The Dagger

Author: Koos van Winden <van_winden_koos[at]>

Sequel to The Gun.

Rating: PG 13

disclaimer: I own nothing, except some idea's. BTvS is property of Whedon and ME.

Main pairing: X/F

Feedback: Essential to this story.

Many, many thanks to my beta reader 3D Master for correcting my mistakes, listening to my ideas and keeping the fic. straight.

Summary: Faith had decided to join Xander, but old and new troubles awaits. The Mayor has to be stopped, whatever it takes . . .

Latest addition

Part 1

Sunnydale, not far from The City Hall
Not long after the incident with the Gun

Faith had taken the books of Ascension with her.

"So with Graduation Day the Mayor will turn himself into a *real* demon, a real nasty piece of work," Xander asked Faith incredulous. She just nodded. "But you don't know exactly what it is, other than it's big, very powerful." She nodded again. "And until then he is invincible, completely?"

"Yes, Xander. By no means can we hurt him and after he gets his box, whatever it may contain, he can't be stopped from it. We need to help it to protect it."

"We can't," Xander surprisingly said.

"What? Why? We can't protect it, because we can't handle the Mayor . . ."

She looked at him in a serious tone. ". . . If you think I can't handle Buffy, than you're wrong . . ."

Xander shook his head. "No Faith, it's not that. I have trust in you and Buffy to work together and deal with Mayor, until Graduation is passed." He looked up in the sky and then back to Faith. "And what then? He is invincible, Faith! You think it's over after Graduation Day?" He shook his head. "He'll come after us or even worse, killing innocent people. And then in a hundred years he'll try again, when we aren't there anymore to stop him." He looked at her in the eyes. "Until then, he'll have murdered and hurt so many people . . . and he'll have caused destruction and havoc everywhere. Up 'till now he hasn't done much, because he has waited for the Ascension. He'll probably lose his patience if we prevent him from that and he will lead this town with all its demons into a real Hellmouth. He has connections everywhere, deep into the demon world as well as into the civilized world. We can't kill him, go to the authorities or stop him and if he uses his *real* power then . . . we can't let that happen Faith."

Faith let this ponder in her head, she never had realized that, and she saw what The Mayor could do. "What can we do?" she finally asked him.

"Play along with his game!" Xander said.

Faith eyes widened and Xander reacted to that. "He is only vulnerable as a demon. You said it yourself! Ok, he is not easy to kill then, but we can only destroy him then and not the way he is now . . . The Ascension must go on, but we have get ready for him when he does . . ."

Faith nodded. "That means he needs to get the box. Buffy'll never give it away freely. And I doubt she'll agree with you on that. Maybe the others, but she . . ."

Xander shook his head. "I think I could convince her. She knows what is at stake. But I can't tell her," Xander stated.

"Why not?" Faith asked.

"She needs to go along with the plan, convincingly."

"What plan?" Faith asked while Xander turned around and has he started to walk back to The City Hall.

Part 2

"Xander, you can't do this! He'll kill you!" Faith said concerned.

"I don't think so, Faith. He'll need me," Xander said calmly, not letting her objections slow him down as he walked back to the City Hall.

"You can't take the risk!" Faith pressed, trying to get it through his thick scull.

"I'll have to, Faith. He needs to get the box," Xander explained calmly.

"You don't! Just talk to Buffy and she'll give it to you," Faith practically yelled while throwing her arms in the air.

Without looking at her he continued his walk. "Listen, Faith. I have already told you that she needs to stay in the dark with this plan." Xander tried to explain . . .again.

"This plan of yours is ridiculous! It will never work and it is too dangerous," Faith now yelled at him.

Xander stayed calm. "It will work!" he said with some confidence in his voice.

"No, it won't!" Fatih practically yelled.

"Xander stopped walking and looked at Faith with concern on his face. "Why don't you believe it, Faith?" Xander asked, "The plan isn't that bad!"

"Why are you doing this, Xander?" she returned the question with another one and added, to explain her question, "They'll think even less of you."

Xander just shrugged. "No, they won't. Their opinion about me can't get any lower . . . Besides I don't care!"

"They'll think that you did another stupid thing and now they have to return the box to the Mayor, just to get you back."

Xander shrugged again. "Just another stupid thing added to the list. It doesn't bother me."

Faith couldn't stop the questioning about this aspect of Xander. "But if you return me back to them, then that will raise their opinion of you . . . big! It will do you good!"

Xander raised his eyebrow in the spock way, questioningly. "I thought that you didn't want to go back to them . . . why this sudden interest in my mental condition?" he asked back.

"Because *if* I am gonna be your friend then I want your your mind in good health!" she simply answered, with sincerity.

Xander was taken aback by her revelation. Faith saw it on his face. "Yes, Xander, I mean that," she softly answered to his surprise.

It struck Xander to the heart, but then he sighed. "No matter how much I appreciate this from you, Faith and no matter how much I want to, 'cause *I* really want their respect, I just can't . . . This is the only way. Their opinion of me is not at stake; the world is!"

Now it was Faith's turn to be surprised and a tear appeared in her eyes. <He really meant it, that he didn't want me back to impress the others. He really wanted to help me, just as much how he wants to save the world.>

She tried her last ace to convince him. "It is not only about their respect for you, Xander. If they'll ever find out that it is you who came up with what *I* am about do to Angel then at the very least she'll kill you! And *she*, and make it Willow too, will hate you for the rest of their lives. How can you live with that thought?"

Xander sighed and looked up in the air before facing her again. "It is not the first time, Faith. I have lied to Buffy and betrayed Willow's trust, so that Buffy could push Angel into the Hell dimension. I . . . I can live with that . . . I will have to."

Faith eyes grew wide for the umpteenth time now. He had her surprised now in so many ways. This was a revelation that made change her view on him completely again. <He was willing to live with that, because it had to be done. He just understood the risks so well, knew Buffy and Willow so well. Maybe he had been wrong about a lot of things, but he certainly knew what was at stake and could handle it. He would stand behind your back, no matter how far he needed to go. Until you were beyond any reach, even his own, and he would be forced to kill you . . . he would do it . . .> She let this last thought ponder into her head as another tear appeared in her eye. <He didn't with me . . .> Then his words hit her more than she had realized and shook her head in complete disbelief, in shock! <He didn't trust Buffy! . . .>

She sighed and fear began to mix with her other feelings and it was growing. All her questions about his mental condition, about the weaknesses of the plan and her objections to it, so he would stop or change it, were actually meant for only one reason. After the dust had laid down in her mind, that the explosion of revelations had caused, this reason came back to the surface again.

<I can't convince him. His mind is settled and everything has to be pushed away . . . all the feelings, for will this plan of him succeed . . . This crazy plan!> Xander saw the growing fear in her face as it turned into a terrified one and suddenly it hit him. He gently laid an arm on the now shaking Slayer to comfort her as he gently spoke.

"This isn't about the plan or me, is it? . . ." Her body calmed and stopped shaking by his touch and gentle voice.

"You're afraid that you have to face The Mayor . . . to become his Slayer again! You are afraid that you can't resist the temptation to go to his side again, isn't it?" he asked sympathetically and with understanding. Faith looked away . . . it was the truth and she was ashamed about it. Xander gently put his hand on her cheek and gently turned it to face his. He was struck by the amount of fear in her terrified eyes. He barely managed to do the only thing he could do. "I trust you, Faith!" he spoke with as much sincerity he could put.

Part 3

Angel fell to the ground. An arrow stuck out of his chest and he tried to pull it out while he also tried to stand up. Suddenly he felt a foot on his chest pushing him back to the ground. He looked up and saw the wicked grin of the Dark Slayer.

"So 'great actor', how are you doing today. Any other lesson for me to learn?"

Angel's eyes widened and he tried to open his mouth. Faith twisted the arrow a little and Angel restrained himself against a groan.

"Tough, huh? Big boy!" she quipped and turned the arrow a little further.

"What do you want, Faith?" he spoke between his clansed teeth.

Her face turned serious. "You love Buffy, don't you?" she asked.

Angel blinked. "What? Yes, of course."

"And the other way around?" she asked.

Angel eyes narrowed, he thought he knew where this was leading too.

"See, what would she think or do if I finish you off, right now?"

"She would gut you open with your own knife!" Angel answered directly, cruelly and harsh. Faith grinned. She pulled out the arrow and let him free. Angel looked stunned.

"How far are you willing to go, to save me Angel?" Faith asked, seriously her eyes drilling in his hitting his soul.

"Huh?" was his response, shocked now.

"Yeah, you know. The 'they will try and try again and never give up' sentence!" she said mockingly, repeating his own words.

"What do you want, Faith?" he asked ignoring her tone.

"Stand up and fight!" she snapped.

Within the blink of an eye Angel swept out his legs and was standing on his feet. Faith easily dodged his legs and immediately punched him in the stomach, at least she tried. Angel blocked her attack and gave an counter attack by punching his head against her's "Wow, Angel. That's not nice," she quipped.

They fought for a while, until Angel had her in a grip. "Why are you doing this, Faith? You could have killed me when you had the chance."

"Yes, I could!" she answered.

"Why didn't you?" Angel asked.

Faith simply shrugged and then she ripped herself out of his grip. "It's just too easy. Maybe I like to play with my victims first?"

"The Mayor ordered you to kill me, didn't he?"

Faith just shrugged.

"You think this is a game?"

Faith shrugged again.

"People are gonna die, when he performs the Ascension. And you just want to kill me, play with me, to get back at Buffy?" he asked incredulously.

She shook her head a bit. "And you!"

Angel shook head. "You're so . . . did you play with Xander first?"

Faith looked at him and shook her head. "It's funny that you mention him. I wanted to, but he kept on talking about redemption, honor, friendship. You know, the goody foody thing . . . It made me sick!" She paused a bit and then smiled at him. "Are you gonna try that too?"

Angel looked up into her eyes. The mention of rival made him try more. "You know that you don't have to do this, Faith!" he spoke gently. "We can help you."

Faith rolled his eyes. "Oh, man. Can't you guys ever stop?" she snapped, tired of it. She answered him with a punch in his stomach. Angel flew back several yards and felt to ground, holding his stomach. "You don't like Xander, do you? You're jealous of him, hmmm? Or do you think he is just a big loser like all the others?" she asked him while he pulled himself on his feet.

Angel frowned and smelled an oppertunity to reach her. "Xander? The others think he was out of his mind for trying to get you back. I don't!"

Faith looked surprised and Angel saw it. "Yes, Faith. When he came first to you, Buffy had tried to talk him out of it, she knew what kind of person you are. Funny that she doesn't know him . . . she thought she had succeeded."

Faith looked even more surprised.

Angel sighed. "I never despised Xander or looked at him as a goofy guy . . . uh, well, that I did. But not as a loser. Yeah, I don't like him, he is huge pain in the ass to me. But he has his reasons for it, and I can understand that. He loves Buffy maybe even more then I do. It frustrates the hell out of him that she chose me above him combined with the fact that he despises me. Which he does for good reasons! He is the only guy who really has dealt with Angelus! He forced me to pull my ass out of the chair and help Buffy from her death with the Master."

Faith stared at him. <Xander was right about him,> she thought.

He continued, "I have never met someone so brave as him. Not only with the fighting evil thing. When I lost my soul, he took over the show. I never got to know him so well during that period. He came up with a plan to destroy the Judge, he saved Buffy at least two times from me. One time she was lying in the hospital, high fever and Willow and Cordelia were with her. He knew I would come. Didn't leave, didn't look for any weapon. He just waited for me to come and tried to talk me out of it!" He shook his head. "He succeeded! He saved myself from killing Buffy, Willow and Cordelia. My only friends ever!" he spoke softly.

Faith was stunned. Not so much about the hospital, but more about the The Judge thing. <Xander came up with that? . . . I should have known! > she thought while remembering Xander interrupting Buffy's explanation.

"We are rivals, Faith, but it's not as bad as it seems. We both want to be there for the Slayer. That means you too. You don't have to be with the Mayor, we can help. Just trust us . . ."

Faith looked up at him, interrupting him. "So, and how far are you prepared to go?" she growled at him. "Are you gonna kill me for Buffy?" she added to her question.

Angel was shocked about the sudden mention of Buffy. "For Buffy, yes! For myself, no!" he stated firmly.

"Oh, really. Well, let's find out!" and she kicked him to his stomach again. Only this time Angel was prepared and caught her foot, turned it around and swept her back. She made a full back flip and landed on her feet. "Nice try!" she quipped.

"You too," he quipped back. "How far must I go to stop you?" he asked her.

"Well, it depends on you. I heard that if you survive all this, then you are going to L.A. Hire some people and try to get an investigion bussiness going that fights evil. Must be an hilarious team! I wonder if I may join?" she asked mockingly, grinning. She shook her head. "You are a Champion, aren't you? You should know how much it must take to bring me back." She stared at him for a short while for any reactions and when none came she spoke again. "Lets make it simple. I just wanna know if you are really prepared to die for me? Give me the true answer and I'll let you live. Ok?"

Angel thought for a while, frowning. <I already told her that I would. And I mean it!>

"How do you wanna find out?"

She grabbed in her pocked and pulled out a little bottle. "You know what this is?" she asked.

He shook his head. She grinned. "It's poison. It's a mystical compound, called Killer of the Dead. In other words it kills vamps. The Mayor told me that it's wickedly painful."

Angel's eyes widened. "You mean that . . ."

Faith interrupted him. "Yes. It was meant for on the tip of the arrow. You would have died in horrible pain, unless . . ." She was silent again.

"Unless what?" he asked, frowning and a bit scared.

She flipped the arrow from the ground with her feet and in one smooth move she caught it. She opened the bottle and dipped the its tip into the poison. Angel rushed a sudden attack at her as he realized what she was doing. She simply stepped quickly out of the way and pulled out her foot, tripping him. "Not so fast, fang boy. We were gonna do the test, remember?" she quipped.

He kicked him hard to the side of his chest. He rolled over and was lying on his back. A couple of ribs broken. She pressed him hard down to the ground and held her poisoned arrow against his chest She looked at him, <Damn, it's more difficult then I thought,> she thought while restraining herself from not pushing the arrow in him. <Stupid bitch would be so horrified . . .>

She pulled herself back, shaking those thoughs out of her head and said, "Now answer me this question. What would Buffy do if I would poison you with this?"

"She would kill you or unless . . ."

"Unless what?"

"Unless you tell me the unless!" Angel quipped.

She grinned widely, realizing what he meant. "Oh? I forgot to tell you. There is a cure for the poison. It's very easy actually, you only have to drink the blood from a Slayer . . ."

Angel's eyes widened again. "What? How much?"

She grinned wickedly. "I don't know. A lot I think. Depends on how much poison I am gonna use, I guess," she teased him. She went serious again. "Now tell me. If I poison you, what will she do?" she asked.

"She'll kill you and use your blood to save me!" he answered directly and harsh.

"Are you prepared to let her do that?" she asked.

"Not much of a choice in that, I think. Me dying and she . . . "

"Yes, I guess you are right about that. She'd try to kill me. We'd fight, on my terrace. Then I'd let myself get stabbed while standing on the low wall at the edge of the terrace and let myself fall down. Most likely I'd fall on a truck going to the unknown . . ."

Angel looked stunned again, knowing the capabilities of a Slayer he realized that she could pull that off. "What?"

She nodded. "Yes, it will kill me. But I don't wanna live anyway . . ."

Angel tried again. "You don't have to do this! You can come with us and you don't have to kill yourself . . ."

<Wow, those boy scouts never try to stop *or* does he try to save his or her own life? Lets find out.> "Listen friend! I'm not coming with you. I'm evil and I have joined the Mayor. I don't wanna live anymore. And I can't stand your friends!"

Angel opened his mouth and closed it again, realizing it was too late.

"What, not trying anymore? It's was your slogan, for god's sake!"

"Not for you anymore. It's too late. You're not evil, Faith! But if your not willing to see it, then I can't help you!"

She nodded. "Well, there is still hope, fang. This wasn't the question. Are you prepared to die in agony for *me*?" she asked him while pressing the arrow's tip again his chest.

He looked at the arrow and then to her. "Yes, I would!"

Faith furied was furious. "You liar!" She kicked him to the side and continued to speak. "If Buffy's blood is the only thing that can save your ass, would you do it. Risking her life?"

"No, I wouldn't!" he snapped back.

She moved away and he immediately stood up.

"No! I wouldn't!" he repeated himself.

"She is gonna beg you for it!" she snapped.


"Begging real hard, with tears rolling over cheeks," she made a sad and desperate face, mimicking Buffy.

He sighed, getting tired of this. "Then it's over!"

She continued pushing him. "She demands it from you. Telling not to give up. That's not over!"

"No! It's over!"

"She is gonna hit you on your face, making you angry! Like this!" she snapped as she punched him in the face. His head snapped around while he stayed on his feet. He turned back to look at Faith and she hit him again. He still didn't go down, but it took him a little longer to come back up. Faith hit two more times and the after the fourth time Angel spinned back with a growl as he was vamped out. He just stood there, stared at her, while Faith pulled him down to the shoulder strap of her shirt behind her leather jacket, then grabbed him by the hair at the back of his head. She pulled him down against her neck and held him there. He looked down and suddenly bit down. Faith ripped him back before he could get a single drop. She just stared at him, controlling him, until he morphed back to his human form. He looked up at her and was ashamed.

"See, Angel. You're convinced now?"

Angel didn't react.

She spoke again, softly. "She will risk her life to save yours. You'll in the end risk the life of the woman who loves you to save your own life!"

Angel didn't know where to look out of shame.

Faith spoke for him. "I thought so. It's harsh isn't it. It's not easy to be a real hero. Not as easy as you would like to think so. And you are the Champion! Aren't you? What would you have done if I really had hurt you and Buffy would have killed me? Would you have sucked her blood, risked her life for yours? You don't have to answer for me. Answer that question for yourself and be honest."

She waited, until he finally nodded.

She tilted his head and stared in his eyes. "You wouldn't risk your life even for Buffy! Now I ask you again. Are you willing to save my life above yours?"

Angel stayed quiet. He couldn't answer that question anymore and he didn't need to.

She shook her head. "Now you have failed. But in the end you answered the question truthfully. So I'll let you live."

Angel looked up at her, his eyes widened.

Faith grinned. "It was just a test. I just wondered how far you would go. Don't be ashamed of yourself Angel. Yeah, you tried to help me and you have helped the gang. You even saved Xander's life from when I was strangling him. But this . . . this is just too much for you!"

She shook her head. "I know Xander wouldn't have done it! That is the way a real Champion works! If you're a wannabe, then you need to change, real fast. You showed some merit today, but the road is long . . ."

He looked at her, surprised. "Xander?"

She smiled at the expression on his face. "Yeah, Xander . . . He brought me back! He never failed! He didn't even care about their opinion on him. He never did. A hero doesn't care. He even wanted to poison you in his silly plan to take the Mayor down. Risking their friendship and even his life in the process: he does what needs to be done when the chips are down and things look grim!"

She sighed. "I'm glad I could convince him to change his thoughts." She smiled. "Well, it's not that he had much choice in it . . ."

She closed the distance a bit. "And let me tell you something else! He went way, waaay further then what you should have done if you wanted to rescue me today!"

Angel simply stared at her, speechless.

"You better lay low now, you're supposed to be dead or heavily injured. So don't keep galivanting around, if the Mayor is going to find out you're still up and about, and he'll know too early that I've betrayed him."

Angel continued staring at her and nodded slowly.

Faith sighed and reached into her jacket, pulled out her daily planner and opened it to today's list. Some of the things included are:

Greet Girl Scouts with the Mayor
Poison Angel
Have fun with Wuzley
Buy dress
Dinner with the Mayor

She put a check mark next to "Poison Angel" and put the planner away. She smiled wide and laughed. "Gosh, I'm feeling chipper!" she quipped and walked away. She frowned. <Damn, the Mayor has too much influence on me!">

Part 4
April Fools.

Faith walked to April Fools dress shop with with bliss on her face and then stared through the window. There she saw Xander standing, talking with the salesgirl and then paying her. A huge grin flashed onto the face of Faith. She waited until he came outside. Xander closed the door and saw her standing. "So, boy toy, what did you buy for me?"

"Uh, . . . uhm, uh, nothing," he stumbled.

Faith grinned even wider and shook her head. "No, no, boy toy. I saw you paying that girl and pointing at that dress. Now it isn't my taste, but still."

Xander blinked. "Uh, I . . . I . . . I didn't buy it for you," he stuttered.

Now it was Faith who widened her eyes. "What? For who then?" she asked surprised, but not angry.

"For . . . for . . . Cordelia."

"Huh? What? Why? She can pay that herself, she's rich."

Xander shook his head. "Uhm, no. Not anymore. Her father made a little mistake on his taxes . . . for the last twelve years . . . she is broke, everything has been taken away."

Faith was stunned, but quickly restored her composure. "But why do you need to pay for her dress? Did she ask you, no that couldn't be, what . . ."

Xander nodded. "Yes, she, uh, . . . , she was embarrassed as hell, and couldn't get the money for the dress in time, and uh . . . " He looked stunned at her.

She was laughing so hard that Xander felt even more embarrassed. She stumbled from the laughter and almost fell to the ground. Xander just stood there, watching her until she regained herself. Between giggles and chuckles, she spoke, "That bitch there has been bickering on you for a long time. You were her favorite punching bag for new insults. And when you got 'rescued' from me and The Mayor, she got to a new level of insults, the ones that haven't been invented yet. From all of them she despises you the most, she is disgusted by you and frankly she hates you. And still you bought a dress for her, when *finally* she came down to the real world. It's just so fucking amazing . . ." she tried to continue, but was yet again fallen into an undescribable laughter.

After a minute or so, Xander spoke again. "Well, uh, I kinda deserved that from her and . . . "

Faith had regained herself and spoke seriously with her eyes wide open. "Your are so freaking amazing. What are you? A Saint? You only kissed Willow. You thought you were gonna die and you only kissed your long life friend. Ok, you betrayed her, so what? You're not holy! She doesn't have to act as if it's the end of the world. Look at Oz and Willow, they stayed together. If she really had loved you, then she would have given you an extra chance!" She looked him closer in the eyes. "And now you proved why . . . I hope she is gonna realize that!" They looked at each other for some time. <Damn. I really need to do something about his disturbing White Knight complex.>

Xander took the word again. "I still have enough money to a buy a dress for you, if you want?

Faith shook her head firmly. "No, please don't bother . . . I'm glad that you haven't bought me that."

Xander stared at her and shook his head. "But this is prom! You need a dress and . . ."

Xander tried again by using his puppy dog eyes.

But Faith's mind was settled as she looked away avoiding his gaze. "No!" she yelled with fury.

Scared by her own outburst towards him, she calmed down somewhat when she saw his shocked expression.

She moved her head closed towards his face and level her gaze with his. Her eyes went mildly dark. "I come as I like, otherwise I won't come, Capish?" she said with a harsh and demanding tone.

Xander looked at her for a moment and then nodded. <Some things you simply can't change,> he thought and chuckled inwardly, but dissapointed.

"Good!" she said curtly and added, "and I hope you have money enough for a good tux. That's much more important!"

They walked away together over the pavement, in the direction to the place were the Mayor is gonna pick her up. Faith grabbed somthing out of her pocked.

"So, and how did your visit to Wes go?" Xander suddenly asked.

Faith's angry expression quickly morphed into a wicked grin. "Great. He is kind of a scared weasel. Not much used to pain either. But he does have some potential, like you guessed."

Xander looked a bid worried. "You didn't get carried away, did you?" he asked.

Faith shook her head as she threw a small piece of paper like thing away. "Got tempted, but no, kept it calm, just worked off some of my frustrations."

Xander looked relieved and grinned a bit.

She licked her lips and brought the small item to her mouth, "And it got me hungry, now I have to eat your twinkie instead of a muffin," she said while sticking it in her mouth.

They walked further and suddenly her wicked grin went wider. "Too bad I didn't have my dagger though!"

Part 5
The Prom.

"Where is Xander?" Willow asked.

Giles shook his head. "He should be here by now," he said.

"Probably still looking for that one hot chick!" Cordelia said mockingly, but less sharp then usual.

Giles, Oz and Willow ignored her harsh comment, as usual. Since Xander had been 'rescued' out of the hands of the Mayor her disdainful attitude towards Xander had changed into a cruel one. But after she had found out that Xander had payed the dress for her and didn't run to his friends to mock her with it, her opinion of him was restored a lot, although not completely.

"He said that he would have a date," Willow confirmed. "He had spoken to that ex-demon, Anya. But she is here with someone else," Willow continued.

"Oh, yeah. With whom?" Cordelia asked, surprised.

Oz pointed in the direction where Anya stood talking to a guy. The guy's eyes apparently had grown and looked a bit scared.

"With him? That geek? Eeeeew," Cordelia replied, making a disgusted face.

Willow and Oz nodded together and grinned.

"Where is Wesley?" Willow asked to Cordelia.

"He had an accident this morning and needed to go to the hospital. Lucky it wasn't too bad . . ." she spoke with some worry. "Was a strange accident, though," she added.

Willow and Oz nodded in understanding with sympathy.

"He should be here any moment . . . oh, look there he is . . . hey, Wes?" she shouted his name and wove with her arm, "over here!"

Wesley saw her and was struck by a coughing, then he walked over to them, looking sore.

Cordy hugged him. "Aaargh," he groaned as a pained reply.

Cordelia stepped back. "Oh, sorry."

Wesley smiled a bit through his pained face, "May I say, you look smashing."

Cordelia grinned. "It's a start."

Willow's face lit up as she saw Xander enter. She wove with her hand, "Hey, Xander . . . Over here!" she yelled.

Xander walked to them and smiled shyly.

Willow looked at him from tip to too with huge eyes. "You look great in that tux, Xan!" she smirked.

Xander flashed a smile back, nervously. "You too, Willow," he replied without his usual jokes.

Willow looked around and raised her eyebrows towards Xander. "Where is your date?" she asked.

"Huh? Oh, uh, she will be coming . . ."


Later at the Dance

Xander nerves increased as time progressed. He shifted from foot to foot, watching the door repeatedly. He smiled and clapped proudly when Buffy got her award as the Class' protector 1999. But for the rest he was nervous as hell. And for good reasons. At every moment Faith could walk in. He pictured her in her faded jeans or even worse: a black leather outfit. And then there was the reaction he expected to get from the others. A moment to be proud of and at the same time a moment they could kill him for what he had done.

People around him began stirring and whispering while they watched the door. Xander turned his head and his jaw dropped when his eyes widened as the subject of his nerves walked in . . . They all looked stunned, most of all Xander and Buffy. Only Wesley was the exception as he shied away with fear.

Words were not enough to describe Faith. She was wearing a magnificent, yet a sexy dark blue dress. Perfect fitting her form and matching her hair and skin color. She wore a wonderful necklace, consisting of real pearls, it was another gift from the Mayor. Her dark brown hair hung lazily alongside the sides of her head, a few curls at the end gave her hair a playful look. It was somewhat shorter now, allowing more to be done with it without obscuring her face. At the back her hair was wavy and curled down, almost begging to move your fingers through. Short hairs hung over her forhead, drawing the attention from the more voluminous hair on top of her hair to her face and beautiful hazel eyes. She had light rouge make- up, not very much and red lipstick on her lips. Black mascara on her eyelashes which accentuated her dark brown mysterious eyes, which didn't hide a sparkle. She had a couple of dark blue earrings, matching her dress, which contained both an amazing beautiful emarald that reflected the light in an extraordinary way. Under her dress she wore very expensive high heeled black shoes. Highly aware of the looks she attracted from everybody present as she radiated confidence with her typical grin and posture and lighted up the room with her presence.

Buffy was the first who was restored from her surprise and walked over to her with fury in her eyes. "You have got nerves to show yourself here!" she said with as much disdain in her voice as she could manage. "And dressed like this!" she added while looking at her up and down.

Willow rushed over next to Buffy. "Yeah, after what you did to Xander!" she spoke furiously.

Faith looked at the two of them, and grinned wickedly. "I just came to congratulate you with your deserved award for the *protector* of the year. Oh, jeez, only you forgot someone to protect . . ." she quipped.

"I don't need to protect *you*!" Buffy snapped.

"No, you don't! I have my own!" she snapped back.

Then she looked at Cordelia, who now stood next to Willow and with the same amount of hatred in her eyes. "Too bad that there isn't an award for the biggest fool of the Year 1999, hmmm?" Faith quipped to her.

Cordelia shook her head. "He didn't win the prize for the class clown of the year, but he certainly wouldn't win *that* prize. It should have gone to *you*!"

Faith grinned. "Maybe, but I guess *you* will be a big contender too. Or should it be for the Bitch Queen of the Year? Together with me and the Bitchster." She thought for a very short moment and continued calm, "No, I think the fool of the year should go to B and you should get the last one."

Both girls blinked and then just grinned mockingly. "So, you only showed your face to insult us, or is there something else on your mind . . . some devil trick from your sugar daddy," Buffy quipped back.

"Actually, I came here for my date!" Faith replied.

The three blinked and looked frowning around and saw nobody remotely of being a partner.

"With whom?" the three asked in unison.

Xander shied away as Faith looked at him and said, "Who is still without a partner here?" she quipped.

The three followed her trail of sight and after a few moments the realization hit them. There jaws dropped and they were in total shock, eyes fully wide as they saw Xander's scared face. The others where shocked as well, only with a lesser degree. They stood there for more then a minute, while Faith had a huge smile.

"What?" Giles said, as he was the first to bring them back to reality.

Faith's face went furious again. "You should be ashamed of yourself, the way you insulted him and treated him as being worthless!" she almost yelled to the group in general and to the three girls in particular. "And you call yourself his friends?" she added with disdain.

Then she walked stubbornly over to Xander, leaving a dazzled group of people.

"C'mon, sweety. Let's dance!" she said gently and took him by the arm.

The group simply stared after the two until they were dancing for a while. The amazing looking and enigmatic Slayer easily took the attention of a large part of male population on and outside the dance floor. But she ignored them all as she put all her devoted attention to him! Xander was dazed by the beauty in front of him and felt a strange kind of pride rising up in his mind by this fact alone. She on the other hand was the real Prom Queen . . .

She closed the distance to Xander, looked at him with an amazing smile and whiped some drool from his face, as he stuttered, "I . . . I . . . thought you . . . you didn't wear dre . . . dresses."

"Wanted to surprise you," Faith answered as she smiled at his stunned face.

Buffy, Willow and Cordelia were still numb by this shocking revelation. Giles and Oz were shocked as well. But Oz found himself quickly restored. "Cool," was his answer as he saw Faith dance. The only person who knew what had happened with Faith, but was shocked nonetheless, was Wesley. His fear found itself replaced by amazement when he saw the Dark Slayer move.

Cordelia shifted her gaze toward Wesley and brought her out of her shock. "Wesley!" she snapped, bringing the attention of the group towards her. Wesley looked ashamed towards her.

"What the hell happened!?" Buffy yelled to no one in particular.

"Well, uh, it seems that Xander has found himself a date . . ." Giles commented, trying to explain the obvious, but staring at Faith with his mouth open. A hint of his Ripperness roared lightly through his throat.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Duh! A blind chicken can see that!" she growled.

Buffy was now aware of Giles gaze. "Giles!" she snapped.

Giles blinked. "Huh? what?" he asked, bewildered. He shaked his head lightly to bring him back to reality.

"Why is she dancing with . . . no wait, why is *he* dancing with her?" Buffy asked again.

Wesley held his face as blank as he could and only mimicked some surprise, he was too ashamed.

"It seems that Xander must have reached her somehow . . ." Giles thought out loud.

Then the coin hit the Casino Jackpot and they the won the price. "What?" the three girls yelled in unison. The group stared at each other.

"Wicked!" Oz described the situation.

"Apparently he didn't fail and . . ." Giles continued his thoughts.

"What? Why would he let himself be captured? We had to return the box to the Mayor for him?" Buffy asked angry and with lots of confusion.

"Well . . . I don't know. Maybe the Mayor got in time or . . . " Giles tried to answer.

"He would do something like that, not to risk the life of Faith for her betrayal. But this is the Mayor we're talking about. Sure, Xan knows that. He can't . . . how could he protect her life when others are endangered by it," Willow asked.

"'Cause the Mayor is only vulnerable and stoppable when he is a demon . . . " a familiar voice answered the question.

Buffy turned around eyes wide as she looked into a very serious and concerned face. "Angel!"

Angel nodded.

"You know?" Giles asked, surprised.

"Yeah, I know. Faith explained it to me this morning, in her own typical way."

"What did she say?" Giles asked again before Buffy could react.

Angel looked at them all, seeing their faces looking back at him in anticipation. Angel let his tension relief, looked down and sighed. "She showed me somewhat how far Xander went to save her."

"What? How far did he go?" a very concerned Willow asked.

Angel shook his head. "I don't know . . . I can't even guess," he spoke quietly.

They all stared at Angel.

"Well, it seems that it has worked," Giles commented.

Angel nodded. "Yeah, but her emotions are still messed up."

They all looked at the couple on the dance floor. They were slow dancing and Faith had her face down in his chest. A small single tear rolled over her cheek as Xander caressed her.

"He must have gone freaking deep . . ." Oz said, as the rest of them were lost for words.


The group was silent for a while, nervously waiting for another to say something. Finally Buffy broke the silence. "What should we do?" she asked.

Giles cleaned the left part of his classes and put it on again. "I think you and Faith should have a talk, alone, Buffy," Giles answered while looking at her.

"Can we trust her?" Buffy asked with uncertainty in her tone.

"It seems to me that that question boils down to the question: can you trust Xander?" Giles shortly explained the current situation.

Buffy nodded and thought about it for a moment, looking to the dance floor for a short moment and back to Giles again. She looked unsure and nervously. "I . . . I don't know . . ." she answered the question.

That struck the rest of group. "What do you mean? . . . This is Xander we're talking about!" Willow immediately responded.

"C'mon, Willow, I don't mean it not like that! I mean that Xander could be misled by her and through him us all," Buffy exclaimed.

Willow's eyes grew wider with fury, but then calmed down when she saw Giles nodding at her.

"Yes, Willow, Buffy has a point there. Faith could be putting up a scene here, wanting to let her trust and then betray us all together. Now I know that it is harsh, but we can't exclude the possibility."

"It's still goof boy we're talking about, here," Cordelia interrupted, trying to hide her shame and defend her honor for her recent behaviour towards Xander. But she was cut short.

"She looks sincere enough for me!" Willow exclaimed while pointing to the couple on the dance floor.

They saw Faith looking back at them, for a short moment, with red eyes and Xander nodding softly towards her after Faith had returned her face to his.

"I think you should talk to her, Buffy. Look, if you can find back some trust and if you can find out what she wants then you really should talk to her," Giles tried to convince her.

Buffy watched the group for any kind of reaction and stopped at the emotionless face of Angel. "What do you think?" she asked.

This brought Angel back out of his thought proces. "I think you should talk with her. You should give her a chance, she . . . she deserves it."

Buffy was surprised at his last words. "You really mean that?"

Angel nodded and watched the group. "I know that your confindence in Xander's capabilities aren't very high, but you never have met him as your enemy," he spoke to the group with mild admiration.

The group looked at him with big eyes.

Angel ignored them and continued. "It's Xander who thinks she deserves it. He trusts her . . ." He paused for a moment and then sighed. ". . . I think you girls should know something about his, uh, heart . . ."

Part 6
Crisp and Clear

Faith stood outside, shuffling with her feet, nervously. Her anger towards Buffy seemed not to exist anymore, only frustration. Buffy stood opposite to her and was equaly nervous. It was completely dark already and the sky was crisp and clear. Music, chatting, and laughing from the party was heard up here, but seemed far away to them. They were waiting for each other to speak first. It was like a game, a combat in silence. Faith won as Buffy broke it. "It's funny, huh, that we are standing here, outside," she said while waving in the air, "trying to talk to each other. We are Slayers, but a simple talk seems too difficult for us."

Faith grinned. "Well, we're warriors. Our civilized manners stopped in the middle ages," she quipped.

Buffy chuckled. "Yeah, we are stubborn and tough, have huge egos . . ."

Faith nodded and grinned.

Buffy smiled." . . . and we're egocentric, selfish little bitches with . . ."

Faith smiled back and interrupted. "Now you're speaking for yourself . . ."

Both laughed, feeling a lot more relieved.

When they were ready again Buffy spoke. "It's good that we have such good friends . . ."

"You've got good friends, I've got only one!" Faith said firmly.

Buffy stared at her, scanned her for any trace of emotion. "He really got through to you, didn't he?"

"More than that . . ."

"What do you mean?" Buffy asked.

"You remember I told you that we're the law, that it's up to us to protect humanity?"

Buffy nodded. She herself knew the same feeling.

"When I arrived here in Sunnydale and we fought Kakistos, I resisted every chance of friendship. Hard lessons tought me that as a Slayer I couldn't allow myself any friends. They could only get killed. You saw how scared I was when we fought Kakistos. I would fail protecting them, because I would run away, leaving them behind," Faith tried to explain.

"But not with Xander?" Buffy asked, wondering.

Faith nodded. "My life had been a hell before I became a Slayer. I had kicked some assholes from my past into the hospital, when I found out that I had become stronger. Then my Watcher came, helping me, caring for me. She learned me how to fight and control my powers. She helped me with the sue cases and helped me gain my life back. Then Kakistos came and my life fell back into a hell again. I saw the Mayor as somebody who cared for me and could protect me. It gave me some thing of my life back."

Buffy nodded in understanding. She knew practically nothing about her past and could only imagine how her life must have been running all the time from her worries and living nightmares. "I'm sorry Faith, that I wasn't there for you, that I didn't see your problems and was so inconsiderate to your fears . . . I . . ."

Faith shook her head. "Most of it was my fault. I never told you precisely what had happened. And you helped me a great deal with my fears. Actually I became jealous about the lack of fear from you and the gang. You were so brave all the time."

Buffy stared at her and shook her head. "We have fears to. But Xander and Willow constantly remind me that you can fight them. They have a bravery that I . . ."

Faith laughed at buffy's amazed face. "Yeah, they're a duo, aren't they?" She grinned and continued. " I had just arrived, they showed me some of the things they had done. The horrors they had faced. They simply laughed it away." Her grin disappeared. "It made me ashamed of myself. Compared to them my nightmares seemed so little." She shook her head. "But in the end it was precisely what gave me the bravery to kill Kakistos."

Buffy nodded in understanding. "Yeah, that's what they do to me too. Especially Xander. He makes the most silly jokes when facing evil."

Faith laughed and nodded.

Buffy turned serious again. "Why do you accept him as a friend then?"

"That's the 64000 dollar question! It seems coming back to that question every time, doesn't it? About *all* your friends I don't know. They seem capable to fight the good fight. But I can tell you something about Xander . . . He is the most stubborn and determined guy I have ever met. I didn't know him that well. Must have something to do between not really wanting to know him and not seeing the real him. He is not very open with talking about his own heroic accomplishments and hides himself behind a goofy mask. He doesn't want to have the honor, he wants stay in the dark. It's self sacrificing . . . protecting you and himself behind a clown mask." Faith shook her head. "But since the moment he came the second time to me, he began to show more and more about himself to me. Even after he did his amazing job, and had convinced me of *even* trying to trust him and walk with him onto the right path again, he continued to amaze me. He constantly has this will . . . need . . . in him to do the right thing . . . call it a White Knight complex. But behind all that goofiness, lies a reliable, capable, inventive and strong man."

Those words made Buffy ponder. She remembered some of the things he had done. She always forgotten about them or ignored them. She loved him as a friend. She needed to know that she had a friend. Especially one she could trust . . . She saw him whenever she needed too. But somehow he seemed only to belong to the decor, pushed to the background, when the bright and normal things game back to her life. Buffy nodded. "I understand. You were afraid that you saw more then you wanted too and I didn't even see a thing, 'cause I was blind."

This made feel Faith a lot better and smiled.

"Thank you, in some kind of sick way, for letting me see this," Buffy continued.

"You're welcome!" Faith replied, grinning.

Buffy chuckled a bit. "You know, if I hadn't become a Slayer, I would never have met such great friends or let alone such nice people."

Faith frowned a bit. "That's what Angel told me, when he had rescued me from strangling Xander." Faith was still in her own thoughts, thinking out loud. Without going in on the questioning look from Buffy, she continued, "All this fighting the good fight, it takes the best out of us all!"

Buffy understood and nodded.

Faith stared at Buffy in a very sincere way. "That's the best of this Slaying thing. We get the best friends one could wish for!"

They looked at each other for some time before Buffy spoke again. "Are the things alright between us?" she nervously asked.

Faith simply nodded. She paused and then grinned. "It's time we gonna kick some ass!"

Buffy smiled. "Tomorrow we shall make a battle plan! Tonight it's prom party time!"

"No need, Xander and I already got some kind of a battle plan, well mostly Xander, but . . ."

Buffy nodded. "We will discuss it tomorrow then." She waved with her hand. "Shall we go back inside?" she asked and grinningly continued, "I think your date is waiting." Faith grinned wickedly back and nodded.

They walked towards the door when Buffy asked her something. "I can understand he got you back and everything. But no matter how hard that must have been for him, I simply can't understand that he convinced you to wear that dress. You must tell me how he did that!"

A small sparkle in Faith's eyes appeared. "I can't explain it to you . . . I barely understand myself . . . You like it?" she asked while turning around.


Tears of laughter had formed in Faith's and Buffy's eyes. Buffy had tumbled over from laughter. Faith was lying on her back. "Oh, you should have seen it yourself, B. The look on his face when I said no!"

She shook her head. "He tried everything. Even his puppy-dog face . . ."

Buffy looked in awe to Faith. "You withstood that?"

Faith grinned proudly and nodded. "And then his face when he saw me enter the prom . . ."

"Well, it's a beautiful dress! Amazing!"

"Thank you, B. You know, it's his choice. Don't know much 'bout dresses. But he completely pictured me in it when he tried to convince me."

"I think he watched you a lot, F," Buffy quipped.

Faith nodded. "I guess he did . . . must have dreamt about me." She suddenly looked at Buffy and flashed a grin. "'Bout you too, B!"

"Now, you don't go there, Faith! He's head over heels about you. And you know it! And love it!"

Faith laughed hard for a long time, together with Buffy. Then her face went serious. "I don't know, Buffy. He likes me, sure. But loves me, I don't know? You'd think he would by the way he has helped me . . . but that's just him. He would have done that for anybody he likes!"

Buffy looked back at her and waited for her to continue.

"But I think I love him. Don't know much 'bout the word, but I get those funny, weird feelings when I think about him or see him. It has grown the last couple of days . . . I don't know."

Buffy stared at her and when nothing came anymore and she looked into her eyes, she began to smile. "Oh, you have got it bad, girl! Just admit it."

Faith stared back at her, nodded and frowning she hid her face in her hands. "For a long time I was so scared for this . . . I thought I would feel so scared, knowing that if I had someone to love then I had something to lose . . . Maybe even a life to live." She looked back at Buffy. Instead of fear or tears Buffy saw faith and love in her eyes. "Not anymore Buffy. I have no fear for that anymore. Not at all! You know how it feels? The freedom!"

Buffy couldn't react. She was happy for her. She knew how it felt, but her Angel wasn't meant for love.

Faith saw the emotions run through her fellow Slayer and a small tear appeared in her eye. She moved herself next to Buffy and laid an arm around her. "You know how it feels, don't you. The same fear . . . the freedom when you think you have found someone, and now you have to face the loss."

Buffy's under lip trembled and she has tears in her eyes. "He is going to leave me, alone. He is going to LA, said that it was the better thing to do."

Faith could not imagine what she would feel when Xander would leave now. Even when their relationship had to begin. She looked up at Buffy. "Come, now it's prom party time. He is standing there, waiting for you and just go dance as if nothing matters. Tomorrow you can begin to forget and you can talk to me. There is at least one shoulder free for you, if you want," Faith said while clapping her hand on her shoulder. "And Xander's too!"

Buffy waited for a moment and got her composure back. Only then Faith's words had hit her. She was surprised by the offer and nodded slowly. Buffy sighed. "Thanks."

Faith smiled and together they stood up and walked towards the door. At the door opening Buffy reached under her dress and pulled out something. It was the dagger, she had gained it from Faith during the exchange for Xander. Faith's eyes widened. Buffy smiled a bit. "A girl can't protect herself enough these days . . . and with those puppy's running around . . ." she quipped.

"Puppy's?" Faith asked.

"Hellhounds," Buffy explained. . "Some half wit summoned and trained them to trash the prom."

Faith nodded, she grinned and reached under her dress. "I totally agree with you," she said as the pulled out her 'Walter PPK'.

Buffy looked at the gun in some kind of mock surprise. "You're wearing a gun?" she asked.

Faith smiled.

Buffy repressed her questions and she handed the dagger over to Faith. "For you!" Buffy said and continued, "it will seal our friendship."

Faith gulped with this sudden change. The two of them had gone from bitter enemies to 'friends' now in only one talk. Faith prepared to take the next step and accept it as she laid her hand on Buffy's and the dagger. "Thanks, Buffy," she said while accepting the dagger back., but then refused. "I appreciate this, but you better keep it. Can't have it now, would be too suspicious if the Mayor would find me with it . . ."

Buffy thought for a moment and nodded in understanding. Then she grinned. "Now tell me what that is with you and guns."

Faith grinned back to her and showed it to her. "It's a Walter PPK. It's my protection . . . it's my talisman!"

Buffy frowned. "Talisman?'

Faith grinned, aimed it at her and shot . . .


To the surprise of every member of the scooby gang they saw the two Slayers enter while laughing and chatting. Then they smiled at each other and both walked to their boyfriend and pushed them to the dance floor . . .

That evening they had the best dance ever!

Buffy was having the time of her life as she forgot her worries and the fact that this was her last time with Angel. She was in Angel's arms, smiling at him. "You and Faith had a good talk?" Angel asked.

Buffy nodded.

"You trust her again?"

Buffy nodded and just smiled at him.

Angel was somewhat confused by this, but nodded anyway. "Good."

He lowered his hands and placed them around her waist and pressed her at his body, continuing their dance. She looked warmthly at him as he frowned a bit. "Why are you wet?" he asked and her smile grew . . .

Faith was having the time of her life too as she was the attraction of the evening, especially to Xander when she danced for him. She closed the distance to Xander, held him in her arms and looked at him with an wonderful smile, as she whispered, "I love you . . . "

Part 7

Sand, sand, sand and sun . . .

Xander frowned, and looked around, worried. He pushed his senses to the max, hoping to find something. At least a place to shelter and something to drink. A cactus, or underlying water, anything that could help him survive. But there was nothing, not even a Fata Morgana. For almost an hour he found himself in the middle of a desert with a bright sun burning on his head. He almost lost all hope as he stumbled forward, exhausted.

"No!" he suddenly shouted. "I'm not going to die!" The hyena and the soldier in him took over. His search pattern became structured and it intensified. He used everything that could help him. He found himself in a trance and it helped. He saw something, it moved under the sand. Thinking it better to go the other way, he turned around and there he saw something too. He looked carefully and his eyes widened as he saw something nibbling away at the desert. He tried to look behind it, but saw only darkness. Then the desert started to completely fall away, at an ever increasing rate, even the stars above it winked out, becoming absolute nothingness. Xander had two choices, the rippling, or nothingness. He turned and ran straight at the rippling.

The movement under the sand in front of him increased while it came closer as it moved closer, moving towards Xander as well. He fell to the ground when he saw and felt a giant snake-like creature coming out of the sand and then looking down at him. Laughing . . . A rush of fear ran through his body as it came down. He stumbled backwards, but it's mouth was too fast and all he saw was darkness . . .

Screaming in shock he woke up, bathing in his own sweat.


Faith walked through the hallway of Sunnydale, a bright smile gracing her face. Things were working out for her . . . for the first time in her life. The horrors of her past were fading away and she realized she saw the light again.

For the first time in months she had been able to sleep without a nightmare from Kakistos. It had replaced itself by something else. A dream she thought as impossible, something not meant for her. Suddenly she was disrupted in her warm and fuzzy feelings as she heard Harmony talking with two other girls about her.

"That dress she was wearing and that neckless. I tell you, she has stolen it. How else could she afford it?"

Faith smiled at their jealousy and listened further, until Harmony mentioned the subject of her dream. "And she danced with Xander. In front of other people! I mean . . ." Harmony shook her head as Faith grimaced and walked towards her. ". . . of all the guys she could get, she chooses him as a date? I mean, now low can you go? She is really . . ." *BANG.* The last Harmony saw before everything went dark was a fist hitting her straight in the face.

Faith stared at her, murderous anger rushing through her body and she looked at the other girls. Both girls gulped as they saw pure hate flaring up in her eyes. Faith clenched her fists as she forced herself to calm down and walked away from them. She walked to the girlsroom, scaring a girl away with her anger. She walked over to the mirror, gripping the sink firmly as she stared herself in the eyes.

<Damn . . . fucking damn, Faith. Don't . . . don't . . . do it . . . it's not worth it. You're so close, don't let them kill you . . . again.> Her grip tightened and pieces of the sink crumbled under her strength. <You have people now, Faith! People who care . . . trust you.> She saw her own furious face reflecting in her eyes. She wanted to destroy it, destroy this image. <Pleaaase, don't. You have a future . . . ideals . . . friends.>

"Someone who you fucking love, Faith!" she yelled as she destroyed her so hated self-image with one hit. With a huge crack the mirror shattered into a thousand pieces. Her face turned down as tears and blood mixed itself into the sink . . .


In a hallway of Sunnydale High, students were picking up graduation caps and gowns. Cordelia and Xander signed for their gowns. Faith walked in, hearing their conversation from a distance. Her face had some scratches, but nothing serious and would quickly heal as a Slayer.

Her mental condition was a different case. She remembered Harmony insulting her and the young man she had fallen in love with, and burning rage, the desire to kill that came after it.The satisfaction she felt as her fist hit Harmony's face. She remembered how it took every ounce of self control not to continue the abuse of the blonde. She knew she was nowhere near being a nice stable individual. But she had controlled it! She walked away, and harmlessly let her rage loose on inanimate objects. She had finally get rid of her own thought that she was evil. It filled her with a sense of pride and accomplishment; *perhaps* she was heading toward a good ending after all . . .

"I just want to look respectable in this, considering I'm probably gonna die in it," Xander said with confidence.

Codelia blinked. "Excuse me?"

Xander explained, "I'm telling you. I woke up this morning from a nightmare and this feeling in my gut. I just know there's no way I'm getting out of this school alive."

Faith frowned. <He thinks he's gonna die?> she thought surprised and worried.

"That's different from anything you've done lately how?" Cordelia stated with some high air in her voice.

"Oh, well. Not really . . ."

"You think that you're the hero now, don't you?" she asked, mockingly.

Xander blinked and shook his head. "No, of course not!'

"Well, let me tell you something mister! It was the most stupid thing to do. She could easily have killed you and then . . . then . . . " She thought for moment to come up with something. ". . . then everything would even more grim . . . from the lack of donuts."

Faith frowned and Xander couldn't even react anymore to any of her insults.

Cordelia sighed. She wasn't really mad at him anymore, she was more confused and embarrassed about her recent behavior towards him. She shook her head. "It was also the bravest thing you could have done. Precisely like you. Stupid and brave!"

Xander blinked and looked her with widened eyes. This was an unexpected turn.

Cordelia sighed again, looking at his surprised face. "Look, Xander, I know I have been a real bitch towards you lately. Now, don't expect any an apology, you deserved every bit of it. But what you did for me with the dress and what you did for Faith is truly amazing. It's you, the real you, the Xander I had fallen in love with."

Faith eyes widened. <What!? She still loves him! That's why she is such a bitch all the time!> she thought, very scared.

Cordelia frowned and looked lightly concerned at him. "With all the risks you have taken the last few years, why do you think you're gonna die now?"

Xander stared blankly at Cordelia, in thought, before he answered. "I've been lucky too many times. My number's coming up, it's plain statistics and the numbers are against me."

Cordelia frowned again. "Yeah, I guess you're right about that."

Buffy and Willow walked towards them. "Go to graduation, or fight the Mayor," Buffy said to Willow, disappointed.

Xander turned around and welcomed them with a worried look. "The Mayor? What, you guys didn't hear? He's going to be our commencement speaker!"

"What? The Mayor at graduation? A hundred helpless kids to feed on . . . " Buffy spoke frightened.

"He'll get indigestion!" Xander quipped.

Buffy and Willow gave him a nasty look. "That's gross. You have been way too much around Faith!" Buffy exclaimed.

"Not nearly enough for me," Faith said wickedly while finally showing herself.

Buffy turned around and actually smiled towards her. "Faith!" she welcomed her.

Willow smiled to, out of politeness and Cordelia looked annoyed.

"B, we need a gathering of the clan in 'bout an hour or two. Gonna get some info for you about the Ascension."

"Gang," Willow corrected not too friendly. Faith looked strangely at her. "It's the Scooby Gang, not clan."

"Right, gang," Faith said deadpan, and turned to look at Xander. "Come on, X, I need your help."


A knock sounded on the door inside the apartment, which was eccentrically furnished. The owner - a man who was balding, wore glasses, and sported a bow tie - went to the door.

"Just a moment!" said the Professor. He reached the door a few moments later, and opened it, revealing Faith, Xander standing behind her.

Faith asked, "Hi, I'm looking for Professor Wirth."

"Oh, well, that's me, but I should ask you to come back during office hours. Students generally make an appointment," the Professor said somewhat perplexed.

"Uh, I'm not from the college. I work for Mayor Wilkins. I'm Faith," she said introducing herself. Then she gestured to Xander, and said, "And this my associate Xander Harris."

"Oh, well, come in, please. I was so surprised when he called. Didn't expect a politician to be interested in my research." The two entered.

Faith grinned. "He's a big fan, Professor."

"Oh, Lester's fine," the Professor said casually, as he walked over to a table containing a lot of notes.

"We alone here, L?" Faith asked.

The professor smiled. "Life long bachelor. I like my space."

Faith frowned and then smiled warmly. "Bachelor? A cutie like you?"

The professor blushed a bit.

"You think so?"

Faith nodded sweetky and turned her eyes towards Xander and he rolled his eyes. She turned her head toward the professor again.

Faith made an apologetic face, laid her hand on his shoulder as she smiled gently. "Sorry, friend. But I have bad news. My boss wants you dead. We would like to know why?"

"He . . . he . . . he wants me dead? Why?" The professor stuttered.

"You know, I asked. He didn't tell me. Only that it had something to do with an Ascension."


"That he would change into something higher."

The professor's eyes went huge, disbelieving. "Higher?"

Faith nodded with sympathy. ""It must have something to do with your research. He is gonna change into a demon of some kind. We need to know how to kill . . ." She stopped in her sentence as she saw him chuckle.

His chuckle rapidly changed into laughter as it went louder and louder and almost tumbled over. "D . . . d . . . demon?" he asked as tears running in his eyes.

Faith and Xander watched him until Xander turned his head and frowned at her. Faith shrugged. "I knew politeness wasn't my thing . . ."


Xander and Faith exchanged a quick look.

Faith drew her knife as Xander looked at the door and read his job description again. "Paleontologist, huh?"

The professor turned around, and answered, "Yes." At Xander's questioning look he continued. "We research animals and . . ."

With the professor turned away from her, she wacked him over the head with the blunt end of her knife, and he went down instantly.

"Really sorry, about that," Faith commented with a neutral face. "But we don't have much choice." She produced some rope from her jacket, and started tying the man up, as Xander skimmed through the man's papers.

"We can't have him around talking of this, Faith," Xander said to her.

"No prob, Xan, I'll know what to do," she said grinning as she showed him a gag.

Xander shook his head and walked around the apartment casually, checking the place out. His attention first rose to an old paper, titled 'the legend of Ollokai'. He scanned the paper quickly, but realized that it didn't contain the info he needed and only memorized the name.

The first few piles weren't much, until Xander found a small stack of sheets lying next to the man's computer. There were corrections on it with red ink, so Xander thought at first that it was work from his students, but when he saw that corrections contained arrows, and whole sentences, he realized the professor had been rewriting his own paper. Xander read the title, 'New dinosaur found: ...' Xander didn't bother with the scientific name that stood behind it, but he did read the subtitle, 'The super snake from the south west'. Instantly Xander flashed back to his dream, the giant snake rising up from the sand, and its maw opening to engulf him. He shifted through a few of the papers, neatly arranged by page number, until he found a picture of the carcass, and beneath it a size schematic, the snake, t- rex, an elephant, and a man. The snake's head was about the same size as the man, and it's body as high as an elephant. "Oh, shit, it's huge," Xander said out loud.

"What?" Faith asked, looking up from her work. Xander turned around with the paper in hand, which counted about fifteen sheets. He saw Faith finishing up, tying the professor with a gag.

Xander handed over the sheets with the title and with the size schematic, and said, "I think we just found what the Mayor is turning into. Notice the schematic." Xander in the mean time shifted through a few more sheets.

"Fuck me," Faith said, seeing the schematic.

"Not now, Faith, can't you think of anything else?" Xander said, mock sternly, earning him a surprised look, and then a wicked grin. Then Xander read out loud, "'Encased in volcanic rock.'" His mind was already spinning to find a way to defeat the Mayor. Faith watched a smile creep upon Xander's face. "If a big load of fire is what killed this one, a big load of fire is what we'll use to destroy the next."

Faith grinned back, and then looked down at the professor. "So what do we do with him? Can't let him run around. Mayor will know I didn't kill him, and he'll just have him killed by someone else."

"We have to lock him away somewhere in the mean time, preferably some place he can't be heard, so we can remove his gag, and he can drink, if possible without the use of his hands. Got any ideas?" Xander said, trying to think of a place.

"Leave it to me, I know just the place," Faith said with a smile.


At a small apartment a dark-haired girl knocked on the door. The door opened and a brunette stood at the entrance. She looked tired and close to a burn out. She looked even more somber and grim and rolled her red-rimmed eyes when she saw who had knocked.

"Faith, you're the last person I had expected here. What do you want?" Cordelia snapped.

Faith grinned. "Sounds familiar. Can I come in?"

"For what?" Cordelia growled.

"Some talk."

Cordelia frowned and looked at the grinning face of Faith. "Come in. But no more than five minutes."

"Don't need more."

Faith stepped into the sober apartment. It was Spartanly furnished.

"Nice decorations," Faith quipped. "You did it yourself? Or did you hire one of those expensive . . ."

"Very funny, Faith!" Cordelia snapped. "I guess Xander told you everything?" Cordelia said with disdain.

That got Faith pissed. "He did, but only *after* I interrogated him when I thought he had bought that for *me*." Faith pointed at the dress that hung gently across the back of a chair. "*Then* I insulted him for helping an ungrateful bitch like you!" Faith said calmly, with a lot of self control.

This surprised Cordelia, not only because she again thought less of Xander, but also the way Faith protected Xander. Something she always lacked. Faith stayed silent to let Cordelia think it over. She looked back at Faith and couldn't stand her silence anymore.

"Who else knows?"

"Nobody . . . I promised Xander not to tell anyone else. It's not my concern . . . Now tell me, how does it feel to be one of the poor?" Faith quipped.

Cordelia dignified herself by not answering this question of Faith.

Faith continued, serious this time. "You're not the nicest person to have as a girlfriend. You always insulted him when you two were dating, and you walked around him with an air of superiority. Now I know that he likes to go for the impossible women." Faith chuckled. "Somehow he's attracted to strong women, like us or B." She became serious again.

"I know you still love him, as do I! You dig his bravery, hmm? You like heroes, don't you?"

Cordelia kept silent and Faith continued.

Cordelia kept silent and Faith continued. "I know, C. I heard you two talking this morning. I saw that twinkle in your eyes when you realized that he will stay, even when he thinks he's gonna die. The way he risked his life for me . . . almost makes you wish that you were the one going mad, huh?" she needled and then sighed. "To be honest, I think that he deserves you more then me, I'm too unreliable and too messed up." She looked Cordelia straight in the eyes. "It's simple, C, I'll give you a choice. You can have him back, but if you refuse or he doesn't want you, then I'll step in and take my chances. I'll give you until graduation is over." Cordelia nodded.

Faith walked to the door and turned her head to face Cordelia one last time. "And don't forget, I don't mind the competition and I won't make it easy for you. Make sure he'll notice you!" With that she opened the door and stepped out as a grin flashed on her face.

Part 8

Faith walked into the Sunnydale highschool with a bright smile, until she saw Willow standing alone. Faith walked to Willow, and stood silent behind her. Willow suddenly noticed her appearance and turned around, nervously.

"Relax Red, I' m not going to cut you into pieces. Just a little talk."

"Oh, uh, okay!" Willow stumbled.

"I wanna discuss some things with you about Xan."

Willow still nervous, nodded.

"First I wanna say something I wanna to tell ya already from the beginning." Willow's nervousness grew by this. "You and Xander are the bravest people I have ever met! What you two have faced without running away horrified, is amazing. When I arrived here, you and Xander acted as friends to me. I had a hard time before I arrived and then suddenly I met two geeks who are braver then I am. It hurt my ego."

Willow nodded.

"It's funny, with Giles and Wesley I used force to talk with them. With you it would be just a waste of energy. You are already scared of me, a knife wouldn't matter." Then Faith went real serious. "Now I'm only asking if you know what the term friend means?' she asked calmly.

Willow blinked. "Yes, of course!"

Faith shook her head. "Then why didn't you stand behind Xan, when he was called the Zeppo or when Giles and Buffy don't even notice him? You know him best! You know his real capabilities, but you still let him alone when it comes to this."

Willow tried to react, but couldn't as she opened and closed her mouth.

"And to Buffy? You know that Angel is dangerous for her, but still you play along with the whole romantic kind of thing. Just afraid of losing your only gal-pal."

Willow blinked again.

"That's all, thanks for listening!" Faith said while walking away.

Willow stood there, shocked.


Giles, Faith and Wesley were sitting around the table in the Library. Xander walked to the tea pot in which he had made tea, and held it above a cup. "Computer, earl grey, tea, hot. Bzzzzzzzz," he mimicked Picard and the replicator, as he filled the cup.

Giles and Wesley looked at him, as if he had gone crazy. Faith just grinned.

Xander stretched his shirt straight and picked up two filled cups.

He place them on the table while he said, "Better then a coffee, huh?" Then he picked up a old book which laid on the table, dusted it off and looked at the title. "'Kepler's Law volumes.' Interested in astrophysics, Giles? It's a bit old, huh? Don't you have any Newton or Einstein?" Xander read and commented. He shook his head and continued. "No, that's even too old. Their theories don't even work out the existence of Wormholes and doesn't describe subspace propulsion." Xander wanted to explain some modern physics, but saw the faces of watchers.

Giles and Wesley looked dazed now. Faith had gained a big smile on her face.

"Ok. G-man. What is it with this book?" Xander asked, cursious.

Giles put of his glasses and looked furious at Xander. "Don't ever, I repeat *ever*, use that infernal name for me again."

Xander stared in 'Ripper' eyes and gulped.

Giles calmed himself a bit down and spoke harshly, "How can I ever take you serious if you act like that with the tea or call me that."

Faith eyes darkened at that. Giles sighed. "Now, the reason I asked you two here is first about Wesley and about you two. Now I hate to say it to you Xander . . ." Faith couldn't stand it anymore. The name Wesley and the disrespect he had shown towards Xander the past ten minutes was too much. She abruptly stood up, showing a blank face, serious.

"Giles, I wish to speak with you in private."

". . . but the way you got her saved was not very smart . . ." Giles looked up at her and watched her in her dark eyes.

Then he looked via Wesley, Xander back to Faith and nodded. Wesley gently touched a scar on his face as they walked out of the room and Faith closed the door, and swallowed as he had recognized those eyes of her and felt sorry for Giles . . .

Giles tried to turn around and to look at her, but before he knew he found himself on the ground. His nose was bleeding. He turned himself around and looked up to Faith. Her eyes were furious and she was aiming a gun at him.

"Three things Giles . . . First: what happened between me and Wes is a matter between us.

"Second: You never gonna talk to or about Xander like that again or I'll kill you! How can you ever expect any respect from him if you aren't able to return it? And about what he has done for this group. What you have done so far, doesn't even come close to Xander's accomplishments.

"Third: Where were you and your high British Noblemen when it was about me? Did you ever try to talk me out of it? Help me? No, Sir! You only care about Buffy and the rest of us isn't of any concern to you." She shook her head in disdain. "Oh, wait. I forgot . . . Willow! The brilliant genius, hacker extraordinary, who might become a Watcher herself. But the others? No it's Buffy! . . . Buffy! . . . Buffy! She is your precious little Slayer and you let me *rot* in my motel! And when I arrived in this goddamned place you didn't even know that I existed! Never came up in your brilliant mind or bothered you that there might be another Slayer running around. A souled vampire and a so called useless goofball were the only ones who tried to help me."

"Now Faith," he stumbled looking scared at the gun, "could you please remove that infernal thing there?"

Faith grinned and instead of removing it she moved it to his kneecaps. "You're right about one thing. I'm still a wicked and out of control and easily pissed off Slayer who is better of dead."

Giles' eyes grew as she slowly moved the trigger. His fears grew fast as he realized that she was having a internal battle.

Faith stared in the face of Giles fighting her urge to shoot until she saw drops of sweat forming on his forehead. She smiled inwardly, but outwardly she was still pissed of. She released some pressure on the trigger as she slowly moved the gun towards his heart and was rewarded with an even highter fear in Giles face as he stopped breathing. Faith waited for some moments. "You watchers have no idea what it is to be a Slayer. The constant fear, watching people suffer and the constant battle for humanity's sake with its only reward: die young and horrible." She stared intensly at him for a moment. "One might be better off dead, but guess what? I don't want to be dead." Her eyes widened and paused for a moment. "You do?" she asked as she pressed the trigger again, watching Giles pale face. She shook her head. "I don't need to kill you." She moved the gun towards his groan."Just have some fun!"

Giles closed his eyes as he waited for the sharp pain. But to his surprise it never came as she spoke again. "This was all I wanted to say. Just keep in mind my promises. And think 'bout what I said. Maybe there is one day in the future that you can understand it." She slowly moved with moved the gun over various body parts, just to see him scared, and moved it towards her pocket in her leather jacket.

They walked in the library again and Xander looked up. "That was short?" he asked, not even having a clue about what had happened. A pale Giles saw the relieved face of Wesley as he nodded in understanding.

"Just making my point clear, Xan," Faith said, nodding to a somewhat white Giles. "Now where were we," she asked to nobody, "oh, yeah, you wanna say something 'bout Xan?" she asked to Giles.

Giles got the hint. "Uh, yes. Well, I don't have anything to say anymore. Lets discuss the plan."

Xander raised his hand. "I had one thing to mention before we come to that . . . I want to ask you . . . now and not with Buffy, 'cause with this whole cru, uh, cruciamentum thing . . . but . . . Uh, how far can we trust the council?"


After Xander explained his plans Giles took the word.

"This is madness . . ." he gulped as he saw Faith narrowing her eyebrows ". . . Uh, what you want for Cordelia is great . . . But this is a very dangerous plan, Xander. The chances that it fails are huge and . . . uh, well, you're putting a lot of faith in it . . ."

"It's called trust, Giles," Faith commented, "Lets gonna see what the others think of it . . . or don't they count?"

Giles watched her questioning face and nodded. "I will put up a meeting here in twenty minutes, we have a hurry. See if you can find the others."


Xander immedialely left the library, leaving Faith behind him. He walked in the hall in rounds nervous and angry about the disapproval of his plan by Giles, althouth he understood it perfectly. <Why can't they simply trust her?> His worried thoughts were gently disrupted by a familiar and happy voice.

"Hi, Xander. You know that I'm your best friend, don't you?" Willow asked friendly.

Xander looked a bit surprised. "Yes, of course I know, Wills. Why the sudden question?"

"Uhm, nothing . . . just to wanna hear it, that's all. I, uh, wanna thank you for saving my life from that Bit . . . uh, Faith. She was gonna cut me open like an apple."

Xander showed his lopsided smile. "More like a strawberry or tomato or . . . like an orange . . ."

"Xander!"" Willow snapped.

Xander laughed and slapped his hand on her shoulder.

"No thanks, Wills. You took a lot of risk there to get some info about the Ascension. I'm not gonna let you get killed, by anyone. You know that! What are you doing here, anyway?"

"There are benches set up for the graduation in front of Sunnydale High. I just thought you might wanna know," she said.

"I know, Wills. We have a meeting in twenty minutes in the Library. I will explain everything . . . But that's not why you're here, are you? It's Faith, isn't it? Are you still afraid or mad about her?"

Willow stared at him and slowly nodded. "She's dangerous, Xan! I don't trust her, she is still on my nerves and has this attitude and she's dangerous and she always grins wickedly to me, and I don't trust her, she is too unstable, and she is on my nerves, did I already say that she was dangerous . . ."

"Calm down, Wills! Breath! She is trustworthy, she is just playing with you and yes, her emotions are still unstable, but she will manage. She has to learn to trust you, to know you better. I'm sure that you and her can be friends."

"Friends? Never!"

"Wills! You can trust her. That's not too much to ask, is it?"

"Yes it is! And you should know it. She almost killed you twice!"

Willow stood up and walked away.

"Wills? C'mon, don't be like that! Wills . . ." he tried to say, but she was already gone . . .

Xander walked after her, but was disrupted by Faith. "Hold it, boy toy. I made her angry, so I will resolve it."

"Why did you do that?"

"I had some issues with her. Don't worry, it's not your concern."

"It *is* *my* concern, Faith! She is my childhood friend. I need to talk with her," Xander almost snapped as he walked away.

Faith blinked and then rushed after him. "I'm sorry Xan, for messing up with your friend. I need to solve this. I want to clean up my own mess."

Xander watched her for her intentions and shook his head. "You want to clean up your own mess? So, you do see this as a mess?" he asked with curiosity.

"I . . . it's not what you think, Xan. I don't want to hurt her," she said trying to convince him of her honesty.

"You don't want to hurt her? And what is this?" Xander snapped.

Faith nodded. "I know . . . they all have reasons to mistrust me . . . Willow the most of all. I need to . . . to convince her of my trustworthiness . . . Without your help."

Xander was surprised. "Why? Why not with me?"

"You're already my friend, Xan. My only one! She knows that. You couldn't convince her of my honesty . . . she . . . she is jealous, you are her best friend and now I am in the picture . . . and she is afraid. I wanted to cut her into pieces . . . I need to see her . . . without you . . . I know she is very important to you, that's why I need your confidence," Faith tried to explain and convince him.

Xander thought for a short time, scanning the honesty on her face. He saw her insistent face and remebered his own words to her. <"I trust you, Faith!"> and felt forced to agree. "Okay, but, please don't be so harsh with her. You think you can do it?" he asked.

"You did trust me, didn't you?" she asked and walked in the direction of where she left as he nodded, hoping she was right.

Xander stood there for a moment and began pacing again, very worried, feeling his hands tied. Everything went out of proportion. First his nightmares, then Giles objecting his plan and now this. He had placed his trust of dealing with the most important thing in his life in the hands of a deadly girl who was a former enemy . . .

Faith rushed and saw Willow from a distance walking, mad, and then suddenly suddenly Faith smiled.

Willow walked stubbornly towards the girls' room until a person blocked her way which turned her angry face into a surprised one . . .


Fifteen minutes later at the meeting.

In the library.

Xander came back from the bathroom and opened the door to the library when he felt someone standing behind him. He turned around and looked into the smiling face of Cordelia.

"Hey, Cordy," Xander greeted her.

"This is great. There's an unkillable wannabe demon in town, Buffy is still a basket case and Faith's, uh, might have joined his team . . . normally I'd say we've hit rock bottom . . ." she grinned sexy at him, ". . . but . . .?" she asked expectations.

"I have a plan," Xander simply replied.

"Oh, yes! I knew I could count on you . . . our own GI Joe." Her eyes flashed a sexy hint. "I'm excited to know what your military brain has come up with this time. Are we again going to a Army base? I could play your girl again," she asked excited.

"You're definitely dressed for it, C, real trashy," Faith quipped.

Cordelia ignored her sharp remark and continued, "Care to let me in on the plan I'm a part of?"


Cordelia blinked, but regained herself quickly, "Oooh, leaving me in the blind again . . ."

"Uhm, no, Cordy. I mean, you're not in the plan."

Cordelia blinked. "What?" she replied insulted and disappointed.

Xander sighed. "I'm not going to the military base again."

Cordelia relieved of not being left out completely as she frowned a bit. "Why not? Don't you need one those weapons which turns a girl on. We are talking about a major demon here, we at least need something heavy."

"It would be too suspicious to steal there again and I don't need it. But don't worry, Cordy. We still need you."

Cordelia brightened again and leaned to his ear, rubbing her hard nipples in his back while she whispered with a sexy tone, "I'm all yours . . . Private Harris." She walked away towards the chair next to Wesley and sat down, crossing her legs.

Xander eyes widened and he stumbled into the library while Faith frowned.

Xander watched the room and saw Wesley sitting at the table. He suddenly felt a hand clapping on his shoulder. "I thought about it, Xander . . . your plan, uh, it has merit. It is, uh, well thought out. Explain it to the rest of the group."

Xander blinked at the compliment as Giles walked over to an approving Wesley and sat next to him at the other side.

Xander tried to shook out his surprise as he felt another hand slapping his back. Xander almost tumbled over by its force. "My Xander-shaped friend," greeted the excited blond Slayer. "I'm anxious to know what you have come up with. If even Gillie thinks it's great then it must be something."

Xander turned around and saw the bright and funny face of Buffy while Giles raised his eyebrows.

"I only hope that you don't want to wash him away," she quipped making a move with as if shooting with a huge watercanon. Xander blinked and faced Faith who just shrugged with an innocent look.

The rest of group looked at Buffy as if she was crazy. "She must still overcome her grief about losing Angel," Giles whispered to Wesley and he nodded back.

Buffy sat down next to Cordelia as Willow entered the room. Xander gulped a bit at the look on her face. But her typical resolved face turned into smiling one. "You're the best, Xan. No matter what happens, I know I can always count on you. You know I will always love you," Willow said sweetly as she turned to Buffy and sat down.

Faith grinned as Xander's short stunned blank stare unconsciously turned towards her face and she walked over to sit on a chair next to Willow.

Cordelia eyebrows narrowed for a short moment as she didn't miss Faith's grin.

Xander shook his dizzyness away and sat down on a chair with his back to the door, facing the others as Angel walked out of the shadows and sat down next to Faith. "Explain that plan of yours. Hope this time it won't hurt me," Angel simply said while Faith elbowed him in his ribs. Xander's still somewhat dazed stare changed into a proud one as he saw Angel gulping when the rest of the girls gave him a an angry, warning look.

Xander explained his plan to the group. Every time Buffy and Willow nodded gently and respectfully. Giles even gave him a compliment on one of his ideas. It made Xander more nervous then he already was.

Cordelia was flashing him hot smiles. She wore a very short skirt with above it a tight shirt and a nice blouse, it didn't hide her nipples as she was pressing them through it every time he was watching her. During the extra long duration of his explanation she had her legs crossed. Despite this sight, he moved his eyes over to Faith on occasion. She claimed his eyes with the mere effort of licking her lips seductively. The two of them gave him a hard time trying to stammer through his speech.

When he finally finished his tale he wiped some drops of sweat from his forehead and sighed. "Uh, what do you think of . . . it. . . .?" Xander asked as his breath got stuck when his sight accidentally trailed down, seeing Cordelia switching her crossed legs over, revealing she wasn't wearing panties . .


Cordelia smiled and Faith frowned worriedly as they saw the results of the brunette's wicked plan rising in his pants. Faith could see by her opponent's triumphant look, it was not her that was having success. <Damn, C, never knew you had in you! You play it better than I thought . . . >

Both Angel as Oz frowned and looked at each other in understanding as they both wondered about the increased sense of pheromones in the air. It was a particular female's sexual essence which they figured couldn't come from Buffy or Willow. Intrigued who the hunter could be, the beasts in them forced them to scan the group members.

"So, that's your plan?" Buffy asked, getting no reply.

"Xander, hello, Xander, this is Houston . . . Are you still there??" Buffy asked worriedly as she wove her hand in front of his blank face until she saw it change . . .

Oz and Angel quickly found her prey in Xander . . .

Xander couldn't stand this pleasant interrogation anymore as he suddenly stood up and walked over to Cordelia, who's smile brightened as she saw a huge grin on his face. He bent down, place his hands on her thighs and pushed her legs apart and settled himself between them. He flashed a hungry smile as he brought his head under her skirt. They both ignored the stunned looks as Cordelia groaned mildly . . .

. . . "Xander? . . . Xander?" Buffy asked worried, getting no response. "Xander!!" she suddenly yelled standing in front of him, facing him. ander's mouth was open, drooling, and he made some sensuous movements with his tongue, which luckily nobody really payed attention to.

"What?" Xander asked as he snapped abruptly out of his daydream. He blinked a couple of times, wondering where he was. Then his widened in surprise and mortification, as he looked into Buffy's worried eyes.

"That's your plan?" Buffy asked Xander again when she noticed that he was back to the world of the living.

"Huh?" He shook his head and realized he was dreaming until he saw the smirk on Cordelia's face behind Buffy's head.

. . . Angel and Oz followed the trail of Xander's and recognized the sexually aroused animal in full attack. Unconsciously their trail continued to Faith, who frowned at her opponent and Xander as Cordelia played with her prey. Angel and Oz had a short eyecontact, confirming each other the tension in the air. <Don't worry, Faith . . . Xander is more than a beast . . . Over to plan B,> the uncertain dark Slayer convinced herself.

"Xander? Snap out of whatever it is?" Buffy insisted.

Xander shook his head again and looked around, dazed and confused . . .

He saw Oz making a short wiping move with his hand over his face, which Xander instinctively copied, removing a little drool. He watched his hand and reality finally reached his brains. He gulped and looked at her, tensed, embarrassed, and continued, "Uhm . . . yes, I, uh, it . . . it's actually Faith's and . . . and my plan. You, uh, like it?" he stuttered while his eyes unconsciously trailed back to Cordelia.

Faith interrupted, immediately. "It was your idea, Xan. Not mine!"

Buffy looked at both. "Well, I don't know. Seems very risky to me, it's like your . . ."

Cordelia interrupted Buffy. "It's excellent!" she shouted, excited, but forced.

Faith chuckled when the rest blinked at Cordelia's unusual outburst.

<Nice try, Cor, but no chance in the slightest. You're now on my territory . . .> Faith thought with a renewed confidence.

Cordelia looked at them and her eyes widened. "Hey, I *can* like a plan!"

"Short skirts apparently too," Buffy replied, casually and Willow nodded at that with large eyes . . . growing now she also noticed the content of her blouse.

"Hey, my tastes can change, you know," she shot back.

"Like being a *slut*?" Faith asked calmly.

"Hear who said it. Ever looked into a mirror?" Cordy snapped.

"Don't have to, I *know* that I am hot," Faith replied with a smirk.

Cordelia flashed a furious look at Faith, but Giles interrupted quickly, "Please, Cordelia, can this bickering stop? We have problems at hand, which need our full attention."

"You are right, Giles. We can act like adults, can't we, C?" Faith asked gently.

Cordelia watched her, stunned, and then to Giles approving face and shook her head in disbelief.

<Horney and defending females are even more easy to handle than men . . .> Faith smirked inwardly.

Oz and Angel looked at each other for a short moment, more relieved now the tension had beed tempered, at least temporary.

Giles continued, "It's a very decent plan, Buffy. Yes, there are some risky points, but I'm sure that it will work," he said and looked at Wesley who nodded.

Buffy took the word again. "Uh, I don't want to be a pain in the ass, Xan. But is this the best we have got? Because I think that any other plan is better then this one . . ."

"We can drown him in Starbucks' coffee," Oz interrupted.

"My point exactly, see even Oz can come up with a better plan," Buffy replied making her movement with a illusionary water canon again.

"Thanks!" Oz said, mockingly while the rest frowned again, except for Faith who grinned widely.

Giles shook also his head, very worried now, questioning his Slayer's mental condition.

"There is one minor point to that plan, Oz . . . the smell . . . it will kill us all," Buffy said, smiling.

The group was more relieved when they realized it was a joke, except for Giles who took it serious.

Buffy looked at Xander. "It's a great plan, Xan. Just wanting to hear an alternative. It's like you, it has guts. Can you get the necessary stuff?"

Faith smiled as Xander blinked for the umpteenth compliment this afternoon.

"Uh, uhm, thanks Buf. Uh, yes, that's still a point that needs some thinking," Xander answered, proud, but also nervous by the unusual amount of support given to him.

She looked at Angel, and then to Xander again. "I want you two, Angel and Xander, to work together on the military details of the plan. You gonna be the key to this, Xan. Can you two work together?"

Angel nodded hesitating and looked grim.

Xander nervous look turned serious and proud took over in an instant as he nodded his head, smelling his chance. "But *I* am the Key-guy here . . ."

He looked at Buffy and she nodded firmly, "*You* are the Captain, Xan. We will *all* follow your orders," she said, making him glow with pride.

"You will listen to me!" Xander commanded to Angel.

Angel saw Buffy's bright face and groaned as he put his face in his hands. <Running off to LA leaving me high and dry, huh?> Buffy thought.

"I want you to report to me as soon as this meeting is over, is that clear?" Xander demanded.

Angel groaned harder.

Giles pressed at his classes about to speak up to this bickering, but kept silent when he saw Faith's face darken.

Angel took his head out of his hands and watched the others. All the girls and Oz gave Xander an approving grin, with Cordelia's the widest. Even Giles supported him fully. Xander noticed it as well and a confident grin appeared showing that he was in his element, fully. The pussy cat had been changed into the lion, the King of animals. The leader of the pack! Angel looked defeated as he brought his face in his hands, again.

"Did *I* make myself clear?" Xander asked again.

Angel simply nodded.


Cordelia saw Xander nodding in understanding to Faith when he saw from the proud and victorious smile on the dark Slayer that *she* was responsible for this. Cordelia bowed her head in defeat as she realized what Faith had done: instead of insulting him like she always did, Faith made him into the confident and proud leader of the scoobies.

Buffy turned to Faith. "Then we will discuss the rest, Faith." The dark Slayer nodded and grinned widely as she looked at the desperate face of Cordelia . . .

Part 9

Angel walked in the room where Xander, Giles and Wesley were waiting.

"You're late!" Xander yelled.

Angel moaned lightly.

"50 push ups," Xander demanded.

"What?" Angel asked incredulously.


Angel threw himself to the ground and within 20 seconds he was finished.

<Hmm, I think I have to raise the punishments,> Xander thought.

Angel stood up and saluted to Xander.

"Good!" Xander quipped to the obvious mock salute of Angel.

"Now, the reason Giles and Wesley are here, is concerning the amounts of fertilizer we need . . ."


Faith walked into the library and saw Buffy doing a series of exercises with a sword.

"Cool!" Faith responded to the sword movements.

Buffy looked up at Faith, grinned and threw her the sword. "Here, like a to try me out?" she asked, while picking one up for herself.

Faith responded in the only way she could by attacking Buffy. She moved her sword up to down in one fast movement. Buffy was barely able to dodge it and did a counter attack directed at Faith's stomach. She easily avoided the blow by moving her sword with an inhuman speed to parry the move. She instantly counter attacked with her foot Buffy caught it with one hand she had used for her grip on the sword before when after switching it to the other hand. "Wow, pretty fast, Buf." Faith stated while Buffy moved her sword into the direction of her opponent's leg and shrugged at the same time.

"Pretty standard 'till now," she casually responded.

"Oh!" Faith responded and reacted almost instantly with a highspeed kick of her other foot and was able to hit Buffy's jaw. Faith kick was so fast that she needed to make the move complete with a back flip.

Buffy staggered at her blow and rubbed her jaw. "Wow. That was a great move Faith. You have become stronger since the last time. I wonder how you will react to this?" Buffy asked challenging while she threw her sword in the direction of Faith with an incredible force.

Faith didn't use her sword to stop it, but simply pushed the blade away out of its track in midair.

She grinned and shook her head. "Now, that was not nice, B!"

"I, uh, I acted on-on pure instinct. No conscience, uh, uh, predatory and, and aggressive,"

Faith grinned. "The definition of the Slayer." She bowed down and picked up the sword and tossed it back to Buffy. "I knew that you finally would admit it."

Buffy was in thoughts. "You showed me, Faith, you convinced me. I ignored it all this time."

Faith smiled. "It's not easy to admit Buffy, I know. I can become so furious, so easily all the time. If something doesn't go the way I want, then *Whammo!*, *Crash!*, *Bang!*" she said while making moves with her fists.


Faith looked at her incrediously.

Buffy's eyes widened. "Uh, like batman?"

"Huh? Uh, no, more like batwoman. And you were right. It's good that you, no *we*, have such good friends."

Buffy thought at that. "Friends like Xander, Willow and Angel?"

Faith nodded. "They are the best, Buffy! They keep us straight, watch out for us."

Buffy looked at her. "I wonder how they are doing now. They aren't exactly best buds."

Faith sighed. "Not like us, Buffy. They aren't friends, but they are gentlemen compared to us. They *can* behave. They are always tolerant and, most of all, respect each other. Xander and Angel go along just fine. I'm sure of it."

Buffy nodded. "I guess you're right . . ."


In the meantime Xander and Angel were loading Oz's black van with the necessary equipment, everybody doing the part they were good at. Angel was pushing the heavy bags into the truck while Xander was watching and insulting him and at the same time drawing a scheme for the creation of the bomb. Until Angel couldn't stand it anymore and protested.

"Shut up and load that van, now!" Xander ordered.

"What would you do if I just forced *you* to load the van?" Angel asked

"Nothing," Xander simply said.


"Can *you* design the bomb!?"

Embarrassed silence . . .

"I thought so. I will make the bomb, you will carry the bags. Then that vampire strength of yours is good for something."

Angel rolled his eyes and continued his part of the job.

"And don't forget *I* am the Key-guy. I'm the Captain and you're my commander!" Xander reminded him.

"What fun," Angel quipped mockingly.

"Hey! Your Captain is still talking! "


For a while Buffy and Faith trained all kind of movements and hand to hand combat. Between the training they were discussing the details of the plan and Angel . . .

"You'll find a nice guy, B. I'm sure of it!" Faith finally said gently, sympathetically, comforting her when Buffy had a hard time again.

When they were finished Buffy walked over towards Faith and looked with a very serious face at her. "Why are you so nice to me all of the sudden?" Buffy asked.

Faith smiled, she had expected that question sooner of later and had asked it herself many times since their talk at the prom. She sighed. "You're not much different then I am, B. You know that, I know that. We have discussed that now. And no matter how much we could hate each other, we still are Slayer sisters. The world needs us and frankly Xander needs us that way."

Buffy blinked. "Xander?"

Faith grinned and nodded. "It's his stubborn White Knight complex that drives me crazy. He sees goodness in *everybody*. Xander looks up to us and wants us to be his Slayer gals. So basically he wants us to be pals . . . Bickering won't do that, huh?"

Buffy stared at her and thought about her words. Then she nodded. "Yeah, that sounds like Xan."

Faith nodded back. "So here we are? Are we gonna be friends?"

Buffy thought for a moment and then nodded.

"Good!" Faith responded.

Buffy retrieved the dagger and handed it over to her. "Please, accept it as our friendship. I can't have it anymore. Just keep it out of the Mayor's sight."

Faith eyes flashed fear when she saw the dagger. It reminded her too much of the Mayor, of the father she had lost and now gained back. He was still very kind and sweet to her, and making her feel protected. The lure to him was still very strong and accepting the dagger wasn't making it easier. But seeing Buffy's sincerity, she shook the not welcomed warm feelings away and regained quick enough for Buffy not to notice. She smiled a worried smile, but felt forced to accept it. "Thanks, I think," she said.

"Great! I think that Angel and Xander are back by now. Let's train the students," Buffy said while Faith nodded, still a bit shaky.

They walked out of the library and before leaving it, Buffy turned around and smiled wickedly at her. "Turns you on, huh? Xanman getting a hardon while thinking about us training, slaying and sweating together?"

Faith blinked. "You don't??"


Oz and Willow are taking sacks of fertilizer out of Oz's black van and putting them into a shopping cart. Xander stops them. "Broody guy can do that when it's dark."

"You left the . . . d - door open, and . . . and I t - thought . . . I want to help," Willow pouted.

Xander smiled, slamming the door of the van close. "You can, Wills."

Willow smiled widely. "Great, what can I do?"

"We have to train now, you can help the kids teaching how to kill a vamp," he said pointing in the direction where Cordelia, changed into an exercising outfit, was instructing some of her former friends. Willow looked up from all those backs, making her nervous, to Oz who smiled supportively at her, to the direction in which Xander was pointing and squealed lightly when she noticed Cordelia.

Oz, oblivious, pressed his hand in her's, supporting her nervousness for this mission. But Xander recognized that sound better. "Isn't that the sound of being speechless with geeker joy?" Xander asked.

"Huh? Uh, n . . . yes, it is," Willow hastily said.

Xander looked at her worried. "Faith didn't promise you to steal that 'top of the bill' computer upgrade for you, did she? The one you were drooling over for the past few weeks?"

Willow eyes widened and shook her head firmly. "No . . . no, it isn't. I saved enough money and my mother was so kind to give me the rest for my graduation . . ."

Xander smiled wide. "Great, otherwise I would have to have a word with her. What did she tell you, anyway?"

Willow hesitated, her gaze went from the bags to Oz again, nervous. She opened her mouth to say something, but was interrupted when a worried Oz leaned forward and kissed her softly."Don't worry. Things will be cool, you'll see."


Larry was exercising with Jonathon when Faith approached them with stakes in her hands. Until a couple of jock friends knocked a bunch of them out of her hands and laughed. Larry stopped his fighting and rushed over immediately to help her. Faith head turned away from the floor and an unknown fear ran along his spine when looking at her face. "Hey . . . let . . . me . . . get those," he barely managed to say. Faith stood up, trying to calm herself down and faced the boys, who were gulping in fear, ignoring Larry.

In one swipe she knocked them all down. She closed her eyes, trying to calm herself down, again. It was so hard . . . <Xander . . . Xander . . . Xander . . .Xander,> she counted, trying to get her anger away. <Xander . . . Xander . . .>

"Xander," Larry said.

<Xander . . . Xander . . . Xander . . .>


<Xander . . . Xander, huh?> she thought while turning her head around to face Larry.

"Uh . . . Xander?" Larry asked, nervously.

"What do mean, Xander!?" Faith snapped.

"Uh, he's gonna kick your ass if you try to harm them."


"He's gonna hurt you so bad if you harm a single hair . . . And you know it," he said confidently, but more to himself.

"Oh, what makes you so sure?" she asked intrigued now, but still very mad.

Larry watched her and looked at Xander, who was instructing some of the kids, searching for the right words about what he felt. When he finally found them he said softly, more and more to himself than to Faith. "Everybody thinks he is a geek, but that nosey little nose of his can scan right through your soul like a laser beam. He can crawl into your mind . . . know your strengths. . . know your weaknesses . . . your deepest secrets. It's a mystery. He simply *knows* you . . . And he's patient, you know . . . Damn patient . . . It's ironic. I mean, all those times I wanted to beat the crap out of him and when I finally decided to do it, he just spoke one line and you're changed, changed forever . . . 'We will never talk about it again,' he then said to me. But every time you almost fail again, to let yourself slip into what you swore you didn't want to be anymore, he is right there. On the right time, on the right moment. He gives you that warning look from his deep dark brown eyes that *bores* into your inner self and you simply know that he will be always there . . . that there is no escape anymore from the right path . . . into that dark, dirty alley that once was your hiding place . . ."

Faith's fury had faded away and stared at his blank gaze, stunned, thinking about his words that came from his heart and had reached her's. She checked this big guy out, watched his trail to Xander and then to Larry again. "You're gay," she finally stated.

He nodded softly, a tear rolled over his cheek when he finally was able to admit it in front of his friends.

Faith smiled widely at his face and slapped him on the shoulder. "You're absolutely right, uh . . ."

"Larry. The name is Larry, but Lar is fine," he said smiling back at her, proud of himself.

Both turned their heads to Xander, who was fighting a big guy to prove a point. Xander turned his head towards her for a short moment and flashed a lopsided smile before facing his opponent again. Both sighed. ". . . He really has deep dark brown eyes," Faith commented softly.


Evening, the sun had just gone under

Xander stood back from the black van. A group of students where surrounding it. This was there final lesson, an important one.

"Okay, Jonathan. Open it, but be careful. This is horrific."

Jonathan slowly moved forward. It was all silent, but somehow he wasn't comfortable. Slowly he opened the door of the van.

Nothing . . .

Jonathan stepped unconsciously back, but when nothing happened he leaned forward checking the van out. A flash blurred in front of his eyes and before he knew he was thrown back a few yards. While lying on the ground, hurt and scared as hell, he looked straight into the face of a morphed out vamp: the released Angel, who had been locked up there all this time . . .

"So, dead boy. Time for brooding is over, its time for you to make yourself useful . . . oh, you just did," Xander quipped.

Angel realized that this was a setup stood up, morphed back and stretched himself, there wasn't much room left in the van. "You fucking piece of shit, you left me in the van all this time. Parking it in full sunlight. I'm gonna rip your . . . ."

Xander turned himself around and stared at him. "You're gonna do what?"

Angel clenched his fists. "Nothing," he said.


In a very expensive restaurant at a large table.

Faith was sitting next to the Mayor, wearing her expensive dress, shoes and necklace. She smiled at the Mayor and he smiled back. "See, Faith. That's Francois. He is nice old and experienced cook. He came to our strong country twenty-five years ago, to give us a taste of his talents. He has created this nice establishment, a three star restaurant. Do you know how I arranged that?" Faith shook her head. "Networking. I wanted something, he wanted something. In this case we wanted the same. So we made an agreement. He and I get this three star restaurant in Sunnydale. He gets the papers, the protection and he arranged votes for me from his connections within the world of cooking."

Faith nodded in understanding. Giving people what they want is a very good way to get things done. She had learned that from the Mayor and from her own recent experience.

"Or I will murder his family . . . again . . ."

Faith looked at the man with sympathy and nodded in understanding, wearing her wicked grin.

"Later, Faith, later, my little delinquent." Faith blinked and looked at him. The Mayor smiled. "I got a phone call this afternoon, from the principle. Apparently you hold house there today and he was a little bit angry about that. You hit a girl into the hospital, you threatened a couple of boys and you damaged a bathroom?"

Faith nodded.

"Oh, my, I can see that you are getting impatient. But don't worry, daddy took care of it."

Faith memories trailed back to her younger years. She usually got a big beating from her mother when she had stolen again, out of hunger and for her sick dad, who had been completely abandoned by her mother when he lost his job. She looked at the Mayor, it felt so good not to worry anymore.

The Mayor saw her sad look and laid his hand gently on her shoulder, comforting her. "You're my daughter, Faith. I will make sure that you will protected and cared for, always. Tomorrow you'll be respected by a lot of people. I haven't said this in almost a century and it feels strange, but it's true, Faith. I care about you . . . I love you . . . I love you as a daughter . . . I really do . . ."

Faith looked in his sincere eyes, drinking in his fatherly warmth, she had missed for so long. She lowered her hand and slipped in her pocket, feeling her dagger.

"Tomorrow morning we will give your dad the decent funeral he has deserved, Faith . . ."

Part 10

Xander is busy with the wires, while Angel is carrying a bunch off bags. Angel throws the bags on the ground.

"Watch out! You'll break it with your clumsy manner," Xander snapped.

Angel rolled his eyes for the umpteenth time now, to the point that a normal human would be hurting.

Xander turned back to his work and Angel stared at him. Both his hands rubbed each other as he let out his vamp face. He stepped forward and was stopped in his track, clasping his jaws together. Xander had pushed his big cross that he was wearing along his neck over his back. Xander smirked, knowing Angel. "Watch out, Fang! You could get hurt!" he quipped.

"You know that you could never stop me, if I really wanted too!" Angel growled when he was morphed back.

"Yeah, you have real guts . . ." He looked at him in disgust. "Attacking me with my back turned!"

Angel narrowed his eyes, but realized he was right. <He's playing games with me, trick me. Ooh, you can try, buddy!>

"If you just do your job then I can concentrate. This is think work, Dead Boy, you do your muscle work."

Crunching his teeth Angel walked back to the van, still standing in front of the Highschool.

When he was outside he hit a chair with his foot and launched it into the air out of frustration. <Damn, I can't hurt him a little bit to scare him; even Buffy would kick my ass and Faith . . ."> He gulped at the thought.

A few moments later the chair smashed on the ground, close to a person who appeared suddenly out of the dark. Angel recognized the person from the distance and was shocked as he rushed towards him. In a second he was standing next to him, "Giles? I'm sorry . . . I . . . You're alright?"

Giles looked a bit dazed, but nodded. "Why are you so frustrated?" he asked after he had calmed down.

Angel shrugged.

"Is it about Buffy?" he asked worried.

Angel shook his head. "No, it's . . . it's just, Xander is getting on my nerves and I have to work with him. He is so . . ." words couldn't tell what the expression on his face did.

Giles barely managed a chuckle and spoke serious. "Yeah, he can get to you sometimes. But you two really need to find a way to get along, this rivalry is getting tiresome. And you might hurt him."

Angel nodded. "Why are you here, Giles?"

"I have the plunger that Xander requested and he is going to explain what I have to do."

While Giles walked back into the school and Angel walked to the truck another person, who had arrived at the scene earlier, had followed there conversation and looked at Angel. She put on her helmet, reached into her pocket and roared the motor . . .


Giles and Xander were outside the building. Xander was connecting the plunger to a bundle of wires while Giles was looking in thought. He corrected the position of his glasses.

"Uh, Xander," he said a bit nervously and embarrassed. Xander turned his head to look at him. "Xander, I want to apologize to you. You were right about saving Faith and destroying the Mayor permanently."

Xander blinked, stunned.

Now the first words were out, Giles got more confident. "I never thanked you for saving Buffy all those times." He shook his head. "I must confess that I never realized it. I was so blindly focused on Buffy all this time. Cordelia, Willow, and most of all you lacked my attention."

Xander barely knew what to say, "It . . . it's ok, Giles," he managed to get out of it.

Giles shook his head. "No, it isn't. From the first day on you have fought at her side. Then you and Willow offered your help. It's my responsibility, I agreed with it. My lack of attention could have killed us all. I'm sorry that we left you out of the game. But you must understand that it was worry that made us do that."

Xander nodded.

"Do you have any plans for after graduation?" Giles asked suddenly.

Xander shook his head. "I wanted to go on a road trip, but, uh, my money savings are, uh, well, vanished. I think I'm going to look for a job."

Giles nodded in understanding and laid a hand on his shoulder. "What you did for Cordelia was great, Xander. It made me think on how to continue the new situation. Willow and Buffy are planning on going to Sunnydale's University. Maybe you and Faith should do that as well?"

Xander was stunned now. "Faith hasn't even graduated highschool and I don't have the money."

"We can work something out, it all depends on motivation. Would you like to?"

Xander was silent for a moment. <A Harris in college?> he thought while an unfamiliar pride became master of him. Then his worry about his grades were taking over his happy thoughts.

"Xander, don't worry about your grades. They don't say anything about a your performance at a University. You really need to want to. Then you will succeed. It's the only way. And I think you would do excellent in Psychology!"

"Really?" Xander wondered.

Giles smiled and nodded.

"Then I'll try."

Giles looked satisfied, but then another matter took control in his mind. "Xander, you and Angel, really need to work things out." Xander's happy face changed immediately in a grim one. "Xander, I know how you feel." Xander tried to protest, but Giles quickly continued. "Angelus tortured me for hours and most of all: he killed Jenny. But Angel is not Angelus!"

Xander nodded, realizing his mistake. "I know, Giles. He fights to be a good guy. I just make sure he continues that!"

Giles blinked, realizing his motivation. "Xander, he is a good guy as long as he has his soul."

Xander shook his head. "Giles, you know that in this business hard decisions have to be made. I know Angel is tough, I'm only not sure if he is always capable of it." Xander shrugged. "But I guess that in Los Angeles he'll find out if he is."

Giles nodded. "We'll give him a couple of months. Now go talk with him!"

Xander sighed and agreed.


After the bomb was completed, Xander walked towards Angel. Angel saw Xander coming towards him and then he saw Xander stopping, and staring at him. To his surprise Angel saw Xander taking off his cross, pulling out a bottle of blessed water and two stakes. Angel saw him tossing it away, breaking the bottle of water. Xander continued his track towards Angel and stopped in front of him. He grabbed something out of his pocked: it was the gun. Angel blinked when he first aimed it, but then gave it him . . .

"This gun is for real. Faith knows it, so you could say it was an accident." Angel didn't react as Xander continued, explaining. "I know that I have pissed you off, a lot! You know that I don't trust you, not with Buffy and not with Faith. You're a vamp, that's why. However, I know you have tried to save Faith and helped us out many times. You even saved mine life and with that Faith's. I know you're going to LA, trying to do the good thing on your own." He sighed. "It's not something I do easily . . . but, well, it's time to get over our differences and therefor I'm gonna give you my trust . . . for whatever it's worth to you."

Angel stared in his eyes, not showing how stunned he was. He shook his head slightly. "I don't know Xander. I know that you had ordered Faith to shoot a poisoned arrow at me," he calmly said to Xander.

Xander eyes widened, not knowing that Angel knew that, and fear began to take control over his body, but he managed to look straight at Angel. "Yes, that is true," he calmly returned.

Angel stared at him for a while and when he noticed that Xander didn't even flinch, he calmly continued. "And that you had lied to Buffy and betrayed Willow so that Buffy was able to sent me ensouled to hell."

Xander gulped as this added to his fears and even more when Angel pressed the trigger slowly. But Xander knew had done the right thing, no matter what others would believe. He had accepted that this would come out anytime and he promised himself that he would face the consequences as a man. "Yes, I did," he replied calmly.

To astonishing surprise Angel didn't react the way he thought he would do as he spoke respectfully. "Thanks, Xander."

"For what??"

"For what you have done for Buffy . . .

Xander's eyes widened more.

". . . and for Faith."

Xander's eyes stood wide open as he mentioned Faith. Angel took something out of the pocket of his jacket. Xander looked at it, stunned as he recognized it . . .

. . . The Dagger.

"She told me everything, earlier and the whole story just now, here outside."

Xander looked up from the dagger to Angel and then to the dagger again, completely stunned.

Angel laid a hand on his shoulder. "I am glad she told me. *Now* I can leave to LA, without having to worry too much about Buffy and Faith."

Xander looked up at him again. "Why?" he asked.

"I haven't forgotten what you have done to protect them, the scoobies, from Angelus and I owe you big for that."

Angel continued, as Xander looked amazed, "You know I love Buffy. She is the only girl I have really loved in my 250 years. I also consider Cordy and Willow as friends. They are the only friends I ever had. I'm not in love with Faith, but she has become a good friend to me too . . . Now don't look so surprised . . . I trust that you'll do everything to protect them." Angel picked out something else out of his pocket and gave it to Xander.

Angel picked out something else out of his pocket and gave it to Xander.

"This is the first copy of my business card," he said as he handed Xander the card.

He looked at it. 'Angel Investigations,' it said. "Call me whenever you need me," Angel told him and then he held the dagger up to him.

"She gave me this to show you that you can trust me," he said while he gave the dagger to him. " Faith has had a lot of shit going on in the last few years. She was never lucky and the Slayer business made it worse. She is scared as hell that she is gonna die horribly. As a Slayer she is supposed to fight a hard and lonely battle all the time without any friendship. She wants to change this. She wants to beloved, to have friends that can support her, that she can trust."

Angel sighed, while Xander let all those words ponder him. Angel continued. "But this is not all Xander . She has had nightmares of her past she wants to end . . . And most important: she has had nightmares of killing you."

Xander blinked. "Me?"

Angel nodded. "Always with the Dagger. Stabbing you in your guts."

Xander's eyes where wide now. "I . . . I . . . I didn't know . . ." he stuttered.

"That's only one part of it. She really wants to be good and betraying the Mayor is very hard. He has still a very strong influence on her. She is terrified of it. She also knows that you have had nightmares about not surviving the Ascension. "

Xander frowned for a moment. "But . . . but they were about the Snake and me. Faith didn't appear in them."

"That doesn't say a thing, Xander. Dreams are prophetic, and the Mayor isn't defeated yet. He *knows* how to pull the strings. He has a century of experience as an politician. When he wants something he gets it."

Xander thought for while and nodded slowly, very worried.

Angel continued, holding up the Dagger again. "This dagger symbolizes her greatest fears . . . she knows she is still on the narrow path between light and dark and there are times she doesn't give a damn about being good. But your friendship with her gave her the reason to fight it. Therefor friendship is very important for Faith. She needs friends she wants to fight for, will she be able to come through this. "


Faith entered the restaurant. Two big vamp guards were letting her in, showing her deep respect. "Mss Wilkins, welcome back. Please, let me take your coat."

Their respect for her didn't lost their effect on her. It gave her an unwanted feeling of being welcome and proud. A feeling she had never felt before. "Thank you, John, Dan," she returned kindly.

She walked back to the table in the restaurant again.

"Dear Faith, you took your time in the ladies room," the Mayor observed when she returned after a long absense.

"Uh, yeah, uh, I had something to take care of," she tried to excuse herself.

"Oh, Faith, I know you. You just had to try out your new motorcycle. Youth and their new toys, they just can't wait these days and have to try out."

Faith looked at him, a bit scared.

The Mayor smiled gently. "It's allright, Faith. I understand. You have a lot to think about. Tomorrow is a tough day, a special day, for both of us. Don't worry, you will handle it."

Faith stared in his kind eyes and sighed as she looked into his gentle eyes as his supportive words reached her heart . . .


Wesley stood in front of the Harris residence and heard some noise coming from the upper floor. Then there's a bang of a door slamming and a shiver runs up Wesley's spine. He still pressed the button and after some loud yelling the door opened.


"Uh, is Xander at home?" Wesley asked gently, but uncertain.

More yelling from upstairs and Wesley looked very uncomfortable. "That fucking shit of a loser isn't here," he said with loud and drunken tone and continued, "he's probably at the Rosenbergs', with that redheaded girl."

Wesley thanked him with his eyes widened in surprise. Especially when the man added a couple of more words. "I still don't understand how she could befriend a guy who is good for nothing . . ."

Wesley walked away towards Willow's house, his thoughts running back to his own past.

Xander ducked under the large arms of a very big vamp with his stake ready.

The vamp grinned at him. "Hey, you gonna taste real good. I love it when the blood is mixed with a huge dose of adrenaline. Gives me a kick, you know. Ooh, I can taste it already," he said while sniffing the air.

"You talk too much," Xander commented as he shot out his stake in the direction of the unprotected upper body. It didn't work as planned as the vamp was way too fast for it and dodge the attack while hitting the stake out of his hand. Xander stood against a wall pinned by the vamp, unarmed. At least to the knowledge of the vamp as Xander's hand reached behind to pull out a second one.

The vamp laughed. "Oh, too bad, boy. I think my dinner is served now. You and that little girl will be on the menu."

The vamp hit Xander hard in the face and vamped out for the bite. Xander rushed out, but the vamp seemed prepared as he barely escaped the stake. "How many stakes do you have with you, boy? This is your fifth already."

Xander looked at the ground and realized it was the last. The two bottles of blesses water laid in pieces on the ground. Time seemed to slow down as raw fear made master of him and he looked back at the grinning face of the vamp. <Oh, shit,> he thought as the vamp pressed him with his hand on his throat against the wall. He saw the sharp teeth of the vamp when opened his mouth coming closer, painfully slow. He his mind seemed stuck and couldn't come up with anything when staring in the yellow eyes. He bent through his knees while those eyes came closer, closer and closer. Xander right hand moved over the ground, searching, but couldn't find the stake which he saw earlier. Time was running out as death came closer . . .

Not far away Wesley saw Xander struggling with the deathtrap the vamp had placed him in. It took his attention and he rushed forward, grabbing a stake and a huge cross from the moment he realized the Xander was in big trouble.

The vamp grinned victorious, but changed into a stunning surprise as he saw the hand from Xander reaching to his face, his arm stretched. "Talk to hand!" he said, serious with a heavy tone. The vamp stared in surprise, not knowing what to say instead of his usual wit. This moment was fatal as Xander finally found the stake and moved it quickly, with dust as its result.

Wesley saw him dusting off his jacket, picking up the stakes and walking over to the unconscious girl, talking.

"Holy shit, that guy could think. Can't have that tomorrow, we wouldn't stand a chance. Not to mention if they are that chatting- like as him, like old grannies 'bout life when that once was like in their prime." He shivered at the image of old vamp grannies in front of the highschool during graduation, chatting them to death by boredom.

Wesley stepped towards him, "We have arranged it, Xander. They approved it all," he said.

Xander turned around his head while checking out the girl's pulse. "Great. Never thought they would go along with it."

"Pressing the right buttons, I think," he said and continued more to himself, "By the right, caring and understanding people."

Xander frowned at that, not understanding what he meant, but thought that it wasn't his concern. He pulled up the child and handed her over to Wesley. "Could you bring her to her parents, they will be very worried by now," he said, while Wesley sunk away deeper in his thoughts.

Getting no response, Xander glared at him more carefully. "Wes? Are you still there?"

"Huh? Oh, yes, quite right, I assure you."

Xander looked concerned at him. "I hope that Faith didn't ground you down, completely?" he asked gently.

Wesley looked up at him. "No! I mean, no, *she* didn't . . . I think I deserved it. I mean, I did lose faith in her . . . "

Xander interrupted quickly. "You did what you thought had to be done. It's not always easy to take a harsh decision, Wes. I know, believe me," he said softly while shaking his head.

Wesley remembered some of the words Faith had told him, about how Xander had faced Buffy and how he needed to lie to them.

Xander saw him thinking, but pressed the child in his hands. "Here, take her home."

Wesley accepted her and walked away into a dark alley.

Before he left, Xander shouted to him, making him turn his head. "But I would have killed you *if* Faith would have hurt Willow . . ."


At Cordelia's apartment.

"Uh, hi, Cordy . . . Uhm, can I come in?"

Cordelia smiled and she sweetly welcomed him in.

Xander blinked and walked in.

"Uh, why are you so nice, Cordelia?"

"Why wouldn't I be?"

Xander shrugged. "I don't know . . . Maybe something to do with me being a goofball?"

Cordelia winced inside, but smiled outside. "Well, you are!" She quickly changed her voice as she corrected herself. "But a sweet goofball," she gently said.

"Uh . . . yeah . . ." he stuttered while looking around. "This is your new place?" he asked nicely.

Cordelia nodded, somewhat ashamed. "This is everything I could effort. It's not much . . ."

Xander laid a hand on her shoulder. "It's not bad. Bit small, but you'll manage . . ."

Cordelia smiled shyly. "Thanks. Thanks Xander for what you did with the dress and all. I . . . I was such an ass to you . . . I . . ." she mumbled, trying to apologize.

"It's ok. I understand that I have hurt you, deeply. I'm sorry for that, there is nothing I can do about it. No matter how much I want to," Xander spoke softly and saw some disappointment in her face.

"I'm sorry, Cordy . . . I . . . I love Faith. I . . ." he stumbled, looking at a small tear appearing in Cordelia's face.

He hugged her softly, but she quickly broke it. She swallowed and then spoke softly, "It's ok, Xander. I expected this . . ." <Faith was way too confident,> she thought.

Xander nodded gently, understanding her pain.

Xander wanted to walk away, but then he realized his visit and showed her an envelope.

Cordelia took it and looked surprised when she saw that it was addressed to her. She opened it. "Cambridge University?" she asked, surprised.

Xander nodded, "Yeah, I forgot to give it to you."


Xander nodded again.

She shook her head, "I can't pay that! It's impossible!"

Xander shook his head lightly. "Look further."

"Scholarship? Watcher's Council?"

Xander nodded. "Isn't it great. I think you'll do fantastic!"

"Did Giles . . . or you arrange this?

"Uh . . . no, uh, it was Wesley . . . He is the only member of the Council. He can pull some strings apparently, he has this uncle in a high position . . . He thought that you should have a chance for a good education."

Cordelia smiled brightly at the mentioning of Wesley's name, but then shook her head. "I don't wanna be a Watcher."

"You can choose what you wanna study. The only thing that they ask is doing some research in summertime for them and then . . ."

"And then what. Work for them? Help an ungrateful Slayer? It's not for me," she interrupted.

Xander flashed a lopsided grin. "I know. But this is an unique opportunity . . . And you don't have to work for them . . . Besides I know you like Wesley."

She looked at Xander with wide eyes, not believing.

Xander smiled, "He is a nice guy, Cordelia. He asked me to give it to you, he didn't want to impress you like this."

Cordelia smiled and shook her head, "I wanted to be an actress. Become famous."

Xander laid his hand on her shoulder. "You have proven that you can be more then that, Cordy. I think you can do more . . . I know that you can't just walk away from what you have seen. Instead of most other people you're not ignorant about what is going on at night."

Cordelia looked up at that while Xander continued, grinning, "Besides you can always become an actress after you have finished it. An actress with a degree."

Cordelia flashed a shy smile. "Like an egghead," she quipped and then shook her head. "You really think I should do it?"

Xander nodded. "You can always try! It's a great way to see the cultured Brits in their natural environment." He chuckled. "Isn't that amazing? And you can see more of Europe." Cordelia nodded and Xander tapped with his hand on her shoulder, "You can always try. Just think about it and don't rush it," he said while he walked away.


Xander walked out of the apartment into outside air. It was refreshing as he took a deep breath. Then he saw something red in the light watching him, very nervous.

"Hey, Xander. Wha . . what a . . . are you do . . . doing here?" Willow asked.

"Hey, Wills. Oh, I just visited Cordy. Her mood seemed in very advanced state of depressing. Can't have that with the big day tomorrow. What're you doing here?" he asked.

Willow's nerves increased instantly with that question. "Uh . . uh, I . . . I saw it too. Yeah, she was really not herself. Did you what she was wearing this afternoon?"

Xander's memories trailed back, completely natural. His hand instantly rubbed his forehead. "Uh, yes, more like what she #wasn't# wearing . . ."

Willow nodded firmly. "Yeah, that's what I mean. She was . . . I'm sorry to say it, but Faith was right, she was a bit slutty. I mean she wasn't even wearing a bra . . . I . . ." she said with a apologetic face, but serious, before Xander interrupted her.

Xander's hand slowly finished rubbing his forehead and sighed as he realized he was lucky Willow didn't get his slip of the tongue

Xander shook his head. "She was uncertain, Wills. Her life was falling apart into pieces, without any confidence in a hopeful future."

Willow turned her head, unconsciously to Cordelia's apartment and her eyes widened as she saw her shadow through the window's curtain.

"I helped her a bit . . ." He chuckled. "Do you remember when we came back from gym . . . "

Willow nodded as she saw Cordelia taking of her shoes.

"And that you ran out the locker room with your clothes all wet?"

Willow let out a faint smile and nodded her attention fully focused on the shadow.

He took his hand in the air, smiling. Not really seeing Willow as he his thoughts trailed back to those days. "I was so mad at her, that I rushed into . . . "

Willow attention for his tale of the past disappeared completely as she saw Cordelia taking of her shirt, revealing her nice breasts in shadow form.

". . . And then I saw her taking off her shirt. She wasn't wearing a bra . . . Uh, guess that wasn't really necessary then . . ."

Willows gaze fixed itself on Cordelia's athletic body as she stretched herself, letting her breasts point forwards. But her eyes opened itself to the max when she was her taking of her skirt. Not revealing much, but the thought was arousing . . . very arousing.

"Man! I have never seen her so mad!" he exclaimed, not paying any attention to Willow.

This brought Willow out of her fixation. "Uh . . . uh, yeah mad, really mad . . . " she said, disoriented.

Xander looked at her, a huge grin on his face. "She could have killed a vamp with that gaze she was wearing."

Willow's eyes were showing her dizziness. "Yeah, angry . . real angry . . ."

"Yeah, she is something, that lady. She can be real angry, but she also really knows how to get to you . . . playing mind tricks . . ."

"Yeah . . . mind tricks . . . dirty mind tricks . . ."

Xander nodded and laid his hand on her shoulder. "C'mon Wills, let's go. We have a big day tomorrow. I need to do something first. Then we can do something together tonight. Like old times, you know. There is a rerun of the A-team or we could go to the movies. Cruel Intentions is still running, you have been begging me to see this with me for weeks now, it's not really my taste, but I heard that this bitch, Kathryn Valmont, looks like a twin of . . . "

They walked away and when they almost turned a corner, Willow turned her head, confused, until the sight got blocked by the walls of the alley . . .

Part 11

That evening.

Xander knocked on the door and waited for someone to open the door.

"Hello, Xander. Please come in," said the nice and gentle voice of Joyce after she had opened the door.

"Thank you, Mrs Summers."

Joyce smiled. "Would you like something to drink? A lemonade, coke or a cup of coffee?"

Xander chuckled inwardly, thinking about Giles. "A tea would be nice, Mrs. Summers."

Both were sitting down with a hot cup of tea in their hand.

"Xander, what can I do for you?" Joyce asked.

Xander shied away a bit. "Uh, well, I don't know how to ask this . . . but there is a favor I wanted to ask you."

Joyce smiled warmly at him. "You don't have to ask for any favor of me. Of course I grand it you, no matter what it is . . . if it's within my abilities."

Xander blinked, surprised. "Oh, thank you. It's is about, uh, Faith. She is . . . is . . ."

Joyce smile widened and interrupted him gently. "She is good again. Yes, Xander, I know. Faith told me. You brought her back," she said with soft awe in her voice.

"Uh, yes . . . She is, she lived in this Motel and it is lousy and dirty and . . . I . . . when this Mayor thing is . . ." he stuttered.

Joyce face simply brightened. "You want to ask me if she can live here, isn't it? When all this is over."

Xander simply nodded, still a bit embarrassed.

"I expected you to come sooner or later," Joyce confessed with pride in her soft tone and continued, "Of course I will, if you really want. But why not with you, if I may ask? I got the impression that the two of you like each other and have grown close."

Xander blinked again and he flushed. "I live, uh . . . I live in a basement and my parents, well, uh, they are not really the welcoming comity."

Joyce saw the hidden fear and embarrassment behind his words and in his eyes. She stood up and sat down next to him and laid a hand on his shoulder. "You can tell me, Xander," she said sympathetically.

Xander trembled at her touch, but quickly a lot of tension flew away with her words, although some stayed. "I, uh . . . I don't know how . . ."

Joyce looked at him in the eyes. "Faith came here that night with Buffy after the prom. Buffy was completely lost and I brought her to bed. Then Faith and I had a long talk. About her past, her coming here, her lure to the Mayor, about Buffy and her friends and most of all about you. What you mean to Faith and . . . what Buffy means for you. I was shocked to learn what you have done for my daughter . . ." A small tear appeared in her eyes as she swallowed and then she kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you," she barely could speak as his her lower lip trembled.

Xander was completely stunned, this was the last thing he had expected. "I . . . I don't know what to say . . ."

She laid her hand on his cheek. "You don't have too, Xander." Then she looked away, somewhat embarrassed herself, "Faith also told me the way Buffy has treated you . . . If I would have known this earlier, I would have taught her an important lesson in life." She shook her head. "She had a hard time in Los Angeles and then with Angel . . . But that's no excuse. I should have seen her behavior by now. I shouldn't have talked with Angel, I should have talked with her. She really needs to grow up and accept that the world doesn't turn around her alone."

Xander looked at her, not knowing what to say, "I, uh, it's alright, Mrs. Summers. It's not as bad as Faith told you it is and you're a perfect mother, so . . ."

Joyce interrupted him gently. "That's precisely what I thought you would say. But your loyalty doesn't cover it, Xander. Even with that half truth, it's still bad. I need to have a talk with her."

Xander got a bit scared and Joyce noticed it.

"Xander, don't worry. You're not to blame, it's not your fault. I know she cares for you and considers you as family. I love her very much, Xander. It really hurts me to do it, but it's time that I have a talk her, see that you get more of the respect you deserve." She looked at the increased worry on his face and smiled sweetly, it calmed Xander a bit. "Don't worry, Xander, she will not blame you for it. Faith is the one who mentioned it." She shook her head. "And Giles too."

"Giles?" Xander asked nervously.

Joyce nodded. "I talked with him. Faith told me how he has treated you and the rest of the group as well. And he should have informed me what had happened. He should have helped you, Faith and the others. My trust in him was damaged and needed to be repaired."

Xander's eyes widened, when he saw some fury flashing in her eyes. He felt sorry for Giles . . . "He did, Mrs. Summers, he talked with me last night . . ."

Xander saw her calm down. "Good!" she exclaimed.

He wanted to relax, but hesitated. Joyce saw still another worry in his face that didn't want to go away and her face went immediately into a concerned asking mode. "What is it, Xander? Something else?"

Xander looked somewhat embarrassed at her.

"Uh, yes . . . it's . . . it's Willow . . . I had thought I lost her with this whole Faith thing and if I lose Buffy then . . . they are everything I've got, Mrs Summers, I can't live without them, I would lose myself."

Joyce looked very sympathetically at him. How could she made clear that someone like him wouldn't have to worry. "Everything turned out right with Willow, didn't it?'

Xander blinked. "Uh, yes . . . it did."

Joyce smiled at his surprise. "She never told you how, did she?" Xander shook his head. "She is scared and a bit jealous, Xander. She is also afraid that Faith will would hurt you again. She didn't trust her."

She sighed a little. "I knew that there would be problems between them, they are so different, and they both consider you as their best friend. So, I came over to school today and talked to her, together with Faith. I guess she is still embarrassed by it."

Xander was more calm now by her explanation, he even had to chuckle lightly about Willow's embarrassment.

"You see, Xander. Buffy will react the same, I'm sure."

At the more relaxed expression on Xander's face she decided to talk about Xander's request. She sighed. "Faith's past isn't great. It's horrible and she deserves better. What you did to bring her back isn't only about bravery, trust and an amazing heart." She looked more intense at him. "You know what it is what you did that brought her back?"

Xander shook his head. He asked it himself many times, but never figured out why she suddenly joined him. "Uh . . . I . . . I just rumbled somewhat and uh, no, I don't know to be honest."

"You saw behind her mask, what she really is, a strong, but scared woman who needed a capable person to trust. That's *how* you were able to bring her back, Xander. She realized that she finally had found someone she had confidence in, a strong, caring and warm friend." She looked at his face and saw a stunned one and then she suddenly realized why Xander was so scared about her facing Buffy and why he was so loyal. "You're not used to compliments, are you? Or is it something else?"

Xander who came back from his little shock, tried to speak. "N- n . . . Y . . . yes," he confessed. Xander was a bit embarrassed again.

Joyce nodded. "I thought so, you want to have friends who like you for what you are. Not for what you can be or are able of. Not for what you do for them. Not for your past, status or anything else. Simply Xander for being Xander. With all his mistakes included. Just the way you accept the mistakes from your friends."

Xander blinked, surprised and slowly nodded.

"True friendship," Joyce stated. "Buffy sees you that way too, Xander . .. But I don't have to tell you that. You already know it." They were silent for a short moment before Joyce continued. "Do you want to talk about your parents?" Joyce asked again, gently.

Xander face paled again. Joyce saw his scare and continued. "Xander, if you can't stay with your parents, you need a place to stay when you and Faith go to the University."

Xander blinked.

"Yes, I know, Xander. It was Faith's idea, actually. She wants to make something of her life. Giles agreed . . . he talked with you about it?"

Xander nodded. "Faith's idea?" he asked, surprised.

"She saw how you helped Cordelia. You gave your last money for the application for her study at Cambridge. Together with Giles, Wesley and my talk with the Council it was enough to convince Wesley's uncle to arrange for her the grant."

"*You* talked with the Council?" Xander asked, stunned.

Joyce smiled. "They don't face an angry mother that often," she said as she thought back at the face of Quentin Travers, he was even more scared then Giles. "Especially with an pissed off Slayer at my side."

Joyce chuckled at his amazed look and continued. "You have a very positive influence on Faith. She looks at you as her point of light. She said that you are her White Knight." Her face smiled brightly at Xander, when she watched his amazed face and continued. "She wants to sell her necklace, her dress and shoes for money and give it all away. Like you did for Cordelia. She wants to give it to the victims of Kakistos and the victims of the Mayor. She wants to get rid of her past and do good again, Xander. Everything that can bring her through the difficult time she is facing. She even helped Buffy. Thanks to you. You're a wonderful friend."

Xander didn't know what to say anymore. He was stunned silent, again, by her praise.

Joyce waited for a moment and then continued in a motherly tone, "Please, Xander. Tell me about you parents."

Xander stuttered and was interrupted by Joyce with a nice and gentle tone and her eyes radiated warmth, "I'm your friend, Xander . . ."


"This is in my life in a nutshell, Mrs. Summers," Xander finished his story.

Joyce had no words for it and was shocked and amazed. Shocked about his parents and his youth. Amazed by the way he had said it. He had told her everything, calm and without remorse, only some traces of sadness. His parents stayed his parents and there was no hatred for them. She was silent for a while and then spoke gently, staring in his eyes.

"Xander, you are welcome here, whenever you want. You and Faith!"

Xander was overwhelmed with joy and warmth. Such kindness was unknown to him, except from Willow and from Buffy sometimes.

Joyce saw his wetted eyes and surprised face. "You don't have to thank me, Xander. And please, don't call me Mrs. Summers anymore. Joyce or mom will suffice."

This was enough to let some tears break loose and made Joyce smile.

"Now about Faith. She loves you. I know you love Buffy and no matter how much I would like to see you two together, Faith is the better choice for you. If you love her back and from what I can tell you do."

Xander nodded slowly. "Uh, yes, I think I do . . ."

"Then go talk with to her," Joyce almost demanded with her wide eyes, but sweetly.

"Yes, Mrs . . . uh, Joyce." Xander said while she corrected him with a frowning face.


The moment Xander had left her house she picked up the phone and dialed a number. With a serious tone she spoke, "Hello, Mr. Giles . . . Mr. Giles, you don't have to excuse anymore. I have talked to Xander . . . Yes, I think we have convinced him to go to the university. . . I want speak with Buffy tonight . . . alone."


Buffy arrived at home. Joyce was standing in the hallway waiting for her.

Without a word Joyce walked into the room, silent. She was scared, but the speech had to be done. She had to play it careful, because the last thing she wanted was to lose her daughter.

Buffy knew that look. She had seen it only one time before, when she burned her school's gym down in LA. "Mom?"

Joyce stayed silent and standing in front of one of the seats.

Buffy followed her. "Mom?"

Her mother stared at her, silent, in thoughts. Thinking how to start this.

"Mom? What's going on. Is this about Angel?"

Her mother shook lightly her head. "No, Buffy. It's about you."

Buffy's eyes widened. "Me?"

Joyce nodded slowly. "You and your attitude."

Buffy eyes widened. "Attitude? What's wrong with my attitude?"

"Do you remember on your first day to school? How I said that I knew you were gonna make friends right away, just think positive and that I asked you not to get kicked out right away?"

Buffy remembered it all to well and nodded. "I do," she answered.

"Do you also remember that I said that I had read all about the dangers of over-nurturing?" Joyce added.

Buffy nodded. "Yes."

"Well, I didn't," she said harsh.

Buffy's eyes widened.

"I also said that you were a good girl. I meant that and still do, Buffy. Don't forget that, ever."

Buffy didn't understand a thing of what she meant and knew something was coming as she nodded. "I won't, mom."

"You know that nice foreign girl, Ampata? Do you remember what she said about you? 'I tried, but she is very stubborn,' Ampata said about you when I wished I could talk my daughter into going with her."


Her mother was not letting her arguments be interrupted by any protests as she continued to build her case. "'Does anybody else think Faith is creepy?' I asked to your harsh comment. 'No, but I'm the one getting single-white-femaled here,' was your answer. I damn myself that I didn't act to that."

Buffy wanted to object, Faith had threatened her as her other continued. "Why didn't you kill Angel when he had lost his soul? Have you ever apologized to Giles that Jenny had been killed by him?" Not waiting for an answer she continued, her anger rising. "You're obsessed with Angel, Buffy. And no one is able to complain about it, 'cause you are *the* Slayer. They are human. Then you wait and wait, until it gets so much out of control that you have to push him into hell."

"How do you know?" Buffy quickly responded as she knew who was behind this.

"That doesn't matter, Buffy. Then you leave town, because you take my emotional outburst serious. Are you able to tell when someone is serious or not?"

"Who told you that? . . . Faith! It's Faith, isn't it? She told you that."

Joyce blood boiled from anger. "Don't you dare to talk about Faith like that! Do you know how desperate Faith has been trying to be part of the group!? The loneliness she has gone through. And then I have to find out that she is staying in a flee bag motel. That's not a good place to be for a teenager. Can you understand how horrible it must have been for her?"

She was so furious. "Have you ever asked about her past? She had been hit by her mother, raped by frat-boys. Her father . . ."

Shocked by her mother's outburst she tried to defend herself. ". . . I tried to help her, Mom."

"Yes, when you finally decided to help her you pushed her over to the Mayor. She just didn't fit into your web."

"What!?" Buffy snapped.

Joyce forced herself to calm down. "You know, Xander and Angel tried to help her. I know that you tried to warn Xander. How well do you know Xander, Buffy?"

Buffy gave her a questioning look.

"He tried, even after you had warned him. Only Angel could understand that and followed him. He knew that Xander would try to offer his help to Faith."

"She *did* try to strangle him," Buffy tried to defend her position.

"He knew that there were risks, Buffy. Faith thought that he wanted to impress himself in your eyes. *Your* eyes, the high queen who pushed away a fellow Slayer. You are so obsessed with your job, Buffy, that you won't and can't listen to your friends. They will do every thing for you when *you* ask them. But if they protest then the house for 'little Miss Perfect' is too small."

"But it is my job, not their's."

"Yes, it's your job. But that doesn't make you the center of it, you are not the law."

"What!?" <What the fuck did Faith tell her?>

"You have always been a trouble maker, Buffy. And there is only so much you can excuse with you being a Slayer."

Buffy just stared at her in disbelief.

Joyce sighed. It was so hard for her, she was emotionally rushed out. Learning the truth about the situation and the dangers her own daughter's behavior bring to the group forced her to act like this. Internally Joyce hardened even more as she forced herself to get the worst out. "You know why dad left us?" she asked with her eyes wide open, boring into Buffy's soul.

Buffy stared back at her, not knowing what to say as she clearly remembered her worst nightmare: her parents argument back in LA.


<*From the bathroom she heard her parents talk in the hall as their conversation escalates into an argument.

"Did she say where she was?" Hanks asked Joyce.

"She was with Tyler."

"I don't want her seeing him anymore, period!" he snapped.

"You're overreacting, dear," Joyce said with a gentle tone.

Buffy stared at herself in the mirror sadly and faces her own tears.

"Don't do that! Don't talk to me like I'm a kid!" Hank snapped again.

"I don't! Just forget it!"

"Just because you can't discipline her, I have to be the ogre!"

"I am not having this conversation again! Alright?" Joyce snapped back.*>


The memories were enough to let the first tears roll over her cheeks.

Joyce knew that Buffy had heard the fight of her parents over her. "Tears won't help this time, Buffy. Hank was right, I protected you too much. The world doesn't revolve around you. You aren't above the law, you are a teenage girl who happens to be a Slayer. It has to stop now. Otherwise, people will die again."

"Again?" Buffy asked between snobs.

"Even with two Slayers you thought everything was about you. It got Kendra killed and I don't have to mention that you endangered the whole group by it."

<Kendra?> Buffy thought while she remembered how Angelus tricked her into his trap.

"Mom, I know it was a mistake . . ." Buffy finally admitted one of her faults.

"You were so self-centered that you didn't see the trap, Buffy. It was easy for Angelus to make use of it."

"Angel?" she asked wondering how her mother knew.

"You know what Angel told me? He knew why your dad had left us. He had heard the conversation. Apparently a balance demon called 'the' Whistler had him listen to my argument with dad. Angel had promised to help you. He was honest with me, he did it because he wanted to become someone."

Buffy eyes widened, she never knew. "You spoke with him?" she asked incredulously.

"I didn't have to tell Angel that he and you are from different worlds. I have been young, Buffy. I know a young woman in love. Angel is all you can see of tomorrow. He understood that, Buffy. Someone has to make the harsh decisions. He cared enough, that's why he was the one to make it; he is going to leave Sunnydale."

"You asked him too!?" Buffy asked furious.

A tear rolled over Joyce cheek as she had to defend herself again. "Don't you dare think I don't love you!" she snapped back. "You are all I have left, Buffy. You're everything to me," tears rolled over her cheek.

Buffy stared at her, still furious, but also sad.

"You want me to be a perfect mother, you want a perfect boyfriend and perfect friends *all* for yourself and rivalry you can't stand. I didn't forget about Ted, y'know."

"Ted was a robot!" Buffy said furious again.

Joyce sighed, wiping away some of her tears. She knew Buffy had reason to distrust him, but she was jealous. But how can you tell something like that to her? "He was not human. But your Slayer senses never could pick him out as dangerous. And if so there was no reason for you to kick him down like that."

Buffy knew she had make mistakes, but this was unfair: Ted had started hitting and hurting her! Self-defense was most definitely a reason. But again before she could protest, Joyce continued. "You had friends who helped you out of it. Just with all those other mistakes you have made. Jenny is dead, Kendra is dead, Faith almost evil and a murderer."

Buffy looked at ceiling asking for a bit of understanding from her mother.

"I was a teenager again, because of that candy and I had sex with Mr. Giles. You yell at me in misunderstanding, while *you* can have sex with a vampire!" Buffy's jaw dropped to the ground, but Joyce continued."Why can't you have a normal boyfriend? An animated corpse, Buffy! You know what necrophilia is?"

Buffy couldn't believe her ears as anger raised in her.

Joyce tears ran further. "I never forgot how you left me. How you ran away from me."

"You forced me to!" Buffy snapped, furious now.

"Can't you understand a desperate mother's feelings?"

"What do you mean!?"

Joyce crossed her arms and shook her head. "Do you remember that I swore that sometimes I don't know what goes on in your head?" she asked rhetorically. Joyce sighed deep. She felt forced to tell what was on her mind. She simply couldn't believe her daughter could be that egocentric. "If I didn't know better, I would think you are *autistic*. You think Xander is jealous about Angel over you. You would like to believe so, but he is not. You can't understand the horror Mr. Giles has gone through with the death of Jenny. You can't feel the emotions of Faith, never reached out a hand to help her, she was just one too many in this house. You can't even feel the emotions of your own mother!"

Buffy rushed out of the room in tears, slamming the door shut and running upstairs to her own room.

"Buffy!?" Joyce yelled after her as she collapsed on the couch, desperate, bursting out in tears completely.

While Joyce laid on the couch crying, knowing that it had gone out of control and that this was the last time she would see her daughter again, as the door to the room opened. Joyce felt someone sitting next to her and gently laid his hand on her shoulder. It took a while before she noticed and turned her head around. Through her tears she looked in a pair of worried brown eyes. "Xander?"

Xander swollowed. "Uh, Mrs, uh, Joyce, I-I . . . I didn't leave. I-I heard the w-whole, uh, c-conversation and . . ." He was stuck in his sentence when he saw Joyce eyes widen. "I, uh, I think I w-will talk to her . . ." he said while he stood up and walked towards Buffy's room . . .


Xander heard Buffy crying from the other side of the door. Nervously he knocked on the door. When he didn't get any reaction he knocked again and spoke her name. "Buffy?" Again nothing happened as she continued crying and even yelling in between.

"Autistic!! I don't care! What a bullshit. I saved the world for Christ sakes! I offered Angel to the hell! Didn't *they* see how much I loved him. *I* have burned down a gym and had to face the consequences . . . *I* have to make the harsh decisions all the time . . ."

Xander turned around, not sure if he had the courage to enter her room. But again his White Knight complex and love for Buffy was an obstacle as he knocked again on the door, louder this time. "Buffy!" he shouted. Again there was no reaction, but the yelling had stopped. He slowly rotated the door knob and noticed that he could open the door. He saw her sobbing with her face down on the bed. Her hands in between.

He stumbled forward and slowly sat down next to her, staring at her. "Buffy . . . " he almost whispered. He touched her back gently with his hand. She abruptly turned around and faced him, anger shone through her red and wet eyes. The force almost had wiped him from her bed.

Buffy's eyes widened. "Xander?" she asked as she instantly calmed down that it was Xander, instead of her mother.

Xander stared at her. Her whole face was wet and flushed red from the crying. "Buffy," he spoke softly. "You are not autistic. I know you have a great and caring heart."

Buffy looked stunned at him. "You have heard everything?"

Xander looked nervous and swallowed as he slowly nodded.

Buffy didn't know what to think of this. It were private matters, something between her and her mother, but yet it wasn't and Xander had the right to know it. She considered him family after all. Besides she never could be really mad at him. He always meant it well. Before she could reply, Xander spoke again. "Buffy, I know how hard it must be for you for having to stake Angelus." His tone softened as he continued. "I-I had to stake Jesse, remember?" The sadness in his voice was something she had never had heard before in the always friendly and funny young man.

<Jesse?> Buffy thought, remembering him, but not what had happened to the vamped version. Xander's and Willow's friend. <Xander staked him? That's what happened to the Jesse vamp!? >

"I-I just hoped that Willow and Giles would see my point, they didn't. Kendra got killed, Willow went into coma and everything went completely out of control." He sighed and shook his head, apologetic, as he felt that no way back now. "I lied to you, Buf. Willow asked me to tell you that she was busy with the spell and . . ."

Buffy could hardly wrap her mind around the concept. She knew something about how hard it must be, but staking your best friend since kindergarten! And she knew what friendship meant for Xander. <He staked Jesse,> Buffy thought, letting the words simmer into her mind. With sorrow in her heart she remembered how she had let Angelus roam around killing people. <Even before Jesse had done something wrong.>

". . . You told me to kick his ass," she continued, remarkable calm, a sparkle of admiration in her eyes that Xander couldn't recognize.

He nodded, ashamed, sad and scared to death. "I was so afraid that you wouldn't be able to kill him. That he would kill you."

Buffy smiled wryly as she touched him and looked into his scared eyes. "You don't have to be afraid, Xander. I know you mean it well. I'm sorry that I thought you were jealous of him . . . and you might have been right, Xander," she said as she remembered her own and Whistler's words, now that Joyce had reminded her of his involvement in all of this.


"I can deal. I got nothing left to lose," she said to Whistler.

At which he replied, "Wrong, kid. You got one more thing."


She had forgotten about this remark, until now.

Xander relaxed more. "Oh, Buffy, I wouldn't know what to do without you and Willow."

Buffy smiled a bit, "Xander, you know I will always love you." He nodded. "I'm sorry that I didn't listen to you then. I'm sorry that I have pitied you. I didn't mean to. I'm the Slayer, Xander. I couldn't stand it, if you got hurt, because of something that *I* should have done."

"I understand that, Buffy. But I want to help you. I want to be more than just the donut-guy, y'know. I want to be someone."

"Xander, you're someone; you're my best friend, y'know that." Xander nodded as she hugged him. Buffy pulled away and stared at him. "I know I haven't payed you the attention you deserved. And I know I have been a self-centered bitch. Faith has showed me that . . . my mother showed me that."

"Buffy . . ."

"No, Xander. Even my father told me that. It's why he left. I couldn't deal with it and have had nightmares about it." She sighed as she saw some disappointment in Xander caring eyes. "You are nice and sweet to me, Xander. And I know I can count on you when I need you to do the hard things. But this is something *I* have to face for myself."

Xander looked surprised beyond his disappointment. "I never knew why your father left . . ."

She looked sad at him, remembering the conversations between her parents over and over again. "I still have nightmares about it, Xan."

Xander looked at her, wanting to help her,.comfort her, but felt silent as he didn't knew what to do or say.

Buffy saw it, his nervousness, his need to help her.

She smiled warmly at him. "You remind me so much of my old boyfriend, Pike. He was just like you, a normal guy, a few years older." She chuckled. "A bit of a mechanic . . . I loved him, Xander. He wanted to help just like you . . ."

Memories from before Sunnydale came back about her beloved Pike.


"Buffy, there is no way you are going out there alone," Pike said.

She kissed him hard on the lips. "Don't piss me off," she warned him.


She loved the long, lean, raven short-haired young man with a taste for long coats and black bikes. She chuckled as she compared him with Xander. Their taste in clothes was hugely different. But on the other hand, Pike was more scared than Xander, he didn't have that *huge* bravery as the boy in front of her.

". . . He was constantly pushing himself at risks and I was so scared to lose him. I guess that's why I was so over protective? Maybe also why I didn't want to love you."

Her faced saddened as he shook her head. "He stayed behind in LA. I wanted to have a break from all the vampire shit and everything that reminded me of it. It was not very good for my rep as being one of the popular girls. I wanted to have a clean sheet, so I broke up when I went to Sunnydale."

She chuckled lightly. "You know how that turned out. I'm a Slayer for life."

"I didn't wanna be a Slayer, Xander. Just being a miss airhead with happy dancing, music and cheerleading. And because of this Slayer stuff I lost my father, he didn't want to have anything to do with me ever again."

Xander reached out with his hand to comfort her. Buffy interrupted and told him what had happened between her and her parents. She took in the sympathy from his eyes, but didn't let it reach her soul. "You see, Xander? I have to carry this weight with me . . . *alone*."

"Buffy, that's not true . . . I can help . . ." Xander said as he wanted to open his heart for her.

Buffy kissed him on his cheek. "That's why I love you, Xander. That's why I feel free to tell you these things. You listen and you care . . ." she said as her eyes met his surprised ones. ". . . But there *are* things you can't help me with."

Xander reluctantly nodded as part of him understood that only she could truly carry the load, but another part of him felt she again neglected his help and comfort after she shared the deeper things with him.

"I want to be the Slayer now, Xander. It's what I am. You can help me with the Slayer business. I have talked with Faith about it. You bring the team together, you have military experience and you are a capable leader. You have proven yourself on every part of it more than once, so I'm fully prepared to give you the command over the scoobies. Faith and I gonna be *your* Slayers." She grinned. "You're the boss, boss."

Despite that he got used to all the compliments lately, this still surprised him and filled him with enormous pride.

Buffy noticed for the first time in her life how this affected Xander. She knew that his self-esteem wasn't very high, but not that it was so important for him. "You deserved it, Xander," she said while she laid her hand on his knee.

"Thanks, Buffy, for your confidence. I won't disappoint you, I promise."

A silence fell in the room. Buffy sadness and worries had shifted to another corner of her mind as she stared at Xander. "Faith and I will patrol and you can organize things. I have made many mistakes now and every time you have been there to clean the mess up. That has to stop, Xander."

"Buffy, you didn't make that many mistakes."

"Wanna compare?"

Xander looked very serious. "Well, the first day I saw you, I stared at you and I crashed straight into the stair railing. *That* was a huge mistake!"

Buffy slapped him on his hand. "Xander! That was not a mistake. You have reasons to stare at me."

"No, I do not," he continued.

"You do."

"Nope. Why would I stare at you?"

"I am a hot girl."


"Am too."

After some good old laughing they continued with bringing back some old memories. The past adventures of the scoobies. The video marathons at Buffy's room together with Willow.

At the other side of the door a relieved mother smiled. "Thank you, Xander," she whispered as she left for her own room.


And then you said to me, "Cavalry's here. Cavalry's a frightened guy with a rock," Buffy held up her hands, gesturing she was caring a large rock, "but it's here."

Xander laughed, while he had to gape really hard. "Funny, Buffy. Very funny," he managed to say between the gasps and the laughs.

"That was very brave, Xander. Funny as hell, but also very brave . . ." she said while she saw him sleep. She watched his peaceful face as it triggered a series of memories. How he asked her, how she refused him. It felt like a bad memory. There were more of them. How she used him to make Angel jealous. But there were also fond memories. How he so much liked his twinkies. The scooby dance he did in her room, while she and Willow were watching to cheer them up. How he always spoke from his heart; the thing she most liked about him. And most of all that she knew that she could always count on him when she needed his help.

She took of his shoes, his sweater and trousers and pulled over the covers of her bed over him. Then she changed herself into a set of pyjamas, laid down next to him and watched his peaceful face. She smiled, felt comfortable, and closed her eyes. <You're an amazing guy, Xan.>

Part 12
Graduation Day

7.30 Next morning
Sunnydale cemetery

Faith and the Mayor were standing in front of a grave

The sun had just risen as the two people stared at a tombstone. Faith's last few years flashed in front of her eyes as she looked with tears at her father's grave. How her mother used to beat her hard and how her father tried to protect and comfort her. Then he got sick, her mother left them and her life turned into a roller coaster ride of bad luck.

She can clearly remember it all.

˜˜ O ˜˜

Faith came home with some food she had stolen and went to her father who was lying on the couch. He smiled warmly at her as she brought him supper. She was sad and glad that her mother had left. She had not much, but she had at least the comfort of a caring father. Her father reached out and caressed her cheek with his hand. "Thank you, Faith."

Faith smiled back, she was happy he didn't know the dirty work she had to do to get their food and rent paid. It was a little price she had to pay for his love. She wanted to say something in return as the door to their small apartment was smashed off its hangers and lock. A group of pissed off frat boys entered the room.

"There is the little bitch. You think you can steal my wallet, don't you!? Well, guess what, you're wrong! And me and my buddies are gonna teach you a lesson!"

Before she could do anything they ripped off her clothes and raped her in front of her father. His begs for his daughter were overshadowed by their laughter and it smouldered in Faith's head after they in return had kicked him dead.

˜˜ O ˜˜

Faith felt so helpless. The trial that followed and how they had made fun of her. In blind fury she had tried to attack them, this small setup was enough to convince the jury of her mental instability and they let the boys go. Then her bad luck seemed to turn, she got protection and motherly warmth from her watcher. She didn't have to go to a mental institution. But there was a price of this luck, another side of the coin. The ultimate price she could pay. To become a Slayer . . . She had to face her watcher's horrible death, chased around the country. She had to run all the time. She slept in crappy motels and on the street. To escape the horrors that wanted her dead for being the Slayer. Then she finally made it to Sunnydale. Finally meeting people who could understand her and protect her. But the bad luck didn't stop as she they didn't understand her and had to run the mistakes she had made . . . Until she met the Mayor.

The Mayor had watched her calmly and his hand reached out to caress her cheek. "Today it will change, Faith. It will all change, you will *never* have to run again. My army of vampires will respect you the way you deserve. My demons will serve you all. And I will protect and love you . . ."

Faith moved her blank face into his chest as he cared for her . . .


8.00 am

"Hey, sleeping head, wake up. We have a major Mayor to kill today," Buffy spoke loudly.

"Huh? What? Don't hit me, please . . . Oh, Buffy," he said as he looked between the fingers of his hands which covered his face. "Buffy? What are you doing here?" he said, confused as he looked around. "Oh." He chuckled. "I'm in your room."

Buffy smiled as she nodded. "Wake up, we have a lot to do."

Xander stretched himself as a sudden smell reached the senses of his nose. "Pancakes? Do I smell the delicious warm, Mrs Summers' pancakes?"

Buffy smiled. "Yes! The copyrighted original. I have apologized this morning to her. We talked it over and we are all happy now. Time for some small celebration in these hard times, don't ya think?"

Xander nodded as he quickly rushed over to the bathroom. "Oh, and for finally having slept with you," he yelled from behind a closed door, safe. . . as he heard the pillow dully banged against it.


8.30 am

Willow and her parents were sitting at the kitchen table eating their breakfast. "I'm sorry, hon, that we can't be there when you graduate," her mother apologized.

Willow was finishing the last piece of her breakfast. "It's okay, mom. It's just highschool and . . ." Willow stared through the window of the kitchen and saw Cordelia passing by. She quickly finished her meal.

". . . I have to hurry, we still have class."

Her mother nodded as Willow quickly moved out of the door, without having brushed her teeth.

From a distance she saw Cordelia walking as she rushed to catch up with her.

"Hey!" she shouted.

Cordelia stopped walking and turned her head around to see the redhead running towards her. "Hey," she simply replied to her, her face a mask.

Not sure what to say, Willow said the obvious. "Well, today is the big day."

Cordelia nodded. "Yup. That sums it up nicely."

"Yeah, the change. For all of us. Finishing things and looking forward to the next. Any plans for the future?"

Cordelia shook her head. "Nah, not sure. I got accepted and a scholarship to go to Cambridge University. And I could try to become an actress. "

Willow looked stunned and jealous. "Cambridge? How did you get that?"

"Oh, the Watcher Council wanted me to become a watcher. So they sent me to the University . . ."

<What!? They didn't ask me! Or Oz!>

". . . Do you think I should accept it?"

<Xander! Xander helped her a bit.> In her brain a little plan began to form as she replied. "Of course! Are you crazy? That's a one time offer, the best you can get."



8.45 am

Xander sat in his chair with his hand on his stomach. "Man, I can't have no more. It was fantastic."

Both Summers women smiled at him. "Great, then I can have the last one," Buffy replied. Xander's eyes widened. She had eaten at least as much as he had. Buffy chuckled as a piece of the pancake entered her mouth. "Fun to be a Slay . . ." she mumbled as she ate the pancake at the same time.

Xander gaze met Joyce's and she flashed a warm motherly smile at him. "I really hope everything will go alright today," she said worried.

"Of course it will, Mrs . . . Joyce. It's just another day in Sunnydale High. Nothing special," Xander reassured her as Joyce nodded back.

"Buffy, we really have to go," Xander said.

"Hmmm,'" was the reply as she stood up while stuffing the rest of the pancake in her mouth.

They walked to the hall-way and when Buffy left the door outside, Joyce stopped Xander for a moment. "Thank you, Xander. I was too hard on her . . . Unfair . . . I-I really thought that I lost her and . . . I couldn't bare to lose my only . . ." She was stuck in her sentence as she again felt the enormous fear. She couldn't imagine a life without able to see or speak with her daughter. Her only child.

"I know, I know how it feels. I know . . . *mom*," Xander interrupted kindly while he laid his hand on her shoulder and stared in her eyes. Then he walked away, leaving a stunned mother.

A tear rolled over her cheek as she softly whispered, "I know you do . . . "


Later at Sunnydale high

Xander sat on the lowest step of the stairway, thinking. Buffy had gone to finish the last details of the plan. He needed a moment for himself, alone. Thinking about the last few days, about the responsibility he felt. About how everything seemed to turn out all right. About the influence of a second Slayer in the group, how the structure of the group had changed, because of Faith. And most important of all, they were still all friends . . .

Minutes long he was staring at a little paper he was holding in his hands. Wondering if he should make the call. Was it for him to do it? Why should he interfere in business that was not his. <Damn, Xander. You are the only one who could do it. And she deserves it . . . they both do,> he thought while he stood up and walked to the nearest cell phone.

He looked at the paper and dialed the number from it. But hung up when he only had to press the last number. <Damn, Xander. It can't be that hard,> he said to pull himself out of his nerves. But then he heard a familiar voice.

"Hey, Xander."

Xander looked up and saw his redheaded friend. "Hey, Wills," he said softly. "What brings you here?"

"Uh, I-I wanted to ask you something," she said.

Xander smiled and nodded. "Sure, go ahead."

Willow was a bit nervous as she didn't want to upset Xander. "D-did you, uh, arrange for Cordy to get into C-Cambridge University?"

Xander was a bit surprised by her nervous tone and wondered what was on her mind. "Uh, yes."

Willow nodded. "Uh, c-could you, uh . . ."

"Just say it, Wills."

"Uh, could you arrange it for me too?"

Xander looked stunned. "You wanna go to Cambridge?" Willow nodded. "But Wills, I thought you wanted to stay in Sunnydale?"

"Yeah, that's right, Xan. But I-I wanted to become a watcher too and Cambridge is a really good University and . . ."

"You're jealous that I arranged it for her, aren't you?" he asked concerned.

She shook her head firmly, denying one of her feelings.

"Yes, you do, Wills. I can see it."

"No . . . uh, a bit, but that's all. I just, well, why didn't you think of me?"

"But Wills, I really thought you wanted to stay here. And . . ."

"Yes, I do, Xander. But this is a great opportunity. I can do real good as a Watcher. More than when I stay here."

Xander sighed as her arguments were convincing. "Well, I have to admit that the thought of you leaving was very scary. I mean, who do I talk to in the evening?"

"You have Faith now, Xander. She is . . . your girlfriend, right?"

"Uh . . .. that's still not certain, I mean . . . I would like to and she does, but I . . ."

Willow showed him her resolvent face. "Xander, she needs to know. Don't wait to long. You know that I . . . I made that mistake once. Don't you do it too!"

Xander nodded, knowing that it was him she was referring to. Changing the subject to the old one as he felt uncomfortable. "But still, Willow, you can't be replaced, by no one. And . . . and I need you."

Willow smiled. "I will send a huge bill to the Council for calling you every day. And we have vacations, you could visit us and . . ."

Xander chuckled as he saw his Willow like that, so eager. "I know, Wills. I will do my best, I promise." He smiled. "But who can appreciate my scooby dance like you do? I need my favorite audience."

Willow chuckled. "I'm the only one that watches your show."

"No, Buff, does too," Xander protested.

Willow smiled widely as kissed him quickly on his cheek. "Familiarize yourself with the internet, Xan. Then you can videotape it and send it to me."

Xander chuckled and wanted to protest, but decided that he wouldn't get into long arguments. "Does Oz also want to go?" he asked the obvious instead.

Willow nodded firmly. "Yes . . . yes, he wants to go as well." She smiled. "Well, you know, Oz. Everything is cool."

Xander chuckled. "Okay. I don't think it will be a problem." He shook his head, something was bugging him. "Only one last question, I thought you already got into Cambridge."

Willow shook her head. "No, I could go to every University in the whole world. M.I.T, Harvard and even Oxford!" She exclaimed. "But Cambridge refused my scholarship," she pouted.

"But you said that every college accepted . . ." Xander asked confused.

"But not my scholarship, they refused to arrange any one," Willow interrupted.

Xander was surprised and angry at the same time to hear that. "Must be that damn Council or something."

Willow nodded firmly and changed the subject while she flashed a smile. "Who do you wanna call, Xan?"

"Uh . . . uh, oh, nothing special. Just Wes . . . looking if he is ready. I will tell him about your wishes, okay?"

Willow smiled as she nodded and took off.

Xander took a deep breath as he dialed the number, while he pushed back his nerves. <It's my business, it's for mom . . .>

"Uh, Hello, Mr Summers . . ."


Time goes by and for the students their nervousness increased as their graduation came closer.

Faith stood next to the Mayor as he was preparing his speech. From the moment of the funeral she had been with him, she had followed him. She was the whole morning in a kind of shock as she didn't feel any anger, remorse or joy. She only felt the bad emotions of the past and the warm feelings from the Mayor. Suddenly it hit her that she was falling in his web and decided to make a last walk through the school. She felt a strong mixture of emotions returning after this realization as she stumbled through the hall. She wanted so much to get rid of her bad past, but at the same time it lured her. The Mayor's influence was huge and she needed all her willpower to overcome it, especially as it would grow stronger when the moment of truth came near. She had done everything she could think of, but was it enough?

Then she felt a hand on her shoulder and she quickly turned around to see an emotional Buffy. Faith watched her swallow before she spoke softly, "Thanks, Faith. I'm so sorry that I-I pushed you to the other side. I was so selfish."

Faith eyes widened at this confession. "Don't sweat it, B. It wasn't your fault."

"Yes, it was. I never asked about your past. I was jealous when you came too close to my mother and friends and I was such an ass for not listening to your advice. I'm deeply sorry."

"I just wanted you to know, Faith. And thanks for helping the group," she said and took off.

Faith walked further, surprise clearly on her face, and a moment later she was approached by Willow.

"Uh, I-I just wanted to apologize to you, Faith. I-I was wrong, y-you are, uh, were redeemable. I-I'm sorry and thanks for helping me with Xander."

Faith sighed. "It's okay, Red."

Willow nodded as she saw all Faith's emotions running in her eyes. "I- I just wanted to let you know," she said and walked away.

Faith was simply stunned. She paused in her track through school and reconsidered her position towards the Mayor. She found herself liking the 'friends' of Xander. Maybe she felt that for once her efforts wouldn't be a waist of time. That it wouldn't backfire on her. And maybe Xander would return her love for him. Hope was rising.

She looked around her and saw all those kids. They knew what was coming, they were scared just like her. There was only one difference: they depended on her.

She stared in the direction that Buffy took and rushed after her, but was stopped when she heard Buffy have an argument with Xander.

"Xander, I know you find me attractive. And you know I love you, but stop reminding me of having slept with you last night."

Xander smiled. "And you loved it."

Buffy sighed as she had enough of this bickering and finally gave it up. "Yes, I did."

Xander grinned widely as Faith's heart sunk to the ground with those words . . .


She didn't feel any rage, no jealousy, no sadness . . . only a deep pain running through her soul. Again her luck turned against her. Tears ran over her cheeks as she dropped herself on her knees. <Why me . . . why always me??>

Only by Slayer-hearing was she able to hear the rest of their words.

"I don't love you, Xander."

"Not even a tiny bit?"

Buffy sighed as she stared in his puppy-dog eyes and confessed something she hadn't felt before. "Only a bit."

Xander grinned as she made the small confession and cheered. "I knew it. Yes, you love me."

Buffy rolled her eyes and sighed as Faith felt an anger rising into unknown proportions as she unconsciously reached for her dagger. When she realized it wasn't there she simply balded her right fist.

Xander smirked for a while as Faith slowly stood up, with deadly fury in her eyes as she stared at his back . . .

Xander's smirk disappeared and went serious as he laid his hand on her. He sighed as he looked her in the eyes. "I love you, Buffy, but I just don't *love* you."

Buffy blinked. Faith blinked.

He sighed. "My crush on you is over for a long time. I have dreamed of it, but knew it wasn't meant to be. My heart belongs to someone else now."

Buffy sighed, of course she imagined that Xander loved Faith and not her anymore. She accidently let herself go last night as she felt the need for comfort.

"It belongs to another Slayer . . ."

Faith didn't believe what she heard as a bright sparkle flashed in her eyes. She rushed forward and Xander in embrace. ". . . And I really lo . . ." The youth stared at her insurprise. Buffy saw with a tinkle of jealousy how Faith pressed her lips to his and gave Xander a deep and long kiss. She thrust her tongue between his lips and she had a feeling of deja vu as she felt something stiffening.

She released the boy and looked in his nervous eyes. She smiled. "You know I love you too, Xander." She felt a warm shiver running through her body as finally her biggest dream came true: someone who loved her. Someone who really loved her and who she loved in return. It felt amazing. She laid her head in the crook of his shoulder as she held him tightly. Xander stared nervously at a smiling Buffy as Faith cried a few tears of happiness. For a few minutes they stood there, while more and more students gathered around them. Faith tilted her head a little from his shoulder and saw at a distance the grinning face of Larry. He stood there between his friends. A short moment of eye contact and mutual understanding was enough for Faith and she swallowed as a huge smile appeared on her face.

"You are so fucking amazing," she whispered in his ears. "And I love you so much."

Xander faced her and smiled. "You're amazing too, Faith," he said.

Faith's gaze became misty, and asked with trembling voice, "Why did you sleep with Buffy then?"

Xander blinked, then understood after putting two and two together, he smiled his eyes filled with happy amusement. "Sleep, as in fell asleep, as in with clothes on, as in unconscious, as in she was unconscious next to me in pyjama's," Xander explained with a now giant smile.

Faith blinked, and understood her goof, and half-joked, "That's possible?" Oblivious to the people around, completely wrapped in their own world, they kissed again.

This time their kiss ended abruptly as an angry principle stood in front of them and shouted something about an orgy in his school. Faith faced him with disgust in his eyes as her trailed the little troll. "Well, *I* am not going to eat you, if you hoped for that!" she said and then continued with giving Xander a deep tongue kiss, engulfing him with her love.

Snyder wanted to protest so much as he watched this horrible scene pass in front of his eyes as but he knew she was the Mayor assistant. Faith stopped with kissing, flashed a teasing smile at the principle and walked away. The principle stopped her in her track. "Young Lady, I don't care if you are the assistant of the Mayor or of the president. *You* are not welcome here!"

Faith stared at him in disbelief. "Listen you little . . ." She stopped with talking as she felt a hand touching her back. She spun around and looked straight in the face of Larry as he shook his head gently. Then he walked over to the principle. "Calm down, she is a good friend of mine."

Snyder stared at him and sighed. "You're right. It's so difficult, you know. Years of kids seeing love each other, while you can't. Growing up as a loser, 'cause you have something to hide."

"Very good!" Larry exclaimed. He laid his arm over him and pressed him against his chest. He smiled at Faith. "He is gay," he said to her as he gave a little kiss on the head of Snder. Faith, Buffy and Xander were stunned. He shrugged as he saw their surprise. "Hey, I fall for geeks with a heart," he defended himself.

Buffy and Xander both chuckled lightly as Faith still stared in total disbelief. "You are dating the principle??"


Time for graduation was running out as Buffy, Faith and Xander walked towards it, when they suddenly saw Giles behind a chess board with all the pieces in starting position. "Xander," he said, "Come, sit down, I want to have a last word with you."

Xander rather wanted to go to the graduation ceremony. "We don't have the time for this, Giles."

"Don't worry, we have enough time for the inclination and it will be only a short talk."

Xander sighed and interested in Mayor's speech he wasn't either, so he sat down. "Okay, say it," Xander muttered.

Giles looked at the two waiting Slayers. "In private, please."

Buffy and Faith waited for a moment before they nodded. Buffy walked away as Faith looked at Xander. "It's okay, X, we can't arrive together and I have to go to the bathroom anyway."

Xander nodded and looked at Giles. "Xander, are you familiar with the game of chess?" Giles asked.

Xander stared and responded, "I know the rules, but . . ."

"You should learn it. It is a marvelous game to sharpen the brain for strategy and tactics. It will come in handy with your commanding . . ."

"You are gonna learn me to play chess right now?" Xander interjected bewildered.

"No, uh, of course not. I just wanted to talk with about the white and the black queen. You see the white queen is first at the move, she should also move at last . . . and the black queen . . ."

"What do you mean, Giles?" Xander asked, bored and annoyed by his riddles.

Giles leaned a bit forward and with a serious tone he asked. "Do you think it is a good idea to let Faith do this?"

Xander paused for a moment and answered, "Of course I do, Giles. I planned to let Buffy do it, but Faith convinced me . . . only she can do it . . ."

Giles interrupted quickly. "Behind her mask of self-confidence is a scared girl, Xander. And you know it."

Xander paused for a moment. "Giles, this isn't a chess game. It is about trust and loyalty." Xander stood up. "And about love," he added and walked away.

<I hope so,> Giles thought as he also stood up.


Faith walked into the bathrom to clean herself up a bit. She walked over the newly placed mirror and looked into it. She watched at her own reflection, and it seemed to twist into a dark and ugly thing to her. Its arms and hand reached out of the mirror, grabbing Faith's neck and started to squeeze. Faith's eyes bulges with fear and shock, until she looked into the things eyes. Her mother was there, screaming at her, then the boys that had raped her and killed her father, and more men who had offered to 'help' her, the Scooby Gang ignoring her, wrapped up, being strangled even by their own problems, and finally the Mayor ordering her to kill and destroy. A calm settled over Faith, and she said, "You don't control me anymore. You are dead to me." The ugly demonFaith looked at her in surprise, and then slowly faded away. She sighed, still shaking, but gave herself a small smile.


3.25 PM

The skies were cloudless with a bright sun in the middle as the birds ceased their singing. Everything became quiet. The air took on a different fragrance and some plants closed up their blooms. The daytime animals became quiet and prepared for sleep, while at the same time the nocturnal animals got ready to come out. Suddenly most of the birds started to plunge from the sky in terror, while some of them began flying to roost and started their evening chorus. A few simply stayed quiet, they were in shock.

It got darker, but unlike at sunset, the color of the remaining light did not become orange and red, it just got grayer.

Fortunately, there was so much to do at this point, and the spectacle was so exciting, that the wave of horror passed quickly for those who witnessed it. Except for the people at Sunnydale High.

Faith stared in awe at the Mayor as she felt the strong background mystical powers of the Hellmouth converge into the man standing next to her. Combined with the natural feeling of the eclipse, the experience felt beautiful and terrifying at same time. It was strong and something she was completely at the mercy of. She didn't register the cold feeling of steel being pressed in her hand as she couldn't tear her eyes from the man standing next to her who was staring at the crowd with his eyes wide open.

The black disk of the moon glided with effortless deliberateness before the circular bright spot of the sun. The sky became dimmer and dimmer in a quickening twilight.

Instead of screaming in pain the Mayor turned his head towards his 'daughter' and smiled fatherly at her. "I'm glad that you're here, Faith," he said with a sweet smile.

After the diamond ring effect - the beautiful inner corona forming a ring around the moon with a brilliant white jewel of light - a couple seconds were left for one to notice the crimson-colored chromosphere.

Faith jaw dropped as she saw the politician began to shift and metamorphose, showing his true self. The core demon moved out of its shell and clawed mandibles surrounded his mouth. Faith gulped as she started to feel the rise of other mystical powers swirling around the Mayor.

Gigantic jets and loops of gas around the edge of the sun and the full glory of the solar corona became visible: total eclipse. In a matter of minutes it had gone from a hot, dry sunny day to a fresh and very dark night. The air was cool and charged with tension, apprehension. Something about it really did feel like the end of the world.

Faith's delicate demonic power sensor went off tilt as she felt parts of demonic powers shifting out of other dimensions and started to feed the demonic seed. The forces emerged into one as Faith witnessed the 'birth' of a pure demon right in front of her eyes. The Mayor smiled at her terrified face as he rose into the air. Pure fear turned Faith into total shock.

He was so grateful and proud that his little girl was with him on *his* moment. There was no loss, she made it complete, it was perfect . . . almost . . .

The demon scanned the area quick and saw an almost invisible movement in the darkness; like someone blonde jumping from the first platform of the roof to the plateau higher.

He didn't waste any attention on it and moved his head further. Then he stared at the disruptor standing on the chair shouting commands. It was the bitch's White Knight instead of the blond Slayer herself. His own dark Slayer had pleaded, no begged, to cut this boy into pieces and *he* still had the nerve to interrupt finishing his masterpiece. The youth's speech was strong and convincing, he admitted, but civil pride was *his* project, his pride; something the veteran politician had worked on for a hundred years. Not something to be wiped away by an opportunist. <At least I *keep* my campaign promises.>

To his surprise he realized that the words of his young rival had worked as he watched furiously how the first few rows were empty, without any of the students running away, and started attacking him. He saw how another kid, a blond boy, had taken command of the last few rows and they had formed a protective ring around their parents.

His rage tempered when he saw his boys coming out of the sewers and the buildings behind them. They moved into flanking position and formed an impenetrable group, to seal off any exit. The boy's pathetic army wouldn't stand a chance. And he still had his dark Slayer.

With overwhelming hunger he tore forward, ignoring the arrows, but found himself to be blocked by huge flames. He swayed above the puny opponents and roared in anger, trying to attack them, frighten them, but couldn't pass the burning heat and their bravery.

A light penetrated the deep darkness of the moonless sky as a rocket missile rushed through the air, barely passing the snake's head as he watched the missile pass him from behind, fly over the students and slammed with high accuracy into the groups of vampires, blowing them apart with a huge cloud of dust as its result. He heard a new command and the last rows fired arrows on the surviving vampires.

With an unearthly howl the Old One searched for a way to reach the kids, when a flame thrower that was pointed at him jammed. The moment was enough for The Snake's tail to whip around and throw the attacker up in the air. This brought the desired disturbance among the students and The Mayor's head swung in the air and tried to get some of the students. To no avail as the kids quickly regained their composure and backed away from him on command. Their leader was standing alone now, in front of his troops. The Mayor rushed forward to him with raging hunger and tearing hate.

Faith forced herself with all her willpower to get out of the shock. With the source of demonic power moving away from her it became easier for her to rip her stare away from him. She succeeded and managed to register how the monster was suddenly blocked in its path . . . again.

The demon looked at the yelling piece of distasteful food in front of him. After a short moment of doubt he lunged down with its mouth open. But before he could bite he suddenly noticed that the snack had doubled itself and laid flat on the ground. The Mayor looked at the two and attacked them both. Xander turned around and fired his PPK empty. "Here, load up on your calcium!"

The Snake roared furiously in pain and after a moment of amazement, when he had recognized the figure with the gun, he lunged down again . . .

Xander eyes widened as he saw the open mouth coming towards him. "Oh, gosh . . ."

He found himself jerked away a split second before the demon could finish his bite. The Mayor looked up, bewildered. He was stunned when he saw his precious Slayer standing with his gift in her hands, facing him. Her fear had changed in anger and her eyes flashed hate.

She looked at the knife, then at Xander and gave him quick kiss with sparkling eyes. "*He* is the best and the most important friend I'll ever have."

She then looked back up at her self-pronounced father who was gnashing his teeth and growling, realizing her betrayal. "Aren't you happy for me?" she asked girlish.

Faith held up the dagger in her right hand. "You remember this?" She looked at her razor sharp knife as she turned it around. Light coming from the school reflected on it, mirroring her own determined face between Xander and the Snake. "Thanks for the gift, I think it's perfect to stab people in the back with . . . Let's take the batting average on that one . . . Dad!" Faith turned and ran towards the school with the Mayor roaring out in fury before chasing Faith.

Xander sighed with relief, still shaking. He knew she would be scared, like Giles said, but not as shocked like she was. It was a mistake in his judgement and he had been lucky. He frowned and absently caressed the cheek which she had kissed as he saw her open the door and running in while the Mayor simply smashed through it.

Slowly a goofy grin appeared on his face. "Check mate!"

Then he turned his gaze towards the on-going battle. The vampires who had tried to escape were confronted by another group of students led by Angel. They found themselves confronted with a mass of armed and angry teenagers armed with baseball bats, crosses, stakes and bottles of blessed water. The vampires didn't stand a chance, especially once Buffy also threw herself into the middle of the fight with lightening sword moves. The remaining vampires were quickly finished. He gulped when he saw one last vampire being beaten to a pulp by a furious Cordelia. "You keep your cold filthy hands away from him, you hear that, you slime ball!" she yelled while Willow had joined the party as she kicked the vamp in his groin.

Faith kept running towards the library while the Mayor teared through the school like a freight train. She jumped out of the window, leaving the Mayor surrounded with the self-made bomb.

Faith crouched down next to Giles who pushed down the plunger, activating the detonator. A fire cloud erupted from the top of the school. Buffy, Angel and the rest of the group looked up at the explosion. Xander just walked around at the back, checking for any surviving vamps, while he savored the moment. Only a few injuries was the result of the battle.

Faith stared at the explosion and then looked over at Giles, her face excited and gasping for air. "Damn, am I hungry!" she said. "And h . . ."

"Five by Five?"

"Hole in one."


"You just know how to use a stick, right G-man?" Faith said pointing at the plunger while still breathing hard while wiggling her eyebrows.

Giles frowned in misunderstanding.

Faith smirked at the stuffy old brit. "Nice blow job!" she explained pointing at the fire.

Giles shook his head. "No, that was Xander's work."

Faith grinned proud as she nodded. "Yeah, that's my boy toy alright."

"Perhaps you should return him the favor," Giles commented dryly, causing Faith to raise her eyebrows in surprise.

Giles and Faith saw Xander, Buffy and Angel running towards them. Xander rushed over to Faith as she stood up. He hugged her fiercely and Faith smiled.

Buffy smiled at Xander as he stood with his back to her still in the hug. She pushed away a tingle of her own feelings towards him and complemented Xander. "Great throw," she said while looking at the dagger which was still in Faith's hand.

"Nah, you caught it with your slayer reflexes. Great shot, by the way," Xander complimented her from over his hug.

Buffy grinned as she looked at the school. "I think I left the launcher on the roof."

Xander's eyes widened. "What?"

"I stopped thinking," she apologized.

Xander left Faith's hug, turned and stared at Buffy with wide eyes. "Good idea to stash it there, Buf, but you didn't have to leave it there."

"Like your plan worked so fine. I put the dagger in her hand," she said annoyed while pointing at Faith, "And the only thing she does . . ."

"Hey!" Faith snapped.

"Buffy . . . That's unfair, I mean . . ."

Faith got pissed. "That you are still not over your boy toy doesn't give you any reason to act like that to me."

Giles could feel a headache coming from all this teenager bickering as he prepared to give his Slayer his own opinion.

Buffy ignored Faith and continued her argument with Xander. "You gave this unplanned speech and it took our attention away from the Mayor. He didn't even see me giving her the dagger."

Attacking her boyfriend's leadership made Faith even more mad. "Hey, Queen B! X's speech kicked ass! It made the Mayor real angry."

"Buffy, the plan worked perfectly. You don't have the right to . . . "

Buffy moved her stare to Giles and held up her hand as she sighed. "Look, I'm sorry, alright." Xander's remark was just too much for her. She had to give up Angel and had to give up command. She missed her dad very much and had a huge argument with her mother. And above all she was impressed with the way Xander had done the job. Something she had never imagined.

Angel walked over to the mentally lost Slayer, not able to stand by as he was thinking the same as everybody else that this was about him. "Buffy?" he asked gently with a hint of worry, "How are you doing?"

Xander left Faith's side and walked over to the burning school. This was *not* the moment for brooding or fighting.

Buffy shrugged. "Okey dokey."

Angel looked at Faith, who shrugged in innocence, and then towards Buffy again. "Are you okay, Buffy?" he asked, worried.

Buffy sighed and stared at him. "Look, I am over you, okay . . . It's just that . . . I'm just tired."

Giles flashed a smile, relieved. "I should imagine so. It's been quite a couple of days."

Buffy nodded slowly.

Xander and Faith both nodded in agreement as they felt the same and grinned. Xander turned and continued his walk to a little flame as Faith lifted her jacket a bit, reached under it and pulled something out to replace the dagger with. The eyes of Giles and Angel grew as they saw with which she had replaced it: the gun. Faith saw their surprise and played with it. Angel knew it had to be the fake one as he had heard the gunshots earlier, but with the two you never knew. Giles almost freaked as he saw it pointed at him.

"You should sleep well, B. But not with my boyfriend."

Only Buffy ignored the whole upset and Faith. "I haven't processed everything yet. My brain isn't really functioning on the higher levels," she continued.

Giles nodded in understanding while he was way more interested in following the changing directions of the gun.

"The most I get at the moment is: Fire bad; tree pretty."

Giles almost got an heart attack as Faith aimed at Buffy and fired.

"Water bad." Faith sprayed her again with a grin while Buffy turned to her as she growled, "Faith worse."

Buffy pounced on Faith and wrestled her with the gun to the ground. The two then struggled and twisted on the floor laughing hard until Buffy snatched the pistol away from her and sprayed her back.

Xander came back bringing a burning cigar to his mouth. He ignored the two wet Slayers fighting over the gun and Giles furiously polishing his glasses, his face flushed red, in deep embarrassment.

Both Faith and Buffy were struggling for the gun as they stared at him when Xander said with a huge grin, "*I* love it, when a *plan* comes together," in his best John 'Hannibal' Smith imitation and put the cigar between his lips between his lips. Both Slayers, still on top of one another, looked into each other's eyes, then smiled wickedly. Both of them held the gun and raised it, spraying Xander directly in his face.


Part 13

Willow, Oz and Cordelia were walking toward the group after they saw Wesley be taken care of by hospital personnel.

"Duh! It's just that I don't get it. Why are you two coming with me to tea bag central?"

"Tea is cool."

Willow flashed a smile and quickly nodded. "We like tea."

The brunette frowned. "You are kiddin' me . . ."

Willow shook her head while Oz nodded.

The former cheerleader rolled her eyes. "Am I being mocked by a geek?"

Willow flushed red. "No, no . . . I swear. I mean, I . . ."

"I wanted to talk to that nice police officer and you kicked my leg. What was that about then?"

"Uh . . ."

Cordelia looked at Oz and then back to Willow. "Jealous?"

"No, no," she hastily denied. She quickly tried to recover, but had some difficulty to say the truth to Cordelia.

Lucky for her Oz came to the rescue. "Telling the police about how we have defeated a giant snake is . . . it's cool, but not smart."

Cordelia looked between the two and saw Willow nodding. She sighed a little. "You can tell me that without the obvious hints . . . and damaging my skin."

Willow bit her lower lip. "Sorry . . ."

Her spiky-haired, guitar-playing boyfriend, frowned almost invisible. He felt and even smelled that something was bothering his girlfriend. Then there was this sudden decision from her to become a Watcher. He first thought it was the upcoming fight, and took that desire from her as a positive view into the future. But it only had increased after that. He wrapped his arm around her, worried. "Hey, you're not to blame," and he flashed a narrowing frown towards Cordelia as she was about to protest.

She rolled her eyes. "Young and helpful boyfriends . . . They are the way to go for an ambitious gal . . . Really," she spoke to herself. She sighed. "Where can I get one of them . . ."


The two sisters of destiny were rolling over the ground with laughter as Xander tried to steal the gun back, they constantly moved it out of his reach, when Cordelia, Willow and Oz arrived. They both looked at the scene in front of them and turned their head to each other and frowned.

"Have you all gone mad?" Cordelia asked.

The trio ignored her question, while Giles, still not ready polishing his glasses stared at her, blinking. He opened his mouth to say something, but closed it. The only one able to speak was Angel. "How is Wesley?"

Cordelia flashed a short smile, but it faded quickly. "He is alright." Her attention went back to the playing three on the ground. "He is very brave, but just as crazy as those three. I mean, how in god's name do you think you're able to stop a vamp with such a stupid line and stretching out your arm into a stop sign?"

Angel chuckled and Willow laughed, still a bit nervous, as they had witnessed Wesley's strange defense method. Oz as usual kept his cool, but grinned inwardly as only a slight smile appeared. The two slayers had heard Cordelia's words and found a new victim. Oz almost lost his cool while Willow fainted as Cordelia stared into the PPK.


Faith and Xander had left the group and walked away from the battlefield. The enigmatic girl was wearing her black leather outfit and her hair was still not completely dry. Even though she still was very hot looking, the flush on her cheeks had faded away. There was silence between the two, while the wild Slayer stared at him, caught up in thoughts. His face was dry now, except for one last drip rolling over his temple. It reminded her of how this all began a few days ago. How drastically her and his life had changed. Xander felt that there was some unexplainable tension between them and it was coming from Faith. "That was great fun, X."

Xander chuckled as he nodded. "Yeah, it was." He was glad she was happy, because he felt a bit uncomfortable with her silence.

A cold chill ran through her body as she remembered how she wanted to shoot him dead, 'cause she had lost all her will to face life. Two murder attempts hadn't been enough to stop him. She was willing to accept his help, giving it a chance to built a friendship, but got more as she fell in love for with him and vice versa. She shook her head. <I always thought I could read people. Damn, what was I wrong about him.>


"What is it, Faith?"

"Yep . . ." Faith chirped as she snatched the cigar out of Xander's mouth and brought it to her own. ". . . It smells like a Havana." <And then he survived this day alone two times. The thought made her skin crawl.> She chuckled with him and continued to walk. <Damn!> Apologizing for what she had done wasn't her thing, even though she felt a terrible need to do it. "X . . ." Xander faced her again and Faith snickered. "C's wet face was priceless." Xander looked at her with a grin on his face and nodded and was about to turn his head again. "Xan, I . . ." Xander waited. "I-I . . ." <Fuck! Why is this so damn difficult?> "So what about you? What was your thrill?"

"Well, the cigar was," Xander said, a bit annoyed now.

"Hey, I like a cigar too!" she playfully exclaimed. <Shit, he knows something is up with me . . .> Xander turned his head to her again.

"I guess you do."

Faith opened her mouth and closed it. She saw him frown a little. "What?"

"Faith, what is it?"

"You don't think that I don't like one? They are stiff and with a burning tip."

"Faith . . ."

Faith flashed a sexy smile, hiding her feelings again. "They remind me of something else, ya know."

"That's nice to know."

She added a wink to her smile. "Something a gal like me really likes to play with." Xander rolled his eyes. "And suck . . ." she said as she blew a cloud of smoke in his face.

Xander was tired of it and went to the point. "Faith, you did excellent. If you think you . . ."

She beamed him a glance. "Damn, X, I am glad that this whole fucking shit is over, but . . ." She thought for a moment. "I still need to learn to control myself . . . I mean, I still have these urges of pure anger when things don't go my way." She paused for a moment. "I've dealt with my past, Xander. It' just that there is so much shit going on in the world. And I am afraid that I won't always be able to withstand these killing urges."

Xander simply stared at her as he didn't know how to help her. Faith saw this need to help from him again, something she most appreciated of him. Even though it made her very uncomfortable at times as she wasn't used to it, she learned the hard way that he means it well. It caused a little shiver of warmth running over her skin. She quickly gave him a kiss in gratitude. Xander looked a bit surprised. "Faith . . ."

"I love you very much, Xander, and you are incredible, but even towards you I can get angry." He only keep looking at her. "I went furious when I thought B had snatched you away from me . . . And then the Mayor thing. I was only able to betray him when I snapped."

Xander nodded slowly, understanding her reasons.

"You reached out to me as a person to a person . . . As a friend wanting to help a friend." She stared him intensely in the eyes. "But that Buffy thing today just made me want to rip you apart." She sighed and looked to the ground. "But even when B would have gotten your heart today, doesn't mean that I had the right to hurt you. We only had friendship." She paused for a moment and looked at him again. "I really don't want to know what I would have done when I thought that you did betray me."

She laid her hand on is shoulder and looked sincerely at him. "I'm scared as hell that I would harm you. I don't want you to get hurt . . . ever. And especially not over B."

Xander ignored how her words reached his heart and forced himself to think with his brain about her words, not getting away from the subject. And not about her off-sided comment about Buffy. "What do you want to do about it, Faith?"

"I don't know?"

Before Xander could say something Faith interrupted him. ". . . shit, Xan, we completely forgot the professor!"

Xander still felt that she was hiding something, but decided to let it wait as he could understand that this was getting way too emotional for the girl.


"This is your motor?" Xander asked pointing at the

"Yep. All brand new and shining. And ready to roll." She gave him her own helmet. "I don't really need one."

Xander took it, but Faith saw a protesting frown on his face. "Don't worry, X, I'll steal one . . ." She chuckled as the protest increased. Xander took his place behind Faith and she started the engine. "Hold me tight, X. I'm gonna let this baby rock." With one hand she dragged from the cigar. "Hail to the Queen, Baby!" she shouted as he grabbed a fistful of throttle and rocketed forward while pulling the front tire off the ground. She raced a few seconds like this and then hit the breaks.

The raven haired biker heard his heart going crazy. "Wow!" he managed to get out as his grip around her automatically tightened and he pressed his body against her. Faith grinned as this was precisely what she had aimed for. She hit the gas again and the motor rushed away.

The two drove outside Sunnydale to a ranch and stepped off. Xander stretched his clothes and his limbs and sighed in relief as he pulled off his helmet. Faith smiled as she saw the boy's relaxing features which belonged to someone who had looked into the eyes of Death itself too many times in way to short a period.

"You liked the trip?" Faith jokingly asked.

"Oh, well. It was nice."

"That's all?"

"Well, it definitely suites you."

"My wild kick-ass Slayer thing?" the Boston bad wondered.

Xander shook his head. "More like the color of your clothing . . ."

She grinned. "You were scared . . ."

"No . . ."

"Yes! You were."

"No. It was tame."

Faith rolled her eyes. "Tame . . ." she drawled and she laughed.

They both started to walk as Faith grinned wickedly. "Ya wanted to go on a trip, didn't ya?" she asked.

"A road trip, yes."

"Ya still wanna go?"

"Well, I had saved my money for this, but I haven't . . ."

"Don't rumble, X, I've got money and we have transportation."

Xander blinked. "You mean that thing we just road on?"

Faith smiled as she nodded.

"Uh, I-I don't know. I mean . . . you have a driver's license?"


Xander shook his head. "Just making sure it's legal, ya know, you driving and all."

Faith nodded as she grinned at his denial. "Yep, I have one."


Faith shook her head.


Faith nodded.

"I don't believe it." Faith pulled out her wallet and showed him her driver's license.

Xander blinked and sighed. "Ok . . ."

Faith smiled wide, but she quickly frowned as she thought about the professor. "Fuck! I hope he is still alright."

"What have you done with him, Faith?" Xander asked worried.

"I put him in one of the stalls. He can drink from one the water dispensers for the horses and stuff."


"Hey, I needed to make sure he wasn't talking around, remember?"

Xander stared at her and nodded, he had asked for it.

They walked into the stall she had locked him up. "I hope he won't sue us," Xander commented.

"Don't worry, I still have connections from being the Mayor's assistant."

"You have?"

She nodded. "He was very powerful and there are no witnesses alive who have seen me betray him."

"What kind of connections?"

"Laywers, mages, assassins, you name it and I can find them."

"The Mayor and all his vampires are dead. You are alive, don't you think that's is a little suspicious to them?"

Faith shrugged. "Maybe, but there are enough 'relations' who are glad to see him dead. Can always get a favor from them."

Xander stood still and frowned. Faith turned around. "What is it, X, don't like it?"

"I don't like it, Faith. Fighting evil with evil isn't the way it should be done."

"Whatever it takes, Xander, you said it yourself."

Xander thought for a while. "Look, Faith. I'm willing to go far, but we aren't above the law and we can't have darkness helping us a hand. Sooner or later that will need to be payed by a price. A price we can't afford."

"And who stole the rocket launcher?"

Xander sighed. "That was a one time occasion. And I'm not saying that we can't bend the law sometimes, but only when absolutely necessary. We just can't do it structural." Faith rolled her eyes. "Look, Faith. You are powerful. You have a great strength as a Slayer and you have apparently connections. But with great power comes great responsibility. We need to be very careful with that."

Faith stared at him, realizing that, but still not accepting.

"And we can't depend on it. Look at the Mayor what happened. He was sure that he would win, he had planned this for over a hundred years and used all kinds of those connections."

"Okay, X, you're right. But we can't exclude it either."

Xander nodded. "Precisely." He paused for a moment. "And bending the law is one thing, but playing with demons who kill who know how many people is not only very dangerous but also unacceptable." She knew he had a point and could only agree with him. He looked around in stable. "Now, where is the poor professor?"

Faith looked at the place she had bound the professor, but realized it was empty. Instead her Slayer hearing picked up a little noise coming from the stalls at the other side.

They quickly moved towards the sounds of groaning and moaning. "Shit, I hope nothing went wrong."

"You didn't do anything beyond tying him up, did you?"

"No, I swear. I was wicked, sure, but I didn't hurt him."

Xander frowned as they entered the stable were the noise was coming from. They both looked around and blinked in stunned surprise. Xander chuckled while Faith remained stunned. The professor saw them and smiled at Faith. "Hey, look, it's the Mayor's assistant. Thanks for your advice," he said and turned his head to his female companion and was about to kiss her again. Instead of accepting the kiss she quickly faced Faith. "That's her?" she asked.


"Hey, I'm sorry . . ." Faith tried to apologize.

But instead of being angry the woman smiled. "Thank you, I was alone and with my age its not easy to find a decent man, but then I suddenly found him in one of my stables."

Faith's eyes widened as Xander started to chuckle louder. "Uh . . ."

"And you're right, he is a cutie."

Faith closed the door and stared at Xander, who now tumbled over in laughter as Faith looked at him in anger, waiting until he was finished. He was barely able to respond between giggles. "Faith, I think you have a gift for coupling life-long bachelors."

The dark Slayer scowled. <Damn, Faith, you really should do something about your urges,> she thought before she saw the humor of it and joined his laughter. <I will get you back for this on the motor, mister . . .>


Sunnydale High, or what is left of it

Giles had brought Buffy home and was searching for Xander who had been talking with the last of the Sunnydale police before they had left the scene. The Brit was strolling over the battlefield while scanning the area for the young man. "Xander!" he shouted and after a moment her heard a soft sound coming out of the blown up school. He walked over to the wreckage and wrinkled his nose in disgust of the smell caused by the fire. "Xander!?"


Giles went into the direction of Xander's voice and quickly found him as the boy was checking out black blathered piece of equipment.

Xander heard the watcher approach and looked up with a saddened face. "My pride," he softly said.

Giles traced carefully the rocket launcher as he pressed on his glasses. He frowned, wondering. "Is it destroyed?"

"I don't think it's that bad. Maybe Willow can have a look at it."

Giles nodded. "Good."

Xander stared at it as he slid his hand over its surface. "It has changed color though. Probably Buffy likes black."

Giles couldn't hide a small chuckle as watched Xander face. "I thought she was like most teenage girls, all in for those sharp ugly colors which gives one only a headache."

Xander nodded. "Maybe she took over Faith's taste."

"They seem to get along fine," Giles admitted.

Xander looked at Giles, more serious. "Willow, she asked me today if I could get her to Cambridge too . . ."

Giles blinked. "She wants to become a watcher?"

"And Oz . . ."

Xander was interrupted as a proud grin flashed in Giles features for a moment. "I think that can be arranged," he simply said after he had regained himself.

"That leaves us without a witch, Giles."

Giles twitched his head towards his as he thought about Xander's comment. "There was this other witch . . . Amy I believe her name . . ."

"She is a rat. And Willow can't turn her back."

Giles nodded, remembering the incident. The old man was silent for a while as Xander watched him thinking. "I know a coven in England," he finally said, "Maybe they can help."

"Coven? Are they witches?"

Giles nodded. "Experienced and powerful . . ."

"Can they help Wills too?" the boy interrupted.


"Yeah, with her power. Learn her how to use it, control it."

Giles stared at him for moment. "That is an excellent idea . . . I think they would like to help her."

"They have helped young witches or mages before?" he asked a bit worried.

"I don't know. Probably they did."

Xander smiled. "Great!" he shouted, "Oz is not Harry Potter, but that won't be of any problem."

Giles frowned. "Who?"

"Oh, it's this new book. Willow is complete crazy about it . . . I just can't see why."

Giles helped Xander with the rocket launcher and together they walked outside and both settled themselves on one of the chairs which laid still scattered over the place. For a moment they looked over the school yard and both sighed. "It has turned out all excellent, Xander."

Xander smiled as he nodded. Giles pointed at the rocket launcher. "That thing was useful twice already. Maybe we should get more of them."

Xander grinned. "Yeah, I only don't see how we could get our hands on more of them."

"Well, if you have any idea, let me know."

Xander chuckled a bit inwardly and nodded. He absently scanned the area and turned his head. "I had a talk with Faith . . ." Giles looked at him to continue. "She thinks she still has moments of fury and anger." He stared the Brit in his eyes. "Can't we do anything for her?" he asked hopefully.

"She has a natural temper, Xander. Added to the bitterness of the recent weeks. The last one will fade away, but the first lies in her character. Those urges won't go away easily. I don't know if there is quick way to deal with it, if there is any way at all."

Xander thought for a moment. "Well, I don't know. I thought maybe she is a Slayer and . . ."

Giles looked confused. "What do you mean?"

He hit with his fist on his hand. "They all have this power within them. You see, I thought that they could learn to control it. And if they can . . . then so could maybe Faith control her own emotions. Meditation or something . . ."

Giles saw the logic of the boy and thought about it. "That's a good point, Xander. I had heard rumors of a vision or dreaming that could connect a Slayer to her power directly and learn how to use it better. Make her stronger. That might be of help. I'll look it up."

Giles and Xander sat for a moment and Giles looked at Xander. The respect he had of the boy had raised enormously the last couple of days. To a point that he found it even difficult to correct the boy. "X-Xander, I, uh, I saw Faith just before I came here. Well, I saw her on a motorcycle, so I think it was her."

"Probably . . ." Xander mildly growled. <License? My ass! Connections . . . Evil connections.>

Giles nodded and simply continued. "She was heading for the cemetery. Did she tell you what she was doing there? I-I mean there is not a real need for patrol and it's not dark yet, you see . . ."

Xander looked up at him in surprise. "Cemetery? I haven't got a clue." He stood up. "I've got to check this out, G."

<Damn!> Giles thought as he hastily stopped him. "I-I wanted to speak with you about another subject which got my attention." He relaxed a bit. "I got a telephone call just right now, from the Council. They apparently have had a call from Mr. Summers. He, uh, was rather pissed about them . . ." Xander blinked. "He claimed that he had a phone call with one of Buffy's friends, who seemed to have explained certain detail about Buffy being not only a nice girl, but also a vampire Slayer."

Xander swallowed as he heard the disapproval in Giles' gentle tone as he spoke the last two words. "I-I . . ."

"He seemed to be very reluctant about your story. But you praise about his daughter made him think differently and after the call with the Council he decided to pay us a visit."

"Giles . . ." Xander tried to defend himself, still calm.

"Look, Xander. I know you mean it well. But not everybody can know about this. It's better . . ."

This made Xander angry. "Giles!" he snapped. "This is her father you are talking about. He has all the right to know what is going on with his own daughter. And the dirt they have said about her and her mother to keep him away is just *outrageous*."

Giles blinked. "What did they tell him?!?"


The boston girl sat sitting alone at one of Sunnydale's cemeteries in front of her father's tombstone. The sun was just about to settle and it was completely silent on the graveyard, except from some birds who were chirping. She was thinking about the last few days. Suddenly the thin fog which had surrounded the cemetery was thickening above her father's grave. The fog formed into a misty cloud and Faith's eyes widened. <What the fuck!?> Then her jaw dropped as the cloud shaped itself and started to move slowly towards her. Then she was distracted when she suddenly felt the presence of someone standing next to her. She quickly moved her head and saw a young Chinese woman standing who had appeared out of nowhere.

The woman stood almost 5'8". Faith was struck by her beauty. She had delicate, almond-shaped eyes, full-lipped mouth and raven black hair. And all her curves screamed woman. A round badge hung tightly around her throat on a black leather cord. It was an blue/white amulet, symbolizing ying-yang. In all the woman's mysterious presence Faith knew at least that much. She wore a black silk outfit that barely clung on her and a long skirt at the bottom with generous pleads that dropped to soft boots. A sort, shapeless cape with a high collar draped from her shoulders to the backs of her knees, fluttering in the breeze. She carried a sword on her back and to Faith's surprise also two guns. The dark Slayer sensed that she was not some ordinary human and beyond that she radiated vibes of a strong female. As soon as she had arrived, she walked away out of sight, into the shadows . . . Without a word.

Faith stared after her in surprise, but got almost a heart attack as she suddenly felt something touching her shoulder. She spun her head towards the grave again and saw the cloud in front of her, forming itself into what appeared a human imagine. "What?" she whispered, bewildered. Within moments her eyes widened further as she recognized the cloud as the ghost of her father. "D-Daddy?" she stuttered, "I- Is that you?"

"Hello, Faith." The dark worrier looked around again, confused and not believing. Her father smiled at her surprised face. "It's me, Faith."

She looked back at him. "D-Daddy?"

"It is me, your Daddy . . ." he assured her, gently.

Faith was stunned. "H-How?" she stuttered.

"The Chinese woman was so kind to lead me through the Ghost Roads, so that I could talk with you. She is a Guardian Spirit for her people and has a lot of experience and apparently knew the way to Sunnydale."

Faith swallowed as she was scared, nervous and happy at the same time. She wanted to respond, but surprise still took her from forming decent words.

"I don't have much time, Faith. I have followed you from that day . . ." Tears appeared in his eyes. "I felt so helpless all this time . . ."

Faith's eyes watered as she realized that her own father was really standing in front of her.

". . . I couldn't help you. Higher powers forbade me to interfere with your life . . ."

Faith shivered at the thought of him having followed her every deed.

"I love you, Faith. No matter what you did, I always loved you."

"Faith, I . . ." He laid his finger on her lips when he saw Faith open her mouth to speak, ". . . I only came to tell you how proud I am."


Her father nodded as he transformed slowly into a cloud again. "I have found peace again . . ." he said.

Faith swallowed. "P-P . . ." she stuttered.

"Yes, Faith. My spirit couldn't find rest when I died. I followed you all the time, I was forced to watch you . . ." Faith blinked. "Don't feel ashamed, Faith. I almost felt the same despair you were feeling . . . I wanted to help, but I couldn't . . ."

"Daddy, I-I didn't know, how . . . how can you be here now?"

"They gave me one last chance to talk to you, before I finally can go to . . ." He raised his hand, ". . . heaven." He stared at her with gentle eyes as he started to fade away. He hastily said his final words. "You have to let me go, Faith. I'm in your heart and will always be, but I'm your father . . . Someone else has taken over that place . . ." He said as he was about to lose the final stages of his form. ". . . Open it for him . . ." he whispered in the wind and shifted into mist, quickly dissolving in air. . .

The mysterious black-clad swordswoman walked back again and watched Faith's face. The shock of her father's presence was still there. The dark Slayer stared straight into her hazel eyes and then her eyes scanned her quickly, nervously, struck by her mysterious aura. "T-Take care of him . . ." she softly spoke before she vanished as fast as she came.

Faith stared in the air where the woman only a few seconds ago stood and suddenly burst out in tears as realization finally hit her.


The dark girl sat that there for a while before her boyfriend arrived. Without a word he settled himself next to her and read the inscription on the tombstone. Xander turned his head and scanned the features of her face as she continued staring at it with a blank face. He wanted to ask the natural questions, but decided to keep his mouth. Both were satisfied with the silence. She laid her head on his shoulder as he wrapped an arm around her. Faith new his questions and she wanted to thank him, explain her past to him. To give him the answers he was seeking for. But it wasn't necessary as their mutual love of each other overrode every desire for talking. She was very grateful for that. Together they sat peacefully and silent, until the sun had settled down hours earlier and the darkness had taken over.