Sunnydale – Junkyard Entrance – Night
The newly-welded junkyard front gate gave a soft creak as a light breeze moved along the wall beside the entrance. Robin stepped up to the gate and peered through the bars into the dark night. The road opposite the camp was silent and still.
Robin jumped when he spotted a dark figure appear out of the darkness and race toward the gate. He quickly stepped back and glanced down to his pocket, where he kept his stake. He retrieved the weapon and looked up in time to see nothing. Whatever had been there was now gone.
Robin once more stepped forward, the stake still firmly clutched in his right hand. He stopped within a foot of the gate and peered out into the darkness. All traces of the figure had vanished from the quiet street. Robin blinked twice before turning away from the gate. He had stepped less than five feet away when the figure emerged from the darkness once more.
Robin turned to see it jump ten feet in the air and vault over the top of the gate. Wasting no time, Robin took off towards the barracks. He stopped at the warning bell when the figure caught up to him.
“Whoa, it’s just me,” Faith said, grabbing his arm.
“What the hell are you doing?” Robin asked in a loud whisper as he dropped his defensive stance. “You scared the crap out of me!”
“Sorry,” Faith said, walking back towards the garage. “I was doing some drills. What are you even doing out here? Shouldn’t you be asleep?”
Robin followed her. “I could say the same about you.” When Faith didn’t respond, Robin continued. “Why are you doing drills now?”
“Because the yard is empty,” she answered simply. With that, she sprinted toward the front gate and vaulted over once more.
“Faith, we’re leaving tomorrow at dawn,” Robin called after her, concern in his voice. “You should get some sleep. You’re going to need it.”
“I’ll be fine,” she said from the other side of the gate. Immediately, she dropped to the ground and began a series of one-armed push-ups.
“You know, there’s a thing called over-preparing,” he said, looking down at her through the bars. “A casual observer might think you were worried about something.”
“Don’t analyze me, Robin,” the slayer said as she finished the push-ups.
“I didn’t realize I was,” he replied. “Why were you running?”
“Stop asking me that.” Faith sighed as she sat down against the outside of the gate. She reached into her jacket and retrieved her Parliaments.
Robin paused for a moment, as Faith lit a cigarette, and then made a flying leap towards the gate. His jump brought him well short of the top. He held on to the wire mesh for several seconds before his grip gave in and he fell to the ground, landing squarely on his butt.
“You alright there, Ace?” Faith asked as a smile spread across her face.
“I’m good,” Robin said, jumping up quickly. “You make it look too easy.” He limped back up to the gate and sat down with his back to it. Together they sat for several moments without speaking. Finally, Robin broke the silence. “So, how do you know me?”
Faith flinched and then took a long drag on her cigarette. “What makes you think I know you?”
“Well, the hour-long stare you gave me when you saw me was a bit of a tip-off,” he answered. “That, and you keep calling me Ace. That sounds suspiciously like a nickname you’ve used before.”
Faith paused for several seconds before taking particular interest in the gravel beneath their feet. She took another drag of her cigarette. “We’re friends.”
“Really?” Robin asked, turning to look at her. “We’re friends?”
“Yup,” Faith answered quickly, keeping her back to him. “We’re just friends.”
“Right.” He paused as an uncomfortable silence fell over the conversation. “Well, since we’re friends, I’m sure you know that I’m here if you need to talk…about anything.”
“Why do you do that?” Faith asked suddenly.
“Try to help me so much.” She turned to face him. “From the moment I first met you, here and in my world, you’ve always had my back. Everyone else…they tense up when I’m around. Even my friends don’t trust me that much. But not you. You’ve always cared…and I can’t figure out why.”
He met her eyes. “Maybe I’m just a trusting person.”
“So…what? You always trust murderers?”
“You’re not a murderer, Faith,” he replied quickly.
“Then you really don’t know me,” she said.
She eyed him curiously, but he continued. “Just because you’ve killed before doesn’t mean you’d kill again. All anyone has to do is look into your eyes and see that. And as for wanting to help…I know better than anyone that a slayer’s life is dangerous. So I’ll do whatever I can to help you. I don’t want to see you killed. I don’t want to see anyone killed.” He paused. “Whatever’s on your mind, you can talk to me. Maybe I can help you work through it.” He waited, allowing her time to contemplate his offer. After several seconds, she stood up and walked into the darkness across the street. Robin sighed, “Or not.” With that, he rose slowly and started off toward the barracks.
Before he stepped five feet, Faith was back over the top of the gate. She avoided eye contact and took his seat against the bars. Robin took a tentative step forward and softly asked, “Faith, what happened?”
“I screwed up, okay?” she replied, as she worked another cigarette out of the pack. Robin moved closer and took the Parliaments from Faith’s hand. She looked up at him for a second before continuing. “I was gonna get fired because I let a vampire go.”
“What?” Robin looked at her skeptically. “Let me get this straight. You split because you were going to be fired for letting one vampire get away?”
“Well, when you say it like that…and it wasn’t just any vampire,” Faith corrected. “She was a friend. Not as close as some of the others, but still, she was part of the team.”
“So you let emotion cloud your judgment?”
“Exactly,” she answered.
“Believe it or not, slayers are human. They do have emotions,” he teased her. “I doubt that’s the first time it’s happened. And I doubt anyone would have fired you for that.”
“You don’t know my boss.” She paused as Robin sat down next to her. “But it wasn’t just that…not really. Oh hell, not at all, actually.”
“Then what was it?” Robin asked.
“I can’t screw up. Not in this line of work. I don’t get to make mistakes.”
“Faith, you can’t expect yourself to be perfect.”
“I have to be,” she insisted. “Giles and Willow still gave me a chance. They knew my past…that I wasn’t a good slayer. Hell, the first time I made a command decision, I got a bunch of potentials killed.” Robin’s brow furrowed at this comment, but he remained silent. Faith went on. “But they still gave me the job. I had to show them that I could do it…that…that I could be as good as Buffy. But then I let Skye get away.”
“Skye is the vampire?”
“Well, I see a big problem with your logic,” he replied. “You’re not Buffy, and this isn’t your world. Nothing that happened before now can make any difference to what happens tomorrow.”
She sighed. “You still don’t get it. Tomorrow we’re going to war. And if I couldn’t kill a friend, how am I supposed to kill my own fa…” She trailed off.
“Your own what?” Robin asked. “Father?
“Yeah,” she whispered. “I think of Richard Wilkins as my father.”
“Faith, that’s…” He stopped, searching for the right word.
“Messed up. I know,” she said, finishing the sentence for him. “But if you met my family, you’d understand. He was the first one to ever treat me like a person or…like I meant something…at least until…I got to Cleveland. That group back home is like my family, Robin – you, everyone there. I just couldn’t go back and have them…not love me anymore. I can make up ten thousand reasons why I booked out of there but…that’s the bottom line. I lost Wilkins. I didn’t want to lose them too. So, instead of going through that pain again, I left. I guess I thought it would hurt less if I was the one to walk away instead of being the one left behind.”
Robin looked down at the grave beneath his feet. “You see the destruction he’s done to this town. Wilkins is evil, Faith.”
“Yeah, but when the world deals you a handful of crap, you learn to overlook little things like that when you think someone loves you.” She looked up at Robin. “I know what he is. I know I was picked to stop demons just like him. But I don’t think I can do it – not any more than I could pull the trigger on Skye.”
Robin contemplated this for a moment. “You’re right, Faith.” She looked down dejectedly. Robin continued, “You’re a slayer. You were chosen. And if The Powers That Be didn’t think you could handle this job, they would have picked someone else. Your problem isn’t that you can’t do the job. And it’s certainly not the sins of your past.” He paused as she looked into his eyes. “It’s that you let yourself think that those things matter. Nothing anyone else thinks about you can change who and what you are. At least, not unless you let it. If you want to succeed, you have to bury that doubt, because if you don’t, you won’t win. Not in this world or your own. You can’t. You have a decision to make. What’s more important, your life or your job? Are you willing to make sacrifices to do what you know is necessary?”
He went silent, watching as Faith contemplated his advice. They sat for several moments until Faith slowly stood up. She dusted the dirt off her pants and moved towards the barracks.
“Where are you going?” Robin asked from his place against the gate.
“To bed,” she replied. “I need to sleep before our busy day tomorrow.”
Robin smiled to himself and whispered, “Good.”
He stood up and followed her.
Watchers Council – Slayer Rec Room – Same Time
Xander walked into the Slayer Rec Room to see Vi chatting with Lori, facing away from him.
“So what’s it like when you lose your powers?” Vi asked. “I’m not trying to be rude or anything,” she added.
“Good thing is, I’m off patrol. Bad thing is, I have more paperwork to do,” Lori said with a slight smile. She looked over Vi’s shoulder and noticed Xander. Without saying anything, she nodded for Vi to look behind her. “I’m gonna grab another drink,” she said, excusing herself.
Vi looked over her shoulder to see Xander slowly approaching. “Now can we talk?” he asked. “You’re not on duty.”
She scooted down the sofa and gave it a pat for him to sit down.
“Okay, talk,” she said, dropping any pretense.
“What’s your problem with me now?” he asked. “You’ve been avoiding me like the black death, yet you said Will explained everything so…out with it.”
“I just…” she trailed off for a moment. “Did you believe it? Did you really think I was a murderer?”
“Not for a second,” Xander answered. “But I didn’t know what I was facing, so I had to play along. I saw this thing attack Dawn, and for some reason it was targeting you, so I…I did what it said. Correction: I did what Willow told me to do.”
“So it’s her fault then?”
“No, it’s nobody’s fault.” Xander sighed. “She said you were tied into that spirit, fury, whatever the hell it was, and by telling you it might tip our hand. So I had to…hurt you. I had to make you scared. Otherwise it might not have worked. But if you ask me if it was something I wanted to do, no, it wasn’t. It was something I had to do.”
Vi seemed to be lost in her thoughts for a moment.
“What is it?” Xander said. “Start sharing some of these thoughts out loud, if you would.”
Vi took a breath and turned to face him. “Okay. I guess what makes me the most angry is you went to Willow.”
“What do you mean?” Xander asked.
“When something bad happened, you ran to her. Why didn’t you come to me?”
“I told you. You were the focus of this angry energy,” Xander explained. “I didn’t want it near you. I did it because I wanted to protect you, big bad slayer that you are. Plus, Willow’s all the with magic and the smarts.”
“And I’m not smart?” Vi asked. “All brawn and no brains?”
“That’s not what I meant. You are smart, Vi. Hell, you’re the smartest woman I’ve ever dated. But this was an area that Willow’s good at – mystical stuff, research and all that. Plus, I knew if she didn’t have an answer, then chances were she’d tell Ro and Dawn and they would find an answer. Heck, I bet if you put all three of their brains together you’d probably be able to build an Einstein.”
“Is that the truth?” Vi asked.
“Yeah, but picking a body would be tough. It would have to be someone with a really, really big head.”
Vi tried not to smile. “No, I meant –”
“I know what you meant,” Xander said sincerely, putting a hand on her knee. “Yes, it’s the truth, and might I add, I’ve never lied to you…Okay, I pretended recently, but I didn’t lie. Honestly, truly…I was doing it for both our sakes. I never meant to hurt you…Really, it was the furthest thing from my mind. And I would have explained all this that night myself, but everything kinda went to hell in a handbasket, if you remember.”
Vi nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I remember.”
“So,” Xander said, opening his arms. “Can I take care of my girl? Get you some clean gauze for the cut I put on your arm? A tall glass of Dr. Pepper? Maybe make some chicken noodle soup?”
Vi finally began to grin, and she leaned into Xander’s embrace, and he wrapped his arms around her as he released a sigh of contentment.
Sunnydale – Faith’s Apartment – Night
Faith slowly moved through the darkened apartment. The room was pitch black save for a faint stream of moonlight that shined through the half-circle window. She stepped toward the frame and slowly ran her fingers over the glass, which was now perfectly intact.
“You’re back,” said a voice from behind her.
Faith didn’t turn. “Someone fixed the glass.”
“Yeah,” Buffy said, stepping into the moonlight. “Someone did.”
Faith turned to face her. “Why did you bring me here?”
“I had nothing to do with it,” Buffy replied. “I don’t run the show. I just go where they tell me.” She paused as she glanced around the apartment. “You know, this really was a nice place.” She moved a few shards of broken glass around with her shoe. “But you should probably sweep up the broken glass.” She moved around the room, eyeing the walls. “And these walls could use a new coat of paint. Something bright, I think.”
“You a decorator now, B?” Faith asked.
“I like to think of myself as a consultant,” she answered with a grin as she continued pacing around the apartment. “And trust me, Faith. This place is definitely fixable.”
“Well, as much as I enjoy home improvement tips, why don’t you give me some real advice? You know the score. How do I beat him?”
Buffy turned to face Faith. “You already know. You have everything you need. But I shouldn’t say any more about that. That’s not why they asked me here.”
Faith contemplated this for a moment before she spoke. “Then why?”
Buffy didn’t answer. She moved to the window and looked up to the sky.
Faith watched her for a moment and then asked, “What’s it like, B? After I mean?”
“It’s time, Faith,” Buffy replied.
“You have to get up.”
Sunnydale – Barracks – Sunrise
Faith blinked several times, bringing Willow into focus. She rolled off her cot and rubbed her eyes.
“It’s time,” the witch said from the doorway of the barracks. “Xander got us a ride. Everyone’s waiting outside.”
“Okay,” Faith replied. “I’ll be right out.”
Sunnydale – Junkyard – Moments Later
“Where’s the team, Xander?” Faith called as she exited the barracks. She had changed her clothing and was now wearing tight black leather pants and a dark blue denim jacket. Stopping at the warning bell, she spotted a dilapidated red van parked in the center of the junkyard.
Xander popped out from behind the back of the van and said, “Team’s in here.”
Faith approached his position and asked, “Where’d you get the wheels?”
“An old friend of mine. I gave him two hundred for it.” He opened the back door to reveal Oz, Willow, Robin, Giles, Larry, Amy and one other twenty-something boy who she vaguely recognized, all crammed in the back.
Faith turned to Xander and said, “Good thing I’m not claustrophobic.”
“Could we please leave now?” Giles pleaded, as he sat awkwardly between Larry and Robin.
“One sec, Giles,” Faith said, examining a pile of supplies next to Willow. “Where’s my stuff?”
“Over here,” Robin called. He held up a crossbow and a bag that looked to be filled with something heavy.
“Is that the…?”
“Yeah,” Xander replied. “Will and I made all the modifications. Once you get in, the timer will start, and you’ll have exactly one hour till the bomb goes off.”
Faith nodded. “Then let’s do this.”
Watchers Council – Rooftop – Morning
Willow waited on the rooftop of the Council building, her hair blowing in the breeze from the rotors, as a helicopter whirred to a stop in front of her. When the doors opened, she went over to meet it.
Althenea stepped out with a smile, and the two women embraced.
“I brought the items you asked for. Not the originals, since the Coven refused to part with them, but bound copies,” she yelled over the slowing propellers. “And something extra,” she said, pitching a thumb over her shoulder.
“Hey Will,” Buffy called out.
“You made it,” Willow said excitedly.
“Of course,” Buffy replied. “But tell me, how’s she doing?”
Willow shook her head. “Not so good, but let’s get inside first.”
Sacramento – Mansion Gate Security Booth – Afternoon
“Hey Phil?” called a yellow-skinned demon in a gray security uniform, with a name tag that read “Ted.” He leaned back in a swiveling office chair, examining a folded newspaper.
“What is it?” asked his partner, also a demon. He sat in a similar chair, reading a book titled, Earn Millions Today: The Key to the Perfect Pyramid Scheme.
“Have you ever tried these newspaper puzzles?” the yellow demon asked.
Phil looked up. “What, the jumbles?”
“Nah, it’s called sudoku,” Ted replied. “You have to figure out where all the numbers go without repeating them in the rows, columns or squares.”
Phil scratched one of the short red horns that protruded from his forehead. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Before Ted could respond, a short buzzer sounded on the security grid in front of them. Phil put down the book and looked up at a small monitor above the grid.
On the black and white screen, the guards watched as Faith looked up at the security camera. She stepped towards the gate and buzzed the intercom. “Hey idiots. Open the gate!”
“Let her in,” Ted said. “I don’t want to piss her off again. I still haven’t grown back all my tentacles from the FedEx Incident.”
“Hold on,” Phil said. “Do you remember her leaving this morning?” He examined the monitor for several seconds, then picked up a phone.
Sacramento – Mansion Gate – Same Time
Faith stood with her arms crossed at the entrance to the Wilkins estate. Both her bag and the crossbow hung over her right shoulder.
She peered through the heavy black metal at the rolling lawns of the beautifully kept grounds. The mansion stood approximately one hundred yards from the gate and sported one main block with two flanking wings on either side. The exterior walls featured a brick finish, covered completely with white terra cotta tiles. Located just in front of the home was a spectacular marble and gold fountain.
Faith allowed herself a moment of awe as she stared at the breathtaking estate.
“Why couldn’t the Hellmouth have been out here?” she mumbled to herself. She took another few seconds before moving back to the intercom. “Hey, why am I still waiting here? Open the damn gate.”
She watched a yellow-skinned demon emerge from the security booth. He wrung his hands nervously.
“I’m so sorry, ma’am. We’re having some problems with the gate, it shouldn’t be long.”
Sacramento – Mansion Gate Security Booth – Same Time
Phil, the red-horned demon, held the security phone to his ear as he focused his gaze on a small computer screen.
“She has a crossbow and a bag with her,” he said into the receiver. He listened to the voice on the other end for several seconds and then spoke again. “Yes ma’am, I’ve already initiated the scan.”
The computer beeped several times and then flashed a message several times. “Okay, I’ve got the results.” He squinted at the screen. “She’s carrying a type-two explosive device. It isn’t armed. What would you like me to do?”
Sacramento – Mansion Gate – Same Time
Faith peered at the yellow-skinned demon, who was now leaning against the stone wall that supported the gate.
“…so you have to fill the numbers into each row, column and square. But you can’t repeat any. So you see why it’s so hard.”
Faith stared at him with a vacant expression on her face. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Before either could speak again, the gate began to retract outward.
“Finally,” Faith said as she stepped through the entrance. She quickly checked a beat-up-looking watch that wrapped around her wrist, before breezing past the yellow-skinned demon on her way to the mansion.
“Excuse me, Miss Lehane?” said a red-horned demon who exited the security booth. “You know that weapons aren’t allowed on the premises.”
“Says who?” Faith demanded.
“Oh. Right,” she said, as she removed the crossbow. “I was just testing you.” She tossed the weapon to the yellow-skinned demon, who proceeded to fumble it to the ground. She flinched.
“Something wrong, ma’am?” Red-horn asked.
Faith looked up. “What? No…I just realized that I left my keys…somewhere. Do you have a spare set I could borrow?”
“All the locks are controlled from the security booth, per your security design, ma’am,” the demon answered. “We’ll just buzz you in when you reach the door.”
“Good…Then I’ll be going.” She turned towards the mansion. “Carry on.”
She moved away quickly, with a look that bordered somewhere between embarrassment and relief. As she passed the fountain, Faith took out a small handheld radio. She raised it to her mouth and spoke, “So far, so good. Make sure everyone is in position.”
Faith stowed the radio as she reached the front steps. Slowly, she moved past a row of marble columns with a look of disappointment on her face. “I can’t believe I have to blow this place up.”
As she reached the door, it opened automatically for her.
Sacramento – Mansion Foyer – Seconds Later
Faith stepped through the doorway into the immaculate foyer. As the door closed behind her, four vampires stepped out into the room and took position at the four corners of the entryway. She continued past one of the demons as she walked towards the nearest door on the left side of the room. The vampire followed her with his bright yellow eyes, but did not move.
Faith went through the door, closing it behind her.
The two guards closest to the door exchanged glances. The vampire that Faith had walked past gave a shrug to the other, then moved back to his original position.
He turned quickly as the door opened and Faith stepped into the foyer once more. She closed the door and looked around the room, obviously confused.
All four vampires watched as she silently counted the doors. Faith, acknowledging the oddity of her behavior, quickly said, “It was out of toilet paper.”
She quickly moved towards the second to last door on the right side of the room and stepped through it.
Watchers Council – Dawn’s Apartment – Same Time
Dawn walked over to the knock on her door and opened it slowly. Her jaw dropped when she saw Buffy standing there.
“Hey,” the blonde slayer said casually.
“If you’re here to start making comparisons –”
“I’m here to see how my sister’s doing,” Buffy replied. “No snarky vamp comments, I swear.”
Dawn opened the door wider and let her inside. Buffy took in the apartment and nodded as she crossed the threshold.
“Much cleaner than I expected.”
“And what did you expect, exactly?” Dawn asked.
“I don’t know – tennis shoes on the dining table, clothes in various places, plates with fur on the coffee table over there. Major improvement over your room back home.”
“I was a kid back then,” Dawn answered. “Things are different now.” She took a seat on the sofa and motioned Buffy to follow her, which the slayer did.
“I know you’re not a kid anymore, Dawn. I really do, but I’m still worried about you. You’re my sister, so I have the sisterly right to always worry.”
“Did you have it out with Willow?” Dawn asked.
“No, should I have?”
“She’s been kinda worried. We talked last night, and she’s feeling pretty crappy now, too. Like she went back on her word to watch over me and…and Skye. Or what used to be Skye. I really don’t know anything right now, it’s all kind of a jumbled mess.”
“I get that,” Buffy answered. “But I’m not mad at Willow, or anybody, for that matter.”
“Not even me? Someone who should have known she was sleeping with a vampire?”
“Will gave me the 411,” Buffy told her. “Skye even fooled a medical doctor. How we don’t know yet, apparently, but…this isn’t your fault, okay? None of it.”
Dawn began to tear up. “We save all kinds of people, but I couldn’t save her. I should’ve made her stay that night. I should have gone with her. I just…should have done something. And now she’s gone and…I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I mean, do I just forget about her?”
“No,” Buffy answered. “No one expects you to. You’ve got to move at your own pace with this, Dawnie.”
“There’s just so many things that don’t make sense, and I want answers. I want to know what happened. Why she decided to pick undead over dead? And why didn’t she turn me? She had the chance, and she never took it. Why?”
“I don’t know,” Buffy answered. “And the truth is, you might not ever know. But if we can find answers, we will.”
“Cross my heart,” Buffy said, making an ‘x’ with her pinkie over her chest before she pulled Dawn close to her.
Sacramento – Mansion Basement – Moments Later
Faith quietly crept through a deserted hallway in the dingy mansion basement. She slowed as she reached a corner and carefully peered around.
The hallway dead-ended at a door, which was guarded by two rather large-looking vampires. Faith opened her bag and pulled out a wooden stake. She dropped the bag on the floor, palmed the stake, and rounded the corner.
Faith reached a metal door, which featured a large sign that read “Security.” She stopped and looked up at the two demons. “Out of the way, boys. I’ve got business.”
Neither vampire moved a muscle. She took a step forward and slowly repeated her command, “Get out of the way.”
Again, they didn’t budge. Faith watched for a moment before grabbing her chest. She cried out in pain and fell to the floor in a fit of spasms. After several seconds her body went limp.
The guards stood their ground, not even looking down at Faith’s still form.
From the floor, Faith opened a single eye and peered up at the guards. A look of disappointment spread across her face, and she stood up. With a sigh Faith said, “You know I’ve been waiting for like five years to try that, and you two just ruined it.” She rotated the stake in her hand. “Oh well. Your loss.”
She lifted her leg and connected a fierce sidekick to the right guard’s knee. He immediately fell to the ground, howling in pain. The left guard sprang into action and directed a punch toward Faith. She grabbed his arm and extended it upwards, opening a clear target for her stake. She rammed the weapon into his heart and turned, quickly dispatching the second guard before he could regain his footing.
Faith took a moment to dust off her jacket before pocketing the stake. Then she retrieved her bag from the floor and opened the door.
Sacramento – Mansion Security Room – Same Time
Faith stepped into the pitch-black room, closing the door behind her. She moved several feet before smacking her foot into something hard. “Goddammit! Why do I keep doing that?”
Suddenly the lights went on. Faith looked down to see the object that she had walked into. It was a large black boot. She followed it up until she found herself face to face with yet another tall, bulky vampire. Faith sighed as she looked around the room, which turned out to be filled with similar looking demons. “What did they do, turn a professional wrestling team?”
The demon in front of her stepped aside to reveal a very sleep-deprived version of Faith.
Faith stared at the deep circles that hung under her counterpart’s eyes.
Despite her unpleasant appearance, Dark Faith smiled and said, “You just walked into the wrong room.”
Faith waited several seconds and frowned. “Is that all you got? You’ve been waiting for me all morning, and that was the best you could come up with? I mean, that’s not even a little bit intimidatin –”
Faith was unable to finish her sentence, as her evil incarnation landed a furious right cross to the side of her head.
She went down to the ground and raised a hand to her cheek. “Okay, that was better.”
“Get her out of here,” the dark slayer commanded through gritted teeth. Several vampires quickly stepped up and lifted Faith off the ground.
“Where should we take her, ma’am?” the largest vampire asked.
Faith pulled out of his grip violently, “I want to see the boss.”
“Excuse me?” her counterpart asked.
“You heard me,” Faith said, with a hint of hostility. “I want to see Richard Wilkins.”
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Same Time
“Just put those ones over there,” Willow directed a young slayer carrying a stack of bound papers.
Althenea ran her hand up Willow’s back to rest on her shoulder.
“You look like you could use some rest,” she said gently.
Willow rubbed her eyes. “It’s been a bit of a roller coaster the last few hours, well, days by now.”
“Why don’t I look after this? You go catch a few winks, and we’ll talk after you get up.”
“I can’t right now.” Willow sighed. “I’ve got –”
“To get some sleep. That’s what you need. And if the Watcher Commander-in-Chief complains, she’ll just have to deal with me,” Althenea said with a smile.
“Ro won’t care,” Willow replied.
“Exactly, so go,” Althenea said, shooing her away.
Willow smiled and finally nodded as she walked from the room.
Sacramento – Mansion Foyer – Moments Later
The four vampires stationed in the foyer of the mansion all tensed as Faith, flanked by ten other vampires, entered the room. They stopped at a large seal depicting a serpent that was painted in the center of the entryway.
Dark Faith entered the room behind them and continued past the seal toward a set of Victorian-style rosewood double doors at the far end of the hall room. She quickly stepped through the doors and disappeared from sight.
Faith crossed her arms and peered around the room. Her eyes moved over the guards until she spotted the one that held her backpack. She watched him for several seconds before directing her attention to her wrist. Casually checking the time, she let out an impatient sigh.
After a moment, Dark Faith returned through the double doors and said, “Bring her in.”
Sacramento – Mayor Wilkins’s Office – Seconds Later
A look of awe spread across Faith’s face as she entered the enormous room, followed closely by her vampire entourage. The red carpeted floor stretched out before her about fifty feet to the opposite wall, where a large expensive oak desk was located. Above her, the high ceilings created a space large enough to hold a forty-foot tall demon. The room was mostly empty, save for a few apothecary cabinets that lined the walls on either side.
“Where is he?” Faith asked.
“Well now…that’s an awfully impatient tone for someone in your position,” Richard Wilkins called from his place at a cabinet directly to Faith’s right. He lifted a large brown volume up to its place on the top shelf of the apothecary and turned to face her.
Faith blinked several times at the sight of her former boss. He appeared exactly as he did the last time she had seen him. He wore a brown suit with an open–collared striped shirt.
“So,” he said as he closed the cabinet, “I am a bit curious as to how you were able to impersonate my Faith so well.” He stepped within three feet of her and examined her face. “The resemblance is striking.”
Faith looked up at him with an expression of confusion. “I thought you’d be a snake.”
The Mayor chuckled. “As you may well imagine, demon form has its drawbacks.” He glanced over Faith’s left shoulder to the corner of the room, where a bald monk in crimson robes stood. “Well, I’m not one for wasting time, so let’s find out exactly what you are.”
The vampire positioned directly behind Faith grabbed her shoulders and held her arms tightly against her back. Faith issued no resistance as the monk approached with a vile of clear liquid. He drew a dagger from his waist and eyed Faith’s wrist.
“If you wanted my blood, you could’ve just asked,” she said, making eye contact with Wilkins.
He studied her eyes for a long moment before nodding to the vampire holding Faith. The demon released her hands and took a step back.
Faith turned her attention to the monk and extended her left palm. With a quick slash, he sliced into the soft skin of Faith’s hand. She recoiled instantly and examined her damaged skin.
The monk held the knife over the vial and allowed several droplets of blood to mix with the clear liquid. He returned the dagger to its place on his belt and slowly swirled the substance in the vial.
Faith, more interested in her hand, turned to the vampire behind her and ripped off his left sleeve. Using her undamaged hand, she slowly wrapped the shirt sleeve around her left palm.
With several loud pops, the contents of the monk’s vial began to heat up and bubble. Crying out in pain, the monk released the container as it grew too hot to hold, spilling the now green liquid to the floor.
The Mayor let out a disappointed sigh as he looked down at the mess, which was eating away at the carpet. He retrieved a Blackberry from his coat pocket and began scrolling through a list of carpet-cleaning companies. Without looking up, he asked, “Well, who is she?”
The monk glanced from the liquid to Faith and slowly replied, “Slayer.” With that, the entire room went eerily silent as all eyes focused on Faith.
Wilkins stopped scrolling the list and turned his attention to Faith, looking directly into her eyes. He glanced at Dark Faith, who held a positively irritated expression from her place by the door. “Everyone out!” she commanded.
The monk and the vampires slowly moved towards the exit, all taking one last look as they left. Dark Faith closed the door behind them and moved to the Mayor’s side.
Faith finished wrapping her hand and calmly said, “I’m from another reality.” The mayor eyed her curiously as she continued. “I’m not sure how it all works, but Buffy’s old crew did a spell that brought me here.” She made eye contact with the Mayor. “But I came here because I want a second chance with you.”
End of Act Three