the bunny warren v. Faith

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Six Slayers in Search of An Exit

Author: Mikelesq
Concept: In an AU where demons and vampires are real, but Slayers are not, the Counsel casts a spell to summon Buffy...and wind up with more Slayers than they counted on.
Rating: PG-13.
Feedback: Please.
Legal disclaimers: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" characters and situations are owned by Joss Whedon and the producers of the show. Takes place after "Normal Again" (sort of). The title is a variation of "Five Characters in Search of an Exit," a 'Twilight Zone' episode written by Rod Serling. The story is entirely fiction. Distribute if you like.

Prologue


"Are you sure the spell worked?"

"Quite sure, Mr. Giles," Witherby's voice said through the cordless telephone Giles held to his ear. "The auras manifested themselves perfectly. She should be arriving shortly."

"Well, I'm looking and I don't see...wait," Giles said, his other hand holding a pair of binoculars to his eyes. He leaned farther out of the window of the Sunnydale High School library. "Something's happening in the school courtyard. An orange glow of some sort. I think...yes."

A long silence passed. Finally, Witherby asked:

"Mr. Giles? Is she there?"

"Witherby," Giles said. "The volumes you consulted. Are you sure they indicated that there is only one Slayer?"

"Quite," Witherby responded. "The accounts are quite clear. 'One girl in all the world,' and so forth. One dies, another is called."

"I suggest we consult the texts again," Giles stated. "There are six girls standing in the courtyard. Four of them appear to be identical."

"Identical?"

"Well," Giles observed. "The hair is different."


Part I.


"What the Hell...?"

Faith's hands instinctively balled into fists as she absorbed her new surroundings. An African-American girl Faith did not recognize stood beside her. In front of Faith, four girls stood facing her, and all four appeared to be Buffy. They appeared to be identical copies of each other, with a few exceptions. One had a scar on her upper lip. Another smiled like a toothpaste model. A third was dressed in some kind of smock that looked like a hospital gown.

"Who are you people?" the African-American girl asked. Faith noticed the girl had an odd Carribean accent. She remembered what Buffy had told her about her predecessor.

"Kendra," Faith half-stated, half-asked.

Kendra turned to face Faith. The two Slayers exchanged confused stares. Then Faith saw Kendra fall to the ground as a roundhouse kick crossed her jaw. Faith turned and saw the scarred-lip Buffy pivot and swing a fist. Faith blocked the blow and shouted:

"Cut it out, B!"

"I don't know what's going on here," she replied, her mangled lip accentuating the snarl in her voice, "but you're obviously all some kind of demons who...ugh!"

The scarred Buffy recoiled as the smiling Buffy punched her in the stomach, saying:

"Buffy doesn't have a scar! You must be a demon! I will slay you!"

"Try it," scarred Buffy said, wiping a trail of blood from her chin and setting into a fighting stance.

"Stop it, all of you," the third Buffy said. "Just hold on. There's got to be an explanation for this."

"There is," a voice called. The six girls turned toward the voice, and saw Giles standing before them.

"Giles," Faith called. "What's going on here?"

"Mr. Giles," Kendra said. "Something strange has happened."

"Giles has books," the smiling Buffy interjected. "He explains things."

"Well, he better start explaining now," scarred Buffy said. "Look, it's Giles, right? You're that Watcher guy from Sunnydale. These wanna-Slayers are...."

"Everybody shut up," the third Buffy interjected. "Alright, we're all obviously confused, and there's something here that's not right. But the one thing we can all agree on is that Giles is the one who's most likely to have answers, right?"

The five girls all exchanged uneasy glances, and then turned to face Giles.

"I believe I can explain everything," Giles said. "Well, not everything. I thought there would be only one of you. But I can say that none of you are from here, and I can explain where here is. Good lord, that was a frightful sentence."

The third Buffy looked at Faith and said:

"Well, at least we know he's real."

"Talking to a litter of Slayers and still quibbling over grammar," Faith observed. "Yeah, it's him alright."

"We should get inside," Giles said. "All of us."

"Wait," Faith said. "Not that three Buffys aren't more than enough, but there was a fourth one. Where...?"

The group looked around and saw the fourth Buffy lying on the ground, hugging her knees to her chest, muttering:

"No...no...no more...please...."


Part II.


Giles stood before the table in the library. The six Slayers all sat around the table. Five of them listened intensely, while the Buffy in the hospital gown held her hands to her mouth with her eyes shut tight.

"My name is Rupert Giles," he said. "I am a member of the Counsel of Slayers."

"You mean the Counsel of Watchers," Kendra corrected.

"Not here," Giles explained. "There are no Slayers. At least, not really. Or, I should say, in this reality. Slayers are legendary. Or at least we thought they were. Then, it was discovered that the texts we thought mythological were actually based on writings brought into this reality by a dimensional traveler in the early fourteenth century. Here, the Counsel fights the forces of darkness. Apparently in the world, or worlds, that you young ladies are from, the Counsel guides a Slayer. She is the Chosen One. One girl in all the world...."

"Yes, we've heard that part," Faith said.

"A lot," the scarred lip Buffy added.

"Well, there is a new force descending on Sunnydale," Giles continued. "A force more powerful than we've ever faced. The Counsel's warlocks in England did a spell to temporarily summon the Slayer from her dimension. We need help. Of course, since there is only supposed to be one Slayer, we expected only one girl."

"That can be explained, Mr. Giles," Kendra stated. "I was called after the Slayer died for a moment. She drowned, and the temporary loss of life was enough to call me. However, I cannot explain how these other imposters are...."

"Cool it, Foxy Brown," Faith said. "Don't start in with the whole 'Slay-ier than thou,' routine. There's obviously more to this."

Kendra scowled at Faith. The uncomfortable silence was broken by the ringing of Giles' phone. Giles grabbed the cordless phone and said:

"Hello? Yes, Witherby. Yes, they're all here and...no...what? Oh, I see...yes, that would explain...what? Oh, quite right...yes...yes, it is a blessing, I suppose. Well, I'll keep the Counsel informed. Right."

Giles rested the phone on the table.

"What's up?" Faith asked.

"Well," Giles said. "It seems that the Counsel has...re-examined the text of the spell. Apparently, the Sumarian word for 'manifestation' can have several connotations, depending on the context."

"In English, Giles," Faith said. "Well, in American."

"The spell was supposed to call forth the current Slayer," Giles explained. "The exact words, as translated, summon 'the Slayer of the time, in her manifestation.' However, the Sumarian word for 'manifestation' does not change from singular to plural."

"Manifestations," Kendra stated. "The spell called forth all Slayers."

"It may be more complicated than that," Giles said. "The word in Sumarian can also be translated as 'image,' or 'incarnation,' or 'derivation.' It's apparently a rather vague concept in Sumarian that doesn't translate directly into English. Or American, for that matter."

"But we're all from the same source," Buffy said. "There's got to be a connection between us."

"Look, I'd love to bask in the sisterhood and all," scarred-lip Buffy said. "But if I have to slay some demon to get back to where I came from, I say we stop jabber-jawing and start ass-kicking."

Faith turned to Giles and said:

"I like that one."

"Perhaps it would shed some light on things if we were to trace the connection," Giles offered. "Faith, what's the last thing you remember?"

"I was in the yard," Faith said. "The guards let us out for the exercise hour, and...."

"In prison?" Kendra exclaimed. "I was right, Mr. Giles. Clearly an imposter. No Slayer would do anything to violate her sacred duties in such a way that would...."

"Well, maybe I'm not a goody two-shoes," Faith interrupted. "But at least I wasn't stupid enough to...." Faith stopped. She wasn't the most empathic person in the world, but even she couldn't just tell Kendra that....

"Stupid enough to what?" Kendra asked. "You act like you know me. I certainly do not know you."

"Kendra, listen," Buffy said. "It's no good fighting each other. The spell called Slayers. That means we're all on the same side here."

Faith and Buffy exchanged knowing glances. Faith knew that this Buffy was real. The connection was still there. It had made them good partners. It had also made it all the more bitter when....

"Giles," the smiling Buffy said. "Thank you for answering our questions. I am ready to fight demons! But first, I need to recharge my power cells. If an electro-dynamic converter is unavailable, I can splice my inputs into an ordinary outlet."

"What is she talking about?" Kendra said.

"She's a robot," Buffy explained. "Spike had her built."

"Hey, that's news to me," Faith said. "A vampire building a Slayer robot. What was he up to?"

"He loves...I mean, he was in love with me," Buffy said.

"Wait a minute," scarred-lip Buffy said. "You're telling me that this vampire Spike built a robot so he could pretend to have sex with me? I mean, you."

"Ew," Faith and Kendra exclaimed simultaneously.

"I assume that Spike paid for his treachery," Kendra said.

"Uh, yeah," Buffy said. She swallowed hard. Most of the girls here were strangers. Still, she couldn't bring herself to tell them that Spike didn't have to settle for a substitute very long.

"Man, that's harsh, B," Faith said. "Musta been weird, thinking about Spike kinda screwing you, kinda not."

"Wasn't the first time, Faith," Buffy said through clenched teeth.

Faith averted Buffy's glare. She turned to Giles, and said:

"This one, the one who knows the bot, she's real. I mean, she's the source. The Slayer you were trying to summon. We're all from her, one way or another."

"You can't know that," Kendra said. "You are drawing conclusions without all of the facts. We need further research to know...."

"Screw research," Faith said.

"Amen," scarred-lip Buffy said.

"And who put you in charge?" Kendra asked Faith. "Mr. Giles is the Watcher. He is the one who...."

"Giles isn't our Watcher here," Faith said. "No one is. And this Buffy's the only one who knows you, me and the robot. I'm guessing she can explain the other two. Would that prove enough for you?"

Kendra clenched her teeth. Then all eyes turned to Buffy.

"The girl in the gown's from a demon," Buffy said, knowing that she was the only one who would have the answers. "I got stuck with a demon's talon. It gave me hallucinations. I imagined I was in a hospital. I was insane, schitzo, institutionalized for six years. In my delusion, my life as a Slayer was a fantasy."

"You're the delusion," the gowned Buffy muttered. "This is in my mind...it isn't real...none of this is...oh, God, make it stop!" She sobbed and threw her hands into her face.

"That's some delusion you had," Faith said. "Good likeness. Not very realistic, though."

"Excuse me?" Buffy asked.

"The hair," Faith explained. "Look, B, it's not like we ever had gym together or anything, but you obviously get a little help with the blonde thing. You think they go around the loony bin and give dye jobs to the head cases?"

"Well, I...."

"Besides," Faith continued, "she's wearing sneakers."

"And, what? I should have hallucinated myself in a pair of sling back Manolo Blahniks?"

"Her shoes have laces," Faith explained. "You can use the laces to hang yourself. They don't let you have shoelaces if you're locked up and they think you're nuts."

"Speaking from experience?" Kendra asked.

"You're pushing it, kid," Faith growled.

"The other one," Buffy said, as much to change the subject as to further the inquiry, "I'm not sure about. I've never seen her before."

"There," scarred-lip Buffy said. "She doesn't know me. That seals it. I'm the real one. I'm in charge. Now let's find this demon and...."

"Really," Faith said. "So I guess you know all about us?"

"Er, Buffy," Giles said, not entirely sure what else to call the girl with the scar. "What's the last think you remember?"

"I was throwing down with that vamp you called the Master," Buffy replied. "I had just arrived in Sunnydale. You told me about this Master guy, and I found his factory where...."

"You never came to Sunnydale?" Buffy asked.

"Not before I got the call that this Master vamp had started up some kind of blood assembly line."

"That explains it," Buffy said. "Faith, remember Anya? Xander's girlfriend? She was a vengeance demon. Cordelia made a wish that I never came to Sunnydale. Anya told us later that the whole town went Beyond Thunderdome, because there wasn't a Slayer here to keep the Master from rising. This Buffy must be from that world."

The alternate universe Buffy pursed her scarred lips and remained silent.

"Alright, we know all the players," Faith said. "Now, what's the deal with this demon?"

"His name is Orelshar," Giles said. "He's trying to open the portal to a Hell dimension and draw humans into it for slave labor."

"Been there," Buffy said.

"You've faced such a demon before?"

"No, I mean, I've literally been to a...oh, never mind," Buffy sighed. "It's complicated. What's his plan?"

"He's assembling a demon army," Giles continued. "Where and when is unclear. It will be at the opening of the portal. I'd suggest we do reconnaissance."

"Sounds like a plan," Faith said.

"Very good," Giles said. "Buffy...."

"What?" the four Buffys responded in unison.

"Oh, hell," Faith said. "This is no good. We'll have to give everyone names."

"We called the robot BuffyBot," Buffy volunteered.

"Perfect," Faith said. "Yo, can opener. You're BuffyBot from now on. 'Kay?"

"I understand," the BuffyBot replied. "I can respond to any command in English, French, German, Japanese, Russian or Chinese. Cantonese or Mandarin."

"Yeah, whatever," Faith said. "We'll let you know if we need you to talk to a moisture vaporator, Threepio."

An awkward silence fell upon the library.

"None of them are exactly up on pop culture," Buffy told Faith. "Trust me."

"Fine," Faith said. "You, with the scar. You're new in town. We'll call you Newbie."

"Not more than once," she replied.

"Call her Celia," Buffy said. The two Buffys exchanged glances.

"You cool with that?" Faith asked.

"Yeah, sure. Whatever," she replied. "Anything to stop you two from talking me to death."

"Fine," Faith said. "Girl in the gown. We'll call you..."

Gowned Buffy held her hands to her ears and squealed.

"...if we need someone to talk to Elvis," Faith concluded. "Alright, BuffyBot. You know your way around Sunnydale, right?"

The BuffyBot smiled back at Faith and nodded enthusiastically.

"Great," Faith said. "You take Kendra and Celia. Patrol near the harbor."

The BuffyBot flashed her smile at Kendra and 'Celia.' Both rolled their eyes.

"B, you and I'll take downtown," Faith said. "If Willy's in this dimension, we'll beat the crap outta him til he talks. For old time's sake. Giles, stay here. Hit the books. See what you can find out about this portal. Keep an eye on mental girl."

"Yes," Giles said. "Quite right."

"What's our time frame?" Faith asked.

"The spell will keep you here for twenty-four hours," Giles responded. "After that, you will all return to your home dimensions. You'll have no memory of this after you return."

"Alright," Faith said. "Let's move out."


Part III.


"So," Celia said, scanning the ships of the harbor for signs of demons. "Is Faith that bossy in your dimension?"

"I do not know her," Kendra said. "And I do not understand how it is possible that Buffy knows her."

"Faith is a Slayer," BuffyBot interjected. "She had fights with Buffy. Spike never saw them fight, but I've described the fights to him. In detail. We were naked."

"Maybe she's from one of Buffy's other delusions," Celia replied, trying to ignore the BuffyBot. "Man. Hallucinations. Robots. That girl has issues."

"She is not a typical Slayer," Kendra said. "She lacks discipline. However, I have fought by her side. I do not understand her, but I respect her. She has great strength."

"We all do," Celia said. "It comes with the stake."

"I do not mean physical strength," Kendra said. "She has strength of character. She has faced many enemies."

"Again, part of the job."

"Her enemies are different," Kendra said. "She maintains ties with people."

"That's just stupid."

"There was a time I would have agreed with you," Kendra said. "But I have seen how she faces her foes. She loved a vampire. She lost friends. She was able to face these challenges, and become stronger. I envy her sometimes. And sometimes I pity her."

"Yeah, right," Celia said. "Boo. And might I add, hoo. You get close, you get hurt. That's the rule. You can't go all mushy just because a couple of people get bit before you save the day."

"It is more complicated than that," Kendra said. "She draws strength from her friends. It makes her more powerful. But it can also hurt her. When I came to Sunnydale...."

Kendra stopped walking. Her eyes became vacant.

"What's wrong?" Celia asked.

"I was in Sunnydale to help Buffy," Kendra said. "I was guarding her friends. She was hunting Angel. We were attacked. A woman...a vampire...I looked in her eyes. She...cut me...."

"So, you got cut? Big deal. I didn't get this lip from a bee sting."

"It is the last thing I remember," Kendra explained. "I think...it is the last thing. I think I died."

"You're reaching there, Ken," Celia replied. "Just because the moment the Brits yanked you into this dimension was in the middle of a fight doesn't mean...."

"Faith never knew me," Kendra continued. "She knew about me, but she didn't know me. A Slayer must die for another to be called. Buffy knew her. That means...."

"Drusilla killed Kendra," BuffyBot said. "Drusilla was a daft little sex kitten, but she wasn't good enough for Spike."

"Shut up," Celia said. "Listen, Kendra, that doesn't mean crap. Maybe this other Buffy had another near death experience. There could be dozens of Slayers running around. From what I've seen of that girl, she probably dies every twenty minutes."

"It doesn't work that way," Kendra said. "My Watcher explained it. When I was called, the Counsel consulted the diaries. There was another time, during the War of the Roses, that there were two Slayers. The first drowned in the Thames before she was rescued. Another was called in Cairo. The line ran through the second Slayer. If Faith is a Slayer, it must have been me who...."

"Fine," Celia said. "Then you're the one who got brought back. They slapped a band-aid on you, but you were out just long enough for the Boston Bitch to get powered up."

"But I have no memories after...."

"Listen, it's not true," Celia said. "It's just not. We don't know what we can trust in this messed up world. In fact, I'm through with this bug hunt. I don't believe a word of this alternate universe bullshit. I'm finding my way out of here on my own."

Celia turned and walked toward the center of town.

"Celia, wait," Kendra called. "If there is a demon, it is our duty! It doesn't matter what happens to me! We are needed!"

"Oh, right," Celia shouted. "For what? So you can spend the next twenty hours going after some demon you've never heard of, then fade away into nothing? Because some librarian and a bunch of strangers and a walking vacuum cleaner say so? Fine. You do that. Me, I'm going to find out what's really going on, because I don't buy any of it!"

"Celia! Cel...Buffy! We need each other! Buffy! Come back!"

But she didn't come back. She kept walking, fingering the scar on her lip, and trying to think about anything but the Master's hands grasping her head. Turning...twisting...snapping....


Part III.

"Thanks for taking charge back there."

"No prob," Faith said, looking down a dark alley. Nothing appeared amiss, so the pair continued down the street.

"Too bad Willy wasn't around," Buffy said, .

"Yeah, I was kind of looking forward to fighting something that wasn't trying to steal my shampoo."

"Speaking of which," Buffy said, "if we're going to be out on the street, we've got to find you something other than that jump suit. A cop's going to pick you up."

"Oh, yeah," Faith said. "I forgot. I guess I kind of got used to it."

"That'll happen," Buffy replied.

"Look, B," Faith said. "I don't expect everything to be cool between us, just because...."

"Listen, Faith," Buffy said. "First, it's so not. Second, I've got so much going on lately that I don't even have the energy to be angry at you. So for what it's worth, you've dropped to about number forty-three on my list of things I hate about my life."

"I'll take it," Faith said. "So, Angel tells me you came back from the dead. What was that like?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Sorry," Faith said. "I always had a talent for touching your sore spots."

"No argument," Buffy said. "So, you talk to Angel pretty regular?"

"Every couple of months," Faith replied. "He stops by on visiting day every so often. It kind of breaks up the time."

"Great."

"It's not like that, B," Faith said. "We're just...."

"Yeah, I get it," Buffy said.

"By the way, sorry about your mom."

"Why? Because it means you'll never get another shot at her?"

"Well, I guess you found the energy after all."

"Look, Faith," Buffy said. "This isn't the best time to try to bond, okay? I've had a rough year."

"Sorry," Faith said. "I assumed that a nice resurrection would have improved your disposition. My mistake."

"Faith, don't! You have no idea what it was like!"

"What, Hell? Granted, never been, but I have been to New Jersey. Hell can't be much worse than Jersey. It's not all that Springsteen and Kevin Smith make it out to be."

"It wasn't...look, just drop it."

"It wasn't what?" Faith asked.

"I said drop it."

Faith scowled, then said:

"It wasn't Hell, was it?"

"Drop it!"

"That's it, isn't it? It wasn't so bad, getting a break from fighting the good fight?"

"Dammit, Faith, don't even pretend to understand! Don't even try to understand! I'm sick of people looking at me like they understand! They don't! Xander, Willow...all of them look at me like I should be all grins and whistles because the weather's nice! No one knows what it's like to lose that much!"

"Oh, yeah," Faith snorted. "You're the only one who understands loss. I'll try to remember that the next time I chisel 'chosen one' on the concrete wall next to my bunk!"

"Uh, this is getting us nowhere," Buffy grunted.

"As usual."

"No, this patrol," Buffy said. "What are we even looking for? Converging demons? They're not likely to walk over to this portal with pennants and giant Number One foam fingers."

"Yeah, when has that happened?"

"Wait," Buffy said. "It has. The Hellmouth!"

"The Hellmouth? Wouldn't Giles have known about that?"

"In this dimension the Master never rose. There may not be a Master. If the Master never tried to open the Hellmouth...."

"Then Giles doesn't know he's standing on ground zero," Faith finished. "Let's go."


Part IV.


"Drink this. It's tea."

Giles gestured toward the cowering girl with the mug. She didn't flinch.

"The label said it was English Breakfast," Giles continued. "I can't say I really see the connection."

"Stop talking to me," she replied.

"Of course," Giles said. "I can see how this would be...traumatic. I'll simply...."

"I miss you."

"I...I don't understand what you...."

"You left. And I miss you."

"You must mean the Mr. Giles from your world," Giles said. "Well, I'm sure that, wherever he went, he'll return as soon as he...."

"He left because of me. I drive away everyone who loves me. I'm...."

"I don't believe that," Giles said. "You heard what Faith said."

"Something about Spike," Buffy said. "She's one to talk. Slut."

"I meant about the shoelaces," Giles said. "That would explain...."

"Will you just stop? You're keeping me sick! You're the one person who could fix everything! Don't you see? That's why you're here! I was just getting better, and you showed up!"

Giles stared, mouth agape. He felt the overwhelming urge to comfort this girl, but he couldn't.

"Listen, Buffy," he said. "Tomorrow this will all be over. You'll go back...."

"...to a hospital," Buffy completed. "And then I'll dream up some other adventure to draw me away. Oh, god...." Buffy collapsed off the chair onto the floor and began quietly weeping. Giles could only stand over her and stare.

Perhaps, Giles thought, this is why they are called Watchers.

"Giles!"

Giles turned to see Buffy and Faith running into the library.

"Giles," Faith said. "This portal. Is there any reference to it being called a 'Hellmouth'?"

"Well," Giles said, "there is a passage that refers to 'opening the mouth of Hell.' I assumed that it was a metaphor for the...."

"It's here," Buffy said. "The Hellmouth is under the library. It's a power source. It draws the big bads to Sunnydale."

"My Lord," Giles said. "That would explain the rather high demonic activity in this particular area. I've always thought it curious that...."

"Hey, Giles," Faith said. "Let's write a book about it. Hell, let's write a whole volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica about it. After we gear up for the demons that are about to show."

"Oh, quite right," Giles said, walking over to the weapons cabinet.

"In my universe you have an axe I like," Buffy said.

"Byzantine?" Giles called.

"Scottish. Dark ages."

"Got it."

"Hey, Giles," Faith called. "How do we deal with this Orelshar?"

"There's a dagger on the table," Giles said. "Plunging it into his heart is supposed to cast his soul into Hell."

"Way to keep the sharp objects near the psychopath, G-man," Faith said, glancing at the Buffy writhing on the ground. "Speaking of Zelda Fitzgerald, what's up with her?"

"She's distraught," Giles said.

"Yeah, well, she's gonna have to snap out of it," Faith said. She knelt down and grabbed the sobbing girls shoulders.

"I said snap out of it," Faith said, shaking the girl. "You're going to have to go into Giles' office and sit still."

"Leave me," the girl whimpered. "Just leave me alone."

"Fine! You want me to leave you alone? Sure. I'll just leave you out here, and when the big bad monsters come, you can just cry them to death!"

"Faith," Buffy said. "Leave her alone. She doesn't have powers."

"Neither does Giles," Faith replied. "Neither do your Scooby friends. But they manage to pull it together when the going gets tough."

"You don't know what it was like for her," Buffy said. "Cut her some slack."

"You mean cut YOU some slack, don't you, B? That's what she's all about, isn't it? Your little way of making an escape?"

"Faith," Buffy hissed, "this isn't the time for...."

"No, I think it's the perfect time," Faith said. "She's a pathetic, writhing little mouse, and you just wish like Hell that you could be her. That way you wouldn't have to put up with all the Slayer crap. You know, B, we've had issues. We've fought. We've shouted. And, yeah, there was that time you knifed me in the gut. But what you've never done is run from a fight. That's the one thing you've always had on me. Me, I'd rabbit if the going got tough. But you'd always make a stand. And now you're looking at some sniveling little coward, and you're jealous. So excuse me if she's not exactly my first priority right now."

"Ladies, this accomplishes nothing," Giles exclaimed, walking to the table with an axe in each hand and a crossbow under his arm. "Focus on the issue at hand. You will have plenty of time to bicker after the gates of Hell are closed."

Buffy glared at Faith, then bent down, took the weeping Buffy by the arm, and lifted her from the floor.

"This isn't over," Buffy said. "We're having this out."

"Good," Faith said. "Looking forward to it."

Buffy lead the crying girl into Giles' office as Kendra and the BuffyBot walked in through the double doors.

"Mr. Giles," Kendra said. "We were unable to locate...."

"They're coming here," Giles explained. "The portal is under the library."

"We should get ready," the BuffyBot said. "I like weapons."

"Somehow I knew you would," Giles said, handing her an axe and placing the other weapons on the table. "If you could help me with the other weapons." BuffyBot smiled and followed Giles to the weapons cabinet.

"Where's the other one with the magic smile?" Faith asked Kendra.

"She became agitated," Kendra replied. "She left us. We were talking and...Faith, there is something I must ask you."

"Don't."

"Faith," Kendra continued. "I need to know. If Buffy knows another Slayer...."

"Kendra, don't," Faith said. "We're not sure of anything here. We could all be from different dimensions. None of us know what we're going back to."

"Hey," Buffy said. "Is Kendra up to speed?"

"I am," Kendra said. "I will assist Mr. Giles with the weapons."

Kendra walked to the weapons cabinet.

"Did you tell her?" Buffy asked.

"Didn't have to," Faith said. "She figured it out. I'm guessing the other one did, too. She didn't make it in Anya's little fantasy world, did she?"

"Great," Buffy said. "That leaves us a Slayer short and one with her head screwed up."

"More than one by my count," Faith said. "More than two, actually."

A crash sounded through the library before Buffy could respond to that barb. A demon came through one of the windows of the upper level of the library.

"I'll take point," Buffy said. "Cover me from down here."

"Got your back," Faith said, reaching for the crossbow.

Buffy leapt up to the upper level of the library. The demon took a swing at her, which she easily dodged. She kicked the demon in the stomach as Faith shot a crossbow into its skull. It fell to the ground, dead. Buffy knocked over a bookcase, covering the shattered window.

The doors of the library burst open. The demon Orelshar entered, flanked by a trio of vampires. Orelshar's body was covered by a long, flowing black robe, but his insect eyes stared directly at Faith. Faith dropped the crossbow and grabbed the magic dagger. She leapt at Orelshar. From under Orelshar's robe, a tentacle sprang, throwing Faith across the room and knocking the dagger from her hand.

Kendra and the BuffyBot engaged the vampires. Buffy jumped down to the lower level. One of the vampires was waiting for her.

As the Slayers fought, Giles snuck toward the lost dagger. Orelshar reached out another tentacle, grabbing Giles by the neck and slamming him against the wall.

Above, the Slayers heard the bookcase come crashing down. From the window, Celia leapt inside and pushed the bookcase back into place.

"There's no way to get in through the doors," Celia called out. "The place is surrounded."

"Celia, get the dagger!" Buffy called as the vamp she was fighting knocked her to the ground with a high kick.

Celia jumped to the ground and tried to engage Orelshar. Another tentacle sprang from under his robe. Celia blocked its blow, and tried to work her way toward his body.

"Celia!" Faith called. She sprang to her feet, and grabbed the axe off the table. She began hacking wildly at Orelshar's tentacles, trying to help both Celia and Giles. Then the tremors began.

The Slayers and the vampires alike had to fight to keep their balance as the ground began to move.

"Giles!" Buffy shouted. "It's opening the Hellmouth."

"I...noticed," Giles gasped, grasping at the tentacle around his throat.

"Arrrrrghhhh!"

The demon's scream echoed through the library. The Slayer's turned to look as the tentacle holding Giles' throat fell to the ground, severed at the base. Then they saw her, standing in her hospital gown, holding the jeweled dagger in her hand.

Orelshar snarled as two tentacles emerged from his robe. He grabbed her, one tentacle surrounding her torso, the other tightening around her throat.

"Faith!" Buffy screamed. "She's not strong enough! It'll kill her!"

Faith began slashing fiercely at Orelshar's body. He seemed to be out of tentacles, but the ordinary axe was useless against his demon skin.

The Buffy in the demon's grasp was trembling. Her hospital gown was shredded. She gasped. She wept.

But she didn't drop the dagger.

She grabbed the Orelshar's robe with her free hand and pulled herself toward him. When she was within a foot of the demon's body she sank the dagger into its chest. A final spasm of pain shot through Orelshar's body. The Slayers could hear bones snap as the tentacles tightened. A yellow light surrounded Orelshar's body, as his form faded to nothing. The vampires fled. Kendra staked one in the back as he ran. He disintegrated.

Buffy walked over to Giles and helped to free his neck from the severed tentacle. The other four Slayers walked toward the limp body on the floor. Kendra dropped to her knees, pushed back the torn gown from the girl's throat, and checked for a pulse. She looked up to the group, and said:

"She's gone."


Epilogue


"What's the Bot doing?" Faith asked, leaning on the railing on the library's upper level.

"She's reading some of Giles' books," Buffy replied, standing next to Faith. "Apparently there were some books destroyed when we torched the school that she wanted to read onto her hard drive."

"It's not going to be in her memory tomorrow night," Faith observed.

"Well, she hasn't read the book that says that, either," Buffy said. "She has a hard time with abstract concepts. Anyway, it's keeping her occupied."

"You think Kendra will make it to Kingston before the spell wears off?"

"She has nineteen hours," Buffy said. "If she makes her flight, that will give her about half a day. That won't leave her much time with her parents, but she never really knew them. I think she just wants to see them."

"Where's Celia run off to?"

"She took a walk with Giles. Funny. All of us are drawn to him, even the ones that never met him."

"Not so strange," Faith said. "What's the deal with calling her 'Celia?' What is that, your middle name or something?"

"She was my...our cousin," Buffy explained. "She died when I was young. It was a demon. I was too young to understand. Or do anything about it."

"Sorry," Faith said. "About a lot of things. Especially what I said about the head case. Er, sorry. Again. It's just we never got around to naming her."

"It's funny," Buffy said. "I made her up in my mind. I've felt so weak. I guess when the demon poison gave me a way out, I chose to be a girl who was helpless. One who didn't have to be strong. Ironic, when you think about it. She turned out to be the strongest one of all of us."

"You'd kick ass in any dimension, B," Faith said.

"This was nice," Buffy said. "I mean, the whole thing with the demon and vampires and hell on earth, that was bad. But, I mean, it was nice. The other part. Getting back into it again. With Giles, and Kendra. And with you."

"We always made a pretty good team," Faith said. "Well, not always. When we weren't trying to kick the crap out of each other, we made a good team."

"Yeah," Buffy said.

"You know, we're not going to remember any of this."

"I know."

"Look," Faith said. "Giles has to clean this place up before school opens. We should help."

"Gotcha," Buffy said.

"Cool," Faith replied. "I'll start downstairs. You got things up here?"

"Got it," Buffy said.

Faith started down the stairs as Buffy turned to pick up a pile of books that had fallen off of the shelves.

"Hey, B!"

Buffy turned to look over the rail.

"See you on the other side," Faith called.

Buffy replied:

"I'll let everyone know to lock up their boyfriends."

But she smiled when she said it.

Faith returned the smile. Buffy turned to prop up a bookcase that had fallen. Faith continued down the stairs.

THE END


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