she regretted them all. There was no longing for what they'd lost, like there had been with past relationships. Occasionally she had wondered what might have been, if he'd had the soul before they'd got together. Would she have loved him back, would he have left her like the others, or would he have fought tooth and claw to keep her?

Deep down she'd always known the answer to the second question. He wouldn't leave her, maybe couldn't leave her. It was in his blood. Angel had left for her own good, to give her the chance at a better life. Spike could never think like that. Maybe some part of it was blatant conceit, the belief that how could she get better than he could give her. Another, larger part was the well kept secret that Spike was a hopeless romantic at heart. He believed in love for love's sake and no hurdle was so great that love couldn't overcome it. Certainly the simple fact of them being from different species would never have slowed him down. After all they both walked upright, they spoke the same language and they both liked spicy chicken wings/ what more did you need in common? 'In fact,' she realized, 'I have way much more in common with Spike than I ever did with Angel.' She wondered what that meant if anything. Angel was the love of her life, but she shared more history with Spike now. Spike knew her better than Angel or any of her ex-boyfriends did. That was truly a terrifying thought.

'But could I ever love him back?' she thought. She remembered what she had said to him before things had gotten out of control that night last year.

"I could never trust you enough to love you."

She'd been deadly serious when she had said those words, but she'd also been hurt and jealous because of his naked tryst with Anya. Apart from that one night, when he seemed to go out of his way to prove her right, she did know and had known that she could trust him. Oh, he'd let her down on a thousand and one little things, but when it came to the big stuff - be it protecting Dawn, or keeping a confidence or not biting her when he found out he could - he came through.

And now with his brand-spanking new soul, surely that meant it was okay to love him, right? Sure Xander said he would never approve, neither would Giles or Willow, and Angel would just go through the roof, but none of them - including Angel - had ever approved of her relationship with the dark, brooding vampire and that had never stopped her.

Did she really though? When you got right down to it, did she really have those kinds of feelings for Spike, or was it simply that he was really easy on the eyeballs? Or that she had an unhealthy obsession with vampires? Or that all her friends kept telling her how wrong it was, and, well, everyone knew how that made something sound more attractive. Or maybe it was just that Spike was the only man to ever turn her knees to mush with a single caress, make Fourth of July rockets shoot through every nerve ending on her body all night long and make her see stars all the next day as a result. And she might only have a few nights left to live, so what better way to spend it.

Looking out of the kitchen window she noted the sun was still high in the sky. That meant there were probably still four or five more hours before she saw him again; until he could safely make it to the house. Hoping he had made it away from the vineyard without incident and feeling bad that he had to spend the day in the sewers, she realized that it was all of the above and maybe a little else besides.

Willow and Kennedy were still standing out in the front garden holding each other. Kennedy felt like a complete wuss cuddling up in front of everyone and not being able to let go, but she knew she would feel even more of a wuss if the other girls saw that she was crying, but she couldn't stop. The shock and the guilt and the near-death experience all came pouring out.

At first Willow just hugged her, overjoyed that her girlfriend had come back safe and sound, but then she felt the wetness on her neck and felt the tremors go through her girl's body as she sobbed as quietly as possible. She soothed her as best she could, running her hands lightly up and down Kennedy's back before hugging her tightly to her.

"What is it honey? What's wrong? You're safe now," she tried to assuage her fears. "I know the death-defying acrobatics can sometimes leave you a little shaky, I've been there once or twice in my short but eventful life, but it's over now, for a bit any way." Willow was only too aware of how comforting these words weren't, so she just hugged tighter.

"It's n..n..not that," Kennedy sniveled and hated herself for it.

"It's okay honey, you're allowed to be a little bit scared, these are scary times, but we'll get it through it."

Kennedy didn't bother to answer straight away. She knew it would come out gibberish. She took a few minutes to compose herself and then pulled back slightly. She kept one hand behind Willow's neck and with the other she wiped her runny nose.

"You don't understand, I'm not scared."

"Then what is it sweetie? Is it because some girls died? Cause I get that too and we can talk about it if you want," Willow offered even though death wasn't really her favorite subject.

"No, please Willow, please just listen and stop trying to be nice to me because I don't deserve it."

"Aw sweetie, what makes you think that? From what Buffy said you done good. You can't blame yourself for the other girls. You didn't know there was going to be an explosion." Willow babbled, only wanting to make the small potential feel better.

"Willow, just shut up!" Kennedy snapped.

Willow did shut up, looking worried.

"It's my fault, it's all my fault. If it wasn't for me no one would have gotten hurt, because no one would have been down in that basement. It was a trap and I ran straight into it."

"You mean Faith led you into it?" Willow asked, confused how any of this could be because of her girlfriend.

"No, it was me."

"But Faith was there and she was leading the patrol, so how could it be your...?"

"I pushed and I pushed to go down there. Faith said it wasn't our route but I really wanted to go to the school. I wanted some action. I thought Faith was wrong. I thought we should go seek out the bad guys and do some damage. I figured the Hellmouth was the place to do that. Boy was I right. Be careful what you wish for, huh." Kennedy blurted out her tale in a hollow tone, staring at her feet the entire time.

"Faith should have stopped you. She was in charge. Even if she took you guys to the school she should have known better than to take you down the basement. That was asking for trouble," Willow told her. Xander's earlier words about Faith being reckless still strong in her mind.

"I saw a Bringer. I raced after it and Faith called for me to wait. She must have figured it was a trap. I guess it was pretty obvious but I was all caught up in the heat of the moment." She smiled ruefully. "Just as I reached him another one came out of nowhere and knocked me down the steps. Faith and the girls followed me down to save me. Then it all went black." A few more tears escaped from the distraught potential and she wiped them away angrily. "People died because of me, because I was stupid."

Willow didn't know what to say so she just pulled her back into another forceful hug. Kennedy didn't return it but she let herself be held for a few more minutes.

Willow spoke softly into her ear. "It'll be okay honey. It will. You made a mistake, it's what people do. You didn't mean for anyone to get hurt. Everyone knows that."

Kennedy stepped away from her girlfriend. "Yeah maybe." She turned away as she said, "Can you not tell Buffy please? I need to tell her myself, I'm not gonna be a coward about this, but I just need a while to sort myself out. Is that okay?"

"Of course, but don't go far, okay? I don't want you disappearing again. I was so scared when I didn't know where you were," Willow told her.

Kennedy gave her a little smile and walked away.

Buffy found Willow staring out of her bedroom window. Down below in the garden, Kennedy was sitting in a shady corner under some tall shrubs. It hurt her that she couldn't help her girlfriend but she knew better than to push it. Kennedy was a strong young woman and she would work herself through this and be better for it, all Willow could do was wait on hand with tea and sympathy.

"Willow," Buffy said softly. She could see her best friends troubled eyes and she wondered what was wrong.

The red-head turned to her and gave her a sad smile. "Hi Buffy, I'm glad you're back home safe and sound. We sure went crazy for a while without you here."

"Yeah, you certainly look pleased to see me," Buffy teased her friend. When Willow's smile didn't grow an iota she changed tack. "You should've seen your girlfriend Will, she was awesome. When I got there she was giving three Bringers a run for their money and she'd already taken one out according to Vi. You should be proud of her, I certainly am."

Willow's eyes misted up slightly and she blinked a few times. "Yeah," she said quietly, looking back out of the window.

Buffy mistook this for overwhelming pride and was pleased her best friend had found some one so good and strong to love after Tara. She deserved it.

"Well you just make sure you give her a good reward, huh." She winked at Willow and started out the room. "I'm going to wait for Faith to wake up, and then I'm going to give her what for. I don't give a damn how reckless she is with her own life but she shouldn't have taken any of the girls down there. She should have known it was asking for trouble."

"Buffy no you can't...!" Willow called after her, and stopped. She'd promised Kennedy she wouldn't say anything.

Buffy turned back, annoyed that Willow was defending Faith, but not wanting to show it. "Willow, I realize you and she are best buds now after what happened in L.A. but this is a Slayer thing. I can't leave her in charge if she can't keep the girls safe. She keeps spouting she's changed, but all I keep seeing is the same old careless Faith. And I'm not having it." She walked out

Willow was left feeling confused. "We're not best buds," she retorted but Buffy had already left. She would just have to hope that Kennedy spoke to Buffy before Faith woke up.

Buffy had been sat in her bedroom for over an hour now and Faith was still unconscious. The sun had slipped to the other side of the house and the room was bathed in shadow. She could hear shouts and snatches of conversation coming from other areas of the house. She knew Giles and Willow were working on researching the weapon she had taken from Caleb's lair. She heard a few sentences from Xander and Anya, as they walked past the door, it sounded as though they were having yet another heated heart to heart. They seemed to be having a lot of those recently. She just wished they'd get back together, they were so obviously right for each other despite their problems.

She glanced over at her sister Slayer again. She was starting to worry that this was more serious than she'd first thought. After all, Faith was known for making a mountain out of a molehill. Mybe she'd slipped into another coma. She checked her pulse again and it was still strong, very strong.

Her ass had become numb sitting on a chair at her bedside, so about twenty minutes before she had reasoned that it was her bed anyway and had clambered on to it beside the brunette and got comfortable. Now she leaned over her and spoke, softly at first.

"Hey Faith, come on, it's time to wake up."

This got no response. Buffy took a minute to really look at her. The defensiveness and attitude all washed away with her consciousness. She still looked like just the same young girl who she had met all those years ago, before everything had gone horribly wrong. 'How old must she be now?' Buffy wondered. 'Nearly twenty, maybe?' She realized she'd never known when Faith's birthday was and for some reason, even after everything, this thought saddened her because if she didn't know, who else would? Had the Mayor? Did Angel? She'd have to ask him.

She leaned closer to the younger woman's face. "Faith come on. Wake-y wake-y." She watched the long thick eyelashes for any signs of life, but there were none. She watched her lips flutter as she breathed in and out. Those lips sent a shiver running up and down her spine and she leaned away again quickly.

'With lips like those it's no wonder she's a good kisser,' thought Buffy, from a safe distance. So was Spike, she knew, but with Faith it was different. Softer, gentler, but no less passionate than locking lips with Spike. She wondered if it was a super powers thing. Kissing Riley had been nice. His lips had been soft, and his caresses had been gentle and making love to him had been, well...nice. However the only time she'd ever felt any real fire there was the night of the ghostly frat party, and that had been supernatural, so what did that mean?

'Was Riley right all along? Could I be happy with a normal man or would I always be waiting for something more powerful to come along? Should I try and make a go of it with Spike or... maybe try something new?'

She looked back down again at Faith. The only thing they had in common was the title of Slayer, but it wasn't just a title, was it? It went way, way deeper than that. It was who they were, not just what they did. So that was a pretty big thing to have in common. Much bigger than say, a penchant for spicy chicken wings.

Buffy didn't much like being honest with herself; it generally lead to revelations she would rather live without, but she knew if she was to be at this moment she would have to admit to always finding Faith attractive. It was a fact impossible to escape from and as she looked at her now it was easy to see why. Faith was hot!

In the past this had only ever been a casual observance. In the same way that she knew that if Willow had made the effort in tenth grade she would have been fighting guys off with a big stick. She could understand why Xander drooled every time Faith was in the vicinity but the dark Slayer had never made her want to drool.

One kiss and one almost kiss was enough to turn that on its head. 'Okay, so I'm not exactly drooling, cause that would just be gross, but I am getting the fluttery feelings just from looking at her and that can't be good.'

She wondered idly if her friends would approve if she had a relationship with Faith and then laughed out loud at the very idea of a relationship with Faith. Even if she looked past the fact that they were both girls, which really wasn't easy. 'I'll have to ask Willow how she did it,' she decided, jokingly. There was still the matter of this being the woman who had deliberately tried to ruin her life once or twice. Spike had never done that, well except by trying to kill her, but at the time that hadn't really been personal. Faith had made it as personal as possible. Then of course Faith was the Get some-Get gone chick. She had told Buffy enough times she didn't do relationships, period. There was no evidence to presume that had changed and Buffy had, had her fill of casual sex with Parker. It might be right for some people, but that wasn't who she was.

Add to all that the fact that she'd let her down yet again last night and done something really, really stupid, endangering loads of lives in the process. It all just proved how messed up Buffy was feeling. She wasn't in love with this girl, she was just feeling horny and was trying to make that into love to justify doing something about it. Wasn't she?

"And God damn it, I'm not Gay!" She fumed

She leaned back over the other girl and slapped her firmly on the cheek. With still no response and the time ticking on, she felt a cold knot replace the earlier fluttering. What if she really didn't wake up again for months or forever? She'd only just got her back. She wouldn't lose her again because of the First. The sudden panic continued to rise and she spoke encouragingly to the other Slayer and continued tapping her cheek, harder and harder.

"Wake up Faith, come on, we need you. You have to wake up, I need you in this fight. I can't do it without you. Don't desert me again, I need you."

With one resounding slap that seemed to echo around the room, Faith's eyes flickered open and she looked blearily up at Buffy.

"Hey B. Isn't it traditional to wake someone with a kiss?" She rose a shaky hand up to her cheek and rubbed it tenderly.

In her relief at seeing the other Slayer awake Buffy nearly did lean down and kiss her, but she remembered herself in time and settled for squeezing the hand she hadn't been aware she was holding.

"That only works on Sleeping Beauty, silly."

"What, so I should be kissing you?" Faith asked, her voice even huskier than normal because of her long sleep.

Buffy went a bit pink; she was used to Faith flirting, only now it seemed to have more meaning.

"No, cause I'm awake," she answered safely. "Are you delirious?"

Faith's eyes had drifted shut again but she still responded. "Maybe a little. How long was I out?"

"I'm not totally sure but probably about four hours." 'Long enough for me to worry,' Buffy thought.

"Ah thank God for that, I was worried you were gonna tell me it was 2010 and we were all living in space pods or somethin. Are the girls alright? Did they get out?"

Buffy looked down at their entwined hands. Faith had made no move to pull away and neither did she. "We lost a couple of girls but Kennedy and Vi were excellent. They took charge and got you and everyone else out. They even took on some Bringers."

Faith's opened her eyes again at the mention of Kennedy's name, but she made no comment. Buffy continued, trying to keep her voice soft but she couldn't help an edge creep into it now she knew Faith was fine.

"You shouldn't have taken them down there, Faith. What were you thinking? I get the patrolling, it was a good idea to get them out of the house for a while, but taking them right down to the Hellmouth..."

"I didn't mean..." Faith began, but changed her mind. What was the point in defending herself? If Buffy believed it was her fault, nothing she was going to say was gonna change that.

"I'm sure you didn't mean for anyone to get hurt, but you must've known it was asking for trouble. I want to rely on you Faith, I need to rely on you, but I can't if you're going to be irresponsible with your position. Those girls looked to you to keep them safe and...and...well you didn't. I'm sorry to say..."

Faith pulled her hand out of Buffy's. "No, you're not sorry. You're over the moon. Oh guess what - Faith screwed up again, what a surprise." She turned her face away. "Just lucky for me Kennedy was there," she muttered to the wall.

"Faith, that's not how I feel and I am sorry. Why can't you just be sorry too and then we can put it behind us?"

For a long moment Faith said nothing and Buffy was just about to leave her to rest when she heard Faith murmur, "I am sorry; sorry I ever met you."

Wounded, Buffy left and closed the door behind her. She didn't wonder if Faith's words would have upset her less if her feelings for the rogue Slayer hadn't begun to change, because she was refusing to acknowledge that.

Spike was bored of the sewers. He'd been down here for over three hours and they were still as dank and smelly as they had been when he entered them. He'd followed the tunnels to his old crypt, thinking to spend the day there but the place had been gutted. Clem had probably taken most of the stuff when he skipped town and since then the scavengers had all been in to take their pickings. He couldn't even find any candles lying around to cheer the place up a bit. In the end he'd just wandered up to the grating nearest the Summer's residence to wait until it was safe to run the hundred yards or so to the back door.

That time wasn't yet. He'd curled up as best he could on a damp ledge. The blanket Xander had found him was thin and offered no protection against the cold tunnel and he assumed Buffy still had his coat.

He thought he must have fallen asleep and be dreaming about her when she appeared next to him.

"Look at you, my Black Knight in shining armor, huddled in a smelly tunnel, too scared to face the sunlight. How can you hope to make me love you, when you're no better than the filthy rats you lie with?"

Spike jerked upright. "I'm not your Black Knight or anything else of yours, and I've never laid a rodent so you can sod off back to where you come from," he retorted.

The perfect vision of Buffy laughed and then she morphed into Drusilla. "Oh you fight for your fair maiden so gallantly, kind sir, and she's knows this and still dashes your heart to ashes. She doesn't love you, my little Spike. She loves the dark one."

"As always Dru, you have no idea of what you're talking about, and neither do I so I suggest...'

"You don't have to believe me. Go see for yourself, sweet prince to lady fair, right now she's abed with the rogue and they're not talking about you. You're the furthest thing from her mind, just like you are from mine. It looks like the joke has caught you up at last my sweet Willie, because when the stars come out to play in the wonderful eternal night, you'll have no dancing partner. You'll be all alone listening to the stars - and you know how lonely that can be."

Dru danced around him, twirling and spinning in the murk.

"If you don't want to dance with me, then you had better save your sweet maiden because evil moves in mysterious ways and all of it works for me!" She sang.

Drusilla vanished with a flash of light. Spike, unnerved by having even a pretend Dru anywhere near him and angry by what she had told him, jumped up and looked out of the grating again. 'Damn.' Still bright, sodding sunlight. Could he be a man about it, if his Slayer chose the other, or would he be the vampire everyone expected him to be and rip her head off.

As Buffy walked down the stairs she found Willow and Giles still researching the axe.

"Any news?" She asked, despondently, her brief good mood from earlier had entirely collapsed.

"Well yes, a little bit. I'm not sure how much it will help, but we think it's a scythe, a very mystical weapon, probably put there before Sunnydale was even a populated. Which makes it very exciting that you discovered it now of all times. There is mention of a tomb on unconsecrated ground somewhere around the vineyard. It's possible it even means the vineyard, before it was used for that purpose of course. As always the literature is extremely vague, but we will continue to look. Is there anything else you can tell us about it?" Giles asked her. He was obviously excited to be back in the game.

Buffy plonked down on the couch next to Willow. "Well, when I saw it, it was like wow. I was drawn to it. I know that sounds silly - how can you be drawn to thing? - but that's what it felt like. When I touched it, I could feel its power flowing through me. And then there's the weirdness of pulling it out of stone. Spike said he'd been trying for ages and couldn't even make it wiggle. Caleb wanted it real bad. And when I fought with it, well I didn't even have to fight. It's almost as if I think what I want it to do and then it's done, my arm is just along for the ride. And the blade must be wicked sharp too cause I hardly even felt it go through that ubervamps neck."

' "Some kind of Slayer weapon, buried before time, that appears mysteriously just in time for the biggest battle of your life. I smell some magickal mojo here," Xander said, joining the group.

Buffy shrugged. "More than likely. Looks like your area of expertise Will."

"I'll see what I can find," Willow promised. "How about Faith, is she awake?" She knew it was a nasty thing to think but she kinda hoped she wasn't because she knew Kennedy was still outside. She really wanted her to have the chance to tell Buffy what had happened before Faith put her two cents in.

"Yeah, she's awake at last. She resting now."

"Is she okay? Did she say anything about what happened?" Willow asked nervously.

"Nah, she's the same old Faith, refusing to accept responsibility for her actions. She wouldn't even talk to me about it. I mean all she's got to do is apologize and that would be the end of it. But no she has to go all stubborn on me."

Willow stood up and saw her girlfriend standing in the doorway. From the look on her face she had heard it all.

"Buffy," she said not moving from the doorway. When the blonde Slayer looked up at her she continued, "Can I speak to you for a moment?"

"Sure," Buffy smiled up at her. "Do you wanna go outside?" she asked when she saw her serious expression.

"No, here's fine." Kennedy walked into the room and came to a stop in front of the couch.

Willow spoke up, concerned. "Kenn, are you sure you wouldn't rather go someplace private?"

"No Will, it's okay. Everyone thinks Faith did something wrong, so everyone should hear this."

Buffy was instantly more attentive. "What does this have to do with Faith?"

"It wasn't Faith's fault that we got caught in that explosion. It was mine. I got those girls killed, not Faith."

Buffy looked at her sharply. "Kennedy, I know you look up to Faith, but you shouldn't be lying for her. She's a big girl she can take care of herself. You're not doing you or her any favors by taking the blame for her screw-ups."

"That's not what I'm trying to do; I'm telling you the truth."

"How can it possibly be your fault?" Buffy asked, still convinced this was some kind of cover up story.

"Just listen to her Buffy," Willow said quietly.

So she did. Kennedy told her everything, missing out none of the gory details to save herself anything. Giles, Xander and several of the girls all listened in too.

By the time she had finished she was crying again. "I'm really sorry, Buffy. Really I am. I know it's too late for a do-over, but if I could I would in an instant. I should have listened to Faith, if I had we wouldn't have charged into that trap and everyone would be okay."

Buffy got up and put her hand on her arm. "I'm not going to say never mind or it's okay, because none of it is, but what you did was because you were over-eager and that made you careless. It wasn't because you were malicious or didn't care about anyone. You were in a situation and you reacted to it, that's what a Slayer does; but a Slayer also has to think one step ahead, because it's always that next step that could get you killed. As you found out today."

Kennedy nodded.

"Faith's been at this game longer than you, and that's why she's in charge - not just because of the superpowers but because she's had years of learning that rule. You didn't respect that today and you nearly died from it, so I'm pretty sure that's about all the lecture your gonna need on that."

Kennedy nodded again. Keeping eye contact so Buffy would no she was serious.

"But also today," Buffy persisted. "You, along with some other girls, took on a bad situation and got yourselves out of it. You could have gone to pieces. None of you are Slayers, yet you still took on evil and came out on top. You'd make a fine Slayer Kennedy, but you've just got to remember the rules. Think fast, but think first."

"I will Buffy, and I really am sorry. It will never happen again. I was stupid," Kennedy told her.

"A little bit maybe, but mainly just a bit impulsive. You learn to train that, you'll be fine," Buffy said.

"Think you'll ever train it?" Xander asked, lightening the mood considerably.

"Hey!" Buffy snapped, but she was smiling.

"And to think you never even read the handbook," Willow said, chuckling.

"I think Buffy wrote her own handbook," countered Giles, "and having been party to both of them, I think Buffy's is better."

"Thanks Giles," she beamed at him, but then she gave a loud groan and her shoulders slumped and her head hung down to her chest.

"What is it Buffy?" Willow asked, a tinge of worry in her voice.

"Now I guess I better go apologize to Faith. She is so gonna love this more than me."

Head still hanging down comically, she stomped up the stairs to her room. Inside she was kicking herself for screwing things up between the two of them, just as they might have been getting good.

Chapter Three

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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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